10.14.11

NMATV’s NBA Lockout Primer (Or, When Did David Stern Become So Athletic?)

Posted in Basketball at 2:28 pm by

Billy Hunter, though undoubtedly grateful not to receive the NMATV treatment, has been a very convenient visible target for David Stern over the past day or so.

10.13.11

John Henry Defends Crazy Signings (Theo Epstein Had Nothing To Do With)

Posted in Baseball, Football at 9:04 pm by

Bob Hohler’s explosive autopsy for the 2011 Boston Red Sox included a brief allusion to Fenway Sports Group’s other business interests, chiefly NASCAR and Liverpool F.C.  It might be a bit unfair to say the Guardian’s David Conn was overly charmed by Red Sox / LFC principal owner John Henry (above), though the latter isn’t exactly challenged when claiming, “hopefully the fans of both clubs will eventually see what we see clearly – that there is nothing to fear from the existence of the other club and that Fenway Sports Group is much stronger financially because of Boston and Liverpool.”

Liverpool’s outlay includes £35m on Andy Carroll, £20m each for Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, as well as £22m for Luis Suárez and £6m for José Enrique, the latter two generally felt in football to represent fair value. The Boston Red Sox, the baseball team Fenway owns, took on $300m (£191m) in new payroll commitments on two players, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, before this season, which nevertheless ended in dramatic collapse for the Red Sox.

Asked whether Liverpool achieved value in the transfer market or overpaid for Carroll and the other players signed at Liverpool, Henry suggested they felt they needed to show fans of both clubs they were prepared to make signings for big money: “There was a lot of criticism in Boston that we weren’t going to spend money on the Red Sox after we did the LFC transaction. We spent something like $300m in the off-season in Boston, and then there was the fear we wouldn’t spend in Liverpool.

“It is really surprising, ironic, to be now accused of overspending. Usually owners are accused of the opposite.”

Asked if the signing of Crawford, the left-arm outfielder contracted for $140m in wages over seven years, whose performances were disappointing this season, represented overspending, Henry defended the 30-year-old, saying the player had only “had a bad year”. Then he acknowledged: “Choosing players in any sport is an imperfect science. We certainly have been guilty of overspending on some players, and that can be tied to an analytical approach that hasn’t worked well enough.”

Al Leiter Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny The Existence Of Shea Stadium’s Wank Bank

Posted in Baseball, onanism at 1:47 pm by

While another media outlet concerns itself with the slightly more serious topic of David Wright’s long term future (or lack thereof) in a Mets uniform, Sports Grid’s Dan Fogarty tuned in to Thursday’s edition of the syndicated Dan Patrick Show, where the matter of the home team clubhouse at Fenway Park (ie. a hotbed of KFC gorging, beer guzzling and intense video game competition) was discussed.

Al Leiter (above), who pitched for the New York Mets from 1998-2004, was asked if this supposedly toxic environment in Boston’s locker room was really that bad in the grand scheme of things. Don’t all baseball teams do things like this? Weren’t there distractions in the Mets’ clubhouse?

Specifically: wasn’t there a “porn room” in Shea Stadium?

From what I can see, there is no record of a Shea Stadium porn room. There is no evidence of it on Google, and whatever story Patrick was referencing doesn’t seem to exist on the internet — it very well could be one of those mythologized things, like the Holy Grail or your friend’s dad’s collection of Playboys, that is widely rumored but never confirmed.

Thus, Leiter could’ve easily dismissed it as a rumor. We would’ve believed him, and everyone would’ve gone on with their day thinking there was no such thing as the Shea Stadium porn room.

Except… Leiter seemed to be caught off guard by the question. He fumbled for an answer. He laughed uncomfortably. He talked about “political correctness” and how things were “different” once upon a time, and how the old ballparks had “nooks and crannies” where guys would… sleep. As he tried to explain away the non-existent porn room, the porn room seemed to exist more and more.

In short: it sounds like ol’ Shea Stadium had a porn room.

I’m skeptical — if there really was a specific room at Shea set aside for such purposes, would it have been necessary for one of the club’s starting pitchers to whip it out in the bullpen?

Iggles Linemen To Critical Fans : Do We Come To Your Place Of Work & Knock The DIck Out Of Your Mouth?

Posted in Free Expression, Gridiron at 1:11 pm by

OK, I’m very sorry. That’s not at all what Philadelphia center Jason Kelce and guard Evan Mathis had to say to Eagles fans displaying the above sign outside their practice facility.  Kelce tells Philly.com’s Jonathan Tamari the exchange was entirely civil.

Kelce and Mathis  said they asked the fans to take down the sign. Both said they did not threaten the fans, but that the protesters complied.

“I support our fans, I support everyone that roots for us, everyone that comes to the games. That’s the wrong message that’s being displayed right now. I support freedom of speech,” said Kelce. “If you want to go out to talk bad stuff about the coaches or things like that do it on a blog, do it wherever you want, but don’t bring it to our front door right now when we’re 1-4 trying to get better we don’t need that kind of division on the team right now.”

But don’t fans who support the team have the right to voice their anger at a 1-4 start?

“They have the right to do that just as much as I have the right to tell them – ask them – to take a sign down. I support their freedom of spech and I support their right to say anything they want to. But what I want them to do is do that on a blog, do it in the media, but keep it away from here,” Kelce said. “Right now we’re tyring to come together as a team and get this thing fixed. We don’t need people calling for our coach’s head right in front of us on our front door when we’re trying to get better.”

10.12.11

Olbermann : Red Sox Owners Are Sleazy, Entitled, Traitorous

Posted in Baseball at 10:22 pm by

…and those are their good qualities!  In the aftermath of Bob Hohler’s super grim peak into the Red Sox clubhouse, few have rushed to the defense of the alleged KFC-chomping, beer-swilling, PS3-playing trio of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey.  Beckett was further implicated by a former manager later in the day who claimed he locked the clubhouse door rather than allow the immature pitcher to beer it up at will. But while there’s little sympathy for Boston’s underachieving starters, Current TV’s Keith Olbermann is outraged at the way in which Hohler was encouraged to delve into Terry Francona’s personal life. “A large corporation, needing to scapegoat the departing geniuses whom they will replace with malleable mediocrities, doesn’t give a damn about anybody but the three clowns at the top, who have mistaken the success and effort of others, for something they somehow created,” fumes Olbermann via his MLB.com blog, reminding us the trio of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino are forever in the debt of Bud Selig (“the principal owners of the Red Sox only became such, via a sweetheart deal engineered by the Commissioner of Baseball a decade ago. …they have been playing with house money ever since”)

If a ballplayer was in such pain from 30-year old knee problems that he had to have blood drained from one of them hours before a game, on the road, by the visiting team’s doctor, **in** the stadium, and he still played that night with only mild medication, the owners wouldn’t imply he was abusing painkillers – they’d deify him. They did so when a pitcher named Curt Schilling pitched a World Series game in 2004 even though blood was supposedly leaking from surgery on a tendon sheath in his right ankle. He’s a legend. But Francona’s option wasn’t picked up and he was portrayed as having a problem.

Yet there was one more detail about Francona, revealed to the newspaper, that elevates this particular hatchet job to the level of making one hope it is another 93 years before Boston wins, that they go from the overwrought “Curse Of The Bambino” to “The Curse Of The Lucchino.”

“While Francona coped with his marital and health issues, he also worried privately about the safety of his son, Nick, and son-in-law, Michael Rice, both of whom are Marine officers serving in Afghanistan.”

To drag into this, the service to this country of Francona’s son, and son-in-law, is not only beyond any pale. It isn’t even new. They didn’t just get there this year. But publicizing where they are is something Francona has asked even his friends not to do. It actually might materially affect their safety.

Tiger’s Wiener Tosser : Blame It On Ryan Gosling

Posted in Food, Golf at 9:39 pm by

(above, Gosling in an earlier, not nearly as hot dog-related role)

Just when I thought the Boston Globe being fed stories about Terry Francona popping pills in lonely hotel rooms was the height of investigative sports journalism, god bless the Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s Julie Johnson on garnering the scoop of the century ; a chat with the doofus who threw a hot dog at Tiger Woods during the Frys.com Open.

“I threw the hot dog toward Tiger Woods because I was inspired by the movie ‘Drive,’” 31 year-old Petlaluma native Brandon Kelly said. “As soon as the movie ended, I thought to myself, ‘I have to do something courageous and epic. I have to throw a hot dog on the green in front of Tiger.’”

Kelly declined to elaborate on his motivation and said he had initially hoped to remain anonymous.

“I honestly wish Tiger the best. One day I hope he breaks Jack Nicklaus’ record,” Kelly said. Golf legend Nicklaus won 18 major championships during his professional career. Woods has won 14.

And in reference to comments at the scene, including by one player, that he could have been harmed by law enforcement, Kelly added: “Did I think I could be shot like some people were saying? Absolutely not.”

Rozer Helpfully Maps Out Epstein’s First Few Days On The Job

Posted in Baseball at 9:11 pm by

While Nomar Garciaparra compares the treatment suddenly afforded to Tito Francona on his way out the door to the brickbats aimed at such all-time Boston greats as Carl Yazstremski, Ted Williams and…uh, Carl Everett Nomar Gariaparra, departing GM Theo Epstein receives a number of helpful suggestions from the Daily Herald’s Barry Rozner on how to best assume the same position with the Cubs. If you read the entire piece (highlights below), perhaps the only person Rozner has less regard for besides (current) Chicago manager Mike Quade would have to be club president Crane Kenney (Herald link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory).

• Fire Mike Quade.
• Pay the $2 million buyout and misplace the number for Aramis Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer. Don’t locate that scrap of paper until Ramirez is overpaid somewhere else.
• Call Quade again and make sure he understands he’s fired.
• Get something of value for Carlos Zambrano, like a new Gatorade dispenser for the dugout.
• Trade Ryan Dempster and his $14 million player option for 2012. Dempster doesn’t have no-trade protection but never needed it when Jim Hendry was GM.
• Tell Carlos Pena he’s welcome back if he wants to play third base. When he informs you that left-handers don’t generally play third, ask him if he wants to catch. When he informs you lefties also don’t catch, tell him that the Cubs don’t need players with a bad attitude and wish him luck at his next stop.
• Try to recoup some of the $54 million remaining on Alfonso Soriano’s contract. Since he has full no-trade protection, getting someone to pay more than $167 would immediately qualify you for the Hall of Fame.
• Fire a pitching coach who doesn’t challenge a manager who allows Matt Garza to average 123 pitches in the final 3 starts of the season when the team is 62 games out of first place.
• Trade Marlon Byrd and his $6.5 million salary for 2012 before the other teams find out he’s actually 42 years old.

Full Blown K-Mart

Posted in Baseball, Free Expression at 3:45 pm by

At moments like this, I really wish Tim Thomas would start a Twitter account. The above screen grab was culled from The Big Lead, who report (unsurprisingly) the China-bound Martin has deleted his account. With such pithy commentary as “dude get a life suck a dead mans wit aids on the tip”, Martin would seem a tad obsessed, some might say paranoid about the prevalence of what Prince called the big disease with a little name.

Who Says Social Activism’s Dead?

Posted in Baseball, Sports Radio at 2:34 pm by

10.11.11

No Gorilla Suit Required This Time : Epstein’s Headed To Wrigley

Posted in Baseball at 10:08 pm by

(Theo, shown during his little-known tenure as a hired-hand guitarist in Springa’s 2008 SSD touring lineup)

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo kidded around about staking out a Wrigleyville Starbucks in search of Theo Epstein earlier today, but perhaps he’d have been better off hacking into the cell phone of the Herald’s Steve Buckley, who reports the Red Sox GM is “on the cusp” of leaving Boston with a year to go on his contract, and assuming “greater powers” with the Chicago Cubs.

The hangup in the negotiations has been twofold. One of them is that Red Sox ownership was still hoping to have Epstein remain with the team. The other is compensation: If Epstein is to leave Boston, said one source with knowledge of the negotiations, the Red Sox are going to want “something real.”

Whether that involves a player, money or a combination of the two remains unclear.

Hey, what could be more real than a living, breathing Starling Castro? That said, even in the very unlikely event the Red Sox obtain top line talent for an executive, they’ve managed to jettison the only managerial/GM duo in team history to have won 2 World Series. For those in Boston possibly offended by the Cubs tampering with Epstein, WEEI.com’s Alex Speirer reminds us that 9 years ago,  CEO Larry Lucchino essentially mounted a weeks-long sit-in – after the A’s initially had denied the Sox permission to talk to Billy Beane– until former A’s owner Steve Schott finally relented and gave the Sox the chance to talk to Beane, at a time when he remained under contract in Oakland for six more seasons.”

In both Moneyball (the Michael Lewis bestseller about the A’s under Beane) and Feeding the Monster (Seth Mnookin’s tome about the Red Sox’ construction of a champion), the Sox and A’s — with Beane negotiating for the Sox, and Oakland Assistant GM Paul DePodesta in charge of negotiations for the A’s — are said to have worked out a deal to send Beane to Boston for Kevin Youkilis.

In point of fact, noted one person familiar with the talks, while the A’s and Sox discussed different trade possibilities, with Youkilis being in the conversation, there never was a final deal in place by the time that Beane’s change of heart scuttled the deal.

Still, that connection of Beane to Youkilis (at the time, a promising yet undervalued third base prospect whose tremendous plate discipline had yielded high OBPs but no real power) serves as the closest thing to a precedent in determining the trade value of a GM.

(UPDATE : Perhaps this isn’t the right night for me to have suggested — even jokingly — the Globe’s sports department is a few steps behind the Herald.  Bob Hohler’s thorough dissection of Boston’s clubhouse climate leaves few Red Sox unscathed, and passages concerning Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester are especially damning.  Most sensational of all, however, are insinuations Terry Francona’s employers thought he had a problem with pain medication, along with the not-so-crazy suggestion that perhaps ownership was too preoccupied with things besides baseball to have the first clue what was happening.)

Why, Oh Why Won’t Wally Backman Get A Chance To Embarrass The Mets (At The Major League Level)?

Posted in Baseball at 5:38 pm by

After a season in which Wally Backman led Binghamton (AA) to a 65-76 mark and served on Terry Collins’ coaching staff in September without incident, the former Mets 2B / serial candidate for managing the parent club is said to be mulling a move south, writes the New York Post’s Mike Puma.

The fiery Backman, 52, is considering the possibility of joining Davey Johnson’s coaching staff with the Nationals — likely as the third-base coach. The Nationals have not yet officially announced Johnson will return next season, but that is considered a formality.

The source said 68-year-old Johnson may look to groom Backman for the managerial job, much in the same manner Bobby Cox took Fredi Gonzalez under his wing with the Braves before retiring. Johnson was Backman’s manager with the Mets in the 1980s, a run that culminated with a World Series title in 1986.

Backman is the front runner to manage at Triple-A Buffalo next season if he stays with the Mets, but he is not a candidate for the major-league staff. The Mets recently picked up Collins’ option for 2013, and Backman could view the Nationals’ coaching opportunity as a quicker path to managing in the big leagues.

Well, yeah, if he’s betting on Davey’s health getting worse.

The Way The Philly Papers Are Chasing Andy Reid, You’d Think He Killed Dogs Or Something

Posted in Gridiron at 1:30 pm by

Perhaps right about now would be a good time for the 1-4 Iggles to suggest the lockout cost their high-priced roster proper time to prepare? Hey, that’s the excuse I’d be scrambling for after a putrid start to the 2011 season, the sole saving grace of which is that it takes just a little bit of heat off Charlie Manuel. How bad are things for head coach Andy Reid? The Inquirer’s Phil Sheridan has taken to comparing him to Rich Kotite.

This has the look and feel and especially the smell of Reid’s final season. He has burned through the equity he built with his first six seasons. He must be judged now on the product on the field and the decisions that led to its utter failure.

Reid decided on the unheard-of promotion of Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator. The defense is a mess.

Reid was fooled by Michael Vick’s stretch of midseason performances and committed the franchise and millions of dollars to the quarterback. Vick is a turnover machine on the brink of breaking down at any time.

Reid has final say on drafts that have not produced a difference-making defensive player since Trent Cole in 2005, and he was a fifth-round accident.

Any coach in the NFL would be fired after Reid’s last three, declining seasons. There is no reason left not to hold Reid to that same standard.

10.10.11

The Great Buddy Comedy / Reality Series That Slipped Thru Our Fingers : When Irabu Met Lima Time

Posted in Baseball at 4:14 pm by

“His moodiness, injuries and weight problems led George Steinbrenner to call him a fat toad, a stinging tag that he could not shake,” writes the New York Times’ Ken Belson of the late Hideki Irabu, whose suicide by hanging this past summer has not (until now, anyway) led to deeper reflection on Irabu’s personality or struggles.  “Irabu Got Lost On The Road Back” mostly chronicles the right-hander’s brief tenure with the Long Beach Armada of the now-defunct Golden League, and while it’s equal parts sad and illuminating, a rare bit of comic relief is provided by another pitcher who also shuffled off this mortal coil recently. Enter Jose Lima, “the only teammate who felt compelled to communicate with Irabu”.

Lima was perhaps the only person with enough stature to needle Irabu, and he did not miss the chance. About an hour before the Armada were to play the Scorpions in Yuma, Irabu had still not shown up. (Irabu pitched twice on the road because the parks were within driving distance of his home.)

Typically, the manager or coach would give that night’s starting pitcher the ball to be used to start the game. It was a bit of ceremony, but Irabu was nowhere to be seen that night. So Lima took the ball, put it in a clear plastic baggie, taped it to the clubhouse wall and wrote, Irabu #?, on the tape.

Irabu chuckled when he showed up, then he threw five innings, gave up four runs and struck out six to earn the win.

Another time, someone left a sign at Irabu’s locker that had a picture of two Japanese businessmen laughing with the words, ROR: Raugh out Roud. Some said Irabu got the joke.

CBC To Cherry : We’ll Stand Alongside The Pukes & Hypocrites, Thanks

Posted in Hockey, Medical Science, Sports TV at 3:40 pm by

“A rant that was moronic even by his own gravel-brained standards,” is how the Montreal Gazette’s Jack Todd viewed Saturday’s edition of Don Cherry’s “Coach’s Corner”. Hinting in his headline (with no supporting testimony) that Grapes’ days might be numbered on HNIC, the Hollywood Reporter’s Etan Viessing notes Cherry, “is suddenly way out of step with the CBC and the National Hockey League as they look to end headshots and fighting in professional hockey.”

“Don’s comments reflect his own personal opinion,” Kirstine Stewart, the CBC’s executive vp of English services, said in a statement on the weekend after Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada called ex-NHL goons Stu Grimson, Jim Thomson and Chris Nilan “pukes” and “hypocrites” for now opposing fighting.

“While we support his right to voice that opinion, we do not share his position. Player safety is a top priority for CBC, and we support the initiatives of the NHL and others in keeping players safe on and off the ice,” Stewart continued.

Putting blue sky between Cherry and the CBC also follows the recent deaths of former NHL enforcers Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak after they battled drug dependence and depression.

The question now asked by the Canadian media is how Cherry can continue to take to the CBC to condone the NHL’s star players being left helpless and out cold on the ice after taking head shots when the public broadcaster is backing the league’s push to clean up the game so players can live long and healthy lives after retirement.

10.09.11

Lawrence : When It Comes To Onerous Contracts, Arenas Is The New Allan Houston

Posted in Basketball at 4:39 pm by

(l-r : Allan Houston, aka “The Old Allan Houston”, Claudia Schiffer in James Toback’s unwatchable “Black & White”, 1990)

While we might be on the brink of losing two weeks of the NBA regular season (or worse), the New York Daily News’ Mitch Lawrence provides a glimpse inside the ongoing labor negotiations, with a grim reminder of Gilbert Arenas’ precipitous decline.

It was not surprising that when an amnesty clause was discussed between owners and players – a salary-cap lifeline for teams looking to shed a terrible contract – Arenas was viewed as the poster child for such a provision. Although he still doesn’t turn 30 until this coming January, who would want to pay him in excess of $19 million this coming season, almost $21 million next season and $22 million for 2013-14? Probably not his own team, for starters.

In these negotiations, which have broken down indefinitely over the money split, Arenas has taken the place of Allan Houston, whose name was linked to a similar clause in the previous collective bargaining agreement. Once suspended 50 games for his illegal and reckless use of guns with Javaris Crittenton, Arenas has replaced Houston as the face of bad contracts.

But a Knick could still be represented in a new rule, as owners are demanding a “Carmelo Anthony rule.” Such a rule would make it harder for stars like Anthony to force their way out of town and still be rewarded for it by signing a mega-deal extension with a new team, as Anthony did with the Knicks. The proposed rule would wipe out a player’s so-called “Bird rights,” which entitles him to a lucrative extension, if he didn’t get traded by a certain date. In other words, players like Anthony wouldn’t be able to get his cake and eat it, too.

Local Coupon Shopper Profiles The Proto Klosterman

Posted in Rock Und Roll at 2:36 pm by

(above : not the Dean Of American Food Critics)

Music critic Chuck Eddy, whose 1980′s efforts laid the groundwork for major reassessments of some of the worst records of all time seriously unhip genres, is profiled in the newspaper of his adopted hometown, the Austin American-Statesman.  Eddy, who sued the Beastie Boys for a half million dollars for dumping a bucket of water over his head, “has listened to more music than you have,” decl