Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Manny causes distraction by arriving in camp
Manny Ramirez showed up to Red Sox training camp yesterday a week earlier than expected, an act of characteristic selfishness which has left his teammates uneasy and the coaching staff baffled.
"He said he wouldn't be here til next week," said bench coach Brad Mills, "then he strolls in out of nowhere, ready to start getting in shape for the season. We don't have a locker ready for him, we're scrambling to fit him into the drills - it's just another case of Manny putting himself before the team."
Thrashers acquire Tkachuk for old, fat Cup run
The Atlanta Thrashers acquired veteran forward Keith Tkachuk from the St. Louis Blues for a prospect and two draft picks, giving GM Don Waddell what he called "the missing piece to our really old, overweight puzzle."
Waddell added, "The playoffs are a long and grueling endeavor, and players tend to lose massive amounts of water weight. Now that we've got Keith 'The Camel' on our side, I think we're ready to go the distance."
Bills looking to trade "irritatingly productive" McGahee
Buffalo Bills coach Dick Jauron publicly stated that the team would entertain offers for Willis McGahee, the frustratingly consistent runningback whose usefulness and relative health do not appear to fit into the Bills' plans for 2007.
"Our team is built for inconsistency, " Jauron said. "We want a whole team capable of getting shut out any given week - this way, we can lure teams into a false sense of security and catch them off guard the next week. Willis just hasn't really worked out as we envisioned, especially with him being constantly healthy, and I believe it's time for us to part ways."
Monday, February 26, 2007
Not to keep picking on my hometown Post-Gazette, but this latest column by Bob Smizik about why the Penguins don't need to trade for an enforcer got a little off track.
By 'off track,' I mean 'batshit crazy.'
On the topic of Georges Laraque's potential usefulness to an NHL team, Smizik writes:
The most famous enforcer in history never skated a shift in the NHL. Frank Nitti, known as "The Enforcer," helped Al Capone rule the street of a lawless Chicago some 70 years ago.
Um, alright. Cool. Maybe I'll Wikipedia Frank Nitti next time I'm bored at work. So how bout that hockey?
The police might not have been able to maintain order, but Nitti, legend has it, could. Nitti and men of his stripe were necessary in that era because the police often were bought off by the mob and subsequently had no power in controlling the criminal element.
Not only is this sentence way, way off topic from anything having to do with hockey, it also makes absolutely no sense. He's saying that because the police were bought off by the mob and had no power, Al Capone had to hire an enforcer to keep order? Is he saying Capone would have relied on the police to keep order in the mob world? Also, wasn't he the one buying off the police? Let's wait and see how this ties in to hockey.
Does the NHL really want the league compared to Capone's notorious Chicago? By suggesting their teams need enforcers, NHL coaches and general managers have made that a fair comparison.
As far as I'm aware, enforcers have more or less been a part of the NHL game throughout its entire modern existence, and I cannot imagine any human being with any shred of a rational ability to comprehend anything who would therefore compare the league to the Chicago mob scene of the 1920s, aside from the liquor bootlegging operation that Theo Fleury probably ran. Holy shit, NFL teams look for linebackers who hit hard?? That's exactly like the fucking Marines! By suggesting that teams need guys who hit hard, the NFL has made that a fair comparison.
The NHL is not Chicago.
Agreed. As far as I know, Chicago hasn't had an NHL team in more than a decade.
It has honest policemen. They're called referees and linesmen. It's their jobs to enforce the rules and they're good at it. They're not perfect, but they're good. Lawlessness does not reign in the NHL. Enforcers are not needed to make the participants abide by the law.
While I agree that the need for the traditional talentless enforcer has all but vanished from the NHL these past two seasons, surely there's not a GM or a hockey fan in the world who doesn't see the benefit to acquiring a notorious tough guy, especially when a Cup run consists of four best-of-seven series within which rivalries develop, vicious physical play occurs, and momentum is constantly thrown back and forth. Rather than concede some kind of rational acknowledgement towards this fact, Smizik spins off on this quarter-baked analogy to Al Capone, then ties it into the NHL by saying referees are honest policemen and therefore, somehow, that means teams don't need guys who can hit, fight, and retaliate.
If, say, Joey Porter and Troy Polamalu do not know how to skate, athletes of their ability easily could be taught. Once they can skate in a reasonable fashion, suit them up. If NHL players are going to blink at the thought of facing retaliation from Laraque, they'll be cowering at the prospect of Porter coming after them.
STEEEEELERSSSSSS!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOO!!! HERE WE GO STEELERS, HERE WE GO!!! WOOO!!! WOOO!!! HERE WE GO STEELERS, HERE WE GO!!! WOOO!!! WOOO!!!
Now that's an analogy I can understand! Smizik is so right! Screw Laraque, let's fucking TEACH JOEY PORTER HOW TO SKATE!!! Why has no NHL team ever thought of that??? If Smizik just said this right at the top, I would have understood his point immediately, it could have been a three-sentence column!
It's too stupid to comprehend.
I could not agree more, Mr. Smizik. Could not agree more.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Really, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette? Of all the typos you could have made, you actually chose the one that resulted in the word 'Butt'?
Sounds like the online editor was none too happy about his beloved Xplosion losing. And no, the fact that the city in Montana is pretty much 90% of the way to being the word 'butt' anyway is no excuse.
EDIT: The typo has been corrected. Apparently, instead of re-reading their own submissions for mistakes, the Post-Gazette just reads Teapot Dome Scandal constantly figuring that I'll let them know when they have accidentally typed the word 'butt'.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Ever notice how closely deformed Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson resembles British rapper Mike Skinner from The Streets? I know I have, and I imagine most fans of both the Pirates and superhyped British garagey rap (i.e., 80% of the US population) have thought this too. But the similarities are more than weirdly-mangled-skin deep. Consider:
2 - Both have bounced back strongly from public relationship issues; Skinner had a falling out with his fictional girlfriend on the "Grand Don't Come For Free" album, just as Wilson was constantly made fun of by Brian Giles and Jason Kendall.
3 - Both took pot-shots at fellow teammates; Wilson at second baseman Jose Castillo, Skinner at the American music press on the song "Two Nations."
4 - Both rarely ever take walks; Wilson drew just 33 walks last season in 580 plate appearances, only slightly higher than Mike Skinner's zero.
5 - I used to be big fans of both, but now if either one got traded to the Blue Jays, I wouldn't really feel so bad.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Monday, February 19, 2007
Friday, February 16, 2007
1. How surprised will the Cubs act when Mark Prior gets injured?
In past years, the Cubs franchise has gone into spring training giddy at the prospects of having a healthy Mark Prior anchoring their unstable rotation, and each year, Prior's inevitable injuries have deflated the Cubs' preseason enthusiasm. This year, the Cubs brought in Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, and Wade Miller so that when Prior gets hurt, they can act like they don't give a shit instead of crying over his infinitely receding return dates.
2. Can Jim Leyland string together enough soft-spoken mumbles to re-motivate the Tigers?
Leyland, the best motivator in the game, managed to muster enough barely audible, vaguely displeased sounding quips to fire up the young Tigers all the way into the World Series last year. Does he have any sentences with a random bleep in the middle where a swear word could not have possibly belonged left in him?
Drew's arrival in Boston should take some press heat off Manny Ramirez, but it is yet to be seen what specifically Drew will do to get deservedly bashed by Red Sox fans. The Boston Herald has begun compiling a list of potential pun headlines involving "Drew," "battery," and an assortment of offenses ranging from calling out his teammates to first degree manslaughter, but which headline they end up needing will be one of the hottest storylines of the spring.
4. Can the Mets successfully implement a "pitcherless offense?"
The Mets' plan to start nine position players in a game may be a departure from conventional wisdom, but in the long term, phasing out the contracts of Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine will give the Mets the flexibility to add Manny Ramirez and/or Miguel Tejada to the lineup to play Rover. Keep an eye on the position battle to see which Met will get to set the ball on the tee for the opposing team; manager Willie Randolph calls it "a wide open field... but it'll probably be like Endy Chavez or something."
5. Will Gil Meche win 8 games or 9?
The Royals signed Meche to a monstrous five year, $55 million deal this offseason, and while it's a given that his ERA is going to end up somewhere in the 5.10 - 5.30 range once he moves out of Safeco, it is yet to be determined if the Royals can muster enough luck and happenstance to have Meche end up with eight wins, or if they can get on a roll and make it nine. The entire Games Behind column of the AL Central hangs in the balance.
6. Who will win the Giants' "death pool"?
The San Francisco players have a pool going to see which one of the greying fogies on the team will be the first to die this season between Bonds, Rich Aurilia, Omar Vizquel, Mark Sweeney, and Ray Durham. It'll be interesting to see not only who dies, but how much the resulting pool victory improves the morale of the winning player.
7. Who are the Seattle Mariners?
Seriously, they're still a team, right? What've they been up to?
Last year, the Yankees managed to survive the burden of Alex Rodriguez's .290/35/121 performance during the regular season, but it finally got to them in the playoffs. Can they mend broken fences this offseason and convince A-Rod to get traded or to quit baseball altogether?
9. Can these young Braves get back to choking like the old Braves?
A rash of injuries over the Braves last season prevented them from achieving their annual first round playoff choke; this year, with a revamped bullpen and maturing talents all over the diamond, the Braves are poised to make a leap forward, but can these young players produce the mundane regular season consistency giving way to abrupt playoff exits like the Braves teams of old?
10. Can anyone beat the Cardinals?
Nope. They're pretty much invincible.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Monday, February 12, 2007
I'd just like to point out that right now, ESPN and ESPN2 are both showing auto racing.
1. Since when does ESPN play the same sport on both stations at the same time, let alone goddamn NASCAR?
2. Why isn't PTI on?
3. Are there any possible circumstances that would lead someone to think to themselves, "Hmm, I guess I'll watch 'Play It to the Bone?'"
The Barber of NBC-ville - Retired runningback Tiki Barber will work as an analyst for NBC next season; Barber has already started compiling his first field piece - an evaluation of the gaping void in the New York Giants' backfield.
Reid-ing into things - Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the team to attend to the recent incidents regarding his two sons. Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie released an official statement from the franchise, saying "I cannot go into specifics about how Andy will handle the situation, but my guess is that the kids will probably be passing more."
Since U Benson Gone - Orioles righty Kris Benson is likely out for the season after tearing his rotator cuff; when asked how the injury occurred if Benson wasn't pitching, he replied, "Sometimes it takes my wife a while to finish when there aren't news cameras in the bedroom. Oops, did I say that? Silly me. I mean, no comment."
Nag, Nag, Nagy - The Dallas Stars acquired winger Ladislav Nagy from the Coyotes for a prospect and a 1st round pick; said Nagy, "To be honest, Phoenix wasn't really much of a hockey town, so I'm looking forward to playing in Dallas."
Put down your Dukes - The Duke men's basketball team dropped out of the top 25 this week for the first time in ten years; Coach Mike Krzyzewski explained the situation, saying "we've tried going into the tournament as sleepers in the past and it didn't really work, so this year, we're gonna try being super-dooper-babooper Rip Van Winkle sleepers!"
Friday, February 09, 2007
The Cowboys' recent hiring of head coach Wade Phillips has drawn ire from the Raiders' notoriously controlling owner Al Davis, who is upset he was not allowed to have input in Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' coaching search. Jones, also well-known for his organizational power struggles, reportedly still harbors resentment toward Davis for not consulting him before the Raiders hired Lane Kiffin from USC as their head coach in January.
Despite numerous on-record power struggles and a substantial backlog of coaches with short lifespans, Jones has downplayed the recent allegations that he is currently in a power struggle with Davis, saying "It's ludicrous... we're owners of two completely different teams, how could we be in a power struggle? All I'm saying is, you look at the Raiders the last few years, the guy could probably use my advice. It's not like I'm asking to call the plays or anything."
Davis' retort was not as diplomatic.
"The guy is nuts for hiring Wade Phillips," said Davis, "that fatass doesn't believe in basing your entire franchise on drafting defensivebacks in the first two rounds every year. And neither does Jerry Jones. They're both wrong, and I figured, as the owner of the Raiders, I have every right to make sure the Cowboys are headed in the direction that I see fit."
The Dallas Morning news is reporting that while Jones and Davis have always resented one another for trying to out-control each other, the personal rivalry between the two intensified after Bill Parcells' retirement, leaving Jones without a power struggle partner.
Neither owner has given any indication that the feud will end anytime soon.
Jones added, "If that puppet coach from USC doesn't coach the Raiders exactly how I want them to be coached, his job may be in jeopardy. Yes, I know he just got hired. Yes, I know I don't have the authority to fire the Raiders coach. Are there any more questions? No? I'm done."
Fellow owner Daniel Snyder of the Washington Redskins was unamused to learn of the Jones/Davis cross-team power struggle.
"I'm giving them thirty days to bury the hatchet," Snyder said. "When that's up, if they're still fighting, I'm buying both franchises and putting Norv Turner in charge of both."
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
1 - Teams that did not win the Cup last season lacked players who made teammates laugh.
2 - Other teams did have players who made teammates laugh, but Whitney did it better.
I'm out of things to say.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Friday, February 02, 2007
Brett Favre has officially announced that he will play again in '07.
In a statement to the media, Favre, confident as ever, proclaimed, "You play this game for one reason and one reason only: to finish marginally above .500 and get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs."
At 37, Favre is certainly not without his critics, but he's not fazed.
"For years, people have been expecting me to break down, telling me I should retire now, that it's hurting the franchise to keep coming back" Favre said. "That just fuels my desire to prove them wrong in just over half the games this upcoming season. I can't wait to show everyone I have exactly enough left in the tank for one final abrupt playoff exit."
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is confident that Favre will have the better-than-average enough supporting cast in Green Bay that he needs to end his career on a slightly high note.
"We sure miss Javon Walker, but if Donald Driver keeps piling up the garbage yards and Ahman Green stops by for a few games, we might be able to compete in our piddling division," McCarthy said. "I don't imagine we're going to go overboard and address our concerns in the secondary this offseason, though."
"It's like I'm already fired," McCarthy added.
When asked if he has an encore planned to top his four-interception playoff choke from the 2004 season, Favre restated, "You don't play this game for personal glory. I'm not gonna go out there and try to throw five interceptions or fumble on the goal line or re-injure Ahman Green, or whatever. Those things will take care of themselves. My job is to go out there and get beaten by some other imperfect team that'll lose in the next round, maybe Minnesota or the Rams or something. But it would really mean a lot for my final loss to come at Lambeau in front of my home fans whose sentimental, unwavering faith in me has allowed these chokes to continue to be increasingly gut-wrenching."
Favre added, "The bottom line is, we've got a great group of talented guys here who will settle for nothing less than the fifth or sixth NFC playoff seeds. The area just beneath the sky is the limit."
Thursday, February 01, 2007
In case you belong to that tiny group of sports fans who doesn't rigorously follow the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jack Wilson - Pirates shortstop, $6-million-a-year eater, and symbolic face of a weird-looking franchise - publicly called out teammate Jose Castillo, an underachieving young second baseman, calling for better production out of his co-infielder in the coming 2007 season. To my bafflement, the residents of Piratestowne (a small suburb inside Steeler Country) were almost unanimously supportive of Wilson's actions.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Columnist Ron Cook writes, in his article titled "Wilson's first great play is calling out Castillo":
Wilson's show of leadership might not be as impressive as Freddy Sanchez's batting title last season. But, one day, it could prove to be more critical to any success the Pirates have.
Cook goes on to talk about the Pirates' culture of losing, history of lacking leadership, etc, all in the effort to make an incredibly short-sighted point about Jack Wilson's so-called value to the Pirates. His statement is problematic for several reasons:
Reason one, since when is publicly a teammate calling out a teammate "leadership?" If Steve Smith had called out Jake Delhomme this past NFL season, how do you think the media would have reacted? The headline on Around the Horn would have been "OK with Smith's actions?" with Jay Mariotti and Woody Page railing against how the Panthers have more important problems than just Delhomme, how adding friction to the mix isn't necessary, and so on. Pirates beat writer Dejan Kovacevic (with whom I rarely disagree) agrees with Cook, saying:
When Derek Jeter or Jason Giambi calls out A-Rod, he is hailed in New York as a hero. It shows that he cares, that he is thinking about the team first. When it happens in Pittsburgh, we check the back of the guy's bubble-gum card to see if he reached base often enough to open his mouth.
Well, Jeter is hailed as a hero for calling out A-Rod because Yankees fans are violently pack-minded morons, not because it's the right thing to do. And if you want to throw on-base-percentage into the mix, Jeter's career OBP is .388, Jack Wilson's is .306. Does this mean Wilson is automatically denied Jeter's right to assume a leadership role with his team? Of course not. It just means that Jack Wilson is not a very good baseball player, so if a franchise wants to build itself around his "leadership," they're going to get some pretty subpar offensive numbers to go along with it.
Reason two is more complicated. I freely admit that I propose this point knowing nothing firsthand about these individuals or their motives beyond what I read, but what if, just maybe, Jack Wilson is aware that he's not a great baseball player, and in order make himself essential to the franchise in some way, knows he has to gain a public reputation as a leader to justify being the highest paid Pirate and to bolster future contracts? Sort of like how Darrin Erstad and Brad Ausmus are seen as valuable leaders despite being nearly worthless at actually playing baseball, whereas fans freely admit they wouldn't want their teams to trade for A-Rod or Manny Ramirez?
Furthermore, any improvement in Castillo's game next season will generate further praise for Wilson, much as a faith healer works on a patient when their condition is at its worst, and if the condition improves, they appear to have done something. Cook is already lining up to credit Wilson should Castillo happen to improve, rather than praising Castillo himself; it's hard to say that the position Wilson has put Castillo in was intentionally self-serving, but regardless of the motives, Wilson has already deflected free praise to himself if Castillo has a decent season.
I just have trouble seeing Wilson's actions as anything more than a very calculated, very public attempt to pad his perceived value to a franchise that barely needs him anymore, and it appears to be working. Listen to this email from the PG's Pirates Mailbag from fan Doug "Yinz all wants some Primanti's?" Chrisner:
There are certain guys on our professional sports franchises that are just plain Pittsburgh guys. Hines Ward and Alan Faneca come to mind when thinking of the Steelers, and Jack Wilson clearly stands out when thinking of the Pirates. His leadership is crucial to the Pirates turning the corner, and his work ethic and tenure with the team give him every right to speak his mind and take control of the clubhouse.
The guy forgets to mention Raul Mondesi as another example, but we'll let that slide.
Seriously though, is this dude really comparing Jack Wilson to Hines Ward and Alan Faneca? Ward is the Steelers franchise's all-time leading receiver, and Faneca has been to like 50 Pro Bowls and might be bound for the Hall of Fame. Wilson had one decent year two years ago which he has followed up with OPS figures of .662 and .686 in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Basically, he's Geoff Blum at the plate, though the offensive numbers do not take into account the leadership that Wilson's 18 errors (same number as Castillo) provided.
Bottom line, the Pirates would more or less have the same offensive production without Wilson, perhaps even more, with Jose Bautista starting at third, Castillo at short, and Freddy Sanchez at second. But, rather than drift into fan-negativity-World though lackluster production at his relatively high cost, Wilson has taken the initiative and publicly called out pretty much the only player on the team who had a worse season than he did. If this helps Wilson earn another contract in the $6 million range, then more power to 'em. But if the Pirates are unable to re-sign this shining bastion of leadership with a tremendously goofy face, then I wish them good luck finding someone who can clog up the two-hole half as well as Jack Wilson.