Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ten MLB Deadlne Eve Moves And Musings

A few random notes from the day that makes far too many people happy, because far too many people care more about being GMs than being fans. These are in no particular order, just because.

1) Oakland trades RHP Rich Harden to Boston for 1B Lars Anderson.

Well, thank God ol' Brittle Rich didn't explode during his last start, so that the team was able to land the incredible bounty that is Andersson. Lars is 23 going on irrelevant, a top 100 prospect according to Baseball America, and a guy that might make everyone forget about Daric Barton. I'd pay money, at this point, to forget about Daric Barton. Anderson is also an Oakland native, a butcher around the bag, and about as valuable to Boston as a third nipple, what with Adrian Gonzalez in town.

As for Boston, they get Tim Wakefield insurance, and maybe another strong power arm in the back of their pen, as if they actually need that. And if Boston can actually figure out how to keep Harden healthy, so that he becomes a discount ace that make them win in the playoffs? Well, I'll feel the same way as I do when I watch Eric Chavez help the Yankees. (That way is Bitter. Very, very bitter.)

2) The Cardinals are trading for Raffy Furcal.

Um, dear God in Heaven, why? I get that Raffy has games and moments where he looks like the old-time sneaky useful SS and leadoff hitter that can really spark a team... but he's a sub-.200 hitter this year for the Dodgers, does not look like he gives any kind of damn, and is about as sturdy as, well, Rich Harden. This deal can only tell us that Tony LaRussa either doesn't care in the last several years of stats, or that his head hurts from juggling Ryan Theriot, Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene. The latter is defensible.

3) The DBacks get Jason Marquis from the Nats.

Marquis is your classic inning bulemic, in that he'll take the ball every turn and make you wonder if there's any way you can make him stop. This year, he looks better than most, since his ERA is under 4 (we really need to get the steroids back in MLB), but the 1.4+ WHIP and middling strikeout rate tells a different tale. I guess anything that keeps Micah Owings away from eyesight is a help, but only just.

4) The Tigers get Doug Fister from the Mariners.

The funniest name ever gets attached to a 3.33 ERA and 1.17 WHIP... and since he works for Seattle so far this year, a 3-12 won-loss record. Wow. Fisty is a pitch to contact guy that's going to enjoy actual moments of run support now, but he's also going to dislike the defensive issues that the Tigers bring to the table. He could have a sneaky impact on the pennant race, if only because he'll keep too-young guys from making starts for the Tigers.

5) The Indians move a boatload of guys to the Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez.

The whole trick is what Ubaldo they are getting... because this year's model isn't worth it, and Drew Pomeranz could be very, very special. I like the move for Cleveland because Ubaldo has real talent, could swing a pennant race for them this year, and is still on the upswing of his career. Besides, they kept him from going to the Bronx. (And to be fair, Jimenez has looked a lot better in July.)

6) Texas gets RP Koji Uehara from the Orioles for SP Tommy Hunter and 1B Chris Davis.

Davis gives the Orioles the wind machine they lost when birther Luke Scott exploded, and Hunter has been passed by with Texas doing well with prospects. Uehara could close for Texas if Nefty Feliz has issues, but his more likely value is to hammer down the eighth. It's a reasonable move for both sides, and hence, no fun at all to blog about. Be more stupid, both of you! I can't get enough mean humor out of Chris Davis.

7) The Giants get Orlando Cabrera from the Indians.

Wait, Orlando was still in MLB? And so is Miggy Tejada? You have to love the defending champions, you really do. It's not like the O-Cab hasn't had some good playoff moments.

8) Milwaukee gets Jerry Hairston Jr. from the Nats.

Last mildly useful guy in DC to go, please turn off the lights. This move doesn't happen without the ouchies to Carlos Gomez and Rickie Weeks, which is to say that it was bound to happen years ago, really. Hairston is 35, can still swing the bat a little, can play all over the place without being an active embarrassment, and made about as much sense in Washington as Donovan McNabb. He'll be helpful in Milwaukee, who are loading up for the Prince Fielder Swan Song pennant race.

9) Boston gets INF Mike Aviles from KC.

This just means that Boston has depth for when their collection of can't stay healthy guys... can't stay healthy. The nice thing about Aviles is that no matter what he does, we will hear about it. Isn't that precious?

10) P Hiroki Kuroda will stay in LA.

For longer than the ownership, clearly. He's got one more year and $12 more million to play games that no one watches; must be nice. Either that, or the Dodgers wanted to trade him to a place with bad miso. A man's got to have standards.

A Small Note In Re The Colby Rasmus Trade

It's a basic truism that if everyone believes something to be true, it usually isn't. And that's where I am right now with the Cardinals moving talented OF Colby Rasmus to the Jays in an effort to get pitching depth, and to rid themselves of someone who was not working out on the field or in the clubhouse.

Now, the Cardinals' manager is Tony LaRussa, who isn't exactly the easiest guy in MLB to work with. And the return that they got for Rasmus could easily all wash out in a couple of years; there is a reason why Edwin Jackson has been on so many teams despite having youth and stuff. I like lefty Marc Rzepcynski and Octavio Dotel has his uses, but for a guy with Rasmus' pedigree, it seems a little lacking.

That is, until you actually look at Rasmus' numbers.

Age 22 - 714 OPS
Age 23 - 859 OPS
Age 24 - 738 OPS

So... what exactly are the Cardinals giving up here? A lefty power bat who's high water mark was 23 homers in 2010, in 464 ABs. A middling speed guy; he's 20 for 31 on the basepaths in the bigs. A guy that doesn't walk enough. He's got some pop, and the six triples this year speaks to the talen... but MLB history is positively littered with talented guys who don't put it all together. And that's especially true of guys who couldn't work out with their management at an early age, let alone a guy who has Rasmus' daddy issues, or T-shirt choices.

Sure, Rasmus could turn things around and make LaRussa look silly; young guys who can post average OPS scores frequently do that. And yes, had the Cardinals made less of Rasmus being difficult to manage, they could have probably gotten a bigger package of talent for him.

And maybe, just maybe, they perversely drove up his value by making his pedestrian numbers look to be a case of managerial screwing around, rather than Rasmus just not being very likely to do more than this. Perhaps LaRussa has learned a few things in the four decades that he's been winning baseball games and managing personalities. Perhaps there's even more trouble under this hood than you and I know about.

When you look at the guys that Rasmus is similar to in baseball history, there are some intriguing names: Bobby Bonds, Andrew Dawson, Roy Sievers, Jim Wynn. But there's also Ben Francisco, Armando Rios, Garrett Jones, Oddibe McDowell and Corey Patterson. So in the immortal meaning, if not the words, of Winston Wolf... let's not start servicing Toronto's manhood yet. Jays Fan really doesn't need a repeat of the Rios Experience.

(Oh, and a final note on this? Rasmus is 0 for 8 with a walk in his Toronto career as I write this. Small sample size and all that, sure, but still... and I saw the last at bat today, leading off the ninth down 3-0. Let's just say that Colby's intensity wasn't exactly, um, intense. Lotsa luck, redneck.)

Is Philadelphia A Baseball First Town?

Yesterday, the two top teams in the market made personnel moves. The Eagles landed the most coveted free agent on the market in CB Nmandi Asomugha, a Pro Bowl DL in Jason Babin, a more than competent TE in Donald Lee, and the probable QB2 Vince Young. The Phillies traded for OF Hunter Pence from Houston, giving up two prospects and two pieces of farm chattel to be named later.

And in the roundup email that I get from two different Philly area blogs... the Pence trade led both sites.

Now, I get that the Pence move happened last, and that baseball is being played right now, and that maybe all of the bodies that the Eagles brought in dimmed the Asomugha star a bit. But on the national sites, Asomuga led for a good long time, and Pence was more or less an afterthought.

Besides, this is America, where the NFL is the top ten sports, and baseball comes in sometime after that. What gives?

The difference is that the sports media marketplace has just changed in town. It's the Phillies that have gone to the playoffs every year. It's the Phillies who have won a championship in our lifetimes; for many of us, multiple championships. It's also the Phillies who are, well, white, and aren't led by an infamous felon.

When I was a kid and the Phillies were terrible, this was a football town, pure and simple. By mid July every year, you'd hear "Let's Go Eagles" chants in the stands at Phillies games, and you never heard the Phillies chanted for at Eagles games. Minor signings for Green trumped major ones for Red, and disdain for the summer game was common, while pro football hate was nearly verboten.

Now, not so much; it's much more of an even fight. Perhaps that's just Andy Reid Fatigue, or a sense that the best era in Phillies history should be savored. Perhaps the lack of a dominating defense, or the change in the game away from crushing hits and more towards managed expectations, has weakened the area's taste for the gridiron. Or maybe I'm the one who's off, since my Eagles / A's fandom puts me on notice for such things.

In any event. if you think that Pence trumps Asomugha... you're wrong, if only because one of these guys will go down in history as one of the best to ever play the position, and the other guy is no better than than a complimentary part. But still, what a time to be a fan of the local laundry.

Top 10 Reasons Why Nnamdi Asomugha Signed With The Eagles

10) Philly gave him the most Oakland-like ambiance of any fan base, with the added benefit of an owner that doesn't sleep in a crypt

9) Wanted to give the high hard one to New York and Dallas, and be as much like Cliff Lee as possible

8) Was pretty sure that he could get the 21 jersey away from Joselio Hanson, assuming Hanson still exists

7) Figures that with Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the field with him, he might actually get to defend a few passes this year

6) A $25 million signing bonus can make a man give up his automatic January and February vacation time

5) Two games a year against whoever the Redskins play at QB, and the annual Late Winter Eli Manning Folds In Wind Game, has a certain appeal

4) Secret member of the Bobby Taylor cult

3) Can't wait to hear how South Philly Italian guys massacre his name

2) Figures this is his best chance to play linebacker

1) By pissing off Al Davis, Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder all at once, has pretty much earned the ability to commit any crime he wants for the next 3 to 6 months

What Nnamdi Means

Today, the Eagles shocked the NFL by getting CB Nnamdi Asomugha to sign a 5-year, $60 million deal to ply his trade in Philly. The Pro Bowl ex-Raider has just 3 picks in the last 4 years, mostly because every team that has come near Oakland has just been avoiding the holy hell out of him, really. As an Eagle, with the other side manned by the talented Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the incumbent #1 CB, Asante Samuel, there's much to go over. Namely...

1) Does this mean Samuel's gone?

Well, eventually everyone is gone; that's the nature of football, and it's really the nature of football under Andy Reid, where growing old gracefully is best done out of town. Samuel is getting close to 30, or the time when gambles start becoming losses. He was great for much of 2010, but the Reid Era has always been about today, not yesterday.

Having said that... I don't really know that he's gone. For starters, everyone in the league is going to think he's on the block now; not exactly the dealing from strength that the team did so well with the Kevin Kolb trade to Arizona. The Giants, Cowboys, Packers, Saints and more all beat you like a drum by going to WR3; it's really silly to think that, in today's NFL, that nickel bank isn't incredibly important.

There's also this: DRC isn't better than Samuel *today*. And today is all that matters to Reid, the longest tenured coach in the NFL, and a man who has to get the long lunch goodbye one of these years if he doesn't preside over a parade. For a year, especially after a trade, I think you can tutor DRC up, have him play the nickel, and thank your lucky stars that he's here when one of the top guys go down. It's not as if Samuel's an iron man out there, or that iron men exist at corner.

2) How much better does this make the defense?

In certain downs and distances, an almost immeasurable amount over last year's collection of Toast Patterson and Gone Hobbs; we never knew how much we missed Sheldon Brown until he was gone. (And hurt, for Cleveland. Even when it goes badly, Reid's decisions as a GM still make some sense.) But the trick is getting to those downs and distances. With the overrated but still tolerable exception of Jeremiah Trotter, this team hasn't had a quality LB in the entire Reid Era, which is why you kill this defense with a patient ground game, screens to the backs, and crosses to the tight end. It's really a fairly simple situation; if you are patient and you are powerful against Gang Green, you eventually kick sand in their faces and win. Get in long distance, and the quality CBs of the Reid Era make enough plays, and the esoteric blitzes generate enough heat. But if you keep playing little ball, you win.

Right now as presently constituted, the Eagles make for a hell of Arena Ball defense, and with the nature of the NFL -- i.e., holding penalties, missed execution, blown blocks, etc. -- even weak defenses get 15 to 20 long down and distance opportunities a game. Getting off the field on those is how you keep your scoring average down, but actually taking the ball away, and/or breaking the will of the opposition via random acts of effective violence... well, that's not what happens under Cap'n Andy. Which is why, even though the team has won more games than any other era, it's still felt wrong, like a transplant that didn't take. Eagle Fan doesn't want to win pretty; Eagle Fan wants to bloody you up. Nnamdi doesn't' really change that, and maybe in this era of football, it's best not to try...

But God in heaven, I want a linebacker. Maybe six of them, really.

Failing that, Asomugha just makes them what they were prior to last year's red zone meltdown; a play from ahead collection of pinball wizards. When what we all pine for is the second coming of Joyner, Evans, Thomas, Bergey...

3) What's the hidden joy of getting Nmandi?

The fact that he *isn't* a Cowboy, Giant, Packer, Saint, or anyone else that we'll have to worry about in the playoffs. Let's face it, two to three games of watching this guy obliterate DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin would have been distressing, especially if he went to a team with a pass rush. Keeping him away from the teams that could have used him more is a win, and not a small one, really.

(Oh, and the fact that he spurned New York and Dallas to come here? That makes him the football equivalent of Cliff Lee. And probably the hottest jersey in town.)

4) With this and the other signings, are the Eagles now the NFC Super Bowl favorite?

Hell and no; that team lives in Green Bay, and if you really want to be mean, it's also fair to point out that the Saints aren't exactly playing for dead, either. Team Green still needs to keep Mike Vick upright and conscious, has to integrate a lot of new parts, will go to war with a defensive coordinator hire that made everyone go wha?, and still lack any linebackers of real confidence. They also don't have rings on their fingers, and teams that knock on the door for a really long time... usually don't get one just by hanging around. Reid's game management is still what it is; a cold sweat nightmare waiting to happen.

But they are now the favorite to win their division, which gives them a 2 out of 3 chance to have a bye. They did keep the biggest catch of the FA market from their rivals. They did fix the biggest hole on the team. They aren't cap strapped; they didn't bring in a guy who has been a head case, and not being a head case to get the hell out of Oakland takes work, really. They got a guy who, more than anyone else on the current roster, looks like a guy who could wind up in Canton one day.

Championships aren't won in free agency. But they are lost... and today, my team didn't lose. Many of the clubs chasing them, however, did.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Do Not Make Me Mess Up Heath Bell With My Mind

In news you could not possibly care about, I own the following four closers in my fantasy league.

Neftali Feliz, Rangers
Huston Street, Rockies
Mark Melancon, Astros
Javy Guerra, Dodgers

Now, here's the, ahem, fun part.

The Rangers are rumored to be interested in Heath Bell, the best available closer on the market, from the woebegone Padres. Bell is a free agent after the year is over, and since he is presumed to have a functioning cerebrum and the ability to do math, won't be coming back to PadLand. The Rangers are gripping to win the West again, as the Angels have held tough despite two long Ranger wining streaks. If Bell comes to town, I'm pretty much screwed.

Street, of course, has also been involved in trade talks since the Rockies aren't much of a threat for the postseason this year, and Melancon isn't much of a closer threat, because the Astros win about as often as the Washington Generals. Which brings us to Guerra. He's been getting the job done for the past few weeks for the SoCal Expos, but he's not who they really want to have the job. That would either be Jonathan Broxton, who was last seen rocking back and forth in a fetal position while muttering the words "Matt Stairs." Or, more possibly right now, Kenley Jansen, a flame-throwing ex-catcher who has got the pure heat that many people believe is the only requirement for the job. My guy Guerra just gets outs, you see, though to be fair, Jansen has been solid for the last couple of weeks, and it's not as if either of these guys is going to be in Cooperstown with anything but a self-paid ticket at any point in their lives.

Which is when, well, The Force Of My Mind kicks in... and Jansen winds up with an irregular heartbeat and off the active roster. Right after he gets a save. 23 years old, and his heart is fluttering.


So, Rangers? Don't deal for Bell, especially after Feliz was lights out in getting his 21st save tonight. You don't think I won't pop your new closer-to-be's head like a zit if he gets in the way of my team's inexorable rise to the bubble?

DO NOT TRIFLE WITH ME. I HAZ POWERZ. Sadly outdated and gooey powerz...

Top 10 reasons why the Patriots signed Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth

10) Were really tired of that whole "plucky overachiever" image

9) Wanted to show the world just how much they control the media by whitewashing both of these assclowns

8) Ocho fills the role of Overrated Guy For Darrelle Revis to waste his time on

7) Gives everyone in town even more of a chance to stroke Wes Welker (WELLLKAHHHH!)

6) Both guys are better at rushing the passer then anything else they had in 2010, and Albert's 40 time is fairly theoretical now

5) It's not like trading draft picks to Mike Brown or Daniel Snyder has ever come back to haunt anyone

4) Despite everyone in town's fervent hopes, Deion Brown really is that horrible

3) Solves the huge problem of Ocho not having enough access to microphones

2) Wanted to win the 2008 Super Bowl

1) As the following play shows, after "Spygate", the team lost the ability to review current video tape

Do Not Make Justin Upton Angry

In the fourth inning of tonight's game in San Diego -- you know, the best pitcher's park in baseball, the place where you do not exactly expect to see moonshot home runs, or offense of any kind -- Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton, who is just insanely hot right now, was denied time out before a pitch.

He got a little angry about this. In a good way. See what happens here.

For those of you who didn't click, he hit an absolute crush job to left center, leaving the yard with no doubt. Upton then proceeded to trot around the bases with a continuing and lovely case of the red ass. You've never seen a man less happy about going yard; it's pretty great. Well worth your click, even if you are an old-school guy who thinks that his next at-bat should end with a fastball in the ear hole.

Oh, and on that next at bat? He proceeded to hit the ball into the third deck in left field, off a freaking building. The "Western Metal Supply Company", to be specific. (Did you know that Petco had a building in left field? Of course you didn't, because no one has ever hit it with a baseball before. OK, I'm guessing on that last part. But still; ye freaking gads.)

Now, I happen to have this guy on my fake team. He's single-handedly keeping my interest in baseball right now, although watching the A's play with some small measure of competence after the All Star break also doesn't stink. But for the time being, Upton is just must-stream TV.

Oh, and Arizona? You might want to see what you can do to keep his Rage up. 900 feet of homers a night is worth trying to replicate. A lot. (And no one tell the Padres, Dodgers, or the rest of the teams with Upton upcoming about pitching around him. Thanks much.)

The Cuckold Tour Continues

Keeping it on men who used to be QB1 for my laundry, Donovan McNabb is escaping the Washington hellmouth for Minnesota... and I'm pretty sure that you can buy his Redskins game jersey for however many empty cans you can find around the house, assuming the District's homeless are willing to barter, and you are OK with the significant laundry job ahead of you. Let's just say that any situation where you lose a job to John Beck and Rex Grossman is not one that you are going to look back on with too much fondness.

In Minnesota, The Man Who Used To Be Five will get to hand off to Adrian Peterson, throw to Visanthe Schiancoe and the presumably headache-free Percy Harvin, and look spry and nimble in comparison to the old assclown that had the job last year. He's also going to get cuckolded in a year by first round draft pick Christian Ponder, assuming he doesn't have a division winning year in him, and thank the Lockout Gods that Ponder has had no camp time to show that he's ready for the job early. But after his time in the District, he's probably far more willing to endure that kind of thing. It's just that amazing, really, that going to a place where the stadium collapsed and the season ended with a third-string WR under center... could be a clear upgrade. Nice franchise you've got there, Danny Snyder. (Is there still time for you to sue us?)

Oh, and just for funsies... the Redskins got back a sixth round pick for McNabb, after giving up a second. You have to love the Skins, especially if any of their "braintrust" comes to your poker game.

Since my team does not play the Vikings this year, I wish Don all the luck in the world and a rebirth that ensures his place in Canton. It would also help nicely if he could help take some of the air out of the Packers and Bears, both of whom look like significant threats. I think he could have fantasy value and/or relevance, especially if his offensive line bounces back from last year's fold job. Assuming the man's got pride, he might have all kinds of sneaky value... and if you don't think he's excited by the Week 15 Christmas Eve visit to DC? Um, he is. A lot. (Though I'm going to be a little more intrigued by the Week home game with Arizona.)

A final point to Viking Fan who is convinced that his franchise just screwed the pooch by bringing in another aging drama queen to retard the development of the young and promising... Don's really not like that. Unlike Bretty, he actually does seem to give a damn about his teammates, will accept blame when he plays badly, and won't be a guaranteed turnover machine. He won't save you -- he's too old, brittle, and inaccurate for that -- but he won't make you regret life in the profound ways that Bretty did. And had you gotten him a year ago, and let Voldemort stay dead? You'd have gone to the playoffs. (And lost, of course. But still, better than what happened. Though on second thought, I'm kind of glad that McNabb wasn't there when the roof collapsed, since I'm pretty sure that Rush Limbaugh would have blamed him for that as well.)

The Long Kolb Goodbye

So the reports on the wires are that Kevin Kolb is finally going to make that long trip west to Arizona, for the long rumored price of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a draft pick. This fills the biggest hole on the defense to a reasonable degree, keeps Kolb from haunting the faithful for more then two games a year, and resurrects Larry Fitzgerald's fantasy value. It's all good, really.

It is, of course, a big deal in town for this to happen already, since Seattle went for the Tarvaris Jackson mistake quickly, which seemed to limit the Eagles' leverage at getting a reputable starter for a backup QB. But after a year of watching Derek Anderson Et Al throw away a very winnable division championship year for the Buzzsaw (remember, the Seahawks won this division and a playoff game despite not finishing at .500 or better), paying a reasonable price for a reasonably exciting QB1-ready talent seems like a no-brainer. But then again, so did backing up a Brinks truck to Kurt Warner's door to keep him from retiring, or making a move 12 months ago to prevent Anderson in the first place. The idea that a team actually gave that guy a starting job, let alone in a division that was easily winnable with only competent QB play, still boggles the mind.

In Arizona, I think Kolb becomes the big fantasy money man that the world wants, with more or less the same story that he had in Philly a year ago: high expectations, lots of yards and scores, and probably too many turnovers to make for real world happiness. But at least the Cardinals will go back to resembling an NFL team, and it's not like the NFC West is actually difficult to win.

From a pure fiscal and talent standpoint, you can't argue with Kolb moving on. The team has far too many holes, of which CB2 was merely the most obvious, to keep the apparent luxury of a credible backup QB around, and the nature of the Eagles OL in 2010 was such that a back up QB better be able to move. But there's still a sense of miss here, that we never actually saw what could have been, and the not-insignificant dread that Kolb will be the player move we all regret, the QB equivalent of Cris Carter. (Rather than, say, AJ Feeley.)

That's not to say we won't wish him well. There's no real bitterness here now, and so long as Kolb doesn't beat Green in a playoff game while being a jackass, there won't be later. Personally, I hope he winds up being the second-best QB in the conference, especially if he winds up on my fantasy team. And it's pretty obvious who I'm hoping he'll be second to.

Oh, and one last thing: Arizona comes to Philly for a Week 10 game on November 13. Kolb could easily have his revenge. But so could DRC.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top 10 reasons why the Bengals won't trade Carson Palmer

The Bengals QB has said that if his team won't trade him, he'll retire... and has sold his house to boot. What are the real reasons why Cincy won't move him?

10) Just can't inflict that kind of play on any fan base but their own, because the "Bengals" are actually a massive psychology experiment on the mechanics of cruelty

9) Convinced that if they moved him, then Jordan Palmer would be next

8) Want to show the rest of the NFL how we can stop Brett Favre in our lifetime

7) It's not as if the Bengals care about winning games, selling tickets or acting sensibly

6) Afraid that if they give in on this one, 45 other guys would retire, along with the coaching staff, hot dog vendors and parking lot attendants

5) When you've lost as many games as the Bengals have, you learn a few things

4) Were really hoping to get him killed, and teach Andy Dalton an important lesson

3) If they trade him, can't bring back the All Sideshow Team with Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco in 2012

2) Palmer's the only guy on the roster with enough money to bail out Pac Man Jones

1) Mike Brown is in the running for Stupidest Person On The Planet with these people, and needs the extra cushion

MLB TV Is Stone Cold Crack

In the great HBO series "The Wire" -- what, you haven't watched it, and you still are reading a sports blog in 2011? I won't report you to the authorities RIGHT NOW, but get on that -- there's a scene where various drug dealers are wandering around the bad streets of Baltimore, yelling out new names for the crack they are peddling. "WMD!" "Red Caps!" "Anthrax!" Et cetera, et cetera; the stronger the name they can come up with, the more the junkies will gravitate their way.

This is, of course, not exactly the product endorsement that MLB TV would want for their product... but it is, let us not kid ourselves, WMD. With a side of Anthrax. And I'm about to load up on a 2-month supply of it.

For reasons best left undisclosed, I now have access to the MLB.TV video access... and yes, I know that I'm years behind the true bleeding edge tech people here, but good God in heaven, the geek factor here? Off the freaking charts.

Want to fire up, well, every game at once in your own personal TerrorDome of ball? Just run your laptop via an RGB cord into your television, crank up your broadband as high as it will go, and strap yourself into the recliner for hours upon hours of non-movement. The only limit is blackout restrictions, which still means you get live audio.

Want to see every single at bat and pitch of your fantasy league lineup, live as they are happening? Just tell the happy little app who want to see -- it took me, oh, less than five minutes -- and it'll do that for you as well, with highlighted copy when your guy is coming to the plate or toeing the rubber. If you are OCDish enough (and if you are wondering if I am, you haven't read the blog long enough), you can pretty much sink yourself into a chair and not be seen again for an evening or more.

This does not, of course, make for a happier geek, or even a more successful one. Now instead of, say, learning how the glasslike Chipper Jones is out of the lineup in my weekly moves league at the end of the day, I get to see it in real time. Along with the pummeling of my pitching staff, the blown saves that bedevil my occasional chances at a win, or the closer working in non-save situation that seem to make the most of my guys appearances. It also means you can even go picture in picture for highlights, and all of this functionality is just what I've learned in the first hour of fiddling with it.

You also get access to all of the local telecasts, and folks, the homerism out there is Not Subtle. It also means that your chance of seeing Hawk Harrelson just went up exponentially, and that can't be a good thing. I've already seen one of my slobs whiff and another pop up with a man on third and nobody out; this app is clearly Bad Luck, along with being Bad News.

But all of that is quibbling, really. I may never watch baseball through cable again, or less than 2-3 games at a time. It's just that crack-tastic, enabling, and gatewayish. Ask for it by name.

If You Get To Call Anyone Involved In The NFL Lockout A Winner, I Get To Call You Satan's Butt Monkey

There are headlines that you see in this world, and you know as you are clicking on them that the only reason you are doing this is because... on some level, you enjoy hurting yourself. And that's where we are when you click on this little piece of forced sludge from Ashley Fox, formerly a midddler for the Philly papers, now a peon for King Mouse. Ms. Fox believes that the following people can be called "winners."

> The owners and players

> Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith

> The lawyers

> Veteran players and

> The city of Indianapolis.

Let's examine each in turn, shall we?

Owners and players: Um, not to quibble here, but this was a negotiation, and for both sides to win we pretty much have to enter the world of Participant trophies. Bullspit, basically.

The owners got to keep their exhibition games, got 5% more despite already having a wildly profitable business, and have to pretend to be angry about the guaranteed spend that will only really hurt the 2-3 slobs at the bottom of the city barrel who will either move to Los Angeles or sell to some freshly heeled snob in 1-2 years for a handsome profit on their original investment. They also get to keep their non-guaranteed contracts despite the fact that their league is basically guaranteed decrepitude, and will soak the public for a fresh 8 games of unwelcome Thursday nights. If you think the players won this, or even could, you're high. Or that a massive media conglomerate pays your bills.

> Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith. Honestly, you think that a commish that couldn't keep his league from four months of pointless PR bloodbath is a winner? If you crash your car in a ditch, and do thousands of dollars of damage, but keep from rolling it down a cliff... that doesn't make you a winner. It makes you a loser. Perhaps a lucky one. But not more than that.

As for Smith, he lost the legal high ground, gave back what we talked about before, and failed to improve the life of his charges. He never put the owners in any real moment of unease, didn't risk the player's PR perception for cash (which is, well, something that Labor almost always have to do in a corrupt and complicit media environment), and left money on the table. Not exactly winning behavior.

> The lawyers? The lawyers always win. One more reason to hate them.

> Veteran players. Well, they still get to play exhibition games, but they do get to miss some training camp and get a bump in their minimum salary... but honestly, it depends on the role, really. Some positions are much more reliant on their teammates than others, especially in regards to collecting the numbers that drive bigger contracts. If I'm a QB, I'm really not loving the idea that my backs and line aren't as up to speed on their blitz coverage as they might have been otherwise. If I'm a back who needs to hit so many yards per carry to get paid, I'm not loving the lack of cohesive line play. And so on, and so on. There's precious little win here.

> The city of Indianapolis. Well, whatever; out of town cash spends and all. But why does anyone care about the well-being of the hotel and hospitality workers of freaking Indianapolis, or fails to understand that the "$400 million" of quoted economic benefit just comes from every other part of America, and that it wouldn't have been any kind of tragedy if it had stayed there?

Look, there is only one real winner in this: the broadcast networks and media properties that would have stunk like fish in noon heat if there was no NFL this year, or if the league had counterfeited their season by shortening or bastardizing it.

And the fact that the media that's telling you who the winners and losers are from this thing... won't tell you that they are among the winners?

Well, that's a little bit telling now too, isn't it?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Five Steps To Being A Fantasy Football Hack

Now that the NFL lockout is over, it's time for all of us to mainline fantasy football news straight into our jugular vein, since only the biggest nerds are going to be able to make the six-week sprint to the season start work. (Wait, six weeks until the season starts? Why didn't they lock the players out longer? Oh, right, because it was starting to cost the owners money.)

FTT knows that you, Dear Reader, long to be more popular than us, which usually can be achieved just through the weekly use of soap. And one of the best ways to do that is to offer your fantasy football opinions in a way that doesn't require the audience to read, since online video is just like the tee vee, but better, since I canz pause it and rewatch it over and over again. So here's the quick five ways for you to become a white (almost always) hot fantasy pundit!

1) Your dial goes from 1 to... 11! Are you scared of drafting a guy? Hell no. You are TERRIFIED! Pants-wetting, white-knuckled, eyes so wide that you've lost eyeglasses in them, rather than contacts... that's your degree of FEAR over drafting a big name player that might not match his 2010 numbers. (And if you consider a player's average draft position to be off, it's not: it's INSANE!)

2) Puns Are Punny!
(You see what I did there, with the p instead of the f? Feel free to use that. We're givers.) Fantasy football fans aren't here for information: they are here to see how humorous you can be with your analysis. So break out the def jam poetry, the song parodies, the knock-knock jokes... it's what we expect. Nay, demand!

3) Booth babes! If you've ever been at a science fiction convention -- and let's face it, you are reading a sports blog, so you have -- you've seen 'em: women packed into synthetic clothing, armed with a paragraph of in-character dialogue or backstory, posing for pictures and light TnA teasing with the paying endomorphs who saunter by while trying not to lose containment. That works in sports blogging, too! Just get your endowed friend of a friend of a paid friend to go for the Sexy Librarian look -- tied hair, non-functioning eyeglasses, peakaboo cleavage -- and lob you softballs (heh heh, I said balls) prior to your rants. If you are feeling extra generous, give her one of your lesser zingers as well. It's a team effort! (Warning: She will become much more popular than you. Regardless of the quality of zinger.)

4) Volume, VOLUME, VOLUME!!! Cyberslacking digital peons love to crank down their speakers or whip off their earbuds during their 9-to-Soul Death, and are sure to come back to the site that was so sure about what's going to happen this season, THEY HAD TO SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS. Why should broadcast media, drag strip announcers and opera divas have all the fun? Remember, if your voice cracks, your argument must be correct.

5) Prop You? No, Prop Me!
From your wacky sunglasses to your drive-by haircut, and all the way to your shirt that came way out of the closet (not that there's anything wrong with that), the doodads make the doofus. How are you supposed to stand out from the braying horde otherwise? And remember, if anyone else out here in Braying Blogfrica steals your look, that just means they are a total biotch who should have their hair pulled and eyeballs clawed the next time you see them. Fantasy football guys just don't do that to each other!

As always, any you want to add in the comments are welcome, and remember the mantra: this is better than lockout "news." This is better than lockout "news." This is better...

Hoop Leverage

Here's a delightful little note for everyone hoping that NBA owners get exactly what's coming to them: Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant (Not Kevin Durant! He's supposed to be super-religious, on his original team, not a big diva and therefore the source of all light and hope in the Association, and easily cowed to Management!) getting 400 grr for playing a weekend of exhibition hoop in Manila.

I recommend the link, if only for the fact that SI's Sam Amick and his presumably awake editors went for Kent Brockman's signature line ("Only time will tell"). Yes, Sam, it will. We are all nodding our heads in gravitas agreement. Along with the idea that everyone's going to go do this once the word gets out (Shh!) that foreign ball is tax-free and your licensing deals aren't split with your team or player's union. Why, it's just stupid to stay in North America to play hoop!

(OK, actually on that last point? It is. There is no hoop right now in North America, and there isn't likely to be any from October through December. So go get paid. Or start your own league. Anything that makes Mssrs. Stern, Stirling, Gibson, Cuban, Dolan and several dozen other trustafarians and thieves hurt, I'm OK with.)

As for the actual point of all this... if the NBAPA wanted *real* leverage, they'd be going to their stud players and telling them to set up exhibition games, for cash, in independent venues with their own choice for players. Line it up with an insurance company for injury concerns, stream it on the Internet and any cable station that wants to tweak the nose of Big Mouse (Versus?), and get enough names on it with a winner-take-all cash play that will make things a little more intriguing.

Because the thing about the Association is that we care about players now, more than teams. So play, players, and see what happens. I guarantee you that it will be better than just sitting on your hands until the masters decide to let you back in.

Once Again, I Hurt My Football Team

Well folks... since we appear to be well and truly done with the lockotu and will make the season start on time, it's time to do the dumb thing that I do for the Shooter Mom... take her to an Eagles game. Or just go to one myself.

In case you are new to the blog, here's the sordid history of recent watched failure...

1) December 2010 -- The Tuesday night loss to the Joe Webb Vikings, which wound up costing the team a shot at the bye week and set up the first round loss to the Packers

2) November 2010 -- The Sunday afternoon late game against the Bears, where Michael Vick continued his baffling career-long problem of never beating Chicago

3) September 2007 -- The road game in Green Bay where the team would have won if only they hadn't tried to field punts with people who, well, had never tried to field punts

4) September 2006 -- When the Giants came to the Linc and came back from a ludicrous deficit, with Jeremy Shockey punking Brian Dawkins, and the Giants recovering multiple fumbles for ludicrous gains

So when -- not if -- the Rams come through with a Week One upset where Sam Bradford goes crazy stats, and Danny Amendola has his short plucky white vengeance on the team that didn't give him a job in training camp? Blame me. Bet on the Rams. Bet 'em twice. I am Shiva, destroyer of seasons, and I'm riding with the Eagles on Week One.

If We're Talking About Brett Favre To The Eagles, Then Maybe We Were Better Off Locked Out

OK, now that we're finally going back to talking about games rather than theft, extortion and graft, let's address the two great absurdities of the week in regards to who gets to be QB2 for my favorite re-existing football team.

Namely, the Lord Voldemort of Football... Bretty Favre.

When last seen on a sideline, Favre was collecting a paycheck for distracting NFL television personnel with his presence for a going nowhere Vikings that followed up an NFC Championship Game Year with a total trainwreck. He's spent, shot, done, hurt, old, turnover prone, a drama queen, a clubhouse lawyer, and about as welcome in a locker room as a rat in an elevator. He'd also be one of the better backups in the league, mostly because backup QBs stink, but...

Does anyone really believe that Bretty would be OK with being a backup?

Or that Eagle Fan, who is, let's not kid ourselves here, more than wise in the ways of racism, wouldn't pule for him with the heat of a thousand suns at the first sign of weakness from Michael Vick?

And even if you do somehow get the idea that Favre would be OK with the clipboard job, or that Cap'n Andy Reid is so secure in his playpen that any sideshow is welcome... well, let's point out something here.

There are not two less similar QBs in the league, assuming Favre can be said to be in the league. And a big part of the reason why Vick has this job, and not the presumably Arizona-bound Kevin Kolb, is that the offensive line was bad bad bad in 2010, and that only a Houdini act at QB can keep the sticks moving, because only a Houdini act at QB can actually get a throw off before eating turf.

Which would lead the Eagles to run this scenario in the break glass Favre emergency moment... Vick goes down with an injury resulting from a weak o-line, or his own damned inability to settle and manage his season-long availability. Then Favre comes in, and probably gets hurt right away as well, from the same situation that took out Vick. Which gives us what we should have in the first place: Mike Kafka. (Not that I'm in love with the guy, but at least he is, unlike Favre, not so long in the tooth as to have no teeth.)

No, no, no, a thousand times no to the Favre Show, please. If we must have an infamous backup (and ever since Vick came to town, it seems we must), I'd much rather have....

2) Vince Young. VY is a grade-A moron, as judged from his Wunderlic score and career to date, but it's not as if he's skill-free. He's one of the better runners at the position, so the skill set is much better resembling Vick's in the event of injury. He's still got the 6'-5" 232-pound body and arm that made him the scout's dream out of Texas. He still has the track record of success, from his number-retiring college career to some playoff wins as a basic caretaker with wheels. He's still just 28, for heaven's sake, and while the signs aren't good for a guy that couldn't work with Jeff Fisher, there's still some hope here. Maybe not as much as when Vick came to town, but otherwise similar. I don't like the guy, and I don't trust him, but from the sheer forest for the trees of it all, he's a reasonable fit.

(Oh, and if you really want to play Door Number 3 with someone like Matt Hasselback or Kyle Orton? That's all well and fine, but how the hell am I supposed to get page views over boring retread white QBs like those clowns? Moving on.)

So here's the final and can't never be final word on Bretty: if he's in your locker room, that means your organization is weak. If he's the subject of your media, that means your media is weak. And if you really think he's about wining games or going out with another ring, rather than whoring himself out for every possible dollar, regardless of legacy damage or just how silly he makes his dwindling media geishas look...

Well, you're fooling yourself. Just like Bretty, really...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Top 10 Drawbacks Of The Rams-Bears Preseason Opener Cancellation

10) Television professionals missed a non-election year chance to go to Canton, and everyone wants to go to Canton

9) The Jay Cutler Image Rehabilitation Tour has one less date

8) Fantasy league honks have less time to fool themselves into a WR1 mistake from either of these teams

7) Sam Bradford misses the chance to pile up numbers that will make people overbid him

6) Three less hours of nationally televised testimonials to Mike Martz

5) Studies show that fewer preseason games makes for a greater likelihood of time with family

4) If the game had been played, it would have meant more money for those ever-virtuous owners

3) Less chances for season-ending injuries to various players, which has always been the real reason anyone watches preseason games

2) The storied Bears-Rams rivalry really deserved another chapter

1) The fairly real possibility that, well, this won't be the last cancellation, and that one of these months, you might actually mind what goes away

Oh, Canada

I don't usually comment on such things, since I do not care about pro hockey or sports team logo design... but take a look at this thing, really, and try to see it for anything but what it is: uninspired design for a franchise that looks like it stopped making any real progress in the mid-'80s.

You've got the dull color scheme, the forced cleverness of the leaf design in the background, and the font treatment that's as dull as the color scheme. But I also like the overhead perspective, which makes the team look like a simple enough thing to target and destroy.

What would have made it better? An angled left to right profile of the Jets' tip or nose, which would make for something much more dynamic or three-dimensional. I'd also look for something a little more unique to Winnipeg than a leaf, or at the very least, a little more militaristic, and a little less commuterish.

But then again, it is a design for a Canadian team in a Western burb/boomtown, which means that this is probably as cutting edge as they are gonna get...

Math Not Math

Here's a transparently timed story: basketball related income and total player compensation both grew by 4.8% last year, as per an audit.

So, um... where's the crisis that caused the Association to cease its existence?

Well, forget that, folks! Focus instead on how the average NBA player salary was over $5 million, and that the average salary rose by 16 percent... over the past six years. That's outrageous, right? Over $5 million a year to play hoop, with raises that... well, actually, are right in line with inflation. But still, $5 million a year! Hate the players!

Except that, well, $5 million a year to be in the top .0001% percent of a profession that attracts millions of people every year who are willing to pay top-shelf stadium prices to watch their product, and hundreds of millions watch on telecasts... doesn't actually sound out of line. Not if you, well, believe in capitalism, which most people claim to, except when they are reminded that their own life choices, genetics and genealogy do not add up to a $5 million annual salary, and the attention of hot and hotter running groupies.

So, ask yourself the following question... why are these numbers hitting the media now, as we reach Day 22 of NBA Held Hostage? Simple, of course: to make you Hate Hate Hate those Greedy Greedy Players, all of whom are just like Insert Your Least Favorite Player Here, and none of whom are just like Your Favorite Player, or like the gritty D-League guy that made you feel all of that underdog love. (JJ Barea, if you are a Mavs fan, or just enjoyed what he did to the LeBroniacs a few months back, when we all got to pay attention to things that are more fun than this post.)

Ah, but such is the way of these things, and such is the sad easy way in which the public is manipulated. Burn a flag, show a regrettable minority member getting paid, and cite the average salary of athletes to a public of people who would happily pay to wear the laundry of their favorite team, then sit back and watch the hate. It's just that easy. And meaningless, and besides the point of a negotiation, and never, ever corrected by the simple opposing viewpoint of what, say, Donald Sterling has made in the past couple of decades...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Such A Waste

Steve Williams, the now former caddy to the now former Tiger Woods, says that "I’ve wasted the last two years of my life (caddying for Woods), because he’s played infrequently, he’s been injured and played poorly." He also said that he was not upset at being fired.

Um, Steve? I'm reasonably sure that you are upset about this. Since you are, well, speaking to the media about years of wasted life. In general, "I've wasted my life" is not a statement that's associated with "I'm not upset."

There is also this: I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we feel cheated from what you *could* have been doing for the last two years. The oil paintings, the heartfelt novels, the habitats for humanity, or the simple lives touched from telling at-risk youth to forgo a life of crime and the streets for caddying... just so much human potential, all wasted. Makes you want to weep, doesn't it?

Before we break out the violins for this guy, consider: Williams has put more than $9 million in the bank for the task of following Woods around and handing him clubs. This has allowed him to make more money than any other athlete from his native New Zealand, and that includes people who beat each other senseless in the name of sport.

So maybe you might want to dial back the rancor, Dr. Death. Or not take the call from the media for a few more weeks, while you get your thoughts in order, and line up a winning ghost writer before you become completely forgotten and forgettable, instead of just mostly.

Because, well, you carry a man's golf bag, and have made a fairly unconscionable amount of money from doing so. You'll keep doing this for as long as you like, since any number of guys are going to want Tiger's Caddy. And no one feels sorry for your life choices. You probably shouldn't, either.

Play me out, Comic Book Caddie...

Top 10 reasons why the NFL lockout isn't over yet

10) Everyone involved secretly hates Canton, OH, and doesn't want the town to host a preseason game

9) Approved finishing document has wildly inconsistent fonts

8) It's all Vincent Jackson's fault, and if it's not his, then it's definitely Chris Kluwe's fault

7) Both sides want to keep the media on their toes for a few more days

6) Since neither side makes actual money from fantasy leagues, like to screw those people around

5) Players want to make sure that the public hates them, too

4) The Raiders abstained from voting on the final document, which is giving everyone involved pause, since Al Davis is usually on top of everything

3) Gives everyone involved more time to enjoy the summer weather

2) After 130 days of wankery, what's another day or six between friends

1) Once more with feeling: lawyers bill by the hour

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh

That's a quote and image from Deadwood, from the character of Al Swearingen, in "Deadwood," which I've been watching and loving... and whipping through, mostly because the Shooter Wife has been all over these as well, and it's been fun to watch them together. I think she's got something for Timothy Olyphant, and if she doesn't, she's wrong. But that's not what I'm writing about here.

The new day job is sending me on the road again, for four days of intensive meetings, business presentations and networking. (And yes, drinking. Along with BBQ, bowling, and drinking. I have a hard life.) So the posts for the next few days might be lacking in number or nuance, not that I'm claiming numbers or nuance in the past few months, but so be it. If the NBA and NFL end their lockouts, it's all my doing for taking some time off. (And if those things happen, and I don't somehow take some minutes in a hotel room to grind something out? You'll know that I am well and truly beaten down.)

We now return you to whatever will come.

Catch,You Fish, Catch

So the poker game took another step up last night, with 3 full tables in the tournament and getting very close to full capacity... and let me ask you a question, my fellow degenerates: has live play become just another place to play as if you were online?

At my table, we had nearly as many rebuys in the first hour as we did players, and it's not as if the table was hot with King-King against Ace-Ace. The room had a half dozen newbies, all of them young, all of them shoving, and most of them reaching the final table. It's a brave new world, folks, and the online players are going offline to get their gamble on. They also really want to get their gamble on. I lasted past half of the field despite being down to just one big blind an hour before getting knocked off, and it was one of those tournaments where I was card dead enough to not call down the likely BS raises. But several misreads and missed opportunities (I folded Ace-3 offsuit in early position rather than get cute, then watched a boat arrive for it) took all of the fun out of that, and the cash game called.

Which was 3-more hours of limited fun; some wins to stay .500, but no great momentum in either direction, or flops that screamed out my name. At which point, with five players left and energy lagging, we did what you always do when things are getting slow: switch to Omaha.

I'll admit it: I don't really know what's a good starting hand in Omaha. It seems like no one does, really, so it becomes a game of limps to the flop, then fireworks. With a pre-flop hand of Ace-Ace-Queen-Queen, I know I should raise, but I also know that it's not likely to chase all out of the pot, or stand up as the winner. So I just checked it, and saw 10-Jack-Jack hit, unsuited.

Well, I suppose I've got the gutshot at least, and it's hard to just walk away from big pairs... especially when the bet is a mere buck to stay. I know I'm beat... but the Ace on the turn doesn't, and gosh, I'll take some nuts with my pot any day. Especially when the raiser starts getting into it. A double-up ensues (my opponent had Jack-10, poor guy), and by the time things are done an hour later, I've turned around the whole night, just from 30 minutes of Omaha, and a change of luck.

So if your cash game is getting slow, call Omaha and see where the luck takes you. Mine was good. Now, if I could just get that mojo going in the early part of the program....

Fifty Years With No Parades Or Angst

Proof, not that you need it, of the media's East Coast Bias; the Houston Astros are celebrating their first half century of pro base ball this year. Have you ever heard from a single tortured Houston Astro baseball fan? Read a single column over how doomed they were, or how God hates them? Read about how Astro Fan is afraid of dying before seeing a single parade?

No, of course not. First and most obviously, because the Houston area media does not get play outside of Houston, and most importantly... because baseball fans outside of MLB+ markets do not expect championships as their birthright. Demanding a championship, or feeling that you are somehow required to have one on some form of schedule is just, well, special. For the privileged few, really.

Which does not, of course, speak to the misery index of Astro Fan. From the sudden and tragic loss of JR Richard in the '70s, to the hopeless grind of the '80s NLCS against the Phillies, leading to the even more crushing loss to the Mets... well, jeez. Nine times out of 50, they have played for October money; nine times out of nine, it has ended in tears. That's not such an amazing ratio, since the playoffs have expanded to include more teams, but still. They've made just one World Series, and when they got there, they were immediately swept by the greater tragedy that is White Sox Fandom. There's also this: they've usually spent the money to try, and had more than a few Cooperstown-level players, especially on the mound.

Now that the Giants are off the schneid, there aren't that many teams with more of a misery index than Stros Fan. Sure, the Cubs own this in spades, and Pirate Fan has 15+ years out of winning more than they lost, but 1979 exists, after all. The Padres, Rangers, Mariners, Nats/Expos... there is no shortage of tears. That's what baseball is, and does. And no one else gets to cry about it, or have anyone else listen to it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Top 10 Things Roger Clemens Is Going To Do After His Mistrial

10) Shoot up into his eyeballs on the street, then scale a skyscraper

9) Show Andy Pettite his pockmarked ass

8) Learn up on if a double jep party will hurt his career ERA or not

7) Start lobbying his media geishas for immediate entry to Cooperstown, since unlike Barry Bonds, he's white

6) Charge some fools as much as the market will bear for his signature on a baseball

5) Pay a child actor to ask him teary questions on some courthouse steps, then immediately brighten up as he denies all allegations

4) Coast to coast "Lying To Congress Blue Collar Comedy Tour"

3) Point out to the media that further prosecution of him costs taxpayers money, as if that's somehow unique

2) Associate with as many other guilty people as he likes, since that doesn't seem to be a problem any more

1) Show up at Yankee Stadium and see if this happens again

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The NBA Can't Tell The Truth About Anything

Today, the NBA laid off about 114 people, or 11% of its league office workforce, in New York, New Jersey, and parts around the world. And such is the level of public trust and integrity that the place now has that they claim the two following things that everyone knows to be, well, cue bald lies. And not even cue bald, but things that any child past the age of toilet training would know to be lies.

Lie the First: That this is part of "larger cost-cutting measures to reduce our costs by $50 million across all areas of our business."

Let's do the math, shall we? $50 million bucks divided by 114 people comes out to $438,596 per employee. I'm going to assume, just for funsies, that the average NBA office cubicle occupier didn't pull in that kind of money in a year. Not unless the NBA (a) has the world's most expensive benefits package, or (b) was counting the salaries for, oh, the next 5 to 10 years.

So the $50 million number is, as you might have guessed as soon as you heard the big round scary number, utter bullspit. (Or if David Stern himself got the axe. Probably not.) They saved maybe a million bucks today. In the immortal words of Derrick Coleman, Whoop De Damn Do. More importantly, they told the story of Big Fear and We're Serious. Serious about screwing a few more working people, maybe. Just what the country needs. Moving on...

Lie the Second: The layoffs are "not a direct result of the lockout, but rather a response to the same underlying issue; that is, the league's expenses far outpace our revenues."

Really? Well, um, simple question: why is anyone still employed in the league offices at all? 11% isn't going to get you where you need to go, folks: if you really want to lose weight fast, hacking off a few toes is child's play when you could just start sawing away around the rib cage. And if you really are having so much trouble paying the bills, why does the WNBA continue to exist?

No, what's really happening here is that the NBA is losing what it no longer wants (the NBA Store on 5th Avenue, the studios in Seacaucus, as if there's any reason in the digital age to have a studio in a part of the world where real estate costs serious money -- consider how much ESPN has saved over the decades by being in Bristol), offices in Paris and Tokyo where those markets already get enough of the league on satellite and the Web, staff in Detroit and Charlotte. There's no reason for any of this stuff, other than to chop it for PR, then sneak it back in later when the corrupt and complicit media isn't watching. (As if it's ever really watching anymore.) Besides, the Association doesn't really need such a work force anymore, not when the fans do so much of the heavy lifting via social media and YouTube, and the lifting ain't heavy at all, really.

I don't doubt that the Association has lost money. I also don't doubt that anyone reading this should give a crap, or that whether or not billionaires make money on their playtoys is of any concern to anyone other than the billionaire. When a high end real estate purchase doesn't appreciate in value the way that its plutocrat thinks it should, should the public "suffer", or just the speculator? We know the way any reasonable person would answer. We also know the way a sports team owner would.

And they'd fix the problem if they could (a) stop spending money they claim they don't have, or (b) call all of our bluff and fold your oh so unprofitable, cursed, no-good, doomed doomed doomed *doomed* franchise.

Oh, but then we'd have to tell the truth about something, wouldn't we? Namely, that you'd be walking away from something that's worth hundreds of millions of dollars, no matter how much money it's supposed to be losing. The Sixers just sold for a quarter of a billion dollars to some new walking wallet, despite not coming with a stadium deal, not giving the full control of the club, in a lockout, and in a time when the NBA says its losing so much money, it can't even keep it's staff.

And they wonder why labor doesn't find them to be very believable. Or anyone else with a brain.

Play me out, Christie...

Top 10 reasons why Billy Hunter is supporting NBA players going overseas

10) He's a huge secret fan of multi-linguism

9) The more guys play overseas, the fewer guys are bitching at him to settle from close up

8) Loves the idea of any kind of leverage against the owners, but dislikes the idea of actually doing the work to set up a players league

7) Standing together and staying strong doesn't mean actually staying, well, in the same hemisphere

6) Hoping to collect union dues from overseas players

5) By supporting these decisions, he's hoping to line up his next organizer job, since lockout is just another word for a league ceasing to exist

4) Hunter has investments in companies that extend insurance coverage to players

3) Didn't have anything else to say in a memo that would have gotten actual media attention

2) Wants to make next year's inevitable partial season even more of a farce than usual

1) Ready to do anything that prevents this from being a stone-cold replay of 1999

FTT Off-Topic: All Bald White Men Look Alike

This is the actor Dean Norris, who plays the DEA agent Hank Schrader in one of the best shows ever written, "Breaking Bad." Schrader is occasionally subject to fits of violence mixed with equal fits of competence, bravery and luck, and he's involved in most of the major plots of the show.

And this... is a regular at my poker game, and a frequent commenter on this blog. He might be offended by seeing his image here, but let's face it: there's just not enough to talk about these days, and he's wearing sunglasses anyway. He finished second in the player of the year rankings last year, and is currently in first in this year's standings.

So to beat him, I clearly need to become a secret meth cook and lucrative criminal mastermind. For that, and so many other reasons, really.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled sports blog on the slowest sports day of the year. As for me, I'm going back to my Season 3 DVD of "Breaking Bad", where Schrader gets shot all to hell and nearly dies. In other news, the next poker game is in two days. Wear a vest.

Top 10 ways to increase the All-Star Game Ratings

With just 6.9% of homes and 11 million viewers, the 2011 MLB All-Star Game received all-time low ratings. What can be done to spike the numbers?

10) 7th inning stretch football game

9) In addition to designated hitters, designated runners and celebrity third base coaches

8) Just give in and make it another Yankees-Red Sox game

7) End the rule that every franchise has to be represented, or pretend to matter

6) 3 balls for a walk, 2 strikes for a whiff, a shot clock between pitches and any ball caught on a hop is an out provided the fielder is able to yell "Olly Olly Oxen Free!" before the hitter reaches base

5) Play the game during an unopposed time for any other major sport, on a night when the big weekly WWE show isn't competing for viewers, and in the middle of two soul-crushing lockouts by the other two major American sports leagues

4) Not only take away the rule for making the games count for home field in the World Series, but also openly penalize players on the winning team by docking their pay

3) Everyone watching the telecast gets to bring their dog

2) Every inning past the fifth, America gets to vote a fielder off

1) Losing team goes into the dunk tank, along with the losing team's buxom cheerleaders

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Better Alternative

I tried to leave the door open as wide as possible here for a snarky blogger to pick that entire section apart without trying to come up with a better alternative. - Bill Simmons

Hey, Prince Willy? You know what the better alternative is? Not being a media geisha for people who drove their car into a ditch, then blamed the ditch for the problem. Not justifying the decision to walk away from the car, bitching about the ditch's unwillingness to take responsibility for the crash, and writing the same damn column -- basically boiled down to Everyone's Got To Compromise, But It's Always Labor That Gets To Do It First And Most -- for month after month and year after year.

Look, there's never been a league that drove compensation perfectly; young players always bust their ass, then lose the hunger later. Underpaid early, overpaid late, and the reasons why are legion; you can be pure of heart and still get hurt or old or misused. At which point you get to be one of Those People that ruin the league for everyone, don't you see? After decades spent beating the odds and succeeding in a meritocracy, as soon as you, NBA Player who failed to produce after signing a guaranteed contact, you've ruined it for everyone. Not the team that signed you, not the coach that ruined you, not the trainer that misdiagnosed you, not the writers that took your gross numbers to be anything more than minutes and good fortune, not the scouts that projected you happily wrong... no, it's all you, Overpaid Labor.

Man alive, I am *tired* of media geishas for Management. Aren't you? I have a *powerful* fatigue for people who give ownership cover of any kind, especially in an economy where management is clearly not hiring people, paying people, paying taxes, or doing anything more than taking advantage of the corrupt media that they have bought and paid for.

Besides, when the *players* get paid, everyone gets paid; this is true trickle-down wealth. Posses spend, wives spend, new money spends, spends, spends. It goes back to the community and everywhere else. As opposed to Management, who passes it to their spawn, collectibles and God knows what else, but not anything that will, you know, create honest employment.

Now... as to how to Fix The League? I'm not sure it's worth fixing. The players should call the owners' bluff and start their own mini-league of star-only teams; the ratings would go through the roof, and we'd end the lockout in a heartbeat. But short of that, I'd simply increase the luxury tax to an exceptionally penal level, require small market owners to hit a percentage of the salary cap, cut the length of long-term contracts and, most importantly...

End the freaking lockout, and apologize to every man, woman and child that watches sports that you ever entertained this as an option.

If you can't run a profitable business under the current rules that the Association were living under, then fold your team. Period. End of sentence. Until then, you'll forgive us for thinking that you are just locking out labor because you want to make more money off your labor, and don't care who you screw to do it.

Make A Catch, Pay $14,000

So here's a story in the Gray Lady today of how the loyal Yankee fan that caught the Derek Jeter 3,000th hit... is probably on the hook to the IRS for something along the lines of $14,000 for the simple act of catching the ball, assuming that he doesn't turn around and sell everything that's been given to him. Which is just lovely, considering that, like every other 20-something with a U.S. mailing address, he's got six figures of student loan debt. I'm amazed he had enough to get in the stadium in the first place, but that's explained enough by being related to a regular ticket holder.

So let this be a lesson to you, every single man, woman and child who might ever be "lucky" enough to catch a milestone souvenir... you really don't have any other option than to keep that, then sell it on the private market for all that it will bear. Or just to tell your hero and his club that while all of those things would be nice, you are going to need some cash. Cold, hard, spending and seizing cash.

Because to you and I, tickets and jerseys and signed balls might be a prized memory of the day when you did your hero a solid. But to everyone else on this increasingly mercantile and mercenary planet, it's dollars. And up to 40% of them will be claimed as income. Every time.

(Oh, and thanks for the novelty of the event, the guy's getting help from advertising companies who will cover his tax bill. So, yay advertisers, I guess.)

11th With No Bullets

Kerry Collins retired at some point, because guys like Kerry Collins just do that, usually without anyone noticing too much. Here's the story.

The interesting thing to me about Collins' career is, well, two points.

1) If not for the worst game of his life against a defense that was particularly apt to deliver it (aka, the fearsomely awful to watch Ravens of Trent Dilfer's selling to Satan year), he'd be remembered entirely differently. I know he doesn't have the bloodlines or the ring, but there's not all that much difference between him and Eli Manning... other than that Collins has a better arm. But for a single win, he'd probably still be employed in New York, with a career that would be borderline Cantonese.

2) Between the many years, some of them with big numbers in Carolina, and the part of his lucky life where he joined the NFL when the league went to 16 games and pass-wackery that is the modern age, here's a fun fact... only 10 men in history have thrown for more yards than Kerry Collins. But 40,441 yards is still a damn lot; 10-12 years of health and the job even at the current modern rate. And even if he gets lapped by a few dozen guys, it's still a pretty nice career, really.

And honestly, one win would have made everyone look at him worlds differently. (Or, if you pine for the woebegone Panthers, sobriety.)

Oh, and one last point. Collins is, like every other man who has played on the league who is not a five-star attention whore, someone who is going to retire and stay retired. Ever notice that ever since His Brettiness, everyone thinks we need to wonder about that for any QB of any stature?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Take The Ring, But Not The Cart

So I'm out on the golf course again on Sunday afternoon, thanking the last of my work crew with a free round, and we get paired up with a husband and wife to make a foursome. (From Staten Island, of all places. Go figure.) The people in front of us can't play, and I quickly discover that my crewman can't either... and neither can the wife. She can hit a little, but it's clear she hasn't been on a course more than a few times, and that the husband is a good player who is trying to teach her. So there's him hitting it good, me hitting it mediocre, and two others who are either so rusty as to be poor, or so new as to be slow and poor. Despite hitting from the yellows.

Five hours later, as we finish in the twilight and I've posted a disappointing middle score to my previous two rounds at the same place... well, I'm done. I've gotten to that usual plateau place of feeling that I don't need to play this game anymore, at least not for a good long time, since it's clear that any progress I've been making is an illusion. But more importantly, I've seen what happens when hobbies are shared, especially when it's hot and bad golf has been committed.

Now, the Shooter Wife and I don't have a ton in common. She doesn't watch sports very often, and I can't say I'm big on the knitting and fabric arts that take up her time. We don't watch the same shows, and she doesn't play poker or fantasy sports. When I'm watching shows like "The Wire" or "Breaking Bad", she's far away; the same goes for me when she's tucking into a cozy mystery with people with British accents. But here's where it works: we don't force things on each other, and we basically share stories with what we've done.

The husband and wife didn't come to tears over the course of the day, and maybe she'll get better over time. When it was all over, they were still on speaking terms and asking for a restaurant recommendation. But man alive, life is too short to argue with your spouse over what club she should be hitting off the tee, or cringing and apologizing to strangers when she can't keep up or observe common golf etiquette. (I don't much care about the latter, but I do notice when it's violated, and try not to do it to others.) And a little distance in some things isn't exactly toxic to a relationship. I'm coming up on 15 years now and OK... and when I shared this little story with the Shooter Mom? She told me all about how her sister had been taught golf by her current husband, and how after an initial burst of enthusiasm for it, she lost all taste when He Got Demanding. I can't imagine this is a very rare story.

I get that the game takes up too much time, and I get that it's nice when you can share things together. But in the devil's bargain that is golf... I'm thinking no. As in Hell No. (And no, they really were nice people, and he really could play. Especially through the cringing.)

Top 10 reasons why Roger Clemens might not testify

10) Legal system generally does not pay you for your time or autograph

9) Could remind people on the jury that he's an unconscionable prick

8) Not comfortable answering questions while fully dressed

7) Like fellow roider Sammy Sosa, has lost the ability to speak English

6) Has seen enough episodes of "Matlock" to know this isn't a good idea

5) Concerned that if he did speak, his firm command of the language and clipped elocution might alienate the rabble

4) Prefers his courtroom sketch to appear hunched over and guilty, rather than indignant and guilty

3) Does not want to give bitter Red Sox Fan even more spank bank material

2) Knows that if he starts testifying and likes it, he'll have to hint at coming back and testifying some more every year or so

1) Worried that he might snap and throw a bat fragment at the prosecutor

Top 10 reasons why so many All-Stars are skipping the game

10) Um, it is in Arizona in July, which means that it's in a place were brown people don't feel welcome, and neither do mammals

9) Having just four out of the 15 guys who are skipping the game be on the disabled list just means that teams are trying to save on HMO bills

8) The Yankees that are skipping the game just wanted some time alone from all of their teammates

7) Somehow haven't gotten the memo that this time, it counts

6) Meniscus surgery is contagious

5) Not only is the game in Arizona, but the players had to fly into the Phoenix Airport, aka the fattest place on earth

4) Now that Derek Jeter has made it to 3,000 hits, no one wants to be near him anymore

3) MLB keeps insisting on playing games on Sunday, rather than just make sure that everyone can play by pitching a full empty week, rather than a half

2) Players just see this as one more interleague game, which no one in their right mind wants to see

1) If you withdraw after being selected, you still get paid, so you have to be some kind of idiot to actually play, really

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