Friday, September 21, 2007

The Dollar's Fall is the Jays Gain

It’s hardly news to anyone who follows the market that the U.S. Dollar is having a bad year and a horrible September. In fact, the only entity I can think of that has had a worse month than the greenback is the team that wears green in South Bend. Unfortunately for U.S. travelers and fans of the Fighting Irish, neither entity is likely to have much success in the foreseeable future.

So you might be thinking – why is the Holic writing about foreign currency? Well, here is the answer. It struck me this morning that the dollar’s collapse could have an impact on the American League East for years to come. The reason being – the Canadian dollar this week reached parity with the American Dollar. In other words, one Canadian Dollar is now equal to one American Dollar. The practical effect is Canadians now have as much purchasing power in the States as they do in Canada. This comes after years (and decades) of having a dollar of their currency fetch sixty or seventy cents in the states.

So how does this impact the AL East? Well, if the trend holds and/or extends, it should give the Toronto Blue Jays a significant financial boost that they can now use to raise payroll. For years, the Jays have been at a big disadvantage to U.S. clubs since they collect revenue in Canadian Dollars but have to pay players in U.S. dollars. This is a problem when the exchange rate is so distorted. But now that we have parity, the Jays are no longer forced to pay what amounts to a foreign exchange tax. So, in essence, the Jays will now be able to get a dollar’s work for a dollar’s pay, not a dollar’s work for a dollar and twenty cents in pay.

The impact could be significant as the Jays have put together a solid foundation that could use another twenty million in spending authority to compete with the division’s heavyweights. At the very least, this development should help the Jays better absorb that horrible contract they gave Vernon Wells and ensure that it is not a fiscal carnivore when it begins to mature in 2010. In the meantime, perhaps the Jays could use some of this financial largess to get a short-term closer and lock in some young talent like Alex Rios (even though he is still three years away from free agency).

I am not going to sit here and tell you that I know where the Canadian Dollar will be three years from now but based on where it sits today, the playing field in the American League has become a little bit more level. And if this fed continues down a path towards lower rates, who is to say the dollar won’t fall further and the playing field will soon tilt towards Toronto.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gagne the Gagger Strikes Again

The question – in the modern history of major league baseball, has any team made a more damaging move at the trade deadline than the Boston Red Sox and their acquisition of Eric Gagne? May I remind you that Gagne has set the bar pretty high as last night was the fourth time he has blown a game since August 1st. In essence, Gagne is the gift that keeps on taking, as he has failed in every tight spot that he was summoned. Is that even possible? Doesn’t the law of pitching averages demand that a pitcher succeed at least once in a while? I guess the answer to that question is no as Gagne has clearly proven that no amount of success is guaranteed. As such, Gagne has single-handedly injected some excitement into the American League East division. Had he been able to close just two of the transgressions at hand, the Sox would remain comfortably ahead – 4.5 games up with ten to play. Listen, I liked the trade at the time it was conceived so I am not going to sit here and argue that it shouldn’t have been made. But I think it’s fair to pronounce it as a catastrophic failure and recognize that there is no reason to compound the damage any further. Unfortunately, I am not sure the front office and Terry Francona share my sentiment. What gives me this sense? Well, after last night’s game, Francona was quoted as saying that he stuck with Gagne because he had to find out whether he could entrust Gagne with meaningful post-season innings. Well, the answer to that question has now been definitely settled but, for some reason, Francona couldn’t bring himself to offer a public eulogy last night or today. Hopefully, his silence was only intended to spare Gagne from further embarrassment. And hopefully, the manager has finally reached a conclusion that was apparent long ago. Let’s hope so because this club can no longer afford to let Gagne gag up another late-inning lead. This just in - Terry Francona says Gagne is still his 8th inning man. God Dammit!!!!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Sleeping Bear Has Awakened and . . .He's Pissed!

The Patriots were all piss and vinegar last night. Simply put, they played angry and hell hath no fury like a Patriot scorned. Already one of the league’s most physical, the Pats flexed some muscle and exhibited some speed that San Diego couldn’t match. The pass protection was largely bullet-proof and the pass rush was fierce. Tom Brady was nearly perfect, the running game was effective, and the new additions - Wes Welker, Randy Moss and Adalius Thomas - confirmed that last year’s slight talent deficit with San Diego had been reversed and extended. And if it weren’t enough that the Pats now have the deepest and most talented roster in the NFL, they are now playing with a giant chip on their shoulder. It’s almost as if Eric Mangina, the media and the NFL have awakened a sleeping bear with all this fuss over the Pats taping procedures. Rather than let this bear sleep its way to a 12-4 season, its enemies thought it would be a good idea to start poking it with a stick. Well guys, the bear is now pissed. And the bear is now hungry. And what do you get when you anger the biggest and most talented bear in the forest – well, you just might get a historical season. I realize it’s too early to go crazy, but this team looks like it might be special.

Did anyone watching the Sox game last night think Curt Schilling was going to get that out in the eighth? Anyone? Anyone? Buehler? If I can see it coming from 240 miles away, how come Tito can’t see it from 240 feet?

Can anyone out there tell me whether Jason Varitek leads the universe in stranding runners on base or whether he just leads the American League? The captain’s futility has almost become comical over the past two weeks. On Saturday, the Captain left six or seven guys on base over his first three at bats. Last night, more of the same, although to be fair, he was robbed of a hit in the first. This month, Varitek is hitting .163 with one extra base hit. Less you think this is a near-term phenomena, on the year, he is just 11 for 71 with runners in scoring position and two outs. Clearly, JV is dying out there so how in the world is he still hitting sixth? Its almost like rallies are seeking him out and when they find him, they roll over and die. Given his struggles, I don’t see how Francona can’t drop him down to the eight spot.

I realize the Sox lead by 4.5 games, but folks, don’t get complacent as far as that division goes. The Sox have three this week in Toronto, where it will be Wakefield, Lester and either Tavarez or Buchholz. That isn’t too encouraging given the fact that Wakefield has been knuckling since he tweaked his back, Lester struggled last Wednesday and Buchholz hasn’t thrown to live batters in ten days. Luckily, the Sox miss Halladay and Marcum but AJ Burnett and Jessie Litsch are no bargains. And if that isn’t bad enough, the Sox then head to Tampa where they draw Kazmir on Friday for what seems like the 11th time this year. Meanwhile, the Yanks have six left with the Orioles. I can easily see this lead be two games a week from today.

The Pats next two opponents are Buffalo and Cincinnati – the first got lit up yesterday by the Steelers and the latter surrendered fifty-one to Cleveland. The bet here is New England will put up 70 over the next two weeks, putting them on pace for close to 600 points by year end. That is a bit scary. And game five? Try Cleveland, a team that gave up five TD tosses to Carson Palmer yesterday.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

44-6? See Ya Karla!

44-6? Good God! The friggin Utes stuck it up UCLA's ass yesterday out in Salt Lake and the Holic is now ready to decare that the Karla Dorrell experiment has failed. I've been leaning in this direction for years, but I was persuaded to give Dorrell another shot after he found a way to upset USC last year. So how did Karla follow-up that effort? Well, he orchestrated an embarrassment against Florida State in the "who cares" bowl last December and then this off-season, one of his asistants got arrested for breaking and entering. If that wasn't bad enough, the team opened this year by giving up a third of a mile in offense against Stanford. Then last week, the Bruins narrowly escaped at home against the guys from Big Love, otherwise known as BYU. So how did they chase that ugly shot of tequilla? Well, they went out to SLC and got absolutely smoked by a bad Utah team. This is not acceptable. Listen, I know UCLA isn't a football power but this was a strong program throughout the eighties and it has shown glimmers since I graduated in 1991, most notably with JJ Stokes in 1994 and very good squads in 97 and 98. Under no circumstances is it acceptable to lose to Utah and certainly not by 38 points. So, where does this loss rank in UCLA futility lore? Well, I might not put this up as the worst UCLA loss in memory, but its up there with the debacle against Arizona two years ago (Bruins were 9-0 at the time) and that loss to Miami back in 1998 when Edgerrin James mauled the Bruins while they were opening up the national championship game invite.

So the question now is what is the fate of Karla Dorrell? Well, this alum is ready to pull the trigger. Listen, I know the current quarterback - Ben Olson - is terrible, but whose fault is that? After all, Karla brought this kid in after he had been away on a two-year mission. Thankfully, a better option - Pat Cowan - is almost ready to come back from a leg injury, but I am not sure it will make much difference. Why so? Well, the defense, which was supposed to be amongst the best ever fielded at UCLA, has been a big disappointment and the team has shown no ability to run the ball. Oddly enough, that recipe is the same used to make a shit sandwhich. I think the morale to this story is Dorrell has simply not been able to rid UCLA of the hangover left behind by Bob Toledo. For those of you who might need a refresher, here is Karla's resume

1-3 against Southern California, the one being a miracle of sorts
No Pac-10 championships
No BCS bowl games1-10 on the road against teams with a winning record
Worse winning percentage than Bob Toledo, who was fired
3-11 against ranked teamsOnly 6 conference wins against teams over .500
19-14 in the Pac-108-17 against teams with a winning record
11 losses to unranked teams.
A meltdown in the 60th minute at South Bend
Embarrassing losses to Wyoming, Fresno State, Arizona, and now Utah
Former players, such as Ricky Manning and Mo Drew, have hardly been model citizens.

So is it time to goose Dorrell? You betcha. This is year five and it was supposed to be the year that the Bruins were super-competitive. This was the year that the Bruins were supposed to fly through the conference and give USC a scare in the Coliseum. Sorry, ain't going to happen. Not by a long shot. Assuming Cowan comes back and plays decently, this looks like another 7-5 (or worse) team to me. That doesn't cut it and someone will have to be held accountable. That someone is Karla Dorrell. Now someone text'd me yesterday and claimed that Dorrell was the black Steve Lavin. My first thought . . . . that might not be fair to Steve Lavin. And my second thought . . I couldn't care less that Karla is black. If he could win games, I wouldn't care if his name was Kalari and he was a card-carrying member of Al Qaeda. But since the race card is out there (and it always is), I will use it to draw a little historical perspective to this debate. A ways back, UCLA had an African-American coach who also happened to lose a game to Utah. His name was Larry Farmer and he got dumped a year after losing to Utah in the second round of the 1983 NCAA tourney. In that instance, the administration waited a year. This go around, I hope they are a bit more expeditious.

Jacobo the Navajo, plus OJ, Belichick and Movies

Ok, let’s make this clear, Jacoby Ellsbury is no longer a “when” player. He is a “now” guy and it’s time for the Red Sox to accept this fact. After this past week, the debate has now shifted from whether young Jacoby will be on the post-season roster to which regular Jacoby will displace from the post-season starting lineup. I know this kid is wet behind the ears and has a total of just sixty-five major league at bats, but Jacobo has to play. He is no longer a luxury that can be counted on to pinch-run and maybe grab some late-inning leather. No, not anymore. That won’t do for Jacabo the Navajo. Listen, this is a team that has seen its World Series formula unravel a bit in recent weeks as its Japanese imports have been recalled, its catcher has developed a phobia to hitting with runners on base and its Greek God of Walks has morphed into a deity who now specializes in whiffs and bad facial expressions. So if the starting pitching is not what it was supposed to be and the bullpen's Toyota is in the shop, wouldn’t it make sense to do whatever it takes to gun the offense? Well, inserting Ellsbury into the lineup is a start. I don’t care where he plays. You want to stick him in right and bench the crime-solver, Nancy Drew? That is fine by me although I think at this point, it makes more sense to keep young Jacabo on the reservation and let him play for Coco in center. As much as I would love to have Coco’s golden glove in center, it’s pretty clear his offense is tame against lefties and lame against righties (It’s actually passable against both but passable doesn't cut it in October). So that’s my answer. Yes, my final answer. Jacobo is the Red Sox new center fielder. Thanks Coco, your work was appreciated and if the Sox can somehow win this thing, I promise they will fly you in from Minnesota or Atlanta for next year’s ring ceremony. In the meantime, good luck Jacabo. You’re now the Sox secret weapon against the Indians. The Sox still have some cowboy holdovers from 2004 but now they have an honest-to-goodness injun to use against the Tribe.

Some more thoughts . . .

So what was OJ doing out in Vegas . . . . . trying out for an open spot on Danny Ocean's crew? Is the Juice going to run for a couple touchdowns in Oceans 14? So the story goes like this: the Juice broke into a hotel room to retrieve some crap that he says was stolen from him. He says he took the matter into his own hands because: "the police, since my trouble, have not worked out for me." Really? Well, there is a shocker. It guess that just goes to prove the old adage that police are always screwing over the double murderers. The other thing I found interesting about this story is that OJ was in Vegas to attend a freind's wedding. Here is my question - Who the fuck invites OJ to his or her wedding? Can you imgaine showing up for a wedding and you're seated at the killer's table? Better yet, imagine being a single woman at that party or the server who is working OJ's table. I'll tell you one thing, if I am at the wedding, I am keeping my mouth shut until the kitchen confirms that all the steak knives have been collected.

Best thing to happen at Fenway yesterday . . . Josh Beckett clearly nails Jason Giambi with a retaliatory pitch and Jason takes it like a man. Story over! Folks, this is how baseball was meant to be played Guys get hit and guys get hit in retaliation. It’s all part of the game and it doesn’t deserve much, if any, discussion. It absolutely drives the Holic crazy to hear sports “fans” endlessly discuss beanings. The whining and complaining and hand-wringing is, at best, tiresome, and at worst, embarrassing. In fact, I almost think that by definition, one isn’t a “fan” if he spends more then two minutes a year discussing hit batters. I’ll give out one exception to those who spent up to five minutes discussing Clemens and Piazza but that is the only latitude I will grant. To those of you who are still whining about Pedro sending Jeter to the hospital, well, have fun watching The View and Grey’s Anatomy.

Boy did WFAN’s Mike Francesca get stuffed by Chris Simms on this morning’s NFL pre-game show. For those who haven’t been listening, Mikey has been raising a big stink about this Bill Belichick taping incident. His take: why would the Pats “go to such great lengths to get this info” if it didn’t have great value. Well, Chris stopped this offensive right in its tracks this morning when he claimed to have spoken to three head coaches on the matter, including Herman Edwards, and each said that they couldn’t imagine that the tapes had any value whatsoever. Mikey made a weak attempt to protest, but his idol was pretty skeptical. It will be interesting to see where Mikey goes from here now that he has been slapped in the face. He usually just parrots what Phil has to say but what happens when such regurgitation is at odds with his previous position? Does he eat the crow before him (might as well, he eats everything else) or does he stay the course and pander to the shrill alarmists? Strikes me that Francesca should have done a little digging and a little thinking before he wandered out to the end of the plank.

[Sidebar to Mikey’s comment – what great lengths did the Pats go? They hired a cameraman and said cameraman was standing in plain view for everyone to see. Since when does that qualify as a great length? No, great lengths would have been if the Pats had hired somebody in the blimp to get the shot. Or better yet, pay someone to go “mission impossible” and break into the opposing team’s halftime to get the second half adjustments.]

Final word, for now, on the Belicheat incident. Has Bill Belichick ever raped Gary Myers of the Daily News? Did he taunt Myers in grade school? Maybe steal his milk money? If not, what justifies Gary’s triple-barrel anti-Pat barrage? Gary has always been myopically obsessed with the Pats but his vigor and vitriol was turned up several notches this week as he covered this story. First, Gary went B-A-N-A-N-A-S when the news first broke. Then, proving he isn't just a hollowback girl, GM protested vigorously when Belichick wasn’t suspended, de-clawed and sentenced to prison. Now he is claiming that Tom Brady has been the big beneficiary in this whole sordid tale, suggesting that his drive to beat the Panthers in Super Bowl 38 was aided by stealth and trickery. Just a hunch, but I am confident that Gary will have a “gotcha” story this week if the Pats lose tonight and “it doesn’t matter” story if the Pats win. Needless to say, Gary’s Sunday argument has more holes than the Giants defense but I will skip the details as I have already covered some of this material in an earlier post. That being said, I will say that I believe Gary is an unethical columnist and I am convinced, REPEAT CONVINCED, that he manufactures quotes to give his storiess credibility. It is pretty transparent and I am surprised it continues to squeak by the editors at the Daily News. Gary, if you are listening, lets make this clear. This scribe thinks you FABRICATE primary source material to give your stories color and depth. I may not have enough evidence to indict or convict, but I think the factual record strongly suggests that you have cheated your profession.

Best comment of the past week – Dottie Pepper, while commenting for the Golf Channel on the Solheim Cup, called the Americans, perhaps accidentaly, a bunch of “chokin freakin dogs.” In the vanilla world of golf commentary, Dottie’s unvarnished rip of the American team was tantamount to acing a par four. Listen, Johnny Miller will occasionally step up with some fair and biting criticism of his fraternity but even Johnny stops short of where Dottie went. Dottie is basically Johnny Miller on HGH. Not only did she use golf’s four letter word – choke – but she added emphasis with a bastardized bit of profanity. This is worthy of a profile in broadcasting courage as far as the Holic is concerned. Hey, I am not a huge fan of having women comment on male sports but if Dottie is going to hit us with zingers like this, it’s time she got a higher profile gig as a regular PGA tour commentator, preferably on CBS. I'm sure she'll be available as her days at the Golf Channel are surely numbered.

The Holic can’t wait for this new Ken Burns documentary on World War II, which debuts on September 23 and will air over seven weeks. Burns is the freakin Mozart of his art and this epic looks like it might be his finest work to date. If you don’t believe me – check out the 25 minute preview on the PBS website.

Some quick movie reviews . .

Superbad . . . . ok, the fat kid from Knocked Up can’t act to save anyone’s life and he becomes an irritant, but the movie works because the other two dorks are excellent. The girls are cute, which is a bit disturbing for a 38 year-old like myself to mention, and Seth Rogin/Partner are terrific as a pair of young cops who take one of the dorks (McLovin) on a memorable ride-along. The writing-directing pair of Seth Rogin and Judd Apatow is having an excellent year and I now have them ranked above both Chris Guest/Harry Shearer and the Farrelly’s on my list of top comedy development teams.

3:10 to Yuma . . . excellent Western with a healthy dose of great shots and a fine performance from Christian Bale. The storyline is a bit weak and overly-convenient, but I think it makes it to the finish line in one piece.

No End in Sight . . . . . there is some great footage of Iraq and the documentary does include some interviews which help illustrate why the American occupation got off to such a rocky start. That being said, the documentary is a bit one-sided as the producers were unable to get many major players to defend that first year of the occupation. As a result, the film comes off being more partisan than objective. Much of that criticism is probably deserved but it would have been much more effective if the producers had been able to get Paul Bremer or Don Rumsfeld or Richard Meyers to either defend or explain their decisions. Instead, the film relies on some mid-level types for the contra-argument and, as a result, it lacks depth and stature.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Just some thoughts on the rape of Bill Belichick

So the Holic got tangled up in a little cyber-dispute on this Bill Belichick issue and what lies below is my response to a Jet fan who was outraged by the whole turn of events, including the "slap on the wrist" that BB received as punishment.

So let me get this straight . . . . An appropriate penalty would be a $500,000 fine, the loss of three draft picks, AND a suspension that will conveniently coincide with the Pats-Jets rematch? Is that it? Why stop there? Why not just bar the Pats from drafting anyone next year? While you’re at it, why not give the Niners their pick back? And why stop there? Why not ask the union for the right to rescind $20 million of New England’s spending authority? Come to think of it, why don’t we just break up the team and hold a dispersion draft? Each non-playoff team gets a player off the roster (20) and the balance of the 53 man team moves out to LA and become the expansion California.Bulls. Meanwhile, how bout we bar Bill Belichick from football and put his skills to work at Central Intelligence?

Folks, the Pats broke a rule. Was it stupid – yes. Was it criminal – hardly. So how come we are hearing alarmists try to elevate this misdemeanor into a capital case? Let’s be honest folks – it’s hard to identify a single aggrieved party and no one has been able to articulate whether the information at hand has any utility whatsoever. But the Pats cheated! They had our plays! They could adjust to our blitzes, our rolls and our stunts! How can you fail when you know your opponents defense? FOR GODS SAKE - THEY CHEATED! THEY CHEATED! THEY ARE A BUNCH OF CHEATERS! Easy folks. Take a deep breathe and exhale. Can we now proceed in a civil fashion?

Let’s start at the beginning. The Pats are accused of filming the opposing team as they send in their defensive signals. OK, the Pats broke the letter of the law. But what benefit did they really acquire as a result of their transgression? Was it diamonds or dog shit? I can’t be certain it was dog shit but it certainly wasn’t a diamond.

In essence, all they got out of this heist was information that can be acquired through other legal means. For instance, there is no ban on having a couple of staffers manually chart the signals of the other team. You have one guy with binoculars keying the signals to a stenographer and voila – you have a complete accounting of the other team’s signals and that can then be overlayed with the game film. In other words, you have created a work product that largely mirrors what you get from filming the other sideline. So is filming really tipping the competitive balance? HARDLY. Simply put, it’s not a crime for advance scouts to chart plays and signals. Moreover, it’s not a crime to do that in-game, so long as it is done by eye and hand. So the Pats cut a corner. So they cut back on overhead and obtained a work product without having to hire a stenographer. Big deal. So the Pats are cheap – is that a crime? Well, I guess it is under league rules but does this transgression really warrant severe sanctions? And yes, losing a number one draft pick is a pretty severe sanction.

So on to point two – what is the utility of the information at hand? The alarmists will tell you that the information has great value and can upend the competitive landscape. I’m not so sure about this claim. For arguments sake, let’s assume you figure out a way, without the other team’s knowledge, to crack the signaling system. The offense has a very small window to call the play from the sideline. After this window closes, the radios are silenced. So an offensive coordinator/play caller doesn't really have any time to crack the signal and then adjust accordingly. At the very best, he is getting his play called while the opposing team is signaling in its defense. So the plays are now called with no advantage to either side. From that point, the only way to take advantage of the "cracked" signal is for Brady to have been watching the defensive sideline and to have seen the signal himself. At that point, I guess he could audible at the line but I don't see this as being too feasible since all of this happens very quickly. Moreover, I have never missed a single Brady game and I can’t recall a time where I saw him simultaneously calling a play in the huddle and looking over to the other sideline to steal a sign. Don’t you think that would like a bit suspicious? So suspicious in fact that I can’t recall ever seeing it.

Point three – if the whole league is supposedly in on the Pats secret, how can it possibly be worth anything? Listen, if the whole league has known about this practice, then don’t you think various teams would have taken measures to limit its effectiveness? I mean, if you know the other team is trying to break your code, don’t you adjust and come up with new signals? And not just new signals, but signals that purposefully confuse your enemy? Of course you do and that is why all this “woe is me” talk is complete nonsense. Listen, this is hardly the U.S. Naval intelligence service breaking the Japanese code and using it to lie in wait for the Imperial Navy at Midway. In that case, the Japanese had no idea what we were doing and they headed straight for a trap. In this case, the other team is fully aware of the practice so who is trapping whom? In fact, because the cat is out of the bag, if almost defies logic that the Pats would put much stock in their conclusions. Morale to the story . . . . This was a victimless crime that has been hijacked by those who are either tired of being waxed by the Pats, harbor some personal animus towards.BB or just want to minimize the team’s past accomplishments. Despite what you might hear from Gary Meyers or Hines Ward, or Tony Dungy or Brian Dawkins, this was not murder. This was not rape. This was not dog fighting. This was not armed robbery or child abuse, or even trafficking narcotics. No, this was a few unpaid parking tickets or perhaps a petty case of tax evasion. That’s it – nothing more and nothing less. Pay the fine at window J . . . Next!

Last points – (the first four are rebuttals my attacker's email. In that full frontal, he suggested that the Pats had been damaged in many ways . . . )

"Destroyed the credibility of the Patriots "ideal" organization." That was always a myth and certianly nothing that the Holic cared about.

"Destroyed the credibility of Belichick as a genius " Genius? Steven Hawking is a genius. Chris Rock is a genius. Charlie Kauffman, Mark Knopfler and Christopher Guest might all be geniuses. Bill Belichick is a fucking football coach! A good one at that but a genius? Save the hyperbole.

"Created major doubts about the legitimacy of their Super Bowl dynasty." Perhaps amongst the uninformed but who cares what they think. And if you want to challenge that legitimacy, try citing the tuck reversal or the Drew Bennet drop, or Ty Law raping Marvin or the fact that Donovan couldn't hold his lunch down. You have to do better then a rogue film student to bring down this dynasty.

"Potential hasten the exit of Belichick as HC of NEP" The only people in New England who have as much long-term job security as BB are Ted Kennedy and the guys working on the big dig. BB could go anti-semetic on Bob Kraft next week during the Yom Kippur and still coach the Buffalo game on Sunday.

Those who minimize the importance of losing a number one pick just because the Pats own another such pick should have their heads examined. That logic is laughable. Case in point, the last player picked in last year’s first round was Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio State). You don’t think an NFL team would rather have AG than the 53rd player on their roster? The Pats have gotten tremendous returns from their number ones since Robert Edwards in 1998 – Seymour, Warren, Wilfork, Maroney – you don’t think losing the opportunity to add to this fraternity is significant?

Mangidiot, if he was responsible for tipping off security, really sunk to new lows when he showed up for the post-game handshake. How can someone have the balls to shake someone’s hand ninety minutes after he ratted them out? That is a bit like Henry Hill walking over to Jimmy in the courtroom and shaking his hand moments after he testified against Jimmy. Cmon Mangidiot, if you are going to screw someone, you might as well do away with the after-sex kiss.

To those who ask – why did he BB do it? Why would he do something so stupid? Well, here is a theory of mine. It’s a bit out of leftfield but what if BB wanted to get caught? What if he thought this could be used to motivate his troops? After all, now the army is pissed! Now the army has something to prove! Now the army is massing to invade Poland! Hell hath no fury like a scorned Patriot. (I don’t really subscribe to this theory but it wouldn’t shock me – after all, this is a guy who really wants that fourth ring and will do anything to get it, including making a deal with the devil himself, Randy Moss. And if he gets that fourth ring, all of this will be forgotten.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What if . . . Ellsbury is the real deal?

What if ……..?

So what if Jacoby Ellsbury is the real deal? What if this hot start is more lasting than lucky? And what if Jacoby is still raking at the end of the month? If the answer to that question is yes, than it begs an additional question: What is Jacoby’s role in the post-season?

Well, here is one thought, albeit one that has almost no chance of making it onto a lineup card. This is the plan against right-handers – stick Ellsbury is left, pencil Manny into the DH slot, and tell Ortiz to grab a glove and Youkilis to grab some pine. Sure, you are giving up some D at first, but you are gaining a big defensive upgrade in left. Moreover, you are completely changing the face of the lineup – adding some legs and removing a plodder who has suddenly morphed into a whiff machine. That speed might come in handy against a tough right-hander like Carmona who would surely have his way with the Greek God of Whiffs. Moreover, Youk’s patience might be wasted against a guy like Paul Byrd who never walks anyone. One big downside to the move – if you want a defensive upgrade at first late in the game you would lose Ortiz. But given Papi’s late inning numbers this year, this might not be such a big deal.

And if you prefer to keep it simple, you could always just sit JD Drew and let Ellsbury play right. The downside is opposing players will be flying around second and taking third throughout the playoffs. The upside: JD Drew's dead bat would be silenced (hasn't it been silent all year, you ask?) and you might get some sizzle at the head of the lineup.

Something to chew on . . . .

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dear Yankee Fans . . . Sorry to Hear of Your Loss

Stop! Yankee fans, stop right there! Don’t you dare try to re-define this season and the club’s benchmarks for success. Such adjustments are simply not allowed. Not for a club with four sure-fire hall of famers on its roster. Not for a club with a payroll of $210 million dollars. And certainly not for a club that has won every American League East Division title since 1997.

What am I talking about? Well, I am simply trying to head off those Yankee fans who are attempting a little bait and switch in the eighth inning of this 2007 baseball season. Less you haven’t noticed, there is a movement afoot within the evil empire to modify the club’s mission statement and re-define its measures of success. It’s happening slowly and in fits and starts, but what we are now seeing is a fan base grasping at semantics to assure itself that this season has not become a dismal failure.

Of course I refer to those in Yankee land who are now MINIMALIZING the inevitability that the club will finally lose its grip on the AL East division title. This treasure has been in the family for ten years and, in recent years, it has been used as a giant stick to whack Red Sox fans. The division championship is not some trivial point for Yankee fans. Instead, it is one of the foundations upon which the Yankee house is built. It’s not quite as important as the twenty-six World Championships, but it is a source of great pride. Moreover, the division championship run has been a faithful companion for Yankee fans in some of their darkest hours.

Case in point -2004. In the months after the Yankees were involved in the GREATEST AND MOST COMPLETE collapse in professional sports history, some Yankee fans took comfort in the fact that the Red Sox achieved their victory as a wildcard. “They may have caught lightening in a bottle, but we were the better team over the entirety of a season,” Yankee fans lamented. While intelligent Yankee fans couldn’t mumble such a line with a straight face, the bulk of the army bought into this Weimar Republic theory. If that weren’t the case, then how come I’ve heard it dozens of times since Johnny Damon cracked that slam off Javy Vasquez.

Example number two: 2005. Just in case that season’s finish has slipped from your memory, the Red Sox and Yankees finished that season with identical records yet the Yankees were awarded the division title because of their head-to-head record with the Sox. This was no small award in the mind of a Yankee fan. It was a hard-won victory and one that was deserving of great celebration even though the season was destroyed a week later by Mike Sciccosa’s Angles. “Hey, we may have been punked by the Angles once again, but at least we beat the Sox to the finish line!” That line of reasoning wouldn’t seem to be much solace but it comforted Yankee fans during the winter of 2006 and it is still referenced by Yankee fans to belittle Boston and the rest of baseball.

As most would agree, the Yankee mission statement is pretty clear. A successful Yankee season is comprised of two core achievements – a division title and a World Championship. PERIOD! The World Championship is obviously paramount but the division title is not a trivial addendum. Nowhere, and I repeat nowhere, can you find the word ‘wildcard” in the Yankee bible. That word is blasphemous in the Bronx church. “Wildcard? We don’t need no stinking wildcard!” Well it turns out the Yankees will indeed need that wildcard to prolong their season.

So what are Yankee fans now doing? Well, in recent weeks, you are seeing the fan base dust off the word “wildcard” and insert back into their lexicon. Slowly but surely, it has now become acceptable to advance into the playoffs via the wildcard. “Division title? We don’t need no stinking title. Others have won championships via the wildcard and that is all that matters.” Say what? Sorry guys – this is not permissible. When you have invested so much in the division title streak, you can’t simply walk away and now pretend that it isn’t deeply important. That is a bit like investing thirty percent of your portfolio in sub-prime loans and when those loans head south, you walk away and pretend that investment never existed.

But Yankee fans will now claim is the division title run was never important. That is the insecurity talking. That is the Yankee fan trying to invent ways to save a season that is half-way down the toilet. Sorry guys – the Yankees have a definition of success and a season ending up with a wildcard, or worse, is not a success. Clearly a world championship would help assuage the fans pain over losing the division title streak, but I find it comforting that 2007 WILL mark the year that the Yankee fan lost one of their best friends. Don’t let Yankee fans tell you otherwise – that friend was a great friend and it’s no longer. RIP . . . . . BITCH!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Max and Vick - back at it on Cultural Relativism

So Max Kellerman was back at it this morning, offering a tepid defense of Michael Vick. Basically, I think Max subscribes to the theory that certain behavior can be excused if it is condoned within a person's local culture. he refers to it as cultrual relativism and this was my pointed critique of his view.

Cultural Relativism


I am tired of you and some of Michael Vick’s defenders attempt to excuse his behavior on grounds that it is understandable, and even permissible, because of his cultural upbringing. Because number seven was raised in a community where a small group thinks it is okay to maim and torture a dog, we should look the other way and give this guy a pass?

Listen, as I explained in a recent essay, an overwhelming number of people in this country think dog fighting is bad and therefore we, as a people, have collectively decided that it is unethical to engage in such behavior. That is the standard – PERIOD! You can try to confuse and obfuscate this debate by discussing deer hunting and the pork industry, but at the end of the day, the people of this country recognize and support the idea that there is a special relationship between dog and animal. Is that standard completely consistent? Perhaps not but this standard is informed by four thousand years of social history and it is a standard that is nearly universally supported in this country

So Americans have collectively concluded that dog fighting is unethical - that is hard to challenge. But some, including yourself, Steph and Roy Jones, now want to excuse Vick, claiming that his actions were in some way defensible since they complied with a reprehensible local custom. “Poor Michael Vick, we can’t punish him – he doesn’t know any better. He grew up in a community where this is permitted so we have to be more understanding. We need to account for his upbringing. We need to cut him a little slack.” What a bunch of crap!

We should cut this guy some slack because dog fighting is somehow accepted in very small pockets of the country? And we should cut him some slack even when that accepted practice is completely at odds with this nation’s ethics? That is a bit like abolitionists looking the other way in the 1850s and saying: “you know what, these Southerners were raised on Slavery and it’s all they know. As such, we can’t assume the moral high ground and demand that Slavery be abolished.” Similarly, under this model, how can you criticize someone who grew up in the South who may have racist thoughts? After all, that is how he was raised and that is all he knows.

Excusing racism because it is engrained in some local custom is preposterous and so is excusing dog fighting because some yocals have long got-off watching dogs tear each other apart. There is simply no room to condone this behavior. You and Steph can argue all you want about hypocrisy and double standards and whether deer deserve additional protection, but at the end of the day, those arguments fail to recognize that dogs have a special place in our society. That is the case and no local custom can supplant that fact. Its time for some of Vick’s supporters to either accept this view or start cutting racists a bit more slack.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Salary Cap in Baseball? What About a Salary Floor?

I think most people would agree that there is something wrong in baseball when one team has a payroll of $210 million and others spend less than $30 million. It’s hard to argue that there is equity in the sport when there is a seven-fold difference in the amount that teams spend on major league talent. Ok Ok, so there is a problem. Most everyone outside of New York (and perhaps Boston) agree there is a problem but what could be done to remedy these inequities?

Well baseball tried to remedy the problem when it came up with a revenue sharing program that was intended to put some cash into the hands of the cash-challenged. Has the program sparked spending by the have-nots? I suspect in some situations it has led to some higher spending but given current payroll statistics, its pretty clear that some teams are just pocketing the revenue sharing money instead of putting it back into major league payroll. That certainly is the case in Florida where the Devil Rays had an opening day payroll of just $24 million and their brethren in Miami were spending just $30M. At those spending levels, it is unfathomable that these teams are spending their subsidies.

So what could be done to remedy this situation? Well, the knee jerk reaction is simply to limit spending by imposing a payroll cap on the top teams. But would this have the intended affect? Sure, it would reduce the ability of those in the "hundred million dollar club" to recruit, assemble and hoard expensive talent. And I guess it would increase accountability for those teams who rely on fiscal largess and expensive band-aids. But it would not address the fundamental problem in the sport. That problem is not only that the Yankees spend too much, but that the Devil Rays spend too little.

So this is my solution. The player’s union will never go for a plan where there is a spending cap. After all, why would they accept a plan that just cuts a hundred million dollars out of collective payroll spending? But what if the teams agreed to make it up on the back-end? Specifically, what if the owners proposed a cap to go along with a spending floor? In other words, what if the owners proposed to knock out a hundred million of spending at the high-end and make it up by forcing teams to boost spending on the low-end?

I was curious about the feasibility of such a proposal so I took a look at the numbers. This is basically what I found.

On opening day, MLB’s 30 clubs collectively spent roughly 2.53 billion dollars on their 25-man rosters. Seven teams spent more than $100 million (Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Angels, Mariners, White Sox and Dodgers) while seven teams spent less than $60 million (Devil Rays, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres, Nationals, Pirates).

So what if you capped spending at $140 million dollars? Well, that would cost the players roughly $71 million in lost wages. If you knocked the cap down to $120 million, the forfeiture would come to $111 and a $110 million cap would lead to a loss of $136 million. So could these losses be made up elsewhere? Absoutely! If one were to impose a spending floor of $60 million, then overall payroll spending would be increased by $125 million. Moreover, a $65 million floor would lead to $163 million in additional spending while a $70 million dollar floor would net $208 in additional spending.

So this is the Holic’s proposal. It would be pretty hard to force every team to spend $70 million. That may be a stretch without some tinkering with the revenue sharing program as there is probably no way that Tampa could afford such a commitment. But what about $60 million? That seems eminently fair to me and as a result of that floor, the union would be enriched by $125 million. Those additional revenues would enable a cut at the high-end. I am proposing that the new limit be $130 million. The union would lose $90 million at this point, but still be up $35 million because of the new spending floor. That seems like a decent trade-off to me.

Would this proposal help competitiveness? It certainly wouldn’t hurt as it obviously would allow (force) some teams to retain their talent and bid for the talent of others. No longer would teams be able to pocket their revenue sharing dollars while their home-grown talent walks out the door. Conversely, a $130 million dollar cap would reign in the free-spenders whose consistent success is due in large part to their financial prowess. I realize there are some problems with this proposal. One being that it might bankrupt, or at least strain some of the teams being asked to spend more dollars. That in turn might limit their ability to throw dollars at scouting and drafting – an area that has been a great equalizer for some. I also understand that sixty million may be a problem for the Florida teams and the revenue sharing program might need to be adjusted a bit to assist these economic laggards. But there is no reason why San Diego and Colorado and Arizona are currently spending so little.

So there it is – my proposal to save baseball and douse one of baseball’s most hotly debated issues.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Santana in Sox?

So you want to get a Twins fan exercised? Just go ask him about Johan Sanatana and what the left-hander might fetch in a trade this off-season. This issue gained some attention that other day when Buster Olney penned a piece for and based on his reporting, Buster feels that Santana could net four or five players, presumably a couple already big-league tested and a couple top prospects. Well, this seems a bit rich to me but it got me thinking about my Sox and what they could do to snag Johan.

So what about this proposition: Coco Crisp, Jon Lester and Kevin Youkilis. In Coco Crisp, the Twins would be getting a great defensive center-fielder to replace Tori Hunter when he walks after the season. Now Crisp’s numbers have hardly been scintillating in Boston but he is hitting .273, he will wind up with 25 steals and his OBP since the break is .370. He has the makings of a decent leadoff guy and he is under contract thru 2010 at relatively reasonable prices – about 10.5M over the next two years and an 8M option for 2010. The Twins could do much worse than to replace Hunter with Crisp.

With Lester, the Twins would be getting a 23 year-old lefty who has shown glimpses but probably has a ceiling that is lower than previously thought. It’s a bit hard to tell what to make of Lester since he was pitching with cancer last year but he is still pretty well-regarded throughout baseball and he is under control for five more years.

In Youkilis, the Twins would finally be filling a hole at third base that has been a black hole since Corey Koskie hit lotto in 2001. The Twins have tried guys like Brent Gates, Nick Punto and Tony Batista over there and I am sure they would love to have a little more production from that position. Now I am not a huge fan of Youkilis, but he can catch, he can hit .280 with perhaps a slight upwards bias, and he has fifteen home run power. Plus, he is still three years away from free-agency.

So if the Twins made this deal, they would go into 08 with Crisp in center, Youkilis at third, Mauer behind the dish, Cuddy in right, Morneau at first, maybe Kubel in left, Bartlett at short and maybe Casilla at second. The staff would be composed of Garza, Lester, Slowey, Bonser, Baker and perhaps Francisco Liriano. Plus, assuming they don’t plan on materially increasing their payroll, they still would have some of Hunter’s 12M dollars and all of Johan’s 10M dollars to sprinkle around on Morneau, a platoon type in left, a second baseman and/or a DH. Granted, Youkilis and Crisp will eat up some of this money but there should be some money there for the Twins to bring in a few mid-priced free agents. I don't think that is all that bad a team. In fact, if Liriano comes back, I think it could be better than this year's team.

While the above lineup might not sound like a championship club, what is the alternative? Short of dealing Santana, the Twins will go into 08 with a huge hole at third, a huge hole in center, a problem at second, a ballooning contract at first, a closer coming up on free agency and just Hunter’s 12M to pay for it all? Yes Santana is great, but the Twins have to find a way to fill some of these gaps and I don't see it happening without them trading Johan or boosting the payroll by ten million dollars (from 70 to 80). Seemingly, the answers do not lie within as the Twins system is hardly stocked with everyday regulars who are ready to step up. In that vein, doesn’t the Sox deal seem attractive?

My gut tells me Twins fans don’t see it this way. They think that the Twins could recover much more talent for the best left-hander in baseball. I’m not so sure that is the case despite what Buster may think. I mean, do you think the Yankees will give up Melky and Chamberlin for Santana? What about the Angles? Do you think Bill Stoneman will ever part with anything? And the Mets? Would they be willing to deal Milledge and a couple pitching prospects, assuming they exist, for Johan? I think the Mets might be the Twins best hope although I am not sure a Mets package will be much better that the Sox package I proposed earlier.

Perhaps the best thing for the Twins to do is just suck it up and go for it next year. Boost the short-term payroll, sign Kenny Lofton to play center, pick up Mark Lorreta to play second, give Justin his money and hope Nick Punto can hold down third until the trade deadline. Oh yeah, pray Liriano comes back and throws bullets. I am of the mind that the Twins are unlikely to do too much better than what I proposed and if that’s not enough, they might as well just go the 1997 Florida route, boost the short-term payroll and shoot for the moon in 08.

Max Kellerman and Dog Fighting

So in recent weeks, Max Kellerman of ESPN radio has been belaboring the following point. His view is that dog fighting is "bad" but it is hypocritical for people to claim it is "morally reprehensible" and also support the pork industry. His view - pigs are a higher life-form than dogs and therefore it is hypocritical for humans to support the torture and slaughter of pigs while maintaining that dog fighting is immoral. I called in this morning to offer a rebuttal and what follows is a more exhaustive follow-up . . . ..


I’d like to expand upon the point I made this morning . . . .First, I find dog fighting to be morally reprehensible. Second, I also eat plenty of pork. Third, I don’t find these positions at odds and I certainly don’t think I am being hypocritical. And this is the crux of my argument

The relationship between man and dog goes back at least 4000 years when man brought the wolf in from the wild and domesticated it. As such, there is now a “social contract” between man and dog. We brought dogs into our lives to hunt, to protect, to herd, to retrieve, to aid in transport, and most importantly, to be our companions. And over the years, man and dog have developed a special relationship that is built on trust and loyalty and love. In exchange, we have a duty, in fact an obligation, to protect these animals. It’s basically an iron-clad contract that reveals itself in both western ethics and the law of this land. Period. You know why we don’t have laws against pig fighting or seal fighting or hawk fighting? It’s because man doesn’t have a contract with those groups. That is not the case with dogs who have a long-lasting and contractually-protected bond with humans.

So on to your argument. You claim that it is hypocritical for me to claim dog fighting is a moral outrage yet also passively support the pork industry. And why is this? Well, according to you, it’s because pigs are smarter than dogs and therefore they deserve at least the same protections. Well, I obviously disagree. First of all, I don’t necessarily agree that pigs are smarter but that is neither here nor there. Second, I define morality differently than you. In this instance, I find dog fighting to be immoral because it breaks the social contract that man has with dog. In my book, it is immoral to break a contract, regardless of whether it is a social contract like the one before us or a commercial contract. As such, I have no problem finding it immoral to torture dogs yet permissible to slaughter pigs. Show me the contract that pigs have with man and I might sing a different tune.

So on to Vick. Number seven’s crime is not necessarily immoral. I personally think his actions are immoral but that is neither here nor there as it’s not for me to export my morals into this discussion. What is important here is that Vick’s actions are clearly in conflict with western ethical standards and the laws that flow from those standards. Western ethics, as they pertain to dogs, flow from the long history man has with canine and the social contract I discussed above. There is no ambiguity here. Simply stated – westerners have long held that it is UNETHICAL to mistreat dogs. If there wasn’t a super-majority of people who agreed with me, than perhaps we might have a debate. But that is not the case. Our ethics come from our popular and cultural beliefs and in this case, the citizenry overwhelmingly feels that dog fighting is wrong. Moreover, there is no room for cultural relativism in this debate. I don’t care where Vick was raised and what standards apply in that zip code. It simply doesn’t matter. Western ethics trump any local ordinance and claims to the contrary are simply misplaced and smack of apologism.

The Greek God of Walks?

Kevin Youkilis received his first taste of celebrity back in 2003 when Oakland GM Billy Beane labeled Youk as the Greek God of Walks. Well, I have a great deal of respect for Beane but in hindsight, I have to now question whether it might be more appropriate to call Youkilis the Greek God of Whiffs. For those of you haven’t noticed, Youkilis is in a terrible funk and has now whiffed in twelve consecutive games and thirty-six times since the all-star break. Moreover, he has just ten extra base hits since the break and over the past two months, Youkilis is hitting a scintillating .218. You think Youkilis and his agent will mention these numbers when they hit arbitration this winter? Making matters worse, at least in this scribe’s eye, is the fact that Youk’s on-field antics are childish, grating and completely misplaced. This is a guy who waves his arms, drops his jaw and rolls his eyes every time he takes a called strike. Watching Youkilis is like watching a guy who just lost the World Series of Poker to a miracle card on the river. The big difference? Youkilis acts that way four times a night and sometimes twice in the same at bat. It’s almost as if he thinks he is a breathing questech machine who is entitled to a strike zone the size of a shoe box. Message to Kevin: Just because you got some kind words from Billy Beane five years ago does not make you Ted Williams and it does not entitle you to call your own game. Greek God of Walks? Hardly. Greek God of Sour Faces? Now that’s more like it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

First Toyota and now the Akita

Is it not bad enough that the Japanese destroyed the U.S. auto industry? Now they have to come over here and beat all our working dogs at the Westminster Dog Show. What’s next, sushi will displace the hot dog, Sapporo will knock off Budweiser and all white girls will suddenly develop an Asian fetish? In case you don’t know what I’m talking about – here is the rundown. Last night at Westminster, an akita – the national dog of Japan – pulled off a sizable upset when he won the working group by beating a top-ranked malamute and the son of a great Newfoundland champion. What the hell is going on here – Letters from Iwo Jima is going to win the Oscar and an Akita won the Westminster working group. So tonight, I am now in the unenviable position of having to pull for a foreign job as it goes for Best in Show. That is unless a nice Springer or a Retriever works its way through the group ranks to mount a challenge. Hell, I guess it don’t matter as the fancy boys at Westminster always give the top prize to a terrier. The bet here is that this year will be no different.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I've Fallen . . . and I Can't Reach the Clapper!

I may not have a job or a girlfriend, but at least I have one thing – Duke and UCONN both suck and, judging from yesterday, they are going to suck for the foreseeable future. All I can say is wow. I knew these patients were sick but I got a glimpse behind the curtain yesterday and was shocked to see two programs that are playing in the abyss. Yeah Yeah Yeah, the cronies and apologists will tell you we are seeing a 100-year storm and things will return to normal next year, but based on recent evidence, I would suggest you might consider taking the other side of that bet.

So what’s going on here? Well, lets start up in Storrs where the short-term prognosis is probably more bleak. What you have at UCONN is a very young team that doesn’t shoot very well, doesn’t play defense too well and produces more turnovers in forty minutes than Sara Lee. How bad is it? Well, for every five assists, UCONN throws it away six times. The Huskies are now just 15-9 after starting the season with eleven straight wins, all of which came at home against woefully inferior competition. Since that streak ended on Dec. 30, the Huskies are just 4-9, with wins coming against South Florida, St. John’s, Rutgers and Syracuse. Those wins might have meant something had they come in 1985. But this is 2007 and in the present year, those four wins add up to giant turd.

I spent a little time yesterday watching the carnage and was appalled at what I saw. The Huskies went down to the Georgia Dome and got blasted by a mediocre Georgia Tech team, 65-52, in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the lopsided score indicates. Granted, the game was played in a Dome, but the Huskies shot just 31 percent from the field, 57 percent from the line and turned the ball over 16 times. What the hell is going on here? Sophomore Craig Austrie was 1-10. The highly touted and somewhat juvenile AJ Price got in for fourteen minutes and was able to go 1-4 with one assist. Based on what I saw, Price should probably keep his night job stealing stereo equipment.

The morale to the story is that UCONN has no players. Sure, they have eight freshman and four sophomores, but at the end of the day, these kids might not be any good. Talented yet inexperienced is one thing, but there is no sign that these kids are the former. Sure, Jeff Adrian looks like a player on one wing, but that’s about it. This is just a flat-out bad team and one that doesn’t stand to make much improvement without an infusion of talent. Now I heard Jim Calhoun on the radio last week express his confidence in this group, but you have to scratch your head and wonder what group he is watching. Hye, I’m not at practice everyday, but I have watched UCONN a few times this year and I don’t see any Ray Allen’s or Donyell Marshall’s or Caron Butler’s. Moreover, as I expected, Calhoun spent much of that interview making excuses, challenging anyone to find a program that could withstand the losses UCONN incurred after last season. Is he insane? Here is the answer Jim – the 2006 UNC Tar Heels. They lost four first round draft picks off their national Championship team and their seven top scorers. What happened to them the following year? Well, they competed for the ACC title and went into the tourney as a three seed. That is a far cry from where this Husky team is today.

Now we turn to Durham, where the situation turns darker by the day and the long-term prognosis is perhaps worse than it is in Storrs. Here is the Duke situation – after losing last night in College Park, the Devils are just 5-6 in the ACC, with road games looming at BC, UNC and Clemson. In order to get back to .500 in conference play, they will have to beat Georgia Tech and Maryland at home and win one of those road games. Ain’t going to happen! Not with this team. Thus, Duke is going to end the season with a sub-.500 conf record. Will that get them into the tourney? Will the mystique of Duke curry favor with the selection committee? Its possible that 7-9, coupled with a win in the ACC tourney might do the trick, but it will be close. And even if that does get them in, I am fairly confident that this club will end Duke’s 10-year streak of advancing to the regional. And if this club misses the tourney, how long before you see t-shirts saying “I paid 50K for this?”

So what is Duke’s problem? Well, its plain as day that this team doesn’t have any players. This can be a bit masked when they play at home, but on the road, this team is simply defenseless. They have no quickness on the perimeter, no inside game, and the bench is occupied by guys who probably belong at Hofstra. And things don’t figure to get much better. In fact, they figure to get much worse as its likely that Duke will lose its best player – Josh McRoberts – this year. That will leave K with a squad of returnees that should show up to Midnight Madness next year wearing shirts saying: “I play for Duke Univeristy – The Iona of the South.” Greg Paulus will be one of the returnees, but unfortunately for Duke, he plays an awful lot like one of the assistants on Duke’s bench and I’m not talking about Johnny Dawkins. Jon Scheyer will also be returning, but in the 6’5 white man category, Scheyer reminds me a whole lot more of UVA flameout Willie Dersch than he reminds me of JJ Redick.. Simply put, Coach K has no players. And whose fault is that but his own? He knew Reddick and Sheldon Williams were leaving – after all, they were seniors. He had time to prepare for those departures and all he could come up with was Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson. And just wait until next year. Help is coming in the form of 6’8 Kyle Singler, a recruit out of Oregon, but without McRoberts, this group will have to overachieve just to achieve mediocrity.

The funny thing about this is Coach K has basically escaped blame for the whole mess. His apologists at ESPN stress its just one year and not a disastrous year at that. Just a blip on the radar, says defense counsel Vitale. Blip? What team is he watching? Simply put, there are no guarantees in college sports anymore. Vitale can keep living in the past and assume his buddy will pull things together, but I have seen no evidence of late to support such a thesis. Things are bad in Durham. Real bad. French army bad. The way I see it, Duke could miss the tourney this year and be way down next year. Two bad years in a row and the next thing you know, kids are going to Virginia and NC State. Dickie V would never concede such a possibility, not while his buddy was manning the sideline. I’m not sure it will happen either and I wouldn’t bet against K pulling things together in 09, but the one thing clear to me at this point is Duke has fallen and there is no guarantee it will be getting up anytime soon. I may not have a job but at least I got that.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

K-Dice, Vernon and Senator Johnson

So the Red Sox have themselves a new pitcher – this one costing just $103 million over the next six years. My thoughts? Well, this effort to sign Daisuke Matsuzawka shows that the Sox front office is actually capable of devising a plan and sticking to it. Prior to yesterday, such capability was largely in doubt due to a track record littered with flip-flops, diversions, and abortions. In this instance, it seems as if the Sox had a thoughtful and well-devised plan, stuck to it, and saw it come to fruition largely as envisioned. Sure, they shocked the world with the Herculian posting fee and critics crowed that the organization was primed to jump off the plank into a sea of fiscal irresponsibility. But a funny thing happened on the way to another fiscal disaster. And that thing was the Sox actually won a hand against Scott Boras and ended up locking up a 26-year old pitcher for a price that is within market parameters. Hey, I have no idea if the “Orient Express” can pitch. I have no idea whether this guy is more Nomo than Pedro. I couldn’t tell you what the hell this “gyro” ball is all about. But what I can tell you is that the market for pitching has gotten flat out stupid and if this kid turns out to be a stud, $17M/yr is pretty damn reasonable. Sure, this is a gamble and given the Sox recent history of mis-evaluating talent, I am a bit concerned this one will also be more fizzle than fuzz. But at some point, the Sox are going to get one of these talent assessments right and if this is the turn, it just may turn out that the Sox got a steal.

Can someone tell me when Vernon Wells morphed into Willie Mays? If in fact Tornoto has offered Vern a new seven-year contract for $126 million and he hasn’t signed it yet, then someone better check under Vernon’s hood. Despite what ESPN's Buster Olney might suggest, Vernon is hardly a superstar. In fact, with a career OPS off just under .830 (and just .732 on the road 04-06), Vernon is a lot closer to Torii Hunter than Carlos Beltran or Andruw Jones. Nice player - yes. Great player? Only if Webster's has significantly diluted the definition of "great" in its latest edition. Olney had the temerity this morning to suggest that given Vernon’s skills and age, he could perhaps command $200 Million dollars on the open market next year. God, if that’s the case (and it isn't), is Andruw Jones going to get Arod money next Winter? And what about Carlos Zambrano? $300 Million? Moral to this story – Olney is a total ass clown prone to hyperbole and Wells is an idiot if he doesn’t his this bid. After all, $126 million is an awful lot for a guy who might not make an all-star team if he didn't get 15-20 at bats off Josh Beckett each year.

So, lets say Senator Tim Johnson doesn’t survive this unfortunate incident with all his faculties. Say, he is placed in a medically induced coma. Well, as I understand it, such a condition will not require Johnson to relinquish his Senate seat. After all, there is precedent for members of the Senate keeping their seats even though they didn’t cast a vote for years. So if Johnson ends up in a vegetated state, the question I have is whether some of those ass clowns who feverishly fought efforts to end Teri Schiavo’s life will stand by the good senator and oppose any effort to end Johnson’s life, knowing full well that his beating heart is all that stands in between minority and majority status. Am I just being cynical to think that all those jerks that fought to keep Teri alive will be a little less vigorous this time around? This is shaping up as the Super Bowl of hypocrisy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Iraq, Gay Men in the HOF, and Baseball Lunacy

Just a quick thought on Iraq that struck me this afternoon - As difficult as it is to foresee any tribal reconciliation in Iraq, it seems just as implausible to conceive of any reconciliation occurring in THIS country until this President does the unthinkable: admit this fight has been woefully managed from the top and has resulted in a stinging loss. This is the admission that war critics demand before they can contemplate any support for a new presidential cleanup strategy. Think of it as the non-negotiable ransom that President Bush must pay before war critics will ever call off the dogs. Simply put, war critics want to see the post-game interview where the coach takes the loss unto himself and admits he called a bad game. Such accountability would forever sully Bush’s historical standing and therefore it is almost impossible to conceive, but without such an admission, reconciliation stands a better chance of succeeding in Iraq than it does here at home.

Is Cooperstown ready for a gay man because the way the press reports this relationship between Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite, it is pretty clear that the two-seam fastball Roger taught Andy has absolutely nothing to do with baseball. Jesus, who would have thought Roger Clemens would have so much in common with Andy Dick.

Gil Meche for $55 million dollars? Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of this year’s award for “most asinine general manager in baseball” goes to Dayton Moore. Please, would someone explain to me how a team, with a $50 million dollar payroll can justify spending 20 percent of its resources on a pitcher whose career ERA is four and two-thirds? This is a guy whose ERA last year was a tick above the league average which, by definition, makes him middling at best. 55 million dollars? Gil Meche? Just a guess, but with Mike Sweeney's contract expiring this year, my bet is the Royals have the early line of spending Sweeney's dough next Winter on either Paul Byrd or Matt Clement. With this signing, the Royals have firmly announced their intention to compete for the distinction of being the worst franchise in sports. Watch out Matt Millen, someone is gunning for you

Yesterday, I absolutely savaged my Red Sox for their JD adventure and I still believe that is a debacle in waiting, but at least JD can play when he is out there. The same can’t be said for a host of guys getting big money from teams that should have their head examined. Its too easy to pick on Jim Hendry of the Cubs cause he’s been an idiot for years and therefore the mega-deal for Soriano and the lotto ticket awarded to Ted Lilly are par for the course. But when did Bill Stoneman of the Angels lose his mind? Five years and $50 million for Gary Mathews Jr.? When did utility outfielders start winning multi-year contracts that confer eight-figure annual payouts? And across town, the Dodgers gave big money to a center fielder that I have long thought is one of the five most overrated players in all of baseball. I think Juan Pierre had four RBI at Memorial Day last year. FOUR! I realize that the going rate for everyday players has gone up, but Pierre and Mathews are barely everyday players. Fro my money, I’ll take Drew at 70 million over these other two caddies.

Just found this out – Dara Torres, a girl who I dated when I was in sixth grade, is planning to make another comeback and take a shot at making her fifth Olympic swim team, this time at the ripe age of 41. For those of you who are not familiar with Dara’s career, she won eight Olympic medals, four of which are gold, over a sixteen-year period that began in 1984 and culminated at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She took Athens off but is now poised to make a run at Bejing and based on some recent white-hot performances; she stands a pretty good shot at making that team. Given her sport, where female swimmers generally peak in their late teens, Torres longevity is simply mind-boggling. And let me tell you, when she kissed me at that meet up in San Luis Obispo, I could have never imagined that I would draw a walk and reach first off a girl who would someday reach Olympic immortality.

Watched a little of that Nets/Suns game last night and let’s get this straight. Steve Nash is awesome! I was harboring some reservations before anointing SN as the best point guard of all-time, but if you back out Magic on grounds that he can’t be pigeon-holed as a true point, Nash is right there at the top of the list. You can no longer tell me that Nash has to take a back seat to Isiah or Stockton or Cousy. He’s got those two MVPs and if Amare can stay healthy over the next three seasons, there is no reason to believe Nash won’t pick up a ring one of these years. Marc Cuban can bitch at the NBA all he wants about that bad call that cost his Mavs a title, but he only has himself to blame since he was the one who let Nash go and had Nash still been in Dallas, Cuban would be wearing some extra jewelry.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Not So Lean Sox

So the Red Sox mgmt team has gone out and spent 106M of the Trust’s treasure on Julio Lugo and JD Drew. Just fucking great! I swear, other than that clown in the White House, Theo Epstein might be the dumbest motherfucker to have ever graduated from Yale. Come to think of it, I'm not sure the Jews are too thrilled to claim him either. Listen, Jews couldn't get into Yale for 200 years and Theo is just giving ammunition to those on the Board of Trustees who would like to see a return to the old admission policy. Lest you couldn’t tell, the half-Jew Holic didn't like these moves at all.

I guess I’ll start with Drew. First of all, these rednecks almost never work in Boston. Yes, Trot Nixon was from Dogpatch and he kind of worked but his dad is a doctor so Trot was hardly raised by Barney Fife. Drew on the other hand is straight cracker. This is a guy who matriculated in the redneck capital of Florida and balked at playing in Philly due to his concern that Pennsylvania no longer enforces the Fugitive Slave Act. So what does Theo decide to do? Why not bring this Valdosta boy way up North where it’s butt ass cold in April and people actually care when players under-perform. Maybe I'm missing something here. Maybe Theo is privy to some merchandising data that suggests the Sox don't have a toehold down in Dixie and need a new ambassador. So just as Matsusaka is going to sell jerseys over in Tokyo, Drew is going to sell lids down in Tuskeegee. This one is not going to be pretty

Staying with Drew for a second. What did this guy do to deserve this $70M windfall? I’ll tell you - in roughly 500 at bats and 600 plate appearances, he hit .283 with 20 bombs and 100 RBI. His OPS? A nice .895. And that year merits $70M? If that is the case, what does this year merit - 441 at bats, .306 BA, 28 bombs, 87 RBI, OPS of .974.? Well, I’ll tell you what it netted Trot after the 2003 season. Try a three-year contract amounting to $19.5M. What the hell happened in the interim? I’ll tell you what happened. Theo took over and started misallocating resources all over the Fenway grass. This guy is a manic spender. One year he is "Mr. Fiscal Conservative," smartly keeping the buffet closed for Johnny Damon and the like. The next year, he is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, doling out largess to every half-ass project under the sun. Its only a matter of time before the honorable chairman bankrupts the nation.

Now Drew supporters will say JD can run a bit and throw a bit and hit a bit. That’s all true, but he’s never healthy, he’s surly, and last year he struggled against lefties and in pressure spots. That’s just what the Red Sox need – another guy who can’t rake lefties. I bet Eric Beddard and BJ Ryan, and Scott Kazmir are licking their chops over this one. Plus, look at his post-season numbers - 11 for 61! Did somebody say AROD? Listen, if Drew is healthy, he’s a pretty good guy to have as your fifth place hitter and god knows the Red Sox got zero production out of that hole last year. But $70M? Listen, for that kind of money, I’ll take a Drew, but I want the one who spells his name Druw.

Last point on Drew before we move on to Luge. Wasn't it just a year ago that this front office was saying that there was no corner outfield power in the organization so a guy like Wily Mo Pena was needed? The answer is yes so Theo, in all his wisdom, went out and traded a solid and inexpensive pitcher (who loved pitching in Boston) for a one-tool wonder named Wily Mo. So what do they do a year later? They go out and pay $70M to lock in some power for the next five years and offer the Seibu Linons $51.1 million for the rights to talk to a pitcher that is now needed to fill Bronson's spot in the rotation. IN otherwords, the Sox made a fifty million dollar mistake and then went and spent another seventy to correct it. So what are they now going to do with Wily Mo?. Well, if Manny isn’t traded, Wily Mo has no role in Boston whatsoever. Hell, maybe they can pawn him off on Jim Bowden who seems eager to get his prize back. If that is the case and the Sox can pry Chad Cordero loose, then I'll turn down the rancor. But if Wily Mo goes and little comes back, this Sox fan is a called strike away from waiting for Theo outside the Fenway parking lot.

So on to Lugo - let me get this straight - the Sox are paying 9M/yr for one shortstop and 3M/yr to Atlanta for another. So that is 12M - or roughly 50 percent more than NL ROY Hanley Ramirez would have made FIVE years from now. So here is the lowdown on Julio. He can run, he gets into counts, and he has a strong, but sometimes eratic, arm. But he strikes out a lot and he’s not a good hitter late or with two outs. J-Lu is hardly another J-Ro, but you sure couldn’t tell that from each player’s pay stubs this year. By the way, J-Lu is already 31 and had no extra base hits against the Yanks last year – welcome to Boston!

The way I see it, here is the moral to this story - NESN must have had a great year cause I now see the 07 payroll at 136M and the Sox still need a closer. Listen, things might still work out for the Sox if Drew stays healthy, Pena fetches Cordero or some other passable closer, Manny shows up this April, Varitek recovers half his game, Beckett grows tired of turning around so quickly, and Matsuaka turns into a nice import Wait, did I just catch myself doing a Peter Gammons impression. Jesus we’re fucked!

Last point – does anyone else out there aside from the Holic think the timing of the Jon Lester “I beat cancer” news was aimed in Scotty B's direction? "Listen Scott, we have our five for 06 if need be. So it’s either 4/32 or you client goes back to Japan for two years and you never rep a Japanese client again. Sleep tight".

Monday, December 04, 2006

Couple of thoughts on Michigan and Florida

Here are just a few of the Holic's thoughts on Florida’s selection over Michigan to play in the BCS Championship

Two arguments have been greatly overstated over the past week.

First of all, Michigan’s three-point loss at Ohio State was hardly a three-point loss. Sorry guys, back door covers make a difference on collection day but they mean nothing when it comes to comparative analysis. That was a 10-point game that was never in doubt and it could have been much worse had Ohio State not been so charitable. I also don’t think it helps that Michigan’s one big win came against a Notre Dame team that has been revealed as a dirty diaper. So Michigan’s resume basically amounts to a nice win at home versus Whiskey and a not-so-nail-biting loss at Columbus. I’d say this applicant doesn’t deserve the two spot but, then again, Dick Cheney never beat Whisky and it didn’t stop him from being named “number two.”.

Two, the SEC is the best conference in football, but the margin of difference is far less than that espoused by confederate and NASCAR apologists. Georgia stunk, Bama was worse, Arkansas won the West and got absolutely drilled at home by USC, South Carolina squeaked by Wofford and yet only lost by one to Florida, and nine of the twelve conference quarterbacks are bound for Canada or Daytona or Iraq or wherever dumbass rednecks go when their eligibility expires We hear this southern inferiority crap every year and every year the SEC goes out during the bowl season and proves its fallibility. For those of you who have trouble finding your ass with two hands, I’ll just remind you that last winter, Wisky whipped Auburn, Bama squeaked by Texas Wreck, Georgia was maimed at home by West Virginia and Florida hardly dominated Iowa. Best conference – yes, but this is hardly a case where the SEC is the AFC and the Big-10 is the NFC.

Some other thoughts . . . .

Who the fuck names or nicknames their kid Urban? Does he have a sister named Rural? By the way, is it true that in Latin, Urban means whinny bitch? I have had enough of this guy and the real hype is still three weeks away.

It’s just me, but I actually like the Florida Jaws theme song.

Has there ever been a “can’t miss” who has missed by a wider margin that Chris Leak. I’ll help you out and give you Ron Curry who was a top-10 basketball/football recruit at UNC who couldn’t play either sport, but Leak is pretty competitive so long as we keep this to just pigskin. This kid came out of High School as the next Vick but hardly anyone at that time would have guessed that the scouts meant Marcus. You back out Leak’s games against Southern Mississippi, Central Florida and Kentucky and this guy was a total drip.
I think Vandy coach Bobby Johnson should have been given the final say on who got the final BCS championship spot. His Commodores played both teams and just in case you’re too lazy to look up the results, Vandy lost by 20 at Ann Arbor and lost by six at home to Florida. So Bobby, what do you think?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Race for the Prize - OSU v Michigan!

In anticipation for this year's Game of the Century, I thought I'd take a few minutes to jot down my thoughts on a rivalry that goes beyond football. . . . . .

The most recent national championships won by both schools are a bit tarnished. Ohio State’s title, won in 2002, came at the hands of Miami, which lost stud back Willis McGhahee in the first quarter and still would have won the game had it not been for one of history’s worst pass interference calls. As for Michigan, their last championship was split with Nebraska after a season where I think UM played ten home games and then barely nipped Washington State in the Rose Bowl. True, Nebraska got some miracle tip that year, but the Huskers drilled Peyton in the Sugar Bowl. What's a more impressive win? Beating Peyton or beating Ryan Leaf?

The best receivers at each school both had the last name of Carter. I give the edge to Michigan’s AC since Chris did his best work on Sundays.

Nobody from Michigan can match Archie Griffen’s two Heisman’s or Santonio Holmes three recent arrests. The best Michigan could do on the blotter is tackle Larry Harrison’s 2006 conviction for indecently exposing himself all over Ann Arbor.

My alma matter, UCLA, punked number one Ohio State in the 1976 Rose Bowl and upset Michigan in the second round of the 1998 NCAA tourney. And had Ty Edney's little runner fallen in 1993, Michigan's Chris Webber would never have had the opportunity to make the second biggest mistake ever committed in an NCAA final.

Nobody from Michigan is starring down Jack Nicklaus but then again, nobody from OSU is out-swimming Michael Phelps.

By virtue of sheer numbers, OSU probably has better looking girls than Michigan but per capita, it might be close. On second thought – does it really matter? The Midwest is the Midwest!

My friend Kim went to Law School at Michigan and she is probably smarter and cooler than anyone who has ever gone to Ohio State.

Michigan clearly turns out better doctors, lawyers and bankers, but OSU turns out better veterinarians (it helps that UM doesn’t have a school).

In the black actors category, OSU produced Superfly while Michigan produced James Earl Jones – edge Buckeyes.

In the stadium “nickname” category, I’ll take “The Horseshoe” over the “Big House,” and on tradition, I’ll take “Script Ohio” over “Hail Hail to Michigan.”

Michigan produced God while the best QB out of Columbus – Art Schlichter - gambled his way out of the NFL. – big edge Wolves.

Ann Arbor is fifth on my list of “best college towns” in America list while Columbus is well . . . . . . .Columbus.

Ohio has a lot of Heartland Republicans and Michigan has the largest arab community in the country. It’s just a matter of time before Ohio invades under the auspicies that Michigan is hiding WMDs.

In hoops, the all-time Ohio State team of John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas, Clark Kellogg, Michael Redd and Jimmy Jackson edges the all-time Michigan team of Glen Rice, Chris Webber, Cazzie Russell, Ricky Green, and Jalen Rose. The difference – Bobby Knight on the sidelines for OSU.

When it comes to baseball, Michigan has Barry Larkin, but OSU had Frank Howard. Too close to call.

The Olympics is close as well as Jessie Owens starred down Hitler and won four gold medals in Berlin while Mike Phelps won eight medals – six gold - in Athens. This is really tough. On the one hand, Owens embarrassed der fuhrer, but he was running and jumping against a bunch of slow white guys. Fast forward 70 years - Phelps wasn’t swimming against many slow black guys. Edge Phelps.

Ann Coulter went to Michigan which is a massive strike against the school, but my hero Jack Kervorkian, also a UM alum, helps offset this blemish. As an aside, I wouldn’t mind seeing Ann come down with some horrific disease and no doctor at her bedside willing to pull her plug. Isn’t irony a bitch!

When it comes to comedy, OSU has Richard Lewis while UM has David Allen Grier. Neither are funny but Lewis’ role on Curb Your Enthusiasm ends up being the difference. Edge Buckeyes.

Michigan has Lucy Liu, Madonna and Alice from the Brady Bunch. The best OSU can do is the lady who was married to Ray Romano on his dopey show. Edge Wolverines.

Michigan has had a guy in the White House and in this contest, he is running unopposed since the best OSU can muster is that guy on Fox who hosts John Kasich’s Heartland.

For my money, Kirk Herbstreit is a better commentator than fellow-Buck Clark Kellogg, and as long as we are in broadcasting, I’ll take Herb over that self-righteous UM grad Mike Wallace. Big edge Buckeyes, especially when you consider that they have Jack Buck on the bench and he just happened to have the greatest home run call of all-time. “We’ll see you tomorrow night!”

During the nineties, my Pats hit it big with UM grad Ty Law while OSU draftees Andy Katzenmoyer and Terry Glenn both turned out to be huge pussies. This decade, OSU grad Mike Vrabel has helped the Buckeye cause in New England but he wasn’t a draftee and he’s no Tom Brady.

Prediction – Ohio State 28 Michigan 20

Enjoy the game!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sept 11- MVP or Lifetime Achievement Award?

Since when the does the BBWA give out a lifetime achievement award disguised as an American League MVP? What am I talking about, you may ask? Do I have to answer that? Of course I am talking about this nonsense surrounding Derrick Jeter’s bid to win this year’s AL MVP. As of this morning, this is what DJ’s season projects out to:

635 113 219 42 15 105 .345 .419 .493

DJ is undeniably having a very good year and perhaps his best. But you know what better numbers from a shortstop netted in the 1999 MVP race? Try 7th! And that came from a guy who CARRIED his meager team to the AL wildcard. You think I’m joking? Try these numbers on for size

532 103 190 42 27 104 .357 .418 .603

Granted, Nomar was hurt that year, but his contributions were huge and far superior to DJs. FAR SUPERIOR! Hook nose had an OPS was 100 bps higher than DJ and yet, if there was a Heisman like presentation for MVP, Nomar wouldn’t have even been invited to the Downtown AC. For godsake, he had 13 more extras than DJ in 100 less at bat and I don’t want to hear any “we’re no longer in the steroid era.” Sorry, these two years were compiled in the same era.

I just find this Jeter talk to be a little bit juvenile and I am bit surprised the national press has bought into this NYC-driven campaign. Listen, the Yanks are in front by ten games so the argument that DJ carried this team is purely fictional. This team would have won with a modest year out of Jeter and that is pretty hard to dispute. It’s also a bit hard to stomach some of these Yankee fans complain about the bias against Yankee MVP candidates. Boy do these fans have a short memory since it was just last year that the BBWA committed one of its biggest atrocities to date when it handed Alex Rodriguez a trophy that had David Ortiz name on it. Papi is the rightful winner once again but I understand it can’t go to a guy on a non-playoff qualifier. With that said, there is no doubt in my mind that the trophy belongs in Minnesota where you can flip a coin between Johan and Justin. If you disagree, I suggest you take a look at Sanatana’s numbers once again since they project to 21- 6, a WHIP under one and his team hasn’t lost one of his starts since May. That is an MVP.

Sept. 9 - Thoughts Heading into Horns/Bucks

Just some thoughts heading into tonight's big OSU/Texa game

Neither school had the best team on the field when they last won national championships. Sorry - Miami, even without Willis McGhahee was better than the 2002 Bucks and USC was an asinine Reggie Bush play away from burying the Horns last year.

UCLA, my alma matter layed the worst home loss in Texas history when they thumped the Horns in 1997 by the not so tidy score of 66-3.

Nobody from Texas is starring down Jack Nicklaus or covering John Havlicek for 48 minutes, but then again, nobody from OSU is out-swimming Arron Piersol or hitting the Rocket.

Texas has better looking girls and a better law school, but OSU turns out better veterinarians (it helps that UT doesn’t have a school).

John Cooper was bad but John Mackovic was worse!

Texas has produced Owen Wilson, Matt McConaughey, Renne Zellweger, Rip Torn and Farrah. OSU has produced Superfly! – Push as RZ and MM are serious negatives.

I would much rather spend a year in Austin than a year in Columbus.

For my money, Herbstreit is a better commentator than fellow-Buck Clark Kellogg, and as long as we are in journalism, I’ll take Herb over that self-righteous UT grad Walter Cronkite.

Mack Brown hadn’t won a big game in his life so how come he is now Vince Lombardi after rolling a nothing schedule (sorry, OU and the Big-12 were horrible last year) and catching a huge break last January? Am I supposed to forget all those losses to Oklahoma and Florida State?

Number 34 edges out Ricky Williams as the greatest player in Texas history since the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and I’ll give that OSU honor to Randy Gradishar, Orlando Pace, or Eddie George. Sorry Chris, you did your best work on Sunday.

Nobody asked for my opinion but I would have grabbed Leinhart ahead of Young.

Maurice Claret should never have been allowed to step on the OSU campus and I’m beginning to wonder whether the same couldn’t be said for Santonio Holmes.

OSU grad Jack Tatum was the dirtiest player in pro football history and George Steinbrenner (OSU something or other) is the dirtiest owner in baseball history.

Jim Tressel – you can take the used car salesman out from Youngstown, but you can’t take the Youngstown out of the used car salesman. That tie and sweater vest ain’t fooling anyone!

The Pats took two Buckeyes in the nineties, Andy Katzenmoyer and Terry Glenn, both of whom turned out to be pussies.

A degree from a school like OSU, which has 50,000 undergrads, deserves an asterisk.

Prediction: OSU 27 Texas 13

Monday, June 26, 2006

June 26 - Yankee Fans and Ageism

I don't post much anymore, but I wrote this for a friends site - so I thought I would post it here as well:

Is it just me or is the subject of “age” becoming a real sensitive issue with Yankee fans these days? Lest you haven’t noticed, and it’s pretty hard to fall into this category if you watch any baseball whatsoever, there is an unusually large wave of terrific young players coming of age this year. In Queens and Boston and Florida and Philadelphia and Detroit and Minnesota and Cleveland and Seattle and Los Angeles and even in Pittsburgh, – tomorrow’s stars are budding, and in a number of cases, blooming right before our collective eyes. And lets be frank – I’m not talking about a Pat Listach here and a Scott Williamson there. No, this new class is loaded with guys who have ceilings that reach to Cooperstown. These are guys who will not only dominate baseball for the next decade, but are already on the cusp of “greatness,” and I use that term without doing too much damage to Webster’s permissible definition. And the one thing these young bucks share in common – not a single one of them gets his fan mail sent to the Bronx.

Has it occurred to the typical Yankee fan that we are at the dawn of a new era that, along with most other good things in life, seemingly bypassed the South Bronx? In most cases, it has not since your typical Yankee fan wouldn’t know the difference between Nelson Liriano and Francisco Liriano without the benefit of a baseball encyclopedia and a fascinating anecdote delivered by Yankee great Al Leiter. Nonetheless, there are a handful of Yankee fans – some who may have an iron in the fantasy fire – who are now awakening to the fact that a youthful arms buildup has broken out in baseball and the pinstripes are on the wrong side of the emerging missile gap. And let me tell you, this recognition is not sitting well with some who reside within the evil empire. Sure, some will attempt to accentuate the positive by foolishly touting their own and others will stew quietly as talk turns to the revolution at hand. But rest assured, the informed Yankee fan gets a little uneasy when baseball’s youth movement is broached. These fans know that some of the Yankee shortcomings can be masked with largess, but these fans also know that Team Cash is on the wrong side of the development curve. You won’t get these fans to admit as much, but deep down it irks them that money alone may no longer guarantee regular season success.

Now some Yankee fans will surely quibble with my premise that the Yankees aren’t full participants in the league’s burgeoning youth movement. After all, Chien-Ming Wang is 26, Robby Cano is just 23 and Melky Cabrera is just 21. Each is young and each is contributing to a team that is competing for a division title. The prosecution will concede as much, but that is where the concessions end. Because unlike the defense, the prosecution in this case does not feel that any member of the aforementioned triumvirate is deserving of membership in the “Fredy Lynn Club,” named of course for the only man in my lifetime to have been awarded the MVP in his rookie season.

Lets take them one at a time and start with little Melky. Has Melky had his moments? Indeed he has. Does he project into anything more then a fourth outfielder? I’d say the answer is no. I will stipulate that its tough to say that with absolute certainty since he’s only 21, but at this time, Melky really doesn’t have a single plus tool and while he does put the ball in play, it is rarely with any sizzle. Yes, I realize he’ll grow, but seven extras in 150 at bats is a bit punk for a corner outfielder that hits .250 and doesn’t steal bases. Quite simply, Melky will never hit with the kind of power that the Yankees demand in a corner outfielder. Next!

Okay, picking on Melky was easy but what about Wang and Cano? Brian Cashman says these guys are untouchable and if Brian says so, these guys must be the real deal. Lets first consider Wang whose headline numbers read as follows: 8-3 with a 4.14 ERA and a WHIP around 1.3. Not bad for a twenty-six year old. Decent velocity. Decent sink. Some real good starts in the mix. What’s there not to like? Well, some may say I’m nitpicking, but where are the Ks? Just 36 whiffs in 104 innings? Wang, put your camera away and start dealing! One strikeout per every three innings is pretty meager for a guy who supposedly hits 95 on the gun. Also, Wang’s numbers completely fall off the table when he goes to the stretch. You think I’m kidding? How bout the fact that guys are hitting .333 off him with runners on base. Sure, Wang gets a lot of groundouts which is a positive, but at the end of the day, he allows too many balls to be put in play. His sink allows him to get away with some of this, but the fact that he can’t blow anyone out and tends to get hit when runners reach, cap his ceiling close to where he currently resides. Wang can get better, but the astute Yankee fan knows that the only time you would ever use Wang’s name in the same sentence as Scott Kazmir is when you say: “that Wang, he’s no Scott Kazmir!”

Finally we get to the jewel of the system. The golden boy who represents the Yankees new found commitment to youth. The man that “Brian the Brain” refused to trade away last year even though the pinstripes were locked in a tight race at the trade deadline. Of course I am talking about Robinson Cano, the slick hitting left-handed, left fielder who plays second base for the New York Yankees. How can I say anything negative about Roby Cano, the second year player who is hitting .325 with an OPS close to .800? It’s hard to argue against those numbers, but a little closer evaluation turns up some rather discouraging quirks in Cano’s game. For one, how does a guy hitting sixth or seventh in that lineup only have twenty-seven RBI? You really want the answer? Try these nightmares on for size. Cano is hitting just .227 with runners in scoring position and just .195 with runners in scoring position and two out. Hitting with the bases loaded is always a good spot to pile up RBI, but Robbie is just one for ten when coming up when the deck is stacked. Don’t get me wrong – I think Cano is a nice player. His hands are a bit questionable, but he can rake and probably deserves to hit higher in a lineup. But lets not kid ourselves. Robby Cano isn’t Jose Reyes and he isn’t Chase Utley. He’s a nice player but if he is the jewel of the system, its time for the system to mine somewhere else.

The moral to this story is this – the league is now being over-run by exciting young players who are already dominating. Reyes, Verlander, Liriano, Paplebon, Wright, Howard, Kazmir, Zumaya, Hernandez, Kemp, Bay. The balance of power is shifting, and will continue to shift to those teams that have scored big in development. Sure, the Yankees will still be able to paper over some of their weakness in this area by spending huge sums of cash. This winter, I’m sure Cashman, provided he still has a job, will swap out of Sheffield and into Carlos Lee. Then he’ll spin his magic and outbid everyone for Zito and Schmidt, preying that one or both will sign up to be the next Carol Pavano. Cashman can spend money like nobody else and I’m sure he will be out with hat in hand this winter. But what if he comes up empty. What if Zito decides to stay near his home in Southern California? What if Seattle blows Schmidt away? I’ll tell you what happens – the Yankees will go into 2007 one year older and one year closer to the end of the Mariano era.

Some Yankee fans recognize this and that is why they hate to discuss the new blood that is coming into the league. After all, the Yankees can’t poach “new” blood for six years and this just isn’t fair as far as Yankee fans are concerned. Hell, for all that luxury tax the Yankees pay, they should at least get first crack at the exciting kids – right? Wrong! The great equalizer in baseball is development, as the Yanks will soon find out. The way I see it, as more and more talent gets to the majors ready to dominate, the Yanks will suffer more and more since all this talent is beyond their reach. After all, you can’t steal talent that is bolted to the floor. The Yankee fan is just beginning to see that for the first time in a decade, the future is a just a bit cloudy and it could be fixing to rain. That is why the next time you hear some fan spout off about Mike Mussina’s great year, I suggest you bring up the fact that Joel Zumaya has been filthy. At the very least, the retort should buy you some peace and quiet.