Sunday, November 30, 2008

La Cuenta De Marbury E D’Antoni

Thanks to the NFL, I think it’s safe to say we all got to spend more than enough time with our respective families this Thanksgiving. Not a single game slightly interesting enough that it might have reasonably excused a person from making small talk over her third helping of stuffing in order to glue herself to the television. (Not that that stopped me—I just didn’t have a reasonable excuse.) I even switched to college football in the evening, but Texas-Texas A&M had little better to offer.

However, while nothing of note may have been happening on the field (until Sunday, that is), there was plenty of excitement off the field. Particularly in the world of New York sports.

Plaxico Burress got shot. Accidentally. By himself. (He is apparently fine—fortunately he accidentally aimed for his already injured leg.) LeBron James called Charles Barkley stupid. (I put this under the heading of New York sports because LBJ might as well be a Knick at this point.) And, of course, yet another segment of my new favorite telenovella—La Cuenta de Marbury e D’Antoni.

Spoiler alert—in case you missed it and are waiting to watch it on your dvr—in this latest episode, D’Antoni asked Marbury to play, and Marbury refused.

Wait a second…

That sounds awfully familiar. A rerun for the holidays, perhaps? But, no. Because in the previous week’s episode, the game was against the Bucks. Last week, it was against the Pistons. But, still. What the hell’s going on in that writer’s room? Same storyline two weeks in a row? What is this? The Hills?

And it was more than just the nature of disagreement that reeked of stale cheese. As with last week’s episode, the two not only disagreed, but they disagreed about their disagreement. You see, D’Antoni is the only one of the pair who says that Marbury refused to play those games. Marbury claims that he didn’t.

I don’t know. This kind of plot twist—twice? It’s a little far-fetched. When dealing with an issue so clear cut, so straightforward, what possible grounds could there have been for such confusion?

Enter Stephon Marbury, the King of confusion.

While Marbury claims to have never said he wouldn’t play, he does admit to having expressed discomfort at the idea. You know, seeing as how everyone hates each other so much and he was deactivated for all those other games. So, apparently, when D’Antoni asked him to play, and he responded, “I actually wouldn’t feel comfortable with that,” he meant it as an invitation to dialogue. But a refusal? Never. Because that would be “insubordination.” (His word—not mine.) And Marbury is anything but insubordinate.

Marbury was fined and suspended as the result of his discomfort about playing Wednesday. The player’s union intends to file a grievance in response. Walsh and Marbury are going to have yet another sit down to talk about the possibility of a buyout, an idea which Walsh is opposed to in theory, but one that seems more and more inevitable as this insanity wears on.

It’s true that Marbury is a pain in the pujols. It’s true, also, that it has to be annoying to even consider buying out his full contract. But here’s the bottom line: This is a guy who is completely and utterly—what my people would call—meshugana. And his meshugas is not in any way tempered by the counsel of someone who might be looking out for his best interest. Someone, like, say an agent. Marbury doesn’t believe in those. In large part, it appears, because he thinks that everyone everywhere is always trying to screw him. This applies especially to D’Antoni.

If you want my completely unprofessional unfounded opinion that is based solely on conjecture, Marbury does what he does to show the world that he’s not a person to be made a fool of. (By anyone but himself, anyway.) When you couple his overly suspicious nature with the kind of borderline approach the Knicks have taken to dealing with him this season, the result is someone who feels he has been wronged and won’t budge until his version of justice has been served. In other words, Marbury is going to do what he does until he gets what he wants.

So, you know what, Walsh? Give it to him.

Do I think this is how to handle a spoiled child or peace negotiations in the Middle East? No. But this is basketball. Walsh’s decision is not going to affect the kind of adult a child grows up to be or whether we can finally put an end to a major conflict with far-reaching global ramifications. It will determine for how long he and the rest of us are going to have to put up with this headache. And the difference in cost will likely be an amount that is inconsequential to the Knicks in the long run.

As it stands, the Knicks are, for the first time in a while, not abominably awful. But we don’t get to read about that. We only get to read about how the Knicks are such a side show, circus, soap opera travesty. Oh, and how in two seasons they might be getting an awesome player.

So fix it, Walsh. No more of this: Don’t play, but come; dress but don’t play; play but only for a few minutes; don’t come. Despite the fact that Starbury wouldn’t trust D’Antoni to walk his dog (his words—not mine), they both seems to actually share the same goal on this one. To get Marbury out of there like now. So, capitalize on that common ground. Give him what he wants, wish him well even if you don’t mean it, and make a clean break.

For those of you in the viewing public who feel saddened by the possibility that our favorite series will likely be coming to its inevitable end, I know how you feel. The end of Veronica Mars nearly wrecked me. But take heart. I see both Starbury and D’Antoni as having major potential for successful spinoffs.

Monday, November 24, 2008

LeBron James -- Living In The Lake House

Man, have I been in a state. No, not a Fav-ruh-induced Jets just schooled the undefeated Titans state. A state that, incidentally, has prompted some rather troubling dreams in which the world is overpopulated with a species of Brett Fav-ruhs, and I have to decide if it’s ethical to hunt him--the way he hunts, well, just about anything with a pulse. Mine is a different kind of state.

You know when in a soap opera one of the characters gets into an accident and then when she wakes up all this time has passed but she doesn’t initially realize it until she looks at a newspaper or something? Well, that’s what I thought was happening to me. But it turns out it wasn’t the case. I wasn’t in an accident and it is, apparently, still 2008. I realized that when I got past the sports page and saw that we were still in an economic crisis and confused about which bailouts were going to rescue the good people on main street. What a relief.

The downside, of course, is that this must mean I’m crazy, right? How else could I have possibly gotten confused about the friggin’ year, for crying out loud. You might hear such a tale and wonder if I’ve been living in the lake house. But, in my defense, reading some of the following headlines, couldn’t you just as easily have gotten confused?

"Teams Prepare For the Courtship of LeBron James.” "New Jersey Nets Think Knicks Eyeing LeBron James." “The Knicks Get Ready for Their 2010 Free Agency Pool."

So, you tell me; who’s living in the lake house?

All this gossip about LeBron in New York has been pretty inescapable of late what with the recent Knicks trades that cleared salary cap space for the summer of 2010. And I get that people, sports journalists particularly, are intrigued by the recent developments. But, honestly, and I say this with all due respect, and nothing against sports journalists, but seriously, stop talking about it.

First of all, the Knicks have sucked so much for so long, and now we’re finally a little bit not so sucky. My thought? Let's focus on that. How do we capitalize on the current state of not-so-suckiness? This season. Maybe next season. Try, perhaps, to figure out how we can work through the communication breakthroughs that leave some players saying that they had been willing to play in certain games while other coaches are saying that they weren’t. Because guess what? People will be more likely to actually want to come play for New York if we can get through a year or two without all the dramamine. Well, that’s not true; if history is any indication of anything, people will want to play for whatever team offers them the most money. But you get what I’m saying. Can we, like, be here now a little bit?

Second, I am a Knicks fan as much as anyone can really be a Knicks fan—they make it hard. Would it be good for the Knicks if LeBron came to New York someday? Barring unforeseen injury or psychological disorder, obviously. Is LeBron currently playing in New York? No. Given that he’s playing for Cleveland, that he has established his fan base and stardom in Cleveland, is his obligation to tell everyone to shut their yaps because the only thing he’s focused on is bringing home a Cavalier championship this year? Uh, yeah. Kind of.

Even though it’s totally sacrelig for me to say so, I prefer LeBron as a Cav. The Knicks are like a dysfunctional family that you love because you have to but you wouldn’t really wish on anyone who you actually liked. LeBron will do what he wants at the end of the day, and, from I understand about him, he is ultimately his own chief advisor. But assuming for a second that we lived in some kind of fantasy world where what I said mattered to him, I’d tell him to stay put in Cleveland, where the team is awesome, the owner is salt of the earth, and the fans are Midwest like high fructose corn syrup—as is he.

Either way, like I said, until the time comes for the King to make his decision, I think it’s incumbent upon him to be making more of an effort to silence the speculation. To let people know that whether he’s a Knick, a Net, or a backup dancer for Beyonce come 2010, it's of little consequence because, currently, his only goal is getting the good people of Cleveland their trophy. Their shiny stuff, put in words that Stephon Marbury would understand.

But better do it, and do it soon. Because it’s no longer just about crazy futuristic headlines that confuse intelligent but, perhaps, easily disoriented people like me. That was just where it started. It has since evolved into this: “Knicks Could Help Lead CC to New York.”

Yes, the latest in this tiresome thread of news stories is that CC Sabathia is going to sign with the Yankees—not because they've offered him a a disgustingly enormous sum of money—but because in two years, he speculates the Knicks will probably go after LeBron and that he will probably say yes. And apparently CC loves LeBron so much that he is willing to make major life choices around the possibility that some day in the future they might eventually live in the same city, assuming a number of other things happen or don’t happen in the interim. And, by the way, Sabathia is married with two kids. But, yeah, I guess the prospect of staying up nights and watching old Golden Girls reruns with LeBron while braiding each other’s hair in their lofts in Tribeca TWO YEARS FROM NOW is a compelling enough possibility to outweigh any other considerations about what might be best for his family.

I’m going to hit you with a truth bomb—Tim McCarver style. Despite whatever conversations CC Sabathia and LeBron James may have had with each other in the past about how cute and fun it would be to play sports in New York—and, sure, maybe they have had such conversations—those conversations are not going to dictate the real life decisions they make. The ones that will determine their futures. Even if those conversations did involve pinky swears. Good God. These are grown ass men. And this is sports. Not camp.

Oh, Lawd. And I thought golf was crazy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

You Know Kay. Kay Hates Geeks.

Well, it’s official. Moose is stepping off the mound and tractoring off into the sunset, which, of course, begs the question: Can tractor be used as a verb?

But it also begs another question: Why so secretive Moose? I mean, you’ve know since last January and you didn’t think to tell us? What gives?

In response to that one, Moose has offered his sincerest apologies and said by way of explanation that he had kept his plan so hush hush because he didn’t want his retirement to become the focal point of the season.

(Fav-ruh, if you’re reading, I’m sure you’ve become confused and disoriented because Moose is speaking in a language that you aren’t familiar with. So, let me take a moment to translate for you. Whoops—can’t. I seem to have misplaced my English-to-Jackass Dictionary.)

Moose, a solid pitcher to the end, will retire with a 270-153 record and a 3.68 ERA over eighteen seasons. Having just completed his first 20-win season, he also retires on top of his game. Sure, he could have gone another few years and probably retired with 300, but Moose is putting his money where his mouth is. He has always said that, above all, he values spending time with his family. Well, he’s giving up millions of dollars and the opportunity to climb even higher up the all-time win and strike out lists so he can do just that. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; at the end of the day, he’d rather be at home.

When asked if he had had any second thoughts at all throughout the season, he commented, "I don't think there was ever a point where I looked around and said, 'You know what, I'm going to change my mind. It was like the last year of high school. You know it's going to end and you enjoy the ride."

So, basically, what he’s saying is that Fav-ruh is like a super duper senior.

On yesterday’s Michael Kay Show, there was some discussion as to whether or not Mike Mussina was a Hall of Fame pitcher. On the one hand, he’s an exceptionally consistent 270-win pitcher with 2,816 strikeouts and seven Gold Gloves. On the other hand, no Cy Young, no World Series ring, only one 20-win season and a high-ish ERA by Cooperstown standards.

After a lot of back and forth, Kay commented that it was such a source of lively discussion amongst so many people in the sports world that it make for a great topic for a school debate team.He then went on to say, “I wasn’t on the debate team. I wasn’t smart enough. I also wasn’t a big enough geek.”

I’m going to go with… A) You weren’t smart enough. Or was that not multiple choice?

Well, Kay, that you weren’t smart enough to join the debate team is no surprise to anyone who has ever heard you open your mouth. But if I needed further confirmation, you gave it to me in the form of your allusion to the age old idea that to be smart is to be a geek. Something you only suggest when you’re a fictional character in a teen movie from the 80’s or you’re an idiot.

Really, dude. Aren’t you like five thousand years old? Do you seriously still believe that intelligence is synonymous with geekiness. It’s lame to think that when you’re in high school, but like pathetic and depressing to think that when your old timey.

Tell me, Kay, if you had a Kay Jr. and he came home and said, “Hey, Pop, I decided that I want to expand my mind, learn about new subjects, and improve my public speaking skills by joining the debate team,” would you tell him to forget it? That that stuff's for geeks? That he should find something cooler to do with his time, like run around harassing athletes? Or would you just tell him to become captain of his college Chess Club like you did—because that’s so much more cutting edge?

Seriously, Kay, you make the part of me that likes to rebel against the existence of stupidity want to find a debate club to join. Just because.

Here’s a thought. Maybe, if you weren’t so opposed to not being dumb because you were afraid that it would make you uncool, you would be in a position to help ESPN Radio confront the unfortunate reality that is its imbecilic slogan: “You know us. We know sports.”

What is that? Like, free association?

It’s sort of like if I said, “I have dog. My dog eats food.” Or, “When it’s cold I wear a jacket. My jacket has pockets.” I am inclined to believe that the people at ESPN share a marketing team with the people at the Cubs. I know the stench of that slogan. It smells like “It’s Gonna Happen.”

In other news, it looks like my blog may have found a new home at I am not sure of the details of where you can find me or when you can find me there, but be assured that I will keep you posted. This move should be happening in the near-ish but not immediate future, so be advised and check in for updates. And if you want to help me stay afloat, visit me often. You can think of it as one of those charity sites where you click on the page to feed a homeless animal. Though, if you only have time to do one or the other on any given day, I guess go with the homeless animals. I think there might be a special place in hell reserved for me if I advised you to do otherwise.

In closing, the last song I heard last night on the radio and the first song I heard this morning was Beyonce’s “Put a Ring On It.” And, well, it made me think of someone special. Since I’m too lazy to call into the station, I am putting a link to the video up on my blog, and I’d like to dedicate it to Albert Pujols. Well, really Ryan Howard. Because it sort of reminds me of that thing Pujols said to Howard a couple of years back.

By the way, I am doing you all a favor because this video will blow your mind and change your life and make you fall in love with Beyonce all over again. That bitch can dance. And to quote someone who knows what she’s talking about, “I think it’s good if you can sing, but I think it’s better if you can dance.”

(Thank you, Jane, for bringing this video into our lives.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Putting The Oi Into Pedroia

And not cuz he’s Jewish. Cuz he’s not.

Having gotten that out of the way, let’s cut to the chase.

To no one’s great surprise, though to some people’s consternation, Pedroia has been named our AL MVP. Though, unlike other players who have been awarded the MVP this year (whose names I won’t mention out of respect and because they have funny names that sound like unfortunate body parts that people more juvenile than me might be inclined to make fun of), Pedroia didn’t say that he wasn’t surprised. In fact, one might say that he has handled the whole thing with, I don’t know, class and dignity. Which is whatever. Except, well, the dude’s a Chowda. And it makes the universe make more sense to me when the Chowdas are saying things like, “Manny being Manny, man,” and acting like disgruntled bad sports when people are beating home run derby records, and beating people up in dark alleys. (Watch Dateline long enough, Mike Lowell will eventually show up.)

But, instead, Dustin Pedroia responded to his victory by saying, “I really didn’t know what to expect. I was excited just having my name with all those players… For me, just to be in that category is an extreme honor.” So what gives, Pedroia? You reading my blog and think that just because you play cute and humble, you can avoid my wrath? Sorry, buddy, but you’re livin’ la vida chowda, and I’m afraid it’s not quite that simple. I’ve known you for—how long is it now?—a couple years. So one gracious moment does not an absolution make. I’ve seen into the depths of your soul. I know it to be red—and not in the Communist way.

It’s weird, eerie almost, that so many players should come out of one franchise being so strangely, well, the same. Cocky, rude, unsportsmanlike, unfamiliar with the virtues of showering. Yet, they keep churning them out. And Pedroia is no exception.

The thing Pedroia is most famous for other than knowing his way around the bat is that he likes to tell people all about how well he knows his way around the bat. Like, by saying embarrassing things before batting practice such as, “Get ready for the laser show.” If you think it’s too stupid to believe, this information can be easily verified by using one of the most reliable information sources in existence—urban dictionary. That’s right; Pedroia’s been urban dictionized. Look it up. Laser show: A fearsome and awe-inspiring display of line-drive hitting prowess, as made popular by Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Incidentally, while I was on urban dictionary, I decided to go ahead and look up ass clown just to see if it was truly a credible insult. Lo and behold, I discovered that an ass clown is one, who, through the fault of his parents’ conception, is a skid mark in society's collective underwear. So, my apologies for having mocked its merit. Be assured that when I use it in the future, it will always be in earnest. Like, when I say that Dustin Pedroia is an ass clown.

See, it’s not just the laser show thing, though that’s evidence enough of his ass clownery. There have been other offenses—the time Pedroia so tastelessly said that Jerry Remy stunk, the slap attack, the mouthing off to the press, and the fact that, whatever he’s saying or doing, it ultimately always seems like some variation or other of “Get ready for the laser show.”

Don’t get me wrong; I can almost sort of sympathize with Pedroia. There are people in the world for whom things seems to come easy. They are naturally endowed with talent, blessed with good luck, things just seems to go their way. Sports is no exception. There are players like Tim Lincecum who can eat crap before games and not ice their arms. Players like Derek Jeter who have the ability to make baseball look like ballet. Then there are the players whose success is largely dictated by their willingness to work at it, to overcome the odds that would suggest that, by all rights, they shouldn’t make it. My grandfather, who filled the alley by his house with sawdust so that he could practice his slide and used to pay kids to shag balls for him at the stadium on off days, was one of them. So is Pedroia. He has had to battle his whole life because of his size, fight other people’s expectations that he would fail, constantly work harder to compete with guys who were bigger. I respect that that takes grit.

But guess what, dude? You did it. You’re a major league baseball player. You have a World Series ring. You were Rookie of the Year last year. You’re this year’s AL MVP. (And Gold Glove AND Silver Slugger winner, by the way.) You’re Rocky post-victory with Apollo Creed, pre-plastic surgery old and pathetic era. So, by talking about lasers all the time, you’re not telling people to watch out because one day you’re going to make it. You’re just telling people to suck it.

Who knows? Maybe this whole MVP/Gold Glove/Silver Slugger thing constitutes a turning point for Pedroia. But I sort of doubt it. He’s so focused on how hard he’s had to work, so hung up on how hung up others are on his size, I don’t see him letting go of it. Despite his recent successes, he still feels compelled to say things like, “I'm not the biggest guy in the world. I don't have that many tools. If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn't think I'm a baseball player. I think that's the biggest thing that drives me to be a good player. I've had to deal with that my whole life. I think that's just been instilled in my mind—that I have to overcome everything to prove people wrong. So far I've done that."

And that’s his bottom line: He needs to feel like he’s battling the world to find the necessary motivation to be good. Then, after he wins the battle, he needs to tell the world to shove it up its pujols.

That said, I do believe that it is truly an egregious offense to make fun of someone for his size. (And when it comes to Pedroia-hating, this is usually where people take aim. Stupid, right? Given how many other better things there are to hate on him about.) That shit's just mean. This may seem hypocritical because I like making fun of people for their names, especially when the people are jerks and their names rhyme with crapelbon—but the two seem somehow in different categories to me. A name is just a word—an arbitrary signifier so the world knows how to address a person. Physical attributes are the actual whole material portion of a person’s being. People are sensitive about it. And, for the most part, unless you want to have painful, expensive surgery, your physical features are unalterable. So I leave those alone. I do, however, make an exception for bad hair or facial hair, which I believe to be a reflection of taste and judgment.

Speaking of people whose names I like to make fun of: Holy Covelli. Coco Crisp is a Royal. No, not a royal pain in the pujols. Just a Royal. Like, from Kansas City. I wouldn’t have thought that any trade news from Chowdaville had the potential to break my heart—but, man, was I ever wrong. First Fav-ruh, now Crisp. It’s like all the fancy evil sports lords are having private meetings to discuss what moves to make to give me the most agita. Obviously, despite the trade, I can still tell Coco he sucks because suck is where the heart is. Whatever the hell that means. But now I’m going to have to accidentally make enemies with people from Kansas City, and I actually like those people and want them to like me. But I get it. No one needs two center fielders. And I guess you kind of brought this on yourself Coco Crisp.

Because you suck, Coco Crisp.

You know what? Still feels good.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Putting The Pu Into Pujols


It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving. Pitchers and catchers report in February, the season goes through October and, now, with Christmas upon us, they’re still stringing us along, doling out the awards. (Yes, Christmas officially starts the day after Halloween. It’s a policy that was implemented around 2005.)

Last week, of course, brought with it the naming of 2008’s Cy Young awards winners. This week? The National League MVP award, which went to Albert Pujols by a wide margin, despite the fact that people thought Ryan Howard might be a contender. However, not everyone was particularly surprised by the ease with which Pujols won his victory. Take for example Pujols, who said, “I wasn't surprised at all."

Holy mother of Krypton. Where’s Joe Torre when you need him?

Does the Midwest that I envision when I think about those great plains in all their friendly, well-mannered glory only exist in myth? First Lee, now this? I mean, I get that Lee and Pujols aren’t actually from the Midwest, but doesn’t something happen to you when you live there? Like don’t the niceness and sense of decency rub off on you or something? I mean, good God, Pujols. It’s like you have Renteria of the mouth.

But this isn’t the first time that Pujols has been—what’s the words I’m looking for?—oh, right, a totally ungracious piece of pu about the whole MVP thing. Back in 2006, the year after Pujols won his first MVP and a year when Howard actually did beat him out for the award, Pujols commented, “I see it this way: Someone who doesn’t take his team to the playoffs doesn’t deserve to win the MVP.”

And the Midwest keeps getting less Midwest-y by the second.

Fortunately for Pujols, who did not see his team to the playoffs this year, he clarified his remarks shortly after making them. He assured people that what he had meant was that this was the case unless one day he should happen to win the MVP without having led his team to the playoffs, in which case it was probably deserved.

I can’t wait until the announcement of the AL MVP award. Maybe Mauer or Morneau will take it and, in an effort to outdo their fellow Midwesterners say, “Yeah, well what did you expect? Those other guys got hands like tits.”

Here’s the thing—Lee and Pujols don’t not deserve their awards. But it makes me not like them when they act so ungraciously. And when I don’t like them, it’s hard for me to be happy for them. And I want to be happy for them. Not to mention the fact that all this obnoxious behavior makes me want to make fun of Pujols for his name. Granted, he bears quite a burden in that he would have to be an exceptional human to avoid having me want to make fun of him for that name. But it’s like he’s not even trying.

Meanwhile, breaking news: Manny Ramirez was suspended. Almost. Four months ago. Why, you ask, bother reporting on this news given the last two addenda to this statement? I’m not sure, but so many other news outlets were doing it I was worried I was missing something. So I figured I should mention it just in case. This may be the first and only time you hear me agree with Scott Boras (who I affectionately like to refer to as the Creature from the Black Lagoon), who said, "The fact is the intent to suspend is not a suspension." My gut feeling about something that didn’t actually happen a long time ago is that nobody cares. But must know a little more about what is interesting to people since more people are visiting their site than mine, so I humbly defer to their collective wisdom on all matters relating to everything.

Finally, I guess it can’t go unsaid that it looks like there may be some justice in the world. Mark Cuban is finally getting his comeuppance. Technically, it isn’t a crime to be a media-whoring, self-obsessed, unmitigated pain in the pujols. So they—the people—had to bring slightly more boring charges against him for insider trading. Though, presumably it’s some kind of cosmic punishment for the non-crime crimes listed above. (I said separation of church and sports—not separation of church and finance. I want someone regulating that shit.) Anyway, I’m not going to bother to compare him to Martha Stewart. Enough people have done that already, and I like to do my own thing. (Except for when I am stealing stories that I think are stupid about Manny Ramirez from I also think that it’s not a particularly apt comparison because, while their crimes maybe similar in nature, I don’t think Mark Cuban has done anything for society but badger and annoy us. Martha, on the other hand, taught us how to make pear-lychee tartlets and cut tomatoes in the shape of unicorns. I’m sure that the people who don’t order takeout every night for dinner are extremely appreciative.

Oh, and while we’re not on the subject, you suck Coco Crisp.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Lone Bright Spot

Forgive my prolonged absence. I’ve been taking a vacation. From my problems. And if you can name that reference, you can take one, too.

But it’s been a long time, so without further ado, let’s get down to business. Because—drum roll—Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum have joined the ranks of Cy Young Award winners.

While Lee was always the favorite for the AL Award, Lincecum’s landslide victory came as more of a surprise. Giants general manager Brian Sabean has summed up the events by saying “In Obama-like fashion, it wasn’t close.” Yes, and the similarity between these two victories probably has a little something to do with the fact that, like Obama, Lincecum launched his campaign on a platform that was based on the need to shore up our economy, rebuild strategic alliances, a 98 mph fastball and, seriously, what the hell are you talking about, Sabean?

Lincecum is a man of many nicknames. And if you know anything about me, it’s that I have an abnormally large number of pet hamsters for a grown-up, I hate when things don’t sound like they’re spelled, and I love a nickname. The most common of Lincecum’s nicknames is “The Freak”. A name that seems, perhaps, not so flattering but is in fact a reference to his freakish greatness. Not to this penchant for playing Dungeons and Dragons with Mike Mussina during the offseason. Tim’s dad, initially troubled by the possibility that the name was meant to be disparaging, called his son up one day to express his concern. Lincecum reasoned with his father, "O.K. is Michael Jordan a freak? Tiger Woods? Jack Nicklaus?" His father responded, "Yeah, I'd consider them freaks. Then, O.K., you're a freak.”

I’m sorry. I need a second. That story always gets me.

Among Tim’s other nicknames are “Seabiscuit,” a moniker he acquired from scouts back during his days in the minors. It’s a reference to the fact that he packs so much power into such a compact frame—five feet ten inches and 172 pounds compact to be exact. There’s also “The Kid.” Meh. Cutesey but not particularly original. And then the rest of them. Well, they are as much a tribute to the pathetic state of the Giants as they are the awesomeness of the Lincecum. There’s “The Franchise,” meant to imply that Lincecum is the Giants. Or, put more depressingly for Bay Area fans, the Giants are Lincecum. And, well, without Bonds, this assessment is sad but true. There’s “The Silver Lining.” (Which made me think, conversely, of a great nickname for A-Rod—“The Thorn.”) Then, there’s my favorite of the nicknames in that it truly speaks to the embarrassingly tragic state of affairs at AT&T Park. A nickname in which Dodgers fans must especially delight: “The Lone Bright Spot.”
If that’s not the sorriest reflection of how useless the Giants are, I don’t quite know what is. The guy might as well be nicknamed, “The Only Thing Keeping Giants Fans From Shooting Themselves In Their Faces.” Or, better yet, “What Am I Doing On This Team?”

What can we deduce from the fact that Lincecum has earned so many nicknames in such a relatively short period of time? (Other than that people shy away from using his real name because it sounds strangely like a cleaning product.) As previously established, a nickname is a term of endearment. So, to break it down Tim McCarver style, I’m going to go ahead and conclude that people are endeared to the Freak. And, it’s with good reason. The guy’s, well, endearing. He’s so unassuming that stadium security confused him for a bat boy when he was first called up. He would never use a word like instrument to refer to his arm or physique to refer to his body. On the contrary, he eats crap before starts and never even so much as bothers to ice after a game. All this probably doesn’t bode well for his longevity as a player, but it definitely makes him easy to like.

Some might argue that all this is just a reflection of the fact that he is juvenile, not particularly committed to staying in great shape. This is definitely true. And people would probably think his personal care routine was a little less adorable if he had a bad metabolism and a tendency to get injured. But I think the reason people appreciate the Freak’s approach is because it so clearly isn’t a reflection of his lack of investment. If anything, the Lone Bright Spot is so unabashed in his enthusiasm for the game that it’s almost refreshing. At the core of every professional athlete is an adolescent boy living his dream. The problem is that too many of them seem to forget to be excited about it or seem to think that it’s somehow unfashionable to let on that they are. Lincecum on the other hand? He seems not to have outgrown his teenage affection for and approach to the game he loves so well. Of course, this maybe suggests some arrested development and that he wouldn’t be the most awesome boyfriend in the world. But it makes for a pretty likable and compelling ballplayer. The kind who, upon hearing that he has surprised everyone including himself by winning the Cy Young Award at the tender age of 24, responds not with feigned composure but by shouting “Woo-hoo!” It’s fun to see someone care as much as we feel like we would if it was us. It makes us feel like they deserve it. And by us, I mean me, of course.

Lee, on the other hand, offered a different sort of response. When asked what statistic he was most proud of from the 2008 season, he responded, “I can’t really think of one. They all look pretty good to me.”

Come on, dude.

True, it probably would have seemed a little disingenuous for Lee to give us the Lincecum 14-year-old boy routine in response to the big victory given that he was such a shoo-in and that it’s not really in his nature, but that doesn’t mean necessarily meant that he had to be such an unabashed pujol about it. I mean, Lee went 22-3 this season and led the league in wins, winning percentage, home run ration, ERA and walk ratio. Out of all of those statistics, he couldn’t have just picked one and pretended it was his favorite?

For the record, Lee, I know being really good is a new thing for you, but in case it isn’t a fluke, let me give you an example of a correct answer to that same question. Lincecum’s answer. "I've always taken pride in trying to strike people out. I've always been that guy. That's the one (statistic) that kind of gets me fired up."

See how much less douchey that sounds?

The other big news on the beat is that we got Swisher. And if you know anything about me other than the fact that I have an abnormally large number of pet hamsters for a grown-up, I hate when things don’t sound like they’re spelled, and that I love a nickname, it’s that I have a real soft spot for the Swish. Last season was certainly far from his greatest, but I think that if he can tap into his real playing potential, we might just have ourselves a first baseman worth his salt. And I would have to imagine he’s the kind of guy you want in your clubhouse. So, sorry Betemit. Looks like we found our betta man. As for Sabathia, I guess we’ll just have to wait and CC.

Man, I’m sorry. That one was bad—even for me.

OK. Thaz it for now. But you can count on me to resume my regular irregular schedule of posting on a fairly regular basis. But since it’s been a while and you might be a person who needs reassurance, I just want to make sure you know that there are, indeed, some things that you can trust to remain the same despite the passage of time. Like the fact that you suck Coco Crisp.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Change We Need

Good morning. It’s time for riddle Saturday, which is a new event that I just made up and will probably never be repeated. Here goes:

What’s perpetually injured and useless and never going to get signed to a major league contract by anyone with half a brain for the rest of his sorry life?

Too easy? Let’s try another:

What’s old and tacky and has a gold thong that will hopefully never again be mentioned by a New York-based media outlet?

It’s the weekend. I don’t want you to overexert yourselves.

The point is that it’s been quite a week. A week of change and progress. New hope for a better, brighter future. No, sillies. I’m not talking about the election. I’m talking about the Yankees, who have taken a look at their options for next year and boldly decided: Out with the old, in with…well, probably the old, if I know the Yankees. But, still, it’s an exciting time. Without Pavano and Giambi and Marte we have positions that need filling, millions of dollars that need spending, and the world at our feet. It’s that rare but wondrous in-between time after you get rid of all the crappy overpaid players you don’t need anymore and before you do something stupid like, say, sign Manny Ramirez. A time when you can still be crazy enough to hope that maybe, just maybe, this year, it’s not gonna happen. And who knows? Maybe it won’t. Assuming we end up with Teixeira, we might be able to avoid degrading ourselves by engaging in that whole conversation.

Leaving aside the fact that he may serve as the one barrier that stands between the Bombers and Manny Ramirez, I feel good about Teixeira for a lot of reasons. First of all, he’s clearly a man of good judgment. How do we know this? He chose college over the Chowdas. Admittedly, college is awesome. But I like to think it had a little something to do with the fact that he thought anything—even playing for the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets—was preferable to playing for a team in Boston. I guess we’ll see how that theory of mine pans out in the next few weeks since the Chowdas will certainly be among his suitors.

Then, of course, there are all of the substantive reasons to like him—like the switch-hitting, Gold Glove first baseman reasons. But that goes without saying. It’s why GM’s across the country are going to be working their blackberries into overdrive in the coming weeks to get him on their rosters. Cashman says that, first and foremost, the Yanks are looking to shore up their defense, and Teixeira certainly helps on that score. And, while it may not be our priority, Lord knows no one’s going to kick that power hitting out of the lineup. So he’s a perfect candidate in every way.

My grievances are two. The first being the succubus that is his agent Scott Boras—an indication of maybe not-so-impeccable judgment. The second? To those of you who know me by now, this one should be obvious.

What the hell is going on with that last name?

In ways very different from Farvil’s, the spelling and pronunciation of this name bear little relation to each other. In fact, I would be hard pressed to think of any pronunciation that made sense for a name that was spelled that way. But the dude is Portuguese, so I am sort of prepared to let it slide. If you begin to chip away at the way they spell things in Portugal, you will eventually just wear away at the whole language. And that hardly seems right.

All this is nice of course, but I was never one to avoid pointing out the elephant in the room. In this case it is that, above all, what we need is pitching. In a way that is desperate, we need pitching. In a way that you need pitching if you only have two pitchers in your lineup, we need pitching. Which means, what? Which means that we probably pay an obscene amount of money for a multiyear contract in order to acquire Sabathia and pray that he doesn’t get hurt, go Pavano or lose his witch powers in the next few years. It wouldn’t be the first time. But, while I am always dubious about big money, multiyear contracts, the one thing Sabathia has going for him is youth—a refreshing change. We all knew that after the Kennedy-Hughes experiment failed so miserably, no one in the Steinbrenner family would ever be persuaded that the way to win pennants was to home grow talent. So, if we’re going to be buying an overpaid pitching staff, I’d rather not invest in goods that are like five thousand years old in baseball years.

Speaking of over-aged pitchers, we have also to wonder whether Mussina decides to hang up the old Gold Glove or try for one last good season. If you want my humble opinion, he just had a last good season. If I were Moose, I’d probably feel compelled to retire on top of my game, coach high school football, spend more time playing with my tractors. (No, that’s not a euphemism.) Of course, if I were Moose, I would also live in Montoursville, PA, so I can’t presume to totally understand how his mind works. Should Moose want back in the game, Cash has all but promised him a spot on the rotation should he want it, saying, "We just obviously have needs...”

Note to Cash: Try to avoid talking about gaps in your pitching lineup the way men who have affairs talk about sex.

Who else? Lowe, Burnett, Peavy, Sheets. Possibilities abound. Peavy’s probably a long shot for a number of reasons, but the Yanks are very persuasive when it comes to convincing players to part with their souls. As for Sheets, awesome as he is, I have a feeling we might be looking at the Second Coming of Pavano, so I say stay away. And, Lowe, well… You know what? I’m not going to make myself nuts. I’ve made a deal with Cash (about which he is unaware): He doesn’t go near Manny, I don’t give him too much grief about who he acquires or cuts loose this winter. Just no Manny. To prove that some things are sacred. That the Yanks know when to say when. That they’re capable of a little self-restraint. Not to mention the fact that Manny and Fav-ruh all in one year might be more than my fragile constitution can abide. Talk about a perfect storm. Slash the end of the world. Slash the seventh circle of hell. We would just need Mark Cuban to buy the Knicks and then we’d have a New York sports trifecta horrifying enough to send me fleeing to the Midwest never to be seen or heard from again

But, then again, maybe Manny will surprise us all and just accept the Dodgers’ offer and not force his contract negotiations into a media circus bidding war that brings us to the Super Bowl. It’s unlikely, but crazier, more awesome things have happened.

Which reminds me. Here’s one last riddle, just for fun:

What’s black and white and President all over?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Night Football

We are all aware of the theoretical separation of church and state. Well, I am. Presumably readers of my blog are. I guess I shouldn’t make any assumptions about the people who run the country and those who voted for them.

The other day, I touched on what I believe to be an equally important tenet. Ah, hell, we’ll call it a principle. That would be the separation of church and sports principle.

This brings us to our third and final in a set of related principles: The separation of sports and state. Obvious, right? Because what does a sports allegiance have to do with government? Presumably nothing, unless you live in a country full of people who vote for someone because they think that he’d be cool to have a beer with.

And, yet, it is a principle perpetually breached.

There was, of course, the famous scandal in 2000 over Hillary’s allegedly fake allegiance to the Yankees. Guess what? If you were going to vote for Hillary but ended up going with Lazio because you decided that she was exclusively a Cubs fan—congratulations, you’re a jackass. (Oh, and also, you were wrong. That bitch loves the Yankees something loco. Always has.)

Then, of course, there is the fact that, ever since 9/11, the people in the Bronx have decided to hijack the age old tradition of singing, “Take me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch by forcing us to first sing “God Bless America.” It’s become a time for us to honor our servicemen and women and the sacrifices they are making for our country by getting drunk and screaming at people that if they don’t take their hats off and show some respect we’re going to punch them in the face. Not that I could begin to presume to understand the sacrifices of our servicemen and women, but I am guessing that that is exactly how I would want to be honored if I was them.

I am all for giving both our country and military its due, but I don’t know that the ballpark is necessarily the proper arena. If you want to know the truth, I actually think it lets people off kind of easy to make them believe that all they need to do is get drunk at a ballgame, yell at someone to take his or her hat off and they will have shown their country the necessary amount of respect. I have some other ideas for more effective ways that people might demonstrate their theoretical loyalty to state, but I will spare you those at the moment.

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Tom Brokaw asked Republican Fred Thompson which was more likely—that the Titans would win the Super Bowl or McCain would win the election. Now, Fred Thompson is presumably not equipped to answer that question in a way that is statistically more satisfactory than any of the rest of us, for whom the answer to that question would obviously have been The Titans times a thousand. But not the point. The point is, good God, Brokaw, what the hell does that have to do with anything? You’re hosting “Meet the Press.” Not “Meet The Inane Prognostications.”

As for tonight. Well, it’s the Eve of the Election, so where else would Obama and McCain be other than giving interviews during halftime of the Steelers-Redskins game. Fair enough, I guess. People watch Monday Night Football. So that’s not the news that surprised me. What surprised me was the discovery that the outcome of this game will apparently determine the outcome of this election. (Awesome news for me because I’m SO sick of staying up past my bedtime to watch the returns.)

No, it’s true.

According to Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sport Bureau, you can gauge the outcome of a presidential election by what the Redskins do in their home game prior to Election Day. If they win, the party that won the popular vote in the previous election wins the presidency. If the Redskins lose, the reverse is true. Thus, if the Steelers win, it means Obama take the White House. If the Redskins win, we get McCain and Palin. So, either the Redskins have to forfeit to show that they care about our country or…

That’s the dumbest crap I ever heard.

Remember that time we all thought that Babe Ruth did witchcraft on the Chowdas for eighty-six years to make them incapable of winning and it turned out they were just really bad that whole time? So, it’s like that but kind of more of a big deal and therefore more outrageous to suggest that a football team with an offensive name could potentially predict the outcome of this election because the fate of our country and planet and universe depend on it. But whatever. What’s more likely—that the Steelers will win tonight’s game or that Steve Hirdt is—what’s that insult I like so much?—an ass clown?

I’m just saying.

I love sports more than the next person. Possibly more, depending on who the next person is. But sports has nothing to do with politics. And it has nothing to do with God. Period. I remember in 2004, I was taking the subway home from one of the Yankees-Red Sox LCS games, and some idiot Yankee fan (yes, there are a few of them) was saying, “John Kerry is from Boston, so if you don’t like the Red Sox, you shouldn’t vote for John Kerry.”

To which my friend Jane responded with the only comeback befitting someone stupid enough to suggest a link between the sacred but separate concepts of church, state, and sports:

“That's de-men-ted.” Clap, clap, clap clap clap.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Clear Eyes, Full Moon, Can't Lose

According to Mike Singletary, recently appointed head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, "I think you can be the greatest orator of all time, the greatest motivator of all times, but if those players know that you don't care about them, and you don't try to understand them, then they're never going to hear what you have to say. On the flip side of that, if those players know you have their best interests at heart and it's not about you, it's about them, yes, they do listen."

So, having eliminated oration as an effective means of getting across his point during halftime of last week’s travesty of a game against the Seahawks, Singletary did what any coach committed enough to show his players he cared would have done: He pulled his pants down.

Now, I’m sure that a lot of you are feeling a little judgmental about this whole incident. But visualize, for a second, that you’re Mike Singletary. You have just been named head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. You’re being demolished by the Seahawks. You lose this one, it constitutes your fifth loss in a row.

I know; worst visualization ever.

Anyway, you’re emotional. In a moment of passion, you do something crazy to make a point. (Exactly what point, no one can be sure.) You pull your pants down. Presumably, after the fact, you’re a little humiliated. The endorphins have worn off and you realize, “Dude. I just pulled my pants down in front of a room full of professional football players. I sort of wish I was dead.” I’m sure that, given the chance, Singletary would love to just be able to plead temporary insanity and forget the whole stupid debacle.


Or maybe not. In recent interviews, Singletary has said that he “can’t think of anything I would do differently.”

OK, Mike, I don’t want to be a jerk, but do you remember that you pulled your pants down? That you addressed your team without your pants on? I would go with, “I can’t think of anything I would do differently—except keep my pants on.”

But, no, Singletary has decided to stick to his guns, saying that the problem was not his inability to keep his pants on but the team’s inability to remember that what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. (Whatever. My motto is: If you see something, say something.) Singletary commented, "It's unfortunate ... we will find out who is leaking information out of the locker room because what happens in the locker room should be sacred and stay there."

Uh, nothing against Singletary, but if anyone on the Niners failed to see what was going on in the locker room as “sacred,” that one might sort of be on him.

One can’t be totally sure of what Singletary was attempting to communicate by de-pantsing himself. From what I gather, I think that he was trying to say, “You see how much I’m humiliating myself right now? Well that’s what you’re doing on the field.” Whatever the strategy, it didn’t appear to be particularly effective. The 49ers went into halftime down 20-3 and ended up losing the game 33-14.

While the removal of his pants may have been the most notable of the unconventional inspirational strategies that Singletary employed during his debut as head coach, it was not the only one. In this same game, he also decided to bench quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan, had a sideline beef with tight end Vernon Davis that ended with him sending Davis to the showers and, after the game, he made a public statement criticizing Davis, saying, “I'd rather play with 10 people and just get penalized all the way until we have to do something else, rather than play with 11 when I know that right now that person is not sold out to be a part of this team.”

In the immortal words of Matt Yallof, “That not just hurts. It stings.”

While Singletary’s rash of crazy moves last week has met with criticism from bloggers and journalists alike, a number of his fans have come to his defense, citing his greatness as a player as evidence of his infallibility as a coach. A rock solid argument. Because, in the history of professional sports, there’s never been an amazing player who has failed to measure up as a coach Remember, for example Maury Willis and what a stellar job he did as the manager for the Mariners? Great player = great coach. Bottom line.

Among my favorite of Singletary’s supporters are those who wrote on his facebook wall. Yes, Singeltary has a facebook page. But don’t get too excited. You can’t become his facebook friend—only his fan. (How delightfully arrogant.) Also, to my great disappointment, he does not have a status message. If the guy had any sense of humor he’d write, “Mike Singletary is wearing pants. For now.”

He does, however, allow people to write on his wall. And the feedback was so overwhelmingly positive, so devoid of mention of any pantlessness, that it might almost give people the false impression that there was someone vetting the comments before they were posted. But, no. That’s just how much people love the guy. No one could have put it better than one of his many facebook fans who wrote, “Don't listen to fools like Len Wilson or Ben Tallman, Mike. You're a Niner, a FAITHFUL. Those guys are ass clowns. I'm ready to see Gore run wild again and good work putting VD in his baby place. 4154LIFE Mike!!!”

How better to know that you have arrived than to receive such a flattering facebook wall comment from a guy who has a photo of Vizzini from Princess Bride as his profile picture, uses the number 4 in lieu of the word for (and isn’t a twelve-year-old girl), and gives his point special emphasis by using not one, not two, but THREE exclamation points? That guy really said it, Singletary; you’re a FAITHFUL.

And he’s an ass clown. (!!!)