Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is This Supposed To Be Tongue-In-Cheek? Or Does He Actually Believe What He's Writing?

Wallace Matthews, please stop. You're torturing us. The fact that I had to ask those two rhetorical questions in the title of the post speaks volumes about your ability as a journalist.

(Note: Due to the fact that he's on his way to NYC, this is probably the first of many Johan Santana-related articles we'll be covering here over the course of the next few months. Everyone settle in. I expect Mike Celizic to weigh in eventually, at which point PNoles will probably break down sobbing and acidentally spill an almost full bottle of Yoo-Hoo all over his keyboard. If he disappears for a few days, that's probably why.)

You're welcome, Omar. You, too, Jeff.

It could be mere coincidence that five days after I tore you guys a new dugout for being as active in the offseason as David Wells after Thanksgiving dinner, you go out and make the one deal that turns the Mets into a bona fide World Series contender. But I'd rather think not. I would like to take a little credit for this, too.

I bet you would. First, though, you should also take credit for somehow comparing a dugout to an asshole. I get that they're both orifices, but that's still awful. I would have gone with "I tore you guys a new Jerramy Stevens" or maybe "a new Gary Sheffield." Second, you should also take credit for putting together an astonishly clunky sentence to begin the first full paragraph. Third, you should take credit for being the only person currently living outside of the British Isles to go by the first name "Wallace." Good job. I think going by "Wally" would actually be a step down in terms goofiness. I'd even recommend "Wally the Walrus" over "Wallace." Finally, a David Wells joke? Really? Is it still 2004 in New York?

Five days ago, I ripped you for doing nothing this winter to improve a team that just performed the most graceless belly flop since Greg Louganis hit his head on a diving board at the 1988 Olympics.

Too soon! TOO SOON! Also, that's already two awkward sports analogies in the span of five sentences. Let's just cool things down a little bit in that department, OK? Sometimes less is more. You're stretching that device like Michelle Kwan warming up for her short program!


Actually, you did do something. You raised ticket prices. At the time that column was written, it was absolutely, positively, 100 percent correct and I for one couldn't have been happier about having written it.

You? Pleased with yourself for something your brain vomited onto your laptop? Color me flabbergasted.

So now, you go out and get Johan Santana for the equivalent of a rosin bag, a fungo bat and a pine tar rag.

Yes, it would seem the Mets got an okay deal. A deal comparable to one involving several pieces of baseball equipment? Probably not. I do have to admit, however, that it's a fantastic deal in comparison to what the Orioles almost got for Erik Bedard and did get for Miguel Tejada. Hey Ed Wade and Bill Bavasi, I hear the son of the deposed King of Nigeria is looking for someone to help him get a bunch of money into an American bank account. Maybe you should help him out. Still-

You steal him from the Yankees and Red Sox, both of whom had far better offers on the table back in December at the winter meetings.

That's up for debate. I know the Yankees were offering Phil Hughes ZOMG and the Red Sox were offering surefire Hall of Famer and Dreamboat Jacoby Ellsbury. I know. Prospects from Boston and New York are just so much more prospect-y and exciting than other prospects. Why else would we know their names? But there are at least a handful of baseball minds out there who really weren't that impressed with what the AL East juggernauts were offering. Their analysis is basically that those two teams were offering "sure but unspectacular thing" guys while the Mets offer contains "boom or bust" type guys would could disappear or become stars.

You give up four guys nobody will cry about losing. Not a Kazmir in the bunch.

While none of the guys might have the blue chip pedigree of a Kazmir, I love that the tone of the conclusion is there's no way any of them will amount to anything. Wallace Matthews in response to that famous Victor Zambrano trade: "The Mets gave up guys nobody will cry about losing. Not a Kevin Tapani or Rick Aguilera in the bunch." (For those unfamiliar with the trade I'm referencing, it was a disaster for the Mets. It was with the Twins, for Frank Viola, in 1989.)

Just days before Groundhog Day, you upstage Punxsutawney Phil, pop out of your hole, don't see your shadow and promise us an early spring.

This is an even worse sentence than the one I pointed out in the first full paragraph up. Also- I don't think big baseball fans and people who actually care about Punxsutawney Phil overlap very much. Even those who do care about both are probably not considering Phil "upstaged" at this point. That's like saying UConn's surprise victory over Indiana last Saturday upstaged Monday's State of the Union address.

And yes, I know I'm taking everything Wallace says hyperliterally. That's what we do here. Go look through the archives if you don't believe me. Go ahead. I can wait.

What are you trying to do, make me look bad?

You do a great job of that all by yourself.

I prefer to think you are actually trying to make me look good. Like you took my advice or something. Or at least got good and mad about being called out for your futility this winter. You see, I like to think of myself not as a critic, but a motivator, a kind of personal trainer for sluggish general managers and franchise owners. I'm even willing to try to get their rich, pampered sons off the couch and into the action.

This is just one of the sections that inspired the title of this post. He sort of seems to think he was a part of this, doesn't he? Kind of like when a fan thinks that wearing a certain t-shirt when watching their team's games helps that team win. Or when the leader of a cult thinks that killing off his whole sect of followers guarantees him eternal happiness in the afterlife. Well, not really. I just wanted to compare Matthews to a creepy murderer.

For once, it seems to have worked. Back in October, I wrote that you should part ways with Jose Reyes,

For anyone who needed proof that Wallace Matthews is close to braindead: there you go.

who showed more than a little woof-woof last year as the Mets' season careened down the tubes.

What the fuck does "show[ing]... a woof-woof" mean? Also, if that was your criterion for who the Mets should jettison this offseason, they would have ditched pretty much everyone from 2007 except for David Wright. And hell, why not consider him guilty by association? Every player who ever stinks over the course of 17 games should be immediately cut. Choke artists.

I thought you should trade him for Santana

Don't tease Twins fans like that. Things are pretty tough for them right now.

and then, to fill that newly dug hole at shortstop, throw the rest of the money you will be raking in from the new ballpark, new naming rights and the ticket prices at Alex Rodriguez.

Excuse me... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA... OK, I'm cool. First, Rodriguez is not a SS anymore. He's put on too much weight to have the kind of range necessary for the position. Second, what the fuck makes you think that was even a possibility? It's up for debate whether Rodriguez came back to the Yankees because they were the only ones who offered him the money he wanted, or because he genuinely wanted to play for the team. Still, I just love how simple Matthews makes this "solution" sound.

Here's how he would fix the Miami Heat:

1) Trade Dwyane Wade for a player who is older, more expensive, and can only play once every five games. Hmmmmm, is Shaq available? Wait, what?
2) Open new arena; use revenue to sign Gilbert Arenas, Baron Davis, Elton Brand, and Shawn Marion when they become free agents this summer
3) Put Jason Williams and Ricky Davis in rocket ship; launch into deep space

Just like that!

It was a bold plan, a daring move, the kind of thing that transforms teams and either sends their GMs to Cooperstown or the want ads.

Steve Phillips joke goes here. Also, it was a plan pulled out of the ass of a terrible journalist who doesn't seem to know much about baseball. So please value it accordingly.

For some strange reason, you rejected that game plan. Up until yesterday, I thought you guys were about as smart as a sack of baseballs for doing so.

Maybe you meant "smart as Vince Young, according to the Wonderlic test." Sports analogy LOLZ

But you did better than I ever could have and better than I thought you were capable of.

Let me break that down. If something is a better idea than his best idea... and also a better idea than what he thinks their best idea would be... yep. If both those clauses are true, then Matthews considers it a possibility that he is smarter than the Mets front office. It's a dark, dark day for baseball journalism.

Since I am taking credit for spurring you to do this, I can honestly say I am proud of you. (By the way, I may have to start the season on the DL. Three paragraphs up, I think I blew out a rotator cuff from patting myself on the back.)

This makes the self-congratulatory tone of the piece seem like more of a joke, but I'm not 100% convinced yet. This is the kind of thing Bill Simmons would say, while really still wanting to point out how fantastically smart he is.

But I must admit, not even I am megalomaniac enough to believe I did this all by myself. I had plenty of help from the Yankees, who in an uncharacteristic spasm of logic and restraint, decided to resist the urge to throw away their future, and a large chunk of Hank and Hal's inheritance, in yet another attempt to buy themselves the American League East.

So that's what the Yankees would have been doing were they to trade for Santana. I see. And yet, the Mets have done no harm whatsoever to their future. There's no way any of those four guys they traded will ever be good at baseball, ever. I heard two of them aren't actually even ballplayers- they apparently sell mattresses for a living. And that $120 million extension the Mets are about to hand over to Santana? Well, it's not actually for money. They'll be paying him with a combination of bottlecaps, socks, and pinecones. So what the Mets just did is totally different than what the Yankees were thinking about doing.

I must also share credit with the Red Sox, who would be damned before they'd allow the Yankees to grab the fiscal high road for themselves.

Might as well also share this same credit with every person in the world, since 99.999999999% of them are exactly as responsible for this trade as you are.

But most of all, I must credit the Minnesota Twins, who overplayed their hand beautifully. They blew a chance to add Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera from the Yankees

Hughes- Could be excellent one day. Already good enough to start in the bigs, but not necessarily an A+ future "ace" kind of guy. More of a #2 or good #3 guy.
Cabrera- Predominantly a defensive player. Not that that's a bad thing since he plays CF, but still, he's not some kind of dynamic 5 tool guy. Witness his .327 OBP in 2007.

So yeah, that's a decent package. Obviously substantially better than what the Twins ended up getting? No. You can't fault Minnesota for wanting to hold out for something better, given the Yankees' recent propensity to renege on promises they publicly make. There was no way they would pursue Randy Johnson. There was no way they'd let Buffet-Rod come back if he opted out. What were the odds they wouldn't sweeten this deal?

or get either Jon Lester or Jacoby Ellsbury from the Red Sox.

Lester- Similar to Hughes, maybe a small step down. Good, fine, Major League read, but has a relatively low ceiling.
Ellsbury- I've known this guy existed for about 6 months, and I'm already sick and fucking tired of hearing about him. Hey, does anyone know if he had a couple good games in the playoffs last fall? I missed out on coverage of that. In any case, a decent prospect. Should hit better than Cabrera eventually, but not a "can't-miss" guy just yet.

Same story as with what the Yankees offered. Is it a good deal? Sure. Is it a great, "holy shit how can you turn that down" deal? Not really. Compared to what Boston gave up for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell (considered a salary dump at the time), it's a joke.

Either of those deals would have been better than Carlos Gomez and Phil Humber, but that's what you get from being indecisive, greedy, or both.

Way to be greedy, baseball executive. Since when has greed been frequently rewarded in your industry?

Gomez looked like a nice little player but I, for one, will not miss Humber since I was never going to get used to that silent H at the beginning of his last name.

Sounds something a French guy would do, doesn't it? Have a silent H at the front of his name? Fucking French. Pussies. WOO! U-S-A! U-S-A!

The truth is, as the rest of the field fell away, this guy pretty much fell into your lap. Well, good for you.

Don't forget all the details, Wallace. They also only signed him because you encouraged them to do so.

There's something to be said for being in the right place at the right time, which is something that hasn't happened to the Mets in quite a while.

Signing Carlos Beltran? Signing Pedro Martinez? Getting John Maine from the Orioles for the Benson family? Watching Oliver Perez rejuvenate his career, after getting him from the Pirates for Xavier "Prototypical 4th Outfielder" Nady? Getting Carlos Delgado (for one good season, anyways) from the Marlins for Mike "You Mean I Don't Have To Swing At Each And Every Pitch?" Jacobs? Getting Mike Piazza in his prime for Preston "Ow My Leg" Wilson? Any of these ring a bell? Sure, they've made some huge mistakes too. But it's not like we're talking about the Oakland Raiders or Atlanta Hawks here when it comes to personnel decisions.

Maybe it was just about time for something to go right in Flushing for a change.

Yeah, you poor tortured fans. It's so hard having one of the game's top payrolls and tons of media attention, isn't it? Maybe if you guys hadn't choked on applesauce in the 2006 NLCS and then choked on even smoother applesauce in September 2007, things wouldn't seem so bleak. But don't act like you're always having trouble acquiring good players. Anyone who knows anything about baseball understands that's not the case.

Or maybe it was a case of finally realizing that what you thought was hateful criticism was actually tough love.

Tough love, huh? How parental of you.

If Wallace Matthews was my father, I would change my last name, run away from home, and spend the rest of my days working on those Alaskan crab boats from "The Deadliest Catch." Think about it- the hull of a ship is like one huge basement!

Well done, boys. And remember: If you need any more help, I'm here for you.

Great. If you want to give any more advice, the Mets will be at their headquarters in New York. Not needing your help.

[Thanks to reader Charles for the tip. Can I call you Chas? Chas is a great name. Much better than Wallace.]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Excuse Me While I Cover Like Six Subjects In One Post

My parents are getting their hardwood floors redone. They told me the house was going to be filled with toxic fumes for the next few days as a result and that I needed to leave the basement and get out of the house until Thursday. Well, fuck that, I told them. (I didn't actually say "fuck that," it was more like "Nooooooooo, I don't wanna") I'm 23 years old- they can't tell me what to do. Plus I'm terrified of the sun. Have you ever seen how bright that thing is? My Ecksteinian complexion doesn't like light rays of any kind, unless they're coming off a computer that's showing something related to WARP, VORP, or at least EqA.

Unfortunately though, I think they were right about the fumes. I'm feeling kind of nauseous. These Nutter Butters taste funny. My head is spinning; I feel like Rex Grossman on a Saturday night in December. It's really hard to focus on any one topic for more than a couple minutes (read: I am lazy and didn't find anything big to pick apart tonight), so I'm going to do a few short blurbs on a handful of different articles instead. If you're not cool with that idea, well, come down to my basement and stop me. I dare you. It smells like gas mixed with burnt plastic in here.


First up, Dennis Dodd gets all hot and bothered about texting an athlete. omg ur so good @ ftbll r u on myspace? ;-)

The hype is building for the nation's No. 1 recruit.

Terrelle Pryor told me Friday that he is not visiting Oregon just yet. There was a report out there that the Jeannette, Pa., High quarterback might take a trip out to Eugene this weekend. Oregon offensive coordinator Chip Kelly has been doggedly pursuing him to run Oregon's spread option.

Pryor didn't exactly "tell" me he wasn't visiting Oregon. We exchanged text messages. It struck me that I've got better access to the kid than any recruiter, because of restrictive NCAA rules.

Easy there, Peter King. It's great that you enjoy your job and its perks. But most readers are probably not nearly as impressed with the fact that you have some dude's cell number as you think. Is Pryor even 18 yet? With they way they're tightening up pederast laws these days, this might not even be legal.


As we all know, along with the hype about the upcoming "Big Game" this Sunday comes additional hype about those famous commercials that will debut during its numerous breaks in action. Let me just propose a few rules regarding them.

1) Talking animals are almost never funny.

2) Talking babies are never funny.

3) Carlos Mencia is never funny, ever, under any circumstances.

4) If you're throwing a party and one of your guests makes a joke about how "[They] only watch the game to see the commercials, LOL, look how original [they] [are]!" it's OK to make them leave. If you're not hosting the party but overhear such a joke at someone else's, it should be reported to the host or hostess.

Please keep these in mind both next weekend and beyond as some of the ads make their way into regular rotation. If you disagree with any of them, you are unfunny. Sorry. Please keep your mouth shut if you and I ever end up watching TV together for some reason.


This isn't bad journalism, but is definitely an insane topic. Did this really need to be written? Are there actually people out there stupid enough to think that even the best NCAA team could get within 40 points of the worst NBA team? If so, I hope they aren't reproducing. The world of sports has enough idiots in it already.

Here's a trivia question: which of the following pairs of leagues have the smallest talent gap between them?

A: NCAA Football and the NFL
B: NCAA Basketball and the NBA
C: MLS and the EPL/La Liga/Serie A
D: The And1 All-Stars and the NBA (I've heard some dumbass kid try to argue this one before)
E: None of them are anywhere close to close. You're out of your flipping gourd if you think otherwise, or want to break things down far enough to answer the question. That's like trying to figure out whether the gap between the Beatles and Good Charlotte is bigger or smaller than the gap between Guns N' Roses and Buckcherry.

The answer is E.


CNNSI's Cliff Corcoran weighs in on possible destinations for Barry Bonds this upcoming season. It's not a horrible article top to bottom, but certainly has its patches of garbage. He analyzes the chances of all 30 teams in the article.

Rockies: The holier-than-though Rockies would likely object to adding Bonds on moral (and financial) grounds, but in the most competitive division in baseball, every extra win counts, and Bonds would greatly improve their road performance.

"Hmmm, I don't know much about the Rockies... meh, I'll just say they wouldn't sign Bonds because they're a bunch of religious douchebags!" Christ (no pun intended). That USA Today story from 2005 about the Rockies and their love for the baby Jesus might be the most unintentionally damaging piece of journalism ever written about a team. At the time I'm sure the team appreciated the press and the article was obviously not intended to be malicious. Two and a half years later, however, it's become the fallback joke and horribly awful analytical tool for ignorant journalists everywhere.

Let me give you the real reason the Rockies would never consider signing Bonds, besides the fact that Coors Field has a massive outfield which would tragically expose Bonds's gimpiness. Let's just put it this way: they're pretty well taken care of in left field.

Diamondbacks: The D-Backs have a perfect platoon partner for Bonds in left fielder Eric Byrnes

I'll just stop you right there. Look, Byrnes isn't exactly great. Last year he OPS+ed 104. I'm not here to claim he's some kind of future HOFer. His career line against rightes is .256/.318/.423. That's pretty bad. But last year it was .297/.360/.462. That's pretty darn good. Like, don't-platoon-this-guy good. He also added plenty of value by stealing 50 bases while only getting caught 7 times. And his defense, while annoying to watch (seriously dude, you don't have to do a somersault every time you throw the ball), is passable. Meanwhile, his team is going to be running out a 20 year old RF who hit .221 in limited action last year and might not be ready for the show yet. Their SS OPS+ed 72 last year. Assuming Tony Clark is gone, their bench includes exactly zero guys who can hit worth dick. And you're going to suggest... let me get this straight... that it would be a good idea for them to drop a bunch of money on Bonds... so he can platoon with a right-handed guy who OPSed .820 against righties last year? Arizona has much, much bigger problems than Byrnes.

Angels: The best fit for Bonds in the AL would actually be the Angels, despite the fact that they enter the season as the only team likely to take their division with ease and appear to have a very crowded outfield of their own. That the Angels will pay Gary Matthews Jr. $42 million over the next four seasons doesn't make him any more than the fourth outfielder he's always been save for that one life-changing season in Texas, while Reggie Willits profiles very well as a fifth-outfielder given that he's still earning the league minimum.

Although the Angels desperately need power in their lineup, I'm still going to say Reggie Willits is better than Gary Matthews Jr. I don't really care how much money each is making. I'm more concerned with, you know, how well they play on the field. Although Willits has all the pop of Juan Pierre (less, actually), he still managed to out-OPS Matthews last year. Having a .391 OBP will help that happen.

Corcoran's top choice for where he thinks Bonds will go is San Diego. Cute thought, but I'll give you a dollar if he signs with an NL team. Just send a self addressed and stamped envelope to my basement with an 18 cent processing fee.


Finally, I know Roger Clemens is innocent until proven guilty. But given the response of pretty much every single other player named in the Mitchell Report to their inclusion, it seems extremely likely he took steroids. McNamee had no motive to lie. Anyways, his agent isn't letting him go down without a fight. I'll let the AP and CBSSportsline's headline department describe what actions the agent is taking in his client's defense.

Clemens' agent releases statistical report to refute steroids allegations

Clemens went 40-39 in his last four seasons with the Red Sox, and when the pitcher left Boston's general manager at the time, Dan Duquette, said Clemens was in the "twilight" of his career. Clemens was 192-111 with the Red Sox and won three Cy Young Awards and an MVP, then went 162-73 with Toronto, the New York Yankees and Houston, winning four Cy Youngs.

Great plan. The worst stretch of Clemens' career is the above-mentioned last four years in Boston, spanning from 1993 to 1996. Then things suddenly turned around in 1997 when he went to Toronto. McNamee first connected him to roids in 1998, and didn't say that was the first time Clemens used. He easily could have started a year earlier than when McNamee became his needle buddy. So, yeah! What a perfect idea! Let's compile a report, showing that he was starting to decline during his early 30s (he was still pretty good, but definitely relatively declining compared to the rest of his career to that point), then got great again at almost the exact same time his alleged steroid use started! I understand these are tough times if you're employed in the business of making Roger Clemens look innocent, but this seems like a real General Custer at Little Bighorn of a decision. Might as well try to prove he didn't use steroids by pointing out that his home run totals throughout the course of his career are very consistent.


Thanks for indulging my temporary ADD. I'll be back tomorrow with a post that isn't just a lazy cop-out.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I Can't Believe I'm About To Agree With Gregg Easterbrook

[Side note to start off the week- Reader Extra Participation Friday kind of bombed last week. What happened? Too obscure of a topic? Nobody likes me anymore? It's that, isn't it. Good to see that my life has transitioned from having no real life friends to having no internet friends. Anyways, I'm declaring Blanco112 this week's winner for the following shitty athlete sales pitch:

"One more thing to consider when it comes to Kris Benson: the possibility that he cheats on Anna has got to buy him a few extra years on his contract, right?"

Only if he signs with a team that plays in New York. Anyways, I'm hoping we get a better turnout next week. It's fun for everyone. Come on. Please?]

Anyways, like I was saying, I can't believe I'm about to agree with the official TMQ of FireJay. But given that I'm doing so in the context of pointing out that Peter King is a slimeball, I think it's worth it. King's thoughts on one of his co-workers:

Tiki Barber does not miss football. He does not regret his decision to retire, even though the Giants have made the Super Bowl.

It's true. You can choose not to believe me if you'd like, but you'd be wrong.

Some of you may know that I work with Barber, the former great Giants' running back, at NBC, and you'll think I'm only writing this because I'm either protecting him or I believe a lie he is telling me. Neither is correct. But I understand why you would feel that way.

I like Barber, and I've spent much of the fall defending him to staunch Giants fans who are mad as hell at him for criticizing coach Tom Coughlin on his way out the Giants' door last winter and for questioning the leadership of quarterback Eli Manning last summer. My feeling all along has been that once Barber signed to work for NBC, he was no longer a member of the Giants, and he was obligated to give his honest opinion about all 32 teams in the NFL, including the one he knew best, the Giants. When NBC signs your check, it's not a disloyal thing to criticize the coach you used to play for if you feel the criticism is legitimate, and it's not a disloyal thing to say Manning is a lousy leader if that's how you feel. It's not only not disloyal. It's honorable.

The part about "not disloyal" (now that's some clunky diction!) might be true. I mean, I guess once Barber left the Giants he wasn't technically obligated to show them any respect, because they weren't signing a paycheck for him anymore. But honorable? Honorable? I admit that as a 23 year old who has held all of one full-time and four or five part-time jobs in his life, I may not be the foremost expert on professionalism. Still, I'm pretty sure that trashing your old teammates and coach unsolicited on national TV less than a year after you all were part of the same organization is dishonorable as hell. Put more simply, it's sleazy. It's low. It's unprofessional. And in the context of providing analysis, it's basically irrelevant. Yes, Barber's role at NBC is to give his opinions about certain aspects of the NFL. But I hardly think his personal perceptions and biases relating to former teammates' personalities fall within the boundaries of that role. Giving an opinion about whether or not Team X has a good offensive line is one thing; giving an opinion about Player Y's personal makeup and behind-closed-doors persona is entirely another.

The relative lack of outcry about Barber's comments indicates that perhaps media consumers are attracted to the idea of an "inside scoop" about current players and coaches. Let's air out that (alleged) dirty laundry! Hell, what's that new game show that NBC just started last week? "Lie Detector Secrets That Ruin Families?" America loves that kind of shit. And from his professional standpoint, King certainly seems to think that "insight" of this sort is a valuable part of NBC's coverage. But neither of those opinions/implicit opinions make it a fucking "honorable" act to badmouth your former colleagues.

Next time you switch companies, spend your first lunch with your new co-workers talking about what a huge group of assholes your former employers were. See how it goes over. I understand that this analogy doesn't really replicate what Barber did, because he switched fields and became part of the media. His new job entails nothing but talking about his old job which is clearly not the same as being a forklift driver at Company A and then switching over to be a forklift driver at Company B. But the spirit of the comparison is fair, in my mind. What's the point of what Barber said earlier in the season? To establish why the Giants struggled at the end of last season, and the start of this one? He could have said it differently. He could have said nothing at all and stayed away as a matter of principle. It's not just the fact that it's a jerkoff thing to do; it's the fact that Barber has no way of knowing if maybe he wasn't the problem instead of Manning and Coughlin. I know he put up great numbers on the field, but maybe there was something about his presence off the field that slowed the team down. Do I know this as a fact? Of course not. But since there's no way to tell, why bother to guess? Leave the subject alone, and stick to commentary that doesn't slander your former co-workers.

Now, I'm not saying Barber can never badmouth his former team for any reason. It's his claims about personality-related stuff that I take issue with. If he wanted to say that Coughlin was consistently outschemed by opposing coaches, or that Manning was making bad reads when he dropped back to pass, that would be totally different. At least those two examples are less subjective and also things that couldn't possibly be Barber's fault.

In conclusion: honorable? Fuck that. Peter, please go kidnap Brett Favre and take him to live with you in a cabin in the middle of North Dakota for the rest of your days. If you want to grab Tom Brady on your way out there, that would be fine too.

If you're confused, the title of this post refers to the fact that Easterbrook has been bitching about Barber and his big mouth all season long. I guess I have to say I agree. I don't, however, agree with his claims that coaches would rather minimize margins of defeat in playoff games than try to win them or that successful running backs avoid looking at potential tacklers.

On a less angry note, (cue zany circus music to lighten the mood! Doo doo doodoo doo doo doooooo dooooooo dooooo doooooooo) here's one other highlight from this same King column.

Speaking of Super Bowl officiating, in examining the tape from the Week 17 Giants-Patriots game, I saw -- on both sides -- an awful lot of clutching and grabbing by corners and wideouts. The Carey crew will be challenged by how closely to call this game. If the crew calls it too close, there'll be grousing. If the crew calls it too loose, there'll be grousing.

Thank you for perfectly articulating the obvious. People are so darn hard to please, aren't they? If it's too hot outside, they'll complain. But if it's too cold, they'll complain about that! I'll tell you what else, too- if the Patriots score more points than the Giants, they'll win the Super Bowl. But if the Giants score more points than the Patriots, they'll win the Super Bowl. Write it down, folks. You heard it here first.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rick DiPietro and his Open Mic

I didn't beat everybody to the punch with this video, but I assure you that I have better technology than recording my TV with my camera and then putting it on YouTube.

Rick DiPietro gives us another great moment in 'Why Did You Leave His Microphone On?' history...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ozzie, You Can't Say Things Like This, They Don't Make Any Sense

I'm sorry folks....I'm exposed to more White Sox journalism than any other sports team. But this is just completely and totally unacceptable. In response to Juan Uribe's frustration at the Orlando Cabrera trade....

"Juan might not understand why we [brought] in Cabrera," he said. "We need leadership. We [didn't] bring a shortstop. We [brought] in a player.

Guillen is of course referring to the Great Shortstop Rebellion of 2004, after which "shortstop" and "baseball player" became mutually exclusive categories. Uribe is the former, Cabrera, the latter.

Jerry Owens is not a lock to start at center field and as the team's leadoff hitter. But Guillen made it clear on Friday that Owens stands as a strong bet to break camp with the team in some capacity.

"Owens has a great shot to be up there," Guillen said. "He gives me speed, and I never thought this kid would play center field the way he did for us. But he proved me wrong."

I never thought Owens could ever be a significantly below average, -11 FRAA over 3/5 a season CF either, but he proved me wrong as well. Baseball is just full of suprises, isn't it?

If Jerry Owens gets the majority of the playing time over Carlos Quentin this year, Ozzie Guillen should not only be fired, but fed to Jay Mariotti. Literally. Fed.

Dear Terry Frei, I Disagree

I was all set to watch the NHL All-Star game this weekend in the stunning clarity of high definition, but I live in Saint Louis. Instead of going into detail, I will point all interested parties to poster rmj1080p, who sums up everything exactly with post #664 (reply to #661) on AVS Forums.

So I went out scouting for am All-Star column and Terry Frei helped me out. Thanks Terry - I owe you one.

It's funny sometimes, the things you remember.

That's true. I once had a game involving a high school text book and the questionable sexual preferences of the females inside its pages. The turn of the century must have been a bad time to be a guy.

Waiting outside the dressing rooms after the 1998 All-Star Game in Vancouver, a group of us interviewed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. The '98 contest was the first time the league -- as a tie-in to its players' participation in the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Japan -- tried the World vs. North America format.

Bettman was more defensive than any of the defensemen in the game. (That wasn't saying much, of course.) He said everyone enjoyed watching North America's 8-7 win, and no matter what format the league used, we'd probably try to find something wrong with it.

At the time, that was true.

I remember watching it for the first time and thinking about how dumb it was. Players from the same team on opposite all star teams? As if hockey wasn't already confusing enough for people that didn't watch it, now the players that they might know about are playing against each other. It's a good thing that ended. But I'm agreeing with Mr. Frei so far and that's not what I'm all about.

At some point in the past 10 years, though, it seems the consensus has become that there's no use grousing about it, because the All-Star Game is a no-contact, no-emotion gimmick -- and it ain't ever going to change.

So because everyone knows what it is, isn't it wasting breath to knock it?

I'd say it is. Of course, that didn't really stop you from knocking it in the previous paragraph.

In a league that (again) is meekly accepting coaching strategies that strangle the entertainment value out of the regular season, most seem to have accepted the All-Star Game's role as a reminder that unfettered skills in a noncompetitive environment is largely boring.

The regular season isn't entertaining because it's too long and getting longer. Too many teams get into the playoffs. Expansion diluted the talent pool. But coaching strategies? He has a point with the neutral zone trap, but there aren't a lot of coaching strategies that reduce entertainment value. Home team wins = entertainment. Add alcohol and puck bunnies into the equation, and you get your $100 worth. Supposedly.

If the television ratings are awful Sunday night, the response should be: Good.

It will. It's Versus. And because Nielsen families aren't watching, the sport is doomed! DOOMED!

Clearly, it's about the culture of the game; there was no more theoretical incentive for the All-Star teams of 30 years ago -- when Gilbert Perreault's overtime goal gave the Wales Conference a 3-2 victory over the Campbell Conference in, appropriately enough, Buffalo.

And maybe there's no way to change it. Perhaps, regardless of the way the rosters are structured, the laissez-faire attitude would dominate.

Perhaps Bettman should suspend the writ of habeas corpus, giving teams a two man advantage for all games. (Thanks, Mr. Buffo!)

But shouldn't the league at least try? I'm not saying any of these suggestions would work, or even that they're all completely serious. The NHL Players' Association would frown upon some of these. But shouldn't the point be that mere acceptance of what the All-Star Game and All-Star weekend are doesn't have to be automatic?

How about one of the proposals below, or a combination thereof:

So just to make sure I have this right - Here's a list. Some of it is really bad, but instead of polish up the good ideas, I'll list them all. Here we go!

Give the winning conference home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup finals.

STOP. RIGHT. THERE. No. Of all the ideas, I can see this one happening and it frightens me. Instead of giving the better team home ice advantage, let's give it to the winner of an exhibition game. Never in a million years should this happen. It took the seriousness of baseball down a notch, so why not poison hockey, too?

His first point, continued:

At best, it would add a tiny emotional edge, even if it's only from the coach behind the bench. A completely contrived way to decide the home ice? So? Even after its disgustingly minor tweak of the scheduling format for next season, the NHL will still have too few interconference games. Therefore using overall records to award home-ice advantage is nearly just as contrived.

Last I had read, next year's schedule might be 84 games long instead of 82, and could have every team play at every arena during the year. It probably won't happen, but stranger things have happened. Like making an all star game count for something.

Revert to the pre-expansion tradition of having the defending Stanley Cup champion play the All-Stars. The champs against the league, whether at a preordained site or the champs' own building. Include a financial mechanism to reward an entire roster for not getting a break, and hope that the champs play with cohesion and spirit out of pride and habit -- and that the All-Stars are coaxed into at least playing with some emotion.

With the way the free agent market is today compared to the "pre-expansion" days, I can't see this idea making the game anything but less interesting than it already is. This is also where the NHLPA would throw a fit. But it isn't a horrible idea.

Don't go back to the North America vs. World format. Instead, make it Canada against the World.

Isn't the rest of the world making fun of Canada anyways? How about a Red Wings vs. the World if we're throwing out dumb gimmick ideas. Or make like the new Survivor: NHL Superfans vs. NHL Superstars. If this happens, remember you read it here first.

Do it by age group. The league tries this in a very minor way with the YoungStars Game, but that's such a low-profile and more contrived "game" than the All-Star Game; and with many of the best "young stars" in the All-Star Game itself, it serves little useful purpose. It does not do what the league often seems so reluctant to do: truly celebrate the star power of the young players who will be in the spotlight for the next decade, or longer. Make it Vets vs. Kids. Upperclassmen vs. Underclassmen. Seniors vs. Sophomores. Whatever you want to call it, even if that means selling the team names to league sponsors for contributions to charity.

A lot of minor leagues already sell their all star team names to corporate sponsors. They just leave out the charity part.

At this point, 17 of the 42 players on this season's All-Star rosters are 30 or older. I'd draw the division artificially low, making it 26 and under, meaning Rick DiPietro would be on the Kids team and Vincent Lecavalier would be on the Vets. Showcase the young talent. Showcase the league's future. And hope this raises the level of competitiveness.

And what is the positive to sticking all the older guys on the same team exactly? Showcase the old talent and the league's past? A good hack to the ribs of some kid who dribbles the puck in the air? All in all, not a bad idea.

Make the weekend even more of a hockey jamboree, regardless of where the game is played. Have the defending Memorial Cup champions play a league game -- one that counts in the standings -- in the All-Star arena Sunday morning, or match the teams with the best records in the Quebec, Ontario and Western Leagues (two of the three on a rotating basis) on a cutoff date in a major junior showcase. Because of NCAA fussiness, having similar U.S. college and National Team Development Program participation probably would be impossible, but what the heck, see if there's a way to make it work.

Canada would love this idea. America would continue not to care.

Try the whole thing outdoors. Maybe not every year, but occasionally.

The NHL could turn the outdoor game into Who Wants to be a Millionaire? on ABC. Take a winning formula, then force it on everyone until it's unpopular, then never speak of it again.

Gulp. Rotate the All-Star site among Toronto, Montreal, New York, Detroit, Boston and Chicago. The Original Six. Yes, fans in the latter two cities have lost much of their passion for the NHL, but this would be more a nod to tradition than a salute of the state of the game in those cities.

Reward two cities that don't care about the sport anymore! Best idea ever!

I have one idea of my own: How about instead of naming a host city, the team of the player that scores the game winning goal gets the game the next year? Who's with me?

Much As I Hate The Patriots,

This is one of the best articles I've read recently. Almost makes me okay with the idea of a New England victory a week from tomorrow. Almost.

Friday, January 25, 2008

And Here I Thought I Knew What Unnecessary Meant.....

I can't fucking believe this was written. There couldn't be a thing in the world more irrelevant. Here's my thought: no Chicago team did anything worth bitching about, so JayBird's digging deep to bash the Sox for something they did in 2001. Two. Thousand. Fucking. One. I hope you're ready for a fuckton of irrelevancies, because here we go.

I once asked Magglio Ordonez about steroids. It was three years ago, after his divorce from the White Sox and shortly before fellow countryman Ozzie Guillen called him ``a Venezuelan (bleep),'' and I wondered if Ordonez had observed or suspected any steroids use on a Sox team known for sluggers.

He responded by mumbling something under his breath, but what I remember most was the perplexed look on Ordonez's face. His eyebrows were raised, arching higher than the central Florida sun, as if I knew more than I was supposed to know. A simple ``no'' would have worked -- unless, of course, ``no'' wasn't the truth.

Here's the likely real story....from 3 years ago.

Jay Mariotti: Yo Maggs, do you know of anyone on the Sox that's juicing?

Magglio Ordonez: (raises his eyebrows higher than the fucking central Florida sun, perplexed as hell at why he is being bothered by a loud talking doughnut, utters under his breath) Get away from me, you fat shit.....

3 years later.....

Jay Mariotti: There must have been something funny going on with that Ordonez fellow.....

This weekend at the Palmer House Hilton, snarling fans will continue a Soxfest tradition. They'll demand straight answers from general manager Ken Williams, who would have more fun sleeping naked at Wrigley Field in a snowstorm. They will ask why he left the rotation filled with craters, why he whiffed badly on Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera and why he keeps talking about a championship when finishing .500 seems like a -- cue the silly Hawkeroo -- ``stretch, stretch, stretch.''

This is getting so old......

1) Didn't whiff on Hunter. He was even going to overpay for Hunter before that dumbass Reagins upped the bid despite already having a good center fielder. Swisher is a better player.

2) In what universe did the White Sox even have close to an attractive package to offer for Miguel?

But if the good people are true baseball loyalists, they won't focus on 2008 at the session as much as 2001. That was when Williams, in a signing that reeked even before we completely grasped the monumental impact of steroids, purchased Jose Canseco from the Newark Bears of an independent league.

What the fuck??????

SoxFest is a convention allowing fans to ask the GM and manager questions about the upcoming baseball season.

Jay Mariotti just said that if these fans are true to baseball, they would interrupt all the interesting dialogue and debate about the upcoming season to interrogate him on why he signed a man of questionable character to play half a season when the White Sox had little-to-no chance to make the playoffs seven fucking seasons ago


One More Thing

Oh yeah, since I didn't post yesterday, here's one more super awesome little anecdote for you. It's about someone who should not be working in the business of analyzing sports. I bet you saw that coming.

Earlier today I flip on ESPN. And lo and behold, what do I stumble into right off the bat? Why, it's Skip Bayless doing his argument show thingy! (First Take? Cold Pizza? The Place Where Sensible Ideas Go To Die?) Skip was trying to claim that LeBron James is hurting the Cavaliers, which is kind of like claiming that alcohol is hurting the world's reproductive rate. First he cited some essentially meaningless statistic like the Cavaliers being 5-2 when James isn't in the lineup the past two years, and then tried to claim that mediocre players like Larry Hughes and Daniel Gibson are actually really awesome. I don't remember the exact quote, but his conclusion was something like:

"LeBron is holding this Cavs team back!"

Fortunately, Skip's guest/opponent for the day was some dude who actually knows his butthole from his elbow. (I'm not sure who, and I'm sorry clarifying that he was smarter than Skip doesn't exactly narrow it down). He quickly pointed out that the Cavaliers averaged 55 losses a season during the four years before James arrived. Since then they've won 35, 42, 50, and 50 games. Skip, confronted by this fact, backed down but offered the following rebuttal. I'm not sure if he could have said anything stupider. (This one is an exact quote.)

"Well, he's holding them back from advancing in the playoffs."

Let's look at the 2007 NBA Playoff bracket. Where is Cleveland? How far did they adv- Oh, OK. There they are. Great.

And hey, don't forget to go two posts down and throw your hat in the ring for Reader Extra Participation Friday. If you don't, it'll hurt my feelings.

FMTMQR: You Can't Be Fucking Serious

(For anyone new who is confused by the above acronym: if Gregg Easterbrook, aka the Tuesday Morning Quarterback, writes something stupid in his column (Ha! If!), I usually complain about it the next day in what I call the Wednesday Morning Tuesday Morning Quarterback Review. If you can't figure out why this one is titled FMTMQR instead of WMTMQR, please navigate away from this site. Go to Google and search for "GED programs.")

Let's just get right to the action; it'll be brief, because I want to watch the Djokovic/Federer match. What? Tennis is for sissies, you say? Well, that may be true. But at least I'm not pulling a total nerd move like you and reading a blog. Go practice kissing the robot you built some more. Nerd.

Norv Turner's decision to punt in New England territory in the fourth quarter when trailing by two scores might go down as the single worst coaching decision of all time. Let us count the ways in which the decision was ludicrous. First, the Patriots have the best offense in football history, so the odds of getting the ball back quickly without New England scoring were very low. Second, you need a touchdown and a field goal and are in field goal range. Why aren't you at least attempting a field goal? Sure a long field goal try might not work, but punting is guaranteed not to work!

OK. I'll buy that. That punt was a bad decision (more on it later), and since the Chargers were down 9 points, a field goal would have drawn them within one score. That's fair analysis.


Giants coaches, please note -- two straight playoff games have featured opponents playing the Patriots close through three quarters, then folding in the fourth quarter after going passive. (Trailing New England by 11 points late in the divisionals, Jacksonville passively kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal.)



If you are not wholly and completely insulted by those two paragraphs when read together, I don't know what to tell you. I don't care where the Jaguars were on the field. THEY KICKED THE FIELD GOAL TO GET WITHIN ONE SCORE. YOU JUST CRITICIZED THE CHARGERS FOR NOT DOING THE EXACT SAME THING. Fucking.... fuck. No. This is not happening.

Stat of the Week No. 10: Three days after appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Favre threw a killer overtime interception that cost the Packers the NFC Championship Game at home.

If he's referring to the always talked-about cover jinx, I guess I can't blame a guy who bases most of his analysis on "the football Gods" for also believing said jinx. Still, this isn't even a stat. It's a description of a play. That happened in a game. And is not "cleverly noteworthy" in any way, like the rest of the stats of the week are intended to be. So Favre threw a horrible interception. And? Why not just make the stats of the week a rundown of the most significant plays of the week? I vote yes. Everyone else who votes yes, raise your hand. OK, now raise your hand if you just don't give a shit. OK, put them down, I get it.

By sending in the punt team, Turner quit on the game. At that point, he no longer was trying to win -- rather, he appeared to be attempting to hold down the margin of defeat so people would hire him to do banquet-circuit speeches in the offseason and introduce him as a coach who gave the Patriots a good game.

Allegedly, this is the exact same thing Jack Del Rio of Jacksonville did two weekends ago. Actually, it is completely false, fabricated, made up, and many other things that synonymous with those words. I'll concede that coaches might do stuff like this during meaningless regular season games. But you're really telling me that in the playoffs, with all of the following on the line: a Super Bowl trip... a shot at eternal glory... a shot at extra eternal glory for knocking off a 17-0 team... a shot at a ring bigger than your head... a shot at silencing all the critics that continuously mock you for being a shitty coach and looking totally confused most of the time... all the hookers and cocaine you can buy (should you win the SB and decide to spend your bonus that way, hey, whatever, I mean it's your bonus, spend it however you want, if you just want to buy a house or something, that's fine too)... with all of that, a coach is going to stop trying to win? No, no, no, no, and no.

OK, sorry, that's all I've got for now. I'm off to pansyland to dance in a field full of lollipops and watch some tennis!

Reader Extra Participation Friday: That's Worth a Few Bonus Points, Right?

Who will dethrone JD after his win last week? If he wins again, does that make him a dynasty? (USC fans would definitely think so, even if he finishes second. OH! PWNED!!!1111!11) Will he remember to show up to defend his title? Come on now, everyone join in.

Jerry Crasnick serves as our template this week, as he writes about some MLB free agents who have yet to find a team to play for in 2008.

[Sean] Casey's lack of power clearly works against him. He's posted slugging percentages of .433, .388 and .393 in his past three stops. But he knows how to work a count, and he has a higher career batting average than Lance Berkman and Bobby Abreu. And when Sports Illustrated surveys 464 players and they overwhelmingly anoint you the "friendliest player in the game,'' that's worth a few bonus points, right?

I actually don't mind Crasnick most of the time. As long as he's not writing about players who hustle and "play the game the way it was meant to be played," he's tolerable. This isn't even a flagrantly bad passage; first, it's partially tongue-in-cheek, and second, clubhouse chemistry actually does matter a little. But I still think this makes for a good Reader Extra Participation Friday topic. What other traits can you assign to a struggling player that have little or nothing to do with their ability to play a sport well in an effort to make them sound more desirable? As always, please use Jerry's voice.

"Maybe Joey Harrington just blew his last chance at starting in the NFL by preforming poorly for Atlanta this past season. It's a real shame teams are hung up on his disastrous stats- they seem to forget that the guy knows how to do that thing where you raise only one eyebrow really high."

"After he screwed the pooch during the '06 Olympics, everyone was talking about how Bode Miller was washed up. But his recent return to the winner's circle is no surprise to me. It was pretty much inevitable, given how much he enjoys getting high and going to zoos."

"Sad to hear that no one wants to give former Diamondbacks and Braves pitcher Russ Ortiz a shot during spring training this year. Have you ever seen the guy water ski? He's a maniac out there."

"It's fair to say that former NBA center Oliver Miller has struggled with his weight. But should his career really be over already? Any playoff contender looking for big man help off the bench should give him a call. He's a huge Nickleback fan."

"Sure, Rae Carruth is in jail for conspiracy to commit murder. But if he somehow is paroled or escapes, teams should think about giving him a tryout. The guy can burp and fart on command."

Those five examples took me three and a half hours to develop. I'm sure you can all do better.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Time For Me To Re-Memorize How To Spell Wojciechowski

I can only refer to him as "Gene" so many times in a row in any given post. I need some variety, you know? On the whole, the following is far from his worst. But I'm picking on it because of its dangerously high concentration of cliches. I mean, there are lots. And lots. And lots. Of them. Read with caution.

This is ESPN's "Senior National Columnist." By my estimation his articles are linked on their front page more often than anyone's except TMQ's or Simmon's. I understand that most Super Bowl-related story lines have been pretty much beaten to death by this point in the season, because the Patriots have been at the center of a media firestorm since week 1 and the Giants play in New York. But really? You're a Senior National Columnist, and this is what you come up with? Basically one big article that can be summed up as: "the Patriots are great because of a bunch of shit that doesn't actually mean anything." Really? What the hell is wrong with you?

Granted, some of the cliches aren't Wojciechowski's. They're quotes. But he's the one who chose to include them, so he's still responsible.

This is the greatest team of all time? This is the team that's going to have its team photo bronzed for posterity? The team that's supposed to make us forget about all those other great teams: the '72 Miami Dolphins, the '27 New York Yankees, the '01 Wilbon and Kornheiser?

The short answer is yes.

The correct answer is no. We're not supposed to forget about anyone else, much less a team in a different sport, if New England finishes out their season with a win. This reminds me of the time back in 2003 that Barry Bonds said he wanted to get to 715 home runs so he could "wipe out" Babe Ruth. "Don't talk about him no more." said Bonds at the time. Actually, I personally wouldn't mind if we never talked about those self-fellating asscocks on the '72 Dolphins again. That would be the one and only unshitty aspect of a New England victory. But it's not going to happen; they're not going anywhere, regardless of the game's outcome.

The longer answer is that the 2007 New England Patriots are one game and one victory from the kind of perfection that no team, including those undefeated Dolphins of 35 seasons ago, has ever experienced.

Which kind of perfection? The kind of perfection that happens when you win all your games? Cliche #1.

Win Super Bowl XLII -- and they will -- and the Patriots will have no peer, no point of comparison.

Same song, different verse. #1a.

One more win, said New England's football Yoda, linebacker Junior Seau, and they'll be "part of ever."

What does that even mean? I guess it's close enough to "part of forever," which is close enough to "part of history." We'll call it #2.

"Separating is key in history," said Seau, who has spent 18 seasons in this unforgiving league.

The amorphous concept of "separat[ion]" has basically nothing to do with comparing events that happen in different eras. They're already separated. I guess that's obscure so I can't count it as a cliche. That doesn't make it not painfully stupid.

And fuck you and your concerns about my double negatives,

"We have a chance."

Thanks Junior. I hope you guys just go out there and play your game, try to make plays, and believe in yourselves. #3.

The Patriots have more than a chance. They almost have an obligation to finish what they've started.

The Giants, as far as I can tell, are also out there to finish what they started. Unless they're out there for some other reason. Maybe they just want to collect their roster bonuses and try not to get injured. But I doubt it. #4.

Anything less would be like forgetting to wear pants with your tux.

That is definitely not a cliche, for good reason. Are you sure it's really not more like forgetting to get rice in your sandwich? Thanks Gene.

Step No. 18 of their 19-step self-help program took place at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon. This time, it was the San Diego Chargers who had the misfortune of being between the Patriots and another AFC championship. And for more than a little while, it looked as if the Chargers might somehow pull off a second consecutive playoff upset.

But the Patriots aren't like the Indianapolis Colts, the team that blew its home-field advantage a week ago against these same Chargers. The Patriots aren't like anybody else.

The Raiders aren't like anybody else, either. Nor are the Calgary Stampeders. Or the Philadelphia Soul. Or some sad sack team from that 2nd tier Arena League. Everyone is special. My mom told me so. #5.

NFL MVP Tom Brady threw three interceptions … and the Patriots won. Randy Moss caught exactly one pass for 14 yards … and the Patriots won. The Chargers had two first-and-goals and a first-and-10 from the New England 13 … and the Patriots won. In fact, they didn't give up a touchdown in the 21-12 victory.

"The Patriots of old," is how linebacker Mike Vrabel described it.

"This is what we consider Patriots football," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said.

None other than the man himself delivers #6! Bruschi! He's a golden goddess! A man made out of nothing but marble, steel, diamonds, and courage! Our only real chance at ever solving the D.B. Cooper mystery! You might not know, but Barbaro lived about 6 months longer than expected last spring because Bruschi was giving him blood transfusions! He's man who wants you to know that not allowing the other team to score is a style of football unique to his team!

Patriots football isn't the 52-7 air show of Oct. 28 against Washington or the 56-10 humiliation of Buffalo on Nov. 18. It's what happened here in the late January cold, when the Patriots were forced to revert to their past championship DNA, which is to grind, to adapt and to prevail.

In other words: beating the fuck out of inferior teams is not Patriots football. Beating a team that matches up with them pretty well by nine? THAT'S Patriots football.

Canton isn't going to request the game film, but that's not the point. The Patriots did what they had to do. "[J]ust kind of hang around," is the way Vrabel put it.

#7 (what Gene said, not what Vrabel said).

Instead of giving up TDs, they gave up field goals. Instead of relaxing when Chargers star running back LaDainian Tomlinson and his injured knee became permanently attached to the bench, the Patriots played harder.

Let's throw some anecdotal bullshit in there for good measure. Personally, I don't think they played any harder. It's just that the Chargers played softer, so the Patriots looked relatively harder. Go ahead- try to prove that wrong.

Patriots football is what coach Bill Belichick said to Bruschi when they hugged just moments after the game.

You can only hope Bruschi was able to understand the indecipherable mumblings coming out of Belichick's mouth while he was trying to make his point. As an avid Patriots hater, here's my favorite example of what Bill sometimes sounds like after a game.

"Great job in the red area,"
Belichick said.

Not, "We're going to the Super Bowl!" Not, "18-0, baby!" But, "Great job in the red area."

It's the red zone, you hoodie-wearing wife stealer. But wait, didn't Gene just say Belichick said "Patriots football?" Whatever. If he actually said something meaningful, then that's awesome and more power to him. Thanks for the non-cliche you asshead. Even if it contained a horribly mangled football term.

This is Belichick in a nutshell. This is the Patriots' celebrated culture in a nutshell. There is no "I" in New England.

Wow. #8.

The Pats somehow have conditioned themselves to suppress their feelings about their football legacy.

Sure, it bubbles to the surface on occasion. Bruschi felt the pressure of an unbeaten season before the Patriots played the New York Giants in the final regular-season game.

"I think you could see it on our faces a little bit before the game," he said. "We knew [it] was a huge game and history was on the line," he said.

Bruschi with two more humdingers! That's #9 and #10! "Huge game!" "History!" Fortunately, he has actually turned an old DeLorean he fixed up into a time machine! So if the Patriots had lost, he could have gone back and found a zany and bizarre way to change the outcome! Not that they were going to lose... because he's Tedy Fucking Bruschi! (But I mean, if they had, he could have fixed it.)

Do you have any idea how many times he's already used that DeLorean to change world history for the better? Let's just say that if it weren't for him, we'd all be speaking German and Japanese!

Also, Gene, basic journalism- don't place two sentences which both have a quote followed by "he said" back to back. It reads like something out of a high school yearbook's rundown of a club no one cares about.

History remains on the line. Once again it is the Giants' turn to try to avert what seems to be inevitable. They got last crack at the Patriots in the regular season. Now they get last crack at them in the postseason.

Good luck. That's because the Patriots are the ultimate ant colony. Everybody works. Everybody has a role.

Really? Everybody has a role? Go figure. That must be why the Lions have been wallowing in crap for the last decade. If only Shaun Rogers and Boss Bailey had roles! And what is John Kitna going to do next year? Play quarterback again? Who knows! Also, what's this about everybody "working?" Hey, Earth to you, 49ers. Maybe if you all got together every once in a while and did some sort of "working" together, you wouldn't be such a joke. That's #11.

Christ, if you're going to bounce all over New England's knob, at least do it for the right reasons. They have a fantastic coaching staff. They make brilliant salary cap, draft, and trade decisions year in and year out. Consequently their team is full of great players who are well coached. It has nothing to do with everyone having roles and working. That describes every professional sports franchise ever, except whoever happens to be employing Zach Randolph, Ricky Davis, or Bartolo Colon at any given point in time.

Belichick is the droll football savant. Brady is the extension of that genius. Seau is the emotional center. Bruschi and Vrabel are the cornerstones. Moss is the suddenly selfless receiver who knocked Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo out of the game on a clean block. Kevin Faulk is the third-down specialist.

"That's the money down," Seau reminded everyone in his postgame comments.

"That's the money down," Seau reminded everyone who has never watched football before or has suffered a major head trauma injury recently. #12.

Faulk wore a long-sleeve blue T-shirt in the locker room after the game. On the front, in white lettering, was: We're All Just A Brotha From Another Motha.

Translation: "The family," said Faulk. "The Patriot family, that's all."

"Brother from a different mother?" Ha! I can't wait to tell all my suburban friends that one! It rhymes! We're going to sound so hard and tough. Our parents are going to be soooo mad! And wait... you mean this team considers themselves some kind of variation on a "family?" Never heard that one before. Someone fill the Houston Texans about that concept. There's their problem. Not enough famililityness. #13.

That's all? That's everything. It's why Seau left retirement, his surfboard and his San Diego beach two years ago when Belichick himself called and said, "Listen, I got a position for you." It's why Moss doesn't say a peep after a one-catch day. It's why Brady would run through two brick walls for these guys.

These guys would do anything for each other. Anything. Even things that are impossible unless you're a superhero, or wearing a robot suit that hasn't been invented yet. Now that's dedication. At least Wojciechowski didn't say "he'd go to war" for his teammates. Still. #14.

The expectations and pressure will grow exponentially in the next two weeks. If ever there was a team capable of handling them, this is the one.

Expectations... pressure... yawn. Take those two sentences and apply them to basically any team that's ever prepared for a championship game/series. Besides the fact that whether or not any given team can actually deal with pressure is pretty subjective, it works, right? Guess what that's a sign of: an article that didn't need to be written. And #15.

After all, the Patriots have the most practice.

Granted, this characteristic is pretty unique to the Patriots (assuming he's referring to their three Super Bowls in the last 6 years), so it somewhat validates the previous two sentences. But the general subject of "the pressure is mounting but [team] is ready!" still induces about the same response in me as the Hallmark channel.

Like I said in the intro, I understand that it's going to be hard for sportswriters to put out much of anything interesting about this game during the next two weeks. Basically every story has been beaten to death. But Gene isn't just some regular hack at ESPN; he's their Senior National Super Duper Pooper Columnist. Is this really the best he could do? Point out the fact that New England considers themselves a family, and that they like to play "Patriot football?" Pop off 15 cliches in a 750 word article?

Christ, I'm ready to go back to Simmons after this. At least it looks like he's trying most of the time.

An Old Favorite!

Dayn Perry picks his surprising contenders next year

Bad news is: he picked the Reds. Now, according to the Colin Cowherd school of media, other teams in the Central will be gunning for them.

It's pretty much all just Dayn rambling about a few players on each team who are "solid" or "poised to break out" or "could be contributors". Honestly, I'm not even going to break it down, since it's just a bunch of wishy-washy statements about a few names.

OMG JARROD SALTALAMACCHIA the Rangers are a dark horse!

Also, here's the weirdest part - he picks the Rays, then adds this doozy:

As for the bullpen, Troy Percival was an excellent addition, and he'll greatly improve how the Rays fare in late, high-leverage innings.

What the hell is a high leverage inning? Does he mean the ninth? The eighth? The sixth? I have no idea which innings have more leverage than others.

But Will It Play in Peoria?

I'm in beautiful Nashville, Tennessee right now and after witnessing last night's Blues/Predators game in person, I wanted to post with local flare. So here is Jessica Hopp of Nashville's The Tennessean.

Experience and youth worked in perfect harmony on Monday night, and the tune that was produced certainly showed no hint of the Blues.

GET IT? Because the Predators beat the Blues, you see. And what Ms. Hopp has done here is take the team name - in this case "Blues" - and used it in another commonly found application of the word. What will it take for people to stop doing this? I'm rooting for a Chris Hansen/Nashville Predators line about molestation, but we all know that won't happen.

After losing the first three games of the season against St. Louis, Nashville snagged its second win in three days against the Central Division rival with a 6-3 victory in front of 13,642 fans at Sommet Center.

Under 14,000 fans and new ownership gets to move the team out of Nashville. I have to say that I enjoy being able to drive to another city and watch their classless fans carry on the legacy of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's greatest hits from the late 90's. Nashville moved right behind the Red Wings in the division and nobody is coming to the games because almost all the seats are the expensive ones.

And now I point you to the end of the article where a Tennessean reader vents frustration.

Deafmike wrote: Great game for a Monday afternoon.......

Because yesterday was a holiday, puck dropped at 5pm. Somebody in our row joined the game right before the second period ended at 6:40pm. Maybe it's a pet peeve, but how hard is it to get to a game somewhere around when it starts?

Journalism 101

Not every observation that technically makes sense is clever enough to become a lead-in. This is a lesson CBSSportsline's Scott Miller has yet to learn.

Look, I don't want to be overly presumptuous here and tell Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain or Mike Huckabee their business.

But you want a real way out of this slumping housing market and looming recession?

Easy. Attach the prime interest rate to the homes of National League third basemen. That'll fire up the real estate market and get things moving again.

Because Scott Rolen and Troy Glaus got traded for each other. And Miguel Cabrera got sent to Detroit, and Ryan Braun is moving to left field. So yeah. They're all changing real estate in one way or another. I get it!

You can kind of see Scott's thought process here. Hey, politics are on the minds of many Americans because it's a presidential election year! So if there's any way I can make a really loose tie-in between a political issue and something happening in sports, I should, right?

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.... nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnno.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Been Quiet Recently, Eh?

But Scott Merkin is still a dumbass. He's the mailbag dude for the White Sox.

Where is Scotty Pods going to end up?
-- Bob, Homewood, Ill.

There are two correct answers to this question.

1) The minor leagues.
2) Out of work, but lucky Scotty, he's still married to a Playboy playmate!

I was talking about this exact topic with a few higher-ups in the White Sox organization recently, and there really doesn't seem to be any current buzz surrounding Podsednik. It could come down to a Minor League deal for Podsednik, although for those of you who asked, it won't be with the White Sox. When healthy, Podsednik still is one of the few elite leadoff hitters in the game.

I'm trying to think of contexts in which "Podsednik" and "elite" should be used in the same sentence. Sadly my puny brain can't bend itself to find something. Let's rank these "leadoff hitters" or something.

1-16, whatever order: DeJesus, Granderson, Sizemore, Pedroia, Roberts, Ichiro, Willits, Lofton, Soriano (if he even counts), Weeks, Rollins, H. Ramirez, K. Johnson, Reyes, B. Giles, Furcal (and plenty of other guys like Kaz Matsui, Scott Hatteberg, and Alex Rios who lead off sometimes for brief stints)

17: Healthy Scott Podsednik

18 - crap: People similar to Juan Pierre (like Podsednik).

Merkin, the guy was damn good in 2003 (thanks to him having SOME power and probably a sick BABIP or something), and hasn't shown a sign of being even above-average since. Can we please stop deceiving Bob from Homewood, IL? I'm sure he doesn't appreciate it. As soon as he goes to Podsednik's stat page, followed by that of an actual elite leadoff hitter, he's going to figure out that you're a lying sack of shit.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I Promise, I'll Write About Someone Other Than Simmons After This Post

First, let me quickly declare Reader Extra Participation Fridays a huge success. Thanks a lot to everyone who participated! I'm declaring JD this week's winner (yes, it's a contest now, because I just decided it should be) for this:

"On 4th and 31 from the Jersey/A 44-yard line with 12:31 to go in the second quarter, down 14-7, Dallas decided to punt. I then proceeded to pick up my pink fountain pen and write 'Game Over, I love the taste of my own ball hair,' into my Care Bears notebook. How can you punt in your opponents territory down by a touchdown this late in the game!?!? The football gods then spoke these words to me: 'I shall punish these dim-witted fools that call themselves professionals!"

Honorable mention to Shimmering for this, which wasn't quite what I asked for but was pretty awesome anyways:

"Stat of the Week No. 2: Since I began writing this column for ESPN, thirteen people have taken a toaster-bath as a direct result."

And similar thanks to Richard for the haiku. Very tasteful. Anyways, all this Simmons stuff is getting repetitive, I know. But reader Daniil tipped me off about something that I definitely have to post. In his words:

"I don’t know whether you guys read or even know about it and I don’t know if you caught this from his handicapper column. Did DJ Gallo just compare Philip Rivers to his coworker Bill Simmons??? I know I’m reaching, but that would be fucking great if Bill got offended by this and started spewing and they insulted each other in their articles on ESPN. My respect for DJ Gallo would grow greatly if he did this intentionally."

Well, let's take a look at the passage in question.

Here is San Diego’s one chance of winning: if Bill Belichick trades Tom Brady for Philip Rivers before kickoff. And don’t laugh – “Um, I never have on this site, so why would I start now?” – it could happen. I think Bill Belichick secretly wishes Philip Rivers was his quarterback. Rivers just has that certain Boston sports “je ne c'est douche” that would make him a more fitting figurehead for the city’s best team. I mean, sure, Tom Brady can be a total cockhead when he wants to, but Philip Rivers exudes Boston douche. He is Boston douche. If Red Sox Nation beats with one heart, that heart is inside the body of Philip Rivers. Rivers’ bio says he was born in Alabama, but I wouldn’t be shocked at all to learn that he grew up outside of Boston. Or that he went to a prep school and then on to some overrated New England private college. Then, no doubt, he spent a few years living off of his daddy’s trust fund money, dabbled a bit in date rape and bartending, and then settled down with some pink-hat skank because he thought he got her pregnant. Yes, it’s clear to me: Philip Rivers is from Boston. He is Boston. But unless he makes it on to Boston’s beloved Pats before kickoff, this is going to be a total beatdown.

Is that a description of Bill? Well, let's break it down. Obviously he's from Boston or somewhere just outside of it. According to his Wikipedia page (always a reliable source, I know), he went to this prep school. He then attended College of the Holy Cross, which may or may not be overrated but is definitely private and definitely located in New England. Bill himself alludes to his bartending exploits in his columns. Date rape? Wouldn't put it past him. Trust fund? Well, that prep school he went to costs $37,000 a year if you board and $27,000 if you're just there to learn. And he's constantly talking about how his dad has been a Celtics season ticket holder for decades, which can't be cheap. That's not ironclad proof that he's a trust fund baby but it certainly indicates there's money in the family. I have no idea whether or not The Sports Gal is a "pink-hat skank," but I really can't see anyone wanting to get married to Bill unless there were some extenuating circumstances like a pregnancy.

So all in all... yeah... it might be a coincidence. But it might not be. I'm sure Gallo has met Simmons and is familiar with his work. They're both successful professional journalists in the same field and with roughly similar styles. Who's to say they can't have beef? You can make your own judgment. If something more comes of this, you'll definitely read about it here. Thanks again to Daniil.