Thursday, February 28, 2008

Reader Extra Participation Friday: Keeping It Simple

Lately there's been, well, not much participation in Reader Extra Participation Fridays. Part of me wants to attribute this to the fact that we only have nine readers. But a small sliver of brain keeps insisting it's because I choose topics that are too complex and don't lend themselves easily enough to comedy. So let's ignore bad journalism for this week's installment and just talk about something everyone has an opinion about: What are the best and worst professional sports ever created? We'll keep a broad definition of "professional sport"- anything people do for recreation that requires them to move and is televised. So after some careful consideration, let me make my personal nominations:

Best- Bowling, because any fat pasty guy/blogger could conceivably practice enough to go pro in it.
Worst- Baseball, because it's impossible to play in a basement. Fucking sun.

Don't think you have to try to be clever or anything. This is an environment of welcoming. If you just want to straight up say that football is awesome and womens' basketball is a joke, nobody's stopping you. I'm changing the format of this in hopes that more than three people will throw their hats in the ring. Go on, make me look like a desperate, pandering genius.

It's Time To Finally Give The Viewers What They Want

Scene: an ornately decorated boardroom in Bristol, CT.

Sit your asses down and bite your fucking tongues. It's time to work, which for most of you fetal alcohol syndrome victims means listening to me. Baseball season is fast approaching. That means viewers want stories about one thing: the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Yes, the hand in the back, there? What's your name? Doesn't really matter, considering you're getting fired after this meeting is over. (pause) Oh, so now the Yankees and Red Sox are technically two things. That's cute. How long have you worked in sports television? Someone call security and escort Mr. Executive Producer For A Day to the parking lot. Let me tell you how things actually work. Were Bob Barker and "The Price Is Right" two different entities? What about Will Smith and Carlton? Not only are the Yankees and Red Sox one thing, they're basically one word at this point. Yankees/Red Sox. YankeesRedSox. YankeeSox. They might as well share the same stadium and locker room. Fuck, they can wife swap for all I care. As far as we here at ESPN are concerned, they're all that matters in baseball today. And I'm tired of our lack of coverage on them.

Seriously, who in here isn't wondering what they're doing right this minute? I bet they're playing catch. Or taking batting practice. Maybe they're watching some video! I think I'm getting an erection.

Someone get the numbers- how many pre-scripted minutes did we waste in 2007 talking about the other 28 teams in the league? I mean, I understand that we're contractually required by MLB to occasionally televise a Kansas City Monarchs/Cleveland Spiders game. But as soon as we get to Baseball Tonight, Sportscenter, or NFL Live, I'll be fucked in the face if we're not going to devote every last minute on the YankeeSox. Every second we spend talking about someone else is the equivalent of lighting a giant pile of advertising money on fire.

"Well, my sources in Detroit say that Curtis Granderson and the Tiger have agreed on a new deal blah blah blah," BAM, every single real baseball fan just changed the channel. "The Braves are excited to have tom Glavine back in their rotation yadda yadda," BOOM, Fox Sports just stole 10% of our market share. I've had it with this bullshit. First person who proposes a story about anyone other than the YankeeSox is getting stabbed in the neck with a cattle prod. I don't even want to hear the name of any other team spoken in this office. Pass that information on to your personal assistants. Pass it on to the janitors and fucking deliverymen. It goes for everyone who comes onto company property. Between now and November, if you so much as think about talking about one day taking a vacation anywhere but Boston or New York, I will personally cut off your thumbs and stick them in your eyeballs. Anything west or south of Trenton if officially off limits for any level of acknowledgment for the next eight months.

Oh, stop looking so terrified. I haven't even threatened your families yet.

Look at all the brand new stories we have to cover! First, Jonathan Papelbon knows how to do an Irish Jig. How many times can we show that clip from the end of the 2007 ALCS every day? I'm hoping for triple digits. Video, let's get on that. Slo-mo, different angles, voiceover from some random Irish dude who knows about that bullshit, the whole deal. Second, Joe Girardi is now one of the YankeeSox's managers. I want Steve Phillips, bless his tiny brain, talking about this and its impact on the YankeeSox on an hourly basis 24/7. I don't care if you have to run a caffeine IV into his spine. Make it happen. And maybe most importantly, third- the YankeeSox had a chance to trade for that Santana guy back in December and January, but didn't. So I want highlights of every run, hit, walk... fuck, every single non-strike he throws, assembled for immediate usage the morning after each of his starts with his new team. We need this to prove to the viewers that the YankeeSox never make bad front office decisions. Keep in mind that we won't actually have to show this, as long as things go as planned and Phil Hughes and Clay Buchholz both win the Cy Young every year until 2030.

Everyone got that? New angles, new stories, people. That's what we do here. Of course, don't forget to mix them in with plenty of material about whether or not A-Rod is happy as a Yankee, how clutch David Ortiz is, whether or not Josh Beckett is actually hotter (in an under-the-radar sort of way) than Tom Brady, and how important Derek Jeter is to the country's hopes of surviving the impending recession.

How can I talk in parentheses? You're going to be taken to the beach and buried alive if you ask any more quesitons, that's why.

And when's the first time the YankeeSox face off against each other? April 11? I have a special project for that afternoon. Someone get on this- I don't care about the specifics, but basically I want you do something to "get rid of" the broadcasting nerve center of every other major network in the country about an hour before first pitch that night. Try not to hurt too many people and all that, but don't let that stop you from getting the job done. We need to help people out there who might be a little slow understand that they're supposed to make a big fucking deal about it whenever there's a YankeeSox game on. I mean, it could be as long as a month until they play again.

OK, is everybody clear on what we're doing here? If you have any problems with what I've just said, feel free to start running your mouth about the fucking Pirates or Mariners within my earshot. See how that works out for you.

The Trials and Tribulations of Wearing Skate Guards on Ice

The skate guard is a pretty simple device. Made of elastic and cloth, it keeps your skates safe if you were walking around on concrete. But let's say your job was to go out on the ice at specific times. Say, I don't know, every TV commercial break. So the first whistle after the 14 minutes, 10 minute, or 6 minute mark (barring other factors including goals and penalties) you are going out and cleaning the snow buildup around the ice. You would be prepared! You would take your skate guards off and look like a skank! You wouldn't leave them on, would you?

You would if you were this Nashville Predators Goal Girl.

Now I know you only get to see her fall one of the three times, but it happened. You'll have to take my word on it. I also apologize for Bernie Federko's color commentary on the fall. If the local affiliate was smart, they would have played back the audio of all of the fans laughing at her. At the end, she looks up at Nashville's "megatron" to see if she's up there. She wasn't. But everybody saw.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lee Corso: Strung Out, Or Just Confused?

Lee was on ESPN Radio's "The Mike Tirico Show" yesterday, which was actually "The Chris Fowler Show" for the day because Tirico was out of town. Chris (apparently not realizing that asking Corso to contribute in a non-visual medium prevents him from wearing mascot heads, which severely limits his entertainment value) called Coach asked him for his very early preseason top 5:

"USC, Georgia, Florida, Ohio State, LSU, and, uh, Georgia. So that's more than five teams but you get the idea."

Is that more than five? Yes... but also, no. My head is spinning. Shit, I've fallen into Lee's web of nonsense. This is how I'd probably feel if Gregg Easterbrook wrote an article about how the Patriots represent evil and the Colts represent good. If.

And I apologize that all my posts this week have been pathetic little pieces of crap. I'm sure all four of you are very disappointed. As you may or may not remember, I hate it when bloggers share information about their personal lives. So all I will say to explain myself is that I just started a new job which requires getting up much earlier than I'm used to and keeps me away from computers all day. I know what you're thinking- yes, I'm now a hot air balloon tour guide. Anyways I'll work on adjusting my schedule to allow for longer posts. I'm being sincere when I say that I miss writing them as much as some of you miss reading them.

The other excuse I can make is that it's late February so there ain't jack diddly shit going on in the world of sports right now. (Relatively.) Come March 31, I'm pretty sure things around here will kick into high gear.


I'm going to be gone until the weekend following this one. My mom insists that I actually get some sunlight, for fear that my skin continues to lighten until it's lighter than white itself, so she's dragging me out of the basement and taking me to Mexico for a week. I'm probably going to just spite her by staying in the hotel room reading about projected baseball statistics, leaving only to go to the vending machine for some Fritos. Anyway, FireJay should be in good hands. With how much Chris W. and eriz have stepped it up on the posting lately, you guys should barely notice I'm gone.

The primary reason i'm posting, however, is that over the week during which I'm gone will be the one-year anniversary of me publishing my first article making fun of sports media (this was before FireJay). My first article was about Michael Wilbon saying the best team in the NBA wins the NBA championship 95% of the time. And man did I go off hardcore on that one. I busted out binomial probability distributions and shit to nerdily tear Tony Kornheiser's bane a new one.

Just last Thursday, I believe, on PTI, Mike Wilbon proved he has since learned absolutely nothing about probability. During that "Odds" segment where both Kornheiser and Wilbon throw out percentages of certain things happening, Reali posed this thought: "Odds of the Heat beating the Rockets tonight?"

Kornheiser said something low, and then Wilbon replies by yelling....


Apparently no one told the Miami Heat this, because those dumbasses took the court anyway. Happy anniversary of stupid odds-based claims, Wilbon. I hope Vegas hires you soon. Can someone explain how one of the least stupid people working for ESPN still has no concept of the likelihood of different things happening?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Crappy Old Player Eager To Prove He Still Belongs

Have you ever read an article with such a fascinating premise? Can you even conceptualize it? This is the pinnacle of captivation. This guy used to be really good... now he's not, but he's still just good enough to stay in the league... so he's (surprise!) going to put in some extra work to try and compensate for his declining ability. I know what you're thinking- they should make a movie about this. I agree. Someone get Michael Eisner on the phone.

"I am 39," Mussina says, wry grin creasing his face. "It's no rumor."

Old man acknowledges his oldness. Wryly.

"I think every spring is a little bit different, and this one's different in quite a few ways," Mussina says during an early-morning conversation.

Old man mumbles the kind of nonsense you would expect an old man to mumble.

"I'm trying to show myself and everyone else that I can still pitch."

Old man rattles off a cliche that basically amounts to an admission of age.

"When you're getting older and you have a bad year, the first reaction is, 'He's losing his skills.'

Old man says what everyone else knows is true, but does so in such a fashion that shows he refuses to acknowledge said truth.

"I'm sure I'm not the same pitcher I was 10 years ago, but I think I can still pitch. And I want to prove to myself that I can still do this the way I think I can."

See above. This is a weak-ass post, so I'll just cut to the chase. Based on these eye-opening quotes (be glad I spared you the filler in between them), did this article need to be written? Mmmmmm.... um..... uh..... nope.

"I understand from the baseball people that he's been working his ass off," Hank Steinbrenner, senior vice-president and son of George, says. "That's the thing that makes me confident. He has a tremendous desire to come back and have a great year."

Team implies crusty old player is getting his ass DFAed by June.

Sean Deveney Is Officially My New Punching Bag

As many people know, the Tampa Bay Rays are considering signing Barry Bonds. Sean Deveney really thinks they should. Which isn't wrong or anything. But en route to his argument that makes no mention of Bonds still being good at baseball (which is the #1 reason that a team should sign him), he gets pretty darned ignorant. Here's an excerpt.

The Rays are thinking this could be their breakout year. They're young and improving, but there are questions about the lineup.

Oh boy. Please, tell me what these questions are!

No one knows if Carlos Pena can repeat his out-of-nowhere, MVP-type performance of 2007.

No one "knows" anything about what a player will do in the upcoming season. You can make a similar sentence about any team in the majors. "No one knows if Ryan Braun is really as good as his rookie season indicated." "No one knows if Jorge Posada can keep posting these above-.300 EqAs into his late thirties." "No one knows if Ervin Santana will rebound this year." The purpose of you, the writer, the supposedly more informed person, is to give opinions and insights on these things.

And yes, such things exist that allow you to make reasonable forecasts. Pretty much everyone on the planet knows that it's tremendously unlikely Pena will do that again, and reasonably, he'll be pretty good, but not great, in 2008 (PECOTA forecasts .259/.372/.500 this year).

No one knows how the Cliff Floyd-Johnny Gomes designated hitter platoon will work,

What do you mean "no one knows how that will work?" Jonny (spell his name right, please) Gomes is better against lefties, so he'll play against lefties. Floyd is better against righties, so he'll play against righties. A "platoon" is one of the simplest baseball strategies to understand. I don't know what the hell you mean by this sentence.

or worse, what'll happen if Rocco Baldelli suffers another season-ending injury and Floyd and Gomes are forced to play in the outfield everyday.

Ummm....what will happen is exactly that. Floyd or Gomes will be in the outfield everyday. You answered your own "question". And both of them will probably play worse defense than Rocco Baldelli would have. These "questions" are completely stupid.

Even with a healthy lineup, is B.J. Upton really a cleanup hitter? Wouldn't he be better off batting third or fifth?

Hmmm. I don't know. That's a tough one, Sean-o. B.J. Upton hasn't completed his initiation into the "Fraternity of Cleanup Hitters." But you're right....I don't think he's really good enough to hit 4th, he's only good enough to hit 3rd or 5th. He's not quite as good as Paul Konerko, he's more like Jim Thome. He's no Manny Ramirez, I'll tell you that much, but he's good enough to be one of those David Ortiz types. Is Justin Morneau really a cleanup hitter? No way, Jose! He's one of those 5th-hitter types. Now Michael Cuddyer, THERE's a cleanup hitter.

Have I given enough proof to show your sentence was completely and totally senseless? I hope so, Sean.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Raise Your Hand If You Think The Average Article About Sports Needed To Be Written

And also raise your hand if you're not a Hannah Montana fan.

Got you good, asshole. Now you're either a fan of bad sportswriting, or a fan of music aimed at pre-teen girls (and a potential pederast). OK, put your hands down. Enough "yolking" around! Since it's Articles That Didn't Need To Be Written Week here at FireJay, let's just get to the articles that didn't need to be written. Actually, first let's crown a winner from last week's Reader Extra Participation Friday. I'm handing the title to Jeff for pointing out this very relevant fact:

Mark Price has the best career free throw percentage in NBA history, edging out Rick Barry.

But Barry could argue that Price had the luxury of playing his prime years against a more diluted league because of the late 1980's expansion.

That's worth one box of Cheese Nips. Congratulations. It didn't jive perfectly with the topic I assigned, but it's pretty funny anyways. And only two people responded so I didn't have a lot of material to work with. Sorry Jim, better luck next week.

So anyways, let's move on to some absolutely groundbreaking material produced by some of America's finest sportswriterjournalists. These guys really put the "expos(e)" in expository.'s Jeff Goodman wants you to know that there are other good NCAA basketball teams out there besides Tennessee. They tend to fly under the radar a little bit, but if you really job your memory you may realize you've heard about some of these other contenders before. Like, perhaps dozens of fucking times since November.

Tennessee is deep, athletic and talented. The Vols play hard and have proven they can get out on the road and win in hostile environments. They've now proven it at Xavier, in Seattle against Gonzaga and in the most hostile environment that anyone will face this season — in Memphis.

All true. The Red Sox were also very good in 2007, and I hear the Giants' defensive line played well in the Super Bowl.

However, it's not as if it's Tennessee and everyone else.

What? No fucking way. You might as well tell me that babies don't actually get delivered by a stork, or that cigarettes don't cure lung cancer.

North Carolina also has two setbacks — and one of them came without its starting point guard, Ty Lawson. The Tar Heels may not be as deep as a year ago, but Roy Williams still has more than enough firepower — when Lawson is healthy — to play with anyone in the country.

Baloney. Since when has Williams shown he can win in March and April? And since when were they any good this year? Oh, that's right, they have one of the most hyped (notice I didn't say overhyped, but he's still annoyingly regular-hyped) players in the country. He's a big white guy who looks like he should be playing the jocky villain in a teen romantic comedy. Forgot his name though.

UCLA has had a trio of slip-ups, with the most recent one coming at Washington — the ninth-place team in the Pac-10. The Bruins have battled their share of injuries as well — their own starting floor leader, Darren Collison, missed the first six games, Mike Roll has been out for nearly the entire season and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute hasn't been 100 percent in months.

Never heard of them. Call me when you reach back-to-back Final Fours.

Kansas lost at Oklahoma State on Saturday night, but the Jayhawks may have as much talent among their first seven players as anyone in the nation — and what was once regarded as a weakness in the middle, has become a strength with the emergence of Darnell Jackson.

If they don't still have Raef LaFrentz, I'm not interested. Aren't they a football school now anyways?

Duke had a brutal two-game stretch recently, but the Blue Devils are certainly capable of making a legitimate Final Four run. They defend, can shoot and are obviously well-coached.

Insert "Coach K looks like a rat" joke here. That's all I got.

Don't discount Memphis from the equation, either.

Really? They just lost a game in the final minute to another really good team in February. I thought that meant they were ineligible to participate in the tournament.

Even after a disappointing performance Saturday, John Calipari's club still has the toughness, experience and talent to advance to San Antonio.

Not a chance. No way. I'll give them that first round win over DeVry A&M, but I refuse to pick them against the winner of the 8/9 or 7/10 game in their bracket. Give me Marquette and the under. As you can see, this article absolutely didn't need to be written. I don't have a ton of time, but let's just belabor that point with one more little example. CBSSportsline's Mike Freeman wants you to know that not all NCAA athletes are law abiding citizens. Re: The Tennessee Volunteers:

On Jan 11, 2008: Police cite freshman wide receivers Gerald Jones and Ahmad Paige for possession of marijuana following a traffic stop near campus while the two hosted a recruit from Oklahoma on his official visit, the newspaper reported. Freshman offensive lineman William Brimfield, who was with Paige and Jones at the time, was not charged by police but was disciplined by Fulmer.

On Jan. 21: Campus police arrest freshman tailback Daryl Vereen for public intoxication and underage consumption after responding to a call of a fight in progress outside an on-campus residence hall.

On Jan. 26:
Police arrest All-SEC lineman Anthony Parker for disorderly conduct at an off-campus apartment complex, the paper says. Public intoxication, drunkenness, and fights seem to be a main theme when it comes to rules breakers in the Tennessee program. If only the Volunteers had that kind of fight in them when they played Florida.

Feb. 2:
A walk-on defensive back, Vince Faison, was arrested for DUI after police found Faison passed out behind the wheel of his truck in the parking lot of an on-campus fast-food restaurant with the engine running, the paper wrote, and his foot on the brake pedal with the vehicle in gear. Well, hell, who hasn't passed out after gorging on too many burgers and fries? So judgmental, you people.

Feb. 13:
Fulmer dismisses two players, the paper reports, for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Both players were arrested within the past 18 months. I can't imagine what it takes for Fulmer to toss someone off the team. A meeting with the Taliban? Eating someone's liver with fava beans?

Feb. 17:
Police arrest the Vols' punter for DUI and leaving the scene of an accident after he allegedly struck a parked car causing more than $400 in damage. The punter allegedly bolted from the accident. Who says punters aren't real athletes? Probably ran so fast the police put out an APB for Deion Sanders. The punter's case is an interesting one. It wasn't the first time he found himself in trouble, or even the second. Or the third. This could be his fifth alcohol-related offense, according to the Knoxville paper. That's where you just wonder what the hell Fulmer is thinking.

1. I have no idea why he's picking on UT specifically. I don't really care that he is, because I don't give a shit about them, but it seems strange. Any number of schools have the exact same problem.
2. Anyone who isn't aware of this kind of thing already is not the kind of person who is going to come to CBSSportsline and read this article. So, thank you for telling a bunch of people who are already sports fans something that every sports fan knows.
3. What the hell Fulmer is thinking is that he gets paid to win, not to run a program with no criminal incidents. I think that aspect of big money college sports is pretty well documented.

Again, the transgressions listed are all solely from this year. Fulmer's track record in this area is extensive. He leaves a trail of player arrests, DUIs and serious crimes in his ample wake yet suffers no significant penalty for running the 21st-century version of The Mean Machine. And the NCAA sits on its hands and monitors telephone calls. It's ironic that Fulmer would be in greater trouble with the NCAA if he made illegal contact with a recruit than when one of his players allegedly hits a car and runs from the crime like a gutless turd.

Every turd is by definition made out of guts, so that insult doesn't work. And do you want to know why the NCAA seems to care more about recruiting violations than delinquent programs? Because when schools cheat, no one else besides their governing body is going to penalize them for it. On the other hand, when kids get in trouble, schools are supposed to adequately police themselves. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. Usually they fall somewhere inbetween. But at least they almost always put up the appearance of trying to fix the problem. When Kelvin Sampson committed his violations, there was no way Indiana itself was going to do a damn thing about the issue. Like so many others, this article did not need to be written.

Tomorrow: Baseball has a steroid problem! Tom Brady is dating that ugly-faced supermodel! And the NBA's Western Conference is probably much stronger than its Eastern Conference!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Jeff Pearlman Puts Everyone To Sleep

Taking a break from writing human interest pieces about athletes you've never heard of, old FireJay favorite Jeff has given us an article that truly lives up to the tag "articles that didn't need to be written."

Major league ballplayers should care about this election

Throughout spring training clubhouses in Arizona and Florida, politics fail to generate interest. Finding someone who has participated in a state primary or caucus is slightly harder than finding a cinematic role for Meeno Peluce. The majority of players are almost certainly not even registered to vote. On the morning following last Tuesday's highly publicized Wisconsin Democratic primary, nary a Ranger nor Kansas City Royal could be heard talking about the results. Heck, no one even seemed to know the event took place.

Wow. Who would have possibly thought that to be the case. But why?

"Baseball players are inherently selfish," says Brian Johnson, the former major league catcher. "Everything is about 'me.' People want my autograph, people want to see me, people want to watch my games on TV. Everyone works around my schedule, even my wife and kids. So it's hard to have a global or national perspective when everything is about you."

Thank you, Brian. Upon receiving this quote, Jeff should have immediately put two and two together and realized that this is a dumb topic. But he presses on.

Indeed, a top 10 list of spring training topics discussed by ballplayers would look something like this:

1. Baseball
2. Free sunglasses
3. Breasts
4-5. Jesus/golf (tie)
6. Dinner options
7. The Kyle Kendrick YouTube video
8. Britney Spears
9. Strip clubs
10. More Jesus/golf (tie)

If you are surprised, offended, or shocked by this list (which is probably not 100% accurate... breasts and free sunglasses need to trade places), you should not be a sports fan. You are thinking too hard to enjoy watching grown men make their living simply by playing games. Perhaps you're a hyper-practical person who can only focus on things that directly affect your life. Maybe you have a problem with the outrageous levels salaries are reaching. Or maybe you're just too damn naive to realize that as long as you replace "baseball" with their given profession, this list corresponds to pretty much every well-off male between the ages of 18 and 50. Whatever the reason, go find another hobby. Sports fandom and you are not compatible.

Anyways, now that we've established the political ambivalence of MLB players, why does Jeff think these guys should stop being such squares and start caring about the outcome of November's elections?

What many ballplayers fail to understand is that, in terms of policy, they will be as impacted by this fall's election as anyone. While McCain plans on upholding the tax cuts enacted under George W. Bush, both Obama and Clinton want tax breaks to expire for Americans making more than $200,000 per year. (Read: baseball players.) Though McCain has said little about automobile emissions, Obama and Clinton have demanded drastic improvements in fuel efficiency standards. (The unofficial baseball player vehicle of choice? The mighty Hummer.)

The list goes on and on.

So let me get this straight- Hummers and other gas guzzlers might have to up their MPG outputs sometime in the next 20 years (based on an article I read in Time, which I can't link because this was like a month ago while I was waiting for my car at Jiffy Lube, this probably won't ever happen). And if a Democrat wins, there's a chance they will try to get rid of some of Bush's upper class tax cuts. And those two facts are supposed to overcome the breasts, free sunglasses, and other powerful cultural barriers currently restricting baseball players' interests in politics? Talk about tepid (at best) support for one's own point. I dare you- gather up a bunch of guys between 21 and 40, many of whom are already millionaires or will be millionaires within the next five years. Then tell them that they should start caring more about politics because they might have to buy slightly smaller cars or pay an extra fifteen grand in taxes in a couple of years. And try not to look too embarrassed when they laugh you out of the room.

Look, it's totally correct that political apathy and low voter turnout are huge problems with this country. Our election participation numbers are downright pathetic when you compare us to other western democracies. But I really don't think baseball players are at the top of the list of groups who need to start caring more. Maybe the millions and millions of uninsured Americans out there or those who make less than $20,000 a year and are constantly at risk of slipping into poverty should step up their levels of interest before we start busting balls in MLB clubhouses.

And sure, I'll grant that if more public figures like pro athletes made a bigger deal out of politics, that might cause more everyday people to have the same response. But really, if we need to be told by celebrities how to look out for our own interests, doesn't that really just make us a pathetic bunch of losers?

Christ, what was I originally talking about. Oh yeah- hey Jeff, try to pick out a less boring topic for your next piece. That would be fantastic.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Let's Learn About Nick Swisher

This is Sean Deveney. Doesn't he just look like a complete asshole? Well believe me, beneath the man-bangs and evil grin, there's a man with an exceptional propensity to spew irrelevant puffery. I guess what I'm trying to say is, Deveney really sucks.

Swisher should give life to glum South Siders

New acquired outfielder is exactly what the White Sox needed

We're going to write down a list of things that a new player must bring to his team to make them better. We'll call it "Sean's Ten Commandments for Newly Acquired Players."

There are, to the naked eye, five chains around the neck of Nick Swisher and a tangle of charms resting on his chest, visible beneath his South Beach-slick opened collar.

One is an Italian horn. There is an eagle. There are two Christian crosses.

Commandment #1: New player must have lots of neckwear. Must have five chains that apparently only have four charms between them. Must be a Christian. No heathens.

He's chatting in a banquet room at the Palmer House hotel in downtown Chicago during the White Sox's offseason fanfest, his hair slicked back with enough product to wallpaper a living room. He laughs and declares, "I'm a funny guy! I got a big mouth, but I am a funny guy!" and adds that he spends 80 percent of his life smiling.

"What about the other 20 percent?"

"Sleeping," Swisher says.

Commandment #2: New player must be "a funny guy". Must repeat himself a lot.

Commandment #3: Must sleep an unusually low amount.

This has been a gloomy winter for White Sox fans, who, after a lifeless 72-90 season in which just about everything went awry, listened hopefully as general manager Ken Williams promised them a "big fish." He then failed to land Torii Hunter. Or Kosuke Fukudome. Or Aaron Rowand. Williams has taken a pummeling in the local media and from those fans. But, spend even a few minutes with Swisher and you can't help mentally posing this question to South Siders: "Why so glum?"

We could start with BP's 77-85 projection for the season. After their 72-90 projection from last season was spot on, no Sox fans should exactly be encouraged by this.

Swisher might be exactly what this team needs —chains, hair, big mouth and all. The dude has personality, in a way that core Sox player don't. He's endlessly entertaining.

Commandment #4: Player must have large mullet-ish hair. No buzzcuts. Got an afro? Join the fucking NBA dude! He must "endlessly entertain" by doing such things as batting with his legs while performing a handstand. Also, he must have a personality, unlike core Sox players like A.J. Pierzynski, who is a lifeless asshat. Finally, his arrival must cue Sporting News columnist Sean Deveney to write the sentence "The dude has personality, in a way that core Sox player don't", which shows no care for editing.

Believe it or not, the acquisition of Nick Swisher by the White Sox is the only MLB acquisition in history to satisfy Commandment #4. I'm not even joking.

For example, there has been a long-simmering — but bogus — Internet rumor that Swisher began dating model Danielle Gamba after he saw her in a magazine. "Really, I never even met that girl," Swisher says. But with a guy like Swisher, it seems somehow plausible. Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko — they're not exactly the type to be the subject of model-dating rumors.

Commandment #5: There have to be rumors of him dating a model to bring up the interestingness level of a team that otherwise contains model-less teammates after the departure of Scott Podsednik. Said model is worth at least 6 wins.

Manager Ozzie Guillen says one of the Sox's problems last year was the lack of attitude, something Swisher can fix. "Swisher, he is a guy I hated," Guillen says. "Every time we play them and he is taking pitches and making our pitchers work, I would turn and say to the bench, 'I hate this guy.' I am not gonna hate him anymore. I am gonna love him now."

I'm sorry, Sean, but did you just reduce useful things like taking pitches and making pitchers work to something irrelevant like eliminating a "lack of attitude"? That isn't a good thing to write! And if you didn't mean that, you shouldn't have confused the world by juxtaposing the two in the same, brief paragraph!

Swisher has swagger, but what folks in Chicago haven't recognized is that he qualifies as Williams' big fish — perhaps a bigger fish, even, than Hunter, Rowand or Fukudome.

Commandment #6: Player must have "swagger", a word that means absolutely nothing in the context of baseball.

Commandment #7: Player must be a "big fish" or also acceptably a "bigger fish" to qualify as the player that his new GM mistakenly promised the world was coming.

Now Sean talks briefly, almost footnote-esque about stupid and pointless things like OBP and HR and moving from a bad hitter's park to a good hitter's park. Whatever dude, BOOOOOORRRIIINNNGGG! Get back to the commandments!

No question, Rowand and Hunter are top-shelf center fielders. Swisher is not. But he can be an average defender out there. And the White Sox would be thrilled to have Jerry Owens win the job in center this spring, to bring the speed and on-base percentage he showed in the minors to the big leagues. If he does, Swisher will move to left. If he doesn't, the defense will survive.

Ugh. You're going to go make me grab my issue of "Baseball Prospectus 2007" now. Great.

At Triple-A, Jerry Owens had a .330 OBP. Not indicative of good things. Double-A, a very batting average inflated .393. And in A-ball, he had a .365 OBP, which is totally uninteresting.

He is projected to have a -2.4 VORP in only 30% of the playing time this season. Jerry Owens is terrible at baseball, and no team should be "thrilled" that he wins a starting spot.

Owens, Swisher and new shortstop Orlando Cabrera could revamp a bone-dry offense.

One of those three players is notably good at offense. One is mediocre, the other is awful.

It's unlikely Dye and Konerko will endure the slumps that sunk last season


We're almost done with the non-puffy section of the article, I promise.

The pitching is still a major question, but let's remember the White Sox were World Series champions in 2005 and won 90 games in '06. Maybe last year was the aberration, and maybe '05 and '06 are better indications of how good this team can be.


2005 and 2006 are better indications of how 2008 should go than 2007??????

You've got to be fucking kidding me. Seriously.

Okay, enough of Deveney being wrong. We're getting back to him being puffy and stupid now.

Last season, once the slumps started spreading, no one in the locker room snapped the White Sox out of it. "Our guys, our best players, are all nice," Guillen says. "Too many nice guys. We needed someone to go and kick some butt."

Commandment #8: New player must be a "butt-kicker." No nice guys. Must be a proven cure for "the slumps", a made-up contagious disease that has an appearance caused by variance and luck and people not noticing just how often things are average.

That's where Swisher comes in. He is gritty on the field

Commandment #9: Player must resemble David Eckstein in dumbass media speak.

not afraid to speak his mind off it.

Commandment #10: Must be a good candidate to appear on MTV's "The Real World".

For those of you who didn't endure the torture of reading Sean Deveney to find these commandments (you're WELCOME, jerks), I'm going to reprint them all here. Yahoo!


Sean's Ten Commandments for Newly Acquired Players

#1: Thou shalt wear lots of neckwear.

#2: Thou shalt be "a funny guy".

#3: Thou shalt not sleep very often.

#4: Thou shalt have long hair, be entertaining, and have entertaining hair.

#5: Thou shalt have rumors circulating about you dating a model.

#6: Thou shalt have "swagger".

#7: Thou shalt be a "big fish" or "bigger fish".

#8: Thou shalt be a "butt-kicker".

#9: Thou shalt be gritty.

#10: Thou shalt act like you're a character on MTV's "The Real World".


So as you can see, under this set of commandments, Nick Swisher is basically Jesus. Rejoice, South Side, your season is saved!

(On a side note, I actually do think that Nick Swisher is a total badass, and want to meet him if and when I make the trek to Arizona this spirng.)

(But Deveney still sucks.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reader Extra Participation Friday: Excuses Are Like Taints

Wow. Just, wow. This article is 100% worthy of being wholly and completely dissected by one of us here at FireJay. But it's time for Reader Extra Participation Friday, and I need to go to bed soon, so I'm going to bring it up in an abbreviated format right now. If I can find a little time this weekend in between all the basement dwelling and sun avoiding I've already got on my schedule, I'll break down the whole thing.

You may have heard recently that a bunch of ultra-nerdy Penn researchers (who are probably even more terrified of fresh air and weather than I am) concluded Derek Jeter was the worst fielding shortstop in the bigs last year. Kevin Kernan of the New York Post investigated the reactions of a guy in the Yankee front office and Jeter himself to this news. As I've said, the whole article is hilarious. But my favorite part is one particular excuse both gentlemen make in order to deflect attention away from Mr. Steely Eyes. I'll grant that fielding statistics and metrics are a somewhat inexact science... but really? This is your rebuttal?

Jeter just didn't laugh this one off. He defended himself, saying, "Every (shortstop) doesn't stay in the same spot, everyone doesn't have the same pitching."


"Something like that is a disgrace," the scout [Gene Michael] said. "It made me ill when I read that article. First of all, what pitching staff was out there? Each team has a different staff. Derek doesn't really have a sinkerball pitching staff whereas other shortstops, you sit behind certain pitchers, you're going to get a lot of ground balls."

Words cannot explain how ridiculous that line of logic is. I'm literally at a loss. So let's just move on to the Reader Extra Participation Friday topic it has inspired: make an equally outrageous excuse as to why we can't determine who/what is the best or worst at something in the world.

Fastest skater in the NHL: Ice isn't exact same temperature at every arena
Most patient hitter in MLB: Sometimes umpires accidentally forget count, allow pitcher to throw five balls before awarding walk
Best pole vaulter in the world: Not all competitors wearing equally short shorts
World's richest man: Fails to consider that certain people are rich in spirit
World's tallest mountain: Really cold at the top of all of them so who cares
Top selling album of all time: Oh come on, Thriller was way better than anything the Eagles ever did

Seriously... it's the pitching staff's fault?

Hey, I've Got A Great Idea

Good Guy At Sports already wrote about this, but it infuriates me so much that I'm throwing my sarcastic hat into the ring as well.

Scene: An ornately decorated boardroom in Bristol, CT

Alright, everyone sit down. Are you ready for this? I have an idea that's going to knock your nuts off.

We've reached that always-boring gap between the Super Bowl and March Madness. So we here at Sportscenter need to keep things boo-yeahed for the viewers despite the relative lack of athletic action going on these days. Now, keep in mind that we tried to address this problem last July during the gap between the NBA Finals and the start of NFL training camp. But no one really liked "Who's Now?" because it was too much style and not enough substance. For some reason I can't possibly comprehend, people don't want to hear about what parties athletes go to and what fashion designers they're friends with. Isn't that what sports are all about? Well, fuck it. Anyways. We now understand that fact, and will never do a "Who's Now?" tournament again. Not for the next few months, anyways.

Therefore, we need to come up with a different tournament thingy that's all substance and all awesome. So you know what fits that description pretty well? How about something involving a bunch of famous highlights? The Cal-Stanford thing, Kirk Gibson, and of course, the greatest highlight ever- Doug Flutie throwing a 42 yard Hail Mary that's somehow a thousand times more significant than any of the other many Hail Marys that have won regular season NCAA football games. They can all compete against each other until we crown a champion. Yeah? Yeah? Does that sound like a fucking genius idea? Of course it does.

Shut your fucking mouths, I'm not finished.

If we just ran the tournament and announced the results, that would be like an artist leaving a canvas half-blank. People might enjoy that... but we want more. We want them chomping at the bit. We want them watching our programming with raging erections. We want them to say to themselves, "God, I'm so glad Disney bought ESPN." How are we going to accomplish that through this tournament? I've got two words for you: Berman... Voiceover.

That's right. Fuck Al Michaels, fuck Jack Buck, and especially fuck that "THE BAND IS ON THE FIELD!" guy. Males aged 18 to 34 don't care about those crusty old geriatrics. They want someone who's hip and with it. Does anyone actually think that in many cases, the original audio is essential to how enjoyable the highlight is? Yeah, right. And I'm stepping down next week so I can take a job as assistant co-producer for Fox Sports. So we'll do this tournament, but we'll have Berman re-call all the plays as they happen. How could that possibly go wrong? I'll answer that question for you: it won't. Christ, I'm a genius. Why do I even pay you people? Get out of my sight, and don't come back until you've either got a solid plan for this Greatest Highlight bit or some more news about whether or not A-Rod wants to be a Yankee.

Oh, and be sure to rig the vote so Flutie wins. Don't you just love that guy? He was David Eckstein before David Eckstein was David Eckstein.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mmmmmmm, Deep Fried Butter

I'm not saying the Patriots gained an unfair advantage by allegedly taping the Rams during their final walkthrough/practice before Super Bowl XXXVI. I'm not saying they didn't gain an unfair advantage. But I am saying that just because Mike Golic is a pig doesn't mean the argument is 100% settled.

The big bowl of jelly himself was on Sportscenter yesterday morning doing that dumb "Good Call/Bad Call" segment. 60% of voters said that they felt an advantage had indeed been obtained by Bill BeliCHEAT (I made that up, do you like it?) and his staff if taping occurred. Golic immediately declared that a "bad call." He explained:

"What I remember about walkthroughs was wondering who was going to bring the donuts and if I could change out of my suit if we were on the road."

Oh, really? That's all that mattered to you? Well then, I think it's safe to assume that that's how everyone else approaches walkthroughs as well. First of all, fat joke. Second of all, another fat joke. Third of all, you were a big, jolly DT. So while the fact that the offense was running their plays probably didn't concern you much, I think the head coach of an opposing team might have a slightly different appreciation for what was happening were he to witness it. This is like living in Montana and saying people in Hong Kong are stupid for worrying about overcrowding. Fourth of all, fat/stupid joke.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

At what point does a transplant fan get on Terry Frei's nerves?

[Edit! Thanks, Greg Wyshynski! To everybody coming over from Deadspin, I encourage you to poke around the site a lot more. The Greatest Hits are to the left.]

I have made it no secret that I haven't rooted for every home team ever in my life. I'm a Seahawks fan based primarily on my love for the logo as a three-year-old. But I've stuck with them, through Denver and St. Louis. I've rooted for the Cardinals and Blues while living far outside St. Louis (It's a real shame that Interleague baseball never took the Cardinals/Rangers rivalry deeper.) As a second grader, my brother and I cheered a Blues goal in Dallas. We got flipped off. To this day, it's my favorite classless fan story. So as I sat down tonight determined to find something to augment my next YouTube video post, Terry Frei's article caught my eye.

At what point do transplant fans deserve to get grief?

I'm not saying that visiting fans can't be idiots. But it just sounds like a bee got into Mr. Frei's bonnet because somebody made fun of his team and he didn't have a witty one liner to say back, so he wrote an article instead. Observe!

The fans take the Blackhawks jerseys out of drawers or off hangers. The jerseys might have Jeremy Roenick's, Tony Amonte's or Chris Chelios' name and former number on the backs, because those were the most recent good ol' days. Maybe the fans don't like the new style or the price tag of the jerseys, but they know, at some point, they will update to Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews models.

I own a Rich Pilon jersey. This guy played eight games in the Bluenote before breaking his wrist and never playing in the NHL again. It was the only sensible alternative to Pierre Turgeon. I also find it unnecessary to determine the interest level of the fan by the merchandise that they own. With teams constantly rolling out third jerseys in the previous years, I find it hard to fault any hockey fan for not running out to buy the brand new RBK Edge jersey. But this article hasn't gotten that bad yet.

Then, they head for the arena, joining friends -- even instant friends they've never met before -- who consider the Hawks and such things as Nancy Faust, Big Al's and the train ride in from Evanston to be parts of their heritage.

As they high-five following Blackhawks goals or merely walk down the concourse, they accept not only the good-natured teasing, but also brave the withering looks, the snide comments, and maybe even a spray or two of beer from other fans.

It was always a thrill to see a fellow Blues fan in Denver. I would at least attempt to egg them on to join me in local tradition or chants to no avail. But I have never witnessed anything as asinine as a 'spray or two of beer from other fans.' Who does that?

They're not in Chicago.

They're in any other NHL arena.

What a twist! I didn't suspect that from the teaser or the headline.

Maybe it's Raleigh or Tampa or Denver or Southern California or San Jose or Columbus or Nashville or … virtually anywhere else. They've paid their $74 per seat or put the first claim in on the company tickets for that game the second the schedule came out.

And, of course, the road team in question doesn't have to be (and usually isn't) the Blackhawks.

I had assumed that it was the Blackhawks in every case. Nothing worse than a drunk Blackhawks fan at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at MSG, slowly chanting the name of the French Poodle until it shits all over the carpet.

It plays out at virtually every NHL game, especially in the U.S., with the Red Wings, Sabres, Rangers, Flyers, Blues … and on and on. I'm not talking about the affluent Rangers fan who still lives in New Rochelle, taking a California junket to San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim for games in late January. I'm talking about the fans who have moved to another market, often out of choice, and take great pleasure in flaunting their retained athletic loyalties to advertise that they're citizens only on the driver's licenses.

How is it that rooting for your favorite team means that you hate the city you live in? I lived in Dallas and loved it. But because I didn't change my favorite team when we moved there, I hated it. So the large amounts of immigrants in the country hate America because they love their country's national team instead of Team USA. What a dolt.

Usually, it involves a franchise with deep roots, but not always, because fan affinity simply can come from picking out a team without geography or tradition as major issues. Maybe someone is the great nephew of the Igloo's original Zamboni driver and despite never having been to Pittsburgh, always has rooted for the Penguins.

Again, I'm a passionate Seahawks fan. My reason for picking the team is stupid, and I accept that. But I follow them very closely and I don't see how I'm such a bad person for going to the game in St. Louis every year wearing as many logos as you can without resorting to Zubaz pants. It's not like I go around punching Rams fans in the face.

Hockey fans often are good-natured, tolerant and accepting of it.

But at what point do the fans of the "other" teams have it coming? At what point do they deserve to get grief?

If the answer does not involve alcohol, he's wrong.

Yeah, sometimes -- sometimes, not always -- the relocated fans of the "other" team might deserve it. When they cross the line to obnoxiousness. When they act as if they believe anyone who actually has deep-rooted affection for the area just fell off the turnip truck. When they act as if their new area's history didn't begin until they did the area the favor of moving there. When they come off as fans who might not even have cared as much about (fill in team name) when they lived in (fill in city) until they moved somewhere else and could flaunt their non-native status. And when they aren't smart enough to at least have an inkling that if rooting for the opposing team seems to reflect any of that, rather than simple and genuine affection for a team, they at least should be self-conscious.

That's when they have it coming.

Who the hell was sitting next to Terry Frei? I will say this about Denver sports fans: there are two types of them in the stands. There are informed fans that know their sport and there are fans that are there because somebody gave them the tickets. And it's painful. But as a transplant fan, you laugh at them, you do not erupt into violent outbursts. As a home team fan, you have to respect that somebody came into your building with the other team's jersey knowing what was waiting for them. But I have never - ever - known of a fan to act like this has been laid out. Drunk fans have it coming when they start insulting you, but even then you have to realize they're drunk. Half the fun of a drunk out-of-town fan is watching the ensuing security/usher scuffle when they get kicked out. That's just the way it is.

It's a gauche, lowbrow, unrealistic view, and I should be both more pragmatic and understanding of the All-American phenomenon. Embracing one team of mercenary athletes over another team of mercenary athletes is not the measure of commitment to a community. I know that. And I should know better.

It's still how I feel.

Oh, well you know you're wrong but there's no reason to change your view. Good thing you kept writing. You know, I don't particularly find the slam dunk to be worthy of a SportsCenter Top 10 highlight, Terry, but I keep watching and just wait until the next number. I don't fire up the Blogger to seethe about it.

Those "visiting team" fans deserve it when they're obnoxious transplants whose retained childhood or family-roots sports loyalties are part of a more aggravating bigger-picture attitude.

That attitude can be summed up as a complete lack of sensitivity or concern about how galling it all can be to natives who in their course of everyday life are reminded at every turn that 87 percent of their metro area can seem to be made up of transplants.

87% of any one metro area doesn't care that much about one particular sport. I would be surprised if you can find 87% of any given metro area that speaks the same language. But they sure can root against the home team!

We're a mobile society. I don't live in my native area, either. There's nothing "wrong" with moving somewhere, whether reluctantly for work reasons or even because you patented the greatest invention in the history of the world (the ATM card) and decided that moving into a Bel Air mansion was the way to go, and then retaining sports franchise loyalties.

But …

It's so aggravating to have to put up with folks who act as if the history of the area, especially when it's an area those folks have chosen to move to, didn't begin until they moved there.

Again, this seems as if one person that Terry Frei ran into acted like this. I'll lay it out like this - Tampa Bay came into being in 1987 and ceased to be in 1991. Because I didn't root for the only local team - the Buccaneers. Who thinks like this? Is there any one transplant fan that you know of that could possible think like this?

Believe it or not, there are some Southern California natives. A few, not many. Some of them are hockey fans who, depending on their ages, grew up on the old Western League Blades or the Triple Crown line or the arrival of The Great One. There are Colorado natives, who not only remember when Wilf Paiement and Barry Beck were the cornerstones of the original Colorado Rockies, but also when Loveland Pass and not the Eisenhower Tunnel was the major way to get to the ski areas or to the Western Slope. There are Bay Area natives whose parents debated who was better, Willie McCovey or Orlando Cepeda, and who went to Sharks games in the Cow Palace. There are Hurricanes fans in the Research Triangle or Lightning fans in the Tampa Bay region who either are natives or decided to sign on and make the emotional attachments to the teams when they arrived.

Got it. So because I'm young AND I don't root for the home team, I'm a fucking moron. Get over yourself. You know who is the rude idiot in this situation? Terry Fucking Frei. I never considered how people got to the ski resorts before the Eisenhower Tunnel was built. So by wearing my Blues jersey to the Pepsi Center, I am pronouncing that Denver and all of the residents of Denver - of which only 13% have a different point of view that I do - can go fuck themselves.

It can seem like there are a lot of transplant fans in your area because instead of buying season tickets to see half a season of games, they get to see two or three games.

How come there are 14.2 million folks who have moved from those, ahem, more traditional hockey markets to Los Angeles or Denver or San Jose or Raleigh or Tampa -- yet there seems to be about 11 (eleven, period) folks who have moved from those "newer" hockey markets to, say, Boston, Detroit or Chicago?

Because who wants to move from Denver to St. Louis? Who wants to leave LA for St. Paul? Who wants to move from Tampa to Detroit? Who would want to live in Detroit period?

Why do folks move someplace, then spend 87 percent of their time bragging about how great the place they left was? If it's that important to them, why not move mountains, so to speak, to move back?

1) The Al-ighty -ollar. A job won't let them. Sorry that the economy moved your job, person from Chicago. Now you have to move to Oakland and root for the Warriors.

2) There are certain things that I miss about every place that I lived (Tennessee excluded). But I certainly don't pine for them during a hockey game.

How come the transplants with retained childhood athletic loyalties don't have any idea about how aggravating they can be? This might be the most significant point of all: They're the most aggravating when their attitudes come with the kicker beliefs that their friends who dare to switch their loyalties to local teams, or have rooted for the local team or teams all along, are saps.

Absolutely, there are fans in Raleigh who root for the Hurricanes -- except for the four times they play the Rangers.

But they're in the minority.

I would say it's more aggravating when a person stays loyal to their own team until the new one finds success, then they switch. But how is that aggravating? Isn't that what a fan is? I have endless loyalty to some of the worst franchises in the history of sport. I would never think of changing these if I were to move.

Again: I will concede there's nothing wrong with -- and it even can add spice to a game -- having good-natured fans of the "opposing" team in the seats, and hearing the teasing go back and forth. To various extents, it's part of the dynamic at every NHL game. Twenty guys wearing the winged wheel, with only Brian Rafalski from Michigan, going against the defending Stanley Cup champions, none of them native Californians, in the Honda Center? That does not set up a test for good Orange County citizenship. This involves selecting one group of mercenaries over another, not moving to one area and refusing to pay taxes or mind the laws because it's not the area named on the birth certificate. This is sports, not life. I know that.

And when did where the player is from enter this? Players also worship the -ollar. They also go through a drafting process that decides where they go unless they are J.D. Drew. If you're a pro, you don't get a choice in where you go unless your childhood team is in the market for what you are.

But: Sometimes they've got it coming.

And sometimes, you realize that you just read something that a man was paid to write. One bad moment in his life has just been poured out in front of all of us, and we had to pay for it in this awful article.

Yeah, transplant fans would be annoying if they were ANYTHING like they are made to act like in this column. But they aren't. I can't imagine that a normal person would ever think that local sports never existed without them there. The best part about mocking the home town is when you know about the past of the franchise and can bring up that the Nashville Predators have a banner celebrating the first time they made the playoffs because they never have won a playoff series. What this whole article boils down to is that one single person made this terrible impression on this writer, and now a giant wave of incorrect stereotypes came flooding down upon the rest of us. This article didn't need to be written, but Terry Frei felt it necessary to tell us why he leads a better life than I do.

I hope he gets moved to Memphis. Enjoy the Grizzlies, assclown.

This Is Nitpicking. Or Is It?

I like reading things that have a nice, smooth flow to them.

It's hard to explain what I'm talking about.

I mean, I'm not (nor will I ever be) a good writer.

But I can tell you that when an article contains too many one sentence paragraphs, it becomes annoying to read.

Choppy formatting is distracting.

When two sentences are about the same general idea, it's ok to let them touch each other.

They're not going to cancel each other out or something.

Do you know what I mean?

Bill Plaschke sure doesn't.

Five minutes into spring cleaning, and Matt Kemp and I are already having a fight.

"I'll buy," I said, holding out my credit card to the man working the cash register at Mack Daddy's, a soul food place next to his gym on a cluttered street.

"No, no, no," he said, pulling out a large bill to pay for his food.

"Listen," I said. "I buy for young players. I always have. When you make the big money, you can buy mine."

"No, dude," he said, firmly. "I can pay my own way."

He gets a plate full of catfish nuggets. I get a side dish of insight.

Five minutes into spring cleaning, and already I like Matt Kemp better than last year.

What seemed like clubhouse defiance is now calm confidence.

That deer-in-the-headlights look has become an unfettered focus.

"Last year when I heard that trade talk, I got really scared," Kemp said. "I wanted to call Ned Colletti and say, 'Please, please, let me stay.' I love the fans. I love my friends. I love the Dodgers.' "

He shakes his head with a relieved smile.

"Now that I'm still here, it's time to show Los Angeles how much fun we can have by staying together," he said. "It's time to make some history."

The Dodgers listened. The Dodgers bought. Now the entire Dodgers nation will be watching.

Matt Kemp will pay his own way?

The Dodgers' season depends on it.

Their unwillingness to deal him prevented them from obtaining this winter's top traded pitchers -- Johan Santana, Erik Bedard or Dan Haren.

The Dodgers believe that by keeping his cannon in the middle of their lineup, Kemp would blow enough smoke to shroud the hole at the top of their rotation.

"The Dodgers had an opportunity to move him," said Dave Stewart, Kemp's agent. "But they see the value."

Kemp saves them money. He saves them angry questions from fans who want to see the Dodgers kids grow together.

Now Matt Kemp has to save the season.

I'll cut him a break for the dialog he shared with Kemp because that exchange is best captured with multiple paragraph breaks. But even if you exclude that little segment, you've still got ten paragraphs with exactly one sentence in this part of the article. Most of the other paragraphs have two. (The rest of the article isn't much different.) As my extremely obnoxious and over the top intro demonstrates, that's a pain in the ass to read. I have no idea why Plaschke gets paid to put his thoughts into words. I guess the world needs both Gods and clods. Plus, someone on Around The Horn has to occasionally out-moron Mariotti, right? Feel free to leave comments in
Bill Plaschke's style.

Oh No She Didn't

I'm not saying it's good. I'm not saying it's enjoyable. I'm not saying it contains logic that is more than 60% sound. And I'm certainly not saying that after having read it, I'm considering changing my stance that she should be deported to Nepal and legally prevented from using a computer. But I think Jemele Hill just wrote a somewhat inoffensive article. She even apologized for earlier creating one of the worst pieces of sports journalism I've ever seen.

Good for you, Jemele. Now quit while you're ahead.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Parity Is Great and J.A. Adande Is an Asshat

There are two kinds of articles I bitch about on this blog. First, you've got articles that are just plain wrong. These are the Eckstein-is-greats, the ARod-is-bads, and the Bonds-is-innocents. They should make you cry. Second, you've got articles that don't contain any objectively incorrect information, but are still very wrong. They should merely make you whimper. This, by J.A. Adande, is one such article.

Superstar trades put emphasis back on the games

Let's hear it for big, fat contracts. Money-money-money-monnn-ey -- MON-ayy. Dollar-dollar bills, y'all. Those salary-cap-killing, luxury-tax-inducing contracts -- envied by fans, cursed by owners with buyer's remorse -- are saving the NBA.

You can't wait for the playoffs to start. You have no idea who's going to win it all. And it's all thanks to economics.

In the past eight months, four All-Stars have switched teams and reconfigured three of the marquee brands in the NBA. In order, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol and Shaquille O'Neal were traded to the Celtics, Lakers and Suns because their old teams were tired of paying star salaries for scrub results.

Let us count the ways in which this article is wrong, so far.

1. Expensive contracts are not "saving the league," neither in the way Adande implies here nor in any other way. Sure, their existence has recently facilitated a flow of high-paid stars to popular/good teams. (As you'll see, his premise is basically that the league is better off when said teams have all the talent and "under the radar" teams, like their former teams, disappear into the background.) On the other hand, popular/good teams are just as susceptible to horrible contracts as anyone else. Why do the Knicks blow right now? Because (among at least fifty other horrible gaffes) a few years back they gave the untradeable and unplayable Jerome James an 11 year deal worth $290 million. What's wrong with the Bulls? Well, for one thing, they signed Ben Wallace to a disastrous contract two summers ago. For every Memphis who gives a Pau Gasol a monster deal and then has to send him away so they can look towards the future, there's a marquee/popular team that makes a devastatingly bad decision.

2. "You can't wait for the playoffs to start." If you didn't feel that way before these trades, you weren't an NBA fan in the first place. Douche. "You have no idea who's going to win it all!" This has been the case each and every year since Jordan retired the second time. So, for a decade or so.

3. These stars' old teams were "tired of paying star salaries for scrub results?" Maybe in Shaq's case. As for the other three- well, if you call their most recent seasons/half seasons with their old teams "scrubby," I'd like to hear what adjectives you'd assign to the 97% of the players in the league that aren't as good as these guys.

OK. *Deep breath* Good. This is going okay so far.

Their former squads aren't better off today. In fact, Seattle, Minnesota, Memphis and Miami have the four worst records in the league.

Let me introduce you, J.A., to some of the finer points of the "trade." You see, very few "trades" are made between teams that expect the same results from the deal in the same time frame. You alomst never see two teams trade players that are current stars. Same goes for swapping young players that have the potential to be stars somewhere down the road. Although they do happen in rare circumstances, trades like these don't make a ton of sense on the surface. Right? You see why, don't you? Unless it's a positional or change-of-scenery issue, why would a team trade a guy who's really good right now... for another guy who's really good right now? And why would they trade young guys with potential... for young guys with potential? That would be like trading eggs for eggs, or shoes for shoes. You make "trades" in order to acquire something you don't already have.

I'm wasting everyone's time. I know. Let's just leave it at this: despite being a professional journalist who primarily covers the NBA, J.A. Adande apparently has yet to grasp the idea that teams often deal current stars for young players. This is the basic format of the vast majority of significant trades to take place during the salary cap era.

I am slightly frustrated.

This wasn't about them trying to stay in the hunt for a championship. It's about them trying to stay out of the red in the Excel files.

It's about them acknowledging they were not going to win a championship in the next couple of years, and building for the future beyond that timeframe. Welcome to the wonderful world of professional sports franchises.

Top-to-bottom competitive balance is right where it belongs: in the trash can, next to the short shorts.

And here we have the main premise of the article, the main reason I am forced to conclude that J.A. Andande should be attached to a weather balloon and released into the atmosphere. I've read some bullshit in my life, but this sentence might take the cake. Let's see- which major pro sports league has the most year-to-year parity? That's right, those jolly fat fucks in the NFL, who have more money than they know what to do with right now. And how do people tend to respond to underdog success stories? My inside sources say they like them, and that there's a direct relationship between the amount of competitive balance in a league and the likelihood of such a story playing out. Why do salary caps exist in three out of the four major sports? Because otherwise we'd have four times as many Yankees and Red Sox running around, which would not be "good for the league(s)" no matter what anybody says. And finally, why does the NCAA limit the number of athletic scholarships schools can give out? Because having the Boise States of the world occasionally dance with the big boys is more exciting than having USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Alabama grab 150 out of the top 200 recruits every year like they did in the 40s/50s/60s/70s.

The league is better off with several superpowers battling it out among themselves, not with some unknown upstarts crashing the party.

Let's focus. I'll limit discussion to the NBA alone. Boy, I sure don't remember anyone being excited about Golden State's first round win over Dallas last year. Boring. Who likes an upstart, anyways? I find life more fulfilling when everything is extremely even-keeled and goes exactly according to plan all the time. Keeps my blood pressure down. Here is my ideal 2008 NBA playoffs: Don't even play the first round in the West or the first two rounds in the East. Celtics sweep Pistons in the Eastern finals. Lakers sweep Spurs and Mavs sweep Suns in the Western semis. Lakers sweep Mavs in the Western finals. Celtics and Lakers agree to split the championship and instead play 7 exhibition games against each other. Immediately following the playoffs, every team in the league has to send its top scorer and rebounder to one of the six teams I named here to make 2008-2009 even more exciting! I mean, exciting in an even-keeled kind of way.

Supreme teams are compelling and draw big ratings, as the New England Patriots just showed.

This is partially true, but I would argue that the pursuit of perfection angle was much more important than just the simple fact that the Patriots were a dominant team. If they had somehow dropped their week 1 game (farfetched, I know, considering they were cheating during it), and gone through the whole season without that magical zero in the "L" column, I'm willing to bet ratings would have been much lower. Still outrageously high compared to anything the NBA puts up, but relatively lower.

If the success of the rich must come at the expense of the struggling poor, so be it. Call it de facto contraction.

Apparently J.A. has a little Rush Limbaugh in him.

"There are too many teams," one All-Star said. "There needs to be, like, 20 teams."

That guy probably just said that because he hates road trips.

But because the owners won't give up that additional revenue and the players won't give up the extra jobs, we're stuck at 30. The best we can do is have the best players concentrated among a few elite teams.

Nevermind, you know, the fans of those teams. Are there millions of rabid Bobcats fans out there? No. Are you going to get stabbed if you tell someone in a bar in Memphis that you don't really give a shit about the Grizzlies? Probably not. But that doesn't mean those teams are irrelevant or not useful assets for the league and their home cities. I really don't give a deuce if Adande thinks the Sonics or T-Wolves or Hawks shouldn't be competing with the traditional powerhouses. I steadfastly refuse to believe it's harmful to the sport in any fashion when parity exists and when non-traditional teams see a little success from time to time. I know ratings suffer and the blogosphere erupts with contempt when something like the 2007 NLCS happens. You know what? If people are too fucking stupid to be interested in a given sport's playoffs unless a team with a lot of history is winning them, that's not my problem. Those kind of people can go play in traffic.

"The trades seem to have piqued interest," commissioner David Stern said.

This doesn't support your point, tinydick. These trades would have piqued interest no matter where the marquee players landed.

There's anticipation and unpredictability, the two things that make sports such compelling TV content.

If Ray Allen goes to New Orleans and KG somehow ends up on the Clippers? No anticipation or unpredictability whatsoever, I guess.

Anticipation and unpredictability sound a lot better than cynicism and skepticism, which was the general attitude toward the NBA last summer.

Hmmmm... let's jog our memories... why was there a lot of cynicism and skepticism aimed at the NBA by fans and analysts last summer? I was going to link the funniest looking Tim Donaghy and Isiah Thomas pictures I could find, but J.A. actually goes through the trouble of answering his own question in the next paragraph. How thoughtful. OK, fine, fuck it. I'll link the pictures anyways.

Those dark days seem so long ago they might as well be in black-and-white. A referee was found to have bet on NBA games and shared inside info with gamblers. A troubled young player had a fatal car crash. The No. 1 overall pick had season-ending surgery before he even played a game. The SuperSonics gassed up the moving vans. The Knicks went through a sordid sexual harassment lawsuit. It was all gloom and doom.

Not on this list:
Too much parity in league
Too many upstart teams having success
Elite players too spread out
Fans bored by lack of traditional dynasty
Too long since Lakers or Celtics have won title
Shawn Bradley no longer available to be hilariously dunked on

Although that last one damn well should be included.

Last year was one of the hardest years from a public relations standpoint," said former All-Star David Robinson. "To see how well the NBA has bounced back from some of that stuff last year … I don't know any league that could deal with that kind of stuff. Wow.

"The energy level is still great. Everybody is looking forward to the playoffs. It's still so much excitement."

So what happened? Sports happened.

What does that mean? How does it justify your point?

We should know by now that all it takes to restore faith and interest in a league is to play games. Make that, play games on relevant networks (two points lost on the NHL).

Apparently the NHL is no longer playing games. No wonder I haven't heard much about them recently. And apparently they willingly chose to take their games off NBC and ESPN. "Hey," Gary Bettman said to a board of league executives, "I heard this 'Versus' is the next big thing. Call up our current networks and tell them to stick their thumbs up their own asses. We're riding the wave of the future, baby."

Bring out the balls, blow the whistle and the problems go away.

And- make sure all the best players in the league end up on just a handful of teams. You forgot that part.

All they had to do was keep playing and wait for the emergence of a dominant team or two. There's nothing wrong with a little healthy hegemony. In the league's glory days in the 1980s, there was a nine-year stretch when the Lakers and Celtics won eight of the titles. So much for sharing the wealth.

Those were the "glory days" because of the kind of people I earlier said should go play in traffic. Ratings were up. Everyone talked about the Celtics and Lakers. Great. But was the level of play in the league and higher? Was there something more inherently interesting about the games? The NBA has and always will market its superstars ahead of its teams. And it just so happened that two of the biggest superstars of the 80s happened to play for two otherwise excellent teams in opposite conferences. But just because everyone back then said "Oh man, Lakers/Celtics ftw, kewlest yizz evr" doesn't mean things were any better. Having both the Yankees and Red Sox playing very well at the same time these days sure generates ratings and hype for MLB. But can you really say the sport is better because of it? Really? Look, I already said it, but if you need shit like this to get interested in a sport then you weren't really a fan in the first place.

There are more good teams now. At the current pace, a Western Conference team could win 50 games and still miss the playoffs.

This will not happen. I promise. And it doesn't prove at all that there are more good teams now. The Lakers and Suns were already going to win 50 games before their moves. Denver, Utah, Portland, and Houston have basically the same rosters they did in November. As long as "now" is referring to "since these big trades," which I'm pretty certain it is.

Before the All-Star Sunday the arena was buzzing with the renewed possibility of a Dallas-New Jersey deal. It turned this weekend's All-Star Game into exactly what it should be: an afterthought. An interlude. People are obsessed with trade talk, and with the state of Kobe's injured pinkie. (One way or another, it always comes back to Kobe). But that's where the focus should be. There's no sense wasting time wondering whether the East All-Stars can beat the West. Who cares? You don't want the exhibtions overshadowing the main event.

Most confusing paragraph in the whole article. The All-Star Game should be an afterthought to what? Trade talk? Injury speculation? Are those "the main event?" I sure hope not. But I thought the only thing the league had to do in order to make everyone happy was just get out there on the damn court and play with their balls while whistling. Now you're telling me we should be more focused on gossip and rumors. And does anyone else see the irony in Adande knocking the All-Star Game after forming a whole article around the idea that concentrating the elite players onto as few teams as possible is a good thing?

This game won't be more entertaining than that Suns-Warriors game Wednesday. There's no way it will be more tension-filled than Shaq's anticipated Suns debut this Wednesday.

Thank you for helping us make the connection that Shaq's debut this Wednesday is for the Suns during a Wednesday game this Wednesday which will be his first game with his new team.

It was telling that, for the first time in memory, Stern opened a news conference talking about basketball. Not collective bargaining negotiations, not television ratings, not legal proceedings. "We're awful pleased about the state of our game," Stern said Saturday night.

"The game looks terrific. It's open, it's fluid, there's more movement. And there are more shots. The fact that the shots go in is also good.

"People feel good about the state of the game and the way it is being played and coached and reffed."

The league rediscovered what matters most, the one thing the fans really care about.

"It's the game, it's the game, it's the game," Stern said.

I thought it was trade rumors, injuries, and Kobe.

Not all the league's problems have magically disappeared. What should be a full-fledged celebration of the hosting Hornets, the team atop the Western Conference, is tempered by the possibility they could leave town without increased fan support. And the Sonics are locked in litigation with the city of Seattle, doing their best to bolt for Oklahoma City.

The last time an NBA team left the Pacific Northwest for the South, it was Vancouver to Memphis … and look how that turned out. The Grizzlies are playing in a half-filled arena, having just dumped their best player in exchange for No. 1 pick bust and a rookie.

But why weep for the Grizzlies when you can wonder how far the Lakers will go with Gasol?

But why wonder about the Lakers when you can be interested in whichever team is your favorite? I realize my well documented anti-Yankees/Red Sox bias is dripping into the article, but it's doing so for good reason. It's comments like this that make me hate every single nationally popular team out there and sometimes make it difficult to cheer for my hyperexposed alma mater.

As J.A. suggests, I'm not weeping for the Grizzlies. It's their own fault they put together a shitty team and had to basically give away Gasol. But at the same time... I know this is hard to hear if you're an elitist fan of a big-market team that thinks because they're on TV more often than everyone else that they're special... I also couldn't give two craps about the Lakers. To wit, with my baseball comparison- do you think Joba Chamberlain should start 2008 in the bullpen or the rotation? If you're not a fan of an AL East team or a keeper league fantasy owner, the answer is "Who fucking cares?" Honestly. Your team has a rich history and a larger than average fan base. I get it. Now stop bothering me so I can learn about other stuff.

Sorry, Memphis. Sorry, Minnesota. Your losses are better for the league as a whole.

I think you mean, your losses are good for the Lakers and Celtics.

The on-court action is as good as you could ask for.

If you're a Laker or Celtic fan.

It's All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. Might as well grab a go cup and celebrate the good times.

You sound like you're drunk already.

J.A. Adande is the author of "The Best Los Angeles Sports Arguments."

1. What's the best way to enjoy a Dodger game- by showing up in the 3rd, leaving in the 6th, or both?
2. Which riot was more violent and unnecessary- the one after UCLA basketball's championship in 1995, or the one after the Lakers won the NBA finals in 2000?
3. Why the fuck don't we have an NFL team?
4. Who's going to end up as a bigger bust- Matt Leinart or Reggie Bush?
5. How fucking lame are the Angels and their fans for that "Rally Monkey" shit?
6. Why doesn't anyone think USC football qualifies as a "dynasty" this decade, even though they've grabbed a whole one national championships?
7. How do we get the Clippers to go back to San Diego?
8. What's the best object to throw on the field for no reason when you're drunk at a Dodger game?
9. No, seriously, why does the country's second largest city not have an NFL team?
10. Tommy LaSorda- fat or pregnant?

Much love to any LA-based fans or readers if they made it this far. You know I'm just messing with you. I pretty much hate everyone equally. Except Boston.

I'm Speechless

Jay Mariotti actually took the time to write this in his 24/7 online column. I couldn't be more shocked. I'll copy the entire thing here, and it's short. I refuse to link it for fear it may increase the number of hits this terrible terrible "sports" column gets.

Find your earplugs: Harrelson back

Jay is referring to the White Sox resigning Hawk Harrelson, the poor broadcaster, for the next several years.

Ensuring that illiteracy remains in the Chicago sports media for four more years, the White Sox have handed a contract extension to alleged broadcaster Ken (Hawk) Harrelson.

This is not a reason to write a column. You are abusing your privilege as a columnist for a personal attack. This as a premise for a column alone should be grounds for giving you a pink slip.

This means listeners in an otherwise sophisticated town will be punished with more hillbilly twang,

You heard it here first: Ken Harrelson is the only non-sophisticated thing in an "otherwise sophisticated town". Isn't this the city where some dude ran onto the field plastered to try to attack a first base coach with a knife in one stadium, while in the other people throw their garbage onto the field whenever the team plays bad late in the game? Are these "sophisticated" things to do? Walk around Wrigley Field in the 7th inning of a baseball game, and you'll see and hear just how "sophisticated" Chicago really is.

which is almost as embarrassing as Harrelson's .239 career batting average


and his short-term flop as the general manager who fired Tony La Russa.

He fired the guy who felt Aaron Rowand was a better late-game hitting option than Albert Pujols? Tony La Russa is not now, nor ever has been, a good Major League Baseball manager. And even if he were, managers don't do that much.

Now Jay, try to relate this bullshit to something actually about baseball.

When the Sox should be attempting to reinvent an organization that already has lost its World Series cachet, they instead try to stay the same.

I hate to admit it, but I actually agree with Jay here.

Ken Harrelson, WARBs (Wins Above Replacement Broadcaster) for the past 5 years.

2003: 3.2
2004: 2.1
2005: 0.4
2006: -4.7 (oh boy...)
2007: -10.4

So as you can see, it was the broadcaster who profoundly and negatively affected the team's performance in 2007 (and possibly costed them a playoff berth in 2006), and not aging players, regression to the mean, Jerry Owens, or, as Jay believed, Ozzie being crazy and stupid. It was all about Ken Harrelson being crazy and stupid. This organization has just doomed itself.

Harrelson doesn't bring in audiences as much as he scares them away or makes them cringe, whether it's throwing one of his dead-air fits, blaming every loss on the umps or lowering himself to pick fights with media members far more professional and accomplished than him.

Ooooh hooooh hooooooooooooooh! It gets juicy!

The fact behind this comment is that Harrelson allegedly tried to pick a fight with Jay Mariotti in the press box.

As much as I believe Harrelson to be a bad broadcaster now (he wasn't as awful say, 10 years ago), let's look at the facts here for a second!

Ken Harrelson played Major League Baseball. He was the General Manager of a Major League Baseball team. He has been the TV broadcaster for said team for 2 decades or so.

Jay Mariotti writes a sports column for a newspaper. Millions of people are aware of him, and I've yet to meet one who didn't dislike him. He is also often on a TV show that features 4 idiot blowhards trying to suck Tony Reali's dick for "points". Rarely does Jay do any real sports analysis, and has become famous simply for generating controversy.

Which person is more accomplished? Jay feels, the latter.

And this is lovely. Jay has just patted himself on the back for being "far more professional" than Harrelson in the midst of a newspaper column written solely to continue his personal vendetta against the man. Shades of hypocrisy!

Consider it one more reason, along with the extension given to Ozzie Guillen, that the Sox are locked in as Chicago's second-class ballclub for years to come.

It just wouldn't be Jay if he attributed the Sox' failures to something that actually plays baseball. You know, something that actually affects the outcome of the games.

Column over.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Reader Extra Participation Friday: That's Actually a Word

This isn't a direct quote but I've got the gist of it right. Earlier today on 1st and 10, Dana "I'm So Wasted" Jacobsen helped viewers understand one of the finer points of Roger Clemens's testimony from the previous day's congressional hearing.

"Clemens at one point claimed that his friend Andy Pettitte had 'misremembered' certain discussions the two of them had participated in years ago. We know some of you out there around the water cooler at work are wondering about that word. It turns out that it is indeed in the dictionary; it means to remember something incorrectly."

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! So THAT'S what it means. There's no way I could have possibly figured that out from context. Or from similar sounding words like "misunderstood," "misheard," "misspoke," "mistake," or any of the dozens of other words with "mis-" as a prefix. Thanks, Dana, for filling us in.

For Reader Extra Participation Friday, feel free to define any sports-related word/term in a way that comes off as insulting to anyone who's gotten past the 6th grade. For example:

Bounce pass- A real basketball term. It describes the act of sending the ball to a teammate ("passing" it) by bouncing it off the court and towards him or her.

Block- Shockingly, this is something that happens during a football game. Offensive players try to get in the way of defensive players, to "block" them from getting to various places on the field. They push or grab the defenders in order to do so.

Steal- One of baseball's more obscure acts. A player already on base attempts to move to the next base while the pitcher is throwing to the batter. If he is successful, it's kind of like he "stole" the base, because no one else on the offense did anything to help him get there!

Wrister- It doesn't get much weirder than this. It's actually a slang term for a type of hockey shot, executed mostly by flicking one's wrists in order to shoot the puck towards the opposing team's goal. Since you use your "wrists" to do it.... yeah, I know. It's messed up.

I know this is kind of weird, but it's the best I could come up with this week. Consider it a challenge. I'll be back next week with something easier, like coming up with adjectives that describe the quality of journalism Woody Paige usually creates.