Thursday, April 29, 2010

Remember When We Said Liriano Might Be Back?

You should.  It was just a couple of weeks ago, or so.  We were being cautiously optimistic; optimistic because Liriano pitched his ass off against the Red Sox.  Cautious, because he looked good at times as late as August last year, before collapsing and being sat down down the stretch.

But a couple of games can tell the tale, especially if you look past the obvious good indicators.

And let's be clear--Liriano hasn't had a three game stretch like the one he just had since he was the miracle worker in the latter stages of the 2006 season.  He started off with a ND in his first game, with 6 IP.  Since then he's gone 7 innings, 8 innings, 8 innings.  His ERA has dropped from 4.50 to 2.08 to 1.29 to 0.93.

But to me the important stats aren't just the innings pitched--hell, maybe Liriano was facing some free swingers, who generated their own outs.

On April 21, Liriano got to and finished the 8th inning against the Cleveland Insulting Native American Caricatures--he threw 102 pitches, 70 of them were strikes.  Of the 30 hitters he faced, he generated 24 outs and 19 were either strike outs or ground ball outs.  That's a great stat from a slider pitcher.

But he did better on the 27th against the Tigers--he got to and finished the 8th inning again, threw 112 pitches, 74 for strikes.  He faced two less batters, and of those 28, he struck 10, and induced 9 ground balls.

Liriano is officially back.  You know how I know?  Media sources outside the Twin Cities have taken notice that he's got a 26 inning scoreless streak going.

Old School Thursday: Public Enemy

Given the circumstances, what choice did I have?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pitcher to Look Out for: Luke Hochevar

A few years back, I watched a kid, 14 years old tops, throw out the first pitch in a Twins - Royals game.  And then he threw the next 95 pitches, and the Twins barely touched him.  A couple of years later, that pitcher, still 14 years old, won the Cy Young trophy.  His name was Zack Greinke. A few years before that, I'm sure Twins fans were cursing Travis Hafner way before any other team's fans were.  Because he was killing us.  And then he hit 34 homeruns, and everyone knew his name, and then he got hurt and the Indians imploded, but that doesn't take away from the fact that I feel like Twins fans know about great players laboring in the Central before a lot of folks do.  CC is another example--how did he only become a Yankee last year?  That guy fucked us up for years!  

I get that kind of feeling from Luke Hochevar.  His problem is that he's dealing with a much more talented Twins team, and maybe the worst Royals bullpen ever.  He's guaranteed ND's and losses when he is left out there because the Royals don't trust their bullpen, and leave their starter out there one inning too long.  

But this kid looks special to me.  

He's 26 years old; he's big (6' 5") and he's got a rocket arm--he hits 97 mph on the gun, and with Jason Kendall calling pitches, he's got a guy who is going to know the right pitch, and when to throw it.  He's already given the Twins some fits, going 1-0 in two starts.

He's not perfect, obviously--just last year he was a rather suspect 7-13 with a 6.55 ERA.  But watching the guy pitch makes me think that he may not be the next Cy Young winner for KC, but that he will have the kind of year that makes an AL East Team pay him buckets of money in a year or two.  You heard it here first.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I Guess Those are the New Tiny Transistor Radios That Also Make Calls

Or, just cellphones.  Get with it, Grampa!

Cruel & Unusual Punishment

Having endured the insults and injuries of playing for one of pro football's worst-managed teams, QB Jason Campbell was shipped off to the only team with a more self-destructive front office: the Oakland Raiders.

That is both cruel and unusal, QED:

It's a great deal for the Raiders, who can now start a talented and movitated quarterback. Campbell will surely be the best at the position since MVP Rich Gannon led them to a Superbowl loss. Since then, the Raiders record has been 29-83 and poor quarterback play was a significant factor.

What did the Raiders give up for this former #1 pick, aged twenty-nine, who has improved statistically every year? Only a 4th round pick in the 2012 draft. That is to say, absolutely nothing.

Campbell has endured criticism for a lack of bellyfire, awareness and decisiveness under pressure. He failed to bring Washington back in the 4th quarter, and never produced a signature win. However, the losses he commanded were the fault of terrible team management.

The offensive line was allowed to wither. Thus the running game broke its teeth and overwhelming pressure doomed their passing. The defense (despite being fully loaded with huge free agent stars) failed to produce turnovers or be dominant enough to win games on its own. Special teams were not a priority, and in the balance, lost more games than they won.

Campbell's story, in a rancid nutshell, demonstrates why Washington has become a punchline* in the NFL. Combine a kamikaze infatuation with big-name players past their prime, a revolving door of coaches, a singular disregard for team chemistry and an ignorance of a football team's foundation (i.e. the offensive line), the result is a culture of losing and a perception around the league that Washington is merely a place to get paid before moving on to a true contender.

Thanks to Snyder's incompetence and impatience, Campbell's career was stillborn; trading him to Oakland is like punching a dead fetus in the face.

As for Jason Campbell, his years of steadfast play have been rewarded. Not with a gold watch, but rather with a shit sandwich, extra mayo.

Sad to say, his prospects under Al Davis might be better than they were under Dan "Never Again" Snyder. That fact alone tells the whole story.

* best of the bunch:

Q: How are the Washington Redskins like possums?

A: They play dead at home and get killed on the road

Friday, April 23, 2010

Usain Bolt Doesn't Pick Argentina, But Will Root For Them

The man whose speed has made my calculator do more work than any sprinter since Michael Johnson happens to love soccer.

And Usain may be rooting for Argentina, but he doesn't love their chances, and who can blame him for that?  It is a team that is crazy-chock-loaded with talent but they barely made the tournament, and their problem is probably a coach whose name starts with a "M" and ends with an "aradona".

Bolt is rooting for Argentina, and but expects either Brazil or Spain to win.  And there, he shows his youth.  We all know that the more talented and favored Spain is, the more likely they are to crash out.  That's part of the fun with Spain.

Have we mentioned how geeked up we are for this World Cup?  We totally are.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Vikings and Chris Berman: Wha?

I didn't watch much of the draft, because, as I pointed out earlier, there was real TV to watch.

But I did catch the discussion on ESPN during the time that the Vikings were on the clock.  And it was strange.  The Vikings were probably happily surprised to find 2 of the top 3 QB's left.  An excellent RB, with some concussion issues, Jahvid Best, was still around.

I have been forced to watch a lot of Vikings, because I live in and love Minnesota, but I really hate the Vikings. But I know the Vikings--they could use a 2nd RB, and seeing as they are counting on a 41 year old QB to come back once again, it makes some sense to draft a young QB to learn the ropes from Favre.

Let's assume Brett Favre comes back to the Vikings--I think that is safe to assume, as safe as anything associated with Favre is, at least.  Steve Young wasn't so sure, and said that the Vikings should grab Jimmy Clausen.  Chris Berman reacted with borderline anger.  "You don't anger Brett Favre by grabbing a QB here!  You don't!  You want him to come back, right?"

The Vikings traded the pick to the Lions, giving the Lions a hell of a RB in Best.  But the main question is why does Chris Berman think that Brett Favre would be offended by the Vikings drafting a QB?  Brett Favre is in his early 40's.  I don't see it being a necessary thing that the rookie QB has to start right off the bat.  According to Chris Berman, the Vikings can't draft a QB without upsetting a 41 year old Grandpa who they want to play for them for one more year (and will pay him something along the lines of $12 million dollars for the pleasure?)

I just don't get the assumption that Brett Favre would go all bitchcakes over the Vikings drafting a QB.  The idea that Berman puts out there, frankly, seems incredibly stupid.  Why is this guy covering the draft?  Because he does.  But the Vikings may still draft a QB, with their top of the 2nd round pick that they got out of Detroit.  I won't be shocked if they do.  I think they looked at the board, and saw two first round QB's, and looked at the teams behind them (Indy, New Orleans) and knew that they could get Clausen or Colt in the second round, and thus save themselves a bunch of money.  The pique of a Grandpa doesn't figure into it, and the fact that Berman thinks it does marks him as stupid.  Not Mike Greenberg stupid, but stupid.

Quick Draft Hits

OK, so let's get this out of the way--it is a little surprising that Colt McCoy and Jimmy Clausen are both available, and that Tim Tebow is off the board.  I have my issues with Tim Tebow, mainly because I think he's a Stepford Wife-like, ignorant 100 CE Era Christian QB.

But Denver has a plan, yeah?  I see a 3-way battle for QB.  Remember two years ago, when this team had a young gunner and a young badass Wide Receiver?  I think Josh McDaniels is trying to hard to prove that Hard Workers can make a winning team.  Guess what?  They can't.  Hard work ain't near enough.  Hey Denver, you had super talented whiny babies out there winning at least 10 games!   Cutler and Marshall should have been the a locked in combo for a decade, and now Denver fans get Orton/Quinn/Tebow and Eddie Royal/Stoakley.  Good luck with that!   I put the over/under of the Josh McDaniels regime at 2012.

The Drunken Savages did their job, drafting a skilled, rife with potential OT.

I'm going to address the Vikings in a separate post, mainly because I don't get Chris Berman's take on the Vikings.  So let's just address the fact that the Packers are doing a great job of drafting guys who look like they were born to be Packers.  There was AJ Hawk, of course.  And this year?  Bryan Bulaga?  He's from Iowa?  Really?

Old School Thursday: Gang Starr Guru RIP Edition

I highlighted the raspy rhymes and bad-ass deck work of Guru and DJ Premier back in February.  But with Guru passing on this week, it seems like an acceptable time to repeat an act.  Guru was fucking Bad-ass, after all.  And while the Jazzmatazz series was cool, it was clear that Gang Starr were lightning in a bottle.  So we already highlighted Take It Personal.  This time around--Mass Appeal.  RIP, GURU. So it goes.


NCAA Staggers To the Abyss, Falls Backward

In the midst of the NFL Draft, NHL Playoffs, NBA playoffs, and early season baseball (and a new episode of The Mentalist on CBS!) the NCAA made an announcement that just lead to sighs of relief to everyone who love college basketball.

The NCAA is expanding--but only from 65 to 68 teams.  Details have yet to be announced, but I imagine it will be something like the bottom eight teams playing each other for the right to be the 4 #16 seeds.

I still have issues with it, especially since it is so obviously designed to add another 4 middling Big Conference teams into the 64 team tournament.  Teams that won't get blown out on Day 1, admittedly, but still have no real chance to win the whole thing.  No longer will our March discussions be about whether the #5 team in the ACC should go the Dance, but whether the #6 should.  EXCITING!

But still--better than the clusterfuck that the NCAA originally put out there.  We can all breathe a sigh of relief.  Our work pools are safe!

Daft Draft Draught

#1 Sam Bradford: this poor fellow is going to have his surgically-repaired shoulder torn out of its socket and shoved up his sideways every Sunday. The Rams have allowed 371 sacks in only eight years, an average of over 46 sacks per year. They haven't ranked better than 25th in protecting the quarterback since 2001. This pick is sadistic.

#2 Suh: He has to move to Detroit. And then he has to play for the Lions. I'm not sure which is the insult and which is the injury.

#3 McCoy: I can't believe another DT in a row is going, but I guess the Bucs really need him. Seems like first round DTs bust with regularity ... just saying.

#4 Trent 'Silverback' Williams! His versatility and athletic upside are why they chose him over the more polished Okung. They keep saying he needs to be coached an motivated. Uh-oh?

Washington now has three men named "Williams" on the offensive line.

Well, that's about the end of the draft for Washington, unless something crazy happens.

Questionable Tone at Yahoo Sports: Part 2, Tim Tebow

Yahoo Sports scribe Les Carpenter has decided that Tim Tebow's Christianity is somehow a massive issue in his draft status, despite noting in his own piece, "Several executives, coaches and league analysts say Tebow’s religion has not been a primary topic in meetings about him."  Later on, he says, "In the end someone will take him and take him high – higher perhaps than his ability dictates."  And yet, Les Carpenter is sure, despite his own conclusion and introduction, Tim Tebow is being unfairly judged because of his totally normal brand of religion.

Les Carpenter wants you to know from the beginning how ridiculous of a puff piece this is going to be.  Here's a chunk of his first paragraph, describing the young man from Florida:  "A selfless man. A man whose life is filled with stories of a goodness so rare and pure in an athlete it is hard to imagine that he could be for real."  I'm sorry?  Are we talking about a college QB who managed to not get laid at Florida, or Jesus Christ, QB?

Carpenter isn't done with his apologia, though. Consider:  "And Tebow’s views are hardly out of the mainstream in the NFL where a significant number of players consider themselves to be strong Christians. Just none of them are as audacious about it, scrawling scripture on eye black patches and speaking as loudly and eloquently about their faith."

Let's start with that last sentence first, because I'm guessing that's the one everyone reading goes, "Whah?" at.  Even the most casual observer of sports has noted that athletes tend to be very audacious about their Christianity.  They, almost 100% of the time, thank God for their abilities, for their teammates, etc.  The NFL is full of audacious Christians proclaiming their faith.  Are they scrawling scripture on their eye black patches? No, not so much, because (let's get to the first sentence I quoted) Tim Tebow is way outside the Christian mainstream.

How do I know?  Because his dad, who drives traffic to his site by proclaiming his ministry to be that of the father's of Tim Tebow, is way outside the mainstream.  Consider--Bob Tebow believes that the Bible is 100% Accurate.  That's crazy talk.  That's Noah was real.  That the first people on the planet were Adam and Eve.  Which by default means the Tebows don't believe in evolution, and that, presumably, homosexuality is punishable by death (Leviticus!).

Here's Bob Tebow on the inerrant nature of the Bible: "The entire Bible is God-breathed... Because God never lies, His Word is completely true. This means that Scripture is without error (inerrant) to the degree it represents the original manuscripts. We believe that the original manuscripts are completely free of error, and God has preserved the Bible so that it remains authoritative."

That right there? Outside the Christian mainstream, no matter what Les Carpenter casually asserts--maybe Les Carpenter should do some research?

Maybe he has done so, and just hasn't shared the results, because he seems quite sure that Tim Tebow lives "an exemplary life in which he has undoubtedly improved the welfare of many people in the Philippines."  How has Tim Tebow undoubtedly improved the welfare of a country that is 85-90% Catholic?  By converting them to his special brand of Evangelicalism?  Or did he also improved the infrastructure of Manila, and I just didn't hear about it?  Tim Tebow, we are told, undoubtedly improved the Philippines.  And yet, here I am, doubting it.  Why do I doubt?  Because as a godless atheist, I enjoy things like "examples" and "evidence."

When Tim Tebow finally gets his cock sucked, I bet he'll be lying back with his wife going to work, and he'll think, "Hey, this feeling reminds me of that Les Carpenter article."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Questionable Tone at Yahoo Sports: Part 1, Big Ben

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports has an article out on the Steelers exploring a trade for their just-barely-escaped a rape charge QB, Ben Roethlisberger.  The tone is curious.  For fun, compare it to Dave Zirin's piece from earlier this week.

Take the lede:  "The most damning character assassination of Ben Roethlisberger in the wake of sexual assault allegations against him, an incident that earned him a four to six game NFL suspension Wednesday, didn’t come in that salacious 527-page Georgia police report."

"Character assassination" is a phrase usually reserved a person whose character is being unjustly maligned.  That's not the case here.  And you know what?  The 527 page report isn't salacious--the actions of the person being described in that report are what is salacious (and that's being kind, frankly).

Here's how I would have edited that lede, if I were in charge over there:

"The most damning character assessment of Ben Roethlisberger in the wake of sexual assault allegations against him, an incident that earned him a four to six game NFL suspension Wednesday, didn't come from his actions as detailed in an exhaustive 527-page Georgia police report."

Change two words, and you get a much clearer image of what is being talked about here.  Why Dan is dancing around the issue, I don't know.

That tone continues, continually making a rape charge that didn't quite have enough evidence sound like just a Boy Who Won't Settle Down.

Consider:   "[The Steelers management is] so concerned Roethlisberger isn’t going to suddenly settle down with a nice girl and live a quiet life that they are willing to cut bait with a franchise quarterback – the most prized possession in the NFL."

Let's be clear--The Steelers don't care if Ben has crazy sex out of wedlock--threesomes, glory holes, who gives a fuck.  They don't care if he gets married.  They care about whether he might get accused of RAPE again.  There's a clear difference there, yeah?

But Wetzel suggests that some of Ben's decisions that night were good ones:  "He had a designated driver and security team in tow. He got pictures of him drinking erased. Those are actually mature decisions."

Indisputably, having a designated driver is not immature.  Calling that mature might be strong, but we'll take what we can get.  Having a security team in tow might be mature--unless you are using that security team to isolate one drunk girl from her friends, which is what Ben did.  Someone will have to explain to me how having photographs of you being immature erased counts as maturity.  It certainly sounds pragmatic, but it doesn't wow me with The Maturity.  Ben doesn't want to be drunk on Deadspin again--huzzah, mature Ben.

The tone continues throughout.  Even at the end, here's how Wetzel wraps up:  "And their actions are saying they have doubts this is the last we hear of Ben Roethlisberger getting in trouble, that this is a bad dude, not a good guy, who got jammed up one night in Georgia."

Jammed up?  That's an overly nice way of describing a narrowly escaped rape beef.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

NFL Draft, Or: Oh, Mike Greenberg, You So Crazy

This morning, prior to leaving for work, I was watching Mike and Mike (I know, I know) and "Greenie" said something that I find highly dubious.

He predicted that the first round of the NFL Draft (In case you haven't heard somehow, the First Round is on in Prime Time on Thursday night) would win the ratings battle for the evening.  Co-host Mike Golic was a bit more circumspect, saying that he had to know what was on before he made that prediction.

I predict "No way, Jose", for a couple of reasons.

A lot of the people who look at numbers, but don't really look much beyond the first blush (like, say Mike Greenberg) see this as an easy prediction for Greenie to make.  Last Year's draft drew 36.7 million viewers.  On a Saturday afternoon!  Why, on prime time, it will draw at least twice as much!

But think about it for a second.  That 36.7 million viewers was a total made up of the entire five hours (Rounds 1 and 2) of Saturday coverage.  The draft Thursday night won't be anywhere near as long, because it is only the first round.  Let's be fair and assume that a lot of those viewers were checking in on the first round.  Let's say that 25 million people were eyeballs during the first round.  That might be generous.

Last Thursday night, the lineup on the five "major" (that includes The CW) networks combined for 33.6 million viewers just from 7-8 pm eastern.  Most of that was Survivor and Bones (almost 4 million were watching a rerun of the Office, though).

Let me put it another way--last week, CBS in three hours of prime time, grabbed 36.65 million viewers--that includes, for some reason, almost 12 million people for a rerun--a RERUN--of The Mentalist.

That's one thing--those five hours of coverage generated big numbers, but only in the context of 5 hours of draft coverage, not for primetime Thursday night fare.

Here's the other side of that coin--the Draft last year was competing against infomercials and maybe a baseball game on your local Fox affiliate.  It has purposefully moved itself to face real competition.  I personally think that's a horrible idea.  They owned one Saturday in April, and now they are trying to make it 2 evenings in April.  That's overreach.

For the first hour of the draft, it will be going against all new episodes of FlashForward, Community & 30 Rock, Survivor, and Bones.  At least on the East Coast and Central Time Zones.  On the West Coast, you'll have your choice of new episodes, or the last third of the first round, as it starts at 4:30 your time.  Are people  in San Francisco leaving work early to see who the 49'ers draft?  I tend to doubt it.  Oh, and LeBron James and Derrick Rose will be going at each other on TNT, as will Kobe and Kevin Durant.

Why does this matter?  Who gives a shit about the ratings about the NFL Draft?  Well, to some degree, I do. Because I think this is a chance for the NFL power structure to get the shot across the bow it so desperately needs.  The NFL is clearly convinced it can do no wrong; that NFL fans will swallow anything the NFL spoon feeds them.  I think this is the one of the few times left it might get proved wrong before they rush headlong to the player lockout they desperately crave.

I'm not rooting for the draft to fail on prime time, but I think it will.  I don't think it will lose to the Vampire Girl Show on the CW, or anything, but anyone who thinks the Draft will win the night is living too much in the sports world.  Given the option, would you rather listen to Steve Carell and Joel McHale make jokes, or Chris Berman and Mel Kiper, Jr?

I predict a huge percentage of the folks who plunked themselves down in front of their TV on a Saturday afternoon for a few hours (like I have done, for the past few years) will do what I will do on Thursday night--watch their favorite shows, and during a commercial break, flip over to ESPNews and check out the Bottom Line to see who their team picked.  And suddenly, when given a choice of entertainment and something that isn't really all that entertaining to watch, will wonder "Why the fuck did I watch this shit last year?"  The NFL might take a step back and say, "Oh wait, our piddling Human Resources minutiae isn't the most important thing in the world?  Good to know."

Nice work, NFL.  You fucking dummies.  And nice predicting, Mike Greenberg.  You are my least favorite dummy of all.

Zirin Gets After Big Ben

David Zirin tells it like it is:

Now [Commissioner Roger Goodell] will show the world whether violence against women matters less to the NFL than violence against dogs. In a league where an accepted culture of sexism exists from the cheerleaders to the commercials, to the locker room, Goodell better choose wisely. Women make up the fastest-growing sector of NFL fans. For far too long, they have been treated as if they were invisible or worse. It's not too much to ask that the NFL send a message that misogyny and violence against women is not acceptable under any circumstance and a 28-year-old quarterback getting underage women drunk for bar sex will not be seen as "boys will be boys."

Go read the whole thing.

TO Rumors

I don't really think it's going to happen, but my favorite team is still owned by an impetuous Schneider. There are rumors that brand-new QB Donovan McNabb, of all people, is pushing for Washington to pick up WR/twat Terrell Owens.

Washington, thanks to a history of crap free agent signings, has the fewest draft picks in the NFL again. Which means that any immediate talent can only come from trades or free agency.

I can't even begin to explain how stupid bringing in TO would be. While Shanahan has identified WR as a position of need -- a need I believe is exaggerated -- nothing would sink Washington's pre-wrinkled prospects faster than bringing in the most divisive player in NFL history.

I just went Philly fan all over my computer.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

One Year In, And It is Called the Haynesworth Debacle

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports has an article detailing all the ways the Redskins made love to the pooch when they signed Albert Haynesworth in the way that they did.  

It is an interesting look, with insights from a half-dozen NFL executives.  It is interesting for legitimate reasons that the Redskins really truly did screw up, and it is also a look into what NFL executives consider negatives.

I consider this quote to be hilariously hypocritical, but it is here in the context of the article that this is considered a genuine reason to reduce the value of a player:  " Add it up and you had a talented player who appeared to be motivated by money and wasn’t afraid to sound off about the message or direction of the team that employed him."

Oh noes!  An employee with opinions and who is motivated by his salary?  That sounds like EVERY EMPLOYEE EVER.

But that said, the Washington Drunken Savages clearly screwed up, with a ridiculously front-loaded contract.  Almost a third of the $100 million dollars (which is a comically large amount to begin with) has already been paid out.   

It is an interesting read, if somewhat painful for us Washington fans.  

Philly Fans: Unique Social Protest

Although originally from Deadspin, and mentioned briefly on this site, the tale of the Phillies fan who used his own vomit to express derision is simply too ... chunky ... to flush away.

To rehash, an unruly fan at a Phillies game was upset to witness fellow fans getting tossed for merely swearing and spitting on an 11 year old girl.

To protest this injustice, Mr. Matthew Clemmens snuck up behind the girl and ... well let's let her father Mr. Vangelo explain it:

"He leaned forward, he projectile vomited all over me and my daughter," Vangelo said with a look of hurt splashed across his face.
As a means of social protest, puking has an unrecognized history. Few people know that Gandhi advocated vomit as a cornerstone of nonviolent resistance. Unfortunately, he tried to implement this after his hunger strike, and the effect was muted.

I predict that the Protest Puke will be added to the arsenal of those who dare speak truth to power. Mr. Clemmens, you will forever personify the Philly fan. You shall be enthroned in the pantheon of athletic supporters.
Better get a bucket.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hey, that's a Good Goal, Maicon

When you start evaluating World Cup talent, keep in mind that this play comes courtesy of one of Brazil's right marking back.  Go ahead and imagine Jonathon Spector doing this.  Go ahead.

Some Dick Steals Olympic Hero's Xbox

Not cool, random dick.  You are breaking Steve Holcomb's heart:

 "I have a 1990 Honda Accord, a simple Netbook, a bunch of clothes, and an Xbox. What I have lost is equivalent to losing your house, and all the furniture inside. This is devastating, I'm a huge gamer without a game."

(first seen on Kotaku)

Less Shocking Than It Should Be News

NJ man purposely vomited on Phillies fans

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Francisco Liriano Might Just Be Back

In the early days of this blog (May 2006) we talked about a great fireballer in the bullpen of the Minnesota Twins named Francisco Liriano.  Shortly thereafter, he became a starter, and then got injured, and hasn't been the same since.

But today, against the Boston Red Sox, Liriano reminded everyone, me included, just how devastating he can be if he has confidence in all of his pitches.  Of course, I was equally optimistic in August of last year, right before Liriano was benched.

But today's stats feel important.  ESPN is paying attention to the Twins, which is almost scary--national media?  Us?  What the fuck?

But ESPN, with their number-crunchers, provided some sweet, sweet data to mull over.  Consider:

Liriano had 8 strikeouts--7 of them, the final strike was on the slider.

But he used the fastball to set up the junk.  In fact, despite the power of his slider, he used it at the right times.  Boston was 1-12 against non-fastball pitches.

And once ahead in the count, Liriano didn't buckle or lose his focus--again according to ESPN, Boston batters went 1-9 when even or behind in the count.  First pitch strikes, bitches!

Liriano has gone up and down a lot, but he's all of 26 years old.  He has a chance to be the most dominant 5th pitcher that any team has ever had.  Keep your eyes on him.  If he's back, for real, the Twins have the best starting rotation in the MLB.

God Bless This Mess!

I'm working on updating our template to make it more HD video compatible, so, for example, the volume controls on YouTube videos actually appear on screen.  Our template was designed with a bunch of negative space, and I'm dicking around with the numbers in the HTML code to expand our used space.

When it comes to HTML, I'm a very advanced beginner.  But when it comes to the rest of the jackanapes who occasionally post on this blog, my computer skills are not unlike Alan Turing's.  So bear with me.  With any luck, you'll see this blog in a nice wide-screen format, and you'll just think, "Damn, this is all wide and shit."

But if you join us and you think, "Damn, this shit is all janky and shit.", let me know.  I've got a widescreen monitor, and I'm never sure what I'm seeing is going to work for everyone else.  You can drop a line at .  Thank you, and God Bless This Mess.

Old School Thursday: EPMD (featuring LL Cool J)

England is a Pussy Country That Has To Simulate Height

Hear me, ya pussy-ass Limeys?

American soccer players don't need special nighty-night time bed tents that simulate high altitude. Because we have fucking mountains, bitches!

As of today, I'm demanding that all US Soccer players get sent to Colorado, then sunk into a deep pool and fed oxygen poor air for the next 4 weeks.  We'll come out of that with super lungs, and muscles used to increased resistance.  Running in thin air will feel like nothing at all after that!

To summarize:  British soccer players are pussies.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Double Downwich Horror

By now, you've heard about the new sandwich from KFC, the Double Down, in which the bread (stupid bread) has been replaced with fried (or for you health nuts, grilled) chicken.  It is basically the sandwich that Tracy Morgan tried to market on 30 Rock a couple of seasons ago*.

I mention it mainly because I'm so proud of my (yes, MY!  MINE!  MINE!) pun referencing HP Lovecraft's classic tale of horror, "The Dunwich Horror"  See what I did there?  But seriously.  Look at this thing.  That breaded chicken filet is the top of the sandwich!

(image via  Foodbeast, which is an awesomely disturbing website)


30 Rock - The Meat Machine | Movies & TV |

Non-Pharmacological Baseball Innovation

This is neat--some super dorks at Northeastern University have come up with a prototype of a wearable computerized shirt that would track a pitcher's biometrics in the real world (like in a spring game, or in the bullpen).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hey! Where's The Beef?

If you have a hankering for some salty & chewy "Big Ben's Beef Jerky" you are out of luck.

Pittsburgh-based PLB Sports has stripped the Steelers QB of his lucrative beef jerky sponsorship.

Next thing, you'll hear that McDougal's is going to cancel their "Double Rapistberger."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Peter King, Insightful as Ever

"Watched "Julie and Julia'' for the second time over the weekend, and for the second time I was transfixed. What a movie.  Meryl Streep's got to be the best actor/actress of our day."


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cowboys Stadium Rent Asunder By Angry God

It's about goddamn time this shitty stadium, featured in shitty TV shows like Dallas, experienced the pure wrath of righteous condemnation.

Rumor has it, Jerry Jones buried dozens of his original bodies (called "husks") under the stadium to be hidden forever.

p.s. the smoke forms the image of two cowboys fellating each other.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Atlantic Is Rooting For Tiger

They have 5 reasons, but mainly provides me another reason for why I don't get my sporting news from The Atlantic.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Old School Thursday: Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth

Enjoy--From Mecca and the Soul Brother

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Manchester United vs. Bayern Munich--Hope You Watched

There's really only a few things to say about that game:

1.  How awful, tentative, and flat-out scared Bayern Munich played for the first 40 minutes of the game.  They were down 3-0 (4-2 aggregate), and deserved to be.

2.  Sir Alex Ferguson, Knighted or not, is full of shit:   "Young boy, bit of inexperience. They got him sent off. Everyone sprinted towards the referee -- typical Germans. You cannot dispute that, they are like that."  Sir Alex is defending his young right back Rafael, but let's be honest--no one got Rafael sent off but Rafael.  He committed two egregious Yellow Card worthy fouls, miles from his own goal, for no good reason, and both seemed born out of petulance.  You get knocked over, and lash out a leg to trip the guy who knocked you over?  Yellow Card.  You get beaten off the dribble, and in response, reach out, and pull the guy's arm back in full view of everyone?  Yellow Card.  And tough shit if you are a dummy and that's your second.  Hit the bricks.

3.  Don't know how long this video will be around, but there will be other versions (possibly ones featuring commentary instead of Blur (though I have no complaints about Blur)). (Update:  New version now, with commentary)  This was the game-winner, and a more stunning and more technically impressive goal you will not see any time soon. It is hard to strike a ball this well when it is rolling slowly to you, nice and perfect.  Catching it out of the air, on a high arc, and stroking it like this?  Very few folks in the world would try this, much less make it a designed play, much much less deliver with a result.  Enjoy:

Rampant Horndogging + Dead Dad's Voice = Marketing Gold!

Proof that no matter what the courts say, corporations are not human beings.  Also, neither is Tiger.  David Zirin just Facebooked, "He is no longer a human being. The brand has won the battle for his soul. All around: beneath contempt."

I could not agree more.  I mean seriously, who suggests making this advertisement.  And what kind of person agrees to make a commercial in which they are helping to sell things using their "repentant" image, by taking their dead father's words out of context.  If this is someone on the road to healing, I'm Florence Nightingale.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Holy Shit!

While leading the Philly Eagles, Donovan McNabb torched Washington over the last decade. As of today, he is the new starting QB for my favorite team.

Totally unexpected. I'm in shock, and simply don't know what my feelings are yet. This not only changes my team, but it flips the entire division on its ass.

McNabb is on my team? That's like dogs and cats, living together.

So much for Shanahan's calm, deliberate building of a foundation through patient drafts and player development.

We have five months to chew on this and all of its implications. But I can definitely say that, for the first time in a long time, I will be looking forward to playing against the Eagles.

Holy shit! I mean that most sincerely.

Target Field

Sure, the process for getting Target Field was lengthy, and it probably should have been built on a bigger piece of land, and the funding for a retractable roof would have been a good idea, and I would have liked it if it hadn't been built with as much public money as it was.  But then again:
(photo courtesy of Garwood B. Jones)

Fuck You, Dick Vitale

I know Dick Vitale loves all things Duke, but that doesn't mean he has to dismiss how Butler got to the final game of the NCAA Tournament.  Which is exactly what he did.

Following the Duke victory, Dick was talking about the match-up, but managed to damn Butler with faint praise--I'm paraphrasing, but it went something like this--"Butler--it's a heck of a story.  They beat Syracuse, who was without Onuaku, and then they beat a Michigan State without Kalin Lucas!"

That's funny, for any number of reasons.  I like to list them just to drive me extra crazy.

1.  Syracuse had run through the field without Onauku up until that point, including a pretty impressive destruction of a good basketball team in Gonzaga.

2.  Michigan State beat Tennessee without Kalin Lucas.  They also beat Northern Iowa.  They also beat Maryland, with Kalin Lucas going out early in that game.  So, Michigan State had been pretty formidable without him.  Korie Lucious had played well throughout the tournament--after all, they were a Final Four team.  And sure, they didn't have to face Kansas or Ohio State or Georgetown, but that's not their fault, and it surely isn't Butler's.  
3.  Dick apparently forgot all about Butler's win over a 100% healthy, well-regarded Kansas State team.  He certainly didn't mention it, when tacitly suggesting that Butler has had an easy road to the Championship.

4.  Speaking of pretty easy roads--Duke beat the Arkansas Pine Bluff, California (5 losses in the awful PAC-10), a Robbie Hummel-less Purdue, and maybe got a little help from the officials in knocking off Baylor.  I'm not taking anything away from Duke's victories, particularly tonight's, as they have looked impressive.   But let's agree that to dismiss Butler for having beaten a #12, a #13, #1, #2, and a #5 to get to the final seems unfair, as Duke has beaten a #16, #9, #4, #3, and #2.  That seems comparable and fair to me, and not just a series of lucky breaks for Butler.  

5.  To summarize:  fuck you, Dick Vitale.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Our Reader Knows His Stuff

Here's commenter Trot Nixon's Hat repudiating my predictions--and you know what--he was exactly right.  Kudos, TNH!

"Butler - Quick to the ball, offense isn't concentrated in too few hands. They can survive off games from their top players. MSU? This is the kind of game where the loss of Kalin Lucas will show up, big time.

Duke - This is a big if, but I think they're due for it, since it hasn't happened yet - the Big 3 actually are the Big 3 for them. WVU has the better athletes, but they can't score enough points if the Big 3 are hitting.

The more worrisome factors in this game for WVU? The Plumlees and Zoubek. WVU doen't field a player over 6'9". They are going to get beat up on the interior. If Duke rebounds like they did against Baylor, WVU just won't be able to hang."

Final Four Predictions, For What They Are Worth*

Okay, sure--I hit less than a coin flip over the course of the Elite Eight.  But I've got a really good feeling about my predictions for here on out--at least in part because I'm longer influenced by what I want to have happen so I can win a lot of money.  Stupid Duke ruined that last weekend--so now, with clear eyes, and a strong heart, I'm ready to predict without my own fortunes hanging in the air above me.

First I have to mention two great moments made by the real sports writing press.  One, as referenced in this Yahoo Blog post, is John Feinstein of The Washington Post ripping apart the one argument the NCAA was using for their stupid, stupid, stupid expansion plans.  Also, AP Writer Eddie Pells, in an article contrasting Duke and West Virginia chooses to open with a reminder to the world of what a douchebag Bob Huggins is, and I applaud him for that: (emphasis mine)

"On one bench, there’s Bob Huggins, a coach who has dealt with an NCAA investigation, suffered a heart attack, been arrested for DUI, endured the stain of a zero-percent graduation rate and the tumult of two contentious job changes."

Let's be clear, though--Bob Huggins didn't "endure the stain"--he fucking caused it.  He's a bad man, who recruits players and leaves them when they no longer have any use to him.  

So, with that said, let's go to the Duke - West Virginia match-up.  Shooting, as obvious as a stat as there is, might be the difference.  West Virginia dispatched Kentucky, in part, with an incredible performance from outside the arc.  That isn't their usual game, though.  They are all about size and getting baskets close to the rim, and offensive rebounding.  Duke will be undersized, compared to West Virginia, but they do have folks who are much more dangerous from outside.  Who shoots better is going to be a big stat in this game--normally Duke would be the favorite here, but they are to find themselves dwarfed at a lot of positions.  

In my brackets and in my predictions, I've had Duke exiting prior to the Sweet Sixteen, at the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite 8--I've devalued them at every turn.  And so I feel weird picking against them again.  But I like West Virginia to win a game that has a chance to be dominated by big men--West Virginia is deeper, more tenacious and more skilled in the paint than Duke.  Also, I hate Duke.  

Butler vs. Michigan State is a fun #5 vs #5 match-up--neither of these teams, by those seedings, should be here.  But I think it fair to say that Butler was criminally under-seeded--they had won, what?  20 games in a row?  They haven't lost to an unranked team since December.  And in this tournament, they've knocked off Syracuse and Kansas State.  

On the other hand, Michigan State is clearly packed with better athletes (just like Syracuse and Kansas State were).  I think Butler's defense has been the least-talked about factor in this tournament.  But here's the thing--Butler has thrived by making high-flying transition teams play ugly, muck it up basketball.  Michigan State loves to play that style, too.  Tom Izzo has had a week to prepare for this game, and he's clearly the genius of College Basketball.  As much as I want to pick Butler, and I really, really do, I'm going with Michigan State.  But it is going to be frightfully close.  

Your predicted Championship Game is West Virginia vs. Michigan State.

*They are worth nothing

Friday, April 02, 2010

Shanahanigans: A Pattern Forming

Coach Mike Shanahan has a well-deserved reputation as a coach so skilled, he can plug any RB into his zone-blocking scheme and they'll gain a thousand yards. Typically, he plugged medium round draft picks into his system and they became instant stars. Denver traded away the back for picks and players, and reloaded with another unknown runner. They sustained an impressive run of consistently strong teams throughout Shanahan's tenure with this economy.

In his first offseason with the Washington football team, Shanahan is approaching the position differently. In addition to keeping Portis, he has brought in Larry Johnson and now Wee Willie Parker, a former world champion with the Steelers. None of the runners has had a good season in a couple years. They will be in an open competition for playing time, which might bring out the best in their production but will be poison gas in the locker room.

Washington now has three fading stars, signed to short-term contracts. None of them are really being overpaid -- and all three combined are much cheaper than a first-round pick -- but this seems like a strange direction for the team. However, it may reveal something about Shanahan's strategy for 2010.

The team is going to be in transition next year, and while they will hopefully show improvement, Shanahan has already concluded that they have no legitimate shot at the playoffs. Switching to a 3-4 is a long-term project, as is building a new offensive line for the zone blocking and finding a winner at QB. A solution at running back will be the last piece of the puzzle, not the first. Bringing in three fading stars to compete for the job may squeeze enough collective juice to win a few games ... but not much more.

Shanahan's focus is on the upcoming seasons. He has a window, based on his reputation, to build his team before fan and owner frustration bears down on him. His trick will be to hold off the hounds long enough to let the foundation settle. Portis, Parker and Johnson will be the lightning rods for the next year or two.

We'll know that Shanahan is ready to pull the trigger on a legitimate playoff run when he finally loads in a new kid to carry the ball.

Big Fat Dumb

I don't have the energy to explain this story -- I just drove across most of America -- so I will simply sum up:

DT Shaun Rogers was arrested at the Cleveland airport trying to take a loaded handgun onto an airplane in his carry-on bag.

I would call him retarded but that's an insult to retards.

UPDATE: Rogers has pleaded Not Guilty. A very strange decision, with no practical chance of success. Does he think a jury of his peers will exonerate him?

I'd say his lawyer is trying to Revive The Opossum.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Oh, NCAA--Y'All So Stupid

AP writer John Marshall has an article out on what the 96-team NCAA Men's Tournament might look like, if it goes through (which it sounds like it is, barring an intervention of some sort).  And Sweet Christmas, is this a stupid fucking plan they've cooked up.  We talked about how bad an idea this was, back when we thought it was just getting kicked around.

The article suggests that NCAA was most worried about the amount of time the student-athletes would be out of school.  And maybe that is true, for the schools.  But for the fans?  We don't care that much--we care about how the tournament is going to work, and how we will organize our workplace pools, which contribute a ton of money to the economy, and help make the NCAA Tournament the most watched, most talked about sporting event in America each and every year.  Don't like it?  Tough shit--that's the way the world is.  And the NCAA knows this, and seems bent on fucking over their fans.

Read this:

The new format would start two days later than the current 65-team field because it would eliminate the Tuesday play-in game and would conclude on the same day, a Monday. It would be played at one fewer venue—again, the play-in game—and the NCAA says it would include no additional travel time for teams.
The first-round games for the 64 non-bye teams would take place on Thursday and Friday, with the winners playing the top eight seeds in each region on Saturday and Sunday. Winners on Saturday would likely play again on Tuesday, and the Sunday winners on Wednesday.
Look, the Play-In Game has been stupid from the beginning--no one cares about who gets to be the fourth #16 seed/Sacrificial Lamb.  I'm all for getting rid of it--but adding 31 new sacrificial lambs into the mix isn't a fix.  It's a doubling down on a mistake six times.
As bad as this idea is--and like I said before, it is Gob-smackingly stupid--it is even worse to condense all of those games into the same time frame as the current tournament.  How does the audience, who loves it because they are gambling small amounts of money on it, interact with this tournament?  There will be 32 meaningless games on Thursday and Friday.  There will be the Top 32 teams, rested, playing--at best--the bottom 32 teams who will have played 48 hours before.   At 5pm, on a Friday, there will still be no complete Tournament Bracket to fill out.  Goodbye, work pools.  
The NCAA seems intent on ruining their model--after a year in which the model has proven amazingly compelling.  But please notice--after a crazy, upside down tournament, there isn't an 8 seed in the Final Four.  In fact, 50% of them lost in the first round (UNLV & Texas).  But the NCAA has determined those teams are worthy of a free pass into the next round.  75% of the 7 seeds were eliminated on Day 1 this year.  They will be protected.  50% of the #6 seeds lost in the first round this year.  They will be protected.  These are teams not worthy of fucking byes.  They do not deserve the advantage of coming in rested, to play a team that played a game 48 hours previous.  It's fucking UNFAIR.
Just for the fuck of it--let's look at teams from this year that would have earned a first round bye, if these seeds were in play in this new system--UNLV, Georgetown, Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt, Texas, Temple, Marquette, Clemson, Notre Dame, Richmond.  That's 10 teams--over 17% of the field, or 34% of the Bye Squad--that was eliminated in the first round.  Say goodbye to that idea--does Georgetown lose to Ohio University in this new model? No.  And that's good for the NCAA--big time programs are much more likely to advance in this model.
This isn't about fairness, this isn't about the fans.  This isn't about the players--it is about money and it is about a coach's job security.  The NCAA is entering an opt-out year with their contract with CBS, and they are floating this model to ESPN and others (mainly ESPN)--more games means more money!  Until the ratings fucking crash.  
It is a horrible mashing of interests--the NCAA wants it because they want more money; the coaches want it, because they love the opportunity to pad their resume; ESPN wants it because they want post-season  programming in March.  Fans?  I can hear them suits saying, "Fuck 'em--they'll come around."  
In a year in which the NFL is busy fucking up their model, I didn't think I'd be saying someone else is fucking up worse--but the NCAA is well on their way to doing exactly that.
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