Thursday, March 22, 2007

Friday Feature: So what the F?

I figured I'd start a weekly feature because those are sweet, right? I'm going to take a look at things that were just f'n strange over the course of the week in sports. I may also take some shots at other far less relevant issues in pop culture that come to mind. In fact, I just wrote an entire post to this effect but somehow lost the whole frickin thing. Undaunted, I begin again. So here goes nothing:

1. Cowherd
What the F was the deal with Colin Cowherd's 4 hour rant on Tuesday (found here with ESPN Insider access, which I'm sure you have) about the cause of WWE wrestler Eddie Guerrero's death two years ago. A little backstory... After Guerrero's untimely death in 2005, Cowherd went on his radio show and said that Guerrero's death was due to steroids. No cause of death had been made public but Cowherd's assertion was that everyone in wrestling does them and it oftern leads to early death. The response from the "booger eaters" (Herd's nickname for wrestling fans who live in their parents' basement) that day was in the way of a flood of calls to the ESPN phone lines, all demanding Cowherd's head. They (the booger eaters) actually succeeded in shutting down the ESPN switchboard. Cowherd never apologized but ESPN itself put together an apology statement. Well fast forward to this week, the HGH probe implicated several wrestlers (including Guerrero) and the official cause of Guerrero's death was listed as heart failure due to an enlarged heart. One released report related many of the conditions leading to Guerrero's death as consistent with prescription and performance enhancing drug use. Well after the linkage of the wrestlers came out, Herd used his ENTIRE 4 hour show on Tuesday to say, in many, many words, "I was right, you were wrong." He sounded like a whiny 4 year-old. It was ridiculous radio and the worst part is that nobody other than he cares. The reason I like Cowherd is because of his bombast and ability to make fun of himself as well as his listeners. He took this WAY too seriously. It fucking sucked.

2. Fedoruk
What the F, Todd Fedoruk? You get your face broken by Derek Boogaard in October and then, though it wasn't necessarily your fault, you get sent to the hospital by Colton Orr on Wednesday night. Two fights, two hospital visits. Maybe fighting just ain't your thing, eh Toddy too hotty?

3. NHL Channel
Where the F can I find Versus or Oxygen or whatever the fuck the channel is that the NHL is on?

4. Gus, Billy, JB, Raftery
What the F is up with all the announcer critiques these days? I thought this was just Phil Mushnick's territory and occasionally Mike and The Mad Dog. Since when was it ok to make your subjective announcer feelings known to the world and try to play them off as some sort of objective standard. Different people like different shit, unless we're talking about Suzy Waldman, who is universally loathed.

5.Walt Clyde Frazier
Staying with the announcer critiques, how the F does Walt Clyde Frazier stay above the fray in all of this? He is perhaps the single worst announcer of all-time. He only occasionally points out anything other than the obvious and his only real contribution is his otherwordly performance with Keith Hernandez in the Just For Men Commercial. He is most widely recognized for his improper usage of words I learned in Sally Vrooman's SAT Prep Course featuring "Tooth and Nail: A Novel Approach to the SAT." He is absolutely ridiculous and it's about time someone called him out on it. It seems so easy. Is someone not telling me something here? I truly don't get it.

6. Everclear
What the F happened to the band Everclear? After releasing "Santa Monica," they had so much promise to lead a genre of music struggling for identity in the post-grunge era. Instead, they turned into a cross between Weird Al and The Offspring. Their devolution was one of the more bizarre wastes of talent in the last quarter century. It may have had something to do with the fact that they were perhaps the single worst live band I've ever seen, and I've seen Howard Jones, Tracy Bonham and the Goo Goo Dolls.... THREE FUCKING TIMES!

7. Stefani
Also, what the F is going on with Gwen Stefani's "Geisha Girl" phase? I never liked her, but this audible vomit that she produces has gotten seemingly more rank ever since she introduced the weird Asian women in every one of her videos. Could her music become more bubble gum. It's like she hit the "pop" backbeat rhythm button on her casio keyboard and started putting shitty lyrics to the beat. America should be ashamed.

8. American Cinema
Speaking of America being ashamed, what the F is going on with American cinema? How could Norbit and Wild Hogs pull in the most money in any weekend. I'm honestly concerned about the collective state of our nation's sense of humor or simply our collective sense in general. What the F, USA?

(Update: I'm without words for this update. The cinematic apocalypse is upon us. I will simply say this: think Wild Hogs + Norbit. Nothing yet? Well, here's some help, coming July 20th, John Travolta dons a fat suit for his role in Hairspray. This makes me physically ill.)

9. Cricket Fans
What the F, cricket fans? You murder your coach? Is a coach really that critical to a cricket match?

10. Cinema Again
Back to movies for a second, what the F is up with the racially charged swimming film "Pride." After this, can we officially call this storyline closed?

11. Josh McRoberts
What the F, Josh McRoberts? Are you seriously coming out in perhaps the deepest draft in a decade? Where do you see yourself fitting in? Let's go over your "attributes" for a second, shall we? 6'10", rail thin, athletic, white, Power Forward(?) with no discernable post-up game, no defensive skill and no range whatsoever. So let's see who you compare favorably with in the NBA: No one. Though that description does sum up every player in Russia, so good luck with that.

12. Shower Flatulence
Why the F does flatulence smell worse in the shower?

13. Memphis-A&M Refs
How in the F did 1 second come off the clock on that out of bounds play? It was almost instantaneous. It couldn't have been more costly. That was a huge fuck up AND was fucked up with the benefit of replay. Way to go, assholes.

14. Dane Bradshaw
What the F is the deal with my man-crush on U Tennessee's Dane Bradshaw? It's really disconcerting. I may get disinvited to Tony Dungy's rockin Easter party.

There you have it. That's this week's "what the F?" If any of you 4 have some what the F suggestions, feel free to email me at

Enjoy the weekend.

Farney starting in center over Junior?

Ladies & gentleman, your starting CF for the Cincinnati Reds, Mr. Ryan Freel

This is probably not the way Junior Griffey wanted to go out. One of the top Centerfielders of all-time, Ken Griffey, Jr., is being replaced in centerfield on his hometown team by Ryan Freel. Griffey will move over to RF and man does he sound psyched about it:
"It didn't really matter how I felt about it. That's really not important. I'm there, and I have to make the best of it."
Griffey was asked about how different playing right field would be for him.
"Don't know. I've never done it," he said.
Well ok then. I guess the feeling is understandable given the future Hall of Famer is being replaced by a guy who when asked to talk about a great catch he had made in the game mentioned that he talks to an imaginary friend named "Farney" and went on to tell the Dayton Daily News this:
"He's a little guy who lives in my head who talks to me and I talk to him. That little midget in my head said, 'That was a great catch, Ryan,' I said, 'Hey, Farney, I don't know if that was you who really caught that ball, but that was pretty good if it was.' Everybody thinks I talk to myself, so I tell 'em I'm talking to Farney." Freel later said that Farney's name arose from a conversation with Reds trainer Mark Mann: "He actually made a comment like, 'How are the voices in your head?' We'd play around and finally this year he said, 'What's the guy's name?' I said, 'Let's call him Farney.' So now everybody's like, 'Run, Farney, run' or 'Let Farney hit today. You're not hitting very well.'"
Oddly ("odd" being a relative term), the comments only further endeared himself to the Reds fans who already held him amongst their favorites on the team for his hard-nosed play and versatility. Today the Farney/Freel combination is probably the most popular duo in Cincinnati since Bob Huggins & Jack Daniels left town. The real question is not how the fans will deal with it, but instead how the clubhouse will react. So far, things are going swimmingly:

Freel has had no conversations with Griffey about taking his spot in center field, and hopes it is a glass-like transition.

"I don't know what I'd say if I did talk to Griffey," said Freel. "I just don't want that guy (Griffey) mad at me. It's not my fault."
Nope, it's not your fault Ryan. How could it be? You don't even control your own actions. The blame clearly falls on one person: Farney. I'm sure he'll be able to smooth things over with Junior.

Dice-K dominant? Simmer down nah. He one hit the F'n Pirates

A couple headlines from today's coverage of Matsuzaka's outing yesterday against the Pirates: "Dice-K Shines" "Dice-K Baffles" "Dice-K Earns His Money". In his blog, posted yesterday, Jason Stark gave Matsusaka a textual handjob noting "[a]fter watching Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch for the first time Wednesday, I couldn't tell you for sure that this guy is about to win 20 games, a Cy Young or possibly a Nobel Peace Prize." Really Jason? Did you really just mention 20 and a Cy Young (albeit in a tone dripping with sarcasm but with a hint of "I will tell everyone I called this if it actually happens")? In Stark's defense, much of the post was devoted to the freakshow like atmosphere that follows Dice-K wherever he goes, but has any pitcher received this much praise for throwing 5 & 2/3 in a Spring Training game against one of the worst teams in baseball who weren't even playing their entire Major League lineup? First of all, 92 pitches in 5 & 2/3 is not exactly economical. Given the Sox bullpen situation, 5.4 pitches per out is not good enough for a one hit game. Now clearly Matsuzaka will have a longer leash during the regular season and he won't be messing around with his two seam fastball as much (which was all over the place yesterday) but he's got to be more economical with his put away pitches. He got away with at least 4 or 5 meatballs right down the plate that will end up impaling a patron at the Cask 'n Flagon if he throws them at Fenway. All that being said, Matsuzaka can pitch. He was hitting mid-90's for the first time all Spring (likely due to ESPN's radar gun which had Zumaya throwing 118mph last year), he has an absurd low 80's changeup that breaks away from lefties, a la Pedro, throws all his pitches for strikes and isn't afraid to pitch backwards. Phillips and Hershiser were calling him the Ace of the staff (he's 3rd in the order) and today people (a list that now includes me) have invoked the name of Pedro in order to offer a frame of reference. I'm just not ready to commit to such high praise. Yes, the break in his changeup is similar to Pedro's. Yes, he seems unphased by the media attention and competition. And Yes, there is a certain "it" factor to his pitching style and presence. I give him all of that. Let's just slow down on giving him 15 wins and a sub 3 ERA. What everyone needs to step back and realize is that making Chris Duffy look stupid at the plate, while funny, isn't a criteria for the CY Young. The kid can fucking throw, but he's got plenty of work to do.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Yet another rule that needs changing

It's videos like these that make me so upset that Youtube wasn't around when I was rocketing grounders through the infield.

Before getting to the meat (miit) of this post, I need to first comment on the above video. All I was looking for was a picture or video that would clearly depict a ground-rule double. Surprisingly, there was very little in the way of visual media available on the subject. The reason for the lack of video on the subject is pretty clear: Potential MLB rights violations. Still, I figured there'd be a picture or some kind of explanation that included visuals. There's not that much. Normally I would be angry at the MLB for greedily hoarding all its video. I mean, I was almost forced to draw some stick figure diagram of a ground-rule double. But then, like a gift from the heavens, I stumbled upon this gem. Who needs video of Tony Clark's Game 5 ground rule double or ridiculous video of balls getting stuck in the Ivy at Wrigley or the outfield pads in Montreal or Oakland when instead you can pull up a video of a guy hitting a ground ball through the infield that winds up (inexplicably) becoming a ground-rule double, while at the same time getting pumped up by the hard driving--almost cliched--pure 80's sound of Survivor's "No Easy Way Out?" The video deserves a blog all by its lonesome. The best part of the whole video, if I'm forced to pick one, is when the guy taking the video realizes the hit's going to be a ground-rule double almost as the ball leaves the bat. Those are some interesting ground rules. It's like playing on a mini-putt course or the Trop.

Anyhoo, feeding off of the overwhelmingly positive response (3 comments and counting) of yesterday's post regarding the necessary changes to the pass interference rule, today I tackle the ground-rule double ("GRD") rule. I won't even get into the fact that certain stadiums have there own weird ground rules which, other than the Trop, for the most part I enjoy (balls that end up going into the wall at Fenway are GRDs, the aforementioned Wrigley-Ivy GRD and the Padres ground rule about grounders that David Wells mistakes as mozzarella). The part that I want to tackle is that rule stipulates that when a ground rule double is hit, the runner on first is not allowed to score. That may have made sense at one time, but it does not now. I'm not saying we should make a wholesale change, but there are adjustments that need to be made.

1.) With 2 Outs, The Runner Should Score
Yes, even the Krukker could score from first on a ground-rule double with 2 outs. I should probably mention that I'm working off of a couple of the major assumptions (I can't find the data anywhere) in making these proposed rule changes are A.) The purpose of the GRD rule is to put players where they likely would be had the ball remained in play; and B.) most ground-rule doubles are hit in the outfield (those that do not will be featured below). With these assumptions in tow, it's pretty clear that when a GRD is hit, had the ball stayed in play (especially the balls that clear outfield fence on a hop), the runner would have scored with ease with two outs because those runners are off on contact. In order for a ball to bounce out of the field the ball has to have a high and long trajectory, and usually requires a bounce off the warning track. By the time the ball would have been corralled by the outfielder (had it remained in play) most baserunners are rounding third while tbe limpwristed centerfielder tries to hit the cutoff man. 99 out of 100 times that guy from first is gonna score. So I say let him.

1A.) Ok, So Maybe They Shouldn't Score On Every GRD
I love Rule 1, but in the interest of open-mindedness I'm willing to concede that not all GRDs are the same. At Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Citizen's Bank and others, there is very little room down the foul line behind the first and third base bags. Sometimes a screaming liner will kick up the paint behind the bag and immediately hop into the stands (usually beaning some kid or old person). In those instances, it is reasonable to argue that had the ball kicked off the wall the guy on first wouldn't score unless he was Juan Pierre or Carl Crawford (or Jacoby Ellsbury who is LIGHTNING fast). These balls (had they remained in play) would likely kick either directly to the right or left fielder or fly into short left or right field. Yadi Molina might not even make it to second base with two outs in those situations. So Rule 1A's edit to Rule 1 is the following: With two outs, the runner on first scores if the ball exits the field between the left and right field foul pole (on the outfield fence, obviously). Now THAT is a solid rule. Unfortunately, it doesn't go far enough for me. This is what I really want...

2.) GRD with less than 2 outs, the runner scores from first if he would have scored anyway
First, if you have a minute--and clearly you do--you should do yourself a favor and check out the other
Carl Crawford. In the interest of not making things too ridiculous, I'll continue to stipulate that this rule only applies to those balls exiting the field in fair play over the outfield fence. The gist of this rule is that some faster players can score from first very easily on GRDs even if they have to hold up near the SS to see if the OF makes the play. Why are these players being forced to stay at third base when they are almost already there when the ball leaves the park? I have no idea. My rule would be this: If a player has rounded second base before the ball has left the park (Ump's judgment), that player is awarded home. Why the hell not? The Umps already have the authority to send players to an extra base if a player has rounded the bag before the ball goes out of play on a throwing error. Holding them up on a GRD is ridiculous. It would also be exciting to see the bigger players (Ortiz, Giambi, All Pitchers and especially Manny) flying past second while hoping for a GRD only to have to hit the brakes and ramble back to first.

So listen up MLB, after this is posted there is going to be a significant groundswell of support. And given that this situation occurs no less than a 8 times every season, it is of the utmost importance that you make the change. You should also probably do something about the whole steroids situation. That also doesn't seem very fair.

Mike Nolan you genius!

It's rare that some cockamamy (I spelled that right on the first shot) scheme you and your buddies draw on some napkins over some rapidly warming Miller Lites at Jack Russell's on a Saturday afternoon is later proposed by an NFL head coach as a significant rule change, but that's exactly what happened today. reported that 49ers Head Coach Mike Nolan was on TV talking about how NFL should change the pass interference rule. Nolan would like to make the call more subjective and give the refs the option of calling a 15 yard penalty (still significant) or a spot foul. I couldn't agree more. In fact, my friends and I came up with a similar plan last Summer (the plan my friends and I proposed in the Summer of '06 was a little different. We agreed on 10yds for less interference though some thought 5yds was ok or even simply a replay of down was sufficient). The problem with the rule as presently constructed is that every pass interference call is a spot foul and results in an automatic first down. This gives tremendous incentive for the WR to initiate contact or take a dive on plays downfield where he knows he won't be able to get to a pass. It also overpenalizes the defender for contact often de minimis in nature. If a DB turns his head too late and ends up faceguarding a WR, he's penalized as severely as if he pulled the guy down by the jersey or shoved him out of bounds before the ball got there. Now don't get me wrong, as long as faceguarding is going to remain an illegal play, you need to penalize it, but shouldn't intent matter? The NFL already makes this distinction with some penalties. There's a distinction in face mask penalties (5yds vs. 15yds) as well as running into the kicker vs. roughing the kicker. The distinction for both centers around how reckless the player was in committing those fouls. With Pass Interference, the distinction could be similar. The "hustle plays" that result in contact should not be penalized as severely as those plays where there is reckless conduct. Nolan makes the analogy stretch that the current penalty structure is akin to giving a speeder the death penalty. Maybe just a touch dramatic, eh Mikey? The point is a good one though. Defending a deep pass is a huge risk/reward situation and the recklessness with which that play is defended is the standard by which the player should be punished. The DB is on the hot seat and you certainly don't want to encourage any type of behavior that will result in a player getting away with illegal contact downfield. You also don't want to force the ref to decide whether the contact is deserved of what amounts to a 50yd penalty or a no call. There needs to be a middle ground. Reducing the penalty for lesser infractions (turning too late, hand checking, running into the guy while you're looking at the underthrown ball, etc.) will lead to more competitive play and more consistent defensive play without requiring the ref to decide whether or not to turn a hand slap 45 yards down the field into a playoff changing event. It's just absurd. There are times late in big games where a ball goes down field and the ref sees contact but doesn't want to change the course of the entire game so he doesn't make a call he would have 20 minutes ago. That may be what the NFL wants, but it doesn't make for consistent play and a lack of consistency in penalty calling is disasterous for the league in this era of HDTV, replay and TiVo. Kudos to you Mike Nolan. Anytime you agree with me and my drunk friends, you are clearly ahead of the curve.

(While the story I read was reported by's Len Pasquarelli, the original comments by Nolan stem from an article with The Sacramento Bee's Matthew Barrows, who deserved the same credit in's article as he's belatedly getting here.)

Briggs to the Pats? Gaining momentum

Is Peter King the first loyal reader of The Smittblog?

Affable coffeenerd Peter King has been known to sneak a peak or two at blogs from time to time. Is it possible that he took some notes from the lightly read blog of yours truly before putting together this week's MMQB? Last week I wrote a short piece about how much sense it makes for the Pats to trade one of their first round picks and backup QB Matt Cassell to the Bears for Lance Briggs. This week, Papa King shoots off this little ditty in his blog during a Q&A with Drew Rosenhaus:
He (Rosenhaus) said the Bears had a seven-year, $33-million contract offer on the table for Lance Briggs last year, but haven't offered him a multi-year deal this offseason. It's either play the year at $7.2 million (poor guy), sit out (he'll never do that) or hope some team comes to the Bears (the Patriots?) and says, "We'll give you a low first-round pick for Briggs,'' and then signs him to a $7 million-a-year deal with $20 million guaranteed.
"The Bears haven't given us many options,'' Rosenhaus said. "Come in and play this year at $7.2 million. That's it. They've said to us they have no intention of signing him to a long-term deal. If we'd have signed the deal they offered last year, Lance wouldn't have been among the top-15-paid linebackers in the league.'' I said, "The Patriots ought to send the 28th pick to Chicago for him. The Bears would have to take that, wouldn't they, rather than have a pissed-off player?'' Rosenhaus said: "From your lips to God's ears.''
Coinkidink? Very likely. It's much more fun to believe that King stole the idea from me (let's wait until Matt Cassell becomes part of the discussion). And it's even more fun to believe that PK and myself are just two peas in a very large pod.