Friday, May 11, 2007

No Really, Brandon Meriweather is a Good Guy

That's our boy at the 51 second mark stompin' the yard

Just how strong is that Kool-Aid that Belichick is dishing out up there in Foxboro? After reading the puff piece about Brandon Meriweather in the notoriously "glass half empty" Boston Globe, I'm pretty sure Belichick could pick up OJ to be his RB coach and the media would blush with optimism about it. Just listen to some of the spin on the Meriweather gun incident (remember, this is the Globe. A paper that found a way to put a negative spin on the 2004 ALCS comeback!):
The gun incident has been well publicized. What may be a revelation is that the home in which he and his teammates had been living had been burglarized during the 2005 season while they were away.

Meriweather.... had stayed at his girlfriend's place, came home at 6:30 a.m. to pick [his teammate] up for an offseason workout. After hearing a noise, the two went outside and the shooting ensued. Meriweather's gun was legally registered, and he faced no charges.
On justifying Meriweather's stomping the FIU players:
On the black plasma television hanging in his office, (UM Coach) Shannon showed a reporter three plays on the coaches' tape from that game. The first showed Miami safety Kenny Phillips being hit in the back twice after the whistle and a player pulling Phillips back as he attempted to retaliate. It's Meriweather. The second play showed an FIU receiver delivering an open-handed shot to Meriweather's head, followed by a roundhouse right that missed, in the second quarter. The third play, which occurred moments before the brawl, showed the same receiver delivering another head shot to Meriweather, who turned to a nearby official in exasperation. No flag.
On just how misunderstood Meriweather truly is:
Those who know Meriweather admitted he has made some bad decisions, but were adamant he is not a bad seed. They pointed out that those rushing to judge Meriweather don't know him. They don't even know his name -- William Brandon Meriweather.
So let me get this straight, because his gun was registered, it was ok to get in a gunfight with someone; and because some penalties went uncalled, it was ok to cleat some guy on the ground; and lastly, and my personal favorite, because we don't know Meriweather's full name, we don't know enough about Meriweather to draw conclusions about his character. Ok, let me address these in order:

1. "The Gunfight:" If Meriweather was defending himself and his friend, then you can argue to me that it's justified that he carried a registered gun and shot at a guy who had shot at him or his friend. But to say that because the gun was registered and Meriweather wasn't charged with a crime that I should watch my step before drawing an inference that this incident reflects poorly on him and his ability to avoid trouble, I think that's a bit much for my tastes.

2. "The Cleating of the FIU player:" This to me is the most absurd. I don't care what happened in the game, you don't run into a pile start stomping someone on the ground with your cleats (a pretty funny video of the UM-FIU brawl played to the Cougar's "This is our country" can be found here). If you're gonna run into a brawl, throw a punch or body slam someone. Kicking someone when they are down is about as low as it gets.

3. "We Don't Know Enough About Brandon Meriweather to Draw Conclusions About His Character Because We Don't Know His Name:" Other than sports fans, who amongst the vox populi knows PacMan Jones's real name? Is it fair for them to judge him? Of course it is. That justification is ree-dick-u-luss.

Now, I don't want to come off as all high and mighty about this. I think Meriweather will have a chance to prove the skeptics wrong. I just think it's a little early to absolve him from his character issues simply because he chose to sign with the Patriots. There is no way he gets a pass like this if he signs with the Raiders or Bengals. I'm all for Meriweather, I'm just upset at the way he's being covered. But what upsets me most about all of this is that because of the Meriweather selection and because of his FIU bitterness, it is very likely that the Pats will be unable to draft this fella when he declares for the draft (this whole column was kinda just a cheap excuse to bring back to the forefront of public lore the infamous "Ned"):

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Blue Jays: Canadian In Every Way

This picture is serious. It is from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police official website. I shit you not.

I love Canada, I really do. I grew up about 10 minutes from the border and used to take late night trips to seedy bars across the border at 19 years-old (I think they call it "Age 19" over there) to party with people who were far less excited to be drinking than me and my friends. I also spent a whirlwind 3 day weekend in Mosport Park Canada for a music festival featuring the likes of The Tragically Hip, Tracy Bonham, Howard Jones, Bush and The Cure. So I'm pretty much an expert on Canada.

In living so close to Canada, you tend to pick up on things about their culture that is far different from ours. From accents (they pronounce Mazda "Masz-duh"), to food (they put gravy on everything) to political beliefs (they hate french canadians and we, well, I guess we share that quality). But one of the things that struck me most was that Canadians have very distinct names. A lot of Russ's and Roys, some Carls and a ton of CJ's, TJ's and any other letter they could think of to precede J. So I found it pretty humorous this week watching the Sox play the Blue Jays and noticing (not for the first time as this was pointed out to me last year) that the Jays feature a ton of guys with really Canadian names.

First of all, their color guy, (Rance Mullinicks), played for the Jays for aboot (intentional misspelling) a decade and though he was born in California, he sounds like he's reading for the part of Doug MacKenzie in the remake of Strange Brew. And "Rance Mullinicks", that's the most Canadian name I've ever heard.

But getting to the field, there are so many guys with Canadian sounding names, you have to begin to wonder whether Ricciardi takes that into consideration when signing them. Here's the list of the most Canadian of them:

Russ Adams - SOOOOOOO Canadian. If you've ever been to Canada, you've likely met a Russ, whether you knew it or not. The Dodgers Russ Martin is actually Canadian.

Lyle Overbay - Lyle is so common I think it's actually illegal not to name your third child Lyle in Canada. Male or female. If you lived in Canada, your Uncle or Aunt would be named Lyle, and would more than likely have a mustache.

Troy Glaus - In Winnipeg, the name Troy is like Jose down in Mexico.

Roy Halladay - Alex Trebek's birth name was Roy Royson III. Little known fact. He was named after the long line of Roy's before and after him. Swear it. Not to mention the amount of people in coming generations named after Patrick Roy.

Royce Clayton - I mean, come on. He may as well have been a hall of fame blue liner for the Nords.

AJ Burnett & BJ Ryan - Obviously due to the "X"J Canadian name rule, their names are truly Canadian, but BJ Ryan actually looked Canadian. There was just something about him... (I know he's not deceased and should probably not be referred to in the past tense, but a hard throwing left getting Tommy John surgery late in his career is the baseball equivalent of being diagnosed with Ebola.).

Greg Zaun - Canadians tend to have a Z's in their names. Not in the same way people from Chicago or Wisconsin do, they just have more non-Polish Z's. I can't explain it, but it's true.

Vernon Wells - Vernon is a popular name in Canada likely due to reverence for their "Houdini," a guy named Dai Vernon. I also think Living Colour's Vernon Reed was Canadian, though he was born in London, it's close enough that he may as well have been Canadian. So clearly, a black guy in Canada named Vernon is pretty much par for the course.

Reed Johnson - Fairly Canadian but nothing to write home about.

Jason Frasor, Shaun Marcum and Scott Downs - Pretty Canadian (Marcum in particular) but again, just kinda ordinary.

Then lastly, the guy they brought up tonight to pitch: James J. Vermilyea. He goes by Jamie, for now. Jamie Vermilyea would be Canadian enough, but is there any doubt that by next year he'll be JJ Vermilyea? That level of Canadian-ness will be unmatched. It is possible that some type of vortex will open and swallow us all whole when that happens. I for one can't wait.

Sports Guy Censored?

Simmons blog seemed a bit lighter at 6pm than it did at 4pm EST.

I don't want to spend too much time on this as I'm sure others will pile on tomorrow and because I'm a bit of a Simmons apologist, but The Sports Guy's blog today was a paragraph lighter about 2 hours after it hit the Worldwide Webnet.

When Simmons first posted, the piece featured a throw away paragraph--one that began with Simmons imploring readers above the age of 21 to avoid--about a high school senior pole vaulter, Allison Stokke out in California that a reader had brought to Simmons's attention. Simmons didn't add much more than the link and moved on. When I went back later, the Stokke paragraph just up and disappeared.

It's probably no surprise that Disney wasn't too keen on Simmons promoting the drooling over high schooler, but hasn't he said much worse about Lindsay Lohan and Britney before they turned 18 (this chick is 18, btw). Just seems like a weird place to draw the line.

Also, when you consider the seedy undercurrent of ESPN's coverage of Kournikova and Sharapova before they turned 18 (and the success of such coverage), Disney may want to be careful of nibbling too close to the feeding hand.
(BTW: With Leather was all over Stokke-mania on Wednesday, lest anyone think that her two hour appearance in a Simmons column was her first entry in the blogosphere.)
(UPDATE: After receiving several Stokke-related emails, it's become clear that she was a bit of an internet sensation well before Simmons got his tip about her and before With Leather's posting, not that I gave either credit for breaking the "story".... Anyhoo, because I would like to promote some sort of blog-integrity--and because this Stokke situation has truly spiraled out of control--I would be remiss if I didn't give credit where credit is "due:" Barstool Sports had the pics up earlier than anyone I know of, so far. So you can stop emailing me about the origins. Take it up with them.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The All-Mediocre Team

Surhoff's unremarkable career has cemented his status as Captain of the All-Mediocre Team

A couple of friends and I have, over the years, had a recurring discussion about the most mediocre baseball players of our lifetimes. This was largely in response to some of the mediocrity that you'd find on the baseball Hall of Fame ballot every year. Guys like Massena, NY's own Jim "Ace" Deshaies made the ballot despite the fact that they never really did much of anything noteworthy during their entire careers (Deshaies did secure one vote from Houston Chronicle reporter John Lopez as a lark). The gold standard for mediocrity, in our collective minds, was BJ Surhoff. Surhoff was in the league for 18 years and only ONE of those years did he ever finish in the top ten for any relevant offensive category (he was also and All-star that year, 1999). He never won a gold glove, he hit more than 25 home runs one time, broke 20 thrice, only stole more than 15 bags once, had more than 90RBI twice, scored more than 80 runs once and in years where he played more than 120 games, he only hit over .300 once. More than the stats though, Surhoff just exemplified mediocrity. You'd always see him suiting up for the other team in Right field or third base, hitting in the 8th slot and wondering, "Surhoff? That's the best they can do?" He never scared you with any of his "tools" but he ALWAYS found a spot on a team. He wasn't a bad player, he just was never great. But Surhoff is not alone and this is not meant to be a negative post solely about him. This post is dedicated to ALL the Surhoffs out there. The mediocre players at every position. I'm going to put together a team of BJ Surhoffs. How do you define a "Surhoff", well, here goes:

The All Mediocre Team will consist of players who's careers spanned from my memory of baseball (1985 - the year I began collecting baseball cards), but their candidacy is not contingent on entering the majors after on or after 1985 (players like Rob Deer, Rich Dauer, Von Hayes (though he did finish in the top ten for MVP voting) and Omar Moreno will get serious consideration). Candidacy will be based on their Surhoffian qualifications broken down in one of two ways: The first - Necessary Elements. The Second - Significant Considerations.

1. Necessary Elements
1. Player must've played at least 900 games over the course of AT LEAST 8 seasons.
2. Player must've been a starting player for at least 5 of those seasons (this is to prevent backup players like Miguel Cairo from backdooring their way onto the All-Mediocre Team despite the fact they they haven't been starters for more than 2 or three of their seasons in the league).
3. Player must not have been in the top ten in any relevant statistical category for two straight years or three total years over their entire career ("relevant statistics" include but are not limited to: Average, RBI, R, SBs, HRs, Svs, ERA, Ws.).
4. Player must not have finished in the top ten MVP voting in any year.
5. Nicknames that double as real names (for baseball card purposes) will result in immediate disqualification. That means that Rock Raines, Oil Can Boyd and Stump Merrill are all out.

2. Significant Considerations
1. Gold Gloves will count against a player but not bar entry. More important than the Gold Gloves is the defensive reputation. A player on the All-Mediocre Team can win a Gold Glove because that is a popularity contest. A player on the All-Mediocre Team may not be known as a great defensive player because then he would not be mediocre.
2. All-Star appearances count against a player's candidacy. Surhoff was an All-Star one year (a fact that just blows me away). Multiple All-Star appearances are almost certainly fatal.
3. The following will be weighted heavily against candidacy: Multiple years batting over .300, hitting more than 25Hrs, more than 100RBI, more than 25Sbs, more than 90 runs and for pitchers multiple years with more than 20Svs, more than 17 wins, an ERA lower than 3.30 (an ERA which used to be average) and more than 180Ks.
4. Names that are just two letters seem to correlate to mediocre performance and will serve as tiebreakers. BJ Surhoff, CJ Nitkowski, DL Hughley (though not a baseball player, he would be on the Mt. Rushmore of mediocre comedians), JJ Hardy and AJ Pierzynski.
5. Outstanding postseason performances will severely hamper consideration (The David Eckstein rule).
6. Archi Cianfrocco gets special consideration just because.

Other things will factor in like Brady Anderson's absurd 1996 season would automatically disqualify him, as would Thigpen's 57 save season and Sal Fasano's pre-Yankee mustache. All of those are too superb to be mediocre. So without any further adieu, I give you: Baseball's All-Mediocre Team.

Captain - BJ Surhoff
I've gone through his qualifications above, so there is no need to repeat it. The only problem with Surhoff's place on the team is: where do you play him? He's played every position except centerfield and shortstop. Surhoff's skill set for mediocrity is so advanced that it makes more sense for him to simply be the tenth man on the bench and coach all the other mediocre players or fill in if someone gets hurt. His mentorship of the less accomplished mediocre players is of far greater utility than anything he could do on the field, which is not much. It is safe to say that he is the measure of mediocrity by which all of those before or after him will be judged.

Catcher - Mike Heath
This had to be the toughest category. Mediocrity and the catchers position go hand in hand. Even today a "good" season for a catcher is 120 games, average around .270 and 12-15 home runs. Plus, longevity for catchers didn't used to be a problem. Finding a catcher who can hit is quite a luxury, even if "hit" means an average of .250. That's why Piazza was a sure fire hall of famer after his first three years. He already hit more home runs in his first three than almost any catcher had in the last decade. Plus, the catchers of the 80's and 90's had staying power. Those guys would stick around as long as their knees could still withstand cortisone shots. So this was a HOTLY contested spot considering the pure volume of worthy candidates. With apologies to Ernie Whitt, Darrin Fletcher (an EXTREMELY STRONG candidate), Don Slaught, Ron Karkovice (his candidacy is borderline) and Greg Zaun (a player who may become a modern day Surhoff if he keeps up his current pace), Mike Heath fills the catcher slot for the squad. His credentials are outstanding. Over Heath's 14 years in the majors he hit .252, he's never hit over .280 in any season, never had more than 13Hrs in any season, never had more than 64RBI and never ended a season in the top 20 for any offensive category. Mike Heath defines what it means to be mediocre and we are proud to have him on the squad.

First Baseman - Sid Bream
When I first began researching this, my mind immediately went to Todd Benzinger. Unfortunately for Todd, he falls into the Miguel Cairo category as he was never really a solid starter for any 5 years and was more of an OF/1B guy, albeit a VERY mediocre one. First baseman is a tough category because there aren't many players who held down the position for a long period of time and only produced mediocre resutls. If you don't produce at first base, you usually just convert your aging left fielder or third baseman to take over at first and move the crappy guy out of there. There were not many good candidates, but that doesn't meant this wasn't a hotly contested spot. There was also a disappointing element to my search when I realized that Angelo Dominic "Archi" Cianfrocco would not meet the minimum qualifications for entry. Boldly, I resumed the search and other candidates emerged. Honorable mention goes to the Rangers' Pete O'Brien, Greg Brock, Franklin Stubbs (a borderline candidate) and Chris Chambliss (he was a mortal lock before finishing 5th in MVP voting in 1976), and future consideration is going to Kevin Youkilis, who is on a collision course with the All-Mediocre Team at his current rate and will be in a deadheat some day with Lyle Overbay. Bream stood out against these other candidates. He played 12 seasons, batted .264, never hit more than 16 home runs at a power position, yet played consistently for 12 years and was an "every day" player for 6 of those years. He broke 70RBI once in his career and only hit over .300 once, during the strike shortened '94 season, the final season of his unillustrious career. Winning the Hutch Award for honor, courage and dedication did not hurt Bream's candidacy. It also didn't hurt Bream that he carried around an enviable hirsuite lip appendage for the bulk of his unremarkable career.

Second Baseman - Mark Lemke
Second basemen are notoriously horrendous hitters. You usually stick your smallest dude with the weakest arm but good glove skill at 2nd base and then pencil him in the 8th and 9th slot in your lineup. The list for second base mediocrity was almost endless. It's much easier to find a discreet list of non-mediocre second baseman than it is to narrow down the mediocre list. The honorable mention list includes such greats in mediocrity like Julio Cruz, Ray Durham, Mark James Grudzielanek, Bill Doran, Wally Backman (the most intriguing of the honorable mention candidates. He would have won if not for his sparse playing time. He played in less than 100 games all but four of his 14 seasons.) and Randy Velarde (who's candidacty was infuriating. If he had just played 2B for his whole career, he would have been a co-captain. YOU WASTED YOUR CAREER PLAYING SHORT, RANDY LEE!). In today's game, there seem to be several future Surhoffs including Dustin Pedroia on the Sox, Ronnie Belliard (who was considered for the honor on today's team) and Tadahito Iguchi. Lemke just stood out from the rest. Over his 11 season career he hit .246. You may say that that stat puts him below mediocre but given that he was the starting shortstop on a perennial playoff team, it's hard to suggest he wasn't even mediocre. He never hit more than 7 home runs, never stole more than 5 bases, never knocked in more than 50 runs and never scored more than 70 runs. He never really did much of anything except start a ton of games. He fits well on the All-Mediocre team despite this comment from the sponsor of his page (Sponsored by Justin Bernstein): "As Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night, 'Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some acheive greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.' Mark Lemke had all three." Greatness, Justin? Me thinks not.

Shortstop - Neifi Perez
Shortstop is also a position of significant weakness but it's also a position of significant turnover. When you find a good shortstop, you usually keep him. If you find an average one, you use him as a utility guy. Also, unlike fine wine and fine cheese, shortstops not name Vizquel do not get better with age. They usually have a short lifespan from about 23-27. It's not everyday you keep a mediocre shorstop kicking around at short. So it is with my most sincere apologies to Felix Fermin (who missed consideration barely), Gary DiSarcina, Jose Lind, Spike Owen and Dickie Thon (who, if you don't count his 1983 aberration season, and I do not,may have been the most outstanding exemplar of mediocrity in the history of any sport) that I award the Shortstop position to Neifi Perez. The battle for shortstop was a knock down, drag out fight between Perez and Owen. I thought Owen was a lock, but he was really below mediocre when it got right down to it (Owen's avg season was .246, 5HRs, 46RBI, 62runs and 9SBs). Perez better exemplifies what it means to be a mediocre player of Surhoffian stature. Perez has played 12 seasons, has a career average of .268, has only broken 10Hrs once and only had more than 10Sbs once. He drove in more than 70 once and scored more than 90 runs twice. He has never been considered a great defender (though he has won one gold glove, but so did Rafael Palmeiro) and he's just never really done anything. He is a terrific addition to the squad.

Third Baseman -
After I realized Chris Sabo was unqualified, I was pretty sure Scott Brosius was going to run away with this one. But lo and behold, David Bell had a late hard push and in conjunction with some of Brosius' postseason heroics (though his stats as a whole are average in the postseason), I had to give Bell the nod. I also thought Jeff Cirillo would have a shot given his penchant for mediocrity but he was twice an All-Star and has played utility over the last 4 years. I also thought Brooky Jacoby had the stuff, but a closer look at his career reveals he was way too good (I'm also ashamed to say that I thought Doug DeCinces was average. That was my bad. The guy was a friggin manimal. He finished third in MVP voting in '82. Who knew?). Ed Sprague deserves some recognition but in 1996 he put together 36HRs and 100RBI. I can't have that kind of production potential on such an average team. Rance Mulliniks made a terrific case for himself but did not make the necessary starts at 3B to qualify and thus failed due to the Miguel Cairo clarification. One last thing before getting back to David Bell, Todd Zeile presented one of the most perplexing questions of the entire team. His qualifications seem impeccable. 16 seasons of consistent mediocrity, most of them at 3B. The one drawback for Zeile was that he once hit more than 30HRs and once put up more than 100RBI. For the most part, those type of gaudy numbers would eliminate him from consideration. The problem is that I associate Todd Zeile with all things mediocre. He is almost the national league's Surhoff (their careers are remarkably similar). I may find a spot for him yet. He could possibly be the bench coach or VP of Continuing Mediocrity or some such thing commensurate with his level of expertise. Anyhoo, back to Bell. Bell's mediocrity is mind-numbing. It is amazing that he keeps getting picked up by teams. Here's Bell's line: 12 seasons, .256 career average and no year better than .291. One year with more than 70RBI, broke 20HRs twice and has been caught stealing more times than he's been successful (19Sbs, 20CS). His fielding stats compared to the rest of the league are almost dead center. Statistically, he may be the most mediocre player on this entire team.

I had to group all of the outfielders into one group of three as opposed to picking a left fielder, center fielder and right fielder. The reason for this is twofold. 1. Most teams put their best outfielder in left field and rarely do you find a mediocre left fielder and 2. Outfielders don't generally stay in one position in the outfield their entire careers. I have taken into account the position the player played and have done my best to get a right fielder, center fielder and left fielder in.

Outfield - Mitch Webster
This is one of the few candidates who may not get any argument from anyone. Mitch Webster is perhaps the single most mediocre player ever to play the game. I have a personal preference for Surhoff, but Webster was Surhoff before Surhoff was Surhoff. 13 seasons, .263 average, never more than 15 Home runs, only once did he have more than 60RBI and scored more than 90 runs once. There is a certain nuance to Webster's mediocrity that some of the younger players can pick up on in the clubhouse and lockerroom. His contribution to mediocrity goes well beyond the stat sheet.

Outfield - John Shelby
I was unfamiliar with John Shelby's work prior to getting into this little project but one look at his MLB service record and you'll see pretty much an outline of what it takes to enjoy a mediocre career. Shelby had a career average of .239 and nonly broke .280 once. He hit 20Hrs twice and never drove in more than 75RBI. His fielding statistics put him dead center of all fielders in the league and to be honest, I can see no real discernible positive quality that would allow Mr. Shelby to enjoy a 1000+ game career. He must have some good personality to stick around for so long.

Right Field - Juan Encarnacion
There are a ton of other candidates for any of the two positions following Mitch Webster, but Juan Encarnacion really takes the cake. With apologies to Claudell Washington, Kevin Bass and Pete Incaviglia (as well as a host of others), Juan Encarnacion is the embodiment of what it means to be mediocre in today's game. With front offices as fickle as they are and the never ending threat of the hamstring pull, it is amazing that a player like Juan Encarnacion can continue to get work continue to get work and put out such a mediocre product. Encarnacion has played 1100+ games over the course of 10 seasons. His career average is .269, he's knocked in more than 80 runs once and never scored more than 80. He's an adequate fielder but ranks right near the middle of most defensive statistics. He is the modern day (latin version) Surhoff in a lot of respects. He is injured this year but with time to heal he can extend his mediocrity into at least 2010.

I'll deal with the pitching staff tomorrow (or Friday). Let this sink in and let me know if I missed anyone.

Is ESPN Serious with its Coverage of Schilling's Comments

"Mike & Mike In The Morning:" Your moral compass on the sports talk radio circuit.

I am getting real tired of defending Curt Schilling, but he is a lightning rod for undeserved scorn from awfully hypocritical sources. Yesterday, Schilling was on WEEI in Boston and said that because Barry Bonds "admitted" to using steroids, Bonds's records should be wiped from the history books. This seemed to be in line with every sportscaster, news reporter and other personality who has weighed in on the subject and who also feels, like Schilling, that steroids are such a taint to the sport that those who used should be distanced from the game. Later yesterday, on Dan Patrick's ESPN radio program, Dan and Keith Olberman began criticizing Schilling for saying that Bonds "admitted" to using steroids when he technically never has. Then today, ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in The Morning are just LAMBASTING Schilling for saying that Bonds admitted to using steroids. Now, I think Schilling should do everyone some good and just shut the fuck about all of this, especially since he killed Jose Canseco for spouting his mouth off, but where do these sports opinionists get off killing Schilling for making these comments? Have they not done the exact same thing now for the last 3 years?

Let's examine Schilling's statement. He said Bonds admitted using steroids. Now let's examine what Bonds said. Bonds admitted to using a cream substance and a clear substance supplied to him by Balco. Those substances, it turns out, were steroids. Bonds admitted to using a substance that turned out to be steroids. Bonds claims he did not know this at the time of use, but does not deny using them. Schilling didn't say Bonds admitted that he knew he was taking steroids. Think about it like this this, if you admit to driving 55mph and it turns out you were in a 30mph zone, you've just admitted that you were speeding whether you knew it or not. So if we're splitting hairs here, Schilling arguably was correct in his assertion. Now, Bonds's testimony is very likely inadmissable in a case against him (as most Grand Jury testimony is supposed to be confidential), so this admission in a legal context kinda "never happened." But that is not what the media peeps are saying and it is not the point. The greater point is that the same sports media pundits that were calling out Schilling for his comments also are ones who believe that Bonds has used steroids. Much of their belief is based upon the Bonds leaked grand jury testimony. The portion of that testimony that is most often refered to by these same media folk.... THE PART WHERE BONDS SAYS HE USED FUCKING STEROIDS "UNKNOWINGLY." And why is that testimony so damning? BECAUSE HE SAID HE USED A SUBSTANCE THAT WAS STEROIDS. I don't care if you call that an admission or not. You are using the same statement for the same purpose that Schilling did, as evidence that Bonds used steroids. If you choose to believe that Barry Bonds has used steroids, you are in no position to excoriate someone for making the same assertions even though you choose to character your evidence differently. How is it irresponsible for Schilling to label Bonds testimony as an admission but it is not irresponsible for YOU to assume Bonds is a steroid user from the same testimony? What am I missing here? Morons.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Greatest Highlight Video of All-time

Nique, Yanni.... say no more

I was born before the days where parenting consisted of popping in the latest video from "The Wiggles", "Baby Einstein" or "Hannah Montana" (which is unfortunate for reasons I'll decline to go into) and letting the melodic fog of musical learning take hold for an hour and a half only to have the child request that it be played over and over and over again (not that I have children of my own, but I do watch sitcoms, so I know what I'm talking about, dude). My formative years were instead sculpted by TV shows. Shows like SportsCenter, TBS movies like Road House, Overdrive, Over The Top, Bloodsport and Adventures In Babysitting, and whatever sport they were showing on ESPN2 at 8am on a Sunday (usually tarpon fishing on the Walker Cay Chronicles or Warren Miller's skiing vids) were pretty much my only source of media-related entertainment. Despite my relationship with crappy programming on the boob tube, there was one video during my upbringing that was able to grab my attention away from Dalton, Jeff Healy and the tribulations of the Road House crew in a way no other program or movie ever has. The video was NBA Superstars Vol. 1, and not only is it the greatest collection of highlight reels ever, but it contains the single greatest highlight reel ever created.

The video was ("is", I'm just detailing from the perspective of the 12 year-old who sat in front of his tube and watched it) basically a series of 4 minute tributes to the best players of the day put to the music that best captured both their personalities and playing styles. The featured players in this video were Magic Johnson (to Janet Jackson's "Control"), Larry Bird (to the Cougar's "Small Town"), Jordan (to Top Gun's "Take My Breath Away"), Charles Barkley (to Pat Benatar's "The Warrior) along with some other riff raff including an unbelievable general NBA highlight reel to "Teddy's Jam" by Guy (a song and group so hilarious on so many levels I may devote a separate post or novel to it). I watched the video so many times I can't hear those songs without thinking of the exact shot, dunk or pass that corresponds with the video tribute. Even though the video was produced in 1989, the production quality transcends time and is easily the best produced video highlight reel I've ever seen. Each shot made is on beat and the emotion of the song always reflects the type of play on the screen. It's the perfect blend of music and sport. And while almost every portion of this video is so fantastic it seems almost illogical that one video could stand out, there is one video that stands above the rest: Dominique Wilkins.

People forget just how exciting a player Dominique was. In an era of Bird, Magic and Jordan, NO ONE put together more highlight worthy performances than 'Nique, hence the name the Human Highlight Reel. He truly personified that nickname on a nightly basis. His highlights from one game were better than what you could get out of the rest of the league over the course of an entire season. So given his highlight acumen, the one question left for the producers of NBA Superstars was: How do we properly honor Dominique and give him the musical accompaniment deserved of such a worthy star? I was not a fly on the wall in that room the day the music decision for Dominique was made, but had I been, I think I would have seen tears of joy streaming down the cheeks of the production crew following the epiphany that there is only one musician on the planet worthy of Dominique: Yanni.

Yanni is a virtuoso. He's a self taught pianist and composer, former competitive swimmer, author and once was in a "rock band" with Charlie Adams and John Tesh (that must have been a rockin good time). His album Yanni: Live From Acropolis is probably one of the best 5 albums ever created. But more relevant to this conversation, the song chosen for Dominique's video, "Looking Glass", perfectly captures the entertainment value that was Dominique Wilkins in the late 80's. The video itself is seamless. The drive to the Omni with 'Nique with Yanni's slow but driving intro teasing you along the way. Nique lacing up his cons in his "Atlanta Air Force" t-shirt while the music slowly builds up to a crescendo via a mysterious sounding keyboard tone and understated yet regal keyboard strings providing a further undercurrent of mystery in the background. Then the mood changes. There's 'Nique sitting on the bench as the music starts to fire up and getting called in for pre-game intros, a shot of the crowd and all of the sudden BAM! two handed flush and Yanni takes over. The keyboard explodes into an amalgam of electronic strings and quasi-piano sound that personified the late 80's progressive music "movement" (think Herbie Hancock, also featured later on the Superstars video) and on every fourth count a hard keyboard drum beat sync'd perfectly to 'Nique soaring over a helpless defender and delivering a Marv Albert "facial!" (take that in any context you wish). If your blood is pumping by the one minute mark of that video, you may want to see a doctor because it is very likely that you are deceased. It is to highlight videos what David is to sculpting, "Las Meninas" is to painting and Catch 22 is to noveling. The epitime of perfection. I won't run down the rest of the video shot for shot, but I do want to point you to a favorite spot of mine at the 2:40 mark when 'Nique steals the ball near the opposite three point line, starts up the court, they cut to a shot of a young and impish looking Mike Fratello shooting up from the bench and finishing with a 'Nique flush slam and back to Fratello for a bizarre and maniacal grin. That scene alone would be elevate an average video into one of the top 5 videos of all-time. Match that up with Yanni and you've got the greatest video of all-time.

Whoa Suzy!

Suzy Waldman was more than a little excited about the return of the Rocket

It's long been known that Suzy Waldman represents one half of the worst announcing duo in the history of sports (she is about 90% of the reason for that distinction). The only duo even in the same ballpark of ineptitude are the White Sox announcers, the Hawk and DJ. I won't get into the the panoply of reasons for Waldman's stranglehold on the honor of worst announcer, but if you want to get a taste of her work, you MUST check this out. It's Suzy's call after Roger announced he was returning to NY. She sounds like a cross between Gilbert Godfrey, Dr. Melfi from the Sopranos (Lorraine Bracco) and Yoda.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Wily Mo never met a curveball he didn't miss

Along with missing an "L" from his name, Wily Mo Pena (or WiMP as he is sometimes known) has some serious issues with his game (I'm like f'n 50 Cent my rhymes are so tight). WiMP is on pace to break the all-time strikeout percentage rate and had it not been for his other worldy 4-4 performance the other night against Seattle (he had 5 hits in all of April), he'd be on pace to shatter the record. I have no idea why they throw him anything but curveballs and changeups. Presently, WiMP is striking out 46% of the time he goes to bat (would be 52% if not for that one game), or almost half of his at-bats. The major league record for players with a minimum of 100 at bats is 43% by Melvin Nieves in 1997. Now, I love the bastard because he can hit the ball a country mile and with he and Manny kicking it in the outfield, there is always a chance that something hilarious will happen but I'm kinda rooting for WiMP to make history here. It would be a great juxtaposition against Manny hitting his 500th home run. In fact, I wish they gave him more at bats. If WiMP got a normal amount of ABs (anywhere near 600), he'd make Adam Dunn look like Tony Gwynn.

Clemens to the Yanks? Are they creating a canasta team?

A lot's changed since Clemens took his Hummer and left the A.L.

(Let me start by saying that I'm on record as never wanting the Sox to go after Clemens. It was a lose-lose situation for them. Had they bought him, they would have looked desperate and unconfident of the team they have. The only rational reason to pay way too much money for an old guy who can't break 80 would be to keep him from the Yanks, because any arm is better than what they have and they are desperate. Also, as the title of this post suggests, he's really old. Just wanted to get that right out of the way.)

$4.5 million a month for Clemens, eh? What a deal (and don't throw the $100 million Dice-K number at me. Dice-K is 26 and will probably pitch another couple of years.). I don't want to rain too badly on the Yanks parade (I'll wait for him to fail or hit the DL before I joyfully do that) but paying too much for a guy who may not make it through the year may have been what got you into this problem in the first place. Also, didn't they sign an overrated old guy a couple of years ago and ask him to stay healthy and pitch in the A.L. after a stay in the N.L.? Can someone remind me how that story ended? This time will be different, right? Again, I don't think it's a horrible signing. Instead, I think it just underscores how horrible the Yanks front office is at signing starting pitchers. If anything went wrong with the aging guys in their staff, they didn't have a backup plan. They HAD TO make this move. If Schilling got hurt, Dice-K didn't work out and Tavarez blew up, the Sox have 3 guys that can start today (Lester, Snyder, Hansack, or even Pineiro and Paps). To me, this move just looks desperate and pathetic (though I do think it has the small chance of making a Huge difference in the AL landscape, but an even greater chance of becoming a HUGE flop). Oh, and one more thing.... are we just supposed to forget about this?

(UPDATE: Now it's been announced that the Sox offered him $18 million to start pitching in late June. Just missed out by $10 million.... for one year.)