Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sitting on pills and needles

It's been a long time, internet. But you know what? We're not sorry.

Okay, maybe we're a little sorry, but we don't owe you anything. This isn't here for you. This is here for us, goddammit.

Something Amerigo and I have been discussing for a few weeks, which seems especially appropriate right now: naming names. The Mitchell Report on steroids in baseball is due out this week, probably Thursday. Angels owner Artie Moreno got the ball rolling for us in the Los Angeles Times two weeks ago: "The names of players will come out that people will be mad about. Some of my information is secondhand, but I know there's going to be names." There's been rampant speculation around the FTC offices about just who the Mitchell Report will name.

Let's face it, kids: there's no point in bitching and moaning about how steroids have corrupted the game or ruined our innocent childhood dreams (cry me a river, Gary Smith). The underlying truth here is that we're still going to turn to sports for fun and entertainment. It's fun to watch baseball, just like it's fun to follow the continuing decay of the New York Knicks. It's trivial, it's entertainment, and sometimes -- like when your team wins -- it's rewarding. Well, it's not going to be rewarding for a while, so while we're waiting for them to clean up the game, let's make the best of it.

It is in that spirit that FTC is proud to present a long list of baseball players we think did steroids. We've ruled out guys who have already admitted steroid use (Jason Grimsley, David Segui, Jason Giambi, etc.), players who have already been suspended (Jose Guillen, Guillermo Mota), and players whose names have been very, very closely linked to the former two categories through documents and news reports (Gary Matthews, Jr., Rick Ankiel, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, about 47 other dudes). Also, Barry Bonds. Just cause...come on. Without any further ado, here is a list of names that we at FTC wouldn't be surprised to see in Senator George Mitchell's report, or any subsequent investigation into drug use in baseball (we've divided our picks into several fun subgroups):

EDIT:
The report is due out today, so we're going to keep a steady watch and bold the ones we get right.

Group A: Guys we think totally did steroids
Todd Hundley
Brian Giles
Jeff Blauser
Albert Belle
Miguel Tejada
Tony Phillips (not immediately obvious, but look at the teams the guy played on. They're loaded with obvious juicers, and Tony Phillips put up some pretty un-Tony Phillips-esque numbers for a little while.)
Melvin Mora
Robin Ventura
Randy Velarde
Rico Bronga
Matt Williams
Ryan Klesko
Carlos Baerga
Darren Daulton
Darren Dreifort
Alex Gonzalez (both regular and S.)
Fernando Tatis (injected into sideburns)
Charles Johnson
Denny Neagle
Mike Hampton
Roger Clemens
Andy Pettitte
Erubiel Durazo
Jay Buhner
John Kruk
Pete Incaviglia
Bret Boone
Dmitri Young
Pete Harnisch
Mike Remlinger
John Wetteland
Robb Nen
Johnny Estrada
Dante Bichette
Jeff Bagwell
Paul Quantrill
Chili Davis
Spike Owen
Troy Percival
Derek Bell
Henry Rodriguez
Wil Cordero
Chuck Finley
Juan Gonzalez
Ruben Sierra
Jeromy Burnitz
Derek Bell
Jeff Cirillo
Butch Huskey (Come ON)
Danny Tartabull
Keith Hernandez
John Franco
Mike Piazza
Duaner Sanchez
Jorge Posada
Raul Mondesi
Tony Clark
Javy Lopez
Ozzie Canseco (how have we NOT heard his name yet?)
Mike Stanley
Brady Anderson
Dave Henderson
Howard Johnson
Mo Vaughn
Greg Vaughn
Steve Avery
Scott Erickson
Ivan Rodriguez
Lenny Dykstra
Jose Offerman

Tino Martinez
Benito Santiago
Mariano Rivera
Jeff Nelson
Darin Erstad
John Jaha


Group B: Guys we think probably did steroids/wouldn't be surprised
Ellis Burks
John Burkett
Glenn Davis
Rondell White
Ricky Ledee
Alan Benes
Andy Benes
Darryl Kile
Mike Stanton
Johnny Damon
John Thompson
Luis Polonia
Matt Franco
Tim Belcher
Dave Magadan
Bobby Bonilla
Bret Saberhagen
Chuck Knoblauch
Rusty Greer
Glenallen Hill
Hank Blalock
Ray Lankford
Von Hayes
Scott Kamieniecki
Vinny Castilla
Scott Speizio
Jason LaRue
Brett Myers
Geoff Jenkins
Jim Edmonds
Ed Sprague, Jr.
Mark Grace
Armando Benitez
Mark Kotsay
Lee Stevens
Brad Fullmer
Cliff Floyd
Rob Dibble (would be a definite yes if not for his friendship with Dan Patrick)
Tim Salmon
Gregg Jefferies
Chris Stynes
Mel Rojas
Todd Zeile
Bernard Gilkey
Phil Nevin
Darryl Hamilton
Kenny Rogers
Jay Payton
Pat Mahomes
Harold Baines
Jeffery Hammonds
Jon Lieber
Tim Raines
Brian Anderson
Dave Hollins
Mariano Duncan
Larry Andersen
Ron Darling
Henry Blanco
Ron Gant
Mike Jackson
Juan Samuel
Andy Ashby
Mark Whitten
Jeff Shaw
Paul Sorrento
Steve Karsay
Chad Curtis
Preston Wilson
Luis Sojo (once almost hit me with his car)
Aubrey Huff
Todd Pratt
Jeff Conine
Aaron Boone
Gary Gaetti
Lance Parrish
Marty Cordova
Damion Easley
Tony Batista
Paul Konerko
Randy Wolf
Enrique Wilson
Andruw Jones
Jermaine Dye
David Justice
Cristian Guzman
Jaret Wright
Jacque Jones
Marquis Grissom
Felix Rodriguez


Group C: Guys Spinmove is certain did steroids, though Amerigo disagrees
Roberto Alomar
Benny Agbayani (slipped by clubhouse attendant into pre-game ham feast)
Frank Thomas
Kyle Farnsworth
Mike Lowell
Mike Williams
Bernie Williams
Carney Lansford


Group D: Potential juicers named Kevin
Kevin Millar
Kevin Mitchell
Kevin Stocker
Kevin Sefcik
Kevin Seitzer
Kevin Elster
Kevin Reimer
Kevin Millwood
Kevin Brown
Kevin Tapani
Kevin Mensch
Kevin McReynolds


Group E: Players whom we at FTC are totally positive would have failed a drug test in 1996:
Brady Anderson


Group F: Players whom we at FTC don't think used steroids, and we wouldn't even want to know about if they did
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Jay Bell
Alex Rodriguez
Vladimir Guerrero
Andy Van Slyke
Craig Biggio


Group G(ritty): Players whom we at FTC swear up and down did NOT use steroids, but who we hope did so that when Tim McCarver finds out, he'll take his own life:
David Eckstein

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Free Communications Advice for Michael Vick

Dear Mr. Vick,

Our consultants have noticed that you're in a bit of a bind with regard to your pending trial. Since communications is our business, we here at Free Tank Carter would like to offer you our services. Please find following our plan for your image rehabilitation.

1. Make a deal. The Feds want one of two things, either to deal a major blow to dogfighting, or to get the great Michael Vick. Either way, you can help them. Resign yourself to admitting something, probably betting on dogfighting, to serve a 6-month suspended sentence and pay a giant fucking fine that you can afford with pocket change.

2. Help the Feds. Tell them that, in exchange for offering your guilty plea to a lesser offense, you will divulge everything you know about dogfighting operations in the rest of the country. Offer to tell every name, every place, every damn dog that you know about.

3. Announce. Tell the people that you have reached an agreement with the Feds, and that you will be the spokesman and honorary chair for their new anti-dogfighting task force. Apologize for what you've done, and to the people and fans you've disappointed. Say that, growing up in the poor South, you honestly did not think that this was anything egregious. Say that you will take the next year off from football, and that you are releasing the Falcons from their financial obligations to you. Say that you look forward to spearheading the effort to educate people about this grotesque hobby, and to talking with the NFL over the next year.

4. Wait six months. Do all the stuff you said you'd do.

5. Do the long-awaited interview. Talk about your work with the new tast force. Tell everyone what it's like growing up in the poor South, where there are dogfights in every county. Explain how this is like hunting in Pennsylvania or cockfighting in Mexico; it's just something that's not thought of as taboo. Explain how difficult it was to come to the realization that this is wrong, and how much you thank your friends for ratting on you. Tell them you want to come back to football, and that you have scheduled a meeting with Roger Goodell.

6. Meet with Dictator Goodell. Be sincere, be frank. Tell him what you told everyone on TV. Tell him you're open to some type of probation, or something to prove to him that you belong in the league. Bring representatives from the Feds and from PETA to tell him about how valuable you've been in the fight against cruelty to animals.

7. Return to football. Make the Randall Cunningham conversion to savvy veteran, who still wins games with his feet but doesn't need an offense designed around him. Resume making millions. Get active in the community branch of the Humane Society and take in abused dogs or greyhounds that were going to be shot or something.

8. 12 months after step one, you are once again the beloved starting QB of an NFL team.

We hope you take this plan under advisement.

Sincerely,
FTC

Friday, August 10, 2007

Shawn Chacon swears this has NEVER happened to him before

No rant today, no attempt to be funny or make fun of anyone. Today, I'm just here to pass along a digital photograph of Pirates eighth-inning master Shawn Chacon (he's the one on the right) with a scantily-clad woman at some trashy, high-volume North Shore bar.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Dave Littlefield scored a 200 on the math section of his SAT

I'm going to have Dejan walk us through this one so we can dissect it piece by piece.

The Pirates yesterday acquired starting pitcher Matt Morris, who will be the highest-paid player in the franchise's 121-year history, from the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Rajai Davis and a minor-league player to be named later.

Are you serious? More than 120 years of beautiful tradition from Honus Wagner to Roberto Clemente to John Motherfucking Wehner, and Matt Morris is the most expensive player in Pirate history?

Morris will take up roughly 20 percent of the Pirates' entire payroll, which now stands at $47.3 million without counting the $5.5 million in deferred money being paid to Jason Kendall.

His total guaranteed money, including the prorated $3.66 million salary for this season, is $15.7 million.

That's jaw-dropping. I'm completely...I don't even know how to react to this. Dave Littlefield's trades are getting progressively dumber. Consider the following:
  1. The Pirates are 42-62, 20 games under .500 and 14.5 games out of first place in the NL Central. They have a 0.00050% chance of making the playoffs this season.
  2. If you include Shawn Chacon -- who is pretty iffy regardless of what innings he pitches -- the Pirates were already carrying six starting pitchers, and they have two former first-round picks sitting in Triple-A who will very soon reach "bust" status if they don't begin contributing at the major league level.
  3. Matt Morris isn't any better a pitcher than anyone the Pirates have now -- except maybe Tony Armas. Morris has allowed nearly 11 hits per 9 innings this season, his K/BB rate is bad (1.87), opponents are hitting nearly .300 off him and his WHIP is a robust 1.47.
  4. Matt Morris became the highest-paid player in Pirates history when the Giants gave him to the Pirates, basically for free. Rajai Davis was only involved in the deal because the Pirates needed to clear a roster spot, and you have to get something in return if you want to try and convince people you aren't losing at baseball on purpose.
  5. The Pirates are still paying Jason Kendall.

The other surprising aspect of the Morris trade was the last-minute manner in which it went down.

I guess it was fairly sudden. Nobody predicted Matt Morris to the Pirates. In fact, nobody predicted Matt Morris would be traded anywhere, because Matt Morris isn't very good and is owed more money than it would take to purchase the entire sorghum industry. How the hell did this happen?

San Francisco was eager to pare payroll, and general manager Brian Sabean was in talks with two contenders about taking Morris, who had been struggling of late and was open in expressing his discontent with the last-place Giants. But the Pirates swooped in late, Sabean said, and offered something no one else did: They would assume Morris' entire contract.

"Pittsburgh stepped up to take the player as is, with the contract," Sabean said.

Pitching was the single most valuable commodity at the trading deadline. It always is. Everyone can always stand to add pitching, and this year there was very little of it available. Only one contending team picked up a starter, and that happened yesterday when the Phillies acquired Kyle Lohse from Cincinnati. Every contending team except the Padres would benefit from having another starter for the stretch run, and still nobody wanted to take on Matt Morris's contract, even if they weren't going to have to pay all of it.

Why the hell did this happen?

The single most logical explanation I can come up with -- and it still makes no sense -- is that the Pirates are adding payroll as a flip of the bird to Jack Wilson. After Wilson's dugout fued with pitching coach Jim Colborn, the Pirates made their intentions clear by acquiring Cesar Izturis, a Jim Tracy-favorite who is about 200% all-around worse than Wilson. Then, Tracy and Littlefield lied through their teeth about wanting to trade Wilson, which given Izturis' salary, wouldn't have made sense as a payroll dump. The Pirates' front office has developed an irrational hatred for Jack Wilson. Why else would it be looking to deal him just a year-and-a-half after signing him to a contract extension? He hasn't gotten any worse at his job. As if acquiring Izturis and openly shopping Wilson to anyone who'd listen wasn't enough, they're adding payroll -- just so Jack doesn't confuse his departure from the team a $250,000 payroll dump. This is the kind of thing Eric Cartman would do if he ran a baseball team.

"I think Matt Morris is the right player who kind of fits in with what we're trying to do," said Littlefield.

No human major league general manager, beat writer or anyone who follows baseball could possibly deliver that quote without laughing. It's not possible. I think Dave Littlefield might be an evil communist space-robot from Hell.

I guess what they're "trying to do," you see, is come as close as they can to re-enacting the plot of "Major League" without getting caught. Somebody put him up to this, right? On April 7th, 1989, Dave Littlefield and some of his friends got really high and went to one of the first screenings of "Major League" at a nickelodeon in Bangor, Maine. And as they walked out of the theater and Dave reached desperately for that last, lone Junior Mint stuck to the bottom of the box, one of his buddies said, "Dude, that could totally never happen in real life." And Dave begged to differ. At that moment, it was on. And it's been on ever since. Right?

Littlefield declined to answer a specific question about whether he was trying to trade Wilson. Even though parties on both sides extensively confirmed the talks, Littlefield dismissed published reports on the matter as "speculation" and "a fun thing for baseball fans to read about this time of year."


Are you fucking serious? What you're putting us through, Dave -- this is fun? This time of year is quite possibly the least-fun part of being a baseball fan in Pittsburgh. In fact, it's about 74% more depressing than the average Pirate regular season game, because every time you make some comically incongruous deadline trade, David, the fans are too burned out to care, and the writers are too baffled to analyze it. See?

"Another year, another bizarre acquisition by the Pirates. But while last year's move to get Shawn Chacon was puzzling, acquiring Matt Morris is inexcusable." - Keith Law, ESPN.com "The Pirates have only X number of dollars, and they rather easily dispense it when it comes to certain older players -- Morris, Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa -- but are uncommonly tight-fisted about it when it comes to the building blocks of the franchise, whether that is bypassing a superior prospect in the draft or failing to compete for top talent in Latin America." Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"I don't have the answers, probably because there are no answers. But don't worry, my friends. Only 58 more to go. And with the Pirates sitting at 42-62, that puts their magic number at 21, as in 'the Pirates need to win 21 to finish 63-99 and not lose 100'." - MondesisHouse.com

And for once, Smizik's the optimistic one...

"It's a move that reeks of desperation and of Littlefield, who has yet to produce a winning season in six years, making a final attempt to keep his job, which is widely believed to be in jeopardy." - Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Back to Dejan's write-up of the trade:

Morris had some harsh words for the Giants last week, accusing them of losing their "focus," and he reiterated similar criticisms in a conference call today, saying of the environment with last-place San Francisco, "It's been hard. You almost learn to accept losing. I hate to say that, but it's true." He also called it "laid back."

Wow. So Matt Morris already has a vague idea of what it's like to play for the Pirates, and he already hates it! No worries, though. I'm sure it's nothing $15.8 million and the mystique of being the highest-paid player in team history can't cure. At least Dejan's got a sense of humor. Here's the next paragraph of this story:

Asked how he felt about coming to the Pirates, another last-place team, Morris replied, "It's exciting, a new opportunity. It will be nice to get some better defense, with the young guys there going all out."

Morris knows he's not coming to the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Seton Hall Pirates, right? He knows that he's been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and not the Campeche Pirates of the Mexican League?

Ah, fuck it. I don't even care anymore.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Now is the New In a Few Minutes

I'm currently 1 minute and 23 seconds through my fourth attempt to sit through an entire segment of "Who's Now" on ESPN's SportsCenter. Tonight, we bounced back to the Billie Jean King region (I... OK, whatever. I guess if classic sports heroes were regions, Billie Jean King would just as easily be one as anyone else. But make sure to check back later when I'll answer that question with a six-round, tournament-style bracket called "Who's More Region.")

Today: No. 2 seed Derek Jeter takes on 3 seed Reggie Bush. I feel dumber already.

Our expert panelists are Mike Greenberg, who looks like he's dressed to go clubbing in 2002, Adam Sandler, who looks like an aids-addled junkie, and That Guy from That Show with Leah Rimini. He looks like the future of most of ESPN's audience, but with more money.

I won't waste any time extrapolating on the credentials of our expert panelists; their contributions to nowness are indisputable: Sandler is a B-list celebrity who hasn't made a funny move since The One where Bob Barker Kicked His Ass, Kevin James is a Q-list celebrity who has never made a funny movie, and Greeney is one of the two remaining ESPN personalities that anyone likes. Some would argue that Sandler is really a little bit more 1997 than strictly now now, but I think his nowness then may make him a sort-of hall-of-famer of now.

Anyway, here's how this proceeds:

Stu: "DEREK JETER... He's a New York player hater in the house pimp juice ZOMG pwn buzzword"
Sandler: "Yeah... heh heh."
James: "Yeah, that's pretty now. I mean, if now was a hamburger, he'd be a new Wendy's Baconator for just $2.99 at participating locations."
Stu: "BUT THEN THERE'S Reggie Bush. He's better than Barry Sanders. Bling bling."
James: "Wow man. Yeah. In my new movie, 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,' Sandler and me play gay guys. It's in theaters now, so that's pretty now."
Greeney: "My wife thinks I might be gay."
Sandler "Yeah... heh heh. Gay."

Not that there's a tremendous amount of variation with panelists. Here's every installment of "Who's Now:"

Stu: "How now is [Big Star]?"
Panelist: "So now."
Other panelist: "Nower than a bag of chips."
::laughter::
Stu: "But [OTHER Big Star] is HOLLA ATCHABOOOI now"
Panelist: "Yeah, he is better looking."
Other panelist: "Plus he hangs out with Paris Hilton. And he was in [ESPN-Owned Property], which is now times infinity because ESPN is the nowest shit since now was the future."

Then 150,000 people who don't know the names of their own senators vote 2-1 in favor of the one who plays football or basketball.

Of course, nothing is nower than "Who's Now" itself. It encapsulates everything you need to know about ESPN: blithe star worship, product cross-promotion, second-rate celebrities, and Stu Scott looking at you and his interview at the same time.

Actually, check that. Nothing was more now at ESPN than the opening to the ESPYs: As LeBron James took the stage in front of everyone who has anything to do with sports, Jimmy Kimmell (who has a new show on ABC) got down on one knee and kissed his ring finger. Even though there are no rings on it.

Maybe he was kissing his now finger.

NOTES:

- Introducing a feature Tom Urbanski, the Las Vegas strip club security guard who was paralyzed in an altercation with Pac Man Jones' entourage, Stu Scott dropped a very cute "Rent" reference. Thank you, Stu - Laughter will only help the now-paralyzed Urbanski's 525,600 minutes of agonizing pain.

-Is it just me, or is the NBA the only professional sports league in America whose refs can get caught gambling on the games they themselves officiate and your only reaction is to roll your eyes and say "that's so like them."

- If the "Half Hour News Hour" on FOX News is really what the right-wing America thinks "The Daily Show" is, then two things are true: 1, Right-wing America is exactly as up-to-speed as left-wing America thinks they are and 2, we are never going to all just get along.

- They took my NFL Network away today. Comcast has a special system in place to make sure that when irked men call to angrily ask why they've taken away NFL Network, you're directed to the internet, where you can order the Sports Entertainment package without screaming at someone. I don't know which titanic binge-profiting company pisses me off more between the NFL and Comcast but... oh, Comcast... I JUST CAN'T QUIT YOU.

- I watched "Flashdance." It's 1983's "Coyote Ugly," but takes place in - and was shot in - the city of Pittsburgh. There is no place more depressing in America than Pittsburgh was in the early 80s. Except maybe Buffalo now. Only a minor amount of boobie, and none of it belonging to the magnificent Jennifer Beals. Among the radical misrepresentations of the city of Pittsburgh: everyone's inexplicable New Jersey accents, the presence of steelworkers, the presence of attractive strippers, the presence of more than one strip club, the presence of people over the age of 20 and under the age of 35, the civility of bar patrons, not a kielbasa to be seen for 90 minutes. Also noteworthy: I'm not exaggerating when I say that there is literally no discernible plot.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

We Will...make you want to gouge out your own eyes with a dull spoon

From CentreDaily.com's Sports N'at:

Situation: Jack Wilson drops a pop fly.

Logical response: None, whatsoever. Jack Wilson is a defensively sound shortstop. Like any fielder, he's going to make an error from time to time. This happens. But you can't accuse him of not wanting to catch the ball, as he's easily the only guy on the team who hustles with any regularity. He hustles because he enjoys playing baseball and, presumably, cares about winning. He's been a vocal team leader, and inexplicably enjoys playing for the Pirates. It's not Jack Wilson's fault the team is awful, and it's not like he's constantly dropping popups. Don't say anything, and just move on.

Pirates' response: Pitching coach Jim Colborn picked a fight with Wilson in the dugout, and the two got into a shouting match, despite the fact that it's absolutely none of Colborn's damn business, since he's the pitching coach (it's worth adding that Pirates TV broadcasts constantly show Colborn jawing at home plate umpires, arguing balls and strikes. No description I have ever heard of Jim Colborn has lead me to believe he's anything other than a pompous bafoon. Also worth noting is the fact that the Pirates' team ERA has risen from 4.42 to 4.60 during his tenure, and that every pitcher whose mechanics he's ever toyed with has gone on to become demonstrably worse and, eventually, severely injured).

Situation: Jack Wilson and pitching coach Jim Colborn get into a fight in the dugout.

Logical response: Colborn is fired, and his lackey, Jim Tracy, is out as manager at the end of the season. Jack Wilson isn't in charge of the team, but Colborn was tremendously out of line. More importantly, he's awful at his job. The logical choice to succeed Colborn is Pirates' minor league pitching coach Jeff Andrews -- a fabulous teacher and a great baseball mind. Andrews has the capability to be a fantastic big league pitching coach, and it'd be better he did it with the Pirates than not with the Pirates.

Pirates' response: Trade a player to be named to the Cubs for shortstop Cesar Izturis and cash considerations. Izturis is worse defensively than Jack Wilson, and worse offensively than Jack Wilson. How bad is Jack Wilson offensively? Opposing pitchers pitch to Jack Wilson with runners in scoring position, first base open and the pitcher on-deck. They do this, like, all the time. That's how bad Jack Wilson is offensively. Izturis is worse. Acquire Izturis and his $4.25 million salary (which makes him the second highest-paid player on the team), sending the message to Wilson that his leadership and positive attitude won't be tolerated. Then, begin shopping Wilson to an AL contender.


Some quick notes and stats on Izturis vs. Wilson, with some help from the FTC Sabermetrics Department's own Timmy the Geek:


2004-07 games played:

Wilson: 157, 158, 142, 86

Izturis: 159, 106, 54, 65

2006 VORP:

Wilson: 4.6

Izturis: -4.6

2004-06 FRAA:

Wilson: 20, 22, 8

Izturis: -6, 10, -2

WARP 3 (career)

Wilson: 3.65%

Izturis: 1.95%

Career WARP3/g, current Pirate infielders:

Freddy Sanchez: 3.8%

Jack Wilson: 3.65%

Jose Bautista: 2.8%

Cesar Izturis: 1.95%

Jose Castillo: 1.8%


Conclusion: Cesar Izturis is patently bad at baseball. Jack Wilson is just slightly below average.

Average salary per win contributed (in U.S. Dollars):
Wilson: $931,372.55
Castillo: $316,363.64
Sanchez: $37.173.91
Bautista: $85,714.29

Jason Bay WARP3/g (career): 5.6
Jason Bay WARP3/g (2006): 10.6
Jason Bay dollars/win (2006): $94,339.62

I'm starting to fucking hate sports.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Pirates scouting department in action

College World Series announcer: They say Moskos throws harder in relief, which makes sense, since you're only out there for an inning or two.

CWS announcer 2: You can really see what the Pirates liked in Moskos, and why they thought so highly of him that they drafted him with the #4 overall pick.

[Moskos, big lefty hard-throwing reliever comes in with a 5-3 lead for his team, Clemson. Mississippi State has one runner on base. He projects, according to ESPN, as a closer prospect, a la Mike Gonzalez, or a middle reliever, a la Brandon Lyon]
[First pitch: Home run to dead center. Tie game.]

[Second pitch: Double.]

[Third pitch: Hard hit single.]

CWS announcer: Well, you can imagine, with the day he had yesterday, with being selected in the first round and all, how he might be distracted.

[Moskos yanked, runner would later score to give MSU a 6-5 lead. Line for the day: BS, L, 0 IP, 3 ER, ERA and WHIP both infinity]

[Amerigo Vespucci starts drinking].

Friday, June 1, 2007

"Oh my god," Jim Tracy said.

Last night, Shawn Chacon turned out one of the finest starts we've seen all year by a Pirates pitcher. His line:

7 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 10 K

"Oh, my God," Jim Tracy said. "You couldn't have asked for more."

Not from Chacon. That's for damn sure.

But the Pirates couldn't muster more than two runs off of six Padres pitchers, and wound up stranding 17 runners.

And then, like a swallow to Capestrano or a Mike Williams fastball to the heart of the plate, Salomon Torres blew the two-run leaded handed to him in the ninth inning.

And then, Josh Sharpless saw his ERA rise from a paltry 13.50 to an uncomfortable 21.60.

And then, the Pirates lost.

When Torres was asked if there was specific part of his game that had failed him, he replied, "My head, I guess."

Awesome.

So, to recap, we've got as solid a starting staff as exists in the wasteland that is the NL Central, an offense that ranks 25th in runs scored and has the worst on-base percentage in the league, a manager who loves nothing more than giving away outs at the top of the lineup and a closer who is completely inside his own head.

Awesome.

Yesterday was the point of no return. This was the game that we'll all look back on in three months and say, "Yeah, that was really the beginning of the freefall. I didn't think a team was capable of losing 100 games by the end of August."

"Oh my god," Jim Tracy said. "You couldn't have asked for more."

You're right, Jim. I suppose I should have known better than to have so much as a faint hope that the Pirates would finish anywhere NEAR .500.

-----

In much more positive, yet completely predictable news, the Pens named Sidney Crosby their team captain yesterday, making him the youngest team captain in NHL history.

"Oh my god," Jim Tracy said. "You couldn't have asked for more."

You're actually right again, Jim. Sid's been phenomenal. And this is the most you've ever been right about anything.

There's really nothing to say about this, other than that it's great Sid will be able to win and accept the Hart Trophy as the newly appointed captain. But the move itself isn't surprising. I think the Pens probably waited the appropriate amount of time to bestow the title upon Crosby, especially given how he carried the team down the final stretch of the regular season, then was a total workhorse in the ultimately disappointing playoff series. The Kid never gave up. I bet a lot of people thought he was the captain already.

-----

Steelers coach Larry Zierlein apologized for accidentally forwarding a pornographic e-mail to every general manager in the league and commissioner Roger Goodell. The e-mail was reportedly VERY racy.

"Oh my god," Jim Tracy said.
Whoa. Calm down, Jim.
"You couldn't have asked for more."

Glad you enjoyed it, Jim. But please stop. I'm trying to blog here.

Zierlein won't lose his job over the incident, but he's said that he's already e-mailing less.

The Steelers also signed their fourth- and fifth-round draft picks, punter Daniel Sepulveda and guard Cameron Stephenson. Nice to get Sepulveda inked. Can't have the league's top punter/linebacker prospect holding out come training camp.

"Oh my god," Jim Tracy said.

I know, Jim. He's a beast. He's the Matt Jones of punters. Get ready for kick coverage like you've never seen. It's going to be special teams meets Chuck Norris.

Now seriously, go away.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Solution to the Steroids Problem

Amnesty.

Get the player's union, the teams, and everyone in a room, and grant amnesty to anyone who comes clean, as long as the offense was pre-2003. No voiding contracts, no suspensions, no nothing. Just admit it, and move on.

That's the only answer.

Monday, May 21, 2007

FTC RETURNS

From a month off, and I'd like to solicit votes and voices for which of the following things is LEAST surprising...

1. Bengals linebacker AJ Nicholson gets into trouble with the law
2. Ricky Williams tests positive for marijuana
3. Another Yankees pitcher goes down with an injury
4. Michael Vick knows nothing about something shady in his life
5. Skip Bayliss thinks that LeBron James has more talent around him than the Pistons have on their team

Footnote: Skip Bayliss thinks we should ban athletes from nightclubs post-midnight, because "Peyton Manning wouldn't be caught dead in a nightclub."

ESPN Firsttakes: It's Cold Pizza, without the catchy name!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

You've GOTTA be kidding me!

WHAT??? and again... WHAT??? Wait! I'm not done.... WHAT!!!!!?????!!!!

A texting competition?? I'm almost speechless. Is LG serious? Apparently so...

I remember the days when a good argument could start up around whether or not bowling was a real sport. By now, I believe the verdict is in, and after hours on ESPN on a Saturday afternoon bowling and bass fishing are both acceptable sports. I think I'm still on the fence about these. After all, what makes something a sport?

The competition? The rivalries? Physical activity? The prerequisite of training? The passion?

I don't think about it too often, but how many "sports" are really sports and what is the criteria?

Speed walking. Definitely harder than it looks when one considers how many very probable missteps could lead to disqualification. But is it a sport, or a funny-looking activity that usually screams "Speed walking: For the almost jogger."

Cheerleading. This was a controversy at my high school. My dear friend ran track for four years including cross country. She maintained an A average and was president of the National Honor Society. Her schedule was filled with science courses and Latin. We just knew that in her senior year as co-captain of the cross-country and track team, especially with the success of the track team that year that she would be awarded the student-athlete award. It went to a very bright student who happened to be a cheerleader. We were all shocked. And while we could not deny her intellectual capacity, we had no other choice but to make the claim that cheerleading is not a real sport. Yes, it requires athleticism and training. There are rivalries and competitions. But is it a sport?

Is car racing a sport? Is chess a sport? And if chess is a sport, why isn't checkers? It's only fair. Poker is a sport, so why not solitaire? Is this becoming a game vs. sport debate?

I've heard people describe all the hobbies, activities, passions above as "sport." But are they?

Good ol' dictionary.com defines sport as "an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc."
That's the first definition. The third definition of sport on dictionary.com is "diversion; recreation; pleasant pastime." (Is that enough of a thing to be a sport? Sounds more like a game to me.)

Hopefully, a few years from now, texting is not considered a sport. I just feel deep in my gut that someone will try to call it a sport and through tacit content of sports fans, journalists and competitors it will become acceptable to participate in the sport of texting. Something in me just says, "NO! Stop the insanity!"

But the question is still lingering in my brain: What makes something a sport?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Jim Tracy gets ripped by someone who was on "Melrose Place"

From the end of Alyssa Milano's blog post on mlb.com, following the Dodgers' clubbing of the Pirates:

Maybe Tracy should have positioned Bay in the bullpen Saturday instead of stacking the infield.

Ouch.

Memo
From: Free Tank Carter
To: The Nutting Family
Re: Manager and GM

Dear Bob and family:

Please hire someone who will not give B-movie actresses license to publicly ridicule our team and its decisions. While changes will likely need to be made at many levels, we would appreciate you begin with a General Manager who might hire a Manager slightly less renowned for his idiocy and ineffectiveness than the current occupant of that office.

Please look here for a brief summary of Alyssa Milano's "career." We are sure you will agree that, her producer credit on the hit series "Charmed" notwithstanding, Ms. Milano is not a source from which shit should justifiably be spoken. We further trust that you will see the urgency of this situation and remedy it posthaste.

Please let us know if you would like further assistance. It would be our pleasure to furnish you with personnel ideas and recommendations.

Sincerely,
FTC

This is why being a Pirates fan increases the risk of alcoholism and suicide

Why, God, why, has the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Team of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, employed so many FUCKING MORONS?

The awesome Dejan Kovacevic explores:

It was a week ago today, fewer than 24 hours after the Pirates had put down a sizzling St. Louis rally in the ninth inning, that catcher Ronny Paulino reflected upon it and offered this surprising tidbit ...

"You know what the key was to that whole inning?" he said. "When David Eckstein got hit by that pitch."

Say what?

Hitting Eckstein -- not intentionally -- loaded the bases and, ultimately, forced closer Salomon Torres to pitch to Albert Pujols with a one-run lead.


"Doesn't matter," Paulino said. "Eckstein's the guy you don't want to face there."

Others agreed without hesitation, players and coaches alike.

"Can't let Eckstein beat you there," shortstop Jack Wilson said.

OK, so, just to be clear here: The Pirates are happy to duck a 5-foot-7 career .282 hitter to take on the sport's most imposing hitter?

And why, exactly, is this?

"Because," Wilson said. "Eckstein's clutch."

Please excuse me while I go and claw out my eyes. Paulino's a young catcher, but Jack, buddy, I expected better of you. Next thing I know, you'll be saying you should be hitting second.

Albert Pujols is probably the best hitter in the National League. David Eckstein who Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sent in when their rally monkey got sick.

Okay, we'll skip the parts where Dejan explains why it's idiotic to believe this, and go to Dan Fox, author for the statistics Bible Baseball Prospectus.

"What they've found is that while there may be a small clutch ability -- for example, hitters who can adjust their approach in different situations seem to have a small advantage -- that ability is dwarfed by the normal differences in overall performance."

Take, for example, the differences in performance between Albert "The Second Coming of Ted Williams" Pujols and David "One Gritty Dwarf" Eckstein.

More good reporting by Dejan, and then we hear that the NL batting champ doesn't believe in clutch hitting, even though his average with RISP was second-highest in the league last year.

Anyone want to guess who was first? That's right, Albert Pujols!

Good thing we pitched around Eckstein to get to that clutchless, gritless shithead!

Of those who feel [that analyzing clutchness is the dumbest fucking idea ever], Pirates pitching coach Jim Colborn said, "Dead wrong. There is an element in certain people that allows them to focus at their peak and get into a zone when the situation is more important."

If you're new to baseball, here's a decent rule of thumb: If Jim Colborn thinks something, just think the opposite, and you'll probably be right.

He cited, from his playing days, Joe Rudi, a career .264 hitter who had a reputation of elevating his level every postseason for the Athletics, at least as measured by the intangibles of timely hits and key defensive plays.

"Believe me: For all the great players in that lineup, Joe Rudi was not the one you wanted to face. He just had a knack."

Baseball Prospectus does not give me Joe Rudi's average with RISP, and I don't feel like digging. What I can tell you is that he's a lifetime .264 hitter because he played too long. But his lifetime EQA is an average .275, and he had five years where it was over .290. So he was probably pretty good at baseball, and then he was correspondingly good in "clutch" situations. If someone wants to do further research on this, be my guest.

More good reporting by Dejan, an interview where Jason Bay reveals that he knows the word "predicated," Bob Walk saying he believes in clutch, and then the real killer:

There is no bigger proponent of clutch in the Pirates' clubhouse than the man in charge.

Hey, Dejan, could you remind me how big an idiot our manager is? Please?

When his team wins, Jim Tracy invariably points to "big" hits that were delivered. When the team loses, he points to the lack of same. Even after the Pirates were blanked on three measly hits in their home opener April 9, Tracy lamented, "We had chances."

Thanks.

Tracy's view is reflected in how he forms his lineup, bucking the modern thinking that the highest on-base percentage players should be stacked at the top. Instead, he favors the more traditional approach of getting the runner on, moving him along and getting a "big" hit.

The Pirates will score 12 runs this year.

"Isn't that what makes teams good?" Tracy said when asked about his value of clutch.

Well, talent helps. But yeah, I guess putting lousy OBP guys in the two hole and then praying really hard for a hit is what makes teams good, too.

"It's what separates you from the pack, your ability to take the big at-bat. You don't expect somebody to hit 1.000 with runners in scoring position, but you have to get your share of hits in those situations. Look at the upper echelon of clubs, and that's what you look for. And if we can get to that point, we've got a chance to become a pretty decent team."

"Good cliche things are good and big. Nobody is perfect, but being good is good. Some cliche things that are good look good. If we get to be good, we have a chance to be not bad."

[Slams face into desk].

The National League's highest average with runners in scoring position last season was the .286 of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and they were one of the four playoff teams. The other three also ranked above the league average.

But then, so did ... the Pirates? Their .266 mark ranked seventh, even though they finished with the fewest runs and were nowhere near the playoffs.

The statistic that correlates most closely with scoring runs is on-base percentage ---- how many times a batter reaches base safely, whether by hit, walk or hit batsman -- and this is backed by every spreadsheet back to the late 19th century.

Last year, the Pirates' on-base percentage was .327, third lowest in the league. This year, it is .303, second lowest.

At this point, I think it's fair to make a BOLD PREDICTION: Jim Tracy will try hitting Salomon Torres in the two spot before the end of the year because of his "clutchness."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Anthony Morelli spells "football" with extra quotation marks

Today's victim comes to us from State College, Pennsylvania, where the local paper has created scores of blogs, most of them authored by you, the general public. It's enough to make Colin Cowherd throw up in his mouth.

But wait! Before you dismiss these blogs as populist garbage, perhaps there's someone who posts on here who knows a little something about sports, or is a football expert or something. Work is really boring, and I could really go for some well-written, insightful football analysis right now. What have you got for me, Ben Goldberg-Morse?


We all know that quarterback is the most mentally challenging position on the entire football field. He has to have the demeanor of both a coach and a leader, needs to inspire confidence in all of his teammates, needs to make the right decisions and be smart both on and off the field. Even for a quarterback who brings the total physical package to the table, it is not enough.


I guess this will do just as well.
Forget about physical tools. They don't mean as much as the intangibles, right? That's why Doug Flutie is the single greatest quarterback of all-time, and Vince Young is a fad, like snap bracelets. Intelligence is something you like to see in most human beings, but it's not necessary to excel in certain professions, one of which is football. Granted, football players have a lot to learn, regardless of position -- even offensive linemen have to learn blocking schemes, and that can be especially difficult playing for a team like the Steelers, whose blocking schemes have been unusually complex for the last ten or so years. But are we to believe that a quarterback is better-served to be smart than physically gifted?


Look, it's no secret that Vince Young isn't the sharpest spoon in the spoon cabinet, but he's got the makings and the look of an excellent quarterback. I wouldn't trust him to house-sit for me while I went on vacation to Italy, I wouldn't trust him to cook a spinach and feta omlette without burning my kitchen to the ground, and I probably wouldn't let him help my hypothetical children with book reports. But everything I've ever read about or seen from Vince Young leads me to believe that he's got an incredibly bright future as an NFL quarterback.
The point is, while it certainly helps to be smart, plenty of really dumb guys are good quarterbacks. Terry Bradshaw -- he's pretty dumb. I don't know anyone who looks at Ben Roethlisberger and thinks, "now there's a guy who's got something going on upstairs." Chad Pennington does a pretty good job, and he seems to inspire his teammates despite being a blithering idiot.



How will physically dominant players like Jeff George or Ryan Leaf be remembered? I, for one, will only remember them as quarterbacks who were perfect from the neck down, but just couldn't cut it psychologically, and it ruined any chance of success.

Ryan Leaf was a physically dominant quarterback.

Ryan Leaf couldn't win games because he was too focused on his pre-game routine of physically dominating Chargers' groupies and the occasional homeless man. Ryan Leaf skipped team meetings to drive around San Diego and beat up nuns. Ryan Leaf challenged each of his teammates and every member of the Chargers' press corps to the "Feats of Strength" after practice every day.


I don't know how Jeff George got lumped in here. George was actually a pretty servicable NFL quarterback for a very long time -- he even led the league in passing yards once, and regularly finished in the top-10 in completions, touchdowns and adjusted yards per pass. He had a reputation for being a huge whiner, and he definitely got June Jones fired in Atlanta, but he was nowhere near the egregious waste of space that Ryan Leaf was.


Comparing Jeff George to Ryan Leaf is like comparing Jeff King to Bobby Bradley.

While Penn State starting quarterback Anthony
Morelli doesn't appear to have the attitude problems that plagued George and Leaf, I fear the worst for him; I really don't think he's up to the task of making effective decisions within the current offensive system to lead this football team to greatness.


Now, we're into the meat of the argument! Anthony Morelli is Penn State's starting quarterback -- a Penn Hills product who just about scored his weight on the SATs. Remember, intelligence isn't essential for a good quarterback, it certainly helps -- especially if you're not the most mobile of signal-callers. Peyton Manning? Not so mobile, but great at reading defenses and calling plays. He's a smart quarterback. Vince Young? Still learning to read defenses, but his right arm is a surface-to-air missile launcher and he can always beat you by running. Anthony Morelli has a fantastic arm, but he's easily confused by all the moving parts, and wouldn't be much less mobile if chained to a flagpole. He's a yinzer Patrick Ramsey.


I've already tempered my expectations for him -- he has a great set of receivers to throw to, and will be successful if he can only perform at an "effective" level, I'm not even asking him to be "good."



I'm not even going to "try" to justify Ben's use of "quotation marks" here, because I don't "understand" it. It "makes" no "sense."



How a quarterback can attempt 386 passes in a season and only 11 touchdowns boggles my mind.



Anthony Morelli is a bad quarterback.



You'd think, from looking at that statistic, that he's a dink-and-dunk passer, a Rich Gannon/Chad Pennington type who effectively throws short patterns. God, I actually wish that was the case.



Anthony Morelli is a bad quarterback.



He completes a very low number of his passes, and seems to force the ball into coverage when it is totally unnecessary.



Anthony Morelli is a bad quarterback.
And he's about to get worse, as Ben Goldberg-Morse "explains":


The problem is, he holds the key to Penn State's success in 2007, and he doesn't have [running back Tony] Hunt to rely on anymore. He also doesn't have All-American left tackle Levi Brown protecting his blind side, and as such, he will undoubtedly face an even stronger pass rush this season than last.


Right. So without question, this guy is going to be worse than he was last year. His supporting cast isn't as good as it was, and even if you factor in maturation, Morelli clearly doesn't have the tools to succeed, as evidenced by his numbers from last year, his third season in the system:
208-of-386 (53.9%), 2, 424 yards , 11 TD, 8 INT, 19 sacks for -165 yards, -88 rushing yards.


Hopefully tomorrow's Blue/White game will mark the first public display of Morelli's turnaround


Despite losing every decent member of his supporting cast, having no discernable ability to read defenses or consistently throw a football with any measure of accuracy, a stragely under-developed sense of depth, a tendency to be distracted by movements and shiny things, an inability to properly spell his own name and agility that makes him look like he's trying to jog while wearing cement shoes, Anthony Morelli should absolutely turn around his career in tomorrow's intraquad game. It's gonna happen. I can feel it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Lil' John v. Alyssa Milano

I can't decide which Fan Blog I'm more excited about.

Alyssa has managed to stay hot, talks about dating baseball players, and is bringing real knowledge - who knew she could actually understand baseball? - plus, her blog is named *touch* 'em all...

But Lil' John has pictures of him with the Stanley Cup and sentences like this about the Thrashers:

They’re all great guys. I met all of the cats and they showed me a lot of love. They appreciate me coming out which I thought was amazing. Sometimes they get kinda pumped up when they look over; they saying to themselves "Jon’s in the house tonight, we gotta crank it up!"

I'm torn.

Eric Neel v. English


Because I have a not-so-secret desire to be like Ken Tremendous, Eric Neel's one-man war against the language I speak is my new favorite thing. Just look at how grand he makes an April baseball series look!

I have to say, I'm pretty excited for this weekend's (and next weekend's) Yankees-Red Sox series. This is an unfamiliar feeling (I usually ignore and sometimes revile the 800-pound gorillas).

1. If it's unfamiliar, how can you usually do anything? 2. revile: "n. To assail with abusive language." So you usually ignore and sometimes insult metaphors for large, powerful things. What?

At least for the weekend, I'm just like seemingly everyone else in the world of sports journalism -- endlessly fascinated by the Yanks and Sox.

You can't be endlessly anything for a weekend.

Eric goes on with some stuff about Dice-K that is unoffensively nonsensical. But then...

Matsuzaka's no stranger to pressure. The hopes and dreams of Japan ride on his every pitch, and he knows it.

Because everyone knows that Japan is a country full of simple folk who only care about how baseball players do in America. And bow a lot.

But I wonder, will this atmosphere -- with all its bilious history -- register as some other order of weirdness for him? Will he think, even for a moment, "What the hell have I gotten myself into?" Will there be some step-back, deep-breath, go-to-the-rosin-bag stroll behind the hill during which you can literally see the scene press down on him?

Literally? Eric Neel thinks that some type of physical manifestation of a baseball game will descend and start pressing on a Japanese pitcher? Will it be Don Zimmer's body lowered out of a helicopter or something?

And how will he respond to it?

I'd be pretty fucking scared. But then, I'm not Japanese.

Will we get a glimpse of what's already become his trademark shy, sly smile?

There is nothing shy about Dice-K. And if you start talking about his prepubescent hips, I swear to God...

Will he step back up to the rubber with a sense of purpose and fearlessness and proceed to make the Yankees' hitters look silly just for showing up? Or will he press and sweat and hang sliders and get rung like a bell?

We have reached a point where I am happy that only bad writing awaited me in those sentences.

Chapter 1 in the Matsuzaka story was the posting and the signing. Chapter 2 was the first few "show us what you got" starts against teams the Sox were expected to beat. Sunday is the beginning of Chapter 3 -- the heart of the story, the true outlay of character, the start of the action.

Every dictionary on dictionary.com lists this as the definition of outlay: "n. - an expending or spending, as of money."

So Eric Neel either a.) thinks Dice-K will reveal that is some type of artificial life form composed entirely of dollar bills and credit card receipts or b.) understands not what this thing is that you call the English language. Votes?

Ditto that for A-Rod. His first couple weeks have been comic-book-hero spectacular. With 10 swings he's moved the intractable Alex Rodriguez story lines -- off his no-love affair with Derek Jeter, off his jittery play at third, off the glossy lips and frosted tips, off what he can't do and who he isn't, and onto discussions of 70 home runs, another MVP award, and the return of Yankee greatness. It's been the most radical transformation -- every one of his grimaces from last year finding its counterpoint in a smile and a shout these past two weeks.

I just checked dictionary.com. You can, in fact, use "counterpoint" to mean something other than a musical syncopation, according to two of their four sources, if you get down to the fifth or sixth definitions. Then it can mean "any element that is juxtaposed and contrasted with another." I'm still trying to figure out how a grimace can find its juxtaposed element, but I guess it's not completely impossible that Eric Neel knew the meaning and just wrote badly...

The conventional wisdom is that Rodriguez's fate in New York hinges on what he can and will do in October -- which is true -- but it's also true that October really begins this Friday night in April, against the Red Sox. No matter how hot he's been, no matter what thunder he brought down on Cleveland, he's vulnerable right now, his new reputation minted in glass.

Sorry, I was wrong. There's no chance. He got lucky on the definition. In other news, Alex Rodriguez is going to retire as one of the 3 best hitters ever, maybe the best player in history. Good thing you can't mint reputations, or glass, or he'd be vulnerable.

The fates of Matsuzaka and Rodriguez clashing like Godzilla and Mothra -- with smoky, miniature-scale buildings and crushed little plastic cars scattered beneath them -- is drama enough to make me watch.

I'm trying to decide if he made this reference because Dice-K is from Japan. Especially since the Yankees have a different player whose nickname is "Godzilla."

It's not just that I enjoy watching the mighty Yankees scrape and bow a bit (though I must confess …).

That stupid parenthetical notwithstanding, I just spent way too long researching the meaning of "scrape and bow" which means "kowtow," or "act obsequious." So are the Yankees surrendering?

It's that, in the scraping and bowing, they start to take on a little bit of an underdog look, going heads-up with a potent Schilling-Josh Beckett-Matsuzaka hydra.

Well, I guess showing deference would make one appear like an underdog. I guess.

The underdog look doesn't suit them, of course. But that's what I like about it -- its awkwardness, its freshness.

It also doesn't suit them because their lineup will score eleventy billion runs. Even if they are pitching against a potent three-headed hydra.

If they succeed in the six games they have with the Red Sox in the next 10 days, it most likely will be because the Yankees' young punks, who have no business doing so, stepped up and pitched with a kind of moxie the moment demands.

Or it could be because they scored 45,278,347,392 runs this weekend, and only allowed 45,278,346,355.

...in this stretch, early in the season, the job of going toe-to-toe with hated Boston falls to far greener, far shakier, trees.

Jobs fall to green, shaky trees? Am I reading a poem by a high school student on mescaline?

Clearly, I need help.

Help can be yours, Eric Neel! For free! At www.dictionary.com

The Playoffs Started? Oh... maybe next year.

I'll admit it: I started watching sports because of men. Watching soccer with my dad helped us develop the bond we share now. Throughout elementary school, my fellow female classmates seemed obsessed with stickers. It was a nation of little Lisa Frank's and I just couldn't get interested in it, but at 9, nothing was more interesting than a game of basketball or running until I just couldn't run anymore. When boys became more than playmates, the cool thing to do was to be the girlfriend who pulled out tickets to a Knicks game (no matter how badly they suck) rather than tickets to the ballet or to suggest watching Sports Center instead of a Lifetime movie. And, of course, playing a game of softball with a group of friends or jogging together is always a better activity than whatever else it is couples do. Perhaps I'm not giving myself enough credit. Maybe I just like sports... Yes. I just like sports, whether I'm actually playing something or watching it. It's not a gender thing... it's a human interest thing.

So, how could I be completely unaware that the NBA playoffs started? Really. When did they start and who is playing? Apparently, I'm not the only one who just doesn't seem to have a clue or care... Perhaps I've been distracted by traffic on the Major Deegan while driving to and from work, the gym and my house. (Thank you Yankees. Spring is here and so is the baseball season!) Or maybe I was trying to eliminate the phrase "nappy headed ho" from my everyday use. Was it the excitement that seems to have been given to the NFL draft and misbehaving NFL players and players-to-be that got me all jacked up in the game? Can I blame Sanjaya for my problems. Perhaps it's been the weather or tragedies on college campuses. I don't know why, and I really don't care. Perhaps, just maybe there is the slight possibility that Kobe's 50+ point games aren't interesting anymore. There is always the chance that news of additions to the NBA's injury lists gets boring and takes away from the game. Maybe there are too many teams in the playoffs that don't deserve to be there. It could be that the Eastern Conference is a disgrace. Heck, I don't even know if the real pride of Mt. Vernon, NY (Ben Gordon) is playing in the playoffs. The Bulls made it right?

But it's not just the playoffs. Wasn't basketball just boring this year? Hasn't it been lame for a few seasons? I grew up watching a league of giants. Where's my Bird now proving that white men can jump? No one else has the all-encompassing magic of Jordan (please, I can't take another LeBron comparison). I must (regrettably) admit that AI got less interesting with the crazy antics. Chris Webber is not so cute when he's losing. Jason Kidd, while a great player, is heavily associated with his team because he's such a team player, and I don't like the Nets because they are coming to Brooklyn. Sadly... no personality (while, I too had high hopes for Arenas) can match those that really got me into the league, if not the game.

Well, you don't have to agree with me. Dan Steinman, editor of the Washington Post's D.C. Sports Blog says a possible cure for the NBA could be to "cut the length of the series, especially those first-rounders that often aren't competitive." He continues...
"I'd say the problem is the same it's been for years: a regular season that's more bloated than an American Idol results show, and first-round playoff series that last longer than some marriages," he said. "It's just hard to get pumped after all that basketball, and with all that basketball still to go. At a minimum, they should go back to best-of-5 in the first round, which will never happen. Or better yet, best-of-3. That would indisputably add some life to the first round."

Yes, it does seem like NBA basketball goes on forever, sometimes anti-climatically or finally climaxing when I've already lost interest and moved on (yet another connection to my relationship with men... hmmm), especially when there are so many other sports to devote time and energy to.

So maybe next year, NBA. By this time next year, we'll have inaugurated a new president, encountered another natural disaster (I'm not predicting or wishing it happens, but it's likely), and dethroned another one of Hollywood's "it" girls. Perhaps that will give the league the motivation it needs to compete for my attention.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Keith Benjamin: The Pride of Mt. Vernon, NY

Thank you, Keith Benjamin, for carrying on the proud Pitt athlete tradition of beating the shit out of women.

The Post-Gazette reported today that police witnessed Benjamin arguing with his ex, Ashley Olczak. She looked about like someone who'd had the crap kicked out of her, Benji looked like he'd just finished one of his nice 25-minute-long streches of sitting on the bench. The argument, apparently, turned violent when Olczak punched him in the stomach.

After she hit him, Olczak said Benjamin punched her on the left side of her face. Olczak said she hit Benjamin in the chest again and that Benjamin punched her again, this time knocking her to the ground. Officers observed swelling and a bruise on Olczak's right cheek. She said she did not know how the other injuries occurred, but said they were a result of the fight.

Benjamin contended in the criminal complaint that Olczak threw several punches at him that he was able to block with his hands. Benjamin, who was uninjured, said he never hit Olczak and did not know how she received her injuries. Both refused medical treatment. Olczak was arrested as well.


So she was so fierce that he was forced to put up a guard and hide behind it while she kicked the crap out of herself.

Or maybe a third party, perhaps a one-armed man, came in and beat her up with his prosthetic arm, while Benjamin was blocking her punches.

Maybe after he gets off, Benjamin can search Oakland for the real abusive dickhead.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Well, we're no Jacksonville

So some person who is even more bored than me put together the list of the winningest cities all time. But it's some shoddy statisticking.

The good news: Pittsburgh clocks in at #19 (.505 total), Buffalo at #16 (.507), and Boston #13 (.51276623894570238003245790234763459069567900293728936560238402...)

The bad news: The top five includes Salt Lake City (#2, the Jazz), Edmonton (#4, the Oilers), and Montreal (#5, Canadiens, Maroons and Expos), and Montreal is the only city with more than one team. The top 10 includes Calgary, Portland, and Jacksonville, before giving way to actual cities like LA and New York/New Jersey, which someone should have told ESPN is not one city but two states.

My question: How do you not give weight to cities that have more than one team? The Canadiens are about 1,000 games over .500, which is just a hair under the total number of games played in the #2 city, Green Bay, since 1927.

All right, whoever put this together is almost as bored as me.

"Hey, Jay, let's drink this bottle of Tequila and then you can show me your 12-gauge collection"

Jayson Williams, the charismatic New Jersey Nets center who was holding a shotgun when it shot his driver in the face, is STILL ON TRIAL, five years after the alleged incident.

Today, a 4-3 decision allows a second jury to hear that Williams wiped down the gun and jumped into a pool after the incident, presumably to remove his prints from the gun and take one last dip in his pool before the anticipated legal fees forced him into a studio apartment in the rough part of Trenton.

The good news is that Williams' plans to appeal, so he'll die of old age while out on bail, long before anyone might actually decide if he's guilty of recklessness or if the shooting was accidental. I don't mind saying that, in cases like these, I don't envy the jury. It's a pretty fine line between accident and negligence.

I mean, there were some times in college when me and my roomies got pretty stupid, but it's not like, if something bad had happened, it would have been more one person's fault than another's.

Of course, that doesn't mean someone wouldn't have been held accountable. Also, I wasn't getting paid to drive any of my roommates around.

So I say make Jayson Williams fight in court for another five years, then let him off with the accumulated time, energy, stress and legal fees as his punishment. It's not like anyone's ever going to be dumb enough to go over to his house again, anyway.

NFL Schedule released

Well, those bastards at the National Football League of Football Players Playing Football have finally told us what we can wait for now.

The schedule, released today, isn't telling anyone much, since we don't know how good anyone will be, but the Steelers, even after an off year, have two Monday Night games, both at home (!), against archrival Baltimore in Week 9, and against their old mate Joey "Don't Hit on 17" Porter and the Miami Dolphins in three weeks later.

Just one MNF game for Indianapolis, who did okay last year, but Denver, who almost was good for the seventh straight year, has three MNF games.

And of course, Dallas at Buffalo in Week 5.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Correction

A few hours ago, we published a post detailing embattled Chicago Bears tackle Tank Johnson's winning of The Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

As it turns out, this year's Masters was won by PGA Tour player Zach Johnson, not Tank Johnson.

Tank Johnson did not compete in this year's Masters, as he's currently serving a 120-day sentence in an Illinois jail for violating his probation.

Two-thirds of FTC was out of town all weekend attending a fantasy baseball draft, and in our struggle to catch up to the rest of the world, we used information provided by sources at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The quotes attributed to Tank Johnson were actually said by Zach Johnson. Tiger Woods was not misquoted.

Free Tank Carter regrets the error. Kind of.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Breaking News Alert!

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- FTC wire services is reporting that Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson has won The Masters. He shot a 3-under-par 69 on Sunday to finish at 1-over 289 for the tournament, tying the highest winning score in Masters history.

Johnson finished his round two shots up on Tiger Woods, who entered the final round just one shot off the lead. Woods briefly took sole command of the leaderboard with a birdie on the second hole, but a broken club and several off-target shots derailed his attempt at a fifth green jacket. Needing to make up two strokes on the final two holes to tie the Bears' tackle and force a playoff, Woods managed only pars on the 17th and 18th holes to finish 3-over-par, in a three-way tie for second place.

After his disappointing finish, Woods speculated that golf likely appeals to Johnson's love of firearms.

"He played beautifully," Woods said. "Look at the round he shot out there ... He did what he needed to do. He went out there, grinded away, made shots he needed to make."

Johnson, though, remained stoic.

"As they say, giants gotta fall at some point," Johnson said, though it was unclear at the time if he was referring to Woods, the New York Giants, the Bears' recent Super Bowl loss, or his recently murdered bodyguard, William Posey.

More on this story as it develops.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Eric Neel scares me

It's a rare writer who will begin a stupid column by acknowledging how stupid he is. Eric Neel is that rare writer:

It's best not to rely on your eyes. They lie. They're vulnerable to the leanings of your heart. They rush you to judgment.
The smart play is to wait for numbers, to be a cool analyst of hard facts, to play it straight and sober.

But I'm not that bright. I'm prone instead to enthusiasms and impressions, to feelings and possibilities.

Thank you for your candor, Mr. Neel. Let's see how your column goes:

I must confess: I eyeball. So I begin this season absolutely certain "King Felix" Hernandez is going to kick some serious tail in 2007.
I watched the 20-year-old King, who today becomes the youngest Opening Day starter since Dwight Gooden in 1985, pitch against the Angels in Peoria, Ariz., last week. And he knocked me out. He wasn't perfect (four earned runs in six innings), but he looked great.

He had an ERA of 6.00, and you say he wasn't perfect? Nitpicker. We all know it matters how Hernandez looks to you.

You've no doubt heard that he came to camp 20 pounds lighter (226 pounds) this year. But the difference isn't just that he's healthier, fitter, easier on his 6-foot-3 frame.

Eric Neel is spending a lot of time looking at Felix...

The difference is he's grown into himself.

A lot of time.

Gone are the baby-boy cheeks, and the prepubescent hip handles.

I think Felix should be uncomfortable about now.

This isn't the pudgy prodigy; this is the man.

Uhm.

With cheekbones and a sense of purpose.

He has cheekbones!

The core of successful pitching is stuff and command.

True. Excellent analysis, even if "stuff" is a bit vague, at least you weren't commenting on anyone's prepubescent hip handles.

But another smaller, but maybe just as important, part of it is looking the part -- coming off like you're bad and you know it.

I think he means "bad" in the Michael Jackson sense, or "good." And no, that is not maybe just as important.

Think Dave Stewart's curled cap bill. Think Roger Clemens' black glove to the face.

But I want to think about their hip handles!

Hernandez was cuddly last year -- clearly talented, but clearly young. Tune in this afternoon and you'll see someone more mature, more focused. Someone lean and hungry. Losing the extra weight was a leadership move.

Okay, I quit. I seriously have to stop halfway through this column. You win, Eric Neel. Felix, take the man out to dinner. He's clearly hurting. Just give him a chance.

Chris Henry is a one-man, neo-conservative think tank

Chris Henry and Pacman Jones met with NFL commish Roger Goodell in New York yesterday. FTC's "Man on the Inside" reported that the discussions -- held over coffee and an out-of-this-world apple crumb cake -- were genial and productive, though no suspensions were handed down to either player for his most recent off-season conduct. That's still to come, and both players were made aware of that. In fact, Goodell is so serious about cleaning up player conduct that any new discipline codes the NFL ratifies could include lifetime bans.

But after leaving the meeting at NFL HQ, Henry gave a phone interview to the NFL Network. When Rich Eisen, appearing on the NFL Network for the 12,146th consecutive hour, asked Henry what he might say to fans who are troubled by his propensity for getting arrested, Henry called a play designed for him by close friend and former roommate Karl Rove.

"They're really not true fans, I guess."

If you question the quality of Chris Henry's character, not only are you not a real football fan, but you're helping to energize those who Chris believes are the NFL's rivals, i.e. the commissioner's office and any law enforcement.

Chris Henry is on a crusade to purify the game. Football isn't about money, it's about using that money to buy alcohol for underage girls. It's about having someone in your entourage dump giant bags of that money on strippers, and shooting whoever tries to retrieve it. If you don't understand that, you're not a real fan, and the terrorists have already won.

J.D. Quinn for Congress!

From ESPN:

Former offensive lineman J.D. Quinn and Bomar were permanently dismissed from the team the day before the start of practice last fall for taking money for hours they did not work at a Norman auto dealership.
Quinn, who transferred to Montana, told the Tulsa World he didn't understand why he and Bomar were kicked off the team Aug. 2.
"All I did was take cash," Quinn said. "I didn't break any laws and I get kicked off the team, but there's people on the team that are breaking laws and failing drug tests and stuff like that, and there's nobody getting kicked off the team for that type of stuff."

1. "All I did was take cash" is a wonderful quote, certainly in the running for best of the year by a moron athlete.

2. Throwing your teammates under the bus should help you get back on the team.


Quinn declined to provide details of his allegations about other players, but said it was not necessarily about players on the OU team.
"I was just saying around the country. I wasn't saying it in the context of Oklahoma. There's just people I've heard of doing things."

Wait, scroll back up... Okay, J.D., you said:

"...but there's people on the team that are breaking laws and failing drug tests and stuff like that..."

So, "the team" means "around the country." And you don't actually know what any of those things are, you've just heard that people, somewhere, do those things. And that that those poeple don't get kicked off of whatever team they might be on. But you just took cash, so you should be back.

J.D. Quinn needs to run for office, and I mean now.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Pirates Baseball: Now 26% More Weird Looking!


The Post-Gazette today ran a photo of what I can only assume is the Pirates two-through-five hitters searching the Monongahela for the B-25 Bomber that's been missing since 1956. Turns out the river is only two feet deep! Who would have thought? Thank you for your outstanding public service, gentlemen.
The PG's also got complete player-by-player projections for the whole roster. They're worth looking at, solely for the awkward head shots that were probably taken the first day of spring training while everyone was hung over, except for Nate McLouth, who had a glass of Ovaltine at 8 p.m. and went right to bed.

The best of this year's crop is backup catcher Humberto Cota, sporting an ill-advised attempt at a goatee this year, and looking like he hasn't slept since last November. If you look closely enough, it even starts to resemble a famous mugshot. If you could see the un-cropped version of Cota's 2007 photo, you'd see that in place of a booking number, Cota was forced to hold up his 2006 offensive statistics (.190/.248/.200, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 8 BB, 26 K).



Other notables:
Tom Gorzelanny has melted 26% more since the end of last season.









Against management's wishes, Chris Duffy accepted a challenge by pitcher Matt Capps to down four (4) Wendy's 4-Alarm Spicy Chicken Sandwiches in one hour. That's 16 alarms, Chris! Sixteen alarms!







The best photo of Jack Wilson since his rookie year, before he had those teeth fixed. I won't even dare dip into the archive to show you what that looked like.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Penguins lead the Atlantic, their owner gets sued

The Pens won last night in commanding fashion, despite no Gary Roberts, and Evgeni Malkin playing time on the fourth line because he pissed off Mike Therrien. That puts them in the lead and hoping the Devils lose tonight.

And their owner, Ron Burkle, is being sued (along with his buddies the Clintons and the NY Daily News) by a gossip reporter who lost his job after Burkle accused him of extortion. Burkle just brokered a deal to keep the Pens in Pittsburgh for the next 30 years, and he's part of the main bidding conglomerate for Chicago Tribune and LA Times. He also looks tough as shit in that picture, doesn't he? Would you fuck with that man?

Peace out, Dan Kolb

The Pirates cut Dan Kolb, saving themselves $1.25 Million, which is about enough to buy a section of people a Yuengling each at PNC Park. That is just one of the infinite things the Pirates can better spend that money on. So the bullpen spots belong to Wasdin and Bayliss, though apparently Juan Perez has been pitching really well (!) and may keep Grabow (who's injured) out of it long-term if he continues to play like this.

The real battle left now is for bench spots. Brad Eldred drew his 11th walk of the preseason yesterday (tying him for seventh in the, but there is still a chance he'll get cut. Still, the Pirates have shown uncharacteristic innovation in letting him play OF, and now they cut Kolb. So I'm still just hoping that they'll keep him and whatever crappy-hitting backup catcher they see fit.

Please. Just do it, Bucs. Keep Brad.