Friday, February 29, 2008

Credit where credit is due...

I don't hate Bill Simmons; I nothing Bill Simmons. I just try to ignore him, enjoy the frequent and dead-on haterade from my blogger superiors, and generally do my best to forget he sorta ruined me as a sports fan for a couple years (it's a long, boring story that, since this site isn't my memoirs, doesn't really need to be told).

But I have to say, the man wrote a really nice article today, and since I know he needs the traffic, I thought I might link it and offer the Fire Everybody! seal of approval to his piece. The best part?

Ctrl+F: boston "Phrase not found"
Ctrl+F: celtics "Phrase not found"
Ctrl+F: red sox "Phrase not found"
Ctrl+F: patriots "Phrase not found"
Ctrl+F: karate kid "Phrase not found"
Ctrl+F: the hills "Phrase not found"

There's a glancing reference to Carlton Fisk and the World Series, but that's the closest the article comes to dealing with any of his usual topics. Instead, it's basically just a massive collection of emails from various Sonics fans on how the impending move to Oklahoma City is affecting them, with Bill providing a pretty insightful lead-in. Though I think his argument is one-sided (not that he doesn't admit as much: "There is only one side"), I appreciate his clarity and argumentation. This is why I liked the guy in the first place.

Also, I'm still trying to figure out whether Bill's new bosom buddy Matt Ufford took the time to write in. This has got to be the leading candidate...

City: Seattle
Name: Matt

How can one guy come in and steal a team from an entire city? I can't believe he would even have the guts to try something like this ... until I start to think about it more. Clay Bennett picked the perfect city to mess with. We are a bunch of computer-nerd, organic-eating, coffee-drinking wussies. I can say that because I am from here, but even if I weren't, I don't think anyone would do anything about it.

Of course, Cap doesn't live in Seattle anymore, but it could still be an honorary residence. But nah, I'm not buying it. The comedy is pretty lame and obvious by his standards, and since when has Ufford cared about whether he has the right to shit on an entire city?

Besides, I think his words on With Leather in a post from November 2 of last year pretty clearly summed up how he felt:

Murdering Clay Bennett over MOVING THE SONICS -- Fuck you, you fucking piece of shit. Fucking die.

Truer words were never spoken, Cap. Or blogged, as the case may be.

All right, fuck positivity. Bring on Murray Chass!

Oh those loveable, eugenically-inclined Brits...

Hidden inside my colorful pseudonym is the terrible secret that I am, in fact, a Brit. You know, a Limey. A Pommy. A Redcoat. John Bull's lapdog, which I believe is called John Lapdog (after Shakespeare we lost all our imagination). I could go on, but why should I when Wikipedia already has?

So anyway, imagine my intense intrigue (read: mild interest) when I noticed the following headline on - Height makes right: British Olympic officials seek tall people. Sounds positively scintillating, doesn't it? Tell on, anonymous Associated Press writer...

Answering a nationwide appeal for tall people with athletic potential, more than 50 prospective Olympic athletes have been placed in British training programs for the2012 London Games.

I'm pretty sure that in England the main indicator of British athletic potential - itself a bit of a contradiction in terms - was, you know, "being tall." So "tall people with athletic potential" might be a tad redudant over in the UK. I mean, that's all that John Amaechi brought to the table, and he's probably Britain's most famous athlete.

Clarification One: I am NOT, I repeat NOT, making fun of Mr. Amaechi's homosexuality. I am instead making fun of the fact that he was pretty terrible at basketball.
Clarification Two: The fact that I'm calling John Amaechi Britain's most famous athlete might be read as a culturally ignorant, typically American dismissal of soccer. That is incorrect. It's actually a carefully-considered, stereotypically American "fuck you" to soccer. There also might be some jingoism in there, I'm not sure.

More than 3,800 people applied to be part of the "Sporting Giants" project. They were tested for their skills in four Olympic sports -- rowing, handball, beach volleyball and indoor volleyball.

Britain...not even bothering to pretend they could field a basketball team. At least they're not completely delusional.

"There are so many people out there who don't know how good they could be at sports they've probably not even thought about," UK Sport talent identification manager Chelsea Warr said Thursday.

For the record, I've already thought about all the sports I'm awesome at. Like autoracing? Dude, it's not like you need to parallel park or nothing in Formula One. Football? I mean, how hard can punting be, really? And that shit totally counts as football. I've played more than enough Mario 64 to be a professional gamer (I even found the weird room and everything!). I mean, they haven't come out with anything since Nintendo 64, so I'm set, right?

Also, sepak takraw looks like fun, its rampant showboating notwithstanding.

"This was a mild shake of the tree. We looked under a few rocks and look what we found."

Wait, have the Olympics revived the Mixed Metaphors event? Because that one shows potential, even if a tree and a rock are somewhat related spatially thinking. What about "We're not jumping off the sinking ship until the cows come home" in reference to how hard you're looking for athletes? Or maybe "The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree when you take the road less traveled" when discussing...well, I have no idea what that would be discussing. Sort of the whole point of mixed metaphors, really.

Stuart Campbell, 25, gave up his job as a personal trainer to join the British Handball Academy in Denmark.

"I had never even seen a handball court before Sporting Giants," Campbell said. "But we're not just here to make up the numbers -- we're here to win medals."

Yeah...keep telling yourself that, Stuart. You do realize they don't give participation medals, right? Well, not since Eddie the Eagle, in any case, who incidentally doubles as Britain's most famous Olympian. I'll just let that one sink in.

Frances Nicholls, 23, who had been working as a teacher in York, has now relocated to Henley, home of Britain's most famous rowing regatta, after being fast-tracked onto Britain's national rowing program.

"It's been an absolute whirlwind," Nicholls said.

From Henley? God, it's all glitz and glamor for the British Olympic Rowing Team. I have no idea how they all haven't had heart attacks from the excitement. Well, that and the fact that all the British Olympians are probably horribly out-of-shape. That could also cause heart attacks, especially if they're being expected to compete on an international stage with actual, you know, athletes. You know, from countries where the strategy goes beyond "Let's find some of them tall gits!"

So yeah, massive global pressure and the Henley nightlife. Very equivalent things, both causing heart attacks in British Olympians. I'll say it if no one else will.

Male candidates had to be taller than 6-3, while female candidates needed to be taller than 5-11.

Dear lord...Britain's is trying to recreate the Potsdam Giants! You remember them, right? They were that Prussian regiment that King Frederick William I started back in the 1700s? He basically went around kidnapping lots of tall people, including monks and priests, to be his soldiers so that he would scare the shit out of the enemy. A lot of them were "only" around 5'11", which was pretty tall at the time, but he actually had a few seven-footers in there. Actually, most of them suffered from crippling gigantism, making them unfit for battle, so the Potsdam Giants never did anything more intimidating than make the opposing army think something was wrong with their depth perception. Which has it uses, but still.

Also, he himself was 4'11", so I leave you to draw your own conclusions about why he was so obsessed with having giants in his army. Although I will submit this quote as evidence: "The most beautiful girl or woman in the world would be a matter of indifference to me, but tall soldiers--they are my weakness." But before you dismiss old Frederick William as a height-fetishizing old coot, do know that he would make them march for him regularly, even if he was on his sickbed, and that usually they were led in the marching by their mascot...a fucking bear. So he may have been a height-fetishizing old coot, but at least he had the common decency to be awesomely insane about it.

But even so, this is how the road to eugenics begin. You randomly decide tall people are better than one thing, and then you decide they're better at all things. Hey, tall people can reach higher shelves...let's make them our librarians! Hey, tall people can push reach their arms slightly further down clogged drains...our plumbers they shall be! And I think everyone knows that as go librarians and plumbers, so goes the nation. Basically, my message to British people of average height: start running, because the British government is committed to breeding a superhuman race of taller people. Oh, the humanity!

However, six candidates who exaggerated their height on the initial application form were still tested and have since been placed in Britain's canoeing squad.

Or not. Stupid Brits, got to always reward moxie and motherfucking pluck. Those are short people traits, Brits! Come on, either you're into eugenics or you're not. There's no halfway!

Five-time Olympic rowing champion Steve Redgrave said looking for potential medal-winners based on their physical attributes was a policy that had served Britain well before.

I'll level with you: long digressions about eugenics and Prussian military history aside, the main reason I went to the trouble of writing this post is coming up. I think you'll agree with me when I say this proves I am twelve-years-old.

"I never thought I would row until my first coach came along and asked me to have a go," Redgrave said. "Years later I asked him 'Why did you pick me?'

Yes, Steven, why were you picked?

"He said, 'Well, you had big hands and big feet."

And we all know what that's supposed to mean! Steven Redgrave's first rowing coach was totally into him because he though he had big feet. Yeah, Steven, dude totally wanted your big *AHEM* feet. Heh, heh...heh.

You guys get that I'm implying Steven Redgrave's coach thought he had a big dick, right? Because I'd hate for such a subtle, highbrow joke like that to go over your heads. You know, because dick jokes are never not funny. That's just comedy science, that is.

Friday Frenzy: There Will Be Posts

Sorry for taking the day off yesterday...I'm still on pace to write five for the week, but I sort of frontloaded them all in the first couple of days and then needed to recharge. Well, I'm ready and raring to go, so let me promise you one thing...

THERE WILL BE POSTS. As in multiple. Big ones. It'll be fun.

Also, this may be, in fact, NO BLOG FOR OLD MEN. I think that means I'm going to make fun of Murray Chass. I guess we'll find out together.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Some more fun with Ray Ratto, now in handy San Francisco Chronicle version...

I must admit, I've taken something of a shine to Ray Ratto's crazy ramblings. He's not intelligent or especially interesting, but he doesn't seem to take himself too seriously. Of course, that's been said of Peter King, and I know how my esteemed colleagues feel about him. So that probably isn't too much of a defense. Eh, let's just take a look at Ray's latest, this time for his hometown San Francisco Chronicle.

Before we even begin, I'd like to remind you of Ray's headshot for CBS Sportsline:

And now let's take a look at his headshot for the Chronicle:

Let nobody say Ray Ratto doesn't understand what makes an awesome headshot. But does he understand the mechanics of an awesome article? Only one way to find out...

I wish I knew how to quit Bonds stories

That's the subhead. And I got to say...Ray, that's a terrible start. Even ignoring recent tragic events, Brokeback Mountain references have been passe for at least a year. How about "Bonds stories drink my milkshake"? It doesn't make even the first lick of sense, but since I'm still enraptured by the crazy eyes of Daniel Plainview (saw it last night...second time!) I would totally respect you for making the reference, even if that threatens my integrity as a bad sportswriting deconstructionist.

We note with satisfaction the discovery that our reactions are still sharp, our willingness to dive headlong into a conclusion is still inspiring, and our desire to say the words "Barry" and "Bonds" in the same sentence remain unabated.

So, uh...did that make any sense to you? Is Ray happy he's still a bad journalist who is obsessed with Barry Bonds? And could he have chosen a more roundabout way of communicating that idea? I mean, I appreciate the fact that he doesn't take himself very seriously - I could never imagine Plaschke writing something like this, for instance - but I'd really prefer it if I didn't have to read that paragraph three times just to understand the intended meaning. If I wanted to read sportswriting by James Joyce, I'd read Finnegans Wake.

Monday therefore was a great day. First, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa had said a day earlier that despite his extraordinary powers of suggestion, his superiors, general manager John Mozeliak and the ownership group decided not to be interested in Bonds for the second year in a row.

Man, I hate Tony La Russa. I don't have much to add, other than the idea of him fancying himself some kind of Svengali-esque master manipulator moderately amuses me. Ray Ratto and me, joined in mutual disrespect for Tony LaRussa. As they say in Oregon Trail II, let's keep going.

Then, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said there had been some minor discussions among the oxymoron that is the Rays' brain trust about signing Bonds, pitcher Kenny Rogers or outfielder Kenny Lofton. Managing general whatsis Andrew Friedman called it a non-story, trying to do our job for us. Andy old sock, old shoe, old chimp, we'll be the ones to decide what is and what isn't a non-story, thank you very much indeed.

What, "old sport" couldn't make the cut? I'm pretty sure none of those are actual phrases, and I'm pretty sure you need at least one real one for the joke to actually work. Also, Andrew Friedman is director of baseball operations, not "managing general whatsis." Keep your comedy mistakes straight, Ratty boy.

And yes, I do realize Ray is feigning ignorance of the team to show his disdain for Tampa Bay, but I'm pretty sure there's some good old-fashioned real ignorance underpinning it. And real ignorance passed off as ironic ignorance, well...that makes me furious!

(Yep, that'd be another Mystery Men reference. I am so uncool.)

And then Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, reminded us all that Bonds isn't ready to retire, and that he would be willing to play in Japan if need be.

This could be pretty awesome. If he played a whole season, how many homers do you think he could hit? He's not in his prime anymore, but even so, fifty has got to be very attainable. Or maybe they'd just walk him like 400 times. I'm perfectly willing to make crazed, Krukian-type predictions about this.

Also, what if he had to wear one of those crazy triple-digit numbers, like 118 or something, and when the Japanese media asked him why he chose it, he just smiled and said, "Because that's how many homers I'm hitting this year." Hell, what if Barry just really took a shine to the Japanese media? I mean, Japan has been known to embrace possibly misunderstood raging freaks of nature who are basically walking cautionary tales for unchecked technological advancement and also really appear to have cripplingly bad knees:

By the way, I was seriously considering not going for the obvious punchline there and making it somebody other than Godzilla. But that would have meant depriving you of random Godzilla awesomeness, and I'm just not prepared to do that. Also, I couldn't think of a better punchline. Maybe legendary Japanese warrior Yamato Takeru? But that's only because his name reminds me of the Yamato Gun from Starcraft, and that shit's badass:

Wait, what am I writing right now? Oh, that's right, making fun of a Ray Ratto article. Back to the grind!

So in one 24-hour period, we have no news on Bonds from the Cardinals, the Rays and the Yakult Swallows. But because someone said his name, that's good enough for us.

Way to cramp my buzz, Ratty Boy. You're about to get all serious and self-righteous and shit, aren't you? Aren't you? AREN'T YOU!? You were doing so moderately well taking neutered potshots at Tony LaRussa. Fuck it, let's just hear it...

Because playing or no, visible or not, in uniform or in a suit, Barry Bonds remains the gift that keeps on giving.

He sure is, considering how many crappy articles have been essentially gift-wrapped presents for bloggers far more talented than I to rip the ever-living shit out of. Can't really argue with you there.

Whatever moral issues you might or might not have with Bonds pursuing his career while he waits for a trial date, rest easy knowing that we have no issue with pursuing Bonds stories,

What the hell's the point of writing this article? It's a Barry Bonds article decrying Barry Bonds articles. Just don't write them and think of something else. What's that Ray? The real point is to make shitty jokes and weird analogies? Oh, OK then.

even if all they are is someone saying his name in a meeting as part of some Bizarro World Jeopardy category - "I'll take Baseball Players in Their Mid-40s Who Need a Gig for $1,600, Alex."

Actual baseball players in their mid-40s who would gladly accept $1,600 for a chance to play ball:
Who is...Jose Canseco? (Because he's still got so much to prove.)
Who is...Ozzie Canseco? (Because he still has to prove he has something to prove.)
Who is...Fred McGriff? (Because if Sosa can do it and Juan-Gon can try to do it, then the Crime Dog is come back for his seven fucking homers.)
Who is...Paul O'Neill? (Because fucking True Yankees never lose the itch. The itch to hit-and-run and sac-fly and turn perfect 9-6-3 DPs and just generally be gritty-licious and hustle-tacular all the way to another third consecutive championship, just like they used to back when being a Yankee fucking meant something. Fucking A-Rod man, fucking A-Rod just don't get that shit at all. Also Paul never got round to catching a fly ball in his hat.)
Who is...Rickey Henderson? (Nah, that doesn't work. Fucker's 49, for a start.)

Also, I believe Bizarro World Jeopardy would involve people asking questions in the form of a question to receive answers in the form of an answer. regular Jeopardy already Bizarro World Jeopardy? All I know is, I'll be watching Alex Trebek carefully from now on. Based on my research, Bizarros act something like this...

So if Trebek acts all intellectual and learned when any real dude would act like an immature, snickering moron...

Ah shit, Trebek's a fucking Bizarro. Or maybe he's actually Mr. Mxyzptlk...

Look, whatever the case, Trebek has definitely fought Superman in some comically bizarre way. I feel pretty comfortable saying that much. I also feel very comfortable saying Trebek vs. the Man of Steel would be better than Superman Returns. Just saying.

God, I'm getting so off-topic. I think this is what happens when I try deconstructing the ramblings of crazy people.

Could the Cardinals use Bonds the player? Of course, and especially so if Albert Pujols' plan to play the season with an injured elbow turns out to be nutty.

Trust me, Albert, Ray Ratto knows nutty. So if he says what you're up to might be nutty...well, all I'm saying is call some squirrels pronto, because we're talking a nut bonanza here.

Great. I've become Ray Ratto. I think I liked it better when I was figuring out which Superman villain Alex Trebek was.

Also, according to Pujols himself, "It didn't make sense having the surgery and just clean it up, when cleaning it up it wasn't going to make it good." I have no idea if this is accurate, but I do trust Pujols to know what's nutty and what's not and then to do what's not, in fact, nutty.

But St. Louis might not be as crazy about Bonds wearing its team's jersey.

Ray, you realize that this has morphed from an article decrying Barry Bonds articles into just a regular, straight-up Barry Bonds article? You know...that thing you hate? Shouldn't you be, I don't know, arguing that Bonds is a non-story or something? Wasn't that supposed to be your thesis?

Could the Rays use Bonds the player? Lord love a duck, yes.

As a fellow coiner of bizarre neologisms, points on the "Lord love a duck" thing. Although unless "Lord love a duck" is your way of communicating your detailed argument for why we shouldn't bother talking about Barry Bonds, I can't really give you points for, well, actually having a point.

Sure, we all know about Harry Lord's weird man-love for Ducky Swan (I mean, why else do you think his EQA dropped from .266 to .214 in 1914? Couldn't stop thinking about the Duck, dude) but what does that have to do with Bonds being excessively covered? Also, there was once a player named "Ducky Swan." This is why I love old time baseball so damn much, even if nothing will ever beat Rusty Kuntz on the awesomely improbably name front.

But given that the only people who go to Rays games are fans of the other team, the likelihood that he could win over customers who are predisposed to root against his team seems minimal.

Right, because if there's one thing Rocco Baldelli is about to do, it's singlehandedly win over what has got to be the most apathetic fanbase in sports. OK, fine, BJ Upton will help. Wouldn't a dude like Bonds be just the sort of publicity stunt a team like the Rays should consider?

Just to show you I am actually capable of baseball-related research, I'll give you one obvious example of signing an iconic, past-his-prime slugger...

1934 Boston Braves average attendance: 303,205, 6th out of 8 in NL
1935 Boston Braves average attendance, now with the drunken remains of Babe Ruth: 232,754, 7th out of 8 in NL

Well, that didn't fucking work. This is why I keep my research to comics and YouTube. Still, Babe Ruth was terrible at that point and the Braves won forty fewer games than they did the year before. So I don't know, I still think signing Bonds might work, even if the numbers don't really indicate it.

Let's put it like this: I don't think signing Barry Bonds will drive casual fans away. If anything, this is the sort of thing casual fans love; it doesn't require them to know anything about sports because Barry Bonds hasn't really been a sports story in years. By the way, Ray, feel free to use any of these as ideas for future articles about Barry Bonds articles. Just make sure to credit good ol' Archie Micklewhite when you do.

Could the Swallows use Bonds? Could the Dragons? The Buffaloes? The Nippon Ham Fighters? People who follow Japanese baseball say yes, and they would know. After all, we took Tsuyoshi Shinjo, right?

I don't know shit about Japanese baseball, but I do know this...

1. Barry posted a .344 EQA and a 170 OPS+ last year while playing in Major League Baseball
2. The MLB is better than the various Japanese leagues (yes, even the National League)
3. If Barry can do that in the MLB, then he can at least equal that in Japan and likely far surpass it
4. Any Japanese team could use somebody like that

Quod erat demonstrandum, bitch. Man, I'm so hardcore, what with the calling people "bitch" and all.

But as we've said more times than you've had hot dinners,

So why are you saying it again? Especially when your ostensible point is that everyone should just shut up about Barry Bonds. Isn't there some one-legged minor league pitcher out there you could profile or something? Or maybe some egghead catcher who went to MIT or some shit and works on game theory proofs in the dugout? I bet Ozzie Guillen's saying crazy shit right now! Wouldn't that be fun to write about?

signing Bonds isn't a baseball issue, it's an ownership issue, and no owner feels the urgency to bring in someone with Bonds' luggage in February. Those owners keep hoping that the promising young lad from Double-A will deliver the goods, because he won't be arbitration eligible, because he meets the criteria for the minor-league junkies out there, and because cheap is cheap.

Yes, because if there's one thing teams like the St. Louis Cardinals are doing, it's avoiding washed-up old sluggers with steroid issues. Although Juan Gonzalez probably would be willing to play for $1,600, and as Ray says, cheap is indeed cheap.

Bonds, on the other hand, isn't likely to be a bargain. He always has had a healthy regard for money, and if any team could tarnish his on-field accomplishments, Tampa Bay would be the one.

Are you sure playing for Tampa Bay is what's likely to tarnish Barry's on-field accomplishments? Really?

[The scene: Cooperstown in 2035.]

Son: Dad-unit?
Father: Affirmative, son-unit?
Son: Where is the plaque noting subject Bonds, Barry, late of Pirates of Pittsburgh, the Giants of San Francisco, and the Rays of Tampa?
Father: Tampa Bay, son-unit.
Son: But Tampa Bay is the bay, not the city. How can a baseball team play in a large body of water?
Father: That is not what they do, son-unit. Their stadium is located in the city of Tampa.
Son: Floridians are terribly illogical, aren't they, dad-unit?
Father: Terribly illogical, son-unit.
Son: It makes my diodes weep with electric sorrow. My inquiry regarding the absence of subject Bonds, Barry stands, dad-unit.
Father: Well, there's really one reason...
Son: Searching databanks...was it his rampant, widely-documented steroid usage in a time when such substances were still illegal?
Father: Negative.
Son: Perhaps his prolonged legal troubles for committing perjury in front of a grand jury?
Father: Negative.
Son: His notoriously frosty relationship with the media, the very same group that elects players to Fame, the Hall of?
Father: Negative, son-unit. You in fact have already stated it.
Son: Reviewing short-term memory files. Sufficient reason not found.
Father: Son-unit, he played for Tampa Bay. That is the black mark from which no baseball reputation can ever recover, no matter how glorious.
Son: I understand, dad-unit.
Father: Do you notice that gap in the plaques? That is where Wade Boggs used to be.
Son: I have only now properly processed the full implications of this.
Father: I know, son-unit. I had hoped not to tell you until you were older.
Son: would never make me play for the Rays, would you?
Father: With a first-rate cerebral computer like yours? Son-unit, the Orlando Billy Beanes signed you out of the womb.

[Exeunt. A mechanical Joe Morgan akin to one of those animatronic talking Presidents at Disney waves as they pass. He starts to cry, suggesting even the simplest of automatons is capable of human emotion.]

Exercise in cheesy b-grade social science fiction aside, I'm pretty sure there's nothing the Rays can do to tarnish Bonds's baseball reputation. I'm pretty sure Barry already beat them to that one.

But we're not talking about finding a new home for Bonds. We're talking about how his name snaps us to attention and propels us toward crank-addled speculative pieces about where he should go, where he should bat, where his lawyers can reach him in an in-game emergency.

Are you sure we're talking about "how" this happens? Because I haven't read you discussing "crank-addled speculative pieces" so much as "writing a crank-addled speculative piece."

Also...did Ray Ratto just admit he does crank? Fuck man, that explains the crazy headshots. Dude was fucking torqued the whole time.

The story must be advanced, even if it advances only from "could" to "might."

Wait, there's a story here? Could have fooled me...

And Monday showed that we've still got it. A big knee-jerk media win, this, and we're all heading for your homes to take a victory lap through your hydrangea plants and your koi ponds.

Sorry man, I had to let Leonard Maltin eat my hydrangea plants after he guessed all the technical Oscars correctly. The guy just loves the taste of the Azores. You can still have your lap through the koi ponds, though. Leonard says carp disagrees with him.

Also - and I realize Ray's writing to those ultra-liberal frosted-over-hippie heroin addicts in San Fran - but what the hell was that paragraph supposed to mean? How did the media "win"? Who were they competing against? Their readers? Is he tacitly admitting this is all a big exercise in just how much bullshit he and his colleagues can possibly peddle before any of us yokels get wise? Simply put...just how big of a dick is Ray Ratto?

This is the gift of Bonds in repose. We can't see him or hear him, but we don't need him any more to divine his future. We know the Giants don't want him, and we are pretty sure the A's won't sign him (although you never know when W.L. Beane will get a wild hair up his beezer). We also apparently can scratch the Cardinals, despite La Russa's silver-tongued wizardry.

W.L. Beane? You mean Billy Beane's son and partner, W.L. Beane? You do realize Beane's a family man and the A's are a family business, right? Man, There Will Be Blood references never get old. Not like Brokeback references, that's for sure.

Also, between the silver tongue and the apparent hypnosis abilities, Tony La Russa sounds like he's taking the final few steps to becoming a full-fledged supervillain. We'll know for sure when he starts randomly explaining to Lou Pineilla his incredibly complicated strategy for victory when the Cards are beating the Cubs 8-1. Of course, since in baseball managerial strategy doesn't count for shit, this won't mean anything, but that would still be vintage supervillain. Vintage La Russa, too, soon enough.

That still leaves 27 other teams, plus the 12 Japanese teams. We don't see him working the Mexican Leagues or the Caribbean, but if Raul Castro has an opinion about him becoming a Villa Clara Orange Grower in the next few weeks, we're keen to know.

Much more interesting: what if Bonds went to play baseball in Taiwan? That's vaguely more possible than Cuba (in the sense that Cuba is totally impossible whereas Taiwan is just basically impossible) and due to that pesky One-China Policy, there's no extradition from there.

So what if Bonds fled to Taiwan, started cranking out fifty homers a year over there until he was fifty-five, and held a daily press conference where he gleefully reiterated how many steroids he used to do and how much he loves lying to grand juries? Bonds is totally crazy enough to do something like that, and it'd pretty much be the most awesome thing to ever happen.

After all, his perjury and obstruction trial is moving at the expectedly glacial pace. The latest argument is about whether a typographical error was an accident, or an act so monstrously prejudicial that he cannot hope to have a fair trial in this solar system.

You know, they've got a hell of a judicial system on Neptune. I'm just saying.

That will be adjudicated ... well, presumably before the judge retires.

This isn't really about Ray Ratto, but I'm not sure I'd take that bet. That's a little worrisome.

Secondly, the Roger Clemens self-immolation saga is going to take some time before it runs its course. The latest development - that the Congressional committee that supervised his public trouser-drop two weeks ago is going to urge the Justice Department to get nasty with him - has its obvious fascinations.

So your argument is, "We shouldn't write endless, repetitive articles about Barry Bonds because we could be writing endless, repetitive articles about Roger Clemens." The logic's airtight, I'll give it that much.

Thirdly, regular old spring training cannot sustain our prurience in these hyper-nutty days. For the same reason that we can be diverted from the real outrage of performance-enhancing drugs (they're illegal, they're obtained without any guarantee of purity of efficacy, and they're often administered in germ-enriched environments), we can be entranced by names.

Wait, we get entranced by names because "they're illegal, they're obtained without any guarantee of purity of efficacy, and they're often administered in germ-enriched environments"? I admit I'm starting to hallucinate a little...but that doesn't sound right.

And who has a bigger name than Barry Bonds? And no, Roger Clemens' playing days really are done.

What, calling A-Rod a tranny-loving choker isn't famous enough for you? Fucking elitist.

So Tony La Russa scratched our itch. Then Joe Maddon did, much to the consternation of Fast Andy Friedman. And of course, Jeff Borris played his occasional game of Whack-a-Mole.

No one has ever before and no one ever will again call Andy Friedman "Fast Andy Friedman." Ladies and gentlemen, we have just witnessed a unique moment in the cosmos. Hope you enjoyed it.

Also, how is Whack-a-Mole at all the right game to convey what Jeff Borris is up to? Unless he's hitting Tony La Russa with a mallet, in which case I'm completely on board. And willing to help.

So whatever else happens with Barry Bonds' baseball career, at least we know we're still on our Pavlovian game - such as it is.

Classy reference to end there, Ray. Shame about the rest of the article, but still.

Well, that's this post done. I think I'll just ring my "post is done" bell...wait, Ray, why are you drooling and slobbering like that? Ray, dude, I don't have any steaks. Please stop looking at me like that, Ray. Seriously man, your eyes are crazy.

Aw shit...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chipper Jones is so close, yet so far...

I'll finish my recent little run with that vaguely promised post about Chipper Jones and Buster Olney. It isn't anything too crazy, but I said I'd write about it and I need to recharge for my next couple of big posts. Here we go...

So anyway, Chipper Jones almost understands how baseball works, as seen in this blog entry by Buster Olney, a man who sure knows how to dump a link.

Some players don't like to make numerical goals, but Chipper Jones came to the Braves' camp with a specific number in mind: One hundred fifty.

That's how many games he intends to play in this year, and considering that he once played in 153 or more games in eight consecutive years, this might seem absolutely reasonable, almost a given. But Jones turns 36 on April 24, and 150 is about the number of games he's missed over the last four seasons -- 158, to be precise.

I'm probably just being paranoid, but I always get nervous when sportswriters throw tons of numbers around, none of which happen to be stats. Games played, years old, date of the year...none of these are baseball statistics, and yet all are numbers, which is something the SABR-chip Voros McCracken implanted in my cerebral cortex can't quite grapple with. I'm especially wary of the "[X random stat] in [Y consecutive seasons]." All I'm saying is, I'm raising the alert level. Let's see how the rest of this goes.

He thinks back on his injuries last season and believes their freakish nature is not something that he could've helped; there was nothing he really could've done differently, in a year in which he missed 28 games. But Jones knows how important his presence is in a relatively young Atlanta lineup and he is devoted to the idea of playing in 150 games.

Right, because Chipper posted a 10.5 WARP-3 and a .339 EQA last year in 134 games. The WARP-3 is a spike from previous years, even accounting for injuries, but he had a tremendous 2007 campaign and will give tons of value to the Braves lineup if he even approaches that previous work. Not sure what PECOTA thinks of him (I'm between subscriptions with Baseball Prospectus at the moment), but the main value Chipper will add is his value of being good at baseball.

So how do you hope to avoid injuries this year, Chipper?

He hasn't prepared any differently for this season. He didn't bulk up or slim down. He is just locked in on the number: 150. "I think it's just a mind-set, to be honest with you. It's a long, hard marathon. You've almost got to treat it like your basic 9-to-5 desk job. You've got to wake up every morning and you've got to go do it. You just stay focused on one game at a time, and before you know it, the season is over.

I don't have a 9-to-5 desk job, unless you count surfing the web between 9:00 PM and 5:00 AM every night to see whether any sizzling sex tapes (or, even better, late night Deadspin posts) have hit the series of tubes. But even so, I think playing professional sports is slightly different from your standard 9-to-5 job. For one thing, I don't think most office workers talk about "taking things one collation at a time." For another, you're unlikely to be drilled by a baseball traveling upwards of a 100mph in most offices. And if you are...that's sort of an awesome office. Where should I forward my resume?

"Not to sound brash, but we need me in the lineup to be successful offensively. I've got to be healthy."

Dude, you were worth 10 wins last year all by yourself. That's not brash at all.

"That being said, for me to be successful, Tex [Mark Teixeira] needs to stay healthy."

He was worth a combined 7.1 WARP-3 splitting time between Texas and Atlanta, so he's definitely really good. But you realize most of your play is dependent on...well...your play, right? Tex isn't coming into the batter's box with you, you know. And I know the presence of Teixeira might force pitchers to throw to Chipper more, but I'm guessing that isn't tremendously significant. The point is that I'm pretty sure Chipper is completely missing the point, which is a shame because he's legitimately pretty awesome.

"It just seems that when I'm not in there, too many people have to hit out of their comfort zone, in a different place in the order, and we just don't have the same fluidity in the lineup."

Well, they're also faced with playing in a lineup without a dude who is worth ten wins. If by "fluidity", you mean "ten wins", then yes, yes there are problems with fluidity in a sans-Chipper lineup.

C'mon, dude! You're no Erstad or Eckstein! Don't sell yourself short by talking about weird bullshit like "comfort zones" and "fluidity." Talk about VORP and MLVr and OPS+ like you know you desperately want to. All the cool kids are doing it.

His physical problems the last two years came on odd plays, weird plays.

"I flipped over a third baseman in Pittsburgh last year and it cost me a month," Jones recalls. "The year before, I slipped on a wet track in San Francisco and I missed a month. Those things, you can't help. It's not like you've got a torn oblique, or a chronic hamstring thing. People can say 'Your body is breaking down.' It's not breaking down. I've run into a couple of freak plays that I'll just have to try to avoid this year."

Right...but there's really no way to do that. That's why they're freak plays. Shit happens.

He acknowledges in his next breath, however, that there's really no way to do that. Stuff happens.

Thanks for agreeing with me there, Chipper, though you could have at least changed a few words around so that the plagiarism isn't quite so blatant. Also, feel free to swear; ten-win dudes get to cuss a little. We've come a long way since 1898, you know.

Also, why is this article being written? I haven't noticed a more substantiative point than "Chipper Jones is good" and "The Braves would benefit if Chipper Jones was healthy."

Jones had one of the best seasons of his career in 2007, in many respects. A .425 on-base percentage. An OPS of 1.029, his third-highest ever.

Good, good. These are great stats that really illustrate his value.

His ninth season of more than 100 RBI.

For the love of fuck, Buster...

The second time that a pitcher worked through the Atlanta lineup, he hit .380; in those instances when pitchers faced him a third time in a game, he hit a staggering .412.

WHAT!? That's seriously a stat you're going to quote? I mean, it's awesome and all and cool in a "Hey I'm Jayson Stark here are some weird stats I noticed" sort of way, but please don't use them as some sort of evidence of Chipper's real value. Those are pretty much the definition of non-repeatable skills.

But this success only magnified his own angst about missing 28 games last year.

It is extremely frustrating, "especially when your teammates express to you on a daily basis how much you're needed, and they get to the point where they come out to the press and say how much you're needed."

Bunch of fucking crybabies, those Braves. Of course, that total bust Jeff Francoeur is twelve-years-old and possibly French, so I'm not surprised.

But lest there be any doubt: He is needed, as someone who can be the difference between the Braves having a good lineup and having an exceptional lineup.

Right. Ten wins worth. That's it.

I know they mostly eschewed any talk of intangibles, but I'm super-paranoid at the moment. Also, I think Buster and Chipper can be saved from the twin demons of hustle and grittiness, so I'm willing to make the extra effort. And by "extra effort", I mean "make a mountain out of a molehill" and "say 'fuck' a lot." Because I care.

And now, for a little sense, I look to you...Scoop Jackson!?

After taking what amounted to two consecutive rage dumps on the swirling hurricanes of assclownage that are Mike Lupica and Mitch Albom, I need a chaser. Something to calm me down. Something I find a little silly, but don't utterly disagree with. Who better to do that than...Scoop Jackson? Really? Well, I'll try anything once.

Kelvin Sampson, stay strong. So what, they have phone records. So what, they say you gave "false and misleading information" to investigators. Five major violations committed … more infractions pending … it means nothing. Because none of it is true. To you.

Ah, so the point of this column is to criticize Kelvin Sampson's actions by satirically taking his side? Not a bad idea, although it seems a little complicated for a man who doesn't understand what plagiarism is, but what the hell.

"The allegations that I knowingly acted contrary to the sanctions that occurred are not true," you said. "I have never intentionally provided false or misleading information to the NCAA. I intend to work within the NCAA process on this matter, and I look forward to my opportunity to do so." You, Kelvin, are my newest hero. I too have "KS" on my adidas.

Not bad, I guess. At least you're directly addressing Kelvin in a consistent manner. Although if you keep that up for an entire article, it might get a little irritating. Don't you think so, Scoop? Hmm? You?

There's an old saying: Self-incrimination is for suckas. there isn't. Googling that phrase brings up three hits, all of which link back to that article. Substituting the more formal "suckers" in there only produces a link to an article by a dude called Andrew Snyder for, of all things, the Taipan Financial News. As much as I know Scoop is a daily reader of the premium web content put out by "the world's top financial network" (which somehow doesn't have a Wikipedia page), I don't know if that's quite enough to call it an "old saying." That article was only written on February 15 of last year, you know.

The best Wikiquote can dredge up is this pithy adage from playwright Lillian Hellman in a letter she wrote in 1952 to the House Committee on Un-American Activities:

I am prepared to waive the privilege against self-incrimination and to tell you everything you wish to know about my views or actions if your committee will agree to refrain from asking me to name other people. If the committee is unwilling to give me this assurance, I will be forced to plead the privilege of the fifth amendment at the hearing.

Oh, and deleting the "suckas" entirely only gives seven hits for "self-incrimination is for", two of which are just Scoop's article and the rest are mostly just legal advice. Scoop, you were doing so well...why do you have to just flagrantly make shit up?

Only those who are weak in mind -- ridden with guilt, thanks to a strong moral compass -- confess to a sin (or something the general public considers a sin) they've "apparently" committed.

So wait, is it really a sin, or just a public sin? That's kind of a big difference. Does it matter then whether Kelvin Sampson is lying or just honestly believes he hasn't done anything wrong? Are you talking about morality or public relations? I mean, I don't think you're particularly qualified to discuss either, but I like to know what I'm criticizing you for.

As the evidence stacks up, when the feds show up, "suckas" begin to break. Cracks appear in their psyches. News conferences become confessionals, cameras and tape recorders the priests.

Except of course news conferences are nothing like confessionals because they're inherently not a private conversation between two individuals (and God, if you're counting him). Also, cracks in the psyche? Does that make sense? Shouldn't it be cracks in the armor, maybe, or cracks in the facade? You know, the fake stuff that you're putting up to protect you from people discovering your real nature? I'm honestly just confused.

And while we're talking about hack writing (and when aren't we?), one of my pet peeves is when a writer comes up with some dumb concept - in this case, the almost impossibly lazy "suckas" - and starts using it throughout the article like it's some universal term that's always appropriate to use in these situations. I'm pretty sure the English language is big enough for you to find one word that actually describes what you're thinking about without require quotation marks. What about...I don't know...suckers?

Victim: "I made a mistake. I'm sorry for what I did. I want to apologize to my family, my friends, my fans and the organization. I let a lot of people down. And to all of the kids out there, this is not the message that I want to send out. I'm not the hero you made me out to be. I'm only human …"

Blah … blah … blah. Sucka.

How is that person the victim? Isn't that person the perpetrator? I mean, satire's satire, Scoop, so I'm cutting you some slack, but I don't think "victim" makes sense there from almost any perspective. At least put "sucka" there so that you stay mildly consistent.

The other day, according to the New York Daily News, a photograph surfaced of Roger Clemens at the infamous party at Jose Canseco's house that Clemens and many others insisted he did not attend. For many people, this would be the perjury breaker, the smoking gun that puts a hole in your credibility the size of a Siberian diamond mine. That's if this were any other athlete. But this is Roger Clemens, the American hero who's turned denial into an art form.

I really thought Scoop was just making shit up with the "Siberian diamond mine" reference, but it turns out he's absolutely right. So it's not wrong, just a tremendously mixed metaphor that's needlessly faux-poetic. Eh, I guess that's not too big a deal.

Also, has Clemens really turned lying into an art form? I think everyone tends to feel his excuses have been pretty lame and really have only worked to delay the inevitable. Face it...Roger Clemens is hardly the Roger Clemens of lying. I'd say he's more the Odalis Perez of lying, especially when he stopped buying tickets for inner city kids to attend congressional hearings when it turned out the House wasn't planning on calling him again.

In this era of professional sports figures publicly pleading guilty to crimes they haven't been caught committing, it's so refreshing to see guys like Sampson and Clemens admit to nothing. Sure, Andy Pettitte came off like some sort of saint, and people are looking at his moral fiber as something we all need to incorporate into our daily diet. But, truth be told, Clemens should be given an Oscar for his acrimonious and hostile defense of self.

Not bad joke with the "moral fiber" thing. Not good, of course, but hey...not bad. And I'm sorry, if we're planning on giving an Oscar to people for "acrimonious and hostile defense of self", I'm pretty sure the list has to begin and end with Marion Barry:

Now THAT'S how a real man lies.

Lately, and particularly in sports, the art of self-exoneration has become as trendy as facial hair and Derek Lam sunglasses.

Oh Scoop. You and your fashion sense. I think it's worth point out googling the words "derek lam sunglasses baseball" brings up Scoop's article as the number one result. So yeah...I think he's really onto something there.

Barry Bonds, Bill Belichick, Miguel Tejada, Lance Armstrong, Michael Vick (until he had no choice), Pete Rose (who held on for a historic amount of time), Marion Jones (again, held out until the end), Floyd Landis, Rafael Palmeiro -- even beyond sports, look at how John McCain stood his ground defiantly last week when The New York Times reported a possible improper relationship between him and a female lobbyist.

This just in: Scoop Jackson, Mike Huckabee supporter.

Clemens says Pettitte "misremembers," Belichick says he "misinterpreted," Sampson "never intentionally misled" -- these guys have laid the groundwork for all to follow when the Clay Davis is about to hit the fan or when the men in the windbreakers show up at your front door.

Sweet Wire reference there, Scoop. Not that I've ever gotten around to watching it myself - if I want so see a premium channel show about impossibly corrupt cops, I'll watch Dexter. You know, because I love serial killers (I'm also impossibly white and creepily hunky, much like Michael C. Hall). But thanks to the fine folks at Kissing Suzy Kolber, I do at least sort of get the allusion, so I'll reciprocate with the appropriate video.

Admit to nothing, even if there's a videotape, or friends have turned state's evidence. The manhood rule supersedes all: Self-indictment is for losers. And the No. 1 rule in sports is: Don't be a loser.

I suspect the real number one rule in sports is slightly more homophobic, but what the hell, I'll go with it.

Losers tell the truth. Well, let me rephrase that: Losers admit to the truth when denial is still an option. The duty is to go out like a man. Head up, chest out, deny 'til you die. "It's in man's nature to deny," my great uncle used to tell me as a kid. "Because when you go to the grave, you take those denials and whatever you did wrong with you."

Wait a second...that appeal to authority with your great uncle sounds like it's tacitly supporting what Clemens and Bonds are up to. Have you been serious this entire time, Scoop? Nah, there's no way. Is there?

Incidentally, Scoop, when I can't tell what your actual stance is two-thirds into your may need to work on your writing a little. Maybe a wee bit.

We as a nation should take pride in how Bonds has stuck with his "flaxseed oil" testimony. We should applaud Landis for his Jack Daniels regimen. Forget being like Mike. Be like Clemens: When in doubt, assign blame elsewhere.

Or, we could actually be, you know, like Mike, who has somehow managed to never publicly get into lasting trouble for what apparently is a pretty heavy-duty gambling problem, despite the fact that many conspiracy nuts think he was secretly suspended for two seasons. There's also the fact that he has probably ordered Charles Oakley to kill people.

Actually, Scoop, why the hell aren't you writing this about how people like Jordan are truly invulnerable to any accusations of anything? Why are you praising the lying skills of a fired coach and a dude who will likely be indicted for perjury?

Blame your wife, throw her under the bus.

I'm pretty sure that'd just destroy the bus.

Go to lengths unseen outside of an episode of "The Maury Show."

And since I haven't seen an episode of The Maury Show, looks like I'm shit out of luck to even comprehend how far Clemens has gone. Shame...I was really looking forward to understanding that.

Damn immunity. Show no fear. Get your "KS" on. That's what the great ones do. They stay true … to self only.

You realize it was the Indiana players who got their "KS" on, right? You can't just turn that into some bizarre turn-of-phrase. Well, you can, and you did, but that doesn't make it right.

It's true, players like Canseco opened up the door for the dirty truth in sports to come out the way it has the past few years. And yes, everyone who told the truth regarding the Mitchell report should be commended for possibly being the catalysts for cleaning up all of sports.

But Canseco's a sucka.

Canseco wrote a bestselling book, got hailed as a whistleblower (admittedly, he mostly got hailed by idiots), and put himself back in the news years after his publicity expiration date. He may be a "sucka", but I'm not so sure he's a sucker. An idiot, yes. But a sucker?

It's real men like Clemens and Sampson who know that in sports, staying sucka-free is vital, and when choosing between telling the truth and dying in denial … choose death.

If by death, you mean being the assistant coach at a low level D-1 program until you can work yourself back up...then yes, Kelvin will be choosing death. And as for Roger...well, I don't think he'll be doing anything drastic anytime soon.

But thanks Scoop - you may be a little weird, but you're no Albom and you're certainly no Lupica. Thank you, Scoop, thank you, for restoring my faith that sports journalism can merely be bad instead of offensively terrible. I don't know how I'll ever repay you.

I'd follow Mitch Albom anywhere no matter how off-topic...

You remember how I said I wasn't going to write a post about Jason Whitlock's thoughts on the Oscars? Turns out I was just thinking of the wrong Sports Reporter.

I'm not going to watch the Oscars tonight.

Good for was pretty boring, as usual, although I think Jon Stewart was pretty good under the circumstances. Of course, I'm a massive Daily Show fan, so I'm biased. I know my beloved fellow poster Djmmm46 (old Djemmie!) hated him, but's hastily written comedy performed in front of the worst crowd imaginable. Kind of hard to judge.

Normally I do. But I've spent enough time and money on the most depressing, dark and disturbed lineup of movies I ever can remember. I don't need to see them get rewarded.

He's totally right - this year's films were fucking badass. You remember the milkshake scene? C'mon, you fucking remember the milkshake scene.

DRAINAGE!!! Sorry, where was I? Oh yes...

Am I the only one who remembers when they actually gave Oscars to movies that had happy endings?

Hmm, let's see (spoiler alert!)...
2006's The Departed: everyone except Alec Baldwin and Marky Mark gets killed.
2005's Crash: everybody either dies or has their life shattered, final scene is proof that racism will always continue as long as road rage exists ("Speak American!" is the kind of slogan even John Rocker can get behind).
2004's Million Dollar Baby: Clint Eastwood kills somebody and for some strange reason doesn't feel totally awesome about it, which is a definite departure from, well, every other film he's ever made.

2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: I have no idea how this ends...I fell asleep somewhere around the fifth epilogue. Although I heard Frodo got taken to some mystical afterlife bullshit. Kinda bittersweet, if you ask me, even if evil was essentially annihilated.
2002's Chicago: Never seen it, but it basically ends with two murderesses who hate each other getting off scot free. And I'm sure Mitch Albom, a law-and-order kind of guy, would not consider such immorality a happy ending.
2001's A Beautiful Mind: A guy who is crazy ends up being respected and honored but is still basically crazy. This is the closest we've come to a happy ending thus far, and this film prominently involves electroshocking Russell Crowe. Actually, you're starting to talk me into it.
2000's Gladiator: The hero dies and hallucinates about his dead family before he does so. Also the Roman empire is bizarrely abolished two hundred years early in favor of a restored Republic, probably creating some hellish alternate universe where Rome never falls like that one episode of Star Trek. (Yes, I know it was an alien planet, not an alternate universe. As though that somehow makes more sense.)
1999's American Beauty: Kevin Spacey gets shot by a militant homophobe and he never even has sex with Mena Suvari. Now that's a modern tragedy.
1998's Shakespeare in Love: Shakespeare doesn't get the girl as she leaves for a faraway land with a man she doesn't love. It's like Casablanca...with Shakespeare! Somehow, Casablanca plus Shakespeare equals lowest-common-denominate romantic pablum. I hate everything.
1997's Titanic: The ship fucking sinks. This is also the second film on this list where Leonard DiCaprio horribly dies. Not that I'm complaining.
1996's The English Patient: It's apparently a tragedy and Ralph Fiennes dies, I think, so not really a happy ending. Honestly, no one on the internet is willing to give away the ending of this decade-old film. I can see why Elaine hated it so much.
1995's Braveheart: Mel Gibson dies after being horribly tortured, which I'm sure was fun for him but isn't really a happy ending for the audience. Of course, as a Brit, I was rooting for Longshanks the whole time, mostly because he was played by Patrick McGoohan, and nobody fucks with Number Six...

Unfortunately, Sophie Marceau's Princess Isabelle totally messes up King Edward's victory by getting impregnated with William Wallace's child and whispering this news to the King as he dies. So nobody wins...except the French.
1994's Forrest Gump: Jenny dies. NEXT!
1993's Schindler's List: The fact that this might have the happiest ending yet (I mean, Schindler saves as many as he can and redeems himself in the process, and the final scene at the cemetery really illustrates how powerful the good he did really was)...well, that fucking terrifies me.
1992's Unforgiven: Clint seems a little more comfortable with killing everybody, but this film is way too morally ambiguous to have a clearcut happy ending.
1991's Silence of the Lambs: The most dangerous psychopathic cannibal alive escapes and resumes killing people. I don't think so.
1990's Dances with Wolves: The ending is pretty happy, I guess, but the whole "destruction of Native American civilization" thing puts a damper on the proceedings.
1989's Driving Miss Daisy: The movie ends with old people discussing being old. That's the closest we've gotten, considering neither of them are horrifically impaled at the end of the scene.
1988's Rain Man: Tom Cruise is less of an asshole and Dustin Hoffman is still autistic. Is that happy?
1987's The Last Emperor: China goes communist. It'll be a sad day in hell when I call that a happy ending.
Since we've now gotten to before my birth, I feel comfortable saying I don't remember when the Oscars gave the Best Picture award to films with happy endings. For what it's worth, I think you've got to go all the way back to Tom Jones from ninteen-sixty-fucking-three for the last film that goes out of its way to wrap things up happily for pretty much all its characters. Although Rocky has a pretty happy ending, I guess, considering it's a film about a loser.

I can't believe I'm going to keep going after that incredibly long and somewhat pointless exercise, but I've still got some bile to spew at Mitch Albom, so here we are.

There's not one happy ending in this lot -- unless you consider an unplanned teenage pregnancy resulting in someone else's adoption a happy ending. That's the big payoff in "Juno."

Let's see...the adoptive mother was healthy, financially secure, and a committed parent. The pregnancy was traumatic, of course, but Juno's parents were incredibly understanding. Oh, and it ended with Michael Cera and Ellen Page getting together, and I'd gladly switch places with either of them in that relationship. So yeah...pretty happy. Or are you such a black-and-white moralist that any unwed teen who accidentally gets pregnant must be condemned to a hellish existence forever as a punishment? In which case...fuck you, Mitch Albom.

Otherwise, you have "There Will Be Blood," in which a tyrannical oil baron destroys everyone and everything around him; "No Country for Old Men," in which a serial killer destroys everything and everyone around him; "Michael Clayton," in which greed gets nearly everyone killed, and "Atonement," in which a false accusation ruins the lives of all involved.

Um. Remind me again.

Why do we go to the movies?

I think it's to be entertained. You know what I found entertaining? The elemental force of badassery that is Anton Chigurh...

Oh, and I think being thought-provoked and transported elsewhere are legitimate reasons to see movies. Sure, I like the occasional happy film as much as the next guy. It's not as though Enchanted doesn't exist if I really need to be filled with cinematic sugar.

Now, I'm not a Pollyanna. I enjoy films. I collect them. And I understand that not every story ends with music swirling and heroes walking off into a sunset.

No, sometimes it ends with a dude dying from Lou Gehrig's disease while spouting quasi-profound bullshit to some random asshole. And by "random asshole", I of course mean "that specific asshole Mitch Albom."

Seriously, this is one of Morrie's pearls of wisdom: "When you learn how to die, you learn how to live." I'm supposed to be moved and enlightened by that horseshit? The Sphinx from Mystery Men came up with better stuff than that, and even Ben fucking Stiller was able to work out he was just spinning formulaic bullshit. That's right. A Mystery Men reference. Deal with it.

But lately there's this sense that unless a movie is dark, violent and hopeless, it can't be "real." It can't be "art." It can't truly "matter." I put these words in quotes because it feels as if critics and awards committees define things that way.

That's not really fair. Juno and Knocked Up were both critically lauded and pretty upbeat, but of course since they don't show Ellen Page and Katherine Heigl being burnt at the stake or crushed between two rocks for their wanton lust, they can't possibly count. The Great Debaters did reasonably well with critics and highlights a moment of triumph in race relations during a difficult period. Charlie Wilson's War is supposed to be pretty fun. Once is hopeful even if it's a little melancholy. And what about Ratatouille? Or the previously mentioned Enchanted, for that matter?

I mean, I do think there are tons of dark films at the moment, and considering the current cultural milieu, I'm not exactly surprised. But I'll avoid any generalizing pop sociology bullshit of my own and just say that there are plenty of happy movies being made.

So instead of praise for, say, "The Bucket List," a film that everyone I know has loved and which has a positive message about getting old and sick, most critics attacked it as too "sentimental."

Right...because it was kinda cloying and sentimental. But then, you are the Tuesdays with Morrie dipshit, so I guess by your standards The Bucket List was emotionally austere like it was some kind of Erich Rohmer flick.

And anyway, if I want to see Jack Nicholson deal with old age and death, I'll watch About Schmidt, which at least has the common courtesy to throw in some hot Kathy Bates nudity. Ooh mama.

Meanwhile, we get an Oscar nomination for "The Savages," a movie about getting old and sick that is so depressing, you want to jump off a building.

Right...because getting old and sick is often very difficult when you're not a multi-millionaire. This reflects reality and does so in a way that doesn't condescend its audience. Is this a film everyone will want to see? Of course not, and I wouldn't expect them to. But to imply it's somehow not artistically valid? Seriously, dude, fuck the shit off.

Instead of a single nomination for "The Great Debaters," a historic and uplifting film, we get best actor, picture and director nominations for "No Country for Old Men," which sets a record for murders by a man carrying an air tank (which he uses to blow a hole in one victim's head, just so he can have his car).

You're right. That part was pretty awesome.

Here's a news flash: Killing without remorse doesn't make a story art. Cold and cynical dialogue doesn't make a story valuable.

That's true. Shoot 'Em Up obviously isn't art, although it is pretty sweet in a "I can't believe any film is this gleefully dumb" sort of way. It's when these films combine such violence with...oh, I don't know...let's say weirdness, dysfunction, and twisted irony that they become interesting.

It's no accident the films nominated this year, for the most part, didn't do much box office. People don't go to the movies to see weirdness, dysfunction or twisted irony.

Why you gotta go plagiarizing me, Mitch? And anyway, the Oscars is (at least theoretically) about rewarding the most artistically relevant films, not the most popular. The line admittedly gets really blurred and often its choices are total bullshit, which is why I don't particularly care either way about them, but don't blame the Oscars for not picking movies based on your own made-up criteria.

Most go to be entertained.

True. What's your point?

This doesn't mean that "Spider-Man 3" or "Shrek the Third" automatically should get Oscar nominations. But those films, at the top of the box office list last year, do share a good-guys-win ending. There's a reason people gravitate to that.

They also featured lazy pop culture references and a ridiculous emo strut. Also, I'm pretty sure the main reason people went to see these films is because of that "three" in their title. You know, because the original movies were actually pretty good. (Although would it kill movie Spidey to make a wisecrack? Just once?)

And it wasn't always considered beneath the Academy to celebrate it. In 1973, "The Sting" won best picture, and "American Graffiti" and "A Touch of Class" also were nominated. In 1979, "Kramer vs. Kramer" won, and "Breaking Away" and "Norma Rae" were nominated. As late as 1994, "Forrest Gump" took the best picture honors. Today, it's hard to imagine that film would even get nominated. Too many cynics would call it sweet and hopeful.

Dude, Jenny died. From AIDS. Oh, but she was a druggie, so that's OK, right?

And I guess that's what I miss. Hope. If movies were meant to reflect only the real-life worst in us, why would we need them? We could use mirrors.

Certainly true in your case.

Don't misunderstand. I get the skill and patience these actors and directors have put in. I see the hard work, from the writing to the lighting. But the humanity Frank Capra or even Steven Spielberg celebrated is getting buried now, under this desire to explore the dark, the macabre and the dysfunctional.

Have you seen Mr. Smith Goes To Washington? There's a random sequence where the new senator Jefferson Smith reads an article he doesn't like and proceeds to beat up the entire Washington press corps...with no discernible consequences. And this in a film where his opponents are actively looking for any reason to destroy him. It's A Wonderful Life is about a dude who needs an angel to talk him out of committing suicide. Also Arsenic & Old Lace is about old people killing other old people. Face it, Mitch...if Frank Capra were working today, he'd be making No Country for Old Men. Or at least Intolerable Cruelty.

There's a moment in "No Country for Old Men" where Javier Bardem's character is about to cold-bloodedly kill yet another victim when the victim says, "You don't have to do this." And the character chuckles and says, "They always say the same thing."

And he does it anyhow.'s a statement about his psychosis and twisted moral code and the completely different way in which he views the world from other people. It's a brilliant line perfectly delivered. The fact that "he does it anyhow" is exactly the point, not some gratuitous exploitation.

I guess to the people who keep celebrating the worst of human nature, I would also say, "You don't have to do this." But they're gonna do it anyhow. All I can do is spend the three hours tonight watching something else.

May I suggest Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom's For One More Day, where "a suicidal former baseball player is granted one more day with his deceased mother." It's only two hours long, but I imagine you can spend the other hour working on 2010's surefire smash hit Untitled Mitch Albom/Adam Sandler Project, which I'm sure will be really uplifting and inspirational and also really artistic. How many gay panic jokes has Mr. Sandler requested, by the way?

F@$% Mike Lupica

Did I spell that right up there? Or is it supposed to be "F&!#"? Sorry, I don't know my comic book swearing nearly as well as I should (and believe me, I googled "Superman swearing" for quite some time to try to find an answer...because I care about the research). My real point is...fuck Mike Lupica. Seriously.

We already know that Hank Steinbrenner has inherited the spending gene from his father. He has also inherited the back-page gene, though even the old man in his prime didn't take his own temperature for the media as often as Hank has since becoming the out-front, return-all-phone-calls Boss Jr. of the Yankees.

Yes, yes, Hank Steinbrenner is a colossal ass. Any sensible person knows this. Not really worth writing an entire column about, I think, because what are you going to do beyond write a "He so crazy!" piece that either unnecessarily attacks the man or just coddles his idiocy (you know, like with Ozzie Guillen). I guess you could write a moving human interest piece about how difficult it is to emerge from George's shadow, but honestly...who gives a shit about how hard it's been for a billionaire punk who has never had to work a day in his life? Well, clearly Mike Lupica doesn't but I think you already knew that.

On the other hand, something you might not know...Mike Lupica is a major league asshole. He's the kind of guy the Toledo Mud Hens playfully offer a contract to just to mock the very idea anybody, even the New York Daily News, could afford an asshole of such gigantic proportions.

But perhaps the strongest pull of heredity involves the area that was always George Steinbrenner's strong suit, at least back in the day:

I'll get to the meat of Lupica's argument (if you can call it "meat" - we're talking common shrew quality meat here, people) in a moment, but first I'd like to point out that that constitutes an entire paragraph of Lupica's article. That isn't a sentence; I was tipped off by the colon. You see, Mike, people who are, you know, literate - or, as I prefer, liter-fucking-ate, because the presence of the interfix "fucking" makes it sound cooler - tend to end sentences with periods. Hell, they also tend to put more than one sentence in a paragraph, but baby steps here. Let's see if the next sentence helps us out any.

Second-guessing his Baseball People.

THAT...THAT is your sentence? That is the combination of words you felt deserved rewarding with a period? That's not a sentence. It doesn't have a subject and it barely has a verb. That's a gerund and a direct object, and a randomly capitalized direct object at that. At least the previous line was basically a sentence, even if it was horribly clumsy and difficult to understand.

Wait, I think I've got it. Mike, I see what you did wrong here, and it's a very understandable mistake. You see Loopy - I can call you Loopy, right? - you think that any old set of words can become a sentence just by putting that "." thing at the end. You're halfway there, and I'll give you points for trying. But you thought that that other collection of words, the one that really was a sentence, was so sentence-y that it needed two of those "." thingies, didn't you? And when you found that ":" thing on the keyboard...well, that must have been twenty minutes well spent for you, wasn't it?

Problem is, ":" isn't just a double ".". Nope, it does totally different things. It's a little bit like how "w" - you know, the letter that goes "double u" - isn't exactly like two "u"s. This is why your assistants always look bewildered when you give them notes asking for them to "vacwm this fucking disgrace for a set." Well, that and the fact you're throwing feces at them. Sorry, "throuuing feces."

Man, I really am a tenth grade creative writing teacher. And I thought I was lying in that other post.

As if those Baseball Peeps are working for somebody else.

Again, not a sentence; that would be a dependent clause, although that's probably way too difficult a concept for you to grasp. Let's just call it a "no sentence". When you write a "no sentence", you don't get to give it a "." until you make the "no" go away, OK? And only when the "no" goes away and you have just a "sentence" can you give it the "." and try again with another set of words. It's a lot like Hungry, Hungry Hippos, in the sense that if you practice really hard and never give up, someday you might be marginally better at it than a five-year-old.

Also, I'm going to combine those three separate paragraphs into a single, grammatically correct sentence on the off-chance that this will turn Loopy into a master of prose.

But perhaps the strongest pull of heredity involves the area that was always George Steinbrenner's strong suit, at least back in the day: second-guessing his baseball people as if those baseball peeps are working for somebody else.

Much better. Now it's just horrendously hacky and boring.

It is abundantly clear now, before a spring training game is played, much less a baseball game that counts, that Hank is having non-buyer's remorse about Johan Santana, New York Met.

Right, precisely because no games have been played. The Steinbrenners are infamously proactive owners - even if that means occasionally reaching horribly with the likes of Jaret Wright or Carl Pavano - and they tend to always want activity. This isn't just old news; I'm pretty sure you can find that on the Dead Sea Scrolls. I think the specific lines were discovered in Cave 5, but honestly I get my scrolls mixed up after awhile.

Anyway...this isn't really newsworthy, because Hank Steinbrenner has already established that, much like his father, he would like to sign every player in the league except a couple who aren't "True Yankees." And judging by the A-Rod deal, he's flexible on that last part. So yeah...this is nothing anyone with even moderate baseball knowledge doesn't already know.

Oh, but wait, this is all about how he's like his dad? Do tell, Mike, do tell.

He really does get that from his dad's side of the family. If you don't believe that, ask Brian Cashman sometime how often he heard the name "David Ortiz" after the Red Sox got him from the Twins and he turned into a Boston baseball legend known as "Papi."

To be fair, Brian Cashman was engaged in a heated affair with Joan Steinbrenner back in 2004 as part of a sexually-charged revenge plot against George that involved role-playing as the various Red Sox, hence why Brian heard "David Ortiz" shouted so much (Joan was Dave Roberts, of course). What can I say, Closer was big back then and using sex to destroy people's lives was all the rage.

You know, sometimes I really miss 2004.

What was my point? Oh, right, it's possible Hank's proclivity to scream baseball players' names at Brian Cashman comes not from his idiot of a father, but from his trollop of a mother. Right right.

Man, I'm really hope none of the major western religions are right, because I know where I'm going to after writing that paragraph. And that's the toned-down version.

So if Santana, another ex-Twin, the one the Mets finally got for a bag of balls, pitches the Mets to the World Series this season, pitches them all the way to the Canyon of Heroes, Hank has made it pretty clear that it won't be his fault.

Eh, I think I'm going to take it easy this paragraph and just snicker at the phrase "a bag of balls." Heh, heh...heh.

I can't believe I'm barely a third of the way through this thing. Time to crank up the jets, methinks. I use "methinks" to show you I'm pretentious, by the way.

It will be Cashman's.

"Hopefully, (trading for Santana) is not a move we should have made that I'm going to be ticked off about," Hank Steinbrenner told the Daily News.

"If Santana could have made the difference for us and the young pitchers aren't ready, people have to be held accountable," Hank Steinbrenner told Newsday.

Those aren't just predictable quotes from a Steinbrenner, they're practically like a home movie.

Don't the Steinbrenners strike you as the kind of technologically backwards idiots who still use a Super-8 camera with no sound? I only mention this because I feel like comparing those quotes to a home movie is asinine, and that's the best reason I can come up with as to why. Also because that particular metaphor doesn't really make sense. Home movies generally record unusual events - birthdays, vacations, etc. - and aren't always the best indicator of an average day in the life of a family. And even if that were so...who quotes a home movie? So maybe that's the second-best reason why that quote is asinine. Did you know the word "asinine" sounds like it's got "ass" in it? There's a reason this blog isn't going on my resume, people.

But here's a question: If Hank Steinbrenner thought Johan Santana was worth the money and the prospects, why didn't he overrule Cashman and tell him to go make the deal?

True, but you've got to give Steinbrenner some credit for listening to Cashman. At least, I think you do. Either way, it seems like you're pretty seriously prejudging the dude. If he made the deal, he's an idiot (which he is). If he blames Cashman for not making the deal, he's an ass (which he is). If he doesn't blame Cashman, rest assured Lupica will think of something wrong with that. My guess? Hank's secretly a werewolf, and you know werewolf owners can only blame GMs for bad trades under a full moon. This is why William Clay Ford hasn't gotten around to firing Matt Millen, because Millen always does super awesome work when the moon is full like dumping bad contracts and stockpiling draft picks and stuff. You can look it up if you don't believe me (please don't look it up).

When Hank decided that all was forgiven with Alex Rodriguez and that he wanted to give A-Rod a contract that will eventually be worth $300 million, who stopped him? It was quite an honorable thing for Steinbrenner to give A-Rod the deal the Yankees were prepared to give him before he opted out during Game 4 of the World Series. But it is still a fact that when the time came to make the deal Hank acted as if A-Rod were the one with all the leverage when the Yankees had it all.

Wait, what's the problem here? Steinbrenner acted like an ass, but he looked past his own intrinsic assholishness to recognize A-Rod would be a tremendous asset to the team, and so he made the deal he had to make. Considering how much of a jerk Hank Steinbrenner is, that's about as laudable as he's going to get. Why do you have to tear the man down when he gets it basically right?

(I didn't notice the presence of my new favorite word when I typed "asset", but I feel very happy my subconscious is working with me on this one. All about following the Tao, I guess. Be one with the way and all that shit.)

Nobody got in Hank Steinbrenner's way then, not Cashman, not any other of the other Baseball Peeps in Tampa. The way nobody got in Hank Steinbrenner's way when he overpaid to bring back Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada.

Right...these were reasonable moves considering the Yankees have an unlimited budget. They aren't the Royals, for goodness sake, and you can't really evaluate their contracts based on cost-effectiveness. I do know that between A-Rod, Rivera, and Posada, we're looking at almost sixty wins above replacement players over the last two years. I'm not claiming that's rock-solid analysis (I'm kind of looking past Rivera's 5.6 WARP-3 last year to make a general point), but basically these are three guys who are worth the sort of investment the Yankees are prepared to make.

Hank threw money at A-Rod and nobody got in his way, he did it with Posada, he did it with Rivera, even though it is fair, no matter how much you admire the last two guys, to wonder what kind of bang Hank is going to get on his buck at the back end of their deals.

Yeah, but if they win a World Series or two before the end of their deals, that's all that'll matter. And it's not as if the Yankees are unaccustomed to eating bad contracts. Seriously, I have no strong feelings either way towards the Yankees - I used to hate them, but I must have been a bandwagon hater 'cause since around 2004 I can't muster up much energy for the hating - and I think Hank Steinbrenner is a dickish moron, but Mike Lupica is making me defend him. The only thing this reminds me of is when Geraldo Rivera interviewed Charles Manson...and you come away rooting for Manson.

By the way, if you're wondering whether Hank Steinbrenner is Charles Manson for the purposes of this metaphor...maybe, but really Lupica is both Geraldo and Charles Manson.

I think that says it all.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Good God, Man

This will probably end up becoming my once-weekly post. It's Monday, so it's PK time. As usual, he starts decently, with football things:

Asante Samuel could be headed for Philadelphia. I hear the all-pro New England cornerback could get five years and $55 million from the Eagles, but I think once Philly finds out no other team out there is willing to give $10 million a year to a finesse corner who doesn't like contact -- unlike the franchised Marcus Trufant of the Seahawks and Nnamdi Asomugha of the Raiders -- the price tag could slither down a bit.
Technically that's $11M per, but fair enough. A quasi-interesting football thing.

I'm warning you about DeAngelo Hall, Giants. And I'm warning you other suitors: Don't overpay for this man...I can say two good things about Hall: He's a cornerback with guts, and he's only 24 years old. But coaches and some former teammates who've been around him think he's an immature risk-taker and not a team guy.
It's pretty big football news that the G-men are considering adding a young, top-10ish corner. Though there have been several recent examples of crazies doing well on new teams, his apparent immaturity is a valid concern.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus is trying to scare up business in the Chad Johnson market. And failing, from what I gather.

Seattle's torn about whether to cut Shaun Alexander.

An elderly man, a farter, maybe 68, fell asleep across the aisle from me Sunday night on the Continental minibus in the sky from Indy to Newark, and he began snoring. (I hate these suffocating little jets, and it seems that's almost all you fly if you're going 1,000 miles or less these days.) Lucky Ray Rice, by the way. The Rutgers running back was way in back and didn't have to put up with the elderly farter's snoring and aroma.

Holyfuckme. Peter, buddy, come here a minute, would ya. Look, I know your editor wants you to personalize the column. It's usually boring as hell, but if you have a recommendation or something, that's fine. However. The "wowzers, planes are so cramped!" angle has been done. Ad balls Nauseam. On the topic of nausea, nobody--nobody--wants to hear about an old fucking man farting. Think about what you submitted here, Peter. Do you understand just how boring that is? Or how gross? Whatever, let's try to wrap it up.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. The Conrad Hotel in Indy is a hidden gem downtown. Huge flat screens in the rooms. John McCain was there the other day, a few minutes after I checked in, for a fund-raiser. He knows how to pick the good hotels, I guess.

Fuck you. You went with the farting story when you had other options? Fuck you.

d. What was the bigger upset? Giants over Pats? Or No Country for Old Men over There Will Be Blood?
I know nothing about movies, but apparently No Country was a big Vegas favourite. So, Giants over Pats.

g. And while I'm at it, congrats to a good friend and superb broadcaster, Dale Arnold, for his appointment to the Red Sox radio network team. Great pipes, and a better guy.

He's never once farted in a public place, right Peter? Right? Fuck you.