Friday, July 11, 2008



It's an absolute. There is no wiggle room.

And, by the time I had reached my 34th birthday, there were certain Nevers in professional sports that I had concluded would fail to happen during my lifetime. I think I stated that right.

For example, after the 2003 post-season collapse, I was certain I was never going to see a Red Sox World Series championship. That wasn't going to stop me from saying at the beginning of every season, "this year's gonna be the year," but there was always that "never" sitting in the back of my head.

Sure, there are gonna be those people that say the true fans would never give up hope, but after 30 years of fandom as a hard-core, card-carrying member of the Nation, 30 years of 1975's, 78's, 86's, 88's, 90's, 96's, and a deep and abiding knowledge of what came before, it was like 30 years of being a faithful dog getting kicked. Hard. Eventually that seed of doubt was going to take hold and cling like a spider-monkey afraid of heights. 2003 was the final straw, 2003, when Pedro was left on the mound too long was when "never" set in.

Too many years of Mookie Wilsons and Bill Buckners and Bob Stanleys and Calvin Schiraldis. Too many times when the team crapped out against immortals like Dave Stewart, or shot themselves in the foot with bizarre managerial decisions from the likes of John McNamara or Grady Little.

Something had to give.

It was so bad that I turned off game four of the 2004 post-season series against the Yankees sometime around the seventh inning. Down three games to none, I was convinced the series was over, and didn't want to subject myself to that sort of pain.

While the cynic still resides in me somewhere, it's not quite as apt to surface the way it once did. At least, not with the Sox.

I bring all this up, because it appears that the Rooney family, as close to royalty as the NFL gets, is shopping around their shares in the Steelers.

There are certain absolutes that I expect in professional sports, and one is that the Rooneys would always own the Steelers, just as I expect the Yankees will always be in The Bronx, The Packers in Green Bay, and that Los Angeles will always be a tough sell in regards to getting hard-cores into the ball-parks/football fields and getting the people to stay in the stands until the end of the game.

The Rooneys looking to sell their shares in the Steelers...well, that's enough to make me rethink a lot of the other stuff.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Taking five between freelance

I'm in the middle of an editing assignment after cranking through deadlines for an article on an upcoming blues festival and one for my usual gig with the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, both of which were due on Tuesday. Right now I'm editing a press release for a DC area financial firm, and I needed five or ten minutes to decompress from the financial terms and occasional government speak that permeate the piece I'm working on.

So, just some quick observations -

  • Were the Twins pitchers aware that they were not throwing batting practice? Sox hitters, overall for that final game of the series, batted .500. The only Sox player without a hit was rookie Jeff Bailey who was pinch ran and took over in left field (take Bailey's one at bat out of the equation and the Sox hit .511 and the next worst in-game average is Brandon Moss' 1 for 5, .200 performance). At the other end of the spectrum was Jacoby Ellsbury who hit a gaudy .667, leading a contingent of players that include Kevin Youkilis, Manny Ramirez (way to bust that slump), and Sean Casey, who hit at least .600 for the game.
  • Making the 23-hit assault even more amazing for the Sox is the fact that Twins pitchers walked only two during the game and the Sox only left seven men on base. The Twins, on the other hand, left 12 men on base.
  • If someone had told be before this homestand that both Jon Lester and Josh Beckett were going to give up five earned a piece, I would have said the Sox were going to lose at least one of those.
  • The Red Sox now stand only two games behind the Rays. With the Rays on the road tonight, and emulating the Sox "great at home, suck on the road model," there's every chance that the Sox will be starting their series against the Orioles only one-and-a-half back.
  • Speaking of the Rays, their final game of the two-game set against the Yankees in the Bronx was Mustache Day, with the Bombers giving away porn-staches to their patrons in honor of their best offensive force - Jason Giambi. I can't help wondering if with the 'staches, they gave away little vials marked, "steroids."
  • On an off-the field note, letters to writers like the majority of these tend to sadden me, and sometimes anger me. A quick background - Yahoo! writer Tim Brown wrote a piece on Kim Ng and her chances at a GM position. Some of his responses were like this -
  • Of course, she played shortstop all those years in Montreal and the outfield for the Marlins, sure she’s qualified. As soon as she can play in AA she can make those decisions. She has just as much an idea as I do what it’s like to play in majors. Please, as a Diamondbacks fan, I hope the Dodgers give her the job next week!

    Los Angeles

    As a Diamondbacks fan, you probably also know your GM (Josh Byrnes, who is one of the bright and creative minds in the business) didn’t play professional baseball.

For my money, I don't give a rats ass if my team's GM is male, female, a multi-sexual alien from the planet Playtex, a former hooker, or a handicapped, left-handed monkey with libertarian leanings and communist parents. Hell, I'll even live with one whose last name is Steinbrenner, as long as they can evaluate talent and put together a winning team. Anyone that puts any weight on any other factor than the concept, "can the person put together a winning team," is a moron.

And the idea that they had to play on a professional level like this idiot intimated, is beyond the pale. Theo Epstein, Brian Cashman, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Bill Parcells, Jerry Jones, Bill Polian, and Rays GM Andrew Friedman never got paid to play their respective sports professionally. And that's just a small segment of talent evaluators that never drew a paycheck to play the sports they're involved in. Then there's the flipside - Kevin McHale, Isiah Thomas, Matt Millen - all Hall-Of-Fame players, with only McHale coming close to putting together a contender as GM's (and he's put together six of thirteen seasons of teams that went .500 or worse).

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Conversation

Anyone that saw the Sunday night broadcast of the Sox-Yanks game was privy to the following -

ESPN's Peter Gammons said on Sunday night's Red Sox-Yankees game broadcast that the Red Sox have had "internal discussions" about Barry Bonds, but he considers a workout for the 43-year-old free agent unlikely. Red Sox pitcher and vocal Bonds critic Curt Schilling, who is out for the season, Monday morning on Boston sports radio station WEEI called the possibility of Bonds coming to Boston for the stretch run "three months of a PR nightmare." More from Schilling: "That would be an eye-opener for sure. I know Barry said in the past that he hates the city of Boston. I really don't know. I hadn't thought about that one, I didn't think that was on the radar."
Beyond the accuracy of Schill's statement, am I the only one who thinks the "discussion," the team's conversation regarding Bonds went something like this -
Theo Epstein and the Red Sox brain trust are holed up in a room late one night last week on Yawkey Way. Their faces illuminated by their laptops as they scour the scouting reports, looking for a contingency plan given their issues with David Ortiz's wrist.

"Carlos Beltran?" piped up one man from the shadows.

"Maybe," replied Epstein," but I have a hunch that the Mets will want to much. Besides, the man averages almost 100 strike outs per year. Besides, for a guy that's supposed to be a slugger, an average of just under 24 home runs per year for his doesn't really cut it."

"Junior Griffey," asked another.

"The Reds will likely want more in prospects for him than we'll be willing to give. Now his teammate, Dunn...," said Epstein, "let's take a closer look at Dunn, put a value on him as a DH/outfielder. If Papi doesn't come along as hoped, we can probably get Dunn in the line-up almost everyday as a utility outfielder/first baseman/DH."

"We might have some egos to massage in the outfield if we do that."

"We'll cross that bridge if and when we come to it," said Epstein. "Any other ideas?"

"Hey," a voice came from the corner, "Bonds is still available."

The room goes silent as everyone stops to stare at the scout who suggested Bonds.

The man holds a straight face for all of about five seconds before exploding in laughter. The rest of the room followed suit. "Sorry, everybody," he said. "I had to say it."

"Can you imagine the field day the press would have with this," asked Epstein as he regained his composure."

"God, it would be like throwing raw meat to starving dogs," said another. "The fans would march on Fenway like the villagers on Frankenstein's castle."

As the laughter finally reduced to the punch-drunk chuckle of people working just a few too many hours, Epstein again surveyed the room. "Seriously, now, anyone else," he asked. "Damn that was funny."
I See Dumb People...

In my occasional rants about the stupid in sports, I would like to return to Sunday's game against the Yankees. When the Red Sox bullpen was having its fire-sale, coughing up Wakefield's lead like a two-pack smoker with emphysema, a play stuck in my craw. On a play where the ball rolled to the wall in the gap between Coco Crisp and JD Drew - the play that tied the game - there was a slim outside chance (in my opinion), that someone with a strong arm might have been able to make the play at the plate that would have ended the inning, preserving the Sox lead.

Instead, with Drew (who has a cannon for an arm) and Crisp (whose arm is more akin to silly putty) converging on the ball at almost exactly the same time, Crisp called drew off the ball, picked it up, turned, and fired...a ball that skittered on the ground most of the way to the cut-off man.

I understand that the centerfielder is in charge out there, but the player has to know the situation and his own limitations. Crisp had to know that Drew would have been able to get the ball to the infield with a harder, more accurate throw - or if he didn't, he should have.

Part Two -

The Detroit Lions are at it again - ganking the NFL's "Believe in Now" slogan for the upcoming season with the simple alteration to make the slogan a question rather than a statement - "Do You Believe in Now?"

I really think they should do this up like those "I'm with stupid ->" tee shirts which have the arrows pointing in opposite directions so that wearers can walk side by side, "<- I'm with stupid" with the arrows pointing at each other. Except I think the Lions should pair it with a tee shirt, or maybe put this on the back, that says, "Why should I, you dumb f^@% ?"

Nothing says stating a certainty like stating it with a question.

One last note -

Best wishes to Diamondbacks catcher Chris Snyder who fractured one of his testicles last week. I read up on what that "fracture" entails, and out of mercy to my male readers, will not post that here.

However, Mr. Snyder, may you heal quickly and completely.