Monthly archives: March 2008
Are Canseco and ARod the New Clapton and Harrison?
So ARod was trying to steal Jose Canseco's
Inspired by Rick Springfield...as told in the voice of Alex Rodriguez
Jose is a friend. You know he's been a good friend of mine. He hooks me up with roids and bangs a girl who's a nine...Yeah Jose's got a girl and I want to make her mine.
You know, I wish that I had Jose's girl,
Jose's Girl...You know I wish that I had Jose's girl...I want Jose's girl...I will have, Jose's Girl.
Now tell me that you haven't missed this kind of baseball coverage?
NCAA Tourney Preview
The smartest thing the NCAA ever did for college basketball was going to a 64 team field in 1985. Some (like Bob Knight) have discussed raising the number to 128, so there aren't quality teams left out of the tourney. Stupid. It's smart to have a few good teams who don't make it, as this creates the anxiety that the final selection show has. Also, it isn't like college football, where many years the best team doesn't get a chance to play for the National Championship. The best teams get an opportunity and the smaller conference qualifiers get a chance to knock them off.
While the tourney continued to grow in popularity up until the mid-90's, it wasn’t a national phenomenon. Since then it has reached the point of being the biggest sporting event next to the Super Bowl. Every region of the country has a fanatical pursuit of March Madness, mainly because of office pools. I have generally done really well in these pools, so I will share my strategies on what I look for and who I like in 2008.
The most important thing for a team to have is obviously talent, but the format of the tourney gives some teams a bigger advantage than others. Since the 2nd and 4th round games feature teams who just won 2 days before, there is not a lot of time to prepare for your opponent in these rounds. This favors squads which have a unique style of play. See teams like Tennessee and Drake, which run a version of Tom Davis’ unique system or Georgetown’s Pete Carril-influenced offense. Since most teams have not seen these types of styles in their own conference, it is next-to-impossible to prepare for them in less than 48 hours. Also, I like teams in the tournament who have a physical and deliberate style, since most conferences don’t feature these qualities much either. Oh yeah, it doesn’t hurt to have experienced guard play, as turnovers kill you in March.
While I think the committee did a good job of putting the right 64 teams in the field, the regions were seeded poorly, as the East and Midwest are much tougher overall than the South and especially the West. UCLA has practically been given a bye on their way to the Final 4. Below are my rankings for best team for each seed for 14-1.
14 Georgia (West)
13 Winthrop (East)
12 Villanova (Midwest)
11 St. Joe’s (East)
10 Arizona (West)
9 Arkansas (East)
8 Indiana (East)
7 Butler (East)
6 Marquette (South)
5 Drake (West)
4 Pittsburgh (South)
3 Wisconsin (Midwest)
2 Georgetown (Midwest)
1 UCLA (West)
A few things that jump out at me this year.
UCLA is an easy pick to win the West, as Duke, Xavier, and Connecticut are the weakest 2, 3, and 4 seeds.
The South is the best place for a 4 seed or lower to come out of. Texas is practically playing the regional at home (Houston), but I think Pittsburgh and Marquette have a good chance to get to the elite 8, if not farther.
The Midwest’s Top 3 seeds are the best of any region, but I feel Georgetown’s experience and size will get them past the Badgers and Jayhawks.
A lot has been made of how North Carolina is playing close to home, but Knoxville is as close to Charlotte as Chapel Hill is. I’m following my heart with my pick on the Vols, as Bruce Pearl is the most charismatic guy I’ve ever met. Check out his excellent profile on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel this month on HBO.
UCLA versus Pittsburgh would be a great storyline, as both use the Ben Howland system. While my heart would go with Tennessee, I can’t see how they could stop Hibbert down low, so I have to go with the Hoyas.
Not Exactly Resolution, but Definitely Better than a Kick in the Ass
For basically the past decade, my dad has lived in a nursing home. A mix of severe arthritis, mental illness, and a complete lack of physical activity had left him using a walker to get around. He had been living by himself in a double wide for many years, but he had fallen in the bath tub and was unable to get up, so he was there for a couple of days until the meals on wheels person happened by. This was when it was decided that he should be put in the nursing home, as he needed full-time supervision.
What makes this story a bit more unique is that my father was born in 1946. Add to this that if you looked at just his face, you would think he was my brother, so it was kind of strange to see such a young-looking person living with people who appeared like they were his grandparents. My dad spent a couple years in the Iowa State Mental hospital when he was in his mid-30's, so while he would occasionally discuss wanting to go back to his trailer, he didn't get too upset about having to stay at the nursing hiome. I can remember visiting him at the State Nut House when I was 13 and let me say that it was way more frightening than prison, which is something I experienced when performing standup at a State Pen in Indiana. Listening to the mentally ill shriek or cry is way scarier than any haunted house you can visit. I guess the nursing home seemed liked a better option than having to go back to the mental hospital, so that is where he has spent the past several years...until Monday.
Over the past few months I've been called a few times by the social worker who keeps an eye on my dad that he was on a deathwatch. I could rehash the tortured relationship with my father, but it would be easier to just click on this link to get a feel for how it has been. While I've spent my whole life trying to come to grips with the abuse he dished out to me, I'm fully aware how the nature and nurture (or lack there of) he provided has impacted my life. For a long time I developed the whole survivor mechanism of out of sight, out of mind, but since the birth of my daughter I've done some reexamining of my father/son relationship. This reexamination has taken away some of the anger I felt towards my father and replaced it with sadness at what I missed by not having a loving father. Fortunately he did such a number on me growing up that I don't shed a tear like some kind of pansy boy. (The last sentence has a hint of sarcasm to it.)
For the past few years my dad had been falling into a greater level of dementia. The amount of psychoactive medicine he had been given had done to him what Randle McMurphy was fighting against. In this situation it wasn't as simple as a Ken Kesey novel, though, as my father's manic depressive rages had left a pile of collateral damage on about every road he traveled. Sometimes society has to decide if someone should be forcibly medicated if it helps keep others from being physically harmed from that person's manic rages.
After the first time I was called about my father being on his last fumes, I went out to see him. I was told that he had very little awareness and he wasn't likely to offer up much. When I first saw him, he was laying in his bed, asleep. Since I had driven 7 hours and only had that night to see him, I had the hospice nurse wake him. Propping his head up, he groggily looked my way. I wasn't sure if he knew who I was so I told him it was his son, Scott. Since I didn't know what to really say to him, I started talking about my pride and joy and showed him some pictures of my girl, Maddie. I talked at him, with a lot of uncomfortable silences, for about 15 minutes. He was constantly yawning, which I'm vain enough to think had more to due with the heavy medication he was on versus my conversational skills being the sleep-inducer.
I decided I had kept him up enough and bent over and gave him an awkward hug. I whispered in his ear that I hoped things would go the way he wanted them to and said I regretted that we hadn't of had a better relationship. He responded to this by saying in a heartfelt way that "I'm really glad you came to see me. I love you...Jerry."
Nothing in my life has ever resembled a Hallmark original movie. I can tell you that being called Jerry at this moment was one of the funniest things that I've ever experienced. If he knew who he was talking to or not, if he meant what he said or not, I just want to say it was about as good as I could hope for. I can never remember my dad ever saying he loved me, so at this point, in the state he was in, it would have seemed somewhat disengenous. After all the psychic scars this guy has left me with, a Love Story ending wouldn't have been right.
My dad hung in there for a couple of months, defying the medical experts. In truth, he hadn't had any kind of quality of life for the past 3 decades, so my opinion is it was for the best that his life's shot clock buzzer went off. When I went to see him this last time, so I could peform my own version of last rites, I didn't know if it was going to serve any real purpose for me or not. Well, I'm glad I did it. I wouldn't say it gave me any major inner peace with our relationship, but peering at a face for the last time...a face which looked just like my own, did feel like it would help me resolve some of my issues with him. Well, I think my session is over for this week. Time for me to get off the couch. I will pay the receptionsist on the way out.
Sign Up for Juice Blog Fantasy Baseball League
I have very limited time right now, but will be performing at the Comedy Forum in the St. Louis area this week, so I have Saturday afternoon to do a draft.
Bill James and Stats, INC. came up with a scoring system that was supposed to be a better version of fantasy baseball. I was invited into a league by one of the contributors at the Toaster who uses this system, but couldn't make it work, so I thought I would make my own league using the system. I did tweak a few things, as the James system also included 20 points for no-hitters and hitting for the cycle, plus 5 points for grand slam homers. I excluded these, but did add 2 points for quality starts. If you are interested, join up at http://baseball.fantasysports.yahoo.com You should click on Baseball '08 join a league.
The league ID is: 205329 The password is: juiceblog
If this doesn't work for you, I will try to set up a second draft next week, as long as the twins don't happen then. Below I pasted all the details, so you know what you are getting yourself into.
Scoring SettingsEdit Settings
More Items I'm Throwing Up On the Wall...
...Let's see what sticks.
While MSNBC's Countdown is still a quality show, he has lost his way a bit during this primary season. Since he seems to be strongly behind the Obama campaign, he has a hard time not spinning most of what Hillary or McCain do as negative. Some would say that he has always done this, which I wouldn't totally disagree with, but when slinging the poo at Dubya it was almost always justified. Olbermann has reshaped how a cable news show can be presented, as he has combined hard news and analysis, with a wit that blends the Daily Show and vintage Sportscenter. Here's hoping that he starts to offer up some of his pointed barbs at Obama, just like he has done with the other candidates. As the only news broadcaster who regularly quotes the great dead comedian, Bill Hicks, I suggest he take a page out of Hicks' comedy style and swing for the fences on everyone.
I was sad to learn that Tucker Carlson is losing his show at MSNBC. In a cable news world where pundits are generally partisan or dull, Carlson was much more Libertarian in his views than he was given credit for. He railed against politically correct speech and reveled in taking a contrarian view on many issues. He hadn't worn a bow tie for quite a long time, but most Liberals still identify him as being the cosmic son of George Will. I'm guessing the bashing he took from John Stewart on Crossfire a few years back has stuck to him, even though he was not a deserving candidate to receive this verbal lashing. Carlson is a real talent, but I think his willingness/desire to not be pigeonhold alienated both sides of the Washington establishment and the partisan viewers that also happen to be most of who watches these shows.
Prostitution should be legal, but regulated. Kind of like abortion, it definitely has its moral questions, but since it's going to happen if you like it or not, why not have a safer and more dignified approach to the profession? While I could care less if some guy spends a bunch of money to copulate with some chick, I do love when some ethics crusader like Spitzer gets busted. I have appreciated most of the fatcat targets Spitzer has taken down, but when you are in the biz of coming off like you are holier than thou, you should face a different type of scrutiny than other people. As someone who has enjoyed when the Ted Haggard's of the world get exposed as hypocrites, it would make me one as well, if I didn't write that the same rules apply for a guy like Spitzer, even if I do think he has accomplished some important things.
If you didn't get a chance to watch the Missouri Valley Tournament Final, I feel badly for you, as Drake played 40 of the most entertaining minutes of b-ball I've ever seen. The Bulldogs have taken many of the great elements that are unique to the Tom Davis system, but head coach Keno Davis (Tom's son) has tweaked it with a more European style of offense. The players all have a real high b-ball IQ, plus they all can shoot it from deep. Led by point guard Adam Emmenecker, who plays with a Steve Nash-flair, Drake will cause match-up problems with anyone they play. It isn't surprising to me that possibly the 2 most entertaining tourney teams to watch happen to be led by coaches (Keno Davis and Bruce Pearl) who were deeply influenced by Tom Davis. While some in the game see many of the tenets of the Tom Davis system as gimmicky, like football's run and shoot, I know if I was an AD at a school that has traditionally struggled to compete with its rivals I would hire a coach who would implement this style of play. I grew up going to Drake games and not since the days of Lewis Lloyd competing with Indiana State's Larry Bird have the Bulldogs provided any real hope for their fans. Now they are back in the Big Dance, something they haven't done since 1971. Underestimate this team at your own peril.
This just might be the most promising event to be provided by a pitcher in quite some time. In this story by Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, Royals ace Brian Bannister is featured. The piece focuses on some great quotes that Bannister gave Tim Dierkes at mlbtraderumors.com. Bannister is the first real saber-nerd pitcher I've ever heard of who has put up all-star like numbers.
Every once in awhile, a recording slips by me and I learn about it too late to make my year-end list. The unfortunately named band And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead put out a great release in 2006 titled So Divide that I highly recommend. I hear echoes of Pet Sounds era Beach Boys, The Flaming Lips, and a load of 70's art rock groups on this ambitious record. Check it out.
My Deepest Sympathies and Other Items
I'm sure many readers at the Toaster were deeply saddened by the death of Dungeons and Dragons founder Gary Gygax, on Tuesday. While the only role-playing I've ever had any real interest in was more the "I've been a bad schoolboy, please don't punish me too much, Headmistress," I have fond memories of my brother and his nerdy friends getting all hyped up rolling dice like they were the Rat Pack at The Sands.
Flipping around last night on TV, I caught an amazing talk show moment. Russell Crowe was sitting on the same Tonight Show panel with Larry the Cable Guy. Has there ever before been a time when the best movie actor and the worst movie actor shared the same couch?
My buddy, TFD, sent me this NY Times article which touches on the subject I discussed recently about anonymous blogging. Really thought-provoking.
This year's American Idol has the best depth of any year I've ever seen. After last year's crop of dudes with no talent, it's cool to have 3 or 4 interesting male vocalists. Since I expect he will get booted after next week, I hope Chekizie does the Commodores song, Easy. When he sings it, he should replace the chorus with That's why I'm Chekizie, Chekizie like Sunday Morning, yeah!
I really like the HBO original series, In Treatment, but with new episodes practically every night, it is just too much to stay on top of. Gabriel Byrne gives his calm, intellectual presence to the show, something he brings to every role I've ever seen him in.
I have no idea if the White Sox will be competitive, but I know that their radio broadcasting team will be the best I've ever heard. Ed Farmer has always been great and with Steve Stone joining him, I can't imagine there will be better analysis of the game anywhere else. The Sox get a lot of blasts for their TV crew, but the ownership should get a lot of kudos for approving these 2 very opinionated former pitchers to broadcast their games.
Have I already started writing a sketch with John Madden crying like a blubbery girl to Dr, Phil, trying to come to grips with the retirement of Bret Favre? No, but it does seem like something that will probably happen.
Since I will be in my 50's when my twins are going into Junior High School, I realize it will be difficult to beat them in head-to-head competition. Knowing this, I've been watching the movie, The Great Santini, like it's an instructional video.
It would only seem just a matter of time until Michael Lewis does a book chronicling this incident which stars a Boston Red Sox scout. Money Shot!
Keep an eye out over the next couple of weeks for the Juice Blog's Annual Fantasy Baseball League and NCAA Tourney Pool.
Can the MLB Network Kickstart Baseball's National Presence?
I appear on local sports radio on a regular basis and I try to prepare some specific material for each market. One thing I've noticed over the past couple of years is how little baseball is discussed. Outside of strong traditional baseball towns like New York, Boston, St. Louis and Cincinnati, very rarely is MLB the topic, unless the steroids thing is being discussed or the playoffs are happening. Nationally, it is even more this way, as ESPN and Fox Sports radio are driven around the NFL. Their market research shows that outside of NCAA tourney time, when most or their listeners have hoops pools which create a vested interest, football is what drives callers. This is why ESPN radio has former player Mike Golic doing the morning show, Colin "All I Really Like to Talk about is Gridiron" Cowherd following him, and Kirk Herbstreit and Mike Tirico doing afternoons. Fox radio is just as NFL-centric, with football savant Steve Czaban hosting the morninng show and fomer players James Washington and Bryan Cox co-hosting programs later in the day. While MLB is experiencing record attendance, you would hardly know it if you turned on sports radio or cable sports network.
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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