Monthly archives: July 2008
These are just three of the places that I've seen this picture of Jenn Sterger pop up.
Thing is, I took this picture and I never get credit for it! Having a photo published in SI is a big freakin' deal. Of course, I'm not worried about the money, though I'd be curious what that would be worth. For me, I just think it's hilarious that a random pic I took heading into a Cubs game keeps popping up places.
Even funnier? I took the pic with my iPhone.
Liveblogging an Idea
The more I look at Pro Football Prospectus and Rotowire Football Magazine, the more I think I'm on to something. Both have Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as the top two point-getters, with Randy Moss not far behind. I've done a little bit of mocking out a draft where the definitely contrarian and possibly insane strategy of picking a QB in the first round AND the second round, might just work. Obviously there's some issues with this plan.
First, it might not work. There are several scenarios where this doesn't play out properly. It assumes that Manning will be healthy and that both will meet or exceed very high projections. QB is a notoriously injury-prone position.
Second, the 12/24 issue is real. Since standard leagues use 2 RB and only 1 QB, the dropoff between to the 24th RB is much steeper than the 12th QB. In fact, it's reasonably good strategy to pick the 12th and 13th QB, emphasizing the need for a good backup over a great starter. Odd, but true. Looking at this year's numbers in PFP08, the dropoff at QB is 108 points, while the dropoff to the 24th RB (actually 25th - I took out Cedric Benson) is 152 points. Of course, the #12 QB is Jake Delhomme and I think with the risk premium, we may be really overplaying the slope.
Mostly though I'm worried about the psychology of the draft. I'm curious if drafting Brady in the middle of the first round will create a jolt of panic and cause someone to push Manning up. I don't think that would be a terrible thing; I'd adjust and pick a RB in the 2d. There's also a strong chance that you'd get the "amateur effect" here with someone picking Brady or Manning based on star power, being a fan of the team, or just dumb luck, like the autopick grabbing him early. (Just checked - ESPN has Brady at #6 in their pre-ranks, Manning at #14, so this could be a real issue.)
I've set up a team at ESPN's "free and it ..." site because it's free and abandoning a team there is all too common with a draft scheduled for today to see how it plays out. I'll keep you updated ...
A Few Interesting Stats to Ponder
Josh Hamilton is an amazing story. His homerun contest explosion was epic. He is on my fantasy team, so I love the guy's production...but didya know that he's only 10th in the AL in OPS? When not at the hitter-friendly confines of the Ballpark in Arlington, his OPS is .777. He's an excellent player, but this notion that he has wrapped up the MVP award needs some reconsideration. (His teammate, Milton Bradley leads the league with an OPS more than .100 points more than Hamilton.)
The Red Sox have 3 players in the Top 7 in AL OPS. (Drew, Ramirez, Youkilis)
The White Sox have 2 outfielders in the Top 6 in AL OPS. (Dye and Quentin)
Speaking of the White Sox, many had speculated earlier in the year if Jim Thome was in serious decline. Thome is 13th in the AL in OPS. Much like Jason Giambi (who is 8th), Thome still has more in the tank than many of us thought he had.
Ian Kinsler has stolen 25 bases out of 26 attempts. Alex Rodriguez has stolen 15 bases in 16 attempts.
The starting outfield for the Arizona D-backs has OPS numbers of .786 (Upton), .721 (Young), and Byrnes (.641). Do you think they wish they hadn't of given Carlos Quentin (.929) away to get a Double-A 1st baseman named Chris Carter? (It should be noted that
You look at the Top 15 in NL OPS and all the names seem about right, except for Ryan Ludwick. This 30 year-old outfielder was drafted by the A's in 1999, but has bounced around with a number of teams, until last season finding a home as a platoon option for the Cards. This year he is slugging nearly .600 and doing it almost completely under the radar.
I have never seen Jair Jurrjens pitch, but he's 10-5 for the Braves, with a 3.02 ERA. The trade that brought him from the Tigers for Edgar Renteria looks to be a great one for Atlanta.
Mark Buehrle is well on his way to notching his 8th straight season with over 200+ innings pitched. He also should finish the year with around 120 career wins. Buehrle will not turn 30 until March 23rd of 2009.
If you wanted to watch great pitching prospects in 2007, a good place to hang out was in Rochester, NY. Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Matt Garza, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey all toed the rubber there at one point, last season. All of them have pitched well in the majors this year, with only Garza not doing it with the Twins. Maybe this Francisco Liriano kid can emulate them and do something in the majors, after his time in Rochester.
Baseball Song of the Week
If you were looking for genuine baseball tunes without the Terry Cashman schmaltz, check out The Baseball Project's Harvey Haddix. This link brings you to a live version at MLB.com.
Below are the lyrics.
May 26, 1959 in Milwaukee on the mound.
Tony Reagins called a report of Brandon Wood and Robb Quinlan for Mark Teixeira the "babble of bloggers."
Except it's not. It's Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. That'd be BBWAA Card #49, if you look him up.
I guess the error is just the babble of GMs.
Attention Comedy Fans of Chicago (UPDATED)
I'm going to be part of a very cool event in Chicago, July 30. The show will take place at Soldier Field and as part of your admission, you get to wander around and check the place out. One of the co-hosts will be ESPN 1000 AM's Harry Teinowitz. I have played at some different type of venues (prisons, strip clubs, etc.), but never the House of Halas. Get your tix, it should be fun.
UPDATE: If you mention that you are coming to see Scott Long when you order the tix by phone, you get a $5 dollar discount off of the admission price.
Signs of the Apocalypse, Part 237
Wow. Just wow.
Do You Need to Have Successful Drafts to Be Successful?
The 2008 White Sox are a great example of how you can succeed without much homegrown talent. A franchise that most baseball experts were saying was falling apart and closer to the cellar than the playoffs is in first place at the all-star break. Hey, maybe Pedro Gomez knows a lot more than the guys at Fire Joe Morgan. Let's examine.
Even with Swisher's slow start, the production of the 2008 White Sox offense is really great and a major upgrade over 2007. Quentin and Dye have been A-rated transactions by Williams.
At first base, the White Sox have Paul Konerko, who was obtained for Mike Cameron back in 1996. It has been an excellent deal for the team, though his current contract which runs through 2010 looks to be an overall negative, at 12 mil per.
Lost in the kudos for Williams on the Quentin steal has been the signing of Alexei Ramirez. The future shortstop for the team, Ramirez has been dynamite at second base, since he was installed there in May. The Cuban missile has had OPS around .900 since the temperature warmed up (he had never hit in cold-weather before this year), has brought some much needed speed to the lineup and has as good of range as second baseman in the game. The Sox are getting this for $4.75 mil...for 4 seasons.
Just like how the 2008 White Sox have 2 new outfielders, they also have 2 new infielders. Confident in the depth of his starting pitching, Williams traded Jon Garland for Orlando Cabrera. He has been a big upgrade with the bat at shortstop versus Juan Uribe. In the most recent issue of Sporting News, a poll of players and scouts rated him the best fielding infielder in the American League. Cabrera and Ramirez have given the team 2 players with some speed, which is important considering how many plodders they have on their roster.
The first home-grown player I will discuss is Joe Crede. Crede has had a strange year, as his offense has been great (.889 OPS), while his defense has been erratic. He is expected to leave for free-agency next season, with Josh Fields most likely taking over.
The most hated player among MLB players is A.J. Pierzynski, but he has been a high quality pick-up for the White Sox. Williams got him on the cheap after his problems in San Fran and has been a bargain in every year except in 2007. This year his OPS is .750. Despite throwing out few runners, he is a plus defensively, as the team ERA would seem to denote.
Javy Vasquez has had as good of K/BB totals as anyone as baseball since he was picked up by the White Sox in the Chris Young trade. He is just one example of why I believe this stat is overrated among sabermetricians when it comes to starting pitchers. Strikeout pitchers run up higher pitch counts, usually have higher salaries, and my guess is are more prone to having arm problems. (I'm sure Will might feel differently.) While Vasquez has escaped the later, he throws too many balls over the plate. Sure his K/BB totals are gaudy, but the more important stats are not. If I'm building a team, I would want my relief pitchers to have great K/BB totals, but I think there is an argument to be made to go with starters like the A's and Twins have who aren't smoke throwers. Even though Vasquez has only had one good season in his 3 with the Sox (2007), the trade that was slammed by most hasn't been a negative for the team. Chris Young has not become the star player he was projected to be, as his OBP is a brutal .297 during his major league career. While he is just 24 years old, it is appearing like his career is not one of greatness that many projected. Actually, his Baseball Reference second most similar player comparison is Dave Kingman, which hitting-wise is pretty dead-on.
Considering that many of the same sentiments were thrown out when he traded all-world prospect Jeremy Reed for Freddy Garcia, I can see why Williams has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to some experts grading out his initial deals.
A great trade that Williams made was packaging Brandon McCarthy to Texas for John Danks and Nick Masset. Danks showed promise in 2007, but in 2008, he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. His ERA stands at 2.67, which is even more remarkable considering the homer happy park he pitches in. (Danks has given up only 8 gopher balls.) Add in that Masset has been solid in middle relief and Jon Daniels better hope that McCarthy finds himself soon.
Maybe just as good of a trade for the White Sox was obtaining Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez for Freddie Garcia. The Sox knew Garcia had faded in 2006 and wanted Gonzalez back, but few (including me) thought Floyd could be a quality starter. He has been. While he has been a bit of a high/low performer, he has been outstanding more than not, as his 3.63 ERA proves. At just 25 years of age, Floyd and Danks give the Sox 2 solid starters for a few years down the road.
Jose Contreras can be hard to watch, but if you consider what Williams gave up to get him (Esteban Loaiza and the Yankees paid a good portion of Contreras' salary to dump him), it turned out to be a great deal for the Sox. Especially when you factor in his dominant pitching in the 2005 World Championship run and his quality season the following year. His current contract is not a particularly good one for the team, but his ability to eat innings (like the rest of their starters) has kept the bullpen fresh.
Finally we come to the second important player on the team that was drafted by the team, Mark Buehrle. A 38th round selection in 1998, Buehrle continues to be the most consistent pitcher in the American League. This year he started off poorly, but has battled back to get his ERA to 3.69. He might be a poor man's Tom Glavine, but that ain't too shabby considering at the age of 29 he has won 114 games. He is well on his way to his 8th straight season of pitching over 200 innings.
Quite possibly the greatest waiver move of the past 5 years was Williams picking Bobby Jenk off the scrap heap from the Angels in 2004. Jenks was the final piece needed for the Sox to win in 2005 and since then has been one of the 5 best closers in baseball.
Last season, the White Sox were dismal in the bullpen, besides Jenks. Williams aggressively remade the pen, signing free agents Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel. While Linebrink's deal might not be a great one for them in year 4, he has been as good of a set-up man as there has been in 2008. Dotel has been nearly as good, as his fastball has come back to peak form, as his 63 K's in 42 innings demonstrate. Matt Thornton has the nastiest stuff in the pen. Thornton's WHIP is 0.92 and ERA is 2.31. He was obtained from the Mariners in 2006 for Joe Borchard in what turned out to be another great deal for the Sox.
These are the 19 most important players for the 2008 Chicago White Sox. Only 2 of them (Crede and Buehrle) were drafted by the team. They have so far been one of the top 5 teams in baseball. While it can be argued that the Sox have not be in a position to choose the cream of the crop during the past decade (this year was the first time they had a pick in the top 10), their current farm system shows the dismal efforts they have made in the draft. Kenny Williams has to take the biggest part of the blame for this failure, but his great ability to evaluate other people's talent has made up for this and more. The White Sox have become like the Oakland Raiders (during their glory days), taking on former 1st round busts and developing them into the players they were originally projected to become (Floyd, Quentin, Konerko, Thornton). It might not be Moneyball, but Williams' efforts since the book contain a bunch of success stories and no duds. While his name doesn't come up in the conversation, Kenny Williams has been one of the best GM's in baseball the past few seasons. Just think how good he could be if he some of his first round picks would not end up busts?
Food for Guys: Guacamole
Guys like chips and salsa, but how about making it a bit more fancy when you want to impress someone. Whether that's your lady or your buddies, fresh homemade guacamole is easy and easy to personalize.
First, grab the ingredients. They're easy and usually easy to find:
Going clockwiseish, we have -
The proportions here aren't important. A bit more avocado? Fine. Less tomatillo or pepper? Fine. You're not going to screw it up, just change the taste. The more of the avocado, the more it will dominate and the less spicy. Obviously, you can change the peppers to suit taste. For me, the lime and tomatillo is acidic overkill. Pick one or the other. Lime's easier to find and goes with the margarita.
Now that we have everything in place, it's a matter of cutting. There's two tricks here -- opening and chopping the avocado. To open the avocado, use a sharp knife and 'stab' directly in, softly until you hit the seed. Then go around the avocado until you've made two halves. With a small twist, open the two halves. The seed will 'pick a side.' Pull it out and discard. Take a spoon and dig in to one of the avocado halves, going with the skin. Scoop out the fruit, but avoid the green pith nearest the skin. If you leave a bit of avocado, so be it. Once you have it down, you'll nearly scoop it out whole. Once out, chop the avocado into differing sized pieces. Not sure why it works, but it does.
Chop the tops off the tomatillos, then halve what's left. Chop the top off the habeneros and if you like, deseed them. The Floricado or mango is softer and you should just dump that into the food processor. (No food processor? Cut everything into smaller pieces and use the blender. You'll just have to clean it out before making the margaritas.)
Everything goes in, then put cilantro, some fresh black pepper and salt, then put the top on.
About thirty seconds in, you'll see chunks spinning. Some will get out of the flow. You're looking for smooth, so this is about the halfway point. Don't be scared to stop and stir it up if you're getting big chunks clogging things up.
The final version will look more liquid, but still have some texture. It will pour easily without large chunks, but still hold the chip well. Serve however you want, but it's best with margaritas, if I haven't made that clear yet.
And there it is. Homemade guacamole that will impress whoever's coming by. You don't have to tell them that it takes nothing more than the ability to read a list and chop things without losing a finger to make it.
I figured I'd offer these to readers before hitting Stubhub -- I have two center pavilion tickets for the Aug 3 Radiohead show at Verizon Wireless in Indianapolis. Scott and I were going to attend but unfortunately, duty calls - that's the same day as Newberg Night in Dallas. I'll offer these for face to any Juice reader. First come, first serve, inquire within.
I'm still not convinced this isn't going to ruin one of my favorite books. But at least it looks cool.
Second Half Predictions
Here is the way I see the teams shaking out.
Yankees (4 games back)
Devil Rays 10
Blue Jays 10
I think the home team advantage trend continues. The Twins and D-Rays have played 50 games at home to lead the majors. Of contending teams, the White Sox (45) have played the least home games. (The Orioles have played just 41, so their first schedule was brutal.)
I will take the Yankees and Brewers as wild card teams. I will stick to my pre-season champ of the Angels. I didn't make NL pre-season picks because I thought all the teams were pretty flawed. I believe the Cubs are the one quality team in the NL, but they are the Cubs, so I will take the Phillies to lose in the World Series.
Things You Could Have Done During the All-Star Break
I worry about some of the readers here during the Monday and Wednesday of the All-Star break. Here are a few things that you could have done to keep your sanity during the summer days without a ballgame.
I realize that the games start back on Thursday, so you probably don't have enough time to check these suggestions all out, but take a little time away and think about something besides just baseball. Really, it's healthy. Joe Buck wasn't completely wrong.
F**k Murray Chass
Murray Chass is a blogger now.
He can say he hates them and wave his Spink Award (deserved) all he wants, but he's just a blogger.
He can call himself a columnist, but the Times let him go, a cost-saving move that hurt them as much as it hurt him. The New York Times can't just find another Murray Chass and can't afford him, but Chass can get a Blogger account and pow, he's back on Ballbug. I bet Murray's a bit chapped that he's being found via Ballbug, Google, Primer, and other newfangled ways. I bet somewhere in Brooklyn, he's got a kid in a "Newsies" outfit yelling out his URL.
I'd welcome Chass to the 'net if he'd welcome it, but he won't. Will he link to Alex Belth, a better writer in the medium than Chass will be? Will he limit his thoughts to days gone by the same way he'll limit sharing time with ex-writers, the Bitter Old Ink-Stained Wretches Club?
The saddest thing to me is that Chass could be a leader. He could do what T.R. Sullivan, Peter Gammons, and Richard Justice have done and embraced a new way to connect with people that love the game and want to read the best writers and best information. Instead, he'll work his grumpy, bitter, get-off-my-lawn routine until he's irrelevant. It's baseball's loss, but it's Chass' choice.
OH. MY. GOD.
Sometimes, you don't just see something at a baseball game that you've never seen before, you see something no one has ever seen before. Thank you, Hambone.
(UPDATE: Anyone seen Jamey Newberg? I'm worried about him. His heart might not be able to take this.)
Gammons Homage Notes
It's time once again for random notes about baseball, anything, and nothing, all at once:
* Got the iPhone 3G. REALLY re-thought it after the clusterbleep that was the multilaunch of the iPhone, MobileMe, and the iPhone 2.0 software. Scoble nailed it, saying that "few companies have so much brand love in reserve that it can get this reaction" in the face of what was truly a moment of technical meltdown and corporate arrogance. Still, when my guy at Apple called and said they could get me one today, I bit. I honestly don't think I would have done it had I already not arranged to sell my old iPhone. The upgrade is cool, but not SO cool that it doesn't require some thought. I finally "get" geotagging and location based services and the iPhone might just give them critical mass.
* Speaking of Scoble, we need one for sports. David Pinto is the closest we have, but if you read both, you'll see that it's not the same. Kind of surprising given more people are passionate about sports than they are about the stuff Scoble covers. Hey Scoble, why is that the case?
* The explanation that finally got me to understand geotagging came from Jon Gruber. Wait, I can't find the link, so maybe it wasn't. Crap, I hate when that happens. (It was Dave Winer. Thank you, Evernote.) Anyway, the idea is that let's say I go to a ballgame and take some pics. I put them up on Flickr, geotagged, and then I can search for other pics with the same date and location. I could see the same play from the other side of the stadium. Maybe that idiot waving to his friend at home behind the plate took some pics. Maybe some pics will have me in them. It could crowdsource memory. I first kind of got this when I saw three people put up pics from the NYC Party, but I only saw them because they sent them to me.
* The MLB.com application for iPhone is beyond cool (and works great on the old one as well.) If they do anything approximating Gameday or MLB.tv, I will buy it.
* Loopt is a way, way cool app. It's a stalker's wet dream to be sure, but if you're not scared of being tracked a bit, it might be better than Twitter. It has to be amazing in a big city like NYC or SF. The add-on to Facebook is rockin' too.
* Rich Harden looked pretty good in his Cubs debut. The velocity was there, all three pitches were working, but I do think that Lou Piniella is going to have to watch him really, really closely. For pitchers like this, I'm at a point where I think you should almost have a reliever that shadows him. Same with Scott Kazmir, at least until he begins to grasp pitch efficiency. It doesn't have to be a dedicated reliever, but knowing that Harden's only going to go five or six should be thought of the day before. Setting him behind someone who tends to go deep into games like Ted Lilly would be smart.
* After the debacle of my "almost done" with Johan Santana, I decided to stop doing rumors. Yet here I am, doing it again. The fact is that I keep hearing them and you can't just not say anything. At least I can't.
* James Hunter's new album is like finding a lost Sam Cooke album. Recorded in pure analog, it feels like an old Stax album. I'm not sure how I really feel about something that's so deliberately retro, but Hunter really sounds passionate about that kind of music, so why the heck not? It's certainly worth a listen and may well be on my current 2008 Top Ten.
* Best, most thought provoking article I've seen in a while. (It's a blog post. I say article anyway. Article, old school as it is, still sounds more authoritative.)
* Speaking of authoritative, I was listening to a lecture by Bart Ehrman about his book "Misquoting Jesus." He took questions and someone brought up a book that sounded like it was new-agey claptrap. The guy asked why he should believe Ehrman over this and Ehrman replied was a low-tinged "Authority." It was the height of arrogance and almost right. I have this issue all the time as people say that their degree in this or that or their experience working with old ladies that have broken hips make them more qualified to do my job than me. Trust, to me, is more important than authority. All things equal, you'd take the word of Neil ElAttrache over me when it comes to sports medicine, but people like Neil don't have time to call around and write UTK every day. I can remember years ago I'd grab up every season preview magazine on the shelves before baseball season. A couple years ago, I started to do the same and realized I didn't know most of these people writing in them. I didn't trust them, but because it was in print, they had authority. I put the magazine back down.
* Home Run Derby. I honestly don't care, but I think they should shake it up a bit so it doesn't turn into the Slam Dunk contest in the late 90's. Get 20 guys, they get five homers each and we measure for distance. I mean ACTUALLY measure. (Hit Tracker ready yet, Greg?) Let's get some of those really tightly wound balls and give the guys some aluminum bats. If we're going to put on a show, put on a SHOW.
* fdfrdrdderfffffdfdeerree ... ok, that was me cleaning off my keyboard. No idea why my "R" key gets munged up worse than most. Hand position? Just me?
* Someone told me John Mayer covered Layla in concert last year. I would KILL to hear this. UPDATE: In looking for this, I came across video of what is described by many as the most amazing guitar solo in the last decade. I'm biased, because it's Prince, shredding the Eric Clapton portion of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." You must watch this. If anyone happens to know who the guy playing the electric part before Jeff Lynne sang is, let me know. I love the way Dhani Harrison gives Prince this nod, like he knows what's about to happen. Dhani looks so much like George that its eerie.
* I got told within twenty minutes of each other than I was the biggest a**hole in baseball (which is pure hyperbole) and one of the nicest guys (also hyperbole.) I'm not on the top 50 list of top a**holes and not the top 100 of nice guys, but it goes to show that there's truth to both, based on perception.
* Every time I hear the song "Raspberry Beret", I'm brought back to sitting in the parking lot of the Green Springs record store (I'm drawing a blank on the name of the store) and listening to the CASSETTE in my Fiero. (Yeah, I'm old.) I'm not sure if that strip mall is even still there. The Riverchase Galleria was just being built back in my days there. Anyway, it's one of the few songs I have that draws such a sharp place memory.
* Big congrats to Scott (good and bad versions) on headlining at Soldier Field. That's pretty damn cool.
I apologize in advance for even discussing this, but I feel it necessary after seeing this crap. Jose Canseco famously talked about his relationship with Madonna(NSFW and yes, that's f**king Vanilla Ice in the pic), which he confirms he never consummated, in his first book. I've recently wondered if Alex Rodriguez, who Canseco accused of hitting on his wife (and do you blame(NSFW) A-Rod if he did?), followed up on the deal that Canseco couldn't seal with Madonna as a way of getting even.
But here's the thing I never see addressed, largely because we can't talk about sex in the media. Canseco couldn't get his material in the Material Girl because of his steroid use. In addition to shrinking the balls, steroids often cause impotence and in the pre-Viagra days, I'm guessing that while Canseco was arguing that small balls made his dick look bigger, his girlfriends were pointing out that it wasn't getting harder.
So Canseco's cock was much like his brain and his grasp on the truth - soft.
Creepy and Old
Want to feel creepy and old?
Today's way-too-late, what-are-we-still-doing-this-for announcement about JonBenet Ramsey made me wonder just how long ago that happened. It was 1996 when the six-year-old was murdered.
Simple math. She'd have been 18 next month.
That's almost as creepy as John Ramsey meeting the mother of another famous dead girl, Natallee Holloway, at a fund raiser and beginning to date her. They met DAYS after his wife died of cancer.
The Play's The Thing
I didn't happen to watch Tuesday's Yankee game. I saw the score, I'm sure, but aside from this, I didn't know much. I didn't read the recap, there were no noted on-field injuries in the game, and the Yankee that interested me yesterday was Brian Bruney, who was nowhere near the Bronx. With that circumstance, I missed Derek Jeter's diving play.
If this were thirty years ago, I might have seen something about it in the morning paper. Today, I don't get a morning paper and checking, the Indy Star didn't even have a wrap. Just a box in the agates.
If I happened to have access to the New York Times, it would have been a day late but I would have seen Tyler Kepner's game story with the money line of "Jeter ranged far to his right for a dazzling play that preserved Pettitte's shutout and punctuated the Yankees' 5-0 victory."
Ballbug says the most discussed article is Kat O'Brien's Newsday gamer where the play is described as "Derek Jeter raced to the ball just in time, but it seemed he would have no play and the Rays would score their first run. Then up popped Jeter with an in-air throw to second for the forceout."
The two accounts give me a mental image. I can see the sharply hit grounder get past Rodriguez, diving to his left, looking all the world like a single. Then flashing into the picture comes Jeter, barely snagging the ball in his glove as he dives flat to the ball. He pops up, setting his right foot and firing a strike to Wilson Betemit on the stretch. I can imagine that Jeter pumped his fist or acknowledged some kind of gesture from Andy Pettitte for having made such a great play. He's got grass-stains on his pinstripes, but he somehow seems cleaner even with it, as if they belong on his uniform.
Except you might already notice that my mind's image doesn't match up. Jeter never dove. He made one of his patented hopping throws the short way to second base (guess I missed Kat O'Brien saying that very thing.) If you watch the video (available by clicking on the link to the top of the seventh in the MLB.com linescore and clicking then on the "Jeter's Leaping Throw" highlight), the play comes off like this: Aybar hits a bouncing slow roller towards the gap. Rodriguez awkwardly moves to his left, flailing and cannot make the play. Jeter is seen crossing over, taking five steps to his right, then planting, hopping, and throwing back to second base to get a plodding Dioner Navarro by an eyelash.
Has our on-demand, YouTube, world taken away the ability of the writers to not just describe the action but to create mythology? Maybe a little, but if the truth shall set us free, someone else will make a t-shirt the first link on Google.
I'd hoped to have this up in time for my chat at BP today focused on pitching mechanics, but YouTube spit the bit on the video conversion AND pinged me for copyright, so I had to make some adjustments. This video takes a look at the oft-misunderstood concept of "stepover" using CC Sabathia as an example. Here's the video:
Hope that helps clear things up on this. Video is so much easier than prose when dealing with mechanics!
A Sponsor that Would Embrace A-Rod
About 5 years back, I bought an Alex Rodriguez baseball glove for my soon to be newborn daughter. Now that she is finally old enough to really wear it comfortably, I'm not sure I made the right purchase. Actually, the glove Alex should be pimping out is not made by Rawlings, but by Trojan.
The Big Show II
Hollywood loves a sequel.
Getting Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick together seems like such a good idea ... but is it? Finding two guys who are at the top of their game *and* seem to catch the zeitgeist in their hands doesn't happen too often. Dan Rather never really 'replaced' Walter Cronkite and replacing him has been even harder.
ESPN has grown to be a behemoth money-making machine willing to parody itself, expand to having cricket on it's front page in hopes of capturing the "next soccer" and a growing Indian presence on the web, and distanced itself from the must-watch nature of late-night SportsCenter replays. We would watch to hear their interplay, to see Olbermann occasionally crack up, Harvey Korman style, when Patrick hit his mark, and to have fun watching highlights.
That's not what they'll do for NBC. Highlights, yes, but football was never their forte. Quick name a highlight, a catchphrase from The Big Show era. If it's football, are you sure it wasn't Chris Berman, who's always handled the prime football package for the Worldwide Leader?
NBC has done a nice job making Sunday Night the prime night for viewing. Michaels and Madden continue to be the defining voice for the NFL, Bob Costas handles the studio like no one else, and the mix of analysis and news from Peter King has been solid. Jerome Bettis seemed a bit lost last year with the presence of Tiki Barber, especially when Barber added nothing. If an ex-player is a necessity, Bettis is better suited. I'd personally like to see more from Peter King, especially on site of the game as something of an even-more-inside Andrea Kramer.
Which leaves us with Patrick and Olbermann. Once all the Republicans change the channel at the site of the "biased" Olbermann, does having two of the best ever make any more sense than having two ex-players? I'd like to think it does, but both have moved on. ESPN isn't what it was and neither are these two. I think it will be good, but I can't see it being great.
John Mayer, Almost
I'd intended to review last night's John Mayer show here. I can give you the condensed version - great show, good energy, nice mix of songs, and simply blazing guitar work from a guy who has a chance to be the defining voice of this generation - but instead, this is going to end up a big bleep you to Live Nation.
For $60 bucks per, plus surcharges, plus parking, plus waiting in line, we were able to get in to the show. My experience started with the parking. I purchased the "VIP Parking" with my tickets largely because the last time I went to Indy's shed, Verizon Wireless Music Center, for an Aerosmith show, it took almost three hours to get out of the parking lot. As I pulled into the venue at 6p for a 7.30p show, there was a sign for VIP Parking, but that area was barricaded. I asked the first traffic marshaller who told me to U-turn and go back out to try again. I did, ended up at the same place, only to find out that what I was looking for was "Premier Parking." On the upside we were able to get out easily, but the confusion at the outset docks points.
Finally we get in and watch the first couple shows. We were two rows back of the central walkway in the lower pavilion (Section H, Row D, if you'd like to see exactly. The pitch of the venue is very shallow, so if you get a taller person in front of you, it's an issue. Worse, the jerk in front of me insisted on moving constantly, talking to his kid next to him, so that I couldn't find a comfortable place to look between them. I was dodging back and forth .... and this is while he's seated.
Once Mayer took the stage, the guy decided he was going to stand. I have no problem with standing -- most of the place was standing -- but he had only the handicapped seating in front of him and no obstructed view. He didn't HAVE to stand and blocked a good three rows by standing. I asked him politely once, not so politely a second time, to sit down or move. When he refused, I gave him a good shove.
That's right, I shoved him. Most people in that situation will back down completely from even the slightest threat of physical confrontation. I expected him to scurry away. He did, talking to an usher who told him to move to the handicapped row. Did I mention there's a low pitch? So here's my view of most of the Mayer concert:
People behind us for at least four rows were forced to shift from their seats, all because this guy wanted to stand up and the ushers refused to do anything. At least three people asked for assistance that I saw, but the usher never budged. The actual handicapped people in that row had to go around them, especially after moving their chairs to the front of the row. They did sit down, occasionally, since apparently they didn't share my appreciation for the blues as Mayer did a blazing guitar break on "Mercy".
That's the last time Live Nation will get my money for Verizon Wireless. The parking, the lines, the overpriced concessions, and the lack of control over their venue -- and that's not even mentioning the shirtless fat guy walking around -- have driven me away. I love live music, but Live Nation, you've lost a customer. With John Mayer and others giving me options like going to the theater to see a concert movie or U2's Imax 3D tour de force, I won't miss the shed circuit.
Food Blogging: Real World/Road Rules Edition
I enjoyed Will's latest piece, voyeuristicly (doubtful that it's a word, but it should be) savoring the meals that he recently enjoyed. We all make choices in life and considering that I am not living in a dink household, excursions to NYC to enjoy the cuisine are not in the cards. (Disposable diapers win out over disposable income) Here is my food diary/diarrhea over the past week.
Wednesday- I have never been in a place which has more strip malls and fast food chains than Springfield, MO. Besides being the home of Missouri State (formerly Southwest Missouri State, a basketball school where Charlie Spoonhour and Steve Alford had some tourney success) and the hometown of Brad Pitt, I can't say much for the place. It does, though, have my favorite convenience store chain in the country, QuikTrip. I know it is strange to laud a quickie mart, but they are the best. Great selection of beverages and high quality versions of microwavable sandwiches. Why this chain hasn't taken over the country, I have no idea, as only the unfortunately named Sheetz convenience stores come close to competing with them.
Thursday- Being on the road so much, I struggle to eat many vegetables. My budget doesn't allow for me to go to restaurants that much, so once a week, I visit a buffet for lunch, load up there and then just eat some trail mix for dinner. My friend, Dan Cummins, has a very funny new bit about never leaving a buffet feeling like he made a good decision. It makes a lot of sense, but today in Fort Smith, Arkansas, I ate at the best buffet I've ever visited outside of Las Vegas. Called Furrs, the country-style fixins were great, especially the country fried steak, green beans, and millionaire pie. It also is a great place to go if you are feeling a little negative about your body appearance, as the place was filled with some of the most obese people I've ever seen. Fortunately, I didn't see one of them wearing flip-flops, so I was able to read my magazine and enjoy my gorging. (Not surprisingly, I was the only person in there that was reading, which reminds me of the classic Bill Hicks bit where a waitress asks him what he's doing---he replies that he's reading---which she offers up what ya doin' that furr? Maybe that is where the name of this restaurant comes from.)
Friday- Driving through St. Louis today. It is weird to me that Jack in the Box isn't anywhere in the midwest except for the greater St. Louis area. It just doesn't seem like a very efficient way to run your company, but then, I am more stumped on why Sonic constantly has ads on ESPN, even though they don't have a real presence in most parts of the country. Jack in the Box has the strangest menu of any major fast-food chain. The variety is kind of cool, though I do think their quality control suffers because of it. I like the Ultimate bacon cheeseburger. It's 1100 calories of deliciousness.
Saturday- I'm back home. I really love to cook, but it ain't happening much currently, as quick and easy are the 2 main factors. Over the past 5 years, no food on the market has gained in quality more than the frozen pizza. Truthfully, a DiGiornio or Freschetta is often as good as your national chain delivery pizza and at half the price. The best frozen pizza I've had is a Chicago-based chain named Home Run Inn, which sells mainly in midwest grocery stores. Of course, eating a fresh one is the best option, but if you don't live in the Chicago area, it's the best frozen pizza I've ever had. Add some extra pepperoni and cheese and it stomps anything Dominos can send you.
Sunday- I have no idea how so many restaurants are able to thrive, considering how much money it costs to eat out. Pretty much every meal we don't get from the store is a carry-out one, where we can guzzle our drinks at home and not have to worry about leaving 20% at the end. (Tip your servers!) Recently I discovered a white-trash treat at the Wal-Mart deli. Wing dings. Very crunchy and meaty chicken wings, the wing dings are the best deal in the wing market. I have my share of problems with Wal-Mart and shop there very little, but I will stop in for a wing ding fix a couple times a month. Yes, I'm aware that my diet is pretty shitty, but during my annual physical I hear from my doctor that my numbers come back like I do a lot of cardio. I can't explain it. It must be the 10 minute isometric workout I do every other day that keeps me in reasonably good shape. I also credit a lifetime (at least it seems that way) of habitual masturbation. Now there's an informercial that could inspire on late-night television.
Monday- I believe starches and sugar are the biggest reason people are fat, so I try to stay away from bread (except for an occasional pizza) and sugary snacks. To keep my carb level at a decent range, I try to stay away from fruit. I don't mind it, but when you live in the Midwest, outside of apples, it is pretty hit or miss on if the fruit will be very tasty. If I am going to splurge on carbs, I devour a cupcake or 3. When you are on an Atkins-like diet, eating a cupcake gives you a rush which is hard to beat. I know they are marketed to 10 year-olds for their b-day, but I suggest going with the Moist Supreme Funfetti cake mix. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and it has the perfect blend of moist texture and vanilla flavoring a cupcake can have. Never use the whipped frosting, as the creamy is more dense and works much better with the cake. I'm funny, sexy, love sports and music, and make a bitchin' cupcake.
So there was a little insight of my eating habits. I have a real passion for cable travel/cooking shows, but I watch them mainly like I do documentaries about Everest. I enjoy the fantasy of them, but I don't see myself scaling the terrain to experience them in person. I have a hard time spending a small fortune on a meal. Growing up with a Mom who treated Hamburger Helper as a major culinary treat, it just isn't something I'm comfortable with doing. Hopefully, some day I will be flush enough that I can escape my inner cheap-ass. Until then, I will savor my wing dings and funfetti like it is something that Mario Batali whipped up.
Justify My Love
So ARod is getting into a groove with Madonna, while his wife lets love rule with Lenny Kravitz. There is a common bond besides all 4 being legendary sluts*. Can anyone tell me what it is?
My favorite part of the story is reading an article which mentions Madonna and Jimmy Foxx in the same sentence. Now I could have imagined Madonna and Jaime Foxx in the same article, but not the Material Girl and Double X. Actually, Double X would be a decent nickname for Ms. Ciccone as well.
(NOTE: Slut is not a derogatory term here at the Juice.)
I'm just back from my trip to NYC and let's just say I ate well. In four nights, I had four world class meals, so I thought I'd share some restaurant reviews, but I'm not going to go in order.
On Saturday, we ate at Bar Boulud. Daniel Boulud's least formal space is kind of oddly set up. As you can see in the picture, it's a long arched space with very tight table space. The service was spotty and part of that is the setup, making it tough for them to get between the tables. The food was very solid though, especially the pommes lyonnaise (potatoes with caramelized onions). Even though it arrived late, it was worth it. Of course, when the highlight is potatoes, you can imagine that it was a little disappointing overall. In retrospect, yes, but that's only because of the other two restaurants. The charcuterie was great - I tried head cheese, which was interesting, but I wouldn't trust many places with that - as was the boudin blanc I had as an entree. It was very light, suprising for a sausage. Overall, I'd give the experience a 6. The food was a seven, but service and space brings it down.
On Sunday, a group of us went to what might be the best restaurant in the world. Tom Colicchio's Craft - the Gramercy original - wasn't spectacular, but it was damned good. Joe Sheehan and I love Craft (and Craftsteak ...) and discussed afterwards why it didn't seem like it had met its normally astronomical standards. A bit was the table -- Craft serves "family style" and the best part is always the tasting, the passing around, and the conversation. We were at the front at a table that just didn't QUITE work. Going from end to end with tough. The food was amazing, as always. It's simple, perfectly done food. I had the rack of pork, but tried everything from Joe's lamb, some amazing shortribs, crispy bacon (more of a pork belly dish, really and Craft is where I discovered pork belly), two very nice fish dishes, and more. Craft can do something as simple as baby carrots and make them special ... and I don't even like cooked carrots! The peach crumb pastry was a great end, though the chocolate souffle was a big hit as always. An 8 out of 10 would be awesome anywhere else, but this was underwhelming for Craft.
On Sunday morning, we had brunch at Perilla. We're big Top Chef fans, so eating at first season winner Harold Dieterle's little Village spot was very cool, especially when we looked up and Harold was sitting at a table talking to some friends. I had a duck burger, since Harold did some neat things with duck on the show. It was very good, perfectly seasoned. Barb had the "as seen on Oprah" Chicken Parm Hero, which had sausage in the sauce, a cool touch. The "vanilla scented doughnuts" were more of a beignet - not a bad thing! I'd highly recommend brunch there. It wasn't full and I'd love to try dinner there some time. I'll give it a solid 7, almost an 8.
Finally, we come to the first meal which really was sublime. Mesa Grill is best known for being Bobby Flay's base, but with all his TV shows, the place is still amazing. We ate at Flay's other NYC restaurant last time and while it was good (and had an amazing space), this meal at Mesa was just sublime. Starting with pork quesadillas that were perfectly cooked and spiced, moving through spice rubbed pork tenderloin that was PERFECTLY done and snapper that was light yet flavorful, to the cornbread pudding ... seriously, it was a master work. Barb's not one for spicy, so she was expecting just to tolerate the meal, but it was ... just wow. Add in some amazing (and strong!) margaritas and it was just an amazing meal. If you're in NYC or Vegas, trust me - go to Mesa. (Thanks, Lawrence!) It was a 10 out of 10 and one of only three restaurants I've ever given my ten to (Craft and the underrated Harry Caray's are the others.)
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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