Monthly archives: March 2005
Mitch Hedberg Gets the Light
Not long after Will Carroll had asked me to join him in writing for this blog, he suggested I do a piece ranking stand-up comedians. I told him I was uncomfortable doing that as I know most of the people who make a living in the biz and didn't want to create a sh#tstorm. Sadly, today I found out the most unique voice in comedy I had ever heard, died.
I met comedian Mitch Hedberg in the mid-90's, as we were both just a couple of years into our standup careers. I was the opening act, Mitch was the middle act and the headliner was a guy who had very little original to offer, but was a draw to the lowest common denominator audience he catered to. The whole week, Mitch ate it in front of this headliner's audience. I sat in the back of the club every night watching and laughing my ass off at Mitch. He was a very cool dude off-stage, but he had some of that Andy Kauffman-thing working, where you weren't sure what was an act and what was just his "normal" personality.
Mitch was compared to Steven Wright from the beginning, but that was too limiting a description, as he had a different rhythm to life and his view of it. I told him at the time, he reminded me of a mix of Wright and the musician Beck. He said to me he thought that was the best description he had ever heard and appreciated it, as he really liked both of them.
The comedy circuit is a pretty exclusive circuit, as there's only 250 or so people who regularly play the clubs, but unfortunately I never ran into him again. I was not surprised to find out that within a couple of years, he had signed a big money development deal with one of the major networks. Rumors started to circulate not long after this deal that he had developed a heroin habit and it got to be a sick joke about how erratic his performances became and what adventures that followed him, caused by the needle. "
Scott's MLB Rankings: 1-30
1. Boston Red Sox- Best regular season record.
Great article from today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Oliver Perez, one of my favorite young pitchers. The picture that accompanies the article is an absolute classic. It shows his delivery in a way I've never seen before, very illustrative despite being static. I'd love to see a similar picture for many more pitchers.
I love how his arm pops up, how his 90/90 looks solid, the quick hip turn, and how he keeps his forearm medial to vertical through the delivery. Good stuff and one of the reasons he's so good. It's also a big boost to Spin Williams, talking about the towel drill, Law's Rule, and other great stuff. I don't really have much of a sense of Williams as a coach, but this is the best stuff I've seen on almost any coach in a while.
Hating The Wait
I've talked about how this winter has seemed longer. There's been nothing but drama, nothing but slow, laborious research, and very little of the interpersonal nature of what I really like about my job. With just days to go, the wait is getting worse. Spring training is pale substitute for the real thing, even though there is a bit of the rhythm of the injuries.
I spent a couple hours today chasing a story that I got fed by one of my best sources and in the midst of confirming it, I realized I didn't want to write yet another steroids story. I realized that the reason I got into this subject was to raise the level of debate by educating and explaining. By writing on it in a situation where, as Joe Sheehan might say, there's more heat than light, I'd merely be perpetuating the myths I'm fighting.
Instead, Brad Wochomurka and I went to lunch, ate some pizza, and talked about our fantasy league teams. Brad's a great guy, great radio skills, and a 'fantasy virgin' - it's fun seeing that excitement about a team again. In a couple days, the teams I want to see will be on the field. The players will be clutching hamstrings, shaking their arms, and twisting their ankles. That's baseball, to me.
College Basketball Nirvana
The best weekend of games in basketball history just ended and has set up a great Final 4. 3 of my 4 original picks made it to St. Louis, with only Wake Forest going down. How are you doing in comparison? I thought so.
I've been on Michigan State's bandwagon all year, as I had them as one of the top 4 teams at the beginning of the year. (With Illinois, Georgia Tech, and Oklahoma State) Here's a paragraph from my pre-season preview:
"The ACC has 7 teams in the Top 25 and should be create a war every night on Tobacco Road. The Big 12 and Big 10 are improved, with 4 teams in each league who could be Sweet 16 squads. The SEC is usually the most underrated conference in America, but this year I just don't see any of their teams in the Final 4. The Big East doesn't have a National Champion-type club, unlike the past 2 winners, UConn and Syracuse. The Pac-10 is soft and until they start playing more physical, the league is going to suffer in the tourney."
Oops on the Big 12, but the rest of my selections are looking good. In regards to this weekend, I'm sticking to my pre-tourney pick of Illinois over North Carolina, but I wouldn't be surprised if any of the teams win, as there's not a weak one in the bunch. Below are some observations from the past weekend."
The Hits Keep on Coming
Couple stories today that really have my attention.
First, Dr. Elliott Pellman, who I can say *is* in fact one of MLB's scientific advisors, has a bit more question surrounding the rest of his curriculum vitae. Pellman has a list of things, like being Jets and Islanders team doctor, that are based on his competency and not his resume. It still does not reflect well that this was the man sent to defend MLB's policies against the Don Hootons and Gary Wadlers of the world. Resume stuffing has been quite the problem over the last few years, so kids, don't do it!
More concerning is the first real blast - and Haslett's nonrevelations don't count - against the insular nature of the press taking on the NFL's steroid problem. It will be interesting to see if there's Congressional hearings on this, a problem that is much more concerning. This isn't a situation where some players went and found drugs, this is one where the drug use was monitored and even encouraged by physicians and by proxy, the teams themselves. Compare and contrast the responses of Paul Tagliabue and Bud Selig. (For the press, there is a chapter on the NFL and steroids in "The Juice", written by Michael Smith of Football Outsiders - please contact me for more info.)
The Most Important Steroid Story Comes Out
Here at the The Juice, we try to keep you informed on the saga of steroids in our modern day society. Leading this effort has been the Juice's other reporter, Will Carroll, constantly promoting his new book here. (which can be preordered at Amazon and would make a great Mother's Day gift!) Well, as much as I'm looking forward to reading it, there is a new expose on the subject that puts Will's book on the backburner.
In this explosive tell-all about his time in the Bush White House, Colin Powell blows the lid off of hidden juicing going on in DC. Here's is just one excerpt from this earth-shattering book.
"The signs were right there, if anyone had cared to pay attention," Powell said. "The bursts of foul-mouthed rage from Cheney... The sudden emergence of Donald Rumsfeld as a major-league heavy hitter in Defense... And how anyone overlooked Condi's pop-eyed, clench-jawed grimace, I'll never know. She was shooting up with synthetic testosterone every six hoursmore on Cabinet-meeting days."
I recommend reading this story at the Onion.com. I mean think of all the high school academic dweebs who never considered using steroids, reading about their heroes and realizing that to be the next Karl Rove they need to get out the needles. Sad. Very Sad. Extremely Sad. Extremely, Extemely Sad.........
An interview posted
First of several this week has been
Also, the "Will Carroll Baseball Hour" returns on ESPN 950 in Indy today at 3pm EST. Feel free to listen in (there's a stream at espn950.com) or call in. Be sure to say you're a Juice reader. The number is 800 TALK 2 90.
Gammons Homage Notes
News and notes, just days away from real baseball ...
* Lots of season preview going on. It's "Preview Week" here at Toaster, something I won't do much on other than participating in the roundtables. I just don't have much to add to the discussion beyond the THRs. Sure, I got the World Series pick last season, but that's blind squirrel if I ever saw it.
* Friend of Juice/UTK Jon Sciambi was on ESPN the other day, calling the Cubs vs D-Backs game. It's always a bit odd seeing someone you know on TV, but Boog looked and sounded great. He was working with Rick Sutcliffe and Steve Stone. Not sure how much Stone will show up with ESPN, but that would be a great move for them. Stone's shown that he's an elite level analyst with uncanny skills in discerning upcoming pitches and patterns while also showing an equal knack for angering the team with both petty picking and behind the scenes politicking. Working on a national stage would keep him away from one team, alleviating his weakness.
* Ahhh, new coffeemaker. Heavenly.
* Following college baseball? Then you have to link over to Boyd Nation. No one else covers college baseball the way Boyd does it. His work on college PAP will be exhibit one someday.
* We need help. Speaking, if I may, for young pitchers everywhere, we need you to watch, take notes, and speak up. If you see a pitcher being overused at ANY LEVEL, speak up. If you can't, inform me. We have to make it harder on coaches to break these pitchers. I found out today that the limit on pitchers in Indiana is ten innings in three days. Holy crap - for young, teenage pitchers? That's pathetic.
* What's a nice companion when you order "The Juice"? Well, it's Steven Goldman's Forging Genius! Of course, reading these two back to back will make me look like a really crappy writer, but I'm willing to take that risk.
* In almost every draft I've been in or heard about, someone has missed a player by one pick, usually because they thought someone they liked would slide. Don't make this mistake. When ranking your players, trust yourself. Sure, you have to react within the draft, but avoid runs ("hey, everyone's picking a closer!") and trying to grab someone a round later than you expected. The name that keeps coming up on this - David Wright.
* Every year, I do the THRs and they're a bear. It's basically a mini-BP. I thought my format for this year would cut down. Turns out it went from 60k words to up near 80k this season. Any suggestions?
* Schwag works. We'll do this occasionally. Anyone that hasn't put their comment in, go down the page and do so. I'll make the selections and be in contact on Monday.
With the book available for pre-order everywhere and at the printer - my publicist saw an advance copy (before me!) and says it looks great - I got a big lesson this weekend in how the book will be recieved. It seems that there's something of an unholy alliance between "strange bedfellows" to make sure that the truth never gets in the way of a good story. I'll probably get attacked from all sides - people saying the book has flaws, isn't credible, leans too far in the pro- or con- direction, and doesn't cover every little detail.
It happened that way with "Saving The Pitcher" as well. People with their own agendas - and businesses - attacked me on Amazon with reviews. It didn't stop the book, which got into more hands than I ever expected and that actually changed the business of some of these people. My goal with the book was to help one kid, somewhere, to avoid the fate that we saw illustrated on "Real Sports" recently.
Writing a book isn't easy - it takes a lot of research, time, and just a stick-to-itness that I've learned a lot of people don't have. It's kind of the same thing with UTK in some ways. As a quick message to those that will oppose "The Juice" for whatever reason, well, I was always taught to pick interesting enemies and better friends. That lesson will probably serve me well again soon.
Yeah, we're resorting to schwag to help some of the lurkers get past the hesitation to registration. (Trust me, I hate spam more than you.) But I also get a lot of books - some good, some not so good - of people trying to get on BPR. I'll even toss a copy of "The Juice" in the mix.
Put your name in comments and your favorite baseball book of all-time and I'll select some names at random for free books.
In a very, very limited time offer for bloggers, I'm going to make an excerpt of "The Juice" available (on embargo) and myself available for interviews/Q&A's on the book, steroids, and the process I went through for this book. I'll set up interviews by email only (subject line: JUICE INTERVIEW) for publication the first week of April.
I'm told the book should be hitting shelves around April 15th, so this is a good chance to get your blog out in front of the issue we've all been dealing with this off-season.
(Anti-grumble clause: Not all requests can be honored. I'll do the best I can.)
In the past twenty-four hours (long enough for Jack Bauer to save the world three or four times), I've seen two separate stories perpetuating one of the worst of the steroid myths. Phil Garner and Steve Phillips both stated that they thought the current testing program was working because they thought players looked smaller.
There's a couple things wrong with this. First, there's just no way to tell. Even trained eyes have a hard time discerning small differences in physiques. Over and over, we hear tales of Barry Bonds' head growing, but has anyone checked his hat size? I did - it hasn't changed from his rookie year. Bodies change for a number of reasons. The one extremely accurate way to check is testicle size and even that only works when someone is actively using. Next time I hear someone say "I showered with Canseco and his balls were the size of raisins" will be the first time. If we could accurately eyeball steroid users, we could save a ton of money on testing programs. Just set up these Juice-Eyes up and let them judge. I'm sure they'll be much more accurate than a scientific testing program, don't you?
Second, what if you're wrong? What if Scott Spiezio is laying off the Krispy Kremes, if Pudge Rodriguez would rather be called Skinny and worked with a nutritionist, or if Miguel Cabrera is finally filling out his body? Do we have any evidence that players are smaller? Why don't the beat writers ask the trainers? Trainers are fanatical about taking weights during spring training to prevent dehydration and heat-related illnesses.
Here's my point - QUIT GUESSING. There's ways, sometimes easy, to get real information that would help advance the discussion. Those with the access should be using that opportunity.
Virtual Mix Tape
Been a while since I posted about what I was listening to and since I know all of you have been waiting on the edge of your seat - ha! - I'll hit you with a virtual mix tape. Or is it CD? You know, in the digital age, I wonder how we'll adjust. Will we beam a ten-song set via Bluetooth over to our significant other's iPod when we want to set a mood?
Enough thinking ... let's rock after the fold:
U2 and Bruce: Heaven
I just stayed up an hour past what I wanted to because I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame isn't Cooperstown because art is so much more arbitrary. Percy Sledge? He had a high peak, but did he do anything besides one of the most amazing performances ever and if not, does it matter? How do you compare James Brown to The Pretenders any better than you can Babe Ruth to Barry Bonds?
Tonight, it was a bit different and for a moment, transcendant. Bruce Springsteen gave one of the most amazingly written speeches I've ever heard. You *have* to read this. Bruce was dry, reading his prepared speech obviously, barely looking up at times until becoming animated towards the end. Bruce, like his idol Bob Dylan, does things with words I only dream of and this speech stands with some of the best things he's ever recorded. All it needed was a beat and a sax solo.
Bono's response was nearly as good, his Kodak moments ringing like The Edge's guitar. Good lesson that, about the hand-eye coordination.
Then they played. It's a venue made for greatest hits, for celebrating that which you're being celebrated and U2 pulls out a song from deep inside Achtung Baby, a song made for an obscure yet wonderful movie, "Until The End of the World." Introducing it as "a conversation between Jesus and the devil," the band - this band, the greatest rock and roll band in all the world - exploded the stage. It's the archetype of rock and roll - drums, bass, guitar and singer, adding up to more than the sum of its parts.
I can't say anything more than to watch it if you get the chance (it's replaying on VH1) and than Bruce and Bono already said. I'll be looking for interesting enemies now. I can only hope I can wait until April 26th ...
A New Baseball Marketing Strategy?
When looking at the free agent signings in the off-season, it was pretty much a consensus that there was some serious overpaying of services going on. It seemed like some teams felt like they had to make a move, if the market was overpriced or not. Well, maybe these teams did need to change their rosters, but not just for the reason of making their teams better.
I wonder if teams don't believe they need to pick up a big name free agent, trade for a potential star or fire their manager, just so they have something new to market to their fanbase. In our fast-food world, the consumer needs something new to spur it's interest to buy tickets for the next season. It used to be just the Yankees and Mets would play this game of trying to stay on the back page of the fishwrap, but now even teams who are not in large markets, appear to be adopting this business plan.
I haven't read anything on this topic, but I think there might be something to this. I'm aware that I might just be grasping at straws (syringes might be a better analogy in the current climate), but a majority of the deals made in the off-season made little financial sense. I'm definitely looking for some feedback, so you have the floor.
Amazon and Stuff
Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Between pneumonia, THRs, UTKs, and, you know, having a life, I haven't actually had much to say. It's a lull time for me, gearing up for the season, grinding through the last THRs (which is like re-writing BP by myself), and doing radio.
Anyway, thanks for cutting me some slack. Scott and I won't always post on any set schedule, as longtime readers know, but we also want to give YOU the chance to speak your mind. In the spirit of Scott's comedy career, we'll call it "Open Mic Night" - any topic, any length. Send it to me with the subject line "OPEN MIC NIGHT" in Word format and you might see it up here. It's your chance to show off if you have your own blog or just have something to say.
Also, Amazon now is taking pre-orders for "The Juice," if you're interested. I'm still trying to figure out this Amazon Prime thing. I don't order enough to make it worth my while, but I figure some of you do, so discuss in comments.
Finally, I'll have a UTK up tomorrow, covering Bonds and the rest of the injuries around the league. UTK will start up with its regular, near-daily schedule on Monday, April 4. Hard to believe that I'll be starting the fourth season of UTK. I guess time flies when you're having fun.
For those of you that ask what the street date is for "The Juice", I can still say "no clue, but we're hurrying." There is, at least, a web page at my publisher that will lead you to pre-sale links (at the bottom.)
Both Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million have pre-orders up and running. Amazon has a page up, but is not yet taking pre-orders. I won't hit you with a bunch of plugs for the book here but it's easier to post than answer FAQs.
BTW, any Toast-readers in Atlanta? I'm looking for travel tips.
Yeah, Another NCAA Tourney Post
Ok, I promise this is the last NCAA tourney post for a while. I mean it. Well, at least for a week. So is your bracket looking good? Didn't think so. Well at least you're not Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis, who on the CBS studio set makes a prediction a day that has made him look like Art Schlicter was providing him with his choices. Seth says Syracuse will be national champs. Oops. Seth says a number 1 seed will go down by the first weekend. Nope. Seth says Pacific will beat Washington. Ouch.
The best college basketball expert is The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy. He is great during Sporting News Radio's coverage of the tourney, which makes me wonder why ESPN has not offered him a job. Having said that, DeCourcy took Wake Forest as his overall champ, so feel better about your pool. I fell under the bus on Wake Forest, also, but fortunately I just had them going to the Final Four. My other 3 choices were Illinois over North Carolina and my upset team in St. Louis, Michigan State. Add Louisville to join them, as how I look at it now.
The team I wrote would be the upset team of the tourney, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, just continues to add intrigue, as they will face Illinois. UWM's coach, Bruce Pearl in 1990 was caught up in a recruiting altercation with Illinois when he was an assistant at Iowa. He taped a recruit from the Chicago Public Schools, Deon Thomas, admitting he was offered money and a Chevy Blazer to play in Champaign. The fall-out from this ended up with Illinois being put on probation and Pearl being blackballed by some in his profession, because they felt it was unethical to tape a recruit. In the great expose of college basketball recruiting, Raw Recruits by Alexander Wolff and Armen Keteyian, it discusses the sleazy world of trying to obtain players from Chicago at the time and how you had to pay to get them. Pearl and current Illini coach Bruce Weber, who was an assistant at Purdue at the time, refused to break the rules, so they had trouble getting top players from the Windy City. Now 15 years later, they face each other with a trip to the Elite 8 on the line.
Weirdest Seperated at Birth in 2005 Tourney: Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar looks like Cleveland, Peter's friend on the Family Guy.
CBS' Gus Johnson does a spectacular job of evoking the excitement of the game, during his play-by-play. While Packer and Vitale are the big names of college basketball color men, Bill Raftery is the guy that all the rest try to aspire to. Who would have ever thought a guy who sounds like Snagglepuss would be the quintessential announcer in college basketball. So pound the puppies, with a straight up man to man and send it in big fella, but do it with a kiss. Hey, the guy's got onions.
Cincinnati/Kentucky game was the most physical battle I think I've ever seen in college basketball. I mentioned in my post before the game that the team who shot the least 3 pointers would win, as the RCA dome is a terrible place to put up long-range shots. Kentucky shot only 12 and made 7, while the Bearcats made 7 also, but it took 26 attempts to do it. During the six tourney games in Indy, teams hit only 59 of 187 from behind the stripe. I think a great statistical study would compare the percentage of 3 point shots in Domes versus regular auditoriums.
Some quick thoughts: Kentucky's Rajon Rondo is the best NBA point guard prospect, despite being just a freshman.------ While Dee Brown is on all the magazine covers and Luther Head has the best stats, it's Deron Williams who's the best player on Illinios. He one of those rare players who plays the game at his own speed.------ Southern Illinois would have beaten a lot of teams going to the Sweet 16, but having to face Oklahoma State in Oklahoma City was too much for them to overcome.----- North Carolina has looked unstoppable in it's first 2 games and it's bracket looks pretty sweet with 5th seeded Villanova the highest seed left in the Syracuse region.
Tucker Carlson's Take On the Steroid Sideshow
I've been ripped before for my support of Tucker Carlson, but the guy has a Libertarian streak on most topics that he's not credited for. On Crossfire, I never thought he felt comfortable being a partisan hack. His PBS program, Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered, has a nice balance on a mix of topics and the host shows himself to be a person interested in intellectual discourse. During his latest show's opening commentary, Carlson discussed his thoughts on last week's steroid witch hunt on Capital Hill. I'm printing it word for word, as Carlson nails it right on the head.
But are they? No one in the inner city is dying from steroids. Nobody's committing crimes to buy them. They aren't addictive. Steroid users don't even get high; they get acne. Come to think of it, it's not clear what, exactly, is immoral about taking steroids. Critics claim steroid use is wrong because its unnatural. That's true. But then so is taking vitamin supplements. So is dieting and working out. And so, for that matter, is every drug and remedy designed to make the body better than it naturally is. Should they all be illegal?
And here's an even better question for the congressional anti-steroid caucus: Since when did the constitution give you the power to harass baseball players about their personal lives? Instead how's this for a plan: you fix entitlements, end airport delays and capture Osama bin Laden. Then, when you're done, feel free to come back and investigate Mark McGwuire's swing."
Too bad Tucker wasn't on the same panel with Will, during Donnie Deustch's program.
NCAA Tourney: Day 2
After the afternoon sessions, it was setting up to be the most boring first round in NCAA tourney history and then, Bucknell and Vermont happened. I can't say I'm shocked about the Vermont victory, as I thought Syracuse would lose in the second round, but Kansas losing just down the road in Oklahoma City was surprising. Before I go on, let me reprint a paragraph from my tourney preview that I posted at the start of the week.
"Let’s get down to the brackets. Number 1 rule we know is to take a 12 seed over a 5, but the only 12 I see having a chance is Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Actually, I think the match-ups will be more competitive in the 13 versus 4 games, as I think Syracuse/Vermont, Boston College/Penn, and Florida/Ohio will be closer than expected. Normally, I always have a SEC team picked to go to the final 4, but as I mentioned in my preview at the start of the season, this is a down year, so don’t look for any of them in the Elite 8. I don’t see good things for the Pac-10, as these teams have little experience against physical play, which tends to rule tourney games."
Hey, that's good stuff. Of course, I'm sitting at 23 out of 32 right, so my genius only goes so far. And yeah, the Pac-10 still can vindicate itself, if Arizona and Washington can win a couple more games, but Stanford and UCLA lost badly playing lower seeds. The SEC has been brutal and I think Kentucky has a really tough match-up, because the RCA Dome is a hard place to shoot 3's. Whoever shoots the least 3's in this game is my prediction to win the game. "
HBO on Elbows
"Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" has done it again. This always interesting show has a story this month that medheads will love. Armen Keteyian highlights the increasing risk to young pitchers by talking with Tim Kremchek, team doctor for the Reds and Nationals. They show the surgery pretty graphically.
Tim highlights a case with a sixteen year old kid who's going to need Tommy John, talks about the 10-year-old elbow he did, and discusses the epidemic. They also show Jim Andrews examining a high schooler. Dr. Kremchek did a great job explaining the causes - too many pitches, too many bad pitches, too little rest.
The 12 year old they highlight with the 80 game schedule and the poorly thrown "spike curve" (He doorknobs it, rather than coming over the top) just makes my blood boil. "That's a crime," Kremchek says and I ABSOLUTELY agree. He also highlights the evil that is the radar gun. I'm telling you, next time I see a radar gun at a little league or travel team game, I'm going to go off. They should be banned.
They did a great job of showing the father, almost in tears, wondering if "it's something he done" that put his young son under the knife. Unfortunately, it's a lesson he didn't learn until it was too late. The contrast between the young kids and the pros was very stark. The curveball section of the Chandler Braves study versus the little leaguers snapping off curves was ... oh, it's just sick.
Showing Tommy John surgery with the 16 year olds family looking on was a great lesson. The scars on kids and the motion capture were also great lessons. I absolutely agree with Kremchek's proposed limits on pitchers and support it wholeheartedly. This piece is a classic and one that I wish I could distribute with copies of "Saving The Pitcher." I'd advise everyone to take a look at this piece.
NCAA Tourney First Day Thoughts
Authors Note: I realize that The Juice Blog is affilated with BASEBALL Toaster, but hey, what am I going to to add to the Senate Hearings on Steroids that Will hasn't. Well, except that Rafael Palmiero looked really dreamy. Let's add Raffy to the small list of guys who look good with a mustache. Tom Selleck, Sam Elliott, Burt Reynolds (circa 1976), Harry Reems, Dennis Eckersley, and Rollie Fingers/Fred Goldman. (I believe Fingers and Goldman are the same guy, but on second thought, scratch them from the list. The handlebar only looks good on a Schwinn or Leroy Nieman) Now, if you haven't done it yet, go read Will's tivoblogging on the hearings, it's the best stuff on the topic anywhere you can find on the web. Now, my b-ball tourney thoughts from Day One.
I had only seen him play a couple of times, but after watching Andrew Bogut, I have no doubt he is the best player in College Basketball and should be the Number 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Bogut reminds me of a young Arvydas Sabonis, who was a dominant player before he started battling injuries. (pre-NBA days)"
Liveblogging The Hearings, Part II
What follows is the second part of my tivoblogging of the Congressional Hearings on Steroids. These are simply my immediate thoughts on the proceedings and I should have something up today with more analysis and commentary on the proceedings. This section covers both the players and the management panels. Please, be sure to make your comments in, um, comments.
Liveblogging the Hearings
I liveblogged - or tivoblogged at some points - the Congressional Hearings. This section covers the first two panels and the beginning of the third panel with the players. (I'll have another post for the later hearings.) These are simply my immediate, unedited takes on what I saw and heard. I hope you enjoy and participate in comments.
Juicing The Sun
Interesting to be on Page 1 of the NY Sun with this piece on today's steroid hearings. Guess it shows how seriously the media is taking this issue. I'll be watching the hearings today and will have comment on it later. Feel free to use this thread to discuss it.
Be sure to tune in to Jay Jaffe's TV debut. He's going big ... well, national ... with an appearance on "Connected" on MSNBC, noon Eastern. The topic? Steroids, of course.
Jay's got a list of his best writing on the topic at his Futility Infielder blog, but I think his best piece is yet to be published. It's an exhaustive statistical look at why power appears to be up in "the Tainted Era." It's at the heart of "The Juice," so Jay knows his stuff. I'm sure he'll be great on the tube.
Top College B-ball Bloggers Weigh In
As I mentioned before, I regularly check out Yoni Cohen's b-ball blog and from his links, I discovered a couple equally good, but very different bloggers in John Gasaway, who writes Big Ten Wonk and Ken Pomeroy, the stats man behind Blah, Blah, Blah. Gasaway is a one-stop shop for every link you need on the Big 10, plus he often makes these links unneeded breaking down the league with style and substance. Pomeroy uses his own numbers to illuminate truths that often are missed by the mainstream media. I contacted these two hoping to have a roundtable discussion on the tourney. My hope was the dual desire of getting more info from them and at the same time raising their profile. John and Ken took me up on the offer. Not being able to find a time which would work for all of us, I interviewed John and Ken, individually. First up, was the Big Ten Wonk. "
Thoughts on the 2005 NCAA Tourney
Over the next couple of days, we here at the Juice will be doing our part in preparing you for the NCAA tournament action. Besides having some interviews with college basketball’s top bloggers, I will try to link you to the best info there is around.
The Juice's NCAA Tourney Pool
I have opened a tourney bracket for participants and lurkers here to join. It's free through Yahoo. I have listed the info you will need below. Contact me if you have any questions.
You have created the Private Group called Win with RIck Neuheisel. To allow other people to join this group send them the Group ID# (81664) and the Password (juice). Remember, it is the Group ID#, not the group name, that other people must use to join your group.
Big Idea Open Thread
I'm watching "Big Idea with Donnie Deutsch" on CNBC now. I'd like your comments. I'll talk more about my experience and thoughts on the show later.
Fantasy Baseball Breakdown
The first of two fantasy baseball drafts among some of the regulars at this site happened tonight, so I thought I would give a wrap-up.
Risking the hatred of the rest of the league, I will breakdown the best pick from each round. I'm doing this by just looking at the names listed, so I'm sure I'm off on a couple of these.
The New York Daily News drops a bomb on baseball with more revelations from the FBI. The reporters on the story did an amazing job of documenting things, even providing the exact array of steroids used. These match up with what I've been told again and again are the drugs used in baseball.
With this story, baseball and especially Mark McGwire is going to have to go defensive ahead of the Congressional hearings. I really don't have any idea how either will come out looking good. I also don't have an idea how the public is going to take this. My guess - poorly.
Carroll and Canseco
Though most would probably write it the other way, I will be sharing some TV space with Jose Canseco on Monday. I'll be on Big Idea with Donny Deutsch (CNBC, check local listings for time and channel), discussing the steroid issue.
I'll be heading to New York today, getting back to Indy just before the show actually airs (which is kind of strange.) I'll be honest - I hate doing TV. I'm very self-conscious about how I look and how I move when I'm on TV, but this was too big a chance to pass up. Not really sure what the format will be or if I'll get any chance to ask my questions to Jose, but I'll sure try.
Just to give my thoughts on the whole name change. The Juice is an apt name for this blog. Keep in mind that when you are at this site, you are officially "on the Juice" at that time.
We're changing the name, as I said, of this new little home. Scott and I pow-wowed a bit and came up with a new name that we feel no one will object to and a concept right in line with the Toaster.
Welcome to "The Juice Blog."
Sure, it's the name of my upcoming book, but it also fits what we do around here. We get a little juicy, a bit pulpy, and often times we need a squeeze to get anything good out of us. It's also full of the things you need every day. We'll try to serve portions larger than those shot glasses they give you at Denny's.
We'll have more on the upcoming "Toe to Toe" confrontation between myself and Jose Canseco. For now, I'll leave you with this little tease.
What Would You Say?
I was asked recently what I would say if I encountered Jose Canseco. If you read down, you'll see a list of questions I had after seeing him on "60 Minutes," but that's very different from actually being in the same room.
Well, I guess we're going to find out. More details soon. Get your TiVos ready.
Ok, I'm ending the joke before it started.
There is no newspaper called the Tri-County Post-Messenger. As originally intended, we were going to goof on some things, do ag reports and other things normally seen in small town newspapers. I've seen a couple places that took the joke seriously and because I don't want this to be something that reflects poorly on the rest of the Toaster, we'll be changing the name.
I still think it would have been funny, but ... some people disagree.
Forbes Magazine has put out it's annual list of the 400 Richest People. As per usual, there are several sports figures on the list, so many that Forbes gave them their own section. Calling them "jocks" seems a bit of a stretch.
Where do some of baseball's owners rank? Funny, not spending money must move you up this list. Carl Pohlad, owner of the Twins, is the highest baseball owner at #92. Pohlad owns banks, mortgage companies, and several other business. At #124, we find Carl Lindner. Lindner did open up some of his insurance and importing-created income for some bad signings this year, so we won't call him stingy.
Of course, we could point to #215 on the list, Mark Cuban, and once again wish that this blogging billionaire was part of the baseball list, especially in his own hometown.
Yeah, So What's This All About?
For those of you that have been reading us at our past site, I'm sure you realize that a description of what we do is not a simple procedure. Here's how I would describe our website. The Post-Messenger is kind of like a magazine, kind of like a morning
With our affiliation with the great writers who contribute at the Toaster, our first focus will be baseball, but just about any other topic that interests us and we hope, you, will be discussed. Don't be surprised to see during the same week a discussion on MLB drug-testing policy, American Idol participants, political venom, NCAA tourney previews and most importantly, how Angelina Jolie's lesbian confessions should go to the top of the list of what the Senate should have an open hearing on. Yummy.
Thanks for making the click over to us at the Post-Messenger.
Injecting Fact: Why Congress Isn't Really Interested in Steroids
As most of you know, I'm preparing to publish my second book. "The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball's Drug Problems." I'll be doing a lot of talking about it in coming months, keeping you updated on the timeline and following the issues it raises. Like you, steroids is becoming an issue that is overplayed, but it's too important to ignore. I hope you'll stick with me on this as I try to keep the focus of this issue on facts.
This has been the longest winter. From the last out of the Red Sox win, baseball quickly turned its head away and began to quickly be drawn once again away from the beauty and success of the game and towards the dark subject of steroids. Since the heights of the 1998 McGwire – Sosa lovefest that some credit with reviving interest in baseball, there is always a dark cloud of drug abuse hanging above the hangdog visage of Commissioner Bud Selig.
Selig is not just hounded by the media voices, pointing fingers without the benefit of fact and screeching with self-important ignorance. Selig’s anabolic nightmare comes from his newest team’s town, Washington. Congress is once again opening a pandora’s box of steroids and emotion on baseball, something it has done time and again. The recently signed drug policy came about in large part because of a Damoclean threat by Senator John McCain, a Diamondbacks season ticket holder.
The latest Congressional reality television program will star Jose Canseco. Fresh from his media tour to promote his book, “Juiced,” Canseco is perfectly willing to continue pointing the same fingers he says he used to inject himself and others. It remains a battle of hearsay, with denials of Canseco’s charges serving as publicity. Canseco has been heard and the sound that was loudest was the ringing of the cash register. Canseco hints that he has more evidence, but to date, he’s done nothing more than wink and smile at the truth.
The real ‘star’ of the upcoming hearings figures to be Donald Hooton, head of the Taylor Hooton Foundation. After Texas schoolboy Taylor Hooton committed suicide in July 2003, Hooton formed the foundation in his sons name to combat steroid abuse. Hooton claims that he has research that shows anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are a leading cause of teenage suicide. His foundation’s web site has successfully generated quite a bit of publicity, in forums as varied as “60 Minutes” and gyms across football-mad Texas.
Hooton will likely give his stump speech, tears in his eyes as he holds up a picture of his lost son. The tears are fresh and the emotion raw; Hooton’s son has only been gone less than nine months. How then has Hooton gone from a consumer electronics executive to a steroids expert? The answer is, he hasn’t. He stands on emotional appeals, using charts and graphs from sources as varied as steroid defense attorney Rick Collins’ Legal Muscle and the oft-quoted 1999 Mayo Clinic survey that said between five and eleven percent of high school boys had tried steroids.
The fact is that steroids are one of the most unresearched substances. Any attempt to do human trials recalls the worst of Mengele or his sports counterpart, Manfred Hoppner, the Dr. Frankenstein of the East German sports machine. There are ways of checking the effects, however, but logic seldom stands against the emotional appeal of a dead child.
I doubt that anyone will mention that Propecia, an anti-baldness drug, functions much the same as many popular steroids, sharing side effects and chemical function. Propecia is used by millions and declared safe in the FDA’s clinical trial process. No one will talk about the 1997 study that gives us the best model for the medically controlled use of steroids. Van Kesteren and Asscheman detailed the long-term administration of androgenic agents to 300 female-to-male transsexuals. This most extreme surgery and the concurrent hormone therapy surprisingly showed no serious morbidity in any of the cases. In fact, their opposite counterparts treated with estrogen showed a far higher incidence of problems.
The congressional committee will look for star power in Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Frank Thomas, as well as several general managers and executives. They will be joined at the microphone by drug abuse counselors, psychiatrists, and the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Gary Wadler. Wadler’s famous quote that baseball’s new drug policy ‘does not go far enough’ will certainly get a second airing. Wadler has charged that baseball’s policy was a ruse to remove Congressional pressure. It doesn’t appear that the ruse, if that is in fact the case, worked.
We’ll see sound bites of athletes denying their use of steroids, perhaps falling back on their Fifth Amendment rights. We’ll see the tears of the mothers of two children, blaming demon steroid for the loss of their great baseball hopes. We’ll see the now-tired posturing of Congress, treating baseball as something more than sport and seeking the obeisance of its Lords. We’ll see more pointing of fingers, more prepared statements, and more legalistic smokescreens, the typical fare of any televised hearing.
What we won’t see is fact. In a town that worships the fair and the balanced, we might just see a Washington first: the no-sided discussion.
For more detailed scientific information on this topic, I highly recommend reading John Williams' series, The Demonization of Anabolic Steroids
Opening the Door
Or should I use some Toaster metaphor?
Welcome to the Post-Messenger, the new online home for Will Carroll, Scott Long, and our new friends from the Tri-County Post-Messenger. Since Scoop Jackson got to the format before me, I'll just duck a bit here.
For those that knew our work at "Will Carroll Presents," this will be very similar. For those that know Scott as one of the top touring comedians in the country, this will be a way of getting to know more about him or just finding when he'll be in your area. For those that know my work at Baseball Prospectus, well, I don't talk about injuries here. You have to pay BP for that.
We'll talk about a little of everything, venturing from the edges of baseball to the edge of insanity. Our universe revolves around baseball, music, pop culture, gadgets, and the rambling rants of two men with too many interests and a few too many balls in the air. We like having smart people along for the ride to help us.
This will also be one of the main promotion tools for my upcoming book, "The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball's Drug Problems." I'll answer questions, try to make this issue a bit more understandable, and I'll be watching this important issue closely. It's going to get very, very interesting in the coming weeks.
So enjoy the ride, be part of the process and whatever you do, have fun.
Welcome Gammons Readers
I never thought - until the flood of email (600+ and counting as of this writing) - that Gammons' note on my column might bring people to this page. Unfortunately, the lack of link (an ESPN policy, I'm told) sent people to Google and Google lists this first.
So, to all that are looking for the Team Health Reports and Under The Knife, you won't find them here. Those are over at Baseball Prospectus, where I do my "professional" writing. You'll find my work there, along with some of the best baseball writing around from guys like Joe Sheehan and Dayn Perry, stats like the PECOTA predictions and reliever ratings, and tons of other content. Most of it is subscription-only, but I think it's well worth it.
What I do here is just riff on topics that come to mind. I'm liable to talk about anything (except baseball injuries) and with my partner, Scott Long, it can REALLY be anything. I hope you'll check out both sites and participate with both.
Welcome and thanks again to Peter.
Scott and Will's Fantasy Baseball League
I've set up a 16 team league with Yahoo for regulars here at this weblog. It's free and will feature head to head weekly scoring. The league is SABR in style, so R, RBI, OBP, SLG for hitters and W, S, ERA, WHIP, for pitchers. Spaces will go face, so I recommend signing up as soon as you can.
Below is the info you will need to join. Best of Luck finishing second.
To allow other managers to join your league, send them the League ID# and Password. In your case, the ID# is 172595 and the Password is Juice.
You have chosen for your league to take part in a live online draft on Sun Mar 13 5:00pm PST.
If you choose to remain in a live draft, please arrive at the draft 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled time. The draft will start promptly and may conclude rapidly if only a few managers are logged in.
We also suggest that all league members pre-rank their players in case a manager can't make it to the draft. Managers can do this at any time by simply going to the Fantasy Baseball home page and clicking on their team name. Thanks for joining. Good luck. --Fantasy Baseball Commissioner
** EDIT: As of 2.45 EST, the league is full. I'll talk to Scott about setting up a second league if there's enough interest. - WC
Gammons Homage Notes
*Picking this year's tourney is going to be insane. I haven't watched much hoops at all this year. In fact, I don't think I've watched a full game despite the fact that A&M is actually *gulp* good this year. The parity and loss of top level talent, in addition to the freer, less technical game played today will make upsets the rule of the first round.
*Yes, this column made my year.
*Back from Vegas with pneumonia. It sucks, but at least it waited until the end of the trip. More on the trip in another post.
*Andrew Zimbalist siding with Bud Selig? Cue the flying pigs. He's right, however. The recent admission that 1.7 percent of players tested positive is very interesting. (By the way, that's 24 positive tests, down from 83 the previous season.) That is very much in line with the minor leagues. I'm curious how the PA will react to this.
*Jeff Kent had an interesting take on defensive statistics. First, it's interesting that UZR and VORP is mentioned as a given, as something everyone should know already. More importantly, I think Kent might be on to something. He questions the ability of statistics to judge positioning. I don't know how UZR or any of the defensive rating system adjusts for this, but I think it's an important point. Positioning is a big factor in infield defense. It relies on advance scouting, tendencies, and the coaching staff, as well as the fielder's ability to adjust quickly to the pitch. We're still a ways from knowing that a player can cover X feet to the left and Y feet to the right, but I think positioning is going to be a bigger factor in baseball than we think it is.
* That leads me to a second point. I saw an article crediting a manager with "handling his bullpen well." Ok, but why do we credit the manager for this? How is he doing this? Is the pitching coach involved? The training staff? It was one of Keith Woolner's Hilbert Questions five years ago, but we're no closer to understanding coaches than we were then. Don't steal my idea, but we need someone sitting in a dugout all season, analyzing how these decisions are made. Be one heck of a book, don't you think?
* I don't mean to pile on, but ESPN's new layout blows. The multipart stories make me load more ads, I get it. Doesn't make me like it.
* I can't begin to count the ways in which this article is wrong. Tommy John does not make anyone throw harder. I could go have my elbow done ... oh, wait, it already was. YOU could go have your elbow done by the best in the business and I'm guessing you won't be on the mound this season. Bad article.
* Looking forward to hearing games on XM. We may have to do power rankings of announcing teams sometime this season.
Beware of the Hot Young College Coach
Back in the spring of 1999, the three hottest young coaches in the NCAA basketball world were Steve Alford, Quin Snyder, and Tommy Amaker. All three had been standout guards during their playing careers and seemed to be the perfect candidate to run your big-time program. Alford and Snyder were hired at the time to run Iowa and Missouri, while Amaker was finishing his first season at Seton Hall, where he would soon move up the ladder to Michigan. So what's happened since then? Not a pretty picture.
Amaker and Snyder both were point guards at Duke who stand second and third, respectively, on the school's all-time assists leaders list. Both had healthy assistant coaching apprenticeships next to Coach K. It seemed like the perfect pedigree. Well, both programs they lead are in bad shape. Amaker has only coached in one NCAA tournament field (at Seton Hall) and despite a great talent pool to recruit from in Michigan, has failed to bring a consistent winner back to Ann Arbor. Sure he has been plagued by a prior NCAA probation and injuries to key players, but the bottom line is that Michigan should not be finishing with 12 conference losses in a season, like the current squad has ended up with.
Snyder does seem to have excellent coaching and recruiting ability, as his past NCAA tourney records demonstrate, but his lack of institutional control over his program has led to a big stain surrounding his school. Like Michigan, Missouri looks to be a team without even a NIT invitation at the end of the 2004-05 season.
Alford was hired at Iowa, because the school was frustrated with former coach Tom Davis not being able to win a conference championship during his tenure. Well, since Alford's arrival, Iowa has a conference record of 41-55 versus Davis' 55-49. Alford has had only one NCAA tournament appearance in Iowa City, while Davis went to the big dance 9 out of 13 years, despite coaching against a much stronger Big 10 conference overall. Alford has had transfer problems and continued arrest incidents with his players, unlike the days under Dr. Tom, who ran a model program.
Now the hot young trio of coaches are not so young and are sitting directly on the hot seat. Keep these three coaches stories in mind, when you hear Dick Vitale touting the next new young upstart who makes his name during Championshop week. The storybook endings that Alford, Snyder, and Amaker have dreamed about look to have little chance of happening. If they do, it will be in the distant future at different jobs.
Fantasy Baseball Questions for 2005
For the past few years, Fantasy Drafts have been pretty easy to do if you had the first pick. Choice: Alex Rodriguez. Well after last year's battles in Yankee Stadium, the first choice is more of an open field. Since I only play in Sabremetric leagues, the stats we are working with are OBP, SLG, Runs, RBI's.
The last few seasons the first pitcher taken has been Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez. Well after Johan Santana's glorious year (I had him on all my fantasy teams in 2004, so yes, glorious is the word) things might have finally changed.
In my 10 years of playing fantasy baseball, the one postion that creates the most havoc in drafts is closers. It seems like the top 4 go at a normal rate, but then someone will reach for the next closer and boom there is a run and if you are waiting to pick, you might get left without a quality reliever.
1. Albert Pujols
In a sabremetric league, Pujols has only trailed Bonds the past couple of seasons and I suspect Bonds will finally drop behind him in 2005. Considering the ages of Johnson and Schilling, plus Prior's question marks, Santana's my guy, though I can't imagine him duplicating his post May 2005. With strikeout's not in the stat margin, I choose Nathan, as Lidge won't get as many chances to save games in 2005 and I suspect the Twins will be in a ton of close ones.
I would be interested to get your 5 answers to these questions. Also, we will have a free fantasy baseball league through Yahoo, so be on the lookout for info on that in the next few days.
Follow up to Will's blogging post
In Will's excellent recent post Making the Call, he discussed how he would like to see the blogging world put more effort in interviewing the people they write about. A good example of someone doing this is Vince Galloro, who has developed a great White Sox blog titled Exile in Wrigleyville. (wordplay on Liz Phair's debut) Vince is quick to fly off the handle, but his passion is a large part of Exile's charm.
Recently, Vince conducted an interview with Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan (Chicago Tribune) and White Sox beat writer Scot Gregor. I highly recommend reading this interview, as it gives some insight on two very different opinions on baseball bloggers.
As much as Sullivan comes off like a complete DICK during the interview, I do give him some props for being honest in his answers. Sullivan has an occasional segment at the Tribune's internet site, responding to readers questions. I used to read it when he wrote on the White Sox and the guy is a very witty, first class smartass. In a world of politically correct types, Sullivan isn't afraid to attack anyone. Now if he would only be open-minded enough to consider that just because it's new (blogs) doesn't mean it's all crap, he would be even better for it. Of course, considering where I'm writing this, he will never see it, so I guess it doesn't really matter.
Phrase Git 'er Done must be Stopped!
As a touring stand-up comedian, people often ask me if hecklers bother me. Since I have a Don Rickles predilection to rip said heckler to shreds, it usually doesn't faze me. What does bother me beyond belief is this phrase that's sweeping the nation, Git 'er done. Uttered by comedian Larry the Cable Guy, I would say at one out of every 3 shows, some dlido in the crowd feels the need to yell it out, after one of my punchlines. This phrase magically wrecks momentum faster than bringing in Billy Koch.
Recently I read a posting that the very funny comic, Doug Stanhope wrote to Larry the Cable Guy. I recommend reading the whole post, but it should be noted that his site has adult material on it, so if you punch the link, be forewarned. Go to December 31st post to find letter to Larry the Cable Guy.
To Cable Guy: It's just that, you know me and some of the other guys out there on the road have been having problems with this (pauses and squints) ... "Git Er Done" thing. I mean, no one can blame you for taking the Wal-Mart approach of appealing to the absolute stupidest, water-brained Velveeta cheese flag-monkeys on the planet - no offense - but what you've gone and done is given them something to *say*. Out loud.
It's reached such an epidemic that I'm considering having comedy clubs add it to the list of things they ask the audience not do at the start of shows. (like please keep your table talk down and turning off all cell phones) So in closing, if you are one of those people that needs to constantly say catch phrases like "Alrighty, then" or Been there, done that", please don't add "Git Er Done" to your list. If you are one of these people, let this post be an intervention to helping you stop your destructive behavior, as I can guarantee most people want to strangle you for your catch phrase insanity.
It looks like MLB and the MLBPA were able to get the deal done on testing before games started. I guess that's good, ending much better than their agreement on a worldwide draft.
The most interesting part of this piece is buried at the bottom. Don Fehr slips out that no one tested positive twice and that the numbers went down significantly in 2004. Looking closer, this means that we *did* have positive tests, something I've heard conflicting denials on this off-season. It also means that there were "significantly less" than the 83 positive tests in 2003.
I'm not sure what significantly less means here. We don't have the full context. Fehr isn't given to exaggeration or hyperbole, so let's call it a 50% reduction. That's still 40 positives, which would be higher than the roughly 30 we had in minor league baseball and much higher on a percentage basis.
With the new testing agreement in place, the only important test is the next positive. Anyone else think it will come during spring training?
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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