Monthly archives: April 2006
The NFL Draft is NOT All That
In my formative years, my three favorite days on the sports calendar were the first round of the NCAA basketball tourney and the NFL draft. While the NCAA tourney continues to be an A+ event, the NFL Draft has gotten way too big for what it actually produces. What started out to be a little event that ESPN televised during the week has grown to a three-month event, which receives more coverage on sports radio than any sport besides the NFL regular season itself.
I get a little nostalgic thinking about the 1980s coverage, which basically consisted of Pro Football Weekly's Joel Buschbaum reciting his pre-draft guidebook and then pre-parody Chris Berman and Devo-headed Mel Kiper Jr. on selection day keeping us informed on what the teams were doing. The current atmosphere where everyone has become a draftnik on the call-in shows is misguided, considering that hardly any of the first round choices will be impact players. Where in the NBA one player can make a sizable difference since only five players on the court at one time, the NFL is a game of specialization which features 22 starters.
Just look at the past two years' first rounders and tell me who made a real impact on their team. I would say that in 2005 you could point to Shawn Merriman and Cadillac Williams, while in 2004 it would be hard to point to anyone outside of Ben Roethlisberger and Johnathon Vilma. While some of these first rounders might really start to come into their own in 2006, most of them were lucky to just start as rookies. The odds are extremely stacked against your favorite team getting any impact player in the draft, as the best way to improve a team is to pick up second-tier free agents who have proven themselves in the NFL.
The best percentage play in choosing a player who can be an instant impact player is to get some high speed defensive lineman/outside linebacker, as that is a skill-set that doesn't take as much of a learning curve. (See: Shawn Merriman, Dwight Freeney, and Julius Peppers.) Outside of this position, where pure speed can win out over strength and intelligence, rookies, no matter what round they are drafted in are projects which you hope will begin to make a major impact by year three. One could argue that drafting a pitcher who can close games is a better instant bang for the buck than any player chosen in the NFL Draft, but since the MLB Draft recieves less attention than Melanie Hutsell at an SNL cast reunion, very few are really aware of this. (Under category of Unaware, did you know Hutsell was a cast member for three years?)
The two new analysts I've noticed on ESPN's baseball coverage are Orel Hershiser and Tino Martinez. Orel Leonard Hershiser is the best addition to ESPN's coverage since Rick Sutcliffe, as he has a vast knowledge of the game, plus a rare ability of coming strong with his opinions early on in his broadcasting career. If I haven't said it before let me say it again: I want more Orel.
Less Tino would be the other part of that chant, as Martinez is typical of so many other ex-jocks who go into broadcasting. Does anyone think that a player of his marginal talents would ever have been chosen if not for being a long-time Yankee? The thing I dislike most about him is the strange vocal inflection he has which reminds me of a character the great Phil Hendrie might have come up with. Martinez might possess the weirdest dialect to hit the airwaves since Joe Namath flopped in the Monday Night Football booth. Once again: More Orel, Less Tino.
After reading this story, I wonder when our boy Will is going to doing an Under the Knife column for the E! Network. I mean, considering his expertise on steroids, plus his addiction to the show Lost who better to cover this story?
Life in the Independent Leagues
My comedy career is a weird one, in that I perform in a lot of "A" rooms like the Improvs (Plug: I will be in Ft. Lauderdale next week), but also I play a fair number of smaller markets that often end up paying me more. Last week I went down to Oklahoma City to see my Mom, and a booker I work for offered me a gig a couple hours away. Since it was close I figured why not make some extra money. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
(Note: I've decided not to list the name of the venue, as they didn't ask to be written about. Let me say that the gig was in a small Texas border town along the Red River. Part of the place's name includes the word "Roadhouse," but it isn't from the fancy Patrick Swayze movie.)
So I pull up to the joint a couple hours before the show so I can be sure not to get lost when driving there after dark. The "Roadhouse" is preceded by a cemetery. It's located right behind a couple trailer homes on a dirt road. On both sides of the Roadhouse is an auto junkyard.
When I got there at 8:30 p.m. (show was supposed to start at 9:00 p.m.), the staff said they would probably begin a little after 10:00 p.m. OK, so I went to a convenience store a couple miles away because the "Roadhouse" is BYOB or BYO-any-other-beverage. I'm guessing it was located in either a dry county or they couldn't get a liquor license.
Getting back to the joint, I milled around drinking my Coke Zero, looking around at the memorabilia which consisted of a couple of Confederate flags hanging on the wall behind the pool tables. One of the flags had a line on it saying "Heritage Not Hate," so I guess that makes it cool? Not exactly the decor of a Hard Rock Cafe, but it did seem to fit the small-town Texas life.
Another interesting part of the Roadhouse's decor is that the owner's dog just strolls through the place. I'm guessing that the health inspector of in this small Texas town isn't the most detail-oriented of public servants.
The owner brought up the first comedian, his 10-year-old daughter, who read off jokes she had gotten out of a joke book. Not a great performer at this point, but I've worked with bigger hacks than her. The feature act did a nice job, but it was pretty tough to warm up an audience of 30 yahoos.
Did I mention that there was a pup tent set up behind the stage? Why was that? Well, after the Roadhouse closed at 4 a.m., the joint was going to do something special for its customers by cooking breakfast for them and then allowing to have a sleepover in the building. No, really.
The first thing I noticed when I hit the stage was that the front row table were passing around a Jagermeister bottle the size of kettle drum. (Only slight artistic license being used here as this looked like a bottle of Jager that you would buy at a Sam's Club.) Welcome to the world of BYOB.
While there was a couple really obnoxious hecklers, they were nothing I couldn't handle. During one part of my performance I did have to stop for a minute, as the owner's dog walked on-stage and started licking my shoes. I figure this was the dog telling me he liked my act, so I did what I do when any audience member comes up on-stage and licks my shoes -- I reached down and petted him.
It was interesting to me that the owner wanted the show clean (according to my iteniary), considering that the jokes that he and the audience liked the best were the more risque in my act. I'm guessing he didn't want his 10-year-old daughter to learn anything too blue, as she might fit it in to one of the knock-knock jokes she would open with at the next show. Either that or maybe his dog is part of the Assembly of Dog church.
After a week at the Washington, DC Improv, playing sold-out shows for the hip and cool (like visiting Juice Blog contributor Ryan Wilkins), it was good to deflate my ego a bit. I see one of the most vital elements of life being who can compile the best stories, so here was another night on my Comedy Holy Grail. This show is one of my favorites in that category. Hopefully this gives some insight into the strange life that is the standup comedian
And now you know....the rest of the story.
The Onion and an Angelina Jolie Update
I was performing in Milwaukee, WI last weekend, and one of the pleasures of this underrated city is free print copies of The Onion at newsstands wherever you go. As a result, I want to link to the paper's recent piece that breaks down the Chicago Cubs season for 2006.
The essence of the story is that, despite a good start, Dusty Baker believes that the team will begin to flounder soon enough. While some might see this piece as just a satire, didn't they say the same about Jonathan Swift's work? Make sure to read the side-box featuring how after an "800-pitch throwing session" to help further strain the ligaments in his right shoulder, Mark Prior's arm popped out of its socket and completely detached from his body. I don't know how Mr. Under the Knife missed this story, but I'm there once again to back him up.
File under the category of Not Safe for Work (unless you are employed by Evil Angel): Angelina Jolie's former lesbian lover has gone on record saying her relationship with Brad Pitt will never last. I would like to share this quote from said former-lover, Jenny Shizmu, which appeared in the very classy British tabloid, The News of the World:
Angelina and I walked to the swimming pool, looked at each other and slowly stripped naked. It was a beautiful clear night and we could see each other's bodies under the moonlight. Then we both dived in and wrapped our arms around each other. The feeling of the water got us both excited and for what seemed like hours we caressed each other under the surface, kissing again and again. Angelina loved to wax herself all over and didn't have a hair on her bodyand under the water I could feel every bit of her."The quote above is the print version of Cialis. This story is what we in the journalism business call "BONERVILLE!" (The Juice Blog warns that if you sustain an erection for longer than four hours, please see a doctor who will give you the antedote, which is gazing at this greedy pig's jowls.)
What they should say...
We were wrong. It wasn't you. Please forgive us.
MLB is as Good as Ever... Who Can Watch the NBA?
As another great baseball season is in full gear, I've been pondering what has happened to the NBA.
Less than 10 years ago, Michaeal Jordan was all you heard about at this time of year. Will the Bulls ever get past the Knicks, Pacers, and whoever the sacrificial lamb was in the Western Conference? It took until the NBA Finals were over for Major League Baseball to get much attention on the sports landscape, but that is no longer the case. While the NBA has some interesting new young players and Steve Nash has some old school charm, I just don't know how anyone can watch the league on a regular basis. While there has been such a large focus on how steroids have changed baseball, I would argue that the game has changed very little, especially when compared to the NBA.
I'm not a big-time viewer of ESPN Classic, as I've seen almost all the Sports Century episodes, which are the best thing on the network. As for the advertised hour-long comedy block on Classic that features Arli$$ and Cheap Seats, let me quickly say that the Sklar Bros. are funny and that I haven't seen Robert Wuhl do anything good since his classic turn as Newbomb Turk in Hollywood Knights. (Bull Durham was great, but it didn't have much to do with Wuhl.)
The only professional sport that really does shine in reruns on the network is Vintage NBA from the '80s. Without turning into Bill Simmons, I can honestly say that I never tire of watching Boston Celtics playoff games from this period. Today I turned on the Celtics playing the Sixers: Game 7 of the 1980 Eastern Conference Championship, and it was better basketball to watch, even knowing the final outcome, than any live NBA game I've seen this past decade. The Celtics had a rookie Kevin McHale, Cornbread Maxwell, M.L. Carr, Robert Parrish, at-the-end-of-his-career Tiny Archibald, and former Kentucky star Rick Robey who really sucked sphincter in this game. Oh, and did I mention that Larry Bird was incredible, seemingly always making the right play and controlling the game, when idiot Coach Bill Fitch didn't have him sitting on the bench (like the four minutes he did in the 4th quarter)?
The Sixers were one of the most exciting teams of all time, with Darryl Dawkins, Mo Cheeks, super-stopper Bobby Jones, Lionel Hollins, Caldwell Jones, and the mega-talented Andrew Toney. While it was towards the end of his career, Dr. J was still a top-10 player, but it was second-year player Bird who was the dominant force on the floor. Both teams played with incredible passion, without it ever turning into a slugfest.
While the media seems to focus on how baseball players' bodies have exploded, I would say just turn on ESPN Classic sometime and watch a NBA game from the '80s and look at the major difference in body types. I don't know how most athletes in the NBA have gotten so ripped, but current players' immense size and strength has made play too jammed up. Unlike baseball, where the field is so large, the NBA just might need to change the dimensions of the court to open play up.
If you watch the NBA, keep me posted if anything new happens, as I will be focused on the baseball season and the occasional Vintage NBA game on ESPN Classic.
Here's breaking news: web sites don't get credentials.
The guys at Denver Sports Zone found this out recently and posted about it. The post was thoughtful, but their solution was ... well, less than ideal.
There's a couple schools of thought on this:
1) Bloggers don't need access.
This one's crap to me. If you don't need access, fine. If you're not going to go to games, fine. I want all the information I possibly can. Give me the box scores and the game story, the columnists and the analysts.
2) Kick against the pricks.
DSZ is kind of taking this route. Press credentials are a privilege for most, outside of the BBWAA which has negotiated its rights. I'm not owed credentials and think that it would be much easier to convince the BBWAA to accept net-based baseball writers than it would to get both teams and MLB to accept them.
3) Keep doing good work
I've finally settled down and started taking a middle road. I'll take what access I get, work hard to prove I did something with it, and when I can, lobby the proper people for increased access.
Unless net-based writers are willing to take a reasoned, organized approach to organizing, professionalizing, and lobbying, this isn't going to change. Not now, not soon, and with the pace of baseball, probably not during my career. Bloggers eat their own with regularity, so I have long since stopped trying to get an IBWA going.
One final thought on this -- if you're asking for credentials, go to the mirror and ask yourself "What do you do for a living?" If you really want the credential, there's only one right answer.
Bargain Bin CD Hall of Fame
One thing I will miss when music completely shifts over to downloads is the pile of shame which is the bargain bin. To be honest, the bargain bin hasn't truly been the same since the demise of albums, as any flop during the days of the LP would have the further scarlet letter of having its corner cut off. These record covers had the cut-out because I'm guessing it would make the original purchasers feel better about being big enough suckers to pay full price before it was marked down to $3.99.
The biggest portion of the bargain bin was filled by artists who had a huge selling prior release, only to follow up with a stiff. A great example of a classic bargain binner was Peter Frampton's "I'm in You" (or as call it, "Frampton Becomes Dead"), as it quickly got around that this release was a dog. I'm convinced that the biggest reason "Frampton Comes Alive" was so big was Peter's use of the vocal box. It was the only funky thing on album rock radio in the 70's and bringing a little P-Funk and Roger Troutman (Zapp) to the caucasian masses made it stand out. Frampton's studio albums never featured the vocal box, which left his songs too sterile, which is the reason his live songs were the ones played on the radio.
The next evolution in music happened because Compact Discs didn't get easily scratched like LP's, so the used business became a profitable concept. At one point there were lots of second hand disc shops who would gladly offer you 3 or 4 bucks for the brand new CD you just purchased the week before. Like a pawn shop for music, the majority of the discs that were sitting in the racks of these stores were offered up by junkies and desperate gamblers who needed to come up with some dough to make their next score.
With the advent of Napster and then the Ipod, the used CD store is quickly disappearing, much like the independent music shops withered away at the end of the last decade. While it's nice to be able to go to Amazon or Half.com and push a button to find about any used disc you want, I will miss the fun of spending an hour in a brick and mortar building looking for some buried treasure on the cheap.
Another fun thing I would do at a second hand CD store was count how many of some former smash hit had been sold back because people came to their senses and realized, "yo, why did I buy this in the first place?"
(On this subject, I remember selling a economics textbook I bought for $45 bucks at the beginning of the semester for $4 bucks at the end of it. Just to add a box of sea salt to the fresh head wound they were giving me, the shyster paid me in 2 dollar bills. It was his way of saying "not only am I bending you over, but I'm giving you currency that merchants would ask could you pay them in canadians coins instead?" One bonus from this experience was that it was a much better lesson in supply and demand than anything the textbook offered.)
Scott's Top 5 Used Music Returns of the CD Era
1. Hootie and the Blowfish: "Cracked Rear View Mirror"- Never understood the Hootie sensation that happened, as they were to me a second-rate Huey Lewis and the News. Despite their frat band sound, they sold over 16 million copies of this sleep-inducer. Another topic for the future is worst music video of all-time. The one that the (really)blowfish did with golfing and Dan Patrick in it has to be up there.
2. Spin Doctors: "Pocket Full of Kryptonite"**- During the time when jam bands were hitting big, the Spin Doctors were able to keep the songs short and add enough white-boy funk to sell like crazy. They put out a really bad second release and then the lead singer lost his voice and they were pretty much finished. If you don't think this guys were big, they appeared on Sesame Street. (Go to Amazon.com and buy this release for a penny!)
3. Jewel: "Piece of You"- Yeah, I get the cute snaggletooth smile which was augmented by the ample rack, but did anyone ever listen to this disc 2 years later? The answer would appear to be no, considering the ample copies sitting in the racks of used record stores.
4. Creed: "Human Clay"- I loathe these fakers of the lord, who blasphemed Eddie Vedder in a way that Scott Weiland even had to feel sick listening to. "Thou shalt not believe in false prophets" was not heeded by the more than 10 million sinners who purchased this hackfest. By now, most of the buyers of Creed have seen the errors of their ways and have repented, trying to sell this platter of puke to any flea market that will take them off their hands.
5. Norah Jones: "Come Away with Me"**- The first single, "Don't Know Why" was the best Billie Holiday song not recorded by the lady sings the blues. The title track is also a gem, but the rest of the disc is warmed over Diane Krall. Jones is a real talent, as her second release much more completely shows, but considering her debut was the biggest selling record of this decade, it's the most recent release I could think of which leads the way in filling the bargain bins.
Please list your nominees for the Used CD bargain bin champion. Let me give you a few guidelines.
Do not list artists like Celine Dion, Garth Brooks, or Shania Twain who have multiple big selling releases.
Let's stay away from American Idols like the Backstreet Boys and Paula Abdul, as it's too easy to list them. I'm looking for offerings that were not aimed mainly at teenyboppers.
No Clay Aiken. Come on, it's too easy.
** This denotes that the author was one of the bandwagon jumpers who ended up selling these CD's later on at a substantial loss.
Breaking The Spectrum: A Thought Exercise
I'm reading Baseball Between The Numbers again, really trying to grasp it. I'm stuck right now on Keith Woolner's chapter about defense and have a little thought exercise -
Place these players into the most optimal defensive lineup. The only rule is that they cannot be placed in the position which they are listed.
C - Jason Varitek
Explain as much as you wish.
Predictions for the 2006 Season
In case you missed my pre-season picks over at The Griddle, which has become my favorite Toaster place to hang which isn't The Juice, I have listed my choices below. My on-site predictions have a bonus and that is that I give some brief reasoning for why I've chosen their particular order. For example why I think the Orioles and Phillies are better than predicted and that the Brewers and A's are a bit too trendy for my liking.
One final thing I should mention is that these are my selections only and should not reflect Will Carroll's views. Just go over to baseballprospectus.com and look at his pre-season predictions and you will see we share little of the same points of view on the umpcoming season.
I think the top 4 teams in the East all finish within 10 games. Despite possibly playing some games without Giambi and Sheffield, the best depth money can buy, prevails. I think the Red Sox infield will cost them a playoff berth, as they are below average offensively and defensively around the horn. The Orioles just might end up with the best starting pitching staff in the division by the end of the year. Finally, the AL East has some competition besides the Top 2 teams. While the Blue Jays were active, I don't like spending big bucks on high injury risks like Burnett and Glaus. The Devil Rays have no bullpen and will lose a lot of games in the final innings.
The Indians and White Sox are the 2 best overall teams in baseball, but the Indians have less question marks in the bullpen. The Twins made a huge mistake by not taking a shot at a Mike Piazza or Frank Thomas as a DH, as they desperately needed another hitter to help compete with the Indians and White Sox. I think the Tigers will be a step below and the Royals continue to progress towards their rebuilding project which should produce a team which can escape the cellar by 2012.
I know we at the Toaster live in a community where the A's are holy, but I just think their lack of power dooms them. I think Oakland has been built a little too heavily towards OBP and I worry about such a young starting staff. The Angels have a more veteran pitching staff and I think Vlad will take over down the stretch. While I believe the Rangers were right to make some moves in the off-season, I hated the Eaton for Young trade and thought they paid too much for Millwood. While the Wilkerson deal was excellent, the Rangers took a step backwards, overall. Last year I ripped the signing of Adrian Beltre and this year's signing of Jarod Washburn was not much better. It's deals like these that wreck a mid-majors salary cap. The Mariners would need 2 more Felix Hernandez's to compete.
Every year I wrongly predict the fall of the Braves, so why not be consistent? The difference between the NL East top 3 teams is the Mets have a great closer in Wagner, plus some decent set-up men to get to him. (Bradford will be a big plus.) The Phillies are the best offensive team in the NL and it will be enough to get them back in the playoffs. The Nationals were the biggest overachievers in 2005 and will only escape the cellar because the Marlins have decided to take the year off from major league competition.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Cards win this division with 10 less victories from their 2005 record. It will be the Cardinals pitching staff that carries them this year. The difference between 2 through 6 is about 10 games, as I suspect they will all fall between 70 and 80 wins. The Astros have the best bullpen and the Cubs improved their own pen enough that they will be able to survive continuing health problems from Under the Knife stars Pryor and Wood. People are too far out ahead of the trendy pick Brewers, as their influx of talented rookies will struggle. In December I was all set to annoint the Pirates as the Cards 2006 runner-up, but the bad trade of Williams for Casey and the injury to Wells put a strain on a now thin starting staff. While the Reds got the best of this trade, they still are behind the others in pitching, but Dunn, Griffey, Kearns, and Lopez will keep them in most games.
The top 3 teams are all pretty close, but the Padres have a roster that should spend less time on the DL, which combined with added outfield defense by Mike Cameron makes them the team to beat. I love the Dodgers bullpen, but not sold on their starting pitching. The Giants are so old, you would think former Redskins coach George Allen had put together the roster. The Rockies have compiled some good young talent and will surprise by not finishing in the cellar. The Diamondbacks might win this division in 2008, but they will be playing a lot of their great young prospects by August.
ALCS: Yankees versus White Sox
World Series: Yankees over Cardinals
While I think the 2 best teams are located in the AL Central, the Yankees bullpen will make the difference in the playoffs, as I'm not sold on the Indians or White Sox closers. Jake Peavy will make up for his disappointing first appearance in the playoffs in 2005, which will give the Padres a chance, but the Cardinals are just a little better overall, which will give them the chance to get spanked in the World Series by the Yankees. Look, I hope I'm wrong about the Yankees and they fall short of a title, but I think Steinbrenner gets the last of his World Championships in 2006.
The Season Begins Much Like It Ended
The only thing that can top opening day for the fanatical baseball fan is an opening day when your favorite team is welcomed back as defending World Champions. Last time we saw the Chicago White Sox, they were compiling what could be the most dominant starting pitching performance in playoff history. Facing who just might be the best team in all of baseball and their most challenging divisional rival (the Indians) to open the 2006 season, the Sox appear to be living much of the same charmed life they lived under in 2005.
Most of the luck*** seemed to be with the White Sox in 2005 when playing the Indians and by the 3rd inning, it seemed to be continuing over into 2006, as Cleveland's ace, C.C. Sabathia, left the game because of an adominal strain. (*** I'm not sure "luck" is an officially recognized word by the SABR community, so if you are unaware of it's meaning, I recommend going to a Webster's dictionary to look it up.) While the Indians training staff might act like it's nothing major, when discussing Sabathia's ample abdominals, any strain would have to be pretty large in size. On the other side of the ledger, Mark Buerhle looked good, except for a 3 batter stretch which would have only cost one run, if a relay throw to the catcher hadn't of taken a strange hop.
The two new changes in the starting lineup look really good, as Jim Thome appears to be back to his old superstar days, while centerfielder Brian Anderson doesn't appear to be a drop-off from Aaron Rowand. What sets the White Sox apart from the rest of the MLB is the quality of starting pitching depth and it was put on a display on opening night, with Brandon McCarthy coming in to pitch long relief after a lengthy rain delay. Considering McCarthy would be a number 2 or 3 in the rotatation for at least 10 teams in baseball, he is the best starting pitching insurance policy since Johan Santana was toiling away in the Twins bullpen.
If you think these are the insane ramblings of a fanatic feeling the buzz after the first game of an 162 game season, your point would be well taken. The White Sox appear to be a team which will have to finish games with a closer by committee, which is no way to have post-season success, despite what some in the sabermetrical world would tell you. Despite this major defect, I think the 2006 Chicago White Sox are a better overall team than the 2005 edition. Considering that the American League has 6 teams capable of winning a World Series, the AL season promises to be another great race down to the wire. After the first game of the 2006 season, though, the 2005 champs look to be fully capable of defending their crown.
I wanted to mention that the opening of Baseball Tonight with Karl, Kruk, and Harry failed to keep my attention. I want to thank ESPN for having these 3 together, though, as I flipped through the channels after the first commercial break and ran into an episode of "Fastlane" on G4. This was a 2003 Fox show that I'm surprised aired long enough that it could have any type of syndication deal, but I've always had a thing for one of its stars, Tiffani Amber Thiessen, so I stopped to give it a look. This very, very special episode had Miss Thiessen(s) going undercover to expose a Lesbian gang of thiefs. The leader of the gang is played by Jamie Pressly, who Thiessen seduces. The highlight of this episode so aptly named, "Strap On" (http://imdb.com/title/tt0578217/) is when Thiessen, Pressly, and another lesbian gang member who looks similar to Angelina Jolie, share a naked hot tub moment. Since it was a network television show, the naked bodies were underwater, but Thiessen and Pressley give a kiss so passionate that I was squirming on my couch more than listening to Harry Reynolds break down the steroid scandal. BRAVO Miss Thiessen and Miss Pressly!!!
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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