Monthly archives: August 2006
Bob Dylan's Wind Blows
So Bob Dylan thinks that there hasn't been anything good recorded in the past 20 years, ever since LP's bit the dust. I'm old enough to remember records and I have still kept over 200 of them, as they hold sentimental value to me. I would agree to a certain extent that there is a crispness in sound that comes out of the needle hitting the groove, but CD's didn't scratch and were a lot more portable. Major technological leap. Now MP3's have made it even easier to access music.
I find it sad that Mr. Tamborine Man, who was a spokesman for a new generation in the 1960's, a generation that embraced a new way of doing things is now just a cranky old man who can only see the past. Hey Bob, I'll give you this. I haven't heard anything from you in well-over 20 years that I would want to listen to. (Yeah, that includes the one's that have won you Grammy's) So go ahead and put on a scratchy copy of Blonde on Blonde, as it was never your sound that made people want to listen, it was your words. Now your words are that of a cranky old man. Stay Off of My Lawn Talking Blues.
On more let's slap Bob Dylan to the curb news, his XM satellite radio show sucks. I enjoy some of his selections, but the whole Dylan as DJ doesn't work, as his speaking voice is pretty ridiculous. What is most irritating is how the promo commercial for his show constantly airs on XM Extreme, Channel 202. This is the channel that airs Opie and Anthony and the best show in radio, Ron and Fez. Between having Major League Baseball and Ron and Fez is enough for me to choose XM over Sirius. With all the acquisitions lately by Sirius, though, the gap is smaller between which is the better product.
I wasn't sold initially on if Rock Star on CBS would be as good as last year. Well, I was wrong, as the show is vastly superior to the 2005 edition. The singers seem to be a bit older and are much more developed in their style and substance. From the first show, I mentioned that Dilana, Lukas, and Toby were the 3 to beat and I don't see anything to change this. I was pretty shocked that Ryan, last night, was booted, as he had probably produced 4 of the 10 best performances of the year. By not choosing him, it really demonstrates that Supernovaa is not looking to be a real hard rock band, but something a little more eclectic. If you haven't been watching Rockstar Supernova, you've missed the best reality show of the year. I thought this was the best season of American Idol, but the talent and stories behind the performers on Rockstar once again blow away the pop sheen of AI. It really comes down to would you rather listen to covers of Nirvana and Radiohead or would you rather hear covers of Celine Dion and Brian McKnight?
Will Carroll; Fantasy Expert
How's that title grab you? Well, from now on our boy Will Carroll will be included with such dignitaries as Sue Johnston, Dr. Drew, and Doc Johnson, when fantasy expert is mentioned. Now, the reason it's legit to list him under this category is that he will be part of ESPN's new Fantasy Football Show set to air on ESPN 2 at 5:30 pm, this Friday. Will is bringing his "Under the Knife" breakdown to the gridiron. Fantasy football is a massive business, but it's hard to translate the excitement it can bring to a television audience. It will be interesting to see if ESPN will be able to succeed with the topic. I'm looking forward to finding out if Will can bring the frenetic energy he has on radio to the TV screen. Best of luck in your newest endeavor.
Getting to the Bottom of Why the Indians Imploded
In the past I have written about how the Indians 2006 collapse is amazing to me. Considering that I chose them to have the best record in baseball, their poor play has made me even more negative about their status as biggest flop in the MLB. While I have a few theories on why this happened, I thought I would contact my favorite blogger on the Indians to answer my questions.
Paul Cousineau is a lifelong Tribe fan who goes by the moniker Pat Tabler at his blog, The DiaTribe. Paul chose this pseudonym mainly due to a fielding clinic with Tabler as an 8-year old member of the Little Indians' Fan Club. He works in sales for his family business. Paul started blogging because he "figured that the Tribe is what I generally think about, and thought I would put pen to paper (so to speak) to find other Indians' fans around the world who share my unhealthy obsession."
Here is a discussion among 2 AL Central fans on the 2006 Indians.
Scott: OK, well the first question that has to be asked is "what the hell happened to the Indians this year?"
Paul: A combination of factors that started with the team signing the wrong FA's in the off-season, continued with the team staying with the veterans for about 6 weeks too long rather than giving the more talented youngsters a shot (like the Twins did en route to saving their season), and coincided with the fact the Tigers, White Sox, and then the Twins ripped their way through the AL.
Scott: In full second guessing mode, tell me what mistakes were made in the off-season and what you would have done differently, if you were in charge?
Paul: First and foremost, by allowing Bob Howry to sign elsewhere, the Indians put the onus of their set-up roles to 2 players (Fernando Cabrera and Rafael Betancourt) who had never filled that role and a question mark in Guillermo Mota. The bullpen (which was also initially also populated by the likes of Danny Graves and Scott Sauerbeck) completely blew up in front of Bob Wickman; and by the time that it was shaken up, they were already 10 games out in the Central. An effective set-up man would have allowed the bullpen to keep their 2005 roles, when the bullpen was one of the league's strongest.
The bullpen wasn't alone in its disappointment, though, as Paul Byrd started slowly and Jason Johnson proved well, to be Jason Johnson and the rotation (the strength of the 2005 club) started slow. One can't argue that they should have re-signed Millwood (unreal contract) or Elarton (no reason to give him a 2 year deal), but the pitchers they signed never thrived.
Rather than allowing their young talented players (SP Jeremy Sowers, 3B Andy Marte, and 1B Ryan Garko) to make the team out of Spring Training, allowing the team to spend money in other places, the team signed average or below-average players and hoped that they would either re-capture their former success or that their injuries were over with.
By allowing those young players the opportunity to make the team (they were given lip service, but never a real shot to make the team), the money that was given to Eduardo Perez, Jason Johnson, Aaron Boone, and Ben Broussard could have been used to fill the holes in team. Unfortunately for the Indians, those average veterans proved to be just that, and by the time the changes were finally made, the season was effectively over.
Jeremy Piven: Oversaturated, but in a Healthy Way
It should be mentioned right off the bat that I've always been a big fan of Jeremy Piven. He's one of the few supporting actors who has so much charisma that he generally always steals the scene. I've always felt he should be a lead actor, as when he has been given the chance, the overall project overachieved its budget. While he was in the "Animal House" of this decade, "Old School", he also starred in the "Animal House" of the 90's, "PCU", which is a very underrated comedy. His energy in that movie was reminiscent of Bill Murray in "Meatballs". He starred in a short-lived, but excellent TV series called "Cupid" that was a romantic comedy on the scale of "Moonlighting". For some reason, while not exactly male model types like Murray and Bruce Willis have become bankable leading men, Piven has seemed stuck in the Eve Arden roles.
Finally, he has had his career breakout, playing the part of a sleazy agent in HBO's "Entourage". While the role seemed like another supporting one, Piven has dominated the show so much that not since Alex P. Keaton, has a secondary character rose so quickly as the main attraction. This is not to say that the other actors aren't good, as the casting is perfect, but it's Piven who creates the special moments of the show. While "Entourage" doesn't get big ratings, it's become to males in LA, what the show "Sex in the City" was to females in New York. In a place like Hollywood, where the people are so self-absorbed that they think the rest of the country just sits on their couches watching E! or Bravo all day long, "Entourage" is the most talked about show within the industry, as it portrays a life that so many dream of living.
While I think Piven's success is long overdue, I have been feeling lately that he's way too overexposed. If there is a big movie premiere or celebrity-filled party, it seems like Jeremy would appear like "Zelig". I've been set to write a piece about how I think he needs to pull back for the past 6 months, but never got around to it. But after reading an excellent feature article by Joel Lovell in the June issue of GQ (hey, I'm behind in my reading), I've reevaluated my opinion on the subject. Lovell brings up many of the same oversaturated concerns that I've had, but explains that after hanging out with him, Piven seems to be handling extreme success pretty well.
For nearly a couple of decades, Jeremy Piven has at best been relegated to eating the table scraps of his buddy, John Cusack. (I know this is still a pretty great meal.) Now he's the guy that gets the major invite to the Playboy Mansion to party with the rabbits. Since I've had people say for the past 10 years that they've thought I looked like Piven, I've rooted for his ladykilling success. Sadly, in some ways he's a virtual reality version of what my life could be if I was single, rich, and famous.
As I'm guessing it generally happens, his more recent success has slowed the amount of comparisons I get for being a Piven look-alike. It used to be "you look like that one guy, oh what's his name." Now that he's no longer, "oh that guy that was in that one movie", I don't seem to get the comparisons as much. When people ask me "who do people tell you that you look like", I still mention Piven, as I've always related well to him as person. I also feel a lot better about that comparison than I do about other choices people have had.
Earlier this year, while performing at the Hollywood IMPROV in Florida, I had an attractive woman come up to me and share that she thought I looked like Barry Gibb. "Uh, I'm not sure that's a compliment", was my reply. She told me that it was, as she thought Barry was hot. "Well, I guess if you like Aussie men with falsetto's, he would rank highly," I offered back to try to stay positive, but I thought it was a bit strange. I told her that "of the Gibb brothers, I would rather be seen as Andy's look-alike, but at least she didn't think I looked like Maurice or Robin." There are few things worse than having someone tell you that look like a celebrity that you don't find attractive. I will say that this comment made me realize that I needed to stay out of the sun the rest of the trip, as if I'm being compared to Mr. Jive Talkin', I might want to pull back on the savage rays of light.
Ok, so I've gotten a little off-track. So is the self-obssessed world of blogs. I wish Jeremy Piven the best of luck. I wish you Godspeed man, on your quest to taste all the nectars which are at your spoils. It comes with the pact with the Devil of having to "hug it out, bitch", with admiring fans. I just hope you don't become typecast as the sleazy guy, as I think you have the talent to be another Michael Keaton. Speaking of him, whatever happened to his career? Time to give him a role that shows off his talents once again. Maybe Keaton needs an aggressive agent, an Ari Gold-type to make it happen.
Some Catty Commentary on the AL Playoff Chase. Meow!***
*** Scott's Note: Please read my comments (No.5), as they give a partial retraction for some of what I wrote here.***
Despite what ESPN would lead you to believe, there are a few other teams involved in baseball, besides the Yankees and Red Sox. (Yeah, I know your marketing research tells you otherwise, but c'mon.)
Let me begin with the White Sox. Can you imagine if Ozzie Guillen was manager of the Yankees? His press conference's would have their own time slot, though subtitles would probably be needed. Guillen just might be the best quote in the history of coaching. Don't give me Casey Stengel or Yogi Berra as being superior. Their verbal stumbling was fun, but Ozzie says stuff publicly that only the darkest part of your brain would contemplate. Once again, not defending, just saying he's the most interesting person in baseball and the MLB should be promoting it, as he would be a key into capturing a younger demographic. Ozzie Guillen: Sports first Gangsta Manager.
Now on to the team. The pitchers look tired and have seemed that way since June. With all the innings they logged over the past few years, it's not surprising this would happen. Kenny Williams knew this could occur, which is why he obtained Javier Vasquez in the off-season. (Paying a heavy price for him.) I'm guessing that Ozzie and pitching coach Don Cooper thought they could revive Javier back to his glory days in Montreal. I can see why they would think that, as he is tantalizing to watch, putting together 5 good innings most games he pitches. The problem would be that he can't escape the big inning. In crunch times, Vasquez can't stop from delivering hanging breaking balls that even Omar Infante could hit. Vasquez reminds me some of Jose Contreas before he had his breakthrough last June. This is the long-shot ticket the Sox are still gripping in their fingers.
Considering that the White Sox have one of the best young starting pitchers in its bullpen by the name of Brandon McCarthy, it's time to try something different. McCarthy is well-rested and has superior stuff to probably anyone in the rotation, so put him in there. Use this time to give Garcia, Buerhle and, Contreas each a stint on the 15 day DL to rejuvenate. I know I'm not the pitching expert (sorry he's gone to a higher profile gig), but I think it's worth a try, as the starting pitching has been in a rut for awhile. I'm not sure only 15 days off could help Garcia, but I think it might do the trick for the other 2.
The only reason the White Sox have a chance to still make the playoffs is the Twins misfortune, much of it brought upon themselves. Anyone who could do the numbers knew that Batista and Castro were horrible lineup holes. It seemed like a slam dunk to pick up a Frank Thomas or Mike Piazza to DH on the cheap. These poor decisions might very well keep them out of the playoffs. The Twins management have been great at developing young talent, but the lack of picking up a veteran player to push them over the top must be maddening for their fans. Despite these bad moves, if they still had a dominant Liriano, I would make them my choice as World Champs. Without him, they are just like everyone else just trying to hang on.
I still don't believe in the Tigers. I think their starting pitching is ready to implode, but much like the 2005 White Sox, they have a big enough lead that they should be able to make it to the divisional round. Unlike the 2005 White Sox, I don't see them getting past that.
Considering how much attention is paid to the Yankees and Red Sox, I can't think of anything new I could offer. My pre-season picks had the Yankees winning it all and the Red Sox not even in the playoffs. Can't see why I would change those choices, now.
Baseball Prospectus is where I get the majority of my news about the game. The one blind spot that most of its writers (and the rest of the sabermetric community) have had is its failing to be impartial about Billy Beane and his former employees. J.P. Riccardi falls under this category, as he was even quoted on the cover of the 2003 edition touting BP. Hey, I know it's hard to rip the one's you love, but Ricciardi made a colossal mistake in signing A.J. Burnett to a 5 year deal and it will be a franchise albatross for the next 4 years. While BP has questioned some of their moves, the attacks have generally been muted in regards to bad moves by Beane, Ricciardi, DePodesta, etc. Now that Ricciardi has ripped former BP writer Keith Law, I'm guessing the kid gloves will come off. Maybe a little too late, though.
It will be interesting to see if the A's can hold on, using good defense and a superior bullpen to hold the rest of their weak elements together. My guess is that the former qualites will lessen, but improved hitting and starting pitching will step up and help them outlast the Angels. I've not been a fan of most of new GM Jon Daniels' moves and I think Buck Showalter is a negative force as a manager. I sure do love their park, though. (insert smiley face)
Since I did it for the NL here is how I see the AL teams winding up at the end of the season.
Schizo Scott on Revamped Website, Googling Your Name and Jon Benet
My standup website has gotten a great new coat of paint, as thejuiceblog reader, Michael Popek did a wonderful job making it look better than I even hoped for. Unlike my myspace site, this website is dedicated to attracting corporate comedy shows. The concept is offering corporate comedy with an edge, so it has some new audio clips that I think give some flavor of what I do on-stage. Besides being the designer of my site, Michael also is an independent bookseller. Definitely check out his website. Included at popeks.com is some great sports memorabilia.
In more Scott Long news, I mentioned last year that I had googled my name and another person sharing my name always came up first. This Scott Long is a former contestant of the CBS show, "Big Brother". If you click on Google Images you get another surprise as some pics of him are from Playgirl. I had someone who had google imaged me ask if that was me? Let me note that despite the "uncanny" resemblance, I have never been photographed butt naked, while holding my rod in my hand. Well, at least not that I know of. Weird, but at least my name isn't John Mark Karr.
On the subject of Jon Benet, thank GOD we have that story back in the news, as the 24 hour sleaze merchants haven't been interesting enough lately, having to actually cover real news events. Since Natalie Holloway went on her failed Senior Trip, there hasn't been one story that women could get interested in. (Yes, I'm aware I'm stereotyping.) While I can't argue the world wouldn't be a safer place if women ran the planet, at the same time, it would also be a place filled with even more of these fluff pieces. Put me in the camp of people who would rather watch crazed religious extremist's trying to kill for Allah, Jahweh, or Aiken, than to watch that smug dude from Dateline trying to entrap pedophile's in the suburbs. By the way, if Dateline really wants to catch kid touchers, how about boarding a flight to Bangkok?
Oh and under the category of I HAVE TO SHARE, my favorite sick joke was told by David Spade on his 1998 HBO special. The line went something like "I don't get the whole fuss about Jon Benet Ramsey. I mean without her makeup, she wasn't even that hot." The best comedy often is the type that makes me ask myself, "what is wrong with me?"
One more note. If you want to get involved in the NL Playoff chase sweepstakes (see post below) the cut-off is Sunday at Midnight. I'm really hoping more people get involved, so put it out there. Remember that mediocre prizes will be awarded!
NL Wild Card Breakdown
There are 10 teams within 5.5 games in the NL wild card race. Add to this that the Dodgers and Cardinals are only a couple games ahead of Cincinnati and the National League has become Pete Rozelle's wet dream. It's time to handicap the race again. How do you see think the overall records will wind up, 1-12? The person who comes closest to being right will win a signed copy of my CD and book of essays, plus a baseball book that I will try to get out of the Will Carroll prize ditch. (Point system for our contest will be to guess where each of these 12 teams will wind up overall record wise. So if you get the teams in perfect order, you wind up with 12 points. Tie breakers will be how many of the playoff teams you get right.)
1. NL West Winner: San Diego
I'm sticking to who I picked at the midway point of the season, though I do like the direction my pre-season NL wild card choice (Phillies) are heading. I suspect that the Cards will just barely hold on to the NL Central spot, as the Reds and Astros will be in the race until the last week of the season. The Padres and Dodgers are the best teams going down the stretch in the National League, which will hurt the other NL West squads, as they will beat up on the other 3.
Now it's your turn. List out your choices and why?
Party at the Playboy Mansion (Comic Road Story No. 2)
(Today we have another stand-up comic story. I think this one will resonate with many of our readers. It was written by my friend, Rob Baxter, who is better known by just his last name. I highly recommend checking out his great website.
I have gone were most men have only dreamed....The Playboy Mansion! But first a little bit about me.
My name is Baxter and I have been performing stand up comedy for 7 years. The past five years I have lived in Los Angeles, CA. I used to live in Milwaukee but wanted more than just performing at gun shows and being funny guy #3 at the bowling alley. Best job I have ever had is doing comedy. I thought it was great being able to pay rent by standing on stage telling stories and rattling off jokes. This was only surpassed by filming a commercial and getting paid a $1000.00 for making a funny face. As with most guys I have a wishlist! I recently was able to cross number 9 off my "things to do before I die at the age of 37 from excess" list. Who knew in the same year Asian hooker also got a check mark!
A buddy of mine appears sometimes on the Tom Leykis radio show (an afternoon relationship talk show which is very popular in SoCal). Last year he was invited to do a live remote from the Playboy Mansion. He could bring along one guest....he took his brother. He knew I was emotional over his choice. Listen, I love porn. I have a P.O. Box where on any given day, adult dvds, fireworks and samples from the vodka of the month club fill my slot. I thought my dream would end there. Six months later he went back to the mansion and I was riding shotgun! As we pulled up to the gate I knew this more than a roadtrip and better than a naughty nurses VHS tape. I was double checked by large men with earpieces, as the place had more security than any border crossing I've seen. In a sense we did cross from the real world into what many would consider science fiction.
I had always heard stories about the mansion and seen the pictures in a front of magazines, however to see it first hand sends the message home. Topless cuties walking around with chocolate covered fruit, naked oiled chicks giggling as they bounced on a trapoline, and my favorite.....a blonde hottie walking with a monkey on a leash! If this wasn't enough, imagine 20 of the most beatiful woman floating in a pool nude. I say pool, but in reality it's the "Grotto", which is a man-made pond with waterfalls and caves.
Back to the radio show.....the "Mickeys Widemouth Girls" were there wearing nothing but green allbody paint. My friend was asked to do something with the girls, but he said his marriage wouldn't survive it. As I consumed duty-free booze I heard my name broadcasted over the sound system, as my now best friend had volunteered me! My assignment was to come up to the stage and lick the M and S off of one of the chicks. Times like this I'm glad I paid attention in school. Those magical letters were strategically placed on top of her areolas. After a minute I felt a tug on my shirt...and was told to wrap it up. I guess slurping sounds don't make for good radio.
As I left the platform I felt like a rock star......no wait, it was like I just rescued a family of four from a burning building and then went back for Mr. Tinkles, the cat! A couple hundred people were chanting "Baxter, Baxter", as I made my way to the bar. It made me think, what's next? Running for Alderman? Rob Schnieder came up and high fived me and said "nice Bax". After getting kudos from Duece Bigalow, I felt great. Three hours later, I departed with a sunburn, a buzz, a boner and a story.
As I left the mansion I thought this WAS my Christmas morning! To the girls it was just another thursday. God I love thursdays!!
(You can check out his myspace page by clicking on Baxter on my frontpage friends list. As a bonus, Baxter's myspace page features pics of the girls that he nibbled on!)
What are Your Favorite MLB Childhood Memories?
Driving into Kansas City last night, I was listening to the Royals long-time broadcaster, Denny Matthews. Matthews has that old-time Ernie Harwell type delivery, which brings back memories of my childhood, as he was one of the people I listened to on a regular basis. Baseball on the radio is something that can't be matched by other sports. Living in the middle of America, I was able to listen to 10 different teams, which gave me a thrill, as it felt like a connection to the rest of the country. Between the games and a steady diet of sports talk shows coming from KMOX in St. Louis (young Bob Costas), 700 WLW (Bob Trumpy), and WTAM (the great Pete Franklin), I felt somewhat informed about what was happening in the sports world. Remember this was before ESPN, the USA Today, or the Internet. I know I sound like someone's Grandpa sitting on the front porch reminiscing, but it was a different time.
Growing up in Iowa, I had no major league team to root for, which was a negative in that there was no common bond among your friends when it came to favorite teams. On the other hand, it made for more interesting playground discussions and baseball card trading was more lively, because it wasn't all about 4 boys trying to trade for the same players.
Living in the central part of Iowa in the 1970's, there seemed to be a pretty even split between the Royals and Twins fans, with the Cardinals and Cubs having a decent amount of market share, as well. This was before the Cubs had located their Triple A team to Des Moines. Actually, there was a fair amount of A's fan where I lived because for a stretch Des Moines had been an Oakland farm club. I guess as a toddler, I had been to a game with Vida Blue pitching. I know when I was told this at the age of 6, I was angry, because I wished very hard that I could remember the event.
My favorite team was the Tigers (I didn't become a White Sox fan until 1988), because I had went to my first game in Detroit. I have fond memories of playing imaginary baseball games by myself, throwing the whiffle ball up and slugging it in the air of my backyard, as I pretended I was Norm Cash, Al Kaline, or Willie Horton. Since Iowa didn't have a Major League team, the only time a non-playoff game was on TV was when there was the NBC Saturday game of the week featuring Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek.
Unlike major cities, which had independent channels, we had 4 stations to watch, so this one game a week was pretty much it, except for the occasional Sunday Cubs game. This was where my loathing of the Cubs began, as I was forced to feed my baseball addiction through the dismal doings taking place in Wrigley Field. Between the period of 1973-83 the Cubs never had a winning season. Add to this the incredibly boring announcing of Jack Brickhouse and Lou Boudreau and it seemed cruel this was my only choice. I seem to remember a time watching a Cubs game where Brickhouse actually fell asleep on the air. Urban Legend in my head or not, I can see why it could've happened, as between the announcing and the team's pitiful offense (exception being a few years of Bill Madlock), it formed a powerful sedative. Another annoying thing was how Boudreau would frame everything into the phrase, "now all you little leaguers out there should watch how Kessinger did this or how Trillo did that." Yeeech.
My childhood has shaped why I have a hard time just wanting to talk about only one team. Considering that Will lived a very nomadic life at a young age, as he followed his dad around from city to city, I'm guessing this is why he was never interested in covering just one team, either. While I like having a site of variety, I would be less than honest if I didn't mention I was jealous of the large amount of comments that happen at some other Toaster sites, because of their sense of commnunity. I'm going to try to make more interactive posts, as I want to develop a more interactive feel at thejuiceblog, especially now that the Creator (Will) has left. Please do me a favor and post whenever you feel the urge. The hits we get make me feel good about the direction the site is going, but feedback through comments and email is the best way for me to know how best to connect with you.
I'm looking forward to hearing about your favorite MLB childhood memories.
Sidekick Blogging in Honor of Will
Timing just might be the most underrated facet of life. I'm currently at LAX airport on the worst day of travel since 9/11. I would estimate the line wrapping around the building just to get into the airport terminal was over 2000 people. I don't want to put specific blame on any religion or race, but even Mel Gibson wouldn't blame anyone Hebrew today..
UPDATE; Since I was on a more obscure airline, (Frontier) I left only a few minutes late. The flight went well, wxcept that there were SNAKES ON THE PLANE!!!! Sorry, I couldn't help it.
I will get into it when I have more time and don't risk thumb arthritis, but let me mention that I'm really excited for the future of one Will Carroll. Like it or not, the guy deserves his meteoric rise, as he has found an untapped niche and has worked harder than anyone I know at his craft.
In regards to thejuiceblog, we will continue to do a lot of what we've been doing in the past. I see this blog as a place for baseball fans who are interested in pop culture, as well. I will go into more detail on where I see the site evolving, but I'm very excited about some of the new changes on the horizon at The Toaster.
Thanks for continuing to check in here.
You say goodbye, but I say hello. -- McCartney
I won't make this a long one. Due to recent developments, things that should come clear in the very near future, I am ending my involvement with "The Juice" blog. This is not a negative. I still believe Baseball Toaster is one of the best collections of minds around and certainly no reflection on the readers or writers of "The Juice" blog. I wish I could say more at this time, but as each second passes now, things will become clearer.
My posts had already dwindled due to time constraints and a general lack of anything worth saying. I'd always considered this a "corner bar" metaphorically, a place where anything might be discussed with a general center of baseball goodness. We've gone all over the map, subjectwise, and I'm proud of every word.
"The Juice" blog will continue, without me, though you may see me pop up in comments now and again. You'll still find me at Baseball Prospectus, Mind and Muscle, Total Texas Baseball, and soon, a couple new places, ones I think you'll like. I'd like to thank all the readers who have shared the experience with me.
I'm still not sure of blogging. I think the word is overused and misused. It's a new form of journalism, one that's continually evolving. Years from now, I doubt we'll even remember the word and the impact that it has on society will be assumed. Information will be ubiquitous, though I have no idea what form it will take.
Then again, I could be wrong.
I thank everyone here, especially my friend Scott Long and Toastmaster Ken Arneson. With a flourish of the virtual pen ...
Schizo Scott on Wang, NFL items, Vibe, Mel Gibson, Last Comic Standing, etc.
I read this blurb on benmaller.com, which was written by Ed Price of the Star-Ledger. (Put it in your bookmark section, as benmaller.com is the best sports link site on the web.)
Chien-Ming Wang's rate of 2.77 strikeouts per nine innings pitched is last among the 90 pitchers in the majors who qualify for the ERA title. Yet despite the lack of strikeouts, Wang -- scheduled to start tonight as the Yankees open a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox -- is 13-4. With 48 strikeouts so far, Wang could become the first pitcher in 17 years to win 15 games but finish with fewer than 75 strikeouts.
I've been blasted here in the past for not valuing strkeout ratio, enough, but I really think it's an overvalued commodity for starting pitchers. The approach I would take in building a team would be to try to build my staff with starting pitchers who have great control. These pitchers are generally cheaper buys and hold up better, as they have lower pitch counts per inning. By having lower pitch counts, they generally go longer into a game, minimizing the importance of the bullpen. I know this isn't revolutionary thinking, but I still read too many people I have a lot of respect for in the sabermetrical world who rate strikeout ratio too highly.
After seeing the most recent Vegas odds on who will win the Super Bowl, I would have to say the best bet is Carolina at 12-1. For a longshot, take a flyer on the Vikings at 30-1. Since the AFC is the dominant league, it's a lot easier to get to the Super Bowl from the NFC side and once you get there, you have a puncher's chance. (Remember the Seahawks outplayed the Steelers last year.) Why I like the Vikings this year is they should be more focused, after dealing with the Party Boat all last year, plus getting rid of Mike Tice should help them for an extra win or two. They will have one of the best offensive left sides of the line, with the top guard in the NFL, Steve Hutchinson joining the team. Add to this the return of a healthy Matt Birk at center and they are my sleeper.
The NFL announced that one of the candidates to replace Paul Tagliabue, CEO of Domino's David Brandon, had withdrawn his name. Why would the NFL want to be their new commisioner a CEO of a pizza chain that I wonder how is still in business. Domino's makes lousy pizza and ever since they discontinued the 30 minutes of free gimmick, they haven't had a corporate identity. Hey NFL, while you're looking at failed leaders from companies based in Michigan, why not give Bill Ford a call? I mean he has experience at running a sinking ship of a car company and a football team, all at the same time.
On the upcoming cover of Vibe Magazine, Janet Jackson has a picture where she is topless, but holding hers arms across her breasts. Cleverly, her infamous nipple is exposed, which I usually have no problem with. Janet is the exception. Since her nipple stunt at the Super Bowl, the moral police have used this incident to crack down on lots of other broadcast mediums that have nothing to do with the half-time fiasco. I'm on a lot of morning radio shows and disc jockeys are still running scared trying to figure out what they can and can't say. The Bush administration's FCC head has led the charge to institute totally insane fines against broadcasters. Hey, Janet (or Miss Jackson if your nasty), keep your Hoots to yourself, as a lot of us only have negative thoughts when we see them.
Question for Mel Gibson: If the Jews start all the wars, how do you explain Braveheart? From what I know about the history of William Wallace, he was a Scotsman who led his fellow countrymen against the British. I don't believe any of the Kings of England were of Jewish ancestory. Of course, the historical accuracy of Braveheart is not a lot better than the Passion of the Christ, but even if he just relied on his own movie's script, he would realize that his anti-semetic rants are pathetic.
Quick follow-ups on a few subjects discussed here recently.
* Last Comic Standing was excellent last week, as all 3 comedians left had very funny sets. While Josh Blue has been the stand-out personality on the show so far, I would mention that Chris Porter has a bigger wealth of material, which might be enough to push him over the top. Consider that if a comic does six different sets of comedy during the show's duration, the finalist's will have to perform around 30 minutes of TV-friendly material. Hey folks, that is not easy. Congrats to Josh, Chris, and Ty Barnett, as you are putting stand-up comedy in a good light. Also, Caroline Rhea's guest set last week, was really funny as well.
* The HBO documentary show, Tourgasm, had it's best episode last week, as it featured early video of the 4 main players on the program. All comedians have some embarassing early moments on tape doing open-mikes at dive bars. While practically none of us working comics will experience a sold-out auditorium like Dane Cook, the early videos presented a mirror of what comedy is like when you start out. Unlike music or acting, there are a very few overnight sensations in the stand-up world. It's more of a grind, where you develop your material and stage presence over time. From what I know, Dane Cook was no overnight sensation, as he's been working at his craft for a long time.
* The latest Muse CD, Black Holes and Revelations, just gets better and better. If you haven't checked it out, what are you waiting for?
Scott Long will be appearing at the new Chicago IMPROV with Frank Caliendo, October 19-22. I modestly mention that will be the Chicago Comedy Event of the Year, so I recommend getting tickets soon.
The signing of David Wright got me thinking ... and please note, these are thoughts I've jotted down in the midst of my work on tomorrow's UTK. They're not deep and certainly not complete.
Wright's signing is nice in and of itself, but
a) do these signings make sense? I call them "Hart Plan" signings based off the first round of these in mid-90's Cleveland. I'm not sure if that name still makes sense, though Hart's disciples seem to still be on the plan.
b) do these signings re-set the market? Pre-arb signings shouldn't have much of an effect, but do they in practice change anything? Can they put pressure on a smaller market team that can't make these signings (Milwaukee, Oakland) or are they no real advantage? (Milwaukee's signing of Sheets was pre-free agency, not pre-arb.)
b2) do these signings affect free agents? Does the signing of Wright make it harder for the 'small market' Nationals to re-sign Alfonso Soriano? Is there any connection between salaries of non-comparable players?
c) can we bury the term 'small market' and move to the more descriptive 'low revenue'? It puts the pressure more on the owner/business than the city/location to use the latter term. Small market implies that things must be done differently to survive in a city (tax breaks, cheap stadiums, etc), whereas low revenue implies that a business better get better and quick.
c2) is there a relationship between revenue and payroll? Doug Pappas' work on marginal win cost showed what relationship there was between payroll and wins.
d) does anyone honestly think they can accurately project out five years? Nate Silver does a pretty good job of it -- the best available publicly - with PECOTA, but a long term, pre-arb contract is going to try and match the true value with the market value and come in with a decreasing differential between those two lines due to the six-year free agency rules. Doing this means accurately assessing the true value in each of the pre- and in-arb years. Missing it, especially with injury risk (which can zero out the expected production quickly), can be devastating.
e) No team -- NO TEAM -- has a better injury risk model than PECOTA. I'm not toeing the company line here. PECOTA's model is nice, but a bit retrospective and median-based for me. Risk may be based on large sample sizes, but injuries are always individual. That difference is what makes my job so difficult. Injury analysis is actuarial at this stage, not predictive.
e2) If no team has a better risk model than PECOTA, then what the bleep are they basing their five year projections on? Answer: scouting and guesswork. That's not necessarily a bad thing. They may have the best information and your team's GM may be good at guessing. Gibson said 'information is the power and currency of the new millenium.' He must be a baseball fan.
I'm curious as to your thoughts.
A reader called me a sellout today. That barb has no sting. I would -- and have -- done this for free. I much prefer the paid proposition. Many call for revolution, but few are willing to hide in the belly of the horse.
Live at Gotham on Comedy Central
This year Comedy Central has replaced Premium Blend with a new stand-up program titled "Live at Gotham." The Gotham Comedy Club looks beautiful on television and the creators of the show have done an excellent job of having quality comics on the show. This Friday night, one of my closest friends, Dan Cummins, will be performing on the show. I highly recommend catching his act, as Dan is one of the best comics working the circuit. Patton Oswalt is hosting.
Another younger comic who has been part of my comedy mentoring program, Tommy Johnagin, will be appearing on next Friday's episode. This episode is hosted by one of the top comedians in America, Bill Burr.
Today will kick off a new feature that will appear at thejuiceblog. I have posted some road stories that have occured to me and I thought it would be interesting for our readers to get some strange occurences that have happened to some other comics. Below is an incident that happened to Tommy Johnagin. Enjoy.
The gift of porn from a stranger.
Last week I returned to Cedar Falls, Iowa and did a couple shows at the bar/dance club/pool hall/comedy club. I was there a year ago and had almost forgotten what happened until I pulled into the drive. This club is a place known by comedians who have performed there as the club where a local woman and her husband give you some good ol'homemade porn. They are swingers with a camera is what it boils down to. Kind of an important detail of the story is that they aren't the most attractive people ever. Most likely if she were hot, I wouldn't be complaining.
I have had offers from audience members to go out with them or come to their house and eat lunch but never an offer to watch them make the whoopee on DVD. After the first show, she stayed true to her legend and she came up to me with her husband. They barely introduced themselves before asking if I would like one of her videos. At first I thought the offer came out of nowhere, but then realized there is no smooth way of asking that question. "Great show, you are very funny. Where do you live, and oh, would you like a video of me banging some guy in a cheap hotel room?" So I guess they had to strike as soon as they had the chance.
I accepted her porn to be polite and because I was curious. About two minutes after handing me the video the husband says I guess we know what you'll be doing later, nudging me in my ribs and winking. Insinuating not only will I be masturbating but masturbating to his wife. Honestly after the majority of my shows someone could insinuate my evening ending in masturbation and be correct, but that doesn't make it ok. I wanted to say something but if I denied his accusations I envisioned him being offended saying, "what my wife ain't good enough to pleasure yourself to?" So I grinned awkwardly and looked at the ground ashamed of the situation.
I enjoy porn and think it should be available to everyone. WHEN THEY WANT IT. I don't need the Johnny Appleseed of adult film giving me free samples at a bar.
The next night the couple is at the show again, and to be honest I was a little afraid. I thought if they gave me homemade porn as soon as we met, what are they going to feel comfortable doing on our second meeting? "Hey we were getting ready to go have intercourse in the bathroom. Wanna join us?" Luckily that didn't come up because to be polite, I would have said yes.
After the show they came up to talk to me and it was almost normal until the husband started asking questions. He asked if I watched the video and what I thought about it. I don't know how to review good porn, let alone one filmed on earthquake vision at a crappy hotel. This porn had the quality of a third grade dance recital filmed by someones aunt who just bought the camera. What I thought to be the oddest thing was everyone at the bar knew about the couple and apparently thought it was normal. I think it would make a good "Twilight Zone" episode where everything is exactly the same, except that when you meet someone instead of shaking your hand, they give you homemade porn.
I finally decided maybe I was the problem and they weren't weird at all. I was rude and I shouldn't have been so judgmental about their life choices. So I apologized for not being very polite and ended the night with a seven person orgy in the DJ booth.
(Thanks Tommy. Make sure to check his calendar and check him out when he comes to your town. Especially the next time he is featuring for me.)
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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