Sunday, December 31, 2006

32 Bowls and Nothing On

The Cold, Hard Football Facts takes a look on how the bowl system has become diluted and has completely gone overboard. There are a record 32 bowl games this year and most of the teams that participated really weren't worthy of a "post-season" game.

The Cold, Hard Football Facts does a good job looking at how the bowls went from being pure and desirable to both watch or play in. Now bowl games have been whored out to make sure every team over .500 gets to ride the community bicycle. In fact the Seven Deadly Sins could be used to explain the current state of the bowl system.

Lust - teams desire the recognition that comes with a bowl appearance. The lust is so bad that teams will lower themselves to play in games like the Papa John's Bowl or the Meineke Bowl.

Gluttony - too much of a good thing. I think the record 32 bowl games fits this definition to a tee.

Greed - all around the bowls is avarice and the sin of excess. From the convention and visitors bureaus of the host cities to the schools looking to make some coin off the backs of the football players greed abounds in the bowl system. Greed may be a sin against God but the current bowl system is a sin against even the slightest pretence of amateur sports. Money talks is the simple explanation why we have 32 bowl games.

Sloth - the current arrangement exists because the NCAA is too lazy to implement a playoff system.

Wrath - there is a growing wrath among football fans who are sick of the fake bowls. Just look at all the empty seats and low TV ratings of the fake bowls.

Envy - maybe the sin that started it all. The idea of "we were just as good a team as team X and we should have been in a bowl too" - that's what sparked the expansion of the bowls in the first place.

Pride - this sin has been completely perverted. It was pride which made teams think they were too good to stay home and not go to a bowl game but now what kind of pride can you really take in participating in such a baloney bowl as the International in Toronto of all places?
Hitchens on the Hanging of Hussein

Christopher Hitchens, I believe, is anti death penalty in his beliefs but he makes the case that Saddam Hussein had to be killed.
This, in essence, also was the psychological underlay of the Nuremburg war crimes trials: The beasts had to die, and to be seen to have died. One could not bear to live on the same planet as them, and the memory of their victims would be profaned if they were long outlived by their murderers.
Sometimes Hitchens can be difficult to read but he makes you think and maybe re-think your own positions. That's the mark of a good writer.

Two weeks ago I went to see the movie Eragon. I thought it was a fine movie but the next day my eldest told me that she was disappointed because the movie skipped over or changed much that was in the book.

Being a Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter geek - I was intrigued and decided to read the book for myself to find out what she was talking about. Having finished the book a couple of days ago - I now understand what she meant. The book (as is almost always the case) was so much richer and more entertaining than the movie. Trust me - if you liked either the Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter books - you will also love Eragon.

What surprised me most was the fact that the author Christopher Paolini was just 19 when the book was published. So before the age when he'll be legally able to drink in most states - Christopher Paolini will have had two NY Times bestselling books (Eragon and Eldest) and a movie made from one of his books. Makes me feel like a piker.

You may have noticed that I updated the books advertised at the top of the site. I'm going to try and keep those books updated to the last six books that I've read. As always - it is greatly appreciated that if you buy something (anything) from - that you do it via one of my links.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Hanged

This is an old cartoon from the great folks at Fox & Corkum but its the one I immediately thought of when I heard the hanging had been done.

The Insidiousness of Sports Betting

The most exciting bowl game yesterday and perhaps of the bowl season so far was the one -point victory by Oregon State over Missouri - 39 to 38. The Beavers had scored a touchdown to close the score to Missouri 38 - Oregon State 37 with 22.1 seconds to play. All Beavers coach Mike Riley had to do was kick the extra point and send the game to overtime. Instead he went for the win with a 2-point play and when running back Yvenson Bernard broke the plane of the goal-line - the final score was insured.

Here's where the insidiousness kicks in. The point spread on the game had Oregon State giving three points. There were probably many die-hard Beaver fans rooting up in Oregon or at the game who were jacked and pumped at the thought of overtime because that gave them a chance to win or push. In overtime - the team would have won or lost just as the bettor did. Instead Mike Riley's gutsy call cost them money. Their team won but they still took a hit in their wallets.

Conversely - the die-hard Missouri fans who had bet on the game were similarly conflicted. Overtime gave them a 50-50 shot of winning the game but Yvenson Bernard's 2-point conversion meant that the team they root for lost but they won money on the deal.

Just another example of how it's usually best not to bet on teams you root for. Call me crass but in my opinion the Missouri fans who saw their team lose but who won their bets got the better end of the deal than the Oregon State fans who bet on their team.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy Birthday Theo

Today is Theo Epstein's 33rd birthday and I extend the warmest of birthday wishes. Enjoy your day Theo. Yes - enjoy today because most likely you'll be in for some rough sailing in the weeks and months ahead.

Red Sox Nation is watching you and to be honest - the bloom is off the rose. Right now all Red Sox fans are waiting to see who will be the closer in 2007 and the current situation doesn't make us happy. Mike Timlin and Brendan Donnelly smack of "closer by committee" - three words that send shivers down the spine of all Red Sox fans.

Now I know that "closer by committee" is misunderstood and that the reason the Sox went into 2003 without a true established closer was that there were none available as free agents. In 2003 it was more "what else could we do" than "closer by committee" but this year is shaping up differently. This year the perception is that you plan to trade Wily Mo Pena to either the Nationals for Chad Cordero or to the Pirates for Mike Gonzalez (who you traded away in 2003) but that transaction can't take place until JD Drew is signed.

All this smacks of trying to be too smart or too cute and from what I've seen - when you try to be too smart or too cute it backfires. Orlando Cabrera wanted badly to stay in Boston and the fans loved him but instead you got cute and signed Edgar Renteria instead. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think Boston is still paying a big chunk of Renteria's salary while he plays for the Braves. Last year you traded Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena because you thought the Sox had plenty of starters but in the second half of the season it was a lack of starting pitching which sunk the season. Only the Devil Rays, Orioles and Royals had worse team ERA's last year meanwhile Bronson Arroyo made the All-Star team for the Reds. Now we are waiting to see if JD Drew's shoulder can handle the scrutiny of a physical exam.

So enjoy the day and happy birthday. But tomorrow I'd like to see this closer situation squared away. And don't try anything cute.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Zito to Giants

Surprise - the San Francisco Giants have signed Barry Zito to a deal that will pay him an average of $18 million a year for seven years.

This could certainly put a kink in the proposed trade of Randy Johnson to the Diamondbacks (unless Roger Clemens signs soon). It also puts a bit of post Christmas coal into the stockings of the Mets and Rangers.

The Rangers are left with a pretty thin back of the rotation (Robinson Tejada and Edinson Volquez) while the Mets are in even worse shape with Oliver Perez and Dave Williams penciled in as the 4 and 5 starters. The Mets at least will have Pedro Martinez coming back midseason and just maybe Aaron Heilman will get a shot to start (about time!). Both teams should seriously start considering the possible wisdom of a four-man rotation.

It will be interesting to see the dominoes that fall following the signing by Zito with the Giants.
American League Central Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations about the American League Central.

Chicago – the White Sox starting outfielders averaged 18 HR and 66 RBI last season. The bad news is that 44 of those HR and 120 of those RBI came from Jermaine Dye. Scott Podsednik (3 HR and 45 RBI in 2006) is one of the most overrated players in baseball and Brian Anderson (8 HR and 33 RBI in 2006) hasn’t shown he can hit MLB pitching. If the White Sox get similar levels of production from their left fielder and centerfielder in 2007 then they won’t be making the playoffs this year either. Many rumors have surrounded the possible trade of one of Chicago’s starting pitchers but I think the thing to keep in the back of your mind is the fact that the White Sox have two closers in Bobby Jenks and Mike MacDougal (who just signed an extension). If MacDougal has a good first half – then he will be excellent trade bait to plug any hole for the White Sox come All-Star game time next season.

– suddenly the Indians have a relatively young team. Next year the average age for the infield starters will be just 25-years old and the two big stars – Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner are under contract for reasonable amounts for the next few years. The question for the Indians will be the bullpen which will rely on older players like Joe Borowski, Roberto Hernandez and supposedly soon Keith Foulke for closing down the late innings. It will be interesting to see if youngster Jeremy Sowers can be this year’s Jared Weaver. Personally – I’m not very high on 3rd baseman Andy Marte. It could be wishful thinking on my part hoping that the Red Sox did not give up anything great to get Coco Crisp but I also truly feel that there is more sizzle than steak when it comes to Marte.

Detroit – the Tigers are basically the same team that went to the World Series this year but they have added Gary Sheffield and will have Sean Casey for a full year next season. They will also probably have a healthy Mike Moroth as the 5th starter which gives the Tigers perhaps the deepest rotation in the AL (Boston could be the equal depending how Matsuzaka adjusts to MLB). The Tigers have Chris Shelton and Marcus Thames available as trade chips so they could make a move before spring training.

Kansas City
– I like the direction of the Royals under GM Dayton Moore. Right now they have a young team with quality depth that can be traded to fill in holes on contending teams that will be willing to give up top prospects. The Royals have 3rd base phenom and former College Player of the Year Alex Gordon ready to step up to the big leagues. That moves Mark Teahen to the outfield. Teahen was hot in the second half of the season last year with a .974 OPS after the all-star break and it looks like he’s finally figured out MLB pitching. With Teahen in the OF – that leaves a surplus including Reggie Sanders and Joey Gathright who could be big trade chips for teams needing a CF or veteran corner bat. There is also a surplus at first base with young players like Ryan Shealy, Justin Huber and Ross Gload competing for playing time (Mike Sweeney is pretty much a DH at this point). A trade of one of the young players is very possible but then again there’s nothing wrong with creating a stockpile. If Octavio Dotel comes back strong – then he could be another trade chip come the trade deadline. If the Royals can trade for some pitching and if prospect Billy Butler is as good with the bat at the MLB level as he has been at every other level – then the Royals just could be very competitive in just a couple of years. At the very least they will be fun to watch this season.

Minnesota – the Twins lost starter Francisco Liriano for at least a year to Tommy John surgery and starter Brad Radke for good to retirement. That’s 20% of all the innings pitched last season lost without any real replacement. This team has some stars in Johan Santana, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter but to me they are giving off the vibes of the 1973 Philadelphia Phillies who also had young stars Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Bob Boone and Greg Luzinski but still finished under .500 for the season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Torii Hunter traded if the team got off to a slow start and trading closer Joe Nathan isn’t out of the realm of possibility either if the right prospects are dangled.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Jessica Biel on Steroids?

As Pete Carroll would say, "She's jacked and pumped!"

After a while of looking at that photo - I started to search for an Adam's apple (although the Camel Toad was very distracting).
Stat of the Day

From SI's Jon Heyman:
When the Oakland A's have scored four or more runs for [Barry] Zito, he is an astounding 85-4, for a .955 winning percentage.
I did not know that.
Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford was first and foremost a good and honest man who wanted what was best for his family and his country. Ford was literally an Eagle Scout who could also be considered the ultimate example of the college student athlete. He was an all-American football player at Michigan who turned down the chance to play pro ball to get his law degree from Yale instead (it should be noted that back then the pay for pro football players wasn’t close to what it is today but can you imagine how history could have been different if Ford chose football over law school?).

Much will be made about Ford’s decision to pardon Richard Nixon and I think you will be hard pressed to find anyone today who thinks he did anything but the correct and honorable thing.

One thing that should be mentioned is the fact that Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan really did not like each other. Ford believed (probably until his dying day) that Reagan crippled Ford’s chance at election in 1976 by opposing him in the Republican primaries thus causing him to spend much of his monetary and political capital just to get the nomination. Reagan in turn looked at Ford as part of the Eastern Elite that was leading the country to ruin - a viewpoint which is kind of ironic since originally Ford came from Michigan and Reagan came from Illinois (but Reagan became a West Coast person in his mind and Ford because of his Yale schooling and alliances with people like Nelson Rockefeller became part of the Eastern establishment). People will mention that there was once a chance that Reagan was going to name Ford as VP or “co-President” in 1980 but those stories are complete fantasies which were raised in the press by people like Henry Kissinger who were just trying to raise their own profiles in hopes of getting jobs in the Reagan administration.

You will also see many mentions of people wishing they had their vote back in 1976 to do-over. However, I think the nation actually needed to see the perfidy of Jimmy Carter and a Democratic controlled Senate and White House to make the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 possible. If Ford had won in 1976 then it is very likely that we would have seen four years of vetoes and over-rides and finger pointing. Ford would have been unable to run in 1980 and it is entirely possible that the Republican President would have been blamed for "stagflation" allowing someone like Ted Kennedy to win election in 1980 instead of Reagan.

In the final analysis – America was lucky to have a good and decent man like Gerald Ford to smooth out the wounds from Watergate and to bridge the way to Ronald Reagan.

RIP President Ford and here's hoping that between you and Bo Schembechler that enough strings can be pulled in heaven to guaranty a Michigan victory over USC on January 1st.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Big Unit Back to Arizona?

There have been rumors that both San Diego and Arizona are interested in acquiring Randy Johnson. The Dodgers can’t let their advantage in the NL West evaporate – so they have to get involved too. I don’t like this idea because it would be a good move by the Yankees. Here are my thoughts on the situation:

Randy Johnson has a no-trade clause and only one-year left on his contract. That means that Johnson would have to approve a trade and the team trading for him will probably want to add another year with an option year to make it worth them giving up anything of value. Randy Johnson has 280 career wins - so something tells me he'd be willing to sign on for another year just to help guaranty he gets to 300 wins.

Arizona could use Johnson’s arm to help compete in the thin NL West and Johnson would be a fan draw similar to what Roger Clemens has been in Houston. With the new revenue that MLB is flush with coupled by the facts that the Diamondbacks haven’t signed any free agents while they simultaneously had Luis Gonzalez’ $11 million contract come off the books – mean that Arizona should have no problem affording the Big Unit at $16 million per year. Either Connor Jackson or Chad Tracy could be sent back to New York to fill the need at first base.

The Padres supposedly would send either reliever Scott Linebrink or first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in exchange for Randy Johnson but I think Gonzalez would be too much to give up since Randy Johnson wouldn’t have the same fan appeal for the Padres as he would have in Arizona. Besides if the Padres want a 40-year plus old pitcher – it would make more sense to try and sign David Wells.

The Dodgers could in theory send over James Loney in exchange for Johnson and that would give the Dodgers the best starting rotation in the NL (Jason Schmidt, Johnson, Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and Randy Wolf). The problem is that the Dodgers already have Chad Billingsley as the 5th starter and all things considered – I would go with the cheap, young, healthy Billingsley over the expensive, old, and injury plagued Johnson.

Getting rid of Johnson would free up a starting spot in the Yankee rotation for Roger Clemens or Barry Zito and hopefully they would get a first baseman in exchange. It has to be said that Johnson got old this season in New York. Every major stat was worse this year for Johnson and my guess is that the Yankees don’t see a rebound in store for 2007. As far me – I really don’t see either Roger Clemens or Barry Zito as a major upgrade over Johnson. What would make it a good deal is getting that young, talented first base man.

Trading Johnson would be a smart move by the Yankees and it appears to me that all the leaks on a deal seem to be coming from New York. That tells me that a deal will be done. A deal with Arizona.
The Boom Outside Baghdad

Interesting article today by Amir Taheri.
Newsweek has just hailed the emergence of a booming market economy in Iraq as "the mother of all surprises," noting that "Iraqis are more optimistic about the future than most Americans are." The reason, of course, is that Iraqis know what is going on in their country while Americans are fed a diet of exclusively negative reporting from Iraq.
I've long held the belief that things are better in Iraq than has been reported. About 25% of the country is fully under Iraqi control (including security) and another 55% of the country has Iraqi security forces in the lead. The economy is doing well in those areas and that is taking away incentive to join insurgents (an unemployed man is more likely to be dissatisfied).

Right now Iraq would be the number one issue in any national US election but if things are allowed to progress the way they have for another year and a half - then Presidential hopefuls in 2008 may have to look elsewhere for a cornerstone issue. The one thing that could change that is a widening of the war into Iran or Syria which is exactly why the administration is doing its level best to ignore the acts of war that Iran continues to commit.

In fact if things remain the same - I would look for talking tough on Iran to be a big selling point for the Republican nominee in 2008.
Happy Birthday Pudge

Today is Carlton Fisk's 59th birthday. Fisk was drafted by the Red Sox in 1967. He was the 4th choice overall. Who went ahead of Fisk?

1. Alec DiStaso P Cubs
2. Michael Flanagan P Yankees
3. Ken Singleton OF Mets
4. Carlton Fisk C Red Sox

Can you imagine if Fisk had been taken by the Yankees? Do you think the Cubs wish they had a do-over on this draft? Ken Singleton was good (3 All Star games) but he was no Rusty Staub and he certainly was no Pudge Fisk.
Top 5 - Best Humphrey Bogart Movies

Yesterday would have been Humphrey bogart's 107th birthday (although there is some confusion whether he was born on December 23rd or 25th). Here are what I consider his best 5 movies.

1. Casablanca
2. The African Queen
3. The Big Sleep
4. The Maltese Falcon
5. (tie) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (tie) To Have and Have Not (tie) Key Largo
Manny Ramirez

Sometimes people forget exactly how good Manny Ramirez is in historical context. Here are just some of the things that Manny can accomplish this upcoming season if he just has an average (for him) season:
Manny will probably move past Dwight Evans in total bases next year. Evans has 4230 total bases and is currently in 53rd place all-time.

Manny needs just 30 HR to reach 500 for his career.

Manny will most likely move into the top 25 in all-time RBI next season. Of the players in the top 25 only Barry Bonds, Raphael Palmeiro, Cal Ripken, Ken Griffey Jr. and Harold Baines are not currently in the Hall of Fame. Ripken will soon be enshrined and I think Manny and Griffey Jr. are locks (Bonds and Palmeiro have the steroid issue to deal with and Harold Baines is perhaps the best player not in Cooperstown).

Manny has a very good chance next year to catch Honus Wagner for 27th place in all-time extra-base hits. Manny needs just 69 extra base hits to catch Wagner and the past 3-years Manny has averaged 75 extra-base hits per year.

Manny needs just 77 RBI to pass Jimmy Foxx for 6th place on the all-time Red Sox list.

Monday, December 25, 2006

What Child is This?

The three wise men Star Trek Style?

More photos here.

HT Big Stupid Tommy
File Under - You Learn Something New Every Day

I learned something today that I found interesting enough to comment on. I was visiting Chad Finn's Touching All the Bases when I read how NFL punter Sean Landeta dated Donna Rice right after she torpedoed Gary Hary's Presidential campaign. I did not know that and two thoughts immediately came to mind; 1 - who were the more unlikely couple between Landeta and Rice or Tom Green and Monica Lewinski and 2 - this old joke about what Gary Hart actually said to Donna Rice:
I said lick my erection not wreck my election!
American League East Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations about the American League East.

Baltimore – this will be the second year the pitching staff will be under Leo Mazzone. I would look for some serious improvement over last year’s performance. Look for Erik Bedard to have a breakout season that sees him finish in the top 5 for the AL Cy Young. The questions on this team include whether highly touted Hayden Penn will be a valuable contributor or another bust. It will be interesting to see if outfield prospect Val Majewski gets playing time (an option made much more unlikely by the signing of Jay Payton). The biggest question mark, however, continues to be first base where Kevin Millar displays the glove and bat of the red rock ‘em sock ‘em robot. There is a rumor that Atlanta would trade first baseman Adam LaRoche in exchange for closer Chris Ray. The Orioles would have Danys Baez ready to take over at closer and that trade would give Baltimore a pretty potent line-up.

Boston – the big question mark for the Red Sox is who will be the closer? Mike Timlin and Brendan Donnelly appear to have the best shots at the job but both are better suited to being set-up men. Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield have also closed in the past but either one as closer is a real long-shot. Chances are the Red Sox will trade for a closer using Wily Mo Pena, Mike Lowell or Eric Hinske as bait. The official signing of JD Drew may be holding up a possible trade. Wily Mo Pena to the Nationals for closer Chad Cordero is a possibility though not one I’d be excited about. I think Pena could put up Alphonso Soriano type power numbers if given 500 AB (along with Soriano type strike-outs) and I think Cordero may have problems with the pressure that comes with being the closer at Fenway Park.

New York – the two big questions for the Yankees are who will be the 5th starter and who will play first base. Right now Carl Pavano is penciled in as the 5th starter but the words “injury prone” doesn’t begin to describe the disaster that has been Carl Pavano in New York. Andy Phillips is penciled in as the starting first baseman (with Jason Giambi the DH). It is very possible that Melky Cabrera will be dealt to fill one of these two holes. The Yankees have to wait to see what Roger Clemens decides before doing anything. Look for the Yankees to toss a boat load of cash at the Rocket to get him to sign.

Tampa Bay
– the Devil Rays will be dangling Rocco Baldelli as trade bait and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded to Atlanta for pitcher Chuck James. The move I would like to see the Rays make is to sign Victor Zambano to a minor league deal. That would certainly rub it in the Mets face.

Toronto – with the signing of Frank Thomas – the Blue Jays have one of the most powerful middle of the line-ups in all of baseball (Vernon Wells, Thomas and Troy Glaus). The two areas of concern for Toronto have to be the back-end of the rotation and keeping players healthy. Right now Shaun Marcum and Casey Janssen are penciled in as the 4th and 5th starters – that won’t get Toronto into the playoffs. Troy Glaus, Frank Thomas, AJ Burnett and Roy Halladay all have injury troubles and if two of those four players go down – so do the Blue Jays.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas Lima Style

What would Christmas be here at ALR without at least one more posting of Mrs. Lima and the twins? Merry Christmas to everyone who stops here and I thank you for your visits. Today I'll watch some football, have an early dinner with the in-laws, watch the kids in the Christmas play at church and then get together with my family over at my brother's house.

Have a safe and merry Christmas!
Battle of Trenton

Many Americans recognize the above picture of Washington crossing the Delaware but sadly few remember why he crossed in the first place.

On Christmas Day in 1776, the Americans under George Washington surprised English forces (mostly Hessian mercenaries) at Trenton, New Jersey. The victory was one of the most important American victories in all of the Revolutionary War.
The effect of the battle of Trenton was out of all proportion to the numbers involved and the casualties. The American effort across the colonies was galvanized and the psychological dominance achieved by the British in the preceding year overturned. Howe was stunned that a strong German contingent could be surprised in such a manner and put up so little resistance. Washington's constant problem was to maintain the enthusiasm of his army for the war, particularly with the system of one year recruitment and Trenton proved a much needed encouragement.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dear Santa

All I want for Christmas is a flying car.

If I can't have a flying car - then maybe instead you can get some of the readers of A Large Regular to buy me beer.

Want FREE BEER? Click here.

Please Santa! Pretty please!
Heh Heh

Something Awful
has created some pretty amusing album covers in their latest Photshop Phriday.

They've done this before. This was my favorite from that group.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I Still Miss Joe

Joe Strummer died on this day four years ago at age 50.

Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Little Steven and Dave Grohl pay tribute to Joe Strummer of the Clash.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Festivus!

Festivus (a festivus for the rest of us) is traditionally observed on December 23rd but the great thing about Festivus is that it can be observed any day during the holiday season. Different people celebrate Festivus in different ways. What was the genesis of Festivus? Well here' what has to say:
This man's name is Frank Costanza. During a routine outing to secure a Christmas gift for his son George, events transpired which would forever change the landscape of the holiday season.

In his own words: "Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had -- but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way! [The doll] was destroyed. But out of that, a new holiday was born. 'A Festivus for the rest of us!'"
The three major elelments of Festivus include:

The Festivus Pole

As a symbol of the anti-holiday commercialization, devotees of Festivus display a large pole in a prominent location in their home or dwelling. The pole is aluminum, chosen due to its very high strength-to-weight ratio, and is never decorated (this stems from founder Frank Costanza's belief that "tinsel is distracting"). After the celebration is over, it is not uncommon for a pole to be placed in an out-of-the-way place, such as a crawl space.
Not sure if rebar qualifies but in the spirit of Festivus - anything is possible!

The Airing of Grievances

"Welcome, new comers. The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you're gonna hear about it!" -Frank Costanza

During the Festivus celebration, friends and family come together to recognize the holiday with an annual dinner. While no specific foods are relevant to the holiday, the dinner contains the most vocal of the Festivus traditions: the Airing of Grievances.

During the Airing of Grievances, a Festivus devotee informs all those in attendance how they disappointed him the year before. It is also a time to report any ongoing problem or irritation that one is having with anyone else celebrating at the dinner. Everyone in attendance is given the chance to speak before the last tradition of Festivus begins...
The Feats of Strength

"Until you pin me, George, Festivus is not over!" -Frank Costanza

In accordance with Festivus tradition, the celebration may not end until two people participate in a contest known as the Feats of Strength. During this event, the head of the household (or the host of the Festivus dinner) challenges one of the guests to a test of physical strength. The challenger may choose anyone as an opponent and a challenge may not be refused unless, of course, the challenged has a previous engagement.

You can find more info on Festivus here.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Finally the seventh book has a name

Now if JK Rowling will just finish the book! I want the last book to be as good as possible but damn I'm getting impatient!

EDIT - The new book already has a Wikipedia page
Two Coaches vs One?

The Patriots are playing Jacksonville on Sunday and the Jets are playing Miami on Monday. The Patriots just need one win or one Jets loss in the final two games to win the AFC East. I have to wonder if Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been on the phone with Miami coach Nick Saban to help game-plan against the Jets and their coach Eric Mangini. I wonder this because not only is a Jets loss in the Patriots interest (and Belichick is famous for covering all the details) but there is a personal dynamic at work at well.

Nick Saban and Bill Belichick used to work together and there is still a friendship (both personal and professional). Meanwhile Eric Mangini used to work for Bill Belichick but now Belichick strongly dislikes Mangini (I stopped short of using the word "hates").

The other reason I bring this up is because it is hard to imagine a worse situation for a coach to be in than to be playing a game on the road where the game plan against you was drawn up by Bill Belichick and Nick Saban (two of the best minds in the game). Right now the Dolphins are a 2.5 point favorite and if Nick and Bill are indeed plotting together - then I think I'll be giving those 2.5 points and taking Miami come Monday night.
Peace on Earth

HT Hugh Hewitt
President Bush Taken Out of Context

By now you've probably heard or read about President Bush saying in regards to Iraq, "We're not winning, we're not losing". That quote has been spun by the MSM into almost a declaration of defeat. What gets left out though is the fact that Bush prefaced that comment with something like, "I agree with General Pace's view."

Assuming that General Pace's view is similar to the man he worked most closely with - Donald Rumsfeld - let me quote from Rumsfeld's final Pentagon "Town Hall":
I read the other day somebody was comparing the length of time we've been in Iraq to the length of World War II totally ignoring the period after World War II, where the German government didn't even have a government I don't think until 1949, and the -- trying to compare what we're in today -- I mean, just take Iraq or Afghanistan. The military can't lose. They can't lose a battle let alone a war over there, but they also can't win because it is not a conventional conflict. There isn't an army, a navy or an air force to go defeat. It takes political and economic activity, and you need that three- legged stool for success to be achieved. And that takes patience, and we have to understand that as a society, as a people and not be impatient.

I mean, I -- and I'll tell you that people over there in uniform get it. They really do. I was in Walter Reed the other day, and a fellow just come in with multiple wounds, and he was on his back and he had a tube in his nose. And he looked up and he said, "If only the American people will give us the time, we can do this. We're getting it done." And it's a fact it will take patience, and it will take understanding. And yet it takes that sense of urgency on the part of the people here, as we know, because we have such an important responsibility.
Emphasis added.

You can see that a full context gives a completely different perspective and I must believe that if I knew the context implied then the writer for the Washington Post must have also and that their defeatist slant was intentional.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

San Francisco Giants Cancel Old-Timers Game

Because all the old-timers will be on the active roster.

David Pinto has an interesting breakdown on the AARP Giants.
Another Iraqi Province Turned Over to Iraqi Control

Security for the Iraqi Province of Najaf has now been turned over to Iraqi forces. Najaf is now the third Iraqi province whose security is now in the hands of the Iraqis (joining the Provinces of Muthanna and Dhi Qar).

Iraq is physically about the same size as California. If you subtract the geographical areas of the three provinces now turned over and the Province of Basra which is scheduled to be handed over shortly - then the area our military has to control now shrinks to about the size of the the state of New Mexico.
Sunday - Bloody Sunday

I thought this was pretty clever.

HT BifSniff
Top 5 – George Roy Hill Films

Today would have been director George Roy Hill’s 85th birthday (he died in 2002). You probably haven’t heard of George Roy Hill but you have heard of his movies. Here are what I consider his top 5:

1. Slap Shot
2. The Sting
3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
4. The World According to Garp
5. Slaughterhouse Five

It should also be noted that Hill was a Marine who fought in both World War II and Korea.
Allen Iverson to Denver

Probably my first thought when I heard that Allen Iverson had been traded to Denver where he will (eventually) team with Carmelo Anthony was to remember back to a few years ago when Guns and Roses went on tour with Aerosmith. That tour was the original “toxic twins” (Steven Tyler and Joe Perry) with the new wannabe “toxic twins” (Axel Rose and Slash). This trade of Iverson to Denver made me think of the original “thug life” now being partnered with the new wannabe “thug life.”

From a basketball talent standpoint – I think this is a win for the Nuggets both short-term and long-term.

The 76ers basically acquired a good point guard (Andre Miller), cap space (Joe Smith) and two first round picks. The question has to be asked - how comfortable do Philly fans feel with Billy Kings making the picks? Here are the last six players taken by the 76ers in the first round of the draft - Thabo Sefolosha, Louis Williams, Andre Iguodala, Paccelis Morende, Jiri Welsch and Sam Clancy. Only Louis Williams and Iguodala are still on the roster.

The Nuggets now have a team that can now really run with the Suns and they now have two perimeter guys who can drive and get the big guys from Houston or San Antonio in foul trouble. The trade gives them a real shot for the next couple of years to do some damage. As far as long-term – the Nuggets already have a pretty deep roster full of young players. They can afford to lose the two draft picks this year. Of course Iverson and Anthony may just turn out to be literal toxic twins but that could be very entertaining too.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

David Zucker's Take on the Iraq Study Group

Is it just me or does David Zucker have a clearer idea of foreign policy and domestic taxation than any of the people who have announced they running for President in '08?

HT Instapundit
Holiday Parties and the Buffalo Theory

It is the time of year where many people will over-indulge themselves with food and drink. The food will make you fat but the alcohol consumption may make you smarter going into the new year. At least that's what Cliff Claven's Buffalo Theory postulates:'s like this... A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as
the slowest buffalo and when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Now, as we know, excessive drinking of alcohol kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers."
So eat drink and be merry. The extra food will motivate you to exercise more in the new year and the beer, wine, mead or drink of choice may make you smarter (or at least more tolerable).
Brad Radke

Today longtime Minnesota Twin pitcher Brad Radke will call it quits. The one thing that stands out for me about Radke is his work ethic. In 12 major league seasons - Radke pitched over 200 innings in 9 of them. Radke won 20-games in 1997 - giving him a distinction Mike Mussian will never have.

Radke is also one of the top 5 baseball players born in Wisconsin.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Knicks / Nuggets Brawl

By now you may have seen the brawl between the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets last night at Madison Square Garden. You will hear many people discuss and describe the brawl in the next few days and words like “disgraceful” will be tossed about. One word that I don’t think should be used to describe what happened is “unexpected.”

What good did George Karl believe would come from having his starters on the floor – up by 19 with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game? Nothing good could come from that situation and Karl has been around long enough to know it. I don’t like George Karl to begin with (I think his nickname should be George “First Round Loss” Karl) but he has to be made to answer the question of what the hell was he trying to prove by having the starters still on the floor.

Surprise! Surprise! A team coached by Isaiah Thomas loses control. Who couldn’t have seen that happening? The only good to come from this whole brawl is the fact that maybe it turns out to be the final nail in Isaiah’s coffin.

The NBA in general is also to blame. Just look at how the NBA markets its product. It went from "fan-tastic" where the fan was the focal point and fast moving, slick passing action was the product to today where individual players are held up as the reason to attend a game. The NBA doesn't try to sell the idea of come to see the Nuggets - they try to sell the idea that the fan should shell out his hard earned money to see Carmello Anthony – the sucker puncher..

The team is secondary to the marketing of the player in the NBA and this leads to a whole series of problems of its own.

Many players make just as much off shoe sales than their NBA salary, so "street-cred" is all important in making sure the homies want to buy the shoes. The NBA has bred a "disrespect me and I'll pop a cap in your ass" mentality in the players and now the NBA brass will act surprised that something like this happened? That's BS and the fact that I typed the very same words two-years ago after the Malice at the Palace shows that the problem is not getting better.

I admit to feeling like a bit of a hypocrite because I do enjoy a good hockey fight. However, the fight in hockey usually has a purpose – to change momentum – to get the team fired up – or retaliation (a way to protect the stars from having players make runs at them). In basketball a fight is almost never about helping your team.

So last nights fight may have been many things but I don’t think “unexpected” is among them. Just like lower NBA TV ratings – people could have seen this coming a mile away.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


I went to see the movie Eragon last night. The movie has been long awaited by the kids in the house so it was important for them to see it opening night - so I went along too. It was a good movie and worth the price of admission but like any movie that is from a popular book - the talk on the ride home was more about what wasn't in the movie that what was.

Here's the trailer to the movie for those not familiar with what I'm talking about.

You may also want to read the books since the movie was clearly a set up for a sequel.

Top 5 - Best Remaining Baseball Free Agents

Here are who I consider the top 5 remaining baseball free agents.

1. Barry Zito
2. Roger Clemens
3. Mark Loretta
4. Marcus Giles
5. (tie) Aubrey Huff (tie) Jeff Suppan

I have Zito ranked over Clemens because Zito will play for more than one year and will play a full year for whoever signs him. I really thought that someone would have offered Aubrey Huff too much money by now.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bagwell vs the Crime Dog

(Jeff Bagwell officially retired today and I thought I would re-post spomething I wrote last March)

With Jeff Bagwell all but retired - the big question now becomes "is Jeff Bagwell a Hall of Fame Player?" After careful consideration - I have to say no (but no with a qualifier).

If Fred McGriff doesn't get into the Hall of Fame - then I don't think Jeff Bagwell should either.

McGriff played the tail end of his career during the "chicks dig the long ball" steroids era but nobody has ever even hinted that he was anything other than a true gentleman who did things the right way, the natural way, the Tom Emanski way. Bagwell played most of his career during the inflated statistics period of steroids abuse (I won't say "use" because steroids have been around since the 70's). Everyone agrees that Bagwell was and is a perfect gentleman but it has to be noted that steroid use was rumored about Bagwell to the point that Bagwell's mom had to weigh in on the matter. I don't think that Bagwell was a steroids user but you have to wonder how a player who couldn't hit home runs in the minor leagues ends up in the top 50 all-time in MLB history for dingers. It has become too tough to give any player the benefit of the doubt anymore once steroid rumors begin to circulate.

That means you just have to look at the numbers (taken from

- McGriff has more career HR, RBI and total bases.
- Bagwell has an MVP Award but McGriff has a World Series Ring. Both finished top 10 in MVP voting 6 times and both won 3 Silver Slugger awards at first base.
- McGriff was a post season monster with 10 HR in 10 series and a post season batting average of .303 and an OPS of .917. Bagwell had 2 HR in 9 post season series and hit an anemic .226 with a .675 OPS.

Bagwell has the fact that he played his entire career for one team going for him. He's the Astros all-time leader in HR and RBI (and also total bases but Craig Biggio should pass him this season). McGriff played for several teams during his career but was highly valued by everyone he played for. Simply put McGriff was wanted. Should McGriff be punished because teams trying to win wanted him on their rosters?

If you are going to buy the "but he played his entire career for one team" argument - what about Jim Rice? He was even more feared a player than Bagwell ever was. What about Dwight Evans (I refuse to acknowledge those final 270 at bats for Baltimore)? Evans was a more complete player than Bagwell and he's not in.

I would like to see Jim Rice and Andre Dawson get in the Hall of Fame before Bagwell (and I also think McGriff belongs before Bagwell too).

Sorry but that's just how I see it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Saddam Hussein

Three years ago today Saddam Hussein was found in his spider hole.

Let us not forget what he was wearing when he was caught.
Another Daisuke Matsusaka Thought

Actually not so much a new though as expounding on my last Matsusaka post.

Everyone seems to be comparing the Matsusaka signing and saying it is a deal in comparison to free agent signing such as Ted Lilly ($10 million per year for four years) or Gil Meche ($11 million a year for five years). Comparing the money is wrong – what they should be comparing is the ages of the pitchers.

Matsusaka is only 26-years old. None of the free agent pitchers signed or still available are younger than 28-years old. And the group who is 28 includes such “talent” as Tony Armas Jr., Joel Piniero, Jason Marquis and Gil Meche. You can argue that Matsusaka is or is not the best talent available (arguments could be made for Barry Zito, Jason Schmidt, Andy Pettitte and a couple of other pitchers). You cannot argue that Matsusaka is not the best young talent that was available.
Christmas Humor

I got a big kick out of this cartoon.

Remember - ten more shopping days till Christmas.
Daisuke Matsuzaka Signs and Gives Sox Young Core of Starters

With Daisuke Matsuzaka now in the fold the Red Sox now have the best core of young starters in all of baseball. This point can’t be stressed enough. Take a look at the core of the Red Sox pitching for years to come:
Josh Beckett – 26-years old and under contract for 3-years with an option for 2010.

Jon Papelbon – 26-years old and won’t be a free agent for another 5-years.

Jon Lester – 22-years old and won’t be a free agent for another 5-years.

Daisuke Matsuzaka – 26-years old and under contract for 6-years.
The average cost for the four above starters will be average lss than $25 million per year combined over the next four years. That’s a cost effectiveness that is near impossible to attain these days.

The Yankees in comparison will have three starters who will be 35-years old or older next season and the only starter they have contractual control over for more than two seasons is Chien-Ming Wang. There will be constant turnover in the Big Apple and New York is a tough place to get used to pitching in (witness Roger Clemens whose 4.60 ERA in his first year in New York was the highest of his career).

The only rotation that comes close to youth and talent is the rotation for the Florida Marlins where two starters are 24-years old and three others are just 22-years old. The Marlins boast a starting rotation of Dontrelle Willis, Ricky Nolasco, Scott Olsen, Josh Johnson and Annibal Sanchez. I still give the Red Sox the edge in talent and should point out that Willis will probably only be with the Marlins for two more seasons (if he isn’t traded before then).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Peter Boyle - Dead at Age 71

He always put a smile on my face and he will be missed (but fondly remembered).
A Suggestion to break the Daisuke Matsuzaka Impass

It has been reported that the Red Sox have offered Daisuke Matsuzaka $8 million a year for 6-years. Scott Boras meanwhile is asking for $11 million a year for 6-years. How about this as a way you break the impass and get this deal done by the December 15th deadline.

What I suggest is a contract that pays $9 million per year for 6-years base salary with an incentive clause that would pay Daisuke Matsuzaka a $2 million bonus for finishing in the top 5 in AL Cy Young voting. Over the past five years pitchers such as Cliff Lee, Esteban Loaiza, Jamie Moyer, Jarrod Washburn and Chien-Ming Wang have finished in the top 5. If Boras wants Daisuke Matsuzaka paid as a top player shouldn't the Red Sox have some guarantee that he'll perform as one?

I think if the Red Sox offered such a deal and Daisuke Matsuzaka turned it down - then I think it would be near impossible for Boras to get another client out of Japan.
Nothing Good Came Possibly Come from This

John Kerry will be going to Iraq to meet with soldiers and Iraqi leaders. John Kerry will just not give up on running for President again no matter how many people tell him its a bad idea.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Kal has a disturbing commercial from Europe.

Don't blame me if after you watch it the song Detachable Penis from King Missile gets stuck in your head.
Heh Heh

Great line from the Borowitz Report:
Elsewhere, according to close associates of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who died over the weekend at age 91, his last words were, “I knew I shouldn’t have gone to Taco Bell.”
Heh Heh

An oldie but a goodie

Be sure to read the bottom of the sign.
Top 5 - Frank Sinatra's Best Songs

Today would have been Ol' Blue Eyes' 91st birthday. Here are what I consider his top 5 songs:

1. My Way
2. The Best is Yet to Come
3. Fly Me to the Moon
4. New York, New York
5. (tie) The Lady is a Tramp (tie) That's Life

And as an added bonus - here is one of the funniest skits from SNL - The Sinatra Group.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The True Story Behind the Bonds Contract

ALR has obtained a secret recording of a conversation that took place last Thursday at the baseball winter meetings between Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and San Francisco GM Brian Sabean. The conversation spells out the true story behind the $16 million contract "offer" to slugger Barry Bonds.

Selig: Brian – it’s Bud here. Hey I just heard that Barry Bonds is here at the hotel. Did you know about this? Did you know he was coming?

Sabean: No. I had no idea he was coming. He just showed up unannounced with that damn entourage of his.

Selig: This is awful. Now all the news for the next few days is going to be about Barry. And every time there’s news about Barry - all people think about is steroids in baseball. We can’t afford the negative publicity.

Sabean: Well what do you want me to do about it? As far as I’m concerned Barry’s no longer my problem. His contract is up and I have no intention of offering him a new one. I’m well rid of that fathead.

Selig: Well we have to do something. What can we do to get rid of that piece of crap? Hmmm… what does he want? What will it take to make him leave? Wait a second – its so simple.

: What is?

Selig: All you have to do is offer him a contract and he'll leave. That’s the ticket.

Sabean: Maybe you don’t hear so well. I don’t want to offer Bonds a contract. I don’t want him back. That’s why I’ve been looking for a replacement for him.

Selig: Don’t worry. I know you don’t want him back. I just said offer him a contract. I didn’t say sign him. Just make him an offer close to what he made last year and say you’ll work out the details later in San Francisco. When it comes to the details just throw in a bunch of contract clauses that you know he’ll never agree too – such as a clause that says he gets nothing if he’s under an indictment.

Sabean: Yeah that would work and I could get a small measure of revenge on that prick. I could have a clause that says none of his entourage are allowed in the clubhouse or even on park grounds.

Selig: Heh, heh. You could toss in a clause that says he cannot refuse to pinch hit so he doesn’t embarrass the team like he did last year.

Sabean: Even better – I’ll toss in a clause that says that if he refuses to pinch run then he gets paid nothing. Heh , heh - I might even toss in a clause that requires him to dress up like the statue from Bob's Big Boy on picture day.

: So we have a deal?

Sabean: Yeah. I’ll offer him a one-year deal for $16 million right away. That should be enough to get his sorry ass on the next plane out of here. Then the real fun will start.

Top 5 - Best Versions of Dickens' Christmas Carol

1. Scrooge - with Alastair Sim
2. A Christmas Carol - with Patrick Stewart
3. Mickey's Christmas Carol
4. The Muppet Christmas Carol
5. Scrooged - with Bill Murray
Rumsfeld says Goodbye

I happened to catch Rumsfeld's "Townhall" goodbye on C-Span yesterday and was mesmerized. Lt. Smash has a good description of actually being there at this historic meeting. After watching the entire forum - I was left with three related thoughts:

1. I have a friend who is a Lt-Col with the Air Force Reserves and he likes to describe Rumsfeld as "three for four." What he means by that is that Rumsfeld was successful in the battle plans for Iraq and Afghanistan as well as being successful in helping to transform the military from the static forces of the Cold War to the agile forces required to face the dangers of the 21st century. The one failure my friend considers to be Rumsfeld's is the failure of the occupation of Iraq. Of Rumsfeld's successes the most far reaching (according to my friend) is the transformation of the Pentagon.

2. The only time during the Townhall that Rumsfeld seemed upset was when describing how the military has done everything it could in rebuilding Iraq but that some of the social and economic changes that need to take place are beyond the purview of the military and that the State Department has been given a free pass on the matter. In particular he spoke about how the DoD had no budget for training police in Iraq but the responsibility for such training (in the very least in the public's mind) had become somehow the responsibility of the military. Rumsfeld said that such training was -years behind where it needed to be because people in Washington could not see outside their own "silos" (my word). I've thought on what Rumsfeld said about it and I think he was 100% right.

3. Historians will be very kind to Rumsfeld. Very kind.

Rumsfeld was a lightning rod because he was such a "do-er". He got things done. That's why I think him leaving now may turn out to be a good thing. Without Rumsfeld to be the point and to take the blame (Rumsfeld NEVER took the credit) - people from State and Treasury and others will have to step up to the plate and help out with areas that they should have been handling all along. Rumsfeld being Rumsfeld shielded them from scrutiny but with Rumsfeld gone their dawdling will face the light of day.

Why things like training police were left to the military is a good question that deserves to be answered. The ISG will help put the State Department more front and center and that is a good thing because it is time for them to start sharing the load or at least starting to carry their fair share.
Ghost Rider

I'm really looking forward to this movie. I'm not sure Nicolas Cage would have been my choice for Johnny Blaze but it looks like he did a good job. Of course this movie could turn into the next DareDevil but something tells me that this movie will be a hit.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dwight Eisenhower Picks Today's NFL Games

(Today ALR is lucky to have former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in to make today's NFL picks. Without further ado - here is President Eisenhower's picks.)

Baltimore at Kansas City (-3): An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows. Baltimore coach Brian Billick fashions himself as a football intellectual. I'm just glad I just have to watch the game and not his press conference after the game. Herm Edwards is tough to like too but I'm a Kansas man and I'm picking the Chiefs.

Atlanta (-3.5) at Tampa Bay: The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. I don't see Michael Vick as a leader. I do see the Falcons stumbling today against the Buccaneers. Pick Tampa Bay.

Minnesota at Detroit (-1): Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field. Being a General Manager must have looked awfully easy to Matt Millen when he was in the broadcast booth. The Vikings are 0-5 against the spread the past five weeks and I think they are due for a win. Pick Vikings.

Tennessee (-1) at Houston: Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him. Tennessee did not wait for the future - they put Vince Young into the lineup to win now. And he has been winning. Tennessee has been a hot team and they have a superior coach. I like Houston and think they are moving in the right direction but I'm picking Tennessee.

New York Giants at Carolina (-3): I would rather try to persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone. Tom Coughlin has tried to persuade his team by treating them like adults and leaving it to them to handle the details. They have shown that they are not adults but children who need disipline. The team will be gone from Tom Coughlin at the end of the season and he will have to work hard to get them back. But for today - the Giants will put an end to their losing streak. Pick Giants.

Indianapolis (-2) at Jacksonville: Some people want champagne and caviar when they should have had beer and hot dogs. I want to pick the beer and hot dogs team - Jacksonville - but I have to remember that last year the Colts clinched the division with a victory in Jacksonville and I think they will clinch the division again today with a victory in Jacksonville. Pick the champagne and caviar team Indy.

Philadelphia (-2) at Washington: The older I get the more wisdom I find in the ancient rule of taking first things first. A process which often reduces the most complex human problem to a manageable proportion. The first problem Joe Gibbs had to fix was the QB position and since he's gone with Jason Campbell the other problems have become more manageble. I'm not saying that the Redskins have all their problems solved but I am saying that they have beaten both Dallas and Carolina at home and I look for them to win today. Pick Washington.

Oakland at Cincinnati (-11): History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid. Al Davis does not long entrust the care of his team to the weak or timid either. The Raiders may be awful this season but they are still 6-2 against the spread the last 8 weeks. Too many points to give up. Pick Raiders.

New England (-3.5) at Miami: In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. Nobody plans better than Bill Belichick. Easiest pick of the day. Take the Patriots and give the points.

Green Bay at San Francisco (-4.5): The world moves, and ideas that were once good are not always good. Brett Farve was once good. Pick San Francisco.

Seattle (-3.5) at Arizona: Dennis Green must feel like the fellow in jail who is watching his scaffold being built. Pick Seattle.

Buffalo at New York Jets (-4): You don't lead by hitting people over the head-that's assault, not leadership. I'm not sure if Mangini is leading or hitting people over the head. Pick Buffalo.

Denver at San Diego (-8): Only Americans can hurt America. Only the Chargers can hurt the Chargers in this game. Pick San Diego.

New Orleans at Dallas (-7): Only strength can cooperate. Weakness can only beg. The team that cooperates best in this game will win. Tony Romo seems to have the Cowboys cooperating on offense and I can't forget that the Saints have not beaten a team with a winning record yet this year. Pick Dallas.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Top 5 - Kirk Douglas Movies

Kirk Douglas turned 90-years old today. Happy birthday Kirk!

Here are what I consider his 5 best movies.

1. Spartacus
2. Paths of Glory
3. Seven Days in May
4. Lust for Life
5. There was a Crooked Man

That last one is not very well known but an enjoyable romp-western co-starring Henry Fonda.
Top 5 - US Ambassadors to the UN

1. Jeane Kirkpatrick
2. Jeane Kirkpatrick
3. Jeane Kirkpatrick
4. Jeane Kirkpatrick
5. John Bolton

Kirkpatrick was one of the great ones and she will be missed.

The Miller Center culled two rememberences from Ken Andelman about Jeane Kirpatrick that was worth a glance (PDF). She was adored by Ronald Reagan and she got under Al Haig's skin. What's not to like about that? The sentiment that she was a brilliant woman who refused to wear a "Kick Me" sign as US Ambassador to the UN may be the best summation of her career.
Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations.

- First off – congratulations to UMass for making it to the 1-AA (it will always be 1-AA to me – that new name is the equivalent of New Coke) Championship game. The Minutemen are the best team in 1-AA and it is a shame they had to play this game on the road. Their only loss was a 1–point loss at Navy (a team that will be playing in a 1-A Bowl game) – what else could UMass have done this season? Good luck boys!

- Andy Pettitte signed with the Yankees for a 1-year $16 million contract with a player option for a second year. Rumor has it that Pettitte would have re-signed with Houston if they increased their offer from $12 million to $14 million. If this is true and the Astros let Pettitte slip away over $2 million – then I think it is clear that Houston made a big mistake. The Astros can spin this as not wanting to give that second year but Pettitte has pitched over 200 innings 3 out of the past 4 seasons and I don’t buy that excuse either. Just a stupid, stupid move to let him sign with the Yankees. Consider that the Astros are trying to trade for Jon Garland who is owed $22 million over the next two years whereas Pettitte at $14 million per year would have cost them just $6 million more but they would not have had to give up centerfielder Willy Taveras, pitchers Taylor Buchholz and Jason Hirsh to resign Pettitte. Stupid, stupid move by the Astros.

- Tom O’Brien is leaving BC to coach at NC State. I wish him well. He did a very good job turning BC football around. Now I hope defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani or offensive coordinator Dana Bible get the BC head coach job. They have been as much a part of BC’s success as O’Brien and I hope one of them gets rewarded for it. Frank Spaziani will be coaching the team in the Meineke Bowl against Navy. The Eagles are a 6 point favorite and I look for them to roll.

- I’ll never drink another Rolling Rock. They shut down the plant in Latrobe, PA and now they are trying to obscure that with the new dancing gorilla ads. As far as I’m concerned – the only dancing gorilla is the Anheuser-Busch company (the 500-pound gorilla in the beer industry) and I won’t help pay for the tune by buying Rolling Rock beer.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Separated at Birth?

New Red Sox outfielder JD Drew and Victor McLaglen (well known actor for such films as The Quiet Man and Gunga Din among others).
Baseball Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous baseball thoughts and observations.

- Barry Bonds signs a one-year deal to go back to the Giants. I had hoped that Bonds would be unemployed. Now I'm left to hope one of three things happens - Bonds gets hurt and doesn't break Henry Aaron's record; Bonds gets sent to jail and can't play because he perjured himself; or Bonds can't pass his physical.

- There's a rumored deal that would send Rhode Island's Rocco Baldelli to the Braves for pitcher Chuck James. It seems like an even deal but I'm not sure if I like it from the Braves perspective. James is the "prospect" but he's actually a year older than Baldelli. However, James still has five more seasons until he can be a free agent. On the other hand - acquiring Baldelli frees up the Braves to make a mega trade involving Andruw Jones.

- Tom Verducci said last winter that the trade of Mark Lorreta from the Padres to the Red Sox in exchange for Doug Mirabelli was the worst trade of that off season (bad for rhe Padres). However, San Diego later turned around and traded Mirabelli back to Boston for Josh Bard (who hit .338 for the Padres) and Cla Meredith (who is just 23-years old and who had a 1.07 ERS in 45 games last season). Which may mean the moral of the story is that it is not always possible to judge a deal right away.

- Two thoughts on the Gil Meche signing - yes it was an awful signing - too much money for a mediocre pitcher. However, consider that much of that money very well could be traced back to the luxury tax money the Royals got from teams like the Yankees and Red Sox who were overspending before overspending was popular. Secondly - I would be curious how the Meche deal is structured. If it is backended - then the Royals could very well get two productive years out of Mech before trading him before the trade deadline. If the actual deal is Meche for two years at $8-9 million per year and then flip him for some prospects - this this could turn into a very good deal for the Royals. Of course this still represents a very big risk for the Royals.

- Now that I pointed out a potential silver lining on the Gil Meche deal - let me point out that David Ortiz was signed by the Red Sox last April to a 4-year extension worth $52 million. The Royals will be paying more to Meche than the Red Sox will be paying Ortiz. Wrap your brain around that one for a minute.

- One little nugget regading the Dodgers signing Luis Gonzalez to a one year deal - the Dodgers can now play two players in the outfield who went to the University of South Alabama (Gonzalez and Juan Pierre). In fact it is possible that the Dodgers could play Marlon Anderson in the outfield in order to have an all University of South Alabama oufield. The only other U of South Alabama alumni in MLB is Jon Lieber but look out for Blue Jay slugger Adam Lind who could someday challenge Gonzalez for the most HR in MLB history by a player who went to the University of South Alabama.
Another Christmas Blast from the Past

This is still funny a year later

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Just Saying

The Red Sox did not re-sign Pedro Martinez because it was too expensive and Pedro wanted a fourth year on the contract. The Red Sox did not want to offer a 4th year because they were afraid for Pedro’s health. So the Sox let Pedro go and instead signed Matt Clement. How have they compared so far (numbers are for 2005 and 2006 combined):

Martinez – 24-16 / 54 GS / 349 IP / 3.45 ERA
Clement – 18-11 / 44 GS / 256 IP / 5.09 ERA

Clement’s contract is for 3-years and $25 million and he will not be pitching this year at all. Pedro signed with the Mets for 4-years and $53 million. Pedro was hurt last season and had shoulder surgery which should keep him out till around the All-Star break this season.

Optimistically it looks like the Mets will get 3-years of Pedro on the field over the life of the 4-year deal. Whereas the Red Sox will only get 1.5 years out of Clement for his 3-year deal.

Also consider that having Pedro could have made a world of difference in 2005 as the Red Sox were defending their championship and also consider that Pedro will probably retire when this contract expires. How much would it have been worth to have Pedro retire as a Red Sox player and have his number retired?

Not re-signing Pedro was a bad move by the Red Sox front office. I did not think so at the time but back then I still trusted that Theo and Lucchino knew what they are doing. Last year they declined to give Johnny Damon a 4th year on his contract because they were afraid his health would not hold up and so he was forced into the arms of the Yankees. Now the Red Sox give 5-years to a player with a worse health history than Pedro or Johnny Damon and we are supposed to give them the benefit of the doubt? I should be happy about these latest moves but I can't forget the moves that weren't made and the reasons that were given at the time for not making them.
Remembering Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941 - the United States was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. This site has a very interesting timeline of the attack - click on the multimedia map and timeline.

The United States has a hard time remembering days like this because in essence we are a forward looking people who doesn't dwell on the good or bad in our history. I find it sad that if you gave a pop quiz to most high school seniors - over 50% probably couldn't tell you the significance of today's date.

Like I said - it's sad but I understand.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Another Christmas Classic

It's a Wonderful Life in 30 seconds and re-enacted by bunnies.
100 Large on the Don't Come with Hillary and McCain as the Number

A New York Stock Exchange investment expert made a $100,000 bet that neither Hillary Clinton nor John McCain would win their party's nomination for President in 2008. He's getting 7 to 5 odds which means his $100,000 bet could win him $140,000.

Personally - I think he's making a very good bet. McCain is too old and devisive in many circles and Hillary is well - Hillary.

HT California Yankee
Heh Heh

This took me a second but then I almost busted a gut laughing.
Braves / Pirates Deal

The Pittsbugh Post-Gazette reports a deal that would send Adam LaRoche from the Braves in exchange for closer Mike Gonzalez is on hold.

My initial reaction to this deal is to not like it from the Braves point of view. A starting 1st baseman who is just 27-years old and can hit 30+ HR with a .900+ OPS is more valuable than a closer with a history of injuries. Right? LaRoche also has 3 more years before he becomes a free agent.

After thinking about it for a moment – I asked myself if I would favor a Wily Mo Pena trade for Mike Gonzalez and I think I would go for that transaction. Pena is even younger than LaRoche and just a big a threat to hit a HR every AB. You also have to consider that the fate of the NL East seems to turn on who has the most reliable closer these past five or six years and that the Braves have Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the wings to play first (he’s just to big too play catcher).

So after thinking about it – I think this would be a good trade for both teams as long Gonzalez’ elbow is healthy.
Happy Birthday Steven Wright

He turns 51 today - here are a few of his gems:

I've been doing a lot of abstract painting lately, extremely abstract. No brush, no paint, no canvas, I just think about it.

I was once walking through the forest alone. A tree fell right in front of me -- and I didn't hear it.

I have a map of the United States... Actual size. It says, "Scale: 1 mile = 1 mile." I spent last summer folding it. I also have a full-size map of the world. I hardly ever unroll it. People ask me where I live, and I say, "E6".

I bought my brother some gift-wrap for Christmas. I took it to the Gift Wrap Department and told them to wrap it, but in a different print so he would know when to stop unwrapping.

For my birthday I got a humidifier and a de-humidifier... I put them in the same room and let them fight it out. Then I filled my humidifier with wax, and now my room is all shiny.

In my house there's this light switch that doesn't do anything. Every so often I would flick it on and off just to check. Yesterday, I got a call from a woman in Germany. She said, "Cut it out."

A cop stopped me for speeding. He said, "Why were you going so fast?" I said, "See this thing my foot is on? It's called an accelerator. When you push down on it, it sends more gas to the engine. The whole car just takes right off. And see this thing? This steers it."

A friend of mine is into Voodoo Acupuncture. You don't have to go. You'll just be walking down the street, and... Ooooohhhhhh, that's much better...

I can remember the first time I had to go to sleep. Mom said, "Steven, time to go to sleep." I said, "But I don't know how." She said, "It's real easy. Just go down to the end of tired and hang a left." So I went down to the end of tired, and just out of curiosity I hung a right. My mother was there, and she said "I thought I told you to go to sleep."

When I woke up this morning my girlfriend asked me, "Did you sleep good?" I said, "No, I made a few mistakes."

When I was little, my grandfather used to make me stand in a closet for five minutes without moving. He said it was elevator practice.

On the other hand... You have different fingers.

I was watching the Superbowl with my 92 year old grandfather. The team scored a touchdown. They showed the instant replay. He thought they scored another one. I was gonna tell him, but I figured the game *he* was watching was better.
Shortstop Musical Chairs

In 2004 the Red Sox traded Nomar Garciaparra who had been their starting shortstop for much of my adult life. The trade that sent Nomar out of town brought in Orlando Cabrera who helped Boston win a World Series in 2004 - their first World Series in 86 years.

That off-season, however, the Sox jettisoned Cabrera in favor of Edgar Renteria (even though Cabrera badly wanted to stay with the Red Sox and Red Sox fans really liked Orlando). Renteria signed a 4-year $40 million contract with Boston but he only lasted one year before getting shipped out of town for Andy Marte who was in turn traded for Coco Crisp. Once Boston was no longer an option – Cabrera signed a 4-year $32 million contract with the Angels.

Last year the Red Sox signed Alex Gonzalez to a one-year contract and he proved to be the best defensive shortstop in Red Sox history. Gonzalez was allowed to walk away though and the Red Sox front office watched him sign a reasonable 3-year $14 million contract with the Reds.

Now the Red Sox have signed Julio Lugo to a 4-year $36 million contract. Just for fun let’s compare the offensive numbers from the past 2-years from Cabrera, Renteria, Gonzalez and Lugo:

Cabrera – .270 BA / 165 R / 17 HR / 129 RBI / 48 SB
Renteria – .284 BA / 200 R / 22 HR / 140 RBI / 26 SB
Gonzalez – .260 BA / 93 R / 14 HR / 95 RBI / 6 SB
Julio Lugo – .263 BA / 160 R / 18 HR / 94 RBI / 63 SB

Just to gleam a couple of things out of the stats – when you consider the team chemistry, the defense and the offense – Orlando Cabrera was the best of the bunch. Going purely by the numbers it would seem that Renteria was the best but he couldn’t “handle” the pressure and scrutiny that comes with playing in Boston.

By the numbers I posted it would seem that Gonzalez and Lugo are fairly close in offense but one number I did not post was OBP. Gonzalez has a career OBP of .292 (which is lousy) while Lugo has a career OBP of .340 (which is OK – not great – just OK). Basically it is the OBP that means that Lugo was almost $5 million more valuable to the Red Sox front office. For comparison sake – Cabrera has a career OBP of .317.

With hindsight - probably the best move for the Sox would have been to re-sign Orlando Cabrera when they had the chance but that means they never would have gotten Andy Marte who they flipped for Coco Crisp. So maybe this is a case of alls-well that ends-well.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

JD Drew Signs with the Red Sox

JD Drew has signed a 5-year deal worth $70 million with the Red Sox and I really don’t know how to feel about this deal.

On one hand – I can be positive about this deal and point out that lists Jim Edmonds as the most similar player through age 30. If the Red Sox are getting the offensive equivalent of Jim Edmonds for the next five years – then this is obviously a good deal.

I can look at the positive but I must be honest and say that trying to adopt that attitude makes me feel like a chump. Like a Pollyanna. I have to say that I don’t get it. To echo Bob Ryan, “Why the fascination with JD Drew?”

With JD Drew in the fold the Red Sox now have four players who should be starting but only three positions. It looks like Manny Ramirez in left, Coco Crisp in center and now JD Drew in right. That leaves Wily Mo Pena seemingly out in the cold.

Why did the Red Sox trade Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena if he wasn’t in their plans? Or is he? Maybe there is another shoe to drop. I speculated about this before. Maybe a trade of Manny, Coco or Wily is in the cards. I guess we just have to wait and see.
Another Christmas Classic

Dress up Jesus
Iraq Symposium Idea

Instapundit was looking for some ideas on helping improve the situation in Iraq that weren’t the same old – same old. I’ve long held an idea that I think is worth a look. I think using unions in Iraq could change – maybe even radically - the sectarian violence that is currently plaguing Iraq.

Many Unions have the word “International” in their name – why not put that “International” idea to the test in Iraq? Good jobs with good benefits are things sought by all people. You would think that unions and their higher wages would be most welcome in a nation with an average yearly salary of $3,600. A couple of points about this idea:

1. Teamsters could help bring order to the shipping and transportation industry. I’m sure the trucking companies would pay more if that extra payment brought a sense that the job would get done in a timely and professional manner. And I’m sure that the Teamsters could figure a way to spread the word that an attack on a truck driven by a Teamster is an attack on all Teamsters and they will be going all Jimmy Hoffa on the people who did it. That should help make the distribution of goods and services more reliable and thus more affordable throughout the country.

2. Unionize the jobs in the oil industry and make sure the people filling those jobs are local people from the nearest “Local”. This would give the workers a sense of ownership and it could also decrease attacks on oil producing facilities since the “local” people would be more aware and more willing to protect the facilities because they are invested via their union jobs. A healthy oil industry is key to the economic well-being of the country and unionizing the jobs could help greatly in meeting that end.

3. It is tough enough to unionize a company here in the United States - in many cases it is a long bitter struggle. That would obviously also be true in Iraq but for different reasons. However, union officials are usually not people to shy away from a fight when it comes to the principles of union jobs. Making unions a key component to the rebuilding of Iraq could emotionally involve union folks in the US and thus tie a key element of the Democratic Party to the long-term success of our mission in Iraq. It has been my experience that the words "union man" and "cut and run" don't go together.

4. The idea of union “Locals” could help bring more religious tolerance to the country. It is unions who use the word “brothers” to describe their membership. Over the past century and a half in the US – it did not matter what ethnicity, skin color or religious affiliation a person had – what mattered was that the person was a brother in the union. Hopefully the same would be true in Iraq. Can you imagine the impact it would have if it mattered not if a person was a Sunni, Shi-ite or Kurd but whether a person was a brother in the union? What a great example that would be for the rest of the country.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Trade Thought

I'm not in favor of trading Manny Ramirez but if it has to be - how about this for a trade proposal?

Red Sox send Manny to the Dodgers for Brad Penny (or Chad Billingsley) and James Loney (plus a AA pitching prospect). The Red Sox then send Penny (or Billingsley) and Eric Hinske to the Brewers for Bill Hall. This way the Red Sox fill their need at short and the additions of Hall and JD Drew (rumored to be signing with the Sox) help replace Manny's production at the plate.

I'm not sure if the Brewers want to trade Hall but they do need a top pitcher more than Hall right now. Plus with JJ Hardy and Craig Counsell at short and Corey Koskie at 3rd - it looks like Hall may have to go to the outfield to play full time for the Brew Crew. Maybe its just wishful thinking on my part but I'm not alone in thinking something is strange in the Brewers roster moves and how they affect Bill Hall.

Getting Loney would give the Sox their 1st baseman of the future and allow Kevin Youkilis to either be trade bait or move to 3rd next year when Mike Lowell's contract is up.