Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Texas Rangers Trade Deadline Haul

You know - I think the big winners of the MLB trade deadline were the Texas Rangers.

Take a look at the talent balance sheet for GM Jon Daniels and the Rangers:

- They trade Mark Teixeira to the Braves and get back the three players Baseball America had rated as the Braves top prospects (Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus and pitcher Matt Harrison) plus prospect pitcher Neftali Feliz and Beau Jones thrown in for good measure.

- They trade Eric Gagne to the Red Sox for pitcher Kason Gabbard and Minor League outfielders David Murphy and Engel Beltre.

- They trade Kenny Lofton for Minor League catcher Max Ramirez.

That's at least one starting catcher, one starting pitcher, and a fourth outfielder just for next year. In the near future they will also probably get at least a starting shortstop, starting outfielder and another starting pitcher out of this haul. AND ALL THE PLAYERS WILL BE CHEAP!

Don't overlook that last point. By shedding Teixeira, Gagne and Lofton the Rangers have saved about $7 million for the rest of the season. By trading Teixeira (after making a PR face-saving $140 million contract extension offer) the Rangers save another estimated $12 million next year too. Then you factor in the appeal to fans to come out and see Salty, Gabbard and some of the other kids and you wind up realizing that the financial windfall from the trade-deadline for the Rangers was at least equal to the talent haul they got in return.
Kevin Garnett to the Celtics

Kevin Garnett is coming to the Celtics and I'm very happy about it. This trade is almost the definition of the five nickels for a quarter type trade (although with Al Jefferson included in the deal - it is more like one dime and four nickels for a quarter).

Garnett is a Hall of Fame player. Yes he's at the tail-end of his career but that's OK because he's still one of the five best in the game. In the NBA a quarter always has way more value than the five nickels.

The key for Minnesota is Al Jefferson who as a 22-year old averaged 16 PPG and 11 RPG. When KG was 22-years old he averaged 20 and 10. I think those numbers give false impressions though because this year garbage time started in Celtics games during the first quarter. Jefferson will be an excellent player in the NBA but he will never be Kevin Garnett.

OK - that's the dime - what about the nickels? Theo Ratliff was thrown in because of his expiring contract. Gerald Green probably will never be a starter for a playoff contending team. I think Danny Ainge made McHale take Sebastian Telfair off the Celtics hands as part of the trade. The only player I'm not real happy about giving up (besides Jefferson of course) is Ryan Gomes. I think Gomes is a solid contributor. However, I think the Celtics must feel that his numbers can be made up by rookie Glen "Big Baby" Davis.

Five nickels for a quarter. You always give up the nickels to get the quarter.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Dotel to Braves

The Braves have acquired closer Octavio Dotel from the Royals in exchange for young starter Kyle Davies. This seems like another win-win trade for the Braves.

I don't think Dotel can handle the pressure of being a closer but he seems to thrive in a set-up role. I also think that Kyle Davies has better stuff than his 4-8 record and 5.76 ERA would indicate.

Let's be honest - from the moment the Royals signed Dotel to a 1-year $5 million deal (with a player's option in 2008) everyone knew the plan was to trade him at the trade deadline. The Royals got a soon to be 24-year old starting pitcher. The Royals can take a risk on Davies in the rotation next year and if he fails - hey just release him or send him to AAA. If the Royals, on the other hand, can help Davies overcome his early game problems (his ERA in his first 30 pitches is over 10.45 for his career) then they could have a real keeper.

I have to wonder if Liberty Media is behind this buying spree by the Braves or at least is OKing the moves? The Braves as an asset were pretty much lost among all the other Time Warner holdings but as a Liberty Media property they get a much higher corporate profile.
Teixeira to the Braves

It looks like it's official - the Rangers are trading Mark Teixeira to the Braves for a package centered around catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and shortstop prospect Elvis Andrus plus two more prospects.

This trade could be the proverbial "win-win" situation for both teams.

For the Braves it gives them a solution to their black hole at 1st base. Not only does Teixeira have perhaps the best power bat available this trade-deadline - he also brings with him Gold Glove caliber fielding. With Teixeira in the line-up - the Braves are pretty solid 1-7 in the batting order. This puts Atlanta in a very good position to win either the NL East or the NL Wildcard.

Next year Texeira will probably get at least $12 million through arbitration but Atlanta will probably be losing at least that much when Andruw Jones goes the free-agent route. If Andruw Jones does leave as a free agent - then the Braves will get two top draft picks in compensation and they get to reload the farm system once again to make trades like the one for Teixeira possible. It should be noted that given the facts that Teixeira went to Georgia Tech and the Braves have Mike Hampton's contract coming off the books after 2008 - the Braves should not be ruled out re-signing Teixeira long term.

In the deal the Braves also got lefty reliever Ron Mahay. That helps strengthen the bullpen and again makes the Braves a formidable opponent down the stretch.

From the Rangers perspective - they had to trade Teixeira. They could not afford to risk keeping him and having him get injured. In Saltalamacchia and Andrus - the Rangers got the Braves' two top prospects (according to Baseball America). It is also rumored that the Braves will be including pitching prospect Matt Harrison in the deal. If true then that would be Atlanta's top 3 prospects according to Baseball America. How could the Rangers hope for more than that?

Two things to consider. From the Rangers position - I'm not sure how confident I'd feel about still wet behind the ears GM Jon Daniels dealing with the master of the trade John Schuerholz. In all the deals that Schuerholz has made the only prospect I can think of that went on to become a star is Jason Schmidt. That has to make Ranger fans at least a bit nervous. From the Braves position - I'm still not sold on Teixeira being the great hitter everyone cracks him up to be. Teixeira has almost a 60 point difference between what he hits at Arlington and what he hits on the road. His OPS is over 100 points lower on the road than it is at home. That has to be a red flag. At least the Braves have a one-year audition to see if Teixeira really can hit outside of Arlington (facing NL pitching should help there).
Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations.

I think Michael Strahan may not really be thinking of retiring but instead just wants to skip 2-a-days without getting fined. If he says he's thinking about retiring then its tough for the Giants to fine him. Any other excuse gets you fined the minute you miss the first practice... Much has been made about Jose Canseco's comments to WEEI about "having something" on Alex Rodriguez. Most people have assumed that it is regarding steroids but I was listening to the interview as it happened and I took Canseco's comments that A-Rod is "not the person you think he is" (quote taken from memory) to be some insinuation about A-Rod's sex life. There are already rumors that A-Rod is a "swinger" and maybe that's what Canseco was referring to.... It was 27-years ago today that JR Richard had a stoke. The stoke ended Richard's baseball career and put him on a downward spiral that saw him become destitute and homeless. Now 57-years old it seems like Richard has gotten his life back together and is now a Christian Minister... The Mariners are in the midst of a playoff hunt but yet you hear rumors that Richie Sexson is on the trading block. Strange...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Great Trade for the Red Sox

Alex Speier has a look back at the trade that brought Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe to the Red Sox in exchange for Heathcliff Slocumb.

Excellent job by Speier. It's amazing in hindsight that Seattle did not want to do a Ken Cloude for Slocumb deal straight-up.
Red Sox Magic Number - 50

The Red Sox magic number is now down to 50.

The number 50 also happens to be the number lefty Jamie Moyer wore for the Red Sox in 1996. Of course Moyer did not last long in Boston because then manager Kevin Kennedy liked fireballer pitchers and Moyer pitched with his head and not his balls. So the Red Sox traded Moyer for Darren Bragg - a player who didn't have much talent but sure got dirty playing. Kevin Kennedy's type of player.

Since leaving the Red Sox - Jamie Moyer has won 166 games.

These days the Red Sox embrace crafty lefty pitchers like Kason Gabbard and Jon Lester. And Kevin Kennedy hasn't been able to get a big league managing job since being fired by the Red Sox.

The Red Sox have 58 games left. If they just went .500 for the rest of the season - then the Yankees would have to go 38-20 just to tie. That's a .655 winning percentage. I think Yankee fans should just accept the fact that they are not catching the Red Sox.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tim Wakefield and Stats

Tim Wakefield pitched six innings giving up just one run to help lead the Red Sox to a 7-1 victory over the Devil Rays last night. The stat that Tim Wakefield is now 8-0 against Tampa Bay in Tampa Bay and has beaten them 17 times overall kept being brought up during last night's broadcast.

As impressive as those numbers against Tampa Bay are - it is other numbers and stats about Tim Wakefield that I think are even more impressive.

Last night Tim Wakefield went into the game tied with fellow knuckleballer Joe Niekro in 89th place on the all-time strikeout list. Wakefield's 7 strikeouts last night not only broke the tie with Niekro but was also good enough to move him past Jason Schmidt and put Wakefield into 87th place all by himself with 1754 career strikeouts. The name that caught my eye on the list of all-time strikeouts was Ron Guidry at 84th place with 1778 strikeouts. Tim Wakefield could pass Louisiana Lightning in strikeouts? That gives some perspective into how good Wakefield's career truly has been so far.

Also the win last night gives Wakefield 163 wins for his career. That puts Wakefield just one win away from breaking into the top 200 for wins in baseball history. Maybe just as interesting it puts him just one win away from tying knuckleballer Wilbur Wood (and 4 other pitchers) in 196th place. Another name that caught my eye on the all-time wins list was Ron Guidry tied at 177th place with 170 wins. That's within striking distance for Wakefield.

Wakefield may not be close to being as good as knuckleball greats and Hall of Famers Phil Niekro or Hoyt Wilhelm in the pantheon of knuckleball pitchers but it can be argued that he's the in the company of Wilbur Wood and Joe Niekro. The strikeout list and wins list certainly support this.

I have mentioned Ron Guidry in relation to Wakefield on both the strikeout list and wins list. It is true that Guidry played in parts of 14 MLB seasons while Wakefield is now in his 15th season. That puts them about on an even playing field even if you say that Guidry's first two seasons shouldn't count because he spent most of those seasons in the minor leagues with just under 33 innings pitched with the Yankees. Those first two seasons for Guidry are offset by the time Wakefield had to spend in the bullpen and by the 1994 season where Wakefield got zero innings pitched at the MLB level (because of pitching in the minors and the MLB strike).

Now I am not trying to argue that Wakefield is close to being as good a pitcher as Ron Guidry but I am using this opportunity to show how just going by the stats can be misleading. Wakefield will most likely pass Guidry in both strikeouts and wins in comparable time spent at the MLB level but is not close to being the pitcher Guidry was at his peak. Mike Mussina, meanwhile, has pitched in 17 MLB seasons and has amassed 244 career wins. Mussina is a borderline Hall of Fame pitcher but in my book Mussina isn't close to being the pitcher Ron Guidry was and yet because he has stuck around to amass stats Mussina will probably get ten-times the Hall of Fame votes than what Guidry received.

Going full-circle back to Tim Wakefield in Tampa Bay, I'm surprised that back in 2000 when Wakefield was a free-agent that a dome team like Tampa Bay or Minnesota didn't try and scoop him up. Consider that in addition to the success Wakefield has had in Tampa Bay he's also 7-3 at the Metrodome with an excellent .216 batting average against some pretty good hitting Twins teams.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Washington Nationals Trade Possibilities

With the trade deadline looming on the horizon - I will try to take a look at what chips some of the teams who are out of playoff contention may put in play. Earlier I looked at the Baltimore Orioles, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago White Sox and the Texas Rangers. Today I will take a look what players from the Nationals may hit the market.

- Dmitri Young is either rumored to be on the brink of being traded or being re-signed to a two-year deal. It looks like it will be the latter with the deal reported to be 2-years and $10 million. Of course that leaves open the question about what the Nationals plan to do with Nick Johnson next season. Speculation is that Jim Bowden may be planning on playing the hefty Young in left field when Johnson returns which brings the status of Ryan Church into question. Young probably won't be traded and thus doesn't belong in this discussion but I could not resist the opportunity to point out how Jim Bowden continues to make moves that nobody understands. With the 2-year contract - Young is almost guaranteed to be with the Nationals longer than Bowden.

- Ryan Church - I've never understood what the Nationals have against Ryan Church. They play him when people get hurt and he does a fine job but then the toss him back on the bench. This year he's gotten to play full-time and has been so-so. I have to wonder if he'd do better somewhere where he gets positive reinforcement. Maybe Church gets involved in some three-team trade where Billy Beane or one of the smart GM's use Bowden. Maybe the Cubs will have interest (I keep mentioning outfielders being dealt to the Cubs because eventually I'll be correct).

- Chad Cordero - lots of teams need a closer or a top set-up man. Scott Linebrink just brought 3 minor prospects which means Bowden will ask for the moon for Cordero. He's been rumored to being going to the Mets but you can't trust rumors when Jim Bowden is concerned because he tends to leak his own version of reality.

As strange as it seems - the Nationals may actually turn out to be buyers instead of sellers this trade deadline. Bowden may try to avoid rebuilding out of fear that he won't be there to see the job done. He may also go after former Reds players like Adam Dunn or Wily Mo Pena.
Top 5 - MLB Players from Seton Hall

With Craig Biggio announcing his retirement at the end of the season - I started wondering about who the top players from Seton Hall were. Here's my list.

1. Craig Biggio
2. Mo Vaughn
3. Matt Morris
4. John Valentin
5. Rick Cerone
Why Prohibition Really Ended

A very interesting article about why Prohibition really ended. According to the article it wasn't that Prohibition was a bad idea - it was that the Depression crushed tax revenues and the government needed the money liquor taxes would bring.
There's no doubt that widespread understanding of Prohibition's futility and of its ugly, unintended side-effects made it easier for Congress to repeal the 18th Amendment. But these public sentiments were insufficient, by themselves, to end the war on alcohol.

Ending it required a gargantuan revenue shock -- to the U.S. Treasury.
Maybe the folks who want to legalize marijuana should earn a lesson from this and instead of trying to get marijuana legalized based upon the merits of doing so - they should start arguing about legalizing marijuana as a way to raise new revenues to help save Social Security.

HT NRO's Corner

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harry Potter

If you are a Harry Potter fan then this interview of JK Rowling is a must read.

At the very least you learn about who the Victoire was that Teddy Lupin was "snogging".
Man on Fire

I loved the movie Man on Fire starring Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning. It spurred me to buy and read the book by AJ Quinnell. I thought the movie was great but that the book was 10-times better (a great summer read by the way). That helps explain why I was so curious when I saw that there was an earlier (1987) version of the movie.

I happened to see that the 1987 version of Man on Fire was on cable so I tuned in to watch. Let me just say that the movie was awful. You would think that a movie that starred Scott Glenn and Joe Pesci and featured Jonathan Pryce and Danny Aiello couldn't be that bad - but you would be wrong. The movie was awful, awful, awful. It was so bad that film students should be made to watch this version to see how a director can ruin a great book by trying to be too artsy and writing a convoluted screenplay instead of just using the plot from the book.

A couple of interesting things that I did not know are 1) AJ Quinnell is the pen name for Philip Nicholson (who died in 2005), 2) the Marcus Creasy character was in a series of books (kind of like a Travis McGee character - whereas I thought the Man on Fire book was a one-time deal for the character) and 3) AJ Quinnell (Nicholson) had the same agent as JK Rowling.

Now that I know that there are other Creasy novels - I'm going to have to go out and get a couple. I'll probably start with The Blue Ring or Message From Hell (or whatever Quinnell book is easiest to find).

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Red Sox Magic Number - 56

The Red Sox magic number keeps going down and now it stands at 56.

Right now I associate the number 56 and the Red Sox with pitcher Craig Hansen. I have to wonder if Hansen will be with the Red Sox much longer though. He was a fireballing closer out of St. John's University but since he was represented by Scott Boras instead of being a top pick - he dropped down to the Red Sox at the 26th pick in the first round. Now it seems (according to Peter Gammons) that Scott Boras and his "experts" fooled around with the kid's delivery and somehow managed to take the fire out of the fireballer's delivery. I would not be surprised if Hansen was trade bait for the trade deadline.

Overall, though, when a New England sports fan thinks of the number 56 - probably the name that jumps to mind is Andre Tippett - the great linebacker for the New England Patriots. Tippett played 12 seasons for the Pats and if it wasn't for the fact that he played at the same time as Lawrence Taylor - Tippett would have been a shoe-in for the Football Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Teddy Bruschi - Still Alive

There was an Internet rumor floating around that Teddy Bruschi had died of a heart attack. That rumor is false (unless we have a zombie Bruschi on our hands).

Seriously - Teddy Bruschi cannot die. He possesses the Elder Wand, the Cloak of Invisibility and the Resurrection Stone. Teddy Bruschi is the Master of Death - he cannot die.
Craig Biggio - Hall of Famer

Craig Biggio announced that 2007 will be his last season. This should come as a surprise to nobody who has been paying attention. What is surprising is that some people still do not think Biggio is a Hall of Fame player.

Never mind the fact that he has 3,000 hits (which has always been a sure ticket to Cooperstown). Consider that Biggio was able to play three of the toughest positions in baseball (catcher, second base and centerfield) and play them at top levels. Consider that all-time he's currently 14th in runs scored (he'll probably finish his career in 12th place) and that all the players ahead of him on the list are Hall of Famers except Pete Rose, Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson. Consider that Biggio has more total bases than either Mickey Mantle or Mike Schmidt. Consider that when he's done only Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Pete Rose and Tris Speaker will have hit more doubles in baseball history. Consider that he has more extra-base hits than either Robin Yount or Paul Molitor. And consider that Biggio will probably finish his career with the record for being hit by a pitch.

How can anyone argue that Caig Biggio is not a Hall of Fame player?
Cindy Sheehan

I've been reluctant to say anything about Cindy Sheehan because she is the mother of a fallen hero and because I honestly believe that she may be mentally imbalanced. I don't mean that last statement with any sort of malice. Sheehan lost her son, lost her husband (divorce) and was thrust into the limelight as a sort of Mother Theresa of the Anti-War movement all pretty much at the same time. It was obviously too much for her to handle. I felt sorrow when I saw her being used by others for their own ends.

That's why I now have to chuckle since the chickens (so to speak) are coming home to roost on the folks who tried to use Cindy Sheehan instead of helping her.
"The Democrats will not hold this administration accountable, so we have to hold the Democrats accountable," Sheehan said outside of Conyers' office after the meeting. "And I for one am going to step up to the plate and run against Nancy Pelosi."
The right doesn't listen to Sheehan but the Left having created a media superstar now has no choice but to cover her. If they deride her as a "kook" then the question has to be asked, "Did you know she was a kook back when you were playing her up as the absolute moral authority on the war?" If the media admits culpability then they lose another part of their dwindling credibility. If they continue to cover Sheehan - then they contribute to the further splitting of the Democratic Party. It's a catch-22 that will be fun to watch play out.
Touching Story

This story has turned me into s Jason Simmons fan.

I hope that these sorts of deals for uniform numbers become a trend.
Red Sox Magic Number - 57

With the win at Cleveland last night - the Red Sox new magic number is now 57.

The number 57 happens to be the number that Rod Beck wore when he first got to Boston in 1999 (he changed his number for the 2000 season and hopefully we'll be changing the magic number today). However, the number 57 is probably most associated with Heinz Ketchup and of course around here when you think of Heinz you think of John Kerry-Heinz the "trophy" husband of Theresa Heinz-Kerry.

I'm just saying but I would put the number of current Red Sox players that supposed Red Sox fan John Kerry-Heinz could name at two and if this was a real bet - I'd seriously consider taking the under.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Solving the NBA Ref Problem

The Tim Donaghy scandal has rocked the NBA and rightly so. Bill Simmons has a very good column on the situation. What Simmons does not discuss, however, is a way to prevent this from happening again. I have a simple solution.

The NBA should have a pool of former coaches, players and referees whose integrity is beyond question (say like a Bob Cousy or Dave Bing). The NBA would have each NBA game reviewed by three people (a former coach, former player and former referee of college or pro experience). Only the NBA front office would know who was assigned to each game. The former players, coaches and referees could view the game from the comfort of their own homes and via a Tivo like set up be able to have VCR type controls so that they could rewind, replay, etc. The trio of reviewers would independently make notes of any calls they thought were in error or excessive. If two of the three reviewers flagged the same play - it would be reviewed back at NBA HQ. If a ref was constantly being flagged - then he would be hitting the bricks.

This would be a simple sort of quality assurance for the NBA. This would not only help catch crooked refs like Tim Donaghy (allegedly) but also weed out the refs who just aren't good at doing their jobs. Say if the pay for the reviewers was $2,000 per game - the home team, the visiting team and the NBA HQ could each pony up $2,000 to cover the expense. It would be a small price to pay for keeping the integrity of the NBA intact.
Red Sox Magic Number - 58

The Red Sox magic number is now just 58 - which also happens to be the same number as Jonathan Papelbon who is perhaps the best closer in baseball.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I got the book at 1:30 am on Saturday morning and was done reading the book that very same night. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is in my opinion the best book of the entire Harry Potter series.

The book also helps explain the origin of the Muggle game Rock, Paper, Scissors. (I just made that up but I think anyone who read the book will get the joke.)

The one thing that disappoints me is the fact that Michael Gambon will continue to play Dumbledore in the movies. I agree with the Baseball Crank that Michael Gambon is an awful Dumbledore.

Like I said earlier, though, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the best book of the entire series.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Things Always Happen in Threes

You must be aware of the old saying that "things always happen in three." Right now we seem to have a potential pro sports / FBI trifecta in play.

First Michael Vick was indicted by the FBI for running a dog fighting ring on his Virginia property.

Now we have the news that NBA referee Tim Donaghy may have bet on NBA games and is involved with some pretty shady characters. It came out today that Donaghy is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation.

So what will be the third thing? Should I remind folks that Barry Bonds still has a grand jury out on him and it has been said that it may hand down indictments on Bonds for perjury by July 26th? One can only hope that the trifecta comes into play.
Good Joke for a Friday

The Smiths were unable to conceive children, and decided to use a surrogate father to start their family. On the day the proxy father was to arrive, Mr. Smith kissed his wife and said, "I'm off. The man should be here soon".

Half an hour later, just by chance, a door-to-door baby Photographer rang the doorbell, hoping to make a sale. "Good morning, madam. I've come to...."

"Oh, no need to explain. I've been expecting you," Mrs. Smith cut in.

"Really?" the photographer asked. "Well, good ! I've made a specialty of babies."

"That's what my husband and I had hoped. Please come in and have a seat."

After a moment she asked, blushing, "Well, where do we start?"

"Leave everything to me. I usually try two in the bathtub, one on the couch and perhaps a couple on the bed. Sometimes the living room floor is fun too; you can really spread out!"

"Bathtub, living room floor? No wonder it didn't work for Harry and me."

"Well, madam, none of us can guarantee a good one every time. But if we try several different positions and I shoot from six or seven angles, I'm sure you'll be pleased with the results."

"My, that's a lot of ..." gasped Mrs. Smith.

"Madam, in my line of work, a man must take his time. I'd love to be in and out in five minutes, but you'd be disappointed with that, I'm sure."

"Don't I know it.", Mrs. Smith said quietly.

The photographer opened his briefcase and pulled out a portfolio of his baby pictures. "This was done on the top of a bus in downtown London."

"Oh my god!!" Mrs. Smith exclaimed, tugging at her handkerchief.

"And these twins turned out exceptionally well, when you consider their mother was so difficult to work with."

"She was difficult ?" asked Mrs. Smith.

"Yes, I'm afraid so. I finally had to take her to Hyde Park to get the job done right. People were crowding around four and five deep, pushing to get a good look."

"Four and five deep?" asked Mrs. Smith, eyes widened in amazement.

"Yes", the photographer said. "And for more than three hours, too. The mother was constantly squealing and yelling - I could hardly concentrate. Then darkness approached and I began to rush my shots. Finally, when the squirrels began nibbling on my equipment, I just packed it all in."

Mrs. Smith leaned forward. "You mean they actually chewed on your, um, ... equipment?"

"That's right. Well madam, if you're ready, I'll set up my tripod so that we can get to work."


"Oh yes, I have to use a tripod to rest my Canon on. It's much too big for me to hold very long. Madam?.... Madam?..... Good Lord, she's fainted!"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Two More Michael Vick Issues to Think About

Dog fighting is hundreds of years old and on matters of history regarding gambling I turn to David Schwartz fine tome Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling. Schwartz mentions dog fighting twice - first on page 141:
Blood sports like bearbaiting, dogfighting, and cockfighting, long popular in England, never become widespread in New England, where colonists generally shunned violent sports.
Then on page 261:
Gambling was so common throughout the mining frontier, from California to Montana, that dogfights, bearfights, and bearbaiting were rampant. One man even proclaimed his "killer duck" an interspecies champion and pitted it against all canine challengers.
The two points I want to make here are first - dog fighting was historically only popular on the edges of society were other entertainment options did not exist. This is not the time of Henry II or the old west of Deadwood - Michael Vick had plenty of other entertainment options available to him. That he voluntarily chose to be involved in such a cruel and felonious gambling activity speaks volumes about the character of Michael Vick.

The second point is much more important. Two things go hand in hand when it comes to dog fighting - cruelty and gambling. Everyone seems to be focusing on the cruelty involved (and given the shocking ways some of the dogs were murdered - it is understandable). However, it should not be lost on the NLF and Federal authorities that these dog fights were part of a high stakes gambling ring. Gambling seems to be a forgotten factor here.

Imagine that it was not dogfighting but some other felonious high-stakes gambling operation that was being operated on Michael Vick's property. If gambling was the focus of this investigation then I have to wonder if the NFL would be so willing to let the Falcons handle this in-house as they apparently so willing to do.

I have to ask - isn't a player who would risk staging such felonious gambling activities at his own house the exact type of player organized crime would try to get their hooks into to shave points? Michael Vick has been known as an up and down player. Great one week and inconsistent the next. Maybe there was a consistency to Vick's below expectations performances. These questions have to be asked. A person who would engage in dog fighting is capable of anything. Michael Vick does not get the benefit of a doubt.
Mike Lowell

I'm a fan of Mike Lowell and I've long recommended that the Red Sox re-sign the veteran 3rd baseman. However, this morning I'll admit to running into some stats that bother me. This year Mike Lowell has been a monster at Fenway but... well... not so good on the road. Here are Lowell's road numbers so far this season:

Lowell road 2007 - .224 BA /.289 OBP / .410 SLG / .699 OPS

What makes it even worse is if you back out his numbers at the Rogers Centre (where he is also a monster) then his batting average drops to an even .200 on the road. And keep in mind that 4 out of 5 HR he's hit on the road this year have also come up in Toronto.

Maybe the Red Sox front office is correct in holding off giving him that extension.
Red Sox Magic Number is 63

With the Red Sox lead in the AL East "down" to 7 games over the Yankees - some people are starting to panic. Not me. It should be pointed out that the 7 game lead is at least double the lead of every other Division leader in baseball.

Instead of panicking - I have decided to start counting down the Red Sox magic number which now stands at 63.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Michael Vick

What Michael Vick is accused of doing is heinous and evil. There's no middle gound here. Heinous and evil. It is in the best interest of football that he be suspended immediately and that suspension should last as long as Vick is on trial or in jail.

Michael Vick has already been found guilty in the forum of public opinion. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must know this and he also must know that every Atlanta Falcons game will automatically become a freak show of animal rights protest as long as Vick is in uniform. This is the very sort of negative publicity that Goodell vowed to act against. Goodell has to have the best interests of the NFL at heart and even though Vick is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law - any association with him right now is toxic to the league. Suspend him now Mr. Goodell.

Vick will be a huge distraction to the Falcons. Having a new coach and a new system to learn is tough enough in the best of times but trying to do it while under the pressure of going to jail for most of your adult life while protesters distract and impede you and teammates alike is not a condusive atmosphere to winning to say the least.

The FBI doesn't bring these charges lightly. Michael Vick will probably be going to jail. It was his house. There were dozens of corpses of mutilated dogs on his property. The witnesses who can damn him will come forward because they don't want to go to jail for an NFL star who is already going down in flames. Michael Vick is a sinking ship and the rats he called friends will turn on him gleefully as they abandon him to his fate.

The local authorities who originally investigated the allegations should also face investigation and penalties. Specifically Surry County prosecutor Gerald Poindexter should face investigation for his original handling of the allegations against Vick. It boggles the mind to think that Poindexter could have been any more obvious as he tried to bury this case. Obstruction of justice charges to begin with seems an obvious possibility here.

I truly hope that the Feds don't stop with Vick and Poindexter. The dogs had to come from somewhere. Whoever was supplying the dogs should face stiff penalties with no leniency. Anyone who was involved or profited from what happened on Vick's property should face severe consequences.

Now I've said my peace about Michael Vick. If you are interested here are some very good posts on this subject.

- Van Walker has been all over this case from the start. Here is his latest post on the subject. Van also had an earlier post that is well worth your time.

- Here's a very good post on the subject from an Atlanta sports fans perspective
Texas Rangers Trade Possibilities

With the trade deadline looming on the horizon - I will try to take a look at what chips some of the teams who are out of playoff contention may put in play. Earlier I looked at the Baltimore Orioles, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox. Today I will take a look what players from the Rangers may hit the market.

- Mark Teixeira - perhaps the most hyped potential trade deadline player available. What many forget is that even though Teixeira will not be a free agent until after the 2008 season - next year he will be arbitration eligible and will probably get about $15 million for next year through arbitration. I think realistically the Yankees, Orioles, and Angels are the only teams with the need and the money to afford trading for Teixeira. The Rangers would save about $3 million by trading Teixeira before the trade deadline plus if they kept him - they run the risk of him getting hurt and damaging his off-season trade value. My guess is that the Angels put together a Reggie Willits, Erick Aybar type package to get the deal done.

- Eric Gagne - he is attractive not just because he's a lights-out closer when healthy but also because he'll probably be a type-A free agent which means the team that trades for him will also end up getting some draft picks (if they don't re-sign him). Gagne is almost guaranteed to be traded and I'd look for the Indians, Braves, Cubs and Diamondbacks to make the strongest push for him.

- Kenny Lofton - the Rangers would save about $7 million just in salary if they are able to trade Lofton, Gagne and Teixeira by the trade deadline. That amount is equal to about the total gate for 9 of the remaining 37 home games. I'll be upfront and say that I've never liked Kenny Lofton. He always just seemed like a jerkface to me. Maybe the Cubs will offer something for Lofton?

- Brad Wilkerson - he's a free agent at the end of the year and can play 1st or OF. He's got some pop in his bat (he averages 1 HR every 25 AB for his career). I think there would be a certain symmetry if the Cubs were to trade for Wilkerson and have him and Soriano playing in the outfield at the same time. My guess is Jon Daniels will trade Wilkerson if he doesn't think Wilkerson will be categorized as a class-B free agent.

Jon Daniels will probably also dangle Vincent Padilla but I doubt if anyone would be dumb enough to pick up that contract.
The Day Mary Jo Kopechne Died

On this day, 38-years ago, Mary Jo Kopechne died. She had been riding with the married Ted Kennedy when he plunged his Oldsmobile into a pond at Chappaquiddick Island. Kennedy did not report the accident for 10-hours. Kennedy received a two-month suspended sentence, and had his license suspended for a year for his actions.

Mary Jo Kopechne did not live to see her 29th birthday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

WSOP Final Table

The final table action for the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event starts today. You can follow the action live starting at noon Pacific time over at PokerNews.com.

Pauly has a great run down of all nine final table players including the odd to win (via Bodog). What I don't get about the odds is the fact that if all things were equal then each player would have a one in nine shot to win making the odds 9-1 for each player. Now the chip count for each player is different and the more chips a player has the lower his odds should become. At the same time the players with the short stacks should be getting better than 9-1. Yet Alex Kravchenko, the shortest stack at the table, is just 9-1. I know that things can change in an instant but if this was a horse race - you would expect to see at least one 20-1 long shot on the tote board.
Red Sox Thoughts

I agree with Chad Finn that the Red Sox should not hesitate to trade prospect Jon Lester if the right deal came along but I disagree with him that I would be willing to trade Lester as part of a package for Mark Teixeira.

Mark Teixeira is a very good player but I wonder if he's a bit over-hyped. These are Teixeira's career numbers playing on the road:

Teixeira - .265 BA / .357 OBP / .493 SLG / .851 OPS

Sure he can hit a bunch of home runs but I really don't see how this Teixeira is any real improvement over Kevin Youkilis. And just for fun - take a look at how Teixeira has struggled at Fenway Park (18 games) and the enthusiasm for giving up premium prospects for Teixeira shrinks further:

Teixeira (at Fenway) - .207 BA / .373 OBP / .293 SLG / .666 OPS

Partially what has made Jon Lester available (in my mind) is the emergence of Kason Gabbard who threw an absolute gem of a game last night. Gabbard is 4-3 in 9 career big league starts but what is impressive is his ERA (3.44) and his batting average against (.230). Lester has 15 MLB starts and his ERA (4.76) and batting average against (.295) pale in comparison (and yes I know all about small sample sizes).

The 23-year old Jon Lester is an inspiration to us all with his battle to defeat cancer and he seems to be completely healthy now. However, not every minor league pitching prospect turns out to be a good major league pitcher and you can count me among those who are skeptical that Jon Lester can make a big impact long term for the Red Sox. His trade value, meanwhile, may never be this high again.

I am still firmly of the opinion that the best course for the Red Sox regarding the corner infield positions is to simply keep Kevin Youkilis at 1st and re-sign Mike Lowell at 3rd (2-years and $18 million could do it). It is not a given that a player can flourish in the pressure that comes with playing in Boston (see Renteria, Edgar) but Lowell has shown that he can not only handle the pressure he can be a pillar that takes the pressure off teammates.

Overall I think the Red Sox are in pretty good shape. When Curt Schilling returns to the rotation I would keep Gabbard as the 5th starter and move Julian Tavarez back to the bullpen. That allows the Red Sox to add the right-handed reliever so many teams are looking for without lifting so much as a finger (I would at the same time pick up Tavarez's option for 2008 to make sure he doesn't have financial worries clouding his head).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Chicago White Sox Trade Possibilities

With the trade deadline looming on the horizon - I will try to take a look at what chips some of the teams who are out of playoff contention may put in play. Earlier I looked at the Baltimore Orioles, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Kansas City Royals. Today I will take a look what players from the White Sox may hit the market.

- Javier Vazquez - with Mark Buerhle newly signed to an extension, it makes sense for the White Sox to dangle a couple of starters on the trade market. It would make sense for the White Sox to keep Vazquez because he is under contract until 2010 at a reasonable amount ($11.5 million per year) but that won't keep them from finding what the interest level is. If Vazquez is traded it is almost guaranteed to be to an East Coast team. That pretty much makes the Red Sox, Mets, Braves and Phillies the only real possible trading partner possibilities. My guess is that he stays put.

- Jon Garland - he's another starter who will be dangled. Garland has one more year on his contract ($12 million for 2008). Garland is a guy you can almost pencil in for 200 innings and 15 wins each year. Unless the White Sox get a great offer - I'd expect Garland to stay put too.

- Jose Contreras - now here's a contract the White Sox will definitely be trying to offload. Contreras makes $10 million in both 2008 and 2009. Maybe the Mets or Phillies are desperate enough to take a chance and probably the White Sox will have to pick up some of the remaining contract for Contreras to get a deal done.

- Jermaine Dye - he's been dangled for some time now and the Mets seem to be the team everyone is linking to Dye. However, the Cubs also need a power-outfielder but I'm guessing the last thing Kenny Williams needs is for Dye to lead the Cubbies to a playoff spot.

- Juan Uribe - the White Sox are dead last in the AL as far as offense is concerned and carrying a player like Juan Uribe n the line-up is a big reason. Here's a trade hypothetical to toss out there - how about Jermaine Dye and Juan Uribe to the Dodgers for Nomar Garciaparra and either Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier. I would then slot Nomar in as the shortstop. The Dodgers need another power bat in the lineup and may be just as well off with Wilson Betemit at 3rd. I know Nomar has lost a step but he still has a good glove and and a strong arm.

The White Sox will also probably dangle players like Tadahito Iguchi, Scott Podsednik and Darrin Erstad but I just wanted to concentrate on players with names that began with "J".
WSOP Main Event Final Table

The final table for the 2007 World Series of Poker has been set and Pauly has all the details. As usual it comes down to nine guys who have never been in my kitchen.
Seating Assignments:
Seat 1 - Raymond Rahme
Seat 2 - Alex Kravchenko
Seat 3 - Lee Childs
Seat 4 - Jerry Yang
Seat 5 - Lee Watkinson
Seat 6 - Tuan Lam
Seat 7 - Philip Hilm
Seat 8 - Jon Kalmar
Seat 9 - Hevad "Rain" Khan

Final Table Chip Counts:
Philip Hilm - 22,070,000
Tuan Lam - 21,315,000
Jon Kalmar - 20,320,000
Raymond Rahme - 16,320,000
Lee Childs - 13,240,000
Lee Watkinson - 9,9250,00
Hevad "Rain" Khan - 9,205,000
Jerry Yang - 8,450,000
Alex Kravchenko - 6,570,000

Final Table Payouts:
1 - $8,250,000
2 - $4,840,981
3 - $3,048,025
4 - $1,852,721
5 - $1,255,069
6 - $956,243
7 - $705,229
8 - $585,699
9 - $525,934
Baseball Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous baseball thoughts and observations.

On this day back in 1941 - Joe DiMaggio gets a hit in his 56th straight game. Joe would go 0-3 on July 17th against Cleveland to end the streak but then get a hit in another 16 straight games. Nobody has really come close to matching the hit streak in the years since... Today is also Shoeless Joe Jackson's birthday. Shoeless was born on this day in 1889 and I assume he came into this world without anything on his feet... Is Todd Helton a Hall of Famer? He's only got 294 career HR even though he's played all those years at Coors Field. He's the all-time leader in almost every hitting category for the Rockies (except average where Larry Walker's .334 has his .332 edged out). However, I don't think his hits, HR or RBI totals when it is all said and done will be high enough to sway enough voters. So I guess I'm saying Todd Helton is not a Hall of Fame player... John Buck leads the Royals with 15 HR but has just 29 RBI. That's a pretty lousy ratio of HR to RBI but those 15 HR are just one less than Carlos Beltran who was the centerpiece of the three-team trade that brought Buck to Kansas City (along with Mark Teahen and Mike Wood)... Something has got to give. Houston has the worst road record in baseball (15-31) and today they open a series against Washington - the team with the worst home record in baseball (19-27)... This was an interesting post. I did not realize that the feat was so rare.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Malaise Speech

Today is the 28th anniversary of Jimmy Carter's "Malaise Speech." I beg you to read it because as George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

The speech starts off:
This is a special night for me. Exactly 3 years ago, on July 15, 1976, I accepted the nomination of my party to run for President of the United States. I promised you a President who is not isolated from the people, who feels your pain, and who shares your dreams and who draws his strength and his wisdom from you.
Jimmy Carter as the ultimate Ombudsman. Not a leader - a listener. Carter took 10 days to listen to "the people" to help set the course on what the nation should do to confront the energy "crisis". Does this echo John Edwards' "poverty tour" or does John Edwards echo Jimmy Carter? Do the words remind you of other candidates?

Carter lays out a series of programs to confront the energy crisis with the plan to pay for them by taxing the rich through "windfall profits taxes". Sound familiar? Listen to the candidates grand plans and then listen to how they plan to pay for them. Contrast that with what the tax CUTS of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have accomplished for the economy. The echoes of Jimmy Carter are there if you listen for them.

Import quotas, mandating by law that corporations meet goals plucked from thin air, and lets not forget rationing for the common man and woman. That was how Carter planned to solve the energy crisis. Seriously, Carter's plan to fight high energy costs was gasoline rationing and monorails. Go ahead and laugh but that was the plan. Go ahead and laugh but at the same time listen to the candidates and hear the echoes of Jimmy Carter. Then you'll probably stop laughing and start praying that the country doesn't have to suffer another Jimmy Carter President.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Baseball Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous baseball thoughts and observations.

If Cubs right fielder Cliff Floyd is out for any period of time - you have to think the Cubs will be shopping for an outfielder. Jacque Jones has been awful this year. I wonder if Kenny Williams would be willing to deal with the crosstown Cubs and make a deal for Jermaine Dye? I doubt it. Brad Wilkerson may be available from the Rangers for the right price. I don't think the Rangers really want to pay Wilkerson next year's arbitration figure... Julio Lugo has taken some heat for his poor start but it should be noted that going into tonight's game Lugo has been hitting .321 in July with an .889 OPS (and as I type this Lugo is 3-4 on the night)... I think Billy Beane is going to have to pull off a major trade to kick start the A's if they are to have any chance at making the playoffs this year. They just can't keep losing games 4-3... Sergio Mitre is 4-4 with a 2.81 ERA this year in 15 starts for the Marlins. Do you think the Cubs still wish they had Mitre? Can you imagine the Cubs with Mitre and Dontrelle Willis in the rotation?... Many people are talking about CC Sabathia as a Cy Young contender but it should be noted that Gil Meche (who beat the Indians tonight) actually has a better ERA at 3.69 than Sabathia's 3.78...
Heh Heh - Danny Ainge's Busy Day

I'm a fan of Danny but this was too clever not to share.

HT - Keith in Toronto
Jack Welsh to Buy Boston Globe?

Here's something to keep in the back of your head - the conditions are becoming ripe for Jack Welsh (former CEO of GE) to purchase the Boston Globe.

Follow me here.

Last year Jack Welsh admitted that he was interested in purchasing the Boston Globe but at that time the New York Times Co. was not interested in selling. Circumstances may have changed.

Consider that we have just hit record highs in the stock market but the New York Times Co. stock continues to flounder. In fact just this week the bond rating for the New York Times Co. drop to just a BBB rating which is barely above the ratings for junk bonds. The folks at the NYT Co. may be forced into doing anything they can to raise their bond rating to prevent a massive sell-off and a free-fall in stock price. Selling the Boston Globe and some associated assets may be the only route to take.

Why would Jack Welsh want to buy the Globe though? I guess the reasons could be varied. He's retired and needs something to do. He used to be a golf nut but his health forced him to quit the game. His wife, Suzy Wetlaufer, is a former journalist who used to be a reporter for the Associated Press and also the former editor of the Harvard Business Review. The Boston Globe could be a project they could do together.

Welsh is a smart businessman and I wouldn't be surprised to see him also acquire the Boston.com site and the New York Times Co.'s partial ownership in the Boston Red Sox as part of any deal. Welsh is a big Red Sox fan - so this must add to the appeal of the deal to the retired former CEO.Also don't forget that turn-arounds are a Neutron Jack specialty. That challenge has to be very enticing.

Don't forget that part of the group Welsh would head includes Jack Connors the co-founder of the powerhouse Boston advertising firm Hill Holliday. Who better to fix the advertising and circulation problems that are plaguing the Globe than Welsh and Connors?

I for one hope this happens.
Kansas City Royals Trade Possibilities

With the trade deadline looming on the horizon - I will try to take a look at what chips some of the teams who are out of playoff contention may put in play. Earlier I looked at the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Today I will take a look what players from the Royals may hit the market.

- Reggie Sanders has been suffering from a torn hamstring and has been on the DL since May. If he can make it back before the end of the July then it is very likely he'll be traded (but that seems to be a big "if"). Sanders is in the last year of a 2-year $10 million contract and unlikely to be in the plans for the Royals in 2008. He's a veteran guy who can supply both a veteran presence and some pop at the plate. My favorite Sanders trivia bit is the fact that he is among only six players in MLB history to have both 300 HR and 300 stolen bases (and no Rickey Henderson is not one of the six).

- Octavio Dotel - what team in the playoff hunt couldn't use someone for their bullpen or to be closer insurance? Dotel was signed for just one year for $5 million. The Indians and Rockies are said to be interested and I'd probably add the Phillies to that list. Personally, I'm not sold on Dotel as a player who can flourish in a high pressure environment.

- Mike Sweeney - he's about to be 34-years old and his best days are behind him. At this point he's basically just a DH. Sweeney has spent his entire career with the Royals and is in the last year of his 5-year $55 million contract. Given that he's on the DL and expected to be out of action for most of August - I'm guessing that if he is traded it will be after the trade deadline. The Mariners or Angels may take a risk on Sweeney if they can get him in a waiver deal. Keep in mind that Sweeney can veto any trade since he's a 10/5 guy.

- Odalis Perez - the Royals would love to offload Odalis Perez but who would take his contract?

David Riske could also be on the auction blocks but I think if the Royals trade Dotel (which I think they will) that Riske slots in as the Royals closer for the rest of 2007 and maybe for 2008 (he's under contract for just $2.25 million for 2008). I also don't see them trading Zack Greinke who is still too young to give up on and who I think needs to avoid high pressure franchises like the plague.

Friday, July 13, 2007

This Was Wicked Awesome!

This is just mesmerizing.

I'm not sure if this is genius, an example of somebody with too much time on their hands or just alien technology at work.
Hot Babes in Sports Jerseys

This is some eye-candy for a Friday night.

The only change I'd make is change the name from "Laura Quinn" to "Zombie Laura Quinn". She looks like she's one step from being a member of the undead to me.

HT - Keith in Toronto
Friday the 13th

The book and movie The DaVinci Code have helped make people aware the the origin of Friday the 13th as a day of bad luck dates back to 1307 when the king of France had the Knights Templar in France all rounded up and arrested on (you guessed it) Friday the 13th. Most of the captured Templars were tortured and killed while the king seized their lands and re-negged on his debts to the organization. Real bad luck for the Templars but good luck for the king.

Less popularly known is that on Friday the 13th in 1917 the "Miracle of the Sun" occurred.
According to many witness statements, after a downfall of rain, the clouds broke and the sun appeared as an opaque, spinning disk in the sky. [10] It was said to be significantly less bright than normal, and cast multicolored lights across the landscape, the shadows on the landscape, the people, and the surrounding clouds. [10] The sun was reported to have careened towards the earth in a zigzag pattern [10], frightening some of those present who thought it meant the end of the world [11]. Witnesses reported that the ground and their previously wet clothes became completely dry. [12]

According to witness reports, the alleged miracle of the sun lasted approximately ten minutes [13]. The three shepherd children, in addition to reporting seeing the actions of the sun that day [14], also reported seeing a panorama of visions, including those of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of Saint Joseph blessing the people [15].
Pretty freaky huh?

I think if I saw that - I would have gone to Mass every day for the rest of my life.

I think another bit of Friday the 13th trivia that is interesting to note is the fact that comedian Lenny Bruce and Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher were born on the same day - Friday the 13th 1925. Can you think of two more diametrically opposed people?

Happy Friday the 13th everyone.
WSOP - Down the Stretch They Come

The WSOP Main Event field has been winnowed to the final 337 players. As always the Tao of Poker is the best place to follow the action. I feel good that Carlos Mortensen is among the final 337 but I feel bad that I didn't bet on him to be the last former champion standing. I also feel bad that I gave Robert Varkonyi so little respect the last time I posted about the WSOP. I feel bad because Varkonyi is still in the running and Pauly posted about him getting so little respect.

I must also say that I will now be unable to see Humberto Brenes without thinking "asshat of sombreros."
Baseball Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous baseball thoughts and observations.

So far this year there has been 1 HR for every 34.6 at bats in the American League. Last year there was 1 HR for every 30.8 AB in the AL. That's a decrease of about 11% in the frequency of HR league-wide. I bring this up because people keep bringing up the fact that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz haven't shown as much power this year as last year. Same is true for many players in the AL like Travis Hafner for example... I am more concerned with Manny's "power outage" that I am with David Ortiz's. So far this season Manny has an OPS+ of just 124. While still being well above league average (100) - this is a guy who hasn't had an OPS+ lower than 143 in 12 years (that was in 1997 when he batted .328 with 26 HR and just 88 RBI in 150 games). Ortiz has an OPS+ of 160 so far this season which isn't far off last year's 164 or 2005's 161. I still think Manny will have a hot spell this summer that will surge his numbers up to levels we've come to expect... Not for nothing but knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is just 3 strikeouts behind Joe Niekro of the all-time list. Niekro is at 88th place on the all-time list with 1,747. I have to think that given the special bond that has developed over the years between Tim Wakefield and Phil and Joe Niekro that tying Joe on the all-time list has to have some special meaning for Wakefield who probably will never catch Phil Niekro who is at 10th place on the all-time list with 3,342 K's...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I Guess One Man's Reporter Could Be Another's Enemy Combatant

Firefight in New Baghdad; US, Iraqi forces kill 9 insurgents, detain 13. This story contains the line;
One insurgent was wounded and two civilians were killed during the firefight.

The two civilians were reported as employees for the Reuters news service.
If the reporters were embedded with the coalition soldiers then they would have known for sure that they were Reuters employees. Since the matter is unclear - my guess is that they were "traveling" with the insurgents which makes me think that the word "civilians" could be inaccurate. Reuters is, if you recall, the news agency that refused to use the word "terrorists" believing that one man's terrorist could be another's freedom fighter.

Please note that their were no coalition deaths or injuries reported. This seems to be the norm. There is no way that this type of attrition of enemy forces will lead to anything but success if we are willing to stay the course.

It also disturbs me that the last line of the release states; "The incident is under investigation." I know that it is standard procedure to investigate when civilian deaths are involved but this is the sort of thing that screams of "police action" when we are in fact at war. My only hope is that the investigation exposes the duplicity of Reuters and it results in a backlash against the organization which cannot tell the difference between the those who want freedom and those who behead and would suppress all liberty.

HT Little Green Footballs
Ichiro's New Contract

Ichiro Suzuki has a new 5-year $100 million contract. Here are two very good blog posts on the subject.

- The first is from USS Mariner who makes a the sabremetric case that the new contract is a bargain.

- The second is from Kevin Hayward who is on the fence whether Ichiro is worth the money.

I've seen Ichiro play in person 4 times. Each time I saw him play - I couldn't keep my eyes off him. Ichiro is a dynamic fan favorite who is also a game changer. It is near impossible to keep him off the bases and once on - his mere presence disrupts a game more than any player since Rickey Henderson in his prime.

Three things to keep in mind when considering that $20 million per year price tag.

1. Hiroshi Yamauchi (of Nintendo) owns the Mariners and Ichiro is a fan favorite not just in America but also in Japan. The Red Sox just paid a similar amount for Daisuke Matsuzaka but with $51 million going to the Seibu Lions and $52 million going to Dice-K (over 6-years) but Ichiro is more of a proven quantity. I wouldn't worry about the team getting a good return on this investment.

2. The Mariners revenue is just a bit south of the Red Sox. They can well afford the contract. In comparison to Beltre and Sexson - this contract is a bargain.

3. Judge Judy makes $25 million per year and in my opinion Ichiro is a better entertainer.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - OK I'll Say It!

Most of the conversations you will hear regarding the new movie - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - will revolve mostly around one of two subjects; A: what has left out or changed from the book and B; how the movie compares to the four earlier Harry Potter movies.

I want to bring up something different that has bothered me since I saw the movie last night.

I think director David Yates purposefully made Hagrid's giant low-IQ half-brother Gawp look like George W. Bush. Seeing how Yates is a BBC alumnus - I think he has planted some sort of "inside" joke. I have no proof of this but I have seen enough left-wing caricatures of Bush to recognize one when I see one.

I'm sorry that I have no pictures to back up my gut feeling but if you have seen the movie - tell me am I wrong?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

All-Star Game Ratings

This year's baseball All-Star game ratings were down 10% against the numbers from last year's game. I think there was three main reasons for the drop in ratings.

1. It was way to slow a production. The player introductions took forever. It was boring. The game didn't start until almost 9:00 EST and by that time a number of people had tuned out.

2. ESPN had new episodes of the 2007 WSOP. Don't think that a number of people (like me) didn't turn on the WSOP and just tune in to the All-Star game during commercials just to check the score. I made a conscious decision that I could check out the highlights after the game because it was moving too slow and because of reason #3.

Don't Hold your Breath for an Apology

This news made me think of this cartoon from the great Cox and Forkum.

When news first broke about Haditha - I recall some journalists calling it worse than Mai Lai. People like John Murtha were quick to call it murder. Now that the facts are in and have been reviewed. I'm guessing it will get very little coverage in the media - nothing like the frenzy that originally greeted the news about Haditha. And I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for anyone to apologize for the slurs they made about the Marines who were putting their lives on the line in Iraq.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays Trade Possibilities

With the trade deadline looming on the horizon - I will try to take a look at what chips some of the teams who are out of playoff contention may put in play. Yesterday I did the Baltimore Orioles and today I will take a look what players from the Devil Rays may hit the market.

Rocco Baldelli - he is on the 60-day DL but should be coming off soon. Rocco is just 26-years old but would be a risk because of his injury history for any team trading for him. Baldelli's contract calls for him to be paid just $2.25 million next year so it may be worth it for Tampa Bay to wait and see if Baldelli comes back strong enough to up his trade value either for the off-season or next year's trade deadline. It is worth noting that with Ichiro staying put in Seattle - there will be a number of teams bidding for top centerfielders like Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand. Either the teams that lose those players or who lose out in the bidding may look toward Baldelli as an attractive option.

Elijah Dukes - he is on the inactive list but I think everyone realizes that this guy needs to get the hell away from Tampa if he is to avoid self-destructing. The White Sox have been rumored to be interested in him. Personally - I wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole.

Ty Wiggington - he can play either 2nd or 3rd and has a relatively modest $2.7 million contract this year and will probably get about $4 million in arbitration next year. Wiggington has some pop in his bat (13 HR so far this year and 24 last season) and could be a fit for teams looking for some added offense (though with just a .318 OBP and only a .759 OPS - Wiggington doesn't fit my idea of offensive help).

Carlos Pena - having a huge year (20 HR and an OPS of 1.004) but is a free agent at the end of the year. The Devil Rays may want to sell Pena while his stock is so high. The Yankees have been rumored to be interested but you have to think that the Yankees at this point (with them out of the playoff picture and all) would be better off waiting till the offseason when signing a guy like Pena won't cost them a top prospect or two. Atlanta would seem like another logical destination but here again - you would think that a better solution for them than trading away some top prospects would be simply to try Jarrod Saltalamacchia at 1st. Detroit may be the best fit but that probably won't happen because they've been there and done that.

All-in-all I don't think Tampa Bay has much to offer this trade-deadline season. When you add in the fact that their front office always asks for the moon when negotiating - I just don't see any major deals coming via Tampa Bay. Sure there may be a relief pitcher that changes address but nothing major that will effect the playoff races.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Paula Cole

Did you see Paula Cole sing God Bless America during the All-Star game? I shouldn't say anything because Paula Cole also happens to be from Massatucky (Rockport). However, I couldn't help but notice how long it took her to get set up and how long it took her to sing the song. I started wondering if this was some sort of Little Richard deal from the movie Mystery, Alaska. Was this part of some sort of plan by Fox Sports to break the record for the longest All-Star game broadcast in history?

This is an observation I'm going to regret making but what the heck - I'll make it anyway.

Most singers hold the microphone like they want to make love to it. Paula Cole seemed to be gripping the microphone like someone gripping a handrail during a particularly difficult crap. I dare you to watch the video again and not say that her facial expressions don't look like someone taking a dump.
Was ESPN Trying to Screw with Fox's All-Star Game Ratings?

Baseball is a slow game to begin with but Fox Sports treatment of the All-Star game made it so slow that it would make Brideshead Revisited seem like a shoot 'em up - smash 'em up excitement thrill ride in comparison. It was 8:53 by the time the game started and by that time my interest had whithered and died on the vine.

And I'm a huge baseball fan!

Luckily for me I happened to notice on the channel guide that the WSOP episodes on ESPN were brand new 2007 episodes. I ended up watching those until 10:00 and just flipping back to the game during commercials. I don't think I really missed anything.

I have to wonder if ESPN scheduled the new WSOP episodes to screw with MLB and if MLB's recent decision to keep ESPN Baseball Tonight crew out of the All-Star game (because ESPN jumped the gun in announcing the All-Star line-ups when TBS had the rights to the announcement show).

I say this because the TV schedule was updated July 7th (almost a week after ESPN jumped the gun). But upon checking it looks like ESPN was just sticking to its original schedule for airing 2007 WSOP events. I still wonder if ESPN's programming choice played a role in why MLB was so upset with ESPN for the All-Star game announcement brouhaha.

You may have noticed that I just changed the books that appear at the top of the blog. I had meant to keep it updated to reflect the last few books that I had read. I'll try to keep it up to date in the future.

As always - remember you can support this site by buying any type of goods at Amazon.com just by clicking the above links or the box on the side of the blog.

Baltimore Orioles Trade Possibilities

With the trade deadline coming up at the end of the month. I thought I would start looking at some of the teams who are bound to be "sellers" in the trade market. First up is the Baltimore Orioles.

The Orioles seem to have five main bargaining chips (six if you count the injured Miguel Tejada). Here are their "chips" in no particular order.

Chad Bradford – Orioles – signed for $3.5 million per year thru 2009 – decent 3.18 ERA and a pitcher who is very good vs. right-handed hitters. Bradford gets a $500,000 one-time bonus if traded so that may make Bradford pretty happy to get out of Baltimore. Almost every team in playoff contention is trying to add bullpen help – so there could wind up being a bidding war for a veteran like Bradford.

Steve Traschel - currently out with a pulled muscle in his ass but should return to action shortly. Traschel is a free agent at the end of the year (although there is a $4.75 million team option). He could make a nice innings eating 4th or 5th starter for an NL team that is hurting for starting pitching. My guess is he winds up in the NL East with the Braves, Mets or Phillies.

Aubrey Huff – he’s signed through 2009 at the rate of $8 million a year (but just $4 million this year). That means the Orioles have a financial incentive to deal him now. Huff has averaged 20+ HR the last 5 years but has just 6 so far in 2007. He can play 1st or OF but neither very well.

Kevin Millar – some teams may view Millar as a veteran presence that can help keep a playoff bound team both focused and loose at the same time. Others (like me) see Millar as a defensive liability who will turn cancerous if he’s not getting enough playing time. Millar has a contract clause that vests his 2008 option ($2.75 million) if he gets 475 plate appearances in 2007. So far Millar is at 266 – so getting those last 209 will be his priority. You also have to ask yourself if the Orioles really want Millar around next year or if they want to move in another direction.

Jay Payton – signed for $5 million for 2008. I would think that Payton is more trouble than he’s worth but some team who needs an outfielder may be willing to take a risk on Payton.

Miguel Tejada – still owed $30 million over the next two-years ($4 million deferred). Out with a broken wrist which means if he’s traded it will probably be during the off-season.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Happy Birthday Rumsfeld

Today is Donald Rumsfeld's 75th birthday and I wish him all the best. I'm an unabashed Rumsfeld fan. A friend of mine who is a fairly high ranking officer in the Air Force says that people don't understand the sweeping changes Rumsfeld was able to make in the military. The US military today is a much more streamlined and nimble fighting force today than it was before Rumsfeld took the reins as Secretary of Defense for a second time.

Probably my favorite piece of Rumsfeld trivia is the fact that in Washington circles in the 1970's Rumsfeld was viewed as pretty much a ringer when it came to softball. It turns out that Rumsfeld was pretty good at playing political hardball as well.

Here are two links I hope you enjoy.

The first is a look at Rumsfeld that you may have missed.

The second is my "interview" of Rumsfeld that I posted the day after he resigned as Secretary of Defense.
A New Low for Local Sports Coverage

Yesterday I read an article in my local paper - The Worcester Telegram and Gazette. It was a story about how more than a dozen players for the Nashua Pride (Can-Am League) got food poisoning from eating food at Holman Stadium. The story made me think of two things.

First, the food poisoning reminded me of a minor subplot from the Mario Puzo book The Last Don. In the book a gambler had a plan to fix the Super Bowl by poisoning the food brought into the locker room at half-time of the big game. Of course the idea was half-baked and the gambler who came up with it was made to sleep with the fishes on an unrelated matter.

Secondly, and more importantly, the article had this little tidbit:
The first person to get sick felt symptoms of food poisoning on June 28. On average, those affected were ill for four to five days with nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever. A week later, most had regained full health, including a Telegram and Gazette reporter covering the Worcester Tornadoes.
In case you missed it - one of the people who got sick was a reporter for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and yet the story I read yesterday in the Telegram and Gazette was from the Associated Press. The Telegram and Gazette had a first-hand source to the story but still they were too lazy or too cheap to write the story themselves.

Truly a new low in local coverage by the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Radical Muslims Aren't Cricket - or Are They?

Some things just seem to happen at the same time to get you thinking about certain things in strange and new ways. Recently I read a post over at Instapundit about Osama Bin Laden's vision of globalization vs. the West's.
Don't forget that the 9/11 attacks were, to a great extent, the start of a war on globalization, as symbolized by the World Trade Center. "The towers are economic power," Osama bin Laden said in an October 2001 interview. It's globalization—the worldwide spread of people, capital, products, brands, and ideas—that's the real threat to the terrorists...
As serendipity would have it - while all this was going on I was reading Douglas Adams classic Life, the Universe and Everything (Hitchhiker's Trilogy). The book is a continuation of the adventures of Arthur Dent and Ford Perfect and the gang. The central plot revolves around the past, present and future doings of the people from the planet Krikkit (pronounced the same as "cricket" and strangely enough the basis of the English game of the same name).

According to the book, the people of Krikkit believed in "peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life and the obliteration of all other life forms." It occurred to me that outside the bit about sport - Douglas Adams just as easily could have been describing Radical Muslims.

Through a series of circumstances the people of Krikkit are unaware that there are other beings in the universe. In fact they are unaware there even is a universe. One day a space ship crashes on their planet and they find out that they are not alone. This they do not like - so they use the technology that was crash landed on their planet to make war on the rest of the universe so that they can once again be alone.

Radical Muslims are attempting to use the technology that in a manner of speaking has crash landed in the Middle East to wage global war on all the people of the world who are not Muslims. The people of Krikkit may have been even harsher since in regards to outsiders they did not believe in "convert or die" - just "die". But then again the people of Krikkit loved sports so maybe that offsets and puts them back equal with the Radical Islamists.

If only the Radical Islamists were as fictional as the people of Krikkit.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Pauly has a post up about day 1A at the World Series of Poker. As always a very interesting read. I probably could have done without the image planted in my mind of Wayne Gretzky getting a blowjob (I know I'll end up having a dream where the Great One is making the "O" face and then suddenly breaks out singing O' Canada). If this doesn't make sense to you - I should mention that Janet Jones Gretzky busted out of the tournament in day 1A.

Pauly mentioning that Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan busted out in Day 1A reminded me of a prop bet they had over at Bodog. Basically it was a "last longest" bet among the former Main Event Champions. I thought Brunson and Chan were bad bets (I forget their odds) because people would be gunning for the right to say they busted out these famous poker players. Besides Brunson and Chan probably would prefer to make money on side cash games than sit through the circus that the Main Event has become. Chris Moneymaker, Jamie Gold and Robert Varkoni are sucker bets. Lightning won't strike twice for those guys. Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem are good bets but my money would have been on Juan Carlos Mortensen (I think he went off at 3-1).

Hey - speaking of Doyle Brunson - what ever happened to those stock manipulation charges in regard to his supposed take-over of the World Poker Tour?

Pauly mentioned Bobby "the Owl" Baldwin in his post. This was a name I was not familiar with but am now fascinated with. I just ordered his book Tales Out of Tulsa but I am more interested in reading his biography (maybe Pauly or Michael Lewis could write it). Those are the types of books I love to read.
Top 5 - David McCullough Books

Today is David McCullough's 74th birthday. I wasn't aware that his first job out of college was working as an editorial assistant at Sports Illustrated. In his honor - here are what I consider his top 5 books.

1. Truman
2. John Adams
3. 1776
4. Mornings on Horseback
5. The Johnstown Flood

I know that his The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal was a National Book Award winner but I could just never get through it even though I tried three seperate times. That's why it didn't make the top 5.
Heh Heh

This was a good joke.

I didn't see the punch line coming (but then again I'm a little slow).

Friday, July 06, 2007

Heh Heh - Fantasy Baseball is Funny

I was amused by this. Is it pitiful that I'm so into fantasy baseball that I figured this guy's problem seems to be that he isn't carrying a catcher?

HT Steve Silver
2007 World Series of Poker

Just a reminder that the World Series of Poker's Main Event starts today. It is scheduled to last 12 days with the final table scheduled for July 17th. As always - Dr. Pauly at the Tao of Poker is the best place to follow the WSOP.
The Future of Sports Coverage

Recently both the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News laid off reporters which in effect greatly reduced or eliminated their San Jose Sharks NHL beat coverage. At the same time The Hartford Courant made the decision not to have a Yankees beat reporter follow the team on the road. For anyone following the newspaper business these past few years - these moves don't come as surprises. And they are not one-time corrections. They are part of a trend. Newspapers are losing revenue and staff cuts and travel restrictions are the main ways to combat those losses in revenues.

The situation reminds me about the protests against Nestle Carnation because of their practices regarding selling baby formula in Third World nations. Nestle Carnation convinced many parents in poor countries that the civilized thing and the best thing for the baby was to use baby formula instead of breastfeeding. However, the poor mothers did not have enough money to properly feed the babies. So they added more water to stretch out the formula that they could afford or they did not boil the water they added to the formula with the result being a baby that was either sick or malnourished.

I am reminded about the protests against Nestle Carnation because the sports coverage provided by traditional newspapers is becoming watered down by staff cuts and travel restrictions to the point of being useless. You just can't get any satisfying nourishment for the sports soul from constant AP dispatches. Meanwhile the traditional newspapers are still trying to sell us the line that sports fans need the "professional" reporting and viewpoints of "their" reporters as opposed to the more organic viewpoints of informed fans with blogs.

In the future I can foresee a few blogs dedicated to individual teams where the in depth analysis and game coverage rivals or surpasses the news and opinion you would get from the current large newspapers.

Imagine a blog run by a couple of entrepreneurial fans who get press passes to cover the home games. If these guys are good then the fans will come to read what they have to say. On the road - the blog could have assigned "reporters" who are fans of the team that live in or near the city the team is traveling to for the road game. These guys would essentially be "stringers" for the blog who may get some small remuneration but the real kick for the stringers would be covering a team for which they are passionate about.

The professional reporters would tell you that these "fan boys" would be nothing but a hindrance. That they would just be in the way of the real men trying to get a job done. I say the opposite is true. These "fan boys" would bring with them the perspective of the regular fan (something which is sorely lost on many sports reporters these days whose enjoyment of the game has been sucked dry by working for penny pinching companies).

The blogs would have "game threads" for each individual game. If you have ever read one of these game threads - say on Sons of Sam Horn for Red Sox games - you would know that for every few "wow that was a awesome hit" comment, there is a great stat tossed out by a knowledgeable fan or a question posed that you yourself have wondered about. The blog stringer could monitor the game thread during his coverage and use the best questions for his post-game interviews. Its a win-win that would build upon itself and allow the blog to start making money from advertising due to the number of visitors who would now view the blog as THE place to go to follow their favorite team.

Of course there is nothing to prevent the "professional" reporters from following the game thread and cherry-picking the best questions but this too is a win-win for the fan. Many reporters are too concerned with working their "story-angle" and don't realize that fans don't care who asked the question. They just care that the question gets answered.

I tell you - the day where what I described above is reality is not far off. In fact if the folks at say Sharkspage want to pick up the slack in coverage caused by the layoffs at the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News - I would be happy to volunteer to be the blog stringer to cover the games if the Sharks ever come to Boston or if they want someone to cover the Sharks AHL affiliate in Worcester.
Derek Baldry

Here is a very touching story of a former Army Ranger turned walk-on football player.

I'm hoping the University of Florida sees fit to give Derek Baldry a scholoarship for his senior year. You would think it would be worth it to the team just for the leadership and inspiration he provides.

HT The Big Lead

Thursday, July 05, 2007

This Surprised Me

When I find things that surprise me - I like to link to them (because I assume if I thought something was surprising or interesting that you will too). Well this surprised me.

In New York City the radio station that was carrying Air America replaced the programming with Gospel music and the station's ratings improved. Significantly.

You would think that New York City would be Air America's bread and butter but instead more people there are choosing to listen to Gospel music. This is the Big Apple not the Bible Belt and yet more people are tuning in to listen to Gospel music than left-wing diatribes. I was surprised by that (not that Air America's rating are bad - just that in NYC Gospel music has more attraction).