Thursday, June 28, 2007

Paging Stan Kasten

I'm not sure what the best method is to get Washington Nationals' President Stan Kasten's attention (perhaps Agent Steinbog can help), so I figured why not try the the worst possible choice: serenade him. Stan, below you can sing along as we beg and plead with you to rid the franchise of it's management malice, esteemed GM *cough cough* Jim Bowden.

A few words first, if we may. Don't kid yourself Stan - Bowden getting Dmitri Young as a blue light special is pure luck. I might love the guy, but Dmitri could've just as easily ended up like Elijah Dukes, only 200 pounds heavier. Jim's failure to garner anything (spare me the draft picks talk) for Alfonso Soriano last year was borderline criminal. GM Jim is a no talent ass clown and he must go. Now.

Frankly, the last straw for us here at G:TB (in particular, for Dennis and me), was this completely asinine and baffling move Mr. Bowden made yesterday:

Nationals option outfielder Brandon Watson to Triple-A Columbus.

Wow, Stan, did you realize Nook Logan and Ryan Langerhans were the answer for your ballclub in CF? I sure didn't. You realize Nook was so terrible he completely gave up switch hitting three weeks ago, and now has 1 hit in the last three weeks to show for it. And Langerhans, good lord, don't get me started on this guy. In 137 ABs this year, Ryan has a .137 BA, .288 OBP and even more abysmal .277 SLG. Joe Borchard is laughing at this guy. I beg of you Stan, try to get a straight answer from the bi-polar Bowden...I don't think it's possible. Have you ever seen your GM in these interviews with local sportscaster and trivia aficionado Brett Haber? If you haven't, I suggest you play a few of those clips, after you listen to our lovely song of course.

Stan, your manager (who deserves a tremendous amount of credit for keeping this ragtag bunch competitive all year...and while I'm here, somebody give Randy St. Clair a medal for getting wins out of Jason Simontacchi, Micah Bowie, Matt Chico, etc...), sure seemed to like Watson, starting him in all five games since his call-up from Columbus. And Watson had not disappointed, going 5 for 18 in that brief stint, adding speed and excitement (2 R, 2 RBI, 1 SB) to an increasingly plodding lineup. Hell, I think Bob Carpenter wanted to marry Watson. The time has come Mr. Kasten. Jim Bowden must go.

Stan, enough of my ramblings - sit back, relax and let the dulcet tones of Bobby McFerrin guide you:

Here's a little song I stole
You might want to ponder your payroll
Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.

In every life you have some trouble

But having Jimmy makes it double

Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.

Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy Now.

Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy. Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.

Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy. Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.

Jim's got the team on its deathbed

Stan, take him behind the woodshed

Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.

Gheorghe say the move can't wait

Ted may have to mediate

Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.

Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy. Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.
Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy. Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.

(Look at Gheorghe -- he's happy. Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.
Here I give you my phone number. When you axe him, call me, I pay you nicely. Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.)

Jim got no skills, but tons of guile

Jim got no gal to make him smile

But Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.

'Cause when you waver my face will frown

And that will bring everybody down
So Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy. Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy Now.

Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy. Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.

Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy. Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy.
(Please Hurry, Please Hurry, please do it.
Fire Jimmy. Put a smile on my face. Don't bring everybody down. Please Hurry, Fire Jimmy...)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Well my July 4th is now ruined

Why's that you ask? Because there will be no Kobayashi/Chestnut Showdown on Coney Island this year. In what is being described as a "professional injury" (does that make this Ian Snell snafu an "unprofessional injury"?), Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi has suffered a severe jaw injury due to his rigorous training (?). By rigorous training I can only imagine he means stuffing hundreds of hot dogs in his face for days at a it any wonder the guy hurt himself? I almost choked to death the other night putting two Wendy's chicken nuggets in my mouth at once. This guy makes a living downing 53 and 3/4 hot dogs in 12 minutes and yet can't stay healthy. Imagine that.

Kobayashi says he can only open his mouth to make a gap the size of a fingertip after being diagnosed with jaw arthritis (you might recognize this "injury" as a prescribed weight loss technique in Beverly Hills). Had enough of my crack reporting...well why not turn to the man himself...

Oh right, it's in Japanese (nice mimicking of the Nathan's banner Takeru). Well, according to this article, he had this to say:
"My jaw refused to fight any more."

I think that says it all. Rest up Kobayashi...there will be plenty of hot dogs, cow brains and rice balls for you to devour in the future.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Has anyone else seen this ad?

I first caught this commercial the other night. It's ridiculous for so many reasons:

1. Gary Coleman, perhaps more desperate to make a dollar than ever before.
2. They couldn't have at least put a telephone book under Gary? As is, he can't even see the vents on the dashboard.
3. Pause the clip at the very end when the fine print shows. Take a look at the APR.
4. Take a look again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Whitneypedia: The Inaugural Entry

Driving to McDonald's one fine morning several weeks ago, I heard some nonsensical piece of trivia on the radio and realized I already knew that useless nugget. Not because it was important enough I ever learned it in my years of schooling, but rather that my immense amount of time spent drinking with Whitney and his trivia-clogged head (seriously, the man has a tremendous head) led to him spewing this particular nugget, amongst many others, in my general direction over several carbonated beverages.

In between ordering my McGriddle and paying the bitter youth at the window, I called Whit to inform him of this revelation. I suggested that he is a more powerful force than Wikipedia, and then, being the genius I am, I suggested he write a recurring G:TB segment entitled... wait for it... "Whitneypedia." Get it? Man, I am awesome. And so is this...

* * * * *
Okay, Teejay, here goes nothin'.

Whitneypedia... the first entry:

Most people over the age of 30 remember Band-Aid (the one-off superdupergroup to benefit starving Ethiopians, not the adhesive bandage). Their charitable contribution to the 1984 holiday season, Do They Know It's Christmas?, is still the most enjoyable “contemporary” (post-Burl) Christmas song going, featuring some of the best new wave and early 80's pop/rock musicians in the UK and beyond. Classic. Not too long ago SportGuy hoisted it into his Hall of Fame, then prattled on for a paragraph about Paul Young when everybody with a smidgen of music trivia in their heads knew that Young was a stand-in for Bowie, who couldn't make it. (Besides, Young did a fine job as understudy, and he's no slouch -- “Come Back & Stay” with the Fabulous Wealthy Tarts is vintage 80's blue-eyed soul.) But I digress.

You probably don't remember Band Aid II, a 1989 reprise of the concept to a tee, minus any musicians anyone cared about. Two-thirds of Bananarama (years after my infatuation with them had waned), Kylie Minogue (still Loco-Moting, years before she caught my eye), and a slew of easily forgettable British acts re-recorded the very same song. They gave Kylie Paul Young's intro spot, which was making the best of a bad situation, but the overall result simply lacked any creative spark whatsoever. And they all seemed to be having a really good time in the video, removing themselves that much more from the role of humanely concerned citizens. (Bob Geldof was nowhere to be found, which says a lot.) I believe the single topped the UK charts briefly, if only because nobody releases records that close to Christmas. It was for the same great cause, otherwise I'd slag it further. But I digress.

You might have heard about Band Aid 20 a few years back. This time Sir Bob did get back involved, and the artist list for the twentieth anniversary of Band Aid was suitably stronger. Bono and George Michael -- who'd experienced vastly different image changes since '84 -- re-appeared alongside some of today's best British talent. Folks from Coldplay, Radiohead, Travis, Snow Patrol, & Keane all joined in, as well as Dido and the new Kylie, Natasha Bedingfield. (Females were strangely eschewed from prominence on the original record, so this was a nice change.) The song was the same, of course -- except for a couple of hip-hoppy lines thrown in for kicks -- but some freshly recognizable voices made it the clear runner-up to the original. Worth a listen for fans of the first edition of the carol . . . and for those of you who don't think a song about starvation counts as a “Christmas Carol,” I routinely count “Fairytale of New York” in that category, so let's use the term loosely. But I digress.

You all know Live Aid. Duh. Too young for Woodstock, I'd call Live Aid the greatest concert of my lifetime, and I didn't even see it when it aired. I was playing baseball and camping out for six weeks in Goshen, VA; we tuned in that July day from the opening notes until the dramatic finale on that old relic called the FM radio. If you've forgotten how good the concerts were, look up the artist and track list on the Net. If you're a music aficionado, know that the DVD package delivers the goods. Dire Straits & Sting, Bowie (who made it this time), and The Who were just a few of the highlights; U2 was stirring, as you'd expect; Queen was riotous. The reunions of Sabbath, CSNY, and especially 3/4 of Zeppelin all seemed momentous, standing in direct contrast to the splintered Stones' performances. (At the time, we thought Mick & Keith were done. And in retrospect, maybe that would've been cooler.) Madonna was still dead sexy and pre-bleach -- or at least the large quantities of it. The Phil Collins thing was a cheesy ploy, but in 1985 it was about the coolest thing we could conjure. There were set list choices (Adam Ant's “Vive Le Rock,” The Cars' “Heartbeat City,” Rick Springfield's 3 songs yet no “Jessie's Girl”) and performances (disappointing Duran² and especially Dylan) that didn't measure up to expectations, and a few of the era's stars were missing (Bruce woulda been nice, and Prince coulda been fun), but by and large everything was even better than could be hoped for. One great day of music that seems impossible to best. But I digress.

You also might recall Live 8, the 20-year redux of Live Aid to coincide with a G8 political summit that the usual crew (Geldof, Midge Ure, Bono) thought needed some public spotlight. A different but similar message, and a little bit altered formula. Instead of just Wembley and JFK, there were 11 shows played and broadcast around the world. Some of the concerts were light on internationally known acts (not sure why they didn't consolidate to 8 for a marketing message), and once again, it was really all about London & Philly. I had just gotten my TiVo set up the week prior, and recorded much of it via MTV -- who proceeded to butcher the damn thing. Performances chosen seemingly at random and cutting away to commercial mid-song (in true MTV quick-cut montage style) nearly ruined everything. The misguided telecast, the fractured set-up, and the fact that it played like a sequel eliminated any chance of the resonance felt in the first and only Live Aid. There was controversy about the Live 8 cause, the ensuing results, and the ego of Sir Bob. And color me the cranky old man, but the music wasn't as consistently good. And yet . . . if you tuned in for the long-awaited reunion of Pink Floyd on the London stage at the end of the night, you know it was all worth it. That was somethin' special. But I digress.

You certainly, undoubtedly, indubitably know about USA for Africa. Yes, the Yanks couldn't leave well enough alone . . . and this time it was in a good way, raising money and awareness in big chunks with their follow-up to the Brits' “Do They Know It's Christmas?” called “We Are the World.” Typically American, our rendition was bigger (way more huge names, and a song twice as long), more blandly mainstream, and destined to draw tons more publicity. Oh, and not as good. I play Band Aid every holiday season as often as I can; if my iTunes shuffle happens to land on “We Are the World,” it's a mad dash to the keyboard before Michael's chorus hits. But it was okay, and there were moments that shined. Springsteen (who, as the story goes, drove a rented Corvette from the airport to the studio, while every other artist came in a limo with security) singing with Stevie was tops, and it's star-studded enough that you can recognize just about every solo singer. It's worthy for the donation, and for the extraordinary collection of talent in one room. (Michael Jackson, of course, was in another room, but no matter.) You can even get over the inclusion of Dionne Warwick, Dan Aykroyd, a few too many News, and every damn Jackson ever born. Except Janet. All of this is forgivable, given the moment. Except . . . the song really could've been a lot better. But I digress.

And now to my point.

What I am willing to bet you do not recall, what you most likely never ever knew, was that the mid-80's “famine jammin's” were not limited to the UK and USA. Yessirree, you betcha, our friendly, comfortably-dressed neighbors to the north chimed in to do their part to end Ethiopian hunger. That's right, there was a Canadian tribute song that same year entitled “Tears Are Not Enough” (you can see “tears" becoming “beers” in many a drunken Saskatchewan sing-along), and it was recorded by the Canuckleheaded amalgam Northern Lights. These days you have about the same chances of hearing this song as getting struck by lightning, and well, . . . to be blunt, the latter is preferable. I haven't spent enough years at this keyboard to appropriately convey the cringe factor that comes with each listen, so you'll either have to trust me or go dig it up. It's buried at Track 5 on the USA for Africa album between a live E Street version of Jimmy Cliff's “Trapped” (the only only only non-charitable reason there was to buy the CD, and even that ended when it appeared on his latest comp) and a rare Prince song. If you remember cassettes, you know that the tape often got flipped before the last song on Side 1, right where “Tears Are Not Enough” resided. Folks, all this is no accident.

The instrumentation begins with some cheesy keyboarding best described as “très faux,” and you'll soon see why that's appropriate; think 1980's Chicago -- with less edge. Gordon Lightfoot -- yeah -- opens up the singing, prompting you to think, “Oh yeah, he's Canadian.” (This phenomenon happens quite a bit in the song; it's a pleasant distraction from the music.) Second is Burton Cummings, one-half of duo behind The Guess Who. Randy Bachman was the other half, and when they split in the early 70's he went on to form the classic rock staple Bachman-Turner Overdrive, while Burton himself . . . uh, hung out in Canada for a decade and waited for Northern Lights to call. Anne Murray follows him up, taking us to soft rock depths that really require a warning label. (That's soft rock in the worst sense -- this from a self-professed lover of Yacht Rock's really smooth music.) Joni Mitchell, whom I do enjoy, joins in next; then comes another forgettable pansy-rock guy, followed by the estimable Neil Young. Now, my love of Neil's work is steep, but remember, this was mid-eighties Neil Young, the guy who'd just recorded back-to-back synth and rockabilly albums as part of a decade long middle finger (or insert Canadian equivalent) to his record company. Add to that that Mr. Young has never had the classically trained voice, and that it's suited for acoustic guitar, not karaoke Journey (with less edge), and his line “somehow our innocence is loooooost” sounds like an elementary school musical performance.

Bryan Adams, unsung Canadian rocker, turns in the best five seconds of the whole song -- predictably. But he's quickly undone by a duet that sounds an awful lot like “Almost Paradise,” so I'm thinkin' that's Loverboy Mike Reno in there. Fine, not terrible. And then the chorus hits like a punt in the gut. Ugh.

We can bridge the distance
Only we can make the difference
Don't you know that tears are not enough
If we can pull together
We can change the world forever

Heaven knows that tears are not enough

Lord. It's like New Kids on the Block. With less edge.

Well, you expect things to move predictably from there, and they do for a second. Another sub-par pair of hosers (alas, not the McKenzies) harmonize to open Verse 2, then the song actually rebounds with the always enjoyable Corey Hart. (I'm such a sucker for “Sunglasses at Night.”) And then . . . then . . . it hits like a neutron bomb. Even if you're tuning out the flannel-worn fluff at this point, you whip your head around: “Are they . . . singing . . . in French?” Yep. It's just a quick couplet, but it's a rabbit punch, and then you go, “Ah, yeah. Frickin' Montreal.” The only thing worse than Canadian light rock? French Canadian light rock. Cripes. Before you can form the xenophobic, anti-French epithet, however, Geddy Lee arises from the background with his unique nasal whine. Cue the Beavis: “Ohhh, God, it's Rush.”

From there it eventually fades into incessant repeats of the chorus in that drone that says, “We have 45 pop singers in one room and we defy you to discern any one of their prominent voices, mister.” A few folks fill the gaps with soul-sung wails in a “We Wish We Were the World” kind of way, and whoever permitted the song to go four-and-a-half minutes needs to be met at the border and Fargoed.

But really, what kind of jackass maliciously maligns the coming together of legendary musicians in the name of charitable giving? So what if “We Are the World” raised $63 million and the Canadian version resulted in this fact: “By 1990, the project had raised $3.2 million for famine relief projects in Africa, although 10 per cent of the money raised were kept to fund Canadian food assistance programs as well.” And why is that last part funny to this jackass? I couldn't carry Neil Young's tuque, much less a tune better than he. And if sappy sentiment and cheese-synth was not only the order of the day in 1985 but also the ideal way to reach the most people and have them in turn reach for their wallets, what the hell is my problem?

I'll tell you what my problem is. I've had “Tears Are Not Enough” on repeat the whole time I've been writing this diatribe. I swear, if someone so much as pronounces it organ-I-zation in my presence tomorrow, I'll have more than a five-minute major coming my way. And please don't get me started back on that mad quest to find out why it's Maple Leafs instead of Maple Leaves.

* * * * *
This has been your first (and I hope not final) dose of Whitneypedia. Many thanks for the information and images I borrowed to pass along for your enjoyment. Remember, when it comes to knowledge and trivia . . . spread 'em.

Taking what I can get

I spent an inordinate amount of time today searching for a particular video, something that would serve as a timely tribute to an action movie icon, especially in light of today being the release of "Live Free or Die Hard" [As it turns out, I'm an idiot - the movie releases next Wednesday]. Alas, once I did find that clip, the one of Bruce Willis singing "Respect Yourself", I discovered some YouTube douchebag disabled the embed option. What was I to do (certainly not my work) I soldiered on and dug up this equally classic example of 80s movie star arrogance. Added bonus: Rick James is prominently involved in this...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"How much do you want to bet?

The usual amount.
Why not?"

It seems there are endless bets being thrown around here at G:TB, but this is one I didn't want to forget (mainly because I plan on winning it). Once Roger Clemens announced his return to the Yankees, everyone and their mother had some sort of opinion on it, including this initial comment from Rob (don't worry, we won't hold you to these stats) and my deeply insightful reply:
Rob: How about some clemens predictions from the rocket surgeons here at g:tb?

starts: 22
record: 9-7
yankees' record: 14-8
era: 3.98
innings/start: 5.8

TJ: I will happily take that.
Rob was also apparently impressed by a Seth Mnookin post regarding Roger's return, and the Rocket's chances to pitch better than Tim Wakefield for the rest of the season (Seth had Wake's back in that fight), which led to the actual bet we will be tracking:
Rob: teejay - seth mnookin postulates today that tim wakefield will have better stats at the end of the year than clemens. wanna make that interesting?

TJ: As for Wake vs. Clemens, I've already got two cases coming my way, so sure, I'll spin one into this bet. What measurables are we using?

TJ: Well, Sethie seems to be using ERA, WHIP and BAA in his argument, so it seems we should use those as well.

Rob: deal.
So there you have it: Rob vs. TJ...Red Sox vs. Yankees...Tim Wakefield vs. Roger Clemens. Correct me if I'm wrong Robert, but the bet began with Roger's first start, yes? And these are the stats we're using: ERA, WHIP, BAA? If so, the early bet stats are below (and yes, I realize until I do a bit more math, these pitching lines do not match the actual bet metrics...give me some time, I'm not Rob Neyer):

June 12 - 8.0 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 1 ER
June 17 - 5.2 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 5 ER

June 9 - 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 3 ER
June 15 - 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 2 ER

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nats Pride: Minor League Edition

Well, Happy Monday to all. It's especially a good day if you're Columbus Clipper Brandon Watson*, who yesterday broke a 95-year-old International League Record with a hit in his 43rd straight game. Watson bumped Jack Lelivelt and his 1912 42-game streak from the IL record books with a single against the Ottawa Lynx. The Clippers are now the AAA affiliate of the hometown Nats after being the Yankees AAA franchise for years.

It's great to see Watson experiencing such success with Columbus (thanks to the streak, he's second in the league with a .338 BA), because his brief stints in the bigs have not gone too well. Watson has hit just .176 with 1 HR and 5 RBI in 68 big league ABs. In 2006 he was actually the Opening Day starter in CF and the lead-off hitter for the Nats, but was quickly demoted after struggling mightily.

No offense to Ryan Langerhans, who might be the greatest defensive OF ever, but it would seem to me the big league club could now find room for Watson at the expense of the .167-hitting Langerhans. That's right folks, not a misprint - Langerhans is hitting .167 in 120 2007 ABs. He's a career .241 hitter in 777 big league ABs. I don't think he's getting any better. Come on Jim Bowden, do something right for once and get Brandon back up to RFK during the summer and let's see what he can do.

*Interesting Watson nugget - he is the godson of former All Star outfielder Eric Davis (thanks wikipedia)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

King of the Abreus

That's right, it's time for another edition of G:TB's half-cocked and completely contrived faux name game...

Winston Abreu - First on the list is the righty reliever of the Washington Nationals. Winston has been around forever, seemingly in every minor league in the country, finally reaching the bigs last year, where he tossed 8 forgettable innings for the Orioles. Manny Acta doesn't exactly have a lot of choices in that bullpen of his, so Winston might get to stick around for a little while, though his 5.89 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and .307 BAA say otherwise.

Francesco Abreu - Hey, the U.S. Open starts today. And hey, Francesco never played in one...though it appears he was an adequate golfer on the European Tour, winning the German Open in 1973 and the Madrid Open in 1976.

Bobby Abreu - Full name is Bob Kelly Abreu. Did not know that. And in Venezuela he's lovingly known as "Comedulce" (the candy-eater)? Also interesting. But even more interesting is that, after taking April and May off, Bobby decided to stop being a pansy and start producing, and whaddya know, his recent tear has coincided with the Yankees rise from the ashes. Since June began, Bobby is 21-for-46 with 11 walks, 3 SB and 12 RBI (he's got a 12 game hit streak as well). His resurgence, along with some decent starting pitching (finally), has me feeling good about the Yanks postseason chances (for now, we'll say Wild Card...but perhaps Rob and I will be discussing the division come September). I think most folks remember Abreu's time in Philadelphia, but did you know both the Astros and Devil Rays completely gave up on him? Hell, the D-Rays traded him to Philly for Kevin Stocker. There are some out there that might also know Abreu because of his ex-girlfriend, former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. She of course decided to go on the Mexican reality show "La Granja" and bang a dude who looked like an extra in a Sergio Leone western. On camera. Huh, don't remember? Well, thank god for the interweb...the real fun starts at the 3:12 mark...Needless to say, Bobby ended that relationship soon after this clip emerged/word got out she was the Spanish Trishelle.

Dennis Abreu - Nondescript minor league OF in the Cardinals organization. But what you might not realize is this minor league utility guy is actually G:TB's infamous Dennis. That's right, three goofy white dudes from America's second oldest university have made random acquaintances with a 24-year-old Venezuelan minor leaguer who now chooses to pop-in periodically here at G:TB when not being tortured by 8 hours bus rides and Motel 8 accommodations. Pretty weird, huh?

Tony Abreu - Called up about a month ago by the Dodgers because Wilson Betemit and Andy LaRoche have been about as effective as Bert and Ernie trying to man 3B for L.A. Unfortunately for Tony, he is mired in a terrible 6-for-35 slump and it looks like Betemit might take his job back (which is fine by me since Betemit is on my NL-only team). It also doesn't help that Tony is the Butcher of Bakersfield at the hot corner.

Manuel Dias de Abreu - Anytime an actual thing or procedure is named after you, you get to participate in the name game (plus, there's less Abreus out there than you'd think). Manuel was a Brazilian physician and scientist and the inventor of abreugraphy, a rapid radiography of the lungs for screening tuberculosis. Exciting stuff, right? Well, unfortunately/tragically/ironically (pick one), Manuel died in 1962 from lung cancer, probably caused by his long habit of smoking.

And your winner: Bobby Abreu, King of the Abreus...really, never any doubt here, given his play of late and and it's direct effect on the Yanks current 8-game winning streak. Though a few votes were cast for Dennis Abreu, mainly by Dennis himself.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Does he get to be first in line now?

Hey, that Justin Verlander kid is pretty good, eh? He just wrapped up the sixth no-hitter in Detroit Tigers history - their first since Jack Morris in 1984. Verlander took just 2 hours and 11 minutes to dismantle the Brew Crew, striking out 12 along the way and throwing consistently in the high 90s with absolutely nasty breaking stuff (hell, one of the donkeys on ESPNews just said he threw a 102 mph pitch in the 9th). You think maybe Morneau should get out of his way now?

Monday, June 11, 2007

A-Rod Versus the Nats

Time again to check in on the little ballclub that could, the Washington Nationals. To date, the heretofore monikered "Nots" have, by all accounts, exceeded expectations. Even as their rotation went from questionable to doubtful to utterly unknown, they've managed to win enough games to merit a .413 winning percentage, well on their way to losing fewer than 100 contests. (And losing TJ some beer.)

They're doing it with smoke and mirrors, or so you'd infer from a segment just unveiled. In their super-scientific look at the league's talent, ESPN has ranked the Top 100 players this year. Naturally, the Nationals couldn't crack the 100, the only NL club to miss out. (The ChiSox duplicated the feat as well.) It's certainly saying something to have posted 26 wins by June 10 without anybody making that list.

Meanwhile, Rob and I have decided to import our occasional MLC segment "A-Rod Versus the Nats" to G:TB, a more suitable home for Nots content. See here and here for the origins of the thread, but it's a pretty simple concept: in April, Rob averred:
"It says here that A-Rod will finish the 2007 season with more homers than the Nationals collect wins. And there’s a chance that it won’t really be close. We’ll be watching the Nats closely, so you don’t have to. You're welcome."
The update: With a four-game win streak and taking six of eight in late May, the Nats began to look strangely...not hapless. (Hapful?) They dropped the next three series, but were swept in none of them. After taking two of three against the decidedly competent Twins in the Metrodome, it started to look as if Rob would be blown out of the water by the All-Star Break.

But A-Rod keeps killing the ball (even while engaging in P.R. nightmares on a weekly basis), including his two bombs against woeful Pirates pitching yesterday, and it's kept him in this race.

The current tally:
Nats Wins: 26
ARod HRs: 24

Stay tuned, it could almost get interesting.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Dear Riggo

Dear Riggo,

I love you. In a purely heterosexual way. Let's make that clear. I loved you back in the 80s for all those punishing runs, for the touchdown in Super Bowl XVII against the Dolphins, for loosening up Sandra Day O'Connor, for all of it. I loved you in more recent years for your unapologetically anti-corporate musings on the NFL and the Redskins in whatever medium was smart enough to make you available for public consumption. I love you today for the chaotic, rambling, singular lunacy you choreograph every afternoon on The John Riggins Show. Casting you in the role of the avuncular host of that program was sheer radio programming genius.

But Riggo, we gotta talk. Or, more to the point, you gotta talk less. I don't mean in general - the very best moments of The John Riggins Show occur when you regale the still-awestruck Kevin Sheehan and Gary Braun with tales of the 5 O'Clock Club, when you open a small window into Being John Riggins. That's mesmerizing stuff, and keeps me riveted.

Riveted, that is, right up until a guest calls in and you try to interview him or her. The following isn't an actual transcript of one of your interviews - more an homage - but I think it sufficiently captures the flavor of the John Riggins Interview Experience. Let's pretend you're talking to Senator George Allen about steroids in baseball:
So, Senator, I'm reading about George Mitchell's investigation of steroids in baseball, and I'm wondering how such an investigation comes about. I mean, what does Congress do with that investigation and how does it start? It occurs to me that maybe, you know, Congress shouldn't really be involved in this issue, but at the same time it's clear that all these guys were probably doing something they shouldn't have, but maybe we don't really know all the facts, or maybe we know the facts but don't want to - you know, like the ostrich typically puts its' head in the sand, well actually not the ostrich - that's kinda of an old wives tale - it's really the emu. Did I tell you about the time me and Gooch Walker shot an emu in Russia - kind of a wild deal, because we weren't sure that it was legal. There was a lot of vodka involved. Man. I guess what I'm trying to say is do you think baseball should be investigating the past?
See what I mean? I'm at the point now where I generally change the channel when you start asking somebody questions. It certainly helps that Czabe and Andy are now on opposite you - back when John Thompson's crotchety mumblings held that slot, I was nearly driven to listening to NPR while you wandered around the back 40, metaphorically.

I'm still with you - most of the time. And so are the hundreds of thousands of guys like me in your listening audience that still worship you for those touchdowns, but more importantly for your irreverance, your steadfast commitment to being yourself, and the unbelievable life you continue to lead. Just let Gary and Kevin do the talking when you've got a guest, and we'll all be cool, mmmkay?

Hugs and Kisses,

Gheorghe: The Blog

Thursday, June 07, 2007

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

G:TB was recently asked by Eric of The Extrapolator if we could pinch-hit for regular columnist Gary GNU on one of Extrapolator's enjoyable weekly features, Voodoo Sabermetrics. G:TB was happy to oblige, as we can only post so many YouTube clips and pictures of washed-up midgets throwing (I use that term loosely) baseballs. This week's VS victim - Dmitri Young of the hometown Washington Nationals. I was asked to talk about Dmitri's "clutchness" (someone check with Colbert to see if that's a word)...well, even though I've seen Da Meat Hook play several times this year, I decided we needed to recruit an expert for this discussion. So who did we bring in? Dmitri's mild-mannered younger brother Delmon, of course. We caught up with Delmon at the nearby Chuck E. Cheese's, in between rounds of his court appointed Whac-A-Mole therapy session. Dmitri's "clutchness", as told to us by his crazy younger brother:
"First of all, what kind of scale are you using, because I've got to tell you, Dmitri DOES NOT like scales (laughs heartily to himself). No seriously, are we talking about stats here? Look at the trifling 24-35 team he plays for, and look at the clutch line he's putting up (now, we all know I'm 100 times better than him, so even I am impressed with this):
.319, 5 HR, 28 RBI, .401 OBP, .494 SLG

Just think where the Nationals would be WITHOUT Dmitri. And all this after a 2006 that would make Tom Sizemore blush: an assault charge, treatment for alcoholism and depression, a divorce AND hospitalization for diabetes. Hell, the Tigers rubbed salt in the wound by cutting his ass a month before they played in the World Series.

His play on the field not clutch enough for you? How about this - my bro appeared at WWE's 2005 Survivor Series and laid the smackdown on that punk Edge and his skanky sidekick Lita. Dmitri wasn't going to stand for some fake-ass wrestler mocking his team.

Soooo, if you forced me to create a clutchness scale, I would say Dmitri is a 8 out of 10 (with me of course being a 10)...but you're not going to make me actually create a scale, right? Good, because some punk just cut me in line for Skee-Ball, and I need to go pull an 'Elijah' on his ass."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Worlds Colliding: The Gheorghe Summit

My grandfather had a long and storied -- if not terribly lucrative -- career in education, television, and educational television. He's the one I've incorporated into a great number of posts over at Misery Loves Company, in mostly silly connotations. That was how I knew him, the jovial jester of the family, the head of all things baseball, music, and high revelry. (In many a way, MLC is a fitting tribute to the guy.)

Anyway, there is a life's worth of achievement that gets lost in my interpretation of the man; the stories he'd unfurl at a moment's notice and the photos that adorned his "Vanity Wall" (moniker coined by his loving family) served as evidence of just that. This snapshot of him with Eleanor Roosevelt and JFK now graces my own, otherwise pale imitation of the wall. His obit in The New York Times exactly two years ago today does him more career justice than I ever could; it also stands as a painful personal parallel to the sentiments Rob outlines in his post below.

One of the positions Grampa Jack held that the Times didn't include was president of Pittsburgh public TV station WQED from 1955-1959. During that time, he/they recruited Robert Frost to tape 10 or 15 editions of an award-winning show called Heritage. While doing so, the esteemed poet was staying with some friends of my grandparents; while he was there, those friends invited said grandparents over for dinner with Mr. Frost...but asked a favor.

At that time, my Uncle Mike was attending the Falk School, a grade school affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh; one of his classmates was the son of Jonas Salk. Dr. Salk had been working at Pitt for nearly a decade, had gotten to know my grandparents, and, oh yeah, had developed the cure for polio. Robert Frost had asked that the Whites bring him along so he might meet the suddenly famous scientist.

And this became the story my grandmother cherishes most of all -- amid an abundance of anecdotes that has decorated her many years.

She'll launch into it with the slightest provocation:
"Whitney, I tell you, it was like watching royalty meet. Your grandfather and I felt like wallflowers, sitting back and watching two forms of greatness interact. We just sat there and listened. Jonas had been struggling to cope with his newfound fame, unsure how to balance quiet humility with the heaps of accolades coming his way. With great reverence for the old poet, he leaned in and asked him: 'Tell me, how do you handle all of the praise? How do you reconcile the acclaim? How do you take it?'

Robert Frost smiled, but looked intently at him and replied [with a thought neither of my grandparents ever forgot]: 'Take it. You must take it. In this life there are those who do and those who appreciate. You do, so allow others to appreciate.' "
And if all my grandfather had ever done in his life was to put Jonas Salk in the same living room as Robert Frost, I'd still appreciate him for the story.

* * * * *
Fast-forward 50 years to the Nation's Capital. Three weeks ago, somewhere in that sea of political giants, mental midgets, military leaders, G:TB readers, Southeast thugs, Councilmen on drugs, unauthorized bugs, White House shrugs, sages with mugs, HOV slugs (a phenomenon that baffles me to this day), and a slew of woefully, pitifully underachieving sports teams, there was a union of two local heroes with global reaches. It was a meeting later described as possessing "a kind of palpable magnificence to the moment usually reserved for international summits and such."

That's right. TeeJay met Gheorghe.

And here's where I'll let Teej himself take the writing utensil...
[Grabbing crayon with fist]
Years ago, on a dark, foggy night in Little Italy, this simple man bumped into the man, myth and legend who graces the marquee of this here blog. It was a rushed encounter, but historic nonetheless, if only for me blurting out what I consider a classic line in celebrity encounters: "Hey Gheorghe, you, Little Italy? Ironic, huh?" Sure, Big Gheorghe and his interpreter were both confused and frightened by this, but it's still a major highlight in this dope's brief time on the planet. For years, I hoped Gheorghe and I might meet again, especially given the expansion of this little corner of the blogosphere, but I figured it would never happen...

Fast-forward to three weeks ago, and my place of employment finally came up huge... Gheorghe was slated to be the featured guest at one of our conferences, and I was determined to buck the trend and make the sequel better than the original. I was more excited than Ralphie with his Red Ryder BB Gun -- I was going to chat with Gheorghe Dumitru Mureşan. Skirting all true work responsibilities, I sauntered up to the big guy, muttered something about his awesomeness, and shook his hand. Shaking his hand is akin to one of us grabbing a marble -- just an absolutely massive individual. Hell, take a look below: the guy's as big as me SITTING DOWN. (And in case you can't tell, I'm a 6'2", 230 lb. load...Whit, you couldn't have airbrushed out the double-chin?)

This time, I was determined to make the most of my brush with ghreatness. After a bit of small talk, and surrounded by work folks who probably expected me to do work all day, I simply said to our hero, mentor, and namesake, "Google yourself sometime, Gheorghe -- you'll be pleasantly surprised."

Ghita, on the off-chance you ever take my words to heart, this post is for you...
And there you have it. Let the wild debates ensue about which was a more monumental meeting, but I'm calling it a wash. Say what you will about Frost-Salk, but when rabid blogger and unknowing, 7'7" bloggee convene in the same nine-square-foot Convention Center removable floor paneling, it's gotta be something special. In fact, if we really, truly are "dedicated to the premise that life would be better if we all took ourselves a little less seriously," this latter encounter pretty much supersedes every interaction we at G:TB have ever had.

Jealous Again

I turn 37 later this week, a rather useless placeholder on the overall birthday roster. I don't get any new privileges, my insurance rates stay the same, and I'm one click on the dial closer to 40. I thought about doing something futile and stupid in celebration, like getting a tattoo or piercing something, but my time for those things has passed. Instead, I'm commemorating the passing of another year by inaugurating a futile and stupid semi-regular feature here at G:TB.

By most measures (except height - most definitely not height) I'm a reasonably successful incarnation of the modern American middle class male. Like most of us, I harbored dreams in early childhood of playing professional sports, then realized I hated horses so my only realistic avenue closed fairly early in life. I'm a realist by nature, so I moved on, wanting to be a sportswriter before spending time in press boxes and realizing what miserable douchewhistles most scribes become after a few years on the job.

Around that time, I decided I could be a Division I athletic director, or the GM of a professional franchise. Coincidentally and fortunately, I concurrently realized that while I'm a fairly bright lad, I'm also substantially lazy. The dreams of the young die hard, though in my case they mostly just laid down and took a nap. One of the artifacts of this history is a lifelong fascination and appreciation for those among us that are able to pour their hearts, souls, and time into the pursuit of, well, of anything that matters to them. Frankly, I'm jealous.

In the first installment of "Jealous Again", we examine the Theo Epstein phenomenon. His hiring as the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2002 at the age of 28 triggered an epidemic of what-have-I-done-with-my-life soul searching amongst a certain segment of Red Sox Nation, present company very much included. On the surface, he's a lot like me - lifelong Sox fan, smart as a whip, willing to put in backbreaking effort to achieve success...oh, right.

Upon learning more about Theo in the myriad stories written about his ascension to the dream job of legions, and the single-minded dedication and massive amount of work he put in to be successful, it was that "oh, right" realization that erased any predisposition towards irrational jealousy. I'm nothing if not self-aware, and I know damn well that I'm not willing to work that hard for anything, so my jealousy in this case leans more towards the awestruck variety.

From day one with the Sox, despite predictable missteps here and there, Theo's proven to be up to the job and then some. In a town where he could be a rock star (and sometimes pretends to be one), his aversion to publicity and low-key persona have elevated him to near-mythic status. With the 2004 World Series under his belt and a historically unprecedented run of success for the Sox during his tenure, Theo's place in Boston lore is already secure, right down to the gorilla suit he wore to escape the hungry press corps.

At 33 Theo Epstein's been GM of one of sports' most visible franchises for nearly 5 years. He's overseen the team's first championship in 86 years, directed the organization to 3 playoff appearances in 4 seasons with a strong shot at making it 4 for 5 and rebuilt the farm system. He's done it while bucking many of baseball's long-held truisms. Despite his aversion to personal publicity, he's leveraged his local fame extensively in support of a broad range of charitable efforts. He plays guitar in a rock band and recently married a really gorgeous girl. Hell, he succeeds in family selection - his brother-in-law wrote Capote. Even Yankee fans have to tip their cap.

So I return to this: am I jealous? Without question, if only because that description is more socially acceptable than man-crush. So here's to you, Theo, you nose-to-the-grindstone bastard. Long may you reign.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Mark Mallory is laughing at Louie DePalma

It's a shame there is not yet video of Danny DeVito's first pitch yesterday prior to the Phillies/Giants game, but based on the photo below you can just imagine how dismal it was. Take Cincy Mayor Mark Mallory's pitch, and then imagine it being 100 times worse. It was Rhea Perlman ugly. My bet is the lei really threw him off... yeah, that must be it.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Where's the love for Kenny Lofton?

An HGH-infused Gary Matthews Jr. makes this catch last year and people act like he cured cancer. A 40-year-old (by 1 day) Kenny Lofton makes a similar spectacular catch Friday night and I see zero mention of it anywhere on the eBays. Where is the love people? I guess everyone was distracted by the greatest managerial ejection performance of all time (nothing can ever top that rosin bag/grenade move).

Friday, June 01, 2007

Natural Selection is obviously not doing its job

The only thing that could've possibly made this clip more entertaining is if the Mensa member ski jumping off his roof was backed over (repeatedly) by that truck.