Friday, May 23, 2003

"There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it." --George Bernard Shaw

Conspiracy theorists can finally breath easy. The Knicks didn't win the NBA lottery last night. While Cleveland goes bonkers over LBJ, their lottery victory may have secured an even more valuable key to their future success...Jeff Van Gundy.

It seems the two finalists to coach the Cleveland LeBrons are Van Gundy and Paul Silas. I know that Silas is supposed to be a hot coaching commodity but let's face it; unlike Van Gundy, he has a career losing record as a coach during the regular season and unlike Van Gundy, a career losing record as a coach during the post season. Van Gundy is a great teacher and, as evidenced by their complete collapse once he left the Knicks, always got more out of his players than what they were worth on the court. Even without LeBron, Van Gundy could mean another fifteen victories next year.

Speaking of LeBron, lately I've been wondering whether or not his mom is a Led Zeppelin fan. What the hell does "LeBron" mean? Zeppelin did a song one time called Bron-Y-Aur Stomp which was supposed to be about Bron-Y-Aur, which means "breast of gold" in Welsh. It was also the name of a cottage in Wales where Zeppelin recorded their third album. Bron is also Olde English for "breast" but gaelic for "sorrow" -- Frankly, it's a mystery and if I had one question to ask at a Cleveland Cavs press conference, that would be it: LeBron, are you "the breast" or "the sorrow"?

Did anyone else know before last night that Cavs owner Gordon Gund is blind? In 1970, a progressive degenerative disease of the retina called retinitus pigmentosa (RP) took what remained of Gund's vision when he was 30 years old. In 1986, the Cavs had the #1 pick as a result of a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, and used it on Brad Daugherty. Then they nabbed Ron Harper with their own pick, and acquired the draft rights to Mark Price. Later that summer they hired Lenny Wilkens to be their head coach.

Whether the Pistons take Carmelo Anthony or Darko Milicic with the second pick of the draft, their history indicates the selection will be a winner. The other two times they had the #2 pick, they took Dave Bing in 1966 and Isiah Thomas in 1981, both Hall of Famers. That's a pretty good track record.

Knicks fans, on the other hand, have to look at this draft with trepidation. Another moronic draft day trade (getting permament DLer Antonio McDyess instead of Rookie of the Year Amare Stoudemire) or just another idiotic selection (1999, Frederick Weis)? The Knicks have many well-documented needs but the best player they can get with their #9 pick this year is Michael Sweetney. If history is any indication though, the Knicks might end up with Iceland's Jon Stefansson.


There are two commercials currently running that annoy the hell out of me. One of them was shown last night in the middle of the NBA Draft Lottery show. It's for something called Jack Daniels Original Hard Cola. They say it's about "no pretense". First of all, this is about a beverage commonly coined as "alcopop" or "malternative". The music played in the background of the commercial is the kind of music you listen to on a Sunday afternoon with a bad hangover, not this sort of "gathering" of fake hipsters having the kind of self-conscious fun that people have when they are trying to hard to have fun or look cool in the process. The bottom line is that this is a malt beverage that is called a hard cola but uses the name of a well-known whiskey product to give it a false credibility. If that isn't all about pretense, I don't know what is.

The other commercial is one I frequently see during sporting events on television: The Gevalia commercial that begins with a guy coming up to another guy with two cups of coffee in his hands and asks the other guy if he wants some coffee. There are so many surreal aspects of this commercial, I almost don't know where to begin.

First of all, when was the last time a co-worker came up to your office with two cups of coffee in his hands and offered you one? What kind of company is this where people are wandering the halls with two cups of coffee in their hands? Even if it did happen, I'd be real suspicious of his motivations. Is this a new secret gay ritual? Is it spiked with the date rape drug? Is the man offering the cup of coffee an al-Qaeda operative looking to poison me?

Then, when the guy sensibly declines the coffee, the other guy sniffs at the coffee, as though it suddenly dawns on him that something might be wrong with it. What is he hoping to discover, that the second cup has the faint scent of arsenic in it?

Worse still, after declining the weird co-worker's coffee, this guy suddenly gets up and decides he's going to go home for his own coffee. Right in the middle of the workday. Can you imagine that? "I've got alot of paper work and two staff meetings but you know what, the hell with it, I'm going home for some real coffee!"

So the guy goes dancing out into the streets, just happening to pass all these places selling coffee he doesn't want, and then he hops a bus that just happens to be pulling up to the stop the minute he gets there and seconds later, he's home to a pot of coffee that magically, is already brewed and waiting!

Is this some kind of coffee fetishist's wet dream, or what?


The Mess are 4-1 since Mike Piazza went down with his right groin muscle tear. Does this mean they're back in the pennant race if Roberto Alomar breaks his leg?

When people point out Michael Jordan's #1 selection of Kwame Brown as evidence of what a lousy front office guy he is, they should note Kwame's improvement from his rookie season to this past season and consider his age and inexperience. Kwame's rookie season PPG average was 4.5 and he averaged 3.5 rebounds. This season, he average 7.4 ppg and 5.3 rebounds. At that rate of improvement, in two seasons, he would be averaging 20.1 points per game and 12.1 rebounds.

After the Game 2 debacle in San Antonio, ESPN cites ultra-jackass Joey Crawford as a "notoriously hot tempered" referee. Is it just me or does this make no sense at all? Why is someone whose job it is to "supervise" play taking the spotlight with his zero-tolerance attitude? What does it tell you when Joey walked over to Nick Van Exel of the Mavericks during pregame warm-ups and said, "Don't mess with me tonight. Because, like Muhammed Ali, I'm a baaaad man"? It tells me that Joey Crawford should be hanging out with Judge Judy instead of controlling NBA playoff games.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Nearly A Quarter Finished

"Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed." -- Emily Dickinson

Now that the baseball season is already one quarter complete, I thought it might be a good time to assess the question of whose start defies the imagination more, the 26-15 start of the Montreal/San Juan Expos or the 24-15 start of the Kansas City Royals and which of them, if either, is likely to continue to baffle us with their success.

The success of the Expos shouldn't need someone like Anita the phone psychic to foresee. After all, they finished 2nd in the NL East last year, above .500 and closed the season out on a 4 game winning streak. Brad Wilkerson was named the Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year and Vladimir Guerrero was named to the publication's NL All-Star Team. Jose Vidro was an allstar starter. Bartolo Colon won 20 games and Javier Vasquez, while not pitching in his usual spectacular fashion, was one of the most coveted young pitchers in the off season.

But let's be honest, who really thought of the Expos as a playoff team? One minute they were on Bud Selig's endangered species list and the next they're contenders? It seemed fluky, like the incomprehensible success of a talentless dreg like keen eddie. Then they traded away Bartolo Colon in exchange for down-and-outers like the Orlando Hernandez, RHP Rocky Biddle and the outfield stiff, Jeff Liefer. And who really thought the 67 year old manager, Frank Robinson, wouldn't eventually succumb to jet lag and burn out from all those "home" games in Puerto Rico?

And yet, there they are today, still in second place, a feisty 25-15 record to show for their troubles, only 2 1/2 games behind the Braves with the third best record in the National League. How are they doing it? Despite Orlando Cabrera's sudden power surge and the presence of Vlad the Impaler in their lineup, they are in the middle of the pack in just about every single batting category as a team, the perfect .500 club. But their pitching has been outstanding. They are third in the NL in ERA, and they've thrown more shutouts than anyone else and are 8-3 in one run ballgames. Zach Day, who pitched out of the bullpen last season, is 4-1 with a 2.73 ERA as a starter. Led by Joey Eischen (a 1.84 ERA in 21 appearances so far), Scott Stewart (a 2.29 ERA in 21 appearances)and Rocky Biddle, who has remained as unspectacular with the Expos as he was with the White Sox but still somehow has 10 saves and 3 wins, the bullpen has been one of the better ones in the league.

As Marc Griffin tells us, il y a 50 bonnes raisons de venir voir les Expos.

But will they last the season? For one, the Braves look like they're back to their regular ways now and after sweeping them in the season's opening series, the Expos were in turn swept by the Braves in their next series. But the Phillies are decidedly unspectacular, despite the splashy off-season signings while the Mets and the Marlins are laughingstocks at best. Stats padders. Playing in arguably the weakest division in the National League, the Expos have a good shot at keeping pace and while currently they are 3 1/2 games ahead of Houston for the wildcard spot, it seems highly unlikely they will outdistance Houston, St. Louis, or Cincinnati for an entire season.

The true mystery is the Kansas City Royals at 24-15 although some perspective can be gained by pointing out that since their 15-3 start, they are now on a more realistic 9-12 roll. I mean, c'mon. Is Runelvys Hernandez the April pitcher with the 4-0 record and 1.36 ERA or the May pitcher with the 0-3 record and 5.89 ERA? How much can the "positive attitude" of manager Tony Pena mean when they are 5-7 against teams with winning records? They haven't played the Yankees, A's, or Mariners yet. This is a team that is melting already and the weather hasn't even gotten warm yet.

I guess one of the primary reason I hate the Royals is because of their asshat owner, David Glass. Last winter Glass directed GM Allard Baird to cut $10 million from the $47.6 million payroll the Royals had in 2002, even though the Royals were projected to receive $19 million in revenue-sharing funds at the end of this season under baseball's new basic agreement. Of course, the early success of the Royals puts Glass in the uncomfortable position of having to trade good players to cut even more salary, or suck it up, make less profit and pacify Royals fans by adding to the payroll. So the Royals, in defiance of Glass, will have to continue to put up good numbers through the All Star break. In some ways, I'm rooting for them to succeed, just to put Glass in that position. Maybe then he'll sell the team to someone who is actually interested in giving Kansas City the kind of franchise it deserves. But don't count on it. The Royals are fading fast and it won't be long before even the White Sox have jumped ahead of them.


Finding positives in the Mess season is like trying to figure out reasons why you should consider Kathy Bates' bared, aged and sagging breasts in the hot tub scene of About Schmidt the hottest scene of this year's movies.

Yesterday in the fourth inning, Andres Galarraga led off by popping up in front of the plate. For most teams, an average sort of fielding play and poof, one out. For the Mess, it became yet another comedic spectacle of ineptitude. Piazza barely broke for it from behind home plate (just imagine him trying to handle a line drive hit towards first base!), Wigginton arrived as if he were coming from another time zone instead of third base and Leiter stood there admiring it like it was a lunar eclipse. So the ball plops on the ground. Man on first.

As if that wasn't enough bonehead for your money, a few batters later, with runners on first and third, the PITCHER, sends a comebacker to Leiter for an easy inning-ending double play. Instead of whipping the ball to second to start a double play, Leiter stares off Galarraga at third as though the lead-footed 41 year old was suddenly a danger to break for home plate?! A few seconds later, when Leiter finally throws the ball to second, it is of course, far too late for a double play and the Giants went on to score three runs.

Someone try and tell me these kinds of idiotic mental errors, so prevelent in Mess games this season, isn't the fault of the manager. Hula Howe has the Mess so relaxed they've all become somnabulists. If it were possible, the first two things their shamelessly unfit excuse for an owner, dear Mr. Wilpon should do is fire GM Steve Phillips and do whatever it takes to get Omar Minaya back to the Mets to replace him and then let Minaya work out who should manage the team since Howe has this team playing like the Bad News Bears. Minaya, once the senior assistant general manager of the Mets, has proven himself a miracle worker in Montreal and is the only available solution to the disaster that is the Mess roster.


I have to admit, I believed the hype about the Lakers. I believed they could turn it on at will. I believed they would win it all again. That's why their complete collapse in the last quarter and a half against the Spurs was so shocking. I drank the Phil Jackson kool aid. But not having to watch that fat blowhard Jack Nicholson screaming insanely courtside will be a relief. Nicholson has now surpassed Spike Lee as the most annoying personality at NBA games.

Anyone still ready to argue against Tim Duncan's MVP award? A final showcasing the two most valuable players left in the NBA, Duncan and Kidd, could make for the first exciting NBA finals since the Rockets dumped the Knicks in '93-'94, the series that had the OJ chase scene interrupt the middle of Game 6.


I have to admit that I don't know anything about horse racing. I went to the Belmont Stakes a few times and about the only thing I noted was that horse racing fans are great drunks. Given my vast experience in handicapping, how can I go against a horse named "New York Hero" at 20-1 odds? Easy. Funny Cide is a New York-bred gelding. So here we go:

1. Cherokee's Boy
2. Funny Cide
3. Kissin Saint

Monday, May 12, 2003

Sports Arguments And No-HItters

One of the great half-wits in sports media, Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, will release a book this week called The One Hundred Greatest Sports Arguments of All Time. Some of the arguments listed were:

1. Which was the greater achievement, Ted Williams’s .406 season or Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak?

For my money, the greater achievement should be measured by the likelihood that the achievement won't be matched or broken. Since DiMaggio's 1941 streak broke Willie Keeler's mark of 44 set in 1897, Pete Rose has come the closest, with 44 in 1978. Paul Molitor hit in 39 straight games in 1987 and Luis Castillo hit in 35 straight last season. The closest anyone has come to DiMaggio was .79% of the number of consecutive games hit safely in.

When Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941 it was the highest single season batting average since Rogers Hornsby’s record of .424 in 1924. Since 1941, Tony Gwynn hit .394 in 1994, George Brett hit .390 in 1980, Williams himself hit .388 in 1957 and Rod Carew hit .388 in 1977. The closest anyone came to topping Williams' mark was 97% of his average.

It would seem easier and more likely that someone will hit .406 again than someone will hit in at least 56 consecutive games again.

2. Who’d be left standing in a battle between Joe Louis and Mohammed Ali?

A nice article by Monte Cox explores the possibility of such a fight and concluded that Joe Louis is the one man who would knock Muhammad Ali out. I think the reach advantage of Ali and Ali's speed and quickness would have outpointed Louis in the end. Then again, I still root for a Mike Tyson comeback. What do I know?

3. Which NBA team was the greatest of all time—the ’66–’67 Celtics? The ’71–’72 Lakers? What about the ’95–’96 Bulls?

In doing a little research on past teams, I came across the Tendex rating system which concluded that none of the teams Russo lists were the best. The conclusion of Tendex was that the best NBA team of all-time was the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks featuring Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

4. Who would dominate the ultimate Pebble Beach showdown—Ben Hogan or Tiger Woods?

The answer is: Who really cares? If this is a big argument, then you might as well complete the snooze-fest and argue about who was the better bowler, Earl Anthony or Dick Weber. Or better still, the answer to the question of who would have won if Tiger Woods had played Ben Hogan in the 1948 US Open (Hogan's first US open victory) would be that Tiger might not even have been allowed to play on the course or in the tournament. How integrated was pro golf in 1948?

5. Who was the most important athlete of the twentieth century?

What athlete has had a bigger impact on his sport than Jackie Robinson?

Mind you, none of the above is any kind of endorsement of that offensive, screeching blatherskite, Mad Dog Russo or his book. The book's sole redeeming quality will be the fact that you don't have to listen to him read it aloud.


Another interesting question came up in Michael Dowd's column on the "Top 5 No-Hitters". Dowd selected Jim Abbot's no-hitter against the Indians in 1993. It is pretty phenomenal to throw a no-hitter with no right hand, but then again, he was left-handed. In my own life, these are my top 5:

1. Hideo Nomo 4/4/2001 against the Baltimore Orioles: The best reason of all -- it was the only no-hitter I've ever seen in person.
2. Doc Gooden 5/14/1996 against the Seattle Mariners: Doc had just come off a year and a half suspension from baseball and only two months into the season, pitched a no-hitter.
3. Nolan Ryan 5/1/1991 against the Toronto Blue Jays: Let's face it. Who else is going to pitch a no-hitter at the age of 44?
4. Hideo Nomo 9/17/1996 against the Colorado Rockies: A no-hitter in Coors Field? What's next, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
5. Dock Ellis 6/12/1970 against the San Diego Padres: move over Fat Man Wells. Ellis claims to have pitched his perfect game while tripping on acid. Whoa.


Something I'm still scratching my head over is Daunte Culpepper getting a $102 million contract extension with the Vikings yesterday, becoming one of the NFL's highest-paid players.

The 10-year deal includes a $16 million signing bonus. The 26-year-old quarterback had one year left on the deal he signed after the Vikings drafted him with the 11th overall pick out of Central Florida in 1999.

The total potential value would be the third highest in NFL history behind Eagles QB Donovan McNabb ($115 million) and Bills QB Drew Bledsoe ($103 million).

Let's set aside for a moment, the fact that there are at least 10 quarterbacks better than Culpepper currently playing in the NFL. What has Culpepper done to merit such an absurd amount of money? Was it his performance in the 2000 NFC Championship Game when he helped lead the Vikings to a miserable 41-0 humiliation at the hands of the NY Giants by completing only 13 of 28 passes for 78 yards and throwing three interceptions? Or is it his stellar touchdown to interception ratio since then? After all, he's thrown 32 td passes since then and had only 36 intercepted.

Using this sort of scale, does this mean a stiff like Trent Dilfer merits a $500 million contract extension? At least he won a Super Bowl title.

Now imagine that the Vikings are also paying Randy Moss $75 million and you gotta wonder what are they going to pay everyone else with, Iraqi dinars? How many freaking used cars is Red McCombs going to have to sell to cover his nut on this one?

Hello Rey OrdoƱez Deux:

"I've never been in a situation where the home fans boo the home team," Cliff Floyd said in this morning's Daily News. "To me, it's mind-boggling, because I've never been associated with that type of thing. ... We need more support, we need cheers, we need happiness. You want the pressure on (the other team), not us. We need all the help we can get."

Whaaaaat? Clearly this guy's been eating the same hippy-go-lucky pills as Hula Howe. We need cheers? We need happiness? This is almost too absurd for words. What does he prefer, a group hug? A Group Therapy Session before every game at Shea? The Mess are hitting .236 as a team. And Floyd is hitting a whopping .241 for his $6.5 million salary. Cliff Floyd is lucky they are only booing instead of throwing garbage, bags of urine and golf balls at his head. Maybe when the delicate little ego of Cliff Floyd realizes he's not playing in a graveyard of somnambulists like he did in Florida, he'll realize that in some baseball towns, the fans are actually going to hold the players accountable for their performances. If it's too much for Mr. Floyd to handle, maybe he should join Fat Mo on the permanently incompetent and injured list. Either that, or save his whining for someone who'll hold his hand and kiss his witto booboos better, like Art Howe.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Who Is On First?

"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it." Art Buchwald

The Mess just get messier. I return from a two week sabbatical from the artless bunglings of the Mess mismanagement just in time to see another firestorm erupt.

To fully appreciate the degree of incompetence employed by the Mess in this latest fiasco one should first recognize that the addled braintrust was actually trying to get something right for the first time. While fans have been calling for the move of Piazza's dead-arm catcher's act to first base for more than a season and a half, the Mess mismanagement has historically only trepidly broached the issue with Piazza, each time rebuffed by Piazza himself, who until now, had selfishly placed his own desire to be seen as the best hitting catcher of all time above the needs of his teammates not to have a defensive liability behind the plate.

Piazza has noted all along that he didn't care what anyone thought, he didn't care that his offensive numbers have been falling fast due to the wear and tear of his position. He didn't care that his inability to throw out runners trying to steal was causing chaos for his pitchers every time a runner got on base. He didn't care that his obstinate pride to remain a catcher and only a catcher was shortening his career.

Now he doesn't have a choice and the Mess mismanagement has once again proven its inability to even get the simple things right, miscommunicating the long-awaited move of their franchise player by telling everyone but Piazza about it in advance.

There was no real way to make the transition smooth. It should have been insisted upon during the off season that Piazza prep for some first baseman's duties this season. After all, Fat Mo, even if he had been able to hit his weight, was always just another wobbling injury waiting to happen and Piazza could have transitioned into this move gradually and gracefully, a few games here, a few games there until he was comfortable. But it wasn't insisted upon. Piazza insisted he was a catcher and only a catcher.

Instead, there was Hula Howe, the man who has pledged that team business would stay in the clubhouse, blabbing to the media that Piazza was soon going to be taking grounders at first before Piazza had been consulted. There was the perpetually inept General Mismanager Steve Phillips insisting Piazza was "very receptive" to making the switch that Piazza hadn't even been approached about.

I've got to surrender because I don't know what else to say right now." Piazza noted after the controversy took root during yesterday's batting practice.

On the other hand, getting tossed into the fire like he did is perhaps Piazza's own fault for his obstinant refusal to volunteer to at least try to learn to play first. Such selfishness speaks loudly about why Piazza is no clubhouse leader, despite his lofty offensive numbers. Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise that having been painted into the corner, he must finally do what is right.

But it doesn't excuse the idiotic manner the Mess handled it and now, with the cat out of the bag and no time for transition, it won't be long before everyone begins the unrealistic expectations that Piazza start making the move to first immediately. Cliff Floyd estimated it took him 4 1/2 months to learn how to play first base. "I needed an entire season of the Arizona Fall least 100 ground balls every day." Making such a transition in the middle of the season will probably spell alot of comedic ineptness for slow-footed Piazza this year, if he can make the transition at all. It probably also cements the belief that this season is already a wash and the best thing that Mess fans have to look forward to is whatever prospects they might be able to land for Roberto Alomar and Armando Benitez by mid season and, perhaps most importantly, the joy we will all feel when Steve Phillips is finally released like a long awaited end to a spell of bad constipation.


I don't guess there is anything to be said in defense of Bob Ryan for his remarks about wanting to "smack" Jason Kidd's wife. But from what I've seen of Joumana Kidd and looking at the physical shape Bob Ryan is in, my guess is Joumana could probably kick Bob Ryan's ass anyway so the threat is an idle one at best. Was it mere irony that Ryan chose such words for a woman who had already been punched by her husband on one occasion? Bob Ryan makes his living using words and one would think that by now, would have learned to use them more judiciously but beyond that, these hysterical calls for him to lose his job over an idiotic and insensitive, yet essentially innocuous remark, are misguided. In a world of easily excitable political correctionists, I'm amazed that Ryan was able to keep his job but any punishment stronger than the one meted out would have been yet another overzealously enforced dose of official morality that we can all do without.


I'm still trying to figure out what Abe Pollin was thinking when he sent Michael Jordan packing without explanation. It was a move on such a par with poor judgement you'd think he was the owner of the New York Mess. Then again, Pollin has done nothing right with his franchise since the heady days of Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes in 1978 when they won the World Championship. Every once in a while, they open a spigot of hope, like the trade for Chris Webber or the signing of Michael Jordan, only to screw it up so badly that the franchise ends up worse off than when it started. So now they've alienated the man whose name is synonymous with the sport, they've in essence, given up on the team that was being built and the coach who had been hired to build it, the acting General Manager has unofficially retired and the franchise is once again in the far-too-familiar position of rebuilding. But Abe Pollin has proven he's the man in charge. Good work, Abe. If you live to be a hundred you still won't see that "one more championship" you profess to want so much.