Monday, July 26, 2004

Friday, July 23, 2004

Franco My Eye! Get Us Some Relief!
"Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer." --Mark Twain

This one was like watching some B movie horror flick where every killing is choreographed and the birds scream too much and too shrilly...

I'd just gotten home from the gym, got online and lo and behold, just in time to listen to the internet broadcast of the Mets 1-1 tie against the Expos in the 8th, in comes the 800 year old Johnny Franco, Mr Trouble himself.

I even played a little game with myself while the beef and the Rendang sauce were cooking: could I run downstairs, check the pan and run back upstairs before Franco had blown the game?

The answer, sadly, was no.

Franco, who is 0-2 with a 16.92 ERA in five games on the homestand, bleeeeeew it again, this time by surrendering a tiebreaking, two-run homer to Tony Batista with two outs in the eighth inning and even more demoralising, blowing YET ANOTHER sterling performance by Tom Glavine.

Glavine twirled a seven-inning, one-run, five-hit gem all for naught yet again, as Franco proved yet again the only thing he is the set-up man is for the fall guy. Glavine must love pitching for the Mets. Despite a 2.60 ERA, since June 13, he has gone seven straight starts without a win, including yesterday's bullpen blow-up against the Expos at Shea Stadium. Since the one-hitter Glavine threw May 23 against Colorado, he's won once and lost five in a row for the first time as a professional ballplayer.

The Mets are now officially losing their grip on postseason reality, incapable of sustaining even the level of mediocrity required to remain in something as undemanding as the NL East race. On a homestand of all places, they are 3-5, which they conclude with a three game series against the Atlanta Braves.

Lost in all the hoopla even was Mr Future of the World, David Wright getting his first two hits in the majors.

I would mention who the starting pitchers for tonight's match against the Braves will be but really, what's the point? Unless the Mets starter has got a complete game shutout up his sleeve, things ain't looking so good.

By the way, the most interesting aspect of the David Wright-finally-getting-his-callup story is how he arrived in New York. The story goes that he flew to NYC on a prop plane so small that he had to switch seats to balance his weight.

*****

So, did you hear the one about Tagg Bozied? (which, incidentally, is one of the better baseball names in AAA)

After hitting a grand slam to win the game for his AAA Portland teammates, he jumped high to land on the homeplate, joining his mates in celebration, and ruptured the patellar tendon in his left knee in doing so. Now he needs surgery and will be out at least six months.

Hmmm.

"It was real scary," Bozied told The Associated Press. "I saw my kneecap pushed up into my quadriceps. I thought my career was over.

And just in time.

Tagg had been named the P.C.L.'s batter of the week, and he had driven in 13 runs in the five games since the Class AAA All-Star Game break. Despite missing six weeks with a hamstring injury, he had 16 homers and 58 runs batted in and was batting .315 with 29 strikeouts in 213 at-bats.

Hmmm. Let that be a lesson at home for all you kids out there. Never jump too hard on homeplate in celebration. The baseball gods will get you.

*****

Speaking of injuries, how funny is it that after months of moaning and indecision and a season's length of deliberation about how to play two second basemen at the same time, the Baltimore Orioles' Jerry Hairston and Brian Roberts, one playing in the outfield, one at second, BOTH get injured in the same inning.

Tells you a little something about how the Orioles' season is going so far.

It the Curse of Angelos, I'm telling you.

*****

Who is Deader, the Dead Sox or the Flubs?

A REALLY exciting baseball season would include both teams clawing back to make pennant races out of their respective divisions.

Otherwise, a chase for the wildcard just doesn't seem as appetising.

Whilst the Cubbies have blown their chances to kick the Cardinals down and their series against each other is over for the season, the Red Sox still have their chances and open against the Yankees tonight.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"That has nothing to do with basketball. That's just because I'm sexy."

-- SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, explaining why he has been embraced by fans in Miami

Pull The Trigger Already, Any Trigger
"A coward turns away, but a brave man's choice is danger." --Euripides

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Sunday Morning One Man Roundtable

"A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor." -- Victor Hugo

Friday, July 16, 2004

Art, Art, Blew A Fart And Blew The Whole Machine Apart
 
In case any of you out there were wondering whether or not the Mets being within rodent nose twitching whisker distance of the NL East first place slot, just brush up on your Howe-isms:
 
http://www.firearthowe.blogspot.com/">Fire Art Howe Already!
 
There within are all the excuses, ready made, hand-sewn. 
 
Don't say I didn't warn you.



Sunday, July 11, 2004

Cubs-Cards Rivalry, the Lazy Way

CUBS

Batting Statistics
NAME G AB R H 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Moises Alou 16 63 10 14 3 0 3 26 10 4 7 0 0 .222 .265 .413 .677
C. Patterson 16 61 6 19 1 0 2 26 7 5 8 0 0 .311 .358 .426 .784
Todd Walker 14 57 9 16 1 0 4 29 7 2 7 0 1 .281 .317 .509 .825
Derrek Lee 16 57 10 25 10 0 4 47 14 9 10 1 0 .439 .515 .825 1.340
A. Ramirez 14 56 12 22 4 0 2 32 12 3 8 0 0 .393 .424 .571 .995
M. Barrett 14 50 6 14 3 0 2 23 5 5 5 0 1 .280 .357 .460 .817
Sammy Sosa 9 33 6 11 2 0 2 19 4 5 8 0 0 .333 .421 .576 .997
R. Martinez 12 33 2 8 4 0 0 12 6 2 5 0 0 .242 .270 .364 .634
T. Hollandsworth 9 21 6 8 2 0 1 13 5 3 0 0 0 .381 .458 .619 1.077
A. Gonzalez 4 16 0 5 2 0 0 7 1 0 1 0 1 .313 .313 .438 .750
Jose Macias 9 15 1 3 1 0 0 4 0 1 5 0 1 .200 .250 .267 .517
Matt Clement 5 12 0 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 5 0 0 .083 .083 .167 .250
M. Grudzielanek 4 11 1 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 1 .182 .182 .182 .364
Rey Ordonez 6 11 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 .091 .091 .091 .182
Paul Bako 4 11 0 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 4 0 0 .091 .091 .182 .273
Tom Goodwin 5 8 1 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 1 0 .250 .250 .250 .500
Glendon Rusch 5 8 1 1 0 0 1 4 1 0 2 0 0 .125 .125 .500 .625
Greg Maddux 3 7 2 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 1 0 .286 .286 .286 .571
C. Zambrano 2 6 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333
Jason Dubois 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
B. Harris 1 3 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 .333 .500 .333 .833
Kerry Wood 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
David Kelton 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Sergio Mitre 1 2 0 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500
D. Jackson (9 KC) 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Kent Mercker 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
M. Remlinger 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
L. Hawkins 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Joe Borowski 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
K. Farnsworth 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
J. Anderson (1 Bos) 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Mark Prior 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
F. Beltran 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
T. Wellemeyer 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Jon Leicester 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
M. Wuertz 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
NAME G AB R H 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Cubs 16 549 74 158 36 0 21 257 72 40 87 3 5 .288 .336 .468 .804
Opponents 16 519 72 124 26 2 22 220 69 45 123 11 4 .239 .296 .424 .719

Pitching Statistics
NAME G GS W L Sv Hld IP H ER HR BB SO K/9 P/GS WHIP ERA
T. Wellemeyer 9 0 0 0 0 0 13.0 8 3 0 12 12 8.31 0.0 1.54 2.08
Kent Mercker 36 0 1 0 0 6 25.2 21 7 2 15 25 8.77 0.0 1.40 2.45
C. Zambrano 17 17 9 4 0 0 114.0 92 33 9 47 104 8.21 109.9 1.22 2.61
Jon Leicester 8 0 2 0 0 0 13.2 9 4 3 2 10 6.59 0.0 0.80 2.63
L. Hawkins 43 0 2 1 11 4 47.1 38 14 6 7 34 6.46 0.0 0.95 2.66
Kerry Wood 7 7 4 3 0 0 49.2 34 15 6 16 57 10.33 100.9 1.01 2.72
Matt Clement 18 18 7 8 0 0 117.1 94 38 10 45 123 9.43 104.6 1.18 2.91
K. Farnsworth 44 0 3 3 0 11 40.1 32 15 4 20 46 10.26 0.0 1.29 3.35
F. Beltran 31 0 2 1 0 5 34.1 25 15 8 19 40 10.49 0.0 1.28 3.93
Mark Prior 7 7 2 2 0 0 36.0 29 16 3 16 40 10.00 90.3 1.25 4.00
Glendon Rusch 14 10 4 1 0 0 71.0 73 32 7 15 48 6.08 102.9 1.24 4.06
Greg Maddux 18 18 7 7 0 0 111.2 129 56 20 18 77 6.21 87.2 1.32 4.51
J. Anderson (2 Bos) 7 0 0 0 1 0 9.2 9 5 0 3 3 2.79 0.0 1.24 4.66
M. Remlinger 13 0 0 1 0 5 8.2 8 5 1 6 9 9.35 0.0 1.62 5.19
Sergio Mitre 9 9 2 4 0 0 47.0 66 34 6 19 33 6.32 85.1 1.81 6.51
M. Wuertz 20 0 0 0 1 1 17.1 19 13 4 10 12 6.23 0.0 1.67 6.75
Joe Borowski 22 0 2 4 9 0 21.1 27 19 3 15 17 7.17 0.0 1.97 8.02
Andy Pratt 4 0 0 1 0 0 1.2 0 4 0 7 1 5.40 0.0 4.20 21.60
NAME G GS W L Sv Hld IP H ER HR BB SO K/9 P/GS WHIP ERA
Cubs 86 86 47 40 22 32 779.2 713 328 92 292 691 7.98 98.3 1.29 3.79

BOLD: Qualified for ERA title (1 inning pitched per team game)
Number in parentheses refers to games played with other teams.

*****

CARDINALS

Batting Statistics
NAME G AB R H 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Tony Womack 14 56 12 23 7 0 1 33 8 4 7 2 0 .411 .435 .589 1.025
Scott Rolen 16 55 8 15 3 0 4 30 10 6 7 1 0 .273 .349 .545 .895
E. Renteria 13 50 6 12 4 0 2 22 7 2 7 2 0 .240 .269 .440 .709
Jim Edmonds 15 47 9 12 2 0 6 32 11 9 19 0 1 .255 .368 .681 1.049
R. Sanders 14 45 4 9 1 0 2 16 3 4 17 2 1 .200 .265 .356 .621
Albert Pujols 12 42 11 10 1 0 5 26 9 5 5 0 1 .238 .327 .619 .946
Ray Lankford 15 39 5 12 2 1 1 19 8 4 9 1 0 .308 .370 .487 .857
Mike Matheny 11 30 2 4 2 0 0 6 3 2 9 0 0 .133 .182 .200 .382
Hector Luna 8 20 5 3 2 0 0 5 4 0 7 0 0 .150 .143 .250 .393
Yadier Molina 6 20 1 4 1 0 0 5 0 2 4 0 1 .200 .273 .250 .523
John Mabry 7 19 3 5 0 0 1 8 3 2 7 0 0 .263 .333 .421 .754
M. Anderson 10 18 1 2 1 0 0 3 0 1 3 0 0 .111 .158 .167 .325
So Taguchi 11 16 5 5 0 1 0 7 2 2 1 1 0 .313 .389 .438 .826
Roger Cedeno 7 14 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 2 1 0 .071 .133 .071 .205
C. Carpenter 3 9 0 3 0 0 0 3 1 0 3 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667
Jason Marquis 3 8 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 1 0 .250 .250 .250 .500
W. Williams 4 7 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 0 0 .143 .143 .143 .286
Colin Porter 5 7 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 0 0 .143 .143 .143 .286
Jeff Suppan 3 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Matt Morris 3 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 0 0 .000 .167 .000 .167
Cody McKay 3 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Cal Eldred 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
J. Isringhausen 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Danny Haren 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
J. Tavarez 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Steve Kline 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Mike Lincoln 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Ray King 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Josh Pearce 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Kiko Calero 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
NAME G AB R H 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Cardinals 16 519 72 124 26 2 22 220 69 45 123 11 4 .239 .299 .424 .723
Opponents


Pitching Statistics
NAME G GS W L Sv Hld IP H ER HR BB SO K/9 P/GS WHIP ERA
J. Isringhausen 6 0 1 1 3 0 5.2 3 1 0 1 3 4.76 0.0 0.71 1.59
Ray King 10 0 0 0 0 4 5.1 3 1 0 2 3 5.06 0.0 0.94 1.69
C. Carpenter 3 3 3 0 0 0 22.1 24 6 5 1 19 7.66 522.7 1.12 2.42
J. Tavarez 8 0 0 0 0 2 6.2 4 2 0 3 5 6.75 0.0 1.05 2.70
Jason Marquis 3 3 1 1 0 0 21.2 22 8 4 6 15 6.23 592.3 1.29 3.32
Matt Morris 3 3 1 1 0 0 21.0 21 8 2 6 9 3.86 610.3 1.29 3.43
Cal Eldred 7 0 0 0 0 1 10.0 10 4 4 3 5 4.50 0.0 1.30 3.60
Jeff Suppan 3 3 1 1 0 0 19.0 21 8 2 8 11 5.21 564.7 1.53 3.79
Steve Kline 6 0 2 0 0 1 4.2 5 2 0 0 4 7.71 0.0 1.07 3.86
W. Williams 3 3 0 2 0 0 16.1 28 15 1 4 8 4.41 569.7 1.96 8.27
Kiko Calero 5 0 0 0 0 2 3.0 4 4 1 1 4 12.00 0.0 1.67 12.00
Mike Lincoln 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.1 1 2 1 2 1 6.75 0.0 2.25 13.50
Danny Haren 1 1 0 1 0 0 3.2 10 10 1 3 0 0.00 95.0 3.55 24.55
Josh Pearce 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 2 1 0 0 0 0.00 0.0 6.00 27.00
NAME G GS W L Sv Hld IP H ER HR BB SO K/9 P/GS WHIP ERA
Cardinals 16 16 9 7 3 10 141.0 158 72 21 40 87 5.55 542.1 1.40 4.60


All Star Break Standings

AMERICAN LEAGUE

American League East
Team W L Pct. GB Home Road East Cent. West L10 Strk
N.Y. Yankees 55 31 .640 - 33-12 22-19 21-10 8-5 16-8 5-5 W 4
Boston 48 38 .558 7 30-15 18-23 22-13 8-8 9-8 6-4 L 1
Tampa Bay 42 45 .483 13½ 23-18 19-27 14-23 10-9 3-10 3-7 L 4
Toronto 39 49 .443 17 23-23 16-26 9-17 11-14 11-8 5-5 L 3
Baltimore 37 48 .435 17½ 20-26 17-22 15-18 12-10 5-7 4-6 L 1

American League Central
Team W L Pct. GB Home Road East Cent. West L10 Strk
Chi. White Sox 46 38 .548 - 28-17 18-21 14-12 16-8 9-8 5-5 W 4
Minnesota 47 40 .540 ½ 26-22 21-18 8-8 22-19 6-6 6-4 L 3
Cleveland 42 45 .483 5½ 26-20 16-25 10-9 12-19 10-9 4-6 W 1
Detroit 42 45 .483 5½ 21-19 21-26 6-6 17-16 10-14 5-5 W 3
Kansas City 31 54 .365 15½ 19-24 12-30 8-14 14-19 3-9 2-8 W 1

American League West
Team W L Pct. GB Home Road East Cent. West L10 Strk
Texas 49 37 .570 - 25-12 24-25 12-9 11-10 16-10 5-5 W 1
Oakland 47 39 .547 2 27-12 20-27 7-12 15-8 15-11 4-6 L 1
Anaheim 47 40 .540 2½ 23-18 24-22 16-8 11-8 13-13 6-4 W 3
Seattle 32 54 .372 17 19-22 13-32 6-15 9-12 8-18 1-9 L 9


NATIONAL LEAGUE

National League East
Team W L Pct. GB Home Road East Cent. West L10 Strk
Philadelphia 46 41 .529 - 26-22 20-19 17-22 6-6 14-5 5-5 L 2
Atlanta 45 42 .517 1 22-19 23-23 25-14 6-9 6-9 8-2 W 2
Florida 45 43 .511 1½ 24-22 21-21 22-13 7-11 9-8 4-6 W 2
N.Y. Mets 44 43 .506 2 24-16 20-27 16-16 7-14 11-5 6-4 L 2
Montreal 31 56 .356 15 18-27 13-29 10-25 8-11 6-9 5-5 W 2

National League Central
Team W L Pct. GB Home Road East Cent. West L10 Strk
St. Louis 54 33 .621 - 28-18 26-15 10-8 28-23 5-1 8-2 L 1
Chi. Cubs 47 40 .540 7 25-16 22-24 5-1 25-26 9-9 5-5 W 1
Cincinnati 47 41 .534 7½ 25-15 22-26 14-10 21-19 7-5 5-5 W 1
Milwaukee 45 41 .523 8½ 25-20 20-21 8-4 17-21 12-12 4-6 L 1
Houston 44 44 .500 10½ 22-20 22-24 6-6 26-25 5-8 4-6 L 2
Pittsburgh 39 47 .453 14½ 18-22 21-25 8-5 23-26 6-6 6-4 L 2

National League West
Team W L Pct. GB Home Road East Cent. West L10 Strk
Los Angeles 48 38 .558 - 29-17 19-21 6-9 11-8 21-13 8-2 W 2
San Francisco 49 40 .551 ½ 29-20 20-20 8-7 8-7 22-19 5-5 W 3
San Diego 47 41 .534 2 26-21 21-20 10-6 10-8 19-17 6-4 W 1
Colorado 36 51 .414 12½ 20-21 16-30 6-10 7-14 15-17 8-2 L 1
Arizona 31 58 .348 18½ 16-26 15-32 6-14 5-7 14-25 2-8 L 3

Pitchers Galore
"You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun." --Al Capone

Friday, July 09, 2004

Longest Column of the Year
Charles Foster Kane: You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a really great man.
Thatcher: Don't you think you are?
Charles Foster Kane: I think I did pretty well under the circumstances.
Thatcher: What would you like to have been?
Charles Foster Kane: Everything you hate.

--Citizen Kane

Monday, July 05, 2004

"Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try." Homer Simpson

Well, let's see...if the Yankees swept three straight from the Red Sox and the Mets swept three straight from the Yankees...this must mean either:

A.) The Red Sox really suck, alot more than even the Whinge Nation have allowed themselves to believe despite the vitriolic rants and threats of suicide.

B.) That the Mets are the greatest team on earth!

C.) The Yankees are so bored with the idea of no real competition ahead of them in the AL East other than oh, let's say the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, that they just don't care anymore.

D.) So overconfident from the fact that Art Howe was saving Matt Ginter and Jae Seo just for the Yankees in lieu of Glavine and Leiter, the Yankees fielded their hologram team instead of the actual one.

Oh, what to make of this quixotic sweep of the Mighty Yankees? Is this one of those moments where fate has lifted her skirt hem in a moment of playful flirtation, or just another slap in the face to Red Sox fans?

What to make of Ty Wigginton, nearly entirely submerged in trade rumour and innuendo for the last several weeks, sparking to life with two homers in one afternoon, three in two days even, six for twelve against the Yankees, hitting .391 with 4 homers in the last seven games? Is this man to be mere trade bait?

Granted, with sixteen errors already, Wigginton won't be confused with Brooks Robinson at the hot corner and his range sucks and yes, for the trillionth time we've heard: psst, the third baseman phenom of the future, David Wright is on the way but there must be something better to do with him than trade him away for the likes of some Mets retread like Paul Wilson or a humpty dumpty head case like Kris Benson. His trade value probably won't be higher than it is right but to dump him just when he's getting warmed up and comfortable would be a mistake. After all, with the Kaz Man fielding at shortstop like he's chasing hotdog wrappers on a windy day and the Human Hammy and his infinitely potential injured yet again (well it isn't officially "injured" he just "felt a twinge" in his right hamstring Saturday afternoon while running out a grounder, but what the hell, Reyes feeling a twinge is like animals starting to act weird before an earthquake - you're not sure what it means but it can't be good), there's no telling where a solid hitting infielder like Wigginton might fit in the Mets' future. So let's not jump the gun.

By the way, if I hear one more breathless reference by one of these infatuated somnabulists to Jose Reyes' infectious smile as though he runs with his teeth instead of his perpetually twitchy hammy, I'll perform my own frontal labotomy with a corkscrew just to get rid of the memories. I don't care if his teeth are made of gold and his lips are bleed magical peyote, this kid is an injury machine, a human disappointment waiting to happen and the best thing the Mets could possibly do would be to trade him now, as they probably should have this Spring, in a package deal for say Alfonso Soriano, before the rest of the league finally wises up as to what a hopeless future he really has.

And if the Mets really could get someone like Benson for Wigginton, what are they really getting anyway? As though he can smell, with his twitching whiskers, an escape from Pittsburgh in the air, Benson has a 3.19 ERA in his last six starts with 12 walks and 26 strikeouts over 42 1/3 innings. Perhaps worth a Wigginton. Especially when you consider all the fireworks he'd be bringing with him. Like his wife, Anna Benson. It appears he and his wife have been pretty explicit and candid in the past about their sex life. I reckon it wouldn't be unfathonable to see a few saucy pictures of this Anna Benson splayed across the Daily News or the NY Post sometime soon.

*****

I happened to read this mention of the similarities between this season's Tigers and last season's Marlins:

The 2003 World Series champion Marlins were a lot like this year's
Tigers. After 75 games ...

2004 Tigers: 36-39, fourth place in the AL Central.

2003 Marlins: 36-39, fourth place in the NL East.

2004 Tigers: Won their 75th game in the 11th inning on a home run.

2003 Marlins: Won their 75th game in the 11th inning on a home run.

2004 Tigers: Had Rodriguez catching and Ugueth Urbina closing.

2003 Marlins: Had Rodriguez catching. Urbina came 11 days later in a
trade from Texas.

Spooky. Now all the Tigers have to do is fire Alan Trammel and hire Red Schoendienst to bring his own peculiar brand of senior discipline to the clubhouse...

*****

Here's one that gives me great pleasure: Roberto Alomar, whingeing malcontent extraordinaire, says he's willing to be a utility infielder for a contender. Oh how the weasels have wobbled! Is this magnamimous of him or what? There must be a team in a pennant race somewhere out there looking for a quitter to play a half-hearted second base, isn't there? After all, who wouldn't want to add a 36 year old has-been switch hitting second baseman who can only hit left handed? It's not that I'm bitter about the effort he gave for the Mets, I just didn't see him in action all that much. This, I believe, was the most active I ever saw him in a Mets uniform, unless you count whining and sulking as official activities. I look forward to the day when Alomar is whittling away the remnants of his career for the Santurce Crabbers somewhere in auld San Juan.

****

A sad story, this break-up of Florida Marlins pitcher Carl Pavano and Alyssa Milano. As to the cause of their demise, Pavano grandly hinted, "I don't think this is the most stable environment to have a relationship. Guys that do it, great -- but I haven't really mastered that part of it." What part of Eva Savealot couldn't he master?

Look, maybe he just got a glimpse of this photo in the mud bikini.

Dying Embers of the Euro 2004

By the time the Greeks had managed to fashion their historic upset, winning a championship they were 80-1 odds against winning, the tournament had become for most of us outside of Portugal and Greece, somewhat anticlimatic. Well, for those of you in America, it was probably little more than a blip on the collective subconscience but over here, when your country is involved, the country comes to a standstill.

There's something about international competition that encompasses so much more than even something as heated as a Yankee-Red Sox rivalry or Dallas-Washington matchup. You might find it's closest relative at the collegiate football level, the pageantry, the songs sung, the music, the flags waved, the chants of tens of thousands of voices in unison sounding like the low growl of tribal man returning to battle. But these competitions have even more than a colourful rivalry such as Michigan-Ohio State because they bring much more culture with them and with that sharing of culture, a vague and transitory acceptance of the differences among us. Especially the differences in the women. Whew! Let's not forget the Russian wives and girlfriends who sent their lads off to battle with inspirational photos of themselves in the nude. Let's not forget the women of all 16 nations, the candidates for Miss Euro 2004!

And most of all, let's not forget the most famous woman of them all, David Beckham, who in between painting nail varnish on his fingernails, wearing a sarong, posing seductively for the covers of women's magazines and acting more like a sexually twisted nancy boy than the captain of the English football team, single-handedly choked not once, but twice, on simple penalty kicks and in the end, ultimately cost England a chance at real redemption in this tournament.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Does Anyone Want the NL East?
"Appetite, with an opinion of attaining, is called hope; the same, without such opinion, despair." --Thomas Hobbes

Being a pragmatist more than a dreamer, at least where the New York Mets are concerned, it would have been quite a stretch, even with the several second tier offseason acquisitions the Mets made, to imagine them in a pennant race this year. Maybe 2005, maybe 2006, but 2004, with the defending World Champion Marlins and the unfulfilled potential of the Philadelphia Phillies and the 12 consecutive NL East titles of the Atlanta Braves ahead of them, winning the NL East seemed frankly, out of the question.

Yet although the Mets have surprised few by continuing to maintain one of the most torpid batting lineups in the entirety of Major League Baseball, (ahead of only the fainéant batsmen of the Montreal Expos), and although they are tied with the lowly KC Royals and the Detroit Tigers for the worst fielding percentage in all of baseball, (leading the Major League in errors with 71 in 79 games thus far), and have had virtually nothing from the Kaz Man or Reyes the Human Hammy, these same Mets have beaten the Yankees two in a row and now stand a mere two games behind the Phillies, tied with the Marlins and here it is, July 4th already. Hell, last season at this time the Mets were hopelessly mired in the dregs of a moribund season and wondering what and who they could dump faster, the $11.75 million contract of Jeremy Burnitz, or the choker-a-go-go closer, Armando Benitez. For the record, it isn't just the Mets who have improved. Armandogeddon is 2-0 with a 1.11 ERA and has converted 26 of 28 saves possibilities for the Marlins and Burnitz now scraping along on a salary of only $1.25 million, is hitting .280 with 16 homers and 50 rbis in the rarified air of Blake Street for the Rockies. But unlike Armandogeddon, he is not really experiencing a renaissance. Away from the friendly confines of Coors Stadium, Burnitz is hitting a more Burnitz-like .223 with 6 homers and a mere 16 rbis.

Even with what could charitably be called a weak back end of their rotation and a questionable set-up to their closer, the Mets have the best ERA in all of baseball. Yet despite an impressive front 3 in their rotation and a heart-stopping closer, how and why they are still in the race for the NL East cannot precisely be explained by anything in particular the Mets have done, other than not flounder horrifically like their counterparts in Montreal. Instead, it is the collective mediocrity of the Marlins, Phillies and Braves that have them where they are.

This just may very well change quickly over the next 30 days.

The Marlins will play 17 of their next 23 games (after today's last interleague struggle against the unbelievable Devil Rays) against NL East opponents, whom they currently sport a .625 winning percentage against and those other 6 games will be against the Pittsburgh Pirates so there is the chance that the Marlins will begin their move toward securing the NL East very soon.

The Phillies, like the Mets, immensely handicapped by the mediocrity of their manager, will face NL East opponents 19 out of their next 22 games after they close out against the Orioles today and the only non-NL East opponent will be the Chicago Cubs. The Phillies are currently being mugged by their own division, the only team of the four to have a losing record (14-18) against their NL East opponents. July just might be the month we finally see the last vestiges of Larry Bowa swept away as the Phillies perform a quick fade.

The Braves have a little less interdivision pressure. After this last game against the Red Sox today, they will face NL East opponents 18 out of their next 24 games and those 6 outside the division will be against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Braves are 20-13 in the NL East thus far and like the Marlins, stand a good chance of widening the disparity between the running and the also-rans.

And the Mets, 13-12 against NL East opponents, will face nothing but NL East opponents until August 3rd. This will indeed, be the telling month for the NL East and it looks from here like that the Marlins and the Braves will begin to pull away as we head into August. Of course, the only certainty is that the wildcard will not come out of this division and someone, no matter how bad they are collectively, will have to win the NL East eventually. If you have a very vivid imagination, you could imagine that the Human Hammy not only stays healthy, but begins to hit once again, that third base phenom David Wright gets his call-up and injects more fuel in the Mets batting tank, and that the Mets are able to get a fourth or fifth starter to add to the back end of the rotation. This would put them on par with their rivals but with the month of July needing that sort of inject now, not later, the chances of it happening whilst it still matters, remains slim.

Shortstops

Some four months since the fateful trade that saw A-Rod and the Yankees snatching defeat from Boston's gaping yawp of certain victory, the contrast between last season's three top shortstops couldn't be more pronounced.

First you have arguably the best shortstop in baseball, A-Rod, not only learning a new position at third base, but making one of what should be many starts as an All Star third baseman in the future with nearly triple the amount of votes of last year's All Star MVP, Hank Blalock. Fortunately for the Red Sox, he is hitting only .225 against them whilst against the other four top competitors in the AL he's played against to date; Anaheim, Chicago White Sox, Texas and Oakland, he's hitting .309 with 6 homers and 16 rbis.

Then you have Derek Jeter performing baseball's play of the year Thursday night against the Red Sox when he nabbed Trot Nixon's popup at a full sprint before hurtling headfirst into the metal and hard plastic lower box seats of the stands and emerging bloodied and wounded in the 12th inning before New York then rallied past Boston 5-4 in the 13th for a stirring sweep. More amazingly, he was able to play the next day against the Mets.

And finally you have Garciaparra, who, after three errors in the first two games against the Yankees already, finally gave up and sat out the game on Thursday. Fair play, the guy's coming off an Achilles injury, he played in the first two games and didn't really help much. But at the end of the game, in a massive contrast to captain Jeter's contributions, while all his teammates climbed to the top step to witness the epic battle, there sat Garciaparra in the dugout as though he couldn't care less what happened to his team.

Garciaparra's perceived apathy was somewhat reminiscent of Holland's Edgar Davids standing idly by in the goal mouth during Portugal's opening goal in their 2-1 victory over Holland last Wednesday. Slow motion replays revealed that Edgar Davids, patrolling the near post of the orange goal as the fateful corner flew over, was not exactly alert. The Dutchman stood with one hand on his hip as if surveying events from the bar of his local pub.

"Look, he's having a kip," suggested BBC sports analyst Alan Hansen at the half.

In any case, a half dozen months after he was almost traded, you've got people clamouring yet again that Garciaparra be traded immediately. Although it is frightening that the Red Sox are already 7 1/2 games behind the Yankees, perhaps more frightening still is that Lou Piniella's Tampa Bay Devil Rays are only 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox for second place.

On the other hand, despite three All Star shortstops in the American League, the National League has the tightest shortstop vote in history with St. Louis shortstop Edgar Renteria leading Houston's Adam Everett by a mere six votes after nearly four million votes (3,910,897) cast.

Patriots and Baseball

In a paen to blinding patriotism, the Minnesota Twins announced they will present Duke, "the calm and determined battlefield commander of the G.I. Joe team," to the first 5,000 children at Monday night's game against the Kansas City Royals as a way of honoring local military personnel, becoming the first team in baseball to promote war to children, hand in hand with baseball.

Lest you think the Twins organisation to be a heartless collective of war-mongering swine promoting war to small children, it should be noted the team asked Duke's maker, Hasbro Inc., to remove the customary gun from his side, bringing him in accordance with the Metrodome's no-gun policy. Hoho, haha. As though GI Duke's gun would actually fire real bullets. Apparently, the kids should not only embrace soldiers of war but believe they're dumb enough to think these heroes go off into battle unarmed. Oh wait, it should be noted that perhaps in an effort to promote reality, the hand grenades of the GI doll are still visible.

Now, it's important to remember that this noble gesture has nothing to do with dragging extra kids to the ballpark to boost attendance, nor does it have anything to do with promoting the imagery of war and killing. No sir. "I was looking for something unique that would pay tribute to Minnesota soldiers," Twins marketing vice president Patrick Klinger said. "I thought G.I. Joe was perfect for that."

To be fair, there doesn't appear to many people the Twins aren't willing to promote in order to induce ticket sales. Among others, the Twins also celebrate Fan Appreciation Day, Kid Appreciation Day, Hispanic-American Heritage Night, Asian-American Heritage Night, African-American Heritage Night, and Spider Man 2 Night. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any similiar giveaways and celebrations for teachers, policemen, firemen, civic volunteers. What sort of message does that send to the kiddies of Minnesota?

A slightly different and wholly more acceptable form of celebrating his citizenship, Boston Red Sox closer Keith Foulke wanted to don a Boston cap that featured a patch of the American flag. This was nixed by Bud Selig for fear that allowing such an alteration would tragically destroy baseball's standard uniform code.

"I agree with and admire the patriotic sentiments expressed in your letter," Selig wrote. "While I cannot imagine anyone having an objection to our American flag on a player's hat, we feel it is crucial that we maintain this across-the-board policy.

"Unfortunately, if we allow one player to add the flag, our ability"
to enforce the rule will be diminished, he added.

Aha, but if all players wear the flag on their cap, as they will today as part of baseball's Fourth of July celebration, it will magically be ok.

The logic between allowing a franchise to sanction the giveaway of soldier dolls (without their guns) to children in Minnesota yet to disallow a baseball player to wear a little American flag on his cap unless everyone is doing it, is disquieting, to say the least. Here's hoping that the doll is disallowed and that Foulke rebels against the idiocy of Selig's logic and wears the flag-on-cap anyway, even after the 4th of July.

Euro 2004 Final

A tournament like the European Championships tends to whittle you away, match by match as your favourites fall. I came into the tournament routing for Holland, England, the Czechs and the Danes to make it to the final and keep my interest alive. First, in the Ruzyne airport in Prague, with our ears still clogged from the flight, we and about 50 other Brits from the flight watched England go down thanks, in part, to the cowardly, choking Beckham as he sent yet another penalty shot badly off the mark and Portugal advance. Ok, we think. It's sad, but not the end of the world. My other three teams are still in it. Of course, two of them were facing each other in the quarterfinals, but that guaranteed at least one of my teams making it into the semifinals. Greece defeated France, both a miracle and a blessing to see the French go down. Not bad: when you've got no team you are rooting for in particular you hope for a team you hate to go out and there it was, adieu mes amis. Then Holland managed to knock out Sweden in penalties to advance and the Czechs demolished the Danes, 3-0 in a match we watched with thousands of fanatics in the heart of Staromìstské námìstí. So far so good. From here we could see the possibility of a rematch of the best match of the tournament so far, Holland versus the Czechs, in the final.

But disaster came in full this week as first the Dutch reverted back to their familiar apathetic and lethargic performances of the past to lose 2-1 to host Portugal followed by the Greeks inexplicably defeating the Czechs 1-0 with mere seconds remaining in the first overtime.

So what we've got now is what you might call outside of Portugal and Greece, a bullshit final, a rematch of the bland and pathetic opening match of the tournament which the Greeks won 2-1, owed more to the Portugese choking before their own fans than to any stylist nuance on the part of the Greeks. On the one hand, you want to admire the Greeks and their German manager for overcoming all odds to get to the finals. Yes, I did have them in an upset making it to the quarterfinals but frankly, I never expected them to beat France and well, losing to the Czechs I thought was a foregone conclusion. The Greeks play an inspiring, yet ugly brand of football which is frequently interspersed with painful displays of overacting and drama as they dive for penalties, feign injury and generally play in a form most would criticise as being the type of form that gives football a bad name.

With little else to go by and fighting apathy, I will root for the Portugese, since they defeated both the Dutch and the English, to finally vanquish the pretenders by a 2-1 margin and disallow any chance of the Greeks celebrating straight on into their disasterous Olympics.