31 May 2007

Female Ump? No Problem For Cubans

Violet Palmer, meet your new role-model! It's Yanet Moreno, the first female umpire to make it to the National Series, Cuba's equivalent of the Major Leagues. In her first season, Moreno doesn't take the kind of ribbing you'd expect a female ump to get. Instead, those who want to jeer do something else. They propose.

"Beautiful," they call playfully. "I'll marry you," they say.
And during her first game? Gawking and stares? Think again.
"The crowd applauded, the players congratulated me," the 32-year-old umpire said recently. "I wasn't nervous, just excited because getting to that level was like a dream."
Maybe we can learn something from our neighbors to the south. You'd expect to hear a player speak dismissively about a female ump in the US. But in Cuba? Listen to catcher Arier Pestano:
"We have to respect her as an umpire and as a woman," he said.
There are no female umpires in the Major Leagues. The highest level female ump is Ria Cortesio, who calls balls and strikes in Double-A. The NBA broke the gender barrier a few years ago when it put two female refs into the rotation. Violet Palmer is the only one left standing, and she's taken far more than her share of criticism over the years, especially from Bill Simmons.

It looks like Moreno has mastered the key to being an umpire. "The key is to assert authority without abusing it," she says, and she's right. You'd think Dick Bavetta could take a lesson right about now.

And just for the record, Moreno is single. But don't look for her to accept an on-field proposal anytime soon.

It's Two Legs Or Bust For Olympic Athletes

The message has been sent today by International Association of Athletics Federations: the Olympics are for authentic bipedals only.

The proposed rule by track and field's governing authority would keep a South African amputee sprinter from competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. The athlete in question, Oscar Pistorius, 20, had both of his legs amputated below the knee when he was an infant. With state of the art "blades" attached just below his knee, Pistorius is able to run nationally competitive times in the 100, 200, and 400 meter races.

But the IAAF believes the blades to be an "artificial aid," and the organization moved to outlaw them. The spirit of the proposed rule is good in theory - no athlete using some sort of device should be given an advantage over another athlete not using it. And in that sense it makes sense to ban gadgets or other things that people could add to their shoes to run faster. Yet the case of Pistorius is different, and brings up an interesting debate.

In the past there has been a clear divide between the Olympics and the Paralympics games. Athletes with disabilities participated in the Paralympics games, and those without were in the Olympics. But what if there were more people like Pistorius who had the ability to compete in both? On a human level it seems that Pistorius is at an inherent disadvantage: he doesn't have any legs! Yet the IAAF contends that his sprinting prosthetics give him an unfair advantage by making his strides longer. Pistorius counters of course that its his sprinting talent that makes him so successful.

All of this debate could be for naught, as Pistorius' times are still short of being Olympic-worthy. Yet his actions as well as the IAAF open the door to constant debate over who is really welcome to participate in the Olympics.

30 May 2007

NHL Ratings: Comically Bad

We all knew that the NHL had plummeted to relative obscurity, but who knew it would drop this far. The sport that was once considered in the top four has been through a bad, bad stretch. The year-long lockout didn't help anything, and neither did its getting dropped by ESPN. To make matters worse, Anaheim's 3-2 victory over Ottawa in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals netted a paltry 0.72 rating on cable Lilliputian Versus on Monday.

What does that mean exactly? Well it means that only 523,000 households watched the game in the U.S. But perhaps what it really further illustrates is that nobody cares about hockey in the U.S. any more. The rating was down 18% from last year's opening game, which had a 0.88 rating. Here's a way to put things in perspective: The capacity for Ducks games at the Honda Center is 17,174. The team could match the overall viewership for Game One by selling out just 31 home games. Or another way - Versus reaches 73 million homes, which means that less than 1% of it possible audience watched the game.

It would be too easy to list all of the programs that outperformed the game. It would also be too easy for the NHL to simply blame the game taking place on Memorial Day for its bottom-dwelling rating. We're constantly reminded that fans make time to watch what they love regardless of what day or time its on.

Simply put, the NHL has no fans here. Ratings are bound to increase when the series shifts to NBC after Game 2, but much of that will come from drop-in traffic. But if you want to use a true metric of real NHL fans, the Versus games are the ones to look at. They are the real fans that sought out the game. They are the ones who fought through the TV Guide and found Versus on channel 542,446. These 523,000 are the last real American NHL fans standing.

Parnevik Tries The One-Footed Swing

There will be more reasons than usual to gawk strangely at Jesper Parnevik this coming weekend at the Memorial Tournament. Known for his bicycle-style hat with a turned up bill and unusual clothing, Parnevik has added a new dimension to his look: a cut up shoe, and a limp.

Parnevik took on a case of beer last week in the Bahamas, the the beer won.

"It was one of those stupid things," Parnevik said Wednesday while tuning up for Thursday's opening round. "I was on my boat in the Bahamas and we were docking and I was running inside the boat to do something and I ran a little bit too fast and didn't see a case of beer in the middle of the room and jammed my toe into it."
Parnevik went to the doctor, but there's not much you can do for a bum toe anyhow. So he had to be a little inventive. He's added his own take on his shoes, and made them a pain reliever of sorts. He sliced his shoe open with a kitchen knife to give his toe a little more wriggle room.

He can barely walk now. So how's he going to play and walk the course? Will it work?
"I hope so," he said. "One thing I noticed is I hit it a lot higher because I'm hanging back on my right foot."

29 May 2007

The Governator Loves Zee Ducks

Governor Arnold was interviewed prior to game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday. He made it clear he's rooting for zee Ducks! Don Cherry and Governor Arnold. What a pair!

I guess since the announcers are Canadian we can forgive them for calling him the "next President of the United States."

FIFA Strikes To Ban Altitude

As we all know, soccer in most parts of the world means everything. And it's personal. Fans, athletes, and politicians alike from the Andean nations of Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru cried foul over FIFA's decision to ban international maches above 2,500 meters (8,200 feet). FIFA claimed the decision was due to health and safety concerns.

Bolivia will be hit the hardest with the ban, as the capital of La Paz lies at 3,600 meters. Bolivian officials blamed not health issues, but instead the soccer powers in the lowland nations of Brazil and Argentina. The continental rivalry spawned two vastly different viewpoints of the decision.

Kleber Leite, VP of Brazilian club Flamengo called the ruling "a victory for humankind." His squad filed the formal complaint with FIFA after their February match with Bolivia's Real Potosi left players heading to the sideline for oxygen during the match.

Bolivian president Evo Morales sees things a little differently.

"We want to stop this injustice being committed because he who wins at high altitude, stands tall ... there shouldn't be any fear about playing sport at altitude."
The ruling has so incited the Bolivian public that the newspaper El Diaro published 15 stories on the subject. And why don't we let the "average Bolivian Joe" tell it like it is: "We're not like the Brazilians or Argentines, who just play in warm places, and not anywhere too tough. Bolivians will play wherever." He then proceeded to mock FIFA by doing jumping jacks.

FIFA's ruling really seems to be a reactionary one that really takes away the home-field advantage that countries gain. Each nation has their own unique climate, and with that comes the home-field advantage. Here in the US we see that with the pro-teams in Denver. Teams are always complaining that the thin air helps the Nuggets out, yet you don't see them constantly winning? Similarly, Bolivia has not become a world power in soccer at all, has it? The better team usually wins, regardless of the conditions. Should games not be played in Brazil because it's too humid? FIFA's ban has opened up a slippery slope, and they'd be wise to revert away from this decision.

As If Things Couldn't Get Any Worse In Laker Land

It seems to be a semi-annual tradition here, but once again the Lakers are in crisis-control mode.

Among all the hoopla surrounding Kobe Bryant, long time team owner Jerry Buss was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Buss was busted for driving his gold Mercedes-Benz station wagon the wrong way on a street in a section of Carlsbad, California. Just to be sure, that street had double yellow lines.

Long a ladies man, the 74-year-old Buss was driving with a female companion, aged 23, who was not arrested. Due to his driving a station wagon one might assume he was driving a daughter/granddaughter. But based on his rep you never know...although you can say that Dr. Buss may want to step up his game in terms of cars. Station wagon, really?

Buss was described as "relatively cooperative," which might put Mel Gibson at the level of "deathly uncooperative." But anyhow, going along with the long-standing LA tradition of the public apology, Buss issued the mandatory semi-public apology-through-a-statement"

"Although I was driving only a short distance, it was a bad decision and I was wrong to do it," Buss said in a statement issued by the Lakers. "It was a mistake I will not make again."

And while Buss has yet to take the next step of going to "rehab" for his problems, he may want to go there just to get away from the Kobe mess.

Kobe decided it would be prudent to lash out against the team, through his own personal website, and then on the radio. Here are some of the highlights from Kobe's interview with KSPN-AM's John Ireland and Steve Mason.

  • Kobe is beyond furious - he never had anything to do with the Shaq trade.
  • He's never discussed Phil Jackson's "The Last Season" with him.
  • The team has always called Kobe to discuss potential roster moves with him, but each time never went through with it.
    • Yet he was never told about the Carol Butler trade, which upset him.
  • The team promised him they would make aggressive moves to win right now. He never knew anything about a 5-year plan.

More than anything else, Kobe is all about the circle of trust. And with the Lakers, that trust has been broken. After the inside source tried to blame him for jettisoning Shaq, Kobe said "I don't know who to trust," stating that the trust has been damaged. He feels that he took the bullett last time when Shaq was traded, and he won't do it again.

Although it may not appear this way to the careful observer, Kobe stated that he tries to stay in his own lane - He doesn't try to play GM. But wouldn't that mean he'd stay out of these things and just play? Well, arm-chair GM or not, Kobe made it clear to all - if he wanted a trade, he'd just come out and ask for one.

Explicit or not, it sounds like he wants one.

LIO Does The Blog Show

LIO made its second appearance on Jamie Mottram and Dan Steinberg's "The Blog Show" a few days ago. They do a great job, and I encourage you to watch the show.
Big thanks to both Jamie and Dan for including LIO in their show!

25 May 2007

On "The Boras Factor"

LA Weekly has a great article on baseball super-agent Scott Boras. It's a pretty insightful piece, and author Jeffrey Anderson was definitely given more access to the man than on any other previous account I've read. It's a must-read for over the long weekend. But in case you're too lazy, here are a couple of little gems from it.

The parts of the article really deal with Boras' ongoing feud with the Dodgers, and GM Ned Colletti. From his depiction it's easy to see how he's gotten the reputation that he's gotten:

In the eighth inning, newly acquired Dodgers center fielder Juan Pierre drops a deep fly to right center. A run scores, then another, putting the Giants up 5-3. “Well, well, well,” says Boras, cackling and looking over at Stillwell, enjoying a moment of what might be considered payback. “J.D. Drew would’ve caught that ball,” he says confidently, leaving no doubt that he has not forgotten the off-season controversy. “You just don’t let Greg Maddux leave your building, and you sign J.D. Drew,” he says.
Lots of people are quick to criticize Boras, and Colletti does nothing in the article to distance himself from that camp. He's quoted as saying "I hear all the time that it’s not about the money, but that’s what we are always negotiating over, so what else is it?" It's usually the teams and fans that have been scorned by Boras players who gripe the most.

But what at least the fans are forgetting is that Boras is just doing his job. And he's good at it. He gets the best deals for his clients, plain and simple. And you never hear a word of complaint from his clients, do you? The article calls it the Boras Factor. I'd just say that he's smarter, and more prepared than any front-office in baseball.

And like the Pierre example earlier, Boras can take the heat, and he can dish out plenty himself. For you Dodger fans, the next part won't be pretty.
He believes teams like the Dodgers, in not owning the entirety of all advertising and TV revenues generated at the ballpark, are behind the curve. That’s because McCourt bought the team in 2004 for $430 million, about half of what the organization was worth, and left Fox with the TV rights for 15 years. “[McCourt] can just raise parking prices for the next 12 years and he’ll be fine,” Boras quips. “Then he can buy the TV rights to his franchise.”
Oh boy.

24 May 2007

Hugo Chavez Hates America, Loves The Indy 500

Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela can be thought of many ways. Leader. "Threat to Hemispheric Stability." Movie Mogul (Note to Danny Glover: what happened to you!!!). Racing fan.

That's right. Chavez has taken an interest in racing. American racing. While his relationship with America is terrible at best (he did call President Bush "the devil), he's taken a rooting interest in among the most American of events - the Indy 500.

And it's not because Venezuela is the fourth largest supplier of oil to the US. Perhaps he'll laugh at a country that burns gallons upon gallons of gasoline, putting money in his country's pocket (even if the Indy 500 uses ethanol). But instead his interest comes because of a driver. Not only is driver Milka Duno the first Venezuelan to qualify for the race, but she's also part of the first three-woman field in the race's history.

Some paint Duno as "Chavez's personal driver," with Venezuelan-owned Citgo as her team's primary sponsor. But she's not about to be type-cast in any way. Duno has four college degrees. How many other drivers have one? She also makes no efforts to distance herself from Chavez and his government. Last October she spoke at a massive campaign rally for him.

"In my country, you see the government trying to help people that have low income, that have no resources," Duno said this week during an interview in her garage. "They help people to get an education. We have free education. Everyone in Venezuela has access to go to school, to go to the university, for free. They don't have to pay anything. This is good."

That's right. In Venezuela, they help people. You don't see free education in this country, do you? And never to miss an opportunity, Chavez and Duno spoke while the president was at a government event earlier in the week.

"We congratulate Milka Duno, this extraordinary woman who will bring the Venezuelan flag to the Indianapolis 500. What a dedicated girl. What dedication!" Chavez said proudly, holding the cell phone next to a microphone inside a packed auditorium.

What dedication! What pressure! Chavez invited Duno to "go for a ride" with him when they spoke. Look at her photo above. Is she the next Danica? Do you think Hugo just wants to go for a ride? He's a man who usually gets what he wants. She better win.

23 May 2007

Drew Rosenhaus Loves Dogs, Loves Clients More

Drew Rosenhaus loves dogs. Drew also loves his clients. So when client Clinton Portis became America's number two supporter of dog fighting, it put Drew in an uncomfortable position.

First, Drew made sure to defend dogs.

"I've had dogs my entire life and I personally find dog fighting cruel, vicious and evil," he said Wednesday.
Then Drew started the spin machine, and defended his real dawg Clinton:
"He said, 'Drew, I didn't mean for the way that came out. All I was saying, I wasn't condoning dog fighting. I wasn't condoning Michael Vick's conduct. All I was saying is that people should give him the benefit of the doubt until he's been charged or found guilty," Rosenhaus said.
Riiight... I would imagine this to be true if Portis had spoken out about the whole Chris Henry incident earlier in the week. In that case Henry, who already had a bad rap, was wrongly accused of failing a drug test. But come on Drew. Your client was talking crazy-talk on this one.

If you took Bob Sugar's word as gold, you'd think Portis was the model citizen. You might also confuse him for a beltway politician.
"I like the fact that Clinton stood up for another athlete, but I want to clarify that he in no way, shape or form condones dog fighting or any type of illegal activity," Rosenhaus said. "I spent the last day or so with Clinton trying to get that message out."
Now I may be having deja vu, but didn't Portis say this just a few days ago? "I know a lot of back roads that got a dog fight if you want to go see it." Oh yeah, he did.

"It was awkward for me, because it was one of my clients and I'm a real dog lover myself," Rosenhaus said. Yeah Drew, it's awkward for a lot of us. We want to take a moral stand against what Portis has said, but goshdarnit, we love football.

Knowing how Rosenhaus works, he'll have Portis starring in a PETA PSA by next week.

Bottom Of The Ninth, Two Outs - What's A Girl To Do?

My thoughts exactly. Pour that $9 beer on yourself!

This woman had a little too much fun last night at Dodger Stadium.

(HT: Yanow)

22 May 2007

Young, Restless Brewers Hit Hollywood

The Brewers are a young and restless team, who are baseball's surprise of the season so far. Especially with them being in first place in the NL Central.

With the team on the rise it's no wonder players J.J. Hardy, Bill Hall, Chris Capuano and Jeff Suppan decided to try and conquer what every athlete dreams of - crossover success. In other words, Hollywood. Or at least daytime soaps for now. The foursome taped a guest appearance on CBS soap "The Young and the Restless" on Tuesday.

The Brewers have faced fastballs and line-drives, but acting? That's intense.

"I was nervous," admitted Hardy, who along with teammates Bill Hall, Chris Capuano and Jeff Suppan had an early wake-up call to film a scene for CBS's top-rated soap on a set at Television City.

"I didn't know what to expect. And when those lights come on, your heart starts pounding."

The four Brewers played themselves on the show. But if you listen to Y&R actor Peter Bergman, Bill Hall has the most actor upside:
"Bill Hall seemed to be the most natural at it. From the very beginning, he seemed at ease. The other guys were a little hyped up. Bill settled into it right away. He was very comfortable."
The only drawback of the day? Not the $367 they were paid as union-pay scale for their day's work. It was the call-time for the shoot. The players were picked up from their hotel at 6:30 AM. Maybe that's why they lost tonight?

Even so, it was a memorable day for these Brewers. The episode airs on June 20th, and you can bet all of Milwaukee will be watching.

Why The Celtics Draft Plunge Is Good For The Sports Guy

By now we all know the results of the NBA Draft Lottery, with Portland and Seattle beating the odds, and Memphis and Boston falling to 4th and 5th, respectively. While the Grizzlies fans must be disappointed (assuming there are in fact Memphis Grizzlies fans...) it's the Celtics fans who will obviously be drinking heavier the next few days.

Resident Boston shouting-head Bob Ryan tried to sum it up in his column, entitled "Green Around Gills Over This One":

Who did what to whom? Was it decided that 16 championships in 30 years was somehow unfair and obscene and that enough was enough and the Celtics are never going to get another break again and that's that?

Because that's what it looks like. Nothing else can explain how the Celtics continue to suffer the wrath of powerful unseen forces determined to make their lives miserable.

But what about everyone's favorite writer Bill Simmons? He who flew to Boston just for the lottery. He who blamed himself for the Celtics not getting the first pick in 1997. You know what, it's probably a good thing for Simmons that his team didn't win. That's his shtick - the faux complaining, the agonizing, the losing. He thrives off of it, and more, he's great at it.

The Sports Guy and his teams are sort of like a successful TV drama. Think of any good drama you watch on TV. Is there always harmony? Do people ever get along?

No. Marriage and happiness, at least in dramatic terms, are a structural dead-end. It's a well-known fact, which explains why so many plays, novels and movies culminate on a wedding sans the actual exchanging of vows. When people get married, it shuts down too many plot options for the future. What can come out of marriage? Kids and adultery. That's it. Divorce and strife sell. That's what brings the viewers.

Taking it back to the Sports Guy, he can't be happily married to his Boston teams. If they were always winning, he wouldn't have anything to write about, considering how limited his topics already are. But it's the frustration, the losing, and the angst that gets him going. And that is what ultimately makes him successful. If all Boston teams went undefeated, it would be a yawner. He'd be boring. With his Hollywood experiences Simmons knows this all too well, and as painful as it must have been as a fan to see Oden and Durant slip away, he must have been smiling on the inside, for now he has a column topic for the morning.

21 May 2007

Kid Can't Slide; Mom Sues Coach

In a new measure of insanity, one woman won't let things slide.

A Staten Island mother is blaming a Little League coach for an injury involving her son three years ago. Jean Gonzalez's rationale? The coach didn't teach her son Martin how to slide properly.

"The litigation stems from an ill-fated play exactly three years earlier, when Martin, then 12, whacked his first hit of the season and was told to go for second by his first-base coach.

When he slid into second base, he suffered "serious bodily injury" that required multiple surgeries and caused "permanent scarring and disability," according to the suit filed in Staten Island Supreme Court. The suit did not specify the dollar amount of damages."

Coach Leigh Bernstein was named in the lawsuit, along with the New Springville Little League, and Little League Baseball and Softball Inc., its international umbrella organization. The suit charges everyone involved with not teaching poor Martin the "skills needed to avoid and/or minimize the risks of injury."

Coach Bernstein was surprised to be hit with the lawsuit.

"I've been coaching for over 20 years, and have instructed players in the various skills required to play baseball, including sliding," he said. "Unfortunately, injuries happen. That's part of the game."

Why doesn't Gonzalez sue the company that makes the bases, or for that matter, the city, for making the infield dirt too hard. If only the dirt particles had not been compressed too closely together, maybe his landing would have been cushioned a bit, saving Martin some pain. What if he'd been injured by a pitch? Would she have sued the ball manufacturer? What about the catcher and his parents for calling an inside pitch?

Injuries unfortunately are just a part of sports. They happen. Especially in youth sports when the participants aren't as coordinated and developed physically as they will be later on in life. Even if techniques are taught correctly, it doesn't mean that they will be applied in the right manner. No matter what the level, mistakes are made, and what is practiced isn't always executed. But that's sports. That's why we play, that's why we cheer. It's a game.

NFL's Fastest Man Cannot Outrun Police

New York Jets kick returner Justin Miller was arrested early Sunday morning with third-degree assault after allegedly punching a woman in a nightclub. According to police reports, Miller attempted to hit a man, but landed the punch on a woman after said man ducked away. First rule of athlete justice: never hit a woman unless it's your wife/girlfriend.

Miller, anointed the NFL's fastest man at the Pro Bowl in February thought he could avoid trouble like he avoids the tackles on the football field - he fled the scene on foot. But Justin's never faced a defense quite as quick and nimble as the NYPD, who arrested him at 4:20 am.

As quick as Justin was to hit and run, he was equally quick to come out with the patented athlete apology:

"I want to apologize to everyone for this situation, including my family, my teammates, the Jets organization, our fans and the entire NFL," the cornerback said in a statement released by the team Sunday night. "I understand that serving in the NFL is an honor and that I have an obligation to behave in a manner that reflects the privilege I have been given."
This isn't Miller's first brush with the law. Before the 2005 draft he was considered a first round pick, but his arrest for disorderly conduct the week before the draft helped drop his stock into the second round. This series of events shows that Miller is fast in action, slow in decision making.

20 May 2007

Romario Scores 1000th Goal Thanks To Fuzzy Math

Veteran Brazilian soccer player Romario scored the 1,000th goal of his 23-year career during Vasco's game on Sunday. Romario, now 41, reached the milestone on a 48th-minute penalty kick before a cheering crowd that packed Rio's Sao Januario stadium to see the 23-year veteran. The match was briefly halted after the goal, as his parents, wife, kids, and journalists rushed the field to celebrate. He then took a victory lap around the stadium, waving to the adoring fans.

"I dedicate this goal to all the people who helped me and who were always by my side, like my parents, my children and all of you," a teary-eyed Romario said. "I want to thank God in heaven for all this."

Well...sort of. Perhaps this record isn't what really meets the eye. Many soccer experts consider this landmark to be not a landmark whatsoever. Why, you ask? It's because Romario seems to have taken a few liberties in his method of counting.

Romario counts 71 of his goals towards the 1,000 that he scored as a teenager, as well as those he scored during his amateur days. Goals scored in training games and unofficial matches also somehow made it into the tally.

To make things even murkier, his total has had to be revised a number of times. He previously had counted goals scored in matches that never actually happened, as well as games that ended 0-0. It's hard to see how anyone could reasonably count a goal from a scoreless game, but this tortured logic is exhibited right here!

For their part, FIFA will not recognize Romario's accomplishment. Rightfully so, they only count goals scored in official competitions.

In Romario's mind, it's 1,000, and he's sticking to it.

"This is a historic moment for me and world soccer," Romario said. "I have been chasing this goal real hard and at times I thought I may never reach it. Without a doubt, this was the most important moment in my career as a professional player."

This really seems to be one of those "athlete scrapes the bottom of the barrel, sticking around for no reason" accomplishments. Romario's decision to count goals against practice teams and in games that never happened draws attention away from the great career that he did have. Why didn't he just count goals he scored as himself on FIFA '96 for SEGA?

Imagine what would happen if this trend took off. How would the Home Run record look if Barry Bonds and others would add his spring training homers to his career mark. College Football already allows this by allowing players to count their bowl game stats towards their season totals. Finally, imagine me. How many more three point shots could I have added to my career total if I'd been allowed to count the ones I shot alone in my backyard? A lot. But that's not what sports is.

So Romario - he's scored 1,000 goals. Or 929. Depends on how you count it. For the sake of integrity in sports, let's use the 929.

What's Wrong With The Dodgers

Things should be good for the Los Angeles Dodgers. As of this writing they are in first place, 1.5 games in front of their rivals San Diego and Arizona. But the team highlighted a number of troubling deficiencies after getting swept this weekend by the Angels. Simply said, not all is well for the boys in blue. There's work to be done in all facets of the team.

Thus far the team has been anemic on offense. They're not getting the production they need out of the traditional power positions.

  • First baseman Nomar Garciapparra - 1 HR, 26 RBI (tied for team-high in RBI)
  • Third baseman Wilson Betemit - 4 HR, 13 RBI - most of these came in the last two weeks. Betemit has played so poorly that he now splits time with rookie Adam LaRoche, a great prospect who has yet to be inspiring.
  • Corner outfielders Luis Gonzalez and Andre Ethier have combined for 7 HR and 35 RBI.
The team gets on base with regularity. The real problem lies with the fact that there's nobody on the team to drive in any runs. They lead the National League in runners left on base. With 13 LOB during today's loss, they've now stranded 347 runners - far too many for a squad with playoff aspirations.

The defense is not much better than the offense at this point in the season. In fact, it's been atrocious. The first problem can't be found in any statistical category. Countless times this season I've seen an opposing runner go from first to third on a routine single. And just as many times they've scored from second. Why? Outfielders Luis Gonzalez and Juan Pierre have jokes of an arm. For Luis it's simply due to old age. He's in terrific shape, and is a great athlete, but the arm just isn't there any more. For Pierre, it's just non-existent. He has absolutely no arm strength. With 2/3 of the outfield unable to throw anybody out, too many easy runs have scored because runners have been able to advance at will.

An easier problem to identify is just how sloppy they are. With two errors today they now have 36 errors for the season, which makes them have the second highest total in the Majors. They're also 28th out of 30 teams in fielding percentage. Just for reference - the Royals and Nationals have higher percentages.

In order to hang on and compete in the NL West, and especially if they want to do anything should they make the playoffs, the Dodgers have to add something to their roster. They could look inward to some of their prized prospects to turn the tide. LaRoche is already up there. James Loney led the Minors in batting average last year, and had an even better spring. But after not making the squad he's struggled in AAA, batting .258. He'd supply the defense and consistency, but lacks in the power department. Matt Kemp has had flashes of brilliance, especially when first called up last season, but he's not faring any better than Loney at AAA.

Trading for a player is another possibility, and third base seems the best place to start. Could Troy Glaus become available? He's got $40 million left on his contract, a lofty sum. But he'll hit far more homers than anyone else on the squad. ESPN's Buster Olney also suggested on Saturday that the Cardinals could be looking to deal Scott Rolen. But his .208 batting average and 2 HR thus far don't suggest he'd be a bigger upgrade than what the team already has.

The Dodgers are in an enviable situation. They've got great pitching. They've got the resources they need to make a deal if necessary. They're in first place. But if Frank McCourt and Ned Coletti are really interested in fielding a true competitor, there's still tons of work to be done.

17 May 2007

Mets Can't Hide From Steroid Stench

Something's going on with the Mets. A week after minor leaguer Jorge Reyes was suspended 100 games for his second steroid offense, LIO's old friend Lino Urdaneta has fallen down the same trap. You may remember Urdaneta, the pitcher who was called up to The Show a few weeks ago who had a major league ERA of infinity. Now, he too has been suspended for steroids.

Was it worth it for Urdaneta? Probably not. He's going to have to sit out 50 games. But on the other hand, taking steroids did help him avoid baseball infamy. He appeared in two games earlier in May, and doing so lowered his career ERA to 63.00. Urdaneta may have messed up his career, but give him this: he can now say he's recorded a major league out!

The Mets on the other had have larger issues to deal with. Urdaneta is now the eight Mets player to get busted for steroids. Nine if you count the former clubhouse attendant who pled guilty last month. GM Omar Minaya knows there is obviously still work to be done:

"I think every time these things happen, we always continue to review how can we improve in these matters," general manager Omar Minaya said. "How can we give the players the most education as far as steroids and whatever other substances are out there? We need to continue to invest, to spend time and effort in education. I know that one thing we are doing . . . we go above and beyond what we're supposed to do and we have to continue to do that. We have to keep on asking ourselves, 'How can we continue to educate these players?' "

That's right. Education. Let's the teach the players how to take the newer stuff that won't be detected. Now we're talking. They'll have to do that, or something else drastic before Minaya and the Wilpons are dragged before Congress!

Rutgers - It's In New Jersey, OK?

Rutgers. It's not a state, nor a town. It's the state university of New Jersey, with a 50,000 strong student body. And Rutgers has been getting its share of publicity lately. The football team has been popping up on national TV lately, and went 11-2 last season. The said team also posted the best NCAA Academic Performance Rate (APR) or any state university. Many others were educated on the existence of Rutgers with the whole Don Imus affair last month.

But do people really know Rutgers? Do they even know where it is? In a state that was once called "a keg tapped at both ends" by Benjamin Franklin, state lawmakers are stepping to make sure that they will.

A New Jersey Assembly committee Thursday approved a resolution requesting Rutgers redesign the "R" logo to include the letters "NJ," a move designed to give the state credit for recent success at the school.

"There are folks saying, 'Rutgers, where exactly is that located?"' said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex
I get it. New Jersey wants some love. They're the most densely populated state, but they don't even have their own television stations. The house two football teams, but neither have New Jersey in their name. But is adding NJ to the logo really going to help things? Imagine you're watching a Big East football game next season featuring Rutgers. Would you even notice it? And if you even did, so what?

Amazingly, only one legislator voted against the resolution, calling it "micromanagement gone nuts."

"Rutgers can decide what it's logo is," he said. "Rutgers is Rutgers. It has its own proud name and doesn't need to have New Jersey appended to it."

If New Jersey really wants to gain some more attention, maybe it should hitch itself to its most famous residents - the Sopranos. Star James Gandolfini is an alum, and AJ Soprano has been taking a liking to the Rutgers frat scene in recent episodes. Just replace the Scarlet R with the Cleaver logo. There you go.

In reality, this is another example of lawmakers misusing their time. I'm sure there would be more pressing issues out there than this one for the fine state of New Jersey. You want recognition? Success brings it, not the letters NJ in a logo.

Peeing On Yourself Will Not Heal Your Quadriceps

Mets outfielder Moises Alou has a slow healing left quadriceps. Alou was placed on the 15-day DL pees on his hands to strengthen them up, why hasn't he tried that on his leg? It's got to be a simple procedure - sit, relax, feel the warmth. I guess prior to Thursday's game, which was retroactive to last Sunday. It's the 15th trip to the DL for Alou in his 18 year-career. If AlouAlou's piss is strong enough on the hands, but can't work on the groin. Shucks.

16 May 2007

The Blue Jays Are Not The Yankees: Example 163

Simply said, the Toronto Blue Jays are not the New York Yankees. Case in point - the handling of athletic trainers. A rash of injuries forced many of the Yankee stars to head to the DL, and the team trotted 10 starters out during its first 30 games. As a consequence, the strength and conditioning coach was promptly fired two weeks ago.

The Blue Jays? They don't go so far. Today they extended the contracts of two trainers and the conditioning coach. Even after seeing well too many players head to the DL:

Toronto currently has nine players, seven pitchers, on the disabled list. In all, 10 Blue Jays have spent time on the DL this season, costing Toronto 237 games in missed time. Eleven Toronto players spent time on the DL last year, missing 318 total games.

It's nice to see the Blue Jays resisting the temptation to get angry and fire the first person they see. Injuries happen. Maybe it's the trainer's fault. Maybe it's just nature. And it may just be that Torontians are just as nice and docile as they're claimed to be. New Yorkers? Not so much. Problem solved.

Day-Trader Takes Risk, Wins World Series of Golf

Dare to dream. That's the story of Mark Ewing. Or maybe dare to be daring. It worked for Ewing, who turned his $10,000 buy-in and won $250,000 by winning the inaugural World Series of Golf on Wednesday.

Ewing, an entrepreneur and day trader took his 10-handicap and beat out the 60-player fiend, which included two pro-poker players, a former railroad conductor, and an electrician. All this from a guy who quit his job two months ago to"take some risks." Not too shabby, my friend. It's risky enough to quit your job to try and do something risky. But to spend $10,000 to buy your way into three day golf tournament? That is the epitome of risk. It should be noted that Ewing had the help of two investors, who each paid a third of the entry, and served as his caddies and betting advisors. But still.

"I resigned two months ago as the VP of sales for a commercial construction company to pursue other opportunities and to take some risks in life," Ewing said. "This is great. This is awesome. There's no better way to spend a week in Vegas."

The inaugural golf tournament was held at the Primm Valley Golf Club, nearly 40 miles south of Sin City. In true Vegas fashion, the tournament used poker betting in place of traditional scoring.

The players in the field began Monday with $10,000 in chips, meticulously accounted for by a croupier who tallied the round of betting before each shot. Players could go all-in after their tee shot, or fold, pick up their ball and walk to the next hole if they hit a bad shot. The player with the fewest strokes on the hole won the pot for that hole.
The fun wasn't over for Ewing. What do you do after winning the World Series of Golf? Not go to Disneyland! You bet!
"We're going to blow $40,000 on one hand of blackjack when we get back to The Mirage," Ewing said.

Said in true Vegas fashion.

Ruben Patterson: The Forgetful Sex Offender

Ruben Patterson once anointed himself the "Kobe Stopper," stemming from his early days with the Lakers. Because he didn't stop in the past, Patterson earned another nickname: sex offender. Now, after failing to register with authorities, he's got another one: man on the run.

A warrant was issued on Tuesday in Hamilton County, OH for Patterson's arrest. The law requires convicted to sex offenders to register with the local authorities. The 2006 film "Little Children" showed the complexities of sex offender registration, as well as how difficult it can be for offenders to recover their lives out of jail. Jackie Earle Haley earned himself an Oscar nomination for his portrayal. In Patterson's case, it's a wee bit simpler. He's rich. He's got people looking out for him (or at least he should). He's got all the advantages most people do not. He simply failed to register with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

"Hamilton County auditor records show Patterson bought a $3.4 million home on Cunningham Road in November 2006. The charge alleges Patterson did not register that address with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office within five days of moving as required by law."

Patterson plead guilty to a modified plea on an attempted rape charge in 2001. He was accused of attempting to rape his family's nanny. Sentenced to a year in jail, all but 15 days were suspended.

Should he be found guilty, failing to register his address is a misdemeanor carrying a six-month jail term. When Ruben gets back to Milwaukee for training camp in the fall, he might have an interesting response when people ask him how his summer was...

15 May 2007

The Colts Will Not Share The Glory With Others

The Indianapolis 500 was going to be a giant Colts celebrations - until the Colts got in the way. With Peyton Manning already starting the Indy 500, Paul Diatlovitch, owner of PDM Racing, had asked the team for permission to don Jimmy Kite's No. 18 car with in the Colts team colors, and a "Go Colts" on the side. Easy request, right? Free signage and messaging that others pay millions for? A touchdown! Think again.

The Colts passed on the idea due to sponsorship concerns.

Crazy as it sounds, the Colts' refusal was due to the NFL passing a rule last year prohibiting cross-promotion between sports. With four to five teams each year requesting sponsorship from the Colts each year, team V.P. of sales and marketing Tom Zupancic said they also said no to avoid any possible infringements with its own exclusive sponsors.

Diatlovich wasn't satisfied with the rationale from the team.

"I'm extremely upset with the narrow-minded, pinheaded leadership of the Colts team and the NFL,'' said Diatlovich, who lives in the city. ``It's inexcusable. All we're trying to do is say thank you.''
But maybe there's more than just a thank-you in mind. PDM is almost always a low budget team, and it's historically been known to make the most out of its mediocre equipment. Financial limitations have forced the team to bring but one car to races, and sit out weeks of practice to save money. More than anything, the Colts were worried that PDM would use the implicit sponsorship from the team to net support from local sponsors.

Technically I'm not sure there's anything really stopping PDM from putting the colors and name "Colts" on a car. Is there a trademark on the color scheme and phrase? If Diatlovich and PDM were really trying to show their gratitude to the team, wouldn't there be some other way to honor the team?

Diatlovich and company will remain sore losers in the decision for the rest of the week, bitter about their rejection:
"We wanted to keep the excitement of the Super Bowl going, but, obviously, they didn't want to do that,'' he said. "I really don't understand it.''
That is, unless they win. Then they can become sore winners. But if that happens, the Colts will be a distant memory for the team.

14 May 2007

Note to World: You are NBC’s bitch!

If anyone needed proof that the United States controls the Olympics, this is it.

Today at its network upfront presentation in New York, NBC Sports Czar Dick Ebersol said that they didn’t want to deal with having taped delayed events in Primetime even though Beijing is half the world away. So, what did the network that pays more TV rights fees than another country’s rights holder combined do? They simply got the Chinese to hold key events in the morning so that they would take place while Americans are watching in Primetime. That’s right, all Swimming and team Gymnastics finals will take place live in the evening – well, live in the evening in America.

While this is a great win for NBC, you have to wonder about a global sporting event that moves the starting times of its events for the good of one country half way around the world. You would think that after all the preparation China has put into the games it would schedule its events around the time that best suits itself and the athletes competing in the games.

However, while that is what would be done in Europe, China is more concerned for putting on a show for the world than it is putting on a show for its own people, and thus I doubt garnering a pro-American event schedule was that hard.

Well, America, take some pride in the fact that its TV still rules the world.

Big Props To AwfulAnnouncing

AwfulAnnouncing turns one year old today, and LIO wishes BP a hearty congratulations to BP and everyone else there.

They've got a roast going on for BP - you can check it out here.

We hope to have the same success as this great site when we celebrate our first annum.

Clemson Athletics: Do Not Get Pregnant

Pregnancy: the beautiful creation of life. It can also mean a transitionary period in life. In in some cases, like at Clemson, it also brings about the fear of losing one's scholarship. A Clemson track coach told her athletes that getting pregnant could cost them their scholarships. Talk about birth control!

The story came about after an anonymous former female athlete reported at least seven former and current athletes who had abortions rather than risk losing their scholarships. This anonymous athlete was one of the seven herself.

On the school's athletic website, athletic director Terry Don Phillips said that coach Marcia Noad had included the following clause as part of the team's written rules:

"Pregnancy resulting in the inability to compete and positively contribute to the program's success will result in the modification of your grant-in-aid money. Please consult your coaching staff immediately to discuss."

To save face, Phillips claimed the intent was to allow the athletes to make "safe and responsible choices regarding sexual activity," rather than pressuring athletes to get abortions in order to keep their scholarships.

"Pregnancy would not be a valid reason for the Clemson University athletic department to cancel a student-athlete's scholarship during the period of renewal," Phillips said in the statement.

The pregnancy clause was removed from the team guidelines before the Fall '06 season, and was limited to the track team only. And while no athletes did lose their scholarships due to pregnancy, it's clear the fear of such created enough damage.

The issue of pregnancy in women's athletics is obviously a huge issue. As women's sports rises up towards the level of men's sports, pregnancy will always be an inequality of sorts towards women athletes. Women athletes will always have to be making the choice of building a family over that of building a career. In most occupations it's feasible, in sports it's unlikely. We've seen such with Lisa Leslie, and Syracuse hoopster Fantasia Goodwin, who played an entire season pregnant, giving birth two months after her season ended. In her case she hid her pregnancy from the team.

This issue will come up time and time again, but it's clear the solution lies nowhere near that proscribed by Clemson's track coach.

13 May 2007

Brett Favre wants a trade!

Brett at his charity golf shindig

In a shocker (well, depending on who you ask) that came over the wire today, foxsports.com’s Jay Glazer is reporting that Brett Favre is not happy with how the Packers didn’t provide him any help on draft weekend and wants out of the organization.

Apparently, the Packers’ decision to take a pass on a possible Randy Moss deal was what put Favre over the edge, having his agent immediately call the Packers to say he wanted out. And while Packers coach Mike McCarthy apparently cooled him down, Favre was still pissed at his charity golf outing this weekend saying “we lost that one.”

After learning of these events, you have to wonder how excited Favre is to suit up in America’s Dairyland this season. But, despite all this, you wonder if the (a) Favre would holdout and (b) if the Packers would ever trade him.

If both of those events transpired, the two teams most likely to both (a) have a need for Favre and (b) have Favre interested in them would be the Bears and the Jets. The Packers might rather have Favre rot then have him suit up for a division rival, but the Bears are the best team in the NFL going into this season without a steady quarterback situation. The Jets are also an up-and-coming team that could make a run at the AFC with the coaching of Eric Mangini.

The question also remains what kind of compensation a team would offer a player with one year left in the tank. If Randy Moss is worth a fourth-rounder, what is Brett Favre worth? I don’t think any higher than a second-rounder, which is likely why the Packers will waddle their way to a 7-9 season with Favre at the helm.

Is it just me – or are Tommy Amaker and Jay Bilas “seeing each other?”

The college basketball folks over at ESPN, likely with little better to do in May except to kick back with Joe Lunardi, this past week put together a various number of top-ten lists from the last ten years of college basketball. North Carolina was selected as the program best positioned for the future, Duke the best program, and Florida of 2007 as the best team.

Michigan was selected as the most underachieving, which is a pretty obvious selection considering has been one of ten BCS conference programs not to make the NCAA tourney despite having a national reputation and the nation’s fourth-largest athletic budget. Of the five voters, Michigan got four first-place votes.

But things don’t get interesting until you take a look at the fifth ballot of Jay Bilas:

Jay Bilas
1. Arizona State
2. Oregon State
3. St. John's
4. Florida State
5. Colorado
6. Rutgers
7. Georgia
8. Virginia
9. Kansas State
10. UCLA

As you can see, the Wolverines are no where to be found. But somehow, a school like Rutgers, which most people outside of New Jersey wouldn’t even know existed if it was not for Don Imus, was more underachieving. (And don’t even get me started about UCLA) This is the equivalent of voting Florida out of the top-10 in this year’s final AP poll – in either sport.

The omission of Michigan from this ballot comes down to the fact that Bilas coached with former Michigan coach Tommy Amaker at Duke in the early 1990s. While Amaker’s teams constantly underachieved, Bilas kept defending him. But Bilas defending his cronies has hit a whole new level.

Let’s just say I wouldn’t recommend taking Bilas too seriously when he talks about Harvard (Amaker’s new club) as a Cinderella sleeper next winter.

Nolan Ryan Wants Clemens' Contract

Nolan Ryan is in the Hall of Fame. He's also 60 now, and walks with a limp. That being said, if he were offered a contract along the terms of those given to Roger Clemens last week, he'd be down.

"If I can pitch, I'd be there," Ryan said, smiling wide. "And I think my family would encourage me."

Yeah, of course they would. Ryan was one of baseball's top earners in his time, and was the first player in the league to earn a $1 million annual salary during the 1980 season. But just to show how little inflation there was in baseball during that time, Ryan's annual salary peaked at $4.2 million during his final season 13 years later. For comparison, the Rocket will make around that sum for each month he'll pitch this season. Whose family wouldn't mind seeing dad take off for a few months to bring in the big bucks? After having him around the house for 14 years, I bet his wife wouldn't.

Ryan gave big props to Clemens, and his ability to make it through all these seasons:
"He's one of those really unique guys," said Ryan, the only pitcher with more strikeouts than Clemens. "The aging process hasn't affected him as early as it has some other people and he's kept himself in great condition. He's a great competitor and he knows his body, so there's an awful lot of plusses."

Ryan should know - he continually broke down as his career wrapped up, and his innings-pitched went down each of his last four seasons.

But maybe Ryan has something left in him? At 60, couldn't he bring the heat for an inning or so every few days? He'd fill seats, and maybe even be successful. After watching the Reds bullpen implode the last two nights, maybe they'd find a spot for him? We all know he'd at least defend his team, and the mound should someone try to pull a Robin Ventura on him...

09 May 2007

2008 Beijing Olympics: Bring Your Own Water

An important message was delivered today by high ranking Beijing Olympic officials: don't drink the tap water in Beijing next summer unless you're within the Olympic village. In a nutshell, this was the city's attempt in order to "guarantee water safety" - don't drink it. The city has spent billions trying to clean up the city, and these gargantuan efforts still haven't been enough to provide potable drinking water for all. Attention bottled water companies: stake your positions now!

"The quality of the water provided by the water plants is safe enough," said Bi Xiaogang, vice director general of the Beijing Water Management Bureau. "The water is contaminated during the secondary supply process, in the transfer of water. Therefore it is not safe to drink from the tap," Bi said. "We are still working on upgrading the secondary facilities. But in the Olympic Village we will provide safe drinking water from the tap."

What's most disturbing (aside from the fact that it must be assumed that billions of China's residents don't drink potable water) is that this announcement comes so early out from the games. Based on far out they've given the warning, it shows how far behind they are in their efforts, and how little of a chance they have of succeeding.

The battle to provide clean drinking water is just part of the infrastructure upgrades the city has attempted to improve. Others include new subways, highways, and skyscrapers. As much as $160 billion has been spent by the city to bring it up to Olympic standards.

But there's also a battle that you can't put a price on: the effort to improve the behavior of the local residents. This effort has involved coaxing taxi drivers to be polite, teaching people how to line up, and of course, getting people to stop their habit of spitting. Spitting I get, but isn't forming lines a valuable skill taught in the Chinese version of kindergarten?

"The 2008 Olympics Games are a national event," Bi said. "Ensuring the water supply is something that the Communist Party of Beijing and the government of Beijing attach great importance to."

Great importance, huh? $160 billion and no clean drinking water? Get back to work!