June 2008

That’s a (W)rap

Okay, Mr. Krause.  You said your answer was simple, but in fact, it wasn’t.  Spoken like a true politickin’ politician, you pulled the ‘ole ‘leave the answer up to the reader’ move.  Nice job.  Passing the buck has never appeared so graceful.

The right answer is: Shawn Chacon is replaceable.  Blackball the guy, turn your back on him, punch him in the nuts, whatever — anyone who behaves like that doesn’t deserve the opportunity to play baseball at the Major League level and doesn’t deserve to make Major League dollar$.  If I physically attacked my boss at work tomorrow I’m pretty sure word would get around (after I’m fired) to those in the Asian art world that I was bad news.  No way I’d get a job in the industry again and I wouldn’t deserve it if I did. 

If someone like Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols attacks his GM (neither ever would), I could entertain the idea of giving him a second chance based only on the idea that there is no replacing an Alex Rodriguez or an Albert Pujols.  But Shawn Chacon?  A paragon of mediocrity?  No way.  I can’t wait to pull into a Texas service station and have him rotate my tires.

But who cares anyway?  Much more exciting things in the news today…

Like Kyle Lohse’s outstanding ESPN primetime performance against the now below-.500 Manuel-era Mets.  Lohse has been an absolute stud this season.  Everyone credits Dave Duncan — as they should — but Lohse must get props for putting the plan into action.  Speaking of Dunc, I’m pretty sure Orel Hershiser was getting mad wood every time he brought up Dave Duncan during the ESPN telecast, which seemed to be every home inning.  It’s okay.  I was getting the same reaction.

kyle_lohse.jpgAnd there was a lot of reaction from the sore-losing Northsiders in the Loop today.  Hey, all you loser sCrUB fans who gave me hell last weekend — who refused to answer my phone calls, emails, text messages during the Southside whoopin’ ya’ll took this weekend, I got two words for you: EAT IT!

I feel better now. 

And so does Nick Swisher… and Jim Thome, obviously.  Don’t look now, but these two streaky hitters are getting hot and there’s no limit to the damage they can do in tandem alongside Quentin and Dye.  Look out world, look out.

Now that the Windy City (Crosstown) Classic is over, and we’re all even, I think it’s time to pay homage to the absolute worst commercial in the history of Chicago.  Leave it to Chevrolet to think it’d be really awesome for an old Italian and an aging Latino to perform a rap song about baseball in the Second City.  Not since Puff Daddy and Mase destroyed the legendary memory of Biggie has the music world seen such an abomination of a duo. 

In case you missed it, or in case you don’t live in Chicago, here it is.  I’m just warning you: Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right:

Peace,

Jeffy

The Filibuster

Earlier this week, Shawn Chacon physically attacked Astros’ GM Ed Wade, which ultimately led to his dismissal from the team.  Does Chacon, or any other player guilty of similar actions, deserve a second chance?

– Jeff

                                                                                       

This whole past week has been rife with comparisons to Latrell Sprewell and his antics of yesteryear. At this point, the general consensus seems to be that Chacon is a second-rate pitcher who got what he deserved. However, I’m not so sure.

Let me begin by saying that what Chacon did was barbaric and unforgivable. However, the same people who are decrying his actions have no problem with teammates beating on each other in the dugout or generally being buffoons. When Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett went at it in the Cubs dugout last summer, there was no real outcry. People were upset but the Cubs merely put Barrett on the trading block and managed to get rid of him. Problem solved.

The real problem here is not out of control baseball players (or for that matter, football or basketball players). The problem is that we have created a modern day gladiator class in professional sports but then we’re upset when they act like barbarians. Listen, what do you think is going to happen when you’re looking the other way while these guys are pumping steroids and HGH? Do you think that does good things to their bodies or their brains? If anything, we’re lucky no one has died (although I’m still not convinced that Barry Bonds’ head won’t full on explode one of these days). These athletes are expected to perform at a ridiculously high level of competition on a continuous basis so some sort of additive is necessary if they want to stay healthy. If you want them to perform so you can be entertained and so the owners can make money, you also accept the consequences.

And here’s where the events with Chacon come into play. He had not been performing as well as expected. He was being demoted to the bullpen. That meant that some action had to be taken. But when you’re dealing with someone’s livelihood at that level, you need to have some tact. So, when the GM presents the decision in a nasty way to a guy who already knows that things haven’t been going well, what does he expect is going to happen? Here’s my take on it: If you can’t relate to the player, leave the news to someone who can. It will probably result in a lot less bruises.

But this takes us to your actual question, does a player so indicted deserve a second chance. My answer is simple. Sports are entertainment, athletes are entertainers. If they can still entertain and you are comfortable with the possible consequences, bring ‘em back. You’re going to run a risk and if you don’t think you can keep the person in line, don’t do it. But the owners and managers are just as at fault as the players and even the fans in creating this situation so it ultimately comes down to the economic question (as does everything in entertainment). So, do the math. If you thought a gladiator had a chance at killing the emperor, you left him out of the ring. If you think an athlete might kill his manager, leave him off the team. It’s as simple as that.

-A

The Obamacon Debate; Crosstown Rival Debate

Some important person said it first: “You can’t have it both ways — unless you’re Jenna Jameson or Joan Baez.” 

This is why I don’t buy the “Obamacon” phenomenon* for one second.  You either are or you aren’t for the Dems, the Libs, the Leftists.  And I can’t think of a more left-of-the-line candidate than Barack Obama right now.  If these so-called conservatives are bending the other way, then they’re hardly conservatives, right?  What’s next?  Coulterlibs?  O’Reillylefts?  McCainocrats?

Spare me.

For the same reason, as we embark on the second and final leg of the Windy City (Crosstown) Classic, it is not only outright blasphemy to root for both the Sox and the Cubs, it’s downright wrong.  This city (Chicago) buzzes with excitement for this series, the season, the playoffs… any little hint that the two would ever face off in the greatest sports finale known to man.  Hearing clueless, passive ‘fans’ interviewed by WGN saying things like “I hope they both win” or “I like the Sox in the AL, the Cubs in the NL” make me want to staple my scr0tum to a piece of plywood hitched to a herd of buffalo racing down Lower Wacker Drive. 

So excuse me while I puke. (wretch)

One cannot root for both teams and have any inkling of self-respect.  If anything, such people and their outlandish remarks/worldviews only prove their absolute ignorance — not only their ignorance of the game itself, but more importantly, their ignorance of the deep-rooted identities and histories of these two storied franchises. 

obamasox2.jpgYou can choose a side, but you can’t be for both. 

You have one vote and one vote only.

You only have one opportunity to make the right (or left) decision.

So there.  Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right, Colin Powell.

Peace,

Jeffy

*I stole this fun word combo from the good folks at CNN.  Thanks, WOLFIE!

Stellar and Interstellar Development

Oh man. Can I tell you how much I love that minor league tirade? This guy just understands that bigger is better. And the thing is, if they’re going to toss you, you might as well make it worth it. Why kick dirt when you can throw a base? Why toss your hat when you can toss the entire contents of the dugout? That is the reason why I love America.

And I also love America because of college sports. In general, NCAA football and basketball provide much more drama and interest than do their professional counterparts. Yeah, that’s a factless, baseless blanket statement but my name is on this blog so I can write that. However, most other major college sports pale in comparison to their older brothers. Nowhere is this more true than baseball. Quick, tell me who won the College World Series last year? Yeah, I didn’t think so. And who won tonight’s CWS finale? No one cares. And there’s a reason for that.

Unlike football and basketball, there’s a different route to the pros for baseball players. It’s a much more (dare I say?) European system of small feeder clubs nurturing talent at different levels in order to prepare them for the big leagues. Like the big European club soccer teams do in Africa and Brazil, MLB constantly scours the developing world, trying to get an edge by finding hot new talent in some Latin American backwater. Then, they throw them into the minor league crockpot, set it to simmer and see how it all turns out.

jeter_draft.jpgEven homegrown talent is developed in a similar fashion. Do people get excited for a Derek Jeter to head off to the University of Michigan for a year before turning pro? No. He signs with the Yankees and they develop him in their minor league affiliates before bringing him up to the parent organization. So, if no exciting players show up in college baseball, why should we care about the sport?

Simply put, we shouldn’t. At least in college basketball or football, we get to see guys play for one or two years before they head off. Syracuse doesn’t win the 2003 NCAA basketball championship without Carmelo but that was all they got from him. Similarly, Ohio State doesn’t beat Miami in 2002 Fiesta Bowl without Maurice Clarett but that didn’t stop him from heading straight to the NFL (although his life since has been somewhat less than stellar).

So, should we care about this inequity in the sporting system and does it really matter? It seems pretty obvious that the different sports need different systems. Football and, to a lesser extent, basketball are homegrown sports that rely on colleges to develop players and provide them with greater exposure before they begin their professional careers. Baseball, like soccer, is a more international game and so the collegiate development system just doesn’t work. It’s unfortunate for fans of the game but when there are already so many MLB teams playing 162 games a year, the allure of collegiate baseball just seems unimportant. In the end, these systems, kind of like the American primary election system, seem to have fundamental flaws. But, when you consider the alternatives, I guess we’re doing a pretty good job.

-A

Stars Align

buddha_stars.jpgIt happens.  Not very often, but when it does, it’s Pure-land Buddha bliss or 净土宗 as I like to say; and when it is, I get a great big… smile.  On my face.  It’s true.

On this one single night the Cardinals won (against a Tiger team that looks like *this*), the Cubs lost (at Wrigley!) and the Sox won (in L.A.!).  Not only that, but the bus came right as I arrived at the bus stop this morning, my inbox was free from hate mail all day, I had gongbao jiding for lunch, Obama showed improvement in overall US American support and Bill O’Reilly was banned from ever opening his mouth again.

Okay.  That last thing isn’t true — but the rest is.

So before I go too far and screw up the stars’ alignment, I will do something that has never been done before in the entire history of RSBS: just this once, I will rest my case… and take a moment to reflect on the almighty Amituofo name.  Because after all, the Buddha is the one responsible for the Cardinals’ and Sox’s success so far this season… the Buddha is also responsible for the brainy combo of LaRussa/Duncan, Lazarus reincarnated as Alexei Ramirez and that pesky little goat that will bring the Cub faithful to their knees in agony… again

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.  This time, I got the inside edge.

Peace & 南無阿彌陀佛,

Jeffy

Walk of Shame

You all know what I’m talking about: the morning after a long night out, you wake up in a strange bed with someone whose name you didn’t quite catch.  Quietly, as not to wake said stranger, you put on the same sweaty, rank clothes you wore the night before.  Your back hurts and your leg is numb.  The taste in your mouth is probably what the inside of an ashtray inside a toilet inside a Taco Bell might taste like and your hair is sticking up on one side and you have strange cuts on your face that weren’t there before and there is a loud thumping in your head and now you have to find the front door and make a discrete exit only to face a bright, loud sunlight that makes hiding absolutely impossible. 

That’s what I’ve felt like all day (sans the stranger and her strange bed; see this link as to why those two are not in this real life catastrophe) as the White Sox got swept by the Cubs in part one of the Windy City (or Crosstown) Classic.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to all of those US Americans who wrote me emails, called me and texted me over the weekend just to make my life miserable, to pour ketchup in my canker sores, to ridicule me and chide me for my pain.  I must especially thank you, Laura, for providing me with the proper instructions for killing myself.  Had I not had a Tombstone pizza in the oven, I probably would’ve followed them. 

Seriously though, I really appreciate the sentimental salutations — mean and cruel as they were — that I received from everyone. 

Now I hope you all die.

That’s not true.  I don’t hope you die.  I mean, yes, you will die — someday — but I won’t have anything to do with it.  That I promise.  Don’t feel bad.  I will die too.  It will probably be on the #8/Halsted or #62/Archer bus.  If you don’t hear from me for a while, check the Metro section of the Tribune for ‘tragic bus accidents caused by irresponsible paparazzi chasing a self-promoting, egotistical MLBlogger’.

Back to the series, the best part of this weekend was that I wasn’t in Chicago for the melee.  No.  I was on a farm in the middle of nowhere hanging out with good friends, which included about 20 Romanian nationals intent on getting me to play soccer, eat loads of garlic and listen to Madonna.  Apparently (and this is straight from the Romanians’ mouths) these are the three Romanian national pastimes — in that order — and there is no deviating from them (*note: drinking is an integral part of each pastime.  In fact, drinking is an integral part of everything Romanian).  So, I did what I do best: I fit in.

romanian_soccer.jpgI played soccer (got my ^ss kicked).

I ate a ton of garlic (you can probably still smell it through the interweb).

I listened to a lot of Madonna (Hard Candy is awesome… and so is the new album).

hard_candy_madonna.jpgBut like all good things, Romaniafest had to end and once back in the Chi, there was no hiding from the shame and despair we Southsiders were made to endure.  That being said, I am thankful that I missed seeing the series in person.  Apparently, the usual suspects (Cub fans) were up to no good and I can only imagine what type of trouble would’ve found me.  As you all know, I’m a sucker for basebrawls. 

The Buddha taught: “Life is suffering.”  Without knowing agony, pain and destruction firsthand, how can one ever really know what happiness feels like?  The same goes for the flipside, which explains why Cub fans born after 1908 (almost all of them now) don’t really know what real misery is; they’ve never felt happiness.

Sucks to be them.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

The Filibuster

John McLaren, the fiery, F-bomb dropping manager of the Mariners just
lost his job, perhaps in part because of his profanity laced tirade.
Bobby Cox set a career mark for ejections last season. And Lou Pinella
always seems to be cussing out someone, no matter if his team is in
first or last place. Does it really make a difference when a manager
hollers at, kicks dirt on or otherwise abuses the umps and who does it
best?

– Allen

                                                                                       

I believe it was 1985 or 1986.  I was just a bright-eyed kid who would hold his breath as he walked into the chasm of old Busch stadium — overwhelmed and overjoyed by the simple lush green of artificial turf. They were known as the runnin’ Redbirds back then and Vince Coleman was on the front line. 

He walked to lead off the first inning and on the very next pitch he stole second.  The ump called him out.  Coleman went nuts.  He got in the ump’s face, threw down his helmet and the crowd (me included) erupted with a supporting roar.  It wasn’t enough to change the umpire’s mind because two seconds later, he tossed him. 

Immediately, Whitey Herzog stormed from the dugout and dashed towards second base.

Absolute pandemonium. 

He got tossed too.

I was only six or seven years old, but I got it.  I was pumped.  I was charged.  I would’ve fought to the death for Whitey.

And that sentiment rings true still today for players and fans.  Why do managers argue calls, risk being fined, and make scenes in front of 30,000 people?  It’s part of their job.  They are paid to lead, to discipline, to encourage and to fire up the troops.

Some are passive-aggressive (Bobby Cox), some are aggressive (Lou Pinella, Earl Weaver, Billy Martin) and some are just lameballs (Willie Randolph).  No matter what the style, the purpose is the same.  This is elementary.

As for who is the best?  I’m not sure that any current manager could touch the combativeness of Earl Weaver or Billy Martin.  Perhaps “Sweet” Lou Pinella is the closest we have as he always puts on a good show and his teams seem to respond: they win.  And isn’t that the most important thing?

Of course, there’s always room for a loony toon or two, and I think we could all agree that minor league manager Phillip Wellman of the Mississippi Braves is the quintessential example of how sometimes one can take the whole arguing with the umpire thing a bit too far.  If you live under a rock and don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this footage from June 2007:

Nutjob.  Yes.  But at least he was committed.  And confident.  Confidence can go a long way, especially if you’re looked up to as a leader and you have no clue what you’re doing half the time.  Of course, I can’t relate to that.  I can’t relate to that at all. 

Don’t hate me cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

The Trappings of Conformity

I understand that in today’s world there is surmounting pressure to dumb one’s self down in order to gain acceptance — to fit in, to be liked.  Satisfaction can be had by the simple click of a mouse; children’s role models come in cute, skinny Paris Hilton and Justin Timberlake packages; department stores offer “free gifts with purchase”, knowing that people are just begging to be duped.

I am not one of those people.

Of course, the backlash can be unsettling, but I remain steadfast in my intelligence despite the ever-growing pressures of modern society.  I do my homework.  I know I’m right.  I am in touch with the people even if that means being smarter than theyare.

Allen Krause, on the other hand, intelligent as he is on paper, fails to overcome the pitfalls of conformity and it has never been more evident than in his last two posts: The Filibuster, 67 Years…and Counting.

I refuse to waste any more time correcting the flawed logical processes of my opponent on the magnitude of hitting .400.  I also refuse to delve any further into whether or not today’s players are more prepared than they were 60 years ago due to advancements in technology, scouting, preparation.  The bottom line is, I was right the first time, and I still am.

However, there are two major issues I must address here because US Americans deserve to know the Truth and shouldn’t be subjected to the wreckless writings of a man so out of touch with reality and so out of touch with the people’s needs rather than the people’s wants that he is willing to lead conforming masses down Blasphemy Road

Mr. Krause wrote:

“…Barry Bonds was usually stuck out in right field.”

No, sir.  Barry Bonds played left field.  Any one who doesn’t know that automatically loses all credibility and doesn’t deserve to have a voice.

Mr. Krause also wrote:

“Willie Mays’ basket catch is replicated on a daily basis by minor leaguers all over the country.”

Oh, really?  Is that so, Mr. Krause? 

Do me a favor.  Sit down, take that tin foil off your head, remove the mainlining needle from your arm and come back to Earth, pal.

Replicated on a daily basis?  That is the absolute dumbest thing I have ever heard you say and you’ve said a lot of dumb things.  Obviously, you know nothing about one of the greatest baseball moments of all time: Willie Mays and The Catch.  And I guarantee you that this play is NOT “replicated on a daily basis by minor leaguers all over the country”.  If it was, the so-called players making these so-called plays would be so-called Major Leaguers.  Your statement, Mr. Krause, cancels itself out, double-talk, double-talk.

The_Catch.jpgFor the record, what made Mays’ catch The Catch wasn’t exactly the act of making an over-the-shoulder basket play on the ball, extraordinary as that was.  What made it so spectacular, according to those in attendance, was the fact that Willie was playing a very shallow center field in the extremely spacious Polo Grounds of New York when Vic Wertz connected on a bomb blast.  It would have been a home run in today’s ballparks — and it was evident right off the bat that the ball was going to soar over an unsuspecting Mays.

Except Willie Mays had crazy speed.

He broke, he ran and he ran and he ran and he looked up, turned around, put out his glove, caught it, whirled around, fired to second, and his hat fell off.

That was The Catch.  A ball that no one else in the world would’ve had a chance to catch.  Mays caught it.

Shame on you, Allen Krause, for attempting to steal the thunder from perhaps the greatest baseball player of all time.  Shame on you.

In all honesty, I do feel sorry for you, Mr. Krause.  It must hurt to know you’re just another victim of the trappings of conformity.  It must hurt to be but just a tiny grub in the food chain of a menacing Trapdoor Spider.  I can’t imagine what that must feel like — but I’m sure it ain’t good ‘cuz I’ve seen the footage (*note, the good part is at the end):

67 Years….and counting

Mr. Lung, if I may be so bold as to call you mister since most of your comments tends towards the prissy and sissy. However, I’ll afford you the respect you so often lack in our current discourse and continue to refer to you respectfully. So, Mr. Lung, I hate to beat a dead horse but you could not be any further from the truth in your so-called “rebuttal” of my recent post regarding hitting .400 in today’s game of baseball.

First of all, I don’t think it’s all that groundbreaking or even close to infantile to claim that managers and players today do much more homework on the teams and players they are facing than they did 60 years ago. The advent of instant video technology has allowed batters to watch individual at-bats between innings and figure out what they did wrong. Is it crazy to assume that managers and coaches are doing the same thing with their fielders?

To add on to this thought, the size of the playing field has not increased in the past 60 years but the speed and dexterity of fielders has increased at an exponential rate. There’s a reason that Big Papi is a DH and Barry Bonds was usually stuck out in right field. Even if a guy is a huge offensive asset you have to put him where he’ll do the least damage defensively.

My point is, the web gems you see on SportsCenter on a daily basis were the exception 60 years ago, not the rule. Willie Mays’ basket catch is replicated on a daily basis by minor leaguers all over the country. So, it’s not unreasonable to think that these vastly improved defensive skills and the increases in mangerial acumen have had an effect on how many balls actually make it through safely. As you yourself said, “The game of baseball…has changed very little in the last 100 years, Al.   ‘You have to put it into a place where a fielder is not.‘” But when that fielder can be in more places than he used to, Jeff, you’ve got yourself a problem.

Now, the one place where we can agree is that hitting .400 would be something special. Yeah, it’s a pretty meaningless statistic overall but baseball fans of all stripes would cheer for a once-in-a-lifetime event like that. But as far as batting average being integral to a person’s understanding of the game of baseball, well, we have a difference of opinion there.

I was watching Chipper Jones during the Braves-Angels game the other evening as he was being interviewed about his pursuit of .400. After saying it was highly unlikely that he could do it he then explained that he thought only someone like Ichiro would even have a chance. His reasoning was that the person would have to have an inordinate number of walks (which decreases the denominator in the aforementioned ratio) and then be able to beat out throws for quite a few infield hits (which increases the numerator in the same ratio) which would allow the ratio to approach .400. Chipper’s right in his reasoning although I don’t think that even Ichiro has all that great of a chance.

All of this leads me to one basic point. Although I know your rebuttal comes from a love of the game, that doesn’t make it any less ignorant. Mr. Lung, you are just plain wrong.

-A

 

 

Bipartisan Artisans

Surprise, surprise.  Tiger fan and irresponsible baseball blogger Allen Krause blasphemies the grand achievements of our national pastime by belittling the .400 batting average, I put him in his place by blasting him for it and he goes absolutely silent — no rebuttal, no defense, no comment.

Welcome to Red State Blue State — where US Americans come to read about baseball and politics while watching me debate an imaginary friend.  Mr. Krause, if you’re out there, holla.

I suppose this is fundamental of any dispute: one person (me) is right and the other (Al) is wrong and the wrong one tends to get lost among the exactitude of the right.  RSBS is not immune to this.  There is no gray, middle ground — not here.  Sure, I am aware that my loud anecdotal quips of baseball-politico wisdom may just be too intimidating for my opponent to handle, but there’s a time when one has to go to bat and that time is now, Al.

As a strong believer in the imminent change of hope politics on the horizon of this great nation, I too hope that some day Allen and I can come together, despite our differences, for the good of RSBS, for the good of baseball, for the good of the people… much like these pairings:

Obama/McCain Side By Side at Tim Russert Memorial
Tim Russert was a paragon of intestinal fortitude — a man I strive to emulate — and as he was remembered today, I couldn’t help but think about his great big smile (wherever he is) watching these two candidates side by side honoring his memory, his guts, his vigor.  As an American, that image stuck out to me — made me proud. 

So long, Tim.

Mark & Sammy
It may seem like a stretch, but it’s not: McCain/Obama, Repulicans/Democrats, Cubs/Cardinals.  Generally speaking, they strongly dislike one another.  McCain and Obama at the memorial today reminded me of that magical summer of 1998, when natural enemies Mark McGwire (a Cardinal) and Sammy Sosa (a Cub) came together and put on a magnificent display of power, destroying the single season homerun record in a derby-like fashion that captivated the entire nation.

Of course, now we know they were cheating, which kind of kills the ‘magical’ part, but cheating or not, they were side by side, laughing, fist pumping, scratching their balls.

sosa_mcgwire1998.jpg…which leads me to a pairing of scratching heads:

Cardinals & Cubs Fans 2008

So far this year, Cardinals fans are asking themselves: “How are we this good?”

So far this year, Cubs fans are asking themselves: “How are we this good?”

At least we can agree on something…

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

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