Mets Thrilled to Miss Playoffs

>> Sunday

The champagne and beer flowed freely in the locker room, music blared, specially-made t-shirts were busted out and the New York Mets players and coaches smoked cigars and celebrated being eliminated from the postseason by the Philadelphia Phillies clinch of the NL East.

"This is truly a team effort. Without the help of every ballplayer on this roster, we could not have achieved our goal of missing the playoffs," said a champagne-soaked Carlos Delgado.

"It started to look pretty bad about a month ago. The team was pulling away, and it looked like we would make the playoffs. I know the fans probably wanted us to win the division, but dude, seriously. How many games do you want us to play? We already played 162 this season, plus pre-season games. Are you not entertained? It's always more with you people. I mean, we've been at this since February and frankly, we're all kinda tired of it. So the team pulled together, bucked up, and set our goal on missing the playoffs. Judging by how we played in September (7 games up with 17 to go), I think you can say it worked!"

Pitcher Pedro Martinez agreed. "Man, have you ever been to New York in October? It can get cold, dude. Like, real cold. When deciding between freezing my nads off in Queens in October, or sitting on the beach with a bottle of rum, or playing some golf, or getting some home cooking, it really wasn't a question. We just couldn't risk going to the playoffs."

Paul Lo Duca reiterated the grave possibilities the Mets could have faced, "Who knows what could have happened if we'd gone to the playoffs, I mean, I know we were all itching to get home and we spend the season in New York City! Motha-fuckin' capital of the world and EVEN WE were starting to get bored. I can't imagine what would have happened if we had to play a team from a sticks-city like the Diamondbacks in the first round. Those guys have been surrounded by Gold Bond, shuffleboard, and adult diapers since Valentine's Day. They'd probably be so anxious to get the hell out of Dodge that they'd probably let us throw three straight no-hitters against them. Then we're in the NLCS, so that's another week working."

Lashing out at critics who said the Mets' catcher's approach to the postseason was "jaded and selfish," Lo Duca responded, "I know you say that playing baseball is supposed to be fun, but dammit, people! This is our job. This is work for us. It's not some stickball game with you and your buddies over a case of High Life. And we couldn't take any more. How would you like it if your boss wanted you to go to a conference during your two-weeks vacation? Not much I bet. Well, it's the same for us with the offseason and I'm not about to miss my fishing trip to Mexico next week for work."

So what's next for the Mets?

"I'm going to Disney World! Proclaimed David Wright as he launched another cascade of champagne over the room, "This has been such a ride! I just hope if we keep the team together, we can miss the playoffs again next season!"

The celebration lasted late into the afternoon, untill the players left the stadium, where they were pelted with rocks from distraught Mets fans.


Link to Favre's NFL record-breaking 421st TD pass

I'm just posting this video so that YCS can capitalize on the thousands of web searches for the video of this outstanding career achievement.

So here's Brett Favre's 421st career TD pass:


Noble Vinnieage: Fill-in Winner-pickin'

"The Beck" had to deal with a little sitchyation last night, so he won't be making the picks this week. So filling in for him will be your ol' pal Vinnie--the least qualified YCSer to talk football outside of Mike.

Get your bookie on the line! Here we go.

Miami (-4) vs. Oakland
Culpepper and Curry score me some huge fantasy points in a desperate comeback but fall short.

Atlanta (+3) vs. Houston
I think Andre Johnson is still hurt, and Atlanta's at home, desperate for the first win. Sound judgment? Check.

Baltimore (-4.5) @ Cleveland
Already reconsidering this pick four seconds after I made it. But dadgummit, I'm stickin' to my guns.

Detroit (+3) vs. Chicago
Apparently bettors and bookmakers haven't read the injury report. The Bears lose, and a bunch of angry Polish guys go nuts on WSCR tomorrow.

Minnesota (+2) vs. Green Bay
As Nate just informed me, the Pack has won three of the last four years in the HHH Dome. So I guess the whole "Favre plays bad in Minnesota" thing is kinda outdated. But I'm still buying it for some reason.

St. Louis (+13) @ Dallas
A 13-point spread is ridiculous for any game this early in the season. I think most people agree that St. Louis has underachieved, and even without Jackson, I say they make a respectable showing. Also possible: Rams lose by 38.

New York - A (-3.5) @ Buffalo
Buffalo's been pretty sucky, and I figured I'd throw Danny a bone on this one.

[Aside: Berman just said, "Rooting for Favre is like rooting for America" on NFL Countdown.]

Tampa Bay (+3) @ Carolina
Tampa's a weird team, and I have a funny feeling they'll surprise everyone this year by being good, starting with this game. Sound reasoning? Check again.

San Francisco (+1.5) vs. Seattle
San Fran wins this one for the late Bill Walsh. And also for themselves. Actually, like 99.5% for themselves, and 0.4% for Bill Walsh. (0.1% = for Jesus)

Pittsburgh (-6) @ Arizona
Things don't look so good for the Cardinals, and now Boldin's out. Good luck, losers.

San Diego (-12.5) vs. Kansas City
This one should be comical, but I said the same about the season premier of SNL last night. Yay unnecessary pop-culture dig!

Indianapolis (-9.5) vs. Denver
Denver has some injured guys, and they'd have probably lost anyway. Indy covers.

New York - N (+2.5) vs. Philadelphia
I was thinking of going with Philly on the road, but Berman says that Eli Manning has "moxie." Berman, you've sold me. Game, Giants!

Cincinnati (+7.5) vs. New England
As good as the Pats have been, I don't think they can cover that kind of spread against Cincy on the road.

Phone 'em in! We're never, ever wrong.


Shoe: "Don't worry about me. I'll be here next weekend."

>> Saturday

Looking to reassure critics who have assailed him for being tardy at least, and at best, neglecting his job, Other Shoe today announced that he is not past his prime, and will in fact be dropping next week.

"I know a lot of people have been on my case now that the Cubs are in the playoffs, but don't worry you guys, I'm still gonna drop like I always do. Then we can put this whole thing to bed, and watch a World Series with the Yankees or Red Sox vs. NL Patsy just like you've come to expect."

The news came just as Cubs fans recovered from their drunken night of celebrating the team's first Division Championship in four years. Said Jeffrey Wilson of Oak Park, "I'll admit. Something just didn't seem right seeing the Cubs covered in champagne. I've seen this kinda thing before in '84, '89, '95, '98, '01, '03 and '04 was wondering what happened to the Other Shoe and if he was ever going to drop. Today's news reassures me that the Cubs will eventually tank it, and I won't have to get rid of that "Wait till next year" t-shirt I bought. Cause I mean, that cost like 20 bucks, dude."

Other Shoe declined to give any details of exactly when he would drop, preferring instead to leave the element of suspense. "I'm a showman," said the piece of footwear through fresh new laces, "You'll just have to stay tuned, wait, and see." Shoe did state that fans can expect to see him as soon as next weekend. Right around Game 4 or 5 of the NLDS.


Ummm....Not for 8 seasons at the stadium several miles away

>> Wednesday

Baseball Tonight: Covering the highlights of the Padres-Giants game, Barry's last in San Francisco.

"Boats out in McCovey Cove, and boy did they become a familar sight over the 15 years Bonds spent in San Francisco."

Even more remarkable since more than half those seasons were played at Candlestick. And steroids or no steroids, you'd really have to whack the hell out of the ball to A) clear the upperdeck, and B) clear the parking lot to get to San Francisco Bay.

Sorry. Little things like that bother me.


One Last Dig On Rex

Whatever your thoughts are on the benching of the Sex Cannon, I think this Onion headline from last year's Super Bowl pretty much sums it up.

Bears Lead Rex Grossman To Super Bowl


Far be it from me to dance on a man's grave...

but this man single-handedly ruined the Blackhawks.

Pictured at right is a shot of the Blackhawks the last time they won the Stanley Cup in 1961. (Not pictured, John F. Kennedy being sworn in, and construction of the Berlin Wall starting.) For the better part of the last half century, Bill Wirtz ruled the Hawks like a mafia don.

When ESPN the Magazine rated the Blackhawks as the "Worst Franchise in Sports" a few years back, they might as well have written what should be in Wirtz's obituary, if not on his headstone.

"Over the past decade, no club has bled its fans of their dollars and their hope as gruesomely as the Blackhawks. (Tellingly, [Former Hawks legends Bobby] Hull and [Stan] Mikita are so embittered by the organization's cheapness, they will have nothing to do with the franchise.) Wirtz' sorry record includes no Stanley Cups since 1961, tickets that average $50 a pop, and an insane business model that attempts to reward fan avidity (i.e., fannies in the seats) over broad popularity by blacking out home games from local TV. "

Fuck it. I'm busting my Hawks jersey out to celebrate. Ding Dong the Wirtz is dead.


Griese plays like garbage; Rex back in there by Week 9

>> Tuesday

That's my prediction. And I'm 100% sure on it (+/- 90%, 0.5% level of confidence). Everyone will realize that the offense, not Grossman, is crap, and they'll all be like, "At least we have a chance at a passing TD with Rex... Get 'im in there!"

Here's my biggest problem with this: Why not give Rex one more chance against the Lions, a team that gave up something like eight passing plays of 90+ yards this past week? Why replace your guy who does have an arm and who can take advantage of a seemingly weak secondary with a guy who could go 16-28 with 105 yards?

I don't know. I just think the dude can really play. Put him behind an offensive line that isn't horrible, and give him receivers who don't cut their routes short and actually know how to fight for a jump ball. He'll be fine.

Oh, and while I'm on this, I have to ask: Why do so, so many people care whether Rex Grossman is Jewish? (He's not, by the way.) Go to our Sitemeter referrals. It's just loaded with "rex grossman jewish" Google searches. Seriously, what gives?


A Very Sad Day

Vinnie and I can now weep, as an report has indicated that Brian Griese will start the Bears game this week against the Lions. You know, just a small part of me wouldn't mind Griese terribly failing and the Bears having to crawl back to my man Sexy Rexy. Then, maybe they could finally call the damn deep ball and stop this dinking and dunking shit that does not win football games.


What in the Bloody Hell Happened?

Sorry Packer fans who need some cheap entertainment, this would not be a frustrated Bears fan's manifesto of the week three debacle. No, I will displace my pain here and look south here to New Orleans. 2006's most dynamic offense suddenly looks over matched, and Drew Brees appears to emulating Rex Grossman with his eight interceptions in three games. Sean Payton definitely possesses that I'm smarter than you attitude of calling plays with a lot of unnecessary trickeration (for Christ's sakes an end around reverse flea flicker), but did Joe Horn really mean that to the Saints offense? Despite rushing for 4.4 yards per carry going into tonight's game, Deuce McAllister had only received 20 carries. Now that Deuce will be out for the season with a torn ACL, the Saints do not have a between the tackles runner on their roster. Big play guy Devery Henderson has not been targeted down field, and Marques Colston screams one year wonder at this point. Oh, and that Bush fellow resembles Dave Meggett more than Brian Westbrook. I now understand why Payton was so quickly out of a job after engineering the offense that led the Giants to the Super Bowl. Come week ten, the Super Dome will be back to its usual state of being half-filled and the Saints will be back to their rightful place drafting in the first hour this April.


Milking tragedy, year two

>> Monday

If you're a loyal reader of this blog, 1) you're a loser; 2) thanks for reading! and 3) you may remember last September when I went pretty ballistic over what I deemed the national sports media's attempt to piggyback the post-Katrina rebuilding of New Orleans to big, big ratings and "we care" points by flaunting their empathy and inflating the social significance of pro sports.

A year later, ESPN's not done, and--suprise!--neither am I.


A year removed from the Saints' return to the Superdome and two years removed from the hurricane itself, the always-flimsy connection between the Saints' success and the real-life issues that linger as a result of Katrina seems even more fabricated than ever.


Last year, your maudlin crap may have played a tangible role in the recovery effort. The sensationalism you brought to the broadcast may have enhanced the fund-raising efforts tied into the game. But by now, if there's anyone that doesn't understand "New Orleans has come a long way since Katrina, but there's still a lot of work to be done, but look at all these people doing good things!" then I doubt that Mike Torico's heartfelt tone will be the thing that finally gets them to open their eyes.

There's no disguising it this year--IT'S JUST A FOOTBALL GAME.

Why am I so cynical? I wish I could answer that. I can only speculate, but I imagine that if I (meaning me specifically; I speak for no one) were a New Orleans native, I'd be sitting at home thinking, "When did these people ever care this much about New Orleans before? What do they even know about New Orleans culture beyond some watered-down grab bag of shellfish and jazz? I'm a big boy; I don't need a pity party; I don't need to be propped up. I didn't make all-things-New Orleans chic again; neither did my neighbors; outsiders from the national media did. And it took near annihilation for them to notice us. So fuck 'em."

...But that's just me. Is it ridiculous? Yes, because I am ridiculous. But I aslo don't think it's entirely without parallel.

Last word I'll have on this, hopefully forever: The Saints play football. They are a football team, playing football. Know your bounds, ESPN. Cover the game. You are not missionaries. You are a cable sports channel.

And I'm done.


Just asking

Anyone else think the new Tampa Bay Devil R....(ahem) "Tampa Bay Rays" jerseys look like a more professional version of a Beer League team from some neighborhood watering hole named Ray's?

[Insert your own comment regarding the artists-formerly-known-as-the-Devil Rays playing like a Beer League team for the past 10 years here.]


Rex Gross, Man.

I can only imagine the linguistic atrocities being perpetrated on the English language this morning after the Bears' defeat last night to the Cowboys. Favorite whipping boy Rex Grossman probably shouldn't leave the house today.

And it's not as if he was that bad yesterday, it's just that...okay, you know what? Enough is enough. Grossman's not good. It's pretty much a sure thing at this point. The Bears need to cut bait and play Griese and then draft a young guy (but not Andre Woodson, cuz he'll be good and I hate the Bears).

So, with that, I think we can all pretty much say good night to the Sex Cannon. Being a Brett Favre-like gunslinger is cool and all, but not when you're not trying to throw the requisite touchdowns that need to go with all those fantastically reckless INTs.

Personally, I'm reveling in the pain being felt across Bears nation this morning for one reason: fuck you, Chicago. It's probably over for the Brewers, barring an unprecedented (and, probably unlikely even for the northsiders) collapse, the Cubs are going to take the Central. It's okay, we'll be back next year. But let's get one thing straight, Chicago. You don't do football like Wisconsin does football. The fact that Grossman's (your longest tenured QB since Erik Kramer's 20 straight starts) era is likely at an end has got to sting juuust a little more knowing that number 4 just keeps on rollin.'

So, with that, YCS bids a fond farewell to Grossman. As a Packers fan, I'm obviously disappointed to see him go, and would like to cast my vote for Orton. My reasons are obvious, the NFL just needs more neck bears. Also, let's face it - the only way the Bears can be more boring to watch is by taking away any possibility for big plays. Griese playing basically guarantees that, and that sucks. For Chicago, though, not for me. We've got Favre, remember?

Also, we're 3-0. Eat it, Bearsss.


Next up in our YCS correspondence posts series...

>> Sunday

Dear New England Patriots,

Kindly don't wear those obnoxious silver jerseys ever again.

I know alternate jerseys are all the rage, what with the team's ability to wear a shirt twice a season and charge the fans a fortune for it, but come on.

Admittedly, it's just a jersey, and it's a team I don't root for, and yes, it's a small thing to be bothered by, but it's the principle of this jersey that bugs me every time I see it on TV. It exists for no other reason than to be a total money grab, and a poorly-executed money grab at that. Are the Pats' white jerseys that similar in appearance to your opponent's (today, Buffalo's awful-for-a-different-reason navy home jersey) that you needed to break out the silver to more easily differentiate yourself? Nope.

Is it a throwback to commemorate a historic moment in the team's history, like Philly is doing this year? Wrong again.

Is it even an attempt to gain a competitive advantage? Some teams employ the "George Costanza Law of Competitive Thermodynamics" and wear white this time of year whenever possible, the thinking being the players will be a few degrees cooler than their opposition in heat-absorbing dark jerseys. Not here though. You were playing in Buffalo, NY and the white jerseys would have actually fared better following that theory.

Even aesthetically, it's crap. It just looks like the equipment manager used cheap generic laundry detergent and left your Sunday (or Monday, Saturday, or Thursday I suppose) Best looking like a crappier, dingier version of your road whites. At the very least if you've got a chubby for alternates, bring back Pat Patriot, and retire this uncreative mess to the hand-me-downs and charities where this could be more useful.

Me (and probably some other people...somewhere)



Dear Haters,

Fuck thyselves.




Smoldering Beckage: Redemption

Okay. Wow. Damn. Last week didn't go so well. Man, I mean, seriously. I got smoked on those picks. I went 9-7, which for mortals is plenty well and good, but smoldering it wasn't.

This week I'm back, bay-bee, so stop making those eggs like that, because, well, it sucks! So read on and prepare to make big bucks while you try to figure out what the hell got into Mike Patrick last night with the Britney Spears reference. I mean, like, dag.

Indianapolis @ Houston

Houston's had a nice run the last two weeks, but with Andre Johnson out, the Colts will win this one, they're just too good.

San Diego @ Green Bay

This is a toss up. While it might not be as close as my homerically clouded mind makes it, I still think it's gonna be a toss up.

Also, the Packers win.

Minnesota @ Kansas City

Kansas City's getting the three-point edge at home, but I like the Vikings to cover and win on the road.

Detroit @ Philadelphia

The Lions have had two nice games and Philly's looked rough, but I like the Eagles to get back on track in this one, even with Brian Westbrook a little banged up. McNabb's gotta snap out of it eventually, right?

Buffalo @ New England

The Pats' pain train keeps rollin in this one, they win big.

Miami @ New York Jets

This one's a toss up, New York's getting the standard 3 points at home, and I think the Jets will win this one and will cover (but only in the 4-5 points range, so not for the faint of heart).

San Francisco @ Pittsburgh

While it's a little bit surprising that the Steelers are getting 9.5 against a decent Niners team, the adage is pretty simple: good AFC team beats good NFC team 10 times out of 10. Pittsburgh wins.

Arizona @ Baltimore

This game is like SF/Pittsburgh-lite, the Ravens win.

St. Louis @ Tampa Bay

Could be a good week to see how good each team actually is. I'll be surprised if the Bucs win, so I'm going with the Rams on the road, just because I don't think TB's all that good.

Jacksonville @ Denver

This could be a good game, and will be a very good test for the Jags' run D, which thus far has looked brutal. I like the Broncos at home to cover (3.5).

Cincinnati @ Seattle

If Cincy's D makes Seattle's offense look explosive, then the Bengals are absolutely fucked in the AFC. I think Cincy's the better team here.

Cleveland @ Oakland

What do you mean this one isn't televised nationally?!?!?! Cleveland wins, they seem to suck less.

Carolina @ Atlanta

The Panthers need to bounce back after getting pimp-slapped by Houston. They will, Atlanta's real bad.

New York Giants @ Washington

I like the Redskins here, and you can start the death clock on Tom Coughlin's job (or 2 years ago). He's the first coach to get the axe midseason (and really, why not? The team's fucked anyway).

Dallas @ Chicago

I like the visiting Cowboys in this one, because while the defense isn't all that great, I like them to put up the 17 points needed to beat the Bears.

Tennesee @ New Orleans

Vince Young is magic, (see Zuch's post below) and unless the Saints realize that they need more Duce to win (which they should, by now), the Titans are going to win this one on the road.

And, with that, I bid you adieu to win your fortune. Also, please note that right now I'm watching this movie on HBO. It's even funnier than you'd imagine.


The weirdest moment in sports broadcasting history just happened right now

>> Saturday

UPDATE: Not long after I posted my non-Tivo-verified account of a weird Mike Patrick moment during tonight's Georgia-Alabama game, FJM posted their own, more accurate one. So has Awful Announcing, and they even provide video.

Also, I just checked the Site Meter referrals, and we had five hits in the hour after the game from Google searches related specifically to this exchange. (Five hits in any hour for anything is sort of our average, so you can imagine how much attention this is getting.) Clearly, it struck a nerve with viewers everywhere (or at least with other nerds sitting at their computers).


Take your pick

>> Friday

If you could have one of these two guys, who would it be?

Pitcher #1: 3.68, 193.0 IP, 168 H, 78 BB, 155 K, 120 ERA+, 1.28 WHIP
Pitcher #2: 3.82, 186.1 IP, 186 H, 55 BB, 94 K, 113 ERA+, 1.29 WHIP

Pretty much a toss-up, right? Maybe a slight edge to Pitcher #1?

I mean, it's not like one of these guys is gonna be a Cy Young candidate, and the other's gonna lead the league in losses, right?

Ohhhh!!!! Wrong! Pitcher #2 is actually Chien-Ming Wang, who's pulling some major Cy Young support with his 18-7 record, and Pitcher #1 is the Giants' Matt Cain, who has a 7-16 record and will receive zero Cy Young votes.

Behold, the magic of run support.


Last One to the Party

>> Wednesday

It only took until week two for me to get lazy on my weekly NFL feature (cell phone troubles and an actual job interview played into this). After watching him play last Sunday against Indianapolis, I have become a believer in Vince Young. While I'd rather take a true drop back passer like a Carson Palmer or Drew Brees on my team any day of the week, Young has a special Randall Cunningham or Donovan McNabb quality about him where he just manages to make plays. His throwing motion makes Philip Rivers look technically sound, and he's probably in the bottom third of quarterbacks in arm strength. Still, he may be that rare athlete whose strong intangibles make up for a lack of natural talent (at least in the throwing aspect of the position). The team just rallies around him, even after plays like his boneheaded taunting where he threw the ball at a Colts defender after the whistle. Like Philadelphia under McNabb, I expect Young's teams to consistently contend and overachieve even if he's playing with wide receivers who belong in the Arena League. I figured that Young's shtick could thrive in college but terribly fail in the NFL against elite competition. However, as long he avoids serious injury, I think Young will have a prosperous NFL career that defies skeptics of his style like myself.


This may be the quote of the century

>> Monday

"I'm O.J. Simpson. How am I going to think that I am going to rob somebody and get away with it? I thought what happened in Las Vegas stayed in Las Vegas."

Las Vegas Advertising Department, some 18 months ago...

Slick young advertising whiz: "Hey, how about this for a slogan: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas...pretty good, huh?"

Nervous conservative old dude: "I don't know, what if people start committing crimes here and using that as an excuse."

Slick young advertising whiz: "Use a commercial slogan as a defense in court? Ha! To pull that off you'd need the lawyers of..."


Ah the Irony

O.J. Simpson is going to jail.

Ironic isn't it?

I mean, since O.J. played a cop in Naked Gun.

Why? What did you think I was referencing?


Smoldering Beckage: Winner Pickin'

>> Saturday

Last week I was flat out awesome at picking the winners. I went 10-2 last week and didn't pick 3 of the games. I would have, of course, picked the winners of those games, so let's just say I went 13-2 and we'll leave it at that.

Particularly, you're impressed that I picked Tennessee and Green Bay as underdogs to win. No, I didn't say you should be, I said you are.

Also, Vinnie whined about me not including the spreads on my picks. Listen, gaylords, I'm not some fucking asswad from some shitty movie that cares about gambling and point spreads. I'm in the business of picking winners. And my business is good.

This week, there aren't all that many tough calls, so here's where the action is.

Buffalo @ Pittsburgh

Valiant effort last week from the Bills, but the Steelers are going to run on them like Denver did.

Cincinnati @ Cleveland

Cincy beat a good Ravens team last week, the Browns looked like the Browns against the Steelers. Bengals win.

Indianapolis @ Tennessee

Indy's favored by a touchdown at Tennessee, I think the Colts will win and cover the spread (happy, assholes?).

Houston @ Carolina

The Panthers were one of the games I missed on last week. They're better than I thought and although Houston looks better, Carolina's gonna win this one at home.

San Francisco @ St. Louis

The battle of a couple of sleeper teams, neither of whom looked all that good in week one. I like the Rams at home.

Green Bay @ New York Giants

Inexplicably underdogs for the second week in a row, the Packers go and get one on the road against a really banged up Giants team.

Atlanta @ Jacksonville

Both of these teams are a mess right now, although I think the Jags aren't bad enough to lose two in a row to teams they should beat (Full disclosure - if I had more balls, I'd pick the Falcons in an upset, don't be surprised if they steal this one).

Tampa Bay @ New Orleans

The Saints got backhanded by the champs, but I like New Orleans to rebound this week against a Bucs team that's not that good.

Minnesota @ Detroit

This one is a 3 point swing to the home team, which means it's a pick 'em. I like the Vikings on the road, because the Vikes should be able to stop the Lions and sneak some points onto the board (even by accident, if they have to).

Dallas @ Miami

I told you last week that Dallas' pass D scared me, but it won't matter this week. Cowboys win.

Seattle @ Arizona

The Seahawks are just the better team here, and they had a solid effort last week.

New York Jets @ Baltimore

People thought the Packers were going to be that team whose record was deceiving last year that came back to earth this year. I think that's the Jets. The Ravens win.

Oakland @ Denver

Oakland totally flipped on everyone's expectations last week with a good offense and a shitty performance from the D. Denver struggled to beat a team they should have handled, but they'll look solid this week.

Kansas City @ Chicago

This one will probably be ugly. Bears fans are hoping Rex looks good (as he should) this week to calm their nerves. Bears win.

San Diego @ New England

Cheating Cunts squeak past the Bolts, by virtue of being at home.

Washington @ Philadelphia

What a terrible Monday Night Game. Philadelphia beats the skins.


YCS Baseball Roadshow: Stop 6, Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO

Well, the YCS staff's dream to one day, collectively visit and comment on all 30 Major League parks is one step closer to reality. Last night after a thoroughly entertaining (and drunken) SLU Law softball game in which my three-run homer (yes, a homer) was not enough to lift Motion to Strike over the Bad News Barristers, my buddy Matt and I decided to head down to kind-of brand spanking new Busch Stadium for the first game of a four-game set between the Cardinals and my Cubs.

With the Cards and Cubs being the hot ticket that it was, we were very fortunate to snag some tickets off the streets from the scalpers for very close to face ($30 for $26 seats), and the view was not too shabby (aside from the hole in the ground beyond left field where old Busch used to stand.)

First off, let me just say that any notion of Cardinals fans being the "best fans in baseball" who are just that much more knowledgeable and passionate for "getting behind the hometown team" is a load of bullshit. The stadium was half-empty in the top of the second inning. There was never really any significant noise from the home crowd, and this is a team that, admittedly while they're in a bit of a tailspin/free fall right now, is still playing meaningful baseball in mid-September, and had the division leaders and their archrivals in for the weekend.

The Cardinals fans in our section, however, were pretty cool to us. After some good-natured heckling, we ended up hanging out with a group of Cardinals fans from Belleville, IL, which is right across the river. When asked who they hated more, the Royals or the Cubs, the answer was simple and direct. "We hate you personally more." OK.

I laughed at the "McDonalds Big Mac" corner in left field where they give the fans giant french fries to wave to distract the opposing batter who's only 340+ feet away. Not to mention the fact that it's there to commemorate where Big Mac hit his 62nd Home Run...except it was in a different stadium. Oops.

Beer, as in any ballpark, is a ripoff, but here, it felt even worse. $8.25 for
Bud Light. That is extortion. Two beers cost me $16.50. The brewery is literally right down the street, so you can't build shipping costs into that. A-B rules St. Louis like the Russian mob, and they're ripping off the townsfolk for $8.25 in exchange for watered-down Clydesdale piss.

Some other strange observations about Busch...

If a tornado strikes St. Louis, and you are a woman at Busch Stadium, you are shit outta luck. Say hello to the flying monkeys for me.

The Olde Tyme charm of a hand-changed scoreboard is kind of lost when it's quoting stocks. I wonder if during day games when the markets are open they hand change it live. If so, my hats off to those guys.

The courthouse near Busch is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Dred Scott
Decision. Is that something you'd really like to be proud of? "150 years ago on this spot, informed people of this state determined that people ARE in fact property."

The Cubs just about gave me a heart attack in the 9th inning by allowing two homers, then loading the bases before finally winning 5-3.


Legitimate analysis of "Videogate"

>> Friday

Normally I don't like adding analysis to topics that have already been overanalyzed, but this whole Patriots spying issue is becoming more intriguing the more I think or hear about it. More importantly, the wide world of sports media seems to be lacking logic and imagination in its analysis. So here I go continually oversaturating the world of sports commentary.

My main annoyance with most of the existing analysis is the "well let's not go that far" reaction to any suggestion that the Patriots' Super Bowls were ill-gotten. Everyone obligingly asks, "Does this tarnish their legacy?" pretending that they're asking the "tough" question, but of course the scripted answer is "No, no, of course not. Don't be ridiculous. They didn't win Super Bowls because of this."

Well of course they didn't win solely because they were spying, but it certainly gave them an advantage; perhaps it gave them a small advantage, perhaps it gave them a great advantage, but it most definitely gave them an advantage. Let's say I'm in a mile-long race and get a two-second jump on my opponent. I finish in 4:10, beating my opponent who finishes in 4:11. Now, I still ran a 4:12 mile, which is pretty damn good. So I would argue that the two-second jump was an insignificant advantage, and I was still awesome, but there's no way I could argue that I legitimately beat my opponent.

In a league with such parity as the NFL, and especially with the abundance of great teams in the AFC, the slightest edge could be enough to give the Patriots the winning edge. It's the same logic that turns a 379-foot Barry Bonds flyout into a 390-foot home run. Sure Barry Bonds would have been an all-time great player without steroids, and of course it takes a lot more than brute strength to hit a home run, but Bonds certainly would not have quite the numbers he has today without steroids.

Wait, what was I talking about again? Steroids...advantages...oh right, the cheating Patriots.

Consider this: of the nine playoff games the Patriots have won over the past four years, they outscored their opponent in the second half five times. All of those games were one-posession games at halftime (The Pats trailed once at halftime and were tied once). In three of their other four victories (in which they came out smoking in the first half), it was the second time they had seen that team that season, including the 2004 AFC Championship against Pittsburgh. Hines Ward said of that game, "It felt like they knew our playbook." (No homeristic whining here. Just presenting the facts and Ward's words)
The one exception to all of this? The 2003 Super Bowl against Carolina. And who's to say that Brady's methodic game-winning march down the field wasn't assisted by an advantage in reading the Panthers' defense. This, to me, is a perfect example of a game in which the outcome could have easily been affected by spying techniques.

I'm not going to say that the Patriots for sure would not have won particular games had they been playing fairly, and I'm certainly not going to start crying for them to be stripped of their Lombardi trophies. But too many people are dismissing the possibility of a tainted championship without a second thought. If we can accept that last year's Suns/Spurs playoff series was most likely won crookedly (which, obviously, would have given us a different champion), why can't we at least ponder the idea that the Patriots found a way to cheat themselves into a Super Bowl or two?

One final problem I have with the way this story is being analyzed is the idea that the Patriots' 2007-08 season will somehow prove one way or another if they really had an advantage. That's absurd. If the Patriots all of a sudden stink and Brady looks completely lost without his spy knowledge, that might prove something (and it would be hilarious), but that's not going to happen.

If the Patriots go 11-5 and lose to Denver in the first round of the playoffs, does that prove that they were undeserving Super Bowl Champions three, four and six years ago? No, it doesn't prove anything, other than that the AFC is stacked this year. The same goes if the Patriots go 14-2 and win the Super Bowl. That doesn't prove the legitimacy of their Super Bowls at all, because this is a different Patriots team (a very talented team) playing against different teams. How the Patriots do this season could certainly give further support to the legitimacy or illigitimacy of their championships, but to say that it proves anything is like saying that a USC/LSU National Championship this year would determine the legitimate champion of 2003. Sure it makes a nice storyline to run with, and gives television something to fill days of pre-game airtime, but it doesn't actually make sense. You know what, that last sentance pretty much describes 95% of ESPN's programming.

That's why we're here.


The Rules Don't Apply to Me, You Little Bitches

In what's shaping up to be the biggest heavyweight bout since Godzilla-Mothra III: Japananihillation, Belichick and Goodell sound like they're about to smack the shit out of one another.

On one hand, you have the tough disciplinarian commissioner who's made cleaning up the NFL the centerpiece of his stewardship. He's also been known to cock-slap any player, official, fan or cock-eyed passerby that happens to let his guard down. Bottom line: Goodell don't take no shit from nobody noways.

In the opposite corner, you have a man who's ego's been stroked harder and with more frequency than Nate's dick during the final trimester of Lisa's pregnancy (and that, friends, is a lot). Any player, coach, reporter or GM will tell you that winning one Super Bowl will give you a big head, deservedly or not (see Holmgren, Mike; Gruden, John). Winning three in less than a decade and being called a genius on ESPN? That's a recipe for disaster. Belichick's been propped up by so many that it's impossible for him to recognize that yes, league rules do apply to him.

Case in point: this business with taping the Jets' signals wasn't the first time (or anywhere close to it) that Belichick's been involved in funny business. He was specifically warned about going above and beyond what's considered reasonable in the course of looking for a competitve edge. Problem is, he's Bill Belichick and fuck you.

So, as the story drops and Goodell tries admirably do hand down a legitimate punishment (my only gripe: the pick should be a 1st rounder no matter what and he should be suspended for at least a game), you get this half-assed apology that comes off sounding as if it's a Hollywood actor addressing yet another drunk driving charge. He don't care, he ain't sorry, and all this means is that he'll just find another way to get an edge.

Opinions are all over the board on this one. How big of an advantage was getting the signals? My thoughts - huge. Knowing the coverage an front against a defense is invaluable to a quarterback - it makes the reads easier, the necessary routes more obvious and it lengthens decision-making time because you're not worried about the rush. Now, whether or not they knew all that all the time is debatable, but bottom line is, they were trying their damnedest to find it out.

While the revelations at least make you question some of the Patriots' dominance in the last decade, let's not go overboard. In Wisconsin, for example, there is news of Packers' players/journalists questioning last year's beatdown at the hands of the Pats. Let's not go nuts. Stolen signals or not, that Packers team wasn't going to beat New England. Maybe the game should have been closer, but the Pats didn't steal a win in that game.

To close, I'd like to propose to you the following question: What movie/tv/fictional character that had been caught red-handed did Belichick's "yeah, you caught me, but fuck you" attitude remind you of? Here are some of my first guesses:

1. Sideshow Bob when caught after rigging the Springfield mayoral election:
Your guilty conscience may tell you to vote Democrat but deep down you long for a Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals and rule you like a king!

2. Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson) in 'A Few Good Men' admitting to having ordered the code red that led to Santiago's death.
Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

3. Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) when the shit hits the fan in 'Training Day.'
Aww, you motherfuckers. Okay. Alright. I'm putting cases on all you bitches. Huh. You think you can do this shit... Jake. You think you can do this to me? You motherfuckers will be playing basketball in Pelican Bay when I get finished with you. SHU program, nigga. 23 hour lockdown. I'm the man up in this piece. You'll never see the light of... who the fuck do you think you're fucking with? I'm the police, I run shit around here. You just live here. Yeah, that's right, you better walk away. Go on and walk away... 'cause I'm gonna' burn this motherfucker down. King Kong ain't got shit on me. That's right, that's right. Shit, I don't, fuck. I'm winning anyway, I'm winning... I'm winning any motherfucking way. I can't lose. Yeah, you can shoot me, but you can't kill me.

Your thoughts welcome in the comments.


In Dusty we trusty (to make these sorts of boneheaded remarks)

Thanks to Paul for sending me this insight from Dusty Baker, answering whether he believes Jim Thome is a Hall of Famer:

"Of course he is. I have no doubt he belongs. He's going to hit 500 HRs, and that's an automatic ticket to the HOF. You can't change that. If you say 500 isn't good enough anymore, then are you going to say guys need 3,500 hits now instead of 3,000? I'd say he's definitely in."

First off, let me just say I agree that Jim Thome is a Hall of Famer, except it has about ten times more to do with his 34th-best all-time career OPS+ of 149 than with his impending 500th homer. Jim Thome could've retired before this season, and I'd have still considered him a HOFer.

This week during an ESPN Mets-Braves broadcast, Dan Schulmann made a similar remark--roughly, "Maybe 600 is now the benchmark for a home run hitter." Sadder than the fact that analysts and fans hold these benchmarks so dear is the fact they are unwilling to adjust them until another happy, round number seems reasonable.

The real crime with the HR benchmark in particular is that, in some cases, it potentially penalizes great homerun hitters for being great homerun hitters. Frank Thomas was a perfect example before he reached 500. There should have never been a question about Frank Thomas's candidacy, even before he revived his reputation in Oakland. He'd already had a brilliant, almost-unmatched career. He was already one of the best hitters in the history of baseball because he was so proficient at every aspect of hitting. But because he also hit a lot of homeruns, a lot of people looked at him as a "homerun hitter" and more or less blinded themselves to the rest of his abilities, the nearer he got to 500. And because he was close to 500 but not yet there, these same people started holding him to this requisite, as if homeruns were Thomas's only contribution to the game.

Fortunately for Thomas and Thome, they've hung on long enough to ward off the effects of such idiocy, but not everyone is so lucky. We may see this with Jeff Bagwell in a few years. Really, he shouldn't have a problem getting in, but I have a bad feeling he'll at least have to wait a few ballots because he retired with 449 HR. Like Thomas, of course, he was an excellent hitter in any regard, but because power was a huge part of his game, that's what a lot of voters will look at exclusively.

Here's my point: Whether they're too high are too low, benchmark numbers are generally absurd, and rigid faith people pay them is even worse. Frank Baker got the nickname "Home Run" Baker for hitting 11 in 1911. As recently as 1992, 35 homers led the NL, and 32 led the AL in 1976.

Standards change, period. I'm not putting out anything that everyone doesn't already know. But if people like Dusty Baker don't comprehend this, then they're probably dumb enough to start Neifi Perez.


An open letter to Chad Pennington

>> Wednesday

Hey asshole,

I hear you're thinking about playing this week against the Ravens. What the hell? Can't you take a fucking hint? When you limped off the field on Sunday, I was the guy yelling "Pennington's a pussy!" I didn't think I was being all that subtle, and the stadium full of cheering sure as hell should have got the message through.

So consider this a more direct message: Dude, we hate you and don't want you playing quarterback for our team. We hate you because...well because What's-his-face Not Pennington is awesome. Do you ever see him underthrowing a fifteen-yard route because of a pussy willow arm? No! You don't! Because he's not playing. And the only way he can play is if your fragile ass is getting splinters.

You know what? Fuck it. Play on Sunday. I can't wait until Ray Lewis rips your god damn head off. I'm flying down to Baltimore, getting a ticket to the game, and cheering when you forget to slide and Ed Reed plants you Trent Green style. I'll raise my beer in celebration when they bring out the stretcher. I'll hug a stranger when you check into a hospital. And if you suffer a career-ending injury, God willing, I will host a pig roast and buy that $5,000 bottle of champagne I've been eyeing for the past decade.

Maybe then you'll finally get the message. Jesus, go back to Sesame Street you ass-clown.


Somehow, I'm not too surprised by this

Imposter Priest gets past Notre Dame Stadium Security, no questions asked.

Then again, ND's offense could probably use all the divine intervention it can get, real or fake.


Recycled material

>> Tuesday

As you loyal readers know, I absolutely looove power rankings. More precisely, I looove to mock them. So here are my Power Value Vinnie Ranking Index NFL Power Rankings for Week 1.

1. Colts: We might as well hand them the Lombardi trophy right now after that stampede of the Saints. It's as the old saying goes, past results are a certain guarantee of identical future returns.

2. Patriots: If Week 1 is any indication, Brady and Co. are the premier offense in the NFL. And if the internet is any indication, Brady and Co. are the premier legal search firm in Ireland as well.

3. Chargers: It took Norv Turner just one game to prove that his past struggles as a head coach were a fluke amd that he's one of the NFL's all-time greatest coaches.

4. Steelers: This blue-collar bunch really answered the factory whistle on Sunday, packing their steel lunch pails with grit and mustard sandwiches in a workman-like win over the Browns.

5. Panthers: Things look like they're headed north in North Carolina as they look to reclaim the South.

6. Cowboys: If they keep up this pace, they'll top the 700-point mark for the first time in franchise history.

7. Bengals: The only thing "criminal" about this team is the way they committed all those crimes in the offseason.

8. Vikings: Sunday's game announced it loud and clear: The future of this franchise has arrived, and his name is Tarvaris Jackson.

9. Broncos: Their late comeback capped by Jason Elam's game-winning field goal really brought back memories of all those times John Elway kicked game winning field goals for them.

10. Seahawks: A very encouraging start for Coach Holmgren, as Shaun Alexander showed no ill-effects of his lisp.

11. Bears: Don't be fooled by the poor showing of their offensive line. Fat, old guys always improve as the season goes on.

12. Lions: While their Week 1 win was impressive, they're still a long way from Jon Kitna's guaranteed 7-win improvement from last season. As we all know, there's no precedent for this type of turnaround in the NFL.

13. Packers: Brett Favre isn't getting any younger. When you think about it, none of us are. Sort of makes you think about your own mortality, huh?

14. 49ers, Cardinals (tie): I fell asleep during halftime of this matchup. The game was tied then; hence they are precisely equal.

16. Texans: After Mario Williams's performance on Sunday, you don't hear anyone laughing at Charlie Casserly except Reggie Bush, the Saints, the entire NFL, and anyone who watched Reggie Bush in college.

17. Redskins: Antwaan Randle El's 162 Week 1 receiving yards would've been even more impressive were he still a quarterback.

18. Titans: They got off on the right foot in Week 1, and they'll get a real lift when cornerback Pacman Jones returns.

19. Bills: The Loss-man came out to lose again on Sunday, and that's really good for business on my end. It just writes itself, doesn't it?

20. Eagles: Losing Reggie White to free agency sent this franchise reeling for years. Losing Jeff Garcia may prove even more devastating.

21. Dolphins: The signing of Trent Green brought Miami the youthful spark they so desperately needed, but it couldn't pay dividends in Week 1.

22. Jets: The J-E-T-S faithful were wrong to cheer when Chad Pennington limped to the sidelines in the first half. Next time they should be sure he's out for good.

23. Saints: It's been about two years since New Orleans suffered that kind of category-five beatdown. Too soon?... What?... You can't fire me!... I'm talent!... TALENT!!!...

24. Raiders: Despite a loss, Joshua McCown turned in a performance that will guarantee him a starting spot with the Raiders for many years to come.

25. Buccaneers: After suffering an injury during the third quarter, Jeff Garcia returned to attempt a comeback--a show of manhood that should finally put this gay talk to rest for good.

26. Jaguars: A black quarterback and a white receiver are just two of many things backward about this team.

27. Ravens: The drumbeats for Troy Smith are getting louder. It's a travesty to hold back a talent like that for so long.

28. Giants: Happy-go-lucky Tom Coughlin and his funky bunch ought to have no problem bouncing back from a tough Week 1 loss.

29. Chiefs: We all know what Damon Huard and Eddie Kennison are capable of, but can the rest of this team step up?

30. Browns: After getting Fryed in Week 1, Romeo hopes to find his Juliet in the Mighty Quinn, or else it could be another Brown-out in Cleveland this year.

31. Rams: These guys probably deserve to be much higher, but I forgot about them going through the teens and don't feel like re-numbering. So now they stink.

32. Falcons: Michael Vick! Doggies! Joke! Haha funny! Weeee!!!


Smoldering Beck-age; a legitimate analysis

>> Monday

As in "wreckage."

It's been some amount of time since David Beckham's 2007 MLS season drew to a close. Now that the dust has settled and the doomsday predictions and knee-jerk reactions have fallen by the wayside, it seems only fair that since I did a preview piece to the start of the Beckham era, it seems only fair that I do some sort of wrap-up piece to the first season of "Beckhamania."

The first thing I want to say is, I saw this coming. The other writers on this blog know me well enough to know that I'm kind of a dick when I think I'm right, and I'm an even bigger dick when I'm validated. Sure, I foresaw the inability of Becks to meet the Bristol Hype Machine. That was easy to call, you say? Well, that post enables me to hide in a little less shame from my MLS season preview, where I very incorrectly predicted the Galaxy would win the MLS Cup. (Los Angeles is presently 4-11-5, a mark good enough for last place. They're not eliminated from the playoffs yet, but it's not too big a stretch to imagine the postseason without Becks, Landon, Cobi & Company.)

So what happened? Who screwed up? In a nutshell, everything happened, and everyone screwed up, and in the end, just about everyone suffered.

The first place to lay blame is at the swanky new office on 5th Avenue in New York City, home of the MLS League offices, and Commissioner Don Garber. In a move to be all things to all owners, MLS arranged a schedule that was backloaded with games for the Galaxy (They still have two matches in hand on every other team in the league). Basically, the league office knew there would be a demand for Becks, both in LA (To justify increases in season ticket prices for a team that missed the playoffs last year) and around the league (to justify bundling lackluster midweek contests into "Beckham Packs" to milk the demand.

The David Beckham Roadshow started shortly after he arrived.

It started with Becks being trotted out like a dalmatian at a dog show for the ESPN cameras back in July, a game where he made a token appearance in a meaningless friendly against Chelsea. Despite the irrelevance of the game, he sustained a hard tackle from a Blues defender that most certainly aggravated his ankle injury, which from medical reports, was seemingly held together with cobwebs and prayers. This set his recovery back, forcing LA's #23 to miss games in Dallas, Toronto, Colorado, New England, and two in Los Angeles. The League bet high on 23 White, and needed to recoup.

THE LOS ANGELES GALAXY (GM Alexi Lalas, Head Coach Frank Yallop)
When all was said and done, David Beckham made appearances in three MLS games (@New York, @DC United, Chivas USA, and two SuperLiga games (DC United, Pachuca). In those games, he made a valiant effort to rescue an LA team with a troubled midfield and a decimated back line. But it was not enough. Aside from a SuperLiga Semifinal victory over DC United, the Galaxy won only one game with Beckham on the roster (0-5-1 in MLS, 3-2 in SuperLiga). Pundits will point to this as a failure on Beckham's part to "elevate" the play of the Galaxy.

Sadly, Beckham actually did raise the Galaxy's level of play. The Galaxy's record is more a testiment to the same flawed premise that built Beckham's Real Madrid teams in the early part of the decade. "Sign a bunch of stars, throw them together in the same color shirt and hope they win games." Signing internationals and retaining veterans chewed up LA's already limited salary cap space. The resulting lack of cash left the Galaxy unable to sign or retain players in stop-gap positions, like the midfield and on the back line. Goalkeeper Joe Cannon was the best keeper in the league last year. He pitched a shutout against Chelsea's first team in the All-Star game, yet routinely gave up crooked number scorelines every night thanks to defensive pairings that were routinely overmatched. That falls to the GM, Alexi Lalas, and I would not be surprised to see him packing his bags in the offseason after failing to put together a playoff team for the past two seasons.

Coach Frank Yallop played the hand he was dealt. He had a lousy team with no depth, a bunch of washed-up money-pits (Cobi Jones, Abel Xavier, etc.), and as a result was forced to play Beckham more than he probably would have had the Galaxy not been bleeding goals, not producing anything on the offensive end and desperate for points in a crowded MLS Cup Playoff race. While he's not entirely to blame, he contributed to Becks' demise in his own way.

STEVE McCLAREN (English National Team Coach)

Beckham's play in the August game against DC United I largely attribute to the fact that England coach Steve McClaren was in the boxes that night at RFK Stadium. Beckham had been under pressure to perform in England's European Championship campaign, which had fallen on hard times (perhaps ironically after new England coach McClaren dropped Beckham from his England squad last fall.) With Beckham wanting to break back into the English squad, and McClaren needing European victories to save his own ass (or arse?), Beckham was forced to accelerate his "recovery" to meet the English FA's needs. And it's not just Beckham who's been forced to play through sidelining injuries. Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard played for England in their recent 3-0 win over Israel despite a broken toe. I don't want to hear one more person say that soccer players are pansies.

Beckham himself is to blame, largely for neglecting his own health and fitness. Beckham was trying to be all things to all people, which is admirable, but here it was just not plausible. He wanted to be the celebrity everyone knew he would be, the leader everyone thought he could be, the ambassador-for-the-sport he thought he could be, and the England leader he hoped his coach would want him to be. Beckham's last act of hubris and perhaps utter neglect for his fitness was playing 90 minutes on the Giants Stadium field turf on Saturday, flying to London on Sunday (arriving Monday), playing 90 minutes in an intense international friendly against Germany on Wednesday, flying back to Los Angeles (only an 8-hour time change) to play in the LA Derby that Thursday night. A few days later, Beckham was on the bench, ice around his knee and his face in his hands, perhaps contemplating what might have been if he hadn't written checks to Steve McClaren and his body couldn't cash. From the Galaxy (July-August '07), to Real Madrid's Spanish season (July '06 to May '07) to England's World Cup bid (May-July '06) to Madrid's prior season (July '05 to May '06), Beckham never really got any time off to heal from the nicks and dings that players accumulate over time.
Not just the Bristol-types, but the entire national sports media, who expected Beckham to be the "savior of American soccer," totally neglecting that MLS as a whole does not need saving (average attendance up, median attendance up, % of games under 10,000 fans WAY down, % of games with more than 20,000 fans WAY up) as well as failing to research basic aspects of the sport [On PTI, they were apparently unaware that you can play for a national team (England) and a club team (LA).], and forgetting the fact that the man is not a machine. If Kobe got hurt, it would be "Kobe's out 6-8 weeks," not "Why isn't Kobe playing? The fans bought tickets to see Kobe." Of Beckham's appearances, let's look at the television situation. Bold = Becks plays.
Chelsea FC (ESPN2)
Superliga: Pachuca (Telefutura)
Superliga: CD Guadalajara (Telefutura)
Superliga: @ FC Dallas (Telefutura)
@ Toronto FC (ESPN2)
@ DC United (ESPN2)
@ New England Revolution (No ESPN)
Superliga: DC United (Telefutura)
@ RB New York (Fox Soccer Channel)
Chivas USA (ESPN2)
@ Colorado Rapids (No ESPN)
Superliga: Pachuca (No ESPN)
As you can see, in the 6 games Beckham appeared in, 4 were positioned on a national English-language soccer broadcast. Only two of the games in the Beckham era did not appear on some form of national TV. To say that media pressure didn't play a factor I think is naive, especially for a league looking to muscle its way into the American mainstream, and a network looking for a return on its investment. (ESPN, FSC, and Telefutura all paid rights to MLS for the first time this year).
While the Beckham experiment met a premature end, the international profile of MLS has been significantly raised, allowing a crop of electric players to enter the league. Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Luciano Emilio, Juan Toja, Carlos Pavon, Juan Pablo Angel, Denilson, and many other new international players may not be here were it not for the Beckham experiment. Next season, after some rest and relaxation (and a thrilling Becks-less finish to the 2007 season), we'll get to see what a healthy Beckham can do in a maturing league.


All Hail the Network Plugs!

The air gets a bit brisker, a slight chill comes into the air, the wind begins to howl and summer fades to fall. It's a reminder that pivotal matchups that determine the playoff picture are running out.

It's also a sign that the new fall season for TV is set to go, and time for awkward broadcast booth network schills. We're all kind of used to this when the episode in question is "an all new Desperate Housewives/Amazing Race/Heroes/Whatever the name of your favorite show that gets delayed, pre-empted, or otherwise fucked with by the network suits to bring you the final few minutes of a late-game blowout." It's kind of awkward though when the shows in question are syndicated and not really "all new" in that sense of the word.

Today's talking, breathing commercials are our good ole' friends Len and Bren. During today's Cubs-Cardinals broadcast, they did a plug for WGN's new fall shows. Good ole' Channel 9 (or Channel 44 here in Mizzurah) has picked up the rights to Family Guy and Two and a Half Men.

[In the interests of full disclosure, I personally think Family Guy is a pretty funny show, even if all the jokes are interchangable and usually irrelevant to the plot . I also have never seen an episode of Two and a Half Men, but every commercial for it convinced me that the show probably deserves two and a half viewers with an IQ of two and a half points to fully appreciate. (Sorry, couldn't decide between two equally lame put-downs)]

Len Kasper: "He's a baby trying to take over the world and he's a dog who's more BOOZE hound than man's best friend. They're just two of the characters you'll discover in the hilarious animated comedy FAMILY GUY, on WGN this fall."
Bob Brenley: I've seen that Family Guy. It's a really funny show. You should check it out!

(Thanks Bob, most of us did check it out, like....several years ago. Strangely enough, the show did in fact exist and was quite popular before WGN picked it up.)

A similar promo for Two and a Half Men followed an inning later. Len reminded us that this addition to WGN's programming applied to Chicago-area viewers only, and as a St. Louis resident, I was crushed.

30 seconds of dead air followed. Awkward.


Should LT be the Chargers back of the future?

>> Sunday

Each week, instead of providing another half-ass weekly recap that can be seen across the internet, I will bring up a thought provoking or controversial issue/thought from the football action I observed (trust me, football action greatly trumps other kinds of action I would observe or partake in).

While watching the Bears piss away this week's game against the Chargers, I really started to wonder if San Diego should go with Michael Turner as their feature running back in future years and make a move with LT (LaDainian Tomlinson for those few people who may still think of LT as Lawrence Taylor). Now, LT would still be one of the top backs in football and the best player on the loaded roster of the Chargers. However, he has accumulated 2,448 touches (an astounding 408 per year) in his six year career and looks well on his way to another massive workload this season. History shows that backs with that kind of mileage have a strong chance of breaking down soon.

Also, should word hit that LT may be on the market, I think that Chargers could get a similar gigantic haul that the Cowboys got for Herschel Walker back in the late 1980's. That move led to the Boys three Super Bowl titles in the 1990's. Teams desperate to make a big move towards respectability like the Cardinals or Browns could offer a large package of young players and draft picks in order to get the most respected player in the game. For instance, Cleveland could offer Braylon Edwards, Sean Jones and 4-5 early round picks (with at least 2 future first rounds). Arizona could offer a package of Anquan Boldin, Adrian Wilson and 3-4 early round picks.

However, even with potential ransom that could be obtained in an LT trade, the major reason why the Chargers could pursue this course of action would be the big time talent of Michael Turner. At this point of his career, I think Turner may be one of the 10 best running backs in the league. He has the coveted combination of quickness and power in a body that could sustain the pounding required to be a primary NFL running back. Despite lacking top end speed, Turner's quickness in hitting the hole has led to him having a career average of 6.0 yards per carry.

As it currently stands, the Chargers will lose Turner for nothing in free agency as he will assuredly sign to be the starting running back for some team this off season. Instead of losing a valuable commodity for nothing, why not attempt to make a move that could propel the Chargers to a similar run the Patriots made earlier this decade, winning three Super Bowls in a four year period.

While I'm sure that many people may dismiss this idea as crazy or unrealistic, this kind of forward thinking would be needed in order to succeed in the most competitive league in professional sports.


Ganking Keith Olbermann's schtick

No offense to Danny, but today I proclaim Jets fans the WORST PEOPLE IN THE UNIVERSE / NFL...

...for just now cheering Chad Pennington's injury. I went pretty hard after Cubs fans for booing Big Z this week, but I think this one tops it.

You should be ashamed, Jets fans (including you Danny).


A Newcomer's Guide to UFC 75

Being a huge fan of the staged fights and casual boxing observer, my interest has been recently piqued by the phenomenon known as the UFC (mixed martial arts for those unfamiliar with it). After enjoying two hours of an old UFC show last night on Spike, I decided to plunk my fat ass in front of the TV for tonight's free card featuring UFC light heavyweight champion Quentin "Rampage" Jackson against Pride (Another major MMA company who UFC recently bought out) light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson, plus a collection of undercard bouts. Here would be my undistinguished take on tonight's happenings.

Opening match, Welterweight Division: Marcus Davis withstood an awesome kick the kid from opponent Paul Taylor early on, getting control of the fight on the ground and locking in the winning arm submission.

Light Heavyweight Division: In a quick fight, Houston Alexander hit a strong knee to Alessio Sakara's head and scored the knockout and rapidly firing punches from the mount position. Alexander looks like a fighter to be reckoned with and should be in line for a top line challenger soon.

Heavweight Fight: Renonwed fighter Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic lost to the unheralded Cheick Kongo by unanimous decision. Cro Cop, who failed to come close to landing his trademark head kick, struggled after a solid opening round. A low blow by Kongo early in the third round knocked the gas out of Cro Cop, but it was a close fight even before the controversial shot. While I may be a novice about MMA, Cro Cop's performance in the UFC has been roundly disappointing according to everything I have read.

Light Heavywight Fight: In a terrible travesty IMO, hometown fighter Michael Bisping defeated his fellow Ultimate Fighter 3 competitor Matt Hamill (UFC's reality show competition similar to The Contender) by split decision. Hamill decisively won round one, and appeared to control round two with his strong wrestling skills and solid strikes. Bisping came back with a strong round three, but failed to make the outstanding comeback needed to win the fight. However, the English competitor and clear "star of the future" received a friendly judgment and remains undefeated.

Main Event: In the best fight of the night, UFC Light Heavyweight champion Rampage Jackson defeated Pride Light Heavyweight Champion by unanimous decision. Henderson, a two time American Olympian in Greco-Roman wrestling, had a solid round one with wrestling skills and strong punching ability. However, Jackson took control of the fight afterwards, using his superior speed and mobility to hit his strikes and avoid Henderson's big right hand. To his credit, Henderson sustained a lot of tough blows and stayed in the fight through all five 5-minute rounds. Henderson, who won Pride titles in multiple weight classes ala Roy Jones Jr., will likely drop back to the 185 pound weight class after this fight.

On the whole, I can really dig the UFC and MMA fighting. Most of the fights were action packed and the threat of the instant knock-out/submission always has viewers getting into each fight. If my poor ass ever gets some money rolling in, I'll definitely find a way to catch a lot of the PPV's at sports bars like I do my beloved wrestling.

For more info on tonight's fights, check out the MMA junkie's site.


They're Back, Bay-Bee!

>> Saturday

That's right, YCS' world-famous, horrible, horrible gambling/NFL picks are back for 2007. If you're a betting man at the end of your rope, just follow our advice and you'll be tongue-kissing the business end of a shotgun in less than a week.

And with that, here's where the smart money lives:

Tennessee @ Jacksonville

Although Jacksonville's favored by a touchdown, my upset pick of the week is the Titans. For some reason, I really don't like the Jags this year.

Atlanta @ Minnesota

Atlanta can't throw, Minnesota stuffs the run. Vikings win.

Denver @ Buffalo

Travis Henry and Jay Cutler lead the Broncos over the Bills in this one.

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland

Cleveland's improving, Pittsburgh is still better. For now.

Carolina @ St. Louis

The Rams' offense is better than Carolina's D. Could be a lot of points in this one.

Philadelphia @ Green Bay

The underdog Packers win this one, and I'm honestly a bit surprised that the Eagles are such a popular pick in this game. (Homer alert!)

Miami @ Washington

The Redskins aren't really that good, but Miami could have a rough going in the early part of the season.

New England @ New York Jets

New England proves that the Belicheck's still the master and Mangini is but the learner.

Tampa Bay @ Seattle

Who gives a shit? Fine, Seattle wins this one. Tampa sucks.

Chicago @ San Diego

The Chargers win this one because although both teams have great defenses, San Diego features an aspect of modern football known as an "offense" (and no, the T-Formation doesn't count).

Detroit @ Oakland

In probably one of the few games all season in which Oakland will be favored, I like the Raiders to shut down the Lions and cover the 2.5 spread.

New York Giants @ Dallas

Although I think Dallas is being a bit overrated this year (their pass defense still concerns me), the Giants are kind of a mess right now. The Cowboys win.

Now, let's get ready to gaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmblllllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeee!


Take that, dinko-dunkaroo!

>> Thursday

Hooray, anecdotal anti-passing conservatism fodder!

Mr. 2006 Alomst MVP just gifted us (me) with a perfect example of the limitations of risk-less passing and the inability to penetrate the nether regions of a defensive secondary the way Rex Grossman can. And I'll shut up now because I know nothing about football.

...Go, penant races!!!


Something's Rank, or whatever punny title you wish.

Wait, I'm confused....Saturday this was the greatest upset in the history of college football.

Now, did Michigan lose to a team that deserves to be ranked, or with Michigan out of the polls, did Appalachian State beat a team that didn't deserve to be ranked?

AP announces that it will allow Division I-AA teams to recieve votes.


This Day in Baseball History

On this day in 1995...

The New York Yankees' Paul O'Neill went 4-4 in a 4-3 win over the Cleveland Indians. O'Neill homered in his first at bat and a scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning on a play in which he tripled and reached home on a throwing error by pitcher Dennis Martinez. The win brought the Yankees within two games of the American Leauge Wild Card lead, a title they would later claim to reach the playoffs.

[Courtesy the Seinfeld re-run I just watched]


From the Bad Headlines Department

This would be the headline to the announcement of UConn's schedule:

Husky men get busy early in schedule

Remember folks, friends don't let friends write headlines drunk.


Start Saving Money for Tickets, Roadtrips, and Booze

>> Wednesday

Because here comes the 2007-08 Marquette Basketball schedule

November 4- Northern State (Pre-Season)
Nov. 10- IUPUI
Nov. 12- Utah Valley State
Nov. 19- EA Sports Maui Invitational vs. Chaminade (D-II)
Nov. 20- EA Sports Maui invitational vs. LSU/Oklahoma State
Nov. 21- EA Sports Maui Invitational vs. Duke/Princeton/Illinois/Arizona State
Nov. 30- UW-Milwaukee
December 8- at Wisconsin
Dec. 15- Sacramento State
Dec. 17- IPFW
Dec. 21- Coppin State
Dec. 29- Savannah State
January 3- Providence
Jan. 5- at West Virginia
Jan. 8- Seton Hall
Jan. 12- Notre Dame
Jan. 17- at Louisville
Jan. 20- at Connecticut
Jan. 26- DePaul
Jan. 29- South Florida
February 2- at Cincinnati
Feb. 4- Louisville
Feb. 9- at Notre Dame
Feb. 12-at Seton Hall
Feb. 15- Pitt
Feb. 20- at St. John's
Feb. 23- Rutgers
Feb. 25- at Villanova
March 1- Georgetown
Mar. 4- Florida Gulf Coast
Mar. 8- at Syracuse

The highlights include...

  • 18 Conference games, up from 16 last season
  • The Wisconsin game being played at night for once.
  • At least 12 appearances on National Television, making it easy for alums in say...St. Louis, MO to watch.
  • Sadly, no rumored non-conference matchup with Saint Louis U, which is a shame because Marquette and new SLU Coach Rick Majerus go together like Rick Majerus and doughnuts.
  • Home-and-homes with Seton Hall, Louisville, and Notre Dame, which should really stoke the flames of that Marquette-Seton Hall rivalry. It's just like Duke-Carolina, except with fans that don't care.
  • A seemingly totally out-of-place March matchup with Florida Gulf Coast University, a school that is younger (founded 1991) than its players.
  • The suspension and hopefully the eradication of the Blue and Gold Classic. MU says that Maine backed out of the event, but IUPUI and Florida Gulf Coast still wanted in. When Maine turns down the tournament, it's time to pull the plug on a tournament that in recent years even Marquette couldn't get up for (losses to Winthrop and North Dakota State).
  • In-State games with UW-Milwaukee and Wisconsin on back-to-back weekends
  • Thrilling matchups against BOTH Indiana University-Purdue University schools.
  • Unless you really care if the all-time series between UWM and Marquette is 35-0 Marquette or 34-1 Marquette, there's really no reason to show up at the Bradley Center untill 2008.

Stop on by and see selected members from the YCS staff at most of these games. You won't recognize us, but that's OK, because odds are, we won't recognize you either.


Why did you do it, Carlos?

>> Tuesday

Why did you give into your handlers? Or less cynically, your own softer, more forgiving side?

Why did you backpedal on your rightful reaction to those resentful, petulant, ignorant, indulgent bastards who pulled that neanderthal lynch-mob bullshit on you for no justifiable reason yesterday?

Why did you give every trite-ass hack scribe in the country the chance to call you a hypocrite on top of calling you an ingrate and a baby?

Why did you give the "fans" the ok to go on behaving like seven year-olds who didn't get to sit in the front seat?

Why did you do it, Carlos?

I truly believe that you're a great guy, Carlos, so I believe that you made that retraction today, not just for PR, but because you genuinely feel remorseful for the way you reacted. But why did you go so far? Why did you absolve them completely?

Why did you say, "I love the Cubs fans. I think they're the greatest fans in baseball, and you know, they have the right to boo people or to do whatever they have to do, because they've been waiting 98 years (for a championship) and sometimes we don't do a good job and they get frustrated, too."

It doesn't matter how long they've waited, Carlos. They are not in the right to treat anyone--least of all someone who's brought them so much enjoyment--the way they treated you. Remember yesterday when you said, "[The Cubs fans] showed me today that they just care about them, and that's not fair, because when you're struggling, you want to feel the support of the fans."

Remember that? You were completely right. They only care about your ERA, Carlos. They couldn't care less about you as a person. Fuck; they don't even care about baseball. They care about wearing your success, your abilities, your achievments as their own fucking badge.

Don't let them do that, Carlos.

And then you said this, Carlos: "I know the great moments of my career will come." And you know what? You're right about that too. But you've already been great. These people who blatantly disrespected you, these people who treat you and your teammates like stale gum, these clowns who'll readily boo you if you struggle in your next start then blame you for being lazy and then go into work the next day hungover and slack the fuck off all morning... These are the same people who've watched you be great. And the first moment you're not? They fucking boo you.

Don't give them the satisfaction, Carlos.

And Carlos--I know you just signed that big five-year extension, but I almost wish you hadn't. In a way, I wish those "great moments" would come elsewhere.

Because clearly, none of these people deserve it.


Come early, Cubs fans! First 20,000 through the gate get free Commemorative 1996 Steve Trachsel All-Star No-Doze Tablets!

Every so often a post-deadline deal goes through that's more or less superfluous but really does no one any harm. Team A puts a veteran on waivers whom they don't feel like paying for a few months, and Team B, though they don't particularly need said player, stakes a claim on him in case they decide they'd like to make a play on him in the coming weeks. Then Team A goes, "Here you go, suckers," and releases him to Team B. Because the player is just an unnecessary spare part on Team B, he spends the next month or two spectating before going home, either when the regular season ends or when his team trims down to its 25-man playoff roster.

Such, I thought, was the case with the Cubs' acquisition of Steve "Blood on the" Trachsel (or simply, "Blood on the," as Matt calls him for short). But my suspicions were proven wrong when I learned that the Cubs did, in fact, give up players to get Trachsel and have now been further proven wrong by the fact that he will be starting tonight's game against the Dodgers, which, as Matt predicts, will end just in time for last call at the Cubby Bear.

Cuddle up and grab your blankeys Cubs fans--This one's gonna feel longer than "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands."


Strikeouts are BAD! My daddy said so! (another FJM special)

>> Sunday

Having no work tomorrow, I was all set to spend my Sunday night with a bottle of sangria, some incense, a pint of mint chocolate chip, and the third season of Scrubs, stowing away my cares 'til Tuesday morn.

But alas, I was derailed. If only I hadn't gone to's MLB page and found this piece by Jerry Crasnick, I could be laughing my little heart away to the antics of J.D., Dr. Cox, Turk, and The Janitor--oh, that zany janitor!--this very moment. Instead, I'm back on researching career strikeout totals of famous sluggers.

Now those of you who know me have many times suffered through one of my baseball-related diatribes and, most likely, have done so more than once. For those of who haven't, here are my five favorites, listed by total usage and titled like children's lectures:

1. "Don't Blow It--Saves are for Suckers!"
2. "Stikeouts--Just like any Other Out"
3. "Boo-ers are Boneheads--Be Respectful!"
4. "A Good Manager is Swell, but a Capable Fifth Starter is Sweller"
5. "Some Lefties Like Hitting Other Lefties More than Righties, and We Must Be Tolerant and Understanding of That"

As you can see, this one ranks pretty high up on the list. Now before I get to this article, here's my basic stance on striking out:

Strikeouts count for a single out, just like a lineout, just like a groundout, making them roughly the same as every other type of out. Of course, they are not exactly like other outs because the ball is never put in play. And that meakes them worse than other outs... why?

True, outs in play can sometimes do things like advance or score runners when men are on base. Of course, outs in play can become multiple outs or outs on lead runners in scoring position when men are on base. Strikeouts cannot.

True, poorly-hit live balls can sometimes result in an error, a surprise infield hit, or a fortunate blooper. And true, live balls force the defense to expend energy. Of course, strikeouts generally force the pitcher to expend more energy. And, for that matter, some would argue that the mental malaise of inaction and long innings caused by higher strikeout totals wears down defensive players more than actual fielding.

True, there are situations when almost any ball in play will score a game-winning or game-tying run in the final inning of a game. These situations are very rare. And when they do occur, this fact registers in the brain of any batter, allowing him to adjust to this rare situation. And also, why should the inherent advantage in making contact in such situations have any bearing on the 99.9% of ABs that don't fit this bill?

Given all of these hypotheticals, what besides "it looks bad" intuitively explains the notion that hitters shouldn't strike out?

Anyway, that covers the main points for now. The article will add more. So let's do this schtick.

Albert Pujols is renowned for his three Silver Slugger Awards and ability to haunt Brad Lidge's dreams, but he's just a well-rounded guy at heart. Last year, Pujols won his first Gold Glove and advanced from first to third base on a single more than any player in the majors. We kid you not.

Right away, I'm a little confused. First of all, this is a rather obscure fact to throw in the opening paragraph (going first-to-third, that is). But then why does Crasnick add, "I kid you not," as if this should astound us? A) Pujols reached base 269 times last year despite a short time missed to injury. Of those 269 safeties, 92 were walks, which would have seen Pujols standing on first. B) Pujols may not be Jose Reyes, but he's pretty fast. And because he's a fast guy who never steals bases, he was staying on first after a single or walk, thus giving him plenty of opportunity to go first-to-third. Anyway, that's all beside the point.

There's just one facet of the game in which Pujols is deficient: trudging back to the dugout with a forlorn look on his face.

Some players are poor losers, and Pujols is a bad whiffer. Whether the transgression is called or swinging barely matters, he has an almost pathological distaste for strike three.

"I get pissed when I strike out," Pujols said. "I get mad. At least if you put the ball in play, a guy can make an error, and you give your teammates a chance to drive you in and score a run. When you strike out, you don't even give yourself a chance."

That's an admirable sentiment from Pujols. I understand that he takes great pride in making contact, making the defense work, bettering his team, etc., but as I said before, his intentions may be misguided. "It makes me feel like a schmuck" or "I look bad in front of the kids" aren't reasons alone to adopt a "pathological" aversion to strking out. If that means Pujols will take a weak hack at a borderline two-strike "pitcher's pitch" instead of chancing a strikeout for a flier on a superstar call, I'm not so sure that's a good thing.

But when it comes to strikeouts, Pujols resides in a humiliation-free zone.
In an age of breeze-generating swing-and-missers, Pujols is a rare breed of player -- an extra-base machine who inflicts punishment without deleterious side effects.

There it is--the proverbial proof in the pudding. (Note: Idiom may not be used properly.) Jerry Crasnick believes that strikeouts are "deleterious side effects." If not for this sentence, I'd have given him the benefit of the doubt and surmised that he simply wrote this column to note a trend in hitting, or to recognize a rare individual ability. But here he clearly puts value to it, and for that, I now have a right to rebut.

Over seven major league seasons, he has amassed 573 walks and only 449 strikeouts on his way to a .622 career slugging percentage.

That's fantastic. But again, what's to say that he couldn't have, say, 600 walks if he'd been more willing to take close two-strike pitches and risk the backwards K? And instead of cutting back his swing with two strikes to increase his chances of contact, what if he'd made a habit of taking aggressive two-strike swings, resulting (presumably) in more K's, fewer singles, and more extra-base hits? What's to say that wouldn't have a net positive impact on that .622 SLG?

Last year, Pujols hit 49 homers and struck out 50 times, nearly joining Johnny Mize of the 1947 New York Giants, the only player in history to hit 50 homers with fewer than 50 whiffs in a season.

Again, that would be rare and cool, but it's not important. Johnny Mize was a fine player, but given the choice of historical greats, I'd much rather have Mickey Mantle, who struck out a ton. Also, this hardly needs saying, but different eras, different game. Strikeouts were simply not as much a part of the game back in '47. Besides Eddie Joost (110 K's), no hitter cracked 90 that year. No pitcher cracked 200, and only three broke 150. Bob Feller led the majors with 196 in 299 IP, or less than 6.0 per 9 IP.

Although Pujols won't match that impressive performance this season, he is a virtual lock to finish with more than 30 homers and fewer than 70 strikeouts for the sixth time. That achievement will move him one notch further up a list dotted with such baseball nobility as Hank Aaron, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and Willie Mays.

Sweet. That's four guys out of the x great players who've played the game of baseball. That leaves just (x - 4) great players who didn't regularly hit these arbitrary benchmarks. So clearly, you'd better be >30 HR, <70 or you'll never amount to anything in the MLB.

The concept of the contact-making slugger seems as far-fetched as baseball without Scott Boras, but there actually was a time when run producers weren't inclined to wrench their backs in pursuit of the big fly. Babe Ruth, Mel Ott, Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski and Aaron are among the Hall of Famers who played two decades or more without a 100-strikeout season.

Different eras
Different game
In God's eyes
We're all the same

Babe Ruth played when bats were cut from the dashers of old butter churns. Today's sluggers compete against pitchers like Roger Clemens who have six personal trainers and private jets. Why are we comparing these things? But if we really wanna get technical, here are the per-162 game average K totals for some other guys who hit a few dingers in their day:

Reggie - 149
Mantle - 115
Killebrew - 113
Matthews - 101
Foxx (VERY old-timey) - 92, including two 100+ seasons

But again, this implies that I'm putting stock in counting numbers compared across eras, which I'm not, which means I didn't actually write that.

Cincinnati's Adam Dunn, in contrast, had 105 strikeouts at the All-Star break this season.

There it is--the ubiquitous slam on Adam Dunn. Without it, this column would've been Rochelle, Rochelle without Bette Midler.

Pujols is sufficiently well-versed in baseball history to know that Joe DiMaggio hit 361 homers and struck out 369 times in the big leagues.

"Unbelievable," Pujols said, shaking his head. "Those are sick numbers."

Joe DiMaggio was rare. Again, that's a pretty cool stat, but not important. DiMaggio also married Marilyn Monroe and had his name dropped in "Mrs. Robinson," but as far as baseball goes, he was just another excellent player who happened to be very popular and a member of some very successful teams. He was not the greatest hitter ever, nor is his incredibly low strikeout total a shining example to which all players should aspire. It was simply unique. (And as already noted, less unique than if that were to happen today.)

Before Reggie Jackson and Dave Kingman arrived on the scene, Cincinnati first baseman Ted Kluszewski proved that muscle-bound sluggers could be adept at making contact. Kluszewski, whose arms were so huge he couldn't find sleeves to accommodate them, hit 49 homers and struck out 35 times in his best season with the Reds in 1954.

By all accounts, Klu was as strong as a house built out of ox and reinforced by mules. Most likely, he was very capable of cutting down on his swing without sacrificing typical homerun distance and gap power. Again, not everyone can be so lucky. (Also, score the equally ubiquitous Dave Kingman mention and implicit comparison of all high-K sluggers to this poster child for inefficient free swinging.)

"He had a short stroke and a great eye," said Joe Nuxhall, longtime Reds broadcaster and a former Kluszewski teammate. "He hit two irons instead of nine irons. If Ted had more loft on the ball, God knows how many homers he would have hit."

Thank you, Joe Nuxhall, Youngest Man to Ever Appear in Major League Game (how he's usually addressed). Taken out of context, this implies no particular bent for or against striking out, so that's how I'll interpret it. More "nine irons" = loopier swing = more dingers = more strikeouts = less singles = indeterminate overall impact on offensive production.

Although Bobby Bonds and Rob Deer posted strikeout numbers that have withstood the test of time, 13 of the 20 most prolific strikeout seasons have come since 2000. Dunn, Jim Thome, Preston Wilson and Jose Hernandez are among the notable offenders.

Two of the guys he mentions, Thome and Dunn, have been two of the most dominant and feared sluggers in the game over the last 5+ years. When Wilson struck out 156 and 187 times in 1999 and 2000 respectively, he also put up OPS+'s of 107 and 119 as a CF. As for Hernandez, the year he struck out 188 times, 2002, was also a career year in which he put up a 121 OPS+ as a SS. By comparison, the NL top five in AB/K that year went like this:

Kendall - 83
LoDuca - 100
Vina - 82
Polanco - 99
E4 Young - 90

Any list of sluggers at the opposite end of the spectrum would have to include Pujols, Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Vladimir Guerrero and Carlos Lee. Bonds' only 100-whiff season came when he was a rookie with Pittsburgh in 1986. None of the other four has ever topped 100 strikeouts.

St. Louis shortstop David Eckstein, who has played with both Guerrero and Pujols, noted that they couldn't be less similar in style.

Quick revision before moving on: "St. Louis shortstop David Eckstein, who has ridden the coattails of both Guerrero and Pujols to national exposure, TV commercial face time, and an undeserved World Series MVP, noted that they couldn't be less similar in style."

Pujols hits from a wide base, works a lot of deep counts and takes the same methodical approach whether he's ahead 3-0 or behind 0-2.

Guerrero, in contrast, was born to hack. This year, he is seeing an average of 3.22 pitches per plate appearances, the fewest of any major league regular except Baltimore's Corey Patterson. Guerrero swings at balls in the dirt and over his head, and still manages to hit them with authority.

Even the staunchest advocates for selectiveness in the box will stop short of quibbling with Vlad's hitting style because he is so unique and potent. He's sort of the Brett Favre or Allen Iverson of baseball in that he makes us say, "That was a ridiculous thing to do," but then we can't say, "That was the wrong thing to do," because he so often succeeds in outrageous, unconventional ways.

That said, 3.22 pitchers per at-bat is not something for other hitters to emulate, as it creates a tangible advantage for a pitcher (i.e. less pitches thrown, more fishing at bad balls). If Jerry Crasnick, or anyone else for that matter, is implying that 3.22 pitches per AB is an acceptable tradeoff for not striking out, he is insane.

Vlad gets away with it because he's so valuable in spite of his hack-happy ways. Randall Simon was not, and that's why he is not on a major league roster right now, his 10.9 career AB/K be damned.

"His arm span is outrageous," Eckstein said. "He'll hit balls six inches off the dish -- out, in, up and down. With his ability to extend those arms, it makes pitches that might be horrible to other hitters right in his wheelhouse."

We surveyed several hitters and hitting instructors, and they said Pujols, Bonds et al are linked by uncanny strength and hand-eye coordination. They are, in the words of San Diego hitting coach Wally Joyner, "blessed" with an ability to send the ball a long way without maximum effort.

Crasnick needed to survey "several hitters and hitting instructors" for that? Those are perhaps the two most obvious observations about hitting ever. Thank you, Wally Joyner et al for telling us why Pujols, Bonds et al are good at hitting--strength, hand-eye coordination, and the "ability to send the ball a long way." All he left out was "ability to stand upright" and "in-tact spinal cord."

If a power hitter can drive the ball 380 feet over the fence by swinging at 80 percent capacity, rather than cranking it up to 100 percent in an effort to send the ball 450 feet, he is bound to be more successful at making contact.

True as that may be, doesn't that also imply that a less-than-perfectly hit ball would have an equally diminished flight distance at 80%? If we say a solidly-but-not-perfectly-hit ball at a good homerun trajectory will travel 400 ft and then apply that ratio (which, by the way, comes out to 84.4% if my mental calc is right and not 80%... not sure if he'd meant that to line up, unless he's accounting for some "diminishing returns" effect for swings over a certain effort level, which would probably be accurate... Ok, I'm reading too much into this), we're left with a harmless ~340 ft flyout. So again, there's still advantage in risking a whiff for additional power.

"Remember Steve Kemp?" Joyner said.

No. But here are his stats. They seemingly have no bearing on this topic.

"Every time he swung, he had to go pick up his hat somewhere because he was swinging so hard. These guys don't have to do that."

This has nothing to do with anything.

Sheffield, with his pronounced waggle and violent follow-through, seems to contradict that statement. But as Phillies manager Charlie Manuel points out, Sheffield is a different hitter with two strikes. He is more under control and conscious of hitting the ball to the opposite field. The same goes for Lee.

Houston's Lance Berkman, a career .300 hitter despite six 100-strikeout seasons, thinks contact-making sluggers are distinguished by their otherworldly plate coverage. Berkman has seen Lee do damage on balls that others can only dream of hitting.

I have never followed Carlos Lee as a hometown fan except sort of when he was with the White Sox, so I could very well be wrong about this. But he's always struck me as more of a fisher than an exceptional bad-ball hitter. In fact, I'd say Carlos Lee is a great example of a good hitter who probably doesn't know his own limitations when it comes to the pitches he can and can't hit. I'll leave it at this because I may be dead wrong.

"When you can handle a wider variety of pitches than the average hitter, you're going to strike out less," Berkman said. "When a guy makes a mistake in the zone and I can handle it, that's when I have to capitalize. But there are plenty of spots where they can throw it and I can't hit it. That's why I strike out a lot."

Don't feel too sorry for Berkman. He has made four All-Star teams and hit 40 homers twice. But he still is not immune to being awestruck over the skill sets of certain peers.

Lance Berkman need not, and should not, be awestruck by Carlos Lee. He is a much better hitter.

"I think some of it has to do with biomechanics, and some of it is quick-twitch muscles," Berkman said.

Not to be a jerk because I really appreciate Berkman's sciencey-like analysis, but wouldn't quick-twitch muscles sort of fall under the general subject of biomechanics?

"If you throw a fastball above the belt to Albert or Vlad, they'll kill it. They're just quicker than anybody else. Sheffield and Bonds are the same way. They're quicker."

Every once in a while, Pujols wishes he weren't so blessed. During a 13-3 loss at Philadelphia in July, Pujols swung at a two-strike pitch with the bases loaded and bounced into a game-ending double play.

Exactly. Now that doesn't mean Pujols hit into the double play because he went out of his way to cut back his swing to avoid a strikeout. Nor does a healthy hack preclude the possibility of a weakly-hit ball, but it does lower that probability. This just illustrates that double plays are a negative side effect of putting poorly-hit balls in play .

"Sometimes hand-eye coordination takes over, and it's pretty tough not to put the ball in play," Pujols said.

It's a nice problem to have, if you can swing it.

Again, the bias. Not striking out is a "nice problem." That is the problem with this column. When does Crasnick ever substantiate this belief? When does anyone? Who has ever proven that a player's offensive production will increase if he adapts his swing to a higher-contact style? I'm not sure it's possible. Nor is it possible to prove that a player would boost offensive production if he were willing to strikeout more. So why does everyone default to the former?

Strikeout totals alone tell us nothing--NOTHING--about the quality of a major-league hitter. There have been plenty of horrible hitters with hight strikeout totals. There have also been plenty of great ones. There have also been guys like DiMaggio and Pujols who hit for power without striking out while there have been guys like Felix Fermin, Mike Caruso, Juan Pierre, and Deivi Cruz, who have hit poorly despite their ability to make contact.

Strikeout totals can tell us in a very elementary sense about a hitter's style, but they cannot tell us whether an individual player would increase his production by avoiding strikeouts. Every player finds his optimal balance of power-contact, long swing-short swing, uppercut-slapperoo. To suggest that a player is somehow more desireable because his balance state leads him to strike out less is a huge leap of faith substantiated by nothing.

Strikeouts are healthy. They're natural--an unavoidable side-effect of failure. They're like germs. We can go through life fearing germs, pathologically obsessed with ridding our world of germs. But in the end, all you get is a weak immune system and hands so chapped from Purell that you can't even grope a pair of breasts without wincing. But evidently that's what guys like Crasnick would prefer.

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