"I'll kill myself if Portugal doesn't win..."

>> Friday

As Homer says. EURO 2008 gets underway June 7 with co-hosts Austria and Switzerland providing the stadiums, the chocolate, and the lederhosen. The EURO is like the World Cup, but as its name implies, just for Europe. While seemingly offering little that the World Cup doesn't offer, it can often be the more thrilling of the two competitions, and heroes and goats are made just as easily. (David Beckham at EURO 2004 comes to mind.)

While at the World Cup, European teams make up roughly half the competition, the EURO gives them their own party, and kicks the Saudi Arabias and the Trinidad and Tobagos out. No 8-0 drubbings here. The competition is elite, and the field is arguably deeper than the World Cup. Quite possibly every one of the 16 teams still alive has the talent to win it, but like any tournament there's gotta be favorites, dark horses, and also-rans.

The tournament may not get underway until June 7, but with my my new job starting next week (which unlike my old job, I may actually have to do work), I gotta get my obligatory EURO 2008 Preview taken care of NOW. With that, here comes as best of a EURO Preview as I can provide as to determine who will be dancing with the Von Trapps in Vienna for the Final.

Group A: Portugal, Turkey, Czech Republic, Switzerland
Portugal has to be considered one of the favorites for the competition. EURO runners-up in 2004 and World Cup semifinalists in 2006, the Portuguese boast one of the most athletic and technically skilled sides in Europe. Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo is already arguably one of the best players in the world, but leading Portugal to their first EURO win and Manchester United to the Champions League title in the same month would likely cement his place in Soccer's all-time pantheon alongside players like Pele, Beckenbauer, Zidane, and Diego Maradona. Portugal lost the fewest games in their group in qualifying (only a 2-1 loss at Poland). With a relatively easy group, and some of Europe's biggest stars, Portugal has to be considered among the favorites not just to advance out of group, but to win the tournament outright.

Turkey is the wild card of this group. I'm picking them to take second in the group perhaps largely as overcompensation for my 2006 World Cup picks, where I perhaps irrationally favored the Czechs, who did not even make it out of the group stage.

The Czechs certainly have a great keeper in Chelsea FC's Petr Cech, but beyond that and Portsmouth's Milan Baros, the Czechs don't exactly have the kind of lineup that strikes fear. Baros and Nuremburg's Jan Koller appear to be their only offensive options.

Switzerland could get a host nation bump to get a result against the dangerous Turks or the star-laden Portuguese, but ultimately, I don't think they have the talent to get out of the group.

Group B: Germany, Croatia, Poland, Austria
Germany is clearly the favorite here. A 3rd-place finish at the 2006 World Cup, and runners-up at the 2002 World Cup, the Germans boast a roster featuring Chelsea's Michael Ballack and 2006 World Cup leading scorer Miroslav Klose. Arsenal's Jens Lehmann takes over the goalkeeper reins from longtime German keeper Olivier Kahn, but will need to be on his best form if he wants to lead die Mannschaft to their fourth EURO trophy.

Croatia appears the favorite to advance along with Germany. A young team, only 7 players on the 23-man roster are over the age of 30. Croatia racked up some impressive victories in qualifying, including a win over England at Wembley on the last day of qualifying to send the Croats through and the English to an unplanned summer off.

Poland SHOULD HAVE BEEN the other team to go through. They certainly have the talent, but I do not have a lot of confidence in them. Make no mistake. Lightbulb jokes aside, the Poles are a very capable team, and may very well be able to knock off Croatia for the second spot out of the group (or maybe even give Germany a scare!). However, inexperience and a run of poor form at the worst possible time may doom them. Poland is making their first-ever appearance at the EURO, and the run up to the tournament does not really inspire fear in anyone. The Poles were victim to a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of the United States in front of a sold out crowd in Krakow. This same US team just got outclassed 2-0 by an England side that didn't even qualify for the EURO. Other recent contests included a 1-1 draw with tiny Macedonia and a 1-0 win over even tinier Albania. I've listed Poland to finish third, but would not be surprised to see them finish last.

Austria, like co-hosts Switzerland, may benefit from a host nation bump to get a result, but I'd actually put the Swiss as more likely to advance to the quarterfinals given their past history in major competitions. The Swiss were Final-16 contenders at the last World Cup. On the other side, Austria is making their first appearance in the EURO, and has not escaped from the group stage at the World Cup since 1982.

Group C: Netherlands, France, Italy, Romania
Every tournament has a group of death, and for EURO 2008, this is it. Group C includes the two 2006 World Cup finalists in France and Italy, alongside the Netherlands, a team led by Real Madrid's Ruud Van Nistelroy and Manchester United's Edwin Van der Sar that is as capable of winning this tournament as any.

France is a side in transition. After Zidane's retirement after the 2006 World Cup, France must rely on a new generation of stars. Barcelona's Thierry Henry is already the new face of the team, with experience to boot. Henry has played in two World Cup Finals with France (1998 and 2006), led France to a World Cup title (1998) and a EURO championship (2000), and he's still only 30 years old. Winning another EURO title and playing in another World Cup Final may not be a stretch. Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich will likewise be needed to contribute. The key players for Les Bleus I think may well be Nicholas Anelka (Chelsea) and Florent Malouda to provide the kind of depth needed to win these tournaments.

The World Champion Azzuri may very well be the odd team out for the quarterfinals, despite boasting a wealth of world class players whose names roll off the tongue like linguine. The only problem facing this Italian side is that Fabio Cannavaro, Buffon, Ambrosini, Del Piero, and Materazzi, is that they are old and only getting older. While younger stars like Daniele de Rossi might impress, 14 out of the 23 players on the roster are over the age of 30 (Compared to 7 for France). Italy may benefit from a "win now" mentality, but at this stage of the game, every team has that. Italy and France met twice in qualifying, with both matches ending in draws.

Romania put together a decent qualifying campaign I think the French and Dutch are the class of this group. Romania could steal points and determine who moves on, but they themselves will probably not be advancing given the depth of talent in this group.

Group D: Spain, Greece, Russia, Sweden
Spain are back once again, and once again will advance out of group, but once again will not be lifting trophies at the end of the tournament. It's a familiar story as old as time. La Furia has not won the EURO since 1964. Spain is certainly a talented side featuring the likes of Real Madrid's goalkeeper Iker Casillas and Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas. Spain has also notched some victories over high profile opponents in France and Italy so far this year in their run-up preparations. An imminent meeting with the United States in Santander, Spain will tell a lot about how far this team has come, and how ready they are for the EURO.

Greece are the defending Champions, having won EURO 2004 in Portugal, but color me not impressed. Greece ran away with what was a really weak qualifying group (Turkey, Bosnia, Hungary, Norway, Moldova, and Malta) I'm picking them to advance practically solely on their success in the last tournament, and their relative success in qualifying compared to Russia.

Spain and Sweden met twice in qualifying, with both sides claiming shutout victories at home. Sweden made it to the last 16 of the 2006 World Cup, and I feel like I have to label them as my dark horse in this group.

Russia is in this tournament finals more because England couldn't take care of business than for anything the Ruskies did. Against the three other teams in Russia's group that I gave at least a shot to reach the finals (England, Croatia, and Israel), Russia managed to run up an awe-inspiring 1-2-3 record.

Favorites to win the tournament outright
Portugal, France, Germany, Netherlands

Dark Horses
Spain, Croatia, Italy, Greece

Have the talent to get out of group, but a title run would be a stretch
Russia, Czech Republic, Sweden

Will do damage before it's done
Turkey, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Romania

I'll have another preview once the bracket is set for the knockout stages in two weeks. So until then, sit back, drink a Stiegl or chomp on a Toblerone and enjoy this year's EURO. Then laugh at how astonishingly off my predictions were, just like my World Cup picks two years ago.


"And the Next Head Coach of Your Chicago Bulls Is..."

>> Thursday

Doug Collins!!! No seriously. Thoughts? Questions? Concerns?


That's a technical foul!

Don't be fooled my image selection: The screenshot of adorable cartoon character Whitey from Eight Crazy Nights (which I mostly chose to get that song stuck in my brother's head for the rest of the week) belies the feelings of angst and disgust that NBA playoff officiating has brought me once again after last night's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

If you're like the "snooty European guy in the audience" character from Late Night with Conan O'Brien and were watching the U.S.-England friendly instead of our savage American game of basketball, you missed a pretty awesome game. Unfortunately, even such a fine display of basketballmanship was not spared the scourge of questionable officiating--this time in the form of unnecessary technical fouls.

Ultimately, neither fourth quarter technical ended up being much of a factor in the outcome of last night's game. And in light of Tuesday night's Brent Barry duck 'n' cover and Lamar Odom's tackle of Tony Parker, a couple weak technicals don't seem very controversial. Having said that, Rasheed Wallace is now one tech away from a one-game suspension for what seemed like a modest protest, and it's very conceivable that he'll pick up his seventh in Game 6 and have to sit out Game 7, assuming the Pistons win Game 6. The technical called on Kendrick Perkins a few minutes later was even more petty.

I realize that the NBA instituted a shorter leash for player protests last season, but... it seems a little absurd to T up a guy for a non-threatening protest when it's the fourth quarter in Game 5 of a tied series. Of course, the classic line justifying a technical after a mild protest is, "He must have said the magic words," to which I respond: What could these magic words that are so horrific they merit a technical foul/ejection possibly be??? Is it "Fuck you"? Honestly? Are the simple words "Fuck you" the break point for an NBA official? I would at least hope they're something a little more creative and vicious like, "Don't take out your frustrations on me just because I'm young and rich, and you're loveless, lonely, and impotent." Even then, I don't think a technical is warranted when it's the fourth quarter of a crucial playoff game.

I'm not saying players should be able to verbally assail a ref without repercussion just because a bad call was made. But I think a lot of officials forget that being a punching bag is sorta part of the job description. Excuse me for sounding like Hawk Harrelson, but as an official, you are an arbiter, meaning your role is to make sure that the two opposing sides act civilly toward one another and are subject to the same set of rules. It is not your role to show what balls you have by standing up to the big, bad famous athlete who gets a little upset or pottymouthed. Because guess what--nobody watching the game cares what you get called or how much you get yelled at. We just wanna see the action called correctly.

That's why it's inappropriate for an umpire in baseball to glare at or egg on a batter protesting a called third strike as he walks back to the dugout. I think it's just as inappropriate for a basketball ref to call a cheap technical on a player for expressing verbal displeasure at a call. Protesting is part of being a human with emotions. It's the first thing a baby learns after how to suck on a breast, and there's really not much anyone can do to turn off that instinct. And by rule, a player has no recourse when he feels was wronged by a bad call. A verbal protest is the closest thing he has, and I think it's a tad cruel to take that away. On the other hand, the ref does have recourse once that player protests, and therefore the burden is on the ref--not the player--to show restraint during a dispute. It's the ref's responsibility not to abuse that power but only use it as a last resort on a player who's totally lost control.

I know that questionable NBA officiating is a tired and annoying topic (my favorite kind, it seems), but it's one that gets me every time. Bad split-second calls are one thing. They happen. Most split-second calls are ambiguous and reactive. Sometimes the ref even knows immediately afterward that he screwed up. But a technical is proactive. And in most cases, it's totally unnecessary.


Where does it end?

>> Tuesday

One of the hot topics in the world of sports over the weekend was the institution of instant replay in Major League Baseball. Apparently, the accuracy-mongers who've already taken over the NFL and NBA are set on ruining baseball too. They think it's a good idea to let umpires watch replays of homerun balls and close plays at the plate to make sure they got the call "right."

This is ridiculous. The game of baseball is grounded on the principle that the right call is whatever the umpire calls, and this should never change. Maybe once in a while the ump will call the ball foul when it was actually fair. Well guess what--If you'd hit it 450 feet to straight-away center instead of hooking it down the line, you wouldn't have that problem, would you? But now because of a few crybabies, we'll have to sit through umps watching five replays of every homerun ball. What a terrible precedent! Pretty soon the umps will be watching replays of every ball and strike call from ten different angles, and every MLB game will be eight hours long.

My biggest problem with this idea is the way it robs the game of its human element. What next? Robot peanut vendors? Automated beer dispensers? Things like leaping to catch a poor peanut-bag toss from a human vendor or accidentally spilling beer on an old lady as you try to pass it down your row are the the kinds of simple joys that make baseball so endearing, and bad calls by umpires are no different. I don't know about you, but I like my peanuts thrown, my beer partially spilled, and my umps inaccurate.

Honestly, how much more can we dehumanize this game? Where does it end? And this isn't just about baseball. The obsession with accuracy has become so pervasive in all walks of life. For example, I work in the construction industry, and you wouldn't believe how obsessed people are with being accurate. God forbid anyone should let a construction crew dig up a trench without sending out a crew with metal detectors to make sure every little pipeline is located to the inch. It used to just be that you'd get an old, yellowed map with a some lines drawn in a felt-tipped marker, and you'd cross your fingers and start digging. If you put a backhoe through a six-foot gas main, you just had to deal with it.

And look at our medical industry. CT scans? Are you kidding me? You're telling me our family physician Dr. Goodman, who's been practicing family medicine for thirty years, can't tell a deadly brain tumor from a sinus headache? Let the man do his job without second guessing his every call. If a doctor can't make the right diagnosis, he'll lose his practice, and someone else will come along to take his place. And now when you get a perscription, it's all typed out and stored in some huge database somewhere. It used to be that if you got 800mg of lithium instead of 80, you'd just feel extra happy for a few days. The whole fun in getting a perscription filled used to be watching the pharmacist struggling to make out the doctor's handwriting. "With handwriting that messy, you should've been a doctor!" For decades, that was one of America's great running jokes. Now? It's all databases and PDA's and Blackberry's.

You know what else I hate? DNA evidence. It needs to be banned from murder trials. It takes away the whole human element of innocent people being sentenced to death. While we're on the subject, let's get rid of the whole appellate court system. Lawyers--who needs 'em, am I right? That's why we have trials in the first place--to figure out if the guy is guilty. What's the point of doing the whole thing over? So maybe one or two people get wrongly convicted. Tough noogies! It's criminal justice, not ballroom dancing.

That'll be the next thing--a major league team challenging a call in a U.S. appellate court using DNA evidence. This has gotten out of control and needs to stop. Everything that changed about baseball up until the time I was about ten years old was perfect, and they should've just left it like that permanently. All they've done since then is ruin the game, and I don't like it.


It's All Their Fault

>> Monday

My last post got me thinking of all the things blamed for a Cubs loss other than the players on the field. Here's what I could come up with.

  1. Day baseball.
  2. The crappy turn-of-the-century players' facilities at Wrigley Field.
  3. Aliens.
  4. Steve Bartman.
  5. A black cat.
  6. A goat.
  7. Curses/hexes/divine damnation, etc.
  8. The umpires.
  9. The manager.
  10. Fans who cheer and boo their approval or disapproval (as opposed to other teams' fans who just don't show up when the team is playing poorly.)

No doubt this is a running list and will have new reasons added as time goes on, or I am reminded of ones I forgot.


Side-By-Side Comparison

The introduction paragraphs to the Sox-Angels game last night in today's Chicago Tribune, penned by Dave van Dyck.

"Carlos Quentin hit a pair of home runs Sunday night, including the game-winner to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, as the White Sox avoided a sweep and
finished a short homestand by winning four of six games. Quentin's second shot gave the Sox a 3-2 victory over the Angels in a game that took only 2 hours 5 minutes and made them winners for the ninth time in 11 games."

Who, When, What, Where, and How all answered succinctly, and with enough context to give the reader some backstory. The Sox won a dramatic victory with a bottom of the ninth home run to end a short slide and get back to their winning ways. Compare to Phil Rogers' same opening paragraphs for the Cubs-Pirates game.

"Earth to Alfonso Soriano, come in please. Earth to Soriano...Earth to Soriano...report in please. About the only thing that didn't happen to the Cubs over the weekend at PNC Park was an alien abduction, and the persistent misadventures of Soriano left you wondering if the sun was the only thing in his eyes. Perhaps Soriano was distracted by a beam from a hovering spacecraft, which messed with his internal wiring, at the very least. Maybe he was switched with a clone, although he did look like his old self for one moment in Sunday's 6-5, 11 inning loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates."

Basic story information replaced with a dated "Earth to" joke, extraterrestrials added to the list of things blamed for a Cubs loss other than the players , and suspicion of human cloning of outfielders with mixed results.



>> Saturday

Mark Grace on Fox Saturday Baseball talking about Randy Johnson's new pitch-to-contact approach:

"He's not your father's Big Unit."



A word from Indiana head basketball coach Tom Crean

>> Friday

Hi there, Indiana basketball fans! Boy, it's really been an exciting few weeks for our program. There have been a lot of changes since last season, and we couldn't be more optimistic about the direction our program is headed in.

I've always said that Indiana has the best college basketball fans in the country, and I truly believe that we will reward you all with a great season and compete for the Big Ten title.

As many of you may have heard, we recently released a few members of the team from their scholarships for various reasons. Unfortunately, these young men weren't the right fit for what we're trying to build here. The great Indiana basketball tradition is something that's always been very special to me, and upholding that tradition is a responsibility I put above all else.

Fortunately, those vacancies have opened the door for some fresh, young talent, and we couldn't be more thrilled with our nine newcomers and two returning players that will don the crimson and cream come November. We also have two remaining scholarships on our roster that we have yet to fill, but I couldn't be more excited about some of the players who have expressed their interest in joining the Indiana basketball tradition.

The first is a young man named Tyler Mooney out of Muncie, Indiana. Tyler is a superb talent who was one of the most highly recruited players in the Muncie area when he played in the Indiana Juniors 13-and-under League as a 5'7" power forward. He has since grown to 5'9" and now plays guard, but he has retained those big-man instincts and low center of gravity. He's also a coach's son, having played for his father on the Ward 6 Mad Ballers in the Muncie Park District League back in 2000, so you know he has a high basketball IQ. Tyler would have been one of the top recruits in the country this year, but he flew under the recruiting radar after taking the last four years off to focus on his academics. We are very excited about Tyler's future with Indiana basketball.

We also have a verbal commitment from a 7-footer out of the Republic of Congo named Jacques Massamba-Mvouba whom we are very excited about. Jacques is a very gifted athlete with limitless potential who is just beginning to learn the game. When we first met Jacques sixteen days ago and rolled out a basketball for him, he sliced it in half with a machete and threw it in a boiling pot. He's really come a long way since then, and once we break him of a few bad habits--like kicking the ball and heading the ball--we think he will be an excellent player on the collegiate level and maybe beyond.

Also in the mix is Walt Stump, a 6'3" forward from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Walt was the star of the 1980 Eau Claire Prep team that went to the Wisconsin state quarterfinals. At the time, Walt was being recruited heavily by several programs, including University of Wisconsin Steven's Point, St. Cloud State, and Benedictine University, but he opted for military service instead. He has maintained his collegiate eligibility and stayed in such great basketball shape since then that you would never even guess he's 47 years old. Walt comes from a great family background--both of his parents are heavily involved in their church and also their retirement community--and we would be very proud to have Walt become a part of this program.

Finally, we are looking closely at a transfer from Santa Rosa Junior College named Chris Lee, a 6'1" guard who originally hails from Modesto, California. Lee has had some trouble with the law in the past, but he has really righted the ship in the last year, having passed nearly all of his classes and avoiding arrest for over five months now. He has also blossomed into a excellent basketball player, averaging 9.3 points per game for Santa Rosa last season. I've always been a big believer in second chances, and I really believe Chris would be an incredible addition to our program.

I couldn't be happier with the future of the Indiana basketball program, and I truly believe 2008-2009 will be fantastic year for Hoosier basketball. I can't wait to see all of you coming out to support us in Assembly Hall later this year. The Indiana Hoosier basketball fans are the absolute best in the country, and I know you will see some wonderful things on the court this season. I can't wait!


You're kidding, I thought this happened 5 years ago

Former (and according to that link, current) Packers WR Bill Schroeder retired. And I don't mean in like 2001, when he may have been relevant. I mean, like, today, apparently.

You'll remember Schroeder for being terrible and for that one time when Mike Holmgren grabbed him by his facemask and yelled at him like crazy because he kept fumbling. That was awesome.


What's a contract but a silly piece of paper?

>> Thursday

As upset as I was when Mike D'Antoni first signed on as the Knicks' coach, I, like most Bulls fans, am all the more pissed ever since the Bulls' ping pong balls proved to be this year's version of the '07 Blazers' ping pong balls.

D'Antoni made his panting lust for Derrick Rose well-known prior to the lottery, and it would have been a near certainty that the Bulls would be drafting him next month if D'Antoni were coach. Now--despite Rose's hometown ties and the PR bonanza said ties would reap--I'm not so certain that John Paxson will draft him. As we all know, some GMs--though I'm admittedly not sure where the Pax-man stands on this issue--explicitly avoid bringing in guys who will be playing in their hometown. Plus, Lord Paxington has taken a lot of heat in the past few seasons for not acquiring a good low-post scorer, hence some pressure to take Beasley.

My own worries aside, it's of course D'Antoni who should be--and no doubt is--upset right now, and if it were possible, he might be considering a retroactive "just kidding!" on his contract. Instead of coaching Rose and big men like Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas who can run the floor, he's stuck with Jamal Crawford, Eddie Curry, and Snack-Attack Zach, one of the most stationary and team offense-killing big men in the game (the D'Anti-Christ?).

People who believe that the last five years in Phoenix proved D'Antoni's system to be flawed may certainly have a point. Whether it's the case that the type of players needed to run the system properly aren't equipped to win a playoff series against a super-elite team or that the type of players needed to beat super-elite teams can't fit the system or neither, the results never fully panned out for him in the past. But as a spectator in the Bulls' media market, I lament never having the chance to see him try with Rose at the point, even if it failed over and again. Even when Phoenix was losing the last few years, it always looked like it was working, and most importantly, it was purty.

Championships are fun, as all us Chicagolandians got to find out last decade, but they also got sorta old after a while. Maybe Rose (if the Bulls draft him) can score "us" some more. But for me, crazy up-and-down, free-flowing, high-scoring basketball has never gotten old, and unfortunately, it might be a long time until D'Antoni can make it work with the Knicks, if he ever can.


Maybe 13 or 14 just to be safe

>> Wednesday

Current espn.com featured comment, courtesy of user Mark535042, regarding the Cleveland Browns' offseason acquisitions:

"They're going to need at least 12 wins to make the playoffs in that division."

That's a pretty bold statement from Mr. 535042, considering how rare it is for an 11-win team to miss the playoffs in the NFL. I wonder if he realizes that hasn't happened since the Faketown Invisibles finished last in the Bizzaro Football League with a record of 11-0.8 back in 1950NEVER.

Let's see... 535042. On a rotary phone, that would spell "kelzib," or German for "dickhead." So let me be the first to say: good call, dickhead.


"And With the 1st Pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls Select:"

Semih Erden 7"0 Center from Gaziosmanpasa, Turkey

hats right, fuck all this Derrick Rose nonsense...this is the real gem of the draft!!! Don't blow it Pax!


Let us pray

>> Tuesday

Pater Noster, qui es in ping-pong balls, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas Stern, sicut in caelo et in United Center. Derrick Rose nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus Tyson Chandler-for-P.J. Brown. Et ne nos inducas in 2009 NBA Draft Lottery, sed libera nos a John Paxson.



Krukie Kwotes

We've been known to be a bit "edgy" on this blog in the past, but I know one thing: None of us would ever be so callous as to make fun of a cancer survivor sharing his thoughts on a remarkable accomplishment by a fellow cancer survivor.

...Until today. Unfortunatey, I cannot 100% confirm this quote to be verbatim because I'm going off memory, but I assure you the meaning is accurate. John Kruk, last night on BBTN had this to say about the significance of Jon Lester's no-hitter:

"There are people out there with cancer who now believe they'll beat the illness because of what Jon Lester did tonight."

[Monday night, cancer ward, Massachusettes General Hospital]
TV announcer: ...the two-strike pitch to Collaspo... He did it! A no-hitter for Jon Lester!
Doctor: How about that? A no-hitter.
Patient: [elated] You know what this means doc?!
Doctor: The Sox picked up a game on the Rays?
Patient: No, I'm cured!!!!!
Doctor: Cured?
Patient: Cured!
Doctor: Remember this afternoon when I said you'll need at least ten more years of treatment, and even then you'll be lucky to live past 50?
Patient: But Jon Lester threw a no-hitter! And he had cancer! I'm cured!!!! [leaps out of bed, pirouettes, sprints into the hallway, starts randomly high-fiving nurses, unplugging medical equipment, and guzzling Dixie cups of pills]
Doctor: No... You're not! And you just took a half-dozen diuretics!
Patient: ...Cured cured cured cured...!
Doctor: Nurse--Could you bring a few extra sets of sheets to 306? This lunatic's gonna be pissing the bed all night...


Random Thoughts While Eating My Wheaties!!!

>> Monday

1.) Special Olympic stud Oscar Pistorius won the right to compete in Bejing this summer with his super duper carbon fiber "Cheetahs." Let me be the first to congratulate that tool arbitrator who destroyed even playing fields.
2.) That said, rumors have been swirling about the Cubs forgoing the July trading deadline and thus deciding to cut off Kerry Wood's arm and replace it with a super bionic launch pad that will throw 325 mph.
3.) The Pittsburgh Pirates are 21-23. But are 20-15 against teams not named the Cubs. Further proof the National League just sucks
4.) It took the Yoster 2 months to remove the Gag-ne as his teams closer...proof that the Brewers are, well the Brewers.
5.) How long till the Cubs realize that they are, well the Cubs?
6.) Times are tough... especially for Purdue safety Torii Williams who was busted for using his five-finger discount on what else....condoms. Seriously?
7.) More people should dress like Don Cherry, he obviously knows something we don't.
8.) Over-Under # of games the Pistons get royally screwed: 4
9) What happened to real basketball? I mean, whats with all this pyrotechnic crap with some semi-retarded jackass screaming the starting lineups? And what happened to players actually warming up? Where's the "Three Man Weave," the fundamentally sound layups, calisthenics? Lets get back to the basics people!
10.) Tony Kornheiser is being forced out of his position with the Washington Post...so we can read more nonsense by writers such a Jason Whitlock and Jay Mariotti. Tony, you transcended sports journalism and have the utmost respect by everyone who writes for this Blog.


Pick-on-Hawk Week continues

>> Sunday

Or cliched hyperbole-style:

"I swear... every break... on a bad call by an umpire... has gone against us on this road trip."
-Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, colorful and popular White Sox play-by-play announcer after a close force play during today's Giants-White Sox game

To be fair to Hawk, I never heard him complain about balls and strikes at any time throughout the scattered moments of today's game that I actually saw, which may have marked the first time I've watched a Sox game this year when I could say that. Of course, I only caught about three innings total, and I stake my spotless reputation on the probability that he uttered at least one, "Where was that pitch?" or, "That was a strike when Paulie was up there," over the course of today's game.

The point is, Hawk needs to understand something: the Major League Baseball Umpires Union does not have--nor has ever had--an organized conspiracy to screw over the Chicago White Sox. Go ahead--call me naive. Call me blind. Say I'm too trusting of authority. But I don't believe that sports umpires and officials--on the whole--show arbitrary bias in favor or against particular teams or players, with the exception of NBA officials' persistent effort to break the will of Rasheed Wallace.

I also believe it's statistically remote--to the point of being impossible--that luck has gone against the Sox on every single borderline call over the course of this baseball season (not to mention the past two seasons during which Hawk's whining has gradually escalated to where it is today).

And that leads me to the one plausible conclusion: Hawk Harrelson has a severe personality disorder and needs to be institutionalized.



>> Friday

I just wanted to give a quick apology for our absence the last few days. I was off in scenic Davenport, Iowa on business earlier this week; Paul and Mike had med school and law school finals; and I'm sure everyone else had some good excuse too.

Hopefully I'll be back later today with one of my half-assed nonsense Friday lunch-break posts. 'Til then!


We Hardly Knew Ye, Timmy!

>> Monday

Tim Floyd lived up to his reputation of being college basketball's best used car salesman...So, was that First Round exit worth it?



ESPN Bottomline: "An Olympic spokesperson says that none of the 31 venues for the 2008 Summer Olympics were damaged in the 7.9 Earthquake that killed 9,000."

Good to see we've got things in perspective here.


Hawk and DJ: As dedicated to their blog as we are

I was over at the Chicago Tribune web-site this morning, and I decided to navigate the link to my second-favorite internet web-log, Hawk and DJ's baseball blog to see what fine insights these baseball veterans of a combined 21 years playing experience have offered in recent days.

Unfortunately, all I saw on the front page were videos of game highlights and Stats Inc. factoids and series previews. In fact, I had to go all the way back to April 9 to find the most recent Hawk post and March 15 for the latest DJ piece, which was his first since a blurb about a Jon Garland hot streak last June 4.

Fortunately for those of us who sorely miss Hawk and DJ's cutting analysis, I think I can fill in. I've watched enough White Sox games over the last several years to know how they would size up the recent doings of the Sox if they had the time to post. So first, let's hear from Hawk...

Different game

It's a shame the way the umpires have taken over the game. Ten, twenty, thirty years ago, you'd never see that. Guys just can't throw inside anymore. I've never seen as many exploding bats as I have in the last five years. Guys used to prefer ash bats, but more guys are going to maple. There was a pitcher I played with in Kansas City by the name of John O'Donoghue who we liked to call "Odelayheehoo" for short. We were playing Cleveland one time, and Rocky Colavito tagged Odie for a homerun in the first inning. Rocky was sort of a hot dog, and he started walking toward first when the ball left the bat, and Johnny-O didn't take too kindly to it. You never saw that sort of thing forty, fifty, sixty years ago. He said, "The next time he comes up, I'm gonna knock him on his backside before he even gets to the dish." Of course, he didn't use the word "backside." So as Colavito was leaving the on-deck circle next time up, O-dog pelted him right in the kisser. And that was before they made guys wear helmets. You don't see that anymore. You see a lot more maple bats today because they have a little more pop in them. I always preferred a good piece of ash. The umpires have to remember that the fans come out to see the players perform, not the umpires. Most of the umpires are very good, but some of them aren't as good. Just like there are good and bad ballplayers, there are good and bad umpires. You just want them to call balls and strikes the same for both sides.

Stretch! Stretch! Stretch!... Mercy! Dadgummit...

And now DJ...

Positive signs

I completely agree, Hawk. After a rough patch, Juan Uribe seems to be finding his rhythm. We all know that when Juan gets into a groove, he's one of the most dangerous hitters in the American League. He reminds me a lot of a guy I used to play against on the San Francisco Giants named Jose Uribe because they both used to play shortstop and have the last name Uribe. The young starting pitchers show no signs of slowing down, and you know Mark Buehrle will get back to pitching like the Cy Young-caliber ace we know he is. Jose Contreras looks fully healthy again, and I think he could have a career year. And we all know what the "Silent Assassin" Javy Vazquez can do. Kenny Williams has made some excellent moves, and Ozzie has these guys energized and playing hard. I think the Sox are hitting their stride, and I really think they will get in a groove. Kenny Williams has put together a great team, and you know this team will find its rhythm and be in the mix come September.


Not So Fast Lunchbucket Lunchpail Blue Collar Hard-working tough

MLS washout and SI.com's resident soccer blowhard Greg Lalas praises the virtues of the Columbus Crew, a perennial MLS doormat who at the 1/4 pole of the MLS season has the best record in the league.

He doesn't really attribute it to anything other than using an excessive amount of "blue-collar" adjectives to describe their play. I suppose it's easy given their Village People-esque badge. Greg is right on one thing Columbus certainly is the early-season success story of MLS. For years, a trip to Crew Stadium meant a pretty good chance of coming out with a result. (16-19-11 over the last three years at home)

In addition to improving in the standings, their supporters' section is growing. Things are looking up in Cowtown. Lalas attributes most of the positive change to a change in mentality (from a Coach who had been at the helm for two years already), to players who have been playing together for a while (but only two years), and of course to their Lunchpail, Hardhat, gung-ho attitude.

However, I am convinced it is something else entirely. While soccer admittedly does not have a stat-geek side like baseball or football, there is one thing staring everyone in the face over America's Hardest Working Team's 6-1-0 start that no one seems to be mentioning. Strength of schedule. MLS is admittedly a parity-driven league (DC's First-to-worst turnaround in the East this season is one example). However, a quick glance at Columbus's schedule so far reveals the following
Toronto FC (Win 2-0)
@ New York (Loss 0-2)
Chivas USA (Win 4-3)
@ DC United (Win 2-1)
Houston Dynamo (Win 1-0)
Kansas City (Win 2-1)
@ San Jose (Win 3-2)

Aside from noting that their only results away from Crew Stadium are a loss, and wins against the worst teams in the East and West, let's examine those seven sides' relative positions in the MLS table. Teams Columbus has played are in bold. Losses are in Red.

2008 MLS Single Table as of May 12
1.) Columbus (6-1-0, 18 pts)
2.) Chicago (5-1-1, 16 pts)
3.) New England (4-3-1, 13 pts)
4.) New York (3-1-2, 11 pts)
5.) Kansas City (3-3-1, 10 pts)
6.) Toronto FC (3-2-1, 10 pts)
7.) Colorado (3-4-0, 9 pts)
8.) FC Dallas (2-2-3, 9 pts)
9.) LA Galaxy (2-3-2, 8 pts)
10.) Salt Lake (2-2-2, 8 pts)
11.) Houston (1-2-3, 7 pts)
12.) DC United (2-5-0, 6 pts)
13.) Chivas USA (1-4-2, 5 pts)
14.) San Jose (1-4-1, 4 pts)

So on further examination, Columbus has not played a very rough schedule. Four of their six wins are against the four worst teams in the league. Another win came against Toronto in their first game of the year. This was before TFC acquired 2004 MLS MVP Amado Guevara, and French international Laurent Robert. These moves substantially altered the outlook of TFC's midfield and attack; turning them from a definite doormat to a potential playoff team. Since the signings, Toronto is undefeated in 4 games (3-0-1). In the end, Columbus is left with one noteworthy victory...over a .500 Kansas City team.

Combined with the Crew's loss to New York, Columbus has not yet beaten a single team that is over .500. They'll get a real test at BMO Field this weekend with their rematch against Toronto FC. TFC is unbeaten at home so far this year (2-0-1), and BMO is fastly becoming one of the loudest venues in North America.


More fun with press quotes: What makes an asshole who waits four hours for a 23-cent pizza tick

>> Thursday

How do you make up for insulting a sports fanbase and its favorite star player? Easy--You cause a public menace by offering 23-cent pizzas to residents near-ish the city where that star player plays.

"It's a recession-busting offer, and we certainly hope we have made it up to Cleveland," Tim North, vice president of the company's northeast division, told WEWS-TV.

I may not be Steven Levitt's financial advisor, but I'm not sure how (essentially) giving away a product that required human labor to create is "recession-busting"--especially given that Papa John's also gave $10,000 to the so-called "Cavaliers Youth Fund" (read: PR platform for Cavs players with a 2.6% organizational efficiency).

"We're certainly a bit surprised about how darn popular this is," North told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

Translation: "Our customers are even trashier than I realized."

"I did it for the principle of it. The principle of it is he's not a crybaby and Papa John's should not have gotten into it," Jennie Moore, 54, of University Heights, said as she waited for a pepperoni pizza.

The principle of it. That's why you waited for hours with hoards of other scuzzy freeloaders to score a low-grade pepperoni pizza. The principle of showing Papa John's management that they should not have called LeBron James a "crybaby." You are a noble woman of great conviction. Clearly, your 54 years on this earth have shaped your social conscience in a profound way.

Randall Hunter, 50, from Cleveland Heights, spent most of his four-hour split between bus driving shifts waiting for his pepperoni pizza. He defended James and what he said were flagrant fouls he received in the Washington series.

So... you waited almost four hours--the entirity of your break, mind you--to get a pizza... a pizza that you will now have to A) scarf down in a short amount of time before having to cramp yourself behind the wheel of a bus for the next several hours or B) bring the pizza on the bus and, at best, watch it get cold or eaten by passengers and, at worst, lose your job for unprofessional conduct.

I'll resist the urge to say, "I think I know why you drive a bus for a living." Oh shit... just did. Well, I'm sure Cleveland Heights is a lovely place. *chortle chortle*

Patrick Mone, dressed in a blue James "Witness" T-shirt, was willing to wait as long as necessary for the bargain.

Wouldn't it be funny if he waited so long he died? No? Ok, fine.

"It's worth it," he said. "All the money is going to charity, and obviously, it's bringing new business to Papa John's. Even though there is a line, I think it's pretty cool. ... Twenty-three cents, you can't beat it."

a) It's not worth it, by any objective or subjective measure (as determined by me).
b) Pat yourself on the back, Pat. You're donating $0.23 to charity, or 0.0000002% (no joke) of the 2005 FY revenue of Doctors Without Borders.
c) Why do you care about the financial success of the Papa John's corporation?

"As I got closer, I was like, 'Oh, boy. This is going to be nuts,'" he said.

"This"="I"; "is going to be"="am"; "nuts"="a stupid cunt"


Tasteless mockery of athlete sound bites

Alright, so maybe I'm a colossal hypocrite (I think you already knew that anyway), but I thought an immature audience like ours would be entertained by this quote from Toby Hall, which came amidst a sprawling explanation for his idea that White Sox players dye their facial hair pink for Mother's Day (...Keep in mind why words are put in brackets in press quotes):

"Everybody coming out and appreciating moms and [recognizing] breast [cancer] awareness," Hall said. "It's a good day."

Ok, I guess it was funnier when I heard it on the WGN News segment last night (which has been cut down to only include Nick Swisher's sound bite on the WGN website). But admit it--You all laughed. ...Bunch of toddlers.


When Elias-like stats go too far...

>> Wednesday

I haven't been keeping very good track of sports lately, and I've spent even less time watching ESPN than I'd like. However, I put on the TV for a few minutes tonight to catch some Baseball Tonight on the original ESPN and other highlights on ESPN-News during the commercials.

And I was totally annoyed within five minutes.

Honestly, I do not exaggerate. Within five minutes, these ESPN networks referenced four -- yes, four -- Elias Sports Bureau-like stats. Moreover, they tried to interpret these stats with comments like, "Well, look at the company that Cliff Lee is in."

Here are the stats that were so important to mention and so noteworthy as to further interpret:
1. The Yankees-Indians game was the first time that two 5-0 pitchers playing for sub-.500 teams matched up. Who cares?
2. Joey Votto was only the 4th first baseman of all time to hit 3 HR's in a single game while under the age of 26. Moreover, he was the only first baseman to accomplish that feat while also stealing a base in the game. Of course, the commentators made a big deal out of it because only Pujols, McCovey, and Frank Robinson had done it too. Obviously, Joey Votto is headed toward the Hall of Fame. Indisputable.
3. Cliff Lee is one of only a handful of pitchers in X number of years to start the season 6-0 and with a sub-1.00 ERA. Again, big deal. Some guys have started seasons well in the past. However, these "some guys" included Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez. Now all of the sudden, Cliff Lee is the ace of the next decade (which he actually may be, I don't know).
4. Finally, tonight somebody had 5 hits in a game including a walk-off game winner. Did you know only 4 players have accomplished that feat in the past two seasons? Really, I'm not kidding! Fortunately, the elite company in this category included Mark DeRosa, so nobody spent a whole lot of time talking about how great these players were. Nonetheless, this stat, with the others, was just totally annoying.

By the way, if you hadn't heard, I'm the first resident of my apartment under the age of 27 to ever have stayed up until 3 AM and then practiced with a rock'n'roll band the following day. I'm serious... no one else has done it. That feat puts me in some pretty elite company, eh?


Draft Zach Feinstein

Okay, maybe this joke would be overplayed. However, I am indeed a simple mind that would be easily entertained, and besides this site would be awesome. Also, his scouting report comes straight from the profile of players that Jerry Krause drafted.


Wishful Thinking Might be Putting it Mildly

>> Monday

There is a group looking to generate support for a joint Israel-Palestine bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. I can't really tell if this is a joke or serious. On the surface, the effort appears to be a joke, but as The Simpsons would have it, "If that's not Flanders, he's done his homework." The group has a relatively slick website, a professional-looking politically conscious promo video, and apparently a fair number of supporters. So perhaps they're only half-kidding.

Assuming it's not a complete joke, (because almost all jokes have a grain of truth in them) The plan calls for four Israeli stadiums (Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel-Aviv, and Mitzpe Ramon) to join alongside 3 stadiums in the Palestinian territories (Gaza, Ramallah, and Tulkarem). However, there are a few problems with the bid.
  1. It's Israel and Palestine. They have a hard enough time working together on advanced initiatives like "NOT blowing up busses full of kids" or "NOT detaining people who don't speak Hebrew as 'medium risk threats'. "

  2. It's still Israel and Palestine.

  3. Half the "proposed stadiums" appear to have been proposed BY THIS GROUP.

  4. One of the sites, Mitzpe Ramon, is in the middle of the desert. The fucking desert. Two hours from anywhere. The town has a population of 5,500, and this group is talking about building a 55,000-seat stadium. So fortunately, every resident of the town will have 10 seats to themselves to stretch out. Fun-with-math Side Note: Were Chicago to build a stadium with similar capacity relative to its population, it would seat 28 million people.

  5. The bidding process for the 2018 World Cup is set to be the most competitive ever. With the World Cup ending its "rotation" policy, which brought the World Cup to places that probably didn't deserve it (South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014, etc.) FIFA will be looking to make a huge profit on this World Cup. England, the United States, Australia, Canada, Russia, China, Mexico, Greece, Spain-Portugal, and Holland-Belgium-Luxembourg are all expected to bid. England, USA, Spain-Portugal, and Australia should be the front-runners. Solid bids from China and Russia could well fall in the "also-ran" category. Israel-Palestine, if legit, does not have a chance.

  6. Israel's team doesn't even PLAY Palestine, or any Arab country for that matter. Arab countries refuse to play against Israel, as a form of protest over Israel's existence.

So....Good luck with that Israel-Palestine 2018... It's got about as good a chance of working out as your more pressing issues.


Cedric Benson arrested for boating under the influence

>> Sunday

So wait--black people go boating?


The most exciting two minutes (and two-and-a-half hours of pre-race coverage) in all of sports

>> Saturday

Oh man... I wait all year for this. Most people don't know this about me, but I'm a huge fan of thoroughbred racing. I love the ponies. Can't get enough of them. Got the OTB in MyFaves and MyCircle.

The Kentucky Derby... the tradition... the pageantry... the majesty...

That Bob Costas really knows to paint a picture with words. Wow. What a man. Hey--did you all catch Hef and his ladies on the red carpet? Man, what a "stud" that guy is. (Horse racing joke there.) Two young "phillies" on the arm of an 82 year-old. What a country!

We're here with trainer Richard Dutrow Jr....

Wow, look at all those big hats! And everyone's drinking mint juleps. As big a racing fan as I am, I don't think I've ever had one, but they sound sorta gross. I wonder if they serve Mike's Hard Lemonade there. I know that's what I'd be getting. The only thing minty I'll ever drink is Schnapps or mouthwash.

...Legendary jockey Kent Desormeaux...

Wait... when does this thing actually start? I thought it was 4:00. They must've changed the time on me. They said the track is fast this year. Maybe we'll see a record today. Oh, Vince McMahon is at the race, too. I wonder who his money's on. Definitely a guy who knows a good stable. (That's a wrestling joke.)

The horses are beginning to walk out...

Wow, this is really taking forever. Oh, I wonder how the Cubs are doing doing.... oh good, still up. Alright back to the Derby.

TNT... We know drama.

Crap. Hit the wrong channel. Nice! Varsity Blues. Man, that Coach Kilmer is such an ass. Oh yeah, this is the part where Moxon calls the audible, and they score so Coach gets all pissed. Great scene. Ok... Derby time.

There's a 25 mile-per-hour wind that will be blowing against the horses as they come down the stretch...

Hmm. Maybe we won't see that record. When is it gonna be post time already? Nice... Cubs are up 9-3 now. They must have come ready to play today. Did you see Sweet Lou blow his top the other day? Wow, that was something. Ok, back to the Derby.

I mean... I love my broker. I've known him for years...

These "Talk to Chuck" commercials--you know, these ones with the real people talking but they sort of look like cartoons--they freak me out. Hey, I wonder if Varsity Blues is still on.

I'm gonna go find someone who can sell us some weed...

Oh, nice! Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle! Love this movie! This is the part where they're at Princeton and they meet those two hot twins. Haha, and now the security guard just busted them for smoking up in the dorm. Oh, and this is the part where Neil Patrick Harris steals their car! This movie rules. Hahaha.... They got the escaped cheetah high! Man, that would be so awesome to get an animal high, like a dog or a horse--Oh my god, the Derby!

We're here with Kent Desormeaux in the winner's circle...


...And of course, tragedy today, as Eight Belles had to be euthanized...

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! I loved that horse!!! Oh well... back to Harold and Kumar. Sweet! This is where they hang glide off that cliff. I should go buy a hang glider. That seems like a fun hobby. I should buy some weed, too. Oh shit, phone's ringing... gotta go. Later.


Kerry, get out your cane... and I'll hold back Mariotti while you pummel him with it

>> Friday

There's this relief pitcher currently pitching for a major league team. For now, let's call him... "Woody Kerr." Through 13 appearance's here's "Woody's" stat line:

14.0 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 13 K

I think most people would look at that and say, "Hey, that's a pretty good start." I'd like that guy in my bullpen."

However, due to some unfortunate timing, this pitcher has allowed those ten hits and three walks in such a sequence that they have allowed other teams to make up a three-run-or-less(-unless-there's-more-than-one-man-on-base-in-which-case-it-can-be-a-four-or-five-run)-in-the-seventh-inning-or-later deficit on three occasions.

How should one interpret these circumstances? Well, there's a few ways to look at it. Either A) the pitcher has run into some bad luck; B) he doesn't pitch as well from the stretch and is susceptible to "the wheels coming off" once he allows a baserunner; C) it's too early to make a judgment; or D) he's a no-good, cocksucking, ass-grabbing choke artist piece of shit.

Anyone wanna take a wild guess which interpretation Jay Mariotti subscribes to?

Truth be known, if Kerry Wood simply had done his job Thursday, Lou Piniella wouldn't be melting down on YouTube again and Alfonso Soriano wouldn't be called a $136-million wallflower. A closer's lapses tend to bring a team's ills to life, and given another shot to prove he's a reliable finisher, Wood instead hit the first batter and allowed two warning-track lasers that weren't caught.

Boom. Right there. He was hurt yesterday by some poor defense (which in this case, still counted against his hit and earned run totals). You could argue that Wood was still giving up solid contact and can't always expect his defense to bail him out. Or you could say that it wasn't totally Wood's fault.

Yes, Kerry Wood has plunked three guys so far, which ups his baserunner total to 16 in 14 innings. Again--not bad at all. If he were putting up numbers like Franciso Liriano's right now, I'd be concerned. But he's not.

I realize Cubdom is rooting for him more than a late-innings beer vendor. I understand he's an inspirational presence, having survived 11 disabled-list trips and coming within a day of retiring last year. There would be no better sight at Wrigley than watching Wood close out the World Series, the personification of 21st-century Cubbie woe bringing home the unthinkable dream.

This doesn't really have to do with any argument I may or may not be making, but I will defend Kerry Wood until my dying day. ("Kerry Wood was great, I tell ya." "Grandpa! No one cares about your dinosaur baseball players from the 1900s! We're gonna go watch the Speed Stacking Championship now, ok? That's a real sport." "Achh. No-nothing punks.")

Maybe he was a little stubborn about changing his delivery to avert injury in his younger days, but if I had his OBA and K/9IP rate, my ulna would have to be protruding my skin before I'd change my approach.

But those 11 trips to the DL later, Wood keeps doing everything he needs to continue doing something he loves. He's changed his motion, taken a huge drop in salary, gotten in shape, changed his diet, and accepted relief duty without complaining--all while the Chicago media has dragged him through the mud for getting hurt too much (as if he were trying to) and being paid too much for not pitching.

But the former Kid K has become Kid BS, as in blown save

I used to be known around my office as "Boy-Genius Wunderkind," but then the other day, I misspelled "chlorofluorohydrocarbons" in an email, and now everyone just calls me "Dumbfuck-Face." So I know the feeling.

botching his third of seven opportunities in a ghastly 4-3 loss to the Brewers. His latest collapse -- three hits, a walk, a plunked batter, three earned runs and a wickedly sour taste -- was a mirror image of his Opening Day flop against the same division rivals. The differences between Wood and other big-league closers are many, including the fact he's a neophyte in the role and seems capable of an injury breakdown on any pitch.

Through Eric Gagne's first three years in the majors, he had exactly ten relief appearances and zero saves before rattling off the three straight years of sub-1.00 WHIP, 12+ K/9IP, and--if dumb stats are your thing--45+ saves.

Jose Mesa went into 1999 with 105 saves and a ton of career relief appearances and proceeded to put up a 1.81 WHIP and 6 Ks/9IP.

Oh yeah... Closer experience is super important. (And yes, that's super cherry-picked anecdotal evidence, but give me a break. It's a Friday lunch break post.)

The major difference, though, is that a better man for the position works in the same bullpen.

Carlos Marmol is his name.

[skip skip skip]

It was [Marmol's] eighth held lead in a season in which he has a 1.42 ERA and two saves. In 19 innings, Marmol has struck out 27 -- I repeat, 27 -- and walked five.

Of course, anyone who knows anything about baseball (particularly people who know a great deal about baseball) realize that this is excellent bullpen management. Marmol--the best pitcher in the Cubs' bullpen since early last season and the pitcher most likely to get a strikeout--is being used in the highest leverage situations. If that happens to be a save situation, whatever--it doesn't really matter.

If you're going to designate a certain guy as "the closer" (i.e. a guy that comes in with the bases empty to start the ninth with a lead), it should not be the best reliever on the roster if this is the primary situation for which you intend to use him. That guy should ostensibly be your second- or third-best reliever (which Kerry is on the Cubs, I'd say), and your best guy should be used in the highest-leverage situations--save situation or not.

But the Cubs insist they'll keep knocking on Wood, force-feeding a fairy tale that lacks hope at the moment.

Dumb pun that doesn't really make sense--check. Poor judgment--check. Unsubstantiated speculation--check check double check.

Think the newly bald Carlos Zambrano, who lost a shot at his fifth win as he tries to challenge Arizona's Brandon Webb in the early Cy Young Award race, isn't smarting today?

Some other discussion topics equally relevant as Cy Young voting on May 2:
-Christmas shopping
-The price of firewood
-John Madden
-back-to-school sales

Why do the Brewers trail the Cubs by only a game in the National League Central? Why has Milwaukee taken four of six in the season series? I'd suggest that Eric Gagne, after a ragged start, now has nine saves for the Brew Crew.

That might be the dumbest suggestion since Jerry suggested Babu close down the Dream Cafe and reopen it as a Pakistani restaurant. (Actually, the more you think about it, that was a pretty good idea. Business was floundering anyway, and he had no market differentiation. Maybe people just weren't as willing to embrace exotic cuisine in 1992 as they are now. In hindsight, it didn't work out, but that was no reason for Babu to be such a prick about it.)

As it is, Piniella already is knocking over Gatorade jugs in the dugout, signaling that frustration is now a factor in Year 100 since the last World Series championship. Waiting on Wood to perfect the role, when he never should have been given the opportunity, is officially the No. 1 cause of stress in Cubdom.

This is simply idiotic. What says he shouldn't have? John Smoltz was immediately excellent after switching from starter to ninth inning guy. So was Gagne. So was Tom Gordon. So was Dennis Eckersley. And Goose Gossage. And probably a bunch of other guys that don't immediately come to mind.

We're talking about 16 baserunners in 14 IP. Before yesterday--Wood's first really bad outing--that was 11 in 13. Yes, he's only 4 for 7 in saves, but saves are stupid and arbitrary, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Wood go 15 for his next 15. Nor would it surprise me to see him blow three more in his next seven opportunities.

So in conclusion... I don't know. Whatever. It's 14 innings of work. It's a couple blown leads. Chill out.

(Oh, and if you hadn't already guessed it, "Woody Kerr" is actually.... wait for it... Kerry Wood!)


It's Indiana

>> Thursday

Tom Crean would be off to a roaring start so far in his new homes, with afew examples below here:

The one big man with an iota of talent on Indiana's roster announced he's transferring and did not seem very happy with how things went down (Must have heard how Crean likes to utilize his big men).

One of the top underclassmen in the state of Indiana, Dominique Ferguson, has just committed to Kentucky.

Finally, along with the one scholarship already lost so far due to Kelvin Sampson's improper phone calls, the Hoosiers poor academic progress report could lead to another two scholarships losses. Also, Indiana has still yet to hear about their final punishment for Mr. Sampson's actions. All in all, it would be an even worse time than normal to be in Bloomington, Indiana.

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