>> Thursday

Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson on Thursday defended the men's basketball program. "We wouldn't play anybody if we hadn't checked it out pretty thoroughly," Johnson told The Associated Press.
If you ask me, that could very easily be interpreted as, "There was, in fact, something worth checking out--which is to say that we knew something was up, and we checked it out. We kinda-sorta did some investigating, but only enough to help us sleep a little easier, not enough to actually turn up any hard evidence of misconduct that could have forced us to sit one of our players--especially not if it was Derrick Rose."

If the accusations were totally baseless, I would expect him to say something like, "We would never allow one of our athletes to play if we were aware of any misconduct or violations on the part of that player."

Ok, maybe I'm reading too much into this.


Who's the Best?

>> Tuesday

While the words "Dream Final" often get tossed around, Wednesday's UEFA Champions League final in Rome comes as close to fitting the bill as any. Manchester United vs. Barcelona represents the two best teams from the two best national leagues in the world, boasting a cavalcade of stars, including arguably the two greatest players in the world (Man U's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barca's Lionel Messi). It is quite possible that Wednesday will see Ronaldo, Messi, Wayne Rooney, Samuel Eto'o, Thierry Henry, Dimitir Berbatov, and Carlos Tevez all on the field at the same time.

Naturally, the game will likely never live up to the hype.

After scouring the soccer internet mediasphere (real word?), the general consensus is that everyone is pulling for Barcelona, but that Man United just have too many weapons.

Barcelona reached the Final in dramatic fashion.

Down a goal, down to 10 men, on the road, and with second-half stoppage time ticking away against Chelsea, the Blaugrana looked finished. The West London crowd was already singing "We're going to Rome!" and were making plans for a holiday in the Eternal City. Then Barca scored to level the game at 1-1 and go through on the away goals tiebreaker. It was possibly the most dramatic finish to a European game I had seen since Man United's come-from-behind victory in the 1999 Champions League Final.

Man United reached the Final thanks to a rout of Arsenal in the Semifinal. The Red Devils are chasing their record-setting fourth trophy this season (Having already won the Carling Cup, English Premier League, and FIFA Club World Cup). Man United is also seeking to be the first team to retain the Champions League title since AC Milan pulled the feat in 1989 and 1990. If United walk out of the Stadio Olimpico with the trophy, they will be the first English team to repeat in this competition since Nottingham Forest in 1979 and 1980. Their lineup is a veritable gattling gun of firepower. I can't see Man U getting shut out in this final. Starting from that assumption, that means Barca is going to have to get at least 2 goals to win (or luck out on PKs).

However, if any team can pull that off, it is Barca. Their 1-1 scoreline over 180 minutes in the semifinals was the product of a number of factors Most notably the injury bug, and a Chelsea team that never dreamed of playing attacking football in the whole series, and reduced the game to a streetfight. Barca is the kind of team that would rather win a game 5-4 than 1-0. Their 104 goals scored leads the Spanish league, but their backline is more than capable as well. Their meager 34 goals surrendered also leads La Liga. However, Chelsea (despite not winning the series), gave Man United the playbook on how to neutralize Barca's attack. Foul Foul Foul.

I'm going to pick Man United to take the game. 2-1.


I think it looks more like a nail file

>> Friday

What do you think?

And now a public service announcement:


What Zuch has been up to

In case you haven't noticed, Zuch hasn't had time to post here for a while, concentrating his sportswriting energy on his gig at Sports Bubbler (here's his latest, a take on the ongoing saga of the most awesomely named basketball recruit since Jihad Muhammad).

Also, here is his three-part preview of the 2009 Bears for The Bleach Report.


Rick Reilly makes $2 million a year

No one ever said that life is fair.


Youtube Insomniac Theatre: Brokertothestars

Whenever I'm up as late as I am right now, I inevitably find myself surfing around for video of old baseball clips--or anything even tangentially related to baseball--in part to find hidden gems to share with others but mostly because I am child who flocks to familiar images for comfort.

Call it a quarter-life crisis if you must, but my fascination with places I vaguely remember from childhood has been especially potent recently. Couple that fascination with my intrinsic obsession for places that no longer exist (particularly those that once hosted baseball games), and voila--you have an unnecessary blog post dedicated to some dude's camcorder footage of old Comiskey Park in its final days. Say what you will about the video quality and the cameraman's awkward (though endearing) exchanges with the his wife, this guy did a good job of getting different perspectives of the place.

Highlights include: Rookie Frank Thomas and Rookie Alex Fernandez, Ozzie Guillen in his playing prime, Carlton Fisk in his twilight, the 1990 Red Sox, Andy the Clown, and lots and lots of huge glasses. Enjoy.

Not to exclude our east coast fans (Danny), here's another one of his videos--a 1989 Kincks-Bullets game at the Garden, featuring head coach Rick Pitino:


Rank these from most reprehensible to least:

>> Tuesday

a) Abusing and killing dogs

b) Committing rape
c) Being an accomplice to a murder
d) DUI, resulting in manslaughter
e) Scamming people out of large sums of money

Now rank your opinion of the following people:

a) Michael Vick
b) Mike Tyson
c) Ray Lewis
d) Donte Stallworth
e) Lenny Dykstra

One of the ESPN reports on Michael Vick's release this weekend compared it to Mike Tyson's prison release, noting that Vick's would spark a greater outrage. 

Also, what kind of man is Roger Goodell if he chooses to blackball a reformed criminal from his livelihood, condemning him to financial ruin?


Sadder commentary on the human race:

This? Or this?



Getting the word out

>> Sunday

Because (I believe) we have a larger readership than the New York Times, I thought I would help this story get some legs.


At the what?

>> Friday

Ripken, who the report said has known Rodriguez for 16 years, said in a speech at the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County's Men's Night Out that he thought the problem of steroids in baseball was improving, and "the willingness to suspend Manny Ramirez" is proof.

More proof that retired ballplayers will speak anywhere, to anyone, about anything, as long as they get paid.


Nerdy medicine-related computer demonstration of the perceived "break" of a curveball

>> Thursday

Check this little demonstration out to find out why a spinning baseball may appear to have a bigger break than it really does:


I've always loved Ozzie Guillen, right?

>> Wednesday

"I asked Peralta if that pitch was low and in, and he said yes," Guillen said. "They thought I was crazy because I wasn't protecting J.D. I was protecting the opposition. That means I was going to send the message that I wasn't here to protect my players. I was here to protect baseball."

This is a brilliant tactic. Why don't more managers do this rather than just lobbying for their own team? What better way to grease an ump than purporting to value fairness over all else, including your own team's success. If the ump buys it, he's likely to be more receptive to future protests by that manager, and if he takes offense--like DiMuro did--the manager still wins by making the ump look like a Sensitive Sally. I love it.


Bonus Google search referral

funky junk michael phelps is a badass

Darn... We only came in third on that one.


Wet blanketing

>> Tuesday

Two years ago, it was, "Hoc... key...??" Now it's all, "The Cubs? That was so 2007."

This rejuvenated interest in the 'Hawks seems to have exceeded any reasonable expectation, almost to the point of seeming... phony. I have my own ideas, but I'd like to hear others' explanations for this phenomenon.


This is absurd

A great clipping from today's New York Post:

Reader Gary Cicio, NYC podiatrist, did the research, and asks us to choose one of the two options to see a Mariners-Yankees game this season, and from the very best seats:

Option 1: Two tickets to Tuesday night, June 30, Mariners at Yanks, cost for just the tickets, $5,000.

Option 2: Two round-trip airline tickets to Seattle, Friday, Aug. 14, return Sunday the 16th, rental car for three days, two-night double occupancy stay in four-star hotel, two top tickets to both the Saturday and Sunday Yanks-Mariners games, two best-restaurant-in-town dinners for two. Total cost, $2,800. Plus-frequent flyer miles.


Betting Time

>> Monday

In the tradition of stupid sports bets made by Mayors where they offer to trade ridiculous items. (Mayor Daley recently made a "bet" with the Mayor of Vancouver on the winner of the Blackhawks-Canucks series. One of the things Daley had to give up if he "lost" was Chicago 2016 Olympic gear. Sweet idea Mayor Daley. I'm sure the Mayor of VANCOUVER doesn't have enough Olympic shit lying around.)

In that spirit, with the Hawks; the mighty Bla-a-ackhawks through to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since the Chicago-based YCS staffers were 10 or 11 years old, I'd like to offer a similar bet with whatever YCS's Detroit-based equivalent is. This bet will follow in that tradition of publicly-announced bets that will likely never be paid. (Really, have you ever seen any of these mayors actually collecting?)

Detroit: If the Red Wings win this Conference Finals series (assuming first they can finish off Anaheim when they're up 3-2 and hosting Game 7), then Chicago has to take GM. The bumbling, fumbling clusterfuck of a automaker will uproot operations from Michigan to Illinois and it will be our responsibility to fix it up. Once we're ready to flip it, Detroit will have first opton to take GM back...


If the Hawks win the series and reach their first Stanley Cup Final since 1992, Detroit has to take Jim Belushi.

As is. No givebacks.

Mr. Belushi will take up residence in the Motor City, where he will continue to ride his funnier late brother's coattails from Pontiac to Windsor to 8 Mile and back. He will superfluously pop up on the morning news circuit despite not plugging anything, and conspicuously and regularly wear Pistons, Red Wings, and Lions jerseys on According to Jim. Belushi will also declare himself "#1 Detroit Fan" and will generally appoint himself the spokesman for fans of all Detroit area-based sports teams. He will be your problem then.

So what do you say, Detroit parallel universe version of YCS? You on?

And just for good measure,


Google search referral of the day / Proof that meth-addicted hillbillies use the internet

We're the first result that comes up! 



For those of you that are new here, the genesis of this blog--about three years ago to the day, in fact--was largely inspired by Matt's and my infatuation with the long-extinct Fire Joe Morgan. Of course, with the hindsight of knowing that FJM's main contributor, Ken Tremendous (a.k.a. "Michael Schur"), is the man primarily responsible for Parks and Recreation, I have to wonder where my head was at. That said, FJM's influence over our blog in these three years--particularly my posts--has been tremendous (, Ken).

One of FJM's most recent posts at the time of our inception was this--a scathing deconstruction of a Baseball Tonight debate on run support. The notion being challenged was that a pitcher has some influence over the number of runs his team scores when he's on the mound--a sentiment that the BBTN panelists that night unanimously shared, though on highly disparate terms. One of those panelists was Steve Phillips who said:

There's a rhythm and a flow that happens to a team when things are going well. When you're scoring runs, when you're playing well -- pitchers who work too quickly sometimes get their hitters out of a flow; they work too slowly, they get out of the flow. And when you have a star on the mound, sometimes everybody stands around and watches. 

The reason I bring all of this up is that Phillips, during tonight's Mets-Braves game, reiterated points B ("work too slowly") and C ("star on the mound"), attempting to explain Johan Santana's poor run support since joining the Mets. 

Back in April 2006, my immediate instinct was to summarily reject the notion based on the premises that the FJM authors a) were funny, b) seemed to know what they were talking about, c) supported my own assumptions on the run support issue, d) supported my assumption that Steve Phillips is a goof, and e) generally agreed with me about everything. 

Three years later, though, I'm far more sympathetic to seemingly idiotic notions. In fact, when I finish writing this post, I plan to take up the issue with the number crunchers at FanGraphs to see if they can offer any further insight, but as I see it, the argument proposes the following hypotheses, each with tangible implications that could plausibly prove it true:

1) Pitchers hurt their run support by working too quickly.

Possible effect: His teammates mimic his haste at the plate, resulting in careless hacks early in the count.

2) Pitchers hurt their run support by working too slowly.

Possible effect: His teammates grow wary from the length of the game, resulting in careless hacks early in the count.

3) Pitchers hurt their run support by being too good.

Possible effect: His teammates grow complacent, diminishing their focus at the plate. 

4) Pitchers hurt their run support by sucking.

Possible effect: His teammates feel increased performance pressure at the plate, resulting in poor swing/take decisions.

Another thought to consider: Bad pitchers are more likely to create early deficits for his team. Early deficits encourage the oposing pitcher to pitch to contact, rather than inducing swings and misses. Pitching to contact is more likely to result in runs. Ergo, bad pitcher gets more run support than good pitcher.

I'm not necessarily giving Phillips the benefit of the doubt on all this, but I do think there's enough plausibility in these hypotheses that the ideas are worth considering. I can't imagine any effect would be remarkably pronounced, and I also suspect that the contradictory nature of each effect would cause their results--if any--to cancel out. But I could just as easily see one of these hypotheses bearing out, at least to some small extent.

I'll let you all know when FanGraphs gets back to me. (Or not.)


In other words, anyone

>> Thursday

We can now add "playful potheads" to this list:

skinny guys
ripped guys
fat guys
nice guys
gym rats
china dolls

Have I forgotten any? But I think you get the point. This is just to reiterate that playing the "I would never suspect him because..." game is unequivocally worthless, and anyone who ever goes there again should promptly be cut off.


Shortsighted comparisons

I'm not sayin'; I'm just sayin':

Quarterback A, 2008
522 att, 65.7%, 22 TD, 22 INT, 6.7 yds/att, 81.0 rating

Quarterback B, 2007-2008
414 att, 65.2%, 21 TD, 22 INT, 7.5 yds/att, 82.3 rating

(Hint: Quarterback A is Wrangler tough. Quarterback B sounds like a side dish for poultry.)


I'm Crazy Pickle Moustache. I have a pickle for a moustache... Now give me some Kendeigh!

>> Wednesday

Via Shysterball, my attention was drawn to this article by WISN sports anchor Andy Kendeigh (pronounced "ken-day" I hope, or else my title is even dumber than it already was). In it, he argues--nicely, I might add--that the Brewers need to ditch the sporadic throwback uni nights and just make a call, one way or another, whether to readopt the popular "MB" ball-and-glove logo. 

However, he closes by suggesting that if the Brewers were to readopt the ball-and-glove logo, they should retain the current color scheme, giving "the current players a look of their own with respect to the past." Unfortunately, there's a simple reason why Kendeigh and everyone else who suggests this is wrong: It's called branding.

By abandoning the ball-and-glove and the old blue and yellow team colors for subsequent monograms and navy-based uniforms, the Brewers traded in a unique, timeless brand for a generic, transient one. In my opinion, it was, and continues to be, a horrible business move, and--without having any way to prove this--I would hypothesize that the Brewers would have made more in merchandise sales since 1993 had they never replaced the old color scheme and logo. And that assumes the uniform changes since then caused a temporary bump in merch sales--an assumption I don't have time to research but would proabably hold true.

The problem with simply bringing back the old logo while keeping the current color scheme, script, and uniform is that it would create an unholy marriage of those two branding alternatives--simple/timeless and fashion-forward. As an organization, you have to make a call. Either choose to be the Yankees--shunning any notable alteration to a classic look--or the Astros--constantly rebranding to keep pace with fashion trends, no matter how outrageous the results.

The ball-and-glove represent timeless values of simplicity and cleverness. Metallic gold trim and odd-shaped, shadow-effect numbers (Matt--you know how I HATE THOSE FANCY NUMBERS) represent acceptable aesthetics circa 2001. The two have nothing in common, so why try to marry them up? At worst, they'd end up like the Nationals, whose 2-D / 3-D mashup serves as a fantastic tribute to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but sucks as a baseball uniform. At best, they'd end up like the Padres--a team that chases every fleeting fashion trend yet stubbornly holds onto a monogram that doesn't particularly go well with any of the team's multiple rebrandings. That said, the Padres' "SD" is generic enough not to clash with anything. The ball-and-glove is too distinct, I think, to get away with this.

The Yankees approach and the Astros approach are both perfectly acceptable, but the in-betweens are rarely pretty. If the Brewers' marketing people were smart like me, they would opt for the timeless look, primarily because it jives better with midwestern values of stasis and being homely. Not only does this approach carry intrinsic advantages of familiarity and resistance to early obsolescence, it would also--in the Brewers' case--come with an instantly recognizable, one-of-a-kind logo and rarely-used color scheme.

So I hope you're reading this, Brewers front office people. And if you are, my consulting fee is $130/hour. Pay up.


So I guess the Central Connecticut State interns are still in charge of editing the RSS feeds for ESPN

>> Tuesday

Har har, let's all have a cheap laugh. But seriously, that's pretty weak.


I call that "Gamesmanship"

>> Monday

A player for Mexican side Chivas de Guadalajara has been suspended from the Copa Libertadores (Latin America's version of the Champions League), for faking coughing in an opponent's face, making him believe he had swine flu. Chivas faces Chilean club Everton in a Round of 16 match.

Also, for our YCS readers (or Chilean soccer players) who are still under the belief that they may die from swine flu, consider this. 125 people were infected in the United States, a country of roughly 300 million people. Taking that same proportion, and using the seating capacity of all 31 NFL stadiums, that would come out to less than one person.


Passing thought

>> Saturday

--barely related to sports.

Though I don't think it's been used in this context yet, I'm pretty sure that over the next year, "Heads Will Roll" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be blaring over roughly 30% of all NHL faceoffs, MLB on FOX promos, and ESPN post-commercial highlight interludes. It just has that... feel.

Maybe I'll be totally wrong and this song never pops up in a sports context ever, but I figured I should at least hedge my short-term Derby prediction with something long-term that no one will remember unless I'm right.


Pony up dat cash

Sometimes, when I step back to consider all our loyal readers and the tremendous outpourings of support we receive every day, I think, "Wow, we really are special. They really, really love us."

But inevitably these delusions give way to the realization that you really only come here for one selfish reason--to profit from my frighteningly accurate gambling advice. I'll admit that it makes me feel somewhat used and a little bit cheap, but I've learned that rare gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded, even in the absence of reciprocity.

So it's in that spirit that I give you my prediction for today's Kentucky Derby. Of course, the big news out of Churchill Downs this morning is the late scratch of favorite I Want Revenge, who had been sitting at 3-1. That leaves us with co-default favorites Pioneerof the Nile--trained by the legendary Bob Baffert--and Dunkirk, who both sit at 4-1.

None of that matters, though, because neither horse will win. While past Derbys have resulted in stories of redemption, surprise, and overcoming long odds, the story of this year's Derby, I'm afraid, will be a bitter pill to spoil Ellie Mae's mint julep. 

At 15-1, Desert Party has received little respect from the oddsmakers and early bettors. This, of course, is unsurprising, as Desert Party finds himself in hostile territory in Bible Belt Kentucky. Venezuelan jockey Ramon Dominguez is [totally speculatively speaking] an ardent supporter of U.S. nemesis Hugo Chavez, and the trainer, Saeed bin Suroor is, by all evidence, a probable terrorist:

That's to say nothing of the horse's name, which brazenly evokes images of Middle Easterners whoopin' it up after the UAE native takes down our pool of domestic entrants on their home dirt. And in a year which has seen cruel comeuppance topple so many of America's sacred cows, it would only be fitting for our horses to go down as well. 

At a generous 15-1 payout, the omens are too powerful to ignore. Desert Party will win the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

Book it, yo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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