Rob Iracane: February 2008 Archives

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Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo had a real shitty 2007. He was perhaps the worst hitting full-time shortstop in the American League, and stayed in the starting lineup solely because of his speed and glove. He was so bad at the plate, had the Red Sox had one of them replacement players at shortstop, they'd have won 100 games. No matter, everything's coming up Lugo: the Sox got their World Series trophy and Julio got rid of the hookworms living in his intestines.

Yes, Julio Lugo is blaming his awful performance on parasites he picked up on a month-long jaunt through Europe:

"I never got my strength back," Lugo said. "I started training in January and that only made it worse, and when I got to spring training, I wasn't right. "Last year I was sick before I came in. I was weak. I just couldn't get my bat through the zone. This year I feel better. I'm in better condition."

Don't blame Europe, man. Most of Europe isn't full of parasites (except Ireland...have you ever been to Ireland? Sheesh!). Admit it Julio, you like to walk barefoot from the shack to the outhouse when you're in West Virginia. That's where parasites come from.

(Re: the wifebeating thing...yes, I know Lugo was acquitted of the whole spousal abuse thing, but c'mon, how'd she get those lacerations on her face? She slammed her own head into the car hood?)

O HAI

Last season, newcomers Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, and Justin Upton all made noise in their debut seasons with, respectively, winning a Rookie of the Year award, helping his team win a League Championship, and...uh...being the youngest player in the National League. As they enter their sophomore seasons, expect all three to go to shit 'cause they're gonna be on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as the SI Cover Curse. Remember Matt Williams on the cover in June '95, a mere three days before breaking his foot? Remember Mo Vaughn on the cover four months later, right before going 0-for-14 in the Indians' three-game sweep? And who can forget the Princess Diana cover in August of 1997?

So please expect wacky stuff to happen to these three gents. Let me put on my speculatin' hat and wager some guesses: Mr. Tulowitzki will shoot himself in the thigh while cleaning his revolver, Mr. Braun will get run over by an out-of-control seven-person bicycle, and Mr. Upton will get drunk at the San Diego Zoo, get lost in the sun bear forest, and get torn to shreds.

Via the inimitable Big League Stew comes this little news vignette from the good people at WISN 12 in Milwaukee:

Bitch, what kind of reporter asks her subject, "Are you crazy?" If he's not crazy, he'll say no and that'll be that, but if he is crazy, he might murder you and use your skin to keep warm.

I'd also like to know where Brewers fan Tony Wedl got that Harvard hoodie, because Dummy certainly didn't matriculate at an Ivy League institution. Otherwise, he'd be smart enough not to risk frostbite on his twigs 'n' berries for measly Brewers' tickets.

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ceci n'est pas Shawn Murphy

Shawn Murphy (not pictured), son of Hall-of-Fame Hall-of-Very-Good member Dale Murphy, is a 320-pound defensive lineman out of Utah State, and he's currently showing off his skills at the NFL Combine. Dozens of middle-aged white men are busy watching Shawn prance about in his underwear, which is completely not homoerotic at all. Shawn used to play baseball in high school, but gave it up after his junior year to pursue football (and, presumably, Yodels, Ding Dongs, Ho-Hos, Ring Dings and Devil Dogs):

"I remember certain incidents if I struck out I'd hear it from the stands," said (Shawn). "They'd say, 'Oh, they struck out Dale Murphy's son,' but in football if I get beat they're not going to get down on me because being Dale Murphy's son has nothing to do with it, so there is less pressure."

Translation: Shawn tried his hardest at baseball and failed miserably, so he chose to bulk up on corn chips and deep fried Milky Ways and choose a simpler sport that doesn't require hand-eye coordination or an IQ over 60. It's okay, Shawn. We know hittin' baseballs is hard, y'all! But your dad struck out 1748 times in his 18 season career! Wouldn't it be an honor to say "Oh, Dale Murphy's son struck out! He's just like his paw!"

Maybe he did already weigh 320 pounds when he was playing baseball, but only if he was the comically overweight catcher in The Sandlot. That fat kid's hilarious, haw haw.

UPDATE 2/29: (This is merely my satirical spin on an otherwise un-newsworthy item. I don't know Shawn Murphy and I'm sure he is a fine upstanding gentleman with no emotional issues. Now go away.)

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Remember the playoffs last year? Yeah, me neither. But for those of us who enjoyed the Division Series and NLCS on television last year, they were tuned to TBS, once known for showing Atlanta Braves games and reruns of Mama's Family. Well get ready, baseball fans and pick up those pitchforks, Vicki Lawrence fans, because baseball is coming back to TBS for twenty-six consecutive Sundays.

Chip Caray and (possibly) chubby bunny Tony Gwynn will be in the booth finding new ways to irritate baseball fans and people who blog about television presenters. Me? I haven't experienced enough Chip to get a full hate boner yet; I still reserve the lion's share of my antipathy for Tim McCarver.

So who's playing these Sunday afternoon affairs? Get ready for some fine matchups, such as:

  • Sunday, April 6 1:00 p.m. Boston Red Sox @ Toronto Blue Jays
  • Sunday, April 13 1:30 p.m. Chicago Cubs @ Philadelphia Phillies
  • Sunday, April 20 1:30 p.m. LA Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves
  • Sunday, April 27 1:00 p.m. NY Yankees @ Cleveland Indians
  • Sunday, May 4 4:00 p.m. NY Mets @ Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Sunday, May 11 1:00 p.m. NY Yankees @ Detroit Tigers
  • Sunday, May 18 1:30 p.m. Milwaukee Brewers @ Boston Red Sox
  • Sunday, May 25 1:00 p.m. Seattle Mariners @ NY Yankees

"Oh, boo-friggin-hoo! There are too many Red Sox and Yankees game! Waa waa stop it with your East Coast bias!"

Hey, shut up, crazy person I just made up. MAYBE just maybe TBS wants to hedge its bets and show the two successful teams that have been basically splitting the American League championship belt over the past 12 seasons. What a crazy programming idea! Showing GOOD teams! Yes, we realize the Rockies were good last year, but they ate shit for 10 seasons prior. Fuck you, Rockies fans.

There Will Be Burrell

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Today marks the official start of exhibition games for our favorite baseball teams in Florida and Arizona and to kick it all off, your favorite new baseball blog is going to live glog a game. No, not Big League Stew, you idiot. Your pal Rob is going to live glog the Phillies-Reds game right here at Walkoff Walk.

New AARP member Jamie Moyer will start for the Phillies at their training facility in Clearwater. Dusty Baker's Reds counter with Jeremy Affeldt, who gave up a home run to Ryan Howard in the NLDS last season and was once a Royal. Come back at 1:05PM and follow my first ever attempt to live-glog something on the radio.

Hey pal! The liveglog is happening after the jump!

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If it weren't for his wildly infamous father, Koby Clemens would just be another of the many unknown players reporting as a non-roster invite to spring training. Still, because his father is an extremely well-known jerk, Young Koby's arrival to Astros' training camp in Kissimmee gets a 1,000-word article in the Houston Chronicle. Can Koby overcome all this undue attention and perform well enough to earn the attention of the higher-ups in the Astros organization? Or will the pressure force him to pull a Dale Berra? Let's hear what Koby has to say about his Pop:

"I know we're not out of the doghouse yet," he said. "It's going to be a long process. But once we get through it, all will be back in order."

He's young but he knows his cliches. Good show. Forget his dad: how did Koby play last year?

Koby Clemens hit .252 with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs over 115 games at Lexington last season. After committing a team-high 29 errors at third last year, Koby learned that the organization wanted him to switch positions.

Jesus Christ, his defense at third base is more porous than Hanley Ramirez with concrete shoes and a mitt made out of Fruit Roll-ups. They're having him switch to catcher, which is totally a position that does not rely on good defense or throwing ability. Oh, and he struck out 112 times in 115 games. Sorry to pile on, Kobester. Any chance the Astros could cut bait if Koby doesn't progress past single-A ball?

(Roger) Clemens has a 10-year personal services contract with the Astros. That's seven years more than McLane guaranteed on the personal services contracts he gave franchise icons Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio and five more years than were guaranteed to Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, who ended the contract last month after four years so he could rejoin the Texas Rangers.

Oops. That nepotism is a bitch. Right, Yogi?

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Every Monday until opening day WoW will present our division previews and predictions.

Hey do you remember what happened in the National League East in 2007? I'm having some trouble 'amembering so maybe my good friend Wikipedia can recap it for me:

"Down the stretch, the Mets played poorly including losing five out of six games with the fourth-place Washington Nationals. They lost on September 28 to fall into second place for the first time in over four months but pulled back into a tie with Philadelphia on September 29. On September 30, the Mets faced the Florida Marlins with hopes of winning the NL East or at least forcing a one-game playoff. Unfortunately, Tom Glavine surrendered 7 runs in the first inning as the Mets fell 8-1. The Phillies capped their miraculous comeback with a 6-1 victory over the Washington Nationals to win the National League East."

Oh, riiiiiight. Sorry, I just wanted to relive that again. Does Major League Baseball sell a DVD that only describes the massive Mets' collapse? I'd enjoy the schadenfreude.

So who's gonna shit the bed this year in the N.L. East? Follow me through and read my preview please:

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I am obsessed with watching the long-running FOX reality show Cops. I am especially fond of pronouncing the word "cops" as if I lived in Natick, Mass: I say "cawps" with a Boston accent faker than Martin Sheen's in The Depaahhted.

Unfortunately, the good people who produce Cops were not on hand in Mesa, Arizona this weekend while Cubs' pitcher Jose Ascanio was getting his ass handed to him in a convenience store, or else we'd have some fantastic footage of the aftermath of this one:

"He got beat up pretty good last night," manager Lou Piniella said. "He got punched a few times by a guy that was looking for some money. He didn't get robbed. But the guy asked for money and evidently the young man said, 'I don't have any money,' and the guy punched him a few times."

Ascanio got knocked the fug out! In a Circle K! He ended up with nothing worse than a black eye. But it seems like Ascanio wasn't the only Cub to have an oopsie this weekend:

"The strangeness around an otherwise quiet Cubs camp began Friday, when center fielder Felix Pie missed a workout to have an unusual, but minor, medical procedure in his Australian region (think land down under)".

I don't get it. Felix fell tush-first onto a boomerang? He ate too much vegemite and got backed up? Did he get raped by a rabid wallaby? Stop playing coy, Chicago Sun Times beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer!

(I stole this news item from David Pinto's Baseball Musings blog.)

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Since we're good at being gentlemanly and cordial, CTC and I don't pursue the whole "snake-mongoose" thing and are generally convivial about our favorite teams' rivalry. To that end, CTC gets Yankees-related news, like all the juicy A-Rod and Jeter items; that's good because I could never be unbiased about Derek the Dreamboat. But luckily, I get the Red Sox and Manny Ramirez, who, if you didn't know is good at (a) baseball, (b) being Manny, and (c) not showing up on time for Spring Training.

But fie, what is this?

"Manny Ramirez arrived at the spring training complex Wednesday afternoon with little fanfare, dropping by briefly to drop off some personal effects. It was his least-controversial arrival in years, eliminating the need for a Manny Watch by reporting on the required date for position players."

Good show! Manny Ramirez is actually one of my favorite players. He's the best hitting outfielder in baseball and he's like a clown, he amuses me. He makes me laugh, he's here to amuse me. I don't think the media folks agree with me; I think he spent all of 2007 not talking to them. They're a fickle bunch, the press:

"Ramirez, who turns 36 May 30, is coming off his worst season in Boston (.296, 20 homers, 88 RBI)"

It was his worst season in Boston, and yet he still out-VORPed every single left fielder in the American League whose name doesn't rhyme with Schmarl Schmawford? So why did Manny train at the Athletes' Performance Institute in Arizona this winter?

"I want to be like Julio Franco, play until I can. Why not?"

Fourteen more years of Manny? Baseball fans should all be so lucky.

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The Mets-Phillies rivalry is the new Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, except with poorer fans. After the Mets' epic September collapse and the Phillies' fizzled playoff run against the Rockies in 2007, both teams have a hard-on for shedding past failures and strutting about like cock-of-the-2008-walk. Way too much hullabaloo has been made since the start of spring training what with Carlos Beltran and Jimmy Rollins going back and forth about which team will reign supreme this season. Well, National League East fans, Chipper Jones feels left out:

"I really don't care what's being said," he said. "The Phillies and the Mets know we'll be competitive. They know we'll be heard from."

That's it? Chipper? You'll be 'competitive' and 'heard from'? Have you actually read the promises Messrs. Beltran and Rollins have made so far? Let me rank the statements in order, from most cocksure to least:

  1. Carlos Beltran: "We are the team to beat."
  2. Jimmy Rollins: "There isn't a team in this division or the National League that's better than us"
  3. Henry Rollins: "We're gonna rise above"
  4. Sonny Rollins: "When I have a particularly good performance, I know it."
  5. Chipper Jones: "We'll be heard from"

Even the Mark Teixeira fanboys have more bravado than Chipper Jones. Even the miserably hot Snorg Tees girl has bigger grapes than Chipper Jones. Even Bobby Cox' Nubian harem has more confidence than Chipper Jones (and so they should...rawr!)

Chipper, since you are an experienced blog commenter, please give us a few stronger words on this matter.

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Byung-Hyun Kim has been in the majors for almost 10 years and only now am I learning that his name is Byung-Hyun and not Byung-Hung. Seriously, I'm not even making a Tino Martinez/Scott Brosius joke...why would I? Kim got his World Series ring just like the rest of the Diamondbacks. Heck, he even got a World Series ring with the Red Sox in aught-four; Kim is the Yankees' South Korean kryptonite.

Well, the Yankees visit Pittsburgh in June; Neal Huntington must agree with my wacky theory because the Pirates signed Kim to a big-league deal yesterday, supposedly worth $800,000.

Kim had one notable September start last season with the Marlins, in which he defeated the Mets in the game that knocked them out of first place for the first time in four months. Sure, he may have had an ERA north of 6 but his strikeout per inning ratio was pretty decent. Seems like he still has his 'stuff' but may still lack 'focus'.

I sympathize with Kim. I'm not sure if it was the sudden success or unfamiliarity with American culture or basic xenophobia that caused baseball fans like myself to think he's a nutjob. Still, he has given up some notable home runs in his career: the ones against the Yankees in the 2001 World Series, Barry Bonds' 715th career home run in 2006, a Kosuke Fukudome two-run shot that propelled Japan to a semifinal victory over Korea in the World Baseball Classic; he's like the Zelig of walkoff homers. Except Korean.


Tufts professor and author of Reynolds, Raschi and Lopat: New York's Big Three and Great Yankee Dynasty of 1949-1953 Sol Gittleman is interviewed as part of the Massachusetts School of Law series "Books of Our Time". In this short clip, Gittleman argues that the Red Sox' lack of success in the late 1940's was due to the racism of owner Tom Yawkey. Oddly enough, Gittleman says that Yankees' GM George Weiss' own racist ways led to the signing of Oklahoma farmboy Mickey Mantle.

Some random thoughts:

  • When listing players, Dom DiMaggio should never be referred to as simply "DiMaggio". Always include the 'Dom' part. This is crucial.
  • George Weiss was shrewd in his racism. He basically said to his scouts, "Find me a white ballplayer who plays like these Negroes". No wonder Mantle was a drunk.
  • Sol Gittleman has a harmonious Bronx accent and I could listen to him talk for hours on en...zzzzzzz
  • Posting our first YouTube makes me feel like Ufford, just more bookish.

Surprise! Jose Guillen is a Dick

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Noted substance abuser, alleged HGH user, and admitted tattle-tale Jose Guillen showed up to Royals' training camp in Surprise, Arizona today wearing a hilarious black curly wig. He's got the same affinity for disguises as Clinton Portis with absolutely none of the charm and even less of the public trust.

Hell, the Royals are Guillen's ninth team in twelve seasons as a major leaguer; he pisses off more general managers, owners, teammates, opponents, batboys, trainers, peanut vendors, fans, announcers, ushers, and groupies than Albert Belle did in his entire career. The only ones who seem to like Guillen's antics? The sportswriters. Check it out:

lasorda.jpgSo new Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre is taking some of his players to Beijing for some friendly games against the Padres and leaving Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal, Juan Pierre, Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, James Loney and all of the starting rotation behind at Dodgertown in Florida. (I, too, would not hesitate to leave Jeff Kent behind. Something tells me he wouldn't take kindly to the Chinese culture). Who would the team choose to manage the split squad while he's away? None other than octogenarian dago Tommy Lasorda.
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I'm not sure whether to criticize or laud Andrew Baggarly, the Mercury News' beat writer for the San Francisco Giants, for penning a report about Giants' new closer Brian Wilson without using a single Beach Boys reference. Sure, saying "God only knows why Bruce Bochy selected Brian Wilson to be his closer" would be total hack, but is it possible that Baggarly has no idea that the more famous Brian Wilson once led the most popular band in America? Follow me after the jump as I think up new Beach Boys puns and figure this new kid out...

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If you remember the 1993 San Francisco Giants, you remember a team that won 103 regular season games and yet still missed the playoffs, thanks in part to a system that featured no wild-cards, and to journeyman pitcher Salomon Torres. Torres started the last game of the regular season; a win would have set up a tiebreaker with the Braves. Torres blew it. Fast-forward to December 2007, after a comeback took him from Korea to Pittsburgh, the Pirates traded Salomon to the Milwaukee Brewers. Salomon considered retirement but his daughters' love of sausage made him reconsider. Find out why after the jump...

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Perhaps you remember the tastefully named Gregg Zaun as a utility catcher for the Orioles or Marlins or Rangers or Royals or Astros or Rockies or Blue Jays. Or perhaps you remember Gregg Zaun for being the nephew of former MLB catcher Rick Dempsey. Or if you're like me, you remember Gregg Zaun as the celebrity athlete movie reviewer for ESPNet Sportszone way back in 1997, the antediluvian days of the four-letter's Internet presence. Either way, Mr. Zaun is back in the news today as he finally broke his silence on his appearance in the Mitchell Report. Follow me after the jump as we examine Gregg's latest revelation:

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The Pittsburgh Pirates are a miserable franchise seeking to dig themselves out from seven years of poor talent evaluation by former general manager Dave Littlefield and fifteen consecutive years of losing records. The Pirates have been so awful they make the Royals look like the two-time defending Pacific League champion Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (actually, the Royals hired the Nippon Ham Fighters' manager, Trey Hillman, so they'd be quite pleased with my metaphor). Pittsburgh has what many call the nicest park in the majors with lower than average ticket prices, yet struggle to fill it with biding-our-time-until-football-season Steeler fans. Worst of all, the gentleman that the franchise just hired a new manager was actually fired as third-base coach by the Pirates two years ago for waving in too many runners who were tagged out at home. No, not Dale Sveum: I'm talking about John Russell. Wait....who the fuck is John Russell?

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From time to time, Walkoff Walk will pick through the insects off the back of some of the gorillas of the baseball blogosphere, chew them up and spit them out. In other words, we will look at a baseball blog and review it. Today, I choose Squawking Baseball. It's written by MLB front office vets and self-confessed Wall Street junkies; with categories such as "market inefficiencies" and "player valuation", we're stepping deep into the realm of Moneyball. Joe Morgan is already cowering in terror, naked in the corner of his rumpus room. Follow me after the jump...

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Major League Baseball's online arm produced an interesting fluff piece last month as part of their "20 Questions in 20 Days" countdown to spring training: Which Japanese talent will shine in '08? Well, MLB.com, I have no fucking idea and I don't think you do either. Overseas talent has been difficult to cubbyhole, players encounter a significant culture shock, and worst of all, the starting pitchers have severe difficulties adjusting to white folks with HGH.

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Derek Jacques is one of the few baseball writers I follow with any level of fervor and he's currently luxuriating in the warm weather of the Dominican Republic. I know this because I read Derek's personal blog; otherwise, I'd have missed his pieces at Baseball Prospectus. In a moment of cost-saving and penny-pinching delusion this past October, I canceled my subscription to Baseball Prospectus. "Who needs to read about baseball in the offseason? Nothing happens anyway." I was fucking wrong. Derek is in the second largest city in the Dominican taking in the 2008 Caribbean Series.