Rob Iracane: August 2010 Archives

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Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy is a witch. He can see the future, and it's grim for Red Sox fans. Do you have tickets for any remaining Red Sox games at Fenway Park? Might as well shred them unless you're planning on rooting for the visiting team. Dan Shaughnessy has eulogized the Red Sox with such a sense of certitude that I'd be surprised to see any of the Red Sox players show up for their game tonight in Baltimore. Why play? Season's over, boys:

We can all stop now. We can stop scoreboard watching, and doing math tricks, and harboring silly hope that there's a big surge ahead that will thrust the Red Sox into the 2010 playoffs.

Better to cease with the torment now and accept the obvious. The Sox are not going to be in the hunt in October. The Boston baseball season is going to end Sunday, Oct. 3, at Fenway Park. When Game No. 162 is over, the Yankees will leave town and start their American League Division Series. The Sox will scatter to the four winds.

My gosh, is that man a dour dollop of despair or what? I'd call his death declaration a blanket statement but it's more like a grave blanket statement, amirite? Shaughnessy continues by questioning why anyone would have ever been so dumb to root for this team and expect good things. It's almost (but not quite) an admission that his entire season's worth of Sox columns amounted to nothing more than a tax write-off of spilled ink and wasted bits and bytes.

Shaughnessy even went so far as to call a 2-1 series loss to the Rays as "a lost weekend". A winning record on their upcoming trip to the West Coast is all but unimaginable. Yet Shaughnessy promises a three-game sweep over the Orioles despite the Red Sox' .500 record against the team in 2010. What gives, Dan? One day you are burying Johnny Damon for not returning to Boston and less than a week later you are burying the team you wanted him to come back to. Pick a side!

It's almost enough to make me want to root for the Yankees or Rays or both to collapse and have the Red Sox surge back into a playoff position, only so we can see what nonsense Shaughnessy and his band of miserable Hub columnists might write to explain "why Terry Francona deserves manager of the year" or "how the Sox overcame injury to contend". Perhaps it's my own contrary juices boiling, because why would a Yankees fan ever root for the Red Sox? Maybe in the end, it's not the Sox I despise so much but the bandwagonesque attitudes of their most vocal critics. I spit on your eulogy, Dan Shaughnessy.

While Tony La Russa is busy restoring honor with the Tea Party idiots and his team is dropping five of seven to the lowly Pirates and Nationals, FIRST PLACE REDS manager Dusty Baker is a dancing fool in the Reds dugout.1


Dusty Baker. Riverdance. Live it, love it, catch that Reds fever. He's good, but he's no Riverdance Kitteh.

This was great, but I need more more more! People of MLB Network, I implore you: please provide us with maximum Dusty coverage this September/October!

1technically this video is from June, but c'mon, you just know Dusty is still kicking up his heels. Five game lead!

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The honeymoon in Chavez Ravine, as they say, is over. I'd say the writing is on the wall, but for some time, the writing has actually been removed from the left field wall: Manny Ramirez is leaving Los Angeles after leading the team to the promised LCS for two straight seasons and heading eastbound and down to the second place White Sox. I'd like to call this a trade, but with no players heading west, it's a complete and total salary dump. It's four point three million dollars that the McCourts can put towards some more useful expense, like phrenology.

Along with general manager Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen, Manny fills out the third slot in the South Side triumvirate of crazy minorities; he replaces owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who could never truly approach the level of "what's he going to do next?" questioning. All Reinsdorf ever did on that dumb White Sox reality show on MLB Network was share a bowl of matzoh ball soup with Bud Selig. Boring. Manny is here now to up the wackiness and sell some grills.

Odd, isn't it, that on the same weekend the Manny Ramirez trade to Chicago was getting the final touch-ups and signatures that Jim Thome, the former White Sock spurned by Kenny and Ozzie who signed instead with the division-rival Twins, was pulled from two games with a bad back. Thome's been nothing short of magnificent for the first place Twins this year. But it is not outside the realm of possibility that Manny, at DH in a tidy hitters park in Chicago, makes up for five Thome-less months in just four short weeks.

Because after choosing not to sign Thome, the White Sox instead have marched out a series of crappy DHs that rivaled anything the weak-hitting Royals could produce. When "Mendoza Line" Mark Kotsay is getting the plurality of DH at-bats for your favorite team, you begin wishing that American League pitchers would just start hitting again. Manny needs the designated hitter position as much as the DH needs Manny. It just makes sense.

Manny Ramirez brings no guarantees in his carry-on luggage from L.A. and the White Sox make no promises to their fans. They're four and a half games behind the Twins and possess but a mere 8.6% chance to make the playoffs. Fortunately for the ChiSox, they have three remaining games left against the Twins. Unfortunately for the ChiSox, they have seven remaining games against the Red Sox. Fortunately for the ChiSox, they have thirteen remaining games against the Royals, Tigers, and Indians. Unfortunately for the ChiSox, the frogurt is also cursed.

Conclusion: all I want to see is a close race in the AL Central, and Manny at DH in Chicago might make that happen.

Weekend Questions

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That'll wrap up this week like a tidy string on a pretty paper package. By the way, the Rays claimed former Rockies OF Brad Hawpe, who is notable for this. Maybe before Monday we'll find out more about the Manny Ramirez waiver process that has been keeping us all inter...zzzzzz.

Happy Katrina anniversary, folks. See you next week, same WoW channel.

Today's Classic TV bit requires a little history lesson before we get to the video. Let's wind the time machine back to 1987, when men were men and boys were playing with Go-Bots. That particular baseball season was notable not just for Paul Molitor's 39-game hitting streak, but also for a huge power surge across the entire sport.

For six straight seasons prior to '87, only one player hit more than 40 home runs in a season (Tony Armas hit 43 in 1984). But in 1987, four players broke the 40 mark, and two nearly hit 50. Andre Dawson and then-rookie Mark McGwire led their respective leagues with 49. All in all, there were a whopping 4,458 home runs hit in 1987, a staggering 17% increase over the previous season and TWICE as many as had been hit just eleven years earlier. Baseball players didn't reach that level again until 1996.

So yeah, there was probably a little something extra in the ball that year. Whether the change was intentionally made to increase home runs or not, it certainly provided Johnny Carson with a chance to do a quick and hilarious skit on "The Tonight Show":


Hey, thanks to that YouTube user for uploading that video. But for God's sake, man, ADJUST THE DAMN TRACKING ON YOUR VCR!

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This is obviously not Strasburg's arm

The gods of baseball must not want baseball in Washington to succeed, ever. News outta D.C. today is that super scintillating sensational Stephen Strasburg, the rookie pitcher whose sheer dominance of batters wowed crowds and sold shirts with aplomb, will need Tommy John surgery. That means he'll miss the rest of 2010, probably all of 2011, and may never pitch again if the Mayans were right about that whole 2012 mumbo jumbo.

During a conference call with Nats GM Mike Rizzo, the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore learned that Strasburg had a second MRI on his throwing arm and it revealed a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, the sexiest of arm ligaments. He'll seek a second opinion, but unless that opinion is rendered by Dr. Rob Dibble, chances are Strassy will go under the knife sooner rather than later.

Sad news, indeed. While I feel a sense of schadenfreude towards the franchise, I can't help but feel sadness for the Nats fans, for all fans of good baseball, and most importantly, for Strasburg. The sport needs more talented and charming young fellows like him.

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Hint: they don't like it. At least not on their home pitch...err....field. Yes, the world's most popular sport is coming back to Petco Park, only this time, it's in the midst of a pennant race.

"Asinine," closer Heath Bell said, and that was before he learned the pitcher's mound would be scraped off and rebuilt so the infield could be sodded for the Sept. 14 friendly between famed Mexican club Chivas of Guadalajara and its Major League Soccer spin-off, Chivas USA. Tickets for the "ChivaClasico" go on sale Saturday and start at $20.

"Let's see, they held a concert during Comic-Con and killed the grass in left (field)," Bell said. "OK, so let's go to a soccer match. We're in a pennant race. Much of the nation will probably be seeing us for the first time. Shouldn't we be trying to put our best foot forward?

"They're not worried about the field looking good. They're just trying to make a profit. Very interesting ... I'm sure Luke (Yoder) and his (grounds) crew will make it right, but we have the best pitching staff in the major leagues and that mound is our office. It should not be messed with at this time of the season."

The Padres, owners of the best record in the National League and the title of best team story in 2010, surely do not want to see their well-maintained grounds torn up just before the home stretch towards October begins. Coincidentally, it's the field they most want to preserve; if they keep the best league record on October 1st, they'll get home-field advantage.

Perhaps the players' concerns are not so much about the quality of the grounds but rather superstitious in nature. For years, the Padres shared a stadium with the Chargers and the grounds crew spent every September removing and rebuilding the mound to support two different sports. Heath Bell, citing a little bit of Dallas Braden-inspired territorial markings, just doesn't want to see his mound disappear and reappear. It'll mess with his mojo!

But soccer games can't possibly be as bad as the aforementioned Comic Con convention, where stages were dragged through the outfield and left burnt swaths of grass last month. I can only wonder if the same thing will happen in September at Yankee Stadium, when Jay-Z and Eminem will play two concerts in two nights. The stage for those shows is planned for center field and there is even going to be seating across the entire outfield. If you hear about Curtis Granderson tripping over strange plants growing in the left field gap in late September, don't be surprised.

(via the cool dudes at Gaslamp Ball)



Via the Zell Pinstripes Blog comes this catty bleachers fight between two lovely young ladies, one of whom may have slept with the other one's boyfriend. Or not! Maybe that gal threw the icy, sudsy beer to cool down her friend and prevent heat stroke. I'm not Judge Judy, I don't know the real story.

If you haven't been watching this season of the basic cable reality cooking game show "Top Chef", based this season in Washington, D.C., then you haven't been watching a Washington D.C.-based reality cooking game show on basic cable. No worries, that's why I'm here with a DVR, an iPhone camera, and too much free time.

With the number of cheftestants on the show whittled down to a mere six, it was finally time for the producers to take the group to Nationals Park for an elimination challenge. Before a game this April, the six folks tested their mettle at perhaps the toughest test yet: cookin' up fine dining versions of ballpark food, 'vending' them before a Nationals game in a concession stand, and suffering the slings and arrows of the judges, including Padma Lakshmi looking completely out of place in a Nats jersey.

Lucky for Nats players Adam Dunn, John Lannan, and former Nat Matt Capps, they were able to taste all the culinary creations and do their best to render their opinions on the dishes. Unfortunately, Dunn has about as good a grasp on the English language as he does on playing outfield defense. The level of his critiques ranged from the adolescent jokes about risotto balls to the simpleton remarks about flavor. Effectively: "Yum, that tastes good" or "Eww, yucky".

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The highlight of the episode for Dunn and his cohorts, however, was the shot where Capps fed Adam. You can see in the photo above the results of the choo-choo train going into the tunnel. Yum-o, amirite? After the jump, I've tastefully arranged poorly-captured photographs of each of the six concessions. See if you can guess which dish won and which dish lost and tell me which of those foodstuffs you'd pay $8.50 for at a ballpark.

Tonight's Questions

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Seriously, people: AIDS. Tomorrow: same WoW channel.

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As far as I can tell, the only real food allergy that I have is a mild case of lactose intolerance. No problem, though, I just need to take a pill before I devour a vanilla cone so I don't get a case of gas wicked enough to clear out the entire ice cream parlor. I'd be one sad tomato if I was born with the curse of peanut allergies, forced to spend my life avoiding Reeses Pieces and carrying epinephrine pens around with utmost vigilance.

Which is why I sympathize with young Cubs fans who cannot attend baseball games because their peanut allergies are so acute. Lucky for them, the Cubs are trying to change things up at Wrigley:

John Rudnicki is getting a special present for his eighth birthday: a trip to Wrigley Field for a Chicago Cubs game, complete with a seat in a skybox, hot dogs, lemonade ... and no peanuts. The Wilmette boy is so severely allergic to the nuts that he's been to Wrigley only once before, despite being a hard-core Cubs fan.

But on Monday, the Cubs for the first time are setting aside a skybox for fans in which peanuts won't be served or allowed.

For those with severe, life-threatening peanut allergies such as John, the news is as welcome as an Aramis Ramirez home run or a Carlos Marmol late-inning strikeout.

And, unfortunately, as rare.

Also unfortunate: this one, singular game that the Cubs have graciously set aside the nut-free box is a Monday night tilt against the lowly Pirates. Despite having the worst record in baseball, the Bucs are one of several teams the Cubs have struggled to beat in 2010, winning just three of twelve head-to-head contests. And after the dust settles (joke intended), I wouldn't be surprised to learn that a game between these two NL Central basement dwellers makes these kids allergic to baseball.

(photo stolen from Goruck Summer)

Dodgers owners Frank and Jaime McCourt hate each other with the fire of a thousand If only the McCourt divorce proceedings could go as smoothly as the Tiger Woods separation! But no, Frank had to go and forge documents that implied that in the case of a split, he'd retain ownership of the Dodgers and Jaime would retain ownership of her self-aggrandizing attitude. Jaime demanded that the document be thrown out and have the team considered partially hers, too.

Meanwhile, the team that has successfully made the playoffs for two years running sits in fourth place, a whopping twelve games behind the division-leading Padres. The McCourts made some deadline deals to shore up the starting rotation and bench but, in the end, they're nothing more than an aging .500 team with a crusty old manager teetering towards retirement. The trial to determine ownership of the team starts next Monday and will, undoubtedly, keep stunting the franchise's growth until the dust settles sometime around spring training in 2015.

So Dodgers fans have gotten together and done what every like-minded group of activists in America have done since time immemorial: started a website, sold some t-shirts, and put up a nifty roadside banner! Via the sassy real estate folk at Curbed LA comes this photographic evidence of the SellDodgers.com banner taken in Topanga which reads "Dodgers Fans Want a Divorce NOW!":

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Cute, but that's thirty to forty miles away from Dodger Stadium. I think those folks need to raise some more sheckels and buy themselves a huge billboard on the 101 leading into Chavez Ravine. Economies of scale, people! Go buy some t-shirts!

(we owe a case of Cherry Coke to #HEIST attendee The Starter Wife)

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Major League Baseball's current home run leader Jose Bautista (who is a total showboating showboater and, I guess, a Yankee killer now) spoke with Toronto's Globe and Mail to refute rumors that he was on the steroids:

"I haven't heard it once," Bautista responded evenly when asked for his reaction to the unfounded allegations. "Nobody's said anything to me, and I don't see why they should. Baseball has a strict policy against those performance-enhancing whatever you want to call them."

Bautista, who has already eclipsed his career high in homers with 40 this year because he's playing for a team that eschews any offensive skill set whatsoever except swinging for the damn fences, has avoided all the childish nonsense and name-calling in the Bleacher Reports and Big Leads of the blogosphere. Even accusations that claim to have some basis in fact are irritating. This is just pure, empty speculation about a player performing over his head as if the aberration was something nefarious. Bollocks!

But what sayeth David Pinto, prolific baseball blogger and consumer of Fribbles over at Baseball Musings?

I'm glad people are asking questions and wondering about this. Bautista's season should raise every red flag there is about PEDs. His career slugging percentage coming into this season was .400 in 1754 at bats. He's slugging .600 this season. Slugging percentage is a measure of distance around the bases per at bat, so he's increased that distance by 50%. Secondly, he's not a young player entering his prime, he's coming to the end of that prime. He's at the age that as an outfielder who is a poor hitter, he could easily lose his job as a major league player.

If I were running MLB drug testing, however, I'd spring a lot of random tests on him just to make sure.

Some heady finger-pointing in those sentences! Uh, I'm pretty sure that's not how the process works. "Springing" faux-random tests on selected players probably violates the collective bargaining agreement. Besides, the obvious reason Bautista is doing so well this season is that he stole Aaron Hill's 2009 mojo through some elaborate voodoo ritual.

UPDATE: As per sports injury expert Will Carroll, MLB does indeed have a provision that allows teams to accelerate testing on a dubious individual. Also, Bautista has probably been tested twice already this year.

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Good thing Rob Dibble has been doing tons of sweaty Bikram Yoga of late. Dummy needs to be super-flexible to allow his leg to swing so far upwards and insert his big dumb foot into his big fat mouth. "Doctor" Dibble now claims that Nats phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg's latest injury is merely a flesh wound and that Strassy's just a total sissy for not pitching through the pain.

After all, Dibble's teammates and Dibble himself have played through pain in their lives, why can't the kids these days do the same? Courtesy of the Bog's Dan Steinberg, the master of the Dibble transcription, here's just a tiny sampling of Rob Dibble's seemingly bottomless idiocy from yesterday's First Pitch show on MLB Network Radio (XM channel 175):

"I mean, excuse me. There's guys I played with that had screws holding their elbows together. Chris Sabo played two weeks on a broken ankle. I put a steel plate in my wrist so I could be back in five weeks instead of three months. So, this is your choice. You can either suck it up and be a man at 22 making $2 million a year [with] a $15 million contract, or every time you get an ache and pain you can go out of the game and say I'm gonna let down the other 24 guys right here and possibly end up forfeiting the game."

"What Mike Rizzo and Jim Riggleman do, that's totally different," Dibble said. "They have to think of the long-term ramifications of what they're doing right now with this kid's career. As far as this kid? Stop crying, go out there and pitch. Period."

You hear that, Stephen Strasburg? Rob Dibble wants you to stop crying and wincing in pain! Be more like Chris Sabo: play through injury but wear dorky protective goggles while doing so, I guess.

But for every "tough" guy who played through pain and succeeded, there are those who have had their careers stunted or halted by the mishandling of injuries. For every dopey Rob Dibble there is a sadsack Mark Prior. Just because Dibble (who never pitched more than 100 innings in a season and survived only half a season after age 30) was "successful" doesn't justify his idiotic behavior. Dibble's mistakes could have led to his own early retirement. So why does he encourage younger players to make behave in such a dangerous manner?

Steinz has so, so much more of Dibble's nonsensical remarks at the Bog. Do pop in for a visit. Just make sure you don't cry or wince in pain or Dibble will call you a mary.

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Put your green visors on and pull out the adding machine, folks. The Pittsburgh Pirates' financial statements have been leaked to the media, and they ain't pretty. Wait a minute, the miserable, basement-dwelling Pirates are making millions in profits?!? Nix that: the financial statements are quite pretty after all!

So the big revelation in the documents, as analyzed brilliantly by Maury Brown at Biz of Baseball, is that team owner Bob Coonelly Nutting and his fellow shareholders made approximately $15 million in profits in both 2007 and 2008, instead of the $5 million or so that Coonelly Nutting had earlier admitted. Although that is a significant difference in funds, that $10 million is not the difference between an eighteenth consecutive year of losing or an empty 82-80 record and third place finish.

What would critics rather have the Pirates do? Spend that extra $10 million on the team on a crummy pool of free agents like Russell Branyan and Randy Wolf? The Pirates would have struggled to win a handful of extra games! Would Pirates fans sleep better if the team behaved more like the Mets, who mortgage the future, overspend in the present, have their owner's finances tied up in a pyramid scheme, and STILL put out a losing product?

Instead, the Pirates have recently spent over $20 million a year on player development, a higher rate than some wealthier teams. General manager Neal Huntington is building a team from the ground up; he's opted to start from scratch because of what he inherited from his predecessors. And remember, Huntington has yet to celebrate his third anniversary of getting the job, so we can't really evaluate his reign of terror over PNC Park for a couple of years.

Losing sucks, we get it. But MLB owners are rational businesspeople, owning franchises in the single most financially successful sport in the history of humanity. They are running businesses, not gambling on the win-loss record of their team! Sure, winning teams make money in baseball but losing teams make money, too, because the MLB owners got together and decided to share their revenue with one another to preserve the competitive balance in the sport.

Yes, there is competitive balance in the sport. That's what allowed the Rays to win a pennant on a budget payroll and that's what will allow the Pirates to contend for a pennant in the next couple years, thanks to following the Rays model of buying low and selling high. The Pirates didn't spend 18 straight years losing because they didn't pay for players; the team was driven into the dumpsters by some bad luck and some piss-poor management of personnel. Huntington is spending a ton of cash in the amateur draft and on international signings now; it's a gamble to spend so much on prospects but still a helluva lot cheaper and smarter than dropping $37 million on a free agent closer.

Full disclosure: I am not a true lifelong Pirates fan, I'm just getting my ass on board the bandwagon as early as possible. The organization may not win a pennant under its current regime but I guarantee this much: the generation-long Pirates string of losing seasons will end before the Mayan calendar expires in 2012 and the entire world gets sucked into the Sun, mark my words.

Tyson Gillies, a prospect in the Phillies farm system, has been arrested in Pinellas County, Florida for cocaine possession. Gillies was part of the Cliff Lee deal with the Mariners; file this as yet another reason there was no good reason for Ruben Amaro to make that trade.

Gillies was released on $2,000 bail and now faces the shame of never having listened to Mike Schmidt:


Joke stolen from the inimitable ArkansasFred

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Timing, they say, is everything, especially in the semi-hilarious baseball blogosphere. Which is why the appearance of two noteworthy news items about gambling at the Baseball Think Factory's Baseball Primer Newsblog today gave me a frisson of delight.

First, Las Vegas mayor-for-life Oscar Goodman leaked a story that his city has been designated an American League city and that talks about building a covered baseball stadium are "serious". Then I see that our old pal John Fay is reporting that the Reds have been given clearance by MLB to honor Pete Rose at a game on the 25th anniversary of Rose breaking Ty Cobb's hit record. What a coincidence!

Whether a team in Las Vegas would come as a result of expansion or relocating a desperate-to-move franchise (cough cough Athletics), the idea of a professional American sport in a town built on the lost paychecks of doughy suckers is a bit unsettling. It's a gambling city! Tie in the fact that the corporate decision makers at MLB are warming on bringing convicted and admitted gambler Pete Rose back into the fold and I smell a trend.

Think about it: with slot parlors, OTB dives, Indian casinos, and Mississippi River gambling boats popping up everywhere, the U-S-of-A is caving in to the cravings of people who desperately want to throw their money away. Gambling in all forms is being legalized at a fast rate in states that are running out of revenue.

So it's no surprise that our national pastime is reconsidering associating itself with Sin City. The greater Las Vegas metropolitan area is the sixth fastest-growing area in the country and has entered the top 30 overall as of 2009. It's a bigger market than Milwaukee and, within 10 years, could be bigger than Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Cincinnati.

Still, I dismissed Vegas as being too small when I ranked the top ten most likely destinations for expansion, and thinking about the town in the Xtreme Depression, there's just not going to be any public money for a stadium. Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the country, the town is broke, so it's going to take a wealthy group of investors to build a new park.

And the only rich folk in Vegas are casino folk. So perhaps the MLB ownership cabal is going to have to warm up to letting casino owners run a baseball team before Vegas ever gets a big league team. Maybe they can hire Pete Rose as a consultant. And, even juicier, as a manager.

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Say, remember last week when the staid, spoiled-by-success Cardinals were in the middle of putting a royal hurting on the upstart darlings in the NL Central, the lovable Reds? After St. Louis swept Cincy in a three game set on the road, the Cards regained first place and all seemed on script again. Ho-hum. Behind the front-line pitching of Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, hearts and minds across the editorial offices of Walkoff Walk thought that the Cards would retain ownership of the division; this would be the nail in the coffin for the Reds 2010 playoff chances.

But rise up, my Dusty Baker acolytes, for lo the winter has passed! (in just a week, too). The Cards have dropped four in a row to the lowly Brewers and lowlier Cubs while the Reds have resurged with five in a row over the Marlins and Diamondbacks. Head-to-head losses mean nothing, I suppose, when two division rivals part ways and one decides to make an ill-advised trade. Now, the Reds have a palpable three game lead over St. Lou and the Reds ownership cabal has decided to reward the toothpick-chewing face of the franchise with a possible multi-year extension.

As per Sam's Choice jeans model John Fay:

The Reds have offered Dusty Baker a contract extension.

"We just got the proposal a few days ago," Baker said. "We're still evaluating it."

Baker wouldn't say if it's a one-year or multi-year extension.

"I've got to look at where were going," he said, "and what I want to do."

Well hot shit, we're in the third and final year of Dusty's contract and how convenient for him, the Reds are finally posting a winning record! The good timing means that Dusty (and his other multiple personalities) can cash in on success. Is it Dusty's convivial, players-first leadership skills that have made the difference between this year's model and its previous, piss-poor incarnations? Is it general manager Walt Jocketty's commitment to young talent? Is it Joey Votto's magic Canadian heritage? Who knows! The Reds are darn good.

Back to Dusty: he may not have any discernible skills when it comes to X's and O's, but really, does ANY baseball manager have those? We as fans and analysts should just be happy when a guy does no harm in his manager pants, and kudos to New Dusty, who seemingly hasn't killed any careers yet. So we salute Dusty Baker and encourage him to seize the extension, if only so we have a perennial reason to talk about the Redlegs. And toothpicks.

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The NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, lacking a strong presence at first base since Troy Glaus decided to return back down to earth and stop hitting sometime around July, are on the verge of acquiring veteran first baseman Derrek Lee from the Cubs in a trade, so sayeth USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Lee, a former Gold Glove winner, has hit for some power this season but has been on the verge of the creampuff list of late. He has a bulging disk in his back (ouch!) and received an epidural shot just this week, after which he missed three straight games. Sounds like one of his kids stepped on a crack, amirite?

Lee has said that he always wanted to play under Bobby Cox, and, with the Braves skipper retiring at the end of this season, it's his last chance. It's all of our last chances, actually, so if any of you want a chance to play under Bobby Cox, give Frank Wren a phone call ASAP. Otherwise you'll be stuck playing croquet on the front lawn of Shady Acres Retirement Home with Bobby next year.

Glaus will either ride the pine or hit the DL, and not move back to third base to take over for an injured Chipper Jones. Fella's knees just won't allow it. Plus Martin Prado and Omar Infante are All Stars, so there.

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Adding injury to idiocy, it seems that Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez broke his thumb in the midst of walloping his father-in-law during a clubhouse confrontation. He had surgery yesterday and his season, along with that of the sub-.500 Mets, is presumably doneskis. The team, seemingly in a snit, announced that they would not pay K-Rod while he recovered from his injury and will not guarantee the remainder of his deal.

But the Mets have already punished Frankie Rodriguez for his little fracas with his chick's dad. They suspended him for two games, surely a small punishment for an alleged crime that was allegedly witnessed by many people. To take further action and dock the guy's paycheck because, oops, he broke his thumb in the melee is punishing Frankie twice (and a bit excessively) for one crime!

Rodriguez' contract, no matter how bloated it is and how irresponsible the Mets were to pay a guy who throws 75 innings a year that much dough, is guaranteed. Such is the nature of baseball deals. What the Mets are trying to do is dig into the rulebooks and legalese to void the remainder of his 2010 money and his entire 2011 deal. Perhaps it's an effort by owner Fred Wilpon to correct one of his own huge mistakes, sort of a clearing of the slate. Hey, we're overpaying this guy but we can void his contract because he got hurt beating up a middle-aged man! Let's do it, he seems to be thinking.

But the players union will be having having none of this, no sir! New union head Michael Weiner is going to file a grievance tout de suite, and they'll probably win. Perhaps, in the future, the Mets should do a full psychological evaluation of any free agents they sign. If something seems amiss, they can put in a "void the contract if you punch a family member" clause. Otherwise, the team has gotta pay up.

I don't know how I feel about the entire situation. I dislike Fred Wilpon and I dislike the Mets so my opinions on them are always biased, and I think what K-Rod allegedly did is quite despicable. Still, what the Mets are trying to do here just doesn't sound very kosher.

UPDATE: Via Jonah Keri, here's someone that disagrees with me.

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This MLB draft news calls for Money Baby: noted cheapskate Frank McCourt spent some cash! And not just a pittance, either. McCourt's Dodgers gave first round pick Zach Lee a five million dollar signing bonus, a team record. The imposing righthander made more than twice as much as bonus baby Clayton Kershaw did just four years ago.

But really, why is this big news? Take it away, Dilbeck:

Most teams considered Lee unsignable after the dual-sport star expressed interest in playing quarterback at Louisiana State. Lee reported to LSU and had been in camp with the football team.

When reports circulated it would take $5 million to sign the right-handed pitcher, teams backed off and the 6-foot-4 Lee fell to the Dodgers with the 28th pick.

Many suspected the Dodgers selected Lee because they had no intention of actually spending first-round money on a draft pick while owners Frank and Jamie McCourt were going through their mega divorce.

True, many did suspect that nefarious idea, including your faithful McCourt-hating blogger. So I must apologize in this case: Frank McCourt is a hero for throwing his hard-earned dollars at this young star-in-the-making and saving him from the violent, ugly, and irrational sport of college football. Crowning a champion based on the whims of sportswriters and tortilla chip companies? That's just silly!

But at least McCourt saved LSU football coach Les Miles from making a tough decision on his QB depth chart. Just pick the guy who's still there, amirite? Shame that McCourt couldn't save Miles from making ill-fated predictions back in June. Oh well. Forget it, Les. It's Baton Rouge.



Via The Brothers Mottram comes this trailer for the upcoming motion picture oddly titled How Do You Know?, starring Owen Wilson as a Nationals relief pitcher and, somewhat more bizarrely, Reese Witherspoon as a professional softball player.

If you think that title is a stinker, the studio actually changed it from Everything You've Got, another phrase I don't want to speak aloud at a movie theater box office. Director James L. Brooks may make cinematic magic from time to time, but consider the list of his recent output: Spanglish. As Good As It Gets. I'll Do Anything. Would it kill him to get a little descriptive in the naming of these films?

Still, I'll gladly see this movie before I ever see Marley & Me, that awful Owen Wilson movie where he sacrifices a golden retriever in the middle of a Marlins game.

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Giants slugger Aubrey Huff hasn't always been a topless lady lovin', all-around affable guy and total prankster. Nope, it took an intervention from a "dripping wet, buck naked" Pat Burrell back when they were teammates at the University of Miami to bust Huff out of his shell.

Here's Andrew Baggarly reporting for the San Jose Mercury News

"After two weeks at Miami, I wanted to go home," Huff said. "So my mom flies out, trying to convince me to stay. I was living with two seniors and they ragged me, too. I just didn't understand all this baseball ragging nonsense. She's in my room one night and I'm sitting on my bed and she's telling me to give it another two weeks.

"Anyway, there's a knock on the door, and before I can even get off the bed, Pat comes barging in with a six-pack in his hand, dripping wet, buck naked.

"So I jumped up and shut the door. Coming from Texas, these things didn't happen. I said, 'See what I'm dealing with here, mom?'

"She just started laughing and said, 'Actually, Aubrey, that's pretty darn funny.'

"I thought, 'My God, if my mom can laugh at this, why can't I?' "

Wow, that sounds like something Pat O'Brien would be into! "You, me, Betsy, my mom, a six pack, we'll go crazy!"

That nude, wet encounter changed Aubrey Huff for life. To wit:

Back in spring training, he couldn't stop staring at teammate Nate Schierholtz's washboard abs.

I wonder if his abs tapered down to a sexy "V" shape! No wonder Huff is always self-pleasuring on the road.

(we owe a sixer of Coke Zero to the cats at Baseball Think Factory)

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A mensch-y judge in Brooklyn has temporarily ordered the Mets to quit meddling in religious rules while a lawsuit brought by one of the vendors at CitiField is still pending in federal court.

"I cannot get involved in (a dispute) over rabbinical law," Brooklyn Judge Jack Weinstein said with a smile during a hearing Friday.

Kosher Sports, which has a 10-year contract to sell franks and other good at the stadium, sued the Mets after being told they couldn't operate on Friday nights and Saturdays.

The Mets say the company can't be kosher if they're operating during the Sabbath, when many religious Jews don't work.

Not sure what the Mets' angle is here; perhaps some of their customers were complaining that a catering company that claims to keep kosher was vending their noshes during the Sabbath observation. But since Kosher Sports sells wieners to both Jews and goyim alike, Judge Weinstein is allowing them to continue peddling their kosher cuisine until the dispute is resolved.

There's nothing quite like a foot-long kosher hot dog slathered with brown mustard and tangy sauerkraut at a baseball game. Why team owner Fred Wilpon and Aramark, the gigantic food service conglomerate with control over all foodstuffs at Citi Field, need to put the kibosh on kosher goodies, I have no idea.

Perhaps the Mets should stop worrying about folks just trying to get by selling knishes and be a little more interested in their employees who seemingly don't work on weekends: the team's offense scored but two runs in this weekend's series loss to the rival Phillies. Whatta bunch of shmendriks.

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Under fire from points all over the baseball mediasphere, baseball commentator and accused misogynist Rob Dibble took to his personal blog at MASN Sports in an attempt to clear up his good name. Dibble, who accused a couple of female fans of yapping about shopping while he provided 'color commentary' for a recent Nats game, did his best to explain how he really feels about the ladies.

I'm not sure why Dibble needs to tell us that his mother, wife, and daughter (who, bizarrely, still wears a Coco Crisp Red Sox jersey) like the sport and are knowledgeable about the sport. How does that pertain here? It's like someone being accused of racism mentioning that he's got black friends.

Before Dibble even begins to apologize, he spouts off about how wonderful the sport of baseball is. Great, Rob, I agree! Baseball does transcend race, sex, and economic status! Then how does Dibble think he can encourage new fans to appreciate the sport when he spends five minutes insulting half of the audience? Dibble must have known he was wrong at the time, too, because his partner, Bob Carpenter, warned him to tread carefully.

Buried at the end of Dibble's staccato musings is his feeble attempt at an apology:

The other night I made an off-handed comment, the meaning of which may have been misconstrued beyond what was said. If any fan of this great game took offense, then he or she should know that this was neither my intention nor my history in the game.

Translated: Rob Dibble is sorry that you didn't get his joke and, if you took offense, you're just wrong. This is not an apology. This is a man who refuses to admit that what he said was offensive and made it seem that every woman who attended a baseball game and dared to talk was merely a chatty hausfrau. This is a man hiding behind the "greatness of baseball" when he knows that he prejudged people based on gender.

People with attitude's like Dibble's are the reason that there are so few women executives in the game, why there are so few women general managers, why there are so few women umpires, and heck, why there are approximately zero professional female baseball players. Instead, girls are forced to play a bastardized modified version of the sport at a young age and never really given the chance to succeed in a sport that they are more than capable of playing.

But I'm going off an a tangent. Rob Dibble may not specifically be the problem in the arena of women in baseball. I still think Dibble need not be fired for one offhanded, misogynistic remark, but rather for his hard-headed, dumb jock demeanor and his refusal to admit that folks who never played baseball can still speak intelligently about it. He's got a backwards way of looking at the game, and his anti-female comments are merely one bit of evidence of his bad attitude.

Weekend Questions

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  • DO you want to read a guest piece I did at Looking Glass Magazine? Of course you do.

  • ANOTHER weekend, another Mets-Phillies series? I got my popcorn ready.

  • WHICH cuisine will reign supreme when Northern California and Southern California square off for the NL West this weekend? The Padres pack up their fish tacos to head up I-5 and challenge the Giants and their cha cha bowls at AT&T Park.

  • SOMEWHAT RELATED, isn't it cute that Napa and Huntington Beach are tussling in the regional semis for the right to represent California in the Little League World Series? Their game is on ESPN2 at 5PM today.

The week has ended which means we release you from your shackles and you can go run and play. Be back here Monday. Same WoW channel.

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News out of the Twitterverse has Royals outfielder/DH Jose Guillen on a plane towards the West Coast, where he'll join up with his new team, the second place San Francisco Giants. The Giants will send the Royals some cash and a player to be named later, but really, they could send a polite thank-you note and the Royals would be totally cool just to have Guillen out of their sights. He's not a very nice person.

This move leaves the Giants with at least 37 designated hitters on their 40-man-roster, a pretty high number for a National League team. But I'm sure their weekend opponent, the first place Padres, will smile when they witness an outfield with Guillen and Pat Burrell manning the corners. With Aubrey Huff at first and Pablo Sandoval at third, it's almost as if San Fran is praying their opponents hit every ball up the middle.



Kris is on vacation today so it's my big chance to do some lazyblogging and dip into the great video treasure trove of retro baseball clips on the YouTubes. I closed my eyes, reached in, and pulled out user gregnugget's home movies from the Mets home opener way back when in 1980, when the Mets had a scrappy new owner by the name of Freddy Wilpon. Imagine that thirty years ago, parking at Shea Stadium was just $2.50 per game, and $1.25 if you got in before 11AM.

Look closely and you'll see Mets manager Joe Torre accept a good luck wreath from Bill Shea, the man most responsible for bringing National League baseball back to New York City almost 20 years earlier. Look even closer and you'll see some greaseball from Ronkonkoma pass out from drinking too much Meister Brau in the bleachers.

Fire Rob Dibble

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Rob Dibble, who has been a target of our derision several times around here, is a misogynist. Via Dan Steinberg's D.C. Sports Bog, here's some of Dibble's blathering nonsense from Wednesday night's Nats game:

"Those ladies right behind there, they haven't stopped talking the whole game," Rob Dibble said in the sixth inning of Wednesday night's Nats broadcast. "They have some conversation going on. Right here," he said, circling the offenders. "There must be a sale tomorrow going on here or something....Their husbands are going man, don't bring your wife next time."

Get it? It's funny because women don't like sports, and so when they accidentally wind up at a baseball stadium and deign to open their mouths, they have to be talking about something that women are interested in. Like sales. Probably on clothes or shoes or maybe makeup, though that wasn't specified.

"All right Bob, now they're back there, they're eating ice cream and talking at the same time," Dibble noted in the top of the eighth.

There's more, much more, far too much more at the Bog so head over and get your fill of misogyny. But come back here when you're done. We'll wait.

Dibble committed the sin of rending his opinion of someone without knowing all the facts. Sure, these gals could have been a couple of chatty hausfraus yapping about "Jersey Shore" but they could also have been discussing Adam Dunn's defensive liabilities. Dibble didn't know. He just doesn't like women at the ballpark.

But while that auditory nonsense is offensive enough to warrant censure from womens groups everywhere, it's his inability to actually speak intelligently about baseball that is why folks want him off the Nats broadcasts. Dan Steinberg knows that Rob Dibble has no grasp of the strike zone. GQ Magazine rated Dibs as one of the five worst broadcasters in the sport. And Chris Needham of Capitol Punishment knew the score back in April when he FJM'ed a horribly "written" blogpost by Dibs.

Rob Dibble is both aggressive and stupid, a bad combination for someone whose job description includes educating the viewer about the sport. He's arrogant and seemingly proud of his ignorance when it comes to statistical analysis. Dibble's disdain for stats is evident every time he praises a team for succeeding due to "chemistry". He's an "old school" guy without the charm; he's a homer without a successful team to cheerlead.

Lucky for me, the only time I am exposed to Dibble's hardheadedness is when the MLB Network cuts into a MASN broadcast. For my friends in the DMV, though, who just want to watch Stephen Strasburg light up the night on their teevees, the mute button must be their only source of comfort.

UPDATE: Even Orioles bloggers are shaming Rob Dibble.

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Onetime Walkoff Walk interviewee, frequent Walkoff Walk contributor, avid hunter, sometime prankster, and, oh yes, one of the greatest third baseman to ever play the sport Chipper Jones has an ouchie in his knee-spot. Take it away, Atlanta Journal Constitution substitute blogger Carroll Rogers:

An MRI showed Jones has torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, his agent BB Abbott said Thursday morning. Abbott said he received a text message from Jones, saying the ligament was torn. Jones had been examined by Dr. Marvin Royster, Braves orthopedist who read the MRI.

"He said it was stretched out pretty bad," Abbott said. "That it was torn and needed to be fixed."

No word yet as to whether Jones will have season-ending knee surgery because he's going to seek a second opinion right away. Yeah, I'm no doctor but I'm pretty sure when the doctor takes a magnetic image of the inside of your knee and all you see is what appears to be frayed knots, stale jerky and tobacco juice, I think you're going to need someone to fix that with medical science. It's just like 1994 when Chipper tore the same ACL in the same knee and required the same surgery, killing what would have been his rookie season.

Chipper was planning on retiring at the end of the 2010 season; if he sticks to that idea, we, as baseball fans, may have seen the last of a guy who rivals HOFer Eddie Mathews as the greatest infielder in Braves history. Say it ain't so! Jones was in the middle of a down season for him but an above average season for a corner infielder in his late 30s. He was a veteran dude leading a first place team towards their first division title in five years and he won't be happy cheerleading from the sidelines as the Braves make a pennant push.

So we implore you, Chipper: find whatever backwoods medical clinic you can, have Billy Wagner drive you there in the back of his Ford F-150, and get that knee patched back together with needle and thread. Moonshine instead of anesthesia. Whatever it takes!

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Last night, beleaguered Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez was arrested for getting physical and aggressive with his father-in-law and faces charges of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. Via the Daily News, here's what we know so far:

Rodriguez and his wife's father brawled in a tunnel just outside the Mets clubhouse in the moments following the team's 6-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies.

The father-in-law suffered facial abrasions and a head injury and was taken by ambulance to Flushing Hospital shortly after the altercation, police said.

It was not immediately clear what sparked the fight between the 28-year-old relief pitcher and his 53-year-old father-in-law, police said.

Reasons unclear? Motives unknown? Lack of details? That is where we, the uneducated and ill-informed blogger comes in! Let's throw out a list of possible reasons why Frankie Rodriguez punched his father-in-law in the head. Speculation!

Ooh, I sense a pattern! No matter what caused the tiff, maybe someone should tell Frankie to relax, amirite? Eighties reference! High five.

Assault allegations be damned, K-Rod is actually having a very good year: his strikeouts are up, his walk rate is down, and he's given up just three home runs on the year. His K/BB rate is the highest it's been since 2006. Sure, the Mets are barely a .500 team but it's no fault of their (albeit overpaid) closer. Maybe if Jerry Tranuel would use K-Rod in important game situations outside the normal ninth-inning save scenarios, he wouldn't be losing his shit on his poor father-in-law. And maybe the Mets wouldn't be blowing eighth inning leads quite as much.

Did any Reds player think that the Cardinals would simply let Brandon Phillips taunting words go unchallenged? Nay! The Cards are not "little bitches", especially not catcher Yadier Molina. When Phillips strode to the plate last night and gave Molina a gentle tap on the shinguards with his maple bat, Molina exploded and ignited a bench-clearing brawl:


Hurry up and watch this illegally-posted video before it gets the hook.

The best part: only Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker got ejected! That doesn't preclude a bevy of suspensions from the big boys in Herr Selig's office, especially for Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto, seen above karate-kicking anyone and everyone in his way. That includes Cards starter Chris Carpenter, who is pressed up against the backstop and seemingly in danger of getting bent over backwards and snapped in half.

Although we all love watching crazy brawls like this, the real heroes are the players who try and make peace. In this case, former Cardinal and current Redleg Scott Rolen does his best to pull bodies apart and talk some sense into his teammates. Alas, he didn't do enough because the fight just kept on going. Lucky that Joey Votto finally pulled Cueto out of the pile, or else the Cardinals would be a veritable MASH unit of karate-kick-induced injuries.

Interestingly, yesterday's big brawl coincided with the debut of #HEIST attendee and master musician Ed Klingenberger's "St. Louis" song, part of his 30 Clubs in 30 Songs series that we've been enjoying so much. It's a slow, twangy tune about Tony LaRussa's angry manager face and it's my favorite of the series so far. Write another verse, Ed!

Listen to Ed's St. Louis song

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After five-and-a-half seasons of ignoring their past incarnations in a feeble attempt to make history of their own, the last place Washington Nationals will tonight unveil a Magical Ring of Honor at Nationals Park listing the Hall of Fame players who have been somehow connected to the team. Since the Nats were born out of the forced relocation of the Montreal Expos, both of the franchise's HOFers, Gary Carter and the recently-inducted Andre Dawson, now have their names emblazoned on the 100-level facade.

They're joined by former players of both iterations the Washington Senators, the Negro League's Homestead Grays, and the Minnesota Twins. Because I'll be dead in my grave before I ever recognize Harmon Killebrew as anything but a Twin. Heck, he only played two full seasons in Warshington anyway.

But! After I've spent a few years complaining that the Nats have been sweeping away any reference to their past, I shouldn't really be too upset that they are going way overboard on this. Eighteen names with room for eight more! Someday you'll see current Nats catcher Ivan Rodriguez' name up there, I guarantee it.

My question: what about the Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams? Williams, who compiled a 219-264 record in three years managing in Washington in the late 1960s, will not be honored in Nationals Park. Why, I ask? After all, his 86-76 record in 1969 won him the Manager of the Year award. Is it not significant that the greatest hitter in the history of baseball once did so poorly as a manager that the team had to be relocated to Texas (where Williams led the team to a 54-100 record before getting canned)? So what if he's not in Cooperstown for his managerial aplomb: think of all the Red Sox fans the team could lure with the promise of their favorite legend's name hanging over a chili dog vendor!

Obviously, we are never going to stop talking about the #HEIST as long as it keeps making news. Especially when one attendee, New York City's own Phil Catelinet, was witness to the most exciting news item of the day. Yes, Phil was on the JetBlue flight home from Pittsburgh in which disgruntled flight attendant Steven Slater lost his shit at an unruly passenger and deplaned via the inflatable emergency slide, essentially ending his 20-year career of serving mini pretzel bags and pointing towards exits.

Phil reported on the incident in his personal blog, leading off the piece with two of my favorite things, field trips and game shows:

I was in Pittsburgh this weekend for Walkoff Walk's annual HEIST meetup -- more on that later -- and I flew back this morning. JetBlue flight 1052 was really uneventful, barely more than an hour. I'm glad I had time to watch all of "The Price is Right" before we landed. I was afraid I'd miss the end of the Showcase Showdown.

Phil then described how he heard Slater unleash his curse-filled tirade over the PA, and how he actually shared a train from the airport with the dude. Phil's witness to this event and detailed blog post got him calls from producers all over the NYC media world and I even caught him on CNN American Morning today.

Here's Phil's quote to the New York Daily News:

"I wish we could all quit our jobs like that," said passenger Phil Catelinet, 36, of Brooklyn, who was on the flight and the AirTrain.

"He seemed kind of happy about it. He was like, 'I just quit my job.' "

I hope your boss didn't see that article, Phil!

Phil made other news, too, having the most complete set of online photos from the #HEIST, including the only known photo of Joe Maddon's cousin doing the YMCA. Thanks, Phil!

UPDATE: Here's Phil on the CBS Early Show:


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Folks, it seems like it's impossible to plan a Walkoff Walk Field Trip without having the home team stage a remarkable comeback and win the game in a walkoff (see: last year) On Saturday night, the Pirates beat the Rockies 8-7 in 10 innings thanks to a tidy, game-ending three-run tater tot by rookie slugger Pedro Alvarez. One needs only to look at the win expectancy graph to see just how hugely improbable Alvarez' homer was. The rest of the game was a bit of a slog but oh, that ending!

But Saturday night was about more than baseball: it was also an anthropological exploration of what happens when you take 40 awesome people from all over the country, drop them into three rows at PNC Park, and observe the interactions between them and the native Pittsburghers. Imagine it as sort of a Survivor: Western Pennsylvania where the rewards are kielbasas and pierogies. To that end, I've collected a few cultural observations about the local folk.

White Pittsburghers get excited about even the stalest party music. During one particular Rockies pitching change, the PA system pumped in the irritating 2000 hit "Who Let the Dogs Out" and white folks all over the park stood up and started to dance with such vigor, you'd have thought the tune was laced with Caribbean voodoo. Folks were seemingly in a trance, a la Weekend at Bernie's 2. Also, I'm pretty sure it was the extended "Dogs" remix because the song felt like it lasted 18 minutes.

Later, when the Village People's obscure classic "YMCA" blared between innings, nearly every single human within earshot of downtown Pittsburgh stood up to clap their hands on the downbeat just waiting to throw their arms up and spell out letters in time with a song about men sleeping with other men. Fans in New York get excited when the groundskeeping crew rakes the field and does the YMCA dance, but the crowd participation level pales in comparison with that of Pittsburgh folk.

Western Pennsylvanians like fireworks. No no, wait, they don't "like" fireworks, they LOVE fireworks. Perhaps "love" isn't even strong enough a word to describe how Western Pennsylvanians feel about pretty explosions in the sky. According to the group ticket rep I spoke with back in February, there are only a handful of Pirates games that are guaranteed sell-outs each season. Saturday night was one of those games because there were fireworks.

To their defense, this was one of the finest displays of fireworks I'd ever witnessed in my life, fine enough that 30,000+ people sat through a four-hour baseball game, a 15 minute interlude, and at least 15 minutes of a really quite boring George Thorogood concert. Ironically enough, George Thorogood's PA system was neither thorough nor good. But oh, those fireworks! They were shot from the field, shot from the river, shot from the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and shot off the tops of at least one downtown skyscraper. And the show went late, not ending until just before 1AM.

But most of all, people in Pittsburgh are very gracious and excellent hosts. Sure, perhaps the American-flag-clad-dad sitting down the row from us was not pleased with our shrimp-chanting antics, but otherwise, we #HEIST attendees felt more than welcome everywhere we went. Cheers to our waitress at Finnigan's Wake bar who managed separate checks for 30+ people with aplomb during the pregame, and then welcomed us back once we departed the park mid-Thorogood. Even better was the kind old man standing on the concourse who graciously donated his bag of peanuts to Kris.

Attendees, please share your memories and/or photos of the #HEIST in the comment section.

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If you are not among the 40 or so folks headed westward (or eastward, for some folks!) to Pittsburgh this weekend, then I pity you. Not because you won't have a chance to party with some of the coolest cats this side of the baseballblogosphere, but rather, because you'll suffer from an inundation of #HEIST-talk around these parts.

Tomorrow night at 7PM, the Walkoff Walk Field Trip will land at PNC Park for the second annual #HEIST. We'll be making everyone else in Section 103, rows P, Q, and R feel just a bit uncomfortable with our eloquent conversation style. But then they'll warm to our antics and hopefully join us in a chant for shrimp if the game is tied up late. (remember: we were one batter away from a walkoff walk last year)

So if you can't make it, please follow the #HEIST hashtag on Twitter and hopefully, the attendees will post some fun photos and videos of the big weekend. Some folks are already on a plane heading to the 'Burgh while others have driven cross-country from Los Angeles just to attend! Seriously, it's that much fun. We've got folks coming from at least twelve different states (plus D.C.) and from at least one foreign country.

If you live in Pittsburgh and, for some reason, neglected to join in on the #HEIST ticket bonanza, please join us for our pregame party at Finnigans Wake bar at 4PM to drink some I.C. Light and watch some Yankees-Red Sox action. You'll know us by the catshirts.

Sorry, Fangraphs. Hit the bricks, SABR. The real party is happening in Pittsburgh.

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Wake your mother and let the llamas out, the Arbitron midseason baseball radio ratings are out! It'd take a Nate Silver to figure out just how accurate these ratings are; I can't imagine extrapolating an entire market based solely on the listening diaries of a handful of yokels and truck drivers. I'd hate to be employed in an profession that depends on the possibly-inaccurate entertainment choices of Americans, especially the ones in flyover states, for a dying industry like broadcast radio.

But still, there are some telling figures within. To wit:

  • On the average, 441,000 people in the New York area are listening to John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman call a Yankees game, versus just 368,500 for the lesser Mets games.

  • Over 250,000 people listen to Cubs games while just over 100,000 listen to the White Sox. Once Ozzie Guillen gets fired and joins the radio broadcast booth, though, those numbers will flip-flop.

  • Despite having a market smaller than either San Francisco, Philadelphia, or Los Angeles, the Detroit Tigers get a ton of radio listeners, at nearly 200,000 per game. Not bad for a third-place team; maybe everyone thinks Ernie Harwell is still alive.

  • The Angels have a radio audience that is, on average, two-thirds larger than that of the Dodgers. Probably because Angels fans can't afford televisions? I dunno.

  • Most importantly: during Reds games, a whopping TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT of men between the ages of 25 and 54 in the greater Cincinnati area are listening to baseball on the radio.

Imagine that: one out of every four adult men are listening to Dusty's first-place Redlegs instead of some other radio dreck, like traffic on the twos or some silly, fake Top 40 stunt. With a population of just over 2.2 million, having 116,000 listeners on average is pretty impressive and it's twice the listening rate of the Yankees.

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Last night, I fell asleep following the auction process of a corporation in federal bankruptcy court on Twitter. File that under things I thought I'd never say. Just past midnight central time, the Nolan Ryan-Chuck Greenberg cabal topped the Mark Cuban-Jim Crane team by a final score of $581.2 million to $561.2 million. Their prize? The first place Texas Rangers and two pallets worth of Ron Washington t-shirts.

Of course, that final number is far higher than Ryan and Greenberg originally offered for the team this past winter, a sweetheart deal favored by Tom Hicks and the suits at MLB, but not so much by the creditors who were owed millions of dollars by the bankrupted Hicks. Cuban and Crane challenged this in court and ended up giving the world the gift of an auction in which the drama got so heated, the opposing lawyers were cursing each other out in the hallways. Rawr!

But did Cuban help Yankees slugger get a tidy bonus on the day he smacked his 600th career homer? Here's how the winning bid breaks down:

The winning bid includes $385 million in cash and the assumption of $208 million in debt that the club holds. That price does not include any land around Rangers Ballpark.

Greenberg's group reached an agreement back on Jan. 23 to purchase the team from current owner Tom Hicks for $575 million, but that included $70 million for the land and that was not included in Wednesday's auction.

So, do the math: 385 + 208 - (575 - 70) = 88. That's $88 million extra the Greenberg-Ryan team ended up paying to Tom Hicks, cash that will go directly to Hicks' creditors because he filed for bankruptcy. Alex Rodriguez is owed over $20 million from the Rangers and is the number one creditor for the team; I'm not exactly sure how much better A-Rod's financial position is today because of the contentious auction, but it couldn't have gotten worse.

He can thank Cuban and Crane for tossing their hat into the ring and driving the cash price up a bit. Don't be fooled: Cuban was more than prepared to own a baseball team and was not participating here just to play the role of spoiler. Shame that MLB and Herr Selig would never have let this happen, even if Cuban and Crane had bid eleventy billion dollars.

Disclaimer: I have no idea how any of this works and this could all be 100% incorrect

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Dig up the garden, gramma: there are FIVE afternoon games to be followed today. Here's a quickly-thrown-together listicle that serves to review the action, or inaction if you are expecting milestone home runs:

  • Reds at Pirates, 12:35: Lots of baseballs got thrown at folks last night, starting with a beanball off Mike Leake's arm that felled WoW favorite Andrew McCutchen. Looks like Cutch's neck bruise wasn't too bad because he's in today's lineup. Johnny Cueto looks to stay undefeated on the road in PNC today and win the series for the Redlegs.

  • Blue Jays at Yankees, 1:05: Can Shaun Marcum continue the tidy pitching skillz of Toronto's young studs in the Bronx? I witnessed Ricky "Roma" Romero dominate with wormballs and lazy flies last night; the righty Marcum is more likely to strike dudes out today. Especially A-Rod, who will never ever again hit a homer, ever, never.

  • Brewers at Cubs, 2:30: Remember when Manny Parra was a WoW favorite? Well he stinks now. So do both of these teams. The Cubs haven't won a game since I left for vacation.

  • Giants at Rockies, 3:10: We'll see the Rockies on Saturday night at the #HEIST.

  • Royals at A's, 3:35: The Royals aren't very good.
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Hooray! The big day is finally here! It's like Christmas morning, Armistice Day, and Purim all mixed into one! It's the day Nolan Ryan's, Mark Cuban's, and Jeff Beck's (never mind, Jeff Beck is out) bids for Tom Hicks' bankrupt Texas Rangers finally come to light! Alex Rodriguez may never hit his 600th home run but if he plays his cards right, he'll get his $20 million and his pound of flesh from that coward Hicks once this dang team finally gets dang sold.

By the time you read these words, two important things will have happened. First, Mark Cuban's bid amount for the team will have been revealed in federal bankruptcy court, and second, Nolan Ryan will have swallowed enough Advil to tranquilize a bucking bronco. But don't expect the third, most desired result to come out of today's auction: naming a new owner for the first place Texas freakin' Rangers. Because even if Cuban's group has the highest bid, they still might lose:

Should Greenberg-Ryan win, MLB has promised the court it will approve, or reject, the deal before the group's financing expires Aug. 12. The league process entails passage by its ownership committee and then its executive council, and finally by team owners voting 75 percent in favor, said MLB president Bob DuPuy.

If Greenberg-Ryan loses, it is awarded a "break-up" fee covering expenses, capped at $13 million.

If Cuban-Crane snares the franchise, the league has promised to expedite the approval process but wouldn't be tied down to a particular date. A $15 million deposit holds the successful bid.

A league official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that MLB intends to work with the winning bidder, although it has the option of choosing the second-highest bid.

The MLB ownership cabal headed by Herr Selig can do as it pleases and no fancy federal bankruptcy court auctioneer can say otherwise. And as a fan, I'm not sure whether to despise their snooty, clubby ways or to cheer them for maintaining the status quo on the most successful sport in American history. After all, it's the ownership cabal that has kept the bankrupt Rangers afloat with their deep, deep coffers during these trying times.

Still, as fans of upending the status quo, we must root for Mark Cuban to get his dirty hands all over a big league baseball team. The Rangers might never win a playoff series under Cuban but be assured that he will make the team and the ballpark more fan-friendly. And even better, he'll ruin the day for at least one former soap opera star.



Ah, the halcyon days of the mid-twentieth century, when cigarette companies could recruit pro athletes, medical doctors, or even the Flintstones to sell their nicotine sticks. Here's a commercial of former Dodgers great Preacher Roe, a four-time All Star pitcher who compiled a tidy 22-3 record in 1951, throwing his support behind Camel cigarettes. He must love Camels, he's got two packs in his lunchpail!

Smoker or not, Roe lived to the ripe old age of 92 before succumbing to colon cancer, which once again proves my hypothesis that you can only evade the Big C for so long before it bites you in the ass.

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Manny Ramirez has appeared in just 61 games this season, creampuffing his way back and forth to the disabled list with the frequency you'd expect from a 38-year-old Los Angeleno with a standing Tuesday night reservation at Chateau Marmont. So it comes as no surprise that the worsening Dodgers, in the middle of a franchise-crippling divorce case between the two most selfish human beings on planet Earth, have decided to shelve the Mannywood sign in left field of Dodger Stadium in favor of some more lucrative advertising signs.

So sayeth DILBECK:

It disappeared because -- surprise, surprise -- the Dodgers could make a buck. Or, at least, a better buck. The "Mannywood" banner has been replaced with signs sold to John Hancock and 790 KABC.

The Dodgers, however, are still selling Mannywood seats -- two tickets and two T-shirts for $99. The Dodgers said the banner space had been for sale all season, but they only recently found someone to put their John Hancock on it.

The John Hancock banner reads, "the future is yours," which I guess you could argue is still a plea to Manny.

That newspaperman's wry sense of humor and all-too-frequent usage of single-sentence paragraphs are disheartening. Time for me to pull down my "DILBECKWOOD" poster from above my bed.

Dear overweight-and-underemployed readers of this here website: former Mets star Darryl Strawberry is taking after former teammate-cum-restaurateur Howard Johnson and is opening his eponymous memorabilia-laden and casual eatery/sports bar/house of fat and calories in Queens, NY this Thursday. Lucky you, he's still searching for staffing help! C'mon, you've always wanted a chance to bus greasy, booze-puddled tables in a restaurant with Kevin Elster's autographed underwear hanging from the wall.

Notably missing from the debut menu are chocolate-covered strawberries, but they ain't missing from the YouTubes:


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Whether White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is speaking the truth or pulling nonsense out of his patoot, he certainly has raised the ire of MLB once again with controversial statements that speak directly to racial inequality in baseball. In 2007, Guillen questioned why the steroids probe went after Latin players when BALCO, the investigation's big target, was based in California and not somewhere like the Dominican Republic.

This time, Ozzie wants to know why Asian players get better perks than Latin players, little bonuses like translators and free video store memberships. Guillen contends that Asian players are given the team-employed translators immediately upon being signed while young Latino players are hustled into the minor leagues and given nothing more than team-issued underwear and a complete twelve season DVD box set of "Green Acres" with which to learn-a-da-language.

The Associated Press reports Ozzie's fiery rant prior to yesterday's White Sox-A's contest:

Guillen, who is from Venezuela, said when he went to see his son, Oney, in Class-A, the team had a translator for a Korean prospect who "made more money than the players."

"And we had 17 Latinos and you know who the interpreter was? Oney. Why is that? Because we have Latino coaches? Because here he is? Why? I don't have the answer," Guillen said. "We're in the United States, we don't have to bring any coaches that speak Spanish to help anybody. You choose to come to this country and you better speak English.

While Ozzie makes salient points that Latino players are not exactly welcomed with red carpets in America, he is missing the boat by comparing the Latino's struggle with that of the Asian ballplayer. It's actually quite convenient that Oney was able to translate for seventeen of his teammates and it's quite remarkable that 17 foreign players all spoke the same language.

Think about the ethnic makeup of baseball players: a whopping 27 percent of MLBers are Latino while just 2.3 percent are from Asia. And we must divide that tiny number up a bit further to account for the varying home languages spoken by these players: Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, and Korean just to name three.

Of course baseball teams need to hire translators for Asian players because there are so few of them! And there are even fewer coaches, scouts, managers, executives, and peanut vendors who speak Asian languages, compared to the abundance of Spanish-speaking folk in the game today. Ozzie should be celebrating the ethnic diversity in baseball and cheering the way the sport has crossed oceans in its appeal, not playing the race card about PED investigations.

More on Ozzie's son Oney, who fizzled out of baseball after spending half of 2008 in the Sally League: a year earlier, he was a teammate of one Po-Yu Lin with the Appalachian League's Bristol White Sox, who indeed employed a translator named Steve Xiu. Xiu is currently employed by the Detroit Tigers as a translator for pitcher Fu-Te Ni.

But Ozzie Guillen missed one important fact when discussing the racial divide in baseball: Oney's teammate Po-Yu Lin, like his countryman Fu-Te Ni, is Taiwanese, not Korean. Yeah, I know Ozzie, they all look alike to me, too.