What the Hell did Willie Get Done?

Willie Anderson hasn't practiced (from what I can tell) for the entirety of training camp. This was not alarming because he's a grizzled (grrr) veteran and a mountain of a man that doesn't need to put more beating on his body than necessary. However, recently Big Willie disappeared for a week and showed back up with a protective boot on his right leg. Not encouraging, but certainly no cause for alarm, that is, until he started talking about his "procedure":
Anderson said the procedure involved electro-shock treatment to damage the area around the injury. The hope, he said, is to stimulate healing in the injured area.
What? Electro-shock treatment. What the hell? Are we going to learn that he's been using leeches and taking a magical tonic he bought from a traveling salesman? Now, I'm concerned.

Of course, Marvin is doing his best Belichick impression. According to Mark Curnutte's blog: Coach Marvin Lewis said Anderson "was doing fine." Sure sounds like it.


Thank Allah For Football (The Bengals Will Not Go 16-0)...

...Because without it, I don't know that I could handle the end of summertime. Not that you would ever imagine it would be cooling down anytime soon, considering the heat wave here in the Midwest. This is not good news for the Bengals, with training out in the heat every day, but I keep reading quotes from players saying how it's "not that bad." How that is possible, I have know idea. I have condensation dripping off my dude-parts after the 30 second walk to my car after work every day. Of course I'm not a finely tuned athlete (just close). The good news though, is that tonight's first pre-season game is taking place in the climate-controlled confines of Ford Field in Detroit.

Personally, I'm excited for the game tonight, just because it's football and at least these players I've never heard of will be wearing Bengals uniforms. Of course, it's hard not to be excited (or at least optimistic) with the journalism at this stage in the season. Every veteran had a renewed motivation. Every rookie is mature beyond his years. Every injury will be totally healed. These things all set my heart atwitter, but after I snapped out of my daydream, I got to thinking: what didn't go so well this off season? Surely there are some things to worry about. And, as a matter of fact I came up with a few.

The Perpetual Lack of Tight Ends. How can you have one position that is so woefully thin, and not address it, ever? Not that it's easy to find a serviceable TE, but one would think the management would at least go looking. I mean, doesn't a TE have to start the game and play at least three quarters of the offensive snaps? At this point I'm beginning to believe that the Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown are in denial that the position even exists. By the way, since you didn't ask, here's the last few tight ends drafted by the Bengals: Tony McGee (1993, Michigan. Always supposed to be a Tony Gonzalez type player, until everybody realized he was, well, not.), Marco Battaglia (1996, Rutgers. I can't believe they wasted a second round pick on this stiff. Mel Kipers' hair must have been incensed.), Sean Brewer (San Jose State, 2001. I can honestly say I have no recollection of this dude.), and Matt Schobel (TCU, 2002. A pretty good left tackle, for a tight end.)

The Depleted Offensive Line. At this point, I don't expect Willie Anderson to do much before week one, I really don't. But, he's getting old and has been hampered by injuries in the past. Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion this Levi Jones ankle injury is going to cause him to miss at least some time this season. Plus, with the exit of Eric Steinbach to Cleveland (I knew it was you, Fredo.) the O-Line seems tenuously balanced between "strength" and "abomination." I might just start crossing my fingers.

A Buttload of Linebacker Questions. I don't really know where I come down on the whole 'backer situation. Landon Johnson is a dependable veteran now and has snagged the WLB spot. He's not physically imposing, but he's smart (Purdue educated, obviously) and everybody seems to have confidence in his having a big season. The other recurring story is that of Ahmad Brooks who the Bengals nabbed in the supplemental draft last season. They're saying he's staked himself to the MLB position, which is great, but he has yet to prove his mettle or show any consistency during an actual NFL season. Then, there's the SLB position where it appears to be (CFL veteran) Rashad Jeanty's job to lose. Jeanty had a fine season last year, but something tells me I'd be much more confident if David Pollack (possible career ending neck injury) and Odell Thurman (severe case of being a fucking idiot) were in the lineup.

So, there's what I'm worried about. What did I leave out? Now, don't start railing on me for being a pessimist and all that, because I'm pumped, fucking pumped, to see the season get started. I'm just tired of happy fun rainbow journalism.

(By the way: Woohoo! Football is back!)


MLB Deadline: Anatomy of a Trade

I've been laid up for a couple of days with Strep Throat (I thought I was dying with a 102 fever) which gave me some time to think. Sadly, I didn't come up with anything terribly profound, but rather devoted my life to FIFA 2007. I won the UEFA Cup with Rangers yesterday, so that's something.

Anyway, it took me until last night to think of something worth writing about and it's all thanks to that genius of the Fox Sports Ohio booth, Chris Welsch. He got to talking about the trade deadline and insisted that we would see some action out of Wayne Krivsky and the Reds. Well, that got me thinking okay, but who would they move? Which got me thinking okay, but what would actually be a good trade deadline move?

It seems to me that the the primary premise behind making a move at the deadline involves how teams value players. Basically, in the off-season a player has a certain value; but, as the deadline approaches that changes. Teams in contention suddenly overvalue players who can come in and strengthen a weakness right away. This gives a value advantage to the teams building for the future. So, he's what I see as defining a reasonable (note: I'm not even saying good) trade deadline move:

- Has to be a trade that at least one team would not have made before the season started. Otherwise, it should have already been done, right?

- One team has to fill an obvious void in their team.

- The other team has to get at least one young player with a whole bunch of upside.

- At least one team has to improve their future financial situation. A team who trades away their superstar with an expiring contract doesn't make their fans happy, but that's the way the league works. The truth though, is a "hired gun" can be a short term bulge in payroll, but at the end of the season leaves some financial room to play with, giving some flexibility to the buyer as well.

That said, looking back, "the trade" last year between the Reds and Nationals (Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns for Royce Clayton, Bill Bray and Gary Majewski) didn't really make sense for the Nationals because Lopez and Kearns had pretty much reached their ceilings talent-wise. The Reds made their major mistake in what is pretty much the standard mistake every year; they far overvalued the players they were receiving. Good God did they overvalue Royce Clayton.

Now, I don't have the energy to figure out who's out there for the Reds to go get, but I think I could make a fairly comprehensive list of who might be desirable to contending teams. Here's my list: Griffey, Dunn, Hatteberg, Conine, Phillips, Harang, Arroyo, and Weathers. The last two might seem questionable given the poor year Bronson is having and the fact that Weathers is no spring chicken, but I've heard Arroyo's name thrown around and Weathers is actually having a decent season amidst the worst bullpen in the history of time.

Harang and Phillips aren't going anywhere. These guys are the face of the franchise going forward and you have to have some foundation to build on. I could see some Weathers/Hatteberg package for prospects. And, of course there's the Dunn options. I just hope the Reds take the time to make strategic trades and not hasty ones.

I guess my whole point here is that the problem with these trades is that there's no definitive, quantitative way to assess value (and how it changes). The only way to really feel good about a trade is if your team dumps a bunch of untenable payroll or completely bilks some desperate GM out of young talent. Either way, it's always entertaining.


Because I Am the Andrew Jackson of Sports Blogging,

a man of the people, I decided, per Tittle500's request, to weigh in on the Tim Donaghy/NBA officiating train wreck, albeit in concise fashion. To wit:

1. The NBA has never really interested me since Jordan left. I'm one of those folks that finds college basketball infinitely more entertaining for a variety of reasons--defense, passing, a team game, and... officiating that doesn't reward superstars recklessly driving the lane (I agree, Tittle, Simmons' column was on point in pretty much everything he said--refreshing to read a column not laden with J-Bug and Vegas references, too). Hence, I'm neither too upset nor too surprised that this is going down.

2. That video on Deadspin and other sites of Game 3 of the Suns-Spurs series last year is pretty damning. But it makes me wonder if more refs than just Donaghy were involved. Why is no one raising this possibility? Sure, Donaghy made some questionable calls, but so did the other two guys in that game. Are you telling me that they just suck and not that Donaghy said to them, "Hey, call a few more fouls on the Suns and I'll give you a $5 grand cut of my payoff"? The latter possibility seems more than just a little likely to me.

3. The Crazy touched on this in a post a few days back, but which is a bigger black eye for the respective sports: the officiating scandal in basketball or the steroid scandal in baseball? For my money, the officiating scandal trumps even steroids in terms of severity. Why? Because officials in the NBA have the most power of any of the major sports (hockey is no longer 'major' in my mind--it forfeited its status when its playoffs went to Vs.).

NFL officials are, to an extent, held in check/bailed out by instant replay and MLB umps are relatively limited in the ways they can affect the outcomes of games (including, but not limited to, messing with the strike zone, botching check swing calls, and missing stolen base/play at the plate calls). Even then, players are much more substantially in control of outcomes in baseball (they can extend their strike zones, etc). NBA officials, on the other hand, can drastically impact the face of a game--to the point of removing players from the game through fouling out.

Steroids are their own mess, but at least it was the players on the field and not the supposed arbiters of the game that were cheating. Additionally, the connection between steroid use and the direct outcome of games is a little more dubious than point shaving. Bonds and McGwire and Sosa may have hit so many more homers than they would have otherwise, but remember how many of those Sosa homers came in late-inning, irrelevant, Cubs down 6 situation? That, and as any number of (misguided?) athletes will tell you, steroids might help you hit the ball further, but they won't help you hit it in the first place.


Instant Replay in Baseball

Isn't it about freaking time they instituted this? I don't want any silly challenge rules like the NFL or anything like that. All I want is replay on big plays, more like the way the NCAA operates their replay system for basketball.

In the bottom of the first inning of the White Sox @ Red Sox game tonight, JD Drew hit what was clearly, upon replay, a 3-run homer to left. It bounced on top of the Monster, though, and came back into the field of play, allowing Rob Mackowiak to relay a throw home and nail Manny Ramirez at the plate for the third out. Manny wasn't even running hard because--I'm assuming--he thought it was a homer (I mean, he could've just been dogging it, but whatever). The point is that, after conferencing, the umps still got the call wrong and effectively shortchanged the Red Sox at least 2 runs. Sure, the Red Sox ended up pounding the White Sox anyway, but as we all know, the biggest free agent bust of the season (you know he's bad when he's essentially the statistical equivalent of Coco Crisp) needs all the help he can get.

I honestly can't think of any reason why, in a situation where umpires have to get together on a call because there's some question as to a call's accuracy, they can't get together around a TV monitor and make the call based on a replay. Granted, it's no guarantee that you'll get the call right based on a replay--the phantom dropped third strike on AJ Pierzynski against the Angels in the 2005 ALCS (I was there!) comes to mind. After watching it on replay several times, I still wasn't sure what actually happened there. But I'd be willing to bet you'd get the call right a hell of a lot more often than just relying on umps conferring. More importantly, there'd be a sense of legitimacy and fairness to the whole thing.

I don't want to hear any of this crap about not wanting to extend the length of games, either. Are you telling me Bud Selig is arguing with a straight face that he'd rather incorrectly alter the outcome of games--"human error" is part of the game, after all!--instead of taking five minutes to get a call right? That can't possibly be right! Oh wait, he is.

White Sox Play Spoilers at Fenway

Well, last night was my second and probably last visit to Fenway this season (after a random free ticket to a Rangers-Sox game), and the best I can say for it is that it was a White Sox winner. Pretty satisfying to experience the life getting sucked out of a crowd so pumped up to see Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch and seeing him with absolutely no control in the 2 innings where it mattered. The White Sox scored 3 runs on 2 hits and, more importantly, 5 walks in those innings.

But before that happened, it rained. And Laura and I got this glazed-over look:

Luckily, a $5 bag of peanuts snapped us out of our reverie. But partially because so many of the peanuts sucked. All shriveled and old. Screw you, Fenway peanuts.

And then, before we knew it, they were gone. And we realized we didn't know just how good we had had it.

Both Laura and I were a bit thirsty after the peanuts, but we resisted the temptation to "Get Jesus." Instead, we got a bottle of Coke for $4. The Jesus was more expensive.

The Coke couldn't make up for hearing the opening riff to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" approximately a dozen times in the space of an hour, though. It was part of an ingenious Red Sox documentary playing on the jumbotron that somehow linked the "magical" (get it, "Magical Mystery Tour"!?!?) 1967 season to the 2004 World Championship and set it all to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album. (released in 1967, get it?!?!?). It culminated with the 2004 Sox going down 3-0 to the Yankees coinciding with the long dystopian chord in "Day in the Life" and then ended with, naturally, the Sox winning the Series and Joe Buck's uninspired "World Champions" call to finish the song. Obviously, Red Sox fans are morons. Laura registered her disgust thusly:

.... and then... the tarp was off! Hooray! I was not the only idiot taking pictures of the tarp coming off. It rivaled Daisuke's every freaking move for sheer number of flashbulbs (which is exhibit B that Red Sox fans are morons).

Oh yeah, and then there was baseball. Big Papi did not please the crowd. In fact, he looked pretty lost at the plate, and hung his head dejectedly after making out after out. This was before he struck out one time:

Matsuzaka was unimpressive. I had predicted he'd strike out 11 (Laura went with 9 and got closer to Dice-K's 6, but still lost according to Price Is Right rules), but instead his most notable stat line was walking 6. He obviously didn't get the memo about throwing the ball in the zone and letting White Sox hitters make outs for you. The crowd thought he was getting squeezed by the umps, but, as we've already established, Red Sox fans are morons. I think he actually just had no control. This is Dice-K on his way to walking the bases loaded in the 6th (all with no out):

Francona knew he was in trouble, but let Matsuzaka hang himself anyway. This is Fenway being rather displeased at a called ball to AJ Pierzynski with the bases loaded. The next pitch put the White Sox up 3-2 on a little dribbler between 1st and 2nd:

After that, Fenway was deflated--partially by a long rain delay, but mostly by disappointment in Matsuzaka (who still, weirdly, got a standing O as he left the mound), and a sense of impending doom (the Yanks are only 7 back! Oh no!). Vazquez wasn't impressive, but he wasn't bad either, wiggling out of some jams (and really, if he had some better defense behind him, he probably wouldn't have even given up the 2 runs that he did, as the Sox failed to turn a double play twice and let a runner beat out a throw to first on another play--all in one inning). With all the folks clearing out, we decided to head for seats in the outfield for a different vantage point:

But midnight was quickly approaching and the stupid T shuts down at 12:30, so we left right before Konerko's solo shot onto the Monster in the 8th. Bah. But I did see it at the Cask n' Flagon as we walked by. By the time we made it back to Harvard Square, Bobby Jenks was actually not blowing a save. Pretty good night. Red Sox Nation, you've got every reason to be nervous. Your team looked flat. Absolutely flat.

Woohoo! Not The Worst Anymore!

                W       L        PCT    GB      Streak  L10
Kansas City 41 53 .436 16.5 Won 2 5-5
Texas 41 54 .432 17 Lost 2 5-5
Cincinnati 41 55 .427 17.5 Won 4 7-3
Pittsburgh 40 54 .426 17.5 Lost 6 3-7
Washington 40 55 .421 18 Won 2 6-4
Houston 40 55 .421 18 Lost 1 3-7
San Francisco 39 54 .419 18 Lost 2 3-7
Tampa Bay 37 57 .394 20.5 Lost 1 4-6
There's your bottom eight of the current overall MLB standings this morning. Thanks to a wonderfully predictable 8th inning meltdown by Armando "Seriously, He's Still Pitching?" Benitez, the Reds were able to run their win streak to a modest four games. Finally, they are no longer the worst team in baseball, and are even third worst in their own division. Break out the ticker tape! Admittedly, they haven't exactly lived up to my lofty prediction but I'm not complaining. Who knows if it's all attributed to mah man P-Mack; or if the team was just due to pull their collective heads out of the sand and start playing some decent baseball. Oh, by the way, Benitez gave up the eventual winning runs on a home run to Ryan Freel of all people. If there ever was a sign that it's time to retire, that has to be it.

Elsewhere, I managed to catch the 30 seconds of Reds baseball per week that the bozos filling in for Mike & Mike (I swear those guys miss at least two days a week) were talking this morning while they had Peter Gammons on the show. Gammons seemed to believe that there was a very real possibility of both Tony La Russa and GM Walt Jocketty coming to Cincinnati next season. Surely this could never happen, right? Both a manager and a GM moving to a division rival? I don't even know how I would feel about having a drunk driving, vegetarian, puppy lover as a manager.


Just So You Know I'm Not Dead...

... or that I'm still sort-of paying attention to sports, I thought I'd check in with a scatterbrained post. Let the fun begin.

1. BTC thinks the NFL should let Vick squirm, but if I was Vick, I'd either a) be a hell of a lot more worried about the feds than playing time this upcoming year, or b) too dumb, douche-baggy, or cocky to squirm all that much about Goodell's hammer about to drop. Given the Pacman Jones line, Goodell just needs to (and will soon, I imagine) suspend Vick indefinitely and get it over with. Michael Vick = the next Lawrence Phillips x 100. In other news, Kige is taking the Joe Morgan "I can't make a call on whether or not Joe Torre is a racist because I wasn't there" tack (go visit Fire Joe Morgan and you'll see that, really, this is Joe's stance on everything--he can't comment because he wasn't there--read:anywhere--personally) and is withholding judgment. Sage man.

1b. In the poor joke department, what do you think Vick's ratings will be in Madden '08? I gotta think his awareness and agility will suffer considering his inability to escape the feds. If his toughness isn't above 80, the Falcons should just soak him in water and electrocute him. Ba-dum ching. That was me crossing that ever-tricky "good taste" line. To make up for it, I'll say that Vick's treatment of dogs is (was?) despicable, disgusting, and pretty unimaginable. I'd encourage everyone to sign on to the Humane Society's condemnation of Vick.

2. The Cubs are the hottest team in baseball. I agree with this. And so does Kige. What's a Cubs-hating blog to do? Lose interest, I guess. On the plus side, as Carlos Zambrano goes, so does my fantasy team. And he has been dominating lately.

3. Ichiro's new deal pays him at least through 2032. Quick math tells me that's 25 years from now. If Ichiro won the lottery, I guess he probably wouldn't take the lump sum payment. Kige agrees that Ichiru Sazaki signed with the Mariners as well. Big week for the M's.

4. Jermaine Dye is on fire. Who wants him? Surely someone. Work your magic, Kenny. Contreras, pull your head out of your ass so that someone wants you. I'm ready for 2008.

5. It's comical that the Sox are still talking like they have a chance. Absolutely comical. This is not a team built to win. That, and they've got six teams to jump for the wildcard. Six. And they have the same record as Baltimore. Baltimore.

6. Tomorrow is my first chance to see the Sox in person all year. At Fenway, the game features Dice-K (Dice-K!) vs. Vazquez. Here's hoping the Japanese wonder gets battered by Thome, Konerko, and Dye, proving my skepticism about his performance this year correct. More likely, though, he'll strike out 11 on his way to a shutout. We shall see. And you really will, too, because I think I'll take my camera.


Surprise! I Have a Gripe With ESPN

Now, we all know the day after the MLB All-Star game is the slowest sports day of the entire year. It's always on a Wednesday, there's no games until Thursday and no other major sporting events are ever taking place. Except this year. The Under 20 World Cup is taking place in Canada right now and the USA team has played two consecutive Tony the Tiger Grrrreat games, the second being a huge upset over tournament favorites Brazil. It's really been fun to watch.

So, how does the WWL factor into the whole deal? Well, they have the rights to the whole tournament and have been showing it on ESPNU, a channel I just recently discovered is included in my over-extended cable package. But, on Friday, the overlords decided to bump the Brazil game to the flagship station. Apparently, Brazil is a big name they can put on the marquee. Nice move. Now, the USA is in the knockout (single elimination) stages of the tournament and plays Uruguay (7:30 pm, ESPNU) on the leanest sports night of the year. And what is ESPN showing? A replay of the Home Run Derby and the AAA All-Star game. Come on fellas, at least let people without 800 channels watch some live sports on a Wednesday night. And maybe get a little publicity for some US soccer (and your MLS Thursday night games). Gah.


You May Be Strong, But You're No Ted Kluszewski

It's one of those days that you really don't know if you dread or look forward to as a baseball fan. The Home Run Derby? It's fun, I guess; but I really think it peaked (for me, at least) the year the game was in Boston and Big Mac was dropping bombs out onto the street all night. Tonight, they just barely filled out the 8-man field and with a player who might, possibly, maybe hit 30 homers this year. If only we could have talked Griffey into giving us a throwback hat backwards performance and drop a few into the cove, the whole thing could have been worth it. Alas, the whole thing led to this conversation last night:
trout: Who's your pick for the HR Derby?
me: Ummm... I don't know. Who's in it?
trout: I don't know.
me: Well that makes things difficult.
trout: I'm going to go with Ryan Howard.
me: Yeah, me too.
Hold onto your seats.

Elsewhere, it's time to pick the first half MVPs. This is because people have shit else to talk about. Anyway, Jason Stark picked Magglio and Holliday. He always has to be difficult, doesn't he? I get that the Tigers are in first and Maggs is hitting 50 points better than A-Rod and all that, but come on. Rodriguez is 60 points higher in slugging and is on pace for a potential 60 homer season. As for Holliday, if you want the emotional and statistical leader of a winning team, how do you not go with Prince Fielder? Also, if you're not paying attention (which I haven't been) Chipper Jones has an OPS over 1.000, and happens to be the only player in the NL with less than 90 BBs who can claim that. So there's my mini-rant.

Anyway, I'll leave you with this fun drinking game I came up with for watching the Home Run Derby. It goes like this: take a drink any time you say to yourself "holy shit another fucking commercial break!?" or "holy shit how many fucking times do I have to see this same commercial?!" Just don't complain to me about your hangover tomorrow.