Thoughts on Trading the Face of a Franchise

I am nothing if not timely. Which basically means I'm nothing, since I'm way behind the curve on the Todd Helton-to-the-Red Sox trade that has apparently collapsed. I was all set to write a post about how the Rockies would be fools to not unload Helton at his salary (more than one-quarter of the team's total), even paying half of it or so. I was also going to say the Red Sox would perhaps be slightly foolish for getting him, even at a discounted price. His declining production has been well-documented, and he's on the wrong side of 30 with a lot of years left on his contract. On top of that, Helton's always had the benefit of playing in Coors Field, which the dramatic differences in his home/road splits reflect.

But now that the trade's apparently dead, it got me to thinking more about trading the face of a franchise. Helton is most certainly that for the Rockies, having outlived the stupendous likes of Dante Bichette, Larry Walker, and Vinny Castilla in Colorado. This is not a franchise that has a lot to live for, even in the perennially mediocre NL West. Which is why they should take the chance now and trade Helton.

Yes, he's the face of the franchise. Yes, fans will be disappointed to see him go. But winners aren't built on aging superstars sucking up 1/4 of the team's payroll. These are things that fans have to learn to deal with. Granted, Colorado doesn't have even remotely the same sort of fanbase as the Red Sox, who were able weather the loss of Nomar Garciaparra just fine. Nor do they probably have the kind of fanbase of even a club like the White Sox, who will most likely have to trust in Kenny Williams when he lets fan favorite Mark Buehrle go after this year. Hell, I didn't like to see Frank Thomas go--but the move had to be made, I'm happy to have seen him succeed this past year, and despite not making the playoffs I'm convinced the Sox are a better team with him gone. Similarly, I would've hated to have seen Paul Konerko go to the Angels last year, but if his contract requests were ridiculous, I would've understood the necessity.

Somehow the Rockies have deluded themselves into thinking that they can compete for the division title with Helton. What they need to do is make a move for the future health of the franchise rather than grasping at straws. Helton may be important psychologically for the Rockies, but I'm convinced they won't be winning the division with him. I'm not even convinced the Red Sox would make the playoffs with him.

The above is a Todd Helton heat map. Apparently he's only mildly hotter in Colorado than in Cleveland. Why, you ask? Who the fuck knows. Check out this site for more "heat maps" on everyone from Derek Jeter to Al Gore to your mom. I know you want to.

Far-East Ping Pong (As Promised)

It was over a week into my business trip to the Philippines and I had convinced some of my hosts to show me how table tennis is played on the other side of the world. I consider myself to be a decent player, I've played off and on most of my life and still have a table in my living room (ahhh bachelorhood), but this was the other side of the world, who knows what to expect? We convened in a well-lit basement of an otherwise-empty building. It was eerily quiet. The players were Ed, Mitch, Liz and myself. I had no idea what to expect of their abilities, but I was comforted by the presence of a girl. At least I can hit it hard at her, girls are such sissies.

Teams were arbitrarily chosen and Mitch and I were ready to compete in the showdown of the century. I felt good about having Mitch on my team when I saw him unzip his deluxe leather carrying case and remove his paddle. He is either totally serious about his game, I thought, or has terribly misplaced spending priorities. During warm ups two things became immediately evident: Liz was going to be no pushover, and these guys used a lot of crazy spin that left me looking like I was doing some sort of grotesque fan-dance.

The fact that we were playing doubles got me fired up. Doubles games back home are always the most fun because they generally include people diving on the floor or teammates colliding and going down in a heap. Of course this is all accentuated by a half-dozen beers. The one problem is that we have an odd house-rule back home where the server is allowed to play the return of serve. Why we play this rule, I have no idea, but I couldn't get it out of my head. This meant that Mitch, who I probably have 50 lbs. on, had to run through braindead Gage every time I would serve because I refused to get out of the way. Not good for team morale.

Eventually, the games began. I still felt mildly confident. I may not have all the angles, but I've got pace. Then, I started trying to return serves from Ed. Holy Christmas. The spin he was putting on his serves had me completely dumbfounded. I tried to decipher his technique and break it down logically, but it was beyond me. It was like some sort of martial art. I have no proof of this, but I swear there were kicks involved. Before I knew it, I was spraying forehands all over the room and sweating like the hulking American that I am. The first game ended just that quickly and we were down 0-1.

Before game two, I pulled Mitch aside for a little motivational talk. I finished by telling him "We're playing this one for the Western Hemisphere!" Inexplicably, that failed to inspire results and we lost game two as well. Just as I was planning drinking myself to sleep and start blaming the whole debacle on jet-lag, Mitch and I started to click. We were hitting the angles, getting some cheap ones and generally playing some pretty solid pong. Before I knew it we had rattled off three games in a row to take the lead 3-2. At this point, I considered going George Costanza on them, declaring "I'm out!" and leaving right then. Gotta go out on top. But, we were on a hot streak and they probably wouldn't get the joke, so I stayed.

The night wore on and on, much later than I had planned. The lead went back and forth and the most of the games were rather close affairs. In time, I realized that Mitch and Ed were the real glue men on their respective teams and Liz and I were, well, the girls. I can handle that. The night finally ended with Liz and Ed claiming victory 11 games to 10. I'll take it. I can tell myself that I came to Asia and held my own. Now, excuse me while I go Google "ping pong karate serves".


Well, This Certainly Seems Demeaning

Just wanted to point anybody interested to a post by Matt at With Leather. He has a good take on a supposed touch football game among some of our troops on Super Bowl Sunday. Apparently this is some sort of TV event put on by idiots at CBS. Look, it's a great idea to remind people back home that we have troops fighting overseas. That's important. But, let's not turn them into the fucking Bud Bowl. Can we all agree on that?


Chuck Klosterman Forms Lots of Opinions

I ran across an article that Chuck Klosterman wrote for Esquire this month (or next month or two months from now. I have no idea what February 2007 implies). He runs down certain athletes turned sportscasters and tries to decide which profession they are better at. It's a fun read, although I would advise you that Klosterman makes a living out of choosing a ridiculous side in an otherwise non-existent argument and sticking to it like Will Leitch on Andre Rison. That said he does make some generally good arguments. I agree that John McEnroe is by far the best tennis announcer alive and Theismann is a disaster, but I do take exception to his comments about Tim McCarver:
Though he finished second in the voting for the 1967 National League MVP, McCarver was a journeyman best remembered for being Steve Carlton's personal catcher during much of the 1970s. As a broadcaster, he is a stubborn polymath with an uncanny propensity for predicting when broken-bat singles are about to occur. McCarver is regularly criticized for saying what already seems abundantly obvious, but then again, a lot of people who watch baseball on TV are fucking idiots. Better as a broadcaster.
He Certainly got one thing right, McCarver does a good job of saying shit that everybody watching already knows. I can't think of an announcer who so completely takes me out of the context of watching a game than McCarver. My local guys (George Grande and Chris Welsch) are no A-team, but they don't make me groan out loud like McCarver does. Maybe I'm just at the end of my rope with Joe Buck (all the pretentiousness of Bob Costas, but now with none of the reverence for the game!) that by the time McCarver opens his mouth, but he certainly does nothing to ease my pain. MVP runner-up trumps any broadcast that could possibly include the quote "Well, David Eckstein, like most of us, has 20 digits. Ten fingers. Ten toes."

(Side note: who knew Steve Kerr's dad was killed by Islamic Jihadists? Wow.)


Nearly Lost in the Chicago Super Bowl Media Shuffle...

... is a report that is sure to put the look of a distraught puppy on at least a handful of pink #22 jersey-owning bitch hot Chicago girls. Various media outlets have reported today that Scott Podsednik has undergone what is alternately being called sports hernia or groin surgery, prompting the White Sox to sign Darin Erstad as a replacement in left field. I'm pretty agnostic about Erstad--he seems like the kind of hard-nosed, intangibles kind of guy that will fit in well with the Sox and give Brian Anderson, Josh Fields, Ryan Sweeney, and Podsednik a real competition for 2 outfield spots, even though he hasn't had a season even approaching his career year in 2000 when he hit .355 and hit 25 homers.

I'm worried about the fact that Scott Podsednik apparently suffered this injury after a routine workout in the middle of January. He was hobbled by a sports hernia on his left side last year and this one apparently occurred on his right side. At this rate he's quickly turning into the much cheaper, weak-hitting, speed version of Ken Griffey, Jr. Which is another way of saying that he's nothing like Ken Griffey, Jr. except he gets injured an awful lot.

Podsednik was only marginally useful last year, often making stupid defensive plays in left and getting thrown out on the basepaths at an obscenely high rate. Another injury isn't likely to improve his intelligent aggressiveness or speed. And I don't think Erstad is the answer. As White Sox bloggers have been suggesting for months now, what this team could really use is someone like Rocco Baldelli or Carl Crawford, but the Rays' price is probably much too high as they work to strengthen a farm system which is already ranked tops in baseball and a major league squad near or at the bottom.

Of course, from things Kenny has said this offseason, he's convinced the pitching staff--both the rotation and bullpen--will bounce back in a big way this year. So no pressure, Buehrle, Vazquez, Garland, Contreras, and company. No pressure at all.

In lieu of a boring Podsednik picture, I felt I should remind faithful FTG readers what his wife looks like. My pleasure.

A Few Words on My Good Friend Tank

Continuing FTG's interest in legal matters, trout has managed to score a statement by John Moran, special guest to FTG and judge in the great county of Cook, Illinois. For those who don't watch ER, that's where Chicago is. Without further ado, we give you the honorable John Moran.*

Let me just say that I am well aware that Terry (or, as his friends and I like to affectionately call him, "Tank"--Terry always got shit for being called Terry--"Tank" is so much more manly for a fat man, no?) Johnson has been arrested three times in the past eighteen months. But let me also say that Tank and I are good friends and that I can personally verify that each of those arrests were terrible misunderstandings.

These arrests amounting to nothing more than a host of misunderstandings is chiefly why I granted Tank the ability to travel to Miami for Super Bowl XLI. It has nothing to do with the fact that I wear an '85 Bears good luck t-shirt under my robes or that I listen to the Super Bowl Shuffle to get pumped up for every hearing. Nevermind the Jim McMahon poster in my chambers, the Ditka shrine in my den at home, or the endless dreams where I end up romantically involved with Brian Urlacher. None of these things are of any consequence. Tank Johnson is a good man.

Although Tank should be able to travel, I'm not so sure about Bob Sanders, Reggie Wayne, or Peyton Manning. Before I was informed I didn't have the authority to do so, I was prepared to put all three under house arrest and prevent them from playing in the Super Bowl. Bob Sanders just looks like a criminal--have you seen those tattoos? Reggie Wayne played football for THE U, which should itself be enough to put him under suspicion for illegal activity. And Peyton? Well, Peyton's just a pantywaist. Too many pantywaists on the street.

Don't be surprised if all three of them end up at a strip club with a lot of unregistered firearms the next few weeks. I'm just saying...

*Just so trout doesn't get in any legal trouble, I feel compelled to state that the above is entirely satirical and they are not the words of Judge Moran, who surely had ample legal reasoning to grant Johnson's travel request.

Arrested? What has the World Come to?

Apparently, there was a Bengals player arrested this weekend. Well, let me be the first to say that this sort of behavior is completely unacceptable. To think that a role model, an upstanding citizen in the community could make such a poor decision as to partake in illegal drugs is beyond me. Doesn't Johnathan know that he is a hero to the youth of our community? He cannot just go cavorting about with these sorts of unseemly characters at all hours of the night. Sure, some of you will try to blame his "wrong side of the tracks" upbringing for not preparing him as a contributing member of society. But, I don't really care if he's black.

Johnathan, you are a 22 year old millionaire! Surely you are able to find activities other than drug use to pass the time. Surely you are able to pay for more responsible friends! Is no one teaching morals to our kids? I, for one, am a moral person and I maintain that I am morally superior and would never partake in any activity that is so morally wretched (well except for that semester in college, but come on, that's college).

Johnathan, if you are reading this, I would like you to know that I will absolutely not be purchasing a jersey with your surname and assigned number for any of my seven children. Not a single one, and I don't care how much they cry. In fact, I will encourage anyone I know to take their Joseph jerseys and burn them in effigy immediately. Because you sir, are nothing more than a worthless pot head. Just thought you should know.


For Those Non-Degenerates Out There

Lost in the scuttlebutt over the absolutely Earth-shaking comeback victory by Peyton and the Mannings, was a little gambling miracle that took place in the same contest. I watched the game with another friend who (like me) had taken the Colts giving 3.5 in this particular game. Anyone who regularly bets games knows that 3.5 points is painful in a close game because yee ole game-winning field goal means everything to the outcome of the game, but nothing to the point spread.

So, what happened Sunday? Well, first the Colts laid an absolute egg in the first half. My buddy was muttering to himself under his breath, considering blaming me for influencing him to play the Colt and fielding phone calls with comments like "you're right there should be a rule that you can't bet against Brady in the playoffs!" Let's just say things, got tense.

But nay, we didn't give up and kept watching. Suddenly the Colts came out firing in the second half and before we knew it we had a 4th quarter with the game tied. During a timeout we began discussing the potential scenarios where we could actually win money. First, no overtime. It's not worth hoping somebody wins an NFL overtime with a touchdown. Second, we'd love a straight up Colts' TD (just no FG). But when the Pats got the ball deep in Indy territory we decided our best hope was going to be option number three: Pats FG, followed by Colts TD. This is standard procedure for a sports gambler. There's always some miracle scenario that turns your losing bet into a winning one. Of course they never seem to happen, but this time it all came true. As Joseph Addai rumbled in for that final score, suddenly all was right with the world. All in all, possibly my most satisfying bet of the year. Now, two weeks to decide if I like the Colts minus seven. Hmmmm.....

Same Old Shit

Opposite Result: Super Bowl XLI.The Pats didn't miss Deion Branch at all, did they? Thanks much, Reche Caldwell.


Look Out Iowa, Here We Come

Let me get two things out of the way right now: I pretty much hate both the Cubs and Notre Dame. So it seems somehow fitting that Jeff Samardzija passed up an NFL career to toil away in the minor leagues. Drew Henson, anyone?

Of course, I don't think Drew Henson could hit a 97 mile per hour fastball. Or maybe he could. Whatever. As it stands, Samardzija is apparently a pretty good pitching prospect. Or at least the Cubs think he could be. Which are two completely different things. In any event, Samardzija signed a five year $10 million contract with the Cubs, thereby signing away his football future. Enjoy riding shitty buses all over the Midwest, playing a ridiculous baseball schedule, and humping the likes of Susan Sarandon instead of playing 16 games a year, flying around in a chartered jet, and humping the likes of Gisele Bundchen. Should be great. Hopefully neither you nor the Cubs regret this decision. And by that I mean I hope you both do.

In other Cubs news, Mark Prior claims he's ready to go for next season. Did you hear that, Cubs fans? Be sure to draft Prior early in your fantasy leagues; your fellow managers will thank you when he goes down with some mysterious arm injury a week into the season.

Oh, to live in Iowa this summer. You may get to see both Mark Prior rehab and Jeff Samardjiza get rocked. It's good to be a Cubs hater.


Apparently the Pats and Colts are Playing Sunday. Have You Heard?

I've got nothing to say about the game itself. The media and bloggers galore have flogged this pony to death. But, thank goodness, I can always blog on the bloggers, yes? So let's let the vitriol flow...

Bill Simmons has officially lost touch with reality. The Sports Guy has officially jumped the shark. Yeah, yeah, this is not news. FTG was even founded on the principle that Simmons was slipping. Plenty of other bloggers have noted Simmons' douchebaggery for awhile now--most notably Kissing Suzy Kolber--but Simmons' most recent column drove me over the edge into a blind rage over the numbfuckingskullery on display.

The premise of the whole indignant, dipshitted column is that the Patriots have unjustifiably become the Yankees of football--a team most of America loves to hate. And then Simmons drops this: "If you can't appreciate THIS team, even as an impartial observer, what does that say about the future of sports?" If you don't recognize this as a dumb motherfucking apocalyptic homerism, then you've got Tom Brady's cock firmly implanted up your ass.

Hey, guess what, Bill? I don't fucking appreciate this team. Do I respect them? Yes. I respect the dynasty they've become, even more than I could ever respect the Yankees dynasty--mostly because of the salary cap issues you outline in your otherwise taint-smelling column. But do I appreciate them? Fuck no. You know why? Because I'm a goddamned Colts fan. And 90% of this country is a fan of a team other than the cocksucking Patriots. Does that strike you as strange, Bill? Then pull your head out of your ass and get a breath of fresh air. Contrary to your addled conclusions, Patriots hatred does not signal a fundamental shift in the "fan-sports dynamic," whatever the ass that means. You might as well be Andy Rooney nattering on about sodium in his diet, because you're about as culturally relevant with your brainless Pats worship.

Here's the deal, Bill: the Big Dog--and make no mistake, the Patriots are the Big Dog--exists to be taken down. If the Big Dog wins, the Little Dogs lose, and everyone roots for the Little Dogs. THAT's the American Way.

You try to show us, Bill, how the Patriots uphold all that is good and glorious in professional sports, a team that gets by on sheer GUTS, a team full of unassuming team-oriented players. Nevermind the fact that the same bullshit story could be dreamed up for any of the teams left in the playoffs or the inevitable circle jerk that ensues when everyone from Peter King to Dan Marino brings up the Brady-Belichick genius. Nevermind that New England fans are incredibly more obnoxious than Cubs fans have ever been (and we all know how FTG despises loud, ignorant Cubs fans--God forbid the Cubs ever win something of consequence). Nevermind that Tom Brady is a goddamned goatcuddling cereal-eating pretty boy who apparently has his way with any supermodel he wants. No, nevermind these things. We should all love the Patriots.

What makes the Patriots-as-Big-Dog worse is the endless media frenzy over this era that makes the Peyton Manning jizzfest look like small potatoes. KSK puts it well, I think, writing, "Look, this is not to say that we necessarily hate the Patriots. We're just sick of the blind worship and fellating from the media and the team's fans." Amen, KSK, amen.

Simmons' idiocy is all the more baffling given his recognition of the very reason why so many of us have come to despise the Patriots. He writes: "Like every other Boston fan, I grew up hating the Yankees, Canadiens, Steelers and Cowboys. My teams always lost, those teams always won, and I despised them with every fiber in my body." As you make clear with that statement, Bill, it doesn't matter how the fuck the team wins--whether they do it the "right" way (whatever the fuck that is), whether they overcome all odds, whether they do the "little things," whether they are "clutch"--all that matters is that they've won consistently. And that's no fun for anyone but Pats fans. Wake the fuck up, Simmons.


Purdue/Wisconsin Gamecast Not-So-Liveblog

I'm still in Asia where "watching" Purdue @ Wisconsin means refreshing the gamecast regularly. Oh and the game starts at 9am local time. Here's a little taste of my experience.

9:10am - I log on and lo and behold we're in the lead. Carl Landry with a deuce. He's the man. My internet seems to be working, so all systems are go.

9:14am - After a painfully long refresh I see that the boilers take a 5-2 lead with a Keaton Grant 3-pointer. I'm not sure I remember who he is. My brain immediately makes the following connection: Alex P. Keaton, Michael J. Fox, Teen Wolf. Can anybody tell me if Keaton is abnormally hairy? Oh I also just noticed that Gordon Watt committed a foul on a 3-point shot. Way to go homie.

9:19am - There are three different scores on different parts of my gamecast. 5-2, 5-4 and 7-4. I'm fairly sure these are slipping in from parallel dimensions. Shockingly, Purdue is winning in all three.

9:21am - Eight minutes into the game and we've got a grand total of 15 points scored. Why do 90% of college basketball games seem to start of at a snail's pace? I know they've warmed up, I know they had a shoot-around. Wouldn't it be a huge advantage if some coach could figure out a way for his team to come out sharp in the first ten minutes of a game? Just asking.

9:25am - Whoops, a quick five points and Purdue's lead evaporates. I'm just glad they didn't blow it in the first 10 minutes, really. 'Sconsin made a three and a layup. Apparently the three point defense by the Boilermakers is awful. I disagree. The gamecast does not say it, so it must not be true.

9:30am - First of all, Wisconsin has a player named Landry. Fuckers. That's our guy's name. Quit trying to confuse us. Second, they have a player named Flowers. I can't think of anything funny to say here that's not entirely mean spirited. So just make up your own "flowers" joke.

9:33am - David Teague has 0 points and 2 personal fouls. Nice first half, guy. In his last three games he's scored 20, 11, and 21 respectively. Wake up my man.

9:37am - Boilers trail by five and Carl Landry just picked up his second foul. I'm thinking our chance to win this game might have just left town. Landry has 10 and only two other players have scored (Watt only has one made free throw).

9:42am - I'm not sure what's going on here but it seems like every time Purdue scores, it's sandwiched on the play-by-play by two Wisconsin scores. Something tells me this is a flawed strategy, coach Painter.

9:46am - The question here with under 3 minutes left in the half: do you put Carl Landry in the game? I say yes. You have to take risks to hang with the #3 team in the nation on the road. The actual answer: I have no clue because the ESPN gamecast has no interest in telling me who is currently in the game. Go get em, somebody!

9:50am - David Teague just scored his first two points. Welcome to Madison, Dave. Tip off to final buzzer, right?

9:54am - Purdue is trying to end the half with a flurry! Two Teague free-throws followed by a Watt three and somehow they only trail by one point to a really good Wisconsin team at halftime. Oh wait, 12 seconds left. Let's not do something stupid now.

9:58am - Gamecast has been stuck at 0:05 for three minutes now. I'm just assuming that Purdue got a steal and a fast break basket to take the lead at half and it's taking a while to type up. Yeah....

10:00am - Halftime. Not sure what to make of this. Gamecast says the score is both 31-30 and 29-30. Fantastic. Seriously, just pick a goddamned score. How about the one on the scoreboard in the arena?

Either way, this was (by all evidence available to me) a really well played half by the Boilers. I like the reasonably low score. Wisconsin has put up 80 to 90 points a half dozen times already this year, so it seems that you don't want to try to run with them. Now this seems like the stereotypical gotcha second half where the better team comes out, wears down their opponent and really plays to their potential, but I'm not sure about the wearing down. Wisconsin only plays seven men. Purdue played nine in the first half. Maybe we can have the fresher legs at the end of the game. Stay tuned...

10:15am - And we're back! Purdue come out smoking with a quick couple buckets by Watt and another by Landry. For the record, I still don't know what the score is. It's either tied, or Purdue by two.

10:19am - I just noticed that Teague picked up his third foul somewhere along the way. Sigh... On the other hand, Gordon Watt has 12 points. I'm convinced that he can be a really solid player. Maybe this will be the game where he decides to agree with me.

10:23am - I have no stats to back this up, but Purdue really seems to be hitting the boards. Nice to see them stay aggressive. Plus, in case your keeping track, our Landry: 12 pts, 2 pf, their Landry: 4 pts, 3 pf. We're definitely sitting pretty in the battle of Landry supremacy.

10:27am - During this timeout I'd just like to remind you that Darmetrius Kilgore is the official Subway Sub of the Game.

10:28am - Ugh. Carl Landry just picked up his third foul with 12:44 left in the game. Not good. Oh, look Teague has four now. When did that happen? That sneaky little bitch.

10:31am - The Badgers take a four (or is it six?) point lead. Stupid badgers. Wait a second, weren't they really good at football this year too? Between Florida, OSU and these guys I'm really fucking tired of well-run athletic programs. Let's all just hire an AD who is more interested in the cocktail parties than the victories and move on.

10:35am - Hey now, I just noticed on the scoreboard that Notre Dame lost to 'Nova 102-87. Let me just say: HAHAHAHAHA. How do you give up 102 points in 40 minutes of basketball? Talk about an overrated team. Somewhere, Digger Phelps is crying. Hopefully on national television.

10: 41am - Well, C-Land (get it? Sea/Land. Pure genius.) is doing everything he can to keep this one close, but I fear it may not be enough. Lutz just snagged his fourth foul. According to the gamecast, the refs are really cheating us.

10:46am - Uh oh. It's starting to get out of reach. A nine point game with six minutes left isn't impossible, but a nine point game with two minutes left is real trouble. It's going to be time for a run here anytime.

10:52am - Watt has 18 now to lead the way. It's probably going to be in a losing effort, so I'm not sure what to think about it. The big missing piece in this game has to be Teague so far. Just a total non-factor.

11:04am - Wow, we're not giving up. Five point game with 35 seconds to go. I'm still watching...

11:10am - Okay, now it's over, 69-64. What did we learn? Purdue can hang with a good team, even on the road, but still couldn't snag a road victory. Watt can put up some points. Teague is yet again a total enigma. Oh, and maybe Wisconsin is overrated.

More White Sox, Because I Know January Begs It

My mancrush Joey re-signed at $4.94 million for 2007, avoiding arbitration. Here's hoping his back doesn't go out next season. If he continues on the trend he's been on the past few years, he's due for a big, big payday when he escapes his arbitration years. I've got mixed feelings about whether or not I want that big payday to be with the Sox, but man, I like Crede no matter what.

Some fun with 2006 third baseman numbers... can you guess who each player is (not too tough, I know, but the answer is in the comments):

Three players (player "a" is the same throughout, etc.):
Salary: (a) 25 million (b) 2.7 million (c) 11.5 million
Runs: (a) 113 (b) 76 (c) 88
HRs: (a) 35 (b) 30 (c) 25
RBI: (a) 121 (b) 94 (c) 89
Avg: (a) .290 (b) .283 (c) .268
OPS: (a) .914 (b) .828 (c) .792
Fielding% (a) .937 (b) .978 (c) .968

I Give You Some Fellow Sox Fans

This video is neither timely nor trenchant, but I feel compelled to post it nonetheless. Thank goodness Deadspin unearthed its companion Bears video, or else mine eyes would never have been graced with exquisite set design and pre-teen girls singing of foaming beer. Huzzah!

What Asia Has Taught Me About Sports

Well, I'm still a couple of days away from being able to return to the states from my business trip (ooooh I can't wait for that jet lag). But here's what I've learned about sports during my trip so far.

- I miss the billion sports channels I have at home. Sure ESPNU sucks most of the time, but at least I know there's a game on it. It's all about the selection folks. In my hotel room (where I get a surprising number of English language channels) I get a sports channel that shows mostly soccer and another one called ESPN. The soccer is usually an interesting game from Europe so I'm okay with that. But this ESPN channel is a total crap shoot. Most days when I get in from work they are showing cheerleading competitions. And not recent ones, old ones. Yesterday was the 2004 national high school cheerleading competition. And I swear I only watched long enough to glean that piece of information. I swear.

- Basketball is huge here. The only other sports I get is on the basketball channel (equipped with a nifty logo). They show a lot of NBA which I'm sure David Stern loves and they manage to squeeze in what appears to be homeless street kids playing pickup games while their friends look on. My only complaint: they seem to show an inordinate amount of Milwaukee Bucks games. At this point I'm convinced that Andrew Bogut is the best player in the world.

- I don't fucking miss fucking talking heads fucking screaming at each other all the time. (Deep breath.) Look, I realize that ESPN has to fill an entire hour of SportsCenter but I really don't give a shit what Sean Salisbury has to say about shit. As it turns out - dramatic pause - I am completely able to form my own opinions without hearing someone else's first. I may never listen to Jim Rome again. (gotcha! I don't listen to that asshole.)

- Cock fighting: it's not only legal, it's recognized as a sport and televised! My reaction to seeing this as I flip channels: shock, then curiosity, followed by delight and finally shame. I don't care who you are, you can't not stop and watch for just a minute. Moral quandaries aside, when those feathers fly it's like a violent sorority pillow fight, with beaks. And that's good tv.

- After a week and a half I was dying to talk sports with somebody. So, the other night in the hotel lobby I ran into a fellow American who wanted to talk NFL. The guy was a total loudmouth asshole but I ate it up. I did come to one important realization by the end of the conversation. I decided that you can get away with making bold proclamations around your friends who will feel comfortable referring you as a "fucking idiot" all in good fun, but you really shouldn't start saying that sort of shit around people you don't know because then they're just going to think you're an ass. If I told Trout that Belicheck was the best coach ever or that Peyton Manning was a total hack he would cite me reasons why not and smack me around. But I just has to sit there and take it with this douche. I guess the lesson is: don't be a douche until you get to know people.

Well, I've got a ping pong game schedule with some of my counterparts over here tonight. It's the Eastern vs. Western Hemisphere showdown of the year! Tune in for a recap.


Sunday's Divisional Games Did Not Disappoint

First off, forget Shaun Phillips as my ex-Purdue athlete of the day. I love the guy, and it sucks he had to leave with that groin injury. But my, oh my, how about that Roosevelt Colvin interception (it's small, but that's the picture to the left). Incredible. Which reminds me...

... the Patriots had some serious pixie dust going on in that game. Planet Killer will probably pick this observation to shreds because he's smarter than me, but didn't Tom Brady and the Pats do their best impersonation of a typical Manning/Colts playoff debacle... except for the end result? First, the Pats completely--and I mean completely--abandoned the running game. By my count, for the second half stretch before the series where Brady completed that huge dagger of a completion to Caldwell and the Pats started running clock, 30 of 33 plays were pass plays. During that stretch, the Chargers blitzed the hell out of Brady and forced him to fumble once and throw two picks. Brady was constantly rushed into bad decisions, a lot like the Pats have always seemed to be able to force Manning into bad decisions.

If it wasn't for incredibly, incredibly fortuitous plays on defense (Colvin's pick), special teams (the Eric Parker fumble and Pats recovery), and in transition (the most incredible of them all--the Troy Brown forced fumble after a Brady pick), the Patriots wouldn't have even been in this game. At all. Philip Rivers looked really, really good. LT ran the ball like LT always runs the ball. And the Chargers still lost. And I'm sure Pats fans will natter on about how this is just the way Patriots teams play playoff football, they do what it takes to win, and blahblahblah. But sometimes that shit is luck, plain and simple. This is one of those times. If the Colts want a blueprint of how to take down this Pats team this weekend, they need look no further than this game tonight.

Good on the Bears for winning today and ruining a perfect 4-for-4 for trout this weekend. Bastards. I'm not sure they deserved it, but they've been winning games like that all year. That game against New Orleans is going to be a fun one to watch. And really, how fun is the Super Bowl going to be, regardless of who gets there? Three out of the four remaining teams haven't sniffed the big game in a long time, and the other one is the closest thing professional sports has to a dynasty right now. Good stuff.


Lessons from Saturday's Games, or, Trout's Sunday Playoff Picks

Lesson #1: "Favorites" or "Super Bowl favorites" don't really mean anything (see Ravens, Baltimore).
Lesson #2: Giving up huge plays won't necessarily kill you (see Saints, New Orleans).
Lesson #3: Trout was 2-for-2 on Saturday's games. Listen up.

Seahawks over Bears. I know they got schooled back in October at Chicago. I know their secondary is in shambles. I know they really shouldn't even be in this game given the shenanigans in the Romo Game. I know that Hasselbeck and Alexander haven't looked remotely like they looked last year. I also don't care about these things. This is the game where the vaunted Bears defense and special teams can't carry Grossman and an anemic offense anymore. Even though they're a heavy underdog road team, something about the Seahawks just feels right. It's like betting on the pony with the pretty name. Maybe that's why I never win money at the track.

Patriots over Chargers. I've bought into the the Brady/Belichick hype. Again, the Pats are a team with a destroyed secondary facing a favorite on the road. But also like the Seahawks, they're facing a young quarterback who has an increased probability of shitting the bed (yeah, Rivers has been significantly better than Grossman, but Schottenheimer's bad playoff mojo is probably enough to erase that edge). The Pats may give up big plays to Tomlinson or Gates or whomever, but I just think they're too smart to lose this one. (Note: those pictures to the right are actual pictures for the Patriots' cheerleaders 2007 calendar. Clearly the football franchise is just a cover for a softcore porn ring--but this man doesn't mind. By comparison, the Sea Gals are practically Amish).

Here's looking forward to the Pats/Colts matchup in Indy next weekend so I can hear the local newsmedia chirp about Peyton sucking and the history of the matchup and blahblahblahblah...

Colts Prevail Despite Another Manning Choke Job, or, Peyton Thanks Jesus the Pats are Cheap, Cocky Bastards

Make no mistake. Peyton Manning executed another monumental choke job against the Ravens tonight. But Adam Vinatieri, a HUGE Dallas Clark catch on third down, and Ray Lewis bailed his ass out. Vinatieri nailed five field goals (Vanderjagt would have been good for three of those, tops) and Ray Lewis tipped two easy interceptions, again subjecting us broadcasters telling us it somehow matters that the Colts used to be in Baltimore. Baltimore: if indeed you still care, get the fuck over it. You've got a new franchise and a Super Bowl title since the Irsays fucked you over. Indianapolis has been somewhat less fortunate.

Back to Peyton. I don't really care that the Ravens had the best defense in the league. The Colts, supposedly, have one of the best offenses in the league led by a quarterback every broadcaster is compelled to verbally fellate. A game with no touchdowns and two picks generally isn't going to cut it. Granted, one of those was basically the equivalent to a punt, but as I mentioned before, he should have had at least two more. It's the same formula teams have always used--send pressure his way which gives Manning happy feet and leads him to freaking stupid throws. What happened to checkdowns to a running back in the middle or the flat? This game didn't instill too much confidence going into next week against the Pats or the Chargers.

On the flip side, the Pats and Chargers have to be a little wary about facing a Colts defense which seems to be peaking at the right time. The Colts D made my prediction look good (I'd say two picks, one on the goal line, amounts to big plays) against an admittedly anemic offense. You can bet that they won't hold their next opponent to only six points, but I'm becoming skeptical that they'll get run all over either. Maybe Manning will crap the bed in the AFC Championship game, but hey, he's got the opportunity all over again. That's all Colts fans can ask for. Thanks again, Pats, for letting Vinatieri go... it might come back to haunt you next week.

Lessons From Madden '07, or, Trout's Saturday Playoff Picks

Before we get started here, I should remind readers that if they want any real analysis from someone who appears to know something, go over and check out Planet Killer. This weekend's posts on playoff match-ups and playoff picks are undoubtedly more informative than what's about to come...

The early game today pits a playoff choker (no, not Peyton Manning... Tony Dungy) versus a guy in Brian Billick who has shown he can win the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer. Trent fucking Dilfer. Anyway, apparently none of this matters in the Madden Universe because Steve McNair threw and ran the ball like a goddamned blind man, right into my Colts defense. Second play of the game, McNair throws it right into Bob Sanders' hands, who runs it back for a defensive TD. And that was just the first of three INTs for McNair. Of course, because I pretty much suck, I let the Ravens hang around with three Manning INTs as well. But Addai, Manning to Clark for two TDs, and ball control were just too much for the Ravens, who lost it 27-17.

In real life, I know the Colts aren't supposed to win this game, but I think the strengths (Colts O, Ravens D) and weaknesses (Ravens O, Colts D) cancel each other out. And whereas Planet Killer points out the Ravens' offense penchant for coming up with a handful of big plays, I see the Colts defense doing it instead. Pick: Colts, by a nose.

What did I learn from the Eagles-Saints evening matchup? In sum, the Eagles have no offensive plan (this is even with McNabb) and Rextasy's Sex Cannon is nothing compared to Brees', which sprayed 5 TDs all over the field. Oh, and don't fuck around when you have the chance to win the game. In typical Madden style, all I had to do to run out the clock for a 35-28 victory was to kneel down (it wouldn't have even been that close if not for a couple ridiculous 70 yd TD plays for Philly). A Brees INT with 12 seconds to go run back by Jeremiah Trotter for the tying TD, a Brees INT in overtime leading to an Akers FG, and the Saints lose. But shit, the Saints are fun to play with in Madden. Spring semester assignment: lead the Saints to the playoffs in franchise mode. Pick: Saints, by a whole hell of a lot.


Becks, Bonds, and Dodger Dogs

Well, there's obviously been an absolute dearth of posting on FTG the past couple weeks (I'm sure you've all noticed, right?). Gage has been out of the country and brokenhearted about the Ben-gals. I'd be brokenhearted too if my team had cheerleaders that were so... um... manly (see the picture to the left). Yours truly has been finishing up term papers, but I thought I'd take a break and do a quick post to hit upon a few things that've caught my eye the past couple days.

First off, Barry Bonds is a piece of shit. Yeah, no news there, but seriously... what the fuck? At least Mark McGwire seems like he could genuinely be a nice guy who got caught up in the whole steroids mess against his better judgment (I'm not going to get into the Hall of Fame debate--I'm just going to say that if he gets in, Pete Rose deserves in too. And I'm kind of beginning to think they both deserve to be there, no matter how much I detest both of them). Barry Bonds is simply a fuckjob. I curse ESPN for fawning over this sham of a home run chase.

First, Bonds essentially accused his teammate Mark Sweeney of doing amphetamines (Bonds tested positive for the drug and claimed he unknowingly took a supplement from Sweeney's locker--as an aside, what the hell is with all this purported swapping of locker stuff? Is Bonds wearing Jason Schmidt's jock too? These guys make millions a year. Get your own goddamned "vitamins.") Next, Bonds kindly retracts his accusations against Sweeney but unkindly neither denies he accused Sweeney in the first place nor apologizes for doing so. Dickwad. Enjoy your new clubhouse, Barry Zito. Don't forget to blame your weed problem on Omar Vizquel.

Second, I find it hard to care about soccer or the fact that David Beckham is assraping (see picture at left) MLS to the tune of $250 million. Brand me a stereotypical American, I don't care. I like playing soccer and I like playing golf, but I don't particularly enjoy watching either one. OK, so I realize getting a player of Beckham's magnitude is nothing but good for MLS, a soccer league in its infancy struggling to attract talent. But $1 million per week? Seriously? I don't care where the money's coming from, I find it hard to see how any athlete is worth that much (see: Rodriguez, Alex. And his $250 million contract was over 10 years, not 5. And for a player just entering his prime, not leaving it). I find it highly intriguing that the $250 million is coming from "endorsements" and "bonuses based on performance and the future success of the MLS." Is the money contingent on Adidas giving Becks a huge contract? McDonald's? Does Becks have to play 70 minutes a game? Does MLS have to sell 30% more tickets this year? Despite my soccer apathy, this is all very interesting to me.

Last but not least, God bless them, the LA Dodgers have made 3,000 seats "all you can eat" for next season. Of course, you're stuck eating all the low-cost ballpark food (nachos, hot dogs, and the like)--ice cream, BEER, and candy are excluded--but my money's on paparazzi photos of Becks and Posh, armloads of Dodger Dogs in hand, before the summer is out.


Hello, My Name is Randy Johnson. You Can Call Me Unit if You Like.

First off, I'd like to thank trout for so generously and graciously agreeing to post my open letter on the woefully underrated and under-visited Feeding the Goat. God bless you, Gage, and the work that you do.

My main reason for writing, however, is to thank Jerry Colangelo and the current Arizona Diamondbacks management for making me filthy rich at least until I'm 48 years old, long after I'll be of any on-field use to the franchise. You see, I'm already a decrepit 43 and yet I'm owed at least $68 million between now and 2012. Just to do the quick math for you, that's about $11 million a year, or about half a million lap dances at my favorite titty joint. God, it's going to be good to be back in Arizona.

Let me just say that Mr. Colangelo and current DBacks management are proving they know how to build a fiscally sound franchise that will not be burdened by absurd contracts for years to come. If one World Series title and my four Cy Youngs aren't worth more than $60 million six years after the fact, then you can just call me an ugly motherfucker.

Get ready for an injury-laden, 4.50 ERA season that'll look nothing like 2001, DBacks fans. It's cool though, I get paid either way.



Gage's Not-So-Wild Wildcard Picks

Thoughts while I sit in an airport terminal contemplating the potential implications of the voice interrupting the elevator music to inform me that the homeland security warning level has been raised to orange....

How do you pick the playoffs? During the season there's an ebb and flow to things, occasionally you predict a letdown game or when a team is in a must-win situation. Now, that's all out the window. It's the playoffs and I have no idea what to make of it. Particularly in wildcard weekend. We've got the teams who had to have everything go their way to get in up against the teams who backed right into the thing. Not really inspiring on either part.

What I'm trying to say here is that I'm taking the points in every game. I'm calling every game a coin flip and taking the heavier side of the coin. Luckily I'll be in a plane over the Pacific while all of these games are happening so I won't have to witness Eli Manning crying on the field or TO poking Romo in the eye on the sidelines. Eat it.

Kansas City (+7) over Indy
Dallas (+3) over Seattle
NY Jets (+8.5) over New England
NY Giants (+7) over Philly


KC vs. Indy Deathmatch, Cheerleader Style

With the Colts wildcard playoff game a mere 26 hours away, I felt compelled to write something about my horse (pun intended, I guess) in the playoffs. But I don't think I could bear to rehash everything everyone else has already said about the matchup (insert something about Larry Johnson and a poor run defense here).

Well praise Jesus, FTG readers, because colts.com blesses its faithful with a Cheerleader of the Week--offering yours truly a perfectly innovative way to compare the Ponies and the Team Soon to Lose. Unfortunately, latter said team has no such Cheerleader of the Week, only further proving their inferiority. Luckily, this week's Colts cheerleader of the week is none other than Crystal T. and, by god, I'll be damned if the Chiefs don't have their own Krystal C. Krystal C., you are my Chiefs cheerleader of the week. So with our Patron Saint, USC's Megan looking on, let the Deathmatch begin, sans judgments on beauty, buxomness, "hotness," or "how much I might like to sleep with each one." I am above objectifying cheerleaders. Completely.

Names: I have a tough time giving the edge to either cheerleader here. Krystal with a K is pretty trashy, but really, can I give points to Crystal with a C? They're virtually the same. Tiebreaker: Crystal's "T" connotes the one and only Mr. T., who, without a doubt, would seriously fuck up whoever Mr. C. is. Edge: Crystal T.

Occupations: While Crystal C. is a wonderfully vague "Marketing Consultant," Krystal T. is a--holy fuck, wait while I regain my senses--software engineer. Damn. I like me some smart women. Oh, and fuck marketing. Edge: Krystal T.

Favorite Movie: Krystal T. likes to watch white Italians get fucked up in The Godfather while Crystal C. likes to watch rich white girls do rich white shit in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Edge: Krystal T.

Favorite Food: They'll both love it if you take them on a date to a sushi bar. Christ, what is it with women and sushi (yes, I'm including you, Gage, in "women")? Krystal T. also likes her granny's cooking, though, and who doesn't? I love my grandma's cooking. Edge: Krystal T.

Interests/Hobbies: Crystal C., aside from claiming to like video games (I don't count Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero as legitimate video games, Crystal, in case that's what you meant), likes a veritable cornucopia of old people activities: bird watching, antiquing, gardening, and stamp collecting. Stamp collecting, seriously? Wow. Krystal T., on the other hand, enjoys doubling down in blackjack and making a motherfucker draw four in UNO while watching Family Guy. Me too, Krystal T., me too. Edge: Krystal T.

So there you have it, Krystal T., in a landslide. Congratulations, Krystal T., you have officially been named the winner of the Trout's KC/Indy Cheerleader Deathmatch. Unfortunately, your team will wilt upon exposure to Joseph Addai's manjuice. Colts, 34-27.

He Ain't No Talking Tub Of Butter, But Close

Rarely do I find any value in my ESPN Insider (insert stupid icon) account. I do, however maintain it and I continue to receive large format magazines with brightly colored covers that I do not read. One of the reasons I thought it would be cool was the rumor section for MLB and NFL. Generally it's a vast disappointment, but last night I noticed one little tidbit that I wouldn't have wanted to miss:
Left-handed pitcher Jim Parque, who hasn't appeared in the major leagues since 2003 because of shoulder trouble, is healthy again and trying to make a comeback, reports ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
Whoa! Jim Parque?? As I'm sure Trout and Bob remember, the summer of 2000 was truly a wondrous one for Parque and the White Sox. A 13-6 Record with a 4.28 ERA. Not bad. Of course then he blew out his shoulder and had a couple of comeback efforts finally giving into injury and retiring in 2003. Now, at 30 years old, he's poised to take the baseball world by storm and get back in the game. And, coincidentally the Reds and White Sox were mentioned among the teams looking at him.

So, this is a former big time prospect who had one decent year seven years ago and is now trying to make a comeback. One of two things is going on here. Either, he just can't give up the game and has to give it one more effort, or he's noticed the ridiculous amount of money going to mediocre-to-awful pitchers this year and wants a piece of the pie. Of course, unless some GM hasn't updated his calendar in a few years, I doubt there will be a bidding war.

I can't decide if I support his potential feel-good story or yet again just wish old ballplayers would go away. If he does sign with the Reds, though, I would certainly be looking forward to the overblown optimism column in the Cincy Enquirer that includes the quote "but, if Parque can regain his form from the 2000 season..." That's always fun. You know what? Bring it on, just so I can cheer "GO GET EM BUTTER TUB!!!" It's the small victories, really.


Bitch Slap Him, Just Not During Tea

It's an exciting time of year in English Premiership soccer. We're halfway through the season so the games really are starting to mean something. The transfer window is open for the month of January and our hip hop Mens National Teamer Clint Demsey and the scariest American soccer player ever, Oguchi Onyewu could be heading to England's top flight. Oh and we're on the cusp of Champions League knockout round games. But, what is hogging the headlines? The verbal slap fight between Chelsea's manager Jose Mourinho and Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson. Basically Mourinho says (paraphrasing) "Ha! Silly ManU. We have played like complete monkey feces and you are still only six points ahead of us in the standings. Hail Portugal!" While SAF replies with "You pitiful fool! Despite what you may percieve as weakness we remain atop your precious standings and shall prove victorious at season's outset. Long live Scotland!" Okay, maybe I took some liberties, but seriously come on you guys. And I thought bitching and acting like little girls were American pastimes. Those pretentious European assholes aren't better than us after all! U-S-A!!


Did That Really Just Happen?

As I lay in bed last night waiting for my heart to stop pounding after that Boise State victory in the Fiesta Bowl, I couldn't help but think two things. First: was that the best game I've ever watched? Frankly, I'm not sure but in this world of short attention spans, it ranks right up there.

Second, and more interestingly to me, I just couldn't shake the notion that this game would never happen in the NFL. It's just the nature of the college game that can lead to these crazy matchups that make no sense. Nobody is really that big of an underdog in the pros because the league has created so much parity. So, yes you're surprised when Oakland wins a game, but at the end of the season, everybody wins a couple of games and everybody loses a couple. But BSU/OU last night you had an established powerhouse from an established conference playing a team epitomized by their quarterback. A redneck who outwardly discusses his seeing a shrink and has some ill-advised facial hair. It's a rag-tag bunch, they're scrappy, don't count them out, they're the underdogs... oh and they're undefeated. Still.

Having watched so many more NFL than college games this year I was ready to give up in the game after that horrendous interception thrown by the Z Man (as I'm told he likes to be called) I was considering writing a "most heartbreaking loss ever?" post. 18 points is a helluva lot to blow on the verge of an historic season. But, with the college football rules allowing the clock to stop on a first down Boise had time to drive down the field and get within striking range of the end zone. In the NFL they would have run out of time on the clock and had to throw a couple of hail mary's. Why doesn't the NFL have this rule? Isn't it unfair to watch the clock run out while some chubby referee takes his time spotting the ball? Thus, it eliminates any play not right next to the sidelines and your only chance is the defense completely falling asleep. Bah, I say.

Finally, how great was the lateral for the TD, WR pass for TD, Statue of Liberty play sequence? I know announcers like to suck off NFL coaches who call a trick play on 2nd and 1 in the third quarter, but it takes some serious balls to call those plays on 4th and the ballgame twice then a two point conversion for the ballgame. Just going for the conversion takes some serious cahones. I promise you there is not a coach in the pro game who has it in them to do it. It's becoming an old stodgy game and losingsome of the flare that really seperated it from football. Great game last night and substantially better than any pro game I've seen all year. Congrats blue fielders.