Just When I Thought It Was Safe...

I hadn't been hating Chicago as much lately. Really. But, I guess that could only mean it was time for something new to come along and piss me off. Mission accomplished. Welcome to Douchebagville, population 2,833,321. You officially suck again.


That's SO Random! With Gage

I need a good title for random thoughts posts. "That's SO Random!" made me laugh to myself today, so that's what you get. Any suggestions? Anyway...

- I have virtually nothing to write about with the Reds anymore. It becomes a little redundant talking about the team with the worst record in baseball sucking. I feel sorry for the beat writers. The whole Griffey returns to Seattle angle must have felt like Christmas. Hell, I'll probably be writing a "Can the Reds Finish Out of Last Place" post in August. Well, at least they don't have the fourth highest payroll in all of baseball and still suck.

- At the risk of making every post this summer about soccer, I've really become obsessed with the game. One of my very favorite daily bookmarks is the BBC's daily Gossip & Transfers column. Basically they've managed to take the rumor page of your favorite American paper and turn it into a Soccer version of Us Weekly. This what happens when you stop having to verify sources.

- Elsewhere in soccer, USA starts play in Copa America tomorrow vs. Argentina who should absolutely destroy us if all goes according to plan. I don't get the channel broadcasting the game, so I will be watching the Spanish language version at a friend's house with his Honduran fiance's non-English-speaking family. I can't wait.

- Very little Bengals news lately. Is that odd for June? I can never remember. I guess, at this point, no news is good news with this team. I sense an interesting dynamic though among fans. Nobody wants to get overly optimistic going into this season (at least not yet). After an 11-5 record in 2005-06 everybody had their blinders on, looking to the postseason. And, frankly 8-8 was a huge letdown. I guess nobody is holding their breath this year. At least until the first "Caleb Miller is Absolutely Crushing People" report comes out of training camp.

- One final note: Griffey to the Cubs, never going to happen. However, it did stir up some interesting reactions out of me. For all the struggles he's had in Cincy he's still the face of the franchise and the biggest fan favorite. I'd hate to see him go, but I have to admit my immediate second reaction was "wow, I wonder what they could get for him?" And, to close with your terrible joke of the day: maybe they could get Carlos Zambrano and a temper tantrum to be named later.

Where's my rim shot?


U-S-A! U-S-A!

Wow, that game was awesome. Down 1-0 to the Mexicans at half time, I talked to my friend Dan (who happened to be at the game) and made the statement that despite the score, this was a really good game. And, lo and behold the second half kicked it up to a whole new level with the Red, White and Blue scoring two dramatic goals and holding off their biggest rivals in a game both desperately wanted to win. This was one of the highest caliber games I've ever watched the MNT play. It was a joy to watch. I want a copy of it on DVD so that I can use it as an example for all those Americans who refuse to embrace the game.

The best moment of the day was of course Benny Feilhaber's volley goal from just outside the box. I doubt he could make more than two or three out of ten attempts at the same shot in practice, but regardless it was a world class strike. My other favorite moments included the almost flawless refereeing (a decided change from every other Gold Cup match) and GoochOnyewu tearing off his jersey and receiving his championship medal while wearing an American flag as a cape (see picture). The only low moments for me were the vicious head-to-head collision between Spector and Guardado from the Mexican side which left them both rattled and took Spector out of the game. I haven't seen yet, but hopefully neither player sustained any serious injuries. Oh yeah, and I have no idea why Frankie Hejduyk was bare-chested, he sat out the whole game after two yellows.

All-in-all, a great day for US soccer of the present and the future. Now bring on Copa America!


A Look Back and a Look Forward: on Blowing up the 2007 White Sox

Rumor on the street is that Mark Buehrle may be headed to Boston soon. If he's got to be traded, he might as well be traded to a team I get to watch all the time, right? I'd be excited to see him pitch in Fenway, and I'd be excited for my White Sox to get some top talent in return (or what I guess is top talent--I am completely ignorant about prospects). Whether or not this is a bright idea for the Red Sox, I have no idea. I'll leave that to Mark over at the Crazy.

In any case, it appears as though Kenny is looking at blowing up the 2007 White Sox sooner rather than later. In a way, I think it's better this way. I'd rather them completely tank and restructure than have to suffer through a mediocre season, miss the playoffs, and quietly lose Buehrle and Dye and others to free agency. So it goes.

On a slightly different note, since I pretty much watch any baseball game that's on TV, I've become a hell of a lot more familiar with the Red Sox and, to a lesser extent, the Braves this year. And you know what I noticed? Willie Harris is having himself a hell of a May and June since getting called up by the Braves. Playing mostly left field, he's hitting .379 with a .438 OBP and 10 steals in 44 games.

I was always sort of a Willie Harris fan when he was with the White Sox, so it was kinda sad to see him ushered out the door following the World Series run in 2005. He had a rough go with the Red Sox last year, playing mostly in the minors and playing pretty poorly with the big club in sporadic action. Now that he's seeing regular playing time with his home-state team (he was born in Cairo, Georgia), he's playing better than either Juan Uribe or Tadahito Iguchi (Willie mostly played middle infield rather than outfield for the White Sox) and making me wish the ChiSox had held onto him.

Willie's resurgence--career year, really (or one-third of a year)--got me to thinking about more exciting days in White Sox history than the present day. Looking back to 2002, Willie's first year with the Sox, I was struck by the amount--and quality--of major league talent on that roster that's still around today. Hell, with some finessing, you'd be fielding a better, albeit much older, starting 9 (you wouldn't have a pitching staff, but whatever) than the crap Ozzie and Kenny are putting out there today.

So with the 2007 team on the brink of being blown up into unrecognizability (it's a word because I say it's a word), let's take a look at what the lineup would look like populated with 2002 cast-offs, with some key 2007 stats that put the White Sox's current offense to shame.

1. CF-Kenny Lofton (Rangers--.289 BA, 16 SBs)
2. SS-Willie Harris (Braves--aforementioned greatness)
3. RF-Magglio Ordonez (Tigers--MVP numbers: .381 BA, 1.110 OPS, 13 HR, 68 RBI)
4. LF-Carlos Lee (Astros--12 HR, 59 RBI)
5. 1B-Frank Thomas (Blue Jays--12 HR, 34 RBI)
6. DH-Aaron Rowand (Phillies--.395 OBP, 10 HR, 39 RBI)
7. 3B-Jose Valentin (Mets...ummm, injury shortened. And I hate him)
8. 2B-Ray Durham (Giants... well, Ray's not having a go
od year. But then again, that's status quo for the Giants)
9. C-Miguel Olivo (Marlins--also not impressive, but hey, he's starting for the Marlins)

Coming off the bench would be Joe Borchard, Tony Graffanino, and Royce Clayton with Jon Rauch and Bob Howry in the pen.

So, maybe not as impressive as I first thought it was, but whatever. How many teams could populate a viable lineup of guys with the team 5 years ago, since traded or let go... and actually be pretty faithful to their actual positions? Just for comparison's sake, doing the same thing for the Reds turns up guys like Jose Guillen, Wily Mo Pena, Austin Kearns, Juan Encarnacion, Brady Clark, Sean Casey, and Aaron Boone. Maybe the White Sox situation is not so unique... but I think it's safe to say they'd kick the reconstituted 2002 Reds cast-off team at least.

A couple more weeks and guys like Buehrle and maybe even Garland--two of only four players still remaining from the 2002 team (Konerko and Crede are the others)--may find themselves in different uniforms, making the White Sox cast-off team all the more better than the real thing.

Congratulations, Nate Schierholtz

You just accomplished something perhaps more noteworthy than getting hit by a Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch. I'll have to check with Kenny Albert, though. Hit by pitch may still outrank walk-off game winning hit on the "remember to tell the grandkids 40 years from now" scale.


What's the Story on the Rockies?

A sidebar post over at the Crazy rightly notes that ESPN and everyone else should wake up from their East Coast-induced haze of Yankee/Red Sox/Mets/(even Braves) adoration and realize that the Rockies are making something of themselves out in the NL West. Interleague has given them the opportunity to beat the BoSox 2 of 3 and sweep the again-struggling Yanks, keeping Roger Clemens from getting his 350th win (gasp!). Although they're still 4th in the division, they're only 3.5 back, 4 games over .500, and more telling, in my mind, they've won (or split--for that one stupid 4 game series they played) every series for the past month. That's what winning teams do.

So who the hell are the Rockies and why are they doing so well? The guys over at Fire Joe Morgan would point out that Joe Morgan would have no freaking idea who any Rockies are, save maybe Todd Helton. Those among us that are more knowledgeable could probably name Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe, Brian Fuentes, and maybe somebody would remember that they traded for Willy Taveras from Houston. Bonus points for knowing that Met castoff Kaz Matsui is their starting second baseman.

But none of those guys are starting pitchers. None. In fact, there's really no "name" on the pitching staff outside of Fuentes. Even that's debatable considering most of us would have no idea who the hell he was if we didn't play fantasy baseball and follow the saves category as if it actually meant something in real life.

Don't you have to have an "ace" to succeed in baseball? A guy who can stop losing streaks? A guy you can rely on for 7 innings when your bullpen is shot from picking up the slack from your AAAA 5th starter? Isn't pitching kind of important, especially in Colorado, where it takes some talent to keep the ball in the ballpark? Isn't that supposedly why Colorado has failed to have any success since the Dante Bichette and Vinny Castilla years? Isn't that why they (stupidly) signed Mike Hampton to an outrageous contract? At least one Colorado writer thinks the Rockies need to acquire a starting pitching "name"--Mark Buehrle--to put their team over the top.

I've been kind of fascinated with conventional wisdom in baseball after reading Moneyball (so, you know, all of 5 days now), and I'm beginning wonder if the Rockies' performance thus far this year is working to disprove the kind of wisdom about starting pitching we all take for granted. Perhaps it's just a freak exception to the rule. Or perhaps it's just an illusory success and the Rockies will come crashing back down to Earth in the second half. But I think it's worth taking a look at and pondering. So without further ado, here is the Rockies starting rotation:

Jeff Francis-7-5, 3.44 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 6.16 Ks/9
Aaron Cook-4-4, 4.65 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 3.01 Ks/9
Jason Hirsh-3-6, 4.78 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 6.17 Ks/9
Josh Fogg-3-5, 4.58 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 5.60 Ks/9
Rodrigo Lopez (only 8 starts)-4-0, 2.93 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 4.89 Ks/9

Certainly nobody dominating, unless you count Lopez. And while he may indeed be resurrecting a once fairly promising career (2002 and 2004), the sample size is exceedingly small and his ERA figures to regress more closely to his career 4.74 mark. Francis is the team "ace" if you have to pick one, but his numbers aren't overly inspiring and his face makes him more like 17 than the 26 he supposedly is (truly a drawback when you consider "ace" material, no?). Hirsh is having a fairly impressive rookie campaign (he also came over from the Astros in the Taveras trade), but judging by his numbers, Fogg is lucky to have an ERA of only 4.58. So what gives?

The bullpen, apparently. Or, rather, the bullpen doesn't give. Simply put, they don't give up leads once they have them. Even though some guy named Rob Veno seems to think little of the Rockies bullpen, I don't see how you can argue with results. Sight unseen, it seems the Rockies have been riding the same three guys all season, and all of them have ERAs under 3: Jeremy Affeldt, Manny Corpas, and the aforementioned Fuentes. Since coming over in mid-May, Jorge Julio has posted a sub-2.00 ERA.

Looking at the White Sox and Reds this year, it's painfully apparent how integral a bullpen can be to a team's success. Neither of those teams can hold a lead to save their lives. The Sox were offensively challenged to the extreme in 2005, but were able to win close games because Politte, Cotts, and Jenks shut teams down in late innings. Apparently, the Rockies have the same kind of thing going for them this year. Enough offense to make up for somewhat mediocre starting pitching, but a lights out bullpen to hold leads once you get them. But bullpens are fickle, cruel mistresses, Colorado. Will Affeldt, Corpas, Julio, and Fuentes have the magic touch the rest of the way?

Who the hell knows. The more I think about baseball, the more I'm convinced that half of the game is 90 percent luck (not mental, sorry, Yogi).

Quick Hits On The Gold Cup (Because you know you want it.)

  • USA 2-1 Canada, that's what really matters.
  • On the other hand, Canada deserved that second goal in second half stoppage time
  • On the other, other hand, USA had plenty of other chances to score that they just biffed on
  • DeRosario and DeGuzman were held in check for most of the game, particularly DeGuzman. That was nice work by the defense.
  • Landon Donovan gets a yellow card for diving? What the fuck? Christiano Ronaldo goes the whole World Cup without a card and now they're giving one to Donovan? Right. Further proof that the entire Latin American world of soccer hates him.
  • Keller got kind of beat up, but I wasn't really excited to see him cry about it. (Speaking of Keller, he looks really old whenever I see him wearing his glasses)
  • That tackle by Michael Bradley that got him the straight red card was vicious, and not in the good way. More like in the "you're going to injure somebody and hurt the team at the same time, fucktard" sort of way. What a stupid play. Now he has to miss the final after what was really an excellent tournament for the 19 year old.
  • On a similar note, Bocanegra probably could have gotten a straight red for his second half tackle that sent (if memory serves) DeGuzman doing a full flip through the air. There was no ball on that one either.
  • Kind of like Cardillo over at That's On Point, I was decidedly pessimistic about this game before it started, albeit for different reasons. I just don't feel like the US team is peaking at the right time. I felt better after they came out and got some early chances, but wouldn't it be nice, just once, if they converted?
  • This was the same script as the Panama game: generate lots of chances early in the game with no goals to show for it, score a couple in the late first/early second half, get lazy and surrender a late goal and pray to god that you don't give up another.
  • Hey Clint, we get it. You're a big shot, you have good footwork and ball control, you play in the Premiership. Now just put the fucking ball in the back of the fucking net, goddamnit, and quit dancing around trying to be Ronaldinhio.
  • I feel sorry for Eddie Johnson. I don't know what it is but he can't seem to get the job done on the international level. No way does he start in the final.
  • Frankie Hejduk converted me. I kept wishing they would start Spector or Simek all tournament, but Frankie was everywhere in every game he started and even scored the opening goal last night. Consider me impressed, old man.
  • Now, it's too bad that Hejduk has to sit out of the final after his second yellow of the tournament. I'm giving the nod to Spector but definitely pulling him after no more than 75 minutes for Simek, if I'm the coach (fyi, I'm not). Spector looked exhausted at the end of the last game he started.
  • Speaking of tired players, why didn't Bob Bradley take out his son sooner when he had been running the entire game and was obviously pooped? Regrettable.
  • If you're keeping track, Sunday's final should be really fucking fun. The Mexican fans at Soldier Field are going to be out of their minds. Let's just hope a few Americans show up.
  • And finally, keep your eyes on the center backs for the USA. I'm about 75% sure that we're going to see some head to head collission involving Gooch Onyewu and one of his own players a la the Three Stooges due to his always being out of position. Remember I called it first.


NBA Thugs and Baseball Gentlemen

The Big Lead posted a thought-provoking piece today about the way fighting in the NBA is perceived versus the way fighting in Major League Baseball is perceived. I think to have a legitimate discussion about this, you have to throw in the other major sports, too: the NFL, where I can't remember any real fight on the field ever occurring (I'm sure I'm just overlooking them, but whatever); and the NHL (and hockey in general), a sport (not necessarily a league) that connotes fighting more than sporting to a lot of people (see the tired "I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out" joke, for instance).

A lot of the commenters on The Big Lead already addressed a lot of very good possible reasons why fighting is spun differently in the NBA and in baseball: race, the proximity of fans to the playing field, the relative strength of commissioners and player unions, "tradition," etcetera, etcetera. Whatever. I got tired of reading after about 5 comments (as an aside--who are these people that have the time and/or desire to read upwards of 100 comments on a blog post? Who gives a shit what some random asshole thinks about a random sports topic? I say all this completely aware of the irony in a blogger with commenters wondering these things. But still...) OK, back to the fisticuffs.

While I think race (baseball=white, basketball=black), fan proximity to the playing/fighting field (baseball=far, basketball=close), and commissioners and player unions (Selig=gutless moronic wussy, Stern=iron-fisted dictator) all play into the way fighting is spun in the different sports, I'm inclined to think tradition--whatever the hell that means--is perhaps the biggest factor in the way these things are handled.

Especially after reading Moneyball, where it becomes clear that damn near everything in baseball is done a certain way because that's the way it was always done, it seems to me that maybe the rich historic tradition of the whole "code of honor" bullshit/beanball wars in baseball contributes to a tendency to write off such bench-clearing brawls as simply a part of the game. I'm next to completely ignorant about hockey, but it seems like the same could be the case over there. Guys beat the shit out of each other on the ice because that's just an accepted part of the game. In basketball and football, however, melees have never really been a part of things for whatever reason. Double standard, to be sure.

But the double standard that applies within baseball, between pitchers and position players, is something that I still can't wrap my head around. In the latest round of fisticuffs, this time between San Diego pitcher Chris Young and Cubbies first baseman Derrek Lee, both pitcher and position player were suspended 5 games (and are appealing those suspensions) for taking swings at each other. They each had a roughly equal role in the fighting (Young threw the beanball, Lee took the first swing) so supposedly "equal" suspensions of 5 games were dealt out. That means, of course, that Chris Young misses one start and Derrek Lee misses five starts, which doesn't seem equal at all.

I'm not proposing Young be suspended for 25 games here, but I also don't believe the suspensions in this case are equal in severity. How do you deal with pitchers versus position players in a situation like this? I don't have any satisfying answers, but it's pretty clear that Bud Selig will never, ever, ever, ever have an even mildly satisfying solution either.


Moneyball: an astonishing read

Well, "astonishing" isn't how I'd describe Moneyball, but if Michael Lewis was describing my reaction to the book, he might use "astonishing" because damn near everything is worthy of being deemed "astonishing." The low cost of on-base percentage? Astonishing. Billy Beane admitting a mid-season shake-up was unnecessary? Astonishing. Bill James' Baseball Abstract? Astonishing. Greg Maddux's reaction to giving up cheap hits? Astonishment. Chad Bradford's AAA stats? Astonishing. And on. And on. And on.

OK, so railing on the author's penchant for astonishment is pretty nitpicky. But it did seem strangely out of step with a narrative that's all about removing a certain level of astonishment, mysticism, and stupidity from the game and replacing it with rationality, logic, and "science"--however loosely that last term may be employed. And it was freaking annoying.

Anyway, I realize I'm years behind the curve here, but I'm gonna jot down a few thoughts about the book anyway. New to me, new to FTG. So it goes.

Overall, I did find Moneyball a really enjoyable, light read... and fairly well-written, as sports writing goes (my field of judgment as far as books is about as limited as it gets here--I remember reading Andre Dawson's (auto)biography... along with the Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann SportsCenter book way back in the day). In any case, it was a nice read after being liberated from the shackles of 19th century literature.

It illustrated exceedingly well the institutional and individual inertia built around received knowledge, evident in so many walks of life, can be completely and utterly illogical and destructive. And it showed how difficult rationality and logic is to adhere to sometimes, no matter how much you're committed to your system (there are many exceptions to the rules Billy Beane sets up for himself).

As much as I've come to trust Kenny Williams (despite his adherence to "small ball" and his strange affinity for guys like Darin Erstad and Scott Podsednik), do I wish Billy Beane was the White Sox's GM? Undoubtedly yes. But those things aside, I think reading Moneyball was one of those cases of having a book built up so much--by friends, media, whomever--that I couldn't help but be disappointed.

For me, the most disappointing aspect of the book was its intention to disprove the idea that economic disparity in baseball is a serious problem. I don't care that however many different teams have won the World Series in however many years, creating more winning diversity than other professional sports leagues--as Billy Beane says, winning in the playoffs is something of a crapshoot. Just look at the Cardinals last year.

It can be incredibly demoralizing to a fan base to continually lose superstars, developed in the farm system, to free agency because your team can't afford to pay them. It's even more demoralizing to fail to be competitive year after year after year. Yes, Billy Beane has been able to make the Oakland A's successful despite a low payroll. Yes, he has done it by being smarter than a bunch of dumb GMs. But that does not logically mean that baseball doesn't have a huge problem in payroll disparity.

Here's why: if Billy Beane had the money that Brian Cashman had, he'd mop the floor with the league, year after year, instead of having to scrap and claw his way to the top. In other words, money doesn't automatically make winners, but it makes winning a hell of a lot easier. To argue that because the Oakland A's of the world exist we don't need some sort of salary cap or more drastic revenue sharing is akin to arguing that, because some families are capable of living a happy life below the poverty line we don't need to address the growing disparity of wealth in this country. It's absurd.

For all the awareness of problems surrounding small sample sizes Michael Lewis seems to show throughout the book, he ignores the fact that the time encompassed in Moneyball is an exceedingly small sample size--a sample that worked particularly well to illustrate the supposed "genius" of the way Billy Beane and JP Ricciardi ran the A's. From 2000-2003, the A's made the playoffs every single year. The next 2 years, while they were certainly competitive, they missed the playoffs. Does that mean Billy Beane was any less genius those years? No, I don't think so. But what happens when the richer teams get smarter?

Theo Epstein, who makes a cameo appearance at the end of Moneyball, is held up as an example of the type of GM that employs the same strategies as Billy Beane. The thing is, Theo has roughly two to three times as much money to play with as Billy--which means he can hang onto and buy guys like Manny, Big Papi, Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, etc., etc. These are the kind of guys--guys like Tejada, Giambi, and others--that Beane has continually been forced to let go. The Red Sox won the championship in 2004 and, despite suffering a third place finish due to a rash of injuries last year, have set themselves up to succeed far into the future. It's something that's a lot easier to do when you've got that much money to play with.

And don't think the Yankees aren't taking notice--Brian Cashman is running his team with more and more sense, which is kinda scary. Of course, money combined with supposedly Moneyball-type roots won't guarantee that you're competitive. The Blue Jays and JP Ricciardi have made and been burned by some questionable investments the past couple years--AJ Burnett, BJ Ryan, Frank Thomas, to name the most prominent. So there are no guarantees no matter how you run your team.

But still (and I realize I've got no hard evidence to back this up), I don't see how you can debate my core point: money makes it easier to win. Who do I blame for this? Bud Selig, naturally. I hate you Bud.


OK. Realistically, the White Sox are Already Done for This Year.

But if they don't win the series this weekend at Pittsburgh--a team that actually has a lower winning percentage than the Sox in a division much crappier than the AL Central--(hell, if they don't sweep it) you can really write the rest of this year off. Sell off Dye, sell of Buehrle (because you won't pay him the Zito-esque cash he has coming in the off-season), sell off Contreras (somebody would take a chance on him, right?), sell off anything else of value, and call up what few prospects you have and see what they can do. This team needs to get younger and more well-rounded. And fast.

I know no one else is talking about this, but would the Sox consider trading Jim Thome? Yes, losing both him and Dye would create a huge hole in the middle of the lineup, and yes Jim is a nice guy-defusing restaurant confrontations, and yes the Phillies are picking up a large portion of his salary. But his power, his contract status (option for 2009), and his clubhouse presence would bring a lot more in return than rent-a-Dye or rent-a-Buehrle. Besides, I don't think the hole in the middle of the lineup could get much more gaping than it already is. Just something that occurred to me all of the sudden. Could be completely stupid. Feel free to tell me if it is.

In other (more local) news (for me), the Yanks have made up 3 games on the Red Sox in a hurry. The Carmines' lead is now 7.5 as the Bronx Bombers (aren't those nicknames so cute?) have won their past 9. Granted, this is due in large part to playing the shitty White Sox, the shitty Pirates, and the actually fairly decent D-Backs in consecutive series, but Abreu, Cano, and the rest of those jokers are heating up. How long till the Boston media starts freaking out about this? How long till the Red Sox start freaking out about this? If the Yanks are only 4 or 5 out by the All-Star break, look out. To be as ridiculously awful as they were for the first 2 months of the season and only be that far out at the half? Wow. Imagine if they had a healthy rotation and a lineup progressing to projections in the second half.


Trout's All-Star Ballot All Up In Your Face

So rather than diligently working on my last paper of the semester for every single waking minute yesterday, I decided I'd sit down for 10 minutes and fill out my 2007 MLB All-Star ballot 25 times. I also decided I'd watch Deadliest Catch, Mythbusters, the Red Sox vs. Rockies; wish Man vs. Wild was on again (tomorrow!); eat a lot of pistachios; check Deadspin and South Side Sox roughly 30 times throughout the day; do laundry; buy a Father's Day card... and many, many other time-wasting endeavors.

But I imagine if you're reading FTG, you care at least marginally more about the All-Star ballot than the rest of that crap. Because most of you faithful readers are also in my fantasy baseball league--which I lead, naturally--you've no doubt got ants in your pants wanting to find out who was on my ballot. "He's such a baseball wizard that he whips our asses at fantasy baseball every year," you say to yourselves, "he must really know who the All-Stars are." Well yes, yes, I do. Here they are, along with an explanation why, for instance, Ivan Rodriguez is on my ballot instead of Jorge Posada:

AL Squad:
1B-David Ortiz. What a lovable guy. Great smile.
2B-Placido Polanco. Felt sorry for him--he looks like a forceps birth baby.
3B-Mike Lowell. Because fuck the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez, that's why.
SS-Carlos Guillen. Because fuck the Yankees and Derek Jeter, that's why.
C-Ivan Rodriguez. Because fuck the Yankees and Jorge Posada, that's why.
OFs-Torii Hunter, Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield. I was tempted to go with Craig Monroe for the all-Tigers outfield (hell, that'd make it almost an all-Tigers team), but for some reason I went with Sox killer Torii Hunter. Yeah, Vladi should probably be on this ballot, but he's gonna make the team no matter what.

NL Squad:
1B-Prince Fielder. Pujols is coasting on name recognition alone, but Prince is actually close enough to catch him. Let's make it happen, people. Looking forward to seeing his daddy Cecil in the stands. Let's lay down odds on how many seats he'll have to buy.
2B-Brandon Phillips. Because the sexy and logical pick is Chase Utley. Give Cincy some love!
3B-David Wright. See also: David Ortiz. So sexy!
SS-JJ Hardy. Because I'm fucking sick of hearing Joe Morgan fellate Jose Reyes. We all get it. He's good. But JJ Hardy's got 16 homers and he's making $400 grand. Like the chick in the picture, I've got JJ Hardy fever.
C-Russell Martin. Too lazy to look, but I think he's got the best stats. Lo Duca and McCann are coasting on past seasons.
OFs-Jeff Francoeur, Ken Griffey Jr., Carlos Lee. Because for some reason I enjoy snubbing Beltran--and you know he's starting no matter what. El Caballo would make former-Sox starter #2, with Maggs. And wouldn't it be fun to see Griffey starting in center... maybe for one last All-Star game?

The White Sox, after having 7 All-Stars last year, legitimately deserve no more than the minimum this year. And that man will probably be Bobby Jenks... or Mark Buehrle (who started last year) on the strength of his no-hitter. Funny thing is, all 7 of those All-Stars last year are still with the team. Boy, the luster of that World Series title wears off quick.


Tough Day To Be A Hardcore Dale Jr. Fan

Well, Dale Jr. announced yesterday that he was switching teams. I know next to nothing about the internal workings of NASCAR, besides the fact that they are raking in the cash, but I did notice one tidbit towards the end of the article.
It is not known what number Earnhardt will drive.
Think about that for a second. There are some die hard NASCAR fans out there who dedicate their lives to associating themselves with a particular driver, and by extension his number. From what I've observed (and I do live in Kentucky) Earnhardt Jr.'s fans are about the most dedicated of them all. Let's suppose for a moment, that Little E (as I like to call him) does change his number. What does this mean to the fans?A whole new collection of camo hats?

A new Paint job maybe?

A trip back to the tattoo parlor for a touch up?

Good luck Jr. fans. It's going to be a tense couple of days.

Todd Helton's Playing for Boston in His Mind

... or maybe he's desperately campaigning to play for the Carmines (here's lookin' at you Hawk Harrelson), like that girl at the bar who's trying just a little too hard. How do I know this, you ask? Well, luckily I've been blessed for a keen eye to fashion cues and what they mean for the game on the field.

Tuning into the Red Sox-Rockies game last night (does watching every single game make me a Red Sox fan? I can't decide), the first thing I wondered was where, oh where has the fresh faced Todd Helton of 2006 gone?

He's been replaced with a Todd Helton sporting an ass-ugly goatee, suspiciously like that of...

Kevin Youkilis, the guy he probably would've kicked off of first base had the Helton for Lowell/Tavarez/prospects trade gone through.

No prayer of that happening with Lowell and Youkilis both knocking the cover off the ball, and poor Todd is left to play for good ol' mediocre Colorado, mourning--or living vicariously--through his facial hair.

P.S. Joe Crede had back surgery yesterday and may never play another game in a Sox uniform (although that's probably overstating it--he should be ready to go by 2008, and his trade value is pretty questionable until he proves he can produce post-surgery). Sad. How quickly our heroes (read: man-crushes) fall.

In other news, Ozzie thinks the White Sox losing is like having blue balls night after night. How, I'm not exactly sure--perhaps because we know they have the potential, it just isn't happening? Anyway, from the Sun-Times: "As far as the latest loss by the Sox (27-33), Guillen compared it to kissing a girlfriend each night, hoping it finally is time to go further, before she once again announces it's time to leave." I wish I knew what the actual quote was instead of that bland paraphrase... so it goes.

P.P.S. Apropos of nothing, but this picture is too great not to post:

Freddy to go Under Knife, Just Wants a Little Weed for Anaesthetic

Not much to say here besides Pat Gillick and his scouts are apparently pretty dumb. Anybody with two eyes and half a brain could see Freddy Garcia wasn't right last year, and now it looks like he'll have to have surgery on a messed up labrum. Here's what it all means, broken down all math-equation-y style:

Freddy Garcia '07 = Shoulder Gate '00 + plausible deniability

Obviously, Kenny has learned from past mistakes. Suspicion a guy you soon want to trade is injured? Simple, just don't have your docs take a look at him and then pray to God some stupid ass GM takes him off your hands for you. To top it all off, this time we got a player in Gio Gonzalez who is likely to contribute a little more to the club than David Wells ever did. In case you've forgotten, fatty, Chicago still hates you and your underperforming, Frank Thomas-hating shenanigans.


Adam Dunn's Last Name Can Be Substituted For The Word "Done" To Create Hilarious Headlines

The secret is out, maybe. Adam Dunn is supposedly on the trading block and nobody is denying it. What's this mean? Well, the 50-homer-potential player who makes over $10 million per year could be heading out of the 'Nati to greener pastures. If you haven't read the details, Dunner isn't technically in the final year of his contract, but his club option for next year would be voided by a trade. That's a club option that the Reds would most certainly take advantage of, but would really sting them in their most sensitive area, the pocketbook. Getting rid of that salary could be a real coup for club, seeing as how they finally get rid of Eric Milton's contract ($10 million this year) after this season; meaning they'd have somewhere in the ballpark of $20 million to play with. That's an obscene amount of money for a team whose biggest free agent signing last winter was Alex Gonzalez (again, not the really shitty one, just the mediocre one).

Should the Reds trade Dunn? Well, a poll on Cincinnati.com shows the fans are pretty divided, but I think it's time. Just like Sean Casey did, Dunn has played just well enough for just long enough to be out of the Reds price range. It's time to get decent value for him and set yourself up for a push in the off season. All of this begs the question: where would he go? It's got to be a contendor and a team looking for some power that can put up with the strikeouts.

LA Dodgers - The team that really looks like they should win the NL West appears to be having trouble scoring runs. The Dodgers rank 12th in the NL in runs scored in June and are next to last in HR this season (only 39 in 64 games). It could happen because the Dodgers clearly are a "big market" team and could afford the salary hit. Unfortunately they've already got Luis Gonzalez in LF, so that could be awkward. (While we're here, please enjoy this awkward Nomar/Mia Hamm picture)

Detroit - I could see an Adam Dunn for Craig Monroe & prospects type of deal (assuming Detroit wanted to get rid of Monroe's almost $5m salary). Then, he and Sheffield could take turns booting balls in LF.

Minnesota - This one certainly makes sense, and I feel like the notion of a Twins pitching prospect can only be a good thing (see: Santana, Liriano), but it's really hard to see the financials working out. Twins management is too savvy, despite their glaring hole in left field.

Anaheim - The Angels have shown no lack of financial resources in the past few years. Plus, they could certainly use a DH with some pop. Interestingly, the Angels are coming to the 'Nati tonight for a three game set. If, by some chance, Dunn gets hot and bangs two or three big homers in this series, we could find ourselves with a motivated buyer.

NY Mets - Moises Alou is 40, and was eligible to come off the DL over a week ago but didn't. Shawn Green and Endy Chavez have both been hurt. You have to think Omar Minaya is going to think long and hard about a 27 year old slugger regardless of the money involved. It would at least steal some headlines from the Yankees for a few days. Plus, it would be great to watch Dunn try and handle the media crush up there. He might retire on the spot.

My prediction: Anaheim.

Also on ESPN.com this morning...

... in the so sadly amusing it'll make you cry department, a new player rater. To give you an idea of where the White Sox stand, Magglio Ordonez--yes, former White Sox Magglio Ordonez--tops the list with an 87. Here are the top Sox hitters (tiny, I know, but deal with it):

Jim Thome is the only one to crack double digits--and he's at 16.3, tied with... wait for it... wait for it... Shawn Green. Wow. By contrast, the Reds have 4 hitters in double digits, and three in the 30s--Griffey, Dunn, and Brandon Phillips.

The pitchers fare only slightly better, screwed in part, I'm sure, by a lack of wins--something directly attributable to the lackluster offense:

Who, you ask, is just ahead of Bobby Jenks? Matt Guerrier. Again, who, you ask? The Twins' middle reliever, of course!

Best ESPN.com pulled quote ever

I know why Uribe isn't paying anyone 25 grand. It's not because he didn't shoot the guy (although he probably didn't). It's because if he keeps hitting like he has been, he's gonna need to start saving his pennies.


Thoughts on USA Soccer and the Gold Cup

I never really understood why the World Cup is so much bigger than the Olympics or any other international competition when it was the only soccer I ever watched. It's hard to put into context where the national teams fit in with the domestic leagues and club teams (and the big money, in particular). The truth is, the FIFA system is completely different than any other sport. When it's time for the USA basketball team to play in the Olympics, we slap together our All-Stars have them train for a few weeks and send them off to the tournament. In soccer it's so much more organized that there are games and camps year-round and the team has a full-time coach. This allows national teams to develop together and gain that level of camaraderie an Olympic basketball team could never get.

The recently appointed US Mens National Team coach, Bob Bradley, took a team of international and MLS players to the CONCACAF Gold Cup starting last Thursday. If you don't know what CONCACAF stands for, just remember that it means North America. Basically what that means is that the USA and Mexico come in as the overwhelming favorites. CONCACAF is not known as a strong region, and that's an understatement. It sucks.

The USA was placed into the region with Guatemala, El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago (am I the only one who always forgets this country isn't in Africa) and opened with Guatemala Thursday. It was a frustrating game because of the style of play of the Guatemalans. Particularly Carlos Ruiz who, from the two games I've seen him play, has shown a penchant for diving and under-cutting defensemen in the air. By the end of the game I wanted to jump through the screen and slap him around myself. Apparently Gooch Onyewu felt the same way because he got a pair of yellow cards after dealing with the little shit. The US team, who should have scored several goals, held on after going a man down and won the game 1-0.

Does it sound pretentious to complain about a 1-0 win? If so, fuck it. The team looked out of sync and almost always a step slow on defense. Onyewu played just about as bad he could have and the same old story perpetuated itself: a total lack of finishing. Thank god for Dempsey.

Saturday's game brought an almost entirely new lineup and a fresh start against what was basically the T&T JV team (there was a dust up over players getting paid for the WC, so almost all of them sat out the Gold Cup). And, it was the same old story. Justin Mapp was the best player on the pitch until Donovan came in after halftime. Mapp hit a cross that basically bounced off Brian Ching to go in. Donovan then did just about the same for Eddie Johnson (who was pleasantly un-terrible for most of this game) on a break away. The back four was a little more solid in this game and I enjoyed watching the outside backs push up and make runs into the box, but this was not a good team and they gave the US fits for most of the game.

Again, the good news was a 2-0 win against a team they should have beat. USA officially advances to the quarterfinals and can play for seeding. The real bad news of the two games so far has been the officiating. In the Guatemala game, their midfielders got tired and were absolutely crushing our players. It was a disgusting display and truly shocking that CONCACAF couldn't do any better. It's a wonder no Americans got hurt. A new crew on Saturday night brought a whole new set of bullshit. One particular referee's assistant on the sideline made no less than FOUR indefensible offsides calls against US players and one awful out-of-bounds call. The announcers mentioned that he is from Cuba. Figures, commies.

So, what have we learned from two games into our regional tournament? First, CONCACAF sucks, as predicted. Anytime Canada can lose to Guadeloupe, and Mexico drops a turd against Honduras, you know we're not talking about world powers here. We've also learned that the USA team hasn't really fixed what was ailing them.

All that said, if you're one of the denizens who complains that watching the US Soccer team blows because they never win, this is the tournament for you. They've won it before and have to be the favorite after this weekend. Up next is El Salvador on Tuesday night (FSN) and then the quarterfinals to follow and hopefully a finals match up vs Mexico. I know I'll be watching.


Also, This Just In From the "I'm Refusing to Talk About the Team on the Field" Department:

Freddy Garcia is hurt (and may see significantly more time on a couch than on a mound in the near future). Shocker there. Phillies, you are dumb. Shocker there, too. Here is who you traded the White Sox for bum-arm Garcia, who hasn't been "100 percent" (as near as I can tell, since the end of 2005) and has an ERA of 5.90 and a WHIP of 1.60 on his way to a 1-5 record this year:

Gavin Floyd (AAA): 3-3, 3.86 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP and 47 Ks in 58 1/3 innings
but, more importantly, a centerpiece of the big league club's 2009 (2008?) rotation:
Gio Gonzalez (AA): 4-3, 3.05 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP and 83 Ks in 62 innings

The future can't get here soon enough.