Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lester Rodney: He Helped Get Jackie in the Game


Lester Rodney, the sports editor and columnist for the American Communist Party newspaper the Daily Worker who crusaded to end segregation in major league baseball in the 1930s and '40s, has died. He was 98.

Mr. Rodney died Sunday December 20th at his home in a retirement community in Walnut Creek, Calif., said his daughter, Amy Rodney.

Beginning in the decade before Jackie Robinson suited up with the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseball's color barrier in 1947, Rodney began pressing for the desegregation of baseball via columns and stories in the Daily Worker's sports pages. By joining with the black press, Rodney was able to implement a plan to get a black player on a major league roster.

He called the ban against blacks in the major leagues "un-American" and "the crime of the big leagues."

During World War II, Mr. Rodney served as an Army combat medic in the Pacific. But he was back home in New York to cover Robinson's debut as a Brooklyn Dodger on April 15, 1947.

"It's hard this Opening Day to write straight baseball and not stop to mention the wonderful fact of Jackie Robinson," Mr. Rodney wrote. "You tell yourself it shouldn't be especially wonderful in America, no more wonderful, for instance, than Negro soldiers being with us on the way overseas through submarine-infested waters in 1943."

Clare, Rodney's wife of 58 years, died in 2004.

Writing for the Daily Worker: “I ran the entire sports department, including laying out the sports section and then I had to get my ass to the ball games, and so on and prove myself as a sportswriter. At first, my main objective was to show that we were a real sports section. Then, the one scoop we had never covered smacked me right in the face. No other papers would talk about the amazing fact that halfway through the 20th century in the land of the free, qualified and over-qualified baseball players couldn’t participate in our national pastime. And it was our national pastime back then much more than it is today. There was no NBA or NFL at the level it’s at today. There were no video games, no Internet, no cable TV. If the Dodgers were playing in Brooklyn and a truck pulled up next to you, it would be unthinkable to not hear Red Barber on the radio or people would find it peculiar. Baseball was huge back then. No other paper said anything about the fact that the black players were locked out of major league baseball. If the Negro leagues had a game in town, you could read about the game, but nothing was ever mentioned that these players were not allowed to play in the majors. Did this mean that all of the sportswriters in New York during this time were racists? No, they were ordinary people, but they knew what they could turn into their paper and if they wrote something saying things like, ‘why aren’t these guys playing in the big leagues?’ their editors would have asked them something like, “why are you bringing this stuff up here?’ That was the culture of the times. Racism was accepted. And that was one of the things that attracted me to the Communists. What the Communists were going down in the South was working for black voting rights, putting their bodies were their mouths were.”


The Ban: “I talk to my granddaughter’s friends and I try to make a connection to what happened back then compared to now. I tell them ‘look at Barry Bonds today’, the superstar (this interview was in 2004 right before the steroids hearing). Supposedly everyone knows how great he is, just the same way that people back then knew how good Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson were, but they weren’t allowed to play. Unspeakable! It’s dastardly and un-American. Ridiculous! But that’s the way things were back then. Josh Gibson, the greatest catcher who ever put on a uniform, never played an inning of big league baseball, and he died in a bitter, drunken wreck. You know, we’ve really gotten off the hook a little light about this time in our history. And so this is what motivated me to write for the Daily Worker. People will ask me, ‘were you doing this to get the Negroes to join the Communist Party?’ No. I was doing it personally because basically I wanted the ban to end. I was a baseball fan since I was six years old it was the game I loved. I wanted the best players in the game to show their stuff to America. I never met a black player who told me he wanted to stay in the Negro Leagues. That’s ridiculous. If you feel you’re the best violinist in the country and you live in Paducah, you don’t want to stay in Paducah. Of course, you want to play at Carnegie Hall, for the money and the acclaim.”


Jackie Robinson: “Oh, the things Jackie had to go through, you can’t imagine. First of all, he was hit by pitchers twice as much as any other player in baseball. He was called all kinds of names. The first time they played in Philadelphia, they threw a black cat out of their dugout. Why didn’t he say, ‘hey, who needs this, to hell with it, I’m outta here.’ Some people are thrust into historic roles without their understanding, but Jackie was an intensely bright guy and he knew exactly what he was doing. He knew what his role was and that’s why he took all this stuff. It has to be the single most heroic act ever performed in the history of sports in this country. I think I can say that. He made a real difference in America.”


The Best Managers He Ever Saw: “Stengel and Durocher are my top managers. They’re the only ones I saw that really know how to manage in the World Series. They wouldn’t hesitate to yank their ace pitcher in the fourth inning or to use an ace in relief. They knew it was a different ball game in the postseason. Charlie Dressen was a good regular season manager, like Dusty Baker, who hasn’t yet shown that he can win a World Series, but managing successfully in the big games defines the great ones.”


Leo Durocher: “I was talking to the Lip. I was chatting with Leo before a game and he suddenly turns to me and says, ‘you know, Rodney—for a #@%!# Communist, you sure know your baseball.”


Don Newcombe: “Newcombe was a corporation guy and he still works for the Dodgers today. But, he knew what what’s going on. His father was a union organizer. He didn’t beat the Yankees often in World Series play and that haunted him. The first time he pitched against the Yankees in his rookie year in ’49, it was a 0-0 game until the bottom of the ninth, when Tommy Heinrich hit one out and beat him.”


McCarthyism: “They didn’t go after me, because I was right out in the open. Many of my friends went down, but I wasn’t a screen writer using another name. As a baseball writer, they didn’t go after me and probably didn’t think of me as a serious Communist. They would kid around it jovially, say things like, ‘hey, does Marx follow the box scores?” Writing about baseball wasn’t perceived as doing politics. They didn’t see me as a threat.”


Joe DiMaggio: “He was a different guy. During his first two years up, before the aura of superstardom socked in on him, he was more convivial. After that, he was very closed-mouthed. You know he never certainly joined in with the rowdies like Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford, but importantly, he was always curt and monosyllabic with reporters and he became mean-spirited. He was known to be a cheap sonofabitch, a notorious note tipper, and at the end he was over-selling his signature, all that stuff. But, I remember a different DiMaggio. During his first year, I was asked to take Joe down to see a bunch of kids from the International Workers Order, a left wing group. But, Joe agreed to show up and throw out the first ball for their tournament. And he enjoyed it and he really mingled with the kids. He was great. So, something happened to him somewhere along the way. He changed.”

Monday, December 28, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

Let me hand it to Ed for holding the site together while I was off in la-la land. Wasn’t that a great article on Tim Lincecum? Lucky Ed got to meet the Freak!

As for me, you could probably tell from my last post that I was kind of fed up with my teams. Therefore, I stayed away from blogging for a bit, because I didn’t have anything positive to say, and I really didn’t want to drown myself in all that negativity. Hearing the latest about Tiger Woods did little to restore my faith.

Now I’m back, but it’s not to be positive. After having experienced the Giants football game—and the end of their once-promising season—yesterday, I am so filled with frustration that I have to let it all out here.

How could any team with so much on the line—postseason play, the closing of Giants Stadium—just completely not show up? It is inexplicable to me. The Giants had to win to stay in contention for a playoff berth. Even though Dallas and Green Bay both won, keeping them ahead of Big Blue for the week, I wouldn’t be so sure that they will both win next week. The Packers play Arizona, and the Cowboys play Philadelphia—don’t be surprised if the Iggles whip the ’Boys to prove that they deserve the division crown.

The Giants were a disgrace, and I woke up this morning embarrassed to be a fan of theirs. I’m sure this will pass at the end of the season, but for now? Phooey! There are not enough words to describe just how bad the Jints were, but to give you a hint: they were booed off the field at halftime by their own fans in the last game to ever be played at Giants Stadium. And this was in front of the many Giants greats who showed up for the stadium’s closing!

I know a lot of people want to blame someone—I do, too. So here’s who I think is to blame.

First, let me say unequivocally that I don’t blame Eli Manning. Was he great this year? No, but his numbers were the best of his career, and I think he is showing that he is a pretty darned good QB and still improving. I know a lot of people say he’s awful, but along with his ring, he has a Super Bowl MVP, so we are not exactly talking Trent Dilfer here. Also, it’s hard to blame the offense when the defense can’t get off the field. But we’ll come to the defense in a minute.

The receiving corps, which everyone said would be weakness this year without Plaxico Burress, has actually been a great strength. Steve Smith has broken a couple of Giants receiving records, and rookie Hakeem Nicks looks like the real deal. Mario Manningham is fine, but he could have better hands. Nevertheless, all told, the Giants receivers have been pretty good, as well.

The only aspect of the offense that needs a lot of work is the running game. Not only does this mean that perhaps Ahmad Bradshaw should be the feature back next year (Brandon Jacobs only had one—yes, one—yard on six carries yesterday), but maybe the offensive line could use a tune-up. I like the O-line, but those guys sure didn’t do much for the run. Granted, they had a few injuries, but still…

I will briefly touch on special teams by saying that maybe it’s time for Jeff Feagles to retire. He has been a fantastic asset to the Giants over his career with them, but in 2009, he had some really bad punting games, and the Giants D has been unable to stop anyone on a short field this season.

Ah, the Giants defense. “What defense?” you might ask, and rightfully so, because it is one of the worst defenses in the NFL this year. In one statistic that says it all, the Giants are last in preventing a touchdown when the opponent is inside the red zone. Wellington Mara would surely roll over in his grave if he could have observed the defense the past few months.

Now defense is supposed to be a Giants hallmark. Any team that won anything for Big Blue was always built around defense. So it is really inexcusable for the D to have been so very bad—and it was bad on all three levels. The defensive line didn’t have a pass rush and couldn’t stop the run—except against the hapless Redskins. The linebackers were fair to middling, and I don’t want to hear that it was because Antonio Pierce was injured. The backers were only average even while A.P. was healthy.

The Giants secondary deserves a paragraph all its own. But what can I say except that it stank? Yes, there were injuries there, too, but every team has injuries. They do not explain why the defensive backs failed to make an appearance against Carolina yesterday—or against anyone else earlier in the season. The obvious one to point fingers at for the defensive failures is rookie defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. Despite the fact that I think he should go, he probably deserves one more chance—albeit on a tight leash.

As for Tom Coughlin, it speaks volumes that he let the players know how important the game was and they still laid an egg. Are the players starting to tune out Coughlin? Well, the man won a Super Bowl and had the G-men in the playoffs the last four years in a row. He probably deserves to stay one more year, too, as long as things get turned around.

I saw a comment today by a Carolina fan after an article about the game—amidst all the crying and moaning by Giants fans, the Panthers fan said something about perhaps giving Carolina credit because they played a great game. But no matter how great the Panthers played, the Giants had so much more riding on the outcome. If Big Blue had shown up yesterday the way they showed up the previous week against Washington, it wouldn’t have mattered how the Panthers played. The Giants would have won.

Instead, they get to play Minnesota in a meaningless game for them and then go home until Fall 2010. It sure would be ironic if the defense came to play next week, when it doesn’t matter anymore. They might as well not show up, since it seems like most of them started their offseason with two weeks to go anyway.

I expect Dallas fans to laugh it up, but there’s no way they’ll win it all, and the Cowboys will be lucky to even win a playoff game, which they haven’t done since 1996. The Giants have won a Super Bowl a lot more recently than that! As for the Eagles, they sure looked good this year, but I doubt they’ll take it all, either, against the real powerhouses like the Colts and Patriots, or even the Saints and Vikings. So good luck to the Giants’ division rivals—give me a call when you actually win something.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidaze from Ed & Meat on the Street!


It was a fun and interesting sports year in 2009. What will happen in 2010? Will Tiger get back on the course or the broads? Will the Yankees buy an entirely new team for '10? Will I meet The Freak again and will he win another Cy Young? Will the Mets ever land a quality free agent again? Will California divorces kill both the Dodgers and the Padres? And can the Colts go door-to-door and win the Super Bowl undefeated? Can the Lakers repeat? Will the San Jose Sharks finally get to a Cups Final? Will the Rams, Lions and Browns improve next season? And maybe, most importantly, will there be another excited year of great games and emerging stars?
..........stay tuned! And thanks for being a reader of Ed & Meat on the Street!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I Meet The Freak

As a rule, I don’t like to bother celebrities when I see them in public, but every once in a while I’ll run into someone and I can’t resist. I’ll always approach them very respectfully, asking them like royalty if it’s okay to spend a moment with them and usually it’s a 50/50 proposition.

I’ve encountered some athletes in the past who were less than a pleasure to meet. Barry Bonds was considerably less than nice, to say the least, and other people like golfer Greg Norman, sports announcer Jim Rome, HOF pitcher Goose Gossage and of course, Willie Mays (who I tried to interview in 1999) were legendarily rude and fulfilled stereotypes about pro athletes acting boorish.

But, when I ran into double-Cy Young award winner San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum the other day at a Starbucks in the Fillmore of The City, it was a thrill and a refreshing chance encounter with a smart, engaging individual pausing to talk to an avid fan. (Even though I am Dodgers die hard for 40 years).

I approached Lincecum and told him that I was pro-420 and he instantly replied in muted tones. But what he said was off the record, so I can’t say anything more. (If you didn’t already know, he got busted for having a small amount of marijuana a few weeks back.)

While I was chatting up The Freak (one of Lincecum’s nicknames) and bombarding him with questions in rapid succession, I just got the feeling that Tim plays baseball just like he’d ride his skateboard or bicycle. Here I was, a supposed grown man drooling to talk to him and the impression he gave me was “it’s no big deal.” I even sensed a little sympathy from him for a middle-aged guy enthralled by a kid who can throw in high 90’s and make all-star hitters look like little leaguers.

My overall impression is that Lincecum sees himself as basically someone who just got really good at throwing a ball, but somebody who’s not even 100% onboard with the lore and wow surrounding major league baseball. When a 51-year-old male walks up to Tim and starts treating him like the Pope, Lincecum is amused, but no longer surprised anymore. Two Cy Youngs will do that.
I asked him if he gets noticed in public more all the time, especially now after the two

Cy Youngs. “It’s so random. I’ll be at places where I’d think I’d be noticed and no one knows who I am. Other times I’ll be walking down the street and people will come out of their homes to talk to me, which is strange. But, it’s all cool.”
In one word, Tim is just cool. Wearing a wrinkled t-shirt, flip flops and shorts, sending texts on his iPhone and drinking one of those caramel, whip cream covered coffee things. (I call those concoctions “dessert camouflaged as coffee.”)
I did tell The Franchise (another one of his nicknames) that he only has to win three more Cy Youngs in a row to set the record. “Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson won it four times in a row,” I said. “So that’s the benchmark, I guess.” “Cool,” Lincecum offered.

Then I decided to show off and run some other baseball factoids by him. “Koufax, Palmer, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens have all also won the Cy Young back-to-back like you,” I offered. “Nice,” he said. (Later I looked it up and I was correct, although I did miss Denny McClain, who won it in 1968 and again in 1969, a co-owner with Mike Cuellar from Baltimore—the only time there have been two co-winners.)

In summary, Lincecum was so open and forthcoming that is was a breath of fresh air. I sure hope he keeps that great attitude over the years, but it might be tough if he wins a couple more Cy Young awards.

In the end, I gave Tim (we’re on a first-name basis all ready) an official baseball hat from www.thisgreatgame.com. He didn’t don the cap when I presented it to him, probably because he didn’t want to mess up the do, but hopefully in the future I’ll see him wearing that hat out in public. He’s that type of kid.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Interview with Bob Locker


Bob Locker pitched in the pros from 1965 to 1975 for the Chicago White Sox, Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics and Chicago Cubs. At age 27, Locker made his debut for the Chisox, tossing two innings and giving up three runs. He settled down and made 10 appearances that season following that initial appearance and ended his rookie year with a respectable 3.15 ERA. In 1969, Locker was traded to the expansion Seattle Pilots, posting a 2.18 ERA for a team that finished last in the division. In 1970, Locker’s contract was purchased by the Oakland A’s. In 1972, he was a key member of the World Series champs, when he posted a 6-1 record with a 2.65 ERA. Locker frequently came into in the seventh or eighth inning to setup closer Rollie Fingers. Locker appeared in the AL Championship that year, giving up two runs in three innings. On October 21, Locker made his first and only appearance in the World Series, relieving Vida Blue in the sixth game of Game Six. He gave up a single to Tony Perez but got the final out of the inning. A month later, Locker was traded to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Billy North. Locker concluded his career with the Cubs, sitting out the 1974 season to undergo surgery to remove chips from his pitching elbow. In 1975, Locker made 22 appearances and posted an ERA near 5.00, thereby ending his baseball career. Locker and his wife currently live in Lafayette, California and he spends much of his free time fishing and hunting. He’s a graduate of Iowa State University and a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.



The Seattle Pilots: “I was traded from the White Sox to the Pilots for Gary Bell in June, 1969. Seattle certainly wasn’t the end of my career, but I spent a lot of time in Chicago trying to find my out pitch and I guess they got tired of waiting. The White Sox traded me after a couple of weeks pitching poorly, which turned out to be a mistake, because 2-3 bad weeks isn’t an entire career and they should have been more patient with me, in my opinion. I was upset and didn’t want to go to Seattle, but they don’t give you much of a choice—they trade you and you go. In Seattle, I found my out pitch, my sinker, and as a result I had a 2.18 ERA and gave up only eight runs in 30 appearances for the Pilots. Seattle lacked one thing--talent. It was a group containing many different personalities, let’s put it that way. Joe Schultz was the manager for the Pilots, and he was not a baseball strategist, but he was a very good manager because he knew his job, which was to get 24 guys on the same page. And with a bunch of players picked up from here and there, we were in third place going into the final one or two months of the season. I think we looked up at one point and said what are we doing here? So, we didn’t play to our capabilities after that. We had some real offbeat folks up there in Seattle, so I fit right in. Mike Marshal was a genius, especially about pitching, but he was basically a loner. Jim Bouton was scribbling stuff down in this notebook all the time, but I never thought twice about it. (Bouton wrote Ball Four, considered to be the best baseball book ever written.) He caught a lot of heat about it when his book came out and I heard Mickey Mantle never spoke to Bouton again. People felt like Bouton gave away inside secrets, but all he really wrote about was what actually happened. There was a lot of that type of behavior--chasing skirts and drinking to excess, simple rough housing most of the time--but I stayed clear of all that mischief. I’d rather fish or hunt than sit in a bar or in a nightclub any day.”


A Young Manager in His Formative Years: “Tony LaRussa sat on the bench with the A’s in the ‘70’s when we were playing together in Oakland and he absorbed all the information about the game that he could. The best managers are either catchers or guys who really aren’t talented but can figure out how to make the best of their situation, and Tony was one of those guys. He’s the best manager in baseball right now, because he’s the guy who understands the game well enough off--handling pitchers, utilizing each player’s best abilities and manipulating the mental side of the game to his team’s advantage.”


Charlie Finley: “Finley was a real character and a lot of people, maybe most of them, didn’t care for the man. But, I respected him because he did what he believed in and stood by it while everyone else called him a crazy coot and a bunch of other things I can’t repeat. Many of his players didn’t like Charlie or trusted him, but at least they recognized that he would do whatever he could to put a winning team on the field. Those A’s teams in the early ‘70’s are some of the best ever.”


Catfish Hunter: “An all-around prince—a real classy fellow. Everything you’d want on your team. Great pitcher, fielder, pretty decent hitter for a pitcher; he never said a bad word about anyone; a consummate competitor; the great competitor, and a great fisher and hunter—so he was my favorite guy on that team. When he got sick later in life, it was just terrible.”


Vida Blue’s Rookie Season: “1971 was his phenomenal year and I remember it very vividly. It was probably the most awesome performance by any pitcher I’ve ever seen. To watch what he was throwing up there was amazing. There are certain secrets to pitching—they’re guys who throw to the corners like Catfish did; guys like Drysdale or Ryan who can ride the ball and defy the rules of gravity or throw a curveball that falls off the table. But, Vida’s fastball was so unique; with it running in all four different directions. It would go anywhere except right out over the plate. It was a pleasure to watch. Vida attracted huge crowds on the road and there was a buzz throughout the stadium every time he pitched.”


Dick Williams: “Dick was the best manager I ever had, but I don’t think he liked me. If you asked him, he would say something not too kind about me, I imagine. I was a free spirit, or whatever you’d call it and Dick just didn’t dig my vibe. But, I respected him more than any manager I ever saw. He called me an “odd ball” and stuff like that. I pitched well for him in 1972 (6-1, 2.65 ERA) and he wouldn’t pitch me in the World Series except on a limited basis, but I can understand that. He had Vida Blue in the pen that Series and he used him in almost every one of those games, and his starters played well, so it just worked out that way--that was fine. It wasn’t personal. I was basically a setup guy for Rollie Fingers, who was a pretty decent closer (laughs.)But Williams wasn’t enamored with me, I imagine, because they traded me to the Chicago Cubs for Billy North one month later.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Wisdom of Wally Westlake



Wally Westlake was a utility player who had a 10-year career from 1947 to 1956. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies all of the National League and the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles both of the American League. He played third base and outfield. He was elected to the National League All-Star team in 1951.
Westlake is a graduate of Christian Brothers High School (Sacramento, California.) He currently lives in Sacramento.

No Quitters Apply: “There were quite a few pitfalls in my baseball career before I made it to the major leagues. I was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers at age 19 in 1940. They sent me to Dayton, Ohio, Mid-Atlantic League, Class D. They were paying me around $120 a month, and my first thought was, what on earth am I going to do with all that money? Well, I didn’t play well. Every curve ball fell off the table and I was a day late on every fastball, so it was not a real confidence builder, to be certain. They called me into the office one day, and gave me a pink slip and my bus ticket home. They told me I should go home, forget about baseball, because I’d never have the skills to be a professional ballplayer. So, that night I’m leaving for the bus, and on the way there, I swing by the ballpark; the lights are on and the game is on. Forgive me, but the tears and the snot was flowing and I asked myself right there--you think I am going to quit? Not yet. The worst thing that scared me was the idea of facing my dad. I couldn’t face him as a failure. Fear of failure is one of the greatest motivators in the world, believe me. So, they let me stay and pretty quick I started playing better. And before I knew it, I was moving up through the minors at a pretty good clip.”

Casey Took a Swing at Helping Wally: “I had some great teachers along the way, like Casey Stengel during my career in the minor leagues. He was a very strong force in my career starting in 1946. He saved my butt. Called for me one day early in the season and said, “You got talent and you can catch and run well enough to play centerfield, but there’s a lot more to it than just that. I am going to teach you how to play at the major league level.” And he did. For six months, he rode my biscuit, let me tell you. “Mister, you got your head where the sun don’t shine,” he told me. He was tough, but he made the game fun. He taught me how to read the pitchers, how to anticipate in the field, so that I was in position to make the tricky catches. He turned it around for me. I was 25 years old at that point and I was running out of time. Today, if you’re 25 and still in the minors, they give up on you. So, every chance I get, I’m proud to say thank you to Charles Dillon Stengel.”

His peculiar place in history: “It turns out that I’m the first white player who ever got hit by a pitch from a black player. It was a kid named Bankhead, a rookie pitching in middle relief for the Brooklyn Dodgers, making his debut and pitching in front of a packed house at Ebbets Field in late August, 1947. He was the first black pitcher to play in the majors. Everyone kind of hesitated when he hit me, there was almost like a hush. It was like what’s gonna happen next? But nothing happened and the game went on. It didn’t matter to me one way or another. I didn’t care if he was blue, green or purple out there on the mound, because he’s trying to get me out and I’m trying to whack his butt, regardless of who he is. But, my name gets mentioned quite a bit with that piece of fairly meaningless baseball history.”

Jackie Robinson: “I look back at all the crap Jackie went through that first season and I have nothing but utmost respect for the man. They did some unspeakable things to Robinson, and he should have kicked some asses, which he was more than capable of doing. A real man has to turn his other cheek, but your average individual would have blown his temper and punched a few bigots. You talk about guts, he had it. I don’t know how he did it. Jackie sat there and took it that first year and then Branch Rickey turned him loose that second year. Those bigots got some comeback that second season, that’s for sure.”

His first year in the Bigs: “We were basically terrible. That Pittsburgh team in ’47 had two stars—Hank Greenberg and Ralph Kiner and that was it. Greenberg was in his later years by that time (age 36) but he still hit 25 home runs that season. And Kiner hit 51 homers, and batted .313. But the rest of the team is fairly forgettable. The Pirates in ‘47made a lot of errors (149) and the team ERA was close to 5.00. The pitching staff threw 44 complete games, because the bullpen was awful. The starters had to finish games. We ended up 62-92 in last place, 32 games behind Brooklyn. It was a long season to start a career in the majors, that’s for sure, but I loved every minute of it.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

I am in the midst of one of the worst weeks of my life in terms of being a sports fan. Weeks like this don’t come around too often. The stars have to align perfectly—in this case, perfectly badly.

Just to make things clear at the outset, I root for the Mets and A’s in baseball; the Giants and Dolphins in football; and the Knicks in basketball. Anyone who understands sports loyalties and rivalries will now understand why things are so bad for me.

Let’s start with football. First off, the Giants lost to the Cardinals. That in itself was hard to bear, especially after the previous week’s blowout loss to New Orleans. We Giants fans want to see Big Blue mix it up with the big boys, not act the bully to the weaker teams in the league, then fold against the real competition. Besides, Giants fans are also used to the Cardinals being pushovers—the Jints had won 17 of the last 19 against Arizona, dating back to when the teams were division rivals in the old NFC East. To see the Giants on a two-game losing streak with a game against Philly this coming weekend is enough for a fan to get weak in the knees. The Giants must find a way to beat the Eagles or risk having their once-promising season spiral out of control.

The rest of the league didn’t cooperate one bit. Dallas and Philadelphia won, making the division race even tighter. And over in the AFC, Miami let a 21-point lead over the Saints evaporate into a humiliating loss. Compound that with wins by the Bills, Jets, and Patriots, and I can’t think of one thing that went right for me this weekend, other than the fact that the Redskins lost. But since they lost to the Eagles, it is a moot point, at best!

The crowning travesty is this mockery of a World Series that I must suffer through, along with my fellow Mets fans. I had already given up the season by mid-June, but this series is the final insult added to injury.

The Phillies versus the Yankees.

Which team do I hate more?

It’s a tough call. I have almost always hated the Yankees, and especially their fans’ sense of entitlement when it comes to winning championships. But over the last couple of years, Philadelphia has overtaken the Braves as the most hated team in the NL East, and the Mets should be chafing at the idea that their division rivals are in the Big Dance for their second year in a row.

There is no easy answer. I want them both to lose.

The rotten cherry on this steaming mess of melted ice cream is the Knicks. I just have no words for that team anymore.

Hockey, anyone?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jim Gentile

Jim Gentile, also nicknamed "Diamond Jim", is a former Major League Baseball first baseman and left-handed batter who played with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers (1957-58); Baltimore Orioles (1960-63), Kansas City Athletics (1964-65), Houston Astros (1965-66) and Cleveland Indians (1966).

A powerful slugger listed at 6' 4", 215 lb, Gentile languished for eight years in the minors for a Dodgers team that already had All-Star Gil Hodges in first base. Traded to Baltimore, Gentile enjoyed his best season in 1961, hitting a career-highs .302 batting average, 46 home runs, 141 runs batted in, 96 runs, 147 hits, 25 doubles. 96 walks, .346 on base percentage, .646 slugging average and 1,069 OPS. He was considered in the MVP selection (third, behind Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris). In addition, Gentile hit five grand slams -- including two straight in one game --setting an American League record that stood until Don Mattingly belted six in 1987.
Following his major league career, he played one season in Japan for the Kintetsu Buffaloes in 1969. Gentile managed the Fort Worth Cats when they returned to baseball in 2001 and 2002.
He’s currently is hitting coach for the Schaumburg Flyers.
What pitchers gave you a hard time? “For some reason, I had a lot of trouble from Jim Perry, Gaylord Perry’s brother, I don’t know why, but he owned me. I knew that I was in for a battle every time I faced him. You have your good days and bad days, but they were always on me about Whitey Ford. Every time I faced him, I was having a bad day. One day he struck me out and I broke my bat on home plate, so since then they were saying I couldn’t hit Ford. I did take him down town three times in my career, so I don’t mind it so bad. I beat him in a game 2-1 in Baltimore, which was satisfying.”
Talk about your batting technique: “To tell you the truth, I tried to hit what I could see—which is probably why I was a career .260 hitter. If the pitch was close and I could see it, if I thought it was in the strike zone, I’d swing at it. Today they tell ‘em all how to choke up and change their hitting style with two strikes. I never did. If I was playing today, I’d probably take a different approach, but back then I just got up there and hit. Back then they didn’t have specialized individual coaching, trainers, physical therapy, videotaping, etc. If they had taught me how to swing in and out, the way Jeter does, I’d have been a better hitter. That’s what the Red Sox are doing with Ortiz right now—they’re trying to get him to hit the other way. But, back then I had one thing on my mind and that was driving in runs. I hit a few home runs opposite the way, but I never got many base hits that way, that’s for sure. Back then, all they would throw me was sliders inside. They were asking me to pull all day long.”
Tell us a funny story: “We were playing in Kansas City and I guess I didn’t have a very good day. So, I was sitting in the clubhouse and I wasn’t normally a beer drinker, but that day I just felt like a cold one on a hot day. So, I had a beer. So, I was sitting in my locker, facing my locker and Paul Richards (Orioles manager) was across the room, right behind me. I was sitting there keeping to myself for what must have been 15-20 minutes, when Richards said, “Hey, Jim.” So, I turn around and there’s Richards, all dressed and ready to leave. So, he asks me to come over and speak with him, so I walked over to him. He says, “Look Jim—you’ve been in this game all long time. And you know we all have good days and bad days. We’re going to play a doubleheader tomorrow and you’re going to come out and have a real good day. So, don’t give it a second thought.” So, I said, ‘Okay, Paul.” I turn around to walk back to my locker, and I suddenly see 20 beer cans stacked under my chair. Richards thought I was sitting there getting soused. My teammates had set me up good!”

His early years: “I started my career as age 18 in Class A for the Dodgers. They were thinking that if I didn’t play well, they’d send me down to Class B or C. But, I led the league that season with home runs, and the next year, they sent me right back there. Nobody in the Dodgers minor system at this point moved very far within the minors, because they were loaded with all the great stars. I hit 36 dingers that year, so they sent it to Fort Worth the next year, and I hit 40 that season. They had always been telling me that it would take 3-4 years to make it to the big leagues, and I figured I should get a shot, especially because I traveled to Japan with the Dodgers that off-season and I led the team in everything; every category and home runs everything. I was thinking now I am finally going to get a shot. They were talking about moving Gil Hodges to third base to bring me up. Well, it never came around. So after that, all I wanted was just to get a shot to play in the big leagues; for any team, I didn’t care. I wanted to get a couple of at-bats, to find out for myself if I could hit in the big leagues. If I can’t do it, then I’d just accept the fact that I was a minor leaguer. I was blocked for playing with the Dodgers by Gil Hodges for 7 years. Two in Single A, 2 in Double A and 3 in Triple A. They had so many players that I never got a chance. They kept us around for a long time, going up and down, up and down, but they never gave me much of a shot. They never changed that infield for 7 years.”

Playing briefly with the Boys of Summer: “They were all nice fellas on the Brooklyn Dodgers. Great guys. Every time I came up to play for the big team, they treated me real nice. Snider, Jackie Robinson, Campanella, Pee Wee Reese--they were all class acts. But, they had their cliques, so you kind of stayed with yourself, as a new player coming up late in the season. The one guy who was especially nice to me on the Japan trip was Campanella. He was the one who gave me my nickname ‘Diamond Jim’.” He called me "a diamond in the rough" during the Dodgers' 1956 tour in Japan, but my performance there didn’t get me any closer to the majors.”

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

In case anyone was wondering where I’ve been (not that anyone would…), I long gave up on the baseball season since the Mets found a way to yet again disgrace themselves and the A’s haven’t been worth watching since April. To make things even more frustrating, once again, the other New York team has somehow managed to make an incredible dash to first place and stay there. Wow, wonder what it’s like to only be out of the playoffs for a year or two before making it back? I’m sure Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Omar Minaya have no clue.

The long and short of it is that this baseball season hasn’t really given me much that I want to write about. Now that I’m back, to keep myself from writing an entire column on my bitterness with the Mets (they’re becoming the Knicks of Major League Baseball!), I’ll take up the subject of the next sport on tap: football! Yes, it’s that time again!

“Knock-knock!”

“Who’s there?”

“It’s football!”

It’s been a while since I’ve greeted the advent of the NFL season with quite this much enthusiasm. After all, my basketball team has been wandering in the dysfunctional wasteland for about a decade now. Suddenly, after three years of painful and embarrassing failures of one type or another, it’s become more apparent than ever that one of my baseball teams is headed toward that same purgatory.

Why not welcome the chance to watch my New York Giants play for 16 or more games now? The G-men represent one of the classiest franchises in professional sports, and let’s not forget that they have played only 16 games since they captured arguably the most exciting Super Bowl championship ever. They are everything in sports that the Knicks and Mets are not.

It’s true that there are no guarantees, and Big Blue could have a lousy season—most everyone is picking the Eagles or Cowboys to win the NFC East—but I’ll stick with my boys any day, and I will bet that Eli will help lead his crew to a winning record, a playoff berth, and the division crown. In fact, with their reloaded defensive line, the Jints have a chance to win the NFC. As long as everyone stays healthy, the sky’s the limit. A shaky start might be in the making, due to some injuries in the secondary, but by midseason, I expect the Giants to be in fine form.

But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. I’m just thankful that tomorrow, at 1:15 pm, I’ll be able to plant my butt in front of the TV and watch the start of the football games that matter to me this year. Win or lose, it will be good to see the greats of the gridiron break out the ol’ pigskin once again.

Go Giants!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Schmidt Happens! But Can It Happen Again?

After a two-year medical ordeal and a blooper-reel first inning that prolonged the agony, Jason Schmidt pitched the Dodgers to victory Monday night.
And who thought that would ever happen again? Surely not I. I figured Schmidt was finished a long time ago, but evidently there’s still a little something left in the tank. He will undoubtedly never be the dominant hurler he once was, but if he can win a few games down the stretch for the Dodgers as their fifth starter, we’ll take it!
If Schmidt can step up, it means the Dodgers may not have to trade for another starting pitcher prior to the trade deadline. Which, in my opinion is a good thing—why should they have to give away the farm for Ray Hallady, when he can then demand a trade after this season? Toronto is trying to rape some poor contender for Hallady, and it’s a joke, I believe. Hasn’t anyone learned from the Barry Zito debacle that pitchers’ are like milk—they can go sour in a millisecond!
Schmidt's first Major League start since June 16, 2007, turned into a 7-5 Dodgers comeback win over the Reds, matching his previous total of Dodgers victories. This one included Manny Ramirez's 537th career home run, moving him past Mickey Mantle and into sole possession of 15th place on the all-time list, and a solo shot by Andre Ethier, his club-high 19th.
In five innings, Schmidt struck out two but was wild enough to walk three and hit one. All three runs were scored in the first inning and he allowed only one batter as far as second base after that.
Manager Joe Torre reiterated after the game what he said before the game, that Schmidt figures to remain in the rotation at least for another start.
"The consideration is to send him back out there again," said Torre.
Schmidt made 91 pitches against the Reds, none faster than 89 mph, most of his fastballs hovering around 87 according to MLB.com's pitch tracker (the readings on the Dodger Stadium radar gun were erratic all night).
Yet, Schmidt said the decreased velocity is only partly the result of two operations on a 36-year-old shoulder, but also his intentional adjustment to the mysterious workings of his body.
"If I aired it out from pitch one to 100, I could get to 91 or 92, but when I try to throw harder even a little bit, I can't control it," Schmidt said. "So, I have to pitch like it's an easy bullpen [session]. I don't like doing it that way, but it's the only way that works and I've been getting people out during the rehab like that and I'm living with it.
"Winning tonight is very exciting. But it's still a little frustrating knowing what I used to be able to do. I feel like I'm kind of handicapped. I want to challenge hitters with every pitch. That was my intimidation before, that I could blow it by anybody, and it doesn't work that way anymore. I was a bull in a china shop. Now I have to be cool and collected, throwing breaking balls with two strikes when I used to throw fastballs. It's like night and day."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

Some musings at the All-Star break.…

(Sorry, Ed, but I was too upset at the Mets' freefall to pick my own set of All-Stars!)

Let’s start with the All-Star Game itself. I almost never watch the All-Star Game. I think the last time I saw the game from start to finish must have been at least ten years ago. But this year, I was curious to see what our dear president, Barack Obama, would add to the spectacle on Tuesday night.

I was a little excited, and a little disappointed.

It was fun to see Obama throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Albert Pujols, though I’m not sure why Pujols was backstopping. I get the idea that the game was in St. Louis, but Yadier Molina, a Cardinals catcher, was also on the roster, so why not have him receive the pitch? Well, no big deal—Pujols certainly is deserving of the honor. I think it’s pretty silly that people are being critical that Obama floated the pitch—at least he made it to the plate! And though this is a sports blog, not political commentary, I find it interesting that our previous president, who used to own the Texas Rangers, never was asked to throw out the first pitch at an All-Star Game. There’s a lesson there, but I’ll let you figure out what it is.…

Obama made it the broadcast booth with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver for the bottom of the second. He kept the banter light, discussing his ceremonial pitch, the White Sox jacket he was wearing (was there, perhaps, a bit of Kevlar underneath?), and the season in general. I was definitely entertained but was hoping that Barack would stick around for more than just a half-inning.

Being something of a National League baby myself, since the NL plays the purest form of the game, I was a little bummed that the American League won yet again, but what can you do? It only rubs salt in the wound that the game now decides home-field advantage for the World Series. I always hated that rule—home-field for the championship should go to the team with the better record, plain and simple.

But it was a good game, for what it’s worth. It was close, and the pitching and defense were mostly worthy of an All-Star Game. The AL won fair and square, and Tampa’s Carl Crawford got the MVP, mainly due to an outstanding catch that robbed Brad Hawpe of Colorado of an almost-certain home run. It was the first time that the MVP went to a player who did not score a run or have an RBI.

A few other notes:

Everyone knows by now that my allegiance is with the Mets in the NL and the A’s in the Al. However, now that I live outside Seattle, it’s much harder to keep up with the A’s this year because they’re so bad. (As of this writing, the A’s were the third-worst team in all of baseball. Yeesh!) If I still lived down in Oakland, I’d be going to the games, and I’d be on top of the nitty-gritty details of the team. Here is Washington, I know the A’s stink, and so it’s more difficult to pay attention. Imagine my chagrin when I heard that the lone A’s All-Star was Andrew Bailey. My first thought when I heard this was, “Who?” Now I know he’s their new closer, but it was quite a jolt to realize that the team who I’ve seen live perhaps five to ten times more than any other team was sending a complete stranger to me to the Midsummer Classic.

How about Pedro Martinez going to the Phillies? As a Mets fan, how could I possibly hope to find anything positive in that development? As much as I like Pedro and wish him the best on a personal level, I can’t help hoping that Pedro crashes and burns as a Phillie, perhaps allowing the Mets to climb back into contention in the second half after all their injuries left them struggling as they went into the break.

The biggest surprise so far must be the Texas Rangers, who, after years of awful baseball, are only a game and a half out of first behind Anaheim in the AL West. Kudos to the Angels for being able to focus so well after the death of one of their starting pitchers, Nick Adenhart, in April.

So here we go into the second half. Everyone buckle up!

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's All-Star Game Time Once More


Of all the all-star games, I love the MLB's the best. It's a fun two days of home run derbys, skills contests, great pre-game festivities and then the game itself that all add up to a great event.

Here are my all-star picks and some selections for the first half:

Ed’s All-Star Squad
AMERICAN LEAGUE
First Base: Mark Texeira, New York Yankees
Second Base: Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays
Shortstop: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
Third Base: Evan Longoria, Tampa Rays
Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Outfield: Jason Bay, Boston Red Sox
Outfield: Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels
Oufield: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners
Pitcher: Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals
MVP: Mark Texeira, New York Yankees
Manager: Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers
Cy Young: Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals
Best Rookie: Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers
Surprise Team: Texas Rangers
Top Executive: Theo Epstein, Boston Red Sox
Disappointment Team: Minnesota Twins

NATIONAL LEAGUE
First Base: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Second Base: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
Third Base: David Wright, New York Mets
Catcher: Bengie Molina, San Francisco Giants
Outfield: Raul Ibanez, Philadelphia Phillies
Outfield: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Outfield: Brad Hawpe, Colorado Rockies
Pitcher: Jason Marquis, Colorado Rockies
MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Joe Torre, Los Angeles Dodgers
Cy Young: Jason Marquis, Colorado Rockies
Best Rookie: Andrew McCutcheon, Pittsburgh Pirates
Top Executive: Ned Colletti, Los Angeles Dodgers
Surprise Team: Colorado Rockies
Disappointment Team: Arizona Diamondbacks/Chicago Cubs (tie)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

I know, I know, it’s been a while. But we do what we must to survive.…

So—been enough drama for you already, Mets fans? I mean, I know I expected them to be good, but who could ever predict the kind of soap opera that’s surrounded the team almost from the get-go?

First, they were bad. Then they suddenly got hot—super-hot—winning seven in a row and 12 out of the first 15 in May before coming down to earth hard against L.A. Since being swept in four games by the Dodgers (panic in the streets!), they’ve won six of their last eight, including today’s beating by the Marlins, in which the Mets lost 7–3.

So what’s the deal? Contender or pretender?

Right now, a lot of the Mets firepower is playing hurt or on the disabled list. Somehow, the Amazin’s have won a few on grit and spirit, withstanding stints by Brian Schneider, Carlos Delgado, and Jose Reyes to the DL—although it’s true that they played three against the doormat Nationals this past week that they swept.

Oliver Perez has been a letdown, going first to the bullpen and then to the DL. The Mets sure could use another starter! Thank goodness it’s practically a lock that they win every time Johan Santana takes the mound. The guy is a machine!

Another story has been Carlos Beltran, who has been putting up great numbers despite playing hurt (.352 with 31 RBI so far—not bad!). Mets fans have been waiting for Beltran to assume more of a leadership role on the team—now, is Beltran finally getting ready to step up?

Same goes for David Wright. Is he ready to become the team leader management envisioned when they took him aboard so long ago? I keep hearing from “sources” that Delgado was the team leader (coulda fooled me!), and now that he’s sidelined, these other guys will feel more comfortable stepping up. Give me a break!

This is Beltran’s fifth season with the Mets! And Wright has been a major-leaguer with the Mets for six seasons now! They are only just now feeling comfortable exerting leadership because Delgado is down? I know there’s a pecking order and all, but can’t SOMEONE else lead besides Delgado? He’s a great player—don’t get me wrong. But he leads by example more than anything, and the Mets need a leader with a bit of fire—a bit more fire than Delgado.

Whoever is the leader supplying the “edge” that GM Omar Minaya said is lacking, there can be no denying the Mets’ entertainment value this year. First, you have a team that was ignominiously dumped from postseason qualification on the last day of the season twice in a row—a team with a totally rebuilt bullpen, shoring up a grievous weakness from last year.

Next, you have a manager under scrutiny who knows he better have some success with this team, or else.

Throw in a new ballpark with oodles of new places for the ball to go—giving the Mets oodles of chances to use video replay to aid them in winning their games.

And let’s not forget injuries to key players, despite which the Mets have still found a way to keep on rolling. Even with all the injured, the Mets have managed to win enough games to be tied for first as this is being written. How about that Omir Santos! The Mets’ catcher spot remains a point of intrigue as we head into June.

I say that if the Mets can return to full strength, and those who were injured can play above expectations, the Orange and Blue will be right in the thick of things come October. The Mets look strong enough to hang with Philly all season—it’s entirely conceivable that their overcoming adversity during the season will give them the mental toughness to hold it together down the stretch, rather than folding like a house of cards, as they did the last two seasons.

Good luck, Mets fans! Keep the antacid handy!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Is LA Ready for Barrywood?

Now that Manny Ramirez has screwed up in one of the worst ways imaginable--getting caught taking a substance banned by baseball--maybe the Dodgers should think about hiring their old nemesis and sticking him in left field. Juan Pierre is not a bad player and I'm not going to bash him here, but the team lacks power and Barry Bonds still has enough left in the tank (and in the syringe?) to provide some.
Actually, although I am very disappointed with Manny's Mishap, I have long said that MLB should just let players take whatever they want to enhance their performance. If an athlete is willing to risk his health, why not let him? Operatic singers looking to hit those high notes used to clip their you-know-what's many years ago, and Roman gladiators would do all kinds of strange things to their bodies to be stronger and faster, so why shouldn't baseball players do the same?
Let them take whatever they want. That way no one can cheat. Of course, it will change the game as we know it. Big, bulky hitters will be smacking 550-ft. HR blasts on a daily basis, and pitchers will be throwing fastballs at 120 mph, but who cares? It will be fun to watch, and those teams with the better pharmacists will be the most successful.
But, back to the subject of the Dodgers signing Barry Bonds. Just think of all the buzz it would create. It would piss off both Giants and Dodgers fans. Barry would embrace Hollywood and vice versa. It would be a great "forgive and forget" moment, a feel-good scenario unlike anything we've ever seen. And in the end, if Bonds can mean a few additional victories for the Big Blue, why not at least give it a try?
Think about it, Ned Colletti. I believe that L.A. is ready for Barrywood. At least until July 3rd, when Mannywood returns to the fold.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

Okay, as promised, here are my predictions for the 2009 Major League Baseball season:

AL East winner: Boston Red Sox
AL Central winner: Chicago White Sox
AL West winner: Anaheim Angels
Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays

NL East winner: New York Mets
NL Central winner: Chicago Cubs
NL West winner: Los Angeles Dodgers (This one’s for you, Ed!)
Wild Card: Philadelphia Phillies

AL pennant winner: Angels
NL pennant winner: Mets

World Series winner: Mets

Two other big New York sports stories that I have mixed feelings about:

The first is the Giants dumping Plaxico Burress. From a standpoint of right versus wrong, I think the Giants made a good move. Burress was a distraction and a me-first type who put his own needs ahead of those of the team. But he was a really good receiver. The Giants are too classy an organization to have kept Burress on in the long run, even though General Manager Jerry Reese was considering it. I’m sad in the sense that the guy who caught the winning TD pass in the Super Bowl a year ago is gone, but I’m glad from the position of wanting the team to be able to focus and move forward. So long, Plax! It’s been real!

The second is the Mets acquiring Gary Sheffield. Man, the guy is a jerk! But when he’s right, man, the guy can swing the bat! The Mets needed a right-handed batter, so Sheffield fills that role, but can he even still play the field? I sure hope GM Omar Minaya knows what he’s doing! A few obnoxious words from Sheffield can tear a locker room apart. He’s like Terrell Owens that way.…

Monday, March 30, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

I know Ed’s chomping at the bit for me to make my baseball predictions, but I had to post this first. I guess these (ahem) “shields” have been around for over a year, but I never heard of them until a couple of days ago. This was just too funny to pass up, so I had to post it. This comes from the blog of MLB.com’s Benjamin Hill. Hysterical!

I’ll make sure to have my predictions posted by Sunday, Opening Night. Until then, enjoy! Ha ha ha!

A Subtle Way to Curb Ballpark Emissions
posted by Benjamin Hill on Ben’s Biz Blog, March 24, 2009

Whether it’s the Fifth Third Burger or a run-of-the-mill hot dog, who doesn’t like to indulge themselves at the concession stand during a Minor League Baseball game?

But all actions have consequences, and concession stand indulgence can often lead to temporary bouts of digestive distress. This, in turn, can sometimes lead to the emission of less-than-pleasant odors.

I’m just telling it like it is here, and my newfound candor has been directly inspired by the Lake Elsinore Storm. On Monday, the club issued a press release that, in its comedic potential, is almost too good to be true. In the first two paragraphs, the Storm tout the great value of their weekly “Fat Tuesday” all-you-can-eat special. That’s the set-up, and here’s the punchline:

“You can probably deduce that All-You-Can-Eat ballpark food might lead to substantial gas emissions, which is where corporate sponsor Subtle Butt enters the picture. Made of activated carbon fabric, each disposable 3.25” square shield is held onto the inside of the underwear with two self-adhesive strips. Subtle Butt effectively filters flatulence, absorbing and neutralizing its odor.”

Therefore, the first 250 fans in attendance at every “Fat Tuesday” ballgame (the first is on April 14, mark your calendars) will receive a free product sample of Subtle Butt.

Once again, this is real. Gloriously, hilariously real.

Recognizing a good story when I see one, I made a few calls in order to better understand how this unprecedented partnership came about. First, I spoke with Storm media relations director Steve Smaldone, who soldiered through our conversation despite the fact that several of his co-workers were listening in and laughing at him.

“We wanted to help people out, because no one wants to clear out their section,” he said. “We’re going to promote this enough so that most people know what [Subtle Butt] is and what we’re doing, and we think it’s going to go over well.”

Smaldone then summed up the team’s attitude in more colorful terms.

“We’re just going to grab the bull by the horns and let it rip.”

Subtle Butt is the latest product from Garment Guard, a company whose signature product is its eponymous disposable underarm shield. The leader of this fearless operation is—surprise!—a woman.

“Our office is full of girls, and all we do all day long is talk about [flatulence] and sweat,” said Kim Olenicoff, Garment Guard’s founder. “We’ve never partnered with anyone before, but in Minor League Baseball we might have found the perfect niche.”

This ideal pairing came about through the wonders of social networking.

“I grew up with one of the guys [assistant GM Allan Benavides] who works at the Storm,” she said. “Through the magic of Facebook he found me and saw what it is I do. He called me up and explained that he thought this would be a good fit.”

Of course, Olenicoff hopes that the Storm’s “Fat Tuesday” promotion is just the beginning, and that Subtle Butt will one day develop into a well-respected, internationally-known product. But, for now, she’s content to take things one step at time.

“We’ll see how it goes,” she said. “If it goes over well, then great. If not, then at least it was still really funny.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

My 2009 MLB Picks

To see who I selected to win it all in '09 go to my Web site: http://thisgreatgame.com/opinion3-09.html.
I can tell you one thing, if the season goes as I have predicted, Meat will be one happy man!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

My goodness, sports fans, I have to apologize! I can’t believe I haven’t had a chance to post in like six weeks! But you can blame it on the economy. See, I got offered a couple of different jobs right while I was in the middle of a big project. Since I work for myself, I don’t want to turn anything down in this economy. So for the last six weeks, it’s been three to four hours of sleep a night and constant scrambling to get the jobs done. Now, I finally have a breather, so here I am, posting on Sports on the Street again!

A lot has happened since my last post. We’re only a week away from Opening Day of baseball. The United States lost in the World Baseball Classic and the (presumably) steroid-free Japanese won the whole shebang. We sadly lost two NFL players in a boating tragedy. The Broncos are having trouble with their quarterback because they tried to trade him for Matt Cassel. Cassel got traded to the Chiefs, so Tom Brady better be up to snuff when the NFL season opens in September. Terrell Owens got cut by the Cowboys (ha ha ha) and signed with the Bills. A-Rod had hip surgery. Lance Armstrong broke his collarbone. Not to mention that the NFL is considering adding one or two games to its season. The list goes on.

As the economy suffers, it will be interesting to see how many fans show up for this year’s baseball season—especially at the new Yankee Stadium. Seems that the Yanks are having trouble selling their premium seats—you know, the ones that are going for $350 to $2,500 a pop. That New York ball club is showing that it’s incredibly blind, deaf, and dumb as far as how the economy might affect fans. But I guess that’s no surprise, considering how lavishly they spent on free agents this off-season….

One story I’ll be following this spring is the reception that Jason Giambi will get now that he’s back with the A’s in Oaktown. I know a bunch of Oakland fans that are excited, but I can tell you this—if I was still back in the Bay Area, I’d boo Giambi’s steroid-taking butt every chance I got. Remember, folks, just because he’s back doesn’t erase the fact that he sold his soul to go play for the Yankees and then had all those problems with the juice. True, he was an MVP with the A’s, and he was basically a seven-year bust in New York (no rings for you, Giambino!), but the truth is that he left for the greenbacks when he had team chemistry and a huge number of fans in Oakland. With the steroid usage, which plainly began in Oakland, I don’t exactly think he deserves the benefit of the doubt. I think he should quietly retire and give back baseball to those who haven’t used performance enhancers (or at least haven’t been caught).

Of course, we’re also in the midst of March Madness. Can you believe how much attention has been paid to President Barack Obama’s selections for his NCAA tournament brackets? I guess Coach Mike Krzyzewski was bitter that Obama didn’t pick Duke to win. To that, I say two things. The first is: we should feel lucky that our president is cool enough to even fill out a set of brackets—I had serious doubts that President Bush even understood most American sports, though he was purported to be a baseball fanatic. The second is: ya shoulda picked UConn, Barack!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

So I might have used this column to write about the Super Bowl. Yeah, sure, it was a fantastic game. Sure, the Cardinals really have nothing to be ashamed about, taking the Steelers down to the wire after 61 years of not even sniffing a championship. Sure, Ben Roethlisberger’s final drive can be compared to Eli Manning’s in last year’s game against the Patriots. (In my opinion, Manning’s drive was the greater, against tougher odds, in a tougher situation, against a much tougher defense.)

But how could I write about anything today except for A-Rod?

Of course I can’t stand the guy, especially since he plays for the Yankees. But there’s even more to dislike about Alex Rodriguez. He’s obsessed with his image—to the point that in his new book, Joe Torre implies that A-Rod is more concerned with how he might look in a clutch situation than with helping his team win. He’s a major distraction to his team and baseball in general. He went out in public with strippers while he was still married. He’s an egomaniac but still acts like an insecure 10-year-old. (Remember how he pined for Derek Jeter’s friendship and approval for years until he was finally able to act like a man and move on? If he hadn’t trashed Jeter in the media, maybe it never would’ve been an issue.) Need I go on?

Now add in steroids to this equation, and A-Rod comes off as even more of a jerk than before, which is saying something. In his interview yesterday with ESPN’s Peter Gammons, in which he admitted his steroid use, Gammons threw softball after softball, letting A-Rod off the hook in a way that Katie Couric never did with Sarah Palin! Now we’re supposed to like A-Rod again because he admitted his mistake—even though he never really answered the tough questions, even though he wants us to believe that he didn’t know what he was taking, that he couldn’t admit to himself that he was doing something wrong, that his only years of indiscretion were 2001 to 2003. What a joke!

Anyone who knows me knows I have no love for the Yankees, but I certainly have respect for Jeter, Jorge Posada, and whoever plays hard and comports themselves with dignity inside the three-ring circus that is the Yankees organization. Now, once again, A-Rod has thrown spring training into an uproar. Does anyone really think Jeter relishes the idea of answering stupid question after stupid question about his teammate with the bloated ego and bloated contract? And another funny thing—that period when A-Rod was comparing himself to Jeter and saying that Jeter’s stats didn’t hold a candle to his, that Jeter wasn’t the guy in the lineup that was feared by the opposition? Guess what? Those were A-Rod’s ’roid years! Ya think Derek Jeter has even more of a reason to be peeved about it now, years after he has let it go?

Even though I dislike A-Rod, my hatred runs much deeper for Barry Bonds. I had high hopes of watching A-Rod approach, and then break, Bonds’s all-time home-run record, thinking that, yes, A-Rod’s an ass, but at least he’s clean, so take that, Barry! Now, even that dream has been ruined. Now I cringe at the prospect of watching A-Rod hit his home runs, passing Bonds while the Yankee fans adore him and the rest of the baseball world jeers. I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area while Bonds pursued the record, and the fan adulation, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of steroid use, made me gag. I know what the frenzy will be like among Yankee fans—it will just give me reason to hate the Yankees even more, if that’s possible.

As for the home-run record—it will probably need an A-Sterisk.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Everyone's Tokin' 'Bout Mike Phelps!

Michael Phelps made a mistake by letting himself be photographed taking a hit of pot from a bong. Just look at the photo. He’s using it all wrong. For one, he doesn’t have the proper amount of water in there. Consequently, the smoke he inhaled was probably very harsh. A little crushed ice would have also been a smart move. In addition, it appears as though he’s not using the carburetor properly.
Poor Michael Phelps. Who knew his best event was the 420 Freestyle?
Sure, I jest. I can’t help it. But, I think this incident illustrates two things: 1.) Michael Phelps used really poor judgment and 2.) Marijuana should have been legalized a long time ago.
I have been saying it for 20 years now and my opinion has never changed. Pot is a weed that grows naturally in the soil. It is so much less harmful than the number one killer among teens and adults, which is cigarettes, followed closely by alcohol. You never hear about people dying in pot-related accidents. You never see folks vomiting in the gutter after smoking one too many joints. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Wow, I am so hungover. I smoked too much weed last night.”
I know you’ve all heard the arguments, so I won’t go into them here. I’m not defending Phelps so much as I’m saying that the fact that marijuana is still illegal after all these years is ridiculous—a mixture of fear, arrogance and ignorance. Economically, nothing makes more sense than to make it legal. You want an economic stimulus in this country? Legalize pot!
This appeared on the Huffington Post recently, written by John V. Santore:
Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was recently photographed using a marijuana bong at the home of a friend. The photographic evidence made a denial impossible, which led to release of the following statement today:
"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I'm 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again."
Not too long ago, Chris Matthews reviewed transitioning public attitudes towards marijuana by reviewing the statements of past presidential candidates about their own drug use, from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama:
And during the last campaign, Stephen Colbert made light of the supposed "hope bong" then-candidate Obama was making available to the public:
All of this would be little more than an interesting and amusing cultural trend were it not for realities such as this:
A study released [in April, 2008] reported that between 1998 and 2007 [in New York City], the police arrested 374,900 people whose most serious crime was the lowest-level misdemeanor marijuana offense.
That is more than eight times the number of arrests on those same charges between 1988 and 1997, when 45,300 people were picked up for having a small amount of pot...
...Nearly everyone involved in this wave of marijuana arrests is male: 90 percent were men, although national studies show that men and women use pot in roughly equal rates. And 83 percent of those charged in these cases were black or Latino, according to the study. Blacks accounted for 52 percent of the arrests, twice their share of the city's population. Whites, who are about 35 percent of the population, were only 15 percent of those charged -- even though federal surveys show that whites are more likely than blacks or Latinos to use pot.
Among the pretty large population of white people who have used pot and not been arrested for it is Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Asked during the 2001 campaign by New York magazine if he had ever smoked it, Mr. Bloomberg replied: "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it." After he was elected and his remarks were used in advertisements by marijuana legalization advocates, Mr. Bloomberg said his administration would vigorously enforce the laws.
While marijuana laws have changed over time, and while past administrations have attempted to show that the situation isn't as dire as it appears to be, drug policy in the United States is immensely hypocritical and destructive. Today, public figures justify past drug use as "youthful indiscretions" and the matter is dropped. But huge numbers of ordinary Americans are introduced to the jail system because of minor drug offenses, and as the records show, the overwhelmingly disproportionate nature of drug arrests creates a justified perception of injustice and both economic and racial bias.
Will Michael Phelps have to go to court for his actions? No. (Nor should he have to.) Will any law enforcement jurisdiction in America conduct a systematic raid of a college dorm at a prominent university with the goal of arresting everyone in possession of marijuana? Of course not. If such an action was taken on a broad scale, the arrests would likely be in the thousands. At the same time, will poor Americans, overwhelmingly minority in ethnicity, continue to be arrested by local police for the possession of small amounts of pot? Absolutely.
Before he was president, Obama indicated that he was well aware that marijuana laws needed to be reformed and that the mythology of the "war on drugs" was nothing more than a fairy tale:
But this is only part of the problem. A 2006 ACLU report documented the difference in sentencing between the possession of crack and of cocaine:
The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, passed during the media frenzy following the death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias, established mandatory minimum sentences for possession of specific amounts of cocaine. However, it also established a 100-to-1 disparity between distribution of powder and crack cocaine. For example, distributing just five grams of crack carries a minimum five-year federal prison sentence, while distributing 500 grams of powder cocaine carries the same sentence. The discrepancy remains despite repeated recommendations by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to Congress to reconsider the penalties.
Because of its relative low cost, crack cocaine is more accessible to poor people, many of whom are African Americans. Conversely, powder cocaine is much more expensive and tends to be used by more affluent white Americans.
The report includes recent data that indicates that African Americans make up 15 percent of the country's drug users, yet they make up 37 percent of those arrested for drug violations, 59 percent of those convicted, and 74 percent of those sentenced to prison for a drug offense. More than 80 percent of the defendants sentenced for crack offenses are African American, despite the fact that more than 66 percent of crack users are white or Hispanic.
In the past, Obama has spoken out against the continuation of policies like this one. From a 2007 interview:
Asked if he would eliminate discriminatory laws that punish crack cocaine possession so heavily that it would take 100 times more in powder cocaine for the same sentence, Obama started off by saying the law was a mistake. He talked about his record in the Illinois Senate.
"I want to point out that I fought provisions like this and in many cases voted against provisions like this, knowing the way they could be exploited politically," Obama told the Trotter Group of African-American newspaper columnists last week after addressing the National Association of Black Journalists. "I thought it was the right thing to do. Even though the politics of it was tough back in the '90s, as a state legislator I took some tough votes to make sure we didn't see the perpetration of these kinds of unjust laws."...
...He said that if he were to become president, he would support a commission to issue a report "that allows me to say that based on the expert evidence, this is not working and it's unfair and unjust. Then I would move legislation forward."
In that same interview, Obama linked drug problems to larger issues of economic and opportunity disparities in America:
Obama asked if he could make a "broader" point. "Even if we fix this, if it was a 1-to-1 ratio, it's still a problem that folks are selling crack. It's still a problem that our young men are in a situation where they believe the only recourse for them is the drug trade. So there is a balancing act that has to be done in terms of, do we want to spend all our political capital on a very difficult issue that doesn't get at some of the underlying issues; whether we want to spend more of that political capital getting early childhood education in place, getting after-school programs in place, getting summer school programs in place."
Addressing the economic and social situations which encourage people to use and sell drugs is critical. But it is also important to take advantage of changing public attitudes in order to do away with hypocritical drug policies that undermine public faith in an impartial justice system and disproportionately harm segments of society which are already teetering on the brink of collapse. Public apologies like those issued today by Phelps ring hollow because he will not be persecuted for his actions by either a court of law or the court of public opinion. The fact the he feels he must apologize is simply an effort to pay homage to past American mores that no longer impact private behavior. But those mores still impact drug policies, policies that continue to hurt citizens to this very day. Some steps to mitigate the worst impacts of these broken laws, like those governing sentencing for crack/cocaine offenses have been taken in recent years. Let's hope that President Obama, who saw the impact of bad drug laws first-hand in Chicago, will continue these reforms.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

Okay, it’s been two weeks, so I guess I’m ready to talk about the Giants’ big failure against the Eagles two Sundays ago. Of course, it almost seems passé, now that the Eagles lost to the Cardinals—I know, can you believe it? The Cardinals!—last week.

There are a lot of people who think that the Giants’ season ended the night that Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg. Maybe there’s something to that, but I don’t buy it completely. The Giants have plenty of talent, and they have a deep receiving corps, even though none of them has the height or the hands of Burress. I suppose it can’t be argued that Eli Manning only had one touchdown pass to a receiver after Burress was suspended for the remainder of the season. Likewise, all of the team’s offensive numbers went down starting with the first game after the shooting. But even though the G-men lost three of their last four regular season games, it seemed that they could come together when it really counted, as they did against the Panthers in Week 16, when the game was for the top seed in the NFC playoffs.

There were a few factors besides Burress’s absence that led the Giants to their embarrassing loss against Philadelphia. Two things that contributed went hand in hand: the fact that Manning was having a bad game and missing his receivers, and the terrible play-calling by Kevin Gilbride, the offensive coordinator. Yes, Eli was throwing into swirling winds at Giants Stadium in January (even though that didn’t seem to stop Donovan McNabb from having a good game). Do I think that Eli should know at this point how to deal with the winds at the Meadowlands? Absolutely. I have no excuse for him except that he was having a bad game. I will still allow him a few stinkers, even though this came at the most inopportune time. However, even if Eli was not having a rotten day, why the heck did Gilbride choose to get away from the Giants’ bread and butter, the running game? Even when the G-men did run the ball, they gave it to Derrick Ward as often as to Brandon Jacobs. What was Gilbride thinking? Jacobs is needed to steamroll and soften other teams’ defenses before Ward should be put in the game. It was New York in January, for goodness sake! Did Gilbride really think any great Giants team got to be that way by throwing the ball in the frozen tundra that is Giants Stadium? Run the darned ball! I was watching the game at home by myself, and many was the time I muttered to myself, “Run it! Run the ball!” Coach Tom Coughlin shares as much blame as Gilbride. He should have seen what was happening and ordered Gilbride to call more running plays with Jacobs.

Another factor was the defense. What happened to Steve Spagnuolo’s aggressive, attacking scheme? Why was it that the Giants’ defensive line couldn’t sack McNabb once this entire season? The Giants’ defense had been stellar this year—fifth in the league in yards allowed, I believe. Yet they allowed the Eagles to drive down the field again and again. By the way, what did that have to do with Plaxico Burress?

Finally, as small a factor as it was, John Carney’s poor kicking must have demoralized the Giants not once, but twice. The guy had missed three field goals all season, and two were blocked. But he missed the final one of the regular season, which might have given the Giants a victory over Minnesota, and it seemed that it shook his confidence enough to keep him from making more than a single field goal out of three attempts in the playoffs. The Giants did lose by more than six points, but still…

So there it is. The Giants have the potential to be good for several years to come, but there sure are some ways they could strengthen the team for the 2009 season. First, they should hope that Gilbride leaves to be head coach of the Raiders. Then they can hire a better offensive coordinator. Gilbride did a good job in 2007, when Big Blue made their Super Bowl run, but after this year, it seems as if the game has passed him by. New defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan was the linebackers coach, and my gut feeling is that he will be fine keeping continuity with Spagnuolo’s system. Second, they need to find a tall, fast number-one receiver with good hands to replace Burress. True, GM Jerry Reese said, “Never say never,” when asked if Burress could return, but frankly, if Plax manages to avoid jail, I think the Giants organization has too much class to keep him, even if it gives them a better shot to get another ring. Third, find another linebacker or two to shore up that unit. Antonio Pierce may or may not have lost a step, but he sure wasn’t playing like himself by the end of the year. This was the weakest defensive unit on the Giants, and it could use some help.

As for you naysayers who got all up in arms at the thought of Eli getting a new, stupendously large contract—who needs you? You were probably all saying Eli was the toast of the town last year when he was Super Bowl MVP. Does he still have bad games? Yup. Is he as good as his brother? Probably not. But you can’t argue with the ring—it can never be said that Eli doesn’t have what it takes to win a championship. Heck, Trent Dilfer was a Super Bowl–winning QB, and Eli Manning is a heck of a lot better than him!

I’d also like to take a jab at the fans of my two other favorite teams—the Cowboys and the Eagles. (Note the heavy sarcasm.) To Dallas fans—yeah, I bet you thought you had it made when EVERYONE and their mother picked your team to win it all this year. To that (and to Jerry Jones) I say, “Ha, ha!” (Imagine Nelson from The Simpsons laughing.) It takes more than a few predictions to make a Super Bowl team, wouldn’t you say? How many of the so-called NFL prognosticators do you think picked Arizona to go to the Big Dance this year? To Philly fans—yeah, yeah, you beat the Giants. Yeah, yeah, you beat them twice at Giants Stadium this year. Yeah, yeah, you sure acted like your team was hot stuff going into the NFC Championship Game before the Cardinals—the CARDINALS—made them look like chop suey. All I can say is this: at least the Giants won the Super Bowl last year in one of the greatest upsets of all time. At least the Giants have won three Super Bowls. How many Super Bowls have the Eagles won? (Hint: 0.)

For the upcoming Super Bowl, I will root for the Cardinals. Not that I have anything against Pittsburgh, and I won’t be upset if the Steelers win, but come on—the Cardinals haven’t won a championship in 61 years. They’ve been through three cities in that time. The only team that’s been around that long without a championship is the Cubs, and they’re going on 101 years and counting. Also, with Bruce Springsteen as the halftime show, the Super Bowl this year can’t possibly be as good as the last couple. I like the Boss’s politics, but his music? As my grandfather used to say, “Feh!”

If I don’t get a chance to write again before the game (I have to travel to New York this week on business), everyone enjoy!

And go, Cards!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

Did everyone have a good Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s? Hope you were all safe out there on New Year’s Eve!

So now it’s time for the good stuff!

I know, I know, all you fans of NFL teams that didn’t get a first-round bye have already seen some of the good stuff—at least, the fans of the Eagles, Cardinals, Ravens, and Chargers have. Fans of the Vikings, Falcons, Dolphins, and Colts will have to wait another year!

A couple of things about that opening round of playoffs before I get into my favorite football subject. First, I am very surprised that the Chargers and Cardinals won. The Cardinals haven’t won squat in so long, I thought for sure that Atlanta would handle them, rookie quarterback or no. As for the Chargers, yeah, sure, they have Philip Rivers, who had the highest QB rating in the league this year. But the Colts have Peyton Manning! What the hey? Maybe spineless Norv Turner actually deserves more credit than I ever wanted to give him. Naaah. I don’t give them much of a chance against the Steelers this weekend. Likewise, I think the Panthers will hand it to Arizona with ease.

Yes, I think the games to watch this weekend, if you’re looking for excitement, will be Ravens–Titans and Eagles–Giants. Not that these games will necessarily be high-scoring, shootout types of affairs. Quite the contrary—I think they will both be big-time defensive battles that will be decided by a touchdown or less. But that, to me, is what football is all about: two power teams slugging it out in the ground game while their defenses try to make points a rare commodity. Sacks, fumbles, interceptions—and a grind-it-out running game on offense to control the clock and the tempo and keep the other guys’ defense on the field as long as possible.

I don’t know if I could call that AFC game—I guess in a pinch I’d pick Tennessee to beat Baltimore, although the Ravens’ defense once again looks almost impregnable as it did eight years ago when they won the Big Dance. Maybe it’s not quite that good, but it sure did put a hurting on Chad Pennington and the Fish last weekend.

As for the NFC game—ah, yes, NOW it’s time to talk about the Giants. True, they lost three of their last four, one loss of which was to Philadelphia, but consider: Two of those losses were division games in which Big Blue was not fully healthy. In the last loss, to Minnesota, the Giants didn’t play their starters the whole game and still ended up losing by only a point. Now the injured players have had a chance to rest at least two weeks—some of them three. The latest report has the G-men at just about full strength, which hasn’t been the case for weeks. The Giants got banged up playing one of the toughest schedules in NFL history—they had the earliest possible bye week and then four weeks later began a stretch of ten games in a row against teams with winning records, six of which made the playoffs. Yow! But when healthy, the Giants did beat the Eagles once, in addition to beating the Steelers, Ravens, and Panthers. I think this game will be close, as division games often are, but I think Big Blue will pull it off on their way to their second straight Super Bowl appearance. Time will tell.

SEASONINGS: Good for Ed’s cousin, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, for calling out the Yankees on their obscene spending spree this offseason. Of course, Yankees flunky Randy Levine shares my last name, but he’s no relation of mine. Thank goodness, because I’d be ashamed to share genes with him after he called Attanasio’s comments sour grapes—at the news conference announcing Mark Teixeira’s new $180 million dollar contract with New York. Can’t really say much more about that—it speaks for itself, I think.

And I see Jason Giambi is back with the A’s after defecting to New York eight years ago. Gosh, A’s management keeps making it harder and harder for me to root for them. I hope “the Giambino” gets roundly booed at his first home game and every game thereafter until he gets benched for his poor play, as he inevitably will. Who’s left from Giambi’s last term with the A’s? Only Eric Chavez, who has played only 113 games the last two seasons due to injury. He and Giambi should feel right at home with one another.

Maybe I don’t know all the facts, but I think less of John Smoltz for defecting to the Red Sox for an extra $3 million. I mean, the guy played in Atlanta for 21 years! He made millions already! Isn’t there something to be said for loyalty, both by the club and the player, after that long? Yes, maybe Atlanta should have offered him more, even though he’s coming off of major arm surgery, but even so, you’d think the two would be able to come to some sort of agreement after 21 years of service! Did Smoltz really need the money that badly? Sheesh!