Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bullpen Empire

Eric Gagne is coming to Beantown as baseball's best bullpen gets even better.

Just prior to today's 4 PM trade deadline the Sox acquired the Rangers closer for Kason Gabbard, David Murphy, and Engel Beltre. To convince Gagne to waive his limited no-trade clause, the Sox agreed to guarantee $2.1 million in performance bonuses that were dependent on Gagne's role as closer.

It's just a sick move that puts three stoppers at the back end of the bullpen alongside Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon. The Sox have been very careful not to overpitch Papelbon so now they can roll out another of the game's top closers on those off-nights.

The move also reinforces the idea that Red Sox are baseball's biggest financial bully. In the wake of an off-season that saw them pump out $100 million-plus for Daisuke Matsuzaka, $75 million for JD Drew, and $36 million for Julio Lugo, they went ahead and acquired someone they don't need (they already had baseball's best bullpen) but nonetheless helps at a cost that isn't cheap (I think the total outlay for Gagne will come in at $1.5 million/month, but I haven't seen the exact details, yet).

Embarrassment of riches, one might say. (And I just did.)

It also reinforces the idea that the Sox are not going to be bullied on prospects. They turned the unexpected solid MLB stint from Kason Gabbard, their #2 or 3 OF prospect, plus a low-level minor leaguer into the best reliever on the market. Gabbard was not part of their long-term plans, and Murphy is a future big leaguer stuck behind too many OF bodies. Short of a rash of injuries, he wasn't going to crack the Red Sox line-up so this gives him a chance to make the majors.

In other words, they acquired the best reliever on the market for three secondary pieces that aren't part of their plans. Nice.

On the downside, the Sox failed to acquire Jermaine Dye from the White Sox because the asking price was too high. Boston wanted to get rid of Wily Mo Pena, but the White Sox wanted pitching, apparently asking for 2 of the following 3 prospects: Craig Hansen, Justin Masterson and Manny Delcarmen. Hansen and Delcarmen are bullpen guys, but Masterson is another of Boston's heralded minor league starters and he's not going anywhere, especially for 3 months of an OF that's not going to stick around.

Not So Speedy After All

The lone American driver in Formula 1 has been dropped. Toro Rosso, the secondary Red Bull team, dropped Scott Speed on Tuesday, and replaced him with the much more promising Sebastian Vettel, who'd spent the season as BMW-Sauber's test driver. Vettel had a solid stint in the BMW cockpit earlier this year after Robert Kubica's dramatic crash at Montreal. Vettel finished 8th at the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, making him the youngest driver in F1 history to score a point in his debut.

Toro Rosso is closer to the bottom of the F1 budget scale, so it's not like Speed had a chance to shine in the sport's best equipment and, in truth, it has seemed he's usually outperformed his Toro Rosso teammate Vitntonio Liuzzi. The fact remains, however, that in two seasons with Toro Rosso Speed has yet to score a single point (meaning he's never finished higher than ninth).

Speed joins an impressive list of American drivers who have failed to find success in the Spectacle: Michael Andretti, Danny Sullivan, and Eddie Cheever have all tried their hand at F1 and failed. All returned to the States for open-wheel success, however, so Speed's dismissal is not the end of his racing career. He could possibly (though not likely) hook on with another F1 team as a test driver, or come West to land a seat in Champ Car, the IRL, or even stock cars.

While Speed isn't the driver that Juan Pablo Montoya is, JPM's success might be enough to give Speed a shot in a Cup team's Busch car. Robert Doornbos' success in Champ, and the fact that Champ cars are closer to F1 cars than the IRL chassis might make that series the best option for Speed (especially if he eventually wants back in F1), but the IRL might be Speed's best overall option. The IRL is an up-and-coming series and has the overwhelming bulk of open wheel stars in the States. Speed's addition to a line-up that includes Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, etc. would be a welcome one.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Your Monday Evening Useless Countdown Update

Hey, Orlando Cabrera hit a Home Run this week. Go figure. He now needs two to tie McCarver and three to pass the broadcasting bastiche. The Angels are on the road against the Ms and As this week.

Color Them Relevant

The Associated Press is reporting that the Celtics have acquired Kevin Garnett.

I'm pretty ecstatic.

The exact details of the trade haven't been hammered out, but by all accounts it's a done deal. Going the other way is some combination of All Jefferson, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, and perhaps Ryan Gomes and Rajon Rondo. And a draft pick or two.

That's a whole lot, obviously, but the Cs and Garnett are working on a 3-4 year extension that would be in addition to the 2 years KG already has left on his deal.

I'm going to hold off on any deeper reaction until it goes through, but this appears to be very, very good news. As soon as the Cs made the Ray Allen deal, they needed to go out and get another veteran to make a run right now.

Who would've thought the biggest MLB deadline deal would come in basketball ...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Arsenal Wins Emirates Cup

If you're going to have a tournament, you might as well win it, even if it is pre-season and three of your key contributors (Emmanuel Adebayor, Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott) are sitting it out.

Arsenal has won the inaugural Emirates Cup after defeating Inter Milan 2-1 on Sunday afternoon. Robin van Persie scored in the 85th minute to break the tie and guarantee the tournament victory.

All Arsenal had to do was win after PSG took out Valencia 3-0 in the day's first match.

Good start to putting 2006/07 behind them.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Valencia On Top of Emirates Cup After Day One

Valencia beat Inter Milan 2-0 and Arsenal defeated Paris St. Germain 2-1 on day one of two at the inaugural Emirates Cup at Emirates Stadium. The scoring format for the tournament awards 3 points for a win and 1 point for every goal, so while the Spanish and EPL clubs are tied with 5 points, Valencia has a +1 goal differential advantage.

In the opening match it was Jaime Gavilan and David Villa getting the scores for Los Che. Mathieu Flamini and Nicklas Bendtner scored for the Gunners. Aresenal had a chance to increase their lead to 2 goals late in the contest but Bendtner's penalty kick was lame and PSG's keeper made the save.

Arsenal plays Inter Milan tomorrow while Valencia plays PSG. For some strange reason, the two clubs tied for first will not play each other. Weak. It's nice to see Arsenal fill their tournament with legit clubs, however. It seems like college hoops programs never bring in anyone tougher than an Ivy League school to fill out their holiday tournaments.

Meanwhile, the potential takeover of Arsenal by American billionaire Stan Kroenke continues to trudge along with no imminent conclusion in sight.

Useless Countdown: Cabrera Homers!

Orlando Cabrera went deep during the eighth-inning of today's game with the Tigers, his first homer since June 29. Cabrera is now within 2 HRs of tying Tim McCarver and 3 of passing the former-catcher and current broadcaster.

Let the rest of the sporting world focus on Barry Bonds pursuit of immortality, we here at the Crazy will focus on one crazy-ass ex-shortstop of the BoSox.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

These Are the Games I Miss

Red Sox 1, Smiling Racists 0.

Daisuke Matsuzake: 7 innings, 4 hits, 0 Runs, 0 Earned Runs, 3 Walks, 5 Strikeouts. CC Sabathia: 7 innings, 5 hits, 1 Run, 1 Earned, 0 Walks, 7 Strikeouts. Okajima, Papelbon, and Betancourt giving up only 1 hit in four innings of near-flawless relief.

Ryan Garko (17 games) and Julio Lugo (14 games) extending hitting streaks. Mike Lowell driving in the only run on a bloop single.

These are the games I really miss not being able to see on TV - a well-pitched game between two likely playoff teams that probably made for rather tense viewing from the fifth inning on. After three sub-par outings, Matsuzaka shut the Indians out for 7 innings before turning it over to the bullpen.

Another week and I would've been able to watch it. If I can get one of these games while I'm back in the Bay State I'll be a happy guy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Eat it, Cancer

Julian Tavarez is out and Jon Lester is back.

It's been exactly 11 months since Lester pitched in the big leagues as he recovered from lymphoma, his last appearance coming last August 23rd in a victory over the Angels. He'll get the start tonight against the Smiling Racists and Terry Francona told reporters there's no limitations or pitch count on Lester - forgetting, of course, there's always a limitation and pitch count on every pitcher every time they go out there.

From a human interest standpoint, of course, tonight's appearance is huge, for Lester and for the club that has, by all accounts, taken their time and given Lester all the time he needed to come back strong.

From a baseball standpoint, Lester has won three of his last four starts down at the Tucket, but he didn't exactly tear up AAA while he was there, going 4-5, with a 3.89 ERA.

Still, none of that really matters tonight. Whether Lester throws a no-hitter or can't get out of the first inning, for one night at least across the Nation the win or loss shouldn't matter one bit.

Of course, if he does pitch solid but not spectacular, half the caller into 'EEI tomorrow will be trading him off for Griffey or Jermaine Dye or Xavier Nady.

Your Monday Morning Useless Countdown Update

Orlando Cabrera's homerless streak has reached 16 games, despite playing against the likes of Tampa Bay and Texas over that span. Cabrera went 4-for-14 in Minnesota over the weekend as the Angels dropped 2-of-3 to the Gemini. The Angels play three against the A's, starting tonight, then have a weekend three-gamer with the Tigers. All six games will be at home.

Cabrera is still three HR short of tying Tim McCarver and four short of surpassing him. McCarver is sleeping better, but he ain't sleeping well.

Props to the Swoosh

Well, they might still exploit children, and there's something a bit comical about their press release stating they find animal abuse abhorrent when, you know, their shoes aren't made of soy beans and tofu, but they did suspend the release of the Michael Vick shoe, which is something.

After calling them out last week I wanted to give them a bit of credit, at least.

As Darren Rovell points out, though, it's not going to affect Nike's bottom line in any significant way: "The decision to suspend the launch of Michael Vick's new training shoe was a no-brainer. Sources tell me that, if the shoe never comes out, Nike will lose less than $1.5 million."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Kason Gabbard, Folk Hero

It's been a testy week around Red Sox Nation even without getting into the whole Sports Guy v. Jerry Remy feud. The club is losing, the Yankees are winning, and the lead in the AL East has shrunk to a "mere" seven games.

It makes for great radio, if nothing else. The Big Show was outstanding this week as Sox fan after Sox fan called in to offer their own usually-ridiculous trade scenarios (it seemed like every fifth call was "let's trade Wily Mo Pena for Ken Griffey, Jr") and bash the hell out of Julio Lugo, Wily Mo Pena, and JD Drew.

That's life in the Nation of Red Socks. When things are going bad someone has to take the brunt of things and Lugo, Pena, and Drew are the new whipping boys. Lugo has finally started to hit, easing fan ire to a degree, but Pena and Drew ... at this point I don't know if Wily Mo can recover and Drew will need to get hot for the rest of the season and then have a huge playoffs to get people back on his side. For a guy who's signing was incredibly unpopular to begin with, it hasn't helped him that he's missed game after game with assorted minor injuries.

As bad as the offense has been, however, the pitching has been good. On Saturday Kason Gabbard pitched his second gem in a row to run his record to 4-0 and drop his ERA to 2.97. Gabbard went 7, giving up only 3 hits and 1 run while throwing a concise 86 pitches. Few consider him a part of the future starting rotation for the club but all it takes is another few solid starts and parts of the Nation will start looking at him the way they did the last guy to wear #61, Bronson Arroyo. Which is to say, borderline irrationally.

That's OK, though. Gabbard has the attitude Red Sox management wants - quiet, workmanlike - and if he can make himself an innings-chewing, .500 pitcher at the big league level he can slot comfortably into the back end of the rotation. Even throwing a knuckleball, Wakefield can't pitch forever.

It would have been nice to see the game this afternoon. I sat down at 4 to watch the Sox-on-Sox battle, thankful that there was no Cubs game to compete against for the Indianapolis audience. What else were they going to show in the Indy market, right? We always get the Chicago teams.

Until today, when the fuckers at Fox (either national or local) decided that it didn't matter that we're in a White Sox and Cubs-protected market, fans here didn't want to watch the White Sox, but really wanted to watch the Giants play the Brewers.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Can an NBA Ref Knock a Dog Killer and a Steroids Cheat Off the Front Page?

The dorky looking dude to your left is Tim Donaghy.

I mean, I think it's Tim Donaghy. Sports Illustrated says it is and I'm willing to take their word on it since I couldn't pick Tim Donaghy out of a line-up. And that last bit means he might want me on his jury if he goes on trial for gambling on and fixing NBA games.

According to the AP:

The FBI is investigating allegations that a veteran NBA referee bet on basketball games over the past two seasons, including ones in which he officiated. According to a law enforcement official, authorities are examining whether the referee, identified by CBS Sportsline and ESPN as Tim Donaghy, made calls to affect the point spread in games on which he or associates had wagered.

Of course he made calls to influence the point spread in those games. When you have something as subjective as NBA officiating, there's no way a referee can't affect the point spread.

In terms of sports, the fixing of games by a referee is a bigger story than a QB who kills dogs for fun and one of hundreds of players who take steroids to make their head swell and their balls disappear. I don't know if it's juicy enough to displace Vick and Bonds from the top of the sports reporting pile, though.

Betting on games in which you're involved is so 1980s, after all. (Right, Chuckie Hustle?) Dog fighting and steroids-using balloon heads who are about to break sacred records are so much sexier a topic for columnists and bloggers and Self-Proclaimed Worldwide Leaders.

What's there to talk about a game-fixing/point-spread altering scandal? OK, the inclusion of the mob makes it a bit more interesting, but is there anyone who's going to stand up for Donaghy? Is there anyone who thinks game-fixing is acceptable? Who will stand up for Donaghy's right to hand inside information over to the mob?

The sheer lurid nature of Vick's dog torture and the historic sacredness of the HR record help propel those stories night after night, but if Donaghy is guilty and if he has acted alone, there's likely only so much that can be said about this story. Vick and Bonds have their supporters, after all. Vick and Bonds involves issues of grey - there's debate over what punishment Vick should get now, just like there will be debate over the appropriateness of whatever punishment he gets if he's convicted at trial. Same with Bonds - what did he do, when did he do it, how many others (hitters and pitchers) are doing it, etc.? But gambling on games you're officiating is just wrong, and given Donaghy reportedly never worked a Finals ... I don't know how much long-term heat this story is going to generate.

Make no mistake, I'm not saying it shouldn't be the equal of the Vick and Bonds stories, just that if this story doesn't get bigger I'm not sure it will get the same page- and screen-time as the sexier scandals. Remember, even if Bonds breaks Aaron's record tonight he's still got a federal investigation of his own to confront.

Once again, though, the NHL is left out in the cold. The NFL has a dog-torturing controversy, MLB has Bonds and steroids, the NBA has game-fixing referees, and the NHL has ... sleak uniforms?

Heck, the MLS at least has everyone talking about the impact of Becks, and NASCAR has a whole mess of cheating crew chiefs.

At this point, Gary Bettman is going to have to contract Canada right now just to get a shout out in a sports page anywhere south of Lake Erie.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Introducing the Useless Countdown

As you've no doubt noticed, over on the right side of your screen is a new Bring the Crazy feature, the Useless Countdown. Created in honor of such notable achievements as Barry Bonds steroids-fueled run at Hank Aaron's HR record and the Phillies' 10,000th loss, the Useless Countdown will celebrate completely arbitrary pursuits that, in some way, fascinate or amuse me.

First up is Orlando Cabrera's Relentless Pursuit of Tim McCarver.

Cabrera has 94 career HRs and McCarver has 97. Cabrera has 7 HRs this season, which means it will be lucky if he hits 4 more before the playoffs start.

That's what you call a bad decision on my part. I mean, it's not my intent to have the Useless Countdown be a daily feature, but I'd like it to be more regular than one-a-year, too.

I could change mid-stream because it's my blog and I don't have any money back guarantees. Instead of focusing on Cabrera's relentless pursuit of Tim McCarver on the All-Time Home Run list, I could draw everyone's attention to Cabrera's Relentless Pursuit of Former Red Sox LF Mike Greenwell on the All-Time Hits List. Cabrera currently has 1370 career hits and Greenwell has 1400, where he sits in 646th place. I know it's important for Cabrera to pass Greenwell, a guy he's probably never met or even heard of, because that's the kind of all-out effort Cabrera puts into his baseball playing.

We're sticking with Home Runs, though, even if it means Cabrera keeps us waiting into next season, because that's the kind of all-out effort I put into following records that only need to be updated once every six weeks.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Let Vick Squirm

Michael Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday for "conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities, as well as to sponsor a dog in animal fighting venture," according to ESPN.

I'm not going to get into how sick and depraved dogfighting is (Smoking Gun has the full indictment at their website if you want to read the full, ugly details, and the AP's story breaks down the grisly details) but what the NFL should do to Michael Vick.

They should, in essence, do nothing. For now.

While Vick is definitely guilty of owning the property where the dogfighting took place, the question of his involvement is still a matter to be resolved legally. Yeah, he's guilty. I know it, you know it, Vick's always known it and now his employers - the Falcons and the NFL - know it, or at least can no longer deny it behind closed doors. There's no need, however, to rush a severe, season-long penalty at Vick until either the legal process runs its course or Vick admits to his involvement. Once we know - legally or from Vick - that he was involved, drop the hammer on him.

Until then, let him squirm.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could suspend Vick, of course, but on what grounds? Indictments don't carry nearly the same weight as a conviction and the burden of proof is much less. Jason Cole (Yahoo! Sports) quotes a league source saying: "Where (Vick) is in the most trouble is that he lied to the commissioner. He told (Goodell) in April that he didn't know anything about this. The commissioner gave (Vick) every chance to come clean, be straight about what was going on. Instead, he just kept denying it."

Suspending Vick for lying seems almost petty in the face of the more serious dogfighting charges. (Not that lying to the commish is petty, of course, just that I don't think it carries the same punitive weight as being involved in an illegal activity such as dogfighting.) If Goodell does suspend Vick for this, I'm all for a shorter 4-6 game suspension and not the half- to full-season suspensions Goodell has handed out to Tank Johnson, Pacman Jones, and the entire Cincinnati Bengals roster. The big suspension is coming.

If you're having trouble following my logic, please remember that I'm evil. Borderline, at least, and I know that the court of public opinion is going to punish Vick much more severely than the commissioner's office can at this point.

The Humane Society has already announced they're going to call for Vick to be dropped by the league, the club, and his sponsors. PETA and other groups will follow.
The pressure the public can exert at times like this can be severe, slow to build, and agonizing. Both on the athlete and their companies. When the Humane Society asked Nike to drop Vick earlier, the company said No. We'll see how they react this time around.

They're certainly not going to like their name and logo associated with every story and column written about the Vick dogfighting case from now until completion.

Not that I'd do anything like that.

Far from it.

CNBC's Darren Rovell has a statement from Nike spokesman Brian Facchini saying, "We are aware of the indictment and are reviewing the information. We have no further comment at this time."

Surely complicating things for Nike (because they are a corporation and thus put their own profit above everything else) is that they're weeks away from launching the new Michael Vick shoe. Rovell writes, "Vick's signature shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Vick IV D, is currently on the shelves selling for $84.99. The "D" stands for detachable. The Zoom Vick V is scheduled to launch in two colorways on August 23 and the suggested retail price is $100. The shoes will likely arrive at retailers in three weeks."

If anyone takes Vick off the field for an extended time right now, it should be the Atlanta Falcons. They can make a case that a player under indictment is a distraction and a hindrance to the success of the franchise. The problem is that if you send him home you still have to pay him, but for the sake of the team, the Falcons would be best served taking that course - send Vick home, and let everyone know that if/when he's found guilty you will release him, but that you have to respect the legal process. Re-brand the team around the city with another face of the franchise - someone like Warrick Dunn, perhaps, who has done yeoman's work for the community though his Warrick Dunn Foundation charity.

I understand that everyone wants to rush in and punish Vick right now - I know I do, at least. But there's a reason why we have a legal system and why a presumption of innocence is key to the U.S. legal system. If the government does its job and proves its case, Vick's headed to jail.

Which is a pretty good suspension from here. I can wait for it.

After all, the real victims in this crime - the dogs at Vick's Bad Newz Kennel - have already been removed from Vick's influence.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Kason Gabbard, Club Savior

Last night at the Fens, unheralded rookie LHP Kason Gabbard threw a 3-hit shoutout at the Kansas City Royals to extend his record to 3-0 and drop his ERA to 3.38.

Gabbard is one of those players that comes out of relative nowhere (there is no actual nowhere when it comes to the Red Sox) to play a key role in a club's run at a championship. It's not that Gabbard was unheard of prior to this recent call-up but that among the organizations's numerous top-tier starting pitching prospects (Lester, Buchholz, Bowden, Masterson, Bard), Gabbard isn't even in the conversation. Yet it's Gabbard that got the call when Schilling went down and Gabbard who's giving the club everything they want from a fill-in pitcher. Gabbard's performance with the big club helps the organization to do the following:

1. Rest Curt Schilling. The thinking floating around the Sox right now seems to indicate that Schill will get a full six weeks off in-between starts. Gabbard has by no means been lights out (until last night), but he's given up only 21 hits in 29 innings. The 14 walks are a concern, but other than one bad outing in Seattle he's been solid.

2. Allow Jon Lester to Get Healthy.
Lester was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma last season after having already proven himself as a MLB-ready starter, and it was no secret during spring training (post-Papelbon returning to his closer role) that Julian Tavarez was simply keeping Lester's spot in the rotation warm. When Lester was ready, he'd reclaim that spot, but that has yet to happen. While Lester has been deemed cancer free, this is cancer he's trying to come back from and it takes time. Yet listen to WEEI for an afternoon or two and you'll hear someone wondering why Lester hasn't gotten the call up, yet. Gabbard's performance puts no pressure on organization to bring Lester back until he is completely recovered.

3. Have Patience with Clay Buchholz. The #1 prospect in the Sox system will probably get a September call-up to do bullpen duty, but he's seen as a top-of-the-rotation starter and should crack the starting 5 in 2008, or 2009 at the latest. But for all the hype he just got his first AAA start the other night and only went 3 innings, giving up 2 ER (3 total) and 5 hits, with 5 Ks and 0 BBs.

The Sox big lead in the AL East helps all of this, as well, but it's Gabbard's ability to be effective that keeps everything rolling along. Of course, by the looks of Schilling on the mound yesterday he might need to take a few more weeks off to drop a pound or two.

Or thirty.

Steroids, Benoit, and Misleading Headlines

Here's the Yahoo Sports headline for the Chris Benoit medical report released by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday: "Investigators find steroids in body of wrestler who killed wife and son before hanging himself."

Sports Illustrated: "Benoit had steroids in system. Wrestler had elevated testosterone, Xanax at death."

ESPN: "Steroids, other drugs found in bodies of wrestler, wife, son."

Here's what the article itself says on the matter of steroids:

"Benoit's body contained 10 times the normal level of testosterone, which appeared to have been injected shortly before he died, as well as the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and the painkiller hydrocodone, authorities said. [...] The state's top medical examiner, Dr. Kris Sperry, said there was no evidence of any other anabolic steroids in the wrestler's body, and nothing to show that steroids played a role in the death of Nancy and Daniel Benoit. An elevation of that ratio does not translate into something abnormal in a person's thought process or behavior," he said.

Benoit, then, was a steroids user, but steroids had nothing to do with Benoit's state of mind at the time he killed his wife, kid, and himself. Now, I'm sure it can be argued that steroids effected Benoit's personality over time, but those headlines, while true, seem to indicate that steroids played a more prominent role than the GBI stated this afternoon.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Countdown to the Next 10,000

The Phillies have lost 10,000 games, which is a lot. More than anyone else, at least.

Losing 10,000 games isn't just a testament to futility, but one to longevity and probably explains, as much as anything else, why Philly sports fans are so damn cranky. Five pennants and one World Series doesn't really do a lot for a fanbase in 125 years.

As I'm sure lots of folks did this morning, I headed over to the All-Time Records page at Baseball Reference to see who was next in line.

Here's the All-Time Win-Loss records, ranked by most total losses, and including the number of losses needed to hit 10,000:

1. Phillies: 8,810-10,000 (0)
2. Braves: 9,662-9,681 (319)
3. Cubs: 9,947-9,425 (575)
4. Pirates: 9,596-9,342 (658)
5. Reds: 9,637-9,341 (659)

What's got to be disheartening for Philly fans is that not only are they the only team on that list with less than 9,500 wins, we're at least four years away from another team hitting the 10,000 loss mark, and that's only if the Braves turn into a .500 club. If the Cubs become a .500 team it'll be 2014 before they hit the Big 10-0-0-0.

Think about how good the Braves have been over the past 15 years and imagine where they'd be if they continued being the typically awful Braves. Twenty more losses a season puts them right on the verge.

Unsurprisingly, the top five teams on the All-Time Loser List are all National League franchises, and all were formed in 1882 at the latest. Here's the top five AL loss-leaders:

1. Orioles: 7,853-8,629
2. Twins: 7,933-8,557
3. Athletics: 8,007-8,460
4. Tigers: 8,370-8,153
5. White Sox: 8,340-8,142

The Giants are the only franchise with more than 10,000 all-time wins (10,151) and the next to reach that milestone is, somewhat surprisingly, the Cubbies, who are currently at 9.947. They've got 72 games left this season, so they'll most likely have to wait until next year.

Makes you wonder why Cubs' fans are always bitching about how lousy they are ...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

No Spectacle for Indianapolis in 2008

Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George announced today that there will be no United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis in 2008, as he and Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone failed to reach an agreement.

I don't know what's more amazing to me - that two egomaniacs like George and Ecclestone ever reached an agreement in the first place, or that they're so stupid as to not be able to come to an agreement to keep F1 at the most legendary speedway in the States.

Ecclestone likes to point out that F1 doesn't need the United States because F1 has no major US sponsors, no US teams, and only one US driver (Scuderia Toro Rosso's Scott Speed), but proponents for a US date point out the importance of the US automotive market for the bottom lines of BMW, Mercedes, Honda, and Toyota.

It's a shame. I went to the race the last two years and had a great time. On the bright side, as far as I'm aware the grand prix in Montreal is still on and, let's be honest, Montreal is slightly cooler than Indianapolis, so maybe I'll save some pennies and head there next season.

In other F1 news, things are getting nasty between McLaren and Ferrari and the alleged spy scandal between the two teams. F1's governing body charged McLaren's chief designer, Mike Coughlan, with being in possession of Ferrari technical specs, and then using them in the development of their currrent car. The FIA's statement reads: "The team representatives have been called to answer a charge that between March and July 2007, in breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes had unauthorised possession of documents and confidential information belonging to Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, including information that could be used to design, engineer, build, check, test, develop and/or run a 2007 Ferrari Formula One car."

This could all result in McLaren's drivers - Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, currently 1st and 2nd in the championship standings - being docked points.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I Will Now Make Earth-Shattering Decrees About the 78th ASG

Watching the All-Star Game at a sports bar you're not as involved with the telecast but for an exhibition it's probably the most enjoyable way to watch the game. Plus, you don't have to listen to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver and any of the other morons working the FOX telecast. I don't have any deep thoughts about the game, but a couple things stood out in the AL's 5-4 victory over the NL in San Francisco.

And by "a couple," I mean "eight."

1. You will tell your grandkids about Ichiro Suzuki when they're forced to spend time with your drooling, wrinkled personage. The inside-the-park home run was both amazing and comical. Amazing watching Ichiro run the bases and comical watching Griffey have to chase that ricocheting ball down.

2. When NL Manager Tony LaRussa's decision not to play Albert Pujols became a post-game issue, I was instantly glad I don't have ESPN. Having to sit through unending, unchanging discussions of the issue on 1st and 10, Rome is Burning, Around the Horn, PTI, SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews ... ugh. It's all going to be variations of "Albert's a baby/LaRussa's an asshole." How much fake, righteous indignation does one issue need?

3. Albert, get over it. LaRussa, this whole issue is another example of why you suck.

4. This whole thing wouldn't be an issue if MLB would allow for re-substitutions into the game for extra innings. Who would that hurt? (And the answer, of course, is Albert Pujols, when he cries about not being able to play twice in the same game.)

5. A-Rod should have run Russell Martin over. If he had that would be the story of the day and would have further cemented his rep as the most polarizing player in the game. Plus, it almost certainly would have resulted in either Buck or McCarver's head exploding.

6. I know this will come as a shocking statement to people, but the pre-game festivities are too damn long. No offense to Willie Mays, one of the ten greatest professional athletes of all-time, any sport, but by the time he hit the field he was the target of my childish verbal assaults: "Someone take Willie Mays' jacket! Someone take Willie Mays' jersey! Someone take Willie Mays' pants!" Message to MLB: Put Jeannie Zelasko and Eric Karros on at 7:30 so Willie Mays can come on at 8:00 and the game can start at 8:20.

7. The most inevitable article we could expect to see appearing online today was the "Willie Mays Stole the Show" article. The Associated Press didn't let us down. Honestly, Mays did not steal the show. That's not a dig on Mays, but on the fact that he "stole" the love/spotlight at all. From who or what, exactly, was the spotlight stolen? Chris Issak's National Anthem? Player introductions? Of course it was the best moment of the pre-game rabble. The real newsworthy headline would have been something like: "Introduction of Dmitri Young Steals Show From Willie Mays! San Francisco Fans Shower Overweight Dude from the Nationals With Love!"

8. Seriously, at $120 a pop, how many authentic Brian Fuentes All-Star jerseys is MLB going to sell? More or less than $120 authentic Jose Valverde jerseys? Brian Roberts?

If I was an eccentric millionaire I would make it my duty to by the most obscure All-Star jersey each year.

OK, probably not my duty and I'd probably do it once, think it was hilarious, and then never do it again. But still, imagine telling your grandkids about that Brian Fuentes All-Star jersey you own.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Waiting for Dmitri Young

I am not a fan of the rule that says every MLB team needs to be represented on the All-Star rosters. I understand the thinking - by having every team represented MLB increases the odds fans will tune in to see their team's rep play.

Of course, there's a couple of problems with this logic. Or, rather, the execution of that logic. The first disconnect that comes to mind is if MLB was really interested in giving fans a reason to stay tuned, they'd play the game in the late afternoon and on the weekend. The "I'm watching to see my Royals' representative" logic seems to apply mostly to kids. I don't think all of Kansas City will be waiting with bated breath for Gil Meche to pitch tonight, but there might be some kids doing just that.

Even if it is just an act to convince their parents to let them stay up a few extra hours before going to bed. (Boo Pre-Determined Bed Times.)

The second, and more directly relevant flaw in this whole plan is that there's no guarantee everyone is going to play. Pity the poor Nationals fan who tunes in for all nine innings waiting for Dmitri Young to play if his only action comes during the pre-game introductions. Chances are, that's going to happen to someone. The game is being played in a National League park, meaning MLB rules dictate the farce that is pitcher's batting, so there's a greater chance of every position player getting action through pinch hitting.

Here are the five teams most likely to not see any significant action Tuesday night:

5. Pittsburgh Pirates - Represented only by Freddy Sanchez, who's one of three 2Bs on the team. Will LaRusa find time for both Sanchez and Orlando Hudson once he pulls Chase Utley? I'm guessing Sanchez gets to play some defense and Hudson gets to pinch run.

4. Atlanta Braves - The Braves are sending two reps, but John Smoltz is injured and Brian McCann is a catcher, which is hard to predict. Some managers will save a catcher in games like this to guard against injuries.

3. ChiSox - Repped only by Bobby Jenks. Pitchers are always a crap shoot in these games: How many starters will Leyland use? Will he try to get an inning out of each of the relief pitchers?

2. Kansas City Royals - Lonely Gil Meche is the only member of the Royals in San Francisco and he might get pegged as the dreaded "starting pitcher held in reserve in case we have a repeat of 2002" role.

1. Washington Nationals - Represented only by 1B Dmitri Young, who finds himself sitting behind Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, and Derek Lee. Pinch Hitting or Bust.

Look on the bright side, Washington. Maybe Young will pinch hit the first time the pitchers batting spot comes up and you can be in bed by 9. Small victories, Washington. Small victories.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Do Not Feel Sorry For Buddy Boy

Over at SI.com, John Donovan has a column penned about the All-Star Game that comes dangerously close to asking us to feel sorry for Bud Selig. While Donovan stops just short of that, his column is decidedly in Selig's favor, as the beleaguered Commissioner is faced with heading to San Francisco for the All-Star Game festivities over the next two days.

San Francisco, of course, being the epicenter of Barry Bonds Love. And Barry Bonds, of course, being the epicenter of the Steroids Era.

Here's a sample of Donovan's tone through the short column:

It's not easy, almost ever, to be Selig, the commissioner of baseball. Early next week at the All-Star Game in San Francisco, it'll be particularly painful. How will Selig, who turns 73 later this month, maneuver through all the festivities at this year's Midsummer Classic knowing that, all around him, is the central figure in the scandal that may well define his legacy? How can Selig shake hands and smile and celebrate all that's right with the game when the person that many thousands of people believe is what's wrong with it is everywhere?

It's not my intent here to rip Donovan, but merely to point out that we're likely to hear quite a bit about the "tough" situation Bud Selig is in these days, what with Bonds being about to break Hank Aaron's all-time Home Run record and also almost-certainly guilty of illegally enhancing his body to achieve some (though not all) of those home runs. Donovan's the first column I've seen on the "difficult" situation that Selig finds himself in, though, so he gets to be the target.

For starters, if it's "almost" never easy to be Bud Selig, I think the person to blame for that difficulty of being Bud Selig would be, in fact, Bud Selig. Not Bonds, not McGwire, not Sosa, not Canseco, not Don Fehr, not Congress, not anyone other than Bud himself. I don't really care how he maneuvers through the minefield of Barry Bonds Love during the ASG; Bonds exists as he does because of the various levels of baseball administration that turned a knowing blind-eye to steroids and Selig sits atop that administrative mountain. The crown gets the glory, the crown takes the blame.

I could almost forgive Selig for sitting atop the radioactive pile of players that were making him and baseball's owners piles of cash, if he'd proven himself to be capable to dealing with the steroid issue once it was revealed. Unfortunately, Selig's handling of the steroid issue was FEMA-esque in its incompetence and willingness to say anything and do little or nothing until after a public shaming or two. Or ten. Or forty.

Make no mistake - Selig's lack of desire to be in attendance when Bonds breaks Aaron's record is a sign of his desire to act as he thinks the public wants him to act.

And that he's a coward.

Cowards can come up with good ideas (as Selig has with the introduction of the Wild Card and Interleague Play) but they are incapable of leading through even the most minor crisis (like the 2002 All-Star Game). So forgive me if I shed no tears for Bud Selig over the next few days. How can Selig sit there and smile? I don't care. But he should be there, just as he should when Bonds breaks Aaron's record. His fingerprints are all over the Steroids Era and he should own up to it. For Selig to fail to give Bonds his due (as corrupted as his achievements may be) is a glaring sign of his own guilt, and his unwillingness to ever accept any responsibility for the mess that happened under his watch.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Other A-Rod Sucks When it Counts, Too

Andy Roddick is what passes for United States Men's Tennis, these days, and while it isn't fair to place the entire burden of one country on one guy's shoulders, Andy Roddick isn't exactly the guy you'd want carrying you, anyway.

Friday afternoon at Wimbledon, Roddick (seeded third) blew a 2 sets to none lead and lost to Richard Gasquet (seeded twelfth) in 5 sets as he failed to advance out of the Quarterfinals.

Roddick said of his failure to seal the deal: "It's tough when you double your winners to unforced errors and lose. I'd love to make you try to understand what it feels like in the pit of your stomach right now, but I don't know if I can do that." Probably not. Roddick had 60 winners to 29 unforced errors for that 2-to-1 edge, but Gasquet had a 3-to-1 ration (93-to-29). Imagine how Gasquet would've felt if he'd lost.

Some of Roddick's failure to live up to the legacy of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras (hell, he's not living up the legacy of Jim Courier) is no doubt due to the existence of Roger Federer, one of the great non-clay tennis players of all-time. But Roddick has even been usurped in the role of Federer's Gimp by Rafael Nadal, who may lose to Federer on hardcourts and grass, but turns the tables on clay, dominating Federer there like Federer does everywhere else to everyone else.

Sure, Federer's defeated Roddick 3 or 4 times in Slam Semis, and twice in Slam Finals, but go ask Phil Mickelson how much fun it was being Tiger's bitch all those years until he started winning some Majors.

If there were a few more legit American players who could compete for Slam titles, Roddick could have a nice, comfortable Michael Chang-type career where no one really gave him much grief (both have one Slam win, and three Slam finals losses), but the reality is that Roddick is it when it comes to US Men's tennis right now, and he gets all the glory and all the shame that comes with it.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Red Marines

The Red Sox have "formed an alliance" (what is this, Mortal Kombat?) with the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League and will now share player evaluations, statistical analysis, scouting reports, coaches, staff, front office personnel, and Bobby Valentine's fake moustaches.

I guess it's a good move, but how the hell do I know the value of gaining access to Chiba Lotte's scouting reports? Chiba was supposedly helpful to the Red Sox last year when they were deciding on Matsuzaka and Okajima (I wonder who consulted the Yankees of Kei Igawa?) so they must be solid, and access to Valentine's experience in managing in both countries can't be a negative, but I always see these moves in terms of how many hats the teams will sell.

It's always good to see the club being proactive, but I wonder if MLB should outlaw these alliances. There are, after all, only 12 teams in Nippon Professional Baseball, and if these international alliances become the thing to do, it's not going to be the Yankees or Cubs or Dodgers left standing without a partner.

Maybe Wally and the Chiba Lotte seagull can get together and scare children on an international scale.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Acedom of Matsuzaka

The Red Sox beat the D-Rays 4-1 on Tuesday night behind eight shut-out innings from Daisuke Matsuzaka.

In his last six starts, Matsuzaka has given up a total of six earned runs in 42 innings for a 1.29 ERA. That he's only 3-2 in those starts speak to the unpredictability of baseball, but he's clearly been pitching like ace over the last month. He's lowered his ERA to 3.53 and is averaging better than a strikeout and inning over that span.

It has to be noted that Matsuzaka's impressive six-game streak hasn't exactly been against the powerhouses of baseballdom - Tampa, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, Arizona, and Oakland - but four of those teams are above .500, so at the very least he's shutting down the teams he's supposed to shut down.

Not being able to see him pitch all that much I still don't feel like I've got a handle on Matsuzaka, but I can't argue with his stats. Over the past month he's pitched as well as anyone, even if the Ws haven't followed.

Monday, July 2, 2007

An Excuse to Say Dinamo Zagreb

Dinamo Zagreb is not a James Bond villain. It is a Croatian soccer club that finds itself 8 million pounds richer tonight as the transfer fee for sending Eduardo Da Silva to Arsenal.

Da Silva is a 24-year old striker who finished the past season with a league-high 34 goals. His addition gives Arsenal an up-and-coming attack as he slots in alongside Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor, Nicolas Bendtner, and even Theo Walcott. It will be tough to replace departed Thierry Henry, of course, but the cupboard isn't completely bare.

I still don't see any reason to think Arsenal is better than a 4th place team in the Premiership, but they've got a good amount of young talent now that should develop nicely.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Not the All-Stars

Wow, where's Harold Reynolds when you need him?

Heck, where's Joe Morgan?

I'm not going to comment on the validity of the 2007 MLB All-Star rosters, because I don't really care. I will only say that from a Pilgrims' POV Kevin Youkilis deserved to be on that team ahead of Manny Ramirez. It's hard to get all worked up about it, since Manny will likely decide he has a sore hamstring two days before the game and Youk might slide into that spot. Besides, the Sox had five players selected (Papi, Manny, Lowell, Beckett, and Papelbon) so complaining about one who didn't go is sorta lame.

What I do want to comment on is the TBS telecast announcing the roster selections. First, the two positives: Ernie Johnson (the best studio host around) and the graphics. That's pretty much all that didn't suck.

Here's the negatives: Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn. Cal was awful and Gwynn looked like he was ready to put his head on the desk and take a nap. (Who does Tony Gwynn have to slap to get an apple juice?) Sure, in typical baseball idiocy, the selection show came on over an hour after it was supposed to (that's why ESPN always scheduled their selection show BEFORE a game and not AFTER it - nice rain delay, southern Florida), but it was hardly like Gwynn was on Hour 23 of the 24 Hours of LeMans coverage.

Gwynn looked tired and irritated, ill-suited for studio coverage. I thought he was okay doing game coverage when he was with the Four Letter Network, but this studio stuff just seemed beyond him. I kept waiting for him to look off-screen and yell, "Are we fucking done, yet? Tony Gwynn wants to take a nap, goddamnit!"

Many know of my irrational dislike for Cal Ripken, Jr., stemming from his desire to set the most useless record in all of sports (woo-hoo, I played me a whole lot of games! In a row!) despite being a career .276 hitter who only hit .300 or better 4 times in 21 seasons. I'm not saying he's not a Hall of Famer, just that I dislike him.

And he only hit .300 four times. And he only drove in 100 Runs four times.

And "Consecutive Games Played" records are next-to-meaningless.

Sure, if there's a record you might as well hold it, but someone out there holds the record for most screen time on Solid Gold. There are records and then there are records.

I disliked plenty of guys as players only to like them as broadcasters (Steve Kerr, Orel Hershiser, Harold Reynolds, Troy Aikman, Magic, etc.) so there was no reason I couldn't like Ripken in his new career. No reason before he opened his mouth, at least. Once he started talking he was worse doing this than Joe Montana was doing football. Just awful. Awkward, ill-prepared, and not insightful. Derek Jeter is good? No kidding. Wait - you mean he's good offensively and defensively? Get the fuck outta town Cal Ripken! Get the fuck outta town you crazy-ass ex-shortstop! Go back to destroying Little League!

Maybe they'll get better, but for right now Ripken and Gwynn seem like the trophy hires we all thought they were when TBS hired them as announcers. It's neat since, you know, they're going into the HoF together, but, man, they are some awful studio analysts.

Let's hope they get better. I mean, they can't get worse.

Unless next time there's a two-hour rain delay, I suppose. We're looking at you, southern Floridian cloud formations ...

No, Actually, You Won't Be Needed Tonight, Wily Mo

Top Red Sox positional prospect Jacoby Ellsbury made his major league debut in last night's 5-4 loss to the Texas Rangers.

Ellsbury's call-up was something of a surprise given that he was replacing relief pitcher Joel Pineiro, but, according to the Globe's Nick Cafardo, with "Coco Crisp's sore left thumb needing rest, the Sox didn't want Wily Mo Peña patrolling center field while the offense isn't quite clicking and defense is becoming more vital to winning."

Ellsbury's call-up brings with it a whole range of options - they could showcasing him as part of a major deal (the White Sox are interested in him as part of a Mark Buehrle deal), or they could be giving him a long look to see if what he'll give them is better than what Coco Crisp is giving them. One thing is clear from watching how the Red Sox treat these young prospects is that they're not going to bring Ellsbury up so he can sit on the bench as the fourth or fifth OF. If he comes up, he's going to play, because the club would rather he gets playing time in Pawtucket than bench experience in the majors.

I didn't see the game, but according to reports he went 1-for-4, beating out an grounder to short for his first ML hit. So, yay him.

It'll be interesting to see what happens with Ellsbury. Even if he comes up and goes white hot for a week, I can't imagine the Sox will install him as their starting CF for the rest of the season. Crisp's thumb is sore, not broken, and the plan appears to be to let Ellsbury have this cup o' coffee and then send him back down to the Tucket until September call-ups.

Amidst all the winning the Sox have been doing this year, it shouldn't be forgotten that everyday contributors Coco Crisp, Julio Lugo, and JD Drew are all under-performing in huge ways. That can be seen as a good thing (they'll get better and then the team will really take off) or a bad thing (what if they don't come out of the slumps? That's a lot of money tied up in guys not doing squat).

The three of them can't continue to be that bad, but if they are we might as well find out now if a prospect like Ellsbury is ready to contribute.