Friday, March 30, 2007

TBG's Free Agent Relocation Program – The Results Show

Five months ago, I wrote a weeklong feature over at Tailgate Crashers in which I predicted where 50 of the top baseball free agents would land. As we go through the results, keep in mind the following words which I wrote in the very first part of the feature:

"…but I'm pretty sure I can get at least 10 out of 50 without even trying."

Let's see how I done did, working our way backwards from part five to part one, with comments where needed and a target of 10 Points Total

Aramis Ramirez - 3B, TBG said: San Diego Padres, Signed with Chicago Cubs: In my blurb, I said "…he stays in the NL and ends up on the West Coast…" I was 1 for 2, with a home run and a warning track flyball. Points: .5

Adam Kennedy – 2B, TBG said: Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Signed with St. Louis Cardinals: Points: 0

Kenny Lofton - CF, TBG said: San Francisco Giants, Signed with Texas Rangers: Points: 0

Julio Lugo – SS, TBG said: Toronto Blue Jays, Signed with Boston Red Sox: Points: 0

Orlando Hernandez - RHP, TBG said: NY Mets, Signed with NY Mets: Points: 1, Cum. Total: 1.5

Jose Valentin – 2B, TBG said: NY Mets, Signed with NY Mets: Points: 1, Cum. Total: 2.5

Steve Trachsel - RHP, TBG said: Cincinnati Reds, Signed with Baltimore Orioles: Points: 0

Ron Belliard – 2B, TBG said: Cleveland Indians, Signed with Washington Nationals: Points: 0

Ray Durham – 2B, TBG said: St. Louis Cardinals, Signed with SF Giants: Points: 0

Roger Clemens - RHP, TBG said: Retires, Signed with N/A: Umm, close enough…Points: 1, Cum. Total: 3.5

Trot Nixon - RF, TBG said: Boston Red Sox, Signed with Cleveland Indians: Points: 0

Juan D'Vaughn Pierre - CF, TBG said: Chicago Cubs, Signed with LA Dodgers: Points: 0

Jay Payton - LF, TBG said: Atlanta Braves, Signed with Baltimore Orioles: In my original comment, I wrote: "He remains a good enough glove man and his 1980s National League skill set should serve him well with a team that doesn't know any better." That's pretty much the O's mission statement, right there. Points: .5, Cum. Total: 4

Rich Aurilia - IF, TBG said: Cincinnati Reds, Signed with SF Giants: Points: 0

Aaron Boone – 3B, TBG said: San Diego Padres, Signed with Florida Marlins: Points: 0

Doug Mientkiewicz – 1B , TBG said: Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Signed with NY Yankees: Points: 0

Sean Casey – 1B, TBG said: Detroit Tigers, Signed with Detroit Tigers: Points: 1, Cum. Total: 5

Shannon Stewart - LF, TBG said: Toronto Blue Jays, Signed with Oakland A's: Points: 0

Craig Biggio – 2B, TBG said: Houston Astros, Signed with Houston Astros: Points: 1, Cum. Total: 6

Andy Pettitte - LHP, TBG said: Houston Astros, Signed with NY Yankees: Points: 0

Daisuke Matsuzaka - RHP, TBG said: Seattle Mariners, Signed with Boston Red Sox: Points: 0

Carlos Lee - LF, TBG said: Houston Astros, Signed with Houston Astros: Points: 1, Cum. Total: 7

Tom Glavine - LHP, TBG said: NY Mets, Signed with NY Mets: Points: 1, Cum. Total: 8

Luis Gonzalez - LF, TBG said: Texas Rangers, Signed with LA Dodgers: Points: 0

Jason Schmidt - RHP, TBG said: Texas Rangers, Signed with LA Dodgers: Points: 0

Kerry Wood - RHP, TBG said: Houston Astros, Signed with Chicago Cubs: Points: 0
Miguel Batista - RHP, TBG said: Milwaukee Brewers, Signed with Seattle Mariners: Points: 0

Kevin Millar – 1B, TBG said: Seattle Mariners, Signed with Boston Red Sox: Points: 0

Jeff Suppan - RHP, TBG said: Chicago White Sox, Signed with Milwaukee Brewers: Points: 0

Tim Wakefield - RHP, TBG said: Boston Red Sox, Signed with Boston Red Sox: Points: 1, Cum. Total: 9

Greg Maddux - RHP, TBG said: LA Dodgers, Signed with San Diego Padres: Points: 0

Mark Mulder - LHP, TBG said: St. Louis Cardinals, Signed with St. Louis Cardinals: Points: 1, Cum. Total: 10

Mike Mussina - RHP, TBG said: New York Yankees, Signed with New York Yankees: I also came within $1 million of NAILING his contract (2 years, $23M). That's another .5 points. Points: 1.5, Cum. Total: 11.5

Dmitri Young – 1B, TBG said: Baltimore Orioles, Signed with Washington Nationals: But, really, how far apart are the two cities? No…I'll not make a mockery of this. Points: 0

Moises Alou - LF, TBG said: LA Angels, Signed with NY Mets: Points: 0

Alex Gonzales - SS, TBG said: Chicago Cubs, Signed with Cincinnati Reds: Points: 0

Gary Matthews, Jr. - CF, TBG said: Baltimore Orioles, Signed with LA Angels: Points: 0

Darin Erstad – 1B, TBG said: LA Angels, Signed with Chicago White Sox: Points: 0

Cliff Floyd - LF, TBG said: Washington Nationals, Signed with Chicago Cubs: Points: 0

Nomar Garciaparra – 1B, TBG said: LA Angels, Signed with LA Dodgers: Points: 0

Frank Thomas - DH, TBG said: Detroit Tigers, Signed with Toronto Blue Jays: Points: 0

Barry Zito - LHP, TBG said: NY Mets, Signed with San Francisco Giants: Points: 0

Chan Ho Park - RHP, TBG said: San Francisco Giants, Signed with NY Mets: Points: 0

Ted Lilly - LHP, TBG said: Oakland A's, Signed with Chicago Cubs: Points: 0

Mark Loretta – 2B, TBG said: Boston Red Sox, Signed with Houston Astros: Points: 0

Mike Piazza - C, TBG said: San Francisco Giants, Signed with Oakland A's: Points: 0

Dave Roberts - CF, TBG said: San Diego Padres, Signed with San Francisco Giants: Points: 0

Jeff Weaver - RHP, TBG said: St. Louis Cardinals, Signed with Seattle Mariners: Points: 0

Barry Bonds - LF, TBG said: Retires, Signed with San Francisco Giants: Points: 0

Alfonso Soriano - LF, TBG said: Chicago Cubs, Signed with Chicago Cubs: There was NOBODY that called this one but me. Every team from Anaheim to San Francisco and back to the east coast were mentioned, while I was reviled for suggesting Chicago. If I may paraphrase Billy Madison, everyone in this room is now smarter for having read it. I award myself 9.5 points, and may God have mercy on your soul. Points: 8.5, Cum. Total: 20

Mission accomplished.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

TBG's 2007 Major League Baseball Preview (Epilogue)

The Postseason

American League Division Winners: Red Sox, Indians, Angels
National League Division Winners: Mets, Cubs, Diamondbacks

American League Wildcard: Yankees
National League Wildcard: Dodgers

American League Division Series: Red Sox over Angels, Indians over Yankees
National League Division Series: Mets over Dodgers, Diamondbacks over Cubs

American League Championship Series: Red Sox over Indians
National League Division Series: Mets over Diamondbacks

World Series: Red Sox over Mets

The Awards

American League MVP: Derek Jeter, NYY
National League MVP: Alfonso Soriano, CHC

American League Cy Young: Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS
National League Cy Young: Carlos Zambrano, CHC

American League Rookie of the Year: Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS
National League Rookie of the Year: Chris Young, ARZ

American League Manager of the Year: Eric Wedge, CLE

National League Manager of the Year: Lou Piniella, CHC

TBG's 2007 Major League Baseball Preview Spectacular Grandé (Part Three)

#10 - Chicago White Sox: I'm not a big Jermaine Dye guy. In 2001, my A's acquired him at the trade deadline and Dye finished the season in a collapsed heap at home plate after fouling a ball of his shin in the ALDS. He was never the same during his subsequent three seasons in Oakland, bottoming out with a .172/.263/.253 line in 2003. Two years later, he's the World Series MVP for the White Sox and, in 2006, a legit MVP candidate (.315/.385.622). My conclusion? Black athletes are lazy, shiftless and inconsistent when it really counts. The South Side Guys will go as far as their pitching gets them. The offense will score runs, just like they did last year when it was their starting arms that spelled their undoing. SP "Satchel" Contreras, 62, is back, as is the end of Mark Buehrle's run as an effective major league pitcher. The Ozzie Guillen Experience got old quick and another underachieving season will hopefully hasten the end.

#9 - Minnesota Twins: Anyone else remember when the Twins were on the precipice of contraction? For awhile, it looked like a generation of young baseball fans would only remember them as the featured team in 1994's Little Big League and 1998's Major League: Back to the Minors. Thankfully, the in-game imagery of Scott Bakula and Ted McGinley has been replaced by C Joe Mauer, 1B Justin Morneau and SP Johan Santana. Mauer is the hometown hero that every town in the Midwest wants just so they can point to their tractors and churches in an attempt to justify their landlocked, sh*tty existence as "family values and small town pride". Meanwhile, Santana is the foreigner that the locals only conditionally love, until he leaves for free agency in 2008.

#8 - Los Angeles Dodgers: Nope, not a fan. Never have been, never will be. And, this has nothing to do with October 15, 1988. Tommy Lasorda and his insufferable ego grated on me when I was eight-years-old. This was years before I learned how many pitchers he killed from overuse and too many innings. These days, the Dodgers are absolutely loaded with players I depise. Good ol' boy Jeff Kent would be labeled an asshole-for-life if he hadn't played the babyface-by-default for all those years alongside Barry Bonds in San Francisco. 1B Nomar Garciaparra mentally quit on that '04 Red Sox team, yet he keeps finding work. SP Brad Penny was a cancer in the clubhouse last year, while SP Derek Lowe joined the Dodgers in '05, then promptly left his wife for the Fox Sports West reporter who was covering the team. That last one I'm OK with.

#7 - Arizona Diamondbacks: The 2007 D'Backs might be the most entertaining team in baseball. OF Eric Byrnes is a mediocre fielder and overrated hitter, but his hair-on-fire style of play is a Sportscenter mainstay. 2B Orlando Hudson compared his GM to a pimp when he was in Toronto and is great glove in the field. 1B Conor Jackson, 3B Chad Tracy and RF Carlos Quentin (currently fighting a labrum injury) could all hit 20+ HRs apiece, while CF Chris Young might have the best upside of all the kids. These ain't your daddy's slightly older brother's D'Backs, baby. OK, well…SP Randy Johnson's back. His 17 wins last year were almost entirely the result of a little-known three-month affair he had with WCBS broadcaster Suzyn Waldman and the mystical, run-supporting properties of her coo patch. Whenever The Unit returns to the mound, he could be blessed with a comparably explosive offense in the desert. I'm not crazy about the rest of the rotation beyond Worm Killer Webb or a bullpen that features Jose Valverde grossly miscast as a closer and Juan Cruz. Still, this team should score enough runs to be better than anyone else in their division.

#6 - Los Angeles Angels: I f*ckin' hate the Angels. I hate their team, I hate their fans and their 2002 World Championship took 20 years off my life, which I'd already earmarked as my "divorced sugar daddy decades". I hate RF Vladimir Guerrero's batting helmet because it looks like an unwiped ass. I hate UT Chone Figgins for running from his unpronounceable Afrocentric-first name by having us all call him "Sean". I hate Mike Scioscia because he was on the '88 Dodgers. I hate SPs Bartolo Colon and John Lackey because fat people with perms have earned our scorn and ridicule. I hate 2B Howie Kendrick's wispy black-tasche and LF Garrett Anderson's, too. And, I hate Jered Weaver because long-haired white boys look like little girls.

#5 - Chicago Cubs: The only thing I love more than the fact that Dusty Baker's overrated black ass was bounced in Chicago is that The Tribune Company decided to wait until after he was canned to spend some money. Truth be told, I equally dislike new manager Lou Piniella, but all these soft-focus "it's a new Lou" features that have infected every sports media feature this spring will be high comedy when his heart explodes while arguing balls and strikes in April. Yeah, they overpaid for everything, but how can you not like OF Alfonso Soriano in that lineup, regardless of where he hits/plays? 1B Derrek Lee and 3B Aramis Ramirez should get 1000+ PAs between 'em and even the dregs of their lineup (Hi, Cesar Izturis!) aren't any worse than the dregs of the rest of the division. Throw in SP Carlos Zambrano in a money year with the occasionally above-average Ted Lilly and sure-to-improve Jason Marquis and the Cubbies will be just as undeserving of a playoff berth as last year's Cardinals, but they'll back into one, anyway.

#4 - New York Mets: Sorry, East Coast Bias Guy, but I was actively rooting against your Mets last year. Y'see, 20 years ago, the '86 Mets captured the hearts of a nation fractured by the New Coke/Classic Coke Civil War and the mysterious disappearance of the McDLT. Those Mets were a collection of lovable thugs, miscreants, cokeheads and egos. The 2006 variety had a business-like blandness which reminded me of another New York baseball team whose name escapes me. Personality-wise, they're like 25 Kevin McReynoldses, when I couldn't stomach one. That doesn't mean they aren't the team to beat in the NL East, because they are. I guess I'm the only one who wouldn't mind a few more Lastings Milledge personas to Paul Lo Ducas. And, I'm certain that Lenny Dykstra wouldn't have ended a playoff series looking at strike three.

#3 - New York Yankees: Your mileage may vary, but 99% of the Yankee fans I meet are actually a rational, knowledgeable lot who appreciate the team's history and remember the lean years from 1982-1995. So, I don't begrudge 'em that dynasty-tastic run from 1996-2000. Conversely, I hope Yankee fans understand that Satan now owns all of their souls and Beelzebub is your starting third baseman. Oh, I kid. He's actually the shortstop (and only half-devil, at that). And, who can't wait for the return of Michael Kay to the YES broadcast booth for another season of heavily-biased broadcasting? I hope he can keep those pipes lubricated during the nearly 60 ulcer-inducing games the Bombers will play against the dog sh*t of their own division from Baltimore to Toronto to Tampa Bay. Is there still anyone out there that doubts this squad could win 100 games by accident? But, who'll bounce them out in the first round of the playoffs this year? I call Cleveland.

#2 - Cleveland Indians: After being picked by many as a sleeper team that could go deep into October last year, the Tribe finished 18 games out of the money. More surprisingly, they just barely outdrew the audience-starved Oakland A's to finish 11th in the American League. In 2007, the Injuns return the criminally underrated Travis Hafner (.308/.439/.659) in the middle of their order, with the equally anonymous Grady Sizemore (28 HR, 22 SB, .375 OBP, .533 SLG) at the top of the lineup. These aren't the great teams that never won it all in the '90s, but C.C. Fat-bathia, Jake Westbrook and Cliff Lee are arguably better than some of those Dave Burba, Charles Nagy, Jaret Wright and Orel Hershiser squads. Pundits and prognosticators are understandably leery about a team led by teen manager Eric Wedge. To say nothing for a keystone combo that features a Black guy named "Josh" at 2B and dyslexic SS Jhonny Peralta. Didn't Keanu Reeves star in a movie just like this?

#1 - Boston Red Sox: Can we all agree that the 2004 Red Sox team was the most overexposed, shoved-down-our-throats, feel-good saccharin story in sports in all our lifetimes? Nothing against them or their fans (hee!), but I was sick of 'em less than 24 hours after the final out. That said, there isn't another non-Oakland AL team whose games I'm more interested in this year than theirs. SP Daisuke Matsuzaka actually seems to be worth the nine figures in combined posting fee and salary. DH David Ortiz and LF Manny Ramirez almost give off that Bondsian n' Pujolsish "drop what you're doing when they come to the plate" presence, while Jerry Remy's sobriety in the NESN broadcast booth is usually a tenuous proposition by the sixth inning. I still can't stand Curt Schilling, Bill Simmons, Tuck Rule Tom Baby Daddy Brady or anyone from Greater New England, but I'll concede that Coco Crisp's name still amuses me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

TBG's 2007 Major League Baseball Preview Spectacular Grandé (Part Two)

#20 - San Francisco Giants: Now that Bud Selig and Major League Baseball have effectively taken the Extra Innings package away from me, I'll either have to make due with my XM radio or hope that Mrs. Bootleg buys me the thingie for my birthday. Sorry, but, I can't miss what's likely to be Barry Bonds' last season. There, I said it. I like Bonds as a player and always have. Save your moral high horse for the rest of us godless fornicators out here crazy, kooky California. The Giants also comprise the first-ever Major League Senior's Tour. What's not to love about the opportunity to view that many arthritic hips across the diamond? Besides, now that Barry Zito's "wacky lefty schtick" drove across the Bay Bridge, I can now openly root against him. Oh, how I wanted him to end up in New York, get shelled on Opening Day, then say something like "I don't think I ate a good breakfast today." (He used that one after a bad start in Oakland, two years ago. And, he was serious.) Oh, and they have a chick PA announcer. Just one more reason to hate the Giants.

#19 - Toronto Blue Jays: Sorry, but it's always going to be "Skydome" to me. And, while we're at it, SPs Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett will never be Dave Stieb and Jimmy Key. I could go on, with mentions of long-forgotten names like Mark Eichhorn, Rob Ducey and David Wells, but I should probably say some things about the 2007 team. I'm setting the over/under on this team self-destructing at August 1. DH Frank Thomas couldn't have picked a worst place to spend the next two years on the disabled list. He's now got to deal with a fiery fight-starting manager, unrealistic expectations tied to team payroll and a drab, dull roster that plays in front of a quiet library environment. There are actually pieces in place for this team to make a run for the wildcard, but counting on continued health from The Big Hurt and the numbers 3, 4 and 5 starters to carry their weight and the Hill-Clayton keystone combo to do anything at the bottom of the batting order and…enjoy that AL East bronze medal, guys. Again.

#18 - Detroit Tigers: No disrespect to the 2006 Tigers and their mascot/corpse Virginia Slim Leyland, but they stumbled into the playoffs, got hot again for two weeks, and then crapped the bed when the Cardinals came to town. The acquisition of Gary Sheffield is proof that management knows last year was 75% fluke. There was a cavalcade of career years for the Kitties that won't be repeated in '07 and the notion that Sheffield is any team's savior is hilarious. Throwing him into the mix with combustible personalities like C Pudge Rodriguez and SP Kenny Rogers will tear down the club's pipe dream of a repeat postseason experience. Who'll snap first? Well, Sheffield, silly, but will his wrath be directed towards Sean Casey, Marcus Thames or Craig Monroe? Last I checked, Leyland was even money, so I'm laying a c-note down on first base coach Andy Van Slyke. He's at 175-to-1 odds, kids. Bet early, bet often.

#17 - Atlanta Braves: I'm not really sure just when I got sick of Atlanta's tired act. I distinctly remember openly rooting for them back in 1991 when they eliminated Satan's Dodgers from the NL West race on the penultimate day of the season and nearly won the most exciting World Series in my lifetime. Maybe it was kowtowing broadcaster Skip Caray or the insufferable tomahawk chop. Maybe it was…no, wait…it was those two things. Then, they traded away one of my favorite all-time non-A's and I've hated them ever since. The 2007 version is an odd mix of potentially great young talent and aging, past-their-prime veterans. I laugh at the demise of SP Stickman Hudson and I'm amazed that SP John Smoltz just might have a Hall of Fame case when it's all said and done. I think CF Andruw Jones could have a phenomenal walk year, since his play seems tied to his mood and I know that 3B Chipper Jones won't stay healthy enough to play 150 games. The Braves could be average or awful and I'm rooting like hell for the latter.

#16 - San Diego Padres: When Petco Park opened in '04, the Pads drew 3.01 million. In '05, that fell to 2.86 million, then 2.66 million last year. Those last two years brought division titles to "America's Finest City", but still, several late season nail-biters were played in front of thousands of empty seats. My theory: the Padres play a dull, station-to-station American League style that doesn't jibe with their obvious lack of offense. If they played in the AL, they'd be as anonymous as the Toronto Blue Jays or Baltimore Orioles. In the NL, they've lucked into two straight postseason berths and been exposed in the first round of the playoff both times. The big story, locally, is the reunion of The Giles Bros. Never mind that Brian is a shell of himself from five years ago, while Marcus gets 300 ABs at home in Death Valley. They've got a solid, potentially terrific rotation and closer Trevor Hoffman's always around to get those 3-run-margin saves that he specializes in.

#15 - St. Louis Cardinals: I really had no rooting interest in last year's World Series. The AL Champion Tigers had eliminated my A's in the ALCS. The Cards were managed by self-professed genius and inventor of the over-managed four-hour American League game, Tony DUIRussa. For a defending world champ, the Cards have an awful lotta question marks heading into '07. SP Chris Carpenter is a perennial Cy Young candidate, but no else in the rotation can be counted on for 200+ innings that will be even close to comparable. Closer Jason Isringhausen will not avoid the DL this year and when he goes down, who'll get the saves? Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? Offensively, praise be to Allah Pujols, but OF Jim Edmonds is 37-going-on-107, OF Juan Encarnacion and C Yadier Molina are mediocre and worse-than-awful at the plate, respectively, while SS David Eckstein's inspirational grit n' gumption story can't end soon enough for me. C'mon, snipers, where are you?!

#14 - Texas Rangers: It's only March and I'm already sick of all the condescending "kindly old Negro" news stories about new manager Ron Washington. Did you know that he visited with almost his entire roster at their homes, during the offseason? Former manager Buck Showalter never did that! And, did you hear the one about how A's 3B Eric Chavez gave Washington one of his Gold Glove Awards? I mean, sure, it was back in 2004, but that one never gets old! Still, Uncle Ben has been blessed with bats aplenty. SS Michael Young and 1B Mark Teixeira can carry the offense, while comeback seasons from 3B Hank Blalock and OF Brad Wilkerson aren't out of the question. The rotation features Kevin Millwood, Vincente Padilla and former White Sock prospect Brandon McCarthy at the front end, with the remains of Eric Gagné and Aki Otsuka to close things out. They'll contend until August, then spontaneously combust in September. "And, I don't mean that as a euphemism.", Nutty Professor, 1996.

#13 - Milwaukee Brewers: How awesome is it that in this, the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier, the Brewers could field an everyday lineup with three bruthas as regulars? I know, I know…"judged not by the color of our skin, but the content of our character" or however that MLK quote goes. Truth be told, I only hear it when white folk recycle it to defend their position on affirmative action. Still, I, for one, am rooting for 1B Prince Fielder, CF Bill Hall and 2B Rickie Weeks to bring a few more African-Americans fans to the ballpark, since it'd be nice for me to have someone to share hair care tips with whenever the Brewers come to town. I was actually ready to mock the absence of Blacks from Milwaukee, but a quick glance at the 2004 U.S. Census tells me that the city's population is almost 40% Black. Keep them windows rolled up, Ben Sheets.

#12 - Oakland Athletics: Remember Chico and the Man? 30 years ago, Freddie Prinze died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His seminal 1970s sitcom, ran for another 18 months without him, much to the indifference, then rampant absence of viewers. Last year, the A's finished ninth in the American League in runs scored and next-to-last in both batting average and slugging percentage. Their best hitter (Frank Thomas) signed with Toronto and Oakland only replaced 60% of him by signing Mike Piazza. Their starting centerfielder (Mark Kotsay) is out until at least June and their best pitcher is either in San Francisco (Barry Zito) or has only pitched 175 innings combined in the last two years (Rich Harden). They were a shaky squad in '06 that overachieved. This year they're the "Gabriel Meglar" years of Chico…. (OK, fine, they're the Charlie Sheen years of Spin City or the Jon Lovitz year of Newsradio. Y'know, there was TV before the '90s.)

#11 - Philadelphia Phillies: Am I the only self-professed obsessed baseball fan who just found out that Philly's pig-nosed first baseman Ryan Howard is already 27 years old? And, there was actually a stink that the Phillies just renewed his contract in the offseason, instead of offering him a multi-year deal? OK, I'm not saying that Howard will go all Sam Horn on us in '07, it's just that the peak years of fat players with bad gloves isn't all that long…especially in the NL. Lots of Philadelphia love from preseason prognosticators, but I don't see it. SP Cole Hamels is a future superstar, but how will a full season in Philly affect flyball pitchers like Adam Eaton and Jaime Moyer? Closer Tom Gordon's arm was ruined by Joe Torre, basically making Flash effective for only about three months out of the season. Offensively? 2 Legit 2 Quit. The pitching? (That's Why We) Pray.

Monday, March 26, 2007

TBG's 2007 Major League Baseball Preview Spectacular Grandé (Part One)

These preseason baseball features have become something of a spring staple for me. I'm pretty sure I wrote one for 411Black (don't ask) back in 2004. The following year, I took my act to Inside Pulse, where I joined forces with a pair of writers for a supersized preview to the 2006 season.

Since it's always fun to look back and see how inaccurate our picks were, I'd be remiss in not mentioning that Tom Daniels picked the Braves to win it all…and they didn't even make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Mike Hulse picked the Mets…and they went down (looking) in the NLCS. Finally, ol' ignorant Aaron picked…the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kneel before Zod, bitches.

This year, it's just me and all 30 teams ranked from worst to first, with my deadly accurate postseason predictions saved for the third and final part. And, let's begin with the opposite of Goodness:

#30 - Washington Nationals: It's a good thing that Frank Robinson was demoted from field manager to Field Negro. If he had to watch this year's squad, it would surely lead to "the big one (Elizabeth)". 3B Ryan Zimmerman and OF Austin Kearns are two terrific young pillars to build upon, however anything built upon 1B Nick Johnson will collapse on itself and be uninhabitable for 15-60 days. The pitching staff could be historically horrible, but has the benefit of playing 81 games in an extreme pitchers' park. When that's the good news, Nats fans… At least Washington has a fungible trading chip in closer Chad Cordero. An All-Star stopper on a team that's likely to lose 100 games makes about as much sense as tapioca on…wait a minute. Was I about to make an inappropriate, ill-fitting analogy right there? Christ, I'm writing like SI's Rick Reilly.

#29 - Pittsburgh Pirates: There are actually people out there who look at the Buccos offense, see a few legit boppers like 1B Adam LaRoche and OF Jason Bay, along with defending NL batting champ Freddy Sanchez at 3B 2B and think the Pirates could surprise in the NL Central (also known as the WMLB). These people are fools…fools, I tell ya. SPs Zach Duke and Ian Snell have the potential to be league average starters in 2007, but Pittsburgh has them penciled in for the top two spots in their rotation. And, is that really Salomon Torres who's listed as the closer going into this season? I thought Dusty Baker broke his brain (and arm) in the last game of the 1993 regular season. Still, the possibilities for a "Sycho (sic) Salomon" marketing campaign are too tasty to pass up. And, putting him in the high-pressure, razor-edged world of closing is sure to lead to Torres suffering an emotional breakdown no later than Memorial Day. "Laces Out!" Wrong sport, but you get the idea.

#28 - Kansas City Royals: If everything breaks right, I'll be making my very first visit to the Royals' Kauffman Stadium in early May. Call it a fringe benefit of a weeklong business trip to Wichita, Kansas…the community where diversity goes to die. I've read that the Royals' home field is one of the more underrated in the game, which is good to hear since I'll probably need to be distracted from the home team that plays on that home field. The Gil Meche signing has been beaten to death by better writers than I, so I'll just say that it'll work out better than Mark Davis while not as good as Storm Davis. 3B Alex Gordon has already been anointed AL Rookie of the Year and only 20 years after super-prospect Kevin Seitzer forced George Brett from third to first base. BTW, Seitzer's offensive peak lasted two full seasons and he was washed up by age 29. I'm just sayin'.

#27 - Baltimore Orioles: Back in 1998, Rickey Henderson and Miguel Tejada were teammates on the Oakland A's. Rickey wasn't re-signed after the season, in part, because ownership felt that his prima donna aura was rubbing off on the young, unproven Tejada. The rest of Tejada's Oaktown tenure was made to look shinier because of his MVP award in 2002, but in reality, Tejada did a lot of loafing to first on infield groundouts, took every bad at-bat into the field and was the type of player who'd get pissed if he went 0-4, while the team won 4-0. His six-year sentence to baseball's new Siberia ("Humidia"?) seems more than appropriate, no? That Leo Mazzone Magic didn't translate to the AL and this year's pitching staff looks to be equally underwhelming. Sixty combined starts from Jaret Wright ("He was good, one year!") and Steve Trachsel should ensure plenty of good seats will be available at Camden Yards all summer. That is unless new O's Aubrey Huff and Jay Payton can pack 'em in.

#26 - Cincinnati Reds: One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite albums of last year went: "Y'all n*ggaz used to be good, like Ken Griffey…". I'm old enough to remember when Griffey was a lithe fly-chaser who was the face (and backwards cap) of baseball. Today, he's a paunchy old man whom you'd half-expect to chase OFs Adam Dunn and Ryan Freel off his lawn. Now, say what you want about Marge Schott, but since MLB basically Joan of Arc'd her, the Reds have had no identity. SP Bronson Arroyo's corn-row poseur schtick in Boston turned into "anonymous workhorse" in Cincy. The Nasty Boys bullpen of the early '90s has gave way to the remains of Mike Stanton and Rheal Cormier. And, what the hell is Jeff Conine doing here? Why do we have to wait until July for him to get traded back to Florida for the 50th time?

#25 - Seattle Mariners: 10 years ago, the M's were one of the most exciting teams in the American League led by Griffey the Kid's 56 HRs and 20 wins from the Unit. Five years ago, Seattle was coming off a 116-win season and finished 3rd in the AL West…with 93 wins. Today, there is no Super Nintendo game featuring free agent OF Jose Guillen and LHP Jarrod Washburn hasn't won 20 games in the last two years combined. There's still reason for hope, though. For one, the AL West features four flawed teams who could finish anywhere from first to last. Secondly, the M's offense could be solid with Ichiro in his walk year, Adrian Beltre coming off a strong second half in '06 and Raul Ibañez continuing his surprising senior citizen run. Finally, 21-year-old phenom, King Felix Hernandez, seems ready to join the AL's elite on the mound. He'll need to make 80 starts to get Seattle to the postseason.

#24 - Colorado Rockies: In this year's always-excellent Sports Illustrated baseball preview, the section on the Rox devotes most of its words to 2B Kaz Matsui. The former New York Met mistake got white-hot for 126 plate appearances (mostly in September) and put up a .345/.392/.504 line. C'mon, SI…you're better than that. Matsui won't be part of the next good Rockies team (OK, the first good Rockies team), but the pieces are in place for the squad to make a run…and soon. Phenom SS Troy Tulowitzki could break out this year, while 3B Garrett Atkins and LF Matt Holliday already have. 1B Todd Helton is getting old before our eyes, but could fetch a nice late July haul on the trade market if he stays healthy until then. Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis lead a rotation that doesn't miss enough bats, while I double dog dare Brian Fuentes to save 30 games, ever again. The kids are a'comin', though, as the memories of Dale Murphy and David Nied get dimmer every day.

#23 - Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Five years ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl (by forfeit) and turned around a losing tradition that took up over two decades. The Devil Rays are beginning only their 10th year of terribility, but they've just been keeping the cellar warm for the Orioles. Maybe I've got a soft spot for a team that's cornered the market on immature misunderstood minorities. OF Delmon Young throws bats at umpires, OF Elijah Dukes poisoned his minor league clubhouse and little old ladies cross the street whenever UT B.J. Upton is coming towards them. Tragically, there's not enough pitching behind Scott Kazmir for any hopes of unseating Hitler and Hussein atop the AL East, but the Rays have something now that they've lacked in every year since their inception: hope. (Yeah, I know…but, there'd be a tear in your eye if Peter Gammons had written that last line.)

#22 - Florida Marlins: As a fan of a team whose supporters don't exactly tear down the turnstiles, I can sympathize with the lack of local love for a young, exciting club. On the other hand, the Marlins have won two more world titles in their tenure (since 1993) than my A's and currently have the chips in place for a sustained run of contention in another year or so. So, c'mon, South Florida…three hours in a steam bath of a stadium is worth it to get in on the ground floor of something special. SP Dontrelle Willis gives you guys the new ace of the Willie McGee All-Ugly All-Stars, while SP Anibal Sanchez threw a no-hitter last year and is the best pitcher with a girl's name since Ariel Prieto swam ashore. 3B Miguel Cabrera's got a few more years before he abandons your team for one in a city "with a better school system" or some such hogwash. 81-81 seems to be a reasonable goal for a team that will likely take an '06 Indians step back this year, but watch out in '08! Or '09…

#21 - Houston Astros: $100 million for free agent OF Chunky Lee? The Cubs, Cards and Brewers thank you, GM Purpura. I guess Lee replaces what Jeff Bagwell's bat used to be 10 years ago, but see, here's the thing: in 1997 the Astros' pitching staff posted a team ERA of 3.67. The starters back then were Mike Hampton, Darryl Kile, Shane Reynolds(!) and Chris Holt(!!) Hell, even Sid Fernandez(!!!) won his only start for the 'Stros that year. The point in 2007 is that this year's Houston rotation doesn't have anyone like Reynolds or Holt at the back end. Ace Roy Oswalt will again bring the goodness, but he's thrown a ton of innings since 2004 and his 4'4" frame can't be expected to keep bouncing back. In addition, last year, closer Brad Lidge went "boom" with a nifty 5.28 ERA. Sorry, Houston, but y'all have exactly two storylines to look forward to this year: when will 2B Craig Biggio get the 70 hits he needs for 3,000 and will C Brad Ausmus and SS Adam Everett get 70 hits between 'em all season? Sucks to be you (and you have to live in Houston).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hooters Versus Old Coots

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I live and work in the San Diego community of Rancho Bernardo.

With that out of the way, I've got a question for my more melanin-challenged readers: Exactly when do old soulless white people with nothing better to do become old soulless white people with nothing better to do?

Grotesquely breaded orange-colored chicken wings are coming on March 26, Methuselah. Why don't you and your varicose crew go back to being righteously indignant over the Home Depot parking lot immigrants?

We need another World War II to thin out their ranks.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Screw You, Mike Rotunda

"The scarecrow raised a withered hand..."

My alma mater's consolation-prize postseason run has come to an end. In the aftermath of this anonymous competition, I've compiled a few random thoughts:

1.) Did'ya know that the game wasn't even on television for most of San Diego? Nothing quite attracts new recruits to the upcoming silver anniversary of SDSU's rebuilding plan than eliminating those pesky TV cameras and a modicum of coverage.

2.) 26,752 fans packed The Carrier Dome for a 2nd round NIT game? There's a fine orange line between "passionate" and "pathetic", upstate New York. And, I think you know where I'm going with this.

3.) Dig this rich postseason history for my Aztecs. It's like every tournament appearance is Game Five of the American League Division Series for San Diego State and they always show up wearing green and gold. Hey-yo!

4.) I've read and re-read the accompanying linked account (see 1st paragraph) of the game and not found one mention of the words "exhumed corpse", "death's door" or "former slave owner" as it relates to Head Coach Steve Fisher. Kudos on your journalistic restraint, San Diego Union-Tribune. Kudos.

5.) And, I can't even play the predictable "better weather card" against Syracuse today, as it's overcast and 62 degrees. Overcast!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Nick Canepa Can Kiss My Black Ass

Some quick San Diego Fun Facts: The average temperature in March is 66.7 degrees. We have the sixth lowest crime rate in America and the smallest murder rate among cities with populations greater than one million. In a completely unrelated note, only 10.8% of the population is African-American.

San Diego also happens to have the worst sports writing in America.

Nick Canepa is the septuagenarian scribe for our ultra-conservative, right-wing rag The San Diego Union-Tribune. He's one of those whiny old white guys who surely starts every sentence with phrases like "Back in my day…" and ends them with "…(racial epithet, plural) knew their place."

Today, he's covering the colossally uninteresting non-story of the Chargers' new uniforms. With apologies to my friends at Fire Joe Morgan, it's time for some TBG-ery (Canepa's words are in italics):

Sportswriters, as a rule, are not clotheshorses, merely horses.

I actually had to look up "clotheshorse" in the dictionary, kids. I consider myself what Canepa would call "a well-spoken, articulate Negro", but I'd never heard this word before today. In my dictionary, I found the year 1775 listed next to "clotheshorse" which, according to the good people at Merriam-Webster, is its first recorded use.

(And, likely the last, according to my vernacular calendar.)

Sure, there are stallions among our breed of nags. As excellent examples, my natty colleagues Jim Trotter and Kevin Acee dress for football games as if they've just arrived from their weddings. Not that there's anything wrong with that. They're quite stunning.

I tried my best to confirm that both Trotter and Acee are Black, but I'm only reasonably sure about Trotter. Of course, the "brothers" are all snappy dressers, aren't they, Nick? With their conks and zoot suits and 23-skadoos…

But I know what looks good; although I also know clothes don't make the football player, either. Put the 2006 Raiders in Vera Wang jerseys, Dolce & Gabbana trousers, Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, accessorize with Gucci helmets, and you're still going to have your basic silver and black – and two wins.

Oh, snap! Was that Raiders-bashing?! How sneaky and unique! Speaking of wins, here's how many wins the Raiders had in January: zero. Now, here's how many wins the Chargers had in January: zero.

Of course, only the Chargers played in January, but you already knew that.

Al Davis is not Al Lauren. What would Mr. Blackwell do to Big Al? White leisure suits and that "Mean Streets" hair-do? Al, wake up and smell the Donna Karan – and stay off the red carpet, where Joan Rivers' face will break if she sees you.

Wait…when did Joan Rivers and Al Davis become fodder for bad comics? Why didn't I get this memo? Have we been allowed to bash them since the start of 2007 or was this bill signed into law sometime sooner?

As you may have guessed, I never had attended a fashion show until yesterday afternoon, when the Chargers threw one at the revamped, posh, U.S. Grant Hotel, to unveil their new uniforms. And, yes, there was a runway in the room, like the one Lucy Ricardo walked when she wore that Don Loper tweed suit in Hollywood.

I Love Lucy debuted on October 15, 1951.

The uniform change was a long time in the making. Chargers COO Jim Steeg, not exactly Fred Astaire, came up with the idea…

Fred Astaire was born on May 10, 1899. And, wasn't he famous for dancing, not "clotheshorsing"? I'll ask my grampy for a ruling on this.

He did good. The Chargers didn't get fashion stupid, like Denver or Seattle.

Total Super Bowl wins for the Denver Broncos since they changed their uniforms in 1997 to their current style: 2

Total Super Bowl appearances for the Seattle Seahawks since they changed their uniforms in 2002 to their current style: 1

Total Super Bowl wins and/or appearances for the San Diego Chargers since 1997: 0

True. It was time, which as noted in "Citizen Kane," waits for no football player, but part of the reason was because the previous unis were not striking.

Citizen Kane was released on May 1, 1941. Way to keep it timely, Nicky. And, I'm pretty sure that no "football player" is mentioned in the movie, unless you were trying to be funny. To that, I say stick with the ubiquitous "Rosebud" quote if you're looking for comedic source material.

It worked for Orson Welles' "Rosebud" frozen peas. They're full of country goodness and green pea-ness…!

And so the fashion show began, with team radio tonsil/MC Josh Lewin calling this "a monumental moment . . . historic." Sort of like Pearl Harbor.

The Pearl Harbor bombing happened on December 7, 1941. The Pearl Harbor movie (A Jerry Bruckheimer Production/A Michael Bay Film) was released on May 25, 2001. I'm pretty sure Canepa was referencing the bombing.

Football unis are like Twinkies (not on yesterday's menu). It's what's inside.

Twinkies were invented on April 6, 1930 and haven't been relevant as a societal pop culture reference since the soft, phallic junk food experienced a minor uptick in popularity during the 1970s when Hostess introduced mascot "Twinkie the Kid" in 1971.

You stay classy, Nick Canepa.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Wiggles: Live in Concert!

Way back on January 30, 2004, I wrote the following words that appeared in my old Friday Music Bootleg column:

As with all child parties these days, there's a theme. For this kid's first birthday, the entire shindig will revolve around something called The Wiggles. Click on that link and suffer right along with me.

Eight days later, my son Shabazz Jalen was born and it wouldn't be long before The Wiggles exacted their revenge for my dismissive mocking.

Today, these aging Aussies invade my home daily, accompanied by the tag team power of The Disney Channel and DVR. Mrs. Bootleg dresses the boy in overpriced Wiggles pajamas before shoving him into criminally expensive Wiggles bed sheets, where she then reads from the $6.99 set of Wiggles books I bought for the boy on clearance at Barnes & Noble.

Don't look at me like that. After the kindly book barista made change for my $10, I was certain that the Bootleg Family owned everything related to The Wiggles.

All that was left was to spend exorbitant amounts of cash and have nothing tangible to show for it.

So, for the boy's 3rd birthday, I sprung for three seats to Racing to the Rainbow: The Wiggles – Live in Concert! And, for the record, that ostentatious exclamation point was my exact reaction in the aftermath of spending $37.50/ticket, plus another $8.00/ticket in service and handling fees. Do the math for yourselves. I'm sure it'll make your projectile shame for me that much more palpable.

Yesterday, we attended the first of a two-show performance at the Cox Arena on the campus my alma mater, San Diego State University.

The arena and adjacent parking structure are literally right next door to "sorority row". And, I have no doubt that all of the gorgeous, academically-committed future administrative assistants of America were scared straight after seeing what childbirth does to one's body.

Good luck with that psychology degree, Sarah.

Ditto for yours in dance, Cindy.

Infants, toddlers and parents were everywhere. This surprised me since I assumed the 3:00 PM show would create an inherent nap time conflict with most of the kids. And, yes, I discussed this theory at length with my wife before deciding on which show to see. Great use of her MBA, don't you think?

Anyways, we scaled our way down the side-of-the-cliff incline (or is it "decline"?) to our seats and I immediately discovered what the most expensive tickets in the arena are worth.

We were 15 rows back and to the right of the stage.

Wait, that doesn't quite do it justice.

We were 15 rows back and to the extreme right of the stage.

OK, this'll help…stand up at your computer. Now, take one step sideways to your right. Then, take one step forward, so that you're now essentially parallel to your screen. If you're doing this correctly, you shouldn't be able to see your screen at this point.

Now, turn 90 degrees to your left and sit down. You'll notice that if you crane your neck, you might be able to see 50% of your screen.

Good times.

Credit it where it's due, though…for the next 90 minutes, The Wiggles and their deliciously leggy dancers (just right for daddy) kept the kiddies entertained.

Some of the highlights:

-The show started about 15 minutes late, which was fine by me. I mean, we might as well teach the children about this ubiquitous characteristic of concerts while they're still young. But, when the show finally began, there was a five-minute speech on "safety". Y'know…don't lose your kids, don't let 'em climb up on stage, etc. Then, there was the 10-minute translation of this speech in Spanish.

-Why do I think that the español warnings weren't included on the Toledo tour stop, though?

-Speaking of Spanish, The Wiggles made a point of thanking everyone who came to the show "all the way from Mexico". For those of you who don't find that funny, I'd like to offer up this helpful link to illustrate the hilarity. I'm pretty sure that we drove farther to get there.

-Jalen spent the first 45 minutes trying to figure out if this was a live show or one hell of an HD TV. He's only known The Wiggles inside of the idiot box. And, now they were right in front of him. He refused to dance, sing or acknowledge their presence until he could confirm their existence. This doesn't bode well for bible study, someday.

-Shockingly, I wasn't the only Black father in attendance. Was I the only one who had a job to take the day off from? Oh, of course not. I think.

-There were lots of requests from The Wiggles for audience participation. Most notably, we were asked to flip open our cell phones while the house lights were turned down for "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". Y'see, here's the thing…after spending as much as I did for the tickets, I already feel like a tool. Now, they want me to be a prop? F*ck that noise.

-You know what I discovered, yesterday? Kettle corn! Mrs. Bootleg bought a bag that was nearly as big as the boy. I always assumed it was part of the Cracker Jack and Crunch n' Munch family of sickeningly sweet, sticky popcorn products. But, oh, how wrong I was. It's sweet, but not too sweet. Think of it as the Jack & Coke of confections.

-The lead singer of The Wiggles used to be a guy named Greg Page. Last year, he was diagnosed with a very serious illness and was forced to leave the group. Before the show, a pre-taped message was shown where he thanked fans for their support and expressed how much he enjoyed his career. He was actually tugging a few heartstrings in the audience (not mine, though…just allergies). At the end, he made a point of handing over his yellow Wiggles shirt to his replacement. This lightened the mood for me, because he called his long-sleeved mock turtleneck shirt a skivvie. Doesn't he know what that means in America? He was handing over his underwear!. Eww! (I'm 33-years-old.)

-At the end of the show, it was time to spend even more of next month's mortgage payment on Wiggles merchandise. This made Jalen even more hyper-excited, so he took off running down the concourse. As I handed over an Andrew Jackson for a plastic Wiggles lightstick, the boy's mother was in low-speed pursuit. Understandable, considering the crowd of people and how easily a small child can disappear. A few minutes later, the two of them came back. Jalen had split open his bottom lip from taking a fall while crowd surfing. Jalen's mother had the refreshed look of a woman who didn't want to run too fast after her son for fear of scuffing her new shoes or sweating out her hairdo.

"I gotta say it was a good day."

Friday, March 9, 2007

*Sigh*…Again With the Biggie

The Notorious B.I.G. died today.


For the 10th straight year (Or is it the 11th…?)

I spent ten minutes in my car this morning with the increasingly exasperating XM Radio. As part of their day-long "tribute" to the Notorious B.I.G., I heard the end of a year-old interview with his money-whore mother, Voletta (who was only there to hype the posthumously putrid Duets album). From there, the satellite station jumped into Christopher Wallace's catalog with the tracks Spit Your Game and Nasty Girl.

They shoot horses station managers, don't they?

My point is that there simply isn't any blood left to leech out of this fat, black turnip.

And, all of the annual early-March maudlin memories of the man deserve four bullets of their own.

Why won't any of his fans recognize what m'man Nick'a Please calls the 800-lb. elephant in the room? At the time of his death, The Notorious B.I.G. had long since segued into self-parody. The gritty, honest stories of his youth (well, 1993-95) were replaced with cartoonish Tony Montana tales of excess and ridiculously cheesy reaches for radio.

His Life After Death album, an overstuffed and egocentric mess, could've left 10-12 tracks on the cutting room floor and still not come close to earning all the accolades it received. It's a decidedly average album, kids. I said it then and I'm saying it now.

Here's something else I said back then…on the night he died, why was Biggie even in L.A. to begin with?

Yeah, sure…he was promoting his new album. He was shooting a music video. He was presenting at an awards show. And, again, I ask…why was he even out here in Cali?

I know, I know…if Biggie can't fly across the country then the terrorists have won (or something). But, in the months after Tupac's death, the West Coast's abhorrence for all things East Coast went from "indifference" to "Hit 'Em Up".

Now, I'm not saying that Biggie deserved to die, but would it have been the worst thing in the world for Bad Boy Entertainment to allow for California to cool off a bit? Biggie chose to conveniently forget his role as a significant shit-stirrer in the whole "media-created" bi-coastal beef, but everyone out west remembered his inciting words on NY radio prior to The Dogg Pound's New York, New York video shoot. No pun intended.

In the eyes of many, Bad Boy's trip to Los Angeles was nothing more than a victory lap on Tupac's ashes. And, again, I don't agree…but, I understand.

Look…I get that there's a small, but vocal group of fans who truly believe that B.I.G. was the greatest rapper of all time. I'm saying they're wrong…that would be Jay-Z. Those same fans say that B.I.G. was the most influential rapper of all time. I'm saying they're wrong on that, too…that would be Tupac (and that's not a compliment).

Biggie was great for a minute, very good for a few more and he's been dead for 10 years.

What your radio takes a day to say, I just said in 10 seconds.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Meet My Links - Deadspin

So, in the two or three weeks since I posted my last one of these, I've added another link (Welcome, The Luke!) and completely forgot who was next under the "Meet My" microscope. A quick check of the archives tells me that Deadspin is officially on the clock.


Synopsis: Billing itself as "sports news without access, favor or discretion", Deadspin is quite simply the most biting, caustic and comically subversive sports site on the internet. Editor Will Leitch post several times a day (from about 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM) during the week, while the weekend editors keep it coming on Saturdays and Sundays. Yesterday, there were posts mocking the Ron Artest domestic abuse 911 call, another on the similarities between Eli Manning and the Black president on 24 and still another on forecasting the NIT. It's like picking "potpourri" on Jeopardy!

Positives: When everything is clicking, it's easy to get lost for hours on Deadspin. In fact, there might be too much going on here as each story is usually linked to two or three source stories, which, in turn leads to previous Deadspin posts on the same subject matter. The writing is almost always snarky without ever removing its tongue from its cheek and it doesn't take long for readers to "get" what amounts to one long, daily inside joke. And, for the truly sophomoric amongst us, it's your one-stop-shop for gratuitous groupie nudity, pictures of pro athletes up to their ass in alcohol and gossipy tales about "Chris Berman, Caveman Pimp".

Negatives: Though this might be clichéd…Deadspin was a lot more fun before everyone knew about it. Profiles in Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine let the unwashed masses in on our party. Consequently, Deadspin's ubiquitous quotes and catchphrases began seeping into the mainstream. This must be how my friends at Broken Dial feel when their favorite indie acts go all VH1 on everyone. Another residual effect of Deadspin's popularity is the absolute explosion in the number of douchebag users/commenters. Threads on genuinely interesting subject matter can quickly devolve into flame wars, homophobia or race baiting and usually by the third or fourth post.

One Sentence Summary: If you're a sports fan and aren't (or are) visiting Deadspin at least twice a day, you'll surely burn in hell…

Next Week: Baseball Prospectus

Monday, March 5, 2007

TBG Reviews: Carl's Jr's Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

Fifteen years ago, I was a fiend for fast food.

Burgers, fries and a refillable beverage were all I needed for sustenance. All the while, my metabolism handled the heavy internal lifting. These days, fast food is no longer my friend. Oh, I still nab a greasy sack of crap from time to time, but I'm at the age now where propaganda tools like Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me actually work.

Obviously, they didn't work that well, but the notion that fast food is intended to be only an occasional meal has stuck and stayed with me. Oddly enough, I remember first hearing that speech from my mother in the early '80s and now, 25 years later, I've come full circle to "acceptance".

It hasn't helped the restaurants' cause that most fast food establishments entrust food preparation and sanitary standards with kids only 10 years removed from eating their boogers. And, it also hasn't helped that my metabolism's allegorical work ethic has gone from "illegal immigrant" to "American" over those same 10 years.

But, I still have my weaknesses.

One of them is "damn fine marketing". Check out this commercial for Carl's Jr's new Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. The other is for pretty much anything edible that's preceded by "Buffalo".

Now, in the interest of alleviating any argument, I acknowledge that the only place on earth that knows anything about Buffalo wings is Buffalo, NY. In fact, I'm sure I was supposed to capitalize the "w" in wings back in the last sentence, so sue me.

Of course, I've never been to Buffalo, but they're a proud, Arctic race without much in the way of any real local accomplishments to celebrate, so let's give them their "wings". Aren't they just precious? Oh, and kudos, Buffalo, for belatedly climbing aboard the Civil Rights bandwagon.

"A colored mayor? That'll be the day." - 1985's Back to the Future and 1759-2005's Buffalo, NY

OK…with that out of the way, let's get to the sammich.

For those of you who don't know, Carl's Jr. is "Hardee's" pretty much anywhere else in the other three time zones. If that doesn't help, think of them as "Burger King Lite": charbroiled burgers, but with leanings to more gimmicky grub like their Philly Cheesesteak Burger and Pastrami Burger (a hamburger with Steak-Umms and pastrami on top, respectively).

And, for $3.29, Carl's serves up a heavy hunk of hen that's drenched in Frank's RedHot sauce. Consequently, the chicken breading is predictably mushy, but still full of the flavor of Frank. One thing that I will agree with those sanctimonious Buffaloans on is that blue cheese dressing is what one eats with wings. But, here, the perfect amount of ranch dressing works surprisingly well. I've had two of these in the past week and both times the amount wasn't enough to overwhelm the meat, yet still kept the contents from tasting too dry. Lettuce, tomato and red onion finish off the top of the filet.

Even considering the "fast food fare" grading curve, this is a good-ass sammich. It maintains its texture from beginning to end, without morphing into an inedible mess of soggy bread and meat like pretty much anything on Wendy's menu. Carl's Jr. still needs to work on their off-tasting, overly-chewy buns, but after two decades of choking them down, I'm used to them.

It's rare that a new menu item breaks my "Only order what I like/Only order what I know" rotation, but for now I'll need someone to tell the Jalapeño burger to go wait in the car.

I've got a new bitch, now.

Whatever Happened to That Bootleg Guy?

Oddly enough, I rarely use this blog for the day-to-day detailing of my mundane meanderings, but the last week has been anything but.

(So, is it implied that I meant "anything but mundane meanderings" or would it have been better to type it out? I mean, I got the initial alliterative effect in there. Yeah, once was enough.)

Friday, February 23: I woke up around 3:30 that morning with my head in the kind of hazy fog that felt like I'd foisted four or five pints of Sam Adams the night before. In actuality, I had. And, the wife was not pleased. But, now, I couldn't go back to sleep and for the rest of the day, I couldn't shake the haze. At 4:00 PM, it finally hit me. Gastroenteritis. My friends…over the next several days, this became the stomach flu from hell. Quite the conundrum from both ends, if you will.

Saturday, February 24: Mrs. Bootleg had been felled by the same ailment. It's 2:00 AM and her 4'8" frame is taking up all of a queen sized bed, while I'm downstairs on the couch alternating the chills with odd nocturnal ("nickturnal"?) sweats that always freak me out. Meanwhile, Kid Cameron has taken advantage of this absence of parental guidance by refusing to go back to bed after waking up in the wee hours. He gets a Wiggles DVD on "repeat" play at around 3:00 AM, as the wife and I willingly downgrade ourselves from "good Black parents" to "most Black parents". I mean, we weren't leaving him in the car while we went to the club, but still…

Sunday, February 25: I hadn't eaten anything since Friday afternoon. I'm convinced that "lack of appetite" is just doctor jargon for "fear of food". I knew I'd only be "renting" that apple and after nearly 40 hours, I had nothing left to give. I could deal with the dry heaves, but the equivalent at…the other end? It got so bad that I had to switch to Jalen's, uh…well, to these. Speaking of which, by now, neither me or Mrs. Bootleg had seen the boy in about eighteen hours. We assumed he was still in the house, but couldn't muster up enough concern between the two of us.

Monday, February 26: On Friday, I weighed 185 lbs. This morning I weighed 179 lbs. It was the dawn of a new work week and I was unable to dip into my 235 hours of accumulated "time off", due to a long-scheduled meeting with one of our customers up in Los Angeles. With no idea how many pit stops I'd have to make between San Diego and L.A., I opted to drive myself up I-5. With only a few gallons of water, orange juice and sports drinks in my belly over the past 72 hours, I reached L.A. around 2:30 and entered the hotel's conference room.

Now, without putting too much on it, I'd have to equate my performance with that of Michael Jordan's in game five of the 1997 NBA Finals.

Imagine a room full of crusty ex-military men who, as we all know, aren't fond of civilians and aren't fond of civilians who've never served their country and, of course, aren't fond of "the black people". Somehow, I summoned the strength to win them over professionally, with whatever the hell it is I do for a living, and personally with an assortment of anecdotes that the geezers were asking me repeat to anyone who missed it the first or second time. I suppose it was probably due to the fact that most of them had lost their hearing from shrapnel-to-the-ear injuries during the Spanish-American War, but whatever.

Anyways, afterwards, just like MJ, I returned to my hotel (locker) room and collapsed on the floor.

BTW, a quick note on the hotel.

I made my reservations late and my initial choice was booked solid. That left me with a place called Best Western Jamaica Bay Inn.

Best Western. And, this was obviously the part of "Jamaica" where the houses are made of old roasted goat and jerk chicken bones. The wind and rain from outside felt like it was blowing right through the tissue paper architecture of what amounted to a cubicle with a bed and bathtub. On top of all that, of the room's 40-odd TV stations, half of them were in Spanish.

Still, I survived that night and made it back home. It's been almost a week and I still don't feel as though I've completely recovered. I'm hoping that I can get back to regularly blogging, even if it's only at 60%. It's hard when you've set the standard at 70%.

It's damn hard.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

WWE Smackdown TV Taping - The Obligatory Wrestling Post (Part II)

Joining me for the evening of sports-entertainment would be longtime Friend of the Bootleg, "That Mexican Guy" (who would probably prefer that his real name, Mike Castro, not be used). There was Austin, who once got us thrown out of a strip club by inappropriately touching a dancer. His excuse, "I thought she told me to." Seriously. And, finally, a dude named Jose, who came with the other Mexican guy.

And, with a 50% Hispanic factor in our favor, I'd like our odds in case the crowd broke out into little mini-race wars in factions of four.

Now, it's no secret that San Diego's southernmost border is about 10 minutes from Mexico. Most of this country has shifted its irrational racial hatred from Blacks (years 1619-1988), to the Japanese (1988-90), back to Blacks (1990-2001), over to Muslims, Middle Easterners or any Blacks who looked Muslim or Middle Eastern (2001-2006), then, finally found Mexicans (2006-current).

Well, we've always had 'em down here and nights like this bring out generations for a celebration of their colorful culture. And, to watch wrestling.

Wading through a legit sellout crowd at the San Diego Sports Arena ipayone Center (worst corporate arena name ever), I felt like Snoop Dogg in the Vato video.

Wrestling fans are often stereotyped as some sort of sub-human species (regardless of race) and, I gotta tell you…this stereotype is right.

Grown men were wearing those replica belts, around their waists, in public. Grown men were lugging so much crudely scrawled poster board, that a separate entrance was required for anyone with "10 or more signs". And, four grown men laid down $200 between 'em for the chance to sit eight rows from the ring.

The f/k/a Sports Arena was built in the early 1970s and everything from the toilets to the architecture to the ticket takers haven't been cleaned or kept up since the first season of Alice. If this place were built in New York or Boston, it'd be called "historic". Here in Cali, it's just "sh*t".

We had seat numbers 5, 6, 7 and 8…and all four seats were a different shape and color. It was like part of a dining room set from "The Compton Collection". And, taking a cue from my college days, the Arena was practically pitch-black, save for a bank of lights over the ring.

And, just like I discovered in college, there's not enough darkness on earth to hide the ugly of whatever you happen to be inside of on any given night.

The tapings were broken up into two shows: ECW and Smackdown. For those of you who abhor wrestling, please don't make me explain the difference between the two. It would involve words like "extreme", "cruiserweights", "pirates" and "vampires". For the sake of brevity, the difference tonight is that ECW was taping first.

You can find the results of the show right here, courtesy of America's angriest white man. Meanwhile, some quick thoughts from me:

-Lots and lots of kiddies in the audience. I'm talking 8-years-old and younger. Not to sound like one of "those" parents, but who lets pre-teens watch this crap? There were actually kids, right behind us, explaining gimmicks and storylines to their parents. To summarize, when I was a kid, TV was safe and fun…today it's a creation of Satan. Gordon Jump, you took away a nation's innocence. You, too, 9/11 terrorists.

-Watching a faction called the "ECW Originals" come down the aisle, I wondered aloud if pro wrestlers could be considered the equivalent of "ringers" in those department dead pools. While everyone else is picking Goldie Hawn or John Wooden, why not surprise your friends by calling Sabu? Pretty much free money, if you axe me. Oh, and RIP Mike Awesome. He was 42. I'm just' sayin'.

-Some guy named "Kevin Thorn" was in the first ECW match. He's one of the wrestling vampires I referenced earlier. And, as with most guys with sh*tty gimmicks, he's paired with a buxom valet. In this case, his second is named "Ariel". Points for her showing off her man-made cleavage, but she might have the lumpiest ass this side of a St. Louis music video.

-Next match: CM Punk vs. Johnny Nitro. I can't be bothered to get worked up over either of these guys, but can I tell you…Nitro's valet Melina is pure, uncut cocoa butter beauty. The ringside fans shared my animalistic lust for her, but they were far less classy with their words. After the match, she pointed out a few fans who were especially profane and security led them out. Sorry, Melina, but dressed like that, you had it coming. Whore.

-Now is as good a time as any to point out that these live TV tapings can be quite the chore to sit through. The show lasted a little over three hours and the production crew ran that "Tribute to the Troops" promo no less than a half-dozen times. The See No Evil and The Marine commercials ran all night, as well. Finally, they ran the trailer for Stone Cold Steve Austin's new movie. Even the unwashed degenerates around me couldn't help but comment on how bad it looked. Wrestling fans finding something that might actually be unwatchable? It's Bizarro World.

-Funniest line of the night that no one will get: "How many 300-pound sons did Mrs. Wallace have?", from Jose after watching Bobby Lashley's mom in that "inspirational" piece on Lashley that's been running for a few weeks now.

-It takes about 10 minutes to convert the set from ECW to Smackdown, so during this break in the action I should mention that I actually got some emails from people who told me that one of the "juiced up Japanese guys" I mentioned in my earlier recap was someone called "Gedo". I have no idea who that is and now I know how you non-wrestling fans feel if you've read this far.

-Foreshadowing: Smackdown announcers JBL and Michael Cole come down the aisle and a handful of white folk in front of us (seriously, they were the only "group seated" Caucasians that I saw all night) were really cheering for JBL. For the uninformed, the "JBL" character isn't exactly a fan of "the brown people". Stay tuned.

-Inspired by Batista's pinstriped suit worn with a black wife beater underneath, here are some other wrestler fashion statements that should just stop: 1.) The leather vest w/o a shirt combo. 2.) Fanny packs. 3.) Skin tight jeans. 4.) Denim shorts. 5.) Any wrestler that wears his own t-shirt.

-OK, enough time has passed that I'll just go ahead and say it…Vickie Guerrero might be the least attractive woman to regularly appear on TV since the salad days of Mackenzie Phillips. You wore the crown proudly for three decades you 80-pound smack addict. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.

-During the Chavo Guerrero/Scotty 2 Hotty match, I discovered that "counting to 10 as the wrestler's head hits the turnbuckle" and "doing the 'w-o-r-m' thing" in unison with everyone else probably trumps the "bringing a sign" and "wearing the replica belt" points I made earlier.

-Memo to the "pyro" guys: There's a fine line between the 200 lbs. of TNT you use to announce the entrance of Kane and the same amount of explosives that kept about 100 people from ever exiting that Great White concert.

-During the Boogeyman/Finlay/midgets match, Finlay threw a handful of Boogey's worm into the audience. Men and women were parting like the Red Sea. This led to the first of several fan fights over the next 40 minutes, as a woman was hit square in the mug with a handful of harmless, yet unsanitary organisms by a dude who was about five rows in front of us.

-Finally, the return of "Rey Mysterio". By now, y'all know that the local boy came home only to catch a faux beatdown, but in the stands, four lone white folk stood and applauded the "abuse" that was being heaped upon the wee Hispanic. These people were right in front of me and their joy didn't go over too well with the Mexicans around us.

"Sit the fuck down", "I'll follow you outside" and a well placed shove by a dude in a Merriman jersey (fitting) and tattooed neck helped the four anti-Rey fans remain quietly in their seats for the rest of the show. Amazingly, these events caused the two Mexicans that we were with to get awfully leery of their countrymen.

And, not wanting to have to tell everyone in hell that I died "at a wrestling show", we took our leave…with about a half-pint of pride still left between us.

Friday, March 2, 2007

All Your Questions Will Be Answered

So, just where have I been? What happened to the rest of those "Part I" posts I put up last week? And, what do baby wipes, the Oscars and Michael Jordan have to do with any of it?

Check back this weekend.