Monday, June 30, 2008

Random (but Pertinent) Baseball Musings

There’s dumb stuff happening in baseball, both on the field and in the ESPN studios. Time to weigh in and set the world right, even though the dummies won’t listen.

On the media front:

  • I don’t watch ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” all the time. But lately I’ve gotten way too good a gander (and an earful) of Eduardo Perez, the Worldwide Leader’s latest pathetic dumbass diversity/ex-jock hire. Well, check that. Eduardo’s been doing ancillary baseball stuff for ESPN since 2006, so I guess his recent appearance on the in-studio dais amounts to a promotion of some kind. Yikes!

    Poor Eduardo. Every phrase is an adventure. You can almost hear his brain ticking away, only the sequence in which the words come out indicates his brain is probably working very little. And if he’s getting it off the TelePrompTer, then apparently he can’t read too well, either. He’s got a dumb-sounding voice, too.

    I guess we could excuse it—if Eduardo was born in a Latin American country or something. You know, just finally getting the hang of English after finishing up his beisbol career. But in case you didn’t know, Eduardo is the son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez. Dad was from Cuba, but son was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1969, when Dad was in the midst of his terrific years with the Big Red Machine. So Eduardo gets into the ESPN Club on the nepotism clause as well. But one would think he could speak English fairly well. If you’re gonna be on television and all...

    As for his ex-jock status, well, I would guess most people don’t remember that Eduardo played in the majors from 1993-2006, clocking in with six clubs, playing infield and outfield and DH, with a career batting average of .247 and amassing 79 home runs and 294 RBIs. Well, at least Eduardo hit more home runs than the other Eduardo Perez, the guy who played from 1995-2005 for the Braves, Indians and Brewers, and who had to get saddled with the name “Eddie Perez,” doubtless to keep him straight from Tony’s kid. (Actually Eddie’s career batting average was better than Eduardo’s, at .253, but basically both were mediocrities.)

    So let’s see....Eduardo was a dumb jock who was lucky to have had as long a career as he did (being Tony’s kid didn’t hurt that), and he’s an absolute stiff in front of a camera. So why would ESPN hire the guy, much less promote him? (Oh yeah, he’s Tony’s kid...and he played some ball.) Eduardo earned over $5 million in his pro career. He doesn’t need the money. Fire his ass. (Hell, give Eddie Perez a shot. He may actually need the money.)

    And by the way, researching this story led me to Tony Perez’ career stats. There was some initial controversy about him getting into the HOF, and it took him 14 years after his retirement, and 9 years after his first eligibility, to finally get the nod. Back then, in 2000, his election seemed right. But now, I dunno. His key career stats—.279, 379 HRs, 1,652 RBIs—are actually looking a little “lite.” The championships with the Reds helped, of course, and Perez was a run-producer, for sure. But so were Andres Galarraga, Fred McGriff and Andre Dawson, all of whom have more homers and near-equivalent or better numbers elsewhere but have diminishing chances at getting to Cooperstown.

    But at least Tony’s not merely filling space in the Hall the way Eduardo is on “Baseball Tonight.” Bench him, please. He’s an embarrassment.

  • On the front office front:

  • It took a lot of people about three months to realize that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are now just the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s probably because the team is off to its best start ever and folks are paying attention to them. It was back in February when team president Matt Silverman announced that "we haven't made a final decision, but we are leaning toward the direction of a change in uniform, a change of colors, a change in logo and perhaps a slight modification of the name. But it's unlikely we will have a dramatic change in the name."

    Change it they did, in a compromise decision, that kept the “Rays” but expunged the “devilish” connotation that some people supposedly found objectionable. Really? Someone actually found “Devil Rays” to be objectionable?? How wimpy.

    "We've integrated fan sentiments, results from focus groups and surveys into this," Silverman said at the time. Focus groups. Great.

    Sure enough, now they are the amorphous and gutless “Rays,” one of the blandest, most nonspecific names in the history of sports teams.

    It’s always totally cool when a sports team’s nickname derives from the geography or history of the area.

    Ravens comes from the Edgar Allan Poe poem, and Poe was a Baltimorean. That’s cool. Dolphins hang out in the water in Miami. Makes sense. Celtics are in Boston because the Irish settled that city. Good deal. Astros, because of the space program in Houston. Rangers ’cause of the famous Texas Rangers. Suns ‘cause it’s hot and sunny in Phoenix. Spurs and Mavericks ’cause of the cowboy stuff. Timberwolves in Minnesota (‘nuff said). Patriots in New England (y’know, Bunker Hill and all that?). Broncos in Denver (rodeos). 49ers in San Fran (1849 Gold Rush, remember?). Rockies in Colorado (no-brainer). Marlins in Florida. Knickerbockers in New York. Trail Blazers in Portland (Lewis and Clark, explorers). Pittsburgh Steelers, right? Brewers brew beer in Milwaukee, eh? Packers in Green Bay, named after a (guess what?) packing company. Diamondbacks are a snake in Arizona, hence...

    With the exception of standby aggressive names like Lions and Tigers and Bears, sports teams have delightfully reflected their regional character in their nicknames. Hence, “Devil Rays” comes from the Manta ray, Manta birostris, the largest of the rays or any species of ray in the genus Mobula. They’re unusual-looking fish with kind of an aggressive reputation, and it makes sense for Tampa Bay, a city on the Gulf Coast. It’s a name derived from the area where the team plays. It’s unique.

    Ho-hum. “Rays” is not unique. It’s really boring. And that’s what focus groups’ll get ya: More wimpification of the society, and the extraction of anything that smacks of aggression in our sports names.

    I hope the Rays start sucking again. It’ll serve ‘em right.

  • On the field folderol:

  • Jered Weaver got removed from the game this past Saturday even though he had a no-hitter going through six innings. You can’t really blame Angels manager Mike Scioscia—he wanted to win, and he was losing 1-0, and his team’s offense had been anemic of late. So he pinch-hit for his starter, which he had to do, ironically, since this was an interleague game with no designated hitter rule. The Angels never did score.

    Meanwhile, Jose Arredondo came in and pitched two more hitless innings for the Halos. They lost 1-0, but since they were the visitors to Dodger Stadium, they only had to pitch eight innings in the losing cause. So they got the no-hitter, right? Apparently wrong. According to some arcane rule change of the early 1990s, no-hitters now have to be at least nine innings in order to be officially recognized. What kind of stupid crap is that? It may not have been a nine-inning no-hitter, but it WAS a no-hitter.

    Lissen. Say Alex Rodriguez hits a grand slam in the fourth inning of a game that ends up rain-shortened after six innings but still goes into the books as a completed game. The game is deemed official, and ARod gets credit for his homer and four RBIs. Why the f&%k is it any different for Weaver and Arredondo? They collaborated on an eight-inning no-hitter, and that’s all there is to it. If the league wants to make a distinction about the innings pitched, okay. Or if they want to categorize the no-no’s into the ones pitched solely or the ones pitched as a joint effort, then so be it.

    Records are records. Rain-shortened games happen, and the stats compiled in them go into the books. If Weaver and Arredondo could’ve gotten a crack at that ninth inning, they may or may not have completed the gem, but why punish them because they never had the chance??

    Believe me, dumbass baseball execs, the folks at won’t mind breaking the no-hitters down into categories for you. And they can keep the nine-inning gems in the forefront category, so we’ll all know the difference.

    Sheesh...a lot of dumb people out there in baseball.
  • Monday, June 16, 2008

    Negotiating the Weekend Media(te) Wasteland


    Golfer Rocco Mediate, a normal-seeming, likable, straight-shooting average guy, received a strange brand of media mistreatment this past weekend at the U.S. Open in San Diego. Mediate, a 23-year vet of the pro tour, pushed the great Tiger Woods into an 18-hole playoff and then, when that didn't decide things, into sudden death, eventually losing the final hole. Mediate hadn’t won a golf tourney in six years and he’s never won a major, but he battled Woods tooth and nail through 90 holes in a wonderful display of steady, consistent, if unspectacular golf—the kind of golf that supposed superstars like Phil Mickelson or Vijay Singh could’ve learned something from. They talk about Tiger’s mental toughness; from where I sat, he’s got nothing on Rocco, whose lack of a long game betrayed him in the end but who squeezed every ounce of competitiveness out of his 45-year-old body.

    Mediate conducted himself with humility, humor and sincerity through the five grueling days, but for some reason the NBC announcers, in particular Johnny Miller, treated him as if he were the simpleminded Italian tailor who lives down the street. In fact, Mediate is the Italian son of a barber, from a Pennsylvania town south of Pittsburgh. Yet he’s also earned $14 million in his pro career. Miller’s constant references to Rocco’s sweating, the expressions on his face (half-grimaces, smiles, forebearance, whatever), and his unlikely presence as a contender for the Open crown—these were the musings of a "stupid old white guy,” which is what Miller is. Announcing sidekick Dan Hicks assumed the same stance, implying endlessly that Mediate’s success could only be a fluke, how he’d be the oldest guy to ever win the Open, etc., etc.

    I think Tiger’s great, y’all, but Mediate’s success—and near victory—was a time for celebration. By the time we reached the final regulation round on Sunday, the fatheads in the booth should have established nothing else about Mediate except that he was a pro golfer playing a marvelous tourney. But Miller refused to lay off, treating Mediate like a sideshow freak. Meanwhile, Hicks kept defaulting to spurious and/or fanciful Father’s Day references and tributes that obviously came out of the PGA public relations handbook. (But raise your hand if, after viewing that one spot, you in fact think that Earl Woods was kind of a dick in the way he inculcated “mental toughness” in his son by making noises and dropping his golf bag while Tiger the youngster and budding golf great teed off. Shades of Jimmy Piersall.)

    Then we were treated to Jimmy Roberts’ pre-final round, pro forma “Tiger suck-up piece.” Like we needed another one of those. No, what we needed, and never got, what a bio piece about Mediate, which would have been tons more interesting, given the comparatively hard road the guy has traveled to stay afloat in the pro game. Roberts later teamed with Bob Costas in a queer few moments of “privileged network commentator mental masturbation,” in which they reminded us of the recent passings of Tim Russert, Charlie Jones and Jim McKay, a sequence climaxed by Costas’ wannabe Howard Cosell imitation. Pretty lame crap.

    Other signs of media tastelessness the past few days, and possible proof that the end is near:

  • Father’s Day took another dive on Sunday evening when ABC ran a really cloying and also self-conscious father-son excerpt with neanderthal dummy Bill Walton and his Los Angeles Lakers son Luke. (That was a Gack! moment.)

  • Over on superstation WGN’s broadcast of the Cubs-Blue Jays game, color commentator Bob Brenly was saying the most godawful stupid things, which he always does but gets away with unscathed because he’s a former major league catcher and he actually won a World Series managing the Diamondbacks in 2001. Brenly is challenging Joe Morgan for the crown of absolutely the dumbest baseball jock to ever man a microphone. Honestly, he just makes this stuff up—it has no basis in reality. And think of the millions of dollars being paid to morons like him, which could otherwise go to flood relief in Iowa.

  • On the commercial side, the weekend thrived with tastelessness. Between Flomax, Cialis, and other products, we were assaulted by constant reminders of pathetic old-people ailments—the kind which no one (especially old people and old men, in particular) wants to be reminded of. No, I don’t want to see 60something guys canoeing—and glad they can take a good leak once the ride is over (without having first soiled themselves during the run down the rapids). No, I don’t want to see those awful spots about the guy who runs a modelmaking set design company, and who keeps going potty to the upraised eyebrows of his slightly younger male employees. (Keep your mind on your work, dumbasses!) And if male performance-enhancement drugs are going to affect my eyesight or give me stomach trouble, then no thanks. But those ads remain the worst example of corporate America tapping into our privacy in really ugly ways. (Hey, if I can’t be loved for myself, then I don’t wanna be loved.)

  • The vast media wasteland reached another new low on Monday with the appearance on Oprah of the Huckaby homosexual male siblings: The four gay brothers—one couldn’t make the gig—are all meticulously coiffed Metrosexual types, all ultra-confident, all ultra-articulate and all ultra-proud of themselves (and their gayness). On the heels of California opening itself up to legalized gay marriages, this is more fodder for the continued "de-normalization" of America, which aims to make us more or less slovenly average-type heterosexuals feel a little less certain about ourselves and our typical lifestyles, hangups, failures, etc. Thanks, Oprah, for continuing to ruin things for those of us who would prefer that our loved ones not be gay, even though we love them if they are. (Actually, it's getting to the point where I wish I could be gay so I could fit in. I feel so guilty and there’s nothing I can do about it.)

  • For only those with a really strong stomach, there was the afternoon “Tony Awards Concert Preview” on CBS, which was followed up later in the evening by the actual awards ceremony. You know the American theater has taken a serious fall when none other than insignificant pretty-boy and trash TV co-host Mario Lopez and has-been Whoopi Goldberg are the spokespersons for the big soiree. More signs of the theater’s demise: Retro performances and reminders of the shows A Chorus Line and Rent, the latter for some reason receiving a 12th anniversary tribute. (Huh?) Oh, well, it’s just another reason to reinforce the de-normalization process—Rent’s about homosexuals, HIV and AIDS, in case you haven’t seen it—plus do another lame-o tribute to composer Jonathan Larson, who died before he saw his musical become a so-called international success. (And why wouldn’t a contemporary musical about young people on New York’s Lower East Side getting AIDS achieve that?) Liza Minnelli kicked in an appearance. (Ouch. The pathos was palpable.) But if the state of the Broadway theater needed gauging, nothing said it more clearly than the performance of Kerry Butler, the screechy-voiced co-star of the musical Xanadu. If only Simon Cowell’d been nearby to say, “I’m sorry, Kerry, but you cahn’t SING!”

  • From there it was on to C-SPAN, where more signs of cultural and also governmental decay lay in wait:

  • First up were the congressional hearings on oil supply and demand, definitely an au courant subject. Some interesting folks laid out some interesting ideas, and the performance of the U.S. reps was focused and serious. But the air, and U.S. budget, was befouled by the presence of one Guy Caruso, who is apparently invested with the title of “Administrator, Energy Information Administration.” Now, we already have a U.S. Department of Energy, headed up by a guy named Samuel Bodman. Yet for some reason “information” is handled by this Caruso guy, in a totally separate agency. WHY?? What the f**k is the Energy Information Administration? Doesn’t Secretary Bodman deal with energy information directly?? Those questions go begging even moreso when you consider that Caruso is obviously a flunkie bureaucrat, offering only vague answers and rote responses to his questioners. Your tax dollars at work, folks, being wasted on paper-pushing do-nothings who collect fat government salaries with hefty pensions and benefits. (Remember that when you go to the polls in November.)

  • A channel flip to C-SPAN2 found us at a panel discussion co-sponsored by Google, YouTube and National Journal. The host was the excellent Judy Woodruff, who remains an intelligent, poised and still very beautiful (great legs, too) newswoman. Woodruff was interviewing political campaign operatives and also members of the so-called “new media” (read: young internet people) plus reps from “old media” (read: older newspaper, magazine and TV people). The discussion centered on how internet technology has changed newsgathering and news perceptions and audience-building. Hottie Mary Katharine Ham was a panelist. She was ID’d as affiliated with, though her Wiki page affiliates her with other online pubs, primarily Ham appears to be a seriously intent journalist, though being a hottie won’t hurt her career. She claimed that there were plenty of people now who will do political reportage for nothing, which maybe drew a raised eyebrow from Time magazine political analyst Mark Halperin (old media). But all Ham was doing was reaffirming what a media wag recently said in a similar forum, which is that “if you want a job in journalism, you better have a trust fund.” Not that that’s a problem for Halperin, connected for years with top journalistic and political organizations, and of course a Harvard grad, which guarantees that you always end up being rich and in control. Then we heard (quite often) from James Kotecki, a so-called video blogger for the ubiquitous, which, like National Journal, no one had ever heard of six months ago. (Everyone must be working for free.) Kotecki, frankly admitting that he has no knowledge of journalism or ethics, apparently sees no difference between serious news reportage and, as he put it, “doing internet videos from my dorm room,” and he cavalierly laid out the prospect that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as people are watching (well, his video blog, anyway). I think Woodruff wanted to scream at some of this folderol, but she kept cool and continued exploring the topic. I’m all for new media. I’m one of “them,” you might say. But I’m not necessarily for anybody armed with a camera putting up their stupid stuff for all to see. (“Cats on rollerskates,” muttered Halperin.)

  • Not that it matters much. Tastelessness, stupidity, greed, self-absorption, egotism and political correctness run rampant on our airwaves. There is no regard for truth or decency. We're all doomed. You heard it here first.

    Wednesday, June 04, 2008

    You Betta' Be Talkin' 'Bout His Mama: Casino Drive Has a Womb with a View on the Belmont

    By Steve Brady

    [BELMONT UPDATE 6/7/08: Casino Drive, the second favorite in the Belmont Stakes, was scratched from the race. The colt suffered a stone bruise at some unknown point since arriving in Elmont, N.Y., in late April. Casino Drive reportedly will be returning to Japan to continue his career.]

    Big Brown (looking majestically big and brown, left) had another stunning victory in the Preakness, crossing the wire under wraps from Kent Desormeaux, who wanted to make sure he saved enough horse for the third leg of the Triple Crown. BB’s performance in the Kentucky Derby scared off any real competition, and he blew away the weak field that showed up for the second leg. If he wins the Belmont Stakes Saturday—live coverage is 5:30-7 p.m., EST, ABC-TV—he will be the first Triple Crown winner since Steve Cauthen captured it aboard Affirmed exactly 30 years ago.

    In light of Big Brown's dominance, it would seem that his only credible remaining challenger is a very lightly raced wild card, whose story involves a circumstance so farfetched it makes winning the Triple Crown seem almost mundane. Newcomer Casino Drive’s dam is Better Than Honour, who also foaled Rags to Riches and Jazil, the Belmont winners from the past two years.

    Uhhh… we’re already talking about an amazing accomplishment. Mares can only have one foal per year. Dropping two stakes winners in a row would be impressive enough, but she’s had two consecutive Belmont winners (one of which was a filly!!!), and this third one is going to be the second favorite to what many are calling the greatest colt since Secretariat!! And by three separate stallions??!! I mean, I know Peyton and Eli turned out to be pretty good football players, but Olivia Manning, NFL mom: You've met your match.

    Casino Drive (left) was born in Kentucky and shipped off to Japan as a yearling. There he thrived under the stewardship of trainer Kazuo Fujisawa. He won his debut by 11½ lengths on February 23 in Kyoto under jockey Yutaka Take. Here is Casino Drive’s impressive win. (Yes, horses run clockwise in Japan.)

    CD was then sent back to the U.S., where he had to endure two months of mandatory quarantine before he could race. The time on the bench didn’t cause him to miss a beat. He romped in the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes on this same Belmont course, and finished that mile-and-1/8 race in 2/5 of a second faster than Big Brown’s time in the Florida Derby. Click here for the video.

    Due to prior obligations in Japan, Take will not be traveling to the Belmont. Ironically, Casino Drive’s rider in his only U.S. race is Big Brown’s jockey, Desormeaux. That means Edgar Prado will be the third set of hands grabbing CD’s reins in as many races. Prado is best known for riding the ill-fated Barbaro to victory in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, but he is also known as a Triple Crown spoiler, having stopped the bids of both War Emblem in 2002 (atop Sarava) and Smarty Jones in 2004 (atop Birdstone).

    Meanwhile, Big Brown has foot problems. His trainer Richard Dutrow has dismissed the quarter crack on his front hoof as minor, and he claims it will not affect BB in the Belmont. Dutrow hired the best pedicurist in the business, farrier Jim McKinlay, to work on his colt with the mega-million-dollar stud price tag. Even so, winning the Triple Crown remains the rarest of achievements, and, as we all know, battles have been lost for want of a nail.

    Perhaps Big Brown is the greatest racehorse in 30 years, and maybe his march to immortality will not be derailed. Yet his Triple Crown attempt risks being trumped by an even rarer accomplishment: Better Than Honour’s motherhood hat trick.

    The Picks:
    Casino Drive
    Big Brown
    Denis of Cork
    Da' Tara

    View the complete Belmont field here.

    Steve Brady is Sports Media America's resident horse-racing handicapper. He lives and works in Los Angeles and maintains a regular presence on the Southern California track scene. He is an avid Dodgers fan, too. Steve also performs and teaches with the improvisational comedy ensemble Cold Tofu.