Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Lectric Shave Phillies

The sight of Sal Fasano with his new, corporate Bronx Pinstripers appearance on ESPN's Weds. Nite Basebore on the day in which he was acquired from the Phillies (one day after he'd been designated for assignment), well ... STOP!
That sentence was too long and was deemed "heading nowhere."

Anyway, Our Pal Sal landed that new job with the Yanks, which meant that he had to achieve Yankee-corporate conformity by shaving off the massive Fu Manchu moustache and clipping the hair which had made him a fan fave for his almost-100-game Phillie career.

Naturally, the sub-.500 Phils now no longer have any rebel identity ... no one with stubble or scruff or a mini-mullet or individuality.
Every player in the Phillie dugout nowadays looks as though he just stepped out of a Pert Plus commercial.
Which may or may not account for the daily/nightly run-of-the-mill performances.

This bland, boring, non-renegade, anti-iconoclastic mindset forces us to harken back to an era known as The '70s, '80s and '90s when the unshaven would appear at the Vet and unabashedly lay their moustaches and beards on the line for the sake of another magical 82-80 season.
It's particularly noteworthy since this Fireman's Fund Flashback coincides with a week in which Sal Fasano was required to tidy up; Harold Reynolds' over-manicured goat-tee was kicked off of Baseball Tonight; and the forefather of baseball beardsmen, Bruce Sutter, will be enshrined in Cooperstown on Sunday.

Working from memory (without peeking inside the Haystack archive vault downstairs), the highlights of Phillie Facework are:

Most-Menacing Goat-Tee -- Probably closer Jose Mesa with strong "first-runner-up" consideration for Steve Ontiveros and Gary Redus. Ontiveros and Redus weren't in Philly for very long -- and Mike Williams lost valuable points for switching his look from non-descript Phillie pitcher with an ordinary 'stache to All-Star closer with a shaved head and fearsome goat-tee with the Pirates. The goat-tee that Terry Mulholland grew late in the '93 season was completely bad-ass and Satanic-looking, but then ... Terry's arm was dead and he was subsequently dealt to the Yankees.
Special mention: To Krukker (who twinned his goat-tee w/ his famous mullet) and the late Nino Espinosa, who was wearing a goat-tee back in '79 before it was in vogue.

First To Do Damage With A Full-Beard -- Relief pitcher Gene Garber, whose full-whiskered look and kooky windup and delivery might've been the reason for the most-painful outcome in Phillies' history (see Game 3 of the '77 NLCS).

Blackest of the Blackbeards -- Here's to Steve Bedrosian and the Cy Young Award he won in a year (1987) in which they should not have handed out the award. Sorry, Bedrock.

Overgroomed Blackbeard -- Reliever Jeff Parrett. It always appeared as though he spent all morning clipping it with the toiletry-kit scissors and/or a Braun shaver of some sort.

Battery Beards -- Any time that closer Al Holland was firing fastballs to catcher Ozzie Virgil, it was as good a bearded pitcher-catcher combo as there was in the league.

'Fro-Beard Tag-Team -- Nearly 30 years ago, it was quite a sight in the outfield of the Vet, seeing the chunky, milky-skinned Greg Luzinski in LF, the long-legged, ball-hawking Garry Maddox in CF and the swift Bake McBride in RF. While the Bull didn't grow his full beard until his days with the Chisox, Maddox and McBride were the bearded/afro-wearin' combo which were the most-feared in the game at the time.
Garry Maddox ... it always looked like he had a black carpet Crazy Glued to his face. And, no one wore an afro with more pride than Bake -- especially when he used it and his 28-oz. bat for one of the most-important hits (the 3-run HR in Game 1 of the '80 Series) in the Phillies' 123-year history.

Best 'Stache & Sideburns Combo Platter -- In a landslide, Lonnie Smith. Truth be told, the look was a perfect fit for "Skates."

Same Initials As Sal Fasano, But Not As Beloved -- Ten years ago, pitcher Steve Frey wore the Fu Manchu in Philly. But, since it lacked thickness and flair, the "Frey Manchu" never caught on.

Non-Traditional Americans With Traditional Moustaches -- Just a little something to keep alive the days when Nicaraugan pitcher Porfiriano Altamirano was peering in for the signal from Venezuelan catcher Baudilio Diaz.
They called the Central American with the moustache "Porfi" while the South American with the same moustache was known as "Bo."
It was important to get Porfi and Bo into the mix right there.

Managerialstache -- It wasn't a great look for skipper Nick Leyva. Hence, the Phils committed stache-icide when they axed Nick.

The .600 'Stache -- That's what the mustachioed Del Unser did as a pinch-hitter in the '80 postseason (.455 overall in the NLCS and WS). In fact, Delbert hit .310 as a pinch-hitter in '79 and '80.
We probably need a special mention here for the other mustachioed PH of the same era -- Greg Gross.

Worst Coverage -- Tommy Greene should win (but not without a serious push from Marty Bystrom), but he did put his disorganized, incomplete scruff to good use to throw a no-hitter against the Expos. So, with his scrawny goat-tee and free-flowing mullet ... let's hear it, ladies and gentlemen, for Mitch Williams.

Quality Stubble Award -- (tie) Either Glenn Wilson or Chris James, those lovable, slow-footed OFs who twinned full 'staches with six days worth of stubble. The nod probably goes to Wilson based on the fact that he was a Phillie All-Star in '85 ... combined with the fact that when most of us think of Chris James, we automatically think not of Chris James but rather his dreamy, clean-shaven brother, Craig James.

Thickest 'Stache -- (White guy) Gotta be Doug Jones with the push-broom model -- although the two seasons that Sparky Lyle spent in Philly give us something to think about. (Black guy) Likely Ken Howell.

Best 'Stache By A Phillie Pitcher From The '95 All-Star Game -- Heathcliff Slocumb. This was a cheap attempt to get his pencil-thin 'stache some pub.

Least-Tinted Growth -- (tie ... probably) Either Bruce Ruffin's blonde moustache or whatever blondish-reddish crap Keith Millwood had on his face that week.

039.jpg image by cjrau
Grayest Of The Graybeards -- Hands down ... Johnny Wockenfuss.

Worst Application Of A 'Stache To Hide A Pockmarked Complexion -- Before anyone looks around and then quietly whispers, "Schmidty?" ... get real. Bob Walk had that dark, skimpy 'stache which looked as though it was scribbled onto his upper lip ... an obvious attempt to divert our attention from what was really wrong with his face.

Worst Porn-'Stache -- (tie) The years in which Lefty, Bowa or Von Hayes broke from tradition and experimented with moustaches which were completely wrong for their faces. "Runner-up" consideration goes out to Randy Lerch.

Best Grosstache -- Tough call. But, since Kevin Gross was a mighty inconsistent pitcher while Greg Gross was reliable off the bench ... give it to Greg.

Best Dickiestache -- Dickie Thon (Dickie Noles never had a moustache, but he did have a drinking problem ... which he apparently kicked).

Best Vookstache -- Definitely the one worn by John Vukovich during his 17 years as a Phillie coach (which he probably still wears around the front office). Note: George Vukovich didn't grow his 'stache 'til he went to Cleveland.

Least-Productive 'Stache -- Rick Schu. Although, now that ya mention it ... Schu and Steve Lake might actually be the same person

Natural 'Stache-icity -- (three-way tie) ... Let's face it: Juan Samuel, Pete Incaviglia and Shane Rawley were all born to wear a 'stache.

Hopefully, no one has been excluded from this off-the-cuff overview.
We now return you to your regular programming of Pat Burrell asking, "Is it time for me to pose for the Wheaties box now?"

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Out In The Phillies' On-Deck Circle: Art Vandalay

Jeez ... it seems like only last week when, before he became a Phillie, Art Vandalay was a fictitious latex salesman.
Well, envisioning Art Vandalay in his Phillie pinstripes as he applies the pine tar to the handle of his Louisville Slugger in the on-deck circle is a more-comforting proposition than what's warming up in the Phillies bullpen right now.
Yup ... it's fictitious ex-bullfighter Eduardo Corocho.
Elaine dated him.
Don't look now, but SoonToBeFired Charles Fuqua Manuel (which is NOT a make-believe character, depending whom you ask), is making a double switch.
Which means that Vandalay will hit in the pitcher's spot and Corocho ... WAIT!
Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

There's no guarantee that when the Phillies trade Bobby Abreu this week that they'll get stuck with an Art Vandalay and an Eduardo Corocho.
After all, with Pat Gillick as the GM wavin' a magic wand (instead of that prolific pencilneck named Ed Wade crash-landing paper airplanes next to his desk), there's an excellent chance that the Phillies will end up with a top-flight pitcher.
Maybe two.
Or three.
Which kinda reminds ya of what New York Mammoths pitcher Henry Wiggen said during his holdout when he was informed that some of those pitchers looked very promising.
"So I hear. Any one of 'em might win four or five games if God drops everything else."

Henry Wiggen ... he was ficticious character, too -- but it was no laughing matter watching Henry's catcher, Bruce Pearson, dying of cancer.
Worse than that was De Niro playing Pearson in the movie and deploying one of the most god-awful swing known to mankind.
The Phillies ... they'd kill for a Henry Wiggen right now.
Cory Lidle?
Say, isn't that the utensil that's used to serve up goodness from a big kettle of soup, a big pot of chili or a big crock pot of stew?
Sure ... a lidle.

Everybody has his/her role in the Bobby Abreu Sweepstakes. Buster Olney (and others) forsee Abreu in Yankee pinstripes. Last weekend, reformed sex addict Steve Phillips predicted that Abreu would soon be wearing the Redbirds home whites.
Then, last Mon., the buzz from the Baltimore Sun was that the Abreu would/could/should come to the Orioles in exchange for Rodrigo Lopez.
Whether that's a dead deal, it sounds inviting -- particularly with Lopez's 6-11 record and ERA of 6-plus.
His Phillies "audition" in Tampa Bay on Sat. didn't work out so well. Staked to a 3-0 lead, Lopez tossed three shutout innings before imploding during the 10-run Devil Ray uprising in the fourth inning.
If Rod-Lo becomes a Phillie, it's not too difficult to picture him winning anywhere from seven to nine games a year for the next 2.3 seasons.
"If God drops everything else ... "

The planets were all aligned for Rod-Lo to take his game to Philly, given his bang-up job in Tampa combined with the fact that the Phils had just dumped catcher Sal Fasano.
SUDDENLY ... there was a uniform #13 available, just itchin' to have some "LOPEZ" stitchin' across the back.
And, it's been so long since a Phillie pitcher wore #13.
Not since the early days of Turk Wendell earlier in this century. Before that, we have to rewind all the way to Roger McDowell late last century.

Which did seem ironic, given that Rodge was in the visitors' dugout (as the Braves' pitching coach) at The Cit as EspyTime Theater presented Sunday Night Baseball and a pitchers' duel between "alleged" wife-puncher Brett Myers and the Bravos' Horacio Ramirez.
Tough loss for the alleged wife-puncher pitcher vs. the opposing manager (who, when his mug would appear on TV, I'd crack up the Mrs. with, "This ballgame is wife-slappin' good!").

In one of his final at-bats as a Phillie, Abreu tried to leg out a double leading off the 8th, but was cut down by Francoeur's throw.
Then, Frankie tagged Flash for a 3-run jack in the top of the 9th.
But, this isn't an Ode To The Imploding Pitching Staff.
This is where we Bid Adieu To Abreu and his 8.75 seasons of service. When he is finally dealt, not too many of those "knowledgable" Phillie fanatics who pack The Cit to 63 percent of capacity are going to rank this trade up there with Richie Hebner-for-Nino Espinosa or Bake McBride-for-Sid Monge.
Now, the pressure's on Gillick to erase the memories of the past 10 years of Phillie "superstar dumps."
Darren Daulton for Billy McMillon in '97 ... Schilling for Daal, Lee, Padilla & Figueroa in '01 ... Rolen for Polanco, Timlin and Frickin' Bud Frickin' Smith in '02.

The Phillies' penchant for getting Vandalay and Corocho in exchange for a star is the type of wheelin' & dealin' which one might expect from an organization with an assistant GM with a degree in biology amd with one world championship in 120-plus years of existence.
Daulton HAD to go because, shucks ... his lifetime .245 average deserves a world title.
Schilling HAD to go because he was a loudmouth and, ummm ... loudmouths need to win 20 games and World Series rings elsewhere.
Rolen HAD to go because he was anti-Phillie with his hard work and production and will to win, factors which Dallas Green and Bowa informed the media were poisoning the Phillie clubhouse.

Players such as Rolen and Abreu aren't leaders in the clubhouse, which dimishes their 30 HR/100 rbi/.300 avg., year in/year out potential.
Rex Hudler ... now that's a leader to build around.
Very vocal ... very rah-rah ... very .244 average.

Fortunately, the Phillies will probably hang onto their quiet, All-American superstar Pat Burrell while unloading one of those flashy, hotdogging Latin players who acted all flashy and hotdoggy while batting his flashy .300 for 8.75 seasons and was a 30/30 hotdogger with 100 ribbie flashiness and top-10 on-base percentage hotdoggedness.

Burrell ... he's the cornerstone ... a real five-tool warhorse who'll use that dumptruck speed and his dumptruck smarts to, unlike the flashy/hotdog Abreu, stay anchored to first base and methodically work his way around the bases in a workmanlike, station-to-station manner.
So what if it takes three ground-rule doubles to score Burrell from first base ... playing it safe keeps "Wheel Burrell" healthy to live another day to bat a solid .259 with that overexaggerated follow-through.
Avoiding basepath missteps is how Pat The Bat extended his streak to 243 games without a stolen-base attempt. Burrell, who last attempted a steal on Sept. 20, 2004 vs. Florida, can hit the magical 300 mark before season's end.
Go, Pat, go!
Actually ... "stay."

That's the smart athlete in action. Pacing himself ... conserving his energy ... so that he can bat a Ron Kittle-ish .259 for the hometown fans.
Unlike Abreu, Burrell can relate to the tubby softballer, the chunky Wiffleballer, the 72-year-old on disability and any deceased American who, like Burrell, has ZERO stolen bases.
Burrell remains grounded and anchored, not all flashy and hotdoggy like those disruptive Latin players, who, oddly enough, don't speak any Latin.

So, while we'll remember some fond memories that Abreu provided, it's important to remember that he doesn't care about winning and he only plays for himself, which is why he's getting pink-slipped.
The Phillies want winners.
Real gamers ... such as Ricky Ledee.

Perhaps the best Art Vandalay/Eduardo Corocho scenario to re-visit whilst we await Adieu To Abreu is the priceless episode from late-July 2000 when the Phils shipped Rob Ducey to the Blue Jays for a player to be named later.
Ducey was batting a crisp .189 in 106 ABs at the time of the deal -- and the player received 5 days later from Toronto was of no consequence.
Dumping a nobody and getting nuthin' in return ... it happens.
That's business.

Less than two weeks after The Ducey Dump, the Phils sent Mickey Morandini to the Blue Jays ... for a player to be named later.
Two days later, Toronto shipped its PTBNL -- Rob Ducey.
So, the pinch-hitter deluxe who batted .189 in 106 ABs in Philly and who went 2 for 13 during his two weeks in Toronto had his dream come true when he was sent back to Philly.
Where he batted .217 in 46 ABs during the remainder of the season.

That's a vintage series of Phillie transactions ... understanding the value of the .197 hitter in order to create a stronger Philadelphia for all Philadelphians.
By trading Rob Ducey for Rob Ducey.
Truly visionary.
While creating a new level of trust.
And attempting to see how many Dr. Van Norstrands you can acquire for in Abreu salary dump.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Too Much Pee In My Espy

From the "precious moment" file: The best part of the '06 Espy Awards, a segment featuring the Afghani women who enjoy playing a sport (soccer) which creates a deadly circumstance in their country (and we don't mean shin splints).
EspyTime Theater included in the montage of Middle Eastern violence against women the infamous footage of the sequence wherein an unidentified woman drops to her knees on the long-since-abandoned soccer field and is executed with a single pistol shot to the back of the head.
Of course, most networks which have previously aired that gruesome image (CNN, etc.) usually cut away before the trigger is pulled so that the viewer can basically "guess" the outcome.
Not EspyTime Theater, though.

"Bam" ... one shot to the back of the head.

When you get right down to it, the shock value wears off once you realize that, five years from now, the F-bomb will be a regular part of the EspyTime lexicon of "acceptable vocab" -- and the opening montage to SportsCenter will feature the wacky fun of that bullet-to-the-head.

As John Feinstein said on air while covering a Navy football game last autumn ... "Fucking refs."

So, yes ... the Espy Awards on EspyTime Theater were about as predictable as predictability gets, so second-guessing the selections is moot.
Here goes, anyway:

Barbaro got robbed!
By the autistic kid.
"F-ing refs!"

In case anyone asks, the "Game Of The Year" was NOT Texas-USC -- mostly because there was no D played that night.
Also, what's the rationale behind selecting an 18-inning NLCS game for the "top three" when, in innings 10 thru 17, ummm ... nuthin' happened.

Just because it's 18 innings doesn't automatically make it "twice" the fun of other 9-inning games.
Besides, any game in which Phil Garner is one of the managers qualifies for an immediate disqualification.
If Bobby Cox is the manager in the other dugout, indeed ... "double disqualification."

Since EspyTime Theater sometimes goes sleepytime on any/all games w/o dunks, dunks, dunks and decapitations, a helping hand makes America a stronger nation than an EspyTime Nation.
So, if you're searching for the authentic, unpimpified Game Of The Year, that would be the one which was played in Williamsport, PA four months before the Wronghorns' knock-off of Three-Pete.

The Ewa Beach All-Stars of Oahu, Hawaii -- down to their final three outs against defending champion Curacao in the Little League World Series title game -- scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth and then won the championship on a walk-off home run in the seventh to win, 7-6.
THAT ... was breathtaking (which EspyTime shoulda realized after it spent two weeks of devoting air time to coverage of the tournament and the 1,500 commercials for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes).
Tony The Tiger aside, THAT was the best ballgame of this new millennium.

Which is why Vonn Fe'ao should've taken home an ESPY for "Most Forgotten Superstar."
That kid was nails.
And, there's never been a better black-n'-blonde mullet in the history of the game.

The least-surprising development of the taped awards show was EspyTime Theater's prolonged milking of The J-Mac Saga. EspyTime Theater has gotten a lotta mileage outta Jason McElwain, who, despite the network's repeated pimping of him and his contrived "achievement," seems like a nice kid who has beaten some tough odds.
Yet, his 20 points-in-4:00 feat got him benched for the playoffs for Greece Athena High, hence, according to the Haystack Mandate, J-Mac is disqualified from "Moment Of The Year" consideration.
J-Mac's coach -- a media whore named Jim Johnson -- has yet to explain to America why he benched the best player on his team.
Translation: "He was America's sweetheart for one night. Now we need Dumbo to hand out the towels and jump around like a goofball."

To repeat (for the umpteen-millionth time), the story of the year was Alexi Salamone, the leading scorer for the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team at the Paralympic Winter Games at Torino (as reported accurately by Planet Haystack at the beginning of May).

Do the math ... connect the dots ... Alexi Salamone was left TO DIE nearly 20 years ago as a double amputee/Chernobyl-deformed-baby.
Again, to reiterate ... this is not a case of coming off the bench and scoring 20 points against a crappy opponent in a game you're already winning by 20 -- and then getting benched because you no longer fit into Coach's publicity stunt.
Alexi Salamone was a toddler, with legs which didn't work, living in an alley in the then-Soviet Union.
"You eat teaspoon of borscht. Is good. Tomorrow, you get biscuit. And dry clothes maybe."

Once you sift through the debris of who or what is being pimped and expolited, the real stories are just waitin' to be unearthed.
Unless it's Danica Patrick exposing her overrated bod.
That trumps all.

By the way, your runner-up for "Moment Of The Year" is Roethlisberger's tackle on Nick Harper after the Bettis fumble.
Either that or USA snowboarder Lindsay Jacobelis hot-dogging and wiping out in that snowboard pseudo-event which cost her Olympic gold.
U-S-A! U-S-A!

Observation: The surgery that Will Ferrell had as a young man was a success.
The guy has no funny bone -- and no ability to tickle much of America's.

Here's who is funny: The cartoon dog in those commercials. We still need to get some answers as to why the doggie wears an eye patch -- and as to what Kenny Mayne and Bill Walton did to the Gary and Ace, the Ambiguously Gay Duo ...

EspyTime Theater ... so perplexing and arbitrary ...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Pathetic Piracy

After what happened the previous two nights, one fact seems abundantly clear:
They don’t make pirates like they used to.

WAIT! Scratch that.

Re-write: “They don’t make pirate movies like they used to -- and they don’t make Pirate outfielders like they used to.”

It's difficult to believe that some of us walked away from the Century 21 Home Run Derby at the exact time that the Phillies’ Ryan Howard was preparing for his first round of hacks, just so we could make the 10 o’clock showing of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”

Don’t worry, America. The competition was broadcast on ESPN radio, so we allowed Dan Schulman to bring us up to date before it was time to enter the theater.
150 minutes later, we were full of rage.
And filled with scorn.

What the hell was THAT on the big screen? The story plodded along and was stripped of the bouncy, fun which made "Pirates No. 1" such a delight.
For anyone who enjoyed “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” part two of the trilogy had ya wanting to yell, “Bruckheimer! Verbanski! In my office RIGHT NOW!”

Looks as though we'll have to wait around for 10 months and see if those two yo-yo's can clean up this mess in part III, “At World’s End” when it’s released in May.
Perhaps in that one, Bruckheimer and Verbanski can jazz up Capt. Jack Sparrow by giving him a dune buggy and a light saber to fend off peg-legs, scalawags and land lubbers.
As per part II, movie-goers "walked the plank," har har, mateys.

Almost as puzzling as an overloaded scripts from so-called blockbuster motion pictures was the Pirate Factor in last night’s All-Star game.
When America heard last week that Jason Bay was the top vote-getter among N.L. outfielders, Ameirca asked, “What’s a Jason Bay?”

Seeing him “in action” (strikeout, single, strikeout) wasn’t much help – complicated by the fact that N.L. manager Phil Garner opted to play Bay for too long.And Garner gave Pittsburgh’s Freddy Sanchez two too many ABs.

Freakin’ Freddy … the guy plays third base for the Buccos, but Garner had him at shortstop and second base last night.
That's about the last place ya wanna see Freddy when Rolen, Andruw and Nomar are on the bench.

Garner is walking/talking proof that if ya let MLB players fill out their own lineup cards and make their own pitching changes -- and, essentially, call their own shots -- a team’s record would be the same as it would be with that dead ass in the dugout called “the skipper.”
Pennsylvania can identify with this concept.
Give a big "hello" to Danny Ozark, ladies and gentlemen.

Danny Ozark found the waters of the NLCS unnavigable -- and that ol' buccaneer from yesteryear (Capt. Scrap Iron himself) lost an All-Star Game in the Steel City mostly because he isn’t the best mgr. named “Garner.”
A tag-team of James Garner and Jennifer Garner could outmanage Phil.

The more you look at it, the more you see that maybe he’s simply confused. When he was a Pirate, he made the All-Star team during the strike season of ’81 – and a few weeks later, he was traded to the Astros for Johnny Ray.

Johnny Ray … Jason Bay … you see the problem?
The syllables … the rhyme scheme …
Of course, when Phil was fired by the Tigers six games into the ’02 season (an 0-6 start which mushroomed into a 55-106 season), he was replaced by Luis Pujols.
Pujols? That name sounds familiar.

Jason Bay, though … he’s the poster child for an existing disconnect between the modern-day juiceballers and the people who enjoy watching juiceballers using their juice-filled appendages to clutch uranium-filled bats to strike at plutonium-filled baseballs.
This is the deal: Any time we place the terms “voting” and “MLB” into the same sentence, it’s a recipe for some whacky slapstick.

For the record, the three all-time greatest (foul)-ups of this Byzantine process are:
1) The voting process (by players) which allowed Rafael Palmolive to win the Gold Glove in ’99 when he played all of 28 games at first base that season (you knew he was lying to Congress when he wagged his finger menacingly ... because he’d already taken a trophy which didn’t belong to him)
2) The MOB-related ballot-fixing which allowed Tommy Lasorda to be voted into Cooperstown approximately 15 minutes after he stepped down as Dodgers manager (Sparky Anderson retired a year later and had to wait the mandatory five years to become eligible)
3) Any bogus “vote” which puts Gary Carter into a so-called “Hall of Fame” yet excludes Bob Boone, Ted Simmons and/or Lance Parrish -- Carter's catching contemporaries from the same era -- despite contributions and achievements which either equaled or outweighed those of the "the kid" with the Pepsodent smile.

So, back to the concept of “Jason Bay = leading vote-getter” ...
Is this the same Jason Bay who America probably couldn't pick out of a ploice lineup if he was included in the Pirate outfielder wasteland of post-Clemente/pre-Bonds, circa 1973 thru 1985?
All your faves are in that grouping: Richie Zisk, Omar Moreno, Joe Orsulak, Lee Lazy, Doug Frobel, R.J. Reynolds, Marvell Wynne.
Those were some vintage OFs.
Who doesn’t have a classic Lee Lazy story?

True, the “hometown hero” angle is understandable.
The Pittsburgh fans needed a chance to cheer one of their own – ‘cept that most of the fans at an All-Star Game traditionally are not the everyday visitors to PNC Park, which might account for why, when Garner was introduced before the game, he BARELY received polite applause.
Did SteelTown forget about the kid who, in the ’79 postseason, absolutely wore out the pitching staffs of the Reds and Orioles by hitting a combined .472 (17 for 36)?
Real Pirate diehards didn't.
Then again, real Pirate diehards don't attend All-Star games.

Still, we’re not getting to the bottom of “Jason Bay: Two-Time All-Star.”
The voting process is more convoluted than ever nowadays (on-line fan involvement, player polling, ballot-box controversies in Thailand and the Ukraine).
Therefore, we may never know if Jason Bay’s selection was the work of a task force headed by Stubby Clapp (Jason’s teammate on the Canadian National Team which competed at the World Baseball Classic less than four months ago) or by Whammy Douglas (the greatest Pirate of all-time … if you don’t have his baseball card, get it!)
Stubby and Whammy … bless their hearts.

The “Stubby & Whammy Uprising” is as close to an explanation of Jason Bay’s popularity as it gets. The Pirates are never on TV (which is why we don’t get to see much of slick-fielding SS Jack Wilson, a proud Thousand Oaks High alum) and since the Buccos won’t be in the postseason before 2017, Jason Bay will continue to play A LOT of games with no meaning.
While no one is watching.

True … his stats aren’t too shabby. But, here’s the rub: During four of Scott Rolen’s first five full seasons, he played All-Star caliber ball – but was not named to the All-Star Game until his sixth season.
Then, he was traded from the Phillies to the Cardinals two weeks after that first All-Star appearance.
Similarly, Bobby Abreu was an All-Star-caliber performer in five of his first six seasons, but wasn’t picked to a team until his seventh season.
And, while Abreu was slamming 24 homers in the first round of last year’s Home Run Derby at Comerica, Jason Bay was logging a big ZERO.

So, that’s the message for you Philadelphia: Superstars in large-market Philly are less-popular than anonymous stars in SteelTown, USA.
Eastern PA can’t touch Western PA.
Truth hurts, Keystone State.

Of course, the ’06 All-Star Game is going to be forever remembered as the All-Star Game in which pinch-runner Jose Lopez scored the tying run in the top of the 9th and then booted a grounder in the bottom of the 9th.
What are the chances that it's ever happened before?
Or will happen again?

Wait … what’s a Jose Lopez?
And why was he playing third base for the A.L. while Troy Glaus was playing his first-ever game at first base?
Setting the record straight: The Mariners' regular second baseman was playing third base for only the third time in his career … the Pirates' regular third baseman was playing shortstop (until he moved to second base) … Glaus is at first base for the first time ever ... and, just for fun, Albert Pujols is putting on the catcher’s gear, just as a tribute to Luis Pujols.

Jason Bay and Jose Lopez – and it’s a good thing that America went on-line and voted Garciaparra and Pierzynski to their All-Star teams.
So those on-line All-Stars could sit.

And why was there more than one Seattle Mariner on the A.L. roster (beyond Ichiro) … and one named Jose Lopez … and one named Jose Lopez who no one has heard of … and the Jose Lopez who nobody knows who is putting up mediocre numbers while Mariner teammate Yuniesky Betancourt is having a HUGELY more mediocre year than the Faceless Talent-Impaired Jose Lopez?

“Back in the ol’ days,” our token Mariner on the All-Star Team was always Ruppert Jones or Bruce Bochte – and WE LOVED IT!

But, that’s Ozzie for ya … pushing all the right buttons. He could’ve played a Dalmation at first base and beaten Garner (‘cept that most Dalmations can outhit Jose Lopez, whoever he is).
Not that Jeff Torborg couldn’t do that job.
(Wait … which job? Manage … or play first base for the first time? Why not both?)
The MLB … it’s almost as watchable as “The View.”

So, that’s where we stand on a Weds. nite … drinkin’ Captain Morgan out of a dirty coffee cup and wunderin’ if the city of Pittsburgh followed up All-Star festivities with a special tribute (or a candlelight vigil) on the one month anniversary of Big Ben’s fender-to-windshield-to-asphalt/motorscooter vs. car body-bounce.

Beyond the Steel City, though, the all-points manhunt for the origins of Jason Bay’s charisma and national appeal will continue.
Same deal for Jose Lopez, whatever a Jose Lopez is.

In the meantime, let’s count the days until next year’s All-Star Game in ‘Frisco (San Fran hates it when ya call it ‘Frisco).

To continue the trend, The MLB needs to track down Scott Garrelts to toss out the ceremonial first pitch.
Over the P.A., we’ll hear: “Ladies and gentlemen, please direct your attention to the center of the diamond where 1985 All-Star and 1989 N.L. ERA champion Scott Garrelts and his 7.06 career postseason ERA will throw the ceremonial first pitch ..."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

My Son Lost His Balls ...

... which, basically, is perfectly normal for a doggie when he's been neutered.
Now, speaking of the other balls that SuperDawg lost in the past week, there's A) The fuzzy, squeaky soccer ball which he misplaced at Grandma's house and B) The fuzzy, squeaky mini-football which he fumbled in the weeds and high grass this morning whilst he was "conducting business."
Jeez ... ya try to give yer kids a set of values and some inexpensive toys and then ... all ya get is defiance.
Well, and sometimes some kisses on the knee.

The troubling aspect of him starting his Thursday by losing that football in the high grass is that Grandma (Mrs. PF7's mom) STILL hasn't found the soccer ball under a table or behind a couch inside her 80-year-old, Tudor-style home.
SuperDawg might've been sending a message that he's fed up with the World Cup. We watched most of the Italy-Germany match together on Tuesday (Independence Day) and then saw the second half of France-Portugal yesterday.
I'm sensing that he was trying to tell me that Germany would be hindered without Torsten Frings.
It meant that Germany's defense was nuth-Frings-pecial.

This isn't to say that the Mrs. and I should have bought ourselves a German shepherd puppy.
And, this isn't a declaration that the World Cup has gone to the dogs with Germany losing in the semifinals. The Mrs. liked the way midfielder Bernd Schneider played, but I've been partial to backup goalie Oliver Kahn and midfielder Sebastian Kehl.
Kahn and Kehl ... I have my reasons.

Only one week ago, at the same time that Germany and Argentina were engaged in penalty-kick drama, I was at the bottom of Niagara Falls.
Which maybe is where German fans wished they were, via the express route, after Italy ruined their 4 July, as the Europistas write it.
I was with the Mrs. on the boat which takes visitors to the fury of the Canadian falls (the Horseshoe Falls) ... the Maid of the Mist, they call it.
My final report: There was no lady in the water and, happily, no snakes on a plane.

OK ... so I only made reference to the slithery reptiles because, only minutes after Germany's loss on 4 July (as the Euros write it), there was an advert (as the Brits say) on the telly (as the Brits say) for a cinema show (again ... the Brits) -- "Snakes On A Plane."
Apparently, this is an upcoming film starring Samuel L. Jackson, an actor who I once respected until I learned that he was starring in a movie called "Snakes On A Plane."
What's next? "Pythons On Mini-Bikes"? "Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes Robbing Liquor Stores"?
Kinda reminds ya of that ol' joke -- "Question: Where does a king cobra sit on a non-stop flight from La Guardia to Heathrow? Answer: Anywhere he wants."
'Cept that snakes don't actually "sit."
And ... I just made up that joke.

Call me old school, but I remember a time when the world was a simpler place and they were making intelligently-written and brilliantly-acted (without over-acting) snake movies ... such as Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube and Jon Voight in "Anaconda."
Now, THAT was a film which delved deeply into the complexities of the human-snake paradigm.
We can only hope that Samuel L. Jackson delivers a similar portrayal.
There's nothing worse than a snakesploitation film.

Anyway, "Snakes On A Plane" might top my list of this week's headliners (edging out the retirement of Steve Yzerman and the death of Ken Lay). I guess I'm SUPPOSED to toss Joey Chestnut into that equation -- for the mere fact that his hot-dog eating performance vs. Kobayashi was a dandy tuneup for Germany-Italy.
Well, that and the fact that Joey and I (and the head ref at the Super Bowl, Bill Leavey) all attended the same glorious university.
Here's something else: They don't call Takeru Kobayashi by his nickname ("The Tsunami") any more -- which is the politcally correct thing to do when you're cramming a new world record 53.75 hot dogs in your mouth in 12 minutes.
Watching such a feat, I grumbled, "This is disgusting."
Then, I took another drag off my Marlboro.

So, to recap: Thursday kinda sucked without some robust soccer-bopper action. There was nuthin' good to watch, sportingwise, because, let's face it, without Venus' headlights on high beams in her RBK tennis top, all that we're left with is Mauresmo's high beams on her RBK top.
It used to be about the tennis.
At least it was when Steffi was buzzsawing her way through a fortnight at Wimbledon.

I wouldn't have had to worry about topspin and toplessness if ESPN hadn't finally finished that 800-segment package called "The Ultimate NFL Depth Chart."
Any time it's Salisbury N' Schlereth breaking down something bit-by-excruciating-bit, "depth" oftentimes turns to "death." Actually, the classic aspect of what turned out to be a mini-series was that it probably required a few hours to shoot and then, since it was spread out over 37 days (or thereabouts), America got to see Schlereth with his yellow tie and pink dress shirt combo platter for all 37 episodes.
Some people might defend Schlereth's right to wear a yellow tie with a pink shirt.
We call those people "losers."

I usually watched 23 to 38 seconds of that nonsense before Schlereth's yellow-tie-with-pink-shirt had me running to board a plane -- ANY plane -- which had snakes on it.
The sensation of puff adder venom pulsing through my bloodstream is a sensation of which I have no experience, but can that result of lungs-on-fire, a windpipe collapsing and a brain scrambled with toxin-induced hysteria and panic be any worse than Salisbury?
FYI: I think the consensus was that the Panthers were going to win their make-believe Super Bowl -- and about the only thing ESPN didn't do was have the guys act out this make-believe Super Bowl while wearing their ugly dress shirts/slacks/dress shoes.
"Act One, Scene One: The Panthers' first play from scrimmage following a touchback on the opening kickoff. Salisbury, as Delhomme, fakes a handoff to Foster, played by Schlereth, and looks downfield for Steve Smith, played by Golic, who is well-covered by somebody named Trey Wingo. The subsequent pass falls incomplete and Salisbury spends the next 15 minutes dissecting the Cover 2 defensive assignments, even though Wingo was playing man not zone, blah blah ... "

ESPN is frickin' frightening.
But, at least they make up for it with material that is confusing.
Like those spots for ESPN360 (whatever that is). I don't really care that it's a cartoon Bill Walton and other cartoon characters who are more ambiguous than Gary and Ace, the Amibiguously Gay Duo.
What bothers me is that little gray dog with the eye patch.
How'd the dog lose his eye? Is it an eye patch which is "just for show"? Shouldn't Walton have been a little more pro-active in getting the dog to a vet so that a cone could've been secured to the dog's neck?
Yeah, it's real funny, Red ... canine glaucoma is a laughing matter, ha ha.
It's not as though Red can grind up some of his extra reefer and sprinkle it on Scruffy's bowl of Alpo.
Red needs to be educated that medicinal marijuana is not to be used recreationally.
Bottom line: Those ads totally need Gary and Ace (and the penis-shaped car) to achieve a heightened sense of credibility.
Bottom line 2, the sequel: Gary and Ace enjoy references to "the bottom."

Well, I need to get to the bottom of SuperDawg losing his football one week after losing his futbol.
He's the all-time sweetest pooch in the history of the universe, but, sometimes, I wonder ...
Is there an agenda in play here?

The investigation will reach its "full-scale" potential quite soon, I predict ...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Y

It's a difficult prospect ... navigating the New York State Thruway with tears in your eyes.
Then again, the warning label on the big bottle of life states quite clearly: "Do not operate motor vehicles or heavy machinery while learning of Stevie Y's retirement."

Such were the circumstances Monday when, as we zipped along I-90 somewhere between the exit for Batavia and Rochester, the rumours and whispers became official.
Steve Yzerman ... "Stevie Y" ... the guy who I had predicted would still be wearing the captain's "C" on his Detroit Red Wings sweater seven or eight years from now when I watched him on TV from my hospital bed during the first of my two final acts of lucidity (the second would be to sign the papers finalizing my second divorce) ... well, he's called it a career.
The announcement wasn't a shocker and the drama wasn't quite on par with Lou Gehrig telling the Yankee Stadium crowd that he considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.
Like the Iron Horse, though, Yzerman epitomized the "aw, shucks/let's-not-talk-about-me" heroism which made him an icon around Haystack Headquarters.

As a week's worth of travels in lands not totally adjacent to the Haystack Hideout concluded for me n' the Mrs. n' SuperDawg, Stevie Y's retirement news conference brought to the forefront our faith in trusty #19.
So, after we listened to the entire press conference broadcast by ESPN News for Sirius Radio and, we opted NOT to park the car in the nearest Rest Area for prayer, hymns and reaffirmation of the aforementioned faith, but rather to articulate our reflections of a playing career and a captaincy which has survived through hundreds of marriages far more flimsy than ours.
Marriages which, no doubt, failed because spouses failed to identify who would wear the captain's "C" on his/her sweater.
(Note: I wear the "A" on my sweater because my sweetheart is the take-charge type -- and because her slapper from the top of the slot is more lethal than my wrister from inside the face-off circle)

The irony here is that just two days earlier, the Mrs., on a whim, purchased a Steve Yzerman paperback bio ... "Yzerman: The Making of a Champion" by Douglas Hunter, a fairly-informative chronicle of the Captain's professional career without the aid of actual Yzerman quotes (which Stevie Y refused to grant).
As I steered our vehicle homeward, my sugar plum read passages that left me informed and entertained.
Yup ... "info-tained" was I.

Upon our arrival home, the Stevie Y artifacts which serve as decor were more apparent than they'd been in their previous state as "backdrops."
They include:
The Stevie Y bobblehead perched on the fireplace mantel (which arrived via UPS the day after the Red Wings won the Cup in '02 ... and I'll be good n' dadgummed if the face on his bobblehead, unlike the slightly-amateurish facial recreations of most other bobbleheads, doesn't look exactly like Stevie Y) ...
The framed Sports Illustrated souvenir-issue cover photo of Stevie Y hoisting the Cup after the Wings won it in '98 (with the headline: "The Cup Stays Here"), an artifact which hangs on the wall between the guest bedroom and the guest bathroom (the Mrs. treated me to Game 3 of that four-game sweep of the Capitals) ...
The small, wooden replica hockey stick with Stevie Y's autograph on the blade (a relic from Hockeytown -- with one of those letters of authenticity -- which the Mrs. procured for me some years ago) ...
The framed, limited-edition artwork of Stevie Y which my mother-in-law gave me a few birthdays ago (which she purchased from a collectibles store operated by a Hockey Hall of Famer who told me that he can get Stevie Y to autograph ANYTHING that I need him to sign, though I haven't taken him up on the offer because whaddya think I am -- a stalker with a man-crush? C'mon ...)

And then there's the framed photo of Steve Y from the collectibles folks at Beckett ... the June 1996 cover of a helmet-less Yzerman following through on a shot (a modest piece of artwork which has been on the wall ever since the Mrs. and I began living together 10 years ago).
Mrs. PF7 and I still chuckle when we recall the time when she took me to my first hockey game and, 19 seconds after the opening faceoff, Stevie Y lit the lamp by flicking the the disk into the back of the net.
The memory was bittersweet, however, because the victimized goalie was someone who had befriended my girl and then was a gracious host to me during my first-ever trip to Canada.
No, it wasn't Ron Tugnutt, Darcy Wakaluk or Pokey Reddick.
But, yes ... it was disheartening to witness a fantastic individual with a super family fall prey to a few fatsos and jackasses yelling from their seats, "You suck, (Tugnutt! Wakaluk! Reddick!)" and "Get him outta there!" after Stevie Y scored.

Thanks for dividing my loyalties, Cap'n.

In the day-after aftermath of the icon's retirement, I spent an hour or so organizing my Stevie Y trading cards manufactured by Fleer, Upper Deck, Pro Set, O-Pee-Chee, et al. ...
All 144 of 'em.
I'm no diehard collector of cards (meaning that I wouldn't be caught dead walking into the local shops and asking the proprietor, "Say, do you have the Yzerman Fleer Ultra '93-'94 #201?" let alone forking over $25 for some so-called, mint-condition "Second-Year Stars" or "Legends Of The Cup" cards which are over-protected by a thin plastic sleeve within a firm plastic sheath) ...
But, I've always avidly tried to do my part to spread the Stevie Y gospel without revealing that a man-crush MAY be in play.

Amassing 144 cards is one of the components of "doing my part," although the number "144" can be misleading because last week, I noticed that I have 16 cards of one-time Sabres goalie Martin Biron.
Something's fundamentally wrong with any collection which has double-digit Martin Biron cards.
(Note: A grievance has been filed) ...

The Mrs. and I always admired Stevie Y for his all-out playing style before he spent the postgame time either saying very little or casting his eyes downward and giving not too much more than stock quotes.
We have no guarantee that Stevie Y didn't tick off some sportswriters or rub some teammates the wrong way ... or maybe even brush past a young autograph seeker at The Joe.
Still, that didn't stop me from approaching my day-to-day decision-making with the mindset of, "How would Stevie Y handle this?"
I mean, there have been times when I've picked up a wastebasket at the Haystack Hideout and I've lifted the receptacle overhead, y'know ... just as a trial run for lifting the Cup in case it ever happens in the real world one day.

So, now we exist in the post-apocalyptic world of "Life After Stevie Y."
This much is clear: Life after Yzerman is guaranteed to be a greater hardship than life was after the Red Wings dealt away Paul Ysebaert.
A world without Ysebaert felt empty and incomplete.
Now, without Yzerman's on-ice skill and decision-making, a lot of us will find it that much harder to steer clear of danger ...