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 ..."

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