Friday, September 29, 2006

Q&A re: T.O.

The talk of the town (in terms of earth-shattering, heart-stopping drama) is the news of what happened to T.O. on Tues. nite -- and the fallout from the downsizing of T.O.'s suicide attempt to "accidental overdose."
Once the media circus learned that T.O. and I have "a history," it was determined that I have a sit-down and set the record straight for America in a revealing and candid Q&A.
Every word is true in the Q&A which follows:

Question: How well do you know T.O.?
Me: T.O. and I go way back. T.O.'s changed, but T.O. isn't all THAT different. Bottom line ... T.O. will never die.
Question: Despite all the negativity out there, you often speak fondly of T.O.
Me: I ALWAYS speak fondly of T.O. I'm a huge T.O. fan. T.O. gave me my first job. As you might expect, that job was located on T.O. Boulevard, I kid you not. So, yeah ... T.O. treated me right.
Question: So, what do you say to the T.O. haters out there? Do you tell them that T.O. is "misunderstood"?
Me: I tell them that T.O. is enigmatic. But, that behind the enigma, T.O. has a unique inner-beauty. In other words, T.O. is vibrant.
Question: Okay, but is T.O. in trouble?
Me: Define "trouble." Seriously, T.O.'s gonna survive. T.O. always survives.
Question: Is T.O. mentally and emotionally unstable?
Me: Aren't we all, when you get right down to it? Actually, you'd probably have to ask the Board of Health or the city council.
Question: What does the city council have to do with this?
Me: Well, nobody knows T.O. like T.O.'s city council, right?
Question: At the end of the day, are we dealing with an issue of protecting T.O. from T.O.?
Me: I'm not. As I said, T.O. will survive. That's because T.O. is strong.
Question: When you and T.O. were "bonding" back in the day, what did you like best about T.O.?
Me: For one thing, T.O. always had some nice-lookin' gals. I'm talking about young, sweet-faced, hot-bod hotties. I mingled with some of T.O.'s finest, took it a little further with others. They were 15- and 16-year-olds, naturally, but that's all I could get back then. T.O. didn't seem to mind.
Question: You were mixing it up with underaged girls? Isn't that illegal?
Me: Only if ya get caught. Look ... a lot of us were messin' with T.O.'s gals. That's because T.O.'s teenage gals were very seductive.
Question: What else?
Me: Well, when I was a kid, I'd see the football team decked out in green n' white with the "TO" logo on the helmets ... and that always looked pretty cool to me.
Question: Green and white? You mean, like the Philadelphia Eagles?
Me: No ... like the Lancers. T.O. has nuthin' to do with the Philadelphia Eagles. T.O. is all about Lancer Pride. Except when the Dallas Cowboys came to T.O.
Question: Dallas went to T.O.?
Me: Yup ... T.O. was very hospitable to Dallas from 1960 though 1989. T.O. treated Dallas right for 30 years.
Question: Wait a sec ... T.O. signed with Dallas just this past offseason. What are you talking about, 1960 thru, umm ...?
Me: People need to recognize that T.O. was at the championship game of the Little League World Series in 2004. Not only that, but T.O. has the world's largest auto mall which is -- get this -- located on T.O. Boulevard.
Some of us could talk about T.O. for hours on end ...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fierce Overlap

This is the best time of the year -- and the worst.
That's because this is the calendar crossroads wherein we cuddle with our mistress (the Phillies) before rushing home to be with our wife (the Steelers) and kids (college football).
This is precisely where mixed emotions intersect ... as classic American pastimes run roughshod with our emotions.
As such, it's not always easy to remember who did what.
And when.
That's usually the time when we find ourselves at a booth at the coffee shop and taking a moment (over a slice of pie) to recap the staged reading of "Godspell."
We voice our conclusion.
"I thought the actor who played Jesus made some odd choices."
Her (perplexed): "What?"
You (surprised): "Ohh, I mean, I had a great time ice skating."

Of course, for those of us who are married to the ideal sportsworld sidekick the dimension of hilarity is exponentially greater when a Sat. nite is spent watching John L. Smith's brain imploding as his Michigan State team is melting down against the mythical beast which is NotreDameIsAReallyGoodTeam.
The risky downside to such a scenario is the Mrs. received her Master's degree from MSU. Still, that doesn't make her exempt from joining the chorus when the Sparties are clinging to a 37-33 lead and the TV cameras show John L. Smith on the sideline and the Mrs.' hubby remarks, "I don't know what he's looking all worried about. He's right on schedule for his 40-37 loss which'll be discussed at length tomorrow on"
Her: "Especially when the deciding TD is an interception return."

Bang, pow, zip, boom ... it's an ND INT TD (just like Professor Weis drew up on the chalkboard on the day that ESPN decided that Prof. Weis invented football).
On the home-team sideline, well ... about all ya can say is, "I thought the actor who played John L. Smith made some odd choices."
On the bright side, the headlines on remained upbeat and hopeful.

Exactly ... the bowl-game tie-ins were unaffected by the coach who last year had America in stitches when he came off the field at halftime vs. Ohio State and barked into the national-TV microphone, "The players are playing their tails off, but the coaches ARE SCREWING IT UP!!!"
Vintage (stuff).

If we visit the boys in the lab, the examination of MSU's always-collapsing football program was not affected by that backdoor treament from the team from South BendOver.
Let's work our way up the food chain:
The Motor City Bowl pits the Big 11's No. 7 team vs. a MAC opponent ... the Big 11's No. 6 team plays the Big 12's No. 6 team in the Insight Bowl ... the Big 11's No. 4/5 teams are scheduled for either the Alamo Bowl (vs. a Big 12 opponent) or the Champs Sports Bowl (vs. the ACC No. 4) ... the Big 11's No. 3 team meets an SEC foe in the Outback Bowl in Tampa on New Year's Day ... and the Big 11's No. 2 team plays the SEC's No. 2 in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on New Year's Day.

So, for anti-Smithie Sparties, visions of a holiday in Detroit have not been quashed.
There must be five or six Sparties who don't know that Jerome Bettis is from Detroit.
Then again, SpartieTown might use the defeat to ND as incentive to finish in 6th place in the Big 11, which'll equate to a trip to a desert locale known as Phoenix to meet a to-be-determined Big 12 6th-place opponent.
Wait ... is that the Big XII North or the Big XII South?
That's what Sparty wants to know.

So, during a week which offers football every night (except Weds.) to divert our attention from the Phillie photo-finish for a wild-card berth, it's not always easy to stay focused.
The good thing is that we're never more than a few TV-remote clicks away from losing ourselves in Herb Kirkstreit's dreaminess.
The Disney Empire -- the magic kingdom of TV, anyway -- gives us three viewing options: 1) Herbie during the studio show 2) Herbie in the booth 3) Herbie one day appearing on "Dancing With The Stars."

Of course, when it comes to college football on ESPN/ABC/Disney Empire, Herb Kirkstreit is the star.
It was adorable the way that Herbie spent Sat. a.m. on the College GameDay set on the bank of the Olentangy River in Columbus, Ohio -- and then he showed up in the ABC booth on the bank of the Red Cedar River in East Lansing, Michigan to ad his handsomeness, handsomeness and more handsomeness to the prime-time broadcast.
As if Pusberger and Gravy Davie couldn't handle it on their own.

It screamed of "18-34 demographic!" but what America wants to know is if Herbie traveled by jet or if the Disney Empire dispatched the Herbie Helicopter to pick up Hot Hot Herbie.
By the way, the German word for "heart throb" is "Herbstreit."
Sometimes, it's difficult for America to imagine an America without Herbie, who, by the way, was a finalist for the role of 007 in the new James Bond movies.
That's the word on the street, anyway.

However, because Herbie doesn't own the NFL universe the way he does the coll. FB landscape, some of us interested in the big Steelers-Bengals were left a little shortchanged Sunday when FOX's doubleheader meant that, in certain markets, The 'Burgh vs. The Natty was not available.
Probably just as well ... since those B-Roth end-zone INTs and that horrid attempt at fielding a punt by Ricardo Colclough were did great harm.
"Coakley" puts the "mental" in "detrimental."

It's funny, but in the 2005 NFL Films package for the Bengals, there's that quickie shot of Carson Palmer -- just before taking the field before the playoff game -- standing in the tunnel and repeating the mantra, "Put a hurtin' on The Curtain ... put a hurtin' on The Curtain ..."
This time, he did.
But only because Kimo von Oelhoffen wasn't flown in to "roll" into C-Palm's left knee.

So, Cowher Power is 1-2 heading into the bye week.
So what.
Cowher Power was 3-4 thru 7 games in '95 ... and he went to the Super Bowl. He was 1-2 in '97 ... and went to the AFC Championship game. He was 1-1 in '04 ... then overreacted by starting a rookie QB who led the team on a 14-0 streak to end the regular season.
Of course, there's the flip side.
Cowher was 7-4 in '98 ... and lost his final five games. He was 2-1 thru three in '03 ... and went 0-5 to dip to 2-6.

Ya just gotta play 'em out.

Oddly enough, the Steelers' early-season woes (against two quality opponents) have been on the back burner for those of us in the Steeler/Phillie Corridor because, well ... sometimes Cowher Power must yield to Howard Power.
At the time that the Steelers were "cowering" to Cin-shit-nati, the baseball club in Philadelphia was resembling the Fightin' Phils more than the latest version of the Foldin' Phils.
The Fightin's finished the Florida Fish, sweeping the series. Sadly, Ryan Howard went 2 for 5 (to boost his average to .314) with a ribbie in the 10-7 rain-delayed win, but since neither of those two hits was a 6-run homer, Albert Pujols locked up the MVP.

And, since Ryan Howard didn't singlehandedly lead the Phils to victory on Mon. and Tues. nites, that simply cost him more ground in the MVP race. Although he hit a 2-run single Mon. to put the Phils up, 2-1, on Monday ... and stroked a solid RBI single to CF for a 2-0 lead on Tues. ... the fact that he's stuck on 58 homers ain't helpin' him.

So, no ... the mini-Mardi Gras which took place in the Superdome on Mon. nite didn't affect those ofus who remembered that a little more than a year ago, that stadium was littered with corpses and fecal matter in the bathroom sinks.
Why more people aren't freaked out by the fact that somebody may've gagged to death on his/her own puke in Section 17, jeez ...

Good for you, Nawlins!
Hooray for you, neighborhoods which were erased forever.
The Saints are marchin' in.
Get over your loss.
The Saints have a Super Bowl championship to bring home to the bayou.

Some of us have our own problems. In fact, the platter may be too full on Thurs. with prep football (Oaks Christian vs. Venice), Auburn and South Carolina (with that USC QB who is a Smelley 'Cock) and Phillies-Nationals from RFK.

This is when worlds collide ... to the extreme.
If Steeler Pitchfork walks through that door right now, he will KILL Phillie Pitchfork!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tall Tales

For those of us on the Least Coast who went to bed Fri. nite before receiving the news from the Worst Coast, it was a bit alarming to learn Sat. morning that San Diego Padres pitcher Chris Young came this close ("this close!") to becoming the first 6-foot-10 right-handed pitcher in MLB history to hurl a no-hitter.
Well, since Pirate pinch-hitter Joe Randa foiled Young's no-no bid with a 2-run HR with one out in the top of the 9th, Randy Johnson remains the only 6-foot-10 pitcher in MLB history to hurl a no-hitter.

Of all people ... did anyone figure it would be the chronically-hittin'-.270something Joe Randa who would deprive Chris Young of his place in the record books?
Wasn't it only a year ago when Joe Randa was hittin' a robust .256 for the Pods during that memorable run to the '05 N.L. West flag?
You're damn right ... the same Joe Randa who was third in the N.L. in triples in '97; sixth in the A.L. in singles in '00; and second in the A.L. in sac flies in '02.
It's always about Joe Randa and his Randish Randesqueness.

But, before we turn this into the Tribute to Joe Randa, let's shift our focus back to 6-foot-10 Chris Young.
That kid is DAMN tall.
The thing is, last month, the Baltimore Sun published a feature story re: tall pitchers, localizing the piece by including 6-foot-7 Orioles hurler Daniel Cabrera.
Included with the text was a boxed graphic which highlighted assorted 6-foot-5-and-taller pitchers -- and it just so happened that Eppa Rixey was mentioned.
That's right ... the same Eppa Rixey which this Planet de-enshrined from Cooperstown less than two months ago.

Eppa Rixey ... one of the original Hall of Fame de-inductees.
Here's why: In the Sun piece, Eppa Rixey was described thusly: "Graceful lefty relied on changing speeds more than raw power."
It's important to note that Eppa Rixey pitched from 1912 thru 1933, so, unless the Sun article author (Childs Walker) is 95 years old and he was once an 11-year-old sittin' in the stands at Cincinnati's Crosley Field watchin' The Rixster during that memorable 25-13 season of 1922, then descriptions such as "graceful lefty," etc. require and/or demand attribution.

While sifting through these pages of "The Eppa Rixey Scouting Report" which is situated next to this keyboard, it says that Eppa Rixey threw a spitter (when he wasn't scuffing the ball with a hobnail he had hidden in his mitt) and that Eppa Rixey was a boozehound and an abuser of opium.
See what happens when we apply footnotes, ibid, bibliographies and the attribution that we were taught during the first few months of our freshman years in English 9A?
Childs Walker's romantic Eppa Rixey becomes the Haystack's drunk/junkie/cheatin' Eppa Rixey.

Bottom line: Eppa Rixey is NOT graceful just because Childs Walker says he was.
Now, if one of Eppa Rixey's two catchers from the '22 Redlegs (be it Bubbles Hargrave or Ivey Wingo) or another Redlegs pitcher from '22 (either Cactus Keck or 23-game loser Dolf Luque, take yer pick) described Eppa Rixey as graceful, then Childs Walker would be onto something.
America would probably also accept as validation of Eppa Rixey's grace and speed-changing acumen a by-lined article from an issue of "The Saturday Evening Post."

Anything short of that, though, is hearsay ... maybe even poppycock.
In other words ... B.S.
Or flat-out bunk.

Not that I-Never-Saw-Eppa-Rixey-Pitch Childs Walker is alone in glorification which may be fabrication. Recently, a Sports Illustrated cover story instructed America to "Remember His Name" in the block letters above the cover photo os above soldier Pat Tillman.
The story covered the usual bases of Tillman's bravery blended with wacky antics from his youth and early-age introspection, etc.
One of those backstories was this passage:
"He (Tillman) dusted himself off and, then ratcheted up the risk, more than once turning to a pal in the passenger seat as he drove 75 mph on the freeway, asking him to hold the wheel, then shimmying out the window and draping himself over the roof, only to reappear a few minutes later through the opposite window."

How do you feel about that, America? If Pat asked his friend to hold the wheel, then WHO kept his foot on the gas pedal? And, does the anecdote lose its impact if P-Till completed his out-the-driver's-side-window-and-in-through-the-opposite-window if the car is traveling at 43 MPH on a city street, rather than 75 MPH on the freeway?
Without atrtribution, it's a throwaway anecdote offered by a faceless entity.
The author (Gary Smith) might as well have "reported" that, when he was on the roof of the car, Tillman encountered a cougar and killed the animal by stabbing it to death with a ballpoint pen before watching an episode of "The Flintstones" while eating nachos before reappearing through the opposite window.
That's how many of us Americans completed the 75-mph shimmying/draping/reappearing function.

The pro-Tillman conglomerate will say that focusing on a footnote is to completely miss the point. But, by the same token, if Gary Smith either cannot or will not verify Tillman's freeway hijinks, then how is America supposed to reconcile conflicting reports of Tillman's death?
Pat Tillman: "Inexperienced Risk-Taking Soldier -- or America's Eternal Patriot?"

The way it stands, most of what we read/hear is so twisted with bias, it's not easy to know which is an embellished "A Million Little Pieces" and an ill-gotten "Game of Shadows."
Too many authors have taken too many liberties for far too long.
Which means that the text which appears in the Sun, S.I. and a few best-selling books isn't any more sacred than the words in a weblog.
With a lot of people playin' it fast n' loose with the facts, is it really any different than that commercial for Las Vegas wherein the guy is fibbing to every girl he meets?
"I'm a racecar driver. Formula Two, ummm ... Formula One."
It's true. Anything's possible (although maybe not probable) without verification or attribution.
Her: "You told my friend you were a lawyer."
Him: "Yeah ... in the off-season ..."

Or it's like when George told the Rosses that he had a place in the Hamptons and that he owned two horses.
Mr. Ross: "What are their names?"
George: "Snoopy ... and Prickly Pete."
By the way, that was either before or after George told Jerry that he once told a woman than he coined the phrase, "Pardon my French."
Sounds like a scam, doesn't it?

So, to answer your question, America ... yes, Childs Walker and Gary Smith are counting on the fact that you'll take them at their word. They're banking on the fact that you don't have an open mind and that you will not consult The Smoking Gun or the Drudge Report.

And they're praying that you never learn the truth about Eppa Rixey.
Like how he saved those three children from a burning orphanage.
While he was on parole for B&E in the drug store burglary.

Indeed, Eppa Rixey was a real paradox ...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Rodeo-Clown Wisdom

No matter what anyone says, the funniest moment of the spring/sports season has been any time that the rodeo clown tells the guy on the bull, "Crusher here has an extra deltoid muscle which gives him exponentially greater bucking propulsion. So, you sit back and you hang on!"
Agreed ... those rodeo clowns ... they're real life savers.
Even if they aren't really rodeo clowns at all, but are actually with the birthday party.

That's about the only good info-tainment which was available to America on a Thurs. night (the first day of autumn) as ESPN offered a second consecutive week of an ACC beatdown.
Last week in prime time, it was Team Click Clack! gettin' drowned in Morgantown.
Last night, it was the Ramblin' Wrecks hatin' on the Wahoos.

Note: The Maryland Terrorpins are "Team Click Clack!" for being the walking billboard for Under Armour Athletic Apparel.
The best guesstimate is that Coach Friedgen wears a 5XL or possibly a 6XL in jacket/t-shirt/sweatshirt ... massive XL needs which would've put Discus Athletic, Starter and Pro Player out of business.
Wait ... those companies ARE out of business, no?
Note, Part II: Maryland has posted consecutive 5-6 seasons w/ no bowl-game invites since becoming Under Armour poster children.
Back-to-back click clack!
However, with a non-conference cupcake platter of William & Mary, Mid.Tenn.St. and Fla. Int'l ... the 'Pins are goin' bowlin'.
We must protect this house!

In the scheme of Click Clack vs. Throwback, G-Tech got itself all gussied up with white helmets (not the shiny gold bonnets) and yellow jerseys (not the gold shirts) in a flashback to 1970.
A smarter move might've been to flash back to the glory of 1974, not 1970. Everybody remembers that the '74 Techsters had brothers Randy Rhino and Danny Rhino starting in the secondary along with Bubba Hoats (although some may have forgotten that Rock Perdoni was a force on the D-line).
"Bubba Hoats" ... makes ya wonder how many times Randy Rhino turned to Danny Rhino and said, "Bubba Hoats sounds like a made-up name."
Then again, it makes ya wonder how many times Bubba Hoats was at the student union telling everybody that he'd be an All-America if only it wasn't for those Rhinos.
"The Rhinos are out to get me!"

Sure is a lot more fun shootin' the breeze about '70s Techsters than Y2K06 Techsters wearing '70s Techsters' jerseys.
Then again, we can blow off GT-UVa Y2K06 altogether and focus on the greatest GT-UVa clash of all-time. That's right -- the one back in 1990 when we still can't remember where we were or what we were doing when we learned that No. 1-ranked UVa was knocked off by the Jackets, 41-38, on that Scott Sisson field goal with :07 to play.
Those were the days when QB Shawn Jones rallied his Techsters to the win over the Hoos' vaunted pitch-n'-pass duo of "Moore & More Moore (QB Shawn and WR Herman).
Thyen again, those were the days when UVa wore those bland, white helmets and orange pants w/ white shirts.
Back in the days when it felt lousy to start 7-0 and finish with an 8-4 record.
Back in the days of '90 when nobody wanted to win the national championship, so it was shared by G-Tech (11-0-1) and Colorado (11-1-1).

Sadly, last night's ballgame featuring UVa frosh QB Jameel Sewell pitchin' passes to Fontel Mines, well ... Sewell-to-Mines didn't remind anyone of Moore-to-Moore.

That offense has a lot of Groh-ing up to do.
The only highlight for the Cavs was when ESPN would cut away to Hall of Famer Howie Long, a solitary figure inconspicuously leaning on a railing away from the Georgia Institute of Technology parents, students and boosters as he watched his son Chris.
Despite Chris Long's talent and potential, the Cavs' defense is shaky.
It, too, has a lot of Groh-ing up to do.

By the way, for those "
Calvin Johnson Is God" bandwagoneers (that means you, Herb Kirkstreit), yes ... Cal is 6-5 / 253 and clocks a 40 time of 4.3.
However, the memory for a lot of us is that classic moment from last Oct. when that totally-catchable TD pass doinked off his hands and into the arms of the NC State DB for the end-zone INT which locked up the Wolfpack's 17-14 victory.
And, some of us haven't forgotten the Emerald Bowl last Dec. when Utah's Travis LaTrendesse (16 receptions, 216 yards) put on a clinic against the Yellow Jackets' secondary and snagged himself three TD passes in the game's first 16 minutes (for a 20-0 lead), sparking the Utes to a 38-10 victory over GT and Calvin Johnson (2 catches, 19 yards).

We shouldn't hold Calvin Johnson responsible for the Jackets' poor pass rush and flimsy cover men, but, ummm ... we just did.
As per Johnson's place in the ACC galaxy, well ... in the past 20 years, the two best WRs have been Herman Moore (previously mentioned) and NC State's Torry Holt.
End of discussion.
Case closed.

College football now must return to the back burner for Fri. nite because before we get to Marlins @ Phils in an epic confrontation w/ extreme wild-card implications, some of us will spend a Rosh Hashana afternoon watching prep football which pits The Heb vs. The Reach.
Apparently, the Zionists don't dig their New Year cluttered with the implications of Friday night lights.

Time to check Crusher's extra deltoid muscle vis-a-vis exponentially greater bucking propulsion ...

Monday, September 11, 2006

HOWARD Growth Hormone

For one of the best 72-71 teams in MLB history -- and one which is identified by its players with colorful nicknames such as "Conine The Barbarian," "Moyer The Destroyer," "Burrell The Pearl," "Alleged Espousal Abuse," "King Arthur & The Knights of the Rhodes Table" and "One-Ninety-Eight-Hitting Noonie" -- it seems only natural that phans of the Fightin' Phils would find it necessary to establish a distinct moniker for their slugging first baseman, Ryan Howard.
Face it: Howard's 56 HRs are the thing of folklore -- and with three weeks remaining to play -- the demand is high for a sluggin' first sacker with a name fit for a Woody Guthrie-ish/Terry Cashman-esque folk ballad.

Funny, but seeing how Ryan Howard turned out to be the player that we all thought that Hard-Hittin' Mark Whiten was going to be, well ... damn you, Whiten The Kitten, for possessing a surname with better rhyme-scheme than Ryan Howard's.

So, what choices have we?
"Hammerin' " Howard -- like Hammerin' Hank Aaron?
"Cool Papa" Howard -- like James "Cool Papa" Bell?
Crime Dog -- like that McGruff guy?
Since those were once the property of previous diamond stars, they won't fly with Howard.
Speaking of what flies ... "Big-Fly Ry"????

Seeing how the Pitchfork, Mrs. PF7 and SuperDawg reside in HOWARD County (seriously, we do), we simply refer to all things beyond Howard County as "HOWARD Country, USA."
And, as proud residents of Howard County (a proud subsidiary of Howard Country, USA), we were pleased to see the highlights last Fri. of Big-Fly Ry swattin' HR's No. 55 and 56 -- mostly because he now has the 2006 home run lead all to himself.

Well, for those of us who watched the Little League World Series, we were reminded often that Kyle Carter of eventual-champion Columbus, GA had 54 homers this season.

So they said.
Interestingly, 26-year-old Ryan Howard is listed at 6-4/252.
Everybody's lovable big lug from the Transatlantic all-stars -- 13-year-old Aaron Durley -- is listed at 6-8/256.
Since he's still getting used to growth spurts n' such (and since he doesn't swing a 36-ounce stick of white ash, but rather a teeny aluminum twig), Durley doesn't dominate at the Little League level.
However, that nickname-less Monster Masher named Ryan Howard pulverizes fastballs as if they're pitched by 13-year-olds.
It's been a treat to watch.

Well, a treat for those of us not obsessed with affixing suspicion and skepticism to America's latest longball legend.
However, in this, the era of WeMustRidTheGameOfPerfomanceEnhancers(ForTheSakeOfTheChildren), Homer Hero Howie is likely to be labeled " 'Roid-Ragin' Ryan."
Why must those bastages engage in this
modern-day McCarthyism? Why do these chumps get a hard-on by linking a ballplayer to juicing or 'roiding without a smidgen of proof (read: direct evidence).

The smear tactics are intense at first, but then they usually peter out.
Most recently, Gregg Doyel of CBS used the ol' "guilt-by-association" tactic to imply that Heavy-Hackin' Howard MIGHT be a juicer or a pill-popper or a heroin mainliner or a crackhead or whatever it was that Doyel was hinting at just because How Far Howard has 56 jimmy jacks.

Now, no one's saying that Doyel is a floor-wax-huffing bisexual who routinely uses his teenage boyfriend's face as as a punching bag, but no one's saying he's not, either.
It's just that when the next John Wayne Gacy arrives and sexually tortures, murders and mutilates 33 boys and buries them under the crawl space of his home, we shouldn't be surprised to hear ourselves saying, "He seemed like such a regular guy, what, with his job at CBS SportsLine and all. His reporting seemed so balanced and fair, who'da thunk he was a sexual predator with an appetite for murder?"
Not that Doyel is.
Or isn't.
It's just that when these sickos are brought to light, we find that these once-assumed regular guys assimilate themselves in our society as our neighbors, our schoolteachers, our pastors, our plumbers, our CBS SportsLine senior writers.
Not that Doyel is a Satanic-worshipping, Quaalude-poppin' pedophile.
But, as he suggested with Ryan Howard, looks can be deceiving.

And, if the Philly Fence-Buster is juicin' (which it sez here, he is not), America doesn't care.
Attendance at MLB games continues to break records (because of the jimmy jack) .. proof ("direct evidence") that America wants its jimmy jacks, be they solo or grand salami.
Furthermore, if we allow assumed closet NAMBLA members leading the Crusade of Hate against anabolic steroids and HGH, then we'll need to construct several concentration camps for approximately 2,000 current and former NFL linemen and 2,500 current NCAA Div. I-A linemen.

That's when we remember Colonel Jessup barking at us from the witness stand.
"Son, we live in a world which has walls. And those walls have to be protected by men with guns. Who's going to do it? ... you?! You, Lieutenant Weinberg?"

But, for those of us who believe that Ryan Howard is clean for no other reason than we respect guys named Howitzer Howard who hit bazooka blasts over those walls guarded by men with guns, what a wild two weeks Deep Six has given us.

The ballad of Hackin' Howie are as follows:
Tues., Aug. 29 -- His 3-run jack in the 6th inning at RFK against the Nats' Kevin Gryboski gives Howie 48, tying the team record set by Schmidty during the unforgettable '80 season.
Thurs. Aug. 31 -- Hackin' Howie hits a Phillies team-record 49th HR ... off Pedro Astacio in the 4th at RFK, tying the game 2-2. Hackin' Howie goes 2 for 2 with two walks, but the Phils lose a heartbreaker after leading 4-2 in the 9th and 5-4 in the 10th.
Sat. Sept. 2 -- Following a Fri. rainout at The Cit, Big-Fly Ry hits no big flies in a double-dip split vs. The Atl, although he does go 3 for 7 with a double and three BBs.
Sun. Sept. 3 -- Sometime between games of the Sunday twinbill which followed the Sat. double-dip, the Ol' Pitchfork used his buddy, Mr. Shovel, to behead a snake in the backyard ... a snake which was beginning to wrap its jaws around a wounded toad.
Before the foot-long serpent could do further damage, he was decapitated.
A little earlier, Howard Power used his potent shovel to behead Tim Hudson -- first with a solo pump leading off the 2nd (#50) ... then with a 2-run bomb in the 3rd (#51) ... and, finally, as they say, by going "oppo" for a solo shot in the 6th (#52) which put the Phils up, 6-1. After another Madson Mound Meltdown which allowed Tomahawk Chop to take a 7-6 lead in the top of the 9th, RBI singles by J-Ro and the Flyin' Hawaiian win it in the bottom of the 9th.
In the nightcap, Howard goes 2 for 4, but the Phils lose, 3-1.
For the weekend, Howard goes 9 for 15.
Mon. Sept. 4 -- Hard-Hackin' Howie avenges the death of Steve Irwin by stingray-stinger barb by muscling up for #53 against Astros journeyman P Russ Springer. The solo blast puts the Phils up, 2-1, in the 6th and offsets a game-tying HR by Charlton Jimerson, who, in his first MLB AB, was PHing for Roger Clemens.
The Phils eventually win, 3-2, on Chase Utley's walk-off HR.
Tough break for Steve Irwin.
And for Charlton Jimerson.
Tues., Sept. 5 -- A rainout. The world continues to mourn Steve Irwin.
Weds., Sept. 6 -- Wild-card playoff hopes diminish ... Houston wins, 5-3, as Lance Berkman employs one of the worst-looking, inside-out swings ever to trickle a 3-run 2B into the LF corner to snap a 2-2 tie. It's just another night at the office for the Madson Mound Meltdown ... amusing when one considers how The "Other" (And Less-Talented) Ryan on the Phillies' roster leads the team in wins (10) despite an ERA hovering around 6.00.
Either way, Round-Tripper Ryan goes 0 for 4 and provides no round-trippers in what could have been an ideal format for Burrell The Pearl to showcase his talents.
Pat The Bat's 0 for 3 effort belies the fact that he's giving it "the old college try" -- unlike Abreu, the ex-Phillie scoundrel who put up 25/100/.300 every year because, in his world, it's all about me, me me ... not like Burrell The Pearl, who bats .258 for the betterment of baseball in Philadelphia.
Thurs. Sept. 7 -- One night after (Out Of Baseball Entirely By 2011) Anibal The Animal Sanchez becomes the latest in the list of Nobodies Who Pitch No-No's, the Phils invade Dolphins Stadium and pound out 17 hits in a 14-8 victory.
Chocolate Thunder clouts #54 against Josh Johnson, the 6-foot-7 rookie who nobody's heard of, but who entered the game with a 12-6 record and a 2.99 ERA (including an 8-2 record since the first week of June).
Ry-How's solo jack snaps a 3-3 tie in the third, but more important ... two innings later, R.H. puts the Phils ahead, 5-3, when he scores on a fielder's choice by Abraham Nunez.
Although there is no official confirmation from the Elias Sports Bureau, it is believed that this is the first time in MLB history that a player who hit his 54th HR of the season also scored a run on a fielder's choice supplied by a sub-.200-hittin' third baseman.
Fri., Sept. 8 -- Trailing by a 1-0 score in the 6th inning against no-name Scott Olsen (12-6) -- and realizing that the 2006 Wild Card Champions pennant might be forever slipping from their grasp -- the Phils send out the Bat Signal for "Big Misery From Missouri."
Olsen feels the full impact of Big Misery's wrath -- a 2-run dong in the 6th (#55) which puts the Phils up, 2-1, and then a solo dinger in the top of the 8th (#56) for a 3-1 lead.
The sum of those blasts translates to a 3-2 win.
Sat., Sept. 9 -- Big-Fly Ry goes 2 for 2 with 4 walks, although Chase Utley homers twice. The Phillies tie the score in the 9th on an RBI single by Conine The Barbarian, but lose it in the 10th when King Arthur issues three walks to Marlins batters. A 4-3 loss ... the season's probably over.
Sun., Sept. 10 -- The Phillies get only 3 hits against The D-Train (Dontrelle Willis) in a 3-0 loss -- and two of those hits are by the H-Train (Engine Number Six).

Because Ryan Howard -- the player that we thought Mark Whiten would be ... the player that Mo Vaughn wished he'd be -- was unable to orchestrate any 5-run homers on Sat. and Sun. in FLA., he probably cost himself the MVP.
He's been showing off for the past two weeks. To wit: In the final 6 games of Aug., The H-Train was 9 for 19 with 5 HRs and 14 RBI.
In the first 10 games of Sept., The H-Train is 19 for 34 with 7 HRs and 10 RBI.

That's frickin' insane. That's 16 games with a .528 avg., 12 HRs and 24 ribbies.
That's nuts. Junior-college players wish they could put up those numbers.
Alas, calling attention to yourself in that manner is not the Pujols Way.
So, Albert will probably get the MVP.

Because the Phillies' pitching is piss-poor.

It's all Heavy-Hittin' Howard's fault for burning himself out like that and carrying the team for two weeks. Pat The Bat took a more-prudent approach, electing to "conserve" so that he has something in the tank for the NLDS and the NLCS.
This explains why he's batting a crisp .115 (3 for 26) in Sept.
Pat The Bat understands "pace" ... and "picking your spots."
For the record, Burrell's streak of "consecutive games without a stolen-base ATTEMPT" is up to 283.
That's an impressive ironman streak ... a compilation of games spent standing at first base and waiting for the next two batters to hit ground-rule doubles to get the dumptruck home.

Rick Reilly agrees.
In fact, Reilly said on Dan Patrick's radio show last week that he would not embrace Ryan Howard due to all this suspicion and uncertainty stirred up during the "steroid era."
Again ... lots of negative talk in lieu of direct evidence/real proof of any wrongdoing.

And, that's okay.
Because in this modern era of "writers" such as Jayson Blair of the New York Times and James Frey of his fabricated best-selling "A Million Little Pieces," there is a move afoot to discount (read: "totally dismiss") any viewpoints offered by so-called "authors."
Wrong-Writin' Rick Reilly?
Never heard of him (although, he would've sounded more astute if only he'd resorted to the ultimate writer cop-out of the 21st century and said of Ryan Howard's feats ... "It is what it is").

In this September of sorrow, America needs Big-Fly Ry more than ever -- in the upbeat, star-spangled manner as demonstrated by McGwire and Sosa saving the game in '98 (or like Bonds, who provided reaffirmation in '01 after 9/11 interrupted his quest for "73").

Some anti-longballists want to label him as Black Cloud Howard. The rest of us, well ... we're regular folks who live in Howard County, located in the heart of Howard Country, USA.
And we realize that ya can't spell "H-O-W-A-R-D" without an "H" and an "R" ...

Friday, September 08, 2006

From Batch Slipping to Bitch-Slapping

When the Big Ben QB fill-in, Charlie Batch, lost the handle on the exchange from center Jeff Hartings, the resultant turnover on a play which began as first-and-goal at the Dolphins 1, well ... mortal sins such as that are what conjures up images of Kordell and Bubby.
Stew and Brist were infamous for that ... coughing up the ball inside the 5 with Steel Town trailing, 17-14, early in the fourth quarter.

It was looking as though that fumble was going to be THE "that sucks" moment of the season opener ... a real crappy way to end a drive which had been well-crafted and suitable-for-framing.
Only moments earlier, Nate Washington had run a 3rd-and-6, end-around for an 8-yard gain to the 13 before Fast Willie ripped off two 6-yd. runs to the Miami 1.
SteelTown, as they say, was "imposing its will."
Then, Batch got all butterfingery with the snap and Faneca, pulling from his left guard spot, kneed the ball out of Batch's bobbly grip.

Thankfully, there'll be no headlines (not this week, anyway) chronicling ineptitude.
That's because the Steelers went from a moment of "BATCH SLIPPING" to "BITCH-SLAPPING."
You wouldn't expect anything less from the fella from Homestead's Steel Valley H.S.

It is ironic, though. The last time Charlie Batch started a season opener, it was for the '01 Lions ... a team which lost its first nine games with Charlie at the controls.
First, Batch got blamed.
Then, Batch got benched.
Then, Batch got bitched -- that is, when Detroit fell head over heels for its new messiah (Joey Harrington) during the '01 college season.

Since Joey H is currently Culpepper's backup in Miami, it might've been fun to see Batch walk across the field after the Steelers' 28-17 triumph and shake hands with Joey.
Just think if on-field microphones had caught Charlie saying to Joey, "Remember the days when the Detroit media held me responsible for an offensive line which couldn't block, a defense which couldn't make key stops and special teams which sucked and then when you were handed my job, you couldn't break any of the prolific passing team passing records established by Eric Hipple or Andre Ware? If ya hang on for a second, I'll run home and get my Super Bowl ring and we can see if it's as nice as the two or three you won for the Lions, okay?"
THAT ... woulda been classic.

Funny how it all works out for a QB when, instead of setting up in the pocket behind a weak-ass OL wearing silver and Honolulu blue, it's pass-protection provided by blue-collar he-men decked out in black n' gold.
Charlie Batch now plays for a head coach who slugged it out in the NFL trenches ... just as Batch's current O-coordinator (Ken Whisenhunt) did.
When he was in Detroit, Batch's head coach, Marty Mornhinweg, knew the keys to victory against South San Jose opponents such as Santa Teresa or Leland, but, c'mon ... this is the NFL, which stands for "Not For Long" when you're making (#&%$#@) calls like that.

Charlie Batch serves as an interesting case study for another reason: He's a minority QB.
No, not because he's black -- we've got a bunch of black QBs, so no biggie there.
It's because he's in the minority of "QBs Named Charlie." Let's face it, those don't come down the pike every 30 minutes.
Yes ... right now, there's Charlie Frye in Cleveland, who Brownie fans are expecting to have a breakout season which will range anywhere from mostly sub-standard to typically mediocre ... and Charlie Whitehurst of Clemson is the rookie backing up Philip Rivers in San Diego (and, unless Phil is injured, there won't be many chances for Charlie to break the NFL career record established by his daddy, David Whitehurst, for "most times dropping back to pass while looking frightened and/or confused").

As per those other Charlie QBs, all that comes to mind is Hall of Famer Charley Connerly wearing #42 for those NY Giants squads of yesteryear and journeyman Charley Johnson who we always remember as a prop Cardinal or Bronco QB in those NFL Films clips wherein Deacon Jones or Bob Lilly was decapitating a QB.
That's it? Two retired Charleys and two (maybe three) active Charlies?
It's enough to give a guy a big ol' Charlie Horse (what we used to call hamstring injuries back in the '70s).
After we got decapitated by Deacon Jones or Bob Lilly.

Anyway, NBC's broadcast wasn't too shabby for those of us who like watching in in regular definition known as "REG-DEF."
Then again, the NBC cameras captured NBC employee Jerome Bettis clapping for Willie Parker shortly before halftime.
Memo to Bussie: You work for NBC now. No clapping.
"Man law?"
Man law ...

Funny footnote: The last time NBC was in Pittsburgh when Bettis WASN'T on the roster was the AFC Championship Game in Jan. '96.
For some odd reason, the videotape of that game found its way into the Pitchfork VCR on Wed. eve. and, jeez ... it was a nice little flashback.
Three months before the Pitchfork and Mrs. PF7 moved in together for good ... the tape was made because she was helping the infirmed.

It makes ya chuckle when ya re-watch the video of the Steelers' 20-16 victory over the Colts and you're reminded of what you forgot since the last time you watched the tape (probably at least 5 yrs. ago).
NBC's broadcast team that day consisted of Enberg, Simms and Maguire -- and, yes, more than 10 yrs. ago, Paul Maguire was as worthless as he is now.
He adds nada to a broadcast.

On the field for the Colts that day: A punter named Chris Gardocki.
That name sounds familiar.
It was a simpler time back then ... when NBC obsessed with spending the Steelers' comeback showing us the Three Rivers luxury box where Mrs. Cowher Power and Daughter of Cowher Power were filled with exuberance and hysteria.
Indeed ... those were the days before the unhealthy attraction to a 9-year-old Meagan Cowher grew into an obsession with a 19-year-old Meagan Cowher.
That is ... for those Steeler fans who collected photos of the Lombardi Trophy presentation last Feb. and then used scissors to cut out everyone pictured except Meagan Cowher.

Anyway, it was nice to see that NBC's Monday Night package (not the ESPN package) won the rights to have the players provide their own introductions -- thereby ensuring that we'll hear guys referring to their Miami alma mater as "The U."
During the player intros for Pittsburgh, Fast Willie chose NOT to say "North Carolina," but rather "Clinton High."
And linebacker Larry Foote elected to inform America that he was a "Detroit Pershing Doughboy."
Question for Larry: Did you know that Jerome Bettis is also from Detroit?

NBC's playin' it smart with the 2-man booth of Michaels and Madden -- and, it was refreshing to hear their voices after what America got three nights earlier when the circus known as Disney/ABC/ESPN gave us that carnival ride of the "Multi-Screen Matrix" which upset our eyes, our brains and our tummies worse than repeated rides on The Tilt O' Whirl or The Scrambler when we were kids at the county fair.
That Mega-Scream Matrix during the 'Noles/'Canes game was disturbing and alarming, particularly the mini square which showed The U's QB Kyle Wright standing emotionlessly motionless when FSU had the ball.

History tells us that the only time it's appropriate to have that many mini squares on the screen is when Cindy's in the lower left looking up at Greg in the upper right; Greg's looking down at Bobby in the lower right; Bobby's looking up and over at Marcia in the upper left; Marcia is looking at Peter in the middle right; Peter's looking up at Mom in the top middle; Mom's looking down at Bobby in the lower right; Bobby's looking across at Cindy in the lower left; Cindy's looking across to Dad in the bottom middle; Dad's looking up at Greg in the upper right; and Ann B. Davis pops into the center square as Alice.
"Are we clear?"
Crystal ...

The other positive aspect to a rewarding Thurs. nite outcome was that erased from my memory the horrors of the previous Thurs. nite when certain parts of America had access to the Buffalo-Temple donnybrook.
Haystack Headquarters was tuned in for part of the fourth quarter and OT (lighten up, Francis ... the Mrs. is from B'Lo, let's not forget).
Tied 3-3 through regulation.
We shouldn't say another word about that game. After all, it was a forgettable, throwaway MAC game -- which in no way resembled those classic tilts when Charlie Batch was leading Eastern Michigan against either Central Michigan or Western Michigan.
Weird footnote: The nation of Huron Indians was dismayed when Eastern Michigan switched its mascot from "Hurons" to "Eagles" several years ago because it took the tribe out of the mainstream, as it were -- and Central Michigan held onto "Chippewas" as the mascot. If we're lucky, Myles Brand will step in and save the day in the Huron/Chippewa standoff.

Well, no matter if the Stillers go 10-6 or 6-10 this season, it seems as though the team will keep its Pitchfork captivated for most of this, his 35th season as a fan (and this, Dick Hoak's 35th season as the team's running backs coach).
And, wouldn't ya know it ... only a few hours before the Thurs. nite premier, the postman left a package on the front porch -- and, inside were three new Steeler t-shirts (and a tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies, naturally).
Some of us have mother-in-laws who are a little nutso 32 percent of the time, but who are well-meaning and good-intentioned 93 percent of the time.

Normally, most of us wouldn't be caught dead wearing clothes hand-picked by a 78-year-old in-law, but, son of a gun ... the ol' girl came through with three selections which didn't suck or look completely gay.
Makes ya wonder if this had anything to do with the fact that she was there for SBXL and if she noticed how her son-in-law wore not a $200-plus authentic jersey, but opted for the non-flashy, black Reebok cap, a yellow t-shirt and a black windbreaker with a very small Pac-10 football logo on it.
Such a low-key approach to Steeler game-day apparel may have troubled her, but it's more a matter of not knowing the answer to: "When wearing the #83 LIPPS jersey, what's the rule on wristbands? Looie always wore two yellow wristbands on each wrist, so is it okay to wear white ones? And, should the black wristbands be used to accessorize a white #21 FIGURES jersey? What's the judgment call on a black #33 HOGE jersey worn with blue sweatpants? Or what if while wearing a white #14 BLACKLEDGE jersey, gray long sleeves are protruding from underneath?"

This is why the Pitchfork does not partake in the authentic game-day/game-jersey matrix/paradigm.
Not to fret, Iron City. The Haystack crew was in full force.
The bobblehead on the mantel (wearing #01 and sprawling to make the reception at the pylon) ... the bobblehead atop the CD case (wearing #1 and looking far more breakable than #01) ... four micro helmets and a super-mini Steelers monster truck atop the fridge ... and, of course, mini-Jesus wearing a teensy-weensy #75 Mean Joe helmet as he plays football with the kids in the small statue display atop the reg-def TV.

So far, mini-Jesus has never fumbled that handoff from the kid ...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Conine The Barbarian & Moyer The Destroyer

Thanks to Tropical Storm ERNESTO, the Fri. nite sports scene 'round Haystack Headquarters was mighty bleak.
Fresno State vs. Nevada as an appetizer to the Sat. entree of coll. FB goodness wasn't the most appealing item on the menu, given the fact that the FSU O-coordinator and the Ol' Pitchfork sat a few rows from each other in that h.s. geometry class exactly 19 autumns ago. While I was busy comprehending the properties of the parallelogram, the isoceles triangle and Rhonda's well-defined curves in the seat behind mine, "that guy" obviously was charting how his X's would fare against the O's when the wheel route or the bubble screen was employed against cover-2.
Even though the wheel route, the bubble screen and cover-2 hadn't been invented yet.

So, rather than watch that FSU-Nev. bull(stuff) and rather than clicking over to USA Network and having my breath taken away AGAIN by the replay of Agassi-Baghdatis (in a rainout replay), it was necessary to re-configure the spreadsheet inside my head for the Phillies' September strategies.
Charlie Manuel was probably doing the same thing, seeing how his Fri. nite in The Cit was a washout.

A Fri. nite rainout might have some Phillie fans lamenting about the Thurs. nite outcome -- when the Phillies were one strike away from winning, 4-2, over the Nats ... only to see D.C. rally with Felipe Lopez's 2-run single off of King Arthur in the 9th and then score twice in the bottom of the 10th after the Phils had taken a 5-4 lead in the top of the 10th.
Everybody in or around Philly will have a good chuckle when the Phils are the 2006 N.L. Wild Card Champions and figuring how best to utilize a starting-pitcher quintet which, through, August looked like this:
The accused hair-pullin', wife-punchin' (emphasis on "accused" with "charges dropped" waiting in the wings) Brett Myers (10-6 / 4.24) ... The Untalented Half of The Battery "Lieber & Lieberthal" (6-9 / 5.09) ... rookie Cole Hamels Smokes Camels (7-7 / 4.50) ... 44-year-old Jamie Moyer & His 44 MPH Heater (1-1 / 6.00 ... and don't forget that 6-12 record as an M) ... and the inspiration for the Wolf Pack (not the Wolf Pack from Nevada), Randy Wolf (3-0 / 5.30).
THAT ... is about as formidable a junior-college staff as most of us have seen in a very long time.
If Gammons were available right now, he'd use his pet expression ("He's tired") to describe 88 percent of The MLB's pitchers nowadays.
And, with 2006 All-Star closer Tom Gordon on the D.L., a bullpen featuring King Arthur & The Knights of the Rhodes Table ... wow.
It's one of those situations where you look around and ask which of these bulldogs wants to take the mound for Game One.
Any one of them could be the next Marty Bystrom (5-0 / 1.50 ERA in his first five MLB starts in '80 ... plus a good NLCS outing vs. Houston and a solid effort at K.C. in Game 5 of the World Series).

Funny how Moyer should be wearing Marty's #50 when he made his Phillies debut last week. That was a little painful to watch when ESPN flashed back to June 1986 when Digger Phelps' son-in-law made his MLB debut as a Cub pitching against the Phils in Wrigley.
One of the highlights was Steve Carlton batting ... and hitting a fly ball to CF.
The thing that people forget is that Lefty @ Wrigley was his next-to-last start as a Phillie. In his next outing, he blew a 4-0 lead in Cincinnati and was released three days later (on June 24, 1986).
The next day, the Phillies faced rookie Moyer in Philly and they lit his tits to the tune of Juan Samuel hitting two homers and a double (with 6 ribbies) and Rick Schu registering 4 hits and 4 ribbies.
(Cue up the laugh track right here): "Rick Schu had four hits."
And four ribbies (laugh track).
Looks like a typo every time.

Nevertheless, there's nothing typographical about this: "Phillies -- 2006 Wild Card Champions."
To achieve this, they'll need players such as Abraham Nunez and Jose Hernandez to step up and become The Latino Rick Schu.
Ever since the Phils traded away the grandson of David Michael Bell, Jr. (read: the son of David Gus Bell), the task of manning the hot corner for the Phillies has been the responsibility of Abe.
Now, Jose is here to provide reinforcement.
All of us would like to see Abe do well because, as it stands, there are two things right now which are killing Abe Nunez jersey sales in local souvenir stores.
1) He's batting only .198, although he did hike it up from a season-low of .156 with some mighty-incredible hot hitting once the grandson of Gus Bell (read: the son of Buddy Bell) was traded to Milwaukee.
2) Not every jersey/uniform manufacturer knows how to place an acceptable "tilde" (the squiggly line which looks like this: ~ ) over the second "N" in "NUNEZ" to give the name the distinctive "Y" action.
Y'know ... "Nooooon-yezzzz."
"They're not booing, Joe ... they're saying, 'Noooooon-yezzzz.'!"

No #3 NUNEZ is complete w/o said tilde.
On the other hand, it's up to Abe to look in the mirror and to ask himself what kind of tilde-related ballplayer he wants to be.
Is it the NLDS MVP or the NLCS MVP?
Noonie and King Arthur need to become a little more dependable lest we start believing that they are sacks of shit who are impeding the Phillies' quest for the NLDS and NLCS championships.

While the starting rotation, Noonie and Hernie work on taking their immense mediocrity to the next level, America needs to hail Ryan Howard as the new messiah. His month of August (14 HRs, 41 ribs, .348 avg.) was amazing ... and, actually, SUPER-DUPER AMAZING when one considers that Pat Burrell hits behind him in the order.
Why why why why would anyone pitch to Howard when a .259-batting strikeout machine is in the on-deck circle?
Chalk that one up to pitching-coach braindeadishness.
Since pitching in Y2K06 consists solely of buzzwords "the cutter" and "the 4-seamer," what you see is what you get.
"No, Officer ... I have no command of The Cutter. I cannot throw The Cutter for a strike. But, I do enjoy gripping The Cutter. And, I like to say, 'The Cutter.' "

And then Ryan Howard is banging one of those cutters 15 rows deep into the bleachers in LF.
Sometimes, it's fun to remind America that when Thome went down with his injury in May '05, the Phils (read: pencilneck GM Ed Wade and Biology Major Asst. GM Ruben Amaro) opted to go to the scrap heap for the fill-in first baseman ... signing Jose Offerman.
People forget that a tremendous sack of (stuff) named Jose Offerman was the first option to replace Thome at 1B ... heaven forbid Ryan Howard should be called up after a monster '04 in the minors because "we just don't know if he's ready!"
As if a .157-battin' Jose Offerman is a more-viable option.
One would hope that if a pencilneck GM and a Biology Major Asst. GM are going to get silly with acquisitions and signees, that they at least take their silliness seriously.
Y'know ... such as re-signing Todd Zeile or somebody like that.
"Seriously" ... what did Wade and Rubes envision Offerman doing (other than killing every rally in sight)?

Luckily, Phillie phans are phorgiving pholk -- and they are appreciative that Pat Gillick has built one of the best 67-66 wild-card contenders of all-time.
Then again, if the Phillies finish 80-82 and miss the wild-wild-wild card action by one game, the intelligent Phillie phaithful is likely to pin it on King Arthur and his blown saves past, present and future.
Forget that 4-19 stretch during the June Swoon. Forget the shitty interleague record. Forget that this incredible lineup got the bats completely rammed up their rectums while going 0-3 vs. Mets pitcher John Maine in August.
"It's all Arthur Rhodes' fault!"

It's not going to end like that, though ... not if Conine The Barbarian and Moyer The Destroyer have anything to say about it. Since each was acquired after the July 31 trade deadline, neither is eligible for the postseason, meaning that the door is wide open for a dream come true:
Abraham Nunez: 2006 NLDS MVP.
Unless he's opting for NLCS MVP.
That's Noonie for ya ... keepin' his options open.

So, watch out, MLB! Noonie is ready to go on a .224-hittin' assault -- and no one should be surprised if the Phils go on a 15-13 rampage to finish 82-80 ... thus becoming one of baseball's all-time most-feared 82-80 wild-card teams.
It's just a matter of who'll pitch Game 3 at The Cit after Myers and Hamels win Games 1 and 2 in St. Louis.

If anyone is thinking that this scenario sounds ridiculous, then those anyones obviously didn't hear Jeff Brantley a few weeks ago on "Baseball Tonight" when Boston acquired Eric Hinske from Toronto and "Cowboy" summed up The Hinsk's abilities thusly:
"Eric Hinske ... was ... born ... to ... hit ..."

Yes ... Cowboy paused after each word, so as to create emphasis w/o really thinking about what he was saying (that is, unless he was pausing to allow the translators typing along at ESPN Deportes to catch up).
"Eric Hinske ... was ... born ... to ... hit ..."
Eric Hinske was born to hit WHAT exactly?
His wife?
His West Coast girlfriend?
His wife after his wife finds out about his West Coast girlfriend?
The pavement really splattastically after falling from a 17th story ledge?
The booze hard after another oh-for-four collar?
Jeff "My Middle Name Is HOKE (Rhymes With Joke/Choke)" Brantley doesn't remember the Eric Hinske who couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat.

Jeff Brantley ... was ... born ... to ... huff ...
Huff floor wax.
Huff furniture polish.
Huff fumes from the gas can.
Huff teammates' sweaty pants following any of his blown saves for the '00 Phillies.

Good gravy, this is going to be a fun run to the playoffs.
But, only if Noonie decides that he WANTS this ...