Monday, July 14, 2008

Home Wrong Derby (w/ update!)

Ever since Century 21 handed the controls of The MLB's Home Wrong Derby over to State Farm, that event BLOWS.

Seriously ... could this list of 8 fence-busters BE any more Caucasian?


No Steve Balboni?
No Rob Deer?

It can be argued that "it just worked out this way" ... that there is no representation by players from Latin America or Inner-City America.

Then again, the best white-boy HR guy of the past decade -- Adam Dunn -- isn't involved either, so ... yeah, we're blowing it off, here in the La-Z-Boy Lounge.

(Note: The super-whiteness of Berman and his orgasms of "back, back, back!" are the icing on the cake which Cracker Nation baked).

This is the first All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium since 1977 -- and the final one in what will soon be the Old Yankee Stadium -- and this is the best that Selig's MLB could give us?

A Home Wrong Derby which features a Y2K version of Ron Cey vs. Richie Zisk?

Why not conduct a ground-rule double competition -- after all, any ol' schlub can hit a ball over the fence nowadays, given the equipment combo of baseballs filled with enriched uranium and bats filled with weapons-grade plutonium (now that "the juice" has been banned, wink wink).

The REAL skill, dear friends, is the ballplayer who can rip a shot to the gap which has enough topspin to kangaroo-hop over the fence on one bounce.

What we have here is the equivalent of a 3-point-shot competition in basketball.

Lots of people can heave a b-ball into the basket from 20 feet -- the artful player is the one who can sink 10 consecutive 15-foot bank shots by kissing the ball off the backboard.

ALAS ... the abolition of the 15-foot bank shot in basketball coincided with the African-American youngster quitting baseball in order to play some college b-ball before embarking on a pro career in Madrid or Brussels.

And, here's something amusing:
In the lead-up to this historic game at Yankee Stadium, the EspyTime Sports Channel oftentimes spent 15 seconds of a Sunday night baseball game airing grainy footage of the '77 Classic in the Bronx, although the one scene was always the same: Joe Morgan leading off the game with a home run against Jim Palmer.

The sad part of that highlight was that America only caught a split-second glimpse of Morgan receiving a hand-slap from the guy in the on-deck circle ... the Pirates' Dave Parker, wearing a yellow helmet, black shirt, black pants and white spikes.

Now, THAT was a sharp look (back in the days when Pittsburgh had a major-league team ... and a damn good one, too ... before the Double-A Pirates moved into the Steel City in the mid-'90s ... ).

The other sad part of that let's-promote-Joe-Morgan HR clip was that America never saw the second homer of that inning ... the MONSTER, 2-run blast which Luzinski hit off of Palmer which put the N.L. ahead, 4-0.

People forget how good a hitter The Bull was ... just as they forget that Luzinski was MVP runner-up in '75 (to Morgan) and in '77 (to George Foster and his insane 52 HR season ... before the HR became the hGH-HR ...).

Nowadays, the Bull would not stack up favorably against today's better, stronger, more-talented, faster, better, stronger more-synthetic specimens such as up-n'-comers such as Grady Sizemore and Josh Hamilton, a pair of potential Triple Crown winners who have graced the cover of S.I. in the past year (apparently because of some sort of alleged mad-skillz-set).

Last year's Sizemore cover story was a real hoot, given that, for all of Grady's amazing talent, he's yet to finish a season with a batting average above .300.

Great ballplayers hit .300.

For those of us who began watching baseball more than three weeks ago -- and for those of us who won't allow Pete Gammons to seize control of our brains -- we'll need to see Grady Sizemore finish a season above .300 before we'll even CONSIDER him for the all-time Tribe outfield which exists in our hearts and in our minds.

Right now, he's neck-and-neck for a bench spot next to Cory Snyder.

Ask Gammons this: If Grady Sizemore can finish a season with 30 stolen bases in 35 attempts, then why can't he steal 100?

WHOA! Nobody's sayin' Grady's a pussy.

His numbers say it for him, notwithstanding kiss-ass treatment from S.I., Gammons, whomever ...

In Sizemore's defense, the stolen base was outlawed from the MLB at roughly the same time that the black player was banished.

Proof: Vince Coleman used to roll outta bed and steal second and third.

Now, when Grady reaches first base (as his lifetime average jumps from .275 to .276, woo woo!), he remains there ... camping out ... so that the gals in the Grady Sizemore Fan Club (the ones who weren't murdered by their jealous boyfriends) can use their Cool Pix cameras to get some quality butt shots to add to their MySpace and Facebook sites under the heading of "Oh-mi-gawd-I-went-to-the-game-last-night-and-Grady-looked-right-at-me-oh-gawd-I'd-let-him-do-me ..."

So, that's how we arrived here ... at another vintage move for The MLB (read: hoax).

So many prolific home-run hitters in the game who have achieved milestones recently (Manny, Griffey, Thome, Howard, A-Rod, Pujols ... ) and, because these precious flowers don't want to mess up their "mechanics," we (well, those who'd waste time with this) get an updated version of longball thrills between Nick Esasky and Bruce Bochte (or, if it's a '90s update, possibly Ryan Klesko vs. Jay Buhner).

UPDATE!!!! Just saw the highlights ... Josh Hamilton's tatts had a terrific Round One, but it was Justin Morneau (from Canada) who won the crown.

How 'bout that? Now Justin can put his bogus Home Wrong Derby hardware next to wherever it is he keeps Joe Mauer's 2007 A.L. MVP award which was mistakenly awarded to the wrong Twin.

The sport has no guts, no backbone, no testicles -- which proves how difficult it is when you've got an 0-2 count.

That's to say, it's hard to succeed when you've got no balls ...


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Not Pat The Bat ... "Brett The Brick"

Was it the data collected by omniscient sabrematicians (whoever they are) combined with the opinion of the deputy GM with a biology degree from Stanford (whatever that's worth) which led to the Phillies' attempt to reverse the June Swoon (3-11 during the second half of the month) by demoting Brett Myers to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on this, the first day of July?

Didn't it seem like only last October when Myers was wrist-flipping his glove into the air in celebration mere moments after he struck out Austin Kearns with that knee-buckling, unhittable (read: filthy) bender to finalize the Fightin's win over the Nats which sealed the 2007 N.L. East flag?

And, what's the excuse for demoting Myers and keeping that waste-of-space Adam Eaton around?

This is a sad occasion -- although, a lot of us in The Village of Phanatic don't know if our sadness is most-directly linked to the fact that we've never phully phigured out Brett Myers.

Or if he has.

A lot of us were just about ready to chisel in stone Brett Myers' name atop the list of "Phavorite Phillies Who Have Worn #39."

Granted, it's not much of a list, given that all we really have to chose from is Wally Ritchie (who was more famous for being mediocre as #38), Sparky Lyle (who also wore #28), Mike Krukow (who wore #39 during a respectable 1982 campaign -- 13-11/3.12, his second-best season in the bigs) and that lovable lefty lug, Dave Rucker, who was wearin' #39 and creatin' #39 memories to last 39 lifetimes when he took the mound in the 6th inning of that game against the Mutts in June '85 and was entrusted to protect that 21-7 lead -- not as easy as it sounds, considering that when Phils phave, Tug McGraw, was asked to fulfill a similar role (protect a 21-9 lead) in that unforgettable game at Wrigley six years earlier, Tugger failed miserably, facing 10 batters, beginning with a leadoff single to ex-Phillie Barry Foote and ending with a double by ex-Phillie Barry Foote, hits sandwich around three walks, a grand slam by Bill Buckner and a 2-run homer by ex-Phillie Jarry Martin ... D-Ruck, though, had the benefit of NOT pitching that night in '85 inside a bandbox with the wind blowing out, so he responded to the challenge by hurling three shutout innings in relief of a very-shaky Charlie Hudson and, along the way, he "helped his own cause," as they like to say, by not only lacing a double and then subsequently scoring the Phillies' 22nd run on a single by Greg Gross in the bottom of the 6th, but also singling in the 7th immediately after an RBI double by Steve Jeltz made the score 23-7 and a 2-run double by '85 N.L. All-Star Glenn Wilson put the Phils ahead, 25-7 >>> fascinating, considering how Rucker kept alive two rallies in the 6th and 7th, only to see them end with Von Hayes making the final out twice (flyball, groundout) ... strange in the sense that Vonnie led off the game with a homer, hit a grand slam later during that 9-run first and then singled again during the 7-run second inning, which was capped by Schmidty's 2-run double off of Calvin Schiraldi which made the score 16-0 ... and frustrating in the sense that Vonnie, Everybody's All-Time Phillie Phavourite #9 (unless there are some closet Tomas Perez phans out there) could've had 10, 11, 12 ribbies instead of 6 ... like that time in the bottom of the 5th when he batted against Joe Sambito with one out and the bases juiced, as they like to say, and he worked Sambito for a walk to force in a run which put the Phils up, 18-7 ... it just seems like when you're up, 17-7, and you've homered twice previously, you've gotta swing for the fences, "go for the downs," as they like to say ... sure, it's Sambito on the mound and he's a lefty, but he's not a tough lefty any more and, what the hell ... >>> funny thing is: That was Joe Sambito's last game with the Mutts. The following season he and the other NYM stiff which got kicked around in Philly that night -- Calvin Schiraldi -- would be in the Bosox bullpen in '86 when HEY!!! WTF??? Isn't this supposed to be about Brett Myers?

If only "Soft BM," as some have called him, was a little more interesting.
And more like a pitcher, not a bowel movement, ummmm ... errrr ... "a belly itcher."
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Myers was going to OWN #39 in all-time Phillies' lore ... now, nobody's sure.

Let's face it, he's been craptastic as the so-called Opening Day starter ('07 and '08, woo woo!) ... simply awful in his three starts last year before the role as "closer" became available.

Myers might've viewed the offseason trade to acquire Brad Lidge from the Astros as nothing more than slight setback in his development as baseball's top closer.
"When he gets the yips out there, the Brettster'll be back on the bump, just you wait ..."

Unfortunately for The Brick Who Lost His Job To Brad, Lidge has been basically bulletproof.

And, as it turns out, we're all left to scratch our heads and ponder the #39 paradigm, in addition to wondering if Brett Myers is really any better than Bret Meyer (everybody remembers Bret Meyer ... the recent Iowa State QB who showed promise as an underclassman in '04 and '05 -- 29 TD's, 16 INT -- but never measured up to his Cyclone predecessors, Sage Rosenfelds and Seneca Wallace, with some weak jr. and sr. numbers -- 22 TD's, 31 INT -- which, when ya get right down to it might've been the failing of coach Dan McCarney, who never surrounded Bret Meyer with a quality RB, a la Troy Davis, or a formidable O-line, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera ... )

WAIT! How did this "Ode To Brett Myers" spiral downward into a "Eulogy For Bret Meyer" ???

Anyway, it is in God's country -- Pennsylvania's plush and fertile Lehigh Valley -- whereupon Brett Myers will be evaluated and scrutinized before a concensus is established (presumably between Gillick, a possibly-sober Dallas Green and Ruben Amaro, Sr.'s kid with the flashy biology degree) as to whether B.M. has pitched his final pitch with the Phillie varsity.

That 3-9 record and 5.84 ERA looks crappy enough (particularly with a MLB-worst 24 HRs allowed in his 17 starts) -- but, once you do the ol' sabrematician slice-n'-dice on it, you're horrified to learn that Brick is 0-6/8.18 in 9 road starts this year (all hail those three no-decisions!).

With the way that Kyle Lohse is pitchin' in St. Loo (following last night's W vs. the Mutts, he's 10-2 w/ a 7-0 record, 2.34 ERA in his past 8 starts) and the manner in which Gavin Floyd is tearin' it up for Chicago's Southsiders (9-4/3.45 following last night's W vs. the Tribe), it's not uncommon to feel that the Phillies kept the wrong right-hander to twin w/ Cole Hamels as the quality righty/lefty, 1-2 punch of the future.

(In the Phillies' defense, it was reported that Lohse took less $$$ to pitch for St. Loo, which didn't seem like a real heartbreaker, given that he was 18-26 during his final two full seasons in Minnesota and he was 6-12 for the Reds before he got dumped, going 3-0 for the Phils in his 11 starts before his memorable relief appearance in the ALDS when he took the mound and involved himself in the Kyle Replaced Kyle And Got Killed By Kaz when he served up that grand slam to Matsui in Game 2 ... <><><> Oh! and, the Floyd-for-Freddy trade before '07 seemed tasty, given that Garcia was an established 14-17 wins-per-year kinda guy whilst Floyd spent '05 and '06 compiling a 5-5 record with an ERA of 8.18 and a frightening 19 homers allowed in only 80.3 IP.)

Now, for those of us who are no better at expressing our feelings about Brick Myers as Brick Myers is at spotting his fastball, we don't know if we're supposed to host a candlelight vigil or what.

Are we supposed to reminisce about all the things we miss about him (i.e. the goofy-assed, scruff-chin w/ shaved-head combo platter ... the powerful, wrap-around tattoo on his left forearm ... any/all copies of the police report floatin' 'round the IntraWeb from that time in Boston when Brick Myers did NOT smack his wife when he WASN'T in the presence of eyewitnesses, according to his Mrs.)?

More difficult than finding the paperwork in that domestic matter is tracking down any quality on-the-mound performances which truly stood out as memorable or quasi-heroic (other than some of the "closings" last year perhaps).

Which isn't to say that Brick didn't show some real promise out there on the bump.

There was his ML debut at Wrigley in '02 when he outdueled that hot-shot rookie outta USC (Mark Prior) and limited the Cubbies to 2 hits and 1 run in 8 IP (Marlon Anderson hit the tiebreaking homer and, funny footnote: In his first MLB ABs, Myers struck out all three times -- then when Jeremy Giambi PH for Myers leading off the top of the 9th, he fanned, too ... and then he smoked some dope in the clubhouse, we assume).

Myers finished the season with a 4-5 record, so for a lot of people, he was never going to replace the 1980 version of Marty Bystrom (5-0/1.50) as the heartthrob rookie.

Just like when Myers had that CG, 3-hit shutout vs. Bosox in '03 ... when he was a 22-year-old in his first full season.
His record was 5-6 at the time, so a lot of us shrugged and thought "whatever," not very mindful were we that, during the next two months, Myers went 9-1.

During that streak, Myers met the Bosox again (also at The Vet) and he pitched poorly (7 hits, 7 walks in 4 IP).

Seems like Brett Myers got lost in the shuffle in '03 ... The Vet's final days and a wild-card run which crashed when the Phils went 5-10 during the final two weeks after Myers beat Greg Maddux in ATL to up his record to 14-7.

But, the Phils gakked (losing 2 of 3 to the Pirates, 2 of 3 to the Reds and then getting swept at Joe Robbie Stadium by -- gulp! -- the eventual world champion Marlins).

Myers was feeble in two starts against the Fish down the stretch -- and his 14 wins didn't set him apart from Wolf (16 wins) and/or Millwood and Padilla (14 wins each), not to mention phan phave, Rheal Cormier and his 8-0 record w/ 1.70 ERA.

After the Vet was turned to rubble, nobody would've cared if Myers went 14-7 or 7-14 because '04 was a new stadium, ding! ding! ding!"

With all the bells n' whistles and the amusement-park feel, nobody paid attention to the fact that, in '04, Eric Milton (14-6) was the ace of the staff and that the Big Four of Myers, Wolf, Millwood and Padilla went 32-32.

There's a new ballpark, ding! ding! ding! The Liberty Bell lights up when a Phillie hits a homer! Shhhhhh, Jason Michaels is up. I think he's going yard! There's no empty upper deck for the Wolf Pack? So frickin' what. That means more seats for David Bell's upper-deck blasts!

During the '05/'06 transition from Thome to Howard re: blasts into the upper deck and over the flower bed, nobody really noticed that Brett Myers was an adequate pitcher who wasn't so great during crunch time (there's a new ballpark, ding! ding! ding!).

So, for an '05 team which missed a wild-card berth by one game to the Astros -- an Astros team which the Phils were 0-6 against in '05 -- it didn't really matter that Myers had that huge Sept. start against the 'Stros and he lost, 4-3, when an E-5 by Bell and a walk in the first inning paved the way to an a 4-run rally, capped by a 3-run shot (upper deck or flower bed? no one's sure ... ) by Lance Berkman.

It's always been that way during Myers seven seasons in Philly.

Maybe he's merely a product of that star-crossed draft from 1999 (Josh Hamilton went No. 1, Josh Beckett went No. 2) when the Phils spent their first-round pick on Myers.

We call it "star-crossed" because the Phils didn't sign their 5th-round pick that year (lefty pitcher Joe Saunders out of Springfield, Va. ... who opted to pitch at Va-Tech for three seasons before the Angels made him their frist-round pick in '02 -->$$$) and 12 rounds passed before any team thought it was worth gambling on a kid named Albert Pujols.

So, we'll probably never know who the real Brett Myers is/was (until he's going 17-8 and leading the Blue Jays or Brewers to the 2010 world title).

Since we can't always gauge aptitude and attitude from afar, we can size-up the talent-level simply based on results.
Hard to say, though, what we saw.

Was he Kevin Gross re-born?
A right-handed Shane Rawley?
A healthy version of Tommy Greene-Tyler Green hybrid model?
Chad Ogea with talent?

We might never know ...

Just as we'll never know why anyone would call that other guy "Pat The Bat" when all he does is use that goofy-ass, over-exaggerated "finish" to his swing to launch one homer a week to make us forget his .259 career average, not to mention the $13 mil he makes to hit .259 ...