12.30.06

For The Dice Man, It’s Time To Make The Doughnuts

Posted in Baseball, The Marketplace at 9:03 am by

The Boston Globe’s Neil Reed reports that while newly acquired P Daisuke Matzusaka is already hawking Ashai Super Dry beer, dressed in Red Sox gear, he might be in line for an endorsement with a well-known New England firm.

Tom Manchester , director of sports marketing for Dunkin’ Donuts, said the company hasn’t officially negotiated for a Dice-K sponsorship, but would like to do an ad similar to those it did with Red Sox Curt Schilling , who in 2004 was cast by Dunkin’ listening to a book on tape to learn how to speak with a New England accent.

“The win for us would really be to introduce Dice-K to what New England runs on, and that’s Dunkin’ Donuts,” Manchester said. Dunkin’s sister company, Baskin-Robbins Inc., has more than 800 ice cream shops in Japan, so Matsuzaka could be a marketing asset to the company overseas. too.

I can only assume Manchester has seen the footage below, and he’s not troubled.

Howard Poised To Cash In

Posted in Baseball at 8:22 am by

Perhaps in response to being dubbed “the best thing (baseball) has seen in a long time” by Scoop Jackson, the Phillies’ Ryan Howard is expecting a substantial raise writes the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Marcus Hayes.

In what could be a significant move in the pursuit of a big payday, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has dismissed agent Larry Reynolds.

According to the Phillies, Howard, who won the 2006 National League MVP in his first full season, is looking for new representation. He has not informed the club who that will be, though he might be fortifying his camp with a higher-powered entity than Reynolds.

Whomever Howard chooses, the new agent can expect to deal with the Phillies relatively quickly, even though Howard will not be eligible for arbitration until after the 2007 season. Maybe he can get some of the cash the Phillies earmarked for the righthanded power hitter they failed to sign as his protection in the lineup.

Howard made $355,000 last season.

Though Reynolds’ website appears to be down, you can check out a cached version here.

According to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, the only thing holding up Randy Johnson’s return to Arizona is the matter of how much, if any, of the Unit’s salary the Yankees will be expected to eat.

The two sides have discussed more than 10 permutations, depending on the finances. The Yanks may budge on the money to continue their recent quest to inflate their farm system. Among Arizona’s most advanced pitching prospects, the Yanks favor Micah Owings, and also Dustin Nippert and Ross Ohlendorf.

Fisk : Soccer & Violence Go Together…

Posted in Football at 1:10 am by

…like pretentious broadsheet editorials and sweeping generalizations.  Armed with a copy of Franklin Foer’s “How Soccer Explain The World”, the Independent’s Robert Fisk declares football and violence to be “mutually interchangable.”

Foer wades in at the deep end with a visit to Belgrade’s top- scoring Red Star, a team nurtured by Serbia’s equally top war criminal Arkan, who took his well-armed footballers down the Drina Valley in 1992 on an orgy of killing, plunder and mass rape. Arkan (above, right) drove a pink Cadillac and sported a football wife – the gorgeous retro singer Ceca (above, left) – whom he married in full Serb uniform. Red Star’s pre-war match against the Croatian Partizans – beloved of its fascist president Franjo Tudjman who had adorned the team he once led with wartime Ustashe icons – ended in a pitched battle.

It was Margaret Thatcher who famously described football hooligans as “a disgrace to civilised society” – the very words we later used about the murderers of Serbia. In Glasgow, Protestant supporters of Rangers would sit in separate stands – “We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood,” they would roar in unison – from fans of the Catholic Celtic football club.

Vandalism, assault and murder have now become so much a part of European football that it has become a habit. “Football fan shot dead after racist mob attack,” read a headline as I passed through Paris the other day. Typically, the story – of an off-duty French cop who killed a white supporter of the Paris Saint-Germain team as he screamed anti-Semitic insults while trying to murder a French Jewish fan of Israel’s Tel-Aviv’s Hapoel – was printed on page 27. It is quite normal, you see, for racist football fans to try to kill their opponents – and for the police to open fire.

I remember a more disturbing moment in the Middle East when I was investigating one of the many – and all too true – incidents of brutality by British soldiers against Iraqi prisoners. In a Basra hospital, I listened to a badly wounded ex-prisoner of the British Army as he described how his tormentors had entered the room in which he and his friends were being held.

“Before they assaulted us, your soldiers gave us all names – the names of world-famous footballers,” he said. “Then they started beating and kicking us until we screamed and begged for mercy. Why would they do that?”

12.29.06

Knicks Scorched Early In Phoenix

Posted in Basketball at 9:24 pm by

Suns 56, Knicks 39 (halftime)

Wednesday’s triple OT defeat of the Pistons seems like a very distant memory for the Knicks this evening, as Steve Nash is running rings around Stephon Marbury, while noted Steph-sparring partner Kurt Thomas (above) has 10 points against his former club.

From the backhanded compliment file, the New York Post’s Peter Vescey pays tribute to Isiah Thomas’ shorthanded Knicks winning 4 of 5.

Thomas’ coaching noticeably improved the moment his rotation got shortened by suspensions and injuries, meaning fewer genius thoughts and fewer chances to cause substitution and situational slip-ups. That translates into happier and less inhibited (as well as lengthier) players. Their fear factor of being yanked has been greatly diminished. Minutes and roles are more consistent and clearer.

Thomas wasn’t the only one rooting against the fog ever lifting on the Baltimore tarmac. Surely that explains why Quentin Richardson’s therapy for back spasms is extended “Limbo” lessons. And some of you dared to believe Nate Robinson’s warning label states he’s an anti-coagulant.

Alas, the flaming five-game western swing to wring out the old and ring in the new begins tonight in Phoenix. If I’m Thomas, I’m twitching in apprehension; fans and the free media may expect more nights like Wednesday. This tends to be the case when your payroll hovers around the national debt and your team is wont to perform like a national disgrace.

The Daily News’ Frank Isola, while not printing playoff tickets just yet, prefers criticism of the more constructive variety.

The one thing Isiah Thomas learned in the aftermath of the brawl is that less is more. Marbury and Crawford should be the starting backcourt and Thomas should find a veteran backup “- an Anthony Johnson type “- who can play either position. The Knicks don™t need Steve Francis and he doesn™t want to be here anyway.

You have to wonder about where Nate Robinson fits in. I™ve never big on undersized guards and I™ve always felt that Earl Boykins is one of the most overrated players in the league. As a 12th man, Nate would give Isiah some insurance in the backcourt. Otherwise I would drop him from the rotation.

Since Isiah seems committed to using David Lee off the bench, Lee should be used to play all front court positions. His rebounding and hustle are the same intangibles that Charles Oakley and Marcus Camby once gave the Knicks.

Lee has been the team™s most important player to date, followed by Eddy Curry, Crawford and Marbury. Not surprisingly, those players have logged the most minutes this season.

The Nets received strong contributions from their big 3 of Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson (above) and Jason Kidd in tonight’s 91-81 defeat of the Heat, playing sans D-Wade and the suspended James Posey.

Stu Jackson can do whatever he wants to the latter, just so long as he doesn’t interfere with the cinematic career of James’ sister Parker.

Speaking of Flash, I suppose we’re all very lucky neither he nor members of his family were recruited to make a late season cameo on the Miami-based “Nip/Tuck”.

Basketbawful did a nice job of chronicling Al Harrington’s mohwak-mania, but neglects to mention that Al might’ve well been inspired by the early hair styles of his former Hawks coach, Terry “Richie” Stotts.

Your Year-End Dose Of The Klap

Posted in Baseball at 7:51 pm by

While “Pedro Martinez and Zito and even Jeff Suppan, (the Plan B who shocked everyone by signing with the Brewers) are just vapor in the Mets’ once-lofty plans,” the Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch wonders just what sort of starting rotation the Mets’ Omar Minaya will cobble together.

The options are limited, unless you’re intrigued by free agent Jeff Weaver, who already failed once in New York, or a trade for Javier Vazquez (ditto) or think it’s worth being fleeced by Billy Beane just to pry Rich Harden away from the A’s.

Minaya has been sweet-talking Beane in recent weeks. Give him credit for at least trying. The two spoke 10 days ago, when Minaya again tried to persuade the A’s to take Aaron Heilman and Lastings Milledge for Harden. Beane wouldn’t budge. By telephone Thursday, the GM said, “We have some personnel here that would be difficult for us to consider moving.” In not so many words, Beane told the Mets it would take Milledge, Philip Humber (above) or Mike Pelfrey and Carlos Gomez, a 20-year-old can’t-miss prospect, to complete a deal for Harden or even Dan Haren.

The Mets knew there was no competing with the Giants’ cash, not at $18 million a year. The Wilpon family and Minaya decided Zito simply wasn’t worth that much. One GM said, “This is one time Omar realized something we all try to remember in this business, there’s always another star who’ll be available. It’s never about one guy.”

But will that restraint mean anything next summer, when half the rotation is decomposing, and the bullpen is burned out by July? The Mets have every right to feel good about the money they saved Thursday, but in the heat of a pennant race, cash is no substitute for wins. The scouting report for the ’07 Mets is already in: They had better hit.

Always Amazin’s Ryan McConnell is pretty satisfied that long-term, the Mets have dodged a bullet.

I’m appreciative that Omar Minaya isn’t Steve Phillips. Much like Bobby Bonilla’s deal with the Mets in ’92, Zito’s deal with the Giants is astoundingly bad; it’s the type of contract that not only throws the market completely out of whack, but cripples a team’s financial flexibility for years to come. While Zito’s a solid pitcher and I’m disappointed he won’t be playing for the Mets, I have little doubt that passing on him will be the right decision for the future of the franchise. Resisting the “win now” mentality isn’t easy, especially in New York. But it’s these kinds of decisions that make a decade-long dynasty more possible.

Much as it pains me to write the following, the notion of bring Steve Traschel back to the Mets is not only inoffensive in light of recent events, it might even be downright prudent (assuming Traschel isn’t looking for Jeff Suppan money, and if he was, we’d have probably heard about it by now). The single/seperated life led to a career year in ’06 for Paul Lo Duca, so perhaps Traschel and Captain Red Ass can room together?

SI.com’s Jon Heyman casts an obstinate no way (Jose) vote against Mark McGwire’s Hall of Fame candidacy (“With eight years to learn and reflect, there’s almost no doubt in my mind McGwire was not only artificially enhanced but that he was more enhanced than just about anyone else,”), and I for one, am completely stunned. How did Heyman get a ballot?

I don’t know when or if the former Pride Of Peabody, MA, Jeff Allison will be making his Yard Work debut. But he’ll have to try pretty hard to live up to the standard set by Shea Hillenbrand.

Requiem For A Sham Marriage

Posted in Basketball, History's Great Hook-Ups at 6:28 pm by

Michael Jordan and his wife of 17 years, Juanita, filed for divorce today.

Deadspin’s A.J. Daulerio, showing all the charm and panache of A.J. Benza, marked the occasion by observing, “those rustling noises you hear are the sounds of millions of opportunistic vaginas twitching simultaneously.”

A pop psychologist could have a field day with that particular statement. But if Daulerio can fashion a vocation out of pandering to a readership that actually believes there’s such thing as an opportunistic vagina, best of fucking luck to him.

And best of luck to Michael Jordan. Presumably, putting this chapter behind him was the only thing preventing MJ from making the Bobcats every bit as successful as he made the Wizards.

The World Cup Is Over, But For Seething Wells, The Horror Lives On

Posted in Football, Sports Journalism, Sports TV, We Aren't The World at 6:09 pm by

(finally, some year-end accolades for these two hard working broadcasters)

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from “‘Tits Out Teenage Terror Totty” author / Philly exile Steven Wells, and his final column of 2006 for the Guardian tackles a subject near and dear to many of our hearts (even if it’s been rehashed a thousand times) : ABC and ESPN’s painful coverage of the 2006 World Cup.

The Best We’re Not-in-Islington-Now-Toto Moment Award goes to … ABC/ESPN for explaining that “Ecuador are the Denver Broncos of world soccer.” This beat out literally hundreds of other entries, including: “If this was basketball, it’d be like Shaq vs. Kobe”; “Trinidad & Tobago – The George Mason of the World Cup”; “Is he going to use the driver or the pitching wedge?”; “Wayne Rooney is a little bit like an American linebacker”; “Nakata is the Terrell Owens of this Japanese team”; and “Australia don’t have many men on the end line”.

The Worstest Soccer Commentator Ever Award … goes to ABC/ESPN’s Marcelo Balboa for starting every single freaking sentence with “You know what?” and his relentless excusing of every single bit of diving, cheating and time-wasting as “part of the game”. Never has the Wells TV screen come so close to being booted in so many times.

The First Ever Ian St John Award for the Most Improved Commentator of the World Cup 2006 goes to … (hushed silence) … former play-by-play announcer for baseball’s Florida Marlins and New York Mets – ABC/ESPN’s David O’Brien (ecstatic applause). Dave started the tournament defending ABC/ESPN’ s deliberate dumbing-down policy and alienating every single soccer fan in America by calling them an “antsy mean-spirited … petulant little clique”. But after receiving an avalanche of antsy, mean-spirited and petulant criticism, (“When the US team boards a plane to head home in disgrace, O’Brien should be handing out the peanuts on the flight” – Tom Hoffarth, LA Daily News), O’Brien relented, easing up on the “volume of items” (the non-stop barrage of “facts” of the sort used to fill the long aching gaps between adverts in televised baseball) in favour of more “foot-to-foot action”. Well done that man.