01.25.10

On Overreaction: What We Scream About When We Scream About Gary Matthews Jr.

Posted in Baseball at 2:01 am by

Gerard noted the Mets’ acquisition of extravagantly well-compensated journeyman Gary Matthews Jr. when it happened last week, and the two bemused grafs he gave it almost certainly qualified as giving this ultra-minor trade its due. There are things to say about the deal — how historically terrible Matthews has actually been over the course of his $50 million contract in Anaheim, how his acquisition fits into GM Omar Minaya’s predilection for older, useless-er, comparatively expensive backups.

But the good thing about actually having people in your life is that these things don’t actually get said: start talking about Gary Matthews Jr. — this doofus, a guy Baseball Reference rates as most similar to Chad Curtis and Michael Tucker — and watch even ardent baseball fans’ faces fall with the direst disinterest, and you change the subject. I have over-reacted to this sort of thing in this space before — here, wincingly, I am getting huffy about Gerald Williams in the comments of a CSTB post from 2005 — and will do so again, but, by and large, I keep this to myself these days.

Except… yeah, obviously what you’re reading. What GC noted in that long-ago comments section — “there are some good teams with completely useless 25th men on their rosters” — still holds, and the last few seasons of Mets-related masochism have done much to bully me into a more distanced perspective. Unlovely and unlovable, uncommonly hard to watch and improbably poorly managed, the Mets are still the Mets, and I can’t imagine my life without them. They wear the same hats (on Sundays, at least) as guys I grew up idolizing, and that fact, dishearteningly, overrides everything reasonable in my brain to the point where — even when I have other things to do, and other things due — I still get pissed when they deal a barely average relief pitcher for a guy who is, in a way that poor Gerald Williams never really was, surpassingly, spectacularly un-valuable.

Here is what Buster Olney reported about the centerpiece of this deal — a deal strange enough that people are writing about it despite its almost ostentatious insignificance. Okay:

After the Mets completed their trade for Gary Matthews Jr. on Friday, committing about $2.5 million and a middle reliever to land him, one talent evaluator dug into his team’s scouting reports, wondering if maybe his general impression that Matthews was a player in decline was wrong.

The reports for his team were clear: Matthews is a player to be avoided. Slow bat. Declining range. And above all else, a player who wants to be a regular and will be an unhappy distraction in your clubhouse when he’s not in the lineup every day.

Said an executive with another team of the Mets’ efforts to acquire Matthews, which have been extensive, including the discussion of one possible four-team deal this winter: “Baffling.”

Much has been made of Omar Minaya’s supreme backwardness as a General Manager, by a great many people. And yet there’s a head-scratcher buried in this otherwise straight-ahead forehead-slapper. That is: the Mets have been trying to pry The Least Valuable Player in Baseball away from the Angels for some time now. Omar doesn’t like advanced stats, and by all accounts believes Moneyball is a minor John McTiernan credit, but damned if he isn’t doing some ‘tardoid Moneyballing here. That is, he evidently thought he had identified an undervalued commodity in Gary Matthews Jr. — a guy whose Fangraphs page is basically a Saw sequel in statistical form — and tried his damnedest to get him. An undervalued commodity who, in Olney’s words, “might get a $500,000 non-guaranteed minor league deal with an invitation to spring training” from any other team.” That.

So, the challenging part — why, how can something like this matter? At some level, it obviously doesn’t: the Mets don’t really have much of a chance at making me or anyone else happy next year, for reasons that begin with keeping Minaya as GM but have more to do with the ownership that made that choice and pitching and defense and hitting and etc. Matthews will not be the only or greatest reason for this; honestly, I doubt he finishes the year with the Mets. There’s also the question of how much I or anyone else should care about how the dollars of the Mets’ Hapsburgian owners get spent. The team’s array of well-compensated 30-something replacement-level reserves is objectionable, because it looks silly and because it’s a waste, but it’s fundamentally abstract to me. I don’t have to pay Chris Coste a dime, which is a good thing because fuck that dude.

And yet at a level that transcends the actual (irrelevant) deal itself, there’s a reason why this deal stinks. (And a reason, beyond the obvious everyone-there-comments-on-everything, that the first report of the deal elicited 754 comments at Amazin Avenue) It is, I think, the reminder that we Mets fans are investing our emotional energy in an organization that seems absolutely, spookily absent from itself.

No one involved involved with the Mets can explain anything that the team does in a way that seems compelling or honest or even coherent; the bits of what-were-they-thinking reportage that leak out of the front office suggest nothing so much as the astrology-fixated Burmese junta, abruptly deciding to relocate the nation’s capital or undertake a purge because of what house Jupiter’s in (or because Jason Bay played center field seven years ago). Players play well or don’t; executives make good decisions or they don’t; but the whole goofy enterprise of caring about baseball is somehow being laid bare in a deeper way by the hilariously inscrutable “triumphs” of this baffled, baffling organization. Every organization bafflement is, simultaneously, somehow also a goal achieved.

Fans put themselves in a vulnerable position when they decide to cheer for a team — I’ve written about this before as regards the Mets, and there’s nothing in this post that really improves on what I wrote previously. But the Matthews trade — Omar getting “his guy” in a deal that everyone else in the entire freaking world thinks is incomprehensible — is a reminder of how bizarrely bleak it is to be a Mets fan right now. The moves arrive out of nowhere, reflect no philosophy beyond an anarchically da-da absence of internal logic, and allow almost no commentary but this. That is, maundering, meandering wonderment. That is, bafflement, more than any sort of disagreement or — because it’s not 2005, and I’m not 26 anymore — aggrieved grief.

There is, in me, the hope that Omar has gone crazy and is kind of Putting the System On Trial — that he’s going to sign Todd Hollandsworth to a $155 million deal next month, and then trade Johan Santana for a 1991 Eagle Talon and a bunch of yarn, and then reveal the whole thing as a conceptual art piece, at which point we will all applaud and he’ll sell the last three years of Mets baseball at the Gagosian Gallery. But the one thing that all this is definitively not is conceptual, art-wise or otherwise. It’s just fucking Gary Matthews Jr., somehow and for some reason. It’s just business — inexplicable business — as usual. It just kind of sucks, if you can bother to care about it.

01.24.10

Put It In The Books : Howie Rose Is The Only Person Who Still Accepts Unsolicited Demos

Posted in Baseball, Rock Und Roll, Sports Radio at 3:17 pm by

I’m not sure which is more amazing, that someone thought it acceptable to make an (innocuous) voice message from WFAN’s Howie Rose available to the public (he’s no Pat O’Brien, that’s for sure), or that Howie is so thoroughly gracious about receiving CD’s from these guys.  I’ve been sending Suzyn Waldman Air Traffic Controllers CD’s for years, and they come back marked “return to sender” each time. Talk about holding a grudge.

Tom Hicks’ Reign Of Error In Arlington Coming To A Close

Posted in Baseball at 1:36 pm by

Today marks the first, and perhaps last time in recorded history supporters of Liverpool F.C. find themselves envious of Texas Rangers fans.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports a group fronted by Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan have reached an agreement in principal to purchase the Rangers from Tom Hicks (above).

The deal ends some three weeks of intense negotiations, the final eight days of which took place at the urging of Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig after a 30-day window of exclusive negotiations ended Jan. 15.

Last-minute details were ironed out late Friday night and into Saturday. Now, the likelihood of Ryan becoming a minority owner of the last team for which he played and is currently its team president is seen as a formality.

“We are fortunate to be assuming the stewardship of a franchise poised for greatness,” said Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg, who is leading the 12-investor group that includes Ryan, in a statement.

Ownership could be transferred to Greenberg and Ryan™s group, Rangers Baseball Express, by Opening Day, April 4. The deal is expected to easily to pass the scrutiny of baseball™s executive committee and eight-man ownership committee. The 40 lenders who hold $525 million in Hicks Sports Group debt also will review the agreement.

An intriguing aspect of the deal is that it all but excludes Tom Hicks.

A baseball source said that Hicks will own only a small piece of the team and will not sit on its board of directors. He will remain with the team in the ceremonial role of chairman emeritus and, in a deal struck with another company he owns, will hold only 42 of the 195 acres surrounding Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Cowboys Stadium.

01.23.10

The Next Time Someone Calls Bobby Jenks Fat, Arrogant & Stupid…

Posted in Baseball, Fashion at 9:41 pm by

…feel free to stick up for the White Sox reliever by pointing out he’s merely arrogant and/or stupid. The Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley reports the South Side closer has lost a ton of weight this off-season.

(above : possibly Bobby Jenks, maybe Vini Reilly. Very hard to tell these days)

‘He looks the best I’ve ever seen him, and I’m really proud of this guy,” Kenny Williams said. ”As a husband and father, he’s great around his kids — but just sitting here and looking me and Ozzie right in the eye, addressing the issues head-on like men, I’m proud of him. Good for him. Sometimes you’ve got to push some buttons to ultimately get to that point

The 28-year-old appears more than ready. Though he looked at least 30 pounds lighter, Jenks wouldn’t say how much he lost, only that ”I’m hiding it in my shoes.”

”I know I have said stuff like that before, but this is really the best I can remember feeling,” Jenks said. ”Regardless of what happened this winter, I did this for myself. I’m ready for this year. There is more pressure on me this year to fill those shoes that I’ve walked for myself.”

Williams’ concern was whether Jenks lost the weight the proper way, and he got his answer.

”Before I could even get it out, he told me, ‘I’ve lost it the right way,”‘ Williams said. ”I talked to him about flexibility, and he said, ‘I work on that, too.’ We’re in a good place with Bobby Jenks; Bobby Jenks is going to have a big year.”

Thrifty, Quiet, Effective : WSC Daily On Doncaster’s O’Driscoll

Posted in Football at 4:06 pm by

Despite a 1-0 defeat at Derby in the 4th round of the FA Cup earlier today, Doncaster manager Sean O’Driscoll can take considerable solace in Rovers being a mere 6 points removed from a playoff spot in the Championship, the sort of jam econo results that have When Saturday Comes’ Glen Wilson wondering when a Premier League club might make a play for the former Republic Of Ireland international (“like taking your favourite toy to show off at primary school, the more you gleefully talk about how great it is, the more likely one of the bigger boys will come along and pluck it from your grasp.”)

To keep a squad in a division on a budget is one thing. To do so with reliance on an aesthetically pleasing brand of fluid football is another. O’Driscoll  (above, right) has achieved results with one of the most unfashionable teams in the Championship playing arguably its most fashionable football. The emphasis is on ball retention and movement. The system is fluid, the midfielders and full-backs are given freedom to roam – comparisons with Arsenal’s style have been made often. There is joy to be had in punching above your weight, but to do so while out-footballing players much more feted than your own carries an incredible amount of satisfaction.

Given that O’Driscoll also holds an obvious disdain for the by-products of modern football, it would have been interesting to see him handle the media envelopment of the Premier League. So down to earth he’s practically subterranean, WSC’s Taylor Parkes once described him as “speaking so quietly, he’s drowned out by my wristwatch and looking like he’s just been told his dog has three weeks to live”. In 2008, when asked how he would be celebrating play-off promotion O’Driscoll whispered: “I’ve got a cup of tea waiting, but it’s going cold.” Refreshingly he is the very antonym of Phil Brown

Salisbury’s Sophmoric Mistake

Posted in non-sporting journalism, Sports TV at 3:11 pm by

The following is probably an old story for most of you, but between the Haiti telethon, Kobe’s return to MSG and Conan O’Brien’s farewell (can’t Billy Gibbons find a better band to play with?), I have to admit I missed out on what might be the most important story of our times.

It was a little more than 3 years ago that a blind item — not from a sports blog, but rather, CBS Sports.com — led to widespread speculation ESPN had suspended football analyst Sean Salisbury for sending phone-cam pics of his penis to female co-workers.  There’s been no shortage of embarrassing incidents involving Salisbury since, and with the bullying blowhard’s career in a free-fall, he recently filed a civil defamation lawsuit against Deadspin’s parent company, Gawker Media. Salisbury’s prospects for winning said case and/or settling out of court with Gawker took no small hit yesterday with the following revelations, as reported by USA Today’s Michael Heistand :

Salisbury, 46, is admitting what’s already an urban legend on the Internet: that he took cellphone photos of his private parts and showed them.

Yuck. Salisbury says it only happened once ” “a sophomoric mistake” in a Connecticut bar in 2006 ” for which ESPN suspended him for a week for then-unspecified reasons.

“I was ashamed, and I didn’t want to say anything,” says Salisbury, who was an NFL quarterback for eight years and an ESPN NFL analyst for 12. “I thought it would go away and let my ego get in the way. Since then, I’ve beat myself up about it more than 10 baseball bats could. A stupid mistake can cost you, and this has really cost me. I should have been having this conversation a long time ago.”

Salisbury feels better from having had anger-management therapy ” “I needed help. I had a lot of inner anger for years.” He says he’s trying to champion the cause of accuracy in online reporting in a lawsuit against Deadspin that he insists is anything but frivolous.

And the book he said he’d write about ESPN in an erratic e-mail exchange with Deadspin in September ” saying “some major reputations” would be ruined ” is now off.

“I’m not a tell-all guy and regret saying that,” he says.

Only the hardhearted wouldn’t see a chance for his redemption.

So true. Who amongst us wouldn’t give a second chance to a braying egomanic who insists sending unsolicted snapshots of his schlong to female colleagues is “not malicious”? Full credit to Salisbury, who somehow managed to top both Mark McGwire and John Edwards in the Unsurprising Public Confession Sweepstakes of Early 2010.

01.22.10

Tebow To Mom : Thanks For Not Aborting Me

Posted in Gridiron, Religion at 8:22 pm by

Crosswalk.com’s Russ Jones reports saintly Heisman winner Tim Tebow and his mother will appear in a Super Bowl commercial, Sunday, February 7, with a decidedly  anti-abortion theme.

Tim and Pam share our respect for life and our passion for helping families thrive,” Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., said in a statement. “They live what we see every day – that the desire for family closeness is written on the hearts of every generation.”

Daly says the generous gifts of donors, not funds from the ministry’s general budget, have paid for the pricey TV spot.

Tebow fans may not know that Tim’s mother was urged to abort Tebow during a troubled pregnancy and chose not to.

While Focus on the Family won’t confirm the content of the ad, they do say the Florida Gators star quarterback and his mother will share “a personal story” centered on the pro-life theme of “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life.”

“The Tebows said they agreed to appear in the commercial because the issue of life is one they feel very strongly about,” according to a Focus on the Family statement.

Focus on the Family is paying an estimated $2.8 million for the prime time spot. They join an elite lineup of advertisers where CBS estimates over 90 million viewers will watch.

While this sort of advocacy interspersed with football is nothing new, the NFL’s apparent willingness to accept such a divisive advertiser, is another matter.