Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Breaking News

After a protracted negotiation marked by brinksmanship from both parties, escalating tensions, and one man's admission that he was grocery shopping when the Federal government expected him to be "working from home", Whitney and I have reached agreement on the terms of this season's Red Sox/Mets case bet.

And the verdict is: Even. We're going pick 'em this season, which is either evidence that the Mets have had a banner offseason, or the Sox are poised for a steep declince. Boy, I hope it's the former.

To recap, if the Sox win 1 more game than the Mets in 2006, I'll be the gleeful recipient of a case of something alcoholic and New Englandy, like Harpoon IPA (my current ale of choice). If the Mets top the Sox in the standings, Whit gets a case of Brooklyn Brewing Co. product. If the 2 teams are tied, we do upside-down kegstands until we pass out in a pile of our own sick.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Game 6

There have been a handful of mutterings around MLC about a possible new movie entitled Game 6 about the '86 Series. I know Rob used to dread this topic, but after the salve of 2004 was applied, he might have found some inner peace when it comes to this subject.

In truth, even objectively this project sounds very intriguing. Here's what I heard -- I know, don't believe everything you hear, but it was a reliable source and it does make a lot of sense. Check it out:

It's going to be a feature film on the '86 season. Filming around Shea begins next week. Reports out of Hollywood indicate they've tapped Oscar-winner Paul Giamatti to be Gary Carter, Denzel Washington as Doc Gooden, and Todd Bridges as Darryl Strawberry. Keith Hernandez will play himself, convinced that anyone else would "butcher me."

Horatio Sanz was recently cast as Sid Fernandez, and MVP Ray Knight will be played by Corbin Bernsen, since the writers found his character of Roger Dorn to be "eerily similar." Former Young Guns co-stars Emilio Estevez and Lou Diamond Phillips will reunite to portray Wally Backman and Jesse Orosco, respectively.

Reportedly, either Ving Rhames or Malcolm-Jamal Warner will tackle Kevin Mitchell, maybe both. Meanwhile, the part of Mookie Wilson was a highly coveted one for obvious reasons. Danny Glover was deemed a little too old, Chris Tucker lacked the "veteran resonance" Mookie displayed, and Wesley Snipes had "too much Willie Mays Hayes baggage." The gutsy decision to cast Jamie Foxx in the role has Oscar written all over it. Foxx is currently spending 12 hours a day with cinematic batting stance specialist Dick Helms to nail down Wilson's unique plateside manner and the Game 6 pitch dodge that will climax the film.

Ron Darling will be a computer-generated animation with James Woods adding the voice.

Filling out the rest of the Mets clubhouse are Billy Dee Williams as mid-season trade George Foster, Benjamin Bratt as Bobby Ojeda, and Hilary Swank as a pre-juice Lenny Dykstra.

Kevin Costner, desperate for any baseball-related movie, apparently pitched himself as being able to do "a kick-ass HoJo," but was turned down for every role on the 25-man roster. He later accepted a role as Peanut Vendor #2. Howard Johnson will instead be portrayed by Pauly Shore.

Rounding out the rest of the Mets' side of the film will be John Ratzenberger as skipper Davey Johnson, Tom Hanks in a dual role as Mr. Met/Tim Teufel, and Leslie Nielsen as Enrico Pallazzo.

Perhaps Rob has some inside scoop on who theyll get to play the Sox. I haven't heard any specific names being thrown around except Tom Arnold as Clemens, and just something about "a whole lotta moustaches."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bloggers and Readers

Hard to get terribly excited about baseball when the thermometer reads 36 and the view from my palatial office features grey drizzle and afternoon traffic. I haven't had a cc of caffeine all day, which adds a dull throb in my temples to the localized pain from a dental procedure conducted this morning. True professionals, though, grit their teeth and fight through the pain and apathy to deliver for their fans.

Just a few stretching exercises today before the whole squad shows up:

2006 will mark the first year in the history of MLC that both the Sox and the Mets have reasonable expectations of success. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that the Mets are probably more likely to win their division than are the Sox. The New Yorkers significantly enhanced their roster during the offseason, and while the Sox will put a quality team on the field, their competition got stronger and deeper. And if you think I'm only saying this to tilt the odds in the annual case bet, well, you're not as dumb as you look.

I haven't read the Globe or Herald today - intentionally. The Sox have excused Manny Ramirez from the first few days of Spring Training, permitting him to come to camp on March 1st. Dollars to donuts Shaughnessy's in full uproar about Manny's prima donna routine, facts be damned.

The departures of Kevin Millar and Johnny Damon leave the Sox without a native English speaking class clown. Bronson Arroyo auditioned for the part in a NESN interview yesterday, but he's just not...how shall I say this...all that bright. And when you lag Millar and Damon in that category, well, you should feel pretty damn blessed that you can throw a baseball, because the economic viability of mediocre guitar-playing stoners from Key West is questionable.

For whatever reason, baseball season still seems a looooong way off, even though it's less than 6 weeks from Opening Day. I'm headed to Whit's new abode in a few weeks for our own version of Spring Training, so I'll have about 4 weeks to allow my liver to recover before the season starts.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Fixing The Classic

Rob mentioned the World Baseball Classic, or WBC (for folks who aren’t boxing aficionados). I’ve gone back and forth on how I feel about this event, and I’ve come to what I feel is a rational solution for all parties.

Initially, without having delved too deeply into the matter, I agreed with my cohort’s comment that the WBC was something contrived. Perhaps because Bud Selig was involved with its promotion (I swear, he could make a proclamation against the Holocaust and instinctively, we’d defend the Nazis), or perhaps because using our professionals in other international competitions has waned rather than piqued my interest, I just couldn’t get enthused. Upon further reflection, however, I began to see the merit.

First of all, what with that pinnacle of responsibility the IOC clipping baseball from the Olympic Games for the foreseeable future, there is actually a need for a World Cup of baseball. Until baseball edges out handball, pong, and the other mainstays (not rugby, of course) and wedges its way back into the Games, the WBC will have to suffice.

Additionally, as Major League Baseball’s international quotient becomes more and more substantial, a competition broken down by country of origin (some "origins" more distant than others, Signore Piazza) becomes increasingly intriguing. While plenty of red-blooded, xenophobic middle Americans who are tired of pro ballplayers waving their flags all over the U.S. of A. just want to see the American club squash the other countries and re-assert its dominance in the sport our forefathers invented, there is actually some value to such games. We’ll get a geography lesson and a better sense of many players’ homelands, particularly for guys we categorically label "Hispanics" but who are in actuality Dominicans, Venezuelans, Puerto Ricans, and Panamanians, among others. We’ll get to bear witness to a legion of ballplayers we automatically associate with greed, selfishness, and a skewed economic system simply play baseball for their country. Okay, it’s a far cry from true "patriotism," but there’s more altruism and pure passion for the sport in a handful of WBC contests than in 162 regular season games. And finally, we’ll just get to see something out of the ordinary. A jumbled pile of new teammates, rosters, schedules, venues, and outcomes.

If it’s well-organized, well-represented, and well-scheduled, this could be even better than the Olympics, since summer games conflict with the MLB season. Ay, there’s the rub. The scheduling – right in the middle of spring training – could make this the disaster it's being depicted as in the media. As Rob pointed out, any injury that occurs in the WBC will turn the fans against the event. Not only that – a WBC player who tires down the stretch in September will also be cause for resentment. It’s a no-win situation for the players; either they aren’t in regular season shape and risk torn hammies and shoulders, or they are and risk fatigue toward the end of seven months of play, travel, and spotlights. There’s no good time to schedule this tournament, but spring training, when clubs are figuring out who will and won’t be part of their season, is clearly not the time.

So what’s the answer? Fear not, lads and lasses, Dr. Lester has the panacea for your World Baseball Classic jones, and it comes in a 1’x3’ box for about $30 or $40. Yes, in lieu of actually trotting out each country’s best players – or not, since they’re realizing the risk and fleeing like rats from a sinking ship lately – and jeopardizing their 2006 futures for an exhibition, we’ll ensure the safety of the individuals while accurately determining which country sports the finest baseballers in all the land.

That’s right. Rob Russell and I are going to sit down with Strat-o-matic Baseball, each of the 2004 players, a legal pad, and two cases of beer. We’ll divvy up the squads by nationality and compile teams to represent some fair competition. (I don’t think that the Netherlands, for example, can compete on its own, so maybe we pool a few nations together based on proximity, language similarities, and peaceful co-existence throughout history.) Then we’ll script lineups, manage some games, and declare a winner. But let’s face it, compared to the way it’s actually going to go down, everyone will be a winner with our solution.

We’ll let you know how it goes.

Long Tossing

Shaking off the rust from a long winter's layoff, ingesting lots of masking agents just in case the new MLB steroid policy extends to bloggers, and stretching the little-used muscles in my brain as pitchers and catchers start to head south:

I'm mildly interested in the World Baseball Classic, mostly because I'm a sucker for international competitions, even contrived ones. That said, I really don't see any way for this to work, especially given the timing. If Johan Santana blows out his elbow in March pitching for Venezuela, or Miguel Tejada gets hit in the wrist by some Italian-American kid, Bud and his boys will be swamped under an avalanche of negative public opinion. Hell, it might even get Wayne Gretzky's wife off the front page of the Sports section for a few hours. I get that baseball's trying to open new markets, but the risks seem to outweigh the rewards.

The Hub is all atwitter about the possibility that Roger Clemens may come back to finish his career in Boston. 2 years ago, I'd be revving up a fully righteous indignance, but today I'm struck by my utter indifference. For starters, I think his agents are using Boston and New York to drive up the price for the Astros - I'd be stunned if Rajah actually leaves home. And if he does come to Boston, he'd likely not join the team until June, and he'd only show up on the day of his scheduled start. So I could safely pretend that he wasn't really on the team 80+% of the time. And on the days he did start, I could focus really intently on the catcher, batter, and umpire, which would improve my understanding of the tools of ignorance - in more ways than one. So, as you can see, I'm completely at peace with this news.

Nomar Garciaparra's not a Mexican. In other news, General Francissimo Franco is still dead.

In local baseball news, the Nationals have offered Sammy Sosa a contract. That's just what the nation's capital needs in the wake of a bizarre stadium lease negotiation, a roster with Sosa, Jose Guillen, and Alfonso Soriano competing to see who can create the most resentment in the ranks of their teammates. I hear Jim Rome's on the short list of color commentator candidates.

I'm on a pitch count, just like the World Baseball Classic participants. Whitney's on his way with more pointless drivel.