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Friday, April 06, 2007

The Dice Is Right

Dice K Deals A Royal Flush
For the first time since Pedro toed the rubber in his prime, there was a Red Sox regular season pitching performance that you just "had to see". After watching the Sox spend $102 million to get him, listening to tales about a "giro ball" and salivatingly waiting for 5 long months to watch him, Daisuke Matzuaka finally made his debut. And boy did he impress. Yea, I understand it was the Kansas City Royals. The same team I told you last week was the worst in the AL. But hey, a gem is a gem isn't it? I mean what, he was supposed to throw a perfect game? Truth is, it was virtually impossible for Dice K to do anything but disappoint, and he still didn't let us down! He kept batters off balance all day and even made some nice plays in the field en route to 7 strong innings. Ten strikeouts, versus only 6 hits and 1 walk. He even did some jumping jacks behind the mound! And he did it all with a smile on his face, and a glare in his eyes that let the Royals know he didn't fly 5,000 miles to screw around. What a relief, cuz this kid can flat out pitch. All the nervousness Sox fans had is immediately relieved, for now. We didn't want to face at least 5 days of Yankee fans sayin' "you paid $100 mil for this guy?", and thanks to his opening act, we actually get to walk around and say "boo ya bitches!". And if early reports are any indication, the hype surrounding Dice K's first outing is going to be a regular event. Not only are Sox fans and Japanese fans pumped every time he takes the hill, but Matsuzaka is looking like he could have a similar effect as when Fernando Valenzuela burst on the scene in 1980 for the LA Dodgers. "FernandoMania" took hold over baseball because Valenzuela was as intriguing as he was talented, much like Mark "Bird Man" Fydrich before him, and much like Daisuke Matsuzaka after him. He's got a million pitches, a quirky pitching motion, a mythical pitch and a fanatical following. I know he'll eventually lose, but the longer he can keep winning, the larger his legend will grow, and the better it is for the Sox and MLB. Cuz let's face it, the season has kinda started with a whimper right? And this dazzling start by Dice K was just what it needed. But like I said, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. This one stat might actually scare the shit out of most of you, but I'm throwin' it out there anyway. The last 3 pitchers to make their MLB debut with 10 Ks or more all did it in 2002, and none of them have more than 50 wins after 5 pro seasons. Even worse? Those 3 guys were Mark Prior (42-29; always hurt and currently playing for AAA Iowa), Aaron Harang (48-43; currently Reds ace) and dun dun dun....Kazuhisa Ishii (39-34; hasn't pitched since appearing in 19 games for the Mets in '05). Yeah, totally not cool that the last big name Japanese pitcher to make the MLB jump is on that list, but not to worry. Ishii was almost 4 years older than Dice K is now, and while Matsuzaka is known as a power pitcher, Ishii was more of a finesse guy (aka he walked a ton of people). I'm sure Matsuzaka will end up better than Ishii, but I'm gonna keep at least one set of my toes crossed, just in case. Overall, you gotta love what we saw from the import on Thursday, but you still can't wait to see what he does against better teams, mainly the Yanks. Unfortunately, his next outing is against the Mariners. At least it's his homecoming though, and you gotta be looking forward to the ovation he gets at Fenway Park. He's Sens-Asian-al!

Red Sox Update
Overall: 2-1
Status: Pimpin'. Must have been funny to be in Kansas City after they won the opener. Especially with the day off right after their big win, the talk in town must have been how promising the team looks this year. "Gotta love Gil Meche!". Hahaha. It's fun to dream isn't it? Well, welcome back to reality folks. Good news though Royal fans, only about 98 more losses to go! And two days removed from Curt Shelling, the future of the staff isn't lookin' nearly as bad. Yea Schill is still old and fat, but if he's more our #3 starter than our ace, then I can learn to live with him. However, if he keeps blogging more than I do, then I'll be a little concerned he's not nearly as focused as he has been in years past.

Show Me the Tat
Apparently, Asante Samuel remembered that the tattoo on his arm didn't say "franchise", it says "get paid". The star corner, who was given the franchise tag more than a month ago, has now stepped up and asked the Pats to pay him or trade him. Samuel was quoted as saying he feels he's "worth a lot more" than what the Patriots are giving him credit for. Well to that I say, if your so valuable, then where are the trade offers for you? I mean the second a guy like you gets franchised, teams assume your on the trading block, yet we haven't heard about any squads making moves to try and land you. You think maybe it's because you're not as good as you think you are? Don't get me wrong, I don't want to come off like a hater on this one. I'm just stating the facts. I understand Asante's desire to "get paid". After all, the shelf life of the average NFL player is such that he should try to get as much loot as he can while he can. But that doesn't mean he can hold the Patriots hostage with his demands. It just ain't gonna happen man. We all know that the franchise tag essentially sucks for a player like Samuel that's looking for a long term deal, but that's a beef he needs to take up with his Player's Association rep, not the Pats. And by basically threatening a hold out, Samuel has to know he's basically shipping himself out of town. Richard Seymour is still the only Patriot to date that has held out and received a new deal, and we all saw how successful Deion Branch was didn't we? Like I said when the season ended, we have probably seen the last of Asante Samuel in a New England Patriots uniform. I don't see him getting paid close to the $23 mil in guarantees that Nate Clements got from San Fran, and seeing as that's what he's asking for, I gotta think he's gone via trade. Don't ask me where, because I don't know. But don't be surprised to see the Pats use a package with Samuel in it to either move up in the draft, or perhaps just acquire additional picks this year or in the future. The days of receiving 2 first round picks for franchised players may be gone, but that doesn't mean the Pats can't fetch a nice little package for the 06'-'07 leader in interceptions. Like I said, I don't blame Asante for wanting his loots, I guess it's just sobering every time you see a player you like chose themselves over the good of the team. It ain't Show-Friends, it's Show-Business. And sometimes even when a team wants to sign a player, they just can't seem to find a common ground. Oh well, I have faith the Pats will make this work no matter what happens, and if they don't, it'll pretty much be the first time. Not too shabby of a track record if you ask me.

*And on another Patriots note, I just wanted to touch on the passing of former Patriots wide receiver, Darryl Stingley. Stingley passed away on Thursday, at the age of 55, after living the last 27 years of his life in a wheel chair due to football injuries. Darryl played five seasons with the Pats (1973-1977), collecting 110 grabs for 1883 yards and 14 TDs and rushing for another 244 yards and 2 scores. Stingley's career came to an untimely end at the close of the 1977 season when he was nailed by Raider's safety Jack Tatum going across the middle, and left paralyzed. He was only a 26 year old young man, and his promising career was over faster than you can bat an eye. (Kinda makes you understand where Asante is comin' from doesn't it?) And even worse, Stingley was really beginning to come into his own as a Patriot. 1977 saw him post career highs in catches (39), yards (657) and touchdowns (5), and there wasn't anyone in the organization that wasn't convinced he was in for even bigger seasons to come. But all that came to an abrupt end on August 12, 1978 in a lowly pre season game. And although he only managed to regain movement in his right arm, there aren't many that will tell you Stingley didn't live a full life. He never blamed Tatum (who never apologized either publicly or privately), who made a legal hit (although leading with the helmet is illegal today), and he never felt sorry for himself. Imagine that. I have to say I'd have trouble wanting to live if I went through a tragedy like that, let alone stay upbeat, but this guy apparently never let his situation get him down. As a Chicago native, he was a fixture at the Bulls games during their championship years, often talking to MJ and Pip before and after games. And even though you've prolly never seen him play, I'm sure you've seen the MNF clip from 1978 when all the lights were turned off at then Foxboro Stadium except for the box in which Darryl Stingley was sitting in his wheel chair. Gotta think there wasn't a dry eye in the house for that one. I may have never seen the guy play, but I knew his story, and it's always sad when a former Patriot or Sox player passes on. He gave his all for the team, and I wouldn't be opposed to the team retiring his #84 before this season. Ben Watson can get by with another number, especially when it means they can honor a man that put his life on the line for the fans of the Patriots. Here's a video montage about Stingley, so check it out...

So apparently Billy Donovan thinks about as much of the Kentucky head coaching job as the rest of the country that doesn't inbreed and make their own moonshine. On the same day his four super star juniors announced they were going pro (duh. I mean I know I theorized last week they might come back, but come on now you didn't really think it was goin' down did ya?), Donovan announced that he was staying at Florida, but at the same time, going to the Dominican Republic. Nah, he's not goin all missionary on us and trying to teach the Dominicans to hoop it up (Air Up There II?), he's just goin' on a little vaca for a week. But back to the Kentucky job for a second. You have to think there was no way Donovan was ever even thinking about going there. If he didn't even want to bother using the Wildcats as contract leverage with Florida, then there was no way he was taking that gig. And comments I keep hearing regarding the opening have me thinkin' there's one reason in particular that kept Billy from Lexington, and that's Kentucky Athletic Director, Mitch Barnhardt. Now, I don't have any direct evidence that Mitchy is a bad guy or anything, but I'm decent at reading between the lines. I must have heard a dozen interviews with former Kentucky and current Louisville coach Rick Pitino the past 2 weeks, and in all of them he stated that a main reason for him not wanting to leave the Cardinals was his "amazing" relationship with his AD, Tom Jurich. Add to that, Donovan repeatedly stressed the past week or so that he too has a great relationship with his AD, Jeremy Foley. Hmmm. I mean I know it's not uncommon to show support for your boss like that, but somethin' just seems off to me. You think between being an assistant there himself, and getting advice from his mentor Pitino, Donovan decided it wasn't worth having to deal with Barnhardt? Like I said, I don't know. But the fact these negotiations never even got off the ground has me thinkin' something has to be goin' on. I'm sure Billy D loves Gainesville and all, but to not even listen to what UK was throwin' out there just doesn't seem like good business to me. Hey maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Barnhardt is the coolest mother this side of John Shaft. But if that's the case, then somethin' else stinks in Lexington. And for once, the stench might not be strictly horse shit and racial insensitivity. (of course as I'm typing this story I'm hearing reports that Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie is set to accept the Kentucky job, but what can I do. Not like I'm gonna rewrite this or just scrap it all together. Besides, I still feel the same way about the situation whether Gillispie takes the job or not. So there!)

*And since I'm talkin' college hoops coaching jobs, I gotta drop a few lines about Bob Huggins. You probably remember Huggins as the former Cincinnati coach who was run out of town after problems with booze, or even Kansas St.'s coach last year. No more. Well at least as far as K-State goes. Huggins left the Wildcats after one year to become the head coach of his Alma mater, the West Virginia Mountaineers. Seems like an OK move on the surface, but here's another one that stinks the further you dig. For starters, Kansas St. basically gave Huggins another shot at head coaching. When he was down and out, they were the school that had faith in him, they were the ones convinced he had kicked the bottle. He blows into town, wins a bunch of games, gets a stud recruit last year in Bill Walker, the #2 overall recruit for next year Michael Beasley and just skips down. So much for those kids taking a flyer on a lesser basketball school because of their coach huh? And why West Virginia? I understand Huggins went there, but if this job is such a dream for him, why didn't he take it when it was offered to him 5 years ago? Truth is, Huggy Bear was just using Kansas St. to get a better job ASAP. Can't say I blame him totally, but it's the recruits that suffer. And it's instances like this that make me totally understand why guys don't even want to bother with college. Players like Walker and Beasley likely would have been drafted right out of high school, but now they get duped by some boozer looking to revive his career and end up spending at least one year of their lives in Manhattan, Kansas. And let me tell ya, it's not nearly as glamorous as the other Manhattan. It may have fewer tranny's, bums and rickshaws, but it's not nearly as fun, trust me.

*For the first time in the history of his evil emperor like reign as MLB Commisioner, Bud Selig made a good move. And no, it wasn't having the Cleveland Inidians, and their smiley Indian mascot, play in the "Civil Rights Game" (yea you can't make that shit up). It was in fact, allowing each major league team to wear Jackie Robinson's league wide retired #42 (yea I know peeps still wear it like Mariano Rivera, but if you had it before the number was retired you were allowed to keep it, so beat it) to celebrate his breaking the color barrier in 1947. Several big name players such as Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds have already requested they wear the jersey this year, and it's said that during the anniversary celebration, the entire Dodger team will be donned in #42 jerseys. Good work Bud, finally. Selig could have botched this by citing some dumb ass MLB uniform rule, but he didn't...at least not yet. Sure, this doesn't make up for the tied All-Star game that led to the All-Star game deciding home field advantage in the World Series, or for that whole steroid era (yea I don't know if you've heard about that), but at least it's a step in the right direction. Which is only appropriate seeing as it was also reported this week that Selig made over $14 million in salary in 2005, making him the highest paid executive in the game. Well, the second part was a no brainer, but I wanna know why they don't know his '06 salary or even what he's scheduled to make this year? It's like the freaking census. I honestly don't care how many Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders lived in Bristol County in the year ending 2002. I wanna know how many live there now dammit! And I wanna know how much Selig is making this year! $18 mil? $20 mil? I mean who goes to work not knowing how much they are going to get paid? "Eh, I'll just let you know how much I want every two weeks, and you can just throw it in a envelope and slip in under my door. Small bills please, (whisper) I got a little tax problem." See, even when I try to compliment Selig I end up criticizing him. I guess it's just unavoidable.

From the world of "I honestly can't believe that hadn't happened yet", I am proud to bring you this. The New York Yankee's AAA farm team in Scranton, Pa, apparently has a frisky mascot. Jay S. Hastings, who appears in a suit similar that to the Philly fanatic called the "Grump", was caught in an under cover police sting when he tried to seduce a young boy. Hasting'swas caught when he attempted to lure the young (and undoubtedly supple....gross) young boy into a van covered in the team's logo. How sterotypical of Hastings. Does anything say petaphile more than a guy in a plush suit driving around in a van? I don't even need to view the police report to know that the van was equipped with a matress (possibly a rotating one), a video camera with tripod, and of course, a huge bowl of candy. The only thing that could have made the whole scene even better would have been if "To Catch a Predator's" Chris Hanson was the one in the mascot suit. But, alas, it wasn't meant to be, and it was just your run-of-the-mill perv. As far as who is going to take over for Hastings inside the Grump suit, Deadspin.com seems to think it's Carl Pavano. I like the odds of that, but I am going to go with recently shunned ex-Yankee owner to be, Steve Swindall. Nothing would make Steinbrenner happier than watching his alcoholic ex son in law dancin on the dugout. Talk about from the penthouse to the outhouse. Hey Steve, just look out for that suit, I hear it has a few trap doors in it if you know what I mean. And I know you do.

And finally, I leave you with this priceless piece of video from CBS's very own, college hoops analyst Billy Packer. If you despise Packer like I do, then you'll love watching this video clip as he makes a complete ass of himself. He's later apologized for making these remarks, but I think the fact he said it at all truly shows that he honestly could care less what other people think. A vibe that comes across quite clearly in the way he breaks down NCAA games. Hope you choke on it you smug bastard. Take a listen...

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