Monday, August 25, 2008

Holy Pavano! Pedro to the Pen? The Baseball Quarterly Report

Well the Chinese drummers have gone home, and the Olympics are over and I wrote only one paragraph plus this sentence on this blog about the Summer Games! I watched 'em every night after the Met game was over, which will be my viewing habits these next 2wks when the US Open is on. Maybe they should have the ball girls wear beach volleyball bikinis? Is there anything dopier than those silly bikinis and how Bob Costas hyped the Finals taking place on a rainy wet day?

Well... here we go with another sports column.... and amazingly at the end of next wk, it will be time for our first week of NFL picks... featuring the very popular Pumpstradamus. And as we wind down into the last week of August on that dreaded path to Labor Day, it is time once again to revist the baseball scene with our Baseball Quarterly Report.

First... I gotta admit I was wrong with last weeks column speculating on the possibility that Mad Dog Russo's departure from WFAN was engineered by Mike Francesa. Doggie's quick jump over to satellite radio to not only host his own show, but also to program his own channel makes it obvious that Dog really felt it was time for a change and this whole transition had been in the works for many months. I actually am starting to think of subscribing now that I have realized that I can get satellite radio on my cell phone. We'll have to see how many shekels that is going to cost. As for Francesa.. I hope he hires a good sidekick/update person because he really doesn't have it what it takes to carry a 5 1/2 hour show by himself. Granted he knows his stuff, but its hard to maintain a Mad Dogesque stamina running a talk show solo over that long a period. Maybe the FAN should hire Warner Wolf to do the same stuff he does for WABC/ESPN.... do sports updates with a weekend show tossed in. That would inject some personality into the show. Sid Rosenberg would be a good addition too... he could be the Artie Lange of the Francesa show.

Baseball coverage fascinates me. When it comes to the NFL I'm really more interested in the Giants and Jets than the other teams. Yet when it comes to baseball... even though we hear a lot of Mets and Yankees talk here in NJ... fantasy baseball players like myself develop a keen awareness of the national baseball scene. I actually follow the national baseball scene more than the out of town NFL games... and its quite disappointing that the Newark Star Ledger seems to have dropped its long running Sunday Baseball column. Yet they have enough resources to deal with that crappy website and its dastardly bulletin boards?

Anyway, we will first start with the locals...

The Yankees - it's over folks. They have no shot at passing Tampa Bay and Boston for the division title, and just to get the wild card they would need to not only finish 2nd in the East but still end up with a better record than either the White Sox or the Twins. Ain't gonna happen as the post season streak will come to an end. But they did get Carl Pavano back!

Speaking of Pavano.. isnt it interesting how we work in a society where workplace signs are posted mandating employees to report an injury no matter how minor it is. Then in George Carlin-esque irony, we have baseball... which has a website boldly announcing all the on field injuries. I can't understand why the fans were busting Pavano's chops these last few years... the guy was hurt on the job! (Granted he did suffer some injuries in a car accident he kept hush hush) If you were on the job and cut your finger you would make a whole case out of it. Pavano suffered an on the job injury that required major surgery. And in the NFL.... if you suffer an on the job injury... you don't have a guaranteed contract... they cut you - you're fired! Maybe Gene Upshaw's replacement can change this. Can you imagine getting hurt at work and then getting fired for it?

The Mets - Here we go with my controversial idea for the Mets.. especially in light of John Maine's possible season ending injury. I became a big Pedro Martinez fan on October 11, 1999 during Game 5 of the best of 5 playoff series between the Red Sox and Indians. Pedro was getting over an injury and was not even supposed to pitch in the game. He was unable to start, but surprisingly came in from the bullpen in the 4th inning of an 8-8 pitchers duel, Pedro pitched 6 innings of hitless relief to help the Red Sox win the game 12-8 and the Series 3 games to 2. He also did have a crummy relief appearance in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS when the Red Sox beat the Yankees after being down 3 games to none... but that game was so surreal and bizarre that you gotta take that appearance with a grain of salt.

I think about that 1999 game when I realize that the Mets have an outstanding rotation, and a pretty decent offense that has been able to compensate for shaky corner outfielders and a not so Beltraaaaaanish season by Carlos Beltraaaaaaaaaaan. Nonetheless, the starters and offense are quite outstanding compared to the other NL teams which puts them in a great position to win the division, except for the fact that the Billy Wagner-less bullpen has been awful. The Mets have gotten a couple of bandaids by acquiring Luis Ayala and Anthony Reyes from Tampa Bay. Ayala has been ok and Reyes was the Rays stopper in 2007... but who knows how much he has left in the tank. It would be cool to see him pitch in a mop up game batting 9th so that the Mets could go into an inning with Reyes, (Jose) Reyes, and (Argenis) Reyes due up. Has a team ever had 3 guys with the same last name bat consecutively?

Anyway, going back to that Pedro appearance mentioned before, could he be a 9th inning option after the manager opined about having a starter move to the pen? Pedro might not have the overpowering heat he had back in the old days, but a stopper only needs a strikeout if he has a runner on 3rd with less than 2 out. Plus he is a seasoned veteran with post season experience. The Mets got a break in the schedule these last few weeks playing a bunch of sub par teams, but now that that stretch has come to an end, its time to enact a battle plan to avoid the same late season tumble the Mets endured last year. Perhaps Pedro to the pen might be the answer.

As for the playoffs there are a few races left:

In the AL, the Angels have sewn it up and the only question is will K-Rod break the all time saves record. Over in the East, the Rays have been hanging tough despite injuries to rookie sensation Evan Longoria, outfielder Carl Crawford and stopper Troy Percival, The Red Sox traded away Manny but Jason Bay is a very underrated player who could develop into a big star. The Sox now have an outfield of JD (Drew) JE (Jacoby Ellsbury) and Jay Bay. The rest of the division could all finish above .500. Over in the Central the White Sox and Twins battle it out for the division with the 2nd place finisher trying to get the Wild Card. These 4 teams could battle down to the wire.... with only 3 making the post season, but I am going to go with Tampa succumbing to its injuries but icing the wild card with the Red Sox winning the division, and the Twins winning the Central with their terrific young team especially the pitching staff. It brings back memories of the days when Bert Blyleven used to to throw gas... See Bert's pic below. I found this pic on another blog awhile back.

In the NL... I'm hoping the Mets can pull it off.... their hitting has been pretty consistent and the starters have been doing the job better than their other division rivals. I'm picking them again this season to win the East, but with substantially less confidence of years past. 2nd place in the East might not be enough this season with the Cardinals and Brewers fighting to finish 2nd to the Cubbies. The Cards looked great for most of the season but the Brewers added CC Sabathia to a rotation anchored by Ben Sheets and their young sluggers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder seem to have enough to take the Wild Card. Remember... Wild Cards are so hard to predict, because all it takes is a hot streak on a weak schedule for a team once thought dead to breathe life into its season. That was the case with the 2007 Rockies who rode a late season hot streak all the way to the World Series. Over in the West, The D-Backs have a terrific rotation of Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and the ageless Randy Johnson. I think they are going to hold off the Dodgers to take the West even though their bullpen looks a little shaky lately. Plus they just added Adam Dunn... the Dave Kingman of the new millenium.

Post Season Awards:

AL MVP - I thought it would go to Josh Hamilton at the All Star Break but you gotta go with Carlos Quentin. He leads the AL in homers, and who knows where the White Sox would have been with out him. He is the Carlos Pena of 2007... this guy came out of nowhere from a part timer in Arizona... and the DBacks could have used him this year with all the injuries suffered by Eric Byrnes.

AL Cy Young - Cliff Lee has had an awesome season and I would give it to him, however if Fransisco Rodriguez breaks the all time saves record, he should get it.

AL Rookie of the Year - Evan Longoria gets all the hype but Tigers starter Armando Gallaraga has been gaining steam now standing at 12-4 with a 3.17 ERA after the pitching challenged Rangers cut him in the spring. Longoria has played 104 games with 20 homers and 71 Ribbys.

NL MVP - Too close to call. If the Cardinals make the playoffs, I would go with Ryan Ludwick who has Quentinesque numbers. If they don't and the Mets make it, I would give it to David Wright. Nonetheless, there could be a scenario where the Mets pen knocks them out of the playoffs, and if that were the case it would cost Wright the award and probably give it to Chase Utley if both the Mets and Cards are out. I'm gonna put my faith in the Mets pen that they will make it, the Cards won't and that Wright will win the award.

NL Cy Young - I had picked Zambrano at the All Star Break but Brandon Webb has pretty much iced it.

NL Rookie - Edinson Volquez 15-5 2.73 ERA on a crummy Reds team.

Well now its time for the Democrat's Convention. I might chime in with some thoughts about it. But then again, I might not. Nonetheless, we will definitely be back September 5th which is my 4th wedding anniversary for our first week of NFL Picks with the popular Pumpstradamus.


Let's hope Michael Strahan decides to come back. Here is that classic stomp clip from last year's parade. And to think that event included an amusing speech by Eliot Spitzer! As would say... Memba him?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Blog and The Dog: One is Back and One is Gone!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand good afternoon everybody how are you today?

It's interesting to note that the FAN announced the Doggie departure by proclaiming that Francesa had signed a new deal to be the "solo" afternoon host. Also, keep in mind there is a new NY state law that doesnt allow "no compete" clauses anymore, a broadcasting industry twist that changes the playing field that used to keep media personalities off the airwaves after they left one station to head to the next. I remember Arnold Diaz appeared mustacheless on 20/20 one night, the same night he appeard on a spot on Channel 5 to announce that he was coming back to NY TV real soon.. with a mustache! Good thing there isn't a no compete clause in the mortgage industry: Last month I left one job at 10:05 AM and was at my desk at my new job at 10:10 AM!

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I have been following the saga on the terrific Neil Best's fine blog....(Not to be confused with Neil Fein's best blog). But I am wondering if this move was iniated by Dog's desire to expand his career elsewhere or was this a move engineered by Francesa? He saw that the station took a hit losing Imus... did he gamble that they would find him valuable by telling brass that he would only stay if the station allowed him to sign a "solo hosting" gig? Now with much fanfare lauding the new Mike solo gig, Dog is gone... even as the FAN website was touting a number of Russo promotional remote appearances?

I really like the Doggie - I met him many many years ago pre WFAN when he was hosting a little weekend talk show on WMCA where I did one of my two college internships... (the other was at WFAN). Here is a coincidence nobody caught. Mike's first show Friday featured a number of car commericals voiced by Patricia McCann. Back in the WMCA days, Doggie's talk show was on right before a show hosted by.... Patricia McCann! Russo was exactly the same way off the air then, as he is more than 20 years later on the air! And he was a really nice friendly fella too. I actually told him that one day he would replace the late Pete Franklin as the afternoon host on WFAN! And with Pumpstradamus like accuracy - I was right! Dog actually took me to Shea for Tom Seaver Day, and used his press credentials to get us out on the field to watch the ceremonies. What a day that was! Seaver was my hero at the time and it was fantastic. Later, Doggie and I sat in the Press Box during the game and I rattled off some stat about the game that was repeated a moment later by the Press Box PA announcer to which he exclaimed in typical doggie-esque fashion "Good job Nate! Good job!" A newspaper reporter heard this exchange and approached Dog and asked him if he was Chris Russo. I wondered if it was the first time he had ever been recognized in NY. Perhaps a star was born that day!

While still toiling in the obscurity at WMCA, Dog started moonlighting at WFAN picking up odd over night fill in shifts. It didnt take him long to get noticed as his loyal San Fransisco Giant fan-dom led him into a fiery on air debate with Mike Francesa over who is a better player - Will Clark or Don Mattingly. The 2 kept battling it out on the Imus show, and on Sept. 5, 1989 - (exactly 15 yrs before my wedding day!) the Mike and the Mad Dog show was born.

I think they actually did some shows together before the official 9/5/89 premiere. I thought they were on the air the day Bart Giamatti died which was September 1st 1989. The only reason I remember was I was working at a now defunct little AM station in Plainfield, NJ and I was anchoring a 30 minute news show at 5pm. At a few minutes to 5 the AP wire had an urgent announcement that Giamatti had suffered a massive heart attack. I had no way of leaving the studio during the show to get more AP updates, and there was nobody there to check the AP machine in the next room. So I was resourceful - I took a transistor radio to the studio and monitored WFAN and while I read other news stories about local mashugas I was getting Giamatti updates. I was really hoping he would be okay because I really admired him... but unfortunately his death was announced on WFAN near the end of my 30 minute broadcast, which was repeated by myself with the announcement that "Broadcast Reports indicate that Baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti has died". I more than made up for that theft, when I moved to a different station and the competing station always listened to me and stole my news stories.... even the ones where I mispronounced names (purposely).

Mad Dog picked up the nickname from NY Daily News Media Columnist Bob Raisman who like myself tends to pin nicknames on people - most of which don't stick. The Mad Dog moniker stuck.

I think the FAN made a mistake and the way this contract signing unfolded, makes it appear that Francesa played it out to have his own show. Unless Russo was behind the scenes clamoring for a solo show elsewhere these last few months, it just seems like the Doggie got stabbed in the back. But in his defense, Francesa was very humble and polite on Friday's show which consisted of hours of pro Russo calls. Who knows what the real story was... and who knows if we will ever know... until of course one of them publishes a book.

There was other stuff going on during our little blogging break:

OLYMPICS - Memo to NBC: Is there anything else going on besides swimming, gymnastics and beach volleyball? With all these skimpy outfits.....All Ive seen all week are tuchises!! Michael Phelps has already dethroned Eli Manning as Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year... even if Bret Favre leads the Jets to a 16-0 season!But c'mon let's get to the track and field already!

THAT POOR MISSING KID - Why do I get the feeling that the cop with the missing wife Drew Peterson is wathcing this since it is keeping the news talk shows away from him. But this story gets stranger by the day as the kid's mom is in jail, yet it looks like her only crime... and its a pretty big one... is not reporting her kid missing. But is the kid missing? Why do I get the impression this kid was sold to somebody else? And these grandparents - c'mon their daughter is a single mom - she only has a part time job, yet they dont find it odd that she would leave for work and then a long vacation afterwards. What single mom can afford to take such a long exotic trip? And this "babysitter" who the mom says took the kid? They found her.... she claims she doesn't know the family.... yet the mom knew her name and where she was from. And then the bizarre love hate relationship that the grandparents have with the media just makes it even stranger since one minute they are begging the media to spread the word to help find this poor kid and the next minute they are snapping at them like bickering afternoon drive sports talk show hosts! It gets weirder by the day!

JOHN EDWARDS - Wow, are the Republicans having a field day or what? My original prediction of a Edwards vs. Giuliani election never materialized, and maybe thats a good thing. But wait a minute.... wasn't Rudy also committing adultery by two timing his wife Donna Hanover by publicly cavorting around town with his girlfriend Judy Nathan? Amazingly Republicans say what Edwards did was worse because he lied when confronted by reporters who asked him if he was cheating on his wife. Rudy was not such a tzaddik either publicly dumping Hanover by announcing his intentions during a press conference! And then... last weekend I was watching Geraldo Rivera's show on The Fox News Channel and Geraldo of all people had the audacity to rip into Edwards for two timing his wife!! Geraldo?? Who does he think he is... Mother Teresa?? Look at his sordid past!

THE NEW AND IMPROVED KOSHER- Speaking of Conservatives....The Jewish Conservative movement is behind a new idea to make food officially "kosher" if it passes stringent religious requirements AND the company that produces the food treats its workers properly and respectfully. There has been a lot of controversy lately because of the raid on the Rubashkin plant in Iowa that led to the arrrest of a huge number of illegal immigrants who were working at the slaughterhouse. This led to this new kosher concept, and amazingly the ultra-Orthodox, and the plant owner is one of them, seem to mock this attempt to avoid the embarassment of this type of news story. I see in the new Jewish Week that Rabbi David Lincoln is being ripped by Ultras after he criticized them on a cable tv show for trying to minimize wrongdoings in their community when they become public.

A periodical published for an ultra audience really took some shots at the Conservative attempt to correct this - or as they call them the "deviationist Conservatives". This periodical also had a glowing review of a tour of the plant that sounded like Mike Francesa touring the Yankee Monuments. The best line of this journalism described the "huge air conditioned dining hall where the employees ate". But how do you explain the large number of illegal immigrants that were discovered at the plant? Did they all coincidentally arrive there to watch Lucha Libre on the TV in the "huge air conditioned dining hall"??

Don't get me wrong - I like my ultra Orthodox brothers and sisters, but maybe they should write their newspapers in Yiddish so my fellow "deviationist Conservatives" won't understand what they are writing about!


Earlier in the year I wrote about Andy who used to own the deli in my former office building. He was kind of forced out for a new deli whose owner bolted out in the dead of night breaking his lease and leaving the building deli-less until a new caterer moved in. Anyway, a tribute video was put together for Andy that I just recently discovered on You Tube and here it is - if you go to approx 8:50 of the video you will see what the big problem is in America - Shoplifters!!


I get a kick out of the Chinese introductions to the National Anthems... not to mention the little music breaks piped in during the breaks on beach volleyball while the women adjust their wedgies. Here is an old clip of the Chinese version of Hava Nagila!