27 May 2008

Last Week's Hacks

Two months ago, egged on by the usual suspects from the Dbacks sales department, local fanboys gushed how the West was the league's best division - some went so far as to call it the best division in baseball. One month ago, after just two squads managed to win half their games, Mark Grace conceded he was wrong. Today, only AZ and LA among the NL Worst are playing even .400 ball. Three of baseball's four worst teams reside in the division and Arizona's strength of schedule currently ranks 29th of 30 teams.

Trolling along at 10-13 in May, the Diamondbacks must win four of five to maintain their league leading streak of consecutive (7) non losing months. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim own MLB's longest current run (10), and with only four more months of winning will likely eclipse the length of their official team name.

Leave it to Doug Davis to rebound from thyroid surgery ahead of schedule with an impressive win that is overshadowed by some east coast "cancer fighter" who chucks a no hitter. Doug prefers it that way and so do I.

What's wrong with Diamondback hitters? As a group, they swing too hard, too high and too often. Maybe they can find a hitting coach, like Kevin Seitzer, to teach them to take the ball the other way. Like Augue Ojeda and Chipper Jones. What was the NL's top offense in April is now sixth or seventh for the season. The pitching (128 ERA+), even after Webb's latest losses, is still head and shoulders above the league. Fragile, elderly Randy Johnson whiffed ten Braves on Saturday in just six innings.

Grace and Sutton cleaned up their schtick for Johnson's start, Saturday's national Fox Game of the Week - and sounded like actual baseball announcers. Speaking of Grace, I agree with discounting suspected steroid users when it comes to Hall of Fame induction, but no amount of creative suspicion can reasonably catapult Grace into Cooperstown. The Hall is for great players and Mark Grace was never that, as evidenced by placing no higher than 13th in any MVP voting - despite considerable popularity fueled by WGN broadcasts prior to the explosion of cable TV. Mark carved out a very solid career at first base with two tools - as did JT Snow, John Olerud and many others who dont deserve induction.

Chris Snyder and Brandon Webb, a pair of white southerners, spoofed Saturday's pregame lineup, ridiculing Orlando Hudson and Migeul Montero's English enunciation in the process. My favorites were Conor "All Eyebrow Team" Jackson, Mark "Roger Dorn" Reynolds, and Justin "I Missed My 8th Grade Dance To Play Today" Upton.

Not only was Byrnes' Sunday slam the first of his career, it was also the second slam yielded by Glavine in 366 at bats with the bases jammed. (Something tells me that 366 included alot of starting pitchers.) The Glavine/Livan axiom about pitching around top tier hitters, which they've both exploited with great overall success, got trumped Sunday by the adage about getting burned by pitching with men on base all the time. In truth, both axioms are valid.

Perish the thought that a Memorial Day game might feature a pregame ceremony or fly by, an announcer's admonishment to remember fallen soldiers, and then on with the ballgame. Today, a baseball telecast is sufficient justification for an inning by inning glorification of the U.S. military, courtesy of FSNAZ and your Arizona Diamondbacks. Why, if you didnt know any better, you'd swear our volunteer force was at war, fighting for freedom, democracy, and our very way of life! Lengthy split screen interviews with military personnel, including one with a color guard champion that amounted to little more than a recruiting segment - in the middle of a ballgame.

A colonel was actually able to get a revealing word in edegwise, between Grace and Sutton fumbling over one another to laud him for his chosen career choice the prerequisite half dozen times. He made a special point to thank Daron's "organization" for providing much appreciated baseball quipment to his troops back in Kosovo in 1999. That was, of course, the Colangelo "organization" - the one that, as far as I know, never publicized their donation - they certianly never revolved a game telecast around it. Colangelo wasnt above blowing his own horn from time to time, but nobody blows it like these guys.

Ingratiating "reporter" Mark McCune has improved to the point where his standups with players and fans are less annoying than Todd Walsh's self indulgent, insider monologues. Mark's still very awkward behind the desk, but he's done some homework and improved as a sideline reporter.

Saw "Indiana Jones and The Pre Columbian, Post Plausible Kingdom of Steve & George's Fossilized Skulls". I get it's supposed to be "fake", but when a franchise trades silly plausibility on a human scale for two hours of ridiculous death cheating CGI (Computer Generated Impossibility), the needed stage for empathetic entertainment evaporates and an important connection to vicarious viewers is lost.

For example, Indy might've survived the nuclear test blast by locking himself into an air tight fridge. This unadorned macho feat would've given The Most Interesting Man In The World a serious run for his dinero, but Speilberg and Lucas got greedy, or lazy, and demanded their middle aged professor emerge from his appliance's CGI enhanced trajectory and cartoonishly rocky landing with nary a scratch. It's meant in fun, but it's disheartening that mindful adventure fans are asked to buy this - and several other stunts - on any level. CGI driven storylines can rob the viewer of genuine suspense and here transfigure the famously resourceful human protagonist into a distant God that doesnt bleed. I could've easily hopped theatres to watch Hancock toss a beached whale a nautical mile instead, but prefer to cling to the ideal that the best cinematic "escapism" is still tethered to recognizable behavior and believable human response.


Jeff said...

I understand the flip-floppin on the NL West. What I DON'T understand is why the media still says the NL Central isn't that good. Cards/Cubs/Astros... among the best of MLB right now. Where's the respect!?!?

PAUL said...

I'm STILL gonna go see the movie. Nyaaahh. You seem more like a fan of "The Return Of The Four Who-ers" aka "Sex and the City" anyway.
Besides, everyone KNOWS who the most interesting man in the world is----and he ain't drinkin' Dos Equis. (Heineken Light actually.)
I was about to write about how Mark Grace is dreaming if he thinks he's going to subtly push his own HOF candidacy but he, like Keith Hernandez, has a borderline legit case. He's no HOFer, but he's closer than he was off the top of my head after looking at his stats.

Matt said...

Where's the respect!?!?

For some reason, it still resides across the East River from Paul.

You seem more like a fan of "The Return Of The Four Who-ers" aka "Sex and the City" anyway.

Paul, your consistent references to "Sex in The City" (remember Zoe Rice?)leave little doubt as to which one of us is obsessed with that serial. I have no idea what network it's even on, although over the years even I've become aware that SJ Parker has a big nose.

Grace was a very good player, not quite as good as Hernandez, who as you know shared an MVP, won more gold gloves, and as you may not know due to tonight's Heineken Light stupor, was also a slightly better hitter. I would rank Mark about equidistant between Keith and someone like Chris Chambliss.

Bottoms up!

PAUL said...

This coming from a man who is desperately searching for a pair of Jimmy Choos in his size (to no avail).
MVP or no MVP, Gold Glove or no Gold Glove their numbers are REALLY close, though Hernandez's are better overall. Gold Gloves are taken out of context anyway; if a guy wins a few, his reputation kind of predicates that he's going to keep on winning them. Slick fielding first basemen were everywhere when Grace was in his prime---Will Clark,Andres Galarraga, J.T. Snow and Hernandez.
The real most interesting man in the world requires more than one Heineken Light to impair his judgment to the degree you suggest. Gotta go. Hafta go hypnotize a bear now. The most interesting man in the world's work is never done.

Matt said...

their numbers are REALLY close

Yeah, but less so after one neutralizes Bush/Shea v Wrigley. Mark & Keith were extremely comparable in terms of style,and reasonably comparable in terms of performance, but if they swapped home parks over their careers I doubt there'd be much debate as to the better player.

Galarraga's a really good comp for Grace. Different style hitters, but after you adjust for parks, they're basically the same player, both good w/ the glove, as noted.

Phx is a cowtown but I actually got the Jimmy Choo reference. A couple yrs ago I was meeting some Jews in front of St Patrick's cathedral(go figure), and my wife explained "everything" to me about Choos across the street. We didnt follow your lead, however, popping in and trying stuff on.

Hafta go hypnotize a bear now

What, another post on Chris "Mad Dog" Russo?

Stay thirsty, my friend.

PAUL said...

Meeting some Jews? What's that mean?

Matt said...

What? I met up with some Jews. In front of the most famous Catholic edifice in the country. Across the street from Jimmy Choos.

Which rhymes with Jews.

Did I say something wrong?

PAUL said...

That went flying over my head like a Kyle Farnsworth gofer ball. I thought my poetry was bad. Good thing you weren't meeting across from a bike shop.

Matt said...

Good thing you weren't meeting across from a bike shop.

I get it. I get it. Very nice.

My rhyme came later. The reason I used Jews was partly to get some rise from a disproportionately Semetic readership, but mostly because I thought the cathedral juxtaposition was funny.

We were on one of those double decker tours and had to meet up with these Jews, so we inncocently suggested St. Pat's, as it was just off our route and one of the most famous landmarks in the city. These goddam Jews, who had lived in midtown about a year, claimed they didnt know how to find it. It was actually about the third meeting place we suggested that they couldnt find, or didnt like, or couldnt manage - blah, blah, blah.

They were a young couple - a reasonably pleasant rabbinical student enabling a stereotypical self-centered, kvetching JAP.

I didnt notice her shoes.

PAUL said...

Is she good-looking at least? I'm engaged to a shiksa myself. I wouldn't know where St. Patrick's Cathedral is either to tell the truth. And I used to drive a truck around the city daily; and I went to college in Manhattan; and I've lived here all my life...

Matt said...

I wouldn't know where St. Patrick's Cathedral is either to tell the truth.

You Jews are all alike.

And I used to drive a truck around the city daily

I take it you werent delivering candles.

and I went to college in Manhattan

obviously not a very good one ;-)

PAUL said...

Actually I was delivering beat-downs to wiseasses.

PAUL said...

And the non-answer to the question of whether or not she's good lookin' is kind of an answer in and of itself...

Matt said...

I dont think her looks advance, or are even relevant to, our otherwise highbrow discussion on geographically challenged Jews, so I ignored your adolescent "question".

Besides, with all her makeup and sunglasses, it was hard to tell :-)

PAUL said...

My timing was pretty good with the Kyle Farnsworth metaphor because he gave up an utter bomb to Justin Morneau last night.

Matt said...

Farnsworth? Meh. Doesnt hold a candle to bike shop.