Friday, July 31, 2009

Role Models

Every now and again a movie comes along featuring an actor or actress you like (Sometimes multiple ones), and you watch said preview and find yourself thinking, "Wow. That looks really bad." This is the position Role Models put me in. The previews for the film featured a mix of things that were probably supposed to be jokes and some children. Great. So, despite my feelings towards several members of the cast, I approached the film with trepidation, feeling nothing good could possibly come of the next hour and a half. For once, my pessimism was misguided. This probably will have no impact whatsoever in my outlook in the future.

Anyway, back to the movie. It stars Paul Rudd, who is typically awesome, as me in ten years. Well, not quite literally. His name is different. Everything else is spot-on, though. He is described by another character as always being convinced that he's the smartest guy in the room, yet still being miserable. He picks a fight with a barista who insists he refer to his large coffee as a 'venti'. And he wonderfully interprets the Kiss classic as 'I want to rock and roll all night and part of every day'. A little more rocking than I could probably handle, but still. That's an eerily accurate portrait. Co-starring with him is That Guy Who Played Stifler playing, well, essentially Stifler. So good for him, I guess. Also appearing is this guy:

Awesome. Anyway, the plot centers around Rudd and TGWPS having a run-in with the law after Rudd's girlfriend breaks up with him. They are sentenced to 150 hours of community service as mentors to troubled children, drawing McLovin and the incorrectly-apostrephized Bobb'e J. Thompson as their little buddies. This leads to the only real bad part of the film. Jane Lynch has been in some other movies, and seems to just play every character very over the top in a way that is not especially funny. Every time she comes on-screen in this movie I cringe. The character is outright bad. But this in no way negates the greatness that is seeing Paul Rudd be me on-screen. He is wonderful, and the movie throws together community service, nuclear-colored energy drinks, live-action role-playing and Kiss to great effect. Will it change the world? Absolutely not. But it will make you laugh for the majority of an hour and a half, which makes it very worthy of stealing on the internet. Which is much better than I thought it would be.

What Seattle Shouldn't Do

I'll keep this short. It's for you, Ben. At the trade deadline, the Seattle Mariners are technically in contention, but are a long shot to make the playoffs. They have gotten good pitching out of middling-to-bad pitchers (Felix Hernandez excepted. He's good or something), primarily due to the fact that they play excellent defense, which can only improve now that Yuniesky Betancourt has been exiled to Kansas City. However, the Mariners' problem is that they can't hit. Especially against right-handed pitchers, who they cannot touch. They are the fourth-worst batting team in baseball, the reason being that they have many unskilled regular batters, 7 of whom are right-handed. What the Mariners need is a competent left-handed bat. They're unlikely to get it at this point, but any pitching that isn't young or nailed down should be shipped out to try to achieve this, as the M's defense will make whatever dreck they throw out on the mound look serviceable (Non-Carlos Silva division, of course). Trading for Roy Halladay would make less sense for the Mariners than it would for almost any other team in the majors. Sorry Ben.

Note - This was originally going to be called 'No Cousin Ben, You Are Wrong' when I first intended to write it two weeks ago. I'm working 60 hours of construction each week. I'm tired. My bad. Anyway, the title was an obscure FJM reference. If you like your sports analysis hilarious and obscene, Google that one. They're now sadly finished, but they're still missed.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Two Stupid General Managers

I feel like a decent portion of my younger life was based on Saturday morning cartoons. Not as much as many kid's formative years, bu still a sizable chunk. One of the shows that sticks out was entitled Two Stupid Dogs. Frankly, I cannot really remember any shows besides this one and the blatantly homosexual Captain Planet. I can recall a substantial portion of that show, but my only specific memory of Two Stupid Dogs is of an episode where, for what seems like it was the entire show (30 minutes? 15 minutes?) the titular characters sat outside the exit door to a store trying to figure out how to get in. For purposes of this article, one dog shall be known as Omar Minaya. The other is now Dayton Moore (Or DMGM, if you prefer. I do). I know I like to go to ridiculous length on these sorts of things, so I'll try to keep this to a paragraph apiece.

Last weekend the New York Mets, presided over by Omar Minaya, traded Ryan Church for Jeff Francoeur. Both players are right fielders, and it's not likely that either one will make or break a team's season (For a great breakdown of the trade, I recommend this. I disagree with their analysis, but it's funny. Even those of you who dislike baseball might enjoy it). But it is still submoronic on the part of the Mets. Ryan Church has below-average power and an above-average eye for a corner OF, combined with an ability to post a reasonable batting average and play slightly above-average defense, and an inability to hit left-handed pitching. He is in his first year of arbitration, meaning he comes at a reasonable price and can be cut after the season at no future cost to his team (Full disclosure: Church's numbers have gone downhill since a concussion last year. But with no commitment after the season, this is a very limited risk). The Braves already have a corner OF who can mash lefties but not hit righties in Matt Diaz, so by combining he and Church, the Braves have created a good two-headed outfielder out of readily available pieces at a very low cost, making this an excellent trade for Frank Wren. Francoeur, on the other hand, is not a major league baseball player. He is bad at hitting for average, plate discipline, baserunning, hitting for power and average at best defense (All his defensive value is in his arm. His range is abysmal). Presumably he would also be a bad pitcher as well, but to the best of my knowledge he has never been asked to do that. When he came up to the bigs in 2005 he looked like one of the game's bright young stars, but now that he is in a five-year decline, that is long gone. For last year and this year, Francoeur has been worth negative wins to his team. The Mets, beset by injuries, cited the fact that Francoeur has never been hurt as one of the reasons they traded for him. Which makes it kind of funny that the only way Francoeur could help a team is by actually getting hurt, thereby causing them to play a player who would not hurt the team as much. The salaries in the deal are a wash, as Francoeur is in the same arbitration year as Church, and the Braves threw in a bit of cash to make them match. If I had any confidence that the Mets would cut him at season's end, this would be less damaging. Francoeur is also seven years younger than Church, but given his track record of de-improving, all this means is that he will still be young enough to play baseball in 2015, when he will be striking out twice per at bat.

Moving to the Junior circuit, the Kansas City Royals, under the management of DMGM, traded two minor-league pitchers (Derrick Saito and Dan Cortes) for shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. Before the season, Baseball America ranked Cortes as the Royals' third-best prospect. He has struggled a bit this year and had some off-field issues, but he still should have some value. Which is more than can be said for Betancourt. Continuing the theme of the day, Betancourt was promoted to the majors in 2005, and immdiately showed promise as a decent-hitting young shortstop who was very good defensively. He had little power and no plate discipline whatsoever, but was cost-controlled for six more years and flashed some spectacular work with the glove. What happened then is one of those times where scouting and statistics go hand in hand. In the three and a half years since his auspicious start, Betancourt has gotten worse in the field every single year (If you care, his UZR/150s, in order: 2.1, 0.7, -1.4, -12.7, -17.4. That's runs saved per 150 games, essentially. For obvious reasons, negative numbers are bad). Beyond that, his offense stagnated the first three seasons, and has nosedived the last two. Yuni has limited power and will swing at anything up to and including an attempt to intentionally walk him (He set a career-high of 17 walks in 2006, and matched it in 2008. 17. In 558 plate appearances). All his value is tied up in his batting average, which has declined sharply since 2007. Why? Well, scouting reports show a player with limited range in the field these days who is also slow on the basepaths (Career steals: 24 in 44 attempts. Grounded into 23 double plays last year, a number Jim Rice only topped 4 times), probably because he appears to be carrying at least 20 more pounds than he was when he entered the league. Combine that with the fact that he doesn't bother to try to get better at baseball by practicing (He had run-ins with management over missed batting practices and fielding drills), and you have a player rapidly working his way out of baseball. The worst of it? Former Mariners GM Bill Bavasi (Now coincidentally unemployed) gave Betancourt a contract that runs through 2011 guaranteed, with the club having the option to buy out 2012 for $2 million. Assuming the Royals will buy out that year, they just traded their #3 prospect plus a throw-in for the right to pay a sub-replacement level player in steep decline $9 million dollars. The sheer amount of stupidity involved is mind-blowing. If any baseball clubs are reading this and would like to consider hiring me, I promise I can do a better job than Minaya and DMGM. Heck, I think the dogs could.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What Just Happened?

Trade writeups can wait a bit. Here is how I just began my Saturday morning. It started with waking up, doing the dishes and making coffee. I decided to go sit on the couch and fire up the computer for a couple minutes before showering. Yes, we have large windows in our apartment, but they face the river. So I sat down with a cup of coffee in my boxers. After a minute I heard rocks crunching (There's a bit of gravel just outside the windows) and a man looked into the apartment. He was wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, with long hair hanging out from under a Patriots cap and a decent amount of stubble. After I watched him for several seconds he noticed me. One of the top windows was open, so I could clearly hear him say to me "Nice place you've got." Many possible responses came to mind, but my brain wasn't awake enough yet to process what was going on in a timely fashion, so I wound up going with "Thanks". He then walkeed away.

So, slightly strange encounter with a homeless interior designer who approves of my setup. Odd, but whatever. Then a minute later he came back holding a spray can of Off insect repellant and asked me if he could borrow it. I swear this actually happened. As it was not mine, I told him that. He responded with "Come on, man. Help me out." I had had a bit more of the coffee by this point, but was still not really in the mood to debate the concepts of ownership and personal property with him. After several seconds of back-and-forth exchanges with neither of us budging from our original position, he wandered away. And I continued to be confused.

Update: He stopped by to sit down and have a beer. While enjoying his beverage, a woman walked by on the path by the river. So he yelled at her to ask her why Neil Armstrong isn't here. We all wonder that.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Day That Will Live In.... Well, What? Confusion?

Today, July 10, 2009, the two worst players in Major League Baseball were traded within hours of each other, one to a team with no hopes of contending, the other to a team supposedly trying to make the playoffs. Unless the General Managers of the teams in question lost bets or have key family members being held hostage, I am completely mystified. The players in question are Jeff Francoeur and Yuniesky Betancourt, and both had something of value traded for them. Odds are I'll break these down tomorrow morning in some sort of attempt to memorialize abject stupidity, but for now my head is spinning. I think I need to sit down.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

What Really Matters In Tennis

In the Women's Finals at Wimbledon, I am rooting for Venus Williams to prevail over her sister Serena, not for any tennis-related reason, but because Venus does not grunt every time she hits the ball. Or if she does, it cannot be heard over the sonic booms being emitted from Serena's mouth.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Can I Keep My Jersey?

Okay, show of hands: Who wants to read a basketball memoir? Okay, three of you (No, I won't say which three). Now, what if I told you that, rather than being written by a star player, it was written (Not ghostwritten. Written) by a nomadic player who typically finds himself the twelfth man on a twelve-man team when he is in the NBA? Where'd the hands go? Alright. Now let's tack on the added stipulation that this player, whom we'll call Paul Shirley (Because that is his name) wrote a blog for in which he did not spout any meaningless sports cliches. A blog in which he described his reason for being on the Phoenix Suns thusly: "[All it took to get me here was] a trade by the Suns that sent away Casey (Jacobson) and two others, and the Suns’ subsequent need for a warm body to keep the bench from tipping toward the coaches." All right, at least those of you who haven't stopped reading yet seem content to finish this post, provided I keep it short. That'll have to do.

What I am discussing here is the memoir of a rather sarcastic journeyman, one who wrote openly about the experience (In the Probably Not Unrelated file, he hasn't been employed by an NBA team since this book came out). And it is rather exceptional. He takes a very conversational writing style, something that makes sense considering the material is developed from the journal he kept during his travels. The end result is essentially what you would get if you had a good friend who managed to be one of the 500 best people in the world at something, yet still could find the time to complain about it (Wait, that didn't come out right). In a field of competition replete with athletes thanking Jesus for helping them put a ball through a hoop, it is rather refreshing. Instead of sentiments such as these, this book finds the author lamenting a missed opportunity to kick Kobe Bryant in the testicles. I think you can see how one of these is more interesting to read.

So if you would like to become a little wiser on the topics of Russia ("As far as I can tell, Russia causes me to have suicidal thoughts, so the faster I can get out, the better"), minor league basketball ("The Rattlers do not usually play their games in the UNLV student rec center but, because the porn convention in town had outbid the team for the use of their usual facility, we played there that night (I'm not joking)."), basketball arena announcers ("The Grizzlies may very well have the best announcer in the NBA. He has a knack for making everyone’s name sound intimidating. I wonder what he could do for a guy that has a girl’s first name as his last name?") and injury rehab ("Until that [The healing] process begins, there is no real reason for the pain to subside. Therefore, I take lots and lots of drugs."(In case anyone is wondering, the drug in question is Gene Fackelman's personal mountain of doom, and Shirley offers a quite wonderful, yet thoroughly unprintable, description of his feelings toward it)), con your local library into buying this book. It's probably more fun than I've made it sound here, and a quick read. Which at the least makes it better than Bleak House.