June 30, 2011

Plane Crashes are no match for Austin Hatch.

I had a funny/sarcastic post all ready to go about how I am as likely to marry Mark Cuban as he is to own a Major League Baseball team, but then my good friend Kevin suggested that I write about Austin Hatch.  My initial reaction was “Who is Austin Hatch and why do I not know anything about Austin Hatch?” As someone who is addicted to sports and the internet (and perhaps sangria and porn), it is rare that I do not have an already-formulated opinion on most subjects.  So I was intrigued.  Part of me wishes I had never learned more about Austin Hatch, because he has one of the saddest – and in some ways, most incredible – stories I have heard in an extremely long time. 

On Friday, Austin Hatch, a junior at Canterbury High School in Indiana who had just accepted a full basketball scholarship to Michigan, was the sole survivor in a single-engine plane crash that killed his father, Dr. Stephen Hatch, and step-mother, Kim Hatch.  His family’s small Beechcraft Bonanza plane crashed into a garage on a residential street near Charlevoix Municipal Airport.  Austin, a national basketball prospect and a Prep Sports Player of the Year, remains in a medically induced coma and suffers from severe brain bruising.

The craziest, most horrific part of this incident?  It is not the first plane crash that Austin has survived.  In 2003, he survived another plane crash that killed his mother, his sister Lindsay, and his brother Ian; Dr. Hatch survived, as well.  But now Austin, who is miraculously still alive after two plane crashes in eight years, is left without his family and without basketball.  My heart breaks for him.  And I cannot help but wonder who, if anyone, is standing at his bedside right now, to tell him that everything is going to be okay.  I looked for a foundation on Austin’s behalf where we could send donations, but I could not find one; if I do, I will most certainly post it. 

Before the tragedy, Austin was a standout player on the AAU circuit with the Spiece Indy Heat; he was recruited by Michigan, Purdue, Notre Dame, Indiana, Illinois, and Virginia, before deciding to become a Wolverine just last week. It is where both of his parents went to school. But this kid was the real deal, in terms of talent. To complicate the story further, this is the “quiet period” of NCAA recruiting, whereby schools and coaches are restricted from having any in-person contact with a recruit and are limited in phone calls and emails.  Rather than simply being able to reach out to his future player, Michigan coach John Beilein is in the precarious position of abiding by NCAA rules or acting like an empathetic human being.  To its credit, the NCAA has allowed Coach Beilein to release a statement about Austin, which would normally be prohibited as a public comment related to a specific recruit.  His statement in full: 
To All Fans and Supporters of Michigan Athletics,

Our basketball program and the Michigan community were saddened to hear about the tragedy that affected the Hatch family late Friday evening. Austin needs as much support right now as possible and he continues to be in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. We are grateful that the NCAA has relaxed some of the contact restrictions currently in place to accommodate this unique set of circumstances for our coaches. We appreciate that they and Big Ten office are working with us throughout this situation. Both groups have been in communication with our compliance office and continue to provide valuable insight on a daily basis. The outpouring of support from our Michigan faithful, coaches, administrators and fans across the country has been overwhelming. We are thankful for all the support that has been offered to the Hatch family. We appreciate that the NCAA will continue to work with us and act in the best interest of everyone involved. Thanks for your continued prayers for Austin and the Hatch family.
There is no way to lighten this story or make it funny.  This poor kid, who had the whole world going for him less than a week ago, is now an orphan who may never play sports again.  I lost my mother to breast cancer around Austin’s age, when I was 17-years-old, and I still cannot imagine what this would be like….to lose everything you love all at once.  There is an emptiness that can never be filled, a void that seems to grow as you get older and realize what you are missing.  It forces you to mature quickly because, quite frankly, you don’t have a choice in the matter.  In fact, the coaches that recruited Austin have already said that meeting the 16-year-old “was like meeting with a 25-year-old man.”  And that was before the rest of his family perished in last week’s tragedy.  Austin can never get back what he lost on Friday.  But if nothing else, I hope he can lace up his high-tops and return to the court one day.  Besides my friends and family, getting lost in softball games/running around the outfield is really one of the only things that got me through my mother’s death at that age. It was an escape. But there is no comparison here.  

Remarkably, Austin Hatch has beaten the odds on two plane crashes; I mean, what are the chances of that?  It is absolutely incredible. And it is the only silver lining to this story, so I feel like it needs to be stressed.  I only hope that it means Austin is destined to do great things with his life once he wakes up from this nightmare.

June 29, 2011

Asked and Answered: The Day ESPN Fixed my Life.

Yesterday, I gushed about Michael Morse and how I want to have his fantasy baseball babies. I went through a similar, albeit much briefer, experience with Eric Hosmer, who I also picked up off the waiver wire, many weeks ago. He has since tailed off a bit.  And to be honest, I did not expect to start either of them on a regular basis. In fact, I originally only picked up Morse as a week-long filler while Matt Holliday was still on the DL. But then he performed so incredibly well that I didn't want to drop him. And I was faced with a first-base clusterfuck. 
In addition to my aforementioned love affairs with Eric and Michael, I have the strapping, consistently productive Shrek Jr., a.k.a. Billy Butler, who is a hitting machine.  No joke, for the past two weeks, I have stared at Yahoo for hours, trying to determine which two should start.  I couldn't figure it out and it was driving me insane. My gut said to go with Morse and Hosmer, and trade/sit Butler; Billy has a .300+ batting average and is solid for RBIs and hits, but he lacks consistent power and any speed. Nevertheless, I did not know what to do, since Billy is the more established "star."
So when playing around on ESPN.com on Monday night, I decided to pose this question to the always awesome Eric Karabell and almost-as-awesome Jason Grey, who were both having fantasy chats yesterday.  I had never done this before.  And by “this,” I mean ask an “expert” a question online or participate in a big chat for anything.  I love reading chats, though, and I am amused by people who get infuriated when their questions aren’t answered (as if these fools aren’t aware of the fact that thousands of people submit questions). I did not expect either of them to respond.  This was the World Wide Leader, after all. So imagine my shock (and delight) when I read the chats last night and discovered that: 1) they both answered my question; 2) they both gave me the same response; 3) they both confirmed my own thoughts. 

I will not pretend to understand the enthusiasm behind, “How about that!”  But I liked it.  And not to be picky or anything, but I sort of felt like maybe Mr. Karabell, whose chat was at 3:00 p.m., should have read Mr. Grey’s earlier chat to prevent things like this from happening.  If I had not been the one asking, I would have noticed the repeated question and cursed that selfish bitch Jill from New York. Nevertheless, I am happy to have been an example of Something That Is Annoying To Other People. As geeky as it sounds, this totally made my day.  So thank you to ESPN and the fantasy baseball boys over there.  Chicks really dig responsive, chatty, intelligent men.  

June 28, 2011

Goat F#cking in Chicago and Other Tuesday Tidbits.

Goat Fuckers: You have to give the Chicago Cubs some credit for their sense of humor (you know, unlike the previously cursed Red Sox).   The Cubs have not won the World Series in 103 years.  Rather than cite awful ownership or mediocre players or terrible luck (I am talking to you, Steve Bartman), many people blame Chicago’s inability to win another championship on a goat.  On October 6, 1945, William Sianas, a local restaurant owner, brought his pet goat Murphy to Wrigley Field during the World Series.  Even though he had purchased two tickets for $7.20 – yes, one for the goat – both William and Murphy were denied admission.  Incensed at this unfortunate turn of events, William placed a curse on Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs.  And they have not won the World Series since.  Over the years, different Cubs teams have reacted to the curse in different ways.  But this year’s squad seems to be living it up.  They are donning warm-up t-shirts that say “Fuck the Goat!!!,” which are emblazoned with a crossed-out cartoon goat.  Apparently, this became a joke during Spring Training and the guys thought it was so funny that they made t-shirts.  I support any occasion where a cute t-shirt can be made.  And this is most definitely one of them.
Bullshit Excuses?:  I was all ready to rail on Josh Hamilton; inappropriately allude to the fact that he must be hitting the bottle again; and laugh about how light-eyed people are slightly deficient in the brain-related area.  And then the New York Times jumped on board, along with some rando optometrist on ESPN, and now faced with facts, I feel like I have to bite my tongue.  See, Josh Hamilton complained that, because he has blue eyes, he has more trouble seeing a baseball during day games.  His stats backed him up, but it still sounded ridiculous.  Jason Bay agreed, but who would listen to The Queens Disappointment?  But then I discovered that these fools wear red and orange-tinted contacts to dull the glare.  That doctors, like real medical professionals, agree with their ridiculous theories.  So, the jury is still out, as far as I am concerned. Science is normally somewhat credible, but this is just too much of a cop-out for us, normal-seeing, brown-eyed brunettes to tolerate.
Legal Awesomeness:  Oh, Mark Cuban, I love you.  I love owners who act like fans, and I love ballsy attorneys.  Mark Cuban, owner who acts like a fan, has one of those (or, probably, a whole team of them).  When Cuban bought the Dallas Mavericks, Ross Perot Jr. – yes, him – kept 5% of the team.  And two years ago, he sued Mark Cuban up the ass, accusing of him of doing everything from mismanaging the Mavericks to fraud.  Last week, Cuban’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss.  The “Evidence and Argument” in its entirety:
On June 12, 2011, the World Champion Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat to claim the franchise's first NBA championship. A true and correct photo of one of the many victory celebrations is incorporated herein: [Ginormous color photo of the Mavs’ post-game celebration on the court].

Under Hillwood's ownership, the team was deemed the "worst franchise" in all of professional sports. Under Cuban's stewardship the Mavericks have become one of the league's most successful teams and are now NBA champions. Accordingly, there can be no genuine question that Hillwood's claims of mismanagement lack merit and Hillwood's claims should be disposed of on summary judgment.
As if that wasn’t a big enough fuck-you, right?  Because here is the “Conclusion:”
For the reasons detailed above, the World Champion Dallas Mavericks and RMM request the Court grant summary judgment [i.e., dismissal] in their favor on all of Hillwood’s claims and award the World Champion Dallas Mavericks and RMM such further relief to which they are entitled (although they are quite content at the moment). 
Good God.  AMAZING.  Just amazing.  I especially love the final “although they are quite content at the moment.”  I would never move to Dallas, but if I ever did, I would totally want to work for Fish & Richardson, P.C.  Also? This is why Mark Cuban should be allowed to buy the Dodgers.

Teeny-Bopper Crushes:  So, for awhile there, none of my fantasy players were injured. And then in a mad wave of evil injuries, everyone got hurt.  I always had like 4 billion outfielders, but all of a sudden, I found myself short one.  So I picked up this dude, hyped and then entirely underwhelming at the start of the season, some scruffy dude named Michael Morse.  And sweet lord haysus, chicks totally dig Mike Morse. We want to have his fantasy baseball babies.  Since I picked him up on June 3rd, he has: 18 runs, 25 hits, 8 HRs, 20 RBIs, 1 SB, and 57 TBs. Three weeks of pure awesome.  No one on my team – not ARod, Robbie Cano, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Matt Holliday, or Lance Berkman – has been more productive.  And then I read this awesome profile about him in the Washington Post, and I just…fell in love.  Do I think he can keep this up? No, I do not.  At least, I think his batting average will drop significantly.  But do I think he is the real deal in terms of power? Omg, yesssssssss.

Okay guys, I am off to work.  I hope you all have a good Tuesday!

June 24, 2011

MLB Divas Live: Jim Riggleman's Swan Song

Whoa, did anyone see Jim Riggleman’s hissy fit coming? I don't know how he thought this selfish, unprofessional "stand" would benefit him in any way. As a quick recap, Jim Riggleman, manager of the promising and surprising Washington Nationals, abruptly resigned last night, directly following the Nats’ 1-0 win over the Mariners. In the month of June, no National League team has performed better than the Nats; in fact, they have won 11 of their last 12 games. Jimbo decided to cash in on this little hot streak. For awhile now, he has apparently been discussing/pressuring Mike Rizzo, the Nats’ general manager, to pick up his 2012 team option – the front office did not want to chat mid-season and told him to chill the hell out. Ol' Jimbo would have none of this "disrespect." He informed Rizzo before the game that if his option wasn't picked up, he would not get back on the team bus. And then he kept his promise – he resigned.

I would quip that "at least he is a man of his word," but the truth is, he is not. He jumped ship, quit on his team, peaced out because his personal demands were not met. He held his team hostage and then said, "fuck it" and bailed. For what? To point out that he is "not Casey Stengel but he knows what he is doing?" Hell, he is not even Ron Gardenhire or Terry Francona, both of whom are excellent coaches with winning career records. Our boy Jim holds a lofty 662-824 career record (140-172 with the Nats), one full undefeated season from a mediocre .500. He wanted a pat on the back and some reassuring praise? No one is going to remember that he left the Nats with a winning record, the first time they've ever had one this late in the season since 2005. All they will remember is his premature and diva-like exit.

As Mike Rizzo said, “one of the cardinal rules of baseball was that no individual can put his interests before those of the team.”  In particular, he is “disappointed that this is a distraction, that this is not thinking of the team first, that it is thinking of personal goals, thinking of personal things first.”  Riggleman doesn’t seem to care.  He even admitted:
It’s about me.  It’s about looking in the mirror and feeling like I've got to answer to myself. In today's world in major sports, it's not a good environment to work when the manager or head coach in football or whatever is on a short leash. Too many negatives can come out of it. You're walking on egg shells too often. You can't think out of the box as much. I thought after 10 years I'd earned the right to have a little bit longer leash.
I would not hire Jim Riggleman, not after this stunt. I'd be afraid that the next time he is unhappy, he'd throw in the towel again. We coddle superstar players like Hanley Ramirez and Manny Ramirez, because they put fans in the seats and earn Ws on the playing field. No one comes to the ballpark to see a coach – unless we are talking Coach K or Joe Paterno, and baseball doesn’t have any of those – especially a quiet, non-descript coach who will now only be known as a quitter.

For argument's sake, let's say that the Nationals did disrespect him, didn't ever plan to pick up his option, and were using him solely for his awesome, awesome skills on a short-term basis. To be fair to Jimbo, he was "only" getting paid $600,000, the lowest salary in the Major Leagues now that Edwin Rodriguez resigned from the Marlins. And he has only been offered one-year contracts since he took over for Manny Acta in July 2009.  But so what?! If he kept up his good work, if the Nats actually made the playoffs, lots of teams would be bidding for his talents at the end of the season. The bottom line is that he didn't have enough confidence in himself, his players, or his own abilities. The "peaks and valleys," or “short leash,” or whatever he called it, apparently stressed him out to the point that he wanted to be paid now or leave. Sorry, pal, but baseball doesn't work that way. It’s a pretty tight-knit club and I'm almost certain he just exiled himself from it.

It makes no sense. Wouldn't this be like Tracy Morgan quitting after one good episode of SNL? Like, dude, we remember your other five seasons. And I doubt that Jim Riggleman is going to find his 30 Rock in the future. He had Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper waiting in the minors. A breakout season from Michael Morse. Promising, developing talents like Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. Ryan Zimmerman is even back. I hope the players rally in his absence – they had no idea that Riggleman was leaving until after last night’s game.  He could have been the guy who finally put all of the pieces together, who put the Washington Nationals on the path to success. He was even going to be selected as one of the coaches for the All-Star Game.  Now all he will ever be is that fan who left the game during the seventh-inning stretch. And everyone knows that guy is a douche.  

June 23, 2011

In the Best Interests of Baseball?

In rejecting the deal between FOX Sports and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bud Selig cited the oft-changing but influential “Best Interests of Baseball” clause. What is interesting, however, is the way in which this clause has been invoked (or not invoked) throughout baseball history, as well as Bud Selig’s evolving interpretation of it. Article II, § 2(b) of the MLB Constitution gives the Commissioner the ability to make decisions and “act in the best interests of the national game of Baseball.” Section 3 outlines the specific punitive actions the Commissioner may take once he deems conduct is against the best interests of baseball, including: “(a) reprimand; (b) deprivation of a Major League Club of representation in Major League Meetings; (c) suspension or removal of any owner, officer, or employee of a Major League Club,” as well as fines and permanent ineligibility.

In the context of the Dodgers, it seems almost ironic that the Commissioner is citing the “best interests” clause, simply because it was Bud Selig himself who allowed the McCourts into Major League Baseball in 2004. If he would have done his due diligence then – and discovered just how unqualified and untrustworthy Frank McCourt was as an owner – we would not be in this mess today. But I cannot fault him for correcting a mistake, nor can I fault him for rejecting the Dodgers’ TV deal, because it was simply another instance of McCourt looting the team for his personal benefit. That said, it seems particularly intriguing in light of Bud Selig’s past opinion on the “Best Interests” clause.

In 1994, The Sporting News published an op-ed by Bud Selig, when he was still the President of the Milwaukee Brewers and only the chairman of Major League Baseball’s Executive Council, entitled “One of Baseball’s enduring myths.” A well-known historian of the game, Selig goes through baseball legends, such as Babe Ruth’s called shot in the 1932 World Series, until he arrives at a different type of legend: “the myth of the all-powerful commissioner.” He writes: “The truth is, the Major League Baseball commissioner by definition has never been all-supreme or omnipotent except where public confidence and integrity are concerned. The notion of an almighty commissioner directing the business of baseball is incorrect.” Selig asserts that the “source of this misunderstanding is the commissioner’s ‘best interests’ powers.” He then details how it is “wrong” to interpret it broadly, because the only “intent of the “best interests” clause was to protect the integrity of and ensure public confidence in the game.” 
 
Selig notes how the “Best Interests” clause was established after the 1920 Black Sox scandal; it gave Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the League’s first commissioner, enough power to clean up the game after the infamously tainted World Series. In many ways, it was essential at the time it was created. There was no centralized authority to oversee baseball, which was undoubtedly needed, as the public was disgusted with the sport and gambling ran rampant. Selig, however, wrote that these powers “were infrequently exercised and uncertain in scope,” and have, in essence, “impeded the process rather than promoted the interests of baseball and its fans.” He then praised the 1992 Restructuring Committee for clarifying the role of the Commissioner and centralizing his administration of the game.  Boy, how times have changed.  

Bud Selig, of course, wrote all of this before he became Commissioner. His thinking has clearly expanded. He has yielded his “misunderstood” power however and wherever he sees fit. While the clause used to focus on players and teams, Selig used the “best interests” clause to force the sale of the Texas Rangers to Nolan Ryan – which, in effect, deprived other potential owners like Mark Cuban from having a shot at the team and personally harmed many debt-holders from seeing any return on their investment. His decision made creditors and lenders part of the game of baseball, when they had never been before. Selig cited “the best interests of the game” when he became Commissioner and allowed his daughter Wendy to take over the Brewers. He used the clause, directly or indirectly, to end the 2002 All-Star game early, for realignment, for the wildcard, and for revenue sharing.  At the same time, he has not used it for instant replay, the Arizona All-Star game, or a salary cap.
The “best interests” clause has been Bud Selig’s best friend. To pretend otherwise is a farce, much like Frank McCourt’s theory that his TV deal is in the best interests of the Dodgers. I support Bud Selig’s decision about the Dodgers. I just think it is important to note how his power as Commissioner and the “best interests” clause have evolved to advance his own interests in baseball – for better or worse. 

June 21, 2011

A Drowning in Dodgerville.

As Frank McCourt drowns in personal debt and lawsuits, Commissioner Bud Selig essentially turned around the rescue boat and said, “You know what? This jackass isn’t worth saving.” And then he announced to the world, in a carefully written but extremely telling statement, that it would be better for everyone if we just let Mr. McCourt sink in the undercurrent of his financial woes. Because there is really no saving Frank McCourt now.

If you haven’t followed the drama, Major League Baseball rejected the infamous TV deal between the Los Angeles Dodgers and FOX yesterday – the one that was potentially worth $3 billion with $385 million upfront. Selig rejected it shortly after the McCourts finally reached a divorce settlement. And that was the problem. Although Frank McCourt had claimed that none of the upfront TV money would be used for personal expenses, such as his divorce, the settlement clearly shows otherwise. Of the $385 million the Dodgers would receive upfront, $10 million would be used for attorney fees, $80 million would go towards personal debt, $10 million would be allotted for personal use ($5 million each), and $50 million would be placed into a trust. The remaining $235 million would go to the Dodgers, after Frank McCourt apparently repays himself $23.5 million for money he alleges that he advanced to the team in 2011. Do the math.

There are 150 million reasons right there for Major League Baseball to reject this desperate, Hail Mary deal. Bud Selig’s statement in full:
Pursuant to my authority as Commissioner, I have informed Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt today in a detailed letter that I cannot approve the club's proposed transaction with FOX. This decision was reached after a full and careful consideration of the terms of the proposed transaction and the club's current circumstances. It is my conclusion that this proposed transaction with FOX would not be in the best interests of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise, the game of Baseball and the millions of loyal fans of this historic club. Mr. McCourt has been provided with an expansive analysis of my reasons for rejecting this proposed transaction. Critically, the transaction is structured to facilitate the further diversion of Dodgers assets for the personal needs of Mr. McCourt. Given the magnitude of the transaction, such a diversion of assets would have the effect of mortgaging the future of the franchise to the long-term detriment of the club and its fans. As I have said before, we owe it to the legion of loyal Dodger fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future. This transaction would not accomplish these goals.
Props to the Commissioner. The Dodgers are in this boat because the McCourts used the team as their personal ATM. They blew through Dodger money and borrowed against the club to the point that they may not meet payroll at the end of June. Like an angry parent, Selig sternly said, “enough is enough.” Such a large portion of the upfront TV money was going directly back to the McCourts for personal, non-Dodger-related use; it could not be ignored. Bud Selig is the gate-keeper who allowed the inexperienced and unqualified Frank McCourt into the club of baseball ownership in 2004. While Frank McCourt saw the FOX deal as his life vest, Bud Selig took it as an opportunity to correct an egregious error and regain control of the ship. Quite literally. Because when the Dodgers don’t make payroll this month, the next step will be Major League Baseball officially taking over the team.*

*Not to go all Joe Posnanski on you (god, I wish) with the asterisk, but I would just like to point out the irony of the Dodgers payroll dilemma. Due to back-loading the Manny Ramirez deal, they owe him $8.33 million in deferred payments by June 30, 2011. So the star McCourt coddled and whored out, the one he milked for every penny, even in the midst of a steroid scandal, is going to be the one that brings him down? Priceless. And perhaps the best case ever of Manny being Manny.
Clearly, Frank McCourt is not a happy camper about this. His attorney, Steve Susman, whose name just sounds sleazy, released a statement expressing disappointment with the rejection, calling it “potentially destructive to the Los Angeles Dodgers,” and threatening legal action. I think that McCourt will most likely file suit to force Selig to approve the FOX deal or to obtain an injunction to stop him from taking control of the Dodgers. Both options seem like legal money pits with little chance of success. The one thing that McCourt needs is money and the only thing that could have provided it was the FOX deal; without it, he is running out of funds and time to fight his many courtroom battles. His best bet, in my opinion, is to get a cushy deal from Selig to voluntarily sell the team in exchange for a nice return on his original $430 million investment and some debt relief. His only other option is to quickly find a minority owner who will invest in the team – but who the hell is going to join forces with Frank McCourt? Especially after the Commissioner just publicly questioned his character and motives?

As politely as possible, Bud Selig called out Frank McCourt for his incompetence and assured Dodgers fans that they deserve better. And with the Commissioner’s rejection, Frank McCourt’s ship is sinking fast. If he has any honor left, he will simply go down with it.

June 17, 2011

Chicks Dig Harry Potter, Jose Reyes, and Fabulous Penguins.

So I don’t have much time this morning. Why, you ask (or didn’t, whatever)? Because I am going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, bitches! And I am more excited about this than any self-respecting adult should be. See, one of my best friends works at basically the coolest company in the world, and it is paying for all of its employees and their families to go on a three-day “retreat” to Orlando. And I am the lucky winner who she chose as her date! (Because I am awesome, duh). My flight is sometime around 7:30 a.m., Harry Potter World follows, so I sort of have to haul ass. Regardless, a few things before I go:

Seriously Vancouver, what the fuck? After your team played lackluster throughout the Finals, you make yourselves look like even bigger assholes? This is not the way to steal the spotlight, even when Boston is involved. That is all I have to say on the matter, you disgraceful sore losers from America’s Hat. (I just wanted to use that image again).

Majority control of the Mets is now on the value menu at Burger King? If only Fred Wilpon hadn’t said all of those mean things about Jose Reyes (who is giving him a major fuck-you right now) and David Wright, maybe I would feel badly for him. Because there is no doubt whatsoever that he is in serious financial trouble. Can we pool $200 million and, I don't know, an additional $2.00? I will then rename the Mets as Joe Girardi's Braces and move them to City Hall Park, which may be a bit tight, but at least Jason Bay and David Wright will hit homers and all 121 fans that attend games can pack the stands.

Readjusting Realignment Thoughts.  Perhaps you caught my post yesterday about MLB realignment. Perhaps you didn’t and should read it immediately. Nevertheless, my good buddy with the best nickname ever, The Fabulous Penguin, wrote a really great post, somewhat in response, over at The Borg Baseball Blog. In an open letter to Bud Selig, he proposes his own strategy for realignment based on the premise of what “we, the fans want.” I like his plan a lot. Please check it out and feel free to criticize both of us in the comments. Briefly, this is my response to his response:

1. I love the overarching goal of aiming to please fans. Because, really? We pay all of their salaries. So they better make us happy if they plan on charging $8.50 for a hot dog at Yankee Stadium.

2. I really like the way his system allots playoff spots. I would support realignment, like T Fab P suggests, if and ONLY if division rivalries remained and mattered. Meaning, I need division winners and then separate wild-card teams. In proposing this, he asks "explain how a team in first place in a division does not make a playoff while 4 teams from another did?” He is right. It is ridiculous to eliminate divisions. I also agree with the fact that some teams would be so far out of contention before the All-Star break that the no-division idea seems extremely counter-intuitive.

3. He is probably right about interleague play. "So what?" I don’t really care if we play random-ass teams from the other league. It doesn’t change anything for me, just another team for the Bombers to beat.

4. But the schedules must be more balanced. That is probably the only thing I really disagree with in his entire plan. It is unfair to teams like the Rays. They still have to play the Red Sox and Yankees 29 more times this season. TWENTY-NINE! It puts them at such a disadvantage compared to, say, the Cardinals or the Rangers. Tampa plays both Boston and the Yankees right before the All-Star break and right afterwards. That is not a “break” so much as a brief awakening from a nightmare. Balance the schedules and sign me up, Commissioner Penguin.

Okay, it’s that time folks. M-I-C- see ya real soon! – K-E-Y….why? Because I… Nevermind, you guys get the point. CDTF will be back on Monday, Muggles. Until then, have a great weekend and go Yanks!

June 16, 2011

Realignment is for Cars and Spines – NOT Baseball.

 
Major League Baseball is contemplating realignment in the new collective bargaining agreement. And where there is smoke, there is fire. Instead of the divisions that we all know and (mostly) love, there would be 15 teams in two leagues; each league would then be broken up into three new five-team divisions. Mirroring the NBA, the top five teams from each league, regardless of division, would make the playoffs. To do this, at least one team – most likely the Arizona Diamondbacks or Houston Astros – will have to change leagues. Bud Selig has added that, no matter how teams are realigned, there will also be one additional wildcard team from each league; the wildcard teams would then play each other in a best-of-three first-round series or a one-game tie-breaker. The MLB wants to do this for competitive balance and fairness; but it also seems, at least to me, that they are trying to manufacture excitement, a la the 2009 Minnesota Twins. 

Part of me thinks that this is simply Bud Selig's swan song, the final stamp on his oft-considered legacy. After the 1994 strike and prematurely ending the 2002 All-Star Game, he has plenty of skeletons to worry about; some of his moves have been undoubtedly controversial. Interleague play, World Series home-field advantage, the Mitchell Report and PEDs, to name a few. But, for the most part, I think Bud has been a really effective commissioner. I just think that realignment is severely short-sighted.

As a Yankees’ fan, I won't claim to understand how it feels, but I can only imagine the frustration of Orioles and Blue Jays’ fans over the past decade. But isn't that what realignment is really about? The big bad AL East? I know how unfair it is that the AL West has only four teams, thereby making it easier to make the postseason, while the NL Central has six. And I also get how unbalanced scheduling works to provide some teams with a built-in advantage. Does a mediocre AL Central team really deserve to make the playoffs, when they have a worse record than the third-place team in the AL East? Probably not. But is it fair to punish other teams because the Blue Jays haven't learned how to be the Rays yet? There are small-market clubs that do plenty to ensure their competitive ability; whether that's investing in draft picks and scouting, or signing young stars to long-term cheap deals. Without Crawford, Soriano, Garza, and everyone else who left in free agency, the Rays are still kicking ass. Maybe in a few years, I’ll be saying that about Toronto. And maybe that isn’t fair to the Jays. I know that the window of opportunity is extremely small, even for successful teams like Tampa Bay. But is this conundrum really worth eliminating division races and the historical excitement of September? I don't think it offers baseball any benefit to blow up what has worked – literally, to the tune of $6 billion profit – for an ideal that is untested, unproven, and unsatisfying to the fans.

Take last year’s one-game playoff between the Giants and the Padres – would anyone care if they were simply fighting for a fourth-place playoff spot? Would that really increase the audience, Bud Selig's ultimate goal? He wants lofty numbers like the NBA playoffs. But people watch the NBA because it’s marketed around 10-20 superstars. Whether I'm a Knicks’ fan or a Nets’ fan, I'm still going to watch the playoffs for Lebron and Kobe and Durant. No one is going to pour into bars to see Evan Longoria vs. Jose Bautista, as incredible as they both are. It is just not the same and I think it’s unrealistic to emulate the NBA. Realignment is simply trading one set of problems for a whole new set.

Obviously, realignment does not change the game itself – the results, the bang-bang plays, the controversial calls will still be there. But there are still going to be teams that come in 14th-place every year. It is still going to be tough to fill seats for small-market clubs. For example, in the proposed system, if the regular season ended today, Texas, who currently leads the AL West, would just eke into the playoffs. Some teams would be so far out of contention by July that the second-half would be a total snoozefest. There will also be interleague games every day, due to the fact that the leagues will have an odd number of teams. Interleague games stopped being special about five years ago. In fact, the only interleague games that we care about are those based on historical rivalries, like the Yankees and Dodgers. No one cares if the Marlins are playing the Mariners. And teams like the Cardinals certainly don’t want to play the powerhouse teams from the AL East more often. Realignment doesn’t change the fact that the Yankees and Red Sox can drop $200M on payroll. It doesn’t change the trend of bad umpiring or the need for instant replay. And if the game was meant to be entirely fair, all ballparks would have the same dimensions.

My biggest problem with realignment, however, is that baseball dynasties are cyclical. Just ask Cal Ripken Jr. and the 1990s Orioles. Until the early 2000s, Boston was mired in a century-long curse. Hell, the Yankees sucked throughout the 80s. And that is why I think realignment is reactionary and short-sighted, as opposed to a corrective measure. Please don't get me wrong – I am not a traditionalist. I love the DH (and think it’s necessary with the value of pitching today. See, e.g., Chien-Ming Wang.). I enjoy interleague play in brief flashes (like one Subway Series per year, no more). I love the wild card; it makes baseball so much fun to watch in the fall. I am a fan of sabermetrics, although I'm not sure I totally grasp them. So I am not a traditionalist in any manner – except for classic divisions in baseball. I may talk a lot of shit about the Red Sox, but only because I respect them as an arch-enemy and competitor. Taking away the AL East pennant race would be a travesty. Taking away the epic battles in the AL Central would take away from the game itself. It will only work to water down decades-old traditions, passions, and drama. I have no desire to be in a playoff race with the Kansas City Royals or any of the other American League teams. I just want the Red Sox, with an occasional scare from Tampa Bay or Toronto. Maybe I am just afraid of change. Maybe I am just an elitist from the East Coast. Or maybe I just love baseball, the way it is right now, that much. 

June 15, 2011

The Peoria Chiefs Give an Imaginary Middle Finger to Lebron James.


Hi team. Sorry for the late post, but I just got back from court. In fact, I spent most of the morning furiously scribbling a post on the back of a client's evidence, as I waited for my case to be called. So one day, when I look through this poor, miniature Hispanic man's file, I will curiously wonder why there is a rant about MLB realignment amongst his certified dispositions of arrest. That piece, which I had planned to post this afternoon, is not finished yet and I don't want to just throw it up here; look forward to an annihilation of realignment tomorrow morning.

Until then, this sort of made my day. The Peoria Chiefs, a minor-league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, are having a LeBron James NBA Championship Replica Giveaway promotion tomorrow night. “Replica rings” will be handed out as fans enter the stadium. Like Lebron’s “championship,” the “replica rings” do not actually exist. So I consider this one of the funniest, albeit cheapest, promotional nights in baseball history. The Chiefs also plan to honor the Chicago Bulls – who they deem to be a “true champion” – with video highlight reels and memorable songs from the Bulls’ six-title dynasty. Throughout the game, one lucky fan will win a replica of Lebron’s imaginary NBA Finals MVP award, while classes on the Heimlich maneuver will be taught to prevent “choking in a big situation.” I love baseball, wittiness, and criticizing Lebron; I sort of want to make a trip to Illinois just to be part of this.

Even better, the Chiefs are apparently researching whether they can skip the fourth inning “to poke fun at James, who scored just 18 points in the fourth quarter in six NBA Finals games.” The Chiefs’ President, Rocky Vonachen, quipped, “We aren’t sure if the league will allow it, but if Lebron doesn’t need to show up for the fourth, maybe we don’t either.” To mock The Whore of Akron’s post-game comments, Eric Obalil, Vice President of Ticket Sales, added, “Really this is just us getting back to the real world and waking up today and trying to solve our own personal problems.” Who are these people who run the Peoria Chiefs?! Because they are awesome.

Next, I hope they have DeShawn Stevenson Sobriety Night and hand out full cups of beer.

June 13, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For: The Whore of Akron lost his V-Card to the Mavs.

And by “v-card,” I mean victory. As I have made clear for the past nine months, all I wanted was for Lebron James and the Heat to lose. For better or worse, I got exactly what I wanted.  I was giddy with anticipation to witness his implosion last night. In the third quarter, watching Miami’s body language, I knew it was assured. And that is when, much to my surprise, I started to feel badly for Lebron James.

Lebron wanted to be the GOAT – the greatest of all time – but he never expected to be labeled a scapegoat, or the reason why Miami choked in the playoffs.  He wanted the glory and greatness of Michael Jordan without the individual responsibility of carrying a franchise. That's why he agreed to ball with his buddies; he erroneously assumed that by doing so, the pressure would subside.  It was a conscious choice, an admission that he needed help – something MJ never would have done and something LBJ was criticized for wholeheartedly.  It culminated last night when it became apparent that, even with help, Lebron still couldn’t win his first elusive championship. 

Since his ill-advised Decision and post-Decision celebration – you know, the one where he guaranteed more than seven titles – Lebron has said all of the "right" things. For a few months, it seemed as if he had learned a lesson in humility. At the very least, he seemed to understand that his immature TV special inspired the entire country outside of Miami to root against him – and he handled the criticism accordingly. In the end, he did so because his trump card – an NBA title – was still waiting to be played.

When it initially happened, little did we know that The Decision would scar Lebron James much more deeply than the city of Cleveland. He was only 25-years-old and clearly had a lot of growing up to do. The Decision was supposed to put him on the path to greatness; instead, it stifled him. It created such pressure that he was paralyzed from the expectations he created.  Think about it this way: before last night, James had set himself up to capture history. He was either going to lead the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history or the biggest flop. If Miami had won last night, if the Heat had then gone on to win Game 7, Lebron would have been hailed a hero. His trump card, the championship, would eliminate all questions and doubt that lingered. He would have spent his summer humbly gloating that he knew exactly what he was doing when he joined forces with Wade and Bosh. But now there are even more questions than when this season started. Like his years in Cleveland, Lebron came up short again – but this time he had help and there are no excuses. Last night left little doubt that if anyone is still affected by The Decision, it is Lebron himself.

Lebron started the game on fire – he hit his first four jumpers and seemed like he was finally going to exert his dominance over the less-talented Jason Terry and the veteran Mavericks. Like a rainbow after a storm, his play seemed so beautiful at first – before the magic slowly dissipated into thin air. His long shots started clanking off the rim. His hero complex – which made him take low-percentage jumpers to begin with – faded along with it. James is addicted to taking big shots and the crowd adoration he earns from making them. It worked for him with Boston and Chicago. But once he lost the high last night, he could never get it back. Instead of chasing it, like a normal addict would – like Michael Jordan would – he ran away.

Rather than trying to take over the game, Lebron faded into the background and played like a scared teenager. It was almost as if he didn't want the pressure of the ball in his hands. How many times did he pass in the paint to Udonis Haslem or Joel Anthony instead of driving himself? How many dumb extra passes did he make, especially in the last ten minutes, which led to Miami turnovers or forced shots? I thought James was hiding behind the idea of “offensive execution” and purposely passing up high-pressure shots to his teammates. Sure, he wouldn't be the hero, but at least he wouldn't be blamed for the failure. But what Lebron didn't seem to understand was that it was too late for that – he would be blamed no matter what. There was no where left to hide. A triple-double wasn't good enough. And the absolute only thing that could have saved him was a victory. But nothing can save Lebron now.

Dwayne Wade got to return home knowing that he gave his all; that, if anything, his poor play last night was excused by a passion to win and an injured hip. He possessed a look, a fire, that Lebron can't fake, regardless of how hard he tries. Wade got to go home with a ring on his finger and a Finals MVP award already on his mantle. He may not sleep easily, but it will only be the typical Monday morning quarterbacking that any superstar athlete undertakes after losing a series like this. James, on the other hand, will have to wait until next June to put his demons to rest. Because then, and only then, will Lebron be able to confront the monster – the unattainable expectations and lofty goals – that he himself created. And only then will be finally be able to prove that he is a closer, that he can be clutch, that he can carry a team in the Finals, and that maybe, just maybe, he can still be the greatest of all time.

I wanted Lebron James to lose. And I got what I wanted. But watching him fall apart left me with a sense of sadness rather than satisfaction. I realized, as I watched his post-game press conference, that what I really wanted, above all else, was for Lebron to prove me, all of us, wrong.  To have a Tiger-Woods-at-the-2008-U.S.-Open type of moment.  To wow us all with his excellence in the greatest fuck-you in athletic history. He still can. We can debate this season, but we cannot debate Lebron James's raw talent, which we saw in bright, momentary flashes. Whether he applies that talent towards greatness is another story - but that decision, like those in the past, is his and his alone.

June 10, 2011

Live from New York, it’s... the Mavs vs. Heat (with Yankees-Red Sox updates).

“Whatever you do, do it hard and do it with conviction and belief.”
– Rick Carlisle, Mavs pre-game locker-room talk. 

Words to fucking live by, right? I like the way this is starting out.  With the series tied 2-2, Lebron said Game Five is the biggest game of his career.  I am excited to see if he lives up to the hype.  Will he be MJ-esque or fail to be clutch in crunch time?  Personally, I hope the Whore of Akron gets pounded like the slut he is.  Let’s do this.

First Quarter:  Dirk misses his first shot.  But great defense by the Mavs, stifling the Heat and making them stay on the perimeter the whole time.  Bosh misses with four on the shotclock and a push-off foul on Joel Anthony.  Mavs look good, but still 0-0

10:55: Bosh gets the first points of the night, with a baby hook from inside.  It is so weird to see Jason Kidd still playing.  Like, I remember being really excited to get his basketball card in a pack. Which means I was still collecting them. Which means I was like ten. How long has he been playing? And is it possible he keeps getting balder?  He is really bald. The Mavs miss again. Not pretty. But Kidd steals the ball near half-court and races ahead for the easy lay-up! Wow, that was impressive. Especially after I implied that he is ancient.  He steals it again, dishes, and the Mavs miss. Then Lebron with the airball, I loooove that. Chandler finishes to give the Mavs the early lead. 4-2, Mavs.

7:40: The Heat are cold as ice and Dirk hits, well, the same shot as Lebron just missed.  And the Mavs steal it, Marion spins, goes right at James, and hits the finger-roll. That was so pretty. The Heat’s transition defense blows so far. The crowd is going crazy. And Miami has to call a timeout. 13-6 Mavs,

7:12: Bosh went tumbling into the basket and chucked it at the rim, hoping to draw a foul, but that failed.  Then the Mavs make a bunch of sweet passes, only to take a terrible shot in the end.  The Heat throw a long pass to Wade, but it is too long and goes out of bounds. That is four turnovers already for the Whore of Akron and company.  But they get the ball back and Lebron draws the foul on Marion.  Heat gets two. Then Dirk says anything you can do, I can do better, and draws the foul on the other end.  15-8, Mavs.

5:20: Wade misses.  What the F?  There is no sound.  Like, the sound just stopped. 

2:52: HOLY HELL I just had crazy audio drama. The sound totally went out on my TV, across every channel.  I promptly freaked. Debated if it was the insane storm. Wondered if it could be cable-related or if I somehow blew my speakers. Pondered if I should blog the game without sound. But then Time Warner, and specifically my girl Natasha, saved the damn day. She apparently refreshed my signal and did something else and who knows? It is working again.   I realized, at that moment, how much I actually enjoy listening to announcers – mostly so I can disagree with them – and the sounds of a game.  Movies must have sucked when it was just like a picture show. WE ARE BACK. 

I have no idea what is going on it the game, but it is apparently 23-19 Mavs, which I clearly support.  Wait, Dwayne Wade is hurt?! How did that happen? I need replay! My fucking cable box, are you serious?! And now the Mavs get a three-point play but I don’t know how, because I was too busy bitching. I will pay attention now. As soon as I watch, the Heat get a quick two. 25-21, Mavs.

1:31: The Heat cannot seem to get near the rim.  They are getting the shot-clock down to 5-6 seconds every time and then taking horrible outside shots.  They are flopping and flailing about, making poor passes, and everyone looks a little confused.  Chalmers drains a three, as Juwan Howard fouls Cardinal, sending the strange-looking balding Mav to the line. I am confused why I am even seeing him play.  28-24 Mavs.

40 seconds:  It is crazy to me that this is only a two-point game.  The Mavs seem like they should be up by 10.  And Mario Chalmers drains a three at the buzzer!!! To put the Heat up by one. You have got to be kidding me.  As I typed that, my brother just screamed “you have GOT to be kidding ME!” Ridiculous.  Who would have thought that Mario Chalmers would be keeping the Heat in this?? 31-30, Heat.

Second Quarter: Wade is still not playing.  Bosh misses, but Lebron puts it back up.  WOW. Terry like hurls it at the basket, a horrible horrendous terrible shot, that somehow, miraculously, rattles in for a three. That was a crazy Hail Mary.  33-33.

10:42: Another 24-second violation by the Heat.  The Mavs defense is really awesome tonight. Old fashioned three-point play from the Mavs. Oh, but they miss the free throw. So, um, two points.  Dallas has missed four FTs, Miami’s made all of theirs.  Wow. Lebron turns up the speed and lays it in. Argh.  Stevenson hits a three, tying it up.  Wade appears to be coming back from the locker room.  Huh, interesting.  They are going for an update as Lebron puts back a miss. Oh, hip contusion. Questionable to return.  Miller is called for the foul, as we go to a timeout.  40-38, Heat.

8:51:  And Wade is back in. Well, that was quick. But without him, Miami was +6, with him they were -4. Interesting.   At times, I think Lebron plays better when Wade is not on the floor, because then he doesn't have to think about sharing the ball.  It basically allows Lebron to be selfish, where he excels.  Stupid foul on J.J. Barea, like 400-feet from the basket.  Bosh drains a long two.  Who is the fat man in a bright orange t-shirt on the end of the Mavs bench?  Terry hits a two.  I am still intrigued by the fat Santa-Claus-like man. Chalmers hits another three, what the hell? 9 points in 7 minutes off the bench.  Then Barea answers! Dallas is five of six, Miami is four of five from long range. Jesus, this is a close game; much closer than I would like. 45-44, Heat.

7:04: Foul on Mike Miller, his third in nine minutes. The opposite of Mario Chalmers, apparently.  Eddie House is in the house! Or on the floor, whatever.  He could provide some spark. Dirk misses a bad shot that ricocheted off the side of the rim. Wade banks one in. TV timeout.  47-44, Heat.

6:36: Barea throws it away, not a great way to start asshole.  I really wish I was watching the Yankees-Red Sox right now. I am just throwing that out there. Wade draws the foul. Hits one of two.  Terry throws it away. Come on, boys. This is a big game. Eddie House misses, Bosh rebounds and draws the foul.  Wade is grimacing.  Bosh hits both. Mavs get too fancy and miss the chance for the easy two.  My brother chimes in “fucking over pass,” as if he is driving somewhere.  But he is right.  Dirk puts in a pretty left-handed shot, they needed that.  Heat timeout.  50-46, Heat.

4:21: Lebron hits the bucket while surrounded by defenders. Sigh, it would be easier to hate him if he wasn’t such an incredible athlete. He is having a good game so far with 8 points, 50% from the field I think.  Marion gets the points right back. Then a loose-ball foul on Eddie House, who has come in and played uselessly.  Dirk hits the fade-away jumper to put the Mavs within two.  Lebron misses the ill-advised three. And Kidd tries one for himself, but it just rims out.  Then another loose-ball foul on the Heat.  Feed inside and the Mavs slam it home to tie the game up.  52-52.

2:20: I asked my brother who had the slam-dunk and he replied “that dude right there.” So I asked again and said, “um that doesn’t help me.”  So he says, “that tall black guy, I think him.” And points to the TV.  Sigh, he is the best apprentice ever.  Lebron is fouled and Marion is called for the technical.  That was stupid.  Lebron double-dribbled and I get why Marion was pissed off.  Both tech FTs are made.  My brother is very upset by this “ridiculous call.”  But Lebron misses the free throw.  And Wade gets his first foul, sending Dirk to the line. He hits both. Wade misses a lay-up. And Dirk follows with a gorgeous, spin, left-handed wizard shot. Then Miami throws it away. 56-54, Mavs.

1:23: Kidd has it knocked away. Chalmers misses a shot from Guam, Dirk rebounds, and Terry hits the pull-up base-line jumper.  That was pretty.  He has nine points off the bench. Chalmers drains the fade-away three. He is fucking fearless.  The Heat’s offense looks all out-of-whack.  They are getting points, don’t get me wrong – but they look sloppy and, in part, lucky.  Mavs get a bucket, and Lebron misses a three at the buzzer. 60-57 Mavs.

Half-time: The Mavs shot 66% from the field in the first half. And they are somehow only up by three. Incredible. Ohhhhh. Apparently the Yankees-Red Sox game has started.  This creates a dilemma that I was hoping to avoid.  So I am just going to flip back-and-forth. And you are the lucky winners who get updates for both games, as I see them.

Top 1: Well, as we get here, there are no outs and already one man on base. So basically the status quo.  The Angry Bird is now up, Adrian Gonzalez, who is crushing the ball lately. But he goes down on strikes. I like it, I love it, I want some more of it. I thought I would throw in some country for you.  Cervelli threw the ball into centerfield AGAIN. That his third time this series. THIRD.  He had no chance whatsoever to throw Ellsbury out. And he decided to throw it, no where near the base. Ellsbury on third. But CC picks Cervelli up by striking out Youk.  0-0.

7:05, Third Quarter: I flip over to see a Dirk rainbow three pointer.  That was so crazy. He is a monster. It hit nothing but net. The Mavs are up by five.  Joel Anthony hits a nice lay-up, but Barea drains another three.  The Mavs are 8 for 12 from downtown.  73-67, Mavs.

Bottom 1:  Beckett fucking hits The Baseball Jesus himself, as I flip back. Is he fucking kidding me? We have been debating alllll week if the Yankees should retaliate for Ortiz’s bat flip, and Beckett hits US? Granted, it wasn’t intentional.  I don’t think. He is an asshole, after all.  But now I have to assume that CC will most definitely hit someone, as he usually does in these situations.  Especially when you just hit our captain, our legend, my life-long love. Whatever, I’ll take it. AND GRANDERSON MAKES HIM PAY! He hits a two-run bomb. Tex grounds out to the pitcher, which brings up Princess Purple Lips.  Oh damn, I thought he had that. He hit it to the deepest part of centerfield, but Jacoby just got it.  Two outs for Robbie, who has been slumping (last year at this time: .370, this year: .273).  (I just flipped to the NBA Finals, but it is at a commercial, so we are going to stay here for now).  Robbie pathetically grounds out to second.  But Yanks score first, FINALLY.  2-0, Yankees.

3:46, Third Quarter: Mavs are up by nine! Lebron knocks down a long jumper.  We need to keep the Whore of Akron out of this.  Mavs turn it over and Lebron is fouled by Marion.  Juwan Howard hits a lay-up from under the rim, but Terry hits a jumper to get it right back.  Wade dances inside to hit a two.  WAIT. Dirk is not in. Why?! Is there a reason for this?  Fouls? Injured? Rest?  I am concerned. Terry nails a three.  Blocking foul on Cardinal. Oh I just saw the orange-shirted man again. He does not look like Santa, but like Rodney Dangerfield.  And he is not on the Mavs’ bench, but at the scorer’s table. Apparently I am blind.  84-77, Mavs.

1:08: Lebron turns it over!! Nice defense.  My brother is very impressed by how off-balance Lebron seems at the moment.  They are flailing about again.  Cardinal picks up his third foul with a stupid flop. Like a dumb stupid flop near half-court. On Mario Chalmers. Like, what the hell?  Two free shots for that? Dumb. Oh, thank the good lord, Dirk is back in.  But he takes a terrible shot. Ohh, but Miami commits a stupid foul under the basket and Dallas gets it right back. But the ball is knocked away. It looked like a loose-ball foul on Chalmers.  But 2.1 seconds left.  Miami will have one shot. They miss. We are in for a wild fourth quarter. 84-79, Mavs.

Top 2: We come back to baseball and there are two outs, but Carl Crawford is on first and Mike Cameron is up.  Do you think that Francona will ever decide on a spot in the order for Crawford? I guess that is sort of the great thing about him; he can bat anywhere.  But still? Any guesses?  Cameron grounds out to third and the score stays the same. It would be really phenomenal if the Yankees could pull out this win. We badly need it, and we badly need C.C. to save our bullpen from another disaster. 2-0, Yankees.

Fourth Quarter: Other than commercials, we are going to stay here on the NBA Finals. This is a huge game and I started with this game, so we are going to see it through.  Howard starts the fourth with a hard foul on Stevenson.  He misses both free throws. That was super fucking lame and not a good way to start. And then Wade draws a foul.  He hits both.  WOW.  J.J. Barea gets to the rim, hits the lay-up high off the glass and draws the foul.  Chance for a three-point play.  He hits it.  My brother said that was a very “Jon Scheyer-esque shot.” I love his Duke bias.  88-81, Mavs.

11:10:  Miami turns it over.  Haslam blocks Barea and the Whore is fouled.  I hate how he pretends to shoot the ball to try to get a shooting foul. It is so obnoxious, because it is not even close.  But Wade makes a nice pass to Haslem, who hits the easy lay-up.  Dirk is fouled.  A late call, but it was a no-doubter.  He hits both.  Bosh gets a lay-up on the other end.  This is intense.  Dirk is blocked and Wade draws the foul. It certainly seems like his hip is fine. Timeout. This is going to be a nail-biter down the stretch. 90-85, Mavs.

Bottom 2: Flipped back to the Yankees, but just as the second inning was over. The Yankees apparently went down in order, with Brett Gardner pissed off that he was thrown out in a close play.  It looked like both his and Beckett’s foot hit the bag at the same exact moment, which means the tie should go to the runner.  Fucking umps. 2-0, Yankees.

9:35:  Wade hits one FT, misses the second, but the Heat get the rebound.  Wade moved his pivot foot like six times on that play.  WTF?  Kidd rebounds and Stevenson airballs a three.  Come on, this is ridiculous. Haslem gets an easy lay-up and it is a two point game.  Barea drains a much-needed, HUGE three from the top of the key.  A rainbow, high arcing beauty. Lebron takes a stupidly long three and misses it.  Foul on Chalmers. Barea tries a finger-roll but misses. Wade then powers it to the rim and hits a hard lay-up.  Dirk draws the foul, the Mavs need points! Barea just came out of the game to a huge standing ovation.  Dirk hits both. And Miami calls timeout.  95-90, Mavs.

Top 3: Again, we come back, and a Red Sox is on base.  This is getting old, for real. But Scutaro immediately hits into a double-play and Boston is done. Well, that was quick. And quite convenient for me. Wow, a news update on the free Black Eyed Peas concert in Central Park. Um, apparently it was canceled. I assume due to the storms.  But that is sort of a huge deal, since it got so much press.  I wonder if they are going to re-schedule.  I tried to get tickets, but they were all "sold" out (even though 50,000 were  supposedly “free”). 2-0, Yankees.

6:41: James to Haslem for an easy basket, his eighth assist.  And Miami steals the ball.  James to Wade, another assist, and now this is a one-point game. Holy crap. Dirk needs to take over.  He is passing too much.  Terry takes a ridiculously bad shot from the free-throw line, and the Heat can take the lead.  And they do. On a wide-open pass to Haslem.  This is Miami’s first lead of the second half.  All easy fucking lay-ups.  Where is Dallas’s inside defense?  Horrendo, big time.  Timeout Mavs.  96-90, Heat.

Bottom 3: One out, Jeter is up.  And he drives one to right, but directly to Cameron.  But  he drops the ball!!!!  He is arguing that he dropped it on the exchange.  Oh, the replay shows that he clearly dropped it on the exchange.  Let’s see what the umps do.  Because Jeets is still on first.  (NBA is still on commercial).  Wow, DJ is going to stay there and it’s an error on Mike Cameron. Well, that sucks for the Red Sox.  Granderson is up.  But we have to go back, I’m sorry.  2-0, Yankees.

5:06: Dirk tries a turn-around jumper but it rattles out.  Wade drains a three for a four-point lead and a 9-0 Miami run. What the hell is going on?! This is terrible.  Needing two wins in Miami, as opposed to one, is ginormous.  Dallas must pull this one out.  Dirk is fouled and hits both.  He is 10 for 10 from the FT line.  Ball is knocked away, but it is still Miami’s – only 4 seconds to shoot.  They lose it to Jason Kidd. Who then loses it trying to go to Dirk.  Laaaaaame. Dallas’s 11th turnover.  Bosh is fouled by Chandler, his third. Bosh only hits the second. He is so ugly. Like, physically speaking.  Just thought I’d throw that in.  100-97, Heat. 

3:29: Terry hits the wide-open three!!!! Tied game! Big shot, like huge. James takes (another) stupid three and misses.  Dirk drives hard to the basket and slams it home.  The crowd is going nuts.  My heart is pounding.  Offensive foul on Lebron!! Chandler steps in to take the charge – god that was brave and risky.  Maverick ball. 102-100, Mavs. 

2:06: Lebron is scoreless in the fourth (although he has four assists).  And he takes ANOTHER long three and misses. He really needs to learn that he sucks at three-pointers.  I am not sure why everyone knows this but him.  Kidd hits a HUGE three.  WOW. WOW.  It looked so effortless.  The crowd is now going insane (or some other adjective that is greater than “crazy” or “nuts”).  Also? Jason Terry is having one hell of a game. Timeout Miami and a huge swing of momentum.  105-100, Mavs.

(Just flipped over to the baseball game, but it is also at commercial. So everyone loses.  I forced my brother to check on his phone – since I am too lazy to look this up on my computer – and he says it is the end of the third inning, still 2-0 Yankees). 

1:17: Okay, the game is back.  Wade immediately turns it over!!! But Marion misses, flying to the rim. And now Wade is blocked by Chandler! But Bosh rebounds and is fouled.  The fourth on Chandler, who has played fantastically.  The junior member of the Big Three hits the first and misses the second. 105-101, Mavs.

47 seconds: THIS IS IT.  Terry hits a long three, the icing on the cake, as Dirk was calling for the ball!!!!  That was so hot!  Dallas is totally taking their talents to South Beach with a one-game lead. Timeout Miami.  108-101, Mavs.

Top 4: We flip back to find CC pitching to Youkalis with one out.  And he walks the Lumberjack.  And now Big Papi, Little PeePee is up (his Native American name?).  And CC hits him! YESSSSSSSS.  We knew that was coming.  That was apparently the first time David Ortiz has ever been hit by a Yankee pitcher? Really? Did I hear that correctly? Bizarre.  But I love CC so so much for that. He is so reliable and huggable-looking.  First and second, one out. And we have to flip back to the Finals, my apologies.  (Update: CC got out of it. Still, 2-0 Yankees). 

22.8 seconds: Terry is fouled by Miller. Dallas has gone on a 15-4 run in the last four minutes.  I mean, if Miami loses this series, all we will hear about is how un-clutch they were.  Which would be true.  He hits both. Bosh misses a terrible three.  Mavs rebound and dribble out the clock.  Game over, the Mavs win!!!! They take a 3-2 lead in the series and only need one game in Miami for the title (and to get revenge for 2006). And I can’t fucking wait. Final Score: 112-103 Mavs.