Act Like We’ve Been Here Before

To the right you’ll find the cover of today’s Philadelphia Daily News (click to enlarge). The headline is quite celebratory in nature: “Philadelphia, city with a superiority complex.”

Hey, it’s been a good week in Philly, after all: the Phillies got Cliff Lee, the Eagles pulled off one of the all-time greatest comebacks against the Giants on Sunday, and the Flyers are the cream of the NHL crop. It is a great time to be a Philadelphian.

Conversely, it’s not as great a time in New York. The Yankees have missed out on all of the top free agents and trade candidates, the Mets will be lucky to sniff .500 in 2011, the Giants were on the losing end of Sunday’s memorable game, the Rangers are eight points behind the Flyers, and so forth.

Given the rivalry between the two regions, some back-and-forth nose-thumbing is to be expected. Philly has certainly been on the receiving end of some New York bravado. However, the rash of “Philly > New York” sentiment over the past couple days seems excessive and, in some cases, unprofessional. Inferiority complex, much?

Take Stan Hochman’s article for the Daily News as an example. He brainstorms possible nicknames for the Phillies’ four aces, but he couldn’t resist taking a potshot at New York:

I had a patriotic theme, “Armed Fources” plus “Deadly Fource” and “Brute Fource” but baseball is not a violent game, unless you’re sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium wearing the other team’s gear.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It sounds like every generic insult about Philly fans.

The always-interesting Marcus Hayes has his own smug take on the rise of Philly sports in his latest article, titled “Philly teams are putting a fork in New York”.

Something is in the air in Philadelphia.

Carried by a light wind, it makes its way south, down the turnpike. It is distinctly New York in aroma. Is it those honey-roasted nuts they sell out of street carts? Is it the hot dogs?

The swamplands of New Jersey?

Ah. Wait.

It is the smell of New York misery.

It is a rancid thing for Giants and Mets and Rangers fans, and only a little better for the Yankees faithful.

For Philadelphians, it is ambrosia.

Never has it smelled more delicious than this week.

Hayes does mention, at the end of the article, that Philly still does not have any advantage in terms of championships — the ultimate goal for all teams involved. On Twitter, David Murphy pointed out that New York won those championships more recently in three of the four major sports.

Great week for Philly, no question about it. Some bragging is acceptable, nay earned. But wouldn’t we look better to outsiders, who still view Philly fans as boorish animals, if we simply shrugged our shoulders at all of this? Ho-hum. Act like we’ve been here before.

Instead, radio switchboards are alight with controversy brewing. Arguments will be had, people will get upset for no meaningful reason, and maybe that’s the ultimate goal for the media people responsible for fueling this fire: move more papers, attract more listeners, sell more advertisements. If that is the case, New Yorkers should know that the Philly media does not represent all — or even most — Philadelphians.

Rivalries are fun. Trash-talking is fun. It can, unfortunately, be taken too seriously, ruining the fun for the rest of us. This Philly sports fan, for one, repudiates the latest salvos and hopes New Yorkers and the rest of the national scene doesn’t think any less of us for it.

My Newspaper Column on Donovan McNabb

From time to time when baseball isn’t entirely on my mind, I look at the NFL. I’m as surprised as you are. As such, I formulated opinions on the whole McNabb saga that seems to be coming to an end here in Philadelphia. The Delaware County Daily Times thought enough of my opinion to publish it in a newspaper, infecting the minds of thousands of readers.

Click the thumbnail below to see the actual article, or you can click here for the online version.

McNabb article

Don’t Feel Sorry for Caleb Campbell

So, everyone’s talking about Caleb Campbell, a draft pick of the Detroit Lions. Per Yahoo! News per the Associated Press:

Campbell was a seventh-round draft pick for the Lions in April. At the time, Army policy would have allowed the West Point graduate to serve as a recruiter if he made the team.

But a subsequent Department of Defense policy has superseded the 2005 Army policy.

In a letter to Lions president Matt Millen dated Wednesday, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jonathan P. Liba wrote that Campbell has been ordered to give up professional football for “full-time traditional military duties.”

Caleb CampbellThis will probably become a hot topic for the next few days or so and a lot of anti-war people will be crying for him, but just so everyone knows, Campbell deserves not a single ounce of your sympathy for not being able to pursue a professional football career. Why is that? He signed up for military service of his own volition. He was not coerced into anything, and he signed the paperwork.

I’m as anti-war and against this current U.S. government as any liberal, but this isn’t an example of corruption, or war-mongering, or a desperate grab for warm bodies to throw into the Middle East. This shouldn’t even be a story, but it’s topical and somewhat controversial, and — hey, he’s a football player too. So there you have it.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

See Ya, George

If you haven’t heard it yet, I regret to inform you that one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th and 21st centuries has died. From Yahoo! via Reuters:

[George] Carlin, who had a history of heart and drug-dependency problems, died at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica about 6 p.m. PDT (9 p.m. EDT) after being admitted earlier in the afternoon for chest pains, spokesman Jeff Abraham told Reuters.

I have never been one to idolize people. I didn’t idolize my parents or any relatives or friends, and certainly never any celebrities, even athletes. The one exception, though, was George Carlin. I would be willing to wager that, aside from my mother, Carlin has had the single greatest influence on my life. A lot of my philosophies were sparked by watching Carlin’s stand-up routines, reading his books, and reading/listening to his interviews.

Carlin is a big reason why I became an atheist, and why I don’t vote, and why I will always question authority figures. I regret to think of what my life would be like had I never been introduced to Carlin’s work. I’m sure Carlin reached millions of other people just as he did with me, and there is no question that he has had a remarkable influence on American society from the 1960’s until the late 2000’s.

If you’re not familiar with Carlin, I urge you to familiarize yourself with his work. His last book, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? is a comedic gold mine. He has a ton of CD’s and DVD’s of his stand-up material, none of which is dull and unfunny. I suggest the DVD George’s Best Stuff, a compilation of his well-known bits.

Normally, I wouldn’t blog about the death of a celebrity because, well, that’s life, but I feel the need to share the huge impact he had on my life and urge my readers to experience the refreshing rush of rationality that Carlin brought with his material. Carlin exemplified everything that was right with American society and exposed what was wrong.

It’s a shame because there doesn’t appear to be any performers out there willing to take the torch, so to speak. Bill Maher comes the closest, but he doesn’t come close to Carlin.

To relate this to sports, being that Crashburn Alley is a sports blog, here is a clip of his bit, “Baseball vs. Football.”

Oh, Happy Day

Lots of fun stuff to talk about today. First, per With Leather, there’s a few more Chris Berman videos out there on YouTube. A summary of the five videos that guy has:

Another one per Deadspin: Christian Group Protests ESPN.

The coalition is concerned there exists at ESPN a “lack of sensitivity to persons of faith and a culture of religious intolerance.” To support this position view the link listed below showing ESPN anchor Chris Berman using the term “Jesus” and “Goddamn” in the workplace.

The Christian Defense Coalition will be calling on ESPN to take three positive steps toward building a culture of religious tolerance in their workplace:

*Discipline or terminate any employee that uses religiously intolerant and hateful language such as “Goddamn” or the negative use of “Jesus Christ” in the workplace.

*Sponsor a workplace seminar and dialogue on religious tolerance and discrimination in the workplace. ESPN has held similar seminars on race and gender but never on religion.

*Host a discussion on one of their programs featuring the topic of the offensive use of “Goddamn” and “Jesus Christ” within the sports world.

It is the goal of the Christian Defense Coalition to help ESPN realize the negative use of “Jesus Christ” and “Goddamn” in the workplace is as offense and hateful as using the term “nigger” in the workplace.

I tell ya, those Christians are funny. We had this come up around January 23, and it provided many — especially me — with a good laugh. But they’re really earnest about this stuff. God damn it ESPN, why do you hate Jesus so much, and why do you hate America?

It’s ironic that it’s Christians whining about intolerance when the book the religion is based around promotes misogyny and slavery and genocide. In the U.S., could it have been anyone other than Christians who would have started the God Hates Fags website? Are you surprised a Christian, Jerry Falwell, said about 9/11:

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say “you helped this happen.

As I mentioned in my previous entry on religious whining, these Christian nut-cases have no jurisdiction on Berman’s behavior (most of which is from 2000, as you can see in the videos), nor on Dana Jacobsen’s. And since they’re talking about tolerance, why don’t they heed Voltaire?

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Next: Canseco calls Brian McNamee a liar!

Retired slugger Jose Canseco says Roger Clemens’ former trainer, Brian McNamee, lied in the Mitchell Report and is lying when he says Clemens used steroids and human growth hormone.

“Absolutely, he’s lying and he’s a dirty liar,” Canseco said in a phone interview Sunday.

[...]

“McNamee is a point-blank liar because Roger never showed up at my house,” Canseco said. “It’s up to Roger’s people to find out why McNamee is saying these things. I think he was pressured by someone into saying them.”

“I’m 1,000% sure Roger never showed up at the party. We didn’t talk then.”

I think this is a super-interesting turn of events. It seems like everyone has jumped off Roger Clemens’ bus and hopped on Brian McNamee’s, and given some of the things that Canseco has said that have turned out to be true, a lot of people are labeling Canseco a credible source. Now you’ve got the two squaring off! How will the public reconcile this?

I suggest a dance-off.

Hey, here’s someone the Christians could complain about: Sam Zell!

Just so you know, the owner of the Cubs said “[Fuck] you” to a female company employee last week. Just so you know, he asked workers at a staff meeting to inform him if they find good porn sites on the Internet. And, just so you know, he defended running strip-joint ads in the respectable Los Angeles Times by saying some of his best friends go to such clubs, reportedly adding, “Everyone likes [pussy]. It’s un-American not to like [pussy].”

He’s right. That’s what the troops are fighting for, and that’s what the American flag represents.

Lastly, the Phillies are still interested in Kris Benson.

The Phillies are apparently a lot more serious about free-agent pitcher Kris Benson than they’ve let on.

Benson has thrown privately for Phillies scout Chuck LaMar twice in the last week, a baseball source said after Benson’s most recent audition yesterday in Atlanta. Benson’s agent, Gregg Clifton, confirmed the private workouts last night.

LaMar apparently has liked what he has seen.

“We have interest,” assistant general manager Ruben Amaro said last night. “We’re talking to his agent.”

I don’t see why the Phillies haven’t signed Benson already. He’ll take a relatively cheap one-year deal with the understanding he’ll have to show he still has his stuff and that he can stay healthy before he gets slotted in the starting rotation. If Benson can meet that criteria, he’d push Adam Eaton out of the starting rotation, and could possibly allow the Phillies to trade him before he causes any more damage.

If Benson still has his stuff, he’ll be slightly below league-average at worst (lowest ERA+ was 88 in 2003) and well above league-average at best (highest ERA+ was 121 in 2000). It’s more likely he’ll be between the two and be just around league-average, which is all you’d ask of a #5 pitcher. Eaton and his 73 ERA+ can take a hike.

Well, Now That That’s Over

As the final seconds ticked off of the fourth quarter clock and the New York Giants earned victory in Super Bowl XLII, those of us who are more inclined towards baseball breathed a sigh of relief and marked another X on the calendar: A week and a half until P’s and C’s report; three weeks until exhibition games begin; seven weeks until the regular season begins.

The Phillies, for the most part, look like an improved team. Brad Lidge was acquired from the Houston Astros; Shane Victorino moved to center field following the departure of Aaron Rowand; Geoff Jenkins was signed to platoon with Jayson Werth in right field; Pedro Feliz was given red pinstripes as a hopeful answer to the team’s third base woes.

Meanwhile, the Phillies watched the Marlins pawn off their two franchise players, the Nationals sign and trade for no one important, the Braves lose Andruw Jones to free agency and trade Edgar Renteria to Detroit and replace them with weaker players. Oh, and the Mets traded for the best pitcher in baseball. The Johan Santana deal aside, everyone in the division either got weaker or stayed essentially in the same place.

Jimmy Rollins, almost a year after declaring the Phillies “the team to beat” in the NL East (and being proven correct on the last day of the regular season), claimed his team would win 100 games in 2008.

As I counted last August, the Phillies’ bullpen was responsible for at blowing at least 19 games between April and the end of August. Remember, this is a bullpen that featured — not just had; featured — Antonio Alfonseca, Clay Condrey, and Jose Mesa, among others, mostly due to the injuries to Closer #1 Tom Gordon, Closer #2 Brett Myers, and Ryan Madson.

Now, the Phillies feature a bona fide closer in Brad Lidge, a now-serviceable set-up man in Tom Gordon, and a surprisingly deep bullpen, now that Ryan Madson will once again be healthy, and the team kept J.C. Romero, who was stunningly effective since he arrived in Philadelphia in early June last season. The bullpen, barring injury, doesn’t figure to be a problem for the Phillies in 2008.

As always, the Phillies feature one of baseball’s best offenses. Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, and the pitchers aside, the Phillies feature 20-25 HR potential at every position, and Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, and Chase Utley are three of baseball’s best at getting on base. Obviously, scoring runs won’t be a problem for the Phillies, either, but given that Pedro Feliz and his sub-.300 OBP will be playing every day, expect a very slight regression in runs scored from ’07.

However, preventing them appears to be a problem for the starting rotation once you get past Cole Hamels and Brett Myers.

Jamie Moyer is 45, put up a 5.01 ERA, and averaged his highest base runners per inning rate since 2000. Age is less of a problem for a pitcher of Moyer’s ilk, since he relies not on speed, but purely on location and intellect. Either way, Moyer cannot be relied on anything more than league-average production.

Kyle Kendrick put up an impressing rookie campaign for the Phillies in which he revealed himself as a perfect fit for Citizens Bank Park and the Phillies. In 2007, more than 47% of Kendrick’s batted balls were of the ground ball variety, and in CBP, where the gusting winds push would-be fly ball outs halfway up the stands in left field, throwing ground balls creates a huge advantage for their Phillies and their now-great infield defense. Given Kendrick’s age and lack of MLB experience though, we can’t reliably predict a repeat.

Adam Eaton. Not much needs to be said about him other than that the sooner the Phillies get rid of him and his awful pitching, the better. Eaton might be the worst pitcher the Phillies have allowed to pitch 150 innings or more since Brandon Duckworth in 2002. The non-progressives in the Phillies’ front office likely don’t realize this and will try to justify paying him $24.5 million over three years by letting him take the mound once every five games.

Depending on how Kendrick pans out, and how quick the Phillies are to pull Eaton from the starting rotation, expect about average production from the Phillies’ rotation. Cole Hamels and Brett Myers will obviously be well above league-average but it won’t be enough to offset the lackluster performances from the others. If the Phillies can sign Kyle Lohse and bump Eaton from the rotation before the season even starts, that would be such a boon.

Defensively, the Phillies are easily above-average. Pedro Feliz is baseball’s best glove at third base, Chase Utley is a top-two defensive second baseman, Victorino is a gazelle with a cannon in center field, and Carlos Ruiz is one of the better defensive catchers in baseball. Pat Burrell and Geoff Jenkins lack range but both have strong arms, Jayson Werth has decent speed and a strong arm, and Jimmy Rollins provides average to slightly above-average shortstop defense. The only defensive curse on the Phillies is Ryan Howard at first base.

Overall, I expect the Phillies to have the National League’s best offense and Major League Baseball’s third-best, behind the Yankees and Tigers. Pitching-wise, overall, I expect a middle-of-the-pack performance, perhaps 9th out of the 16 National League teams. The starting rotation will rank about 10th or 11th and the bullpen will rank about 4th or 5th.

My prediction (with the roster as it is presently)

Phillies 2008 RPG:  5.42 (878 runs).

Phillies 2008 RAPG: 4.61 (747 runs).

Phillies 2008 record: 91-71, second in NL East behind the 93-69 Mets.

Bonus: Cole Hamels finishes a very close #2 to Johan Santana in Cy Young voting.

Chris Berman Meltdown

Thanks to Lisa H of the FOX Sports blogs for making me aware of what may be the most hilarious rant I’ve heard in a long time. This ranks higher than the Jim Mora and Dennis Green tirades, and ekes by Todd Stottlemyre.

Edit: Apparently, I’m slow, because this video has been posted in a number of different places.

A Real Blend of Sports and Politics

As if we haven’t been submerged in 2008 election news and rumors, the entertainment gods have cast a storm upon us: FOX News is going to be mixed into FOX Sports’ Super Bowl coverage.

Given Keith Olbermann’s sky-high ratings following his injection into NBC’s NFL half-time show, it’s easy to see why FOX would want to try their hand at mixing football and politics. It’s too bad that FOX News is easily the least credible of all of the news channels, ever. Thumb through Crooks and Liarsposts under the FOX News category if you’re skeptical.

As a liberal, I think Olbermann is one of the greatest things to happen to the television world since the original American Gladiators. However, mixing Olbermann’s political observations into half-time of a football game just doesn’t sit well with me. Sports and politics merge in many ways: the playing of the national anthem before games, Congress’ mingling in baseball’s drug issues, et cetera, but both are deemed necessary. Olbermann’s show and FOX News during the Super Bowl are superfluous.

I want to know why Tom Brady will pick apart the Green Bay Packer defense during the Super Bowl, not why Barack Obama will pick apart Hilary Clinton’s voting records. And given that it will be FOX News doing the reporting and opining, I imagine we’ll be hearing about why Mike Huckabee’s plan to Christianize the U.S. Constitution is flawless, or why John McCain’s idea to stay in Iraq for 100 years is guaranteed to both turn Iraq into a worldwide beacon of democracy and strengthen our national defense. In other words, we’ll be inundated with patently false statements backed up with skewed and made-up facts, like the cries of a liberal media bias.

And for the record, it’s not that FOX News is blatantly right-wing that makes me detest it so; it’s that they unabashedly ignore reality and make up their own facts and figures on the fly so it suits their agenda. And I’d be just as irritated if they had decided to throw in a bunch of liberals to report and opine during the Super Bowl coverage because it has no reason being there in the first place.

It’s bad enough most of us subject ourselves to the irritating Super Bowl commercials, only 5% of which are entertaining (well, maybe this will make it more entertaining this year). Now we’re going to sit through war cheer-leading and Republican back-patting.

Did I mention that the election is still 10 months away?

In Other News

You can tell it’s the baseball off-season when I go two weeks without one inspiration to write about something. Counting down the days ’til pitchers and catchers report…

Once I get Photoshop CS3 working on my computer again (or once I can get a few graphics done by someone else for free), I’ll have a new design for Crashburn Alley up. I haven’t really liked either of the designs I’ve used thus far but I think the one I am waiting to use is pretty snazzy.

Links

The Doug Glanville Perspective. [Balls, Sticks, & Stuff]

Amen… this is the longest off-season ever. [Bugs & Cranks]

Grading the top-ten starting rotations in baseball. [I'm Writing Sports]

Why do some Phillies fans hate Pat Burrell, again? [I've Made a Huge Tiny Mistake]

It’s NFL Championship weekend. [Josh Q. Public]

Sportsmanship, where art thou? [Moondog Sports]

A Thought on the Rolen/Glaus Trade. [The Good Phight]

John Brattain hands out The Pujols Awards. [The Hardball Times]

No surprise that the BBWAA got it wrong again, this time with Tim Raines. [The Progenitor of Severe Gluteal Discomfort]

Bud Selig may be bad, but he’s making the owners a lot of money. [Ump Bump]

Hey, Scotty, big girls don’t cry. [We Should Be GM's]

Top 10 Holiday-Themed Items Bloggers Should Discuss

Given that it’s the festive holiday season where giving is en vogue, I thought I’d help out my fellow bloggers with some creative, original ideas for a post. I know lots of bloggers have been and still are busy traveling and visiting family, so the time to brainstorm ideas is significantly shortened. You’ll thank me later.

10. Dayn Perry’s attempt to father the Jesus incarnate.

9. Take a popular holiday song and change the words around to make fun of athletes and coaches.

8. Write or even just joke about how awful those family get-togethers are. Bonus points if you have a drunk and/or creepy uncle.

7. Write a blog about what kinds of presents or cards well-known athletes, coaches, and fans would enjoy giving or receiving.

6. Write a faux letter to Santa in which you describe how bad some team needs whatever it is they need.

5. Write a themed recap of 2007.

4. Make a list of New Year’s resolutions for newsworthy athletes, coaches, and teams.

3. Use the fact that they are wearing holiday-themed clothing to post pictures of attractive women.

2. Mention Festivus from Seinfeld.

1. Make a top-ten list.

Free Michael Vick!

Michael Vick should not have been thrown in jail for his involvement in dog-fighting, though he should still be punished. How will imprisonment help Vick improve as a human being? Unless he decides to immerse himself in educational books for his 23 months of incarceration, it’s likely that he’s not going to come out of jail a better person. Rather, he’d simply regret having been caught.

Instead of incarcerating Vick, he should have been forced to do quite a bit of community service, make sizable donations to pro-animal organizations (like PETA), and to do some anti-animal cruelty advertisements. That would probably make Vick a better human being, wouldn’t it?

Let’s throw only the most heinous of criminals in jail — murderers and rapists, for instance — and rehabilitate the others. Peaceful drug offenders don’t belong in jail. Neither do alcohol abusers (don’t put them in AA!) and illegal immigrants.

You’ve heard it before: prisons are overcrowded. Let’s stop throwing people who pose no threat to society in jail, wasting now-precious taxpayer dollars. Instead of locking up people only to have them become increasingly more bitter and angry at the system, allow them their continued freedom as long as they’re making positive steps towards retribution to those they’ve wronged.

What Michael Vick and his cohorts did to those dogs was completely wrong and inhumane, but is it not inhumane to give up on someone for nearly two years, to throw them in an overcrowded prison with low-grade food, tainted water, unsanitary living conditions, and to put them in the presence and influence of many other criminals, some of which have diseases (like Hepatitis C, which 20-40% of the U.S. prison population is estimated to have)?