Running around to Give you the Reacharound


Top College Basketball Coaches (Today)

With the Final Four approaching and Georgia’s search for a head basketball coach moving forward with all the momentum of a coked-up model toward a Double Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese, it seems like a good time to discuss college basketball coaches.

No, not the coaches that might actually be offered or accept the Georgia job, as that would make too much sense for a Dawg Blawg. Plus, it appears that the job is Mike Anderson’s to reject, with Jeff Capel and Jamie Dixon being darkhorses for a sweet payday courtesy of Damon Evans and Co. Personally, I really like Xavier’s Sean Miller, but you can’t go wrong with any of the above names.

Hopefully, Georgia’s next coach can rise to the elite level occupied by coaches in the list below. In my lifetime, Georgia has only had one such coach that could be considered elite, Tubby Smith, and he never really hit that level until he left Athens for Lexington and promptly won a title with Rick Pitino’s players. I’ll take a quality football program over a good basketball team 865 days per year, but I've got to admit I am a bit jealous around this time of the year of the schools that have these guys as coaches:

(Ultimately irrelevant criteria for list: “Who are the best coaches in college basketball right now?” “If you could have any coach in the country to coach your team next year, who would the top choices be?” Recent performance is weighted more heavily, but tournament success is viewed as the end-all-be-all, as it is how the top coaches are separated from 2nd or 3rd tier guys.)

10. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse - Yeah, he’s had a third of a century to pimp his resume, and his one ring came during the greatest one-and-done season in college ball history, but 800 wins and three final fours stamps your ticket to the hall of fame. Kids like to play for a legend, and this man is Syracuse basketball.

  1. Ben Howland, UCLA – Brought success back to Pitt and has established a recruiting dominance not seen in LA since the Wooden years. May not have a ring, yet, but you can’t fade three final fours in a row.

  1. John Calipari, Mempucky – Two lines of thought on this greaseball. On one hand, dude has built programs at friggin’ UMASS and Memphis into elite basketball powers, bringing both programs to the final four. On the other hand, he’s got no rings, just a small handful of deep tourney runs in 21 seasons and has amassed a slew of wins against not-exactly-powerhouse Atlantic 10 and Conference USA competition. Therefore, his impending move to Kentucky will seal his fate as to how he is remembered as a college basketball coach. Fail there and he’ll be coaching Colorado to Sweet 16s in ten years. Win a title or two, and he will reach Pitino status in the commonwealth.

  1. Billy Donovan, Florida – He has two dominant titles (more than all but one of the coaches above him on this list), and the first back-to-back run since those loaded Duke teams in the early 90s. For that, he will be Florida basketball for as long as he wants. And that’s fine, because outside of those two titles, his resume consists of NIT appearances and early-round tourney flameouts…and nobody in Gainesville gives a shit. Is there any surprise he wants no part of that Kentucky gig?

  1. Coach K, Duke – By far and away the most accomplished coach in college basketball today. Three titles, a whopping TEN final fours, and 11 ACC championships. However, as has been pointed out, Duke has fallen the fuck off in recent years. I blame their seemingly concerted effort to target every top white recruit in America. What happened to the Duke teams of Elton Brand, C-Boozer, Jay Williams, William Avery, etc.? The Shavlik Randolphs, Josh McRoberts and Greg Pauluses of the world ain’t cutting it anymore. Unfortunately, I’m not sure Coach K has learned his lesson either. I was watching the McDonald’s HS All-American Slam Dunk contest last night, when some goofy white kid threw down a two-handed jam while flailing through the air as if he was doing the Elaine dance from Seinfeld. Where is ole boy headed to school next year? No doubt.

  1. Bill Self, Kansas – Gotta admire a man that can climb the coaching ladder from Oral Roberts to Tulsa to Illinois to Kansas in a decades time. Top notch recruiter, already has been to five elite 8s, and took only a few seasons to do what Roy Williams never could and win a title in Kansas.

  1. Rick Pitino, Louisville – The head greaseball in college basketball, narrowly edging out Calipari and Donovan. A great coach to be sure, and those mid-90s Kentucky teams were arguably the most fun to watch (and in, a bizzaro way, so were the Celtics teams where he tried to use the same full-court tactics that worked at UK) of my lifetime, but let’s be real. We’re going on 14 years since his one and only college title. Still, at the end of the day, you hire Pitino, you know your program is in good hands for years to come.

  1. Tom Izzo, Michigan State – He’ll get no shortage of love from the media this week, so I’ll keep it short: 5 final fours in the last 11 seasons, a ring and 24 wins per season. All of his four year players have played in a final four. All impressive, but my favorite Izzo stat is that he has been to eight sweet 16s in 14 years as a head coach. For more than half of his coaching career, his teams have reached the Sweet 16. That’s nuts. And yet, I’m still glad he didn’t take the Hawks job.

  1. Jim Calhoun, UCONN – Like a damn movie. Brings a program from a prolonged period of embarrassment to the pre-eminent sports entity in the state, wins a couple of titles along the way, sends dozens of players to the pros, beats cancer for good measure, and is back at another final four. Of course, this could also be the point in the movie where it all begins to unravel before one final championship run. Stay tuned.

  1. Roy Williams, UNC – If all coaches were free agents, I’d want the white Roy-Dub at the helm for the Hoop Dawgs next year. Finally got the championship monkey off his back, recruits NBA talents by the boatload, runs a clean program and has dominated what most experts contend is the best conference since his arrival. His winning percentage is good for third all-time and he’s been to seven final fours, second only to Coach K. And unlike Coach K, he’s still at the top of his game.

And with that, I can go ahead and admit this was all just a convoluted measure to predict UNC over UCONN in the Final Four. Fuck brevity.


WBC in the 213

It appears the U.S. squad, in fact, did not have the Wright (1-5, RBI 3ks) stuff for this game

Apologies for the weak ass play on words above, but let's get Wright to it. Betcha didn't think we could squeeze another WBC post out, didja? Well, after the endless requests for some final thoughts, we gave in to our passionate fans (Suesaholics? We'll get back to you on that one).

"But OBJ," you might ask, "why wait until the interest level in the WBC has dropped significantly before posting this half-assed recap?" To which I would reply, what interest level!
The view.

So the handsome half of your intrepid reporters from Sue's popped into LA and peeped the semifinals match between Japan and the USA. Hell, if the other games weren't being broadcast, I wasn't about to take a chance with this one! The first thought I certainly want to share with you is...everyone showed up incredibly late. Not that I'm denigrating the denizens of the City of Angels, mind you. Hell we didn't even show up until the 2nd inning. But look how empty those seats were, and that's a good third of the way through the game. Must have been that famous LA traffic, no?

As some of you know and most of you probably don't, the game actually started out quite well. A Brian Roberts (1-5, HR, 2 ks) home run had America up 1-nill through the first, and after David Wright doubled in Jimmy Rollins (4-4, R, BB) in the third, it looked like the boys in red and blue would be giving us our money's worth. I was starting to think that Matsuzaka San's luck (he's unbeaten, you know) in the Classic was about to change. Then came a fourth inning that stunk worse than a burning house filled with rotting dog carcases covered in feces. Basically it stunk worse than Godfather III.
Other than the stupid hot girl sitting next to me (you know who you are!),
this was the last positive image from the game

So after the 3rd inning I decide to investigate the accuracy of my buddy's "I got the hooks-ups!" claims with regards to concessions at Dodger Stadium. The lines were abysmal, but in the end we got enough food to feed a family - or a kinda-hungry Houstonian -not to mention a few rounds of brew. Note: if you can avoid paying $11 for 16 oz. beers at a sporting event, Always. Do This. Mad dap to Edwin for backing up his claims. Always cool when you can score $50+ worth of snackies because you know the manager of Dodger concessions. On a related note, because everyone is dying to know...Dodger Dogs? Terribly overrated. I had good feelings about it, too. Kinda felt like I scored the girl I was eye-balling for years, only to find out between the sheets she was about as useful as a pitchfork when it came to sex. Or a hermaphrodite. Whichever seems like a bigger disappointment to you.

In any case I missed the entire fourth inning and was faced with that eternal, "What if I had stayed in my seats?! Maybe it would have been different!" dilemma that sports fans always seem to face. For the record, I don't regret leaving my seats. If the only way the Creamed Team can win is by me avoiding loads of free food and drinks, the fuck 'em.

By the end of the inning it was 6-2 Japan, Roy-O was looking like shit, and Daisuke's streak was looking pretty damn safe. I still thought the US had a shot, of course, but it really took the gusto out of everyone in the stands, not to mention those still walking to their seats.
You can't see, but he's looking down at his Katana sword, preparing to slice an American flag right off it's little wooden stick. Just kidding! That was merely a horrible fucking metaphor!

The rest of the game was fairly uneventful. Ryan Braun (1-4, R, k) and Brian McCann (0-1, R, 3 BB) both scored in the top of the 8th, but any enthusiasm and belief in a comeback was more than offset by Japan's 3 runs later in the inning. There wasn't much else to do except take in the wonder that is Derek Jeter in a baseball uniform. Sure, I've seen him in advertisements and during telecasts, but seeing him live? In person? It was like what it must have been like to see Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel. Like seeing George Washington lead troops into battle. Wilt Chamberlain picking up a chick. Like seeing the Keebler elves bake some goddamn cookies, ya'll. Do you see those BUNS? Perfection personified. That is the only way to describe the goosebumps-filled moments of a Jeter moment. I can now tell my grandchildren I saw one of the greatest - if not THE greatest - human being to ever live.
Even from our seats, you could really see the spectre of
godliness surrounding the anomaly that is JETAH

The best moment of the game? Let me draw you a picture...while it was Japan and the US playing in the game, I saw more colors of various countries than I could count. It was clear from the ethnic and racial diversity amongst the fans sporting their colors that it's no wonder Americans have little passion for the WBC - the excitement's all being horded by fans of other countries. However, sitting in the front row of our section was a family of about 6-8 of Hispanic decent. Clearly there were a few members of the fammo that hadn't quite perfected English, but were definitely using it with enthusiasm every chance they got. The kicker? They were all clad in red, white and blue, cheering the hell out of the US boys. Being that this is somewhat of a sensitive topic area - especially considering recent events - let's just say that it's endearing and reassuring to see first and second-generation Americans really getting behind the team and taking pride in the US squad. For some reason I can't say anymore about this at the risk and fear of sounding racist.

This is what it's all about...or, will be. Y'know, in three years.


Tailgaiting on Northside Drive Ain't as Bad as it Sounds, Maybe

Lump don't care where the game played

Should the Georgia-Florida game move to a "home-and-home" game, alternated between the Georgia Dome and Jacksonville?

It's the age old question, and seemingly every UGA blogger has weighed in with a resounding "FUCK NO!" Allow me to play devils advocate for a minute, and feel free to pull our UGA blogger card. I do believe we can get a bit more mileage out of the WBC.

I am all for the GA-FL game switching to an Atlanta-Jacksonville format. And it is for completely selfish reasons.

I'm not a Hartman Fund donor. I have lived in either Athens or Atlanta for 90% of my life. I hate driving more than four hours at a time.

So that might impact where I'm coming from. But i'm sorry, I just don't get the whole "WE DON'T LOSE BECAUSE OF THE LOCATION" talk. If you're willing to admit that location does not play a factor in the outcome of the game, why does it matter if the game moves to Atlanta every other year? Do you truly believe that the current setup doesn't feel like an away game to those UGA players? I'm not saying that's the reason UGA loses 4/5 games, but "the plane ride from Athens is as long as a bus ride from Gainesville" talk is ludicrous. See if Gator fans would be saying the same if the game was played in Atlanta.

Oh, you want to get into the whole "THERE ARE UGA FANS IN SOUTH GEORGIA TOO" talk? Fair enough. Unfortunately, Athens, Georgia is located in the northeast corner of the state. UGA should not play their biggest rival in their backyard simply because of its' ideal proximity to a certain portion of UGA fans. If having GA/FL in Jacksonville means so much to South Georgia fans, they'll still be able to experience the beauty of greater Jacksonville...just every other year. I'd rather move the University to Milledgeville than decide to play Florida in Jax every year just to keep St. Simons boosters placated.

"TAILGATING IN ATLANTA/THE DOME SUCKS...HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE VINE CITY MARTA STATION!?!!" Yes, it does suck. And yet, for some reason, SEC and ACC teams are tripping over themselves for the opportunity to play their season opener here in the A. This is the biggest joke of a point ever. People will find a way to drink beer outside before a fucking football game. Pissed you'll have to pay $20 for parking (because those good lots near Alltel are practically free, right?)...well, think about all the money you'll be saving by not driving seven hours to Jax or having to stay in some motel 10+ miles away from the stadium. Yes, that's right, Atlanta would actually have luxury accommodations within walking distance of the Georgia Dome. But please, feel free to expound on the beauty of viewing the St. James River while sitting in 5mph traffic on Saturday morning at 10a.m.

"WE LOSE OUR PRESENCE IN FLORIDA/SOUTH GEORGIA!" Not really. We'll still be playing in Jax every other year. Call me crazy, but I don't think Georgia's innate ability to get our ass stomped by Florida in Jax most every year has the Champ Baileys and Aaron Murrays of the world drooling over the Dawgs. I trust Coach Richt in every aspect of recruiting. Pulling GA/FL out of Jacksonville every other year won't cost us any recruits.

By the way, greater Atlanta is a hotter recruiting hotbed than SouthGA/Northern FL. Fact. Just sayin'.

You've heard the other arguments. If these neutral games are SO GREAT why the hell aren't other teams doing them? Would UT or Auburn ever play us in Atlanta? Would we ever play LSU in Mobile? Fuck and no.

Would we look like pussies moving the game to a home-and-home? WHO FUCKING CARES? There is a whole generation of Auburn fans that don't even remember they used to play Bama at Legion Field in Birmingham. I don't mean to make you feel old, but that's how quick a "tradition" can change. If you, as a Georgia fan, are that worried about how you would be viewed by Gator fans (the only other people who even give a shit about this possibility), then you are guilty of the same mental block that you claim our players are when facing Florida.

There are two reasons to keep the game in Jacksonville exclusively. One is if you are a Hartman Fund donor, and you want easier access to tickets. Word. That's legit. The other is for tradition. If you're still following sports for tradition, I suggest a second hobby. Money drives this game, and both Universities, Georgia and Florida, are going to make the most economically pleasing deal, as they always have. Worrying about anything else is a waste of time.


Fixin' the WBC: Revisited

No doubt following the lead of Sue's, ESPN's Jason Stark has decided that the World Baseball Classic needs a fixin'.

He outlines the problems with the WBC, bringing up many of the same points we did, while adding that the WBC has reduced spring training to a meaningless exercise. This is probably true, but is a small price to pay for the ability to hold a tournament like this every three or four years. However, his main problem with the Classic is the same as ours:

The best players aren't playing in it. Or if they are, many of them aren't ready for the demands of playing in it. Where's Josh Beckett? Where's Roy Halladay? Where are Brad Lidge and Joe Nathan? How wrong is it for Venezuela to be heading for the WBC Final Four without Johan Santana?

Very, very true. Of course, this is always going to be a problem when you are asking professionals to play in a tournament for free. When was the last time Steve Nash played for Canada? More to the point, notice that all the players mentioned above are pitchers. Most teams/countries are using their best available bats. But pitching a baseball in mid-season form is unlike any other ability in team takes the necessary buildup, arm strength and timing to be able to pitch effectively. As Jake Peavy pointed out in an interview last week, it's extremely hard for pitchers to be able to make the necessary adjustments in these games that actually count as they would in a regular season contest. Holding the tournament in December, January or February won't help that, either.

Stark's suggestion to fix this problem would be to hold the preliminary rounds of the WBC sometime before spring training, the second round during one week of spring training, then the semifinals and finals during the week of the All-Star break. There are some holes in this suggestion, mainly:

  • If players aren't necessarily jumping at the chance to play in a meaningful tournament when they go through the tedious nature of spring training, what makes you think the best of the best will be itching to give up a full few days of vacation in the middle of the season?
  • Most likely, the best pitchers will have pitched during the All-Star game, as well as a couple days prior to the break. Now you're asking them to pitch again that week? Again, I don't see the Halladays, Webbs and Becketts chomping at the bit for that opportunity.
  • Stark mentions in his article that front office folk around the majors are already against the WBC. Given the point above, what makes one think they'd like this idea any better? Their players are still playing full-speed in February/March, and now their best pitchers are going to be pitching in possibly three games that count during an off week? I don't see them buying it.
  • Why would you take an Olympic style tournament and break it up into a three-parts over the course of four months? This would kill the momentum of the event, and I don't see it helping the problem of growing interest here in the States.
Look, the timing of the WBC isn't ideal. In all honestly, there probably isn't an ideal time to host the event due to the unique nature of pitching as mentioned above. But lost in all this discussion is the fact that the WBC has been an unequivocal success overall thus far. I don't want to sound like a Euro-loving liberal, because, well, my pops would kill me, but maybe we shouldn't be trying to change the WBC to fit America's tastes.

The other nations have a higher percentage of their stars participating, their players appear better conditioned (most have been playing winter ball), and their fans are attending and watching the Classic in droves. They're not complaining about the precious tradition of spring training that is stolen once every four years or that there are faults with the structure of this tournament and they can't take it seriously. They just shut up and cheer for their country, and their players are following suit. I'd like to see the U.S. fans, players and other baseball-related personnel do likewise.

What Baseball Classic?

Yeah, it's still going on....

  • ...and Sue's will be there! OBJ will be live from Chavez Ravine liveblogging the game between two-smoke cigarette breaks and bi-inning trips to the beer kiosks. Expect the recap to appear on this here site somewhere around Easter.
  • With Japan and Korea on some international baseball domination shit, their translators are working overtime. That's the only explanation I can muster up as to why they can't issue smoother translations than these doozies:
"I have very high respect for American baseball," (Japanese manager) Hara said. "There is a great opportunity in front of us."

"Is there a rule?" Hara said when asked to name his starter against the Americans. "I'd like to refrain from reciting it and give them an advantage."

"Today, we didn't put that great of meaning toward winning or losing," South Korean manager Kim In-sik said.

"It was a tense moment," (Japaneese pinch hitter) Ogasawara said. "I was getting ready and the one opportunity was there and I walked right into it. I was tenacious. I was able to produce something."
Plaschke would have a field day with those guys.

  • Jake Peavy has been lit up in two starts against Canada and Puerto Rico. Ergo, he has been scratched from starting tomorrow night's semifinal against Japan in favor of the more effective thus-far Roy Oswalt. Oswalt will square off against Dice-K, who is the f'n MJ of the WBC, apparantly. Peavy in all likelihood will start the Championship Game, should the U.S. get past Japan.
  • So Chipper Jones, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Matt Lindstrom have to leave the U.S. team with injuries, David Wright and Ryan Braun are banged up, so the U.S. responds by adding Evan Longoria and Brian Roberts in response. What the hell kind of replacement system is this?
  • In their last game against the Venezuelans, Team U.S.A. was undone by a couple of Adam Dunn errors (ESPN headline writers woulda had a field day with that one) at first base. Dunn was filling in at first due to Yook's injury, and Mark DeRosa will work at first from here on out. This was the exact same situation that the Dominicans found themselves facing in Round 1, and it cost them a game against the Netherlands. Where the hell are all the first basemen? Since when did this become a position that a GM putting together a team would forget? When did playing first become an injury risk? Bah. The U.S. downgrading at first from Youkilis to DeRosa in a matter of two games hurts.
  • I love Chipper and the fact he's played in both WBC's, but I found these comments amusing. If he thinks he'll be a part of the 2013 U.S. team as a 41-year-old, he won't have to worry about sticking around in one city too long, because that team will be bounced pretty early.
  • My pick to win it all (as if that matters): Venezuela. A lineup that's straight mashing, and Felix Hernandez is already pitching at his pre-June best. If Carlos Silva can hold fort against a surprisingly strong Korean squad led by former Mr. I-gotta-Get-His-Jersey Brave Jung Bong, the Venezuelans should win it all, as their lineup is outslugging everyone's right now.


Lamest Preview Ever!

Warning: Might be a painting and/or photoshop. Damn I miss KVH.

There was once a time when college basketball was my favorite sport. During this time, I also detested the fact that college football was discussed on the Atlanta radio airways during the spring. I'm pretty sure I was also watching like four episodes of Saved By The Bell each day, and I definitely didn't have a girlfriend.

So while the mid-nineties may have been the halcyon days of college basketball, it definitely wasn't a time period I personally enjoy remembering. But just for the sake of this post, allow me to take a step back to the 1995-1996 college basketball season, the year after Kevin Garnett opened the floodgates to the NBA. Kobe Bryant was still a high school senior, and the following players were playing college basketball that season:

Stephon Marbury
Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Chauncey Billups
Paul Pierce
Ron Mercer
Antawn Jamison
Vince Carter
Tractor Traylor

Allen Iverson
Antonie Walker
Lorenzen Wright
Adonayl Foyle
Michael Doleac
Matt Harpring
Felipe Lopez
Bonzi Wells
Danny Fortson
Maurice Taylor

Tim Duncan
Keith Van Horn
Ray Allen
Kerry Kittles
Erick Dampier
Brevin Knight
Derek Anderson
Austin Croshere
Bobby Jackson

Steve Nash
Tony Delk
John Wallace
Othella Harrington
Todd Fuller - eh, he was good in college...not "pick him ahead of Kobe good," but still.

So anyways, was an awesome season and an excellent tourney, highlighted by a Tubby Smith-coached, senior-heavy Georgia team reaching the Sweet 16 and losing in triple overtime to eventual national runner-up Syracuse on a last second 3-pointer by John Wallace. Rick Pitino's final Kentucky team won the whole thing with a loaded roster featuring seven future pro players (Toine, Mercer, Delk, Anderson, Walter McCarty, Mark Pope, and ole boy Jeff Sheppard- I'm pretty sure he was on a crappy Hawks team at some point).

Anyways, since that season, the talent level, quality of play, Georgia's success and my overall interest in college basketball has diminished over time. It has now reached a point where other than following the Hoop Dawgs, I don't even know what's going on in the sport until the tournament. In fact, I get pissed it seems that 95% of all prime-time sports programming in January-mid March is some college basketball game I couldn't care less about. Hey, it happens. I used to be a hockey fan as well.

Still though, there is nothing like the NCAA tournament. Don't worry, I'm not about to pull a Wilbon turn this into a pulpit on why college football needs a playoff, but since I really don't have a vested interest in the regular season, the tournament makes for a fun three weeks of single elimination basketball, similar to the World Cup or the WBC. Who can't get behind that?

Anyways, enough of my gay thoughts and feelings about college basketball. Onto some final thoughts and then predictions from two guys that have watched a combined 16 minutes of action thus far this season (14 of which were by accident):

  • I've finished in the Top 3 of my bracket pool each of the last three seasons. Prior to that, I'd never finished in the Top 10. On a related note, the only thing lamer than listening to someone talk about their fantasy team is hearing them talk about their fucking bracket. Oh you almost picked B.C. over Michigan State? WHO FUCKING CARES?
  • Anyways, if you want to do well in your bracket, here's a trick: pick (mostly) all the favorites. Just to prove I'm not a sadist, I make it a point to take one "sleeper" to the Sweet Sixteen each year - this year's is WKU. I guess their win over that hoss UGA team just suckered me right in - but other than that, I'm playing it safe the rest of the way. Because, after all, that's why these teams are favored, damnit. You wouldn't bet the moneyline on an underdog just because it's "more fun to pick that team!" So why would you not apply the same mentality to a pool where you could win hundreds of dollars?
  • If Big East fans want to borrow the SEC Snobbery handbook for this tournament, you've earned it. As many #1 seeds as the SEC has teams in the whole tourney is impressive, no doubt. Just make sure it's returned by August.
  • And finally, here's Runaround Sue's degenerate gambling game for NCAA '09. $25 to each other for every Sweet 16 team correctly picked. $50 for every Elite 8 squad. $75 for each Final Four participant, $100 per team in the championship game, and another $100 for the champion (yes, even gamblers feel the economic crunch). This may seem like alot of scrilla is changing hands but not so, seeing as how OBJ is apparantly following the "pick the favorite" strategy, which will make for one boring pool! Onto the picks:
Sweet 16 (teams we both picked in black, OBJ picks in red, my picks in blue):
Wake Forest
Michigan State
North Carolina
Mississippi State
Maryland (Shanoff alert!)

Arizona State




Western Kentucky


Elite 8:






Final Four:



North Carolina

(I'm telling you...BALLS OF STEEL, ladies)

Championship Game:
Pittsburgh over Louisville
Louisville over UNC

Just to let y'all know ahead of time...I almost picked Oklahoma over North Carolina.


You Can't WBC Me!

Sue's contacted John Cena to co-brand the You Can't WBC Me message,
but he was too busy preparing for Wrestlemania.

I remember watching the Spice channel as a young teen. Mind you, all I was truly doing was listening to the Spice channel, whilst staring at a distorted picture...that may show a boob every now and then! Oddly - yet deeply and undeniably - satisfying. Now, as a hormone-drenched adolescent this reference may seem extreme. Perhaps confusing. A bit crude. But if I had an interest in offing my rocks as an adult, attempting this same deplorable act of self-help? Then you have tonight's elimination game between Puerto Rico and USA.
And if you look reeeeeeal can see an ass. Or a colander.
Then again it kinda looks like a
Dog in a Bathtub.

Now, I'm sitting here, trying to watch the game, as NO DOUBT COUNTLESS OTHER FUCKING PEOPLE are. And what do I get? I get to watch on Gamecast! I get to wait for a tiny computer generated baseball to appear from an empty computer generated pitcher's mound and wait for the stats to update. Really, MLB? David Wright says this is the greatest baseball moment of his life. You're trying to capture the imagination of the world with this thing, through moments like this, and the most prominent presence of Major League talent is blacked the fuck out? Forget, for a moment, that it's the United States baseball team. Let me put aside my bias of wanting to watch my home team, in a global contest constructed by the commissioner of a league that was created and exists in my country. How's about we simply look at plain old common sense. You want people to be interested in this, yes? People in China, Sweden, Afghanistan, Iraq (now I'm feeling like P. Diddy), etc. to want to watch? I'm assuming you didn't create this Classic just for your own amusement...and if you did, MAD FUCKING DAP, ASSHOLES.

But if you did create this to garner interest from the rest of the world...and you know for a fact that the world doesn't watch any baseball as much as it watches MLB, why wouldn't you put the team with arguably the most amount of relevant, top-of-their game (Sue's be eyeballing you Pedro. Pudge.) players from MLB on television? You aren't receiving enough money to broadcast it on ESPN? Pull a Clippers and PAY SOMEONE TO AIR THAT SHIT. People want to watch the USA play, guys. It doesn't matter who played in tonight's game, everyone in the world that cares about baseball would've found it of interest. The fact that it was the US coming back in the bottom of the ninth makes it compelling to millions across the globe. This is bullshit.

Instead of watching this awesome game, I was watching computer graphics, all the while texting SJF with "scoring" updates. A quick recap of the game reveals that it had, oh I don't know, just a few plays that maybe would have made this the most interesting game to watch thus far in the '09 Classic:

Diving narrow-escape safe-at-the-plate score by Wright? McCann HR robbed by an incredible catch by Beltran? Slobber-knocked bomber by Yook to left center? Goofy inexplicable play with a ball bouncing off the runner (Victorino) at second? Bottom of the ninth one out walk with the bases loaded (nice steal, Victorino! Why am I afraid that your name tells me you're going to be playing for Columbia next year? Does that make me racist? Who knows!) to get the U.S. within one before Wright hits the game-tying/winning single to score two punctuated by the type of impressive American pile-up in the middle of the field worthy of a goose neck on the highway (Dap to the Americans' camaraderie!)? "What a finish! says Linda Cohen. Great, fuck stick. Why wasn't it on?

Oh, I know why. Because East Lansing was playing Oregon in the NIT. Of FUCKING COURSE!! Because everyone is celebrating St. Patty's Day and wants to get hammered enough at the bar to aimlessly watch crappy college basketball and pretend to care! I kid it was UNLV vs Kentucky, but does it really matter?

Sue's has stated over and over and once again the malcontent so obviously evident in not ensuring that the most compelling team - not only to Americans but likely to the rest of the world - is aired on television. So I'm 'gonna go ahead and say it, WBC (I know you're reading this). If you don't have the rest of the US squad's games televised, and continue to jerk me by making me jerk it to nothing but sound and a squiggly screen, I'm not following after this Classic.

Legal Disclaimer: Sue's does not apologize for any misdirected feelings of offense stemming from allegedly perceived offense to metaphors that may, or may not contain slight instances of graphic hyperbole.


Your Daily WBC Update

Okay, allow me one more foray into the "why isn't this tournament taken seriously here" questioning.

New thought: Baseball doesn't necessarily lend itself to the round robin/single-elimination tournament format. Baseball games, unlike other sports, can be won on any given night by any given team due in large part to pitching matchups.

For example, it's really not that big a deal for the Pirates to beat the Yankees in mid-July. In a four game series, the Yankees would probably win 2-3 games on average over a team like the Pirates. Unlike in basketball and football, one game is an extremely small sample size in baseball, especially when you are trying to determine who really is "the best team."

Therefore, it can be harder to take a tournament seriously when a team of 20+ major leaguers loses to a rag-tag bunch from Holland (err, Holland's territories) in a couple of one run games and be promptly dumped from contention. Basically, I have just rehashed Billy Beane's entire argument from Moneyball as to why the playoffs, specifically the best-of-five Divisional Series', are a complete crapshoot. This could be why it's hard to feel as though the true "best country" has been crowned baseball king of the world.

However, it still doesn't excuse getting mercy-ruled by a territory you OWN.

Onto the nightly notes:

I had completely forgotten that South Korea actually won the last installment of baseball in the Olympics in Beijing. As they handed Oliver Perez his second straight drubbing last night, winning 8-2 in an overwhelmingly pro-Mexican environment in San Diego, they're looking as dangerous as any team remaining in the tournament.

Dice-K last night: 6IP, 5 hits (all singles), 0R, 8K, 0BB. I've had this guy on my fantasy team the last two seasons and I think that may be his best start in the states ever. Seriously. He just does not drop lines like that in MLB play.

So long to the nice story that was the Netherlands. Sure, they had absolutely no offense to speak of damn near the whole tournament and got outscored by 20+ runs, but hey, we need more VanderHousensmits playing ball. I promise in 2013 not to bitch about y'all being invited to this thing, as long as you change your name to the "Dutch Antilles."

So the U.S. lives another day and will play another elimination game tomorrow against the loser of tonight's Puerto Rico-Venezuela matchup. Jimmy Rollins and Brian Roberts brought the bats, and Roy Oswalt pitched four shutout innings in a 9-3 win. And some jackass reliever from the Marlins nearly started a bench clearing brawl against the friggin' Dutch due to some Dutch player staring at a HR too long. Hey douchebag, maybe this Dutch guy was just shocked that there was a U.S. pitcher shitty enough to give up a homer to FUCKIN' HOLLAND. Anyways, the pitcher is now injured and heading home. I nominate Brandon Webb to replace him.

It was Robert's first appearance with the team, as he was added to replace the injured Dustin Pedroia. Chipper Jones and Ryan Braun also left the game (and now the team) with injuries, leading to a comical situation where Brian McCann was playing left field in the 9th inning. Chipper says his injury could just have easily as happened in spring training, and anyone who's surprised by his injury or puts the blame on the WBC probably HASN'T BEEN FOLLOWING CHIPPER'S CAREER THE LAST 6 YEARS. Anyways, here's to a speedy recovery by opening day.

However, the Chipper-Braun-Pedroia injuries bring up an interesting point. Why the hell does the U.S. have to resort to bringing in Brian Robers halfway through the tourney? Why are they putting a chubby catcher in left field? Shouldn't these teams be assembled and managed like actual baseball teams with intentions of winning the tournament (pitch counts notwithstanding)?

We've already seen the Dominicans lose a game because they decided to enter this Classic without a true first baseman. The U.S. brought 15 pitchers (mostly relievers, another dumb move) to this thing. Could they not have used one or two of those spots on another outfielder? And if your backup LF (Chipper) is out for the game, it's probably not a good idea to use up anyone else who could possibly play that position (Youkilis, Dunn, DeRosa, Victorino). Rick Sutcliffe mentioned this last night, but teams need to start thinking about winning this tournament, not just throwing together a bunch of names or taking the first available volunteers.

Don't know if anyone caught Jake Peavy's interview last night, but if OBJ's mancrush on Doc Halladay rules the roost, I'm ridin' with Peavy. Dude made no excuses for his performace, explained the issues with hitting his spots and his inability to make adjustments in such a short stint on the mound, said his velocity is still there and his arm feels good, then said he loves the WBC, his country and he wishes he could play in this thing every year. Class act. I can't wait to see him and Oswalt in Braves unis in 2013 when they're past their prime.


3 Quick Notes on the WBC

1. Team USA was mercy-ruled 11-1 by Puerto Rico last night, and needs to beat the Netherlands today in order to avoid elimination. WHERE HAS ALL THE CAMARADERIE GONE!?!?!

2. Of interest to Braves (and Padres, i suppose) fans: Jake Peavy's ERA thus far is 14.40 in four innings pitched. Javier Vazquez has a 0.96 ERA in eight innings of work.

3. Think the WBC has no cache? Check out this facinating read on the controversy surrounding Team Venezuela. Political drama, media censorship, fans booing their own players and more. I think it's safe to say these games mean quite a bit more to that squad than the U.S. team. Different worlds.

This afternoon it's Cuba/Japan, US/Netherlands and if you love baseball even more than me, Korea/Mexico. Screw Selection Sunday. Tonight might be your last chance to see a Team USA baseball squad for four years. You'll watch plenty of basketball the rest of March.


Hawk Tawk, Shocked, Doc?

Because I am sick and tired of hearing people bitch about the economy, I went against common sense and attended three Hawks games this week (Pistons, Hornets, Pacers). I just felt like if I give the Atlanta Spirit more of my (not) hard-earned cash, maybe they could settle their differences. That, and I'm a sucker for mixing live basketball and $5 jumbo beers from the CNN Center.

So, with apologies to Braves and Birds, here's 10 thoughts and/or observations on the Hawks and their recent four game winning streak.

1. It was really nice to be on the other end of that Pacers game last night. In previous years, it was the Hawks that jumped out to a nice first quarter lead, held serve in the second quarter, gave up the lead in the third, and got blown out in the fourth. The Pacers last night reminded me of so many Hawks teams over the last few years. More importantly, it was nice to see the Hawks systematically dismantle a poor team (albeit minus its best player). That's the sign of a good team.

2. Roy Hibbert is second only to Yao Ming in the "man that guy is a physical fucking freak" in the list of players I've seen up close. He played really well last night and has a good enough post-up game and rebounding prowess that it's kinda surprising he's not much better.

3. I'm not a doctor, and I didn't stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I'm not optimistic about Marvin's injury. I'm glad he might make it back, but he will probably need surgery in the offseason, and he's still probably not going to be at full strength when he does return. On the brightside, this increases the Hawks ability to lowball him ala J-Smoove during his restricted free agency this summer.

4. Mo Evans had a nice game last night (+19), but he's not going to be able to replicate Marvin's scoring or rebounding output. However, if he continues shooting the 3ball like he has, maybe we won't miss that aspect of Marvin's game as much as I thought.

5. Chris Paul, while still a douche, is amazing to watch in person. The Hawks were mostly effective at limiting his ability to split the defense and penetrate the lane, but the few times he did, it was like watching a 6'', 185lb LeBron out there. Dude just opens up passing lanes out of nowhere also. He basically owned Mike Bibby defensively as well. Along with LeBron, Duncan, DWade, the Celtics, and Kobe, he might make my list of "I am going to that fucking game" when he comes to town.

6. This is completely irrelevant whether we are winning or losing, but does Josh Smith seem to be a) dunking less and b) dunking with less authority over the last few weeks? I didn't think about it until I attended these games this week and had to rely on Flip Murray for some of my my "UNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!" shouts following a powerful jam. That said, there's few things more exciting then seeing the Hawks on a fast break and realizing Smith his a clear path and a good passer about to feed him the ball. Bonus points if it is a game-clincher like during the New Orleans game. If that had been in NBA Jam, it would have elicited a "THE NAAAIL IN THE COFFIN" shout from the announcer.

7. As for Smith's benching in Charlotte, this kind of crap is getting annoying. I'm not sure what the suspension was about, but if it was about effort/getting back on defense, I'm not sure I've seen a marked improvement over the last few games in that area. So, uh, way to go Woody. As my buddy Logan pointed out, Smith is just a baby. He's not a "punk" or a "thug" (I hate when those terms get used about him- looking at you sports talk fools), he's just a baby that happens to play basketball. If he was a banker or some other type of boring-job co-worker, he'd be that guy who always annoyed his boss, always took shortcuts on their work, complained about their workload, never went above-or-beyond on any project, etc. He's been in the league for 5 seasons, so we're running out of time on the "he's just young and immature!" excuse.

8. Joe Johnson appears to have given curbjaw to his slump. Let's hope this continues, because there is no way we can beat the Heat in a Round 1 matchup with Joe not at the top of his game.

9. Coach Woodson apparently reads Hawks blogs, finally giving Acie Law some run! He's still raw, but there's definite potential there, espicially on the offensive end. That said, not sure I see him as starter-material next season, but it does give Rick Sund a little bit of wiggle room with regards to Mike Bibby's impending free agency. On another note, Coach Woodson definitely doesn't read Hawks blogs, because for some reason he deemed it appropriate to reward Mario West's first good game EVER against the Jazz by inexplicably allowing him to be the team's 6th man last night. What. the. hell.

10. Finally, a mini-RIP to the career of Allen Iverson as a star-quality figure on a contending team. As one of my favorite players ever, this pains me to type, but the Pistons are a much better team when he is not on the court. It allows their best player, Rip Hamilton, to do what he does best: run those annoying screen-curl-shoot sequences. The other Pistons sense this as well.

“Some games we do feel like the old Pistons,” McDyess said. “We’ve got each other’s backs, playing free and having fun. For a while it’s been that way, since we’ve had Rip in the lineup.”

“We’ve got to keep it the way it is,” McDyess said. “We’ve only lost (two) games with him in the lineup. He’s been sharing the ball like a point guard, which is not his strength, and really scoring, also. With the energy he brings, it’s like we have more confidence in ourselves now.”

What does that have to do with the Hawks? Well, nothing. But let's just say my dream Round 1 matchup for the Hawks involves the Pistons. And Allen Iverson. And not Dwayne Wade.


Seriously? Another WBC post?

Yesterday on 790 The Zone, David Pollack and Mike Bell were poking fun at the World Baseball Classic. They're hardly alone in this regard, as other than ESPN's tepid coverage of the event (and they've got all the ponies in this race), coverage and interest in this event has been marginal at best in the country that deems baseball its' national pastime.

I still don't understand why. Americans love baseball. Americans love contrived made-for-TV events. The World Cup (understandably) and the Olympics (less so) are covered with respect and admiration. The passion (not to mention TV ratings) surrounding the events in Latin America, Asia and even Canada was intense and as rollicking as anything in the World Cup or the Olympics.

I've touched on some of the problems with the WBC here, but I think on a larger scale that while they still love the sport, American baseball fans are just fed up with baseball and Bud Selig in general. They view any changes or innovation he brings to the table (interleague play, the All-Star game 'counting', instant replay, etc.) with skepticism and trepidation. American baseball fans simply want to cheer for their Braves, Yankees, Pirates, Angels or whatever and forget anything else that goes on in the game outside of their team's season. Unfortunately, this probably includes this tournament, which has been exciting as hell thus far and has featured two impressive wins by the U.S. team.

Case in point: Tonight's U.S.-Venezuela game for the Pool C championship will be televised on ESPN Deportes and MLB Network...two stations most people don't get. What will be on the widely available ESPN2? Netherlands-Puerto Rico. Only in America.

Some other thoughts on the tournament thus far:

I still can't wrap my head around the Dominican team loaded with major leaguers losing twice to a Netherlands squad that features two big leaguers. This all in front of what essentially amounted to a home crowd in Puerto Rico's stadium. The WBC was the Dominican's stage to shine, as they are never players in either the Olympics, World Cup, or any other intercontinental event. They blew it.

Why was Willy Aybar, known to Braves' fans as that guy we got for Betemit that went AWOL and landed in rehab, playing first base in the 11th inning? I haven't exactly followed Aybar's career since he left the Braves, but I thought he was a prototypical middle infielder. As I watched him misread two standard plays that led to the winning runs, I couldn't help but think he looked horribly out-of-position at first. Kind of like me in my epic six-error performance at first during the father-son fraternity softball game my sophomore year.

The Dominican roster was put together like one of Isiah Thomas' Knicks squads. There were alot of past-their-prime players. Unless you count David Ortiz and apparently Aybar, there were no first basemen. Their two best players, Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes play the same position, and for some reason Miguel Tejada was still on the team.

That said, four of the five runs the Dominicans gave up were unearned, and they scored 12 runs to their opponents five. Much like in a five or seven game playoff series, the best team doesn't necessarily win. I gotta think the Dominicans would beat the Dutch at least 70% of the time. C'est la vie.

Got to give the Netherlands credit though. Pitching coach Bert Blyleven's staff has a 1.67 ERA thus far against stacked Dominican and Puetro Rico lineups, and the Dutch have not trailed for 25 of the 29 innings they've played thus far. Their bats will have to wake up if they want to pull this off again in Round 2, but it's a nice story.

Mexico will try to avoid the fate of the D.R. in tonight's rematch in Mexico City against the Aussies for the right to lose to Cuba tomorrow. This Australia squad is no joke, as they led the Cubans 4-1 heading into the 7th inning last night before their 'pen imploded. Add that to the fact the Mexcians will be without two starters that were injured against South Africa and we could be looking at a Round 2 with the Netherlands and Australia.

Haven't said much about the U.S. squad, but their performance against a good Venezuela team was dominating and a joy to watch, Chipper's first aggravating injury of 2009 notwithstanding. The U.S. offense should be able to keep them in any game.

Does anyone know who picked this squad? Youkilis, Adam Dunn, Braun, Wright, McCann, etc? It's like a sabermetrican's wet dream. Maybe that has more to do with their success thus far than all the chemistry and camraderie? Because I'm pretty sure every squad still standing is still running out of the dugout after every run crosses home plate.


Yesterday in the WBC:

Smith was so overjoyed he ripped the "H" off the back of his jersey in excitement.

Netherlands 3 Dominican Republic 2 - Well this is embarrassing for the Dominicans. Somewhere in Santo Domingo, there is a crusty old sportswriter sitting at a typewriter trying to pin this loss on A-Rod. Meanwhile, Sidney Ponson had a typical "good for Sidney Ponson" outing: 4IP, 5H, 2ER, 3BB, 1HR allowed, 4.50ERA for the Dutch. This all but assures that he will get signed by some desperate contender in mid-June, only to completely implode by August and get waived with a 6.75ERA.

USA 6 Canada 5 - The U.S. avenges their 2006 loss to Canada behind homeruns from chubby pasty white guys Brian McCann, Kevin Youkilis and Adam Dunn. To their credit, the Canadian crowd in Toronto was nuts for this game, creating a playoff-type atmosphere. I'm officially pulling for them to upset Venezuela and advance to Round 2. Also, only in an interview with the president of "Baseball Canada" could you ever hear Rick Sutcliffe utter the phrase "the next Stubby Clapp."

Puerto Rico 7 Panama 0 - In the first inning, the announcer mentioned that former Braves, Orioles, and about-10-other-teams pitcher Bruce Chen was hoping for a strong WBC performance in hopes of signing on with a big league team. Just as the spittle landed on the mike, Carlos Delgado knocked one into the right field stands, causing delirious Puerto Ricans to celebrate by jumping up and down, shaking violently and pouring beer all over each other. It's like the SEC, only replace "beer" with "dip cups." We'd never waste beer like that.

Venezuela 7 Italy 0 - After somehow shutting out the Venezuelans through four innings, the Italians brought in Jason Grilli, who does what he does best, giving up a homer and 3 runs in 1/3 of an inning. Carlos Silva and Felix Hernandez each pitched four scoreless innings, which i'm sure thrilled their respective MLB team's skippers to no end, seeing as how they're busting out with 60-pitch sessions during the first week of March.

Korea 14 China 0 - So this technically happened this morning I guess, but whatever. Nobody knows what time it is right now anyways. Korea clinches a spot the next round of competition, joining Japan from Group A. Have you noticed the disparity in talent between the Asian countries? Japan mercy-ruled Korea, which mercy-ruled China, which beat a hapless Taiwan team 4-1 for their only win in this tournament ever.

Today: Cuba has probably already dispatched of South Africa by the time you read this, Panama becomes sacraficial lambs for a shellshocked Dominican team looking to avoid a stunning elimination, Venezuela and the U.S. play for a spot in the next round at 8p.m. tonight; and at the same time, Australia and Mexico square off in a matchup that is making me re-think my plans to watch the U.S. game at a dingy mexican restaurant with only one TV, located within viewing distance of the kitchen...


Handicapping the WBC

So who has the best chance to win this tournament nobody cares about? Glad you reverse order:

16. South Africa - It will be an accomplishment if they can avoid being mercy-ruled more than once. Thanks for playing.

15. Italy - They're the designated whipping boy in the U.S.-Canada-Venezuela pool. Not that that kind of thing matters when Frank Cattalonotto is your best player.

14. Netherlands - At least they get to keep Amsterdam. Suffice to say, if Andruw Jones skipping this year's tournament actually hurts your team, you probably weren't going very far in the first place. Hey, and look, it's a Randall Simon sighting, he of John Rocker's "fat monkey" taunts, and noted Italian Sausage assailant.

13. Taiwan (aka "Chinese Taipei?") - For what it's worth, I think these guys may be eliminated already. Hmm. Just checked...and yeah they are. Runaround Sue's, where good writing goes to die a death by bludgeoning.

12. China - Forgetting the whole "two cultures hating each other" problem, Taiwan may want to go ahead and hitch their wagon to this pony for the next few tournaments. In ten years, when China has 6"7 twelve-year-olds re-enacting the final scene from that terrible movie "The Scout," don't say I didn't warn ya.

11. Australia - You got to give these guys credit. Just like in basketball, they throw out a team of scrubs, yet they never quite hit an 'Angola '92' or 'South Africa '06' level of suck. If there's ever an (American) Football World Cup, I fully expect the Australian team to be filled with scrappy rugby players that nobody wants to play (for fear of losing an eyeball in a pileup).

10. Korea - These guys just got merci-ruled by Japan a few hours ago. They could be decent for all I know, but they ain't winning the whole kibosh.

9. Panama - Bruce Chen is their best starter. Mariano Rivera isn't playing. Next.

8. Canada - Alot to like here: A legitimately solid lineup featuring Russell Martin, Justin Morneau, Jason Bay, Joey Votto, Matt Stairs and Pete Orr (ok, forget Orr, but still). "Home-field" advantage in the first round of the tourney. Unfortunately, their pitching staff prominently features the legendary Jesse Crain, and they drew the Pool of Death with the U.S. and Venezuela. Still, another upset of the U.S.A. in a few hours wouldn't surprise me in the least.

7. Mexico - The good: Oliver Perez and Adrian Gonzalez anchor their rotation and lineup. The bad: Oliver Perez and Adrian Gonzalez anchor their rotation and lineup.

6. Puerto Rico - Weak rotation (though with Javier Vazquez as their #2, I don't want to think what that says about the Braves' rotation), but they bring the bats with Beltran, Delgado, Felipe Lopez and the return of Bernie Williams. Quick question: How do you think they decided on Yadier Molina as this team's catcher over his brothers? Bengie must be pissed. Anyways, watch their Round 1 games if for no other reason than the insane crowd at their home field. It makes Yankees-Sox games look like some Baptist Church T-Ball Ish. I can't even describe it...or comprehend how baseball can create and sustain that level of excitement for four hours.

5. U.S.A. - Let's just say if this was a "playing for pride" rankings, they'd be in South Africa territory. How the hell do we end up with a pitching rotation of this? I watch hundreds of baseball games each year, play in two fantasy leagues and I've never even heard of some of those guys. Where are our big arms? Lincecum, Beckett, Doc Halladay, Kazmir, Hamels, Haren, Sabathia, etc? Just sign 'em up, and let them each pitch 1-2 innings per outing, all-star style. John Grabow, really? What the hell?

4. Venezuela - Pretty much the opposite of the U.S. on the "playing for pride" spectrum. Remember how insane these guys were going during the home run derby where the competition was divided up by countries? Of course you don' neither. Anyways, peep this rotation: Felix Hernandez, Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Silva, Armando Galaragga, with K-Rod closing games. Now imagine if Johan Santana didn't have to sit this one out with an injury. Add that to a lineup of Miggy Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Magglio, JoLopez, Ramon HJernandez, Melvin Mora and others, and that's a nice well as half the Detroit Tigers' roster.

3. Japan - After another mercy rule win last night, these guys are quickly becoming USA-in-1990's-Olympic-Basketball good. Still though, I just don't trust that Tetsuya Yamaguchi. He'll be their undoing, just you watch.

2. Dominican Republic - Now that's a talented roster. It's also a front for "The Future of PED's - Where Do We Go From Here? 2009 Summit." Any guess on the over-under of shady trainers hanging out in the parking lot after each D.R. game? 16? 20? One-per-player?

1. Cuba - I don't know one player on their team. But anytime you match a bunch of exhibition-happy big leaguers against a team of world-class athletes making $11 per week who view the WBC as their World Cup, Olympics and World Series all rolled into one, I'm rolling with the migrants. Add in the "Win this One for Castro" and "Maybe if we get to the finals in L.A. I can claim political asylum" factors, and this one's a lock. Viva Coo-ba.


Fixin' the World Baseball Classic

Furman Bisher's Worst Nightmare

Sometime last night, between my 6th Natty Light tallboy and waking up by rolling over one of the 6 staples holding together my lacerated scalp (long weekend), the World Baseball Classic began with defending champ's Japan's 4-0 victory over China. Call me a sucker for gimmicks, but I count me as a, and maybe the only, fan of this whole World Baseball Classic idea. It's like soccer's World Cup, only less gay. Unfortunately, like many of Bud Selig and Company's good ideas over the years, the WBC has been implemented so awkwardly that it isn't really viewed as anything more than a bush-league pet-project of Selig's. Among the problems:

1. Due to the timing, many of the best players sit out of competition.

Sure, someone like a Gary Sheffield ("if they ain't payin' me, i'm not playin" -2006) or Barry Bonds would never play in something like this; but, when stars like Albert Pujols and Johan Santana elect to sit this one out due to (very legitimate) concerns about how it will effect their readiness for the upcoming season, it kind of undermines the whole "world's best" mentality. Add in behind-the-scenes grumblings (like the Braves' supposed balking at a deal with Japaneese ace Kenshin Kawakami until he agreed not to play in the WBC), and the point is driven home further: MLB front offices don't like this thing. Not sure this problem can be fixed, at least until the WBC gains some Olympic-esque cache.

2. Teams can cherry pick players who've never lived in their country.

This seems less common this year, but why the hell should Nomar Garciaparra (born in California) be allowed to play for Mexico as he did in 2006? Maybe I'm sounding old-fashoined here, but you rep where you from. And A-Rod, born n' raised in Miami, is not from the Dominican Republic (though that seems like less of an issue now). Look at Italy's roster! It's like they let any scrub major leaguer whose name ends in a vowel on the team. I'd bet half that roster has never set foot in The Boot before. This rule needs to go...both here, and in the Olympics. Ben Gordon playing for England my ass.

3. Some of these teams should not be in the WBC, period.

Sorry, Selig, baseball ain't soccer. It's not a worldwide, beloved sport. They don't play world-class baseball in Europe. Ditto for South Africa. Peep this list of where every major league player ever has been born. Click the European countries. None of them have produced a major leaguer since the days when our Presidents wore monocles. Therefore, Italy and South Africa, be gone.

Taiwan and South Korea are new to the game and are already sending their best to the bigs, so they can stay.

China gets a pass too, since it's impossible to do anything global nowadays without including them. Plus, pretty soon they'll be genetically engeneering baseball players and forcing four-year-olds to undergo Tommy John surgery, so we may as well go ahead and jump the gun on this one.

Australia can stay as well, as they have proven quite adept at pumping out end-of-the-bench type talents.

Netherlands, you can hold your spot by default, but you have to change your name to Dutch Antillies, to better represent where your baseball bread is buttered.

Replace Italy and South Africa with Columbia (let Edgar Rentaria and Orlando Cabrera fight to the death for the starting SS spot) and Nicaragua, countries that play baseball year-round and have actually produced major-leaguers this century. Hopefully, this can mean the end of the mercy rule (yes, there really is one) in the WBC.

So there you have it...a tournament consisting of teams made up of players actually from the countries they're representing, in which baseball is actually played. A novel concept, I know, but one juuust obvious enough for Selig to miss the boat. And while we're at it, let's keep holding this thing every three years (after this year, it will be held every four years), just to give it some history and intrigue. This could help with problem #1, as national pride might be enough to bring out the biggest stars in the game.

Tomorrow: Sue's WBC predictions.

Saturday: USA's Game 1 liveblog. C'mon, it's early March, and I'm not feelin like talking about how the Hawks are quietly collapsing, so what else do ya want from us?


Bawlin' Cawlin' 03-05-09

With 22 games remaining on the schedule, and Atlanta a full 10 games back from Orlando for the #3 seed, it seems the only thing left for the Hawks to fight for is the #4 seed and a shot at playing Miami (2.5 back from the Hawks) or Detroit (3.5) in the opening round (I'm thinking Milwaukee and Philly don't have spurts in them to make up 5 and 7 games, respectively). Is this enough to motivate a team to play at the top of their game? What you want to do is catch your ass on fire heading into the postseason, a la the 2007 NFL football Giants. The last thing you want to do is pull a Gail Devers.
Don't bust yo ass down the stretch, BABY HAWKS!

The schedule is favorable, with only 10 of 22 games against teams with records currently better than the Hawks (and of those, a great deal are Western Conference teams). The key is to not glide along, and remain energized on the prospect of ending the season as a respectable challenger to the East throne. The organization has something to be proud of this year, but faltering down the stretch and falling to the fifth or sixth seed, while walking into your first playoff game with an enormous stench surrounding your squad, could erase that.

But if the Hawks need further motivation, which the fourth quarter of several games this (not to mention recent) season(s) seem to suggest, how's about the prospect of facing the Celtics in Round 2? If the Celtics can somehow stop sputtering around and LeBron and Company stop being a ridiculous juggernaut, it's a very plausible situation. I know the Hawks were thinking all off season that they wanted another shot at the Celts. If they only had one more game, one more chance to score, one more 24-second shot clock of time, they could've done it. If they carry themselves into the second round of the playoffs and face-off against Boston, I fully believe the Hawks can take them. Which would put the Eastern Conference Finals? Okay, sure. I'll admit all of a sudden that situation becomes completely ridiculous when you think of it that way. But if the Hawks can catch fire and all of a sudden start playing out of their minds - like a late-for-her-rent-Saigon whore with pocket fulls of eightballs and a house full of GIs on R&R leave - it's not impossible we could see Hawks/Cavs in the Finals. Which would I'm sure piss off a lot of people, and probably hit the NBA financially even more.

But dammit...It sure would be a nice parting gift from the city of Atlanta to a transplanted Georgia boy about to move on.

OBJ: 11-6
Joe Friday: 11-6

The excitement is piling on like the drunkest douche at the bar talking to the last cute girl at a bar.

Today's Picks

OBJ 1: San Antonio (+3.5) over Dallas

The best part about having more than a few teams you root for as "hometown" teams? When your blog partner (blartner? partnog? plogner?) takes the Hawks off the table, you still have one or two on reserve.

I understand that the Spurs are 2-1 against the spread versus Dallas this season. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to take that, but I'm guessing commons sense dictates I should assume Dallas will cover. Well, FUCK YOU common sense. Where the FUCK have you been all my life, ANYWAY?

OBJ 2: New Jersey (+7.5) over Boston

Ugh. What the fuck do YOU want, common sense? Eh? What's that? Boston's defeated the Nets seven straight times since March 3rd of 2007? By an average margin of WHAT? 16 points?? The two meetings this year have been 118-86 and 105-85? HAH! Shows what YOU know, DICKHEAD common sense. This all means JERSEY'S DUE, BABY!

Joe Friday 1:
Atlanta (PK) over New York

Joe Friday 2:
Miami/Phoenix OVER 226