The Boondoggle Tank.

T.O., Have You Heard of the Condiment Revolver?

To make this post I’ve got to make a slightly embarrassing confession.  I watch the Shark Tank.  For those of you that rightfully and admirably have no idea what that is–it’s a reality show.  There are five very wealthy “sharks” (sometimes including Mark Cuban!) and they watch proposals from inventors, small business owners, etc. and decide whether or not to invest in the company.  It’s a great opportunity for the people coming on the show, because the exposure alone is worth possible millions for their business, but it’s usually a good opportunity for the “sharks” as well.  They, at least in theory, are good business people.  They’re in the position of power and they often squeeze sweetheart deals out of the people who actually created the product.  

Aside from enjoying the cocky sharks throwing money around, I like watching for the ideas.  Some are incredibly good and you know right away the person will be rich with or without the sharks.  But some are terrible.  The producers usually throw in one bomb a show and the investors tear them to shreds.  “Eighteen hundred in sales!  Get out of my sight!”  The crazy thing is, the people with the terrible ideas think they’re great ideas.  They leave with their held high.  I’m not going to give up, they say, and then they go borrow another 20-grand from an unsuspecting relative.  

My idea is to unite these people with a passion for horrible ideas with a group of investors who have a track record of making terrible, fortune eroding investments.  What class of people are famous for blowing large sums of money?  How about athletes?  Athletes these days are really the perfect target for fraud.  They come into a ton of money in a short period of time, they often don’t have much experience being wealthy or managing any type of wealth, but more than that they all are willing.  A lot of these guys want to do the right thing.  They want to invest.  They want to be smart and secure, but since they don’t really know what they’re doing, they throw money at anyone who says the word, “opportunity.”  This is how you hear of guys who made 9 figures in their career ending up broke.  Oh you wanted to build a condo complex in some Florida swamp?  I can’t believe that didn’t work out.  

Now, I know this show sounds a little dark.  Watching people lose money–what kind of person am I?  Well, the twist is, it’s not an actual show like Shark Tank.  It’s more of an intervention.  You get the four or five athletes together.  You get the people who have sunk their life savings into a horrible idea and you let them in a room together.  You watch them negotiate.  You watch the terrible decisions be made, but then right before the next Antoine Walker cuts the check you have someone charge out from backstage and stop the transaction.  The final step is you sit down the athlete and the person with the horrible idea with a legitimate financial advisor.  They tell the athlete to save their money, they tell the contestant to give up hope on his solar-powered dog trimmer and it’s a happy ending for all.  I think this is a pretty easy sell.  

***

Weekend Wrap-Up…

1.  We have a Bryce Harper Debut.  The Nats rushed Harper a bit because their LFs were hitting .087.  Can’t do much worse than that.  Harper looks pretty comfortable in the early going, and Washington’s division lead allows him to come up without huge expectations.  He’s just a young guy hitting 7th right now.  The Nats could eventually use some help on offense, though.  They’re just 5-5 in their last 10 and leaning heavily on that pitching staff.  The only sign that Harper is a little wide-eyed?  After Matt Kemp’s walk-off homer on Saturday, Harper rattled off Kemp’s stats to the letter.  “He’s hitting .440 with 11 jacks and 24 RBI,” Harper said.  Those were his exact numbers.  You’ll almost never see a baseball player do that.  They might know a guy’s stats, but they’d never ADMIT it.  Tough to play it cool when you sound like a Matt Kemp Roto owner in the clubhouse after the game, Bryce.  

2.  Flyers slipped by the Devils in OT.  I was at the Phillies game, so I missed most of the action, but I hear that the Flyers TOTALLY DOMINATED after some initial rust.  You can’t keep Briere down in the playoffs.  He’s either kicking pucks in illegally, or rifling shots from the point.  

3.  Derek Rose blew an ACL.  This is bad news for Heat-haters like myself, and I suppose the people in Chicago as well.  President Obama is probably crushed.  It won’t alter the series against the Sixers.  The Bulls could play any five guys and cruise, but it seems to really open up the East for the Heat.  What Miami did to New York over the weekend was…uncomfortable.  I kept waiting for someone on the Knicks roster to say, “No means no.”  Elsewhere in the NBA, the Grizz blew a 24 point lead in the 4th quarter.  That really shouldn’t be possible.  

4.   The Redskins were riding high with their selection of RG3 on the opening day of the draft.  Then, they took another QB prospect–Kirk Cousins.  Now, Cousins is a prospect in relation to RG3 like Miller 64 is a beer in relation to Sierra Nevada.  Still, though, I viewed this as Washington controlling their own image.  All this positive buzz from Griffin and they just said, “Whoa, whoa whoa. We’re still the Redskins.  We’ll still make terrible decisions at the drop of a hat.  Know that.”  The real test will be for the ‘Skins fan base.  If they even think of getting behind Cousins, they should all turn in their pig snouts and dresses.  

5. Historic episode for Roger Sterling on Mad Men last night.  The veteran ad-man was scuffling a bit this season, feeling a bit like a horse put out to pasture, but one week he’s taking some LSD and the next week he’s the Roger of old.  On fire.  I won’t ruin it any further, but Roger could be one more black-tie function away from regaining the upper hand in the accounts department.  

Pretty Much Everything.

One Minute After the Longest, Most Awkward Hug of All-Time.

Bit of a shoddy week around here.  What can you do?  I’m going to try to remedy the light content week with a real big flourish heading into the weekend.  All quantity, no quality.  It’s a 4-sport weekend in Philadelphia.  They don’t come around too often.  With the Sixers mail-in last night and the Eagles not blatantly tanking the 1st round–things have gotten off to a pretty solid start.  The rundown….

NFL DRAFT:

Great 1st round.  Thank you for not taking six hours.  Back in the day, you’d turn the Draft on at noon and they’d crank out about 4 picks an hour.  It was torture.  Then again, you could go out and play a round of golf and come back to find you’d only missed about 1/2 a round.  With the clock trimmed to 10 minutes and with teams trading up with specific players in mind, the picks came in a quick rhythm.  In fact, if ESPN hadn’t been slowing things down a bit, I think they could have done 2.5 hours.  Maybe next year.  Observations…

1.  Roger Goodell really liked ALL the draft picks.  Maybe too much.  There are handshakes, there are congratulatory hugs and then there’s what Goodell was doing last night.  He put together a 32 game winning streak in the game “nervous,” that’s for sure.  He locked onto those picks and just wouldn’t let go.  After the standard jokes were made…it just became uncomfortable.

2.  The Eagles traded up and took a player the fans wanted.  Or at least had on the radar.  A couple of years back the Eagles pulled the same thing, the fans waited for Goodell to announce Earl Thomas, but he said Brandon Graham instead.  Shock and anger from the masses.  Fast forward to Thomas being a total beast (the bypassed JPP as well) and Graham hardly ever seeing the field and you’ve got one nervous fan base when the Eagles’ card comes to the podium.  Cox was a chalk pick, though.  It’ll be tough to pin this on the front office if he doesn’t pan out, because everyone liked the guy.

3.  Speaking of busts, I don’t want to be negative, but would Andrew Luck be the biggest bust ever if he doesn’t turn into a franchise quarterback?  You can’t be a bust without hype and Luck is unmatched in that category.  What struck me about Luck is that he’s a total goof.  He fails the “face test.”  But as I tweeted last night to my 15 followers, Eli has shattered the scale for the “face test,” and completely erased its validity.  But still, massive face test failure for Luck who looks and sounds like an oversized Little Leaguer.  I’m nervous about how he’ll survive his 1st season with 21 gaping holes around him in the locker room.

4.  I always get that twinge of regret every year when my dream corner gets taken.  Joe Haden to the Browns.  Gut shot.  Patrick Peterson to Arizona.  Bitter pill.  But Morris Claiborne to Dallas last night was a whole new level.  The Cowboys run a draft like I would.  Throw caution to the wind, trade up, and take the guy with name value.  How can that go wrong? Their prize was Claiborne, who should help their secondary immensely, but won’t be able to help Tony Romo is his quest to qualify for the US Open.  Interesting side-note about Claiborne, in response to his reported score of “4″ on the Wonderlic  (that’s quite low), he said he tanked the test on purpose, because he’s out of school and didn’t see any questions about football.  Oh, Mo, we really could have had something.

5.  We’ve now gone 21 straight years without a draft pick wearing jean shorts.  Brett Favre is Cal Ripken and Joe D all rolled into one on this one, I think.  Even Brandon Weeden, who appeared to be watching from home, threw together a look that I’d describe as “Graduate Assistant.”

Lloyd Christmas Meets every 7th Grader in 1992.

NHL Playoffs:  

After a long, luxurious wait the Flyers will face the Devils in round two.  Did I say I wanted the Devils?  I wanted the Devils.  New Jersey slipped by Florida in game 7 to set up a familiar playoff matchup.  Of course, the history with New Jersey is not as fresh as it feels.  I can take myself back to the painful playoff series of the Lindros era and it feels like it happened yesterday.  The truth is, it’s been a long time and about the only familiar face left is Marty Brodeur.  The New Jersey teams that stepped over the Flyers on the way to the Cup don’t exist.  In fact, you could argue the demons have been exorcised.  In 2004 and 2010, the Flyers dismissed the Devils from the playoffs with relative ease.  What I want out of this series is to send Brodeur into retirement on a sour note.  I’d like to see him peppered and then pulled.  The biggest obstacle facing the Flyers would appear to be their long layoff.  It hasn’t kept Vegas from bumping the Flyers up to their second choice at 9:2.  Flyers Kitten will probably pop up next week, but in the meantime, he wanted me to let everyone know that Still the Beat Bang.  Keys and Prediction….

  1. Get to Brodeur Early in the Series
  2. Continue Power Play Dominance
  3. Stay out of Giroux’s Way
  4. Keep an Eye Out for Scott Stevens…Just in Case
  5. Flyers in 5.

***

Phillies vs. Cubs–4 Game Set in Search of a .500+ April.  

The Phils closed their trip in fine fashion against Arizona.  They scored 20 runs in the series and by Sunday, their run production was being taken a bit more seriously.  They’ve got a golden opportunity to keep things going against Chicago. The Cubs are struggling in the early going, and have given up nearly 5 runs a game, which a ton in the modern NL.

Stat of the Day in an Attempt to Gain Perspective:  Washington Nationals 69 Runs scored (14-5 record).  Philadelphia Phillies 63 Runs scored (9-10 record).

I think there might be a bit of a misconception out there about how well the Nats are playing.  As you can see, they’ve scored a grand total of 6 more runs than the Phillies this season.  Or, .3 more runs a game.  That surplus has added up to five more wins.  So even though we’re apoplectic about the Phillies offense, the Nationals offense is a bit dreadful in its own right.  They’re being bolstered by a preposterous 2.2o Team ERA, which is not sustainable.  Especially when you realize they’ve played their 1st 19 games against Chicago, Cincy, SD, Houston and New York who are a combined 20 games under .500.  You could say much of the same about the Phillies in the early going, but that’s the point.  Washington has pitched a little better and gotten a bit more timely production.  So, just for the record, the Phillies aren’t chasing down some indomitable beast.  The Nats are a team with good pitching and a favorable early schedule.  They can easily be run down over the next 143 games.

So, anyway, important for the Phils to win this series against Chicago to keep momentum going for the big Atlanta/WSH trip that kicks off May.

NBA Playoffs:  

Yesterday I heard the NFL is getting pretty close to putting the Pro Bowl to bed.  A mercy killing.  So appropriate.  I had hoped they were going to do the same thing with the NBA playoffs, but it looks like they’re going to go ahead and press on for the next 3 months.  Don’t cancel your July NBA Finals parties.  It’s going to happen.  In a strange turn of events, and despite their best efforts, the Sixers have tumbled into the playoffs as the #8 seed in the East.  Their reward is a matchup with the Chicago Bulls.  The Sixers are 100:1 to win the NBA Championship.  Do NOT take a little taste of that.  Consider this your NBA Playoff coverage unless something really comical happens to the Heat.  Go Knicks!  Melo for MVP!

A Breath From Sports:  What the Hell Happened To John Cusack?

Have you seen the preview for Poe, or whatever that Edgar Allen Poe atrocity is?  John Cusack has become the Shannon Tweed of the half-hearted suspense stink bomb. Let’s take a road trip to Cusack’s IMDB page.  Looking at the titles, it appears that Cusack saved his career once and then blew it.  Peruse the following:

Teen Star Era:

  1. Sixteen Candles
  2. Better Off Dead
  3. Stand By Me
  4. One Crazy Summer
  5. Say Anything

Now Cusack could have just faded away there as a legend of the 80s, but he instead decided to fail as an adult actor for some time.  Have you seen Grifters?  It’s got career-ending potential.  But Cusack hung tough.  He kept shooting.  That’s the only way to break a slump.  It allowed him a bit of a revival.

Finally Shook the “In Your Eyes” Moment Era:

  1. Grosse Pointe Blank
  2. Pushing Tin
  3. Being John Malkovich
  4. High Fidelity

Right around this time, you’re thinking, Man–that Cusack.  He’s like an uglier, more neurotic Hugh Grant.  Sky is the limit.  But no.  It turns out that Cusack can’t REALLY carry a movie.  He’s like a AAAA player in baseball.  He can do weird.  He can do kind of funny, but there are limitations.  Instead of cultivating those limitations and showing up in only oddball roles like his sister, Cusack has insisted on being the leading man, which has sent him slaloming down the slopes of script quality.  It leads to roles in moves like 1408 (about haunted hotels) and 2012 (about the world ending) and The Factory (starring no one) and now finally The Raven (I looked the name up).

The point of all this is, you can put John Cusack as the star of your movie, but it’s a little like batting Ty Wigginton cleanup.

***

Ok, there you go.  A mega-post.  A pile of unrelated junk to take you into the weekend.  Be sure to tune in next Friday when we lay down an absolute stone-cold, mortal Exacta lock in the Kentucky Derby.  Have a good one…

Mid-Week Mailbag.

Not Coming to A Storage Facility Near You.

Well, the Phillies have hit five homeruns in their last 10 innings.  At that pace, they’ll hit 648 more homers this season.  That would be a record.  It was nice to watch the Phils get a win last night.  They’ll try for a .500 trip this afternoon, which is pretty remarkable considering it already feels like they went 2-8 if you listen to the fans.  Just hop on Laynce Nix’s back and set your sights on the 1st place Nationals.  Little tougher pitching matchup today, but the Phils will counter with Cole Hamels.  How about a mailbag to get you in the mood for the matinee?

Q:  I’ve been waiting a good 18 months for you to go to a storage auction and report back on your findings.  How has this not happened?  Please tell me it’s in the works. M.T. Locker, San Diego, CA.

A:  It’s not in the works.  Who do you think you’re talking to here?  I certainly could not do something so ENTERPRISING on my own.  Just wander into a storage auction with no knowledge, with no wingman, with no one to show me the ropes?  Not happening.  I assume you are addicted to Storage Wars.  I’m partially addicted.  If I could shoot over to Public Storage Exton and Barry, Dave and the crew would be there, then I’d certainly attend.  I might even ask for an autograph.  But I get the impression your local auction is not like the ones they show on TV.  I think 9 times out of 10 it’ll be thirty schleps standing around bidding on particle board, mystery Hefty bags and loose CDs.  There goes some of the luster of Storage Wars, no?  That said, if someone wants to invite me along, I’d absolutely go.  Just don’t expect me to help you sell the used Queen mattress you pick up for $375. 

Q: I heard the other day that Tiger’s son Charlie is quite the little toddler golf prodigy.  This kid’s got no chance of a golf career, right?  Wouldn’t he be suffocated to death the first time he qualified for the US Amateur?  Brandi Chamblee, Jacksonville, FL

A:  This rumor was started by the legendary Tida Woods, the Woods family matriarch.  She said that little Chuckles Woods was better as a 3-year old than Tiger was at the same age.  Not exactly a scientific finding, but it stands to reason that Charlie Woods would have a decent amount of natural talent.  His dad is OK.  History hasn’t been too kind to the children of superstar athletes.  Two of Jack Nicklaus’ sons had modest professional careers and from what I understand his grandchildren are much more into SWEET LAX than golf.  Some famous sons of golfers had fathers who were good players, but not great.  Guys like David Duval or Davis Love III surpassed their father’s accomplishments, but no one was hounding them since birth saying, “OH MY GOD, THERE GOES BOB DUVAL’S SON.”  I can’t imagine the amount of attention Charlie Woods would get if he became a golf phenom.  It would be, as you say, suffocating.  I’ll say this, Charlie Woods has a better chance of having a golf career than YOUR KID, but I still wouldn’t make any ambitious futures bets on him picking up a green jacket. 

Q:  Do you ever wander what dogs and/or cats do when they are left home alone?  Assuming they aren’t put in a cage, would you want to see surveillance camera footage of what goes on while you’re away?  Goldie Labb, Springfield, IL

A:  If you watch that footage—you can never go back.  If your dog hops up on the bed and starts humping your pillow, you can’t erase that memory.  It happened. If your cat is gallivanting around the counter and licking everything in your utensil canister, again, you can’t turn back time.  These are extreme and disturbing examples, though.  I don’t think your cat actually does that, even though some people think cats are EVIL.  The truth is, your pets probably sleep the majority of the time while you’re away.  There’s nothing subtle about a dog.  If he/she was getting into things while you were gone, you’d know.  Dogs can’t cover their tracks for s—t.  They don’t have our conspiring minds.  The reason they sleep all day while you’re gone is so they can annoy the hell out of you when you get home.  If you want your dog to sleep when you sleep, it probably needs to be awake while you’re awake and not crushing the couch while you crush your 9 to 5.  What I’d really like to see is footage of the dogs that can’t be trusted to roam free in the house.  Watching the decision process that leads to a destroyed couch cushion would be fascinating. 

 Q:  Don’t you think pizza boxes should come with little legs you can pop out so it sits level on the seat of your car?  I mean, how much more could a little more cardboard cost?  Dee Livery, Aston, PA.

A:  For decades people have been waging a war against cheese slide.  Bringing a pizza home is rife with danger and requires PRECISE timing.  If you get to the pizza place too early, the cheese will still be mobile and in danger during the car ride.  If you get there too late, you might be enjoying a pizza that isn’t QUITE hot enough when you get home.  Pizza places are aware of this phenomenon, and they’ve responded with the two most useless inventions in the history of time.  The delivery bag and the mini plastic table that keeps the lid off the cheese…I’d love to hear a story about either of these working.  They’re just for your peace of mind.  Oh, look at us trying hard with our little plastic tables.  It’s all HORSEBLEEP.  As far as your idea—I’ve heard worse.  We’ve all tried to do the pizza box balancing act when bringing the pie home solo.  In this case the safety of the pizza SUPERCEDES your own safety.  Are car seats uniform enough that your legs would work?  Or, would it just exacerbate the problem?  How about this?  The Shotgun Pizza Beanbag Table.  It’s flat and firm on one side, and soft and beanbag pliable on the other.  You mold the beanbag into your shotgun seat and then place the pizza on the flat top surface.  Problem solved!  Or else, just bring someone along to get the pizza. 

Q:  Are there any honest people in professional sports?  This Saints thing keeps getting more egregious, but it makes you wonder—is anyone out there not cutting corners?  Some sports like track and cycling are jokes in regard to PEDs, football is apparently a hotbed for espionage, can we safely assume that golfers are fluffing their lies in the rough when we aren’t looking?  Pete Rows, Cincinnati, OH.

A:  Competitiveness causes people to do crazy things.  And people involved in sports seem to think they’re always going to get away with something.  Secret tapes?  Bounties?  Steroids?  You can’t catch me.  I’m the gingerbread man.  I don’t want to get too morose about this, though.  Let’s try to keep a grasp on some of our naïve sensibilities.  If we get too cynical about sports, what’s the point?  Are NFL coaches looking for edges?  Sure, but does it really matter? We’ve got to let some things slide, right?  The little things?  There’s a nice little double-standard when it comes to how we conduct ourselves and how we expect professional athletes to conduct themselves.  I’d say 1 in 10 recreational golfers even approaches playing by the rules.  We cheat at board games when we’re playing with our families for no stakes, is it honestly that surprising that things get shady when millions of dollars are on the line?  As long as health and safety aren’t compromised, I think we don’t necessarily ignore what’s going on, but there’s no need to get up on a very tall horse, either. 

Q:  If you could open up a restaurant that was guaranteed to be successful, but you didn’t like any of your own food, would you do it?  Ty Fusion, Hartford, CT

A:  I’m not really in a position to turn down successful business ventures.  This is an interesting dilemma, though.  I think part of the fun of owning a restaurant is being passionate about the fare and maybe sampling more than your share of the offerings.  But the problem with that is, are your tastes representative of what a mass audience would like?  Sometimes I think about what I’d serve in a restaurant and it sounds great to me, but would anyone else like the food?  Would it be something you’d want to order at a restaurant?  I DON’T KNOW.  I think a trap you could get into when owning an eatery is thinking your food is better than it actually is, just because you happen to LOVE IT.  If you think of it that way, the scenario you propose might actually be best.  You can’t muck things up if you don’t taste the food.  You’ve got your customers, so be grateful, and take yourself down the road to Arby’s for your own dinner.  So, yeah, I’m totally OK with this.  If 3-Putt’s Sushi Castle wants to take off—I’m on board. 

Q:  If there was a reality show about your life, how long do you think it would stay on the air?  Geoff Probst, Hollywood, CA. 

A:  Oh, decades upon decades.  I’m fascinating.  Every person I know is fascinating.  People should be falling all over themselves to listen to my thoughts while I sit on the couch watching Sportscenter.  Isn’t that the world we live in?  Isn’t that why you read this blog?  Honestly, I think I’ve got enough material to get through a pilot.  I’d put on a good little show, introduce all my best friends, drown everyone in a sea of inside jokes and catchphrases….and then that’d be about it.  Release the DVD Box Set!  It’s over.  When you boil it down, you only need to create about 22 interesting minutes a week.  That doesn’t sound like a tall order, but 22 minutes is a long time.  I know a couple of people who could produce at least a season’s worth of shows—if not more. They’re closer to the fringes of society.  They create fascinating tales of adventure simply by going out on the town.  I’m more of an observer by nature.  So, if there comes a time when I hit the small screen, you can probably go ahead and save the room on your DVR. 

 

Phillies Solutions: From Plausible to Desperate.

Any Interest in a Front Office Job?

The Phillies have two games left on what has become a long and fortitude testing road trip.  They need to win both of those games to finish the journey at 5-5.  That record would be far from disastrous, but the verdict is already in for this team in the court of public opinion.  The overwhelming negativity that surrounds the Phillies right now has taken a painful start and pushed it over the edge.  Every out the Phillies make is a new embarrassing stat, every inning without a run breeds a rueful exhale, every game story written is laced with sarcasm and fatalistic doom.  Even for a team with these expectations, we shouldn’t feel this bad.

The Phillies are hardly alone in their struggles, but for the fans they feel like the only team in the league.  I’m not sure what could happen to alter the state of mind of the fan base.  Wins haven’t really helped, any offensive production is dismissed as a fluke, short of a 15-game winning streak where the Phillies score 90 runs, I’m not sure what we can do here.  But something will be done.  Eventually.  Here are some possibilities, presented in increasing order of lunacy and desperation…

1.  Wait.  Not even this lineup can perform this poorly for 162 games.  Last night, Hunter Pence was the latest injury victim so you had a lineup out there that looked like it belonged in AAA, or an independent league.  The Phillies can wait for some guys to start hitting a little better, can wait for Howard and Utley, but with each passing game–patience becomes nonexistent.

2.  Switch the Lineup Again.  I’ve been in favor of this since the beginning of the season.  Rollins isn’t comfortable hitting 3rd.  Pence isn’t comfortable hitting 4th.  Polanco is killing them at #2, and they could use Ruiz back in the 8-hole, but that’s just not feasible with this crew.  Plug Wigginton or Nix into the cleanup spot and let ‘em swing at every pitch.  That’s what Pence is doing now anyway.  Rollins/Pierre/Pence/Wigginton/Victorino/Ruiz/Galvis/Polanco.  What could it hurt?

3.  Give up on Some Guys/Roster Shuffle.  I don’t say this as lightly as some might think, but Jim Thome should think about hanging it up.  His first six innings on Sunday I imagine had to approach being embarrassing for him.  He deserves better.  If you have to, let him go to an AL team.  He’s got no business being on this team.  He can’t pinch-hit, he can’t play enough in the field to get at-bats, and he’s a butcher at 1st base.  He’s a waste of a roster spot.  I’d give John Mayberry maybe a dozen more starts.  It’s also time to give up on Placido Polanco “professional hitter.”  These guys are sucking life out of a team that doesn’t have much spark.  If it’s Dom Brown, or Podsednik, or someone else, the team needs a makeup adjustment.  There’s a grand total of 6 (healthy) guys on this team that had roles in 2008.  There are not as many “winners” around as you think.

4. Managerial/Coaching change.  I don’t know how you blame the coaches when you start 3 or 4 guys a game that wouldn’t crack the lineup of any other NL team (save maybe Pittsburgh and San Diego).  Throw in the pitcher’s spot, the absolute lack of power and you’ve got tied hands.  I don’t think anyone is preaching “swing at the breaking ball in the dirt when you’re ahead in the count.”  Much of this falls on the players.  The Phillies have people out of their comfort zone and they’re not responding.  Is it on Charlie to get this team to come together better?  Has his message worn out?  Are too many of his old favorites gone?  Some people believe that firing a manager or coach can wake up a team.  If the Phils are floundering on the periphery of the 2nd wild-card in another month or six weeks, I wouldn’t rule this out.

5.  Massive Trade.  One of the only true options if you want to make a change to this team would be to ship off one of the aces.  You could also trade Victorino, or maybe Hunter Pence closer to the deadline, but that would defeat the purpose of improving the offense, wouldn’t it?  Hamels and Lee would be the candidates.  The obstacles:  Lee’s huge contract would limit his suitors to about 2 or 3 teams.  Hamels is a FA, so if the new team couldn’t sign him, it’d decrease your return.  Would you rather have Kyle Kendrick in the rotation and a middle of the order type bat, or would you rather keep the aces to together and stick it out.  We don’t know if the Phillies can re-sign Cole Hamels, if it’s not in the plans, it’d be hard not to move him at the deadline unless the team has turned itself around and has a firm grip on a playoff spot.

6.  Tell Ruben, “Thanks for the Memories.”  Ruben is just starting to get some heat for what the fans are seeing on the field.  He’s the architect.  He’s behind Nix/Thome/Wigginton.  He allowed himself to be too optimistic about Utley, or allowed Utley to lie to him about his condition.  He handed out extra years to Blanton and Polanco.  The nice thing about being GM is you usually get a few chances.  A coach gets maybe one chance.  A manager might get two.  A GM can usually stretch his tenure by firing other people.  I’m not going to rehash the Amaro mistakes, but what has Amaro really done here aside from spend money?  Couldn’t most any GM build a contender on 175 million?  The hard part is maintaining that level of success, something Amaro has not been able to do, and it’s not even really his success he is trying to maintain.  I think his performance to this point has been vastly overrated.

So, there are the options.  They could play out in order.  The Phillies will be waiting for a while.  After that, they might try Dom Brown.  After that it could be a coaching change.  Then if all fails, they have to start thinking about blowing it up.

In the meantime, if the Phillies have you down, I suggest taking a break.  Give it a couple of weeks.  And if you’re one of these people who isn’t going to enjoy the season unless the Phillies win the World Series, I suggest turning in your “Ill” shirt, start using your Pence Sunday alternate jersey to mow the grass and go back to doing whatever it was you did with your summers before 2007.  If you think this is bad for the Phillies, then you’re clueless.  Calling this team miserable and unwatchable is an insult to the true Phillies’ disasters that have come before them.  Show some respect.

Mock (Yeah) Ing (Yeah) Draft (Yeah)

Draft-Niks

Mock drafts lose their value faster than a new car.  The first pick Thursday night will be like that first mile you put on the odometer when you leave the dealership.  The good news is, once the draft actually starts, all the mocks go out the window.  No one cares any more who Mel Kiper thinks your team is going to pick.  The only reason fans pore over the 20 or 30 versions that have come out since the Super Bowl is that they cannot wait for the draft.  I almost added “literally” for emphasis there, but they do wait, the mock drafts just become the magazines in the waiting room.

I’ve never done a mock draft, because I know very little about the college prospects, but then I realized that doesn’t stop anyone from doing a mock draft.  If you can’t wade into the intellectual waters of Peter King, what are you good for?  So, I’m cranking out a mock.  I’m basing my picks on what players the teams could actually use, not on the teams trying to look smart, or getting blown away by someone at the combine.  Keep in mind I’m relying on position rankings and such from other sources.  I didn’t see any of these guys play.  Obviously.

1.  Indianapolis—Andrew Luck (QB)

Why Indianapolis Stinks:  They don’t have good players.

Why Luck:  I’d rather have a guy who can throw the ball through the uprights from his own 30, but I guess Luck is OK.  Also, Indy already said they’re taking him.

2.  Washington—RG3 (QB)

Why Washington Stinks:  Dan Snyder, McNabb hangover.

Why RG3:  Washington desperately needs a franchise QB, sorry Rexy, and like Indy this pick is all but announced.

3.  Minnesota—Morris Claiborne (CB). 

Why Minnesota Stinks:  Their defense looks like it belongs in the former Big-12.

Why Claiborne:  Total stud, shutdown corner.  How can you pass on a 10-year starter?

4.  Cleveland—Trent Richardson (RB)  

Why Cleveland Stinks:  Very little skill position talent on offense.

Why Richardson:  If they can’t get one of the top two QBs, might as well wait and try to land a franchise back and I trust Richardson more than a WR like Justin Blackmon.

5.  Tampa Bay—Matt Kalil (OT) 

Why Tampa Bay Stinks:  Josh Freeman(?)

Why Kalil:  If you’re committed to Freeman, why not protect his donkey ass?

6.  St. Louis—Justin Blackmon (WR)

Why St. Louis Stinks:  White WRs, gaping holes at about a dozen positions.

Why Blackmon:  Before Sam Bradford gets ground into a fine powder, wouldn’t it be nice to give him some talent at WR to see what he’s really got?  He showed some promise as a rookie, throw him a bone in year three.

7.  Jacksonville—Quinton Coples (DE)

Why Jacksonville Stinks:  They play in Jacksonville, Blaine Gabbert.

Why Coples: I don’t think their long-term answer at QB is on the roster, so an offensive pick almost seems like a waste.  You can always use pass rushers.

8.  Miami Dolphins—Michael Floyd (WR)

Why Miami Stinks:  QB Carousel, shocking lack of skill players.

Why Floyd:  Why take a project QB like Tannehill?  I know the new coach wants “his” guy, but how about not reaching?  Grab a skill player and wait for next year (or the year after to take a QB).  It’s not like Miami won’t have another high pick coming soon.

9.  Carolina Panthers—Dontari Poe (DT)

Why Carolina Stinks:  Cam Newton can’t play defense.

Why Poe:  Someone has to take the combine warrior.  Big need for Carolina, why not swing for the fences.

10.  Buffalo Bills—Mark Barron (S)

Why Buffalo Stinks:  Too close to Toronto, Gives up bushels of points.

Why Barron:  Best defensive player at his position available.  Low-risk, great stability to add to the Mario Williams addition.

11.  Kansas City—David DeCastro (OG)

Why Kansas City Sucks:  Overcome by injuries and mediocrity

Why DeCastro:  A safe pick at a need position.  Maybe a better OL helps keep the offense healthy?

12.  Seattle Seahawks—Melvin Ingram (DE)

Why Seattle Stinks:  Awful QBs, Pete Carrol can’t coach in the NFL

Why Ingram:  With Matt Flynn aboard, I don’t see an offensive player worth taking.  Keep trying to build an effective defense.

13.  Arizona Cardinals—Riley Reiff  (OT)

Why Arizona Stinks:  They handed Kevin Kolb the keys.

Why Reiff:  Arizona QBs, including Kolb, spend a lot of time running for their life.  If you’re sticking with Kolb, build the O-line.

14.  Dallas Cowboys—Dre Kirkpatrick (CB)

Why Dallas Stinks:  Can’t cover a soul.  And Romo.

Why Kirkpatrick:  The Cowboys covet Mark Barron, and could trade up for him, but if they stick, his teammate is the best secondary option who needs a big influx of talent.

15.  Philadelphia Eagles—Michael Brockers (DT)

Why Philadelphia Stinks:  Huge, Gaping, Oppressive holes in the defense.  Andy Reid’s gravitational pull.

Why Brockers:  The Eagles need help up the middle on defense.  It’s a shame a stud safety isn’t available.  Give me Brockers’ pedigree and upside.

16.  New York Jets—Kendall Wright (WR)

Why the Jets Stink:  Too defense oriented, Mark Sanchez’s anti-consistency campaign.

Why Wright:  If you remember, last year didn’t end with Sanchez on great terms with his WRs.  Plus, Tebow apparently is high on Wright.

17. Cincinnati—Courtney Upshaw (DE)

Why Cincinnati Stinks:  Cursed?  Red-Headed QB.

Why Upshaw:  Last year  the Bengals used the draft to drastically improve their offense, time for an influx of talent on the other side of the ball.

18.  San Diego—Jonathan Martin (OT)

Why San Diego Stinks:  Not enough help around Philip Rivers, Norv Turner residue.

Why Martin:  I still like Rivers more than most people.  He can handle no-name receivers, but he needs some protection.

19.  Chicago —Mike Adams (OT)

Why Chicago Stinks:  Injuries, Jay Cutler’s runaway chin.

Why Adams:  They added Brandon Marshall.  They’ve got Forte and Cutler, it’s time to solidify the front and keep everyone on the field.

20.  Tennessee—Stephon Gilmore (CB)

Why Tennessee Stinks:  Chris Johnson is now CJ1K. Hasselbeck is just a touch past his prime.

Why Gilmore: Titans have a hole to fill at corner and Gilmore is the best one left on the board.

21.  Cincinnati—Luke Kuechly (LB)

Why Cincinnati Stinks Part II:  Tough division, bad GM karma?

Why Kuechly:  Probably no chance on Kuechly falling this far, but I’ve got to get the solid LB off the board somewhere.  Cincy needs to keep adding defensive parts.

22.  Cleveland—Stephen Hill (WR)

Why Cleveland Stinks Part II:  It’s Cleveland.

Why Hill:  The Browns need to stockpile talent at the skill positions.  This is no time for a boring OL pick.  Snag a WR.  Stephen Hill sounds about right.

23.  Detroit— Janoris Jenkins (CB)

Why Detroit Stinks: Overrated D-Line, can’t stop anyone’s passing game.

Why Jenkins:  Detroit needs a corner badly.  They probably need two or three guys in coverage.  They’ll start with Jenkins and go back to trying to outscore everyone.

24.  Pittsburgh—Doug Martin (RB)

Why Pittsburgh Stinks:  Big Ben is one drunken night away from a suspension, aging defense.

Why Martin:  Anyone else not overly impressed with Pittsburgh’s RB situation?  They’ve got some good young  receivers, this seems like a good spot to land to RB of the future.

25.  Denver—Coby Fleener (TE)

Why Denver Stinks:  Peyton’s neck, traded Tebow, lacking weapons.

Why Fleener:  You know Peyton Manning’s love affair with TEs.  Why not make a mini-reach to make Pey-Pey happy?  If Peyton could make a star out of Jacob Tamme, Fleener could be a force right out of the gate.

26.  Houston—Rueben Randle (WR)

Why Houston Stinks:  Matt Schaub’s foot problems, Kubiak’s love affair with 8-8.

Why Randle:  Andre Johnson needs some heat taken off, and if he can’t stay healthy, the Texans get thin in a hurry at WR.  The defense was revamped, Foster is a stud, Houston has the luxury to take a shot at a WR.

27.  New England—Nick Perry (DE)

Why New England Stinks:  Keep Running into Eli, Gisele.

Why Perry:  Pats could use a defensive end.  They aren’t afraid to use band-aids, but at this point in the 1st round, there’s plenty of DE depth.  I’m sure the Pats will trade out of one of, or both of their 1st round picks.

28.  Green Bay– Andre Branch (DE)

Why Green Bay Stinks: It’s been 1-year since they won the Super Bowl

Why Branch:  Green Bay certainly doesn’t need help on offense.  Defense is another story.  They’re like Clay Matthews and 10 mutts out there.  Branch is next in line for the run on D-ends.

29.  Baltimore Ravens—Peter Konz (C)

Why Baltimore Stinks:  Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis can’t play forever

Why Konz:  The Ravens need to keep feeding the thoroughbred and that means blockers for Ray Rice.  If Flacco can keep it together, I think the Ravens have the makings of a real solid offense for 2012.

30.  San Francisco—Ryan Tannehill (QB)

Why San Francisco Stinks:  Alex Smith peaked last year.  So did Harbaugh.

Why Tannehill:  Tannehill will obviously be long gone.  I don’t know why.  But, here’s a spot where you could actually use a young QB.  Maybe the 49ers do something crazy and take Weeden, but a good team with a veteran QB and a solid coach is where a guy like Tannehill needs to go.

31.  New England—Harrison Smith (S)

Why New England Stinks Part II:  Seriously, have you seen how Gisele dresses Tom?

Why Smith:  Pats could use some secondary help and according to my cursory research, Smith is the 2nd best safety on the board.  Patriots have had some success drafting DBs in this late-first/2nd round area if I remember correctly. Tebucky Jones?

32:  New York Giants—Jerel Worthy (DT)

Why New York Stinks—Proximity to New Jersey, Tom Coughlin’s face’s susceptibility to cold weather.

Why Worthy—What do the Giants need?  How about an interior defensive lineman to go with their famous ends?  If not, maybe a QB, just so Eli has someone to talk to during practice.

 

Partial Blog-Cation.

I’m sure everyone noticed there wasn’t a post on Friday.  How did you all make it through the weekend without a little parting shot from me?  A courageous effort by all of you.  Lost a chance to get everyone fired up for what turned out to be a clinching effort from the Flyers.  So, we’re shooting to be back in the mix for a mail bag on Wednesday and the NFL Draft on Thursday.  If things go really well, maybe I’ll do my first ever Mock Draft.  Me vs. Kiper.  In the meantime, some things are happening…

1.  The NHL playoffs, as always, are wide-open  The Penguins are out.  The Canucks are out.  Two other Eastern Conference favorites are on the brink.  If Ottawa and Washington can advance, it could set the Flyers up as the favorites to advance to the Finals.  I don’t trust those underdogs.  Regardless of opponent, the Flyers were going to have to alter their style of play a bit in the later rounds.  It was nice to see their most complete effort come in Game six.  And, Claude Giroux seems to have used the Playoffs to once again find a higher level.  It’s nice to be able to sit back and wait a few days for the 2nd round opponent to identify themselves.  I prefer the Devils.  Ship Marty off to retirement.

2.  I’ve got no answer right now for the Phillies.  Let me drink in the rest of this road trip and we’ll put some ideas in the hopper by the end of the week.  Chase Utley is supposed to be in Arizona, hopefully he threatens a few lives and breathes some life into the team  They could use some more talent, but they could also use a jolt.  And, Jim Thome’s gotta hang ‘em up.

3. Brian Dawkins, an All-Time Eagles great announced his retirement today.  The Eagles will likely try to lure him back for a 1-day contract.  Dawkins is probably the most universally loved Eagle of my lifetime, and he’ll make an interesting Hall of Fame case when he comes up for induction.  He’s got all the numbers, but the Hall is a little tough on Safeties.  I say put him in.

This Stuff Happened — 4/19/12

USA! USA! USA!

Oh dear.  Most fast-food innovations I can shrug off.  I’m desensitized.  But other times, like when KFC introduced its chicken for bread sandwich, you just have to sit back in awe.  Here’s a new offering from Burger King.  I’m thinking the standard sundae was suffering from lagging sales?  People need to be lured in by a dessert.  It’s got to be provocative.  You’re grandpappy’s sundae doesn’t do the trick.  So, why not throw a piece of bacon on that puppy?  Problem solved.  It’s a bit excessive in my opinion, but if the bacon sundae catches on in the Nashville test market, maybe it will come to a BK near you.  I take a little shot at the gordo-inclined USA in the caption there, but we are not alone.  Pizza Hut has come out with a hot dog stuffed crust for their UK market.  I’m pretty sure the Brits know as much about good food as they do about going to the dentist, so I’m sure they’ll snap this up.  It comes with a mustard drizzle!

***

The Colts have finally made the least surprising decision in all of sports.  They’ve told Andrew Luck that he’ll be the first pick in the draft.  The Colts played it coy for a bit, even tried to lure RG3 in for a private workout, but this was always going to be the pick.  Of course, this means that Griffin will end up in Washington.  This is good news for all the people in Virginia who already got their customized license plates.  Now that we know for sure where Luck and Griffin will go, it kicks off what will probably be a career long comparison between the two quarterbacks.  Luck is considered the top prospect, but Griffin will head to a team that has a little more talent around him.  Interestingly enough, the picks the Colts make after Luck in this Draft could be almost as important as Luck himself in the early going.  If they don’t fill holes, they’re risking stunting his growth in a Sam Bradford-esque way.

***

There’s a 13-year old playing in the Volvo China Open (European Tour) this week.  Guan Tian-lang of China is the youngest competitor to ever tee it up on the European Tour.  Some people have questioned the way Guan was squeezed into field.  He finished fourth in a qualifying event, but only made the field after a player ahead of him was given an exemption.  He’s certainly not without credentials though, having romped to an 11-shot win in the World Junior Championships.  Guan is a bright star in what China hopes will be a growing presence in the game of golf.  He’s already (to a troubling degree?) committed to his golf game and has mapped out his plan to breakthrough on a major stage.  He’s got ten years to catch up to Rory McIlroy.

***

Donovan McNabb anointed himself a Hall of Famer yesterday.  McNabb is approaching Jose Canseco in terms of overestimating his own ability and in the last year or two, he’s done everything in his power to alienate his few remaining fans and tarnish his legacy.  Not only did his stats fall off the face of the earth, but McNabb has never been accountable.  If there’s one thing that hindered McNabb in Philadelphia, that might be it.  People bring up race, his lack of success in the biggest games, and his odd-ball personality, but the worst thing I can say about Don is that he never took the heat.  He was always deflecting, always casting himself as a victim, and he’s still doing it to this day.  I heard a discussion a couple of days ago on Pat Burrell and why he was liked so much in Philadelphia.  Well, Burrell was the opposite of McNabb in this sense.  He might not have always delivered the message, or delivered it sweetly, but Burrell always placed the blame for his numerous slumps solely on his own shoulders.  People appreciate that.  They don’t appreciate McNabb’s antics, and I’m not sure how HOF voters will react to McNabb electing himself.  So humble, Don, so humble.

***

Tom and Daisy Buchanan?

100 days until the Summer Olympics in London!  Phelps vs. Lochte.  Choose your swimmer.  I haven’t heard a ton of buildup for the Summer Games yet, but I imagine the hype will start soon.  Will Usain Bolt run the 100 in 8.00?  Maybe.  Above you see the athlete’s get-up for the Opening Ceremonies.  Ralph Lauren, ladies and gentleman.  A little heavy on the white, but hey, you could do worse, I suppose.  Little preppy, little Bobby Jones, but we’ll see how it looks in person.

Phillies Face Huge Series in San Diego.

Phils Continue Their Beautiful Ballpark Tour.

Last night was a new milepost on this test of patience that we call a Phillies season.  Cliff Lee was incredible.  Ten shutout innings on a comical 102 pitches.  The only time Lee had to sweat was when someone on his infield butchered a ground ball.  The Giants had no chance.  You could miss entire half-innings if you were slow with your channel flipping.  The only problem was, the exact same thing could be said for the Phillies.  Matt Cain was exerting an equal amount of control over the Phillies’ lineup.  Coming off a near perfect game against Pittsburgh, Cain was almost that good again, dodging perhaps one legitimate threat in nine innings of work.  It was one of the better pitching duels that you’ll ever see, and if the Phillies had been playing a little better, scoring just a few more runs, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.  But, this was another loss, another lost series, another shutout.  Every team wastes good pitching from time to time, but the way it happened Wednesday night felt significant.

Charlie Manuel complimented his struggling offense with a series of dizzying, stupefying moves in the top of the 11th.  Carlos Ruiz led off with a double.  Freddy Galvis bunted him to 3rd.  Then Charlie got woefully out-managed, as is his custom any time he runs into Bruce Bochy or really any other working manager.  Manuel stuck with Jim Thome against a lefty who allowed 15 hits to lefties in 92 at-bats last season.  He then used John Mayberry as a pinch-hitter against a right-hander with two outs when he didn’t trust him to get a sac fly against a lefty with one out.  That Ty Wigginton, who could have been replaced by Placido Polanco, made the game-deciding error in the bottom of the 11th was just the icing on the cake.

It’s not that Polanco or Mayberry are great options, but Charlie’s loyalty to Thome is misplaced and troubling at this point.  Everyone likes Jim Thome, but it’s getting close to the point where he’s going to have to look in the mirror.  He’s 1 for 12 with 6 strikeouts this year.  His one hit was a roller through the infield.  It’s hard to see a role where he can help the Phillies, but it’s hard to imagine Charlie not continuing to use him in important spots.  Charlie has to make the right decisions this year.  His margin for error has disappeared just like everyone else’s and if he can’t honestly access Thome’s skills, it’s going to continue to hurt the Phillies.

The other thing that struck you when watching last night was that something is going to have to change for this team.  It’s not a big deal that the Phillies are 5-7, or 4.5 games behind Washington, but the way they’re playing is a big deal.  What concerns me is that the vehicle for change is not readily apparent.  That’s where the question of this team’s composition comes into play and a finger starts getting pointed at Ruben Amaro.  I wrote a lengthy piece a while back about the Phillies and Amaro overreacting to their loss in the 2009 World Series.  Since that loss the Phillies have gone on a spending spree centered almost entirely on pitching and their existing position players.  The result is the veteran, pitching-centric team you see today.

While Amaro was quick to make a change after 2009, he’s been stubborn since despite the fact that the Phillies have endured three straight unsuccessful post-seasons and the core of regulars was deteriorating at a rapid pace.  Heading into 2012, Amaro opted for a giant band-aid on offense and another binge on pitching.  Can you blame Amaro for not seeing the Utley risk?  Can you blame him trusting that John Mayberry would emerge?  I think you can to a certain extent and you can certainly be critical of his depth decisions.  In Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix and Jim Thome, Amaro brought in three players who stood in stark contrast to his post-NLDS mantra.  In Wigginton and Nix he brought in two guys who have never really played for a winner.  He brought in guys with defensive liabilities.  With Howard and Utley out, the Phillies are usually starting three players who wouldn’t start for many other NL teams and at least one or two guys who are out of position.  Doesn’t that blame sit with Amaro as the architect?

The series with San Diego is huge because if the Phillies as they are currently constituted plan on staying in this thing, they’re going to have to start showing some signs of life and they’re going to have to beat a team at the bottom of the league like the Padres.  If the Phillies can’t start playing a little better, the fingers will start getting pointed and people will be singled out for blame.  Will it fall to Charlie this time?  Will the Phillies try firing a coach again?  Would they think about a trade that could really shake up the clubhouse?  Will they just wait it out until Utley and/or Howard come back?  Would they try a small move like Dom Brown Part III first?

It’s still only twelve games, and like I said, the wins and losses aren’t the concerning thing right now, it’s a question of where the improvement is going to come from.  This series against the Padres should provide the Phillies with a chance to get some things going.  To maybe have a guy or two break out of an early season slump.  I think it’s important that happens.  For a number of reasons.

 

Mid-Week Mailbag.

What is That, a Mac?

Well, the Eagles schedule officially came out last night.  I’m not comfortable going game-by-game through that until they blow their 1st round pick.  If you twisted my arm, it looks like about nine wins.  The second half is pretty gentile, and depends almost entirely on the Cowboys.  If the Cowboys aren’t good, the Eagles could easily win six of their last eight games.  Two Sunday night games, two Monday night games and a Thursday special.  About what you’d expect for Vick.  The only other thing you need to know?  The Thanksgiving lineup:  Houston @ Detroit, Washington @ Dallas, and New England @ NYJ.  Not terrible.  Enough football, let’s bag….

Q: Can you bring your laptop to a coffee shop if it isn’t a Mac?  I feel like if you roll in there and break out a PC, you’re really poking the bear.  Jack Tandy, Houston, TX. 

A:  Well, I think Mac users are generally pacifists, but you’re certainly going into enemy territory.  Be prepared to see a lot of glowing Apples propped open in front of people’s HIP faces.  Be prepared to have a little trouble finding someone to share an outlet with.  There could be some eye-rolls, some confused faces while the guy sucking down a double-shot foam tries to figure out if you are using a Sony to be ironic.  I think this also depends on how hardcore the coffee shop is: are you sitting in the Starbucks portion of a Target?  Because then I think you could break out just about whatever you’d want, because that’s not a REAL coffee shop.  If you’re in a place called, oh, I don’t know…Whole Latte Lovin’ with bookshelves and thrift store furniture–then you’re going to feel out of place with your ugly gray machine.  The bottom line is, if you’re going to spending a lot of time using free coffee shop Wi-Fi you probably want a Mac anyway.  Stop resisting.  Let yourself fall down the Mac hole.  

Q:  Say you’re driving.  How many turns does it take for you to notice that the person behind you is traveling the same route, and how often do you think, Oh my God, I’m being followed!  Tyson Rearview, Madison, WI.

A:  I’m aware of what’s going on behind me.  When I was a small child I heard an urban legend about how there was a lunatic ON THE LAM who would drive around without his headlights on at night.  If you passed him and flashed your lights, he would then turn around and hunt you down.  This obviously fabricated bit of nonsense stuck with me for some time.  In fact, not long after I got my license, I found someone to be following me for several turns.  And, I wasn’t exactly in a high-traffic area.  The chances of this guy not following me?  ZERO.  It got to the point where I was about to turn into my driveway and I’m thinking, “What am I going to do when this guy follows me into my driveway?”  Am I going to lock the doors and panic?  Am I going to charge out of the car on the offensive?  So, I turned into my driveway, the person drove right by, and I felt like the dumbest person on Earth.  Since then, I’ve gotten a lot less paranoid about someone following me.  I still notice it if it goes on for more than a few turns, but it’s a more of curiosity than an overwhelming paranoia at this point.  

Q:  I just saw a “professional” ultimate frisbee highlight on Sportscenter.  I guess there is a league now where these guys get paid what I imagine is a paltry, humiliating sum of money to play “ultimate.”  Using this premise  do you think you could create a low-budget professional league and get on Sportscenter?  Franz Frolf, Buffalo, NY.  

A:  I saw the highlight.  It wasn’t necessarily that there was a Pro-Ultimate Frisbee league, it was the sick grab that ended the game.  So you can’t throw 100 dollars in a pot, get your friends together for a game of Cranium and expect to make the Big Show.  As an aside, I would like to see the salary structure of the FUPA (Frisbee Ultimate Professional Asssociation).  I imagine the majority of these guys need to hold down some other job to make ends meet?  At least for now?  And, you wonder do they think they’ll ever get to the point where this will be their only job?  Are they sitting around saying, “This is totally going to catch on and be HUGE.”  I mean, if Quidditch(?) can become an inter-collegiate sport, maybe the FUPA can replace the NFL.  A more interesting question might be, how hard would it be to get a clip on Sportscenter?  I think if you gave me a team of six, some camera equipment and a healthy beer supply that we could crack the Sportscenter Top-10 by Labor Day.  

Q:  Is there some random job you fantasize about doing?  For me, it’s being a UPS driver.  Not FedEx, only UPS.  Beat Bang, Conshy, PA.

A:  I think this is nothing more than an unexplored brown short fetish, but I’ll go ahead and answer.  I think most people have “fantasy jobs” that aren’t really fantasies.  It’s something that looks like it might be fun for a day or two.  Who wouldn’t want to spend a day delivering packages?  People LOVE packages.  When I was a kid and I saw the UPS truck coming down the street I always PRAYED (fake kid praying, not real praying) that it would stop at our house.  Even though I was not expecting a package, and if a package was coming it certainly WAS NOT for me.  But, what if it was?  What if I was getting a secret present?  Stranger things have happened.  So, the UPS driver gets to experience that kind of glee all day long.  Of course, that’s probably not how it actually plays out.  It’s all barking dogs, no parking, and fighting for signatures.  I have had thoughts about being a mailman, trying to make a great time on my ROUTE, but that’s too similar to yours.  I’ll go bartender.  Kind of the same premise, everyone wants to be served a tasty quaff, right?

Q:  Have you ever had, or even seen a knockoff M&M?  If you have, was it as bad as I’m imagining?  Brandon Kname, Pottsville, PA.  

A:  Obviously you’ve never been in a bulk candy store.  But speaking of M&Ms, I was in Wegman’s not long ago and they had a GOD DANG M&M section.  Just bin after bin of M&Ms in every color imaginable.  And you could just pour away.  I almost has a Pauly Shore in Encino Man moment.  That’s the honest truth.  But, getting back to “knockoff” M&Ms, I have had them.  Here’s a fun fact:  The generic term for an M&M is a Chocolate Gem.  Google it.  I guess they aren’t too prevalent, but like I said you’ll see them at most candy stores.  The beauty of the M&M is that it dominates the market at a reasonable price point.  You’re getting the best and not feeling it in the wallet.  I think I’ve got some bad news about the gems, though.  They’re pretty good.  I’m not going to cross the line to blasphemy, but as long as you don’t totally mess up the shell to chocolate ratio your generic M&Ms are pretty tasty.  I understand your sentimentality, you want the M&Ms to be MUCH better, you want that satisfaction of eating only the best,  but if you ever get in a pinch, don’t be afraid to pilfer a handful of chocolate gems.  

Q:  How furious were you that Jamie Moyer picked up the win last night?  The guy seems to be your personal nemesis, and now he’s the oldest starting pitcher to ever win a game.  Time to re-open the Hall of Fame debate?  Satchel Page, Chicago, IL.

A:  Yep, Jamie Moyer beat the Padres.  One of the worst teams ever assembled.  On his third try he became the oldest starter to ever win a game.  I’m surprised they didn’t cut in on all major networks to show the last out.  I was actually a bit relieved.  Get it over with.  Once Moyer made the team, this record was inevitable, so maybe we can finally stop talking about him every five days.  I think, or I HOPE, that the “Moyer breaks his own record,” buzz will be a little less pervasive.  I don’t really want to get into the Hall of Fame question again.  Moyer’s not a Hall of Famer.  And, there’s nothing he can do in my mind to change that.  He can go ahead and win 300 games.  He can pitch until he’s 60.  He’s still going to be mediocre, something he’s been in the majority of his MLB seasons.  Moyer is an oddity of longevity.  Would you put an incredibly average NBA player in the Hall of Fame just because he was 5’8″?  Moyer is still 32 wins short of 300, but there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight to this incredibly selfish campaign he’s been on for the last few years.  I’m positive he wants to win a game at 50, so if you have a brain in your head, it’s time to start rooting for this guy to get blown up in every single start he makes.  It’s time to hang them up and start a short career as the most annoying pitching coaches of all-time.  

Q: Are there microwave smell rules for a group environment?  Some foods just don’t smell that great and the microwave is an incubator for those toxic aromas.  I don’t want to influence people’s eating habits, but come on, I’ve got a nose over here.  Watt Dyed, San Diego, CA.

A:  Not many things smell good coming out of the microwave.  I think that’s because very little good food can be made in a microwave.  There are the timeless microwave smells like burnt popcorn and cup o’ noodles–both awful.  It really takes you back to a college dorm.  I can only imagine what some microwave Lean Cuisine dinner smells like.  It must be a pungent crime against the nostrils.  You know what smells bad in the microwave?  Generic spaghetti sauce.  It’s just….not right.  I think my worst microwave smell experience was burnt hot dogs.  Mercy.  It was rough and it lingered.  You almost have to burn something else, just to clear the smell palate.  I’m sure people are self-conscious about what they make in a microwave, but there’s only so much you can do.  If someone is really getting to you, I suggest a series of long and disappointed looks.  Don’t be MAD they made the whole place smell awful, be DISAPPOINTED.  Enough of those looks and maybe they’ll start slapping together some PB&J’s.  

Tuesday Quick Hits.

Roy Halladay on Pace to go 49-0.

The Phillies have played ten games.  Roy Halladay has three wins.  It’s a little statistical anomaly thanks to the early season schedule.  Halladay will not get 49 starts, and hopefully the Phillies will find a way to scratch out a few more wins without Roy on the mound (as a team they’re on pace for 81-81), but it remains a nice reprieve–these Halladay starts that come every five days.  His last two outings, both against fellow NL aces, have been two of the Phillies’ easiest wins of the year.  The early season continues to play out in unexpected fashion, but I think this west coast trip came at the perfect time.  The collective sighs and groans of 45,000 after every single out can probably take its toll.  Ten game trip off to a nice start against the Giants and Tim Lincecum, and the Phils try for their first 3 game rip of the year against Madison Bumgarner tonight.

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In contrast to Halladay last night was the erratic Tim Lincecum, who is on pace to go 0-32 with a 10.54 ERA.  The issue with Lincecum, and with several pitchers around the league seems to be velocity.  With the ability to track every pitch down to the tenths of miles per hour, we’ve become obsessed with velocity.  If a pitcher drops a couple of MPH, the insinuations that he’s either a) done or b) headed for Tommy John are usually close behind.  Sometimes drops in velocity are a sign of arm trouble, but in other cases I think it’s just proof you can’t throw hard forever.  Roy Halladay is also down in terms of fastball velocity, but he’s sporting a sub-1.00 WHIP.  He’s still locating.  Lincecum was all over the place.  If Halladay can be effective at 91 mph, then Lincecum should be able to as well, but Halladay seems far more capable of handling his diminished velocity.  Lincecum looks like he’s trying to find those 3-4 mph, and Roy is still making pitches.  So if your pitcher’s velocity is down, check his results before you panic.

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The NFL schedule comes out tonight at 7pm.  Only the NFL could turn a schedule release into such an event.  Their action appears to be justified, because tonight most NFL fans will trudge through the schedule, offering wins and losses and getting an initial feel for 2012 expectations.  What we know now is the list of opponents for each team.  That leads to the annual analysis of schedule strength.  One fun oddity from this year?  The defending Super Bowl Champion Giants have the highest opponents winning percentage.  The Patriots have the easiest.  What ever happened to “1st Place Schedules?”  Before Patriots haters cry foul, the last 4 teams with the easiest schedule missed the playoffs.  So tune in at 7 PM tonight to see if ESPN can keep its streak of awful Monday Night games alive.  I smell Cleveland/Jacksonville.

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Sean Payton has essentially been sentenced to football solitary confinement.  This isn’t going to be like an MLB manager ejection.  Payton will not be able to pull the strings from afar.  He’s not allowed any contact with anyone even remotely associated with the Saints or the NFL.  If he bumps into someone associated with the Saints at a Starbucks, he has to report it to the league immediately.  I’m picturing Payton in a house arrest anklet, looking for new friends on Facebook.  It’s kind of amusing.  Seriously, does this guy have any contact with people who aren’t involved in the NFL?  What’s he going to do with himself?  I’d watch out for an incredibly well-coached flag football team in the New Orleans rec leagues.

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Last night, in the anonymity of the comments section, my “Aces” baseball gambling theory got off the ground.  After jinxing Zack Greinke and David Price to what might end up being their worst starts of the season, Justin Verlander shrugged off my “cloak of failure*” and managed to beat the Royals.  It got the ledger back to (-125) virtua-dollars.  I’m sensing a run coming.  A long, long run of sustained and esteemed success.

Today’s Pick:  Ian Kennedy (-190) over Pittsburgh.  Wager 190 to win 100.

Since C.C. Sabathia hasn’t quite popped this year, I’ll go with last year’s sneaky NL Cy Young contender.

*Gratuitous Jerry Maguire reference.

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You all should send me some mailbag questions for tomorrow.  There’s a chance I could run out of fake questions some time in the near future.  It’s a very slight chance, but a chance nonetheless.