Bud Selig the Poker Dealer…

"Suicide Kings, One-Eyed Jacks, Deuces, Red Fours and Jokers Wild."

Bud Selig will not rest until he turns baseball into his own personal circus.  Selig competes with Jamie Moyer as my true baseball nemesis.  I thought SI’s Moyer feature yesterday was enough to fuel my hate engine for the entirety of Spring Training, but no, Bud Selig has to go all ham-fist and force through his double wild-card plan for 2012.  For a commissioner, Selig seems a bit too concerned about his “legacy,” for my taste.  He wants too badly to leave a mark on the game.  Inter-league play, wild-cards, ruining the All-Star Game…they’re all in play for Bud.  His main concern seems to be making September baseball count in as many cities as possible.  The problem is, there’s a ceiling there.  At least I hope there is.  Eventually, you’re going to have to stop adding teams to the playoffs.  What he doesn’t seem concerned about is any type of integrity or credibility for the playoff system.  How about we add a 3rd and 4th wild-card team to the mix and instead of a 1-game series, they’ll do something only slightly less arbitrary like, I don’t know, play a game Words with Friends.

In this post from last Fall I detailed several seasons where the 2nd wild-card would be rewarded to a borderline team and completely invalidate the regular season.  I haven’t changed my opinion on that.  I can’t get behind a scenario where the 3rd place team in a division makes the post-season.  Even if that team happened to be the Phillies, you’ve got to look big picture.  A one-game playoff, in baseball, is a complete joke.  I understand that they can happen at the end of the regular season, but that’s the regular season.  Once you qualify for the post-season in baseball, I believe you’re entitled to some margin for error.  This isn’t football after all, it’s a game we’ve come to digest in terms of a series, not a winner take all, one-off, coin flip.

And, to say that this benefits the division winner is a stretch.  The most common argument is that the wild-card team will have to use its ace pitcher in round 1 (the prelims?) and therefore will be at a bigger disadvantage against the #1 seed.  Well, it is often the case that a wild-card team will need to use its best pitcher in the last or next to last game of the year just to get into the playoffs.  You’ll remember that Chris Carpenter pitched the last day a year ago and was pushed back to game two in Philly.  In this scenario, Lohse probably pitches the playoff game and then Carpenter lines up for game 1 against the Phillies.  Also, remember that the final day of the 2011 season, considered the most improbable and exciting day of regular season baseball in recent history would have been rendered completely pointless.  But, hey, as long as those fans in Colorado thought they had a sniff for an extra week.  That’s what matters.

The real way to go would be to make the 1st round seven games (apologies to the dead horse), or there are some more radical plans that call for the #1 seed to get 4 home games in the opening round, which I don’t see as much of an advantage.  The way I see it, the more rounds you add, the more the playoffs become random and with the exclusivity at baseball playoff’s roots, that’s a bit hard to swallow.

***

Phillies/Baseball Notes

1.  Phillies beat the Florida State Seminoles, 6-1.  John Mayberry went 0-3, Dom Brown was o-1 and was hit by a pitch.  Tyson Gillies scored a couple of runs, Pete Orr doubled, and Hector Luna homered.  That’s about it.  The pitchers, many (if not all) of whom will not make the team looked pretty good against that rough ACC competition.

2.  Ryan Howard is shelved.  He had an infection “cleaned out.”  Whatever.  Who knows what’s going on with the guy’s Achilles.  There’s no damage to the repaired tendon, but he’s still sitting out for a while.  No one has any clue when this guy’s going to play.

3.  Mike Stanton, prodigious Marlins slugger of the future, would like to be called Giancarlo Stanton.  Oh yeah, well I’d like to be called…oh, wait, apparently that’s Stanton’s actual first name.  Fine, then.  As long as we’re cool with me still calling you Mike Stanton in casual conversation.   Stanton’s idol is Roberto Kelly, so this really comes as no surprise.

4.  Cole Hamels to get the start Saturday against the Yankees.  I’m predicting 2 IP, 0 Runs.  Those bats always lag behind for a week.

Mid-Week Mailbag.

Headphones? $1,000,000. Teeth? Not Sure.

Welcome to Leap Day.  I like when February gets stretched out to 29 days.  Twenty-eight days is very symmetrical, but it  feels a little disrespectful.  It’s like someone designed a great golf course and realized there were only 17 holes, so they knocked the back-end off the driving range and made a 90 yard par-3.  That’s crap.  Also, if February is uncommonly short, I think we should have a long, luxurious month.  Why can’t September be a good 33, 34 days?  That’d be heaven.  To celebrate this once every four years occasion, a mailbag seems quite appropriate.  

Q:  What do you think is worse, leaving the house without putting on deodorant at all, or leaving the house with a rogue deodorant streak down the side of your shirt?  Armand Hammer, Pottstown, PA.

A:  Are we in the Continental United States?  Because, I’m assuming in the more “musky” areas of the globe, no deodorant wouldn’t be a problem at all.  When I worked at a golf course, I’m not going to say I was afraid, but I was constantly aware that my morning routine relied on not getting anything on my shirt.  When you’ve got to open up the cart barn at 6 am, you can’t waste precious seconds.  Toothpaste drool, rogue deodorant, these are morning killers.  Of course, anyone with any discipline knows that you brush your teeth, then put your shirt on, then put the deodorant on.  That’s the answer to the puzzle.  No one is perfect, though, and so there are days when you forget to apply or accidentally decorate your shirt with some Speed Stick (no one actually uses Speed Stick, correct?).  I think the deodorant on the shirt is worse.  It makes you look a bit harried, a bit of a MESS.  If you happen to forget, you can probably fake it through the day.  I once had a gel deodorant that when combined with fine cotton golf shirts would change their color. True story.  I’d have a navy blue shirt with aquamarine pit-highlights.  Now that’s embarrassing.  

Q:  The Phillies play Florida State today and I was surprised to see some regulars in the lineup.  I am rational enough to know that this game doesn’t matter, but what about the weekend?  And, should we be concerned if the Phillies aren’t winning games this Spring?  Chuck Ward, Tallahassee, FL.

A:  Oh, didn’t you hear?  Today against the Seminoles is MUST WIN.  It would actually be a bit embarrassing to lose to a college team, but we’re still a few weeks away from needing to pay attention to wins and losses.  The Spring schedule is odd this year.  Three straight against the Yankees to open up, and deep down all Philly fans will want to take 2 of 3, but it’ll be all right if that doesn’t happen.  I don’t want to say that Spring Training records are meaningless, but for a team like this one the wins and losses aren’t important.  If I had a younger team, a team that was supposed to be on the rise (say Washington?), then I’d want to win Spring games.  Just to set the tone, to get used to being successful to a certain extent.  The Phillies don’t need any of that, they can just remember back to last year when they won 102 times.  By late March you want your pitchers to have their velocity and the hitters to be looking comfortable and hitting line drives.  Specific numbers are far more important to individual players trying to win a spot than they are to the team as a whole.  What I’m saying is, don’t bail on the season if they lose to New York on Saturday.  

Q:  I feel like there’s a strong chance the first time my kid has alcohol it will be “stolen” from my own house.  I’m going to try to use this fact to get my wife to stop drinking Bud Light Lime.  Do you really want a kid that goes off into world with a taste for lime-flavored beer?  I don’t think so.  Willie Corona, White Plains, NY.

A:  Interesting stance.  I imagine policing a teenager’s drinking or non-drinking has to be a complete nightmare.  And, people take wildly different approaches.  On one end you’ve got the locked liquor cabinets and then on the other we’ve got people like you who are just concerned their kid drink the RIGHT beer for their time.  I remember going to a high school graduation party once and the kids were freely drinking with the adults and it was a mind-blowing scene.  I didn’t start drinking until I got to college.  One hassle I spared my parents, I suppose.  We had beer in the garage and unguarded liquor and wine, but I never touched the stuff, despite being home alone plenty.  It’s strange I never tried it, considering I buckled to peer pressure at college in about four seconds.  What was your question?  Oh, can you ban your wife’s BL Lime?  Negative.  There’s no correlation to what you drink first and what you become a drinker OF, I can state that with full anecdotal conviction.  If a kid really wants to drink, he’ll try anything, and then years later it’ll just be a funny story, “Remember when we did shots of Blue Curacao?”  So, nice try, but the Bud Light Lime is there to stay.  

Q:  Is the toaster not the most disappointing appliance in your kitchen?  My whole life is floating around in a “cloud,” but I can’t get a properly toasted piece of bread?  Are you bleeping kidding me?  Izel Jenkings, Philadelphia, PA. 

A:  Toast is tough.  It makes you work for it.  I think your standard 4-slice toaster probably works OK.  You’re going to need some trial and error to find the ZONE, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it.  The problem with the 4-slice is: it’s not versatile, and it sometimes isn’t conducive to MEGA-BAGELS, or giant artisan loaves.  For those reasons and others, I prefer a toaster oven.  It’s HANDY.  But, toaster ovens do not do a good job of toasting.  The bigger the toaster oven (it’s comes with a rotisserie attachment!) the worse it’s going to do with a simple toast job.  The best toaster oven I ever had kept the toast and oven functions separate.  The toast had the button you press down (best part of a real toaster) and a dial to control everything else.  Now, that’s all combined.  You have to use the timer for toast, which is a nightmare.  And, you never know what function you’re on.  WHICH WAY SHOULD MY BAGEL FACE?  It’s troubling.  The best advice I can give you is to advance to a point in your life where you can afford a lavish kitchen with acres of counter space so you can employ both the toaster oven and the standard 4-slice.  That’s living.  

Q:  What percentage of kids do you think are cute?  Brutal honesty.  I’m talking like 5-years old and younger.  All adolescents are vile creatures.  Seena Mirror, Cleveland, OH.

A:  I don’t have any kids, but I have this theory that deep down parents know when they don’t have the best-looking baby.  I’m not saying they don’t LOVE the kid, but they’re secretly hoping old junior grows out of the ugly phase.  Maybe that nose will look distinguished once his head is full-sized?  I’m just running with a hypothesis here.  I think these parents probably also get a bit annoyed with people patronizing them about their kid’s adorable rating.  Say you post a picture of your very average looking kid on Facebook, out of obligation, and then you get the standard, “OMG Stop it, TOOOO Adorable!!!!” comments.  That would bother me, just because people are so full of horsebleep.  I wouldn’t want my kid overly praised for his/her appearance anyway.  Whoa, let’s keep the ego in check.  If I had a toddler I’d rather it be praised for having great comedic timing, or something WORTHWHILE.  Oh, what percentage?  41%.

Q:  I saw in an excerpt from Hank Haney’s book that he’s claiming Tiger seriously considered leaving golf for a military career, specifically the Navy SEALs.  If that happened, would it have been the biggest non-scandalous sports story of all-time?  Henry Hanie, Plano, TX.

A:  This Hank Haney book is going to be something else.  It’s going to be terribly painful to read.  Haney had “help” from Jaime Diaz, but have you ever heard Haney talk?  Probably the most boring storyteller of all-time.  You’re going to want to focus on excerpts, believe me.  This one is particularly juicy.  We all know Tiger is fond of the military and was very proud of his father’s service.  I don’t completely dismiss the claim that Tiger was interested in joining the SEALs.  You’re talking about a guy who is a competitive freak, so taking the challenge of SEAL training is something that probably appealed to him–at least in theory.  It would have been a massive story.  You think about the coverage that Pat Tillman got, and at the time he gave up football to join the Army, he probably had 1/100th the profile of Tiger Woods?  If that.  So, I don’t know how you’d rank potential stories, or what you mean exactly by non-scandalous, but it’d be way up there.  Top-3 at least.  Up there with Magic’s HIV announcement, things of that magnitude.  

Q:  I saw that Lil’ Wayne was wearing a pair of million dollar headphones at the NBA All-Star game.  That’s a lot of diamonds.  If you had the means, what object would you encrust with diamonds?  M. Pulsebuy, Beverly Hills, CA.

A:  You mean after my headphones?  Maybe my toilet brush?  Then you’d feel like a real aristocrat when you were servicing your loo.  I’m having a hard time brainstorming this one.  I think the best answer I can come up with is my putter.  I feel like I’d get the most mileage out of it in that case.  It’s something I use with some frequency, it doesn’t ever wear out, I’m not expecting a massive improvement in the putter that will make mine obsolete, and it certainly wouldn’t impact performance.  It’d be nice to have a little distraction on the green.  Did Grossy just 3*-putt again?  I think he did, but check out the bling on that flat stick!  The only downside would be having to use a putter cover.  I hate putter covers.  I hate watching people use them, I think they add 10 minutes to every round of golf.  AWFUL.  But, I could sacrifice that for all the sweet, “His putting stroke looks like a million bucks,” jokes.  

 

My 2012 Phenom Obsessions, AKA Who Not to Take in a Baseball Fantasy Draft.

Brett Lawrie: Tattoos and Walk-Offs.

I just mentioned in the comments today about how I get irrationally excited about prospects in all sports (except basketball).  Every year I do my NFL Draft preview that focuses on which defensive back I’m obsessed with.  Last year:  Patrick Peterson.  2010: Joe Haden.  Spoiler Alert 2012:  Morris Claiborne.  As you can see, my recent track record with DBs is unparalleled.  No one picks sure-thing corners like me.  Unfortunately, in other sports it’s not as easy to hone in on future stars.  Those pesky four, five levels of minor league baseball have a way of turning 1st rounders into insurance salesman.  I’d argue that nothing is more exciting than a baseball prospect.  That you never really know just cranks up the intrigue.

The Phillies haven’t had a real phenom in camp since Dom Brown two years ago.  Remember the day he hit two homers and then was sent back to Minor League camp?  That’s buzz.  Nothing has come of it since, not really, but those were some fun days fantasizing about Dom Brown going 30/30 for the next decade.  Before that, you probably have to go back to Cole Hamels and his obscenely low and laughable Minor League ERA (1.43) to find a Phillie that would be on this list.  There will be no Phillies this year, which means I’ll be a lot higher on these guys until they start costing the Phillies games.

I don’t have anything to document my record of picking baseball prospects.  I was a little early (like 8 years) on Josh Hamilton.  Mark Kotsay never quite lived up to my expectations.  Same with Jacque Jones.  Remember that guy?  Billy Koch?  Obsessed with Billy Koch.  Todd Walker?  Infatuated.  Anyway, those are some blasts from the past.  Let’s take a look at this year.  I’ll probably draft all these guys for my fantasy baseball team, and then they’ll all be back in AAA by Mid-May.

***

1.  Bryce Harper–Nats.  Where is my first Bryce Harper story of the Spring?  I know he named his puppy “Swag,” I know he was rooting for the Yankees in the playoffs, but what’s new, Bryce?  Sometime this Spring a pitcher “getting some work in” is going to leave a fastball there for Bryce and he’ll hit it about 450 feet.  This will create about 48 hours of hysteria and speculation, followed by an eventual landing spot in AAA.  At least, that’s what I hope.  I want some more time with the uber-idiot prospect before he’s competing directly against the Phillies.

2.  Brett Lawrie–Blue Jays.  Lawrie hit .293 with 9 homers and 25 RBI in 150 ABs for the Blue Jays last year.  Project that out to a full season and we’re looking at 30/100 at 3b–a position that seems to be in massive decline.  I would kill for the Phillies to have Brett Lawrie.  He’s going to be in the Blue Jays’ lineup, it’s just a question of how quickly he develops.  Obviously, I’m ready for him to start his perennial All-Star run this season.  Lawrie is my favorite Canadian since Larry Walker.

3. Eric Hosmer–Royals.  Hosmer was hitting .436 when the Royals called him up last year.  Tee-hee.  Seriously?  .436?  Where do I sign?  The Royals are so non-threatening, and have been down for so long that I’m actually rooting for them to turn it around a little bit.  They might be my 2nd favorite team.  Hosmer hit .293 with 19 homers after his call-up, mostly in anonymity.  For this year, I’m thinking Will Clark with more power.  In a snake draft, I’d gleefully take Hosmer in the 2nd round and then finish in dead-last.

4.  Addison Reed–White Sox.  What is it about starting pitchers that get shifted to the bullpen and gain velocity?  Reed shifted to the closer’s role and started touching high 90s.  Pretty much everyone who throws in the high-90s I become obsessed with, so there’s no surprise here.  Reed could become Chicago’s closer this year or he could totally implode and you’ll never hear from him again.

5. Mike Moustakas–Royals.  Moustakas runs about 5′ 11″, 220.  He plays 3B.  He’s a converted shortstop.  Once considered a better prospect than Hosmer, Moustakas got passed by last year, but I think a little less attention will serve him well.  He struggled with the Royals during his call-up last year, hitting .263, but his 2010 Minor League line was .322/36/124.  That’s pretty serious.

6. Dustin Ackley–Seattle.  Ackley played over half a season with the Mariners last year, but no one pays any attention to Seattle, so I’m still including him.  He only hit .273, but there’s this perception that Ackley is a hitting savant that will eventually start collecting batting titles.  He’s like Todd Walker-lite.  I love second baseman with moderate power numbers.  But, let’s be honest, there’s only one Todd Walker.  The guy once hit .345 at Salt Lake City, and as we know from Bull Durham–that’s a career.  In any league.

7.  Mike Trout–Angels.  Apparently Mike Trout is about the fastest living human who doesn’t run track.  That’s the impression I get.  I’m all about taking one exceptional skill and blowing it out of proportion.  Trout struggled in 40 games with the Angels last year and faces a crowded outfield in camp, but eventually he’ll break through and you’ll start seeing him running around the bases with a stopwatch graphic.  At least, that’s how I see it playing out.

8.  Yoenis Cespedes–A’s.  I’m slightly cooled on Cespedes.  In part, because the Phillies didn’t get him.  Can we still trade Victorino for him?  Also, it’s since come to my attention that the real hitting phenom in Cuba is Jose Abreu.  If that guy was available, he’d be at the top of the list.  His numbers in the Cuban league make Cespedes look pedestrian.  But, I don’t want to turn my back on Cespedes, mostly because if he turns out, I want to rub it in everyone’s face.

9.  Gerrit Cole–Pirates.  Much like the Royals, I feel for the Pirates.  Don’t you want my pity, Pittsburgh?  Doesn’t that feel nice?  Basically, I’m offended by the team the Pirates put onto their immaculate yard.  Some signs of improvement for Pittsburgh, but they haven’t had a prospect really go through the roof yet.  It could be Cole, with his 100 mph heat, it could be Jameson Taillon, but hopefully some help is on the way soon for Pittsburgh.

10.  Bubba Starling–Royals.  One for the more distant future.  Obviously, another Royal.  Starling was drafted last year, and doesn’t have a professional at-bat, but he’s still ranked as the 24th best prospect by Baseball America.  Starling was a two (maybe three?)-sport phenom in high school.  Another one of my weak points.  He was set to play QB for Nebraska before the Royals dropped a pile of cash on him.  Throws 95, freakish raw power, I think that about covers it.

The Real Beauty of Seinfeld.

If You're Ever in the City...

I continue to watch Seinfeld.  Considering it’s still on multiple times a day I probably watch it more than any other show. When I think of it that way, a show being off the air for 14 years, and still being my #1–it’s a little disturbing.  They always promo the show that will be on the following day, and I found myself getting irrationally excited when I saw the Soup Nazi “trailer” a week or two ago.  YES!  That’s what I thought to myself.  I’ve probably seen the episode six, ten times?  It doesn’t matter.  I’d watch it right this minute.

How is this possible?  I like Modern Family, but if you want me to sit down and watch a re-run?  Eh.  Probably not happening.  I’ve seen this one.  That’s probably what I would say.  Of course, I’ve seen every Seinfeld.  Someone told me the other day that they liked watching syndication because sometimes they’d catch an episode they’d never seen before.  That amazes me.  I don’t doubt that it’s a thrill, but there’s really a Seinfeld episode out there you’ve never seen?  There were only 180 episodes.  What are you doing with your life that you haven’t seen all of them?  You can’t spare 90 hours?

Anyway, at this point in my Seinfeld watching career there are two things that I really enjoy about watching the show.  The first is small and simple.  I can watch Seinfeld without really watching.  I can be making dinner.  I can be sniffing around on the internet, I can be just flipping to it during a commercial, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing really, I’ll always be able to jump right into the episode.  Each one is that ingrained that I can watch a two or three-minute chunk, overhear a line, and immediately put it into context and still get the full entertainment value.  The other reason I still like watching the show is you never know who you’re going to see.  It feels like almost every person who went on to be a TV star after 1998 was at one point on Seinfeld in some capacity.  Last night I’m watching and poof, there’s Amanda Peet.  A couple of minutes later Elaine is complaining about her threatening co-worker (Molly Shannon) to a cop on the street that happens to be the father in The Middle.

It’s retroactive guest-starring.  The most common role for future stars was certainly Jerry’s girlfriend.  By the time the show was in its prime the best way to land a sit-com or get some real work was to do a few episodes as Jerry’s love interest.  Courtney Cox was Jerry’s wife (according to the dry-cleaner).   Jerry was fixated on breaking up Debra Messing and Cary Elwes so that he could date her.  Of course, she turned out to be racist (and an anti-dentite) before ending up on Will and Grace.  Who was the dentist being discriminated against?  Bryan Cranston.  There was Teri Hatcher, Catherine Keener, Kristen Davis and Jane Leeves as well.  It wasn’t all Jerry, though.  Sara Silverman played Kramer’s girlfriend.  Megan Mullally (who now does 4-7 pilots a year now for some reason) was George’s girlfriend in the famous double-dipped chip episode.  That’s like putting your whole mouth in the bowl.

Those are the easy ones, though.  The real joy is seeing the more obscure, bit parts, like seeing Neil Flynn as that cop.  Jon Favreau was Eric the clown in the episode where George panics during the fire and tramples children and grandmothers on his way out of the building.  Jeremy Piven auditioned to play George when he and Jerry were trying to sell their pilot.  Just last year I started watching a bit of a show called White Collar.  I had no recollection of ever seeing the show’s main character, but then a few weeks later I’m watching my Seinfeld reruns and there’s the guy from White Collar as bizzaro Jerry.  It’s truly amazing.  Frickin’ Seinfeld.  Every episode is like a Before They Were Stars.

 

Robert Griffin: Bust Out, or Just Bust?

Griffin Knocked off the 40 in 4.41 at the Combine.

Little less combine buzz this year?  I didn’t see one shot of an overweight offensive lineman jiggling his way through the 40.  I don’t know what Rich Eisen’s time was.  I didn’t hear of anyone “listed” at 6’3″ who measured out at 5’11″.  Has Andrew Luck as consensus #1 taken a little bit of luster off the combine, or are people still recovering from the NFL season?  For me, the most interesting player in the draft is R0bert Griffin III.  We could be on the verge of a great philosophical shift in the type of athletes that are drafted to play quarterback.  There may come a time when if a QB like Griffin and a QB like Luck are both available that the Griffin-mold will go 1st every time.  But, we aren’t there yet, and Griffin’s performance in the NFL will go a long way to determining the trend.

I think before Cam Newton came out last year I was probably less impressed with him than I should I have been.  I don’t think I declared “bust,” but I didn’t see a runaway rookie of the year coming.  Did anyone?  As a fan you pick up all this secondary information about Newton’s intelligence, his priorities, work-ethic–things of that nature, and you make an initial judgement.  Mine stuck with me until I read some quotes from Newton himself partway through last season.  He went out of his way to rip JaMarcus Russell, maybe rip isn’t the right word, but he mentioned specifically how Russell’s colossal failure impacted people’s perception of him.  He still went #1, but he had to deal with a lot of negativity and I guarantee you, if Luck was in the draft, he wouldn’t have gone any higher than #2.

Newton said he was motivated to succeed, in part, because he didn’t want his legacy to taint the future of the QBs that followed him.  Players like RG3.  The “athlete” QB.  The “running” QB.  If you want to throw African-American in there, you can certainly do that as well, they all come with stigmas.  For QBs like Newton, or like Griffin there is going to be a bigger obstacle than usual to overcome.  You’ve got decades of history on the side of the “pocket-passer,” it’s going to take more than one Cam Newton to change the thinking.

There’s no doubt that Newton’s success last season has helped Griffin’s draft status.  That Griffin comes without any of the character question marks that surrounded Newton is also a bonus.  His blistering display of speed at the Combine might be moment that he clinched being the #2 pick.  Griffin put up mind-boggling stats at Baylor.   4,293 yards passing.  72.4% completions.  700 yards rushing.  His accuracy is what stands out, but you must consider Baylor’s offense and their conference–a league where gaudy numbers are the norm.  I don’t think Cam Newton ever got enough credit for his accuracy and arm (he certainly didn’t from me), and Griffin could be an even more accomplished passer.  To me it looks like the players that were once classified as athletes playing QB are becoming better and better throwers.  We might eventually come to the point where that distinction is not even discussed, but we’re not there yet.

The other issue surrounding Griffin is his status as the 1-A QB in the draft.  Does the 2nd-best QB in the draft get over-valued because of the importance of the position?  It now seems likely that the Rams might end up with a blockbuster deal, a bidding war if they sell off that #2 pick.  Is Griffin worth that?  Or is the combination of his skills and the huge drop-off to the #3 QB making people want to overpay?  The history of the 2nd guy taken after a perceived franchise guy was taken #1 overall is mixed.

NFL DRAFT RECENT HISTORY, QB Taken 1st Overall and 2nd QB Taken:

  1. 2011:  Cam Newton #1, Jake Locker #9
  2. 2010: Sam Bradford #1, Tim Tebow #25
  3. 2009: Matt Stafford #1, Mark Sanchez #5
  4. 2007: JaMarcus Russell #1, Brady Quinn #22
  5. 2005: Alex Smith #1, Aaron Rodgers #24
  6. 2004: Eli Manning #1, Philip Rivers #4
  7. 2003: Carson Palmer #1, Byron Leftwich #7
  8. 2002: David Carr #1, Joey Harrington #3
  9. 2001:  Michael Vick #1, Drew Brees #32
  10. 1999:  Tim Couch #1, Donovan McNabb #2

As you can see, if Griffin goes #2, it’ll be a pretty rare occurrence.  You have to go all the way back to 1999 to find a Draft where QBs went 1 & 2.  Oddly enough, there as well you had a prototypical pocket passer at number #1 and the guy looked at more as an athlete at #2.  It’s important to note that not a player on this list has anything to do with RG3 (it’s more to see if you think the 2nd guy taken was overvalued), but that 1999 comparison might be the best one you can make.  If you go back further you have the Bledsoe/Mirer and Manning/Leaf debacles for the teams drafting #2, but that is now ancient history.

I don’t see a definitive conclusion or trend in this list.  I’ve seen some people limit it to QBs taken in the top-5 after a QB was #1 overall and then you get Sanchez, Rivers, McNabb, Akili Smith, Leaf and Mirer.  That’s a far uglier list than the one above, but I think that’s fixing the data a bit in favor of a negative Griffin outlook.  There are, though, certainly examples of teams reaching for a QB.  I think Sanchez is obvious.  I think Jake Locker last year was a reach.  Tim Tebow as well.

I don’t think we’re going to be adding Robert Griffin to that list.  Especially with the restructured rookie salaries, I think he’s definitely worth a chance at #2, and that might be bumping his stock up as well.  This is no longer a 45-50 million dollar commitment.  It’s typical that there is really no bust talk surrounding Luck.  It seems the pocket QBs are still immune to those assumptions.  I don’t really see any “traditional” passer above that was subjected to a lot of scrutiny over their ability to play the position.

I’m in need of a conclusion here.  I think the point is, it’s possible we’re in a state of transition in the NFL.  It might not look it when guys like Aaron Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Eli are the ones piling up Super Bowl wins, but it’s got to start somewhere, right?  And, maybe it started with Cam Newton.  Maybe 10 years from now, the evolution of the league will have diminished Andrew Luck’s skill set and turned an “athlete QB” like RG3 into the best player on the planet.  Is it possible?  I think it is, but it’s unlikely if Griffin can’t make the NFL grade.

Ryan Howard, LeBron, and Stuff.

Didn't Know "The Ladies Man," Played for the '83 O's.

I was looking for an insulting picture to depict Baltimore.  The point being, not only does Ryan Howard have to leave Clearwater to get his Achilles looked at, but he also has to go to Baltimore to get it done.  Good old B-hole.  A great city to visit if you have no sense of smell.  My image searching skills must be a little off this morning, though, because I didn’t see many good candidates.  The sheer randomness of this shot of Eddie Murray in full curl and facial hair regalia was too much to pass up.  Hopefully Howard has more luck in Baltimore than the ’83 Phillies.

Howard’s mysterious “wound” at the site of his Achilles surgery incision is probably a cause for concern for many Phillies fans.  There’s a lingering doubt about when Howard will return and anything but the best possible news is just going to fuel the belief that the targeted May return is nothing but a pipe dream.  There are people out there who think Howard is going to miss the whole season and this “scheduled check-up,” is another in what’s becoming a long line of instances where the Phillies massively downplay injuries.  At this point last year, Chase Utley was still just “generally sore.”  The good sign is that Howard was still doing his baseball activities up to the point when he left, so it’s not like he was totally shut down.  We’ve got nothing to do but wait on Howard, but this is surely going to be a process.

Health could be the biggest issue the Phillies face this year.  Yes, the offense has had declining numbers in recent years, but they’ve also had several guys miss large chunks of time.  When you’re never putting your best lineup out there, you’re going to score fewer runs.  So, I’m actually less concerned about “is the Phillies offense good enough,” and more concerned about, “are they going to be on the field?”

***

Other Phillies Notes:

1.  Gary Sheffield thinks Dom Brown is going to be great.  If Ryan Howard really is out for a long period of time I think the rose-colored glasses scenario is Mayberry plays 1st and a rejuvenated and new-look Dom Brown forces his way into left field. Chances of this happening?  About 11 percent.

2.  Cliff Lee missed a bullpen with abdominal soreness, but has since thrown and reports himself good to go.  Lee has had abdominal issues in the past, but so far, this one sounds less serious.  I hate to keep coming back to health, but I think the first thing we ask after every game this year after we found out if the Phils won or lost is if they came out unscathed.

3.  First game Wednesday, but the real action starts Saturday against the Yankees.  Both games this weekend on MLB Network.

4.  Mike Schmidt is Clearwater for his yearly…well, I don’t know what to call it, an opportunity to hear himself talk?  That seems a little harsh, but once you get Mike rolling he doesn’t often come up for air.  He’s already expressed some doubts about Ryan Braun’s innocence.  Schmidt loves to talk about steroids and how he would have been tempted to use them if given the opportunity.  The Phillies are hoping Schmidt can do some talking in more productive areas, like discussing approach with some Philly hitters.  Schmidt was a rare veteran who switched things up and probably became a better “hitter” late in his career.

6.  The Nats locked up Ryan Zimmerman for 6yrs/100 million.  When I saw the number, I said, if that’s for 5-years I’m going to vomit.  I like Zimmerman, but this seems like a bit of an overpay, especially for a guy who missed some time last year.  And, though he’s the face of the franchise, that’s probably a position with an expiration date.  Good news is, that’s 100 million the Nats don’t have to sign someone else.

***

I think hating on LeBron might be the 3rd most popular sport in the country.  This time of year it could be number one.  I’m generally amused by LeBron hate, but I can’t believe the uproar over him passing up a shot at the end of the All-Star Game.  I didn’t see this, of course (unwatchable) but I was in the car this morning and call after call to sports talk was about LeBron.  Summary:  LeBron is the A-Rod of basketball.  And/Or, LeBron will go down as the greatest player ever who had no heart.  This feels like an extreme reaction to an All-Star Game.  I know it’s cumulative, but the hair-trigger on LeBron hate is uncanny.  Only Tiger can approach it right now.

***

Bobby Valentine banned alcohol in the Red Sox clubhouse and on their flights over the weekend.  I’m wondering if this whole Valentine thing isn’t self-sabotage by the Red Sox.  Are they bringing Bobby in to drive everyone crazy so they can go running back to another “player’s manager” in a couple of years?  Strange things going on in Boston.  I don’t know why you need to drink in the clubhouse, but I know that baseball players won’t like the perception that they’re being scolded or their behavior is being regulated.  If this had come up for a different reason it wouldn’t be a big deal, but this way it looks like Bobby V is saying you lost because you’re a bunch of booze bags.  Not a terribly endearing stance for Bobby V to take, not that he cares in the least.  For the record, I think alcohol will eventually be removed from every clubhouse (and probably far fewer players drink after games than you might think), but how it goes over in Boston this year?  We’ll see.

***

NHL trade deadline today.  I guess the Flyers are on moderate Rick Nash watch.  It’s always a struggle not to call him Steve Nash.  But, it looks like Columbus is tearing it down (already traded “Cartsy”) and the Flyers are always a possible landing spot for anyone.  Of course, Nash doesn’t play goal.  Or defense.  But, maybe the new thought is, we’re never going to get a goalie, so maybe we’ll just try for 6 goals a game.

Apologies to My Former Self, But…

The Guinness Book Should Be Wiped From the Earth.

I saw this morning that Evan Turner of the Sixers briefly entered the annals of Guinness by making 14 shots from behind the backboard in 60 seconds.  Apparently there is a record for such a thing, and the NBA is getting all wild and crazy by kicking off All-Star weekend with such festivities.  There’s buzz, and then there’s NBA All-Star buzz.  Unfortunately for Turner, minutes after his heroic performance, the Spanish Jason Williams (white chocolate version) shattered the record with 18 baskets.  As I write this, Turner could be going for 19.  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  That’s the point.  The Guinness Book of World Records has to be one of the five dumbest things in print.  If I was a big Guinness drinker, I’d be upset with the association.

My new stance on the Guinness Book would come as a horrifying surprise to my elementary school self.  When I was in the 8-year old range, the Guinness Book of World Records was about the only book I’d crack that wasn’t about the Berenstain Bears or the kid with no arm in left field.  I have vague memories of having a copy of this book in my classroom one year.  During SSR (sustained silent reading) there would be a mad dash to snag the Guinness Book.  It was a damn treasure.  The thing was probably 500 pages long, but you’d never explore past the first section which was chock full of human anomalies.  The fat motorcycle twins, fingernail lady, the tall guy, the woman with the crazy-long neck–that could exhaust any SSR period, no problem.

I eventually got a Guinness Book of my own.  I’m going to say approximately 1991 and I got a lot of mileage out of it, even if some things, like Nolan Ryan’s record fastball seemed dubious at best.  I don’t remember ever having any desire to be, “in the book,” it was just like dropping a quarter to see the “freak show,” at the old carnival.  I guess that doesn’t sound very PC, or tolerant, but that’s what it was, a kid getting excited about seeing a guy who was 8-feet tall.

And, back in the day, the book seemed to have some standards.  You couldn’t just do any old thing.  Breaking a Guinness record, or setting a new record wasn’t some PR stunt, it was just something that happened.  What I’m saying is, most of the people in the book to start with didn’t set out to be in the book.   It’s the Funniest Home Video phenomenon.  The first videos they got were organic and then for the next 20 years they air staged stunts.  It’s embarrassing.  Saget knew.  He got out.  The Guinness Book is all about the staged stunt now.  Oh, let’s get the most guys with a mustache in one building, or have the most simultaneous games of checkers.  Well excuse me if I think that is horsebleep.  Not in the spirit  of the Book.

There should be tallest, fattest and oldest person.  That’s the holy Guinness trinity.  Anything else is just weakening the brand.

Here are some recent Guinness Records:

1.  Largest Online 1st-Person Shooter Battle

2.  Most People in an Easter Egg Hunt

3.  Largest Pong Tournament

4.  Fastest 100K (Team Treadmill Division)

5.  Longest Handshake Chain

6.  Most Facebook Comments

7.  Most Pizzas Made in 1-hr

8. World’s Largest Video Game Controller

9. Largest Coffee Bean Mosaic

10.  World’s Largest Sock

 

This Stuff Happened — 2/23/12

Jimmy and Cholly had a Sit-Down.

The Phillies are doing a great job of pacing their press conferences.  Every day it’s someone new and exciting as we count down to the battle with Florida State, or as I like to call it, “THE SEASON.”  It was Chase Utley’s turn to speak today, but Chase isn’t one to give real elaborate or insightful answers, so there’s not much to say.  His legs are stronger than last year.  He still thinks he’s good.  That cover everything for you?  The bigger news was that Charlie Manuel had a little chat with Jimmy Rollins that was deemed productive.  It seems that Charlie (finally forced by Ruben?) is going to take a real shot at mixing some things up this year.  He discussed multiple things with Jimmy, but the two biggest takeaways for me were that he wants Rollins to make better decisions when he’s ahead in the count and he’s looking for the energy level that Rollins showed pre-2010.   Sarge might say that J-Roll has been spending a little bit too much time “in the Cadillac.”  I’m on board with this.  It sounds terrific.  Will anything actually change?  I DON’T KNOW.

***

We’ve reached another step in the Jeremy Lin saga.  An unfortunate step.  The Asian American Journalists Association have felt compelled to release a set of guidelines on how Lin should be covered.  I guess what I find unfortunate is that when you go and look at the guidelines you find a lot of stuff you’d like to think would never make it into a Lin article.  “Me love you long time,” for example, is specifically mentioned as something that’s not OK.  You’re 1st reaction is to say, “no sh*t,” but if people hadn’t spent the last two weeks throwing out “Yellow Mamba,” fortune cookie references and dropping “chink in the armor,” I bet this press release wouldn’t have happened.  It is a damn shame that we can’t just watch Lin play basketball.  Not me, but people who actually like the NBA.  Lin and the Knicks have the Heat tonight in what should be an obscene ratings coup for TNT.  If not the toughest challenge yet for Lin, certainly the toughest for the Knicks during their charge up the division standings.

***

I feel like overstating the importance of something.  So, here we go…the match Tiger Woods is playing RIGHT NOW could go a long way to determining his success for this entire season.  Does that sound ridiculous?  It should a little bit, but let me try to defend the position.  Woods is taking on rising American star Nick Watney, a player whose form has out-paced Tiger’s by a mile for a good two years now.  If Tiger wins the match he’ll likely face Lee Westwood, and that’s the kind of marquee match that would get everyone’s attention.  A chance to beat the man who replaced him atop the World Rankings would surely perk up Tiger.  There’s also the issue of Tiger’s play yesterday.  It was the first notable step back he’s taken in a while.  Woods is known to loathe desert golf and was fighting an illness, but still–that was an ugly win.  He still seems to be having trouble hitting a draw, and how many more times can this “comeback” be slowed?  Anyway, a win would go a long way.  They’re all square at the turn.

***

The Oscars are this weekend.  If you hate the Oscars, here’s an interesting piece, absolutely overflowing with profanity about why each and every nominated movie and actor is terrible.  It’s aptly called The Haters Guide to the Oscars.  I don’t mind the Oscars, but I’m not going to say I’m fired up.  If I’m lucky, I’ve seen half the nominees.  I’m not going to watch The Artist.  Now it’s just a matter of principle.  I don’t have a ton of faith in critically acclaimed fare when it comes to movies.  Here are 5 things I want to see happen, or not happen at the Oscars.

1.  Moneyball wins nothing.  It was a pretty good movie.  The people calling it their favorite sports movie of all-time are high.  It might crash the top-20 party.  We get it, you like Brad Pitt.  But, lets not forget that the A’s have gotten progressively worse over the years.

2.  I put in Tree of Life for about 9 minutes and it actually may have broken my DVD player.  It hasn’t worked since.  That’s how terrible this movie was.  If it wins anything–very disappointing.

3.  I think Woody Allen should win for his screenplay Midnight in Paris.  Never have I thought I was going to hate a movie more and turned out to actually like it.  I’m not going to give Owen Wilson credit for this, so you know, Woody.

4.  I’d like to see Nick Nolte win for Supporting Actor.  I imagine he has no chance, but a) it’d be interesting to see someone win for an MMA movie and b) don’t you want to hear Nolte give a speech?

5.  Not The Descendants for best picture.  I’m against the trend toward depressing subject matter in books and film.  Someone is always terminal, or something horrible is happening.  I get that’s real life, but my goodness, can we lighten things up once in a while?

Divisional Issues.

Hit .243 Last Year.

One of the themes of the off-season was how good the NL East got over the winter.  The division the Phillies have ruled for five straight seasons is suddenly full of legitimate contenders.  The power has shifted in the National League.  With the exception of the Mets, there will be no easy wins to pile up in divisional play.  For years the Phillies’ biggest competition has come from outside the division.  The pitching rich Cardinals and Giants, going further back there was the Dodgers, but about all the Phillies had to do to win the division was to get out of their own way.  If a team was contending, or even led the Phillies (like the Braves in ’10) it was considered an anomaly.  The Phillies were playing down to the level of the Braves of the rest of the competition.  That was hardly a concern last year on the way to 102 wins, but I don’t think anyone will predict the Phils make it to 100 this year.

I think the knee-jerk reaction is to assume the Phillies, if they’ve improved at all, it’s by a slim margin.  There’s countless questions surrounding health (Utley, Polanco, Howard, Blanton) and  reliability (Worley, Mayberry, Bastardo).  Meanwhile the perception is the Marlins and Nationals have taken giant steps forward while the Braves remain a legitimate threat.  I’ve made this argument before, but when looking at other teams or rivals it’s common to focus on their strengths, or their best-case scenarios while focusing on your own team’s weaknesses.  If you do that in the NL East this Spring, you might end up projecting the Phillies into a 3rd place finish.  In order to balance out some of the coverage, I’m going to highlight the issues the Braves, Marlins and Nationals have to overcome to be REAL threats.  There are more than you might think.  The Mets will remain afterthoughts.

The Nationals:

Why we’re worried:  Strasburg, Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Young bullpen and Bounce-Back Jayson Werth.

Some Facts:  The Nats won 80 games last year.  They hit .242 (27th in the league).

Reality:  The Nationals have issues scoring runs.  For as much as people complained about the Phillies’ offense last year the rest of the division was worse.  The Nationals haven’t done much to address the issue.  Bryce Harper is incredibly hyped but ran out of gas at the end of last season and struggled at AA.  It’s unlikely he’ll make the team out of spring training and if he does, it’s just a reflection on Washington’s current 3rd outfielder (Mike Cameron? Roger Bernadina?)

Their Concerns:  Their biggest offensive threat, Michael Morse, has no track-record.  He’s actually similar to Jayson Werth in some ways, and we saw Werth’s consistency last year.  Speaking of Werth, it’s unlikely he’ll be as bad as he was last year (.718 OPS), but he’ll be 33 in May.  That contract remains an albatross.  The Nationals should pitch well, but the top of their rotation (Strasburg and Zimmerman) has a history of arm problems and Gio Gonzalez will have to adjust to pitching away from Oakland’s cavernous Coliseum.

Atlanta:

Why we’re worried:  Plethora of Young Arms, Lights-Out Bullpen, Jayson Heyward Bounce-Back, Habit.

Some Facts:  The Braves won 89 games. They hit .243.  They went 9-18 last September.

Reality:  If you want an example of a team that didn’t do anything this off-season, take a look at the Braves.  This is Atlanta’s way, of course, but the activity of Miami and Washington made them seem especially quiet.  They’re relying solely on in-house improvements.  Heyward, the young arms (Beachy/Minor/Teheran), Freddie Freeman–all improvement is expected to come from within.

Their Concerns:  Chipper Jones is going to be 40.  Ace in the making Tommy Hanson made only 22 starts last year, Jair Jurrgens has had 43 starts combined the last two, and Tim Hudson will turn 37 this season.  Behind them is a ton of unproven talent.  Michael Bourn for a full season will help the line-up, but there’s still massive holes.  Uggla became Rob Deer last season, Freeman hit .277 in August and .226 in September, and there’s no guarantee Heyward will return to his rookie year form.  Also, the bullpen must come back from a year where the key guys threw an incredible amount of innings.

Miami:

Why We’re Worried:  OZZIE!  Reyes, Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Hanley and Mike Stanton.

Some Facts:  The Marlins won 72 games last year.  They hit .247 and had a 3.95 ERA.

Reality:  The Marlins are certainly improved.  Reyes is a nice addition to their lineup and Buehrle adds some stability to a young rotation.  But, we’re talking about a team that has a long way to go.  They finished behind the Mets last year.  You’d have to assume they’ll need to pick up 25 wins to be a real contender in the division.  That’s a significant leap.  The back-end of the rotation (Sanchez/Nolasco/Zambrano) has some upside, but doesn’t stack up with the rest of the division.

Their Concerns:  The Marlins have a very young and undisciplined line-up.  It’s the kind of line-up that Jamie Moyer beats inexplicably.  Hanley Ramirez at one point was a total stud.  Right now, he’s closer to becoming Soriano Part II.  He hit .243 in 92 games last year and has to move to 3rd base.  Jose Reyes hasn’t played a full season since 2008.  Josh Johnson made 9 starts last year.  Logan Morrison is a beast on Twitter, but mostly disappeared after May last season.  Are Mike Stanton’s 170 K’s a sign that he can be pitched to?

***

So, you see, it’s a division that still has its share of flaws.  And, the teams that improved were the ones needing the most help.  The Nats won 22 fewer games than the Phillies last year.  The Marlins won 30 fewer.  And, the competition within the division is tougher for them, as well.  If the Braves had gone out and signed Reyes, or if they had Harper and Strasburg coming on strong, you might have a legitimate reason to panic, but for now, let’s just wait and see how things develop.  The real competition in the NL could still reside outside the division.

Mid-Week Mailbag.

Mr. Baseball Needed a Mustache.

No time for some fancy patter before the mailbag today.  Gotta get finished in time to keep track of Tiger in the World Match Play.  Tiger’s opponent, Gonzalo Fernandez Casta, proclaimed Woods to be “beatable.”  Five years ago this would have meant a 9&8 thrashing.  This time around, Tiger just said he feels that “Gonzo,” is beatable as well.  Maturity or lowered confidence?  We’ll find out, starting around noon.  Tiger’s tee time fits nicely with the TV coverage.  How odd.

Q:  Do you ever get tired of hearing about athletes and their mustaches?  Every time someone grows facial hair it’s this celebratory occasion.  Bring on the porn-stache jokes!  I’d like to go back to the time when some guy could sport a mustache and everyone else just went on with their lives.  Thom Seleck, Miami, FL.

A:  Dang, when you put it that way, all scolding and whatnot, I kind of feel like an idiot for ever bringing up mustaches.  I am guilty of ‘stache talk.  I don’t think I overdo it, but maybe I can censor myself in the future to appease your wishes.  I agree that on the surface it seems ridiculous, but what you’re really witnessing is total fascination.  People can’t believe there was a time when men strolled around with power mustaches and it was viewed as the norm.  I certainly can’t imagine that happening.  And, did guys in the 70s and 80s have magic mustache growing powers?  Most guys I know couldn’t cultivate a mustache if you gave them a month, but every guy who played baseball back then was two days away from a full lip-broom?  I just don’t understand it.  I wonder if there is something that we don’t notice now that will create a similar uproar in 2040.  Maybe wearing glasses, I imagine by then, everyone will have their eyes laser-beamed.  

Q:  Do you think mailmen steal the occasional magazine?  I’m sure there are the few mailmen out there committing serious identity theft crimes and the like, but I’m talking about the occasional, “Oh, that Cosmo looks super-tempting this month,” kind of thing.  And, how much attention do you think they pay to what you are getting delivered?   Do they judge?  W. Knight, NY, NY. 

A:  Getting things in the mail is a tiny little miracle.  You put your trust in a lot of people and they almost always come through.  It’s a testament to the human work ethic.  I have a feeling that doing the job of a mail carrier (I think that’s what they are called these days) is about finding a way to get through the monotony, the repetition.  I can’t imagine you have the time to really peruse someone’s mail.  It’s all about getting it in a little bundle and keeping the momentum going.  If I was a mail carrier I know for a fact that I would always be trying to complete my route in the shortest amount of time possible.  This wouldn’t leave much time for me to rifle through your mail and steal your magazine and birthday money.  I’d probably judge, though.  There’s no way around that.  To judge is human.  I’m going to say that a very small percentage of mail carriers pilfer mail.  That’s a serious crime.  No need to risk your government job for that.  Now, do some mail carriers maybe crack open your Golf Digest while they’re taking their relaxing lunch?  MAYBE.

Q:  Is there any way to know for sure if someone likes something you’ve cooked?  You have to know someone pretty well to tell them that a meal is awful, right?  How often do people say something was delicious and then end up tearing your chef game to shreds at a later date?  Bobby Filet, Mesa, AZ.

A:  Well, you know if something is good, right?  If you are enjoying it, there’s a reasonable chance that someone else may like it as well.  I guess you don’t trust your own palate.  Maybe you like everything.  It’s definitely something people lie about all the time.  People get very sensitive about their cooking.  It’s PERSONAL, and when you make someone a meal there is pressure to perform.  Like you said, if you are among friends I think everyone is pretty honest.  I think back to my Hibachi disaster of 2010, and that was a classic case of just being honest.  We all wanted the food to be good, but at the same time it tasted a lot like LIGHTER FLUID.  So, we just admitted it was awful and got on with our lives.  If you are in a crowd that isn’t so comfortable with each other, though?  I think the only real way to know is if someone takes a second serving.  You can force down about anything, but no one would willingly take a 2nd plate of something they don’t like.  Fallback plan would be the clean plate test, I suppose.  

Q: What do you think of people who decorate a room in their house in honor of their favorite team?  Seems a little hokey.  I see it all the time in the paper, or on the local news and it never gets any better.  M. Peckabletaste, Marshfield, MO.

A:  I think the easiest thing to do would be to put an age-limit on themed rooms.  Maybe a qualification for getting a driver’s license should be that you don’t have a room dedicated to your favorite team.  It does seem a bit childish, but sports have that effect on people.  I think the main reason ADULTS do this is to show-off their level of fandom.  People derive self-esteem from their teams and from how hard they root for them, so nothing says that better than a “Phillies Cave,” or something.  In general, I think rooms that are designed for a such a specific purpose end up being a waste.  I suppose if you do this to your living room you don’t have any choice but to use it all the time, but I wonder how many “man caves,” and things of that nature actually get used.  If I had a special “movie room,” in my basement would I take the time to go down there?  Or would I just watch the movie on the regular TV?  

Q:  Is match-play really the truest form of golf, or is this some BS line that they come up with once a year for this tournament?  I’ll take a stroke play event any day of the week.  All the brackets and crap sound good in theory, but come this weekend, it’s likely to a total snooze-fest.  Wally Hagen, Yonkers, NY.

A:  I have mixed feelings about the Match Play.  It’s very dependent on the results.  A regular Tour event can summon an exciting finish with a wide range of participants, but match play relies a bit on names and close matches.  If the final turns into a blowout, it’s terribly anti-climatic.  They have shortened the final to 18 holes, which lessens the chance that the match will get away from someone.  I remember tuning in one year for the final match and Chris DiMarco was already about 6-down and you’re like, OK THEN.  I think when people say it’s the truest form of golf they mean that it’s head-to-head.  Your opponent is right there in front of you.  It’s real competition–you aren’t playing the course, or the field.  A 72-hole stroke play event is a better representation of who is playing the best golf, there’s no question about that.  So, if you consider golf a sport played against the course, the conditions and the field then stroke play is definitely the truer form.  If you believe more in head-to-head competition, then I guess match play is for you.  

Q:  Is it OK to put outfits on your pets?  How about haircuts?   Katherine Lady, Aston, PA.

A:  Haircuts?  You mean like a perm?  There’s nothing wrong with giving your pet a trim, but I think you have to draw the line at EXPERIMENTATION.  I don’t want to come over and see racing stripes shaved into the side of your cat.  That’s NOT COOL.  On the other hand, dressing up your pet feels a little bit like dressing up your younger sibling.  The younger kid and the dog/cat doesn’t have much say.  It’s almost part of the deal.  The dog sits there in a t-shirt and sunglasses, or whatever, and it’s TOLERATING it, but it clearly isn’t having a good time.  You’ve got a great picture out of the deal, and something to put on Facebook.  Score.  I had a golden retriever that we were always putting hats on, or sunglasses..we drew the line at pants, I guess.  She was always a good sport, and we’d say stupid pet owner things like, “SHE LIKES IT!”  She was OK with it, and you’ve got to know your dog.  Some little dogs like wearing jackets.  Some dogs are spastic and if you tried to put them in a T-shirt they would never recover.  Start small, hats or something, don’t expect to be able to jump right into matching Easter dresses.  

Q: I haven’t yet received my prize for D.A. Fantasy Football.  I feel slightly…short-changed.  To borrow from a great movie, “When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.  And, it has fallen here; it has fallen.”  In summation, where’s my damn prize?  Harry Havemeyer, Stowe, VT.

A:  Wow, this is slightly embarrassing for me.  Do you want the honest answer or do you want me to dance around it?  Because TECHNICALLY, there was never any timeline set for delivery.  It’s an IOU.  The payment/reward process for all fantasy games is very tricky.  When will you get paid?  Hard to say.  I once won a fantasy football league and was never paid.  I then played the following year and did not pay the winner.  There was some nice symmetry in that.  Of course, all reasonable fantasy leagues collect the prize beforehand and then there is no issue.  Who wants to be REASONABLE, though?  I held back my fantasy football payment on principle this year and paid after the season.  It’s not a defensible position, but it happened.  So, deal with it.  Now, as far as the D.A. thing goes, that’s laziness.  That’s good old-fashioned American PROCRASTINATION.  All I can say is, the awards are coming.  Think of it as a great surprise, like Ed McMahon showing up at your doorstep.  

Q:  Can we ban puns?  In light of the Jeremy Lin headline saga and everything else attached to Jeremy Lin isn’t it time to evolve as a species?  Is there another form of wordplay out there that people can become obsessed with?  Nothing has a higher failure rate than the pun.  Chester Drawers, Pittsburgh, PA.  

A:  You nasty, Pun.  A noble pursuit, but a fruitless one, I’m afraid.  I agree that Jeremy Lin has shown off the dark and ugly side of puns.  His name is just so dang LIN-DUCIVE to wordplay that people cannot help themselves.  Puns are the classic “when I do it, it’s funny,” thing.  Everyone is quick to jump on a bad pun, but then they come up with one and want to be lavished with praise and fits of hysterical laughter.  Well, you can’t have it both ways.  You’ve got to slog through a lot of bad puns to get to the occasional good one.  Is it worth it?  I DON’T KNOW.  There’s one blog I read and for every post some person chimes in with a pun in the comments.  Without fail.  It is perhaps the most annoying thing I’ve ever encountered on the internet.  But, I’m like 50:50 to use a pun in a post title in the next 36 hours, so what are you gonna do?