Wednesday, June 13, 2007

All I Want to Do is Race with Gordon, Daddy!

This is a great story for people who enjoy seeing over-the-top fans put in a position of discomfort.

You see, if you enjoy racing, you cannot help but notice that 88% of all fans cheer for Little E. They then cuss, spew, gesture, and yell at anyone who dares defy their beloved #8. And of course, #8’s daddy, #3.

Therefore, you have heard for years how Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson are the devils that keep the beloved #8 out of victory circle by cheating, whining, using communism, and being overtly gay.

The simple truth is this: To Junior’s legion of jort-wearing fans, they would rather join Russia, than join Hendrick Motor Sports.

But that is exactly what Dale decided to do …Hey, if you can’t beat em, join em, right, Dale?

NASCAR royalty is safe and sound in the Hendrick kingdom. Dale Earnhardt Jr. did the right thing.

Going to Hendrick Motorsports always was the best scenario for Earnhardt. It also was what he really wanted, but Rick Hendrick kept everyone off the scent by declaring no room at the inn.

Hendrick also is expected to make the right decision to jettison bad boy Kyle Busch from the organization. Busch is a better driver than Hendrick newbie Casey Mears but is also a huge headache with behavior issues.

Maybe Busch can replace Earnhardt in the No. 8. A Busch in the Bud car. Perfect.
However, Budweiser might join Earnhardt at Hendrick. That's still unknown. So is the fate of Tony Eury Jr., Earnhardt's crew chief. Hendrick has four strong crew chiefs now.

A few Earnhardt fans will have issues with his going to Hendrick instead of to Richard Childress Racing. They wanted him to follow his father and go to RCR, hoping he might drive the No. 3. That never was an option. Earnhardt had no desire to drive the 3 his father made famous.

His becoming Jeff Gordon's teammate will be tough to swallow for the Earnhardt fans who also are Gordon haters, especially the ones dating back to Dale Sr.'s rivalry with Gordon.

But the smart Junior fans know he made the move that gives him the best chance to win a championship. That's what his father would want.

Like the Yankees getting A-Rod, Hendrick Motor Sports went from being #1 to undisputed #1

Signing Earnhardt Jr. to join Gordon and Johnson gives Hendrick Motorsports a formidable lineup of driving talent and popularity.

Gordon and Johnson have combined for 106 victories -- 79 for Gordon, fifth best all-time, and 27 for Johnson. Mears got his first career Cup victory last month in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt Jr. has won 17 races.

Earnhardt Jr. also has won the circuit's most popular driver award for the past four years, each time by landslide margins in voting by fans.

Rick Hendrick has had 2,299 entries in Nextel Cup races. His first race as a car owner came in 1984 with Geoffrey Bodine driving a No. 5 Chevrolet. Bodine got the team its first win in that car that year on April 29 at Martinsville.

Meanwhile, in another example of basketball being set back a few years, The Spurs and Cavs put on a 147 point slugfest

Bowen buried four 3-pointers over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He grabbed a career playoff-best nine rebounds. And after he hounded — or fouled, depending on one's perspective — LeBron James into one last miss, the Spurs skipped off the floor at Quicken Loans Arena with a 75-72 victory that gave them a commanding 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals.

The Spurs will try to complete the sweep Thursday. No NBA team has successfully come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series.

"What a yeoman effort on his part," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Bowen, who played a game-high 44 minutes. "I just thought he was fantastic from beginning to end. He really set the tone for our team."

It was perhaps appropriate then that the Spurs were led by the league's runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year in a game that featured little offense. The 147 combined points were the second-fewest ever in a Finals game. The 27 total points in the third quarter matched the fewest in any Finals quarter.

Suffice to say, neither team did much to drive up ABC's ratings.

"That's OK," Bowen said. "We've won ugly many a game. Ugly can be good."

The Spurs won despite shooting 41.2 percent. Despite Tim Duncan scoring 14 points and going more than two quarters between baskets. Despite Manu Ginobili missing all seven of his shots and scoring just three points, all of which came on free throws in the final 10.4 seconds.

Which is to say the Spurs won the same way they usually win — with defense.

You don’t go into Pittsburgh and get a win

Another day, another disaster for the Rangers starting rotation.

Kevin Millwood may be healthy, but he's clearly not right. And Brandon McCarthy once again may not be healthy.

Oh, and the Rangers lost again, 7-5 to Pittsburgh. The storyline? You guessed it: The Rangers fell behind again by five runs. That's 26 times in 64 games they've trailed by that big a margin. They helped the Pirates with a bit of sloppy defense, watched the rotation ERA rise once again and then rallied back only to fall short.

Millwood, who was out a month with a bothersome hamstring, allowed leadoff home runs in three innings and didn't make it through the fifth. He couldn't pull his fastball to the bottom of the strike zone no matter what he tried. As a result, he's now 2-6 with a 7.82 ERA. His ERA has risen in each of the last seven starts.

"I threw a couple of fastballs where I wanted, but other than that. ...," Millwood said. "I don't know what's going on. I'm kind of lost. I'm trying everything I can to figure it out. I'm healthy. My legs feel fine. My arm feels fine. I'm just not pitching very well. I haven't seen anything even close to this before."

And the news on the rotation – ERA now 6.92! – gets even worse.

McCarthy barely made it through a between-starts bullpen session. The cracked callous on his right middle finger tore again, and he's questionable for his Thursday start. He said he will try to throw today, but if it needs more rest the Rangers may be forced to put him on the disabled list until the issue can be solved. McCarthy already had one start skipped because of the issue.

Odd as it sounds: McCarthy, Robinson Tejeda, who starts tonight, and Jamey Wright, who returns from the DL on Saturday, have been the reliable members of the opening day rotation. The Rangers are 12-13 when they pitch.

The thing is, Millwood and Vicente Padilla were supposed to be the rotation's foundation. Both won at least 15 games last year and pitched 200 innings. This season: They are a combined 4-14 with a 7.57 ERA. The Rangers are 6-17 when they start.

"It makes it awfully difficult, but they are only human," manager Ron Washington said. "It's nice to like them when they are going good, but you have to trust their track records. They've just got to keep taking the ball and going out there to try and fix it. We're not going to take it from them."

Like me, Gil likes McCarthy’s run

In the interest of fairness, I would like to propose that we introduce the McCarthy Exception.

The McCarthy Exception is to be invoked whenever one feels the urge to disparage Rangers pitchers with adjectives more commonly used by sailors at sea.

For example, "Boy, those &^#!! Rangers pitchers are lousy, except for Brandon McCarthy."

Or, "The Rangers rotation makes us want to move to Oklahoma, except for Brandon McCarthy."

As staff ace Kevin Millwood continues to be pelted like a piƱata and Vicente Padilla leaves the Earth's orbit on his way toward Mars, please remember to utilize the McCarthy Exception.

He has earned it with five -- gasp, five! -- quality outings since an April in which his best burnt offerings couldn't even find the plate.

McCarthy in April: six starts, four losses, a 9.90 ERA.

McCarthy since April: six starts, three victories and, not counting the brief night when he had to leave the game because of a torn blister, a 2.23 ERA.

McCarthy's latest start came last Saturday and was a no-decision, though the Rangers
somehow woke late and rallied to make it the most memorable night of the home season.
Traded to the Rangers in the off-season, McCarthy pitched the first five innings
that night, allowing only one run, and then retired to the clubhouse to later watch the rare magic unfold.

"That was the most excited I've been for a baseball game in a long time," McCarthy said of the Rangers' come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Milwaukee.

Jamey Newberg speaks on the Porcello debate in his Report:

While on the subject of things that irritate me, here's one that I have no problem addressing: Rick Porcello. Would I have been pumped to see Texas take a shot on the high-profile high school righthander, especially at pick number 24? Sure. But the media is completely missing the point on the reason Texas and a whole lot of other teams did not use a pick on the 18-year-old, considered by many to be the top high school arm in last week's draft.

It's not the money.

Well, for some teams it probably was. Scott Boras is reportedly seeking $7-10 million to keep Porcello from attending the University of North Carolina.

But why are reporters everywhere ignoring the bigger piece to this puzzle?

Porcello wants a major league contract.

I spent 30 minutes the other day researching to come up with an exhaustive list of the high school pitchers who have gotten big league deals to start their careers. A complete rundown of the pitchers in that category, so we can once and for all look at the wisdom of going down that road from a franchise standpoint, and decide whether Porcello is worth adding to that illustrious registry of young pitching prodigies.

Here goes.

Todd Van Poppel and Josh Beckett.

Not Jeremy Bonderman or Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels or Scott Kazmir or Clayton Kershaw or Matt Cain or Adam Loewen or Homer Bailey or Chris Gruler or Gavin Floyd or Mark Rogers or any other high first you can think of in recent years (or in any year).

Van Poppel and Beckett. That's it.

How many innings do you think those two Texas-bred righthanders pitched in high school, compared to the New Jersey-born Porcello? Is Porcello ready to pitch a full, unregimented minor league season? Can his team afford, on the other hand, to bring him along methodically when the options clock begins ticking as soon as he reports to duty?

He would get a fourth option by way of the loophole that addresses players who have exhausted three options before five full seasons as a pro, but so did Van Poppel, and we know how that worked out. How do you think the Tigers will feel if they put $8 million in Porcello's pocket and he goes on to pitch for six big league clubs, mostly in middle relief?

Beckett made it pay off. And Porcello might, too. But are the odds good enough that they warrant that sort of bonus commitment?

Van Poppel made less in his career (a little more than $7.5 million) than Porcello will probably get from Detroit before he throws a minor league pitch.

And one additional reason that Texas might have had not to go down the Porcello path, an issue that Detroit didn't face: Let's say the Rangers took Blake Beavan at number 17 and Porcello at 24. At 35, not wanting one Boras pick to hold up the other, Texas passes on leadoff-hitting center fielder Julio Borbon and takes another high school pitcher -- maybe Neil Ramirez (whom the club took at 44 and was in fact the first high school arm taken after 35).

The Beavan slot calls for about $1.5 million, the 35 slot around $1 million. If Texas took Porcello between them, and agreed to pay him upwards of $8 million in a $1.3 million slot, how would that affect negotiations with the other two high school righties, Beavan and Ramirez? Probably not positively.

Every reporter in town is making this out to be a black and white issue --Texas passed on Porcello because of his asking price! -- but I think thatignores two bigger issues: the demand for a big league deal, and the impact that taking him would have had on talks with the other high school pitchers the club drafted high.

JJT’s Cowboys Chat

David Chase Speaks as the Soprano’s debate rolls on…

Since Chase is declining to offer his interpretation of the final scene, let me present two more of my own, which came to me with a good night's sleep and a lot of helpful reader e-mails:

Theory No. 1 (and the one I prefer): Chase is using the final scene to place the viewer into Tony's mindset. This is how he sees the world: every open door, every person walking past him could be coming to kill him, or arrest him, or otherwise harm him or his family. This is his life, even though the paranoia's rarely justified. We end without knowing what Tony's looking at because he never knows what's coming next.

Theory No. 2: In the scene on the boat in "Soprano Home Movies," repeated again last week, Bobby Bacala suggests that when you get killed, you don't see it coming. Certainly, our man in the Members Only jacket could have gone to the men's room to prepare for killing Tony (shades of the first "Godfather"), and the picture and sound cut out because Tony's life just did. (Or because we, as viewers, got whacked from our life with the show.)

Meanwhile, remember that 21-month hiatus between Seasons Five and Six? That was Chase thinking up the ending. HBO chairman Chris Albrecht came to him after Season Five and suggested thinking up a conclusion to the series; Chase agreed, on the condition that he get "a long break" to decide on an ending.

Originally, that ending was supposed to occur last year, but midway through production, the number of episodes was increased, and Chase stretched out certain plot elements while saving the major climaxes for this final batch of 9.

"If this had been one season, the Vito storyline would not have been so important," he says.

Much of this final season has featured Tony bullying, killing or otherwise alienating the members of his inner circle. After all those years viewing him as "the sympathetic mob boss," were we supposed to, like his therapist Dr. Melfi, finally wake up and smell the sociopath?

"From my perspective, there's nothing different about Tony in this season than there ever was," insists Chase. "To me, that's Tony."

Chase has had an ambivalent relationship with his fans, particularly the bloodthirsty whacking crowd who seemed to tune in only for the chance to see someone's head get blown off (or run over by an SUV). So was he reluctant to fill last week's penultimate episode, "The Blue Comet," with so many vivid death scenes?
"I'm the Number One fan of gangster movies," he says. "Martin Scorsese has no greater devotee than me. Like everyone else, I get off partly on the betrayals, the retributions, the swift justice. But what you come to realize when you do a series is you could be killing straw men all day long. Those murders only have any meaning when you've invested story in them. Otherwise, you might as well watch 'Cleaver.'"
One detail about the final scene that he'll discuss, however tentatively: the selection of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" as the song on the jukebox.

"It didn't take much time at all to pick it, but there was a lot of conversation after the fact. I did something I'd never done before: in the location van, with the crew, I was saying, 'What do you think?' When I said, 'Don't Stop Believin',' people went, 'What? Oh my god!' I said, 'I know, I know, just give a listen,' and little by little, people started coming around."

Whether viewers will have a similar time-delayed reaction to the finale as a whole, Chase doesn't know. ("I hear some people were very angry, and others were not, which is what I expected.") He's relaxing in France, then he'll try to make movies.

"It's been the greatest career experience of my life," he says. "There's nothing more in TV that I could say or would want to say."

Sports Bullies look at the Rangers Draft

Cats that look like Hitler

Bear Grylls eats a fish – Man vs. Wild - Discovery Channel on Friday Nights

Weenie and the Butt


CFB123 said...

Bob, I couldn't agree with you more about Junior. I'm sure that the redneck #8 fans are really struggling with things today...that's the best part of this whole thing.

How can they litter the track with debris when Gordon wins a race again seeing as how he's now Junior's teammate?

As for Junior himself, it was definitely a smart decision. Like you said, if you can't beat them, join them. If they weren't already, Hendrick Motorsports is now certainly the Yankees/Cowboys "evil empire" of NASCAR. I love it.

Jay, Christi and Andrew said...

How is no one mentioning the Sammy Sosa idiocy from last night's game. A double high off the wall and you're tagging up?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can they fine him this morning? Then, after all that with the bases loaded and no outs you can't score?!!!!!! This is what I hate the most about the Rangers. It's like t-ball mentality out there. Please relegate them.