Saturday, July 22, 2006

Tour de Awesome

posted by BH

Seriously. I really meant to make several posts regarding the Tour de France this year. I have watched every day of the Tour for the past four years, and an early July call to Dish Network and an upgrade to the 180 channel package made that possible again this summer. I apologize. Here it is, the day before the final stage that will take the remaining riders into Paris, and this is my first post.

At the beginning of the Tour, I was rooting for Americans George Hincapie and Floyd Landis, though T-Mobile German Jan Ullrich was on the short list of BH rootees. Ullrich won the Tour in 1998, the year before Lance Armstrong started his domination. Since then, he has played second fiddle, as maybe the best rider to ever be looked at as a sucker. On the eve of the Tour's start though, Ullrich was booted, along with the other favorite, Italian CSC rider Ivan Basso, who had been on Armstrong's heels over the past two years.

At the beginning, it looked good for Hincapie. He finished second on the short prologue. Landis had a flat tire or something, and finished farther back in the pack than he wanted, while still proving himself formidable. Every year, the early stages are dominated by sprinters. They are relatively flat, keeping the peloton together and riders bunched until the final kilometers of the stage. There are the usual suspects; the Thor Hushovlds, Robbie McEwens and Thom Boonens of the racing world, and the General Glassification (GC) riders such as Landis and Hincapie stay in the pack, knowing sprinters are worthless on hills.

When the Tour hit the mountains, Hincapie crapped out. I had been holding out hope for him after he had won a mountain stage last summer. He had become the de facto leader of Team Discovery after the departure of Armstrong, though there were the beginnings of rumblings about perhaps the leader becoming Ukranian Yaroslav Popvich as the tour progressed. As it stands now, that is probably the case next season. Popo won a mountain stage, and Hincapie has languished, well behind the leaders throughout the race.

Landis distinguished himself from the rest of the field on the Alps d'Huez, perhaps the most famous climb in the Tour, earning the yellow jersey. Everything was pointing to Floyd holding the jersey until Paris. A funny thing happened on the next stage though. Landis took a giant crap on his bike. Early in the stage following the Alps d' Huez, Landis looked spent. A late acceleration by his group left Landis barely able to keep his cadence, and his bike, moving up the hill. He was written off, losing eight minutes to new leader Oscar Pereiro.

I remember waking up the next morning, thinking, "Hey, this is Floyd Landis we're talking about. This guy is a stud. Why can't he make up eight minutes on these guys?" When I turned on the television to check the status of the race, Floyd was up seven minutes on the leaders, and his gap was widening. He had left the peloton on the first climb and maintained his lead throughout. That. Never. Happens. Smaller groups almost always get caught by bigger ones. By the end of the stage, Landis had made up seven-and-a-half minutes on the leaders, and sat 30 seconds behind Pereiro in the GC, with only a flat stage, the last time trial, and the ride to Paris left. Today, he put a minute between himself and Pereiro in the GC after an ass-kicking time-trial. Tomorrow, he will ride toward Paris, and if all goes well, the 2006 Tour de France title.

Prior to the race's beginning, I had been thinking about whether this year's race was going to live up to what it had become when Armstrong was blowing guys away year after year. Each time he took a title, Lance, did something that made everyone realize that this guy was a machine and definitely the best Tour rider we'd ever seen. I really wanted this year's Tour to be exciting, living up to the Lance-ish moments we had become used to seeing. At the same time, I knew it wasn't going to happen. I thought about u2 coming out with the Pop album in 1997, and me trying to convince myself it was great, but knowing the whole time it wasn't. I knew I would try to convince myself it was great. Tomorrow is the ride to the Champs-Elysees, and I can say this is the best, most exciting Tour I've seen. Seven guys have worn yellow. Floyd Landis rode the best, most dominant ride I or anyone else has ever seen to get back into the race. With Armstrong, everyone knew he was going to calculate his way to a win. With Landis, anything can happen, and has, which has made it more exciting than any Lance-won Tour. This Tour needed to have a winner who had earned it, and Landis did that.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Knee-jerk Reaction -- Confounding

by SonDog

I waited for the news on Friday that Shea Hillenbrand was coming to the Giants. Seriously, I checked ESPN all day after reading Buster Olney's blog this morning that the Giants were considered the favorites to land the man who's manager challenged to a fight. Since his dust-up with the Blue Jays, I had a feeling that the moody infielder would soon be a San Francisco Giant. It made too much sense, given the Giants needs, for this trade not to happen.

That being said, I am saddened, shocked and somewhat pissed that Brian Sabean gave up Jeremy Accardo in this deal. While Accardo has been somewhat inconsistent the last two years, he's a guy who has at times looked unhittable. At 25 years old, Accardo is the type of pitcher that the Giants should be building around as they go through their 2007 rebuilding year. At worst, Accardo is a solid 7th/8th inning guy who could get you to your closer. At best, Accardo is Joe Nathan - Part Duex.

In Hillenbrand, the Giants get a guy who will probably walk at the end of the year, or go ape-shit before that time if the Giants fail to remember his birthday. For a rent-a-player with marginal power at best, the Giants gave up way too much.

It makes me think, if the Giants had packaged Steve Kline and Accardo, could they have received Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez from the Reds a couple of weeks ago? Seems to me that the Reds received comparable relievers in return for the pair of regulars when they traded them to the Nationals.

For Sabean's sake, hopefully Accardo turns out to be nothing more than a margianal reliever and Hillenbrand becomes Jack Clark.

Monday, July 17, 2006

NBA Musings

by SonDog

-- Bonzi Wells better make a decision soon. I know he's holding out for more money, but in turn it appears to be handcuffing the Kings in their search for new talent. Granted, all we've heard to this point is Darius Songaila.

-- Whither Kenny Thomas? Is Geoff Petrie going to be able to trade his massive contract? Has he even bothered to call Isiah Thomas at this point? I mean, Thomas has cornered the market on undersized power forwards, so you would think he would be drooling over Thomas. And if Petrie does trade Thomas, can SAR be a defensive presence. There were times last year where I swear I could have out-rebounded Shareef.

-- I'm still questioning the Quincy Douby draft pick. LSU's Big Baby weighs more than Douby, Francisco Garcia and Kevin Martin combined.

-- I will have plenty to say between now and November regarding the Sacramento arena ballot issue. According to my sources (OZ), several groups that plan to protest the measure are already forming. They site, among other things, the San Francisco Giants' ability to build a privately-funded park, as well as the San Francisco 49ers' proposed privately funded park. This, of course, is a fallacy of reasoning, but those who are closed-minded tend not to care about such things.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Giants Mid-Season Report

by SonDog

I am pretty sure there are two people (yes, you, BH, and you, Stapes) that read my baseball musings, but whatever. I'm writing directly to you two, and if other people are reading, well, I hope you enjoy and learn something.

Here are my thoughts on the Giants at the symbolic halfway mark:

-- It was nice to see Jason Schmidt say publicly that he would like to return to the Giants. While part of me doesn't want to believe that Schmidt should get a four-year deal in the $50 million range from the Giants (considering he turns 34 in January), it's hard to argue against how good this guy has been over the last five years. Matt Morris isn't necessarily ace 1A that the Giants thought they were getting when they signed him, but Noah Lowry, Matt Cain and Brad Hennessey are all veritable locks for this rotation for the forseable future. (By the way, if Hennessey isn't in this rotation by August, I may drive to San Francisco and shoot Sabean and Alou in the head myself.)

-- I am totally looking forward to next season's makeover. Look, if the Giants win the West with this collective group of old farts and goes on one of the most inspiring "this is our last chance so let's win the whole fucking thing" runs, you can both tell me that I'm an idiot. But with the exception of the young pitching, this team doesn't excite me at all. Bonds, Alou, Durham, Finley, Benitez, Kline, Worrell, Matheney (as much as I love his toughness) and Vizcaino flat-out bore me these days.

-- Editor's Note: I know that previous comment is near sacriliget to say about Bonds in some circles, but its the truth. I no longer make sure that I watch every pitch of every Bonds at bat like I did as recently as last September. I can honestly say that I have found myself changing the channell to Family Guy or some other mind-numbing form of entertainment during a Bonds at bat on more than one occasion this season. His time with the Giants is nearly over, and we have all come to accept this in one form or another. I'll be able to tell my son someday about the inherint beauty of a Bonds at bat in his prime (like, 34-40 year-old, puffed up prime) and be glad to talk about it, but sadly it is time to turn the proverbial page on what has in many ways become a sad ending to an incredible career.

-- If given the current roster, coupled with the fact that I were the GM of the Giants on MLB 2007, X-box version, I would keep the following players for next year's roster (reasonable contractual terms taken into consideration): Randy Winn, Pedro Feliz, Mark Sweeney, Omar Vizquel, Lance Niekro, Eliezar Alfonzo (in a backup role... with emphasis on the word backup), Kevin Fransden, Matt Cain, Noah Lowry, Brad Hennessey, Matt Morris (if only because he has an untradeable contract and will throw 200 innings), Armondo Benitez (just kidding), Kevin Correia, Jonathan Sanchez, Brian Wilson and Jeremy Accardo.

-- I can't believe I'm about to say this: I really hope Sabean re-signs Pedro Feliz. He's solid when hitting seventh in the order, and his defense at third is the best we've seen since Matt Williams.

-- Why is it that anytime the Giants sign or trade for a leadoff hitter in recent years, that player suddenly becomes allergic to stealing bases? Think about it: Kenny Lofton, Ray Durham, Tsyuoshi Shinjo and Randy Winn all became absolute crap base stealers once they came to SF. Durham couldn't walk to first without pulling a hammy, Winn suddenly gets thrown out twice as often as he is successful, Lofton was old (how is this guy still in the league?) and Shinjo was Shinjo.

-- If Sabean trades any of these young pitchers for a rent-a-player, I will call for his firing.

-- Will Tim Lincecum join the team at the end of the year? Some say he is the next Chad Cordero. Some say he's the next Roy Oswalt. I just hope he's not the next Jessee Foppert.

All-Star Garbage

posted by BH

Was it just me, or was the intro for last night's game the worst thing ever? Firebombing of Dresden, Holocaust...Fox's intro to the 2006 All-Star Game. Who thinks of this garbage? It looked like the intro to a bad 1986 pilot that was never picked up. Why is Fox interested in single-handedly trying to ruin baseball? Why is their entire broadcast concept seemingly centered around appeasing those people who are the least interested in baseball? Why does anyone think Tim McCarver and Joe Buck are the least bit good at their jobs? Hey douchebags. Do you know why everyone in baseball thinks the best broadcast team is Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow? Because they don't talk and act like Buck and McDipshit. They don't tell me what a good play is, they just tell me what has happened. They let me decide. So I guess it all comes down to the idea that as a broadcaster, you probably shouldn't talk as though you think of fans as a brainless mass of ogres. Remember when Buck immediately, upon seeing Randy Moss mimic mooning fans in Green Bay, self-righteously chastised him, calling it a "disgusting act" and apologizing for having shown it on a Fox broadcast? You aren't the approval police, Joe. You don't get to tell me what is or is not good. You get to call the game, maybe adding witty little observations from time to time. Please, stop. Just stop. You're ruining baseball.

I'm totally looking forward to the Giants having one representative in next year's ASG at AT&T Park. It should be sweet seeing Jeremy Accardo get an out in the seventh inning. Yay Giants!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Stuff I Seen

posted by BH

Italy won the World Cup, but more importantly they won the "Fall Down Like Wieners After Little or No Contact and Exagerate the Pain As Though A Leg Needed Amputation" Cup. I'm pretty sure this was the largest collection of divers this side of (please insert some place where people dive a lot...I don't know). Zidane's head butt in overtime was pretty bad, but Materazzi's fall was Oscar-worthy. For a guy who acted like his sternum had just been split in two, exposing his heart and lungs to the gnashing teeth of the evil and ruthless Zidane, he sure was back in the game quickly. Dave O'Brien, who called the game for ABC, describing Zidane's move, was heard to utter the word, "vicious" at least eight times over the rest of the match. He also described it as classless, and thoughtless. Thank you, Mr. O'Brien, for trying to play ABC's version of Joe Buck. CALL THE GAME!! How has moral evaluation wandered into the realm of the sports broadcaster? Self righteousness is great. A quality we should all possess and exercise.

Nice catch the other night, Jim Edmonds. It was awesome how you did that thing you always do, in which you run just fast enough to be in the right position to make a great catch. You are the most over-rated fielder in the history of baseball.

Um, who voted for A.J. Pierzynski to make the All-Star team? Seriously. It has become my mission to find you and destroy your computer. I don't think that's enough though. You probably need to be sterilized. There is no justifiable reason you should be able to produce and raise children. Your tires need to be slashed. You shouldn't even get to own a dog. You shouldn't get to own a fucking roll of toilet paper. If you voted for A.J., I hate you. Piersynski? The guy who was on the ballot because he was on the receiving end of a ginormous ass-kicking? There's this Liriano guy in Minnesota who's pretty good, and, you know, deserving. There are seventy-three other guys who should have been on that team before Pierzynski. Were there not enough White Sox having mediocre seasons named to the team? If one were to spend three weeks teaching a nine-year-old little league right fielder to play catcher, you know who he'd be better than? A.J. Pierzynski.

Monday, July 03, 2006

"Hi. I'm hungry, and full of shit." AQ-USA-PROTEST.xml&src=rss&rpc=22

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About 150 protesters sat in front of the White House on Monday to savor their last meal before starting a hunger strike that some said will continue until American troops return from Iraq. The demonstration marking the Independence Day holiday was organized by CodePink, a women's anti-war group that called on volunteers to abstain from eating for 24 hours from midnight on Monday.

Some protesters said their fast would continue beyond July 4th.

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, said she would drink only water throughout the summer, which she said she would spend outside President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

"This war is a crime," Sheehan told a crowd of clapping, cheering protesters. "We represent millions of Americans who withdraw their support from this government."

The demonstrators crouched in the muggy evening next to a piece of pink plastic, spread down the road as a table and table-cloth in one. It was covered with wilted pink sunflowers and plates of vegetarian curry, white rice, and beans.

The demonstration aimed at highlighting the costs of the war, in which more than 2,500 U.S. soldiers and thousands of Iraqis have died, said CodePink spokeswoman Meredith Dearborn.

"We have to put our own lives on the line, and I'm willing to do that," said activist Diane Wilson, who pledged to fast until the United States withdraws from Iraq.

Dearborn said 2,700 other activists nationwide, including actors Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, would work as a relay team passing the fast daily from one to another.

This is what passes for a protest these days? From

The most well known and highly publicized act of self-immolation by an American took place on November 2, 1965. Norman Morrison, a devout Quaker and father of three, immolated himself outside of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's office at the Pentagon. As if the location was not notable enough, there is another reason that Morrison's self-immolation gets more attention than other acts of self-immolation in America. Morrison brought his infant daughter with him to the Pentagon that day.

Um, fuck you and your "passing the fast daily" relay team.

Mile High Mystery

by SonDog

In honor of legendary, Hall of Fame ESPN baseball writer Peter Gammons, who is in ICU in a hospital in an unknown location, I would like to briefly discuss the Colorado Rockies.

To many, the Rockies are still an unknown team. That being said, I would LOVE it if the San Francisco Giants followed the current model of the Rockies as far as player development.

Earlier this season, after watching the Rockies at Spring Training in Tucson, AZ, I was a little harsh on the guys from the Mile High city. However, after 1/2 of the season, and after attending 7 Rockies games in person, I have to admit (and this may come as no great surprise) that I was wrong. In fact, I have never been more wronger.

Many Giants fans have cried for youth this season. I'm a firm believer that the current Giants roster, with an average age of 73, is simply too old to sustain a season-long run to prosperity in the National League. Do I think the Giants can look like a great team on any given night? Yes. Do I think these old farts will look great consistently come October? No.

The Rockies' top-three starters are home-grown pitchers. In fact, the team is currently tied for third.. Yes, THIRD... in the National League in ERA. We've all heard a lot about the humidor at Coors Field. In fact, A's manager Ken Macha claimed that baseball should investigate this mysterious device. While the humidor may indeed be making a difference, there is no doubt that the Rockies' pitching staff as a whole is light-years ahead of previous models. The team's development of several sinker/slider pitchers with thick skin has had a greater effect than any humidor.

Aaron Cook, Jason Jennings and Jeff Francis can pitch. Colorado suddenly looks smart not to trade Jennings at last year's trade deadline (the Giants were rumored to be interested).

In the bullpen, Jose Mesa is on some sort of performance enhancing drug (or crack), but Brian Fuentes and Ramon Ramirez have been lights-out.

The lineup is solid. Although, I have a few thoughts about Todd Helton (who I suspect was on the juice, no doubt about it - although I have absolutely no factual data or hard evidence of any sort to substantiate that ridiculous claim) He has regressed to the norm. If you look at his career stats, he hasn't had a 100-rbi season since 2003. My inside sources also tell me that he is one of the biggest booze hounds in baseball (again, I have absolutely no factual data or hard evidence of any sort to substantiate that ridiculous claim). It appears unlikely that Helton will ever hit like he did in the early part of the decade.

In addition to Helton, the Rockies have developed a pretty powerful lineup comprised of primarily home-grown players. All-Star Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe and Garret Atkins have been outstanding. Some feel that these players numbers are inflated due to Coors Field, but that seems absolutely contradictory to the feeling that the Rockies' pitching success is due to the humidor and the fact that Coors Field is not as much of a hitting paradise any longer. In fact, Of Brad Hawpe's 15 homers, 10 have come on the road. In fact, Hawpe's numbers on the road (.342 BA, 32 RBI) absolutely dwarf his numbers at Coors (.265 BA, 14 RBI) Of Holliday's 15 homers, only 8 have come at Coors.

Clint Barmes isn't hitting at all this year, but he eventually should be a solid utility middle-infielder in the Jose Vizcaino mold. That being said, he is simply holding the fort for Troy Tulowitzki, who from all accounts is a star in training. Also on the horizon is 3B Ian Stewart, who looked like the best hitter on the team in Spring Training. Stewart has had a rough season to this point in Tulsa (AA), but he still has the potential to be the best home-grown player of the bunch.

Can the Rockies win the NL West this year? I don't think so. Their inexperience in pennant race situations is bound to catch up with them. That being said, they now have a solid nucleus from which to work with and (if they re-sign these players, a la GM Daniel J. O'Dowd's history with the Cleveland Indians) they will likely be a team to beat in the NL West for years.