Friday, September 30, 2011

LDS Preview

Baseball is by no means an error-free sport. The DH, game stoppages, and lack of time limits make the game so unbelievably dragged out that even true fans need to break up the monotony of pitcher to catcher. But the second season is undeniably fantastic. Why? Because baseball is probably the perfect watch-at-a-bar sport. You can converse with your friends and not feel like you're missing anything. And it's very easy to pay attention because if you do miss something, the rest of the bar will alert you with the proper sound effects. Commercials aren't even a problem because the bar will replace it with music. And finally, towards the later innings, when you would normally get into the is-this-game-still-happening mode, you're too buzzed to care. Kinda like now, when you're too bored at work to care that you're wasting time educating yourself on this sports blog.

American League Division Series:

YOUR New York Yankees in FOUR
KOBEsh: Because Justin Verlander is only one man. He might be my MVP pick, but he can only pitch two games in the series. Also because Doug “I Can’t Believe This is My Real Name” Fister,  and Crazy Eyes Scherzer have both never pitched a big game in their lives and are now counted on to shut down the Yankees lineup, with Fister pitching one, potentially two, games in the Bronx to win the series.

A lot is being made of Verlander being able to beat teams single-handedly. If there’s anyone in the American League that can go pitch for pitch with Justin Verlander, it’s CC Sabathia. He doesn’t have to be better than the AL Cy Young-elect, he just has to keep pace.

Why the Tigers could push it to FIVE
Bocker: If Verlander beats CC tonight, the Yanks will either get swept, or they'll win in 5. This is because we have yet to see how SuperNova will react to the weight of an entire city upon his shoulders. Does he have the moxy to outlast the red-hot Doug Fister? Or will he fold under the bright lights, just as an average rookie would do? The most likely event is that Freddy Garcia is losing to Max Scherzer in Detroit. If Verlander wins tonight, and if Nova successfully counters, CC will probably lock up Game 4 against Rick Porcello. That would leave a somewhat frightening Game 5 matchup of Verlander against Nova. But not for me: this Yankee team is too gritty to lose a deciding game at home.

Rangers in FOUR
B: The Rays will always be the "feel-good" story of baseball. A phenomenal scouting department leads to a great farm system, which allows them to keep a low payroll every single year. Furthermore, Joe Maddon is probably the best manager in baseball, leading his team to the playoffs after losing such key guys as Carl Crawford, Matt Garza, Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, and Carlos Pena. Unfortunately, this year's team was just the beneficiary of an epic Red Sox collapse. They're not really that good. For them to pull off the upset, their starting pitching has to be lights out. Big Game James Shields can be counted on for a win, but Game 1 starter Matt Moore was just born yesterday, and hasn't faced an "A" lineup yet. Game 3 starter David Price is so wildly inconsistent, which isn't the recipe for a loaded lineup, featuring the likes of KOBEsh favorite Adrian Beltre.

Why the Rays could push it to FIVE
K: Because neither team is particularly dominating. Both teams have their flaws, most notably in their rotations – the Rangers will throw out CJ Wilson, but beyond that, an unproven Derek Holland, inexperienced Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis will not come together like Voltron to make a Cliff Lee. Adrian Beltre hasn't played a playoff game since 2004, when Jeremy Hellickson was 3 years old. This series is going to be like going a reputable comedy club around 6 pm; you're going to see a lot of terribly imperfect play, you're going to feel excruciatingly uncomfortable, but you're going to find out who's good and who's not. Big proving ground and undoubtedly the best series out of the four.

National League Division Series:

Brewers in THREE
K: First and foremost, they have home field advantage, which bodes well for the Brewers, as Milwaukee is often referred to (in Algonquin) as “the Good Land”. Much like the Cincinnati Reds last year, I see the Diamondbacks getting blitzed in what will be, for most of them, their first-ever postseason appearance. Arizona, despite a feeble-looking offense on paper, actually had one of the highest walk-rates in the National League, fulfilling their offseason goal of striking out less and walking more. They grind out at-bats, much to the delight of their manager Kirk Gibson, wear down opposing pitchers and play excellent defense. They are the inverse reflection of Mark Reynolds; as if removing him from the team was penicillin to the team’s syphilis. Not that I know anything about that.

HOWEVER – The Brewers give up the 2nd least amount of walks in the National League and are 5th in strikeouts. Even if their stellar starting pitching wears down (a rotation rounded out by Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf), their bullpen has weapons like K-Rod, My Father the Hero Takashi Saito, Jon Axford and Jon Axford’s moustache. Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders are a formidable trio, but I don’t see them winning any games in Milwaukee.

Why the Diamondbacks could push it to FOUR
B: I usually reserve hate for guys who fail in the Bronx and go on to achieve success elsewhere. But I'm all-in on Ian Kennedy. I'm backing him regardless of the fact that he'll go up against any of the elite 3 Brewer pitchers.

Phillies in THREE
B: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels. Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter. No need to write excess words.

Why the Cardinals could push it to FOUR
K: I’m giving the Cards a game because if Halladay, Hamels and Lee hold the Cardinals to one run a game, it’s still going to be hard to win because the Phillies' offense has been a shadow of the machine it was once was. Eventually, it should be enough to get around Carpenter’s rotation mates. With Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals could be the favorites in the National League. Without him, they are a first round pain in the ass for the Phillies. Carpenter could give them a game, even though Halladay, Hamels and Lee all are experienced, fearless and determined.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The 2011 MLB Mambinos

Murder. Rape. Announcing regular season awards during the playoffs. 3 crimes, all of equal importance. Since we enjoy our non-prison lifestyle, here are the winners of the 2011 MLB Mambinos!

National League Most Valuable Player: Ryan Braun

Runners-up: Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp (KOBEsh's pick)

KOBEsh: I’m 27 years old, and I still don’t know what “Most Valuable” means. I hear different arguments from a everyone. I’ve heard that the MVP has to be which player from a playoff or near-playoff team brings the most value. The Simmons-ian argument is “If you had to start your team and win in 2011, who would you pick?”. You could also go with the sabermetric argument and decide which player brings the most wins above a league average replacement player (otherwise known as WAR).

I go with a slightly different and even more crude argument; it’s the “which player would your team be MOST screwed if you didn’t have him?” In other words, if you subtracted that one guy’s skills, leadership and other intangibles from that guy’s team, which guy would leave his team the most devastated?

By my count, there’s no man in the National League who would leave his team in worse shape by going AWOL than Matt Kemp. As I detailed a few weeks ago, he has dragged a team full of overpaid stiffs, injury wracked veterans and inexperienced rookies to a winning record. Somehow he has thrown up numbers that rank in the top 3 in average, slugging, OPS, homers, RBI, runs scored, steals, wins above replacement, intentional walks and total bases despite being surrounded by a band of underachievers, has beens and never His leadership and incredibly consistent play (both offensively and defensively – don’t forget that last part) have kept this team from losing 95 games.

Prince and the Hebrew Hammer have had incredible years, but if you were to take one of them off of that team, they still would contend for the NL Central title. More importantly, the difference Kemp makes on the defensive end is miles ahead of where both Brewers candidates are.

Pujols is a robot. I am going to cut and paste this section every year, because he rightfully should have a perennial spot in the top five for MVP voting. Upton, similar to Kemp in performance but not necessarily in numbers, has taken an otherwise feeble offense on his back and led them to respectability and an NL West title.

BockKnock: Matt Kemp is the National League Player of the Year. He's not the MVP. Yeah, the Dodgers would be so much worse without him, but guess what? Being third in the NL West is the same thing as being fifth in the NL West. Both of those teams won't play in October, and that's all that matters.

I disagree with the Boss. You can't assume that the Brew Crew would contend for the Central Division title if they lose Ryan Braun. Losing a middle of the order hitter who is the face of a franchise has effects on the rest of the team that are unmeasurable. It's kind of like when you plan a college reunion with your buddies, and one of them can't go. Not only does everyone know the trip won't be the same, but there will be little reminders of it along the way that everyone doesn't expect.

American League Most Valuable Player: Curtis Granderson

Runners-Up: Justin Verlander (KOBEsh's pick), Miguel Cabrera (BockKnock's pick), Jose Bautista

K: Which player would your team be MOST screwed if you didn’t have him? In the American League, that’s got to be Justin Verlander.

I’ve heard the argument that pitchers shouldn’t be included in the MVP voting because they have their own award. That’s absolutely true, but there’s no way that you can equate the MVP with the Cy Young. As I detailed before, the qualifications for the MVP are pretty nebulous. The Cy Young however, goes to the best pitcher in the league. There is no other criteria involved, or some bogus adjective like “most valuable”. The award simply goes to the one pitcher who dominates, regardless his team success (Felix Hernandez), if he is a human cancer (Roger Clemens), the nicest guy in the league (Greg Maddux) or a complete weirdo (Barry Zito). The Cy Young is not the MVP for a pitcher. There is no reason why pitchers shouldn’t be considered for the MVP.

If you took Verlander off of that Tigers team, they possibly could have lost at least half of his 25 wins. In fact, 16 of his wins happened after a loss, 3 of which happened after a 2 game losing streak and 2 of which happened after a 3 game losing streak. He was a steadying influence on an otherwise unsteady rotation. Beyond his domination on the mound, the mental and emotional stability that he gave to the team knowing that they could always depend on him is an intangible that can’t be measured with WAR and shouldn’t be discounted because he only played every fifth day. He would be the guy you started your team with in 2011 and the man you’d be most screwed without.

B: I didn't even rank Justin Verlander. I'm just not gonna include pitchers in an MVP discussion after realizing that Pedro Martinez didn't get the MVP when he was scaring the living daylights out of roided-out monkeys. KOBEsh says that the Tigers could have lost about half of Verlander's wins. Well, looking at the standings, the Tigers still would have won the division anyway.

My Ryan Braun argument doesn't apply to Verlander or any other pitcher. Sure, if "The Best Pitcher Alive" were to go miss a whole season, the Tigers would be emotionally depressed for every game, similar to how the Brewers would feel if Braun went down. But Los Tigres would not lose any tangible assistance for 4 out of every 5 days. On the other hand, losing Miguel Cabrera...way different. The guy's just barely sober every time he steps to the plate, and he still rakes it!

Condolences to Jacoby Ellsbury. Not even his unbelievable statistical season could save the Red Sox from being disgraceful.

National League Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (unanimous)

Runners-Up: Roy Halladay, Ian Kennedy, Cliff Lee

K: The choice is Clayton. No pitcher has ever taking home the triple crown and not won the Cy Young award. More importantly, he has superior statistics in almost every way to Ian Kennedy, which is the criteria here. I have the three Phillies starters rounding out the ballot, which should scare the crap out of any team left in the playoffs.

B: No argument here. 21 wins for the Los Angeles McCourts? Done and done.

American League Cy Young: Justin Verlander (unanimous)

Runners-Up: James Shields, CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver

K: The more interesting argument is who comes after Verlander, and why. If it were any other year, James Shields would have won with a ridiculous 11 complete games, a sub-3.00 ERA, and 225 strikeouts. CC isn’t far behind, with slightly inferior statistics, but more wins and bonus points for being the only dependable source of starting pitching on that staff (Yanks fans, you can’t tell me you’ve found rook Ivan Nova, Fat Bartolo Colon or Fragile Freddy Garcia reliable). Jered Weaver would have won the award if it were given out in July.

B: Expounding on the 11 complete games for James Shields...he more than doubled the total of the 2nd highest total in the American League (5 by King Felix). Roy Halladay had 8, but he pitches in the Junior Varsity league.

National League Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel
American League Rookie of the Year: Mark Trumbo

K: Despite his September swoon, Craig Kimbrel has struck out 126 batters in 76.1 innings. He ranked 41st in Ks, striking out more guys than Josh Collmenter, Vance Worley and Dillon Gee…in less than half the amount of innings. He’s done so with a sterling ERA, a sub 1.00 WHIP, all while holding guys to a .175 batting average.

I’m very aware of Ivan Nova’s 16 wins, Michael Pineda’s first half and Jeremy  Hellickson’s ERA. But my man Mark Trumbo thundered into the 5 spot in the Angels lineup, smacking 29 jacks, bringing in 87 runs and slugging .477, while playing in 149 games. Also, his name just makes it sound like he’s going to hit 30 homers a year. Mark TRUMBO. Say that out loud.

B: Didn't even vote for these two. I don't really care about this award, save for SuperNova. Calling it right now: he will FLATTEN the Tigers.

National League Manager of the Year: Ron Roenicke
American League Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon

K: As I’ve detailed before, the Manager of the Year award, in any sport, is (for lack of a better word) pretty bunk. It always seems to go to the guys whose teams defy expectation. For example, Bud Black won the award last year for managing a surprising Padres team to a near-division title when they were not expected to contend. The year before it was Jim Tracy, under similar circumstances with the Rockies. Two years before that Bob Melvin won the award with the Arizona Diamondbacks that lost nearly 100 games the year before that. You can go down the list year after year, and that’s almost always the case. Why isn’t it that the manager who does the best job wins? Why isn’t it the guy who motivates the team properly and does his job and makes hi team live up to expectations? Sure, Joe Girardi has a $200 million dollar team, but how difficult is it to get those guys to live up to all those expectations in the most intensely scrutinized market on the most scrutinized team in America? Same with Charlie Manuel, Tony LaRussa and Jim Leyland?

This year it has to be Ron Roenicke in the National League. He had tremendous pressure on him to win now, in his first year at the helm, with only 1 more year of Prince Fielder, and almost certainly only two more years of Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke. He got Corey Hart back on track, kept Prince focused on the field (not his free agency) and managed an excellent bullpen. This team was supposed to be good – Roenicke made it great, and under highly-pressurized circumstances. It's absolutely unsurprisingly that yet another member of Mike Scioscia's staff has taken over a team and made them into another reflection of Scioscia; hard working, focused and all about the game.

Speaking of which, Roenicke's American League compatriot has to be Joe Maddon. To be honest with you, this award should be Joe Maddon’s as long as he is managing in the AL East and with Alex Rodriguez’s salary as his payroll. Somehow he has gotten a bunch of guys who know they won’t be in Tampa very long and are up against nearly $350 million in payroll.

B: You, loyal reader, have made it this far without quitting on us. I shall reward you by making this the last sentence.

Other things that happened last night besides the Red Sox Collapse

Some other things happened last night besides the Red Sox collapse. It's going to be covered to death today, so my thoughts on it are not unlike anyone else's. But yes, other events happened that didn't involve Jonathan Papelbon blowing a save with two outs and two strikes, Jon Lester seeing a fantastic pitching performance turning into a no decision and Ryan Lavarnway hitting into a double play with the bases juiced in the top of the 9th inning. I mean, there were other men playing baseball besides Derek Jeter 2.0, though his mother still probably calls him "Robert Andino", who figuratively, emotionally and physically punched Red Sox Nation in the gut. Seriously, other games occurred that was not the one in Baltimore, where the 69-93 Orioles were complicit in one of the worst collapses in the 100 plus year history of baseball. I'm not joking everyone - there was more than the 20th loss of the month for the Red Sox, leading to them relinquishing a lead on the wild card once unheard of, even by the brightest minds in the blogosphere. Hopefully you got the point - the Red Sox lost. Let's go down a list:

1. The Atlanta Braves replicating the Red Sox in the National League

On September 1st, the Red Sox held an 8.5 game lead on the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL Wild Card. On that same day, the Atlanta Braves held an 8.5 game lead on the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Wild Card.

The Braves, in similar fashion to the Red Sox, blew a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning with an All-Star closer on the mound. Fortunately for the Braves, their loss occurred an hour before the Red Sox loss, and became 2nd half hour Sportscenter fodder when compared with the game in Baltimore. The Braves' demise is just as incredible as the Red Sox, but without most of the press. It's really a shame that their terrible play and incredible collapse won't be written about as much as it should be because of the incredible game in Tampa and the media crush on the Sox. The Braves deserve the same scrutiny and soul-crushing Pedro Gomez sit-down interviews that the Red Sox will endure over the next few months.

What was most surprising about the Braves was how devoid of energy the team was. With the exception of Tim Hudson, Dan Uggla and surprisingly Kris Medlen, those 25 guys looked like they knew they were going to lose that game. As MAMBINO correspondent and Braves fan numero The King pointed out to me, there was never a minute last night where you thought the Braves were going to win. Playing a Phillies team that had dominated them this month, a usually ice-blooded Craig Kimbrel looked petrified up there trying (and failing to) nail down a save. Freddie Freeman took his ABs as if he knew that a double play was coming. Every swing that Jason Heyward took had "pop out" written all over it. The Braves played scared, they played weak and they played like they had already lost. They deserve all the criticism the Red Sox are getting, and will unfortunately dodge a good portion of it.

2. Matt Kemp almost had a 40/40 season

Matt Kemp very nearly had the triple crown this year, leading the NL in homers and RBI, but not average (coming in third to Jose Reyes and then Ryan Braun). But with that out of reach with only two games left to play, Kemp realized that a 40 homer/40 steal season (done by only 4 other players EVER) was still possible.

Kemp's first two ABs of the night didn't go well - he got hit by a pitch and meekly grounded out to shortstop. The outlook of a 40/40 season became bleaker by the pitch. The game got out of reach for the Diamondbacks, with the Dodgers taking a commanding 7-0 lead in the 7th inning. Most likely with only two at-bats left in the season, Kemp drove the first pitch of the at-bat into left field for his 39th homer. 40/40 season is still in sight.

I would give you a detailed account of what happened during Kemp's 9th inning at-bat, but I was too busy watching Evan Longoria hit a walk-off home run at the exact same moment. I read that Matt struck out swinging.

3. Stephen Strasburg gave up 1 hit in 6 innings

He might strike out 300 guys next year. He's back, and he's incredible.

4. Jose Reyes pulled HIMSELF out of the game after virtually securing a the NL batting title with a hit in the first inning

Ted Williams once had the opportunity to sit after accruing a .3998 batting average with a double header to play and even though the statisticians would have rounded up for him. However, went out there and played anyway, to LEGITIMATELY get to .400. Jose, no one's gonna cryogenically freeze your head for that type of behavior.

5. Jose Valverde his 49th game of the season in 49th chances, and his 51st overall

Whatever. Eric Gagne saved 85 steroid-free games in a row. Call me next August when this might be a possibility.

6. Mike Napoli continued to stick it to his former squad in Anaheim

The day that the LA Times publishes an article decrying the Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells trade as one of the worst trades in Angels history, Napoli gave a gigantic middle finger to Anaheim in the form of two home runs. Napoli batted .339 against the Angels this year, with 4 home runs and a 1.073 OPS against them in 2011.

7. Evan Longoria had the worst home run this side of Mark McGwire

The only iconic home run that was a meeker home run than Longoria's was McGwire's record-breaking 62nd home run in 1998. Michael Kay on the YES Network barely got a "See Ya!" in because he couldn't tell if what Evan's hit could be (what would only happen at Tropicana Field) a home run . We're going to consider that a home run in the annals of history, but here at MAMBINO HQ, it's an inside the park-er. Hit the gym and prep the syringes Evan. That was pretty weak.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Matt Kemp for MVP - Because Peter Gammons Says So

I don't want to be a impartial. I don't want to be objective. I don't think anyone would ever say I'm capable of having any of those qualities as a human, let alone as a writer. I am a complete homer. I love the Lakers and I love the Dodgers. So my saying that I think that Clayton Kershaw deserves the Cy Young should come as a surprise to no one, and much to my delight, has come with little disagreement.

In the same vein, my invisible National League MVP vote would go to Matt Kemp. My reasons are pretty cut and dry - he ranks in the top three in average, hits, runs scored, RBI, homers, steals, slugging, OPS, total bases, extra base hits, intentional walks and wins over replacement player. He's carried the dead weight of a Dodgers corpse stricken with the rigor mortis of Rod Barajas, Dioner Navarro and Casey Blake to a respectable record. He's the lone force to be reckoned with in a feeble Dodgers' lineup, and has somehow connected with enough pitches to force that impressive resume of offensive statistics. Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols are all having great seasons with playoff-caliber teams. But they have help. Take Kemp away from that Dodgers team, and they lose close to 100 games.

But don't take my word for it. Take Peter Gammons':

"But at the risk of setting off yet another MVP-defining firestorm, from this scenic overlook Kemp is the National League's most valuable player. And before beginning the litany of his statistical achievements, let it be noted that his 37th home run came in PETCO Park, where flyballs die, and that his numbers have been accumulated playing nearly 100 games at Dodger Stadium, PETCO and San Francisco's AT&T Park"

Gammons has a fantastic point here. Park factors being what they are, Kemp has destroyed pitching in Dodger Stadium (.981 OPS), Petco Park (1.058 OPS) and AT&T Park (.695 OPS, but against the team with the lowest SP ERA and in the park that allows the least amount of runs in the majors).

I might be a total homer, with my opinions constantly colored by my home team bias. But if the GOAT of baseball journalism says it, you all have to listen. And that's the bottom line. Because Peter Gammons says so.

Friday, September 23, 2011

KOBEsh's Greatest Hits

I'd like to ask our loyal follower (might not be a typo) to wish the Mambino CEO a happy birthday today. And in honor of the day, I present to you his best posts:

-Gets the 4-spot because he kinda stole Simmons' idea. But he makes up for it by going more in-depth.

-Just an absurd account of an absurd human being. Can't make this stuff up. Well, I guess you could make up some of these stories, but then he'd be even more of a loser than he already is.

-The grandaddy of all the Mambino posts, but it was probably mostly due to a tweet from the holier-than-thou founder of Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove. You get the feeling that if KOBEsh ever met Frank McCourt, he'd let the moment pass him by...but he'd at least THINK about insulting him in person!

In my not-so-humble opinion, the best post on this little shindig of a website. Entertaining and insightful -- the perfect combo. LeBron James is the most culturally significant athlete on this planet, and my blog bro tells you why.

Linking to his best posts might move my own little gems farther down the Mambino hit list, so soak it in my man. If I get worried, I'll just write about the US Women's Soccer team again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This is an Owner's League - Why the players will lose in the NBA Lockout

Today is September 22nd. It is a Thursday. The end of next week will be October, which is followed by Monday, October 3rd. You know that. You have an iPhone. But beyond this lesson in chronology you just had, October 3rd is the scheduled dates for teams in the National Basketball Association to begin its training camps for the 2011-2012 season.

If they were to start on time that is. As news floats in from various outlets, the hope that this NBA season will commence without any games missed is slowly becoming even smaller and smaller every day. (At this moment, I would like to give a big, giant F U to Chris Sheridan, who said that there was a 70% to 80% chance that the NBA season starts on time).

For those of you completely tuning out any and all news of the bargaining between the NBA Players Association and the NBA owners because a) you don’t understand it, b) you understand it, but can’t be bothered with the details and just want to know when it’s over or c) you don’t understand it, but would like someone to do your work for you, you lazy American who is the reason why the terrorists win, then let me break down into very easy, digestible parts:

- The 30 owners of the NBA, collectively, lose money every single year. As in, the costs of running their business outweigh the profits that they bring in.

- There are a maximum 450 player jobs available for NBA players. The owners are (and I’m simplifying a lot here) saying that the players make too much guaranteed money, and that is one of the root causes for their multi-million dollar annual deficits.

- The players are giving the rebuttal of “We worked hard for this money, we are not taking a pay cut when the industry is bringing in BILLIONS each year. We are the product on the floor and the main reason for business. There are many other avenues for you [the owners] to cut costs. Do that. Don’t make us accountable for your shoddy bookkeeping and mismanagement”.

- And thus we have the owners locking out the players (a very important note: this is not a strike. A strike is when the worker's union wants something that the owner will not give. The owners are not allowing this season to happen because the players will not agree to change how much they make. The players are very happy with the current arrangement. The lowest NBA salary is in the low six figures, and Rashard Lewis made 23 million dollars last year).

I’ve been saying this all year long that the NBA season is not going to start on time (though my blog brother here has thought otherwise - as a Knicks fan, false hope is in his blood). In fact, there is a strong chance that the NBA season will be wiped out entirely. This is not a point of pride for me. I’m bummed out that I think I have been right all along.

The NBA owners are completely willing to sacrifice an entire season. A lot of these ownership groups are also NHL owners (or at least took extensive notes from that lockout several years ago) and see that in order to remake a broken system, they have to be willing to sit out an entire season (maybe even two), which is what the NHL owners did before they got an very favorable deal and are now turning record profits.

The NBA is not run like a lot of other companies. If you work in accounting at a paper manufacturer, and the company starts going into the red in profits, you’ll probably be taking a pay cut, if you have a job at all. If you work for the state in the Parks Department, and they tell you that you're taking furlough days, you can either take that pay cut or find another job. Sorry Leslie Knope.

Professional basketball players are different. They cannot be fired or quit and replaced. These are the best players in the world. Letting them go has more significant repercussions than letting an accountant go. Like all unionized workers, NBA players cannot be given a “pay cut” so to speak without massive negotiations between the union and the owners. Also, unlike a lot of other companies or industries around the world, the players, or workers, represent the product itself. They are the product itself.

In a lot of ways, I think the players are right - but this is a chicken and the egg scenario. The players are only there because of the owner's capital, and yet the owners only bring in money because of the players. Who is most responsible for the league's success? You and I can argue that point all day. More importantly, the players have earned their money. They are not awarding Jerome James $30 million dollar deals for 2 weeks of good work or Josh Childress in excess of $25 million for that cute afro.

But the players will not win.

All NBA owners are millionaires or billionaires many times over. They bought NBA teams as an investment, but in the case of guys like Mark Cuban, just something for a rich fat guy to do as a play toy. A very expensive play toy. They can survive this lockout, even if it lasts an entire season, two if need be. True, they will lose hundreds of millions. But they will do it for the sake of turning a profit for hopefully the next 10, 20, 30 years. They will make up lost revenue, hopefully, with a new agreement with the players for as long as they own the teams, tenures that in the case of the Lakers, Knicks, Jazz, Pistons and Wizards, can last for decades. If worst came to worst, the owners don’t need the NBA to survive. But the players sure as hell do.

Do the players have alternatives? Sure. A lot of people are crowing about how the basketball world is different now than it was during 1999, the last lockout. There are tons of alternatives - a rumored "barnstorming tour" (a glorified traveling All-Star game) and a dozen overseas leagues that are much more competitive, not to mention lucrative than they were 10 years ago – see Kenyon Martin’s $3 million plus deal he reportedly just signed with the Chinese basketball association (the best thing about this lockout so far? We are being guaranteed zero Kenyon Martin exposure for a year).

But the truth is that like everyone else, no one really wants to move to Turkey, (except for Hedo Turkoglu and Memhet Okur). No one wants to spend 6 months away from their families and friends out in Istanbul, Lyon, Hamburg or Moscow for a small fraction of what they make in the NBA, but without the luxuries given by the NBA. The players don't want to play each other in glorified pick-up games in Rucker Park or play in non-competitive All-Star games in Beijing or Mexico City. They want the truest and highest level of competition in the world. They want to play NBA basketball.

Even more important than any factor the players will face personally, is that the owners are willing to sit out one or two years of what could be a 20 to 40 year run in the league. One or two years to a player could be his entire career, or in the case of even the longest tenured player, at least one-tenth of it. Especially with millions at their disposal, the owners can sacrifice a year or two to gain for their own greater good. The players can't afford to throw away these prime years of their earning potential, considering the window for their specific skills so rapidly opens and shuts.

In some aspects, the players do have leverage. They are the product on the floor. Flawed as they are, other avenues to playing basketball exist. What I find most distressing is that in all of their interviews that I read, a lion's share of the players don't seem to have a grasp on why this lockout is happening.

In one article, I see both Jermaine O'Neal and Corey Maggette focusing on one issue: revenue sharing. In response to the key issue of this lockout, O'Neal offers his opinion: "If it's about small-market teams not profiting, if the owners are really using that as a bargaining tool, if you're really concerned about it, then why aren't you profit-sharing like the other leagues are doing?" Maggette goes on to voice similar sentiments.

I've heard this from about a dozen NBA players. I don't know all the information. I haven't looked at the books or the numbers and i certainly don't have an inside source with anyone with the league or any of the 30 teams. But I know that the hard line issue is that the owners are losing money, and they need the players to give it back. Jermaine, if the owners COLLECTIVELY are losing $300 million a year, then how does revenue sharing allay that problem? The deficit doesn't shrink because you spread it out amongst everyone. Regardless of everyone is averaging $10 million in losses or 20 teams are averaging $15 million in losses, it still adds up to $300 million in losses. The money needs to come from somewhere else. Yes, revenue sharing creates smaller holes for every team to dig themselves out of, but at the end of the day, the profits need to expand, period. The money needs to come from somewhere. Unfortunately, it's going to come from the players.

As ill-informed as some of the players seem, it's indicative of where their mindsets are. They want a quick fix to this. They are throwing around buzzwords like "revenue-sharing", "profit margins" and "depreciation", without a real base of knowledge, but knowing that they all turn the focus back on the guys who own the arenas and cut the contracts. They are putting the onus on the owners and trying to find ways that the players do not have to change their ways of life.

Obviously a lot of people are going to align with the players on this one. No one wants to take a pay cut and give that money back to "the man". I'm sure it doesn't look any better that a league of black players are being asked to give money back to a largely white ownership group for an enterprise that grossed over 3 billion dollars last year. But the truth is that they need to give in. The owners cannot collectively come together and agree to not give $30 million dollar contracts to mediocre players. That's collusion, and the NBA Players Association (not to mention the US legal system) would quickly squelch that movement.

The short term losses are going to hurt, but the truth is, with the model that is currently present, at least 2 teams are going to be contracted. You think losing 6% of your income is bad Derek Fisher? What happens in a league of 450 players when 30 jobs are no longer available? I know that the players enjoy the current system as currently constructed (Luke Walton), but its this system (Brendan Haywood) that is going to eliminate 6% of current available jobs rather than 6% of income for 100% of current available jobs (John Salmons). This is about the long-term health of a league. Unfortunately, the battle is coming down between the owners, who plan to be in this for the long term, and the players, who for the most part, are only in this for the short term. These short term gains for the players have to last them for the long term.

I understand both sides, and sympathize with everyone, but the players just don't have enough juice here. They are fighting for what's beneficial to them, not to the prolonged financial success of 30 franchises, the fans and the other employees of the sport that don't have numbers on their backs. The league will not survive as currently constructed without them giving something back. Maybe not everything the owners are asking for, but close to it.

The players are bringing knives to a gun fight. They'll lose, and all we'll have to show for it is a winter without NBA basketball.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Skinny Kid from Panama

Ruth, Boggs and Damon played for the Red Sox.
Mantle was an alcoholic.
Joe D married a sloot.
Reggie was a dickhead to his teammates.
O'Neill slammed Gatorade coolers.
Giambi, Clemens, Pettitte, and A-Rod took performance-enhancing drugs.
Wells won a Babe Ruth game-worn hat in an auction, and sweat into it while pitching a real game. (This was slightly cool, actually)
The Big Unit assaulted a photographer.
Leyritz killed somebody!
Torre threw his own players and his former employers under the bus with a tell-all book.
Jorge went passive-aggressive on us, taking himself out of the lineup after Girardi batted him 9th.
Even the Captain, as great as he is, revealed his frustrations about contract negotiations to the public.

So many transgressions from so many Yankees. And then there's Mariano Rivera. When people use the pause button on Yankee-hating hour, they often speak of Derek Jeter. They laud Jeter for his class. They praise Jeter for being clutch. They envy Jeter for his stable.

What about Rivera? He has been the consummate professional for his entire career. Talking heads will certainly mention in the coming days that he always "played the game the right way," but up until they do so, he certainly hasn't received the attention that the shortstop has.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Who's ya Daddy, Floyd

One of the earliest memories I have from my childhood took place during a normal East Coast winter. I was riding in a sled with my little brother down the relatively steep slope of my backyard. Obviously, sledding is the tits, but the experience was truly fun because of the man who was pulling the sled down. That dude was my dad.

Everyone who grew up with well-balanced parents knows that it's not just about putting a roof over one's head or food on the table. It's more about cheering the children on at athletic events, bonding during super long road trips, and most importantly, teaching life lessons that could never be learned in a classroom.

Last night, Floyd Mayweather extended his undefeated streak with a knockout win over Victor Ortiz. If you haven't witnessed the mayhem, I'll try to be succinct. Ortiz landed a headbutt in the midst of his first successful flurry of punches against Mayweather. During the delay in which the referee was required to deduct a point from Ortiz, Ortiz profusely apologized to Floyd for his actions. As he was doing so, Floyd landed two consecutive blows to Ortiz's face. The referee, who had seemingly lost control of the situation, stopped the fight and Floyd raised his arms in celebration of his 42nd victory.

I'm certainly not the only one who had to shower after Floyd's dirt came through my television and stained my clothes. Google "Mayweather" and one of the suggestion options will finish with the phrase "cheap shot." However, multiple reports have stressed that the referee did in fact call time in. Even more people blame Ortiz for being too apologetic, declaring that "the first rule of boxing is to always put your hands up." Regardless of what really happened, this fight will taint Floyd Mayweather's legacy forever. A real champion acts with class. Not only does a real champion win the right way, but a real champion wants to win the right way.

Let's backtrack to the weeks leading up to the fight, when Floyd had yet another public outburst with his father. Looking straight into the camera with an undeniably outstanding poker face, Floyd remarked, "I don't need my father."

How fitting. With that one statement, Floyd told the world that he really does need his father. A good father would never have let this happen.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Let's Be Positive! - What fans of non-playoff teams have to look forward to in September

Maybe you’re like me. I don’t mean Asian, or incredibly handsome and devastatingly insecure. No, none of those things. Maybe you’re a baseball fan that doesn't know what to root for anymore. Maybe your team is out of postseason contention and perhaps your fantasy squad has long since been eliminated from the playoffs. It’s a rough part of the season for (let’s face it), most of us.

As I detailed a few days ago, only a handful of teams are still in realistic contention and most standard fantasy leagues are winding down to their last few participants. Lackluster trades, poor team management and failed expectations are the recurring themes for those of us whose real life baseball teams have been mirrored in the realm of Yahoo fantasy baseball. This should be one of the best times of the sporting year; the NFL and college football seasons in their second weeks of play, the pennant races in full swing and the NBA gearing up for October training camps. Unfortunately, Los Angeles is still team-less, the Boston College Eagles are a pitiful 0 – 2, the Dodgers have cratered and the mention of the NBA brings a sadness to my heart reminiscent of when Deena found out her secret admirer was actually Donkey Lips (handle that one)

But that’s why I’m writing this post. Hopefully this will serve as a form of catharsis for those of us afflicted from the September swoon of subpar sporting suffering (Oh yeah, you like that alliteration? I went to college).

I’m going to go through the 20 teams out of playoff contention, point out the bright spots amongst the smoldering embers of the 2011 season and hopefully give you a reason to watch your mediocre, inadequate or perhaps downright atrocious team in the remaining days of September. This is one of my rare “glass half-full” posts. I will finish each paragraph with an exclamation point. This is like a clear summer night in Seattle - stop whining and enjoy it.


Baltimore Orioles: Zach Britton is back in the majors after a summer in Norfolk with the AAA squad. He's going to be the future of the team regardless of the 17 earned runs he gave up in his last 7 major league innings before his callup (bad news is that those 17 ER were spread over 3 starts). Matt Wieters is doing his best Joe Mauer circa 2009 imitation over the past month and a half!

Chicago Cubs: Starlin Castro continues to be one of the most exciting young players in the league. Amazingly, the Cubs are the only team in the entire majors not to have ANY of their top 10 Baseball America or Baseball Prospectus prospects on their big league roster. I'm graspsing here Chicago. Hopefully spectulation of Billy Beane coming to town ramps up in September? Moneyball comes out on the 23rd!

Chicago White Sox: Dayan Viciedo needs to be as good as advertised and Zach Stewart's recent 1 hit shutout of the Twins should make for some good dozen ball games left. Adam Dunn could set the modern major league record for lowest batting average ever by a non-pitcher qualifying player. In three September games, he’s hitting 1 for 8. Still something to shoot for!

Cincinatti Reds: Surprisingly, the Reds might be the most boring September team on this list outside of the Cubs. They keep on throwing out aging players (Edgar Renteria, Ramon Hernandez) or guys that run super hot and cold (Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips) and their most exciting pitcher just got ruled out for the remainder of the season (Johnny Cueto). But Joey Votto keeps mashing and their top prospect, Yonder Alonso is batting .375 since his callup!

Cleveland Indians: Lonnie Chisenhall, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana should all be Cleveland infield fixtures for the next 8 seasons. Jim Thome is back. Ubaldo’s been up and down, but every start is another test to see if the Drew Pomeranz trade was worth it. Maybe the most significant September out of these 20 teams. Also, Major League is on Netflix!

Colorado Rockies: After a terrible start to the season, both Tulo and Carlos Gonzalez have been destroying pitching the second half, especially August. Each hit over .340 last month with over 1.000 OPS. Drew Pomeranz (the main piece in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade) gave up 2 hits in 5 innings in his big league debut against the offensively gifted Reds. Rex Brothers is absolutely unreal out of the pen, with 54 Ks in 44 innings. Lot to still watch in the Sunshine State. Gorgeous!

Houston Astros: Shyikes. This one is going to be challenging. Astros starting pitching is actually not half bad – they strike out a lot of people. They’re 6th in the NL in strikeouts and 11th in the majors. Strikeouts are fun! Also, you can watch Brett Wallace knowing he can’t be much worse than he is this year!

Kansas City Royals: Watching Eric Hosmer absolutely rake and Alex Gordon shed his “bust” label. Looking for signs of life out of Mike Moustakas. Hoping Danny Duffy shows that plus-stuff he's supposed to have. Plus, you’re not in last place!

Los Angeles Dodgers: Jerry Sands, Dee Gordon, Tim Federowicz and Justin Sellers are hitting a combined .217. These could be four 2012 projected starters for YOUR Los Angeles Dodgers. Sweet. I’m using a microscope to see if there’s any redeeming qualities to their September play. I will then hit myself in the face with said microscope, repeatedly. No exclamation point here. Can't even muster it.

Miami Marlins (yes, really): Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison are two of the most exciting young players in the league...and two of the dumbest. Matt Dominguez has to prove he can play 3B in the majors. Also, Ricky Nolasco has given up at least 4 earned runs in 5 of his last 6 starts. Let's see if he can continue his hot streak!

Minnesota Twins: From all reports, Ben Revere is one of the fastest guys in the league. That's all I got. Sorry Minnesota. Adrian Petersen is great!

New York Mets: Bobby Parnell has been pretty bad this month, but from all indications, he might be the closer next year. Pray he doesn't suck, Queens. Lucas Duda is the only top 10 prospect on the roster right now. Overall, it looks like the Mets are being the Mets. But go to that stadium though. It's real nice!

Oakland Athletics: Seeing if Jemile Weeks and Michael Taylor have it in the majors (though Weeks has mostly proved it). Brandon McCarthy highjacked what was left of Fat Bartolo's stem cells and revived his Weekend at Bernie's corpse of a career. Also, Moneyball comes out on the 23rd!

Pittsburgh Pirates: God, I hate this team. But still, Andrew McCutcheon is worth the price of admission every night, and Joel Hanrahan (if he gets in) is absolutely devastating. Roberto Clemente!

San Diego Padres: Kyle Blanks is only hitting .222, but he’s a legit 6-6, 270 lbs and looks like he’s 6-9, 320 lbs. He’s a black Frankenstein up there. If you think that’s racist, you’re completely correct. Also, here's hoping that Anthony Rizzo proves he's not an early bust!

San Francisco Giants: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong all have ERAs under 3.40. In fact, Tim Lincecum’s ERA at 2.59 is higher than all of the active Giants’ batting average except Pablo Sandoval (.308) and Nate Schierholtz (.278). Either way, you might see a shutout!

Seattle Mariners: Ichiro needs 30 more hits to reach 200 for the 11th consecutive season, with 13 games left to play. If he averages 4 ABs a game for all those contests, he’ll need to his at least .576 to reach 200. I believe in you Ichiro!

St. Louis Cardinals: Jason Motte is dominating the back end of the ‘pen, as he’s rapidly cementing his place as closer for 2012 and beyond. Albert Pujols broke his wrist, only missed two weeks (incredibly) and is 7 RBI away from 100 for the 11th straight year. He is a robot. PAY THE MAN!

Toronto Blue Jays: Brett Lawrie, JP Arencibia, Colby Rasmus and Joey Bats. This is the most exciting young team in the majors!

Washington Nationals: Even though he is going to be limited to around 70 or 80 pitches in his remaining two or three starts, Stephen Strasburg is an obvious "must-watch". But what I’m most interested in is Tyler Clippard. He’s striking out a fantastic 11 guys per 9 in 82 innings. Most importantly, I’m interested to see if his arm is going to fall clean off his body. I’m talking about ribs in a crock-pot for 8 hours fall off the bone. He’s thrown every other day for a month straight (15 games in 30 days). Ridiculous!

There you go. Hopefully I was able to shine some light on an otherwise dissapointing season for the lot of us. Unless you're a Cubs fan. That just sucks.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle, Palin

News broke today that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin engaged in a "steamy interracial hookup" (yes, those words were actually used) with Glen Rice. Knickerbocker fans remember Rice as the a-hole we got in return for shipping beloved legend Patrick Ewing to Seattle. The world continues to remember (rather unfairly) Palin as the dope who professed foreign relations competence because Russia happened to be in Alaska's backyard. Now, we can picture the glorious mental image of the consummation of love!

Big she frolicked with Glen Rice. Some places say they both were single, but who cares if they weren't? (Interestingly, one year after the alleged tryst, Michigan lost to Alaska-Anchorage in one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history. Means to an end. Like you've been so perfect your whole life. Whatever.) I could get really politically incorrect here, but I'll save that for private discussion. On a more friendly note, what did she do to get John McCain's approval for VP? Instead of scaring you away by being intelligent and talking about politics, the most obvious way to answer this question is to analyze McCain's potential to be an NBA player, compare him to Glen Rice, and see if that would have tickled Palin's fancy.

It would be pointless to analyze this situation as if McCain had declared for the Draft (see what I did there?) now. So we're gonna have to enter the Mambino time machine, all the way back to the 1960s, when the Senator would have been in his athletic prime.

According to the award-winning journalists at Wikipedia, McCain excelled at wrestling and even ventured into boxing. These sports are pretty brutal, so what we can see here is that the dude had courage. Throw in that whole "IN MY DAY, I was a prisoner of war (*old man voice*)" thing, and it seems safe to say that Johnny McCain wouldn't settle for a jumper at crunch time. No. He'd go to the rack, son. Maybe he'd get mauled because of his 5'7" frame, but at the very least, we'd be talking about an "I feel bad for how small you are" call from the officials, two shots at the free throw line, and thus two points. Doesn't take a caveman to know that white skin correlates rather nicely with high free throw percentages.

But this was my favorite Wiki line: "McCain came into conflict with higher-ranking personnel, and he did not always obey the rules, which contributed to a low class rank (894 of 899)." Yikes, Johnny. You have a little bit of Metta World Peace in you. We'll let that slide because your Intelligence Quotient is still damn respectable (133).

Projecting McCain's attitude, skills, and personality traits for the NBA, the best comparison would be:

J.J. Barea. As small as a thimble, yet fearless, with a relatively high basketball IQ. And because the lockout has prevented Free Agency from starting, both Barea and McCain are "mavericks." (LAME, I know.)

So would Palin let McCain teabag her? (God I crack myself up.) Well, Glen Rice was a phenomenal collegiate basketball player for the University of Michigan. This goes in his favor for two reasons: 1) Since he went to Michigan, he could not have been an Uncle Tom (right Jalen?); and 2) how could Palin have known that his NBA career would yield only 3 All-Star appearances?

We shall assume that Sarah did the dirty with Glen. If McCain = J.J. Barea, then it's not likely he'd make her as weak in the knees as Mr. Rice. But there's gotta be at least a little HJ action in there, right?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fictional Sports Movie Jersey Power Rankings

True story: I did not know that Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez was a fictional baseball player until I was 13 years old. "The Sandlot" was one of my favorite movies growing up. Squints, Yea Yea, Smalls, Ham and Benny - I wanted so badly to be one of those kids, and I think that my desire to be one of them eventually crossed over into what I perceived as reality. I thought that Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez was an actual Los Angeles Dodger. Not that this was so far fetched (a "Rodriguez" playing for a baseball team in Southern California? C'mon) but the seven levels of logic that is required for a thought to become a belief were bypassed that day I saw that movie. I automatically assumed that the protagonist of a Warner Bros film I watched where he snatches the ball from the mouth of a 200 pound dog and sprinted across the entire effing town with said animal chasing him was based on the real life of an actual baseball player. Thank God I grew up and don't believe in fake athletics anymore.

I always wanted a "Rodriguez #3" jersey. That is, until my childhood dreams were shattered and I found out he wasn't real. But ever undeterred, the thought of donning the garb worn by movie legend Benny The Jet gave me the idea to get jerseys based on famous (that word is in debate here) sports movie characters.

One of my favorite childhood movies is "The Mighty Ducks" starring the indomitable Emilio Estevez. I still don't know very much about hockey, but you bet your ass that what I do know, for better or for worse, comes from the 3 (yes, there were 3...all of them more glorious than the next) Disney movies.

True story: A couple friends and I went to a Boston College hockey game freshman year. Unbeknownst to us, there was such a thing as college hockey and even more significantly, the Eagles were downright dominant in it. Unlike our futile pursuit of the then Big East football crown, or our equally feeble NCAA Final Four tournament showings, Boston College Hockey was and is one of the best run programs in the country.

Out of sheer curiosity, boredom and of course, lack of alcohol, we marched our 19 year old behinds down to Conte Forum to catch a game. Not knowing what was going on and wanting to be generally obnoxious, my friends and I started calling out whatever hockey terms we knew; and naturally everything came back to The Mighty Ducks. After our 15th time yelling out "DO THE FLYING V", some girl told us to shut the fuck up. We still called for the knuckle puck every couple of minutes

However, that didn't stop me from pursuing and purchasing a personalized CONWAY #96 jersey.

Jerseys with fictional characters names on them are wonderful - a perfect way to wear another team's jersey without the scrutiny of saying you only wear a particular franchise's merchandise because you like the colors or you have some tangential, yet meaningless, connection to it. Have you ever been to Phoenix? Who cares, because that Rod Tidwell #85 jersey looks pretty sweet on you. What's that? You didn't even know that Cleveland had a baseball team? All you need to know is that Vaughn #99 jersey is rad.

So here it is. We here at MAMBINO HQ have painstakingly researched our favorite sports movies to come up with our Sports Movie Jersey Power Rankings.

The rules for these power rankings are as such:

1) The name on the jersey has to be distinct

ex. A Clark #5 jersey would bring back fond memories of Tony Danza in Angels in the Outfield. But if you rocked a Clark #5 jersey around, would people know what it was? Would a fan of even the film think "Did Will Clark play for the Angels?". The name on the jersey has to be distinct enough that it will raise a level of familiarity upon first sighting

2) The movie character has to be important enough where a jersey's production is warranted

3) The jersey has to be of a fictional movie character. If the movie is based on an actual person, then the jersey is disqualified

The rationale for this is that if the jersey is of real-life player, then you're just getting the jersey of that player, regardless if his production was/is far outmatched by his movie fame. The value and novelty is thus rendered meaningless. How selfish of you.

ex. RUETIGGER #45 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, PAPALE #83 Philadelphia Eagles, MORRIS #37 Tampa Bay Devil Rays jerseys are all memorable movie "characters", but they ultimately are all based on real life major leaguers, and are thus disqualified from these power rankings

4) The more clever the reference, the better the ranking

The top 10 could be ordered and re-ordered daily. Each one of these jerseys has a distinctive flavor to them, not just in the player's name, but also in the design of the jersey. The recognition factor that they will get will vary by generation of course, but for the purposes of these rankings, I'm judging based on the best and most prolific time for sports movies, my generation.

I've gone back and forth on how you would rank these beautiful garments against one another - how do you judge two character's jerseys as near and dear to you as say the immortal Charlie Conway or the fireballing Rick Vaughn?

When I was in college, I wore the Charlie Conway jersey to parties. Like all college males, I figured the more I stood out and the douchier I looked, the more chicks I would get. You can see how that worked out. I write my own blog. However, I would gauge how cool my jersey was by the amount of high fives I got at whatever party I was at. I couldn't think of a better measurement to judge a fictional movie character's jersey than high fives per hour, or HF/hr. And on we go.

Honorable Mentions: MOXON #4 West Canaan High School Coyotes, SHUTTLESWORTH #34 Lincoln High, RODRIGUEZ #3 Los Angeles Dodgers, BEAMEN #13, Miami Sharks, CLARK #5 California Angels, LALOOSH #37 Durham Bulls, POWERS, #55, Atlanta Braves

While it pains me to exclude the majority of these from the illustrious top 10 rankings, each simply didn't make the cut for different reasons. CLARK #5 and RODRIGUEZ #3 were simply victims of having too common of names to be interpreted as movie tributes first, rather than a possible real-life counterpart. MOXON #4, BEAMEN #13 and SHUTTLEWORTH #34 are excellent choices, great characters and iconic names, but ultimately, the jerseys are too plain and uninspiring to advance. LALOOSH #37 was a difficult cut here, but sacrifices have to be made in the name of excellence. Kenny Powers couldn't get enough love here because while the reference is somewhat obscure (there have only been 13 episodes in two seasons), it's an ongoing series and doesn't have a lot of heritage. Basically, it's too culturally relevant to be cool. This is all tempered by the fact that I could yell "You're fucking out!" every 7 seconds when wearing POWERS #55.

10. GOLDBERG #98, Anaheim Mighty Ducks

I’m not sure if Greg Goldberg is getting knocked down here because he is fat and I am one of the beautiful people. But the goalie for one of the greatest champions in the history of Minneapolis Pee Wee Hockey has to be recognized.
HF/hr: 4.5

9. MCGAVIN Caddy's smock

I would love to put Shooter McGavin or Happy Gilmore on this list, but unfortunately, golf professionals don’t really have jerseys. The fact that we have to lower the bar down to a caddy’s smock (because, seriously, who cares about caddys?) lowers their rankings. Still, it would be awesome to say “SHOOTAH”.
HF/hr: 3.2, but raised because who else wears a caddy’s smock?

8. ICEBOX #56, New York Giants

Ever wonder if Becky “Icebox” O’Shea got hot? Question answered. Hotzah matzah. Even my rampant misogyny and sexism couldn’t keep Icebox out of my top 10. (On a sidenote, if I had been 6 years older when this movie came out, I probably would’ve wondered why the writers of “Little Giants” would give Becky O’Shea such a cruel nickname. That’s messed up guys)
HF/hr: 6, but zero in New England.

7. VAUGHN #99, Cleveland Indians

I’ve got to admit, not only did Charlie Sheen’s recent media outbursts really hamper his earning potential in Hollywood, but also his standings in these rankings. Even his classic character Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn from Major League couldn't escape the over-exposed stink of Emilio’s brother.
HF/hr: 6.5, but sinking

5. FINKLE #6, Miami Dolphins

Finkle and Einhorn. Einhorn and Finkle. Einhorn…is Finkle! Einhorn is a man!
HF/hr: 8

5. ROWENGARTNER #1, Chicago Cubs

An egregious omit from my first draft of these Fictional Sports Movie Jersey Power Rankings. I dissapoint myself and my shame is eternal.

Henry Rowengartner was a 13 year old boy, who in a freak accident on the baseball field, had his elbow completely torn to shreds. As the doctors reset his tattered limb, they found that the tendons had healed in a way that he could now throw a baseball at not just a Major League level, but at an elite Major League level. Fast forward half the movie, Rowengartner is signed by the Cubs, becomes their star reliever and eventually wins them a pennant. Throwing away the physical impossibilities of such a medical anomaly actually happening, every single kid who saw this movie thought they could become Henry Rowengartner.

HF/hr: 9

4. TIDWELL #85, Arizona Cardinals

Since there are about 3 recognizable Cardinals players (pretty much ever), this one is going to stand out. The success and popularity of Jerry Maguire is only going to help the HF/hr. And plus, this is 20x better than a “Snow Dogs” jacket.
HF/hr: 10

3. CERRANO #13, Cleveland Indians

Extra plus points if you bring around a Jobu totem doll with you. Cerrano ranks higher than Rick Vaughn or any other Cleveland Indian from Major League because of the distinctness of his last name, and how large his package looked in that locker room. Not that I care about those sort of things. But it was impressive. What?
HF/hr: 11.4

2. CONWAY #96, Anaheim Mighty Ducks

The Captain Charlie Conway not only gets props because he led his Mighty Ducks to the 1992 Minneapolis Pee Wee Ice Hockey championship crown, but also because unlike a lot of the other contenders, the jersey is distinct (this Ducks jersey is no longer used) and the movie is immortal.
HF/hr: 13 (actual count)

1. GUMP #44, University of Alabama Crimson Tide

How could this not be number one? Forrest Gump is the most critically hailed movie mentioned on this list, and thus gets a special bump for being one of the only sports movies ever to take home Best Picture at the Oscars. The name sticks out, the jersey sticks out, everything about it is perfect. Roll tide.
HF/hr: 14

There it is. Our top 10. If you agree, disagree, vehemently disagree, chime in. We are an equal opportunity monarchy here at MAMBINO HQ.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Red Sox are making MAMBINO look bad - and other MLB notes

Not more than a week ago did I proclaim that nearly all the division races over and done with. In fact, I said that this is probably the least competitive second half in MLB history. And now the Red Sox are messing up my universe.

The Wild Card leader Red Sox have gone onto lose 10 out of their last 13, including the last 5 straight to their Wild Card runner-up Tampa Bay. The lead was 7 games on Friday. It's 3.5 on Monday.

Could this happen? Could we perhaps be witnessing an epic Mets-ian collapse from the Sox? 3.5 games with 16 to play, including 4 against the Rays at Fenway Park? It's no longer out of the question. Had the Sox taken one out of the four games at the Trop this past weekend, I'd say it's a long shot. But the deficit is mountable.

Scarily enough, this matchup isn't going to come down to starting pitching; I'd set the bar at relatively even. The Red Sox have a Lackey-Wakefield-Bedard crap salad appetizer in front of the Jon Lester and the ailing Josh Becket entree (that sounded way too NSFW for my tastes, but I really wanted to fit "crap salad" into a post today), while Tampa throws out the young vets in Price and Shields, but followed with Hellickson (who is 18 innings over his previous career high already), Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann and Matt Moore, who have the four of which have a combined 8 innings of postseason pressure-filled innings. The matchup isn't about offense either; the Sox have a definite edge, but it doesn't matter if you score 6 runs a game when John Lackey is giving up 7 per start. Also, with Desmond Jennings playing like we always thought BJ Upton should have, BJ Upton playing like he knows Desmond Jennings is taking his job, and the rest of the Rays offense waking up at the right time, the deficit between Tampa and Boston isn't nearly as pronounced as a month ago. What's left? The pen.

It might come down to Kyle effing Farnsworth and a 35-year old journeyman named Joel Peralta. Tampa's pen was absolutely decimated by free agency last year, and with the genius of Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey, have taken the otherwise lifeless and witless corpses from the scrap pile and made them into respectable baseball players. All things considered equal at this point, it's basically if the Red Sox offense can trump the Tampa Bay pen. I know it's much more complicated than this, but to distill the argument down to it's basic elements, it's David Ortiz vs. Kyle Farnsworth. I'm obviously picking the Sox to win the Wild Card. But not by much.


- Jose Valverde somehow has somehow saved 45 consecutive games, dating back to the end of last season. He is 9 away from tying Tom Gordon's consecutive saves record of 54, but still 30 away from touching Eric Gagne's completely clean and steroid-bereft consecutive saves record of 84 games.

- Which one of these lines would you take if you had to pick a Cy Young winner based on numbers alone?

A. 17-5, 204 K, 29 BB, 1.05 WHIP, .243 Batting Avg Against, 9 HR, 210.2 innings pitched
B. 18-5, 231 K, 51 BB, 1.00 WHIP, .210 Batting Avg Against, 13 HR, 213.2 innings pitched
C. 16-7, 211 K, 42 BB, 1.03 WHIP, .227 Batting Avg Against, 15 HR, 210.2 innings pitched

Pretty even all around. Incredible seasons. You made your choice?

A is Roy Halladay, C is Cliff Lee and B is Clayton Kershaw. I had B. Not just because I am a homer. I'm an incredible homer. But the choice is Clayton. Handle it.

- Speaking of homer-ism, I've covered the unbelievable season from the Dodgers (1 game below .500 today), who have somehow stayed decent despite incredible odds against them, both on the trainer's table and in the front office. But what about the Mets? The Yankees' toothless, red-headed, leper of a step brother (I'm not sorry for the Mets cheap shots today. I'd do it over again) has somehow overcome a similarly ridiculous rash of disabling injuries, front office mayhem and payroll cuts. Both these teams should have lost 90 to 100 games. They'll both end up around .500, or above it. Amazing.

- Nyjer Morgan is the Deshawn Stevenson of Major League Baseball. Which is to say he's an idiot.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

NBA Lockout ending soon!

In the past week, there has been plenty of good news concerning the greatest sport in the world.

While I have held through on my promise to follow the Premier League, it isn't futbol. And while beer will take the place of water tomorrow afternoon/evening, it isn't football.

Brace yourselves people...the NBA might be coming back to an arena near you. Here are 3 reasons why:

1. On Wednesday, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Players Association VP Maurice Evans (of the KOBEsh-despised Atlanta Hawks) launched an expletive-filled tirade with player agent Bill Duffy. Before I start explaining the details of this event, as well as its significance, let's take a step back.

(Why is Maurice Evans holding any position of authority within the Players Association? The guy enrolled to play at Wichita State, and then transferred to UT-Austin...because he had "philosophical differences" with his coach. Bro, you're playing at Wichita State. Did it ever cross your mind that collegiate players who go to those types of schools aren't really that good? And maybe you should have just stood in line like a good little boy? OK, I get that Mo is now an NBA player, but he's...Maurice Evans. People (including Mambino) get mad when LeBron James thinks he has enough clout to televise The Decision, but in reality, LeBron has enough clout to televise what he'll eat for breakfast every day. He is the most gifted athlete we have ever seen. Maurice Evans plays good defense and can throw down a dunk or two, but again...he's Maurice Evans.)

Sorry. ANYWAY...The reason that Evans and Duffy were arguing was because the agents are confused as to how the players think the give-nothing-back approach could possibly work. Real issue ALERT: because most NBA teams are losing money, the owners are going to get a better deal this time around. Billionaires beat millionaires 10 times out of 10, and if NFL fans don't give a crap, we should be glad the players are finally realizing this. We just want to see the games.

The only question is how much the owners will win back. Well, China won't give any players an out-clause to return to the NBA when the lockout ends. And the much-hyped tours and series, such as the Impact League, featuring a beloved BC Eagle alum who just barely passed English, can't find enough corporate sponsors to extend play for anything more than a couple of weeks. Throw in the reported infighting between the union and player agents, and that little thing we call "leverage" is giving the one-finger salute on its way out the door.

2. In the past week, both sides engaged in the first back-to-back negotiation sessions. Furthermore, both sides are bringing their "full bargaining committees" to the table next week. Since everybody that is reading this plays at least one fantasy sport, the importance of this is rather obvious. When two league members engage in a trade negotiation, each of the two can tell whether or not a deal will get done. For example, if the e-mail containing your original offer is not returned, then hey, better luck next time. But when you exchange correspondence often, you can smell the progress. David Stern and Billy Hunter aren't meeting each other everyday to discuss lilies and tulips; they're getting closer to a deal. If they weren't, then NBPA President Derek Fisher would of course be spending his time doing bicep curls.

3. On Wednesday, Roger Mason, who is on the players' executive committee (whatever the eff that is), posted a tweet shortly after the day's negotiations: "Looking like a season." He then predictably deleted it, and then even more predictably argued that his account had been hacked. Hey Rog, you averaged less than THREE points per game for YOUR New York Knicks last season. Nobody wants to hack your Twitter.

Multiple outlets say that the next 7-10 days will determine whether games are canceled or not. My blog brother thinks that hope can always be false, so he's going glass-half-empty on this one. I, on the other hand, couldn't be happier for the prospect of a hardwood season starting on time. Besides, what's false hope to a Knicks fan? Sounds like just another day at the office.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The worst regular season in MLB history - with the best ending in MLB history

Almost without argument, this is the least dramatic second-half my baseball watching lifetime. Let’s take a look at the leaders and runners-up of the division races as of September 8th:

AL East: New York, Boston 2.5 games back
AL Central: Detroit, Chicago 9 games back
AL West: Texas, Anaheim 2.5 games back
AL Wild Card: Boston, Tampa Bay 7 games back

NL East: Philadelphia, Atlanta 10.5 games back
NL Central: Milwaukee, St. Louis 7.5 games back
NL West: Arizona, San Francisco 7 games back
NL Wild Card: Atlanta, St. Louis 6.5 games back

So to recap – out of the 8 races, only 2 teams are within 6.5 games of the division leader…one of which is the Red Sox, who leads Tampa Bay by 7 games in the wild card. For all intents and purposes, there is currently ONE race within any type of reasonable drama in the AL West (and even here, the word “reasonable” is in question; the Rangers have held the division lead since May).

Why did this happen? At the All-Star break, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Atlanta, Cleveland and Anaheim either had the division lead, a share of the division lead, or were within 4 games of the division lead. Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Francisco and Cincinnati have gone on to play combined .455 ball since then, while Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Texas and Arizona have played at a .649 clip. This confluence of the teams with incredible winning and losing streaks led to a second half where nearly all the playoff spots were locked up by the end of August. Baseball is already a pretty slow game; ending the division races 4/5 into the season gives it the pace of competitive dart throwing. So unless you play fantasy baseball or you are a masochist who enjoys seeing your team try to make up a 12 game differential in 30 games (Go Dodgers!), then the next four weeks of baseball are going to be an awful affair for you. This is my nightmare.

HOWEVER – for all the baseball fans out there (not just fans of a team; meaning, you watch Sunday Night baseball even if your team isn’t in it, you enjoy watching Cliff Lee pitch regardless of who it’s against or you hate AJ Burnett for existing), there’s a silver lining. This could be one of the most competitive MLB playoffs ever. Take a look at these teams – more specifically their bullpens, their starting rotations and best hitters:

SP: Jon Lester (2.93 ERA, 167 K), Josh Beckett (2.49 ERA, 155 K)
RP: Daniel Bard (2.76 ERA, 0.86 WHIP), Jonathan Papelbon (2.75 ERA, 29 SV)
Hitters: Adrian Gonzalez (.343 AVG, 24 HR, 106 RBI), David Ortiz (.319 AVG, 29 HR, 92 RBI), Jacoby Ellsbury (.316 AVG, 102 Runs, 36 SB), Dustin Pedroia (.301 AVG, 87 Runs, 77 RBI), Kevin Youkilis (17 HR, 80 RBI), JD Drew (is terrible)

SP: CC Sabatha (2.92 ERA, 211 K), Fat Bartolo Colon (3.72 ERA, 123 K), Ivan Nova (post All-Star, 7-0, 3.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP)
RP: Mariano Rivera (2.13 ERA, 39 SV), David Robertson (1.23 ERA, 89 K)
Hitters: Curtis Granderson (126 Runs, 38 HR, 106 RBI), Robinson Cano (.303 AVG, 24 HR, 105 RBI), Mark Texeira (36 HR, 103 RBI)

SP: Justin Verlander (2.44 ERA, 232 K, the best pitcher alive), Justin Verlander (2.44 ERA, 232 K, the best pitcher alive), and Justin Verlander (2.44 ERA, 232 K, the best pitcher alive)
RP: Jose Valverde (2.49 ERA, 42 for 42 in SV opportunities), Al Albuquerque (2.15 ERA, 59 K)
Hitters: Miguel Cabrera (.332 AVG, 26 HR, 95 RBI), Victor Martinez (.326 AVG, 89 RBI), (Jhonny Peralta (.841 OPS, 77 RBI)

SP: CJ Wilson (3.13 ERA, 179 K), Alexi Ogando (3.66 ERA, 116 K)
RP: Neftali Feliz (2.87 ERA, 29 SV), Mike Adams (1.65 ERA, 0.92 WHIP), Koji Uehara (0.95 WHIP)
Hitters: Michael Young (.333 AVG, 91 RBI), Josh Hamilton (.298 AVG, 19 HR, 80 RBI), Mike Napoli (.995 OPS, 24 HR), Nelson Cruz (28 HR, 84 RBI)

SP: Halladay, Hamels, Lee and Oswalt. Do you really need stats here?
RP: Ryan Madson (2.79 ERA, 29 SV), Antonio Bastardo (1.66 ERA, .114 batting average against), Brad Lidge (1.46 ERA)
Hitters: Shane Victorino (.300, 85 Runs), Ryan Howard (31 HR, 108 RBI), Hunter Pence (.308 AVG, .906 OPS), Jimmy Rollins (79 Runs, 28 SB)

SP: Tim Hudson (3.14 ERA, 1.13 WHIP), Brandon Beachy (3.29 ERA, 142 K), Jair Jurrjens (2.96 ERA, 1.22 WHIP)
RP: Johnny Venters (1.49 ERA, 89 K), Craig Kimbrel (1.57 ERA, 113 K in 68 IP), Eric O’Flaherty (1.13 ERA, 1.08 WHIP)
Hitters: Dan Uggla (33 HR, 72 RBI), Brian McCann (.850 OPS, 23 HR), Freddie Freeman (.292 AVG, 18 HR)

SP: Zack Greinke (3.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP), Shawn Marcum (3.11 ERA, 1.09 WHIP), Yovani Gallardo (3.71 ERA, 171 K)
RP: John Axford (2.23 ERA, 41 SV), Takashi Saito (2.11 ERA, 1.17 WHIP), Francisco Rodriguez (2.79 ERA, 1.19 WHIP)
Hitters: Ryan Braun (.332 AVG, 27 HR, 95 RBI), Prince Fielder (.293 AVG, 31 HR, 108 RBI), Corey Hart (23 HR, .849 OPS), Rickie Weeks (19 HR, 71 runs)
Translation: In Algonquin means, “The Good Land”

There you go; seven title contenders in an eight team field. Every team has an above average (mostly well above average) two starting pitchers, a great pen and a good to great offense.

I view the MLB playoffs unlike the NBA, NFL or any other pro sport. As long as you make the playoffs, have at least one great pitcher, a good pen and a competent/hot offense, you have a shot. It doesn’t matter how many wins you finish with, or how you came into the playoffs or how good your team looks on paper. Just make sure your team is hot when the games start, and that you have one starting pitcher you can ride to the title. This happens more often than you would think:

2002 Anaheim Angels
2004 Chicago White Sox
2006 St. Louis Cardinals
2008 Philadelphia Phillies
2010 San Francisco Giants

When the playoffs started, no one gave any of those teams a chance. In fact, all 5 of those teams were underdogs in the first round they played. But they all looked like the teams that wouldn’t win the World Series because of some definable flaw. There’s always a couple of these teams in every playoff field; look at last year for example. Did anyone think the Giants had a prayer of beating the Phillies? Or the Rangers? When the playoffs started, it wasn’t just them that no one gave a chance of winning. The Giants, Reds, Braves and Twins were all written off immediately. Most critics and fans saw the Yanks, Phillies, Rays or the Ranger taking it. There’s always going to be those teams that don’t pass the sniff test; the teams that you look at and say “no chance in hell”.

In 2011? There’s one team, Arizona, that I would write off. And on paper, this Arizona team looks like it could blow the 2010 Giants, Reds, Braves and Twins out of the water.

Take a look at those 7 teams again; can you say any of them is an easy out? Do any of them have any glaring, visible flaws? In isolation, don’t all seven of those teams look like World Series champions? I think so. For the first time in a long time, I don’t know who is the favorite. I think I may have seven.

The 2011 regular season may have suffered through the longest period of inconsequential baseball in the history of the majors, but come October, it could all be worth it. We may be looking at the most competitive playoffs ever. Dig it.