Baseball’s pitching staff: Gourmet fine-dining

When going to the type of restaurant that asks if you made a reservation even though the establishment is empty (you know, places that serve a side dish of snobbery with your meal), one can expect multiple courses of appetizers, main dishes, and desserts.

This is how a pitching staff operates in baseball. All those pitchers milling about aren’t there for the conversation (although pitchers do a lot of talking when not pitching). Rather, much like golf clubs (remember that post?), each pitcher has a specific role to help the team.

Each team has five starting pitchers. These pitchers begin each game in turn but

Matt Cain; a starting pitcher

they are so much more than an appetizer of calamari. Starting pitchers are expected to throw about seven innings in a nine inning game so they are more like the appetizer, salad, and main course. Starters are the most important pitchers on the staff because they throw the most innings.

A bad main course will ruin the meal but the evening isn’t just your order of  rib-eye. To support your steak, an order of mushrooms or asparagus will complement it perfectly. However, side dishes can

Santiago Casilla; the middle reliever

detract from the experience too (especially when served a la carte; nothing hurts more than spending $9 on so-so green beans).

The side dish is like the middle reliever. They throw maybe one inning per game, but it usually occurs when the starter needs help much like how a slightly bland chicken can be rescued by otherworldly mashed potatoes and gravy.

Sergio Romo; the set-up man

With all this great food, one must drink something special too. A superior steak needs a stellar red wine while a fantastic fish needs a wonderful white. No screw-top grocery market special will do for a meal like this. You spend a little extra because this evening is special so you avoid wines capable of cleaning paint off of paintbrushes. This is the set-up man.

The set-up man usually pitches the 8th inning in tight ballgames. This pitcher is a bit better than the middle relievers and his main job is to preserve the lead for the 9th inning. Then it’s time for the dessert; better known as the closer.

Even though the majority of the check is spent on the appetizers, main courses, side dishes, and wine, the dessert can leave a lasting impression throughout the car ride home. Some restaurants have a special dessert totally unique to them designed to keep you coming back for more. It’s the last thing you’ll remember from the restaurant just like a closer who saves the game or blows the lead.

The closer’s job is to record the final three outs with a lead of three runs or less.

Brian Wilson; the closer

This is called a save and while it’s only three outs out of 27 total outs in a game, the final three outs have a way of being the most difficult to get. That is why the closer often times has the best stuff on the staff. Much like how a death-by-chocolate-caramel-medley has more taste and deliciousness than your main course of steak.

Steak is steak; there’s only so many ways to prepare it. But dessert? There’s all kinds of personality in desserts. In the same way, closers usually have crazy hair, long beards, and lots of tattoos and can be a little off mentally. That’s like putting sparklers in your chocolate brownie.

For the meal to be perfect, however, each part needs to special. Any course found to be lacking can negatively cloud the experience. Same with the pitching staff. The starter, middle relief, set-up man, and closer all need to pitch well for the baseball team to win.

Anything less, and you might as well be eating at Arby’s…

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Filed under Baseball, Food

Miami Heat fall victim to the curse of the ensemble cast

Perhaps the only headline capable of distracting the masses from Weiner’s weiner this past week was the demise of LeBron James and the Miami Heat (one man displaying too much of his marbles; the other still trying to find his…) Even the basketball clueless could not escape the endless coverage of the Miami Heat this season and even the most novice of fans would predict that two of the best three players in the world along with another top-10 talent coupled with two more highly sought after veterans would lead to an inevitable championship.

So like, what the hell happened???

Simply put, the Miami Heat came up short much like He’s Just Not That Into You and Valentine’s Day; two movies riddled with stars that had critics finding new ways to slam a movie and boyfriends checking their cell phones throughout the mediocre chick-flick dross.

Don’t believe me? Roeper of Ebert and Roeper said, “More than a dozen familiar faces are wasted in this trite, groan-inducing mediocrity,” in regard to Valentine’s Day. Time Magazine said, “He’s Just Not That Into You is like reliving your 20’s, without any of the fun.” And it’s not just those critics; both movies came up ‘rotten’ according to Rottentomatoes.com.

He’s Just Not That Into You featuring Scarlett Johansson, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Justin Long, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, Drew Barrymore, and Kris Kristofferson andValentine’s Day featuring Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, and Taylor Swift are doomed to fail for having too many leading actors (or actors who think they’re leading material) in the same movie.

Tried-and-true Hollywood formula is: Male lead + Female lead + Male support + Female support + and Ed Harris (anytime you include and Ed Harris, the movie will improve) = Potential passable entertainment. Mess with that formula, and you have actors fighting for screen time or mailing in performances for the paycheck. There’s only so many minutes in a movie and so many cameras.

This is a lot like what happened this year with the Heat. Typical NBA formula is: Star player A + Star player B + Three useful starters + Three more useful bench players = Potential playoff team. The Heat tried to make it work with Superstar player + Superstar player + One good player + Whatever is left we can afford regardless if they have any talent at all (Mike Bibby).

There have been successful ensemble cast movies in the past such as A Time to Kill with Matt McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Oliver Platt, Ashley Judd, Donald Sutherland and Kiefer Sutherland. McConaughey deftly played his part as the star and Bullock, Jackson, Spacey and Judd (who have all been #1’s) supported him in every scene and never tried to do too much. Oliver Platt worked his typical role as the ‘glue’ to perfection. He was funny when he had to be and he was always adding to the scene; never taking away.

The actors all sacrificed a little screen time but it was for the greater good of a terrific movie. And they all trusted Joel Schumacher, the director, who had completed some fairly impressive movies up until that point. That is what the Heat have to do.

Wade is the McConaughey; he has to star in every scene and show up every night.

LeBron is Spacey; capable of outperforming McConaughey with movies such as Se7en or American Beauty but consistently turning in performances such as 21 and Pay it Forward.

Maybe the Heat can celebrate for real next year?

Bosh is Sam Jackson; maybe he’s Pulp Fiction and maybe he’s Jumper. We don’t know, but like with Jackson, we’ll appreciate his passion and the occasional “Yes, they deserved to die and I hope they burn in hellllll”--like intensity.

Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller need to play like Platt and Judd. Both have the ability to be a #1 but we’ve seen the wrestling movie Ready to Rumble and it wasn’t good (sorry Platt, I enjoyed it when I was 15). Everyone in this paragraph (Haslem, Miller, Platt, and Judd) are better served being the glue to hold the whole messy contraption together.

Lastly, the Heat need to find some ‘Sutherlands.’ Donald was funny and endearing; Kiefer was intense and psychotic. The Heat need a veteran to keep everyone loose and that’s where Donald comes in. The Heat had fewer smiles than championships this year (0). They also need a stone-cold killer like Kiefer; someone who’s crazy enough to fight an entire team and drain three’s like an assassin (just without the white-supremacist hatred…)

Put that together and the Heat go from Valentine’s Day flop to A Time to Kill classic. Now if only we could fast-forward to next year’s ending with a parade on Biscayne Boulevard…

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Filed under Bad Movies, Basketball, Miami Heat

The Long Term Contract

When a player signs a long term contract, he is in effect marrying that team for better or for worse. There are many striking similarities between holy matrimony and signing a new player. Consider:

– Much like dating, prospective players are wined and dined in the swankiest spots as the team is aiming to impress. The team even shows the player and his family potential schools, mansions, and other incentives to entice the player to do the deal. This would be the ‘dating/getting-to-know-you-phase so I know you’re not an axe murderer or someone who watches Lopez Tonight’ step of the relationship…

– Contracts are a lot like prenups. Teams and players include certain stipulations to protect themselves. For instance, the Red Sox included mandatory weigh-ins for portly pitcher Curt Schilling, and if he made weight, he would receive a bonus. This would be like agreeing to the whole for richer or poorer, for better or worse, until death do us part stipulation. Basically, the team expects the player to perform and the player expects to be compensated much like a wife expecting her husband to be a good husband (looking at you, Tiger).

– Often times, there’s a honeymoon phase too. Much like how a honeymoon in Hawaii is filled with hotsy-totsy nights and sun-drenched happiness, a player can get off to a great start thanks to the exciting novelty of the relationship. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen helped the Celtics win an NBA Championship in their first year in Boston. Talk about a city-wide ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign…

– And when the honeymoon is over, and the gravity of forever smacks both parties in the face, two things can happen. It may be the perfect union; you know, the type you see when a couple in their 90’s are still getting ice cream because they enjoy each other. This would be like Peyton Manning and the Colts. And then there’s the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee type marriage. Fast and furious at first, but destined for failure. This would resemble the San Francisco Giants hopping in bed with Barry Zito for one of the richest pitching contracts in history only to realize instantly that it was a stage-5 clinger-like mistake of epic proportions.

– Just like in the real world with nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, separations happen in the sports world too. A-Rod and his bloated contract were shipped to New York from Texas with both sides happy with the rebound. The Raiders cut the overweight and cough syrup-addicted Jamarcus Russell after handing him one of the richest quarterback contracts in NFL history. Mistakes happen in marriage and they happen in sports, and unfortunately, staying together is sometimes impossible even if it’s better for the kids (those would be the fans in this case).

But even though there are a multitude of examples of terrible contracts, teams in much the same way as Larry King, never learn and wish to get married again and again and again. New York will always hand out huge contracts, the Clippers will always sign the player destined to underperform, and the Bengals will usually sign a player who will wear an orange prison jumpsuit as much as as their own uniform.

Some people, and some teams, simply never learn that maybe they should just remain single (looking at you again, Tiger).

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Filed under Long-term contracts, Marriage, Tiger Woods

Sorry, Boise. You’re wearing too much blue so you can’t be our friend…

Imagine the popular girl has two best friends and they all wear the hottest clothes, drive the cutest cars, rock the tightest bodies, and date the most popular guys.

They are the popular ‘in-crowd’ and have been for years ever since middle school when bodies began developing for some and not for others. But this trio of females are looking to add a fourth friend to their clique.

They search all over the high school and they find a perfectly qualified new girl who just transferred. She wears all the right clothes, drives the right car, has the perfect body, and is rumored to be the ex-girlfriend of the arch-rival’s star quarterback.

In fact, she may even be overqualified.

Some say she’s the new ‘it-girl’ of the school. Some have her being better than the trio looking to include her.

But she is new and unknown and this works against her. The trio decide to add the younger cousin of the ‘it-girl’ because after all, she’s pretty good-looking and her family name is strong enough. Everyone knows the overlooked new girl was the right choice, but we’ll never know her full potential as she tries to start her own clique or exist independently.

That’s the state of college football. Last week, Auburn defeated Oregon, and while those teams are relatively new to the whole National Championship hoopla, their conferences and opponents are not. The SEC (Auburn’s conference) and the PAC-10 (Oregon’s conference) are a lot like the popular clique; they always get the most attention and the most respect.

An upstart team like Boise State or TCU may have better records or might even have more talent, but we’ll never see them compete in a National Championship due to their lack of tradition and relatively weak conferences. They are like the new girl everyone fawns over, but in the end, you just can’t elect her homecoming queen.

The legacy always wins homecoming queen, right?

And so while high school cliques are often petty and irrational, you’ll never see a more left-out and sad bunch as the TCU Hornfrogs or the Boise State Broncos come dance time.

It’s high time college football sets aside its damaging cliques and includes everyone in the big dance despite the garish blue or purple uniforms…

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OMG!! That’s my effin’ song!

You’re cruising in some sporty car with the top down. Your hair swirls in the wind and the sun warms your bronzed skin. You hold your favorite drink from Starbucks and you are surrounded by your bff’s.

Can’t get any better? Well, it does because some song by Colbie Caillat or Sara Bareilles starts playing. And now the situation is perfect because as one of your bff’s screams from the back, “Ohmygod! It’s our effin’ song!”

It is your effin’ song, but what does that mean? For some reason, this song simply resonates with you. Whether it’s the lyrics or the music, the song makes you happier and gives you confidence.

Guys have effin’ songs too, but they are usually performed by AC/DC or Metallica. Not Colbie or Sara…

And athletes have effin’ songs too. Watch enough sports and you’ll see athletes wearing earphones before games. Arenas and stadiums blare music before, during and after the games too. Even the highlight reels have musical accompaniment.

But it goes deeper than that. Each baseball player has their own song played at the stadium. Every hitter hears their song of their choice before every at-bat and every pitcher hears their song before they take the mound.

For hitters, it’s called a ‘walk-out song’ with some famous ones being Barry Bonds and Next Episode, Derek Jeter and Empire State of Mind, and Alex Rodriguez and Who Let the Dogs Out (no surprise A-Rod would choose a surprisingly lame song).

For pitchers, it’s called an ‘entrance song.’ Some famous examples are Trevor Hoffman and Hell’s Bells, Mariano Rivera and Enter Sandman, and Eric Gagne and Welcome to the Jungle (aren’t you intimidated already with those song titles?).

Just like when you need your effin’ song to get pumped up for a big girls’ night out, athletes need to get pumped up for their performance and a hyper-masculine song by Led Zeppelin or Lil Wayne can do just that.

Music and athletics have been intertwined for years. You hear about musicians wanting to play sports like Garth Brooks or Master-P (I know, weird pairing). And there are athletes who have (unfortunately) made some music like Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Allen Iverson, Bronson Arroyo, and Ron Artest to name a few.

So the next time you’re rolling to the club and a Jay-Z or Britney song comes on, think about the athletes (and Miley Cyrus) listening to music to get fired up too. You have more in common with professional athletes than you think…

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Filed under Baseball, Music

Inflated Numbers

Here are some truths about guys:

Guys really, really, really like the song “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. It does something to our brains. It makes us drive faster and do goofy air-guitar solos in the middle of Best Buy regardless of who’s watching.

Guys will cry, no, bawl whenever they watch Brian’s Song. The movie is based on the story of Brian Piccolo, the undersized fullback who blocked for Gale Sayers on the Chicago Bears. Piccolo contracted cancer mid-season and eventually died. I would review the movie, but I don’t feel like turning into a blubbering mess.

Guys also tend to inflate their “number.” Ask them how many girls they have been with, and you will get a number with less credibility than OJ Simpson. For a more realistic number, take his number, and divide it by three.

Sports work the same way. The Colorado Rockies baseball team usually scores more runs than anybody else because the altitude makes baseballs travel farther.

The Denver Nuggets basketball team has a ridiculously good home record because the visiting teams can’t breathe due to the thin mountain air.

The Texas Tech Red Raiders college football team (in the Mike Leach days) usually had the quarterback who threw for the most touchdowns and yards. However, that team threw on virtually every play.

The casual observer would be convinced that home runs hit by Rockies’ sluggers, the games won by the Nuggets at home, and the statistics amassed by Red Raider quarterbacks are legitimate.

However, those same Rockies struggle to hit homers on the road at sea level, the Nuggets barely win on the road, and Texas Tech quarterbacks rarely get drafted into the NFL.

Their numbers are inflated much like how the typical guy inflates the total number of his conquests.

Statistics, whether it’s with sports or love, need to be accepted with a certain air of skepticism. Homers hit with steroids or Grammy’s won with auto-tune can certainly have their legitimacy questioned.

But the argument of Clemens’ steroid-fueled wins versus Perry’s spitball-aided victories makes sports fun to talk about.

So whatever number you end up being told, just know there are a variety of different circumstances needing to be taken into account whether it’s homers, touchdowns, or sexual encounters…

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Filed under Baseball, Basketball, College Football, Football, Numbers

The Slump

The Skeleton Key was really boring. You, Me and Dupree was tedious and should only be watched once. Fool’s Gold is the worst movie ever made. My Best Friend’s Girl robbed moviegoers of two hours of their lives. Bride Wars received mixed reviews at best.

These were Kate Hudson’s last five movies and she is just one more bad flick away from being relegated to B-list actress status. We love her because she is cute, bubbly, intelligent, and has good comedic timing, but she is mired in a slump.

Hudson was outstanding in Almost Famous and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, but slumps do not care about past achievements. Much like Hudson right now, baseball hitters go through slumps too.

A slump for a hitter would be like recording zero hits in more than15 or so at-bats. Even the best hitters go into slumps, but all hitters have interesting ways of breaking out of them.

For instance, some hitters will change a pre-game meal routine or wear their socks high. Others will take a different route to the ball park. For really bad slumps, some hitters have even taken batting practice naked or have worn a thong during the game. Yes, the last two are true. And the scary thing is, if it works, you can’t change your routine.

So if taking batting practice naked and wearing a thong during the game breaks the slump, then that’s your new routine. So choose your routine wisely.

For Kate Hudson, it appears dating or hanging out with a random assortment of athletes and celebrities is her new thing. She’s been connected with Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez and various rockstars. And there have even been rumors she’s had a little work done to ‘enlarge’ some of her attributes and I’m not talking about her personality.

The key to breaking out of a slump is admitting that you are indeed in one. This writer for instance, went through a slump on the pitcher’s mound and promptly shaved his head. It was a symbol for a clean purge, not to mention, it looked pretty cool.

Kate Hudson chose plastic surgery as a symbol of a new beginning. So between shaving your head and plastic surgery, lies your key to breaking out of your own personal slump be it a job search, the search for a romantic interest, or just a rut you find yourself trying to overcome.

Perhaps a new workout routine, hairstyle, cell phone case, or flavor of coffee is all you  need to attack your slump.

Best of luck finding that slump-breaker and best of luck breaking out of that slump…

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Filed under Bad Movies, Baseball, Kate Hudson, Slump