Friday, January 07, 2005

A Loser Picking the Winners, Week 18

False Alarm
Here's what Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported yesterday in the Black & Gold Insider (which I also mentioned here):
...Ben, by the way, told me yesterday he never met the LPGA pinup golfer everyone is trying to link him to and I believe him. Anyway, why would a winner like Ben, a perfect 13-0, team up with someone who hasn't won once? It sounds to me like her marketing people are trying to tie her wagon to Big Ben's success.

...Roethlisberger had an interview scheduled with KDKA-TV after practice yesterday but he had to blow it off when the burglar alarm sounded at his home. He raced out the door to go check it out. Who can blame him? He lives near Plaxico Burress, whose house was broken into by some bungling robbers Saturday.
OK, so maybe Roethlisberger isn't dating Natalie Gulbis -- no biggie; there will be plenty of time to gossip about stuff like that over the next 20 years. What I think's more intriguing is the rash of would-be burglaries in the homes of Steeler players. I mentioned yesterday that three dopes broke into Plax's townhome last weekend, but what would be funnier than finding that Mark Madden trying to climb through a sliding glass door at Roethlisberger's place is what set off his alarm? And given that Madden has taken to writing ridiculous articles about Ben being a jackass, there's your motive. OK, maybe that's a stretch, but it's still a funny visual.


Soft and Tender!

Speaking of Roethlisberger, I came across this nugget yesterday:
There are a couple of sure signs that a professional athlete has "arrived." Replicas of his jersey are spotted on everyone from little kids to middle-aged men, late-night talk show hosts ask him to chat before a national audience, and a restaurant might even name a sandwich after him.

...In the case of the Steelers' Roethlisberger fame means having his face on a package of beef jerky.

This weekend, 12,000 bags of Big Ben's Beef Jerky will hit the shelves at local Giant Eagle supermarkets and GetGo convenience stores...
Hmmm. Let's see, "Big Ben's Beef Jerky. Made from Solid Strips of Beef." OK, insert high school locker room humor here. This should provide hours of entertainment without even having to open a package that reads, "Soft & Tender!" OK, this is weirder than the stuff above about Madden getting stuck in a door way. Let's move on.

I've mentioned a couple of times that one of the things I dislike about sportswriters is their propensity to write crappy stuff about players and coaches without ever admitting that something they wrote several months back eventually turned out to be a steaming pile of poop. And while I don't have many rules (OK, none), I do think it's important recognize players or coaches who have proven you wrong (like Chad Scott, for example). And since a large part of my life is about being wrong, I've gotten pretty good at it. Anyway, this is all a long-winded way of saying that Terry Francona has shown me something. Specifically, there was a good article earlier this week in the Boston Globe about how well Francona managed "the idiots" off the field during the 2004 season.
Francona kept secrets, protected reputations, and prevented isolated personnel problems from mushrooming into destructive media conflagrations. By biting his tongue and stifling his ego, he fostered team harmony and played a crucial role in helping the Sox secure their first world championship in 86 years, even as he served as a season-long lightning rod for public criticism.

He has received relatively little glory for his part in making baseball history, but Francona's quiet contributions hardly were lost on those most keenly aware of them.

Principal Sox owner John W. Henry said, "I can think of at least five separate periods with five separate players in which Tito employed a great deal of intestinal fortitude, sensitivity, patience, smarts, and affection so that potentially major things -- things that happen on baseball teams over 162 games plus spring training and postseason -- worked out extremely well both for the player involved and most importantly for the team.

"A number of times he was openly criticized by those -- especially radio callers -- who had no opportunity to know that a number of things were not his fault. He never tried to duck responsibility, even if he wasn't actually responsible."
OK, I admit it. I was wrong (see here, here, and here). Honestly, I have newfound respect for Francona and it's actually really impressive that he was able to deal with all the personalities on that 2004 team. That said, I can't wait to see how he plans on telling Millar that he'll be backing up Mientkiewicz, especially when you consider how irrational Millar was when he was benched last season (from the Globe):
The manager could have publicly gone medieval on Kevin Millar after Francona stood by the first baseman during a prolonged slump, then got blindsided by Millar beefing about finding himself out of the lineup one day in Detroit. But Francona steered clear of mudfights in those cases and others that could have undercut the team's mission.
Being the manager of the Red Sox (a) might be the toughest job in professional sports, and (b) probably means you're grossly underpaid -- no matter your salary; especially when you consider your job consists of baby-sitting guys like Pedro, Manny, Millar and Schilling before the game actually starts. So knowing that, and given the Globe article, I'm declaring a moratorium on negative Francona stories -- at least until spring training begins.

Speaking of the AL East, I found this particularly amusing:
...The Yankees must be rolling in cash thanks to the 3.77 million fans who went to Yankee Stadium last season, the $64 million in rights fees from the YES Network and sponsors like Adidas.

But a closer look at the private finances of baseball's most successful, envied and valuable team reveals that it may not be making money. Whether that is the reason for its seeming disinterest in Carlos Beltran, the prime free agent of the off-season, is not known with certainty, but at some point, even the Yankees may resort to temporary prudence.

...Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who has written about baseball finances and who consulted for the players' union a decade ago, said the numbers might not add up for the Yankees.

"If you do a profit and loss, I don't think there's a plus at the bottom," he said. "But that doesn't mean it doesn't make sense for Steinbrenner."

..."It's an effort to keep the Yankees, always, as by far the premier brand," said Michael Ozanian, a senior editor of Forbes magazine. "But a lot of what Steinbrenner does is not to maximize profit, it's to win."

Sonny Crockett called -- he wants
Members Only jacket back.

Um, let's see, the Yankees are losing money and they're losing on the field. Solid work George. Seriously, what kind of world are we living in where Red Sox fans can make fun of the Yankees for stinking. Good stuff.

Oh yeah, apparently I did pretty well with my Week 17 picks (I was 10-3-1). Well, it's go time and I'm heading into the playoffs with my imaginary season's winnings (a grand total of $30) burning a hole in my pocket -- which means that I'm upping the ante for the post-season. That's right, I'm going to increase my bets to a whopping imaginary $1,000. I could say I'm doing this to make the playoffs interesting, but let's be realistic -- on the list of interesting things you could do, betting monopoly money on NFL games ranks right up there with eating a bag of Ben Jerky's while watching HGTV. So I'll just go straight to the picks:
Season: 129 - 117 - 8
Last week: 10 - 3 - 1
Earnings to date: $30

Week 1 picks Week 10 picks
Week 2 picks Week 11 picks
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Week 4 picks Week 13 picks
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Week 9 picks