Friday, April 15, 2005

Fun With Google

I was all set to write something about the upcoming NFL draft and what the Steelers might do, but I got a little distracted ...

A few weeks ago I was debating on whether to get the MLB Extra Innings package or not. I ended up plopping down the $150 and I can say, unequivocally, that it was the best decision I've made since I gave away my L.A. Express Tommy Maddox jersey. In addition to the obvious benefits of being able to watch 4 million baseball games, there's also the added bonus that I stumbled across during last night's New York - Boston game.

Initially, I switched on ESPN knowing full well I was going to have to endure three hours of Chris Berman and Rick Sutcliffe. Well, after two innings of Wiggum-esque observations from Sutcliffe and the regular dopey commentary from Berman, I decided that I'd rather not watch the game at all than have to listen to these two, Sam Ryan or not (the only thing that would've made this spectacle complete would be to add the invaluable insights of Jeff Brantley). I had actually resigned myself to watching season two of Project Greenlight with the express purpose of yelling at the television every time J. Lo accidentally (read: on purpose) stumbled into one of Affleck's very important movie executive meetings while Damon does all he can not to jump across the room and beat her senseless with a box of Gigli DVD's.

It then occurred to me that maybe MLB Extra Innings games aren't blacked out just because they're also being telecast on ESPN. And they're not. So by the third inning I was enjoying the wit and witticism of Remy and Orsillo. The fact that I never have to watch ESPN again is easily worth $1,500, and I might even send Comcast a few extra bucks just to show my appreciation.

Now about that game:

... Well, it didn't take Millar long. The first batter of the game, Tony Womack, hit a laser to Renteria. He dove to his left, made a great stop and threw to first from his knees. The ball might have been three feet up the first baseline but instead of stretching to make the play, Millar left the bag while Womack sprinted past him. The only thing worse than Millar's antics, were the first base umpires' because he called Womack out on maybe the worst call since Don Denkinger called Jorge Orta safe during the 1985 World Series.

... During Jay Payton's second at-bat I was thinking how crappy it must be to be a platoon player who so far only plays when Randy Johnson is pitching. Payton promptly hit a bomb to 450 to straight-away center, so I guess it's not as bad as it seems.

... During Renteria's second at-bat (you see a theme here?) I was wondering if he was ever going to hit the ball out of the infield. In a handful of games, I've seen him hit grounders in every imaginable fashion, but had yet to see him hit the ball hard. Renteria promptly hit a bomb over the Green Monster. He followed that up with an RBI double in the 8th. I'll shut up now.

... Home plate umpire Greg Gibson isn't very good. In fact, he's very bad. During the 4th inning he decided not to pull the trigger on what looked to be a third strike to Gary Sheffield (luckily the Yankees went on to score 4 runs that inning, so it didn't hurt the Sox). And despite the fact that he's struggling to see the ball as it comes to the plate, Gibson's hearing seems impeccable because he tossed hitting coach Ron Jackson for mumbling something derogatory from the bench (at least I think it was derogatory since I didn't actually hear it). The best part of the whole ordeal was that Jackson came out of the dugout like George Brett circa 1983 and looked like he'd be quite content to beat the crap out of Gibson on his way to the shower. To say Jackson is imposing is like saying Michael Jackson has a predilection for young boys (allegedly, of course). And at the other end of the toughness spectrum was Gibson, who I'd suspect would win a Doogie Howser, MD look-alike contest without much effort.

Well, in the bottom of the inning it didn't get any better for Gibson. He spent the first few batters getting yelled at by Randy Johnson for not calling what looked to be obvious strikes (even from my Red Sox-colored glasses), and then proceeded to call everything Johnson threw up there a strike. This led to Francona coming out of the dugout to ask Gibson what he was smoking (automatic ejection -- for arguing balls and strikes, not for questioning Gibson's drug habits). If you ask me, Gibson should be fined for (a) being a really crappy umpire and (b) for causing a guy with a heart condition to get his blood pressure up (OK, Francona doesn't have a heart condition -- it was diagnosed as a virus -- but you get my drift).

... I was wrong about Bellhorn -- he's actually worse than I thought. Let's see, how's this line: K, K, GIDP (and yes, I updated the Bellhorn Watch on the sidebar to the left).

... Speaking of struggling, Keith Foulke seems to be very fond of spotting batters a 3-0 counts before actually deciding that it might be worth his trouble to throw strikes.

... Sometimes Red Sox fans can be idiots. In the bottom of the 8th Varitek hit a seed down the first baseline (scoring two runs) and as Gary Sheffield went to get the ball along the right field wall, some brainiac got the bright idea to take a swipe at him. Sheffield picked up the ball, pushed the guy, threw the ball back into the infield, and then went back to get the guy. Fenway security and the Police did a good job of keeping order, and eventually throwing out the dopey fan, but I really wish they would've handled it differently.

For starters, after identifying the goofy white guy with the beer muscles, they should've dragged him to right field, had the Yankees make a circle and throw him in the middle of it with Sheffield. And after Sheffield's done with him, let Ruben Seirra have a go. And for good measure, they should fly Don Zimmer in from Tampa, and let him do a couple of elbow drops just to get the point across. And if that doesn't work, bring in Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia to re-enact the 2003 fiasco, but this time use this guy as the punching bag. God, what a jerk. Anyway...

All this talk about MLB Extra Innings, ESPN and crappy announcers got me to thinking about who people like (or hate) most at The Network. In maybe the most unscientific project ever, I used Google to check which ESPN character got the most results for two queries:
1 - "I like XX", or
2 - "I hate XX".
For example, the query, "I like Chris Berman" got 33 results while "I hate Chris Berman" got only 25. Not too bad. Anyway, here's a random list of some ESPN employees for your reading pleasure:
Jeff Brantley:
Like - 4 results
Hate - 8 results

Peter Gammons:
Like - 22 results
Hate - 10 results

John Kruk:
Like - 20 results
Hate - 2 results

Harold Reynolds:
Like - 52 results
Hate - 5 results

Dan Patrick:
Like - 28 results
Hate - 2 results

Stuart Scott:
Like - 21 results
Hate - 22 results

Skip Bayless:
Like - 0 results
Hate - 11 results

Stephen A. Smith:
Like - 36 results
Hate - 25 results

Dick Vitale:
Like - 24 results
Hate - 121 results

Sean Salisbury:
Like - 2 results
Hate - 13 results

Joe Theismann:
Like - 2 results
Hate - 5 results

John Clayton:
Like - 5 results
Hate - 0 results

Bill Simmons:
Like - 32 results
Hate - 15 results

... and for good measure:

Mark Madden:
Like - 6 results
Hate - 9 results
This was done for fun, but it's still kind of interesting. I can't believe four people actually like Brantley. Even though I think Kruk is sometimes a buffoon, I can certainly see why people like him. And even more people like Harold Reynolds -- which I also tend to agree with. In the past few years I've grown tired of Dan Patrick's shtick -- especially on the radio -- but I know he's still pretty popular. I must say I was surprised that Stuart Scott basically split the difference. Between all the tired hip-hop references and the football demonstrations on the ESPN set with Michael Irvin, I figured it to be pretty lopsided in the nay column. Same thing with Screamin' A. Smith. Not surprisingly, Skip Bayless got a goose egg in the "like" category, although he should consider it a moral victory because only 11 people said they hated him. Sean Salisbury is certainly less abrasive but he didn't do much better than Bayless. Maybe all his bullying of John Clayton is rubbing people the wrong way (that, or maybe it's just all the dumb things he says during the football season).

I also included Bill Simmons, basically as a counterpoint to guys like Bayless and Salisbury. And the results bear out as much -- more than twice as many people like him as don't. And I included my good buddy Mark Madden because I haven't had much of an opportunity to talk about him now that football season is over (and yes, I think there's a hidden message in his results).

Finally, paraphrasing Trent Walker, it looks like "Dick Vitale's the big winner!" Solid.