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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sports Caste

**Quick note: before you read this, please please please go read Austin's Valentine's Day post. You will be so happy that you did.**


(The screen is dark and ominous. Jack Bauer's voice rings out of the darkness)


Previously, on Corked Bats...


Colbie Caillat...soudough burgers...Quit Journalism Now...Salt Lake City...Soul Devourers...Danny DeVito...Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day...Ghandi...M.I.A....DA DA DA SPOOOOOOOOORTZ CASTE!!!!!

In case you missed it, I rambled out a thousand words introducing my next blog, The Sports Caste.


Ok, we good?


(Pulling goggles down over my eyes as I pin my hair back)


Let's do it.

1. A-Rod, A-Roid, A-Fraud, A-HGH


I debated including this at all. I knew I would either have to put it first or not at all. See my view of steroids might run a little bit different than everyone else's. Baseball is the only sport that anyone seems to get grumpy in when people do steroids. Grumpy is a major understatement. The reaction to a prominent baseball player testing positive for banned substances lies somewhere between the reaction on "Airplane!" when Elaine asks if anyone on boards knows how to fly a plane, and the crowd's reaction to Paul Rudd's "masterpiece" in "Everyone's A Critic." (Fast forward to about 1:20 remaining and don't watch after eating greasy food) Suffice it to say that people get testy. Sports writers say they're defacing the game, Bud Selig says they're 'shaming the game' (more on this in a second), and Sammy Sosa says "No hablo ingles."


These thoughts lead to this list: the two reasons I literally don't care at all that Alex Rodriguez did steroids from "2001-2003"


Number 1- Bud Selig


(picturing myself behind a news desk as I put on my Seth Myers face)


Really Bud Selig? Really?! You're grouping Alex Rodriguez with those players that have "shamed the game?" Really? I'm assuming, then, that you're grouping him with those players whose "activities" you turned a blind eye to when they were pounding out 60 home runs because it made people care about baseball for the first time since the strike in 1993? Really? Really, Bud Selig, you sat back and watched Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa turn into Hanz and Franz, go on historical home run terrors, and then break down more acutely and depressingly than my old 1997 purple Buick Skylark because it put butts in your seats, but became a baseball purist when the rest of the world finally realized that they had roided? Really? Really, Bud Selig, you refused to admit there was a steroid problem until people that cared about baseball's sacred records forced your hand, and now guys that are doing the same act that you so conveniently looked the other way on are "shaming the game?" Really? I think that you have the least respect for the game. Those guys were playing for contracts. Your salary is fixed. Those guys get murdered if they don't perform up to expectations. You lurk in the darkness and pawn blame off on everybody else. And really? Alex Rodriguez really has a tainted name now, because he was one of 104 PLAYERS THAT TESTED POSITIVE FOR WHAT ARE NOW BANNED SUBSTANCES IN 2003? 104 players! How many guys did they test? 150? 175? Really Bud Selig, I can't wait to see your reaction when the other 103 are released and David Ortiz, Jim Thome, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr. and likely a dozen other All-Stars are included. Your problem, not mine. You created this "loosey-goosey climate" that A-Rod suggests. Either take the blame or don't comment. Really!!


(Wait, did I just rip Seth Meyers or Jim Rome? I'll remain ambiguous for legal reasons.)


Number 2- Baseball's double standard


Terry Bradshaw and Shawne Merriman: What do they have in common? Steroids. They both did steroids. I don't see any asterisk on Terry Bradshaw's plaque in Canton. I don't see anyone wanting to wipe off Merriman's Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, which he won just months before testing positive for a banned substance. No one wants to wipe off the 17 sacks he had in 2006 after his failed test. But baseball has this romanticized idea of their records. Tainting that makes you more evil and impure than Coach Wolf Stansson. Quick news for ya: Cy Young still holds the record for most career wins despite the fact that he pitched in a baseball era in which the same ball was used until the seams started to unravel (not to mention the fact that the ball was very heavy compared to todays'), the spitball was legal, and stadium boundaries were routinely 500+ feet. Babe Ruth wouldn't have touched a barbell unless it was made of steak, smoked like a Cracker Barrel server (myself not included), and couldn't have taken any worse care of his body. Now guys have dietitians, strength coaches, a personal masseuse, protein shakes, "natural supplements," and so on; but these guys are still legends comparable to our time, right? I guess Ruth and Young might be a bit dramatic, but their parts are still integral in the record books, despite the fact that their time periods are so drastically different from ours.

Here's my take: The fact of the matter is that great players do great things. For example, I really don't think that if Alberto Callaspo were to start taking HGH, he would all of a sudden hit 45 dingers. I don't think that Mark Buehrle is going to go out and strike out 250 because he gets some cream from Brian McNamee. Sure one guy might get an edge for a few seasons, but we've seen what steroids does to your body in the long run. We'll know in two years if A-Rod has done steroids for more than those three years because he'll swing at a James Shields change-up one day and his arms will fly into left field. He might hit 60 home runs in a season, but his odds of getting to 700 home runs would be comparable to David Eckstein's. (Not to mention Madonna is going to be quite disappointed, if you follow me) These things work themselves out.

Ugh. I can't talk about this anymore.


2. Shifting atop the NBA's power rankings


My top 5 power rankings at the All-Star Break:


1. Los Angeles Lakers- it's bizarre that they make their first move (in my mind at least) to the top overall spot AFTER losing their best interior defender. But here's the formula: Win at MSG behind a Garden record 61 by Black Mamba, sending out two messages to the NBA: 1) The Lakers aren't going anywhere. 2) Kobe has added a few moves to his league-leading arsenal of 1,237, and is still THE MAN to go to if you need one game won. Then, end two huge streaks by two of the NBA's other top 4 teams (the Celtics were on a 12-game win streak, and the Cavs were 23-0 at home this year), and finish 7-0 overall on a January-February road trip.

Now I'm a practical Lakers fan. I still had the Celtics ahead of them all season because they showed that they are more than capable of picking apart the Lakers' frontcourt flaws in a 7-game series. So what exactly has changed then? Wrap your brain around this: The Lakers won at the TD Bankworth Garden sans Bynum AND with Kobe going 10 for 29 from the floor. 10 for 29! Do you really think Kobe would go 10-29 every night in seven-game series? (Somewhere Paul Pierce is crossing his fingers) Now the Celtics are without the guy that guarded Kobe for most of the Finals last year (James Posey) and their best bench big man from a year ago (P.J. Brown). The C's all of a sudden seem a little more vulnerable, and KG, Pierce and Ray Ray (32, 31, and 33, respetively) aren't getting any younger.

Now, throw in the fact that the Lakers have the best personnel in the league (the combo of Bryant, Ariza and Odom) for guarding LeBron, they don't have to give minutes to Vlad Rad anymore, and they are all of a sudden a possible Finals favorite if they can get past San Antonio's Big 3. Speaking of which…

2. San Antonio Spurs- What have you done for me lately? How about winning in Boston behind an emerging 4th banana in Matt Bonner (23 points in back-to-back games earlier this week), still having the game's best big (and owner of 4 championship rings), and a coach in Gregg Popovich that you know gets his guys ready for every big game. Also, his divine beard that adds a much needed zen-like element to his persona. Now, the Spurs are an incredibly tough match-up for the Lakers if they don’t have Bynum (check out Duncan's numbers against them in the conference finals last year with Gasol guarding him, and then his day in January when he was matched up with Bynum), and they are in their conference. Things will get interesting.

3. Boston Celtics- Losing at home to both the Lakers and Spurs in a four-day span isn't a great omen for the defending champs. P.J. Brown and James Posey's minutes have turned into Big Baby Davis and Tony Allen's minutes. The Lakers have ended Celtic winning streaks of 19 and 12 games en route to a season sweep, thus securing a home court tie breaker should the two teams meet in The Finals with the same regular-season record. I could stop here. Should I? (I see confetti pouring from the ceiling in the TD Bankworth Garden as KG yells "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!" Nah, I’m enjoying this too much) The Lakers and Spurs now have a psychological belief that they can win in Beantown, and the odds of Leon Powe attempting more free throws in an NBA Finals game than the entire Lakers roster is ancient history (unless the refs pick the C's in Streak For the Cash). I can't wait for June.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers- What a last couple weeks it's been for everyone's indie pick to win the finals. Mo Williams gets skirted for the All-Star game twice before finally getting Chris Bosh’s injury spot, LeBron goes 5 for 20 from the field at Quicken Loans Arena in a loss to the Lakers, they lose on a foul call in the last .8 seconds of the fourth quarter against the Pacers on Tuesday, and Ben Wallace still starts for them at center. Yikez.

5. Orlando Magic- Still here because Portland is too young (and their center can't stay out of foul trouble), the Nuggets still can't defend the post- or the wing- or the popcorn guy, and New Orleans and Utah can't get healthy. But they'll catch up- that Jameer Nelson injury was enormous.

(Wiping the sweat from my brow as I breathe heavily)


...That was intense...Two down...When I feel parched, there's nothing I injoy more than an ice cold Gatorade...(looking at the camera as i wink) Ahh, now that's refreshing. Now that's G.

3. That's Amare!


Last year, when the Phoenix Suns traded for the Shaqtus to come play alongside Amare Stoudemire, my thought was that GM Steve Kerr was panicking (the antithesis of this) because he didn't think that Mike D'Antoni's Seven Seconds Or Less (SSOL) offense played enough defense to get past the Spurs. So he pulled the trigger on a deal that brought Kazaam to the dessert, thus making room in the SSOL era for the SSOLUSIOTF (Seven Seconds or Less Unless Shaq is On the Floor) era. Their awkward system went into the playoffs and lost (again) to Timmy D and the San Antonio Borings.

So, with coach D bolting for big bucks in New York after the season, the Suns were left with several players that only knew how to run and not play defense, and Shaq- with the added spice of a new Coach in Terry Porter that is more clueless than Popeye when it comes to getting his guys to play for him. Now, with Porter's dismissal looming, the team sitting only 5 games over .500, and Stoudemire's decline in effort, Kerr is all ears to a deal that will ship Amare out of Phoenix to clear cap space for 2010.

The home run situation seemed to be Amare to Miami for Marcus Banks and Shawn Marion, but that fell out earlier this week when Banks and Marion were shipped to Toronto for Jermaine O'Neal. So what remains?


(BUZZ) Oh! Oh! Oh! Golden State? The Golden State Warriors?


Correct! The Golden State Warriors are essentially a professional rec league team. Think about it, all the pieces are there. Jamal Crawford is that guy that every rec team must have. You know, the hot shot that forces up 5 fadeaway three pointers a game because he fancies himself the team's best player. Monta Ellis is the guy that always has an injury and bad body language. Steven Jackson is the enigma guy that is the best player on the floor some nights, and other nights shoots you out of the game. Andris Biedrins is the one guy on the team that does all the right things: he plays hard, plays defense, sets picks- but eventually develops bad habits because no one else on the team wants to do anything except jack up 30-footers and scream "OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH" everytime someone contests one of their shots. Corey Magettee wears a head band and high socks. Don Nelson is the drunk that the guys pick up to "coach" them, because they have to have someone on the sidelines. So he just drinks from a flask from the bench and yells obscenities every now and then about his ex-wife while not coaching.

Tell me that doesn't have Amare written all over it!! Even if Golden State isn't headed to the playoffs, at least they play a system that we know that Amare loves. Unlimited offensive freedom? Check. No defense? Check. A temperate climate? Check. Interested? Yes please! I'll take five!

So here's how it'll go down: Amare to Golden State for Brandan Wright, Corey Maggettee, and Ronny Turiaf. Shaq's $21 million, Nash's $12.25 million and Alando Tucker's $1 million will be off of Phoenix's cap in 2010, as would Brandan Wright's $2.5 million, meaning that Phoenix would still be dropping $23 million of cap space in 2010 once Tucker, Shaq, Nash and Wright come off.


Subliminal message to Steve Kerr and Golden State GM Chris Mullin: Hey(make) guys!(this) I(freaking) just(deal) think(NOW) you're(NOW) great!(NOW!!!)


4. The Chiefs


Sorry if you don't care, but I have no problem admitting that I'm a homer. 350 words for my favorite sports team is warranted here.


2009 Chiefs draft manifesto:

  1. Trade him (I can't bring myself to put his name down with "trade" in the same sentence). Trust me, I don't want to. He's my favorite all-time athlete. He's re-writing the record books. He would be a safety blanket for a young quarterback. He's an incredible clubhouse guy. He has the strength of a thousand men. A thousand. But, he will net a second round pick from a contender desperate for a tight end- possibly the Giants or Cardinals? I'll repeat this several times, but when you're rebuilding, you need a quantity of picks. If you can get a second rounder out of a guy that has publicly stated that he won't be with the team in three years, I feel like you...you have to do what's best for the...sometimes you just have to make...at times, you just need...I just can't say it. (a single tear leaks down my face.)
  2. In contrast, the next phrase makes me feel this happy: Trade LJ. Trade LJ! Trade LJ! Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!! That feels so liberating! Is there a team out there willing to give up a third rounder for a 29 year old running back only two years removed from back-to-back 1700 yard seasons? Oh hey Seattle! Hey look Seattle!! This is called a runningback. Ever seen one of these before? Trade it to ya for a third round pick! OK? No givesies backsies!
  3. On draft day, trade the number three overall pick to the Jets' for their first and third round picks. Now all of a sudden you have one first round pick, two second round picks, and three third round picks. That makes 6 picks in the first three rounds! I pee a little bit thinking about the prospect of Scott Pioli being able to have 6 of the first 66 (AAAAHHHHH creepy!!!!666!!) picks off of the board. Let's do this now! (banging my fists on the table) NOW NOW NOW!!!!

Well people, it's been great.


How was it for you?


-Jared

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