Buck: Weekend Wrap-Up

What a weekend! This is it, folks. This is the biggest rivalry in sports, played right here on the most sacred soil in all of baseball. The Yankees and Red Sox.

Baseball fans don't need to hear the story. They booked their tickets for this one a long time ago, and out there in the center field bleachers some enterprising young men have taken advantage of the nice spring weather by painting an interlocking N-Y on their bare chests. Lookin' good, fellas! I'm not sure how the Yankees legal department would feel about that one, but you really have to admire the great legacy of possibly the most recognizable logo in all of pro sports.

But if you haven't been following along, let's point out that the games between Boston and New York have become known more for their senseless brutality over the past few years than their hard-nosed, gutsy baseball. The Yankees are Red Sox are like a couple of live wires out there, just lying around for somebody to step on and get zapped. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that when you put two electrifying lineups like these on one field, some sparks are going to be sparked. But nobody said anything about tension!

You had that idiot groundskeeper attacking those defenseless Yankee pitchers. You had that drunken Red Sox fan trying to attack Gary Sheffield. You even had the Red Sox' own captain, Jason Varitek, throwing punches at Alex Rodriguez.

I'll tell you, A-Rod was only wearing a batting helmet that day, and it's a miracle he didn't get hurt. Varitek should ask his new teammate John Olerud a thing or two about batting helmets!

And then you've got Derek Jeter. If you're wondering what separates Jeter from Varitek, besides all those intangibles that people like to read off in an ordered list, it's this: Varitek has that C on his chest, reminding people that he's in charge. Jeter doesn't need a C. He's his team's emotional leader as much as he is the anchor of its defense. If you'll let me paraphrase Richard Wagner here - Tim, I know how much you love Richard Wagner - to be a Yankee is to play baseball for its own sake. You'll never see a better Yankee than Derek Jeter.

And then there's Carl Pavano. What you may not know about him is that every time he goes out there and gets smacked around like my first wife - ha, I'm kidding, honey! - he takes a deep breath, looks at all the living history around him, and remembers that playing in pinstripes is the culmination of a life's dream. He grew up in a family of Yankee fans not far away in Connecticut. Every single night, he's pitching like he's twelve years old.

Here's the thing about Yankee baseball. You have to have a lot of heart to be a Yankee, and it shows every time they play ball. They hit the ball hard. They run fast. They clean up nicely, and they're the kind of young men you wouldn't mind taking home to dinner. In baseball, you can get a long way on charisma alone - like these Red Sox, with their rock and roll haircuts and radical new wave music. But millions of boys and girls all around the country - the world! - go to bed every night dreaming of being a Yankee. Just like Jeanne Zelasko, those girls' futures are in the kitchen, where they belong, and God bless them for that. But when you see those Yankees take the field, there's no doubt that the childhood dream is still alive in each and every one of them.

Ford: MLB Stock Watch


Plunked down in a poor neighborhood of Jakarta is a small, neglected baseball stadium — its bases small boulders and its pitcher's mound a pile of elephant manure. You won't find it in any guide book — indeed, I only stumbled across it while searching for a cure for the herpes I contracted at a local bathhouse — but Hewlett-Packard Field is home to the greatest prospect in all of baseball: a 6'11" pitcher named Shay Raharjo.

The trip to Indonesia took 18 weeks through five continents (including riding upon a cheetah-pulled sled across the Sahara), but not even my weariness or recent emergence from an Ebola coma (stranded in Mongolia at the foot of the Himalayas during the worst blizzard since Nepal's Shah dynasty, my guide perished from frostbite, and to survive I feasted on his infected flesh — but that's for another time) could conceal how effortlessly Raharjo was destroying opposing hitters. Starting all three games of a triple-header, the hurler struck out 48, walked none and allowed two hits. Not even Darko Milicic was this impressive back in Montenegro as he dodged shrapnel on his way to a quintuple-double in 1999.

Several Major League Baseball scouts have quickly scurried to Indonesia to check out Raharjo after hearing tale of my experience with the young lefty. All of them report being similarly impressed by his arm. "The best young pitcher I've seen since Nolan Ryan," reported one. "Randy Johnson should start buying Clearasil in bulk again," said another, "Because this kid will destroy his legacy." All spoke highly of his poise — he is only 14-years-old — and proclaimed him "the closest we've ever come to a sure thing."

Indonesia is also home to the likely number one pick of the 2008 NBA Draft: IM Panasonic guard Herdian Mohammed, who plays like a combination of Tony Parker, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. That Indonesia could produce the number one picks in both the MLB and NBA drafts is nothing short of miraculous, and would be a huge emotional and economic boon to its inhabitants, who are still recovering from the tsunami disaster. Indeed, I personally told many Indonesians of their country's upcoming good fortune, and all were absolutely delighted at the news, many thanking me with free meals, jewelry and sex.

As an NBA reporter, it isn't often that I get to venture onto the field of dreams, but considering the success of my first foray — which netted a top pick and four new wives — consider me a convert to the diamond. Look for my first complete, 50-round mock draft in the next week. Go Darko!

Chad Ford is a columnist for E$PN.com

Rank Index — AL East


Good evening sports fans, and welcome to a special edition of Rank Index on Yard Work, your online baseball home. The 2005 season is a quarter of the way through, and it's shaping up to be the best year for baseball since 2004. And oh what a year that was — comebacks, chokes and milestones, oh my!

The great thing about this game of ours is that every moment presents an opportunity. Each pitch can become a strikeout or, just as easily, a home run. It's what's kept me in the booth every Sunday night, and it's what keeps all of you tuning in. But let's get to it: here's the first of my takes on the 2005 season so far, starting with the AL East.


Baltimore Orioles — The most potent offense outside of Coors Field, this team is loaded with talent. But it's the bats that have been the story, as youngsters like Bruce Chen have opposing hitters doing the crab walk back to the dugout with a K in their claw. A+

Boston Red Sox — The defending champs (who would of thought New England would ever say that again?) look to repeat in 2004, including a number of Sunday Night appearances against the dreaded Yankees. They're number one until they're not. A+

New York Yankees — It wouldn't be baseball without these two neck and neck. Who can forget A-Rod's three home-run game? And wow, what a pitching staff! Proven vets like Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown alongside young phenoms Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and Wang — you've gotta be kidding me! A+

Tampa Bay Devil Rays — Lou Piniella and the Devil Rays staff must get dizzy watching these youngsters fly around the bases every night. Nobody wants to face these legs in the playoffs! A+

Toronto Blue Jays — Carlos who? The swingin' Jays don't have Toronto blue anymore, because the city won't be holding its breath for the playoffs much longer. Gregg Zaun and Gustavo Chacin will have them there faster than a Toronto minute. A+

Jon Miller hosts E$PN's Sunday Night Baseball.


Fever of Beisbol: Drink It!

Hello and reception to me, Ana Maria Collejeo Guillen again! I have returned for greater speak of baseball, the game greatest in the history of the humanity, and yes that includes futbol. (I am grieved to say that, Latins, but you know that I are truth about this one jajaja!)

There has been many talk about the World Baseball Classico, an idea for to get many different nations and their beisbol teams together to see once and for all whose culos would be kicked most and whom would be doing the kicking. All of Caracas and all of Venezuela has been talking about this! We cannot wait and we wish heartily that it was today, tomorrow, next week. Because we have the confidence of being the foot inside the shoe or cleat that will be to striking the ass of ustedes.

¿Quién puede competir con Venezuela hoy? Our starting team is like the Hall of Fame in 20 years. Bob Abreu, Johan Santana, Miguel Cabrera, Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Guillen (mi cousin segundo on my mother's sides), Melvin Mora, Ugueth Urbina, and more! We have not only the prime shortstop to ever play beisbol in America, a real caudillo by the name of Omar Vizquel, but also his backup is Cesar Izturis, who I remember as a little tiny fellow who danced in my first videos, "¿Dónde está el hombre en los pantalones de lujo?" Now, he is one of the Liga Nacional's top hitters, and is quite an handsome fellow, disease free, and muy abundante en cama, si usted sabe lo que significo.

I do not wish any disrespect to Puerto Rico or El Dominican, because both would have very fine teams with all that reggaeton! Y Mexico which was left suspicionly off the ESPN page that discusses this matter, they would also have quite an okay esquad.

But the U.S.A. team, no to offense it, would be a complete joke. Your people, no to offense it, do not understand the right way to be a national team. This is proved every Olimpico, where other nations beat you at the sports you used to be good at because you invented them (as we say down here, your team gets batido como un esclavo o un primo feo del sexo, spicy!), so then you have to invent more sports to be good at, and then later the world also catches up to that. For this reason, your national esquad would be fat, lazy, and big-headed, no to offense it.

We have a different approach. For us, international competition is second fruit to us. Our esquad would come to these games with one thing on our mind: winning large. Also, your players are not as good as they were back in the days of Infanta Ruth and Enrico Aaron. Now, you have some okay pretty good players, but most of them are what I clean off my shoes, if you have heard that expression. Ben Sheets? Jajaja, I rather know about BED SHEETS! And Derek Jeter...well, I should perhaps restrict myself to say just that "the limousine looks good but the steering wheel is not big enough to move the vehicle." That is all I am saying.

And another few words for you: Luis Aparicio, Enzo Hernández, David Concepción. If you smell what Ana Maria has to cooking.

But enough for now, as I must appearance to the victory party of Leones, down at El Beagle Real. I have not jumped out of a cake for a long time and must tweeze. Gracias and muchos besos con la lengua y los labios.

Ana Maria Collejeo Guillen is the top baseball writer for El Universal. She was also the winner in the first season of "Hermano Mayor," Venezuela's answer to Big Brother.


Week Eight

Many thanks to all of you for inviting me into your homes to talk about a scintillating, exciting week of baseball.

Let's look at the nightmarish situation developing within the wildcard races in both leagues. Now, if I was the commissioner, it's no secret that I would make changes to the wild card system. I'm not saying that I want to be the commissioner, because I believe that Bug Selig has performed admirably in an extremely difficult post. I must firmly state that I definitely do not want to be the commissioner. But if I was the commissioner, I would make the decisions that today's baseball executives are unwilling, or incapable of making. However, I'm not the person for the job. I'm not campaigning for the job. I'm just a fan. However, there's no mistaking the incontrovertible assertion that I know what is best for baseball.

Presently, several teams are making a mockery of the wild card system as it is presently configured. The principal weakness of the wild card is that it allows for good, but far from great teams to make the playoffs, get hot, and make a championship run. The fact that the last three World Series champions have been wild card teams clearly demonstrates the weaknesses within the system. This season, we're clearly headed down a similar path. Teams that wouldn't have had a chance under the old divisional alignments are now alive and have an excellent chance to make the playoffs.

For instance, the Colorado Rockies, who are a terrible team by nearly every objective measure, are merely 13.5 games behind wild card leaders Arizona. This is not a insurmountable margin by any means. Many teams throughout baseball history have come back from similar deficits and made the playoffs. The fact that a terrible team like the Rockies can remain in playoff contention clearly demonstrates the deficiencies in the present system.

Things aren't much better in the American League. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, with their predictably horrid play, have continued to keep alive the spirit of the old St. Louis Browns. Nonetheless, the perennial cellar dwellars from North Florida are a mere eleven games out of the wild card. Should that deficit seem large to you, then I urge you to consider this: eleven games is roughly the same deficit that the Astros overcame to win the NL wild card last season. If poor teams such as the Devil Rays start making the playoffs, then it could cast a dark shadow over the credibility of America's favourite pastime. The game's reputation could take decades to recover, if indeed it ever does.

Excuse me, I need to go lie down. Then I must start composing an open letter to Bud Selig, whose job I admire and aspire to, yet do not covet. Enjoy the upcoming week of major league baseball, wherever you are.

Bleep Bleep - May 29th

Awright! Holiday BLEEP BLEEP! I figured I'd give you F5-lovin' losers a bone to chew on (or wax) while the burgers get cooked and I think of some way to junk this "potato salad" Gammo brought over. It's like, hey, Geddy Lee, potato salad has this little thing in it called MAYONNAISE. It's that white gloopy sh*t that makes eating raw potatoes and celery worth a damn. What's this vinegar crap? And RED POTATOES? F*ck, this is America, not Europe! If I wanted this South Beach diet sh*t, I'd go down to the damn beach and get a f*cking tan, OK? No doubt South Beach girls look better than Gammo in Susan Sarandon drag. (Well, maybe. There's a story involving that redhead wig, some Cuervo, and a ball gag somewhere in there, but I don't want to talk about it.)

So, yeah, me and the E$PN folks are having a little shindig at Casa Del Sports. Ravy's doing OK - he might be able to eat solids in a week, and the guys are having lots of fun writing stupid sh*t on his leg cast. (I drew an I'M WITH DUMMY arrow pointing to Ravy's head. HAHAHAHAHA!) F*cking Ray Knight showed up, though - I think he's trying to escape from that butch ball-and-chain of his. He's a wackjob - I swear I saw him trying to corner Dan Patrick earlier to talk about his close personal relationship with L. Ron Hubbard. F*ck that noise. Tho I heard that folks get to scream at other folks as part of that stuff. Ha ha - yeah, I might be good at that. If I could do that, and get me some of that Hollywood tail that cabana boy Cruise snatches, hell yeah! But, OK, I'm back on track. Yeah, it'd be nice if the weather was a bit more co-operative, but f*ck it, I got a brew, I got some bacon-burger dogs comin', and Stuart Scott's about 900 miles away annoying the everlovin' sh*t out of his relations w/ that DMX titty-twisting, so BOOYAH for that sh*t. As cool as the other side of MY FOOT UP YOUR *SS, Pharell.

By the way, I was told by the raving geek what supervises this thing that I should apologize for my f*cking language in my last post. I was told when I first got access to this thing that anything goes as long as I mask any anti-Disney objectionable words (tho I see some folks flaunting that rule). But now, because of SOMETHING I did - dunno what; they won't say - they told me to ease off the gas. So, yeah, I have some stupid quota I can't pass re: the f & s bombs, but whatever. They ain't gonna hold me back. I'm giving you guys 100% pure Bowa in every f*cking post, don't you worry. NOBODY'S gonna break MY stride. (Oh, damn, tho - I forgot to star out something nasty up there. Hey, Booger - star out St*art Sc*tt up there when you read this, would ya?) (Oh, yeah - I'm tough AND smart!)

So let's get back to talking about what we're here for - F*CKING BASEBALL!

Hey, Larry - I read on a blog that you said the Red Sox need to "turn up the intensity volume" in order to compete in the AL East. What the hell is "intensity volume"? And where' s the knob to turn it up? [K. Mueller, Boston, MA]

Oh, I can tell you where the knob is, for damn sure. Who the f*ck reads a blog for sports news, anyway? Do you use the internet to get dates for your dead *ss, too, Mueller?

Anyway, the Defending World Champions (yeesh) gotta do a lot better than they're doing if they want to repeat. Baltimore is FOR REAL, people - don't tell me a team w/ Bruce Chen on it can't win. I had that sh*twit on the Phils for a couple of years, and I gave that kid the business every damn day. LESS HOME RUN! MORE K! THROW HARDER! THEY DISHONORED YOUR FAMILY! Whipped that pile into shape for the O's - yo, Flanagan, I want playoff tickets for me and my bookie, k? Even the Jays are looking good - see what happens when you drop that Moneyball sh*t? You win games! (F*ck that pretty boy and his no-talent A's. Yeah, GREAT TRADES there, boy genius.) That Hillenbrand, he's a sparkplug. I don't want to hear any noise about him not taking a walk. You don't walk in baseball - you RUN. And, of course, the Yankees are back where they're supposed to be. Tino, that guy - he could play on my team any day. If I managed a team full of Tino's, I'd probably have as many rings as that sad sack Torre. Wouldn't be able to win a footrace against broke-dick llamas, but you don't gotta run when you hit a homer, right?

But, yeah, the Red Sox, they got nothing. Yankees and Orioles in the playoffs. Red Sox sitting there starting another Curse streak. Damn right you're a bunch of f*cking idiots. Any team too stupid to not bench Mark Bellhorn and his 500 Ks is too stupid to win any damn thing. (Yeah, yeah, post season whatever. Broken clock's right twice a day, too, folks.)

Hey Lori! Wanna be more man? Check this dude - Finally a Patch that works! In these matters the only certainty is that nothing is certain. He is great who confers the most benefits. Part of being sane, is being a little bit crazy. Never let your persistence and passion turn into stubbornness and ignorance. America's one of the finest countries anyone ever stole. [Moses]

Yeah, yeah, the Padres. I know, I know. Whatever. If they're in first place at the end of the year, I'll get Dibble's nips pierced. (Oh, sh*t - Dibs actually tried to crash the party w/ that Best Damn Bunch of Stupid Fat Male Speds group of his earlier. We rumbled. I pummeled that Rose jerk in his fat belly, and gave him an Indian rub for good measure. Played him like the bongos. WHERE'S YOUR CHRIS EVERT NOW YOU FAT F*CK? Oye como va puto b*tches. Salley, tho - he must've picked up some tips from Laimbeer. It's been over an hour, and Brantley STILL can't sit down.

Dear Mr. Bowa: Is Brian Roberts taking steroids? How else could such a little person hit all those home runs? He is obviously on steroids. I also think that Johnny Damon and Carlos Lee are also obviously on steroids as well. Their hitting is much too good to be not on steroids. Who else do you think is on steroids right now in baseball? [Billy T., Phoenix, AZ]

Yes, Billy, every good hitter in baseball is on f*cking steroids. Brian Roberts is on the steroids because he is too good to be hitting the ball as well. And that Frozen Caveman Cousin It f*ck is too because he is speedy and fast and can hit the ball fair when he makes contact. Go set yourself up the f*cking bomb and do us a favor you sh*tsquirt. HOME RUNS ARE DOWN THIS YEAR! If that's not proof that steroids are a dead issue, I dunno what is. Also, performances like Roberts' and Neifi Perez's (what the f*ck? NEIFI PEREZ?) are proof that pitchers are off the juice, too. Baseball had a problem, but now it's fixed. And one-track wonders like Billy here still gotta keep shooting off their mouth like they know what's up. Son, you don't know jack until you got a ball bouncing off your cup. Until then, stay in your f*cking assisted living community and get out of the f*cking fast lane. (Seriously, I think CT is worse than AZ when it comes to old folk. Drop a bomb here, and AARP membership drops 60%. Not that I'm SAYING I want a bomb dropped here, but, g*ddamn, when it takes me 30 minutes to get around some f*cking Caddy on I-91 becuase TRACTOR TRAILERS are passing at 75 on both sides - seriously, f*ck that.)

OK, gotta go. The F*cks Sports mod squad returned, but brought the ladies as a peace offering. Ha - PIECE offering. Oh, yeah, that's a good f*cking look for once. I gotta nice long Sports List for you, Mizz Summer Sanders. See you losers next time.


Beasts of the East

Baseball’s natural order has been restored in the Bronx. As the 26-time-World-Champion New York Yankees await their bitter rivals from Boston, they ride the crest of a magical 15-wins-out-of-17-games stretch that has propelled them into second place in the AL East, a half-game ahead of the 25-21 Red Sox. Three weeks ago, the gap between the Yankees and Red Sox seemed insurmountable, the Yankees’ six-game deficit twice as large as the one that defined the difference between the Yankees’ annual AL East championship season and their perennial bridesmaids’ tidy little second-place finish in 2004. Now, it is the Yankees who look at the lumbering corpse of the Red Sox bullpen in their rearview mirror, eyes forever on the prize – an eighth successive AL East title, with only the Orioles between them and the true measure of baseball glory.

Talk to any Yankee loyalist, and they’ll tell you that the season is 162 games long, not 11. Postseason laurels may be all well and good to Johnny-come-latelies like those jelly-bellied fellows in red and blue, but the true measure of dynastic dominance occurs in these weekends in Tampa and Kansas City, far from the madding crowds and patriotic bunting of October nights past.

Across town, even the Mets tip their caps to their crosstown chums’ consistency. “The Yankees were just pullin’ the old okey-doke,” reported Mets Manager Willie Randolph, elaborating that a series of shrewd moves by George Steinbrenner were merely the baseball equivalent of “laying in the weeds.” Steinbrenner moved Tony Womack to left field, a position at which he was rated -31 runs defensively, and decided to pay erstwhile reliever Steve Karsay the remainder of his 2005 salary to sit at home and watch such family fare as “Britney and Kevin: Chaotic.”

Karsay’s $6 million, after all, is mere pocket change to Steinbrenner, a man who regularly sacrifices “virgins and other undesirables” for his own pleasure in his enormous underwater complex off City Island. Recently on the crosstown bus, a woman of a certain age remarked that she thought the Karsay deal was a sound cutting of ties, adding that “Unlike the Yankees, Karsay chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in New York.”

To be fair, the Red Sox are worthy competition. Yet they’ll never amount to anything but the Yankees’ sinecure unless they finally win an AL East title. If there’s one thing the Yankee players admit, it’s that they’re only glad to be playing this weekend’s series on home turf; the drainage system at Fenway Park is so outdated that Gary Sheffield compares playing right field on a rainy day to “surfing on a washcloth,” and New England has been pounded by rain and miserable temperatures for days on end.

Indeed, a dark cloud, courtesy of a freak springtime weather pattern, hung over Boston all week – perhaps an omen of the increasingly likely fact that dark clouds just hang over the miserable Sox by dint of some decree from a higher power. Perhaps God, Enlil, Zeus, or some lesser voodoo deity simply has it in for the Red Sox, in the middle of their frustrating decade-long quest for AL East gold.

Murray Chass, a baseball columnist for The New York Times, is a former New York Yankees beat writer who helped set the standard in print journalism for the position of national baseball writer. He has covered baseball for more than 43 years.


A Bunch More Thoughts on My Mind, While Praying Someone Will Hear Me.

These are tough times for a lot of teams as the season nears its 1/4 mark. Colorado is horrible, but that is not surprising, considering they have started eleven different first-year players so far. Maybe they should call them the Colorado Rookies instead of the Rockies! Also bad: the Astros (surprising!), the A's (also surprising, I'm a Billy Beane guy), and the Royals (not very surprising at all). Heading into the Memorial Day weekend, these proud teams are sucking wind, stinking up the joint, and/or hitting the wall. Their fans are angry and their GMs are updating their resumes. Dark days indeed.

It's dark in here too.

Yet there are a lot of bright spots as well. I think we're all shocked that the Brewers are playing .500 ball at this point in the season; Kurkjian actually had May 20 as the over/under for their contraction date. The same goes for the Washington Nationals, and if you told me at the beginning of the year that the Giants would be tied with the Dodgers at this point in the year even without Barry Bonds playing a single game, I would have laughed and laughed and laughed some more, with my voice getting a little hysterical and frightened at the end. The play of Pedro Feliz has been a real bright spot.

The only bright spot here is the light from my little keychain spotlight, and the greenish glow of my Blackberry, which is what I'm using to type this entry. Wait -- yep, there goes the keychain light. Now it's just about pitch black down here. I wish someone would answer my increasingly desperate emails.

Speaking of increasingly desperate -- how about those Los Angeles Dodgers, huh? They're 2-8 in their last ten games, and Jeff Weaver served up something like ten tacos the other night. Or maybe that was a while ago. I'm losing track of time.

They said we were going to Sizzler, but I guess I failed to understand that the other guys on the BBTN team are "spirited" enough to do just about anything. They cackled with glee when they forced me to strip and start digging. After about 30 minutes, they were bored; Gammons slurred out "LET'S DO THIS!" and they pushed me into the hole. Sadly, the ledge they thought was the bottom was extremely brittle, and I broke through to this underground cave.

Let's talk about breakthroughs this year...actually, let's not. Let's talk instead about how I hear something moving, its little nails scratching closer and closer in search of easy food. Some sort of rodent, except that it's grunting, and sounds enormous. I'm pretty sure my fibula is broken, so I can't move. I haven't eaten in 13 hours, except for a couple of glowing mushrooms that made me hallucinate conversations between myself and Bert Convy.

Sexual conversations.

Based on that experience, it's pretty clear that no one can hear me scream.

But hey, don't let me bring you down -- it might be too late for me, but it's never too late for you to go have some wholesome family fun. So stop reading this and go hug your family, buy that pinball machine you always wanted, do all the things you always told yourself that you would do. Do them all now. And when you call up your estranged father and reconcile with him, tell him you love him. You never know what might happen.

Something just brushed up against me

When Chairs Attack

By Pedro Gomez

Pandemonium broke out in the Giants locker room Wednesday evening after Barry Bonds' chair allegedly attacked three Giants players, indirectly injured a fourth, and had to be shot by Pac Bell Park security. This incident, following other chair-related incidents across the major leagues in recent months, has put teams on alert, players on edge, and senators on the warpath.

The chair, a $3000 black leather recliner from The Sharper Image, assaulted Giants Pedro Feliz, Moises Alou, and Mike Matheney directly following the Giants' 10-2 win against the Dodgers Wednesday night. Witnesses say the incident began when Feliz, who hit two homers in the game, decided to sit in Bonds' recliner.

"Pedro was goofin' around after the game," said Giant reliever Scott Eyre, "saying that since he hit like BB [Bonds], he should sit in Bonds' chair. And Moises was like, 'Well, hey, I should too!'" Reports differ on what happened - players claim that the chair forcibly threw Feliz off, while some reporters say that the chair merely tipped over. "Those guys didn't know how the chair worked," says San Francisco Chronicle staff writer John Shea, "so Matheney and Alou got behind it and started rocking the chair back and forth. And then it fell over backwards on Alou's left foot."

Witnesses who believe the chair was at fault say that after the chair pounced on Alou's foot, it then reared back up and caught Matheney on the chin. "Never seen anything like it, man," said Giants rookie first baseman Lance Niekro. "It just WHOOSH came up and caught Eminem [Matheney] square on the jaw. Like Tyson in his prime. Or Buster Douglas."

Security personnel rushed into the locker room and trained their guns on the chair. Shots were fired after an officer, Gormley Barbrady, of Secaucus, NJ, claimed he saw the chair make a move towards Giants manager Felipe Alou. "That chair was crazy wild. [Expletive] had to be put down before it caused more damage, yaoming?" Five shots were fired. Three hit the recliner in the head rest, one in the right arm rest, and one in the bottom cushion. The chair was declared dead at the scene. No other witnesses were hurt. The three players assaulted by the chair. were examined by the Giants medical staff, and given clean bills of health. However, Giants outfielder Marquis Grissom was rushed to the hospital for treatment of shock symptoms.

"Clearly this is another example of steroid use in professional sports run amok," claims Arizona Senator John McCain. McCain has been an outspoken advocate for stricter drug-testing policies in baseball and all professional sports. "Or is it just a coincidence that it was Barry Bonds' chair that went on this rampage?"

McCain claims that the chair's behavior and attack was symptomatic of "roid rage", a term used to describe the destructive and violent mood swings experienced by chronic anabolic steroid users. "No doubt in my mind," McCain said. "This type of shameful behavior can only harm the sport of baseball, and the world of sports, and it needs to be stopped at the source. We cannot allow high priced furniture hepped up on performance enhancing chemicals to run amok."

Bonds, currently entering his second rehab stint of the year following a bacterial infection in his surgically-repaired knee, attended last night's game. Sources say he left the park shortly before the chair incident occurred. He was unavailable for comment.

The Pac Bell chair incident follows a recent rash of incidents involving baseball players and chairs. Late last season, Texas Rangers reliever Frank Francisco was arrested and charged with assault after a chair in his hands flew into the stands of Oakland-Alameda County Stadium and broke the nose of a female fan.

This week, two more chair-related incidents occurred. Cubs reliever Mike Remlinger broke a finger when his left hand was caught between the wooden armrests of two recently purchased massage chairs.

Also this week, Reds manager Dave Miley had the massage chairs of his two star players, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Adam Dunn, removed from the clubhouse. In an article from MLB.com, Dunn claimed that the chair did nothing wrong. "'Poor little guy,' [Dunn] said, looking at the spot where the chair once sat. 'He didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t complain. He just came to play every day.'"

Commissioner Bud Selig made a brief statement to the press following the incident at Pac Bell Park, stating that the decision to use or remove chairs is up to the teams and stadium personnel. "Major League Baseball trusts that the ballclubs will make the right decisions in deciding what chairs, if any, should be used, and what chairs should be removed before they cause any harm. While I hesitate to proclaim that the problem is as bad as it seems, it would be dishonest of me to stand here and not say that, gone unchecked, this could become a problem that could threaten the foundation and the health of America's National Pasttime."

Reports that Commissioner Selig was surprised by a whoopie cushion following his statement could not be corroborated at the time that this report went to press.

Pedro Gomez, who is a bureau reporter for E$PN, covered the Oakland A's from 1990-97 for both the San Jose Mercury News and the Sacramento Bee and was the national baseball writer for the Arizona Republic from 1997-2003.


Rumblings and Grumblings (May 25)

Team Rumblings

The Arizona Diamondbacks continue to be the biggest surprise of the summer that doesn't involve Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Behind the pitching of the resurgent tandem of Brandon Webb and Javier Vazquez, as well as the slugging of Troy Glaus and Luis Gonzalez, the DBacks are sizzling in the Arizona heat and are in the thick of the NL West pennant race. What caused their spectacular turnaround? Compared to 2004, they're scoring more runs, allowing fewer runs to score, and have clamped down on allowing runners to reach first base due to catcher's interference. Last year, only the Brewers allowed more runners to reach base due to catcher's interference than the Diamondbacks did. And this season?

Thus far in 2005, zero runners have reached first base against the Diamondbacks due to catcher's interference. That's zero as in nada. Nil. No one. And which was the last team to win the World Series without allowing a single runner to reach first base due to catcher's intereference?

You don't have to look back very far -- that's right, it was the 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox. Could this be a favorable omen for the Diamondbacks playoff hopes this season? We'll see.

Barry Bonds Rumblings

The Giants continue to struggle through the season in fourth place, and everybody in San Francisco wants to know only one thing: when is Barry Bonds returning to the lineup?

Rumours have been swirling around the baseball world. Bonds won't play this season. Bonds will have to retire. The Giants front office doesn't keep in touch with Bonds, as per the latters' request. Giants President Peter Magowan even appeared in the booth on Sunday Night Baseball and attempted to dispel these rumours.

But even rumours about a secret tryst between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie haven't had the staying power of the latest rumours surrounding Barry Bonds. What's more, they aren't going away anytime soon.

This is a loaded issue, featuring more conspiracy theories and political double-speak than a season of "24". The Giants management is saying all the right words, but their stance is too slick, too polished. It's just not believable.

Remember, Ronnie Cedeno, Terry Tiffee and Terrmel Sledge have collectively hit more home runs in 2005 (three) than Barry Bonds (zero). As long as this trend continues, the rumours will persist.

Shannon Stewart Rumblings

Through Tuesday night's games, Shannon Stewart is hitting .307 in May, which happens to be exactly the same batting average he had for his 2003 season. Of course, Stewart finished fourth in MVP voting that year, so is this a sign of things to come for the Twins' star outfielder?

Rookie Rumblings

Blue Jays third baseman/DH Aaron Hill was called up last week to replace the injured Corey Koskie. Toronto's #1 draft pick in 2003, Hill's debut in the major leagues has been anything but a steep climb to respectability. He's been tearing up major league pitching to the tune of a .438 batting average (through Tuesday's games). He already has more RBI's this season (five) than high-priced megastars such as Nomar Garciaparra and Tim Hudson, the same number of doubles (one) as respected veterans Carlos Baerga and Jose Offerman, and only one fewer triple (two) than the entire 32-14 White Sox team.

"Hill is the real deal" says one AL front office executive. "He'll be a huge star, no doubt. Hill's head is in the clouds, but this kid is grounded. Without question, Hill has lots of upside. It's anything but lonely at the top for this Hill. Hill is showing no signs of leveling off. The view from this Hill-top is very bright. The Blue Jays are glad to be running up that Hill".

Thus far, Aaron Hill's major league career is full of nothing but peaks. But for how long can this Hill avoid the valleys?

Twins Get 'Low

pillow tanks small + man

Deep inside the Metrodome, far from the Astroturf upon which he regularly makes dazzling catches, Luis Rivas is biting a pillow. Rookie third baseman Terry Tiffee straddles Rivas, pummeling his head with a Twins logo-embossed throw pillow — standard issue to newcomers to the perennial AL Central champions. When people discuss the success of the Twins, they often credit it to the team's pitching and defense. In reality, manager Ron Gardenhire says, it can be chalked up to an old-fashioned Midwest staple: nightly pillow fights.

"Some teams get pumped up with music, others speeches," says Gardenhire. "For us, it's more old-fashioned: we strip to our skivvies and beat each other senseless with pillows. It keeps the kids from thinking too much."

As members of the Twins readily point out, pitcher Johan Santana's amazing run last year only began when he KO'd Shannon Stewart with a pillow husband to the solar plexus. With that victory, he became unstoppable, and remained undefeated for the rest of the season.

Young members of the Twins — called Twinkies by the veteran players — often have a hard time adapting to Minnesota baseball. Early last season, rookie catcher Joe Mauer declared the pastime "gay" to a member of the front office. Later that night, his knee was pummeled with a doorknob-filled pillow as retaliation. Not even the budding superstars are allowed to eschew the tradition, as Justin Morneau learned thanks to a serious concussion earlier this season.

The Twins pillow fights are serious business. Reliever Juan Rincon admitted to a friend on the team that his steroid use — for which he received a 10-day suspension — was solely to improve his weak showings during the early-inning Swedish neck pillow bullpen brawls, which earned him the "soft" tag among the pitching staff.

But now the tradition could be facing extinction.

Pitcher Terry Mulholland was injured on Monday when Brad Radke's trusty lumbar support weapon exploded with a smack to Mulholland's face, sending feathers across the clubhouse, including one into the veteran pitcher's eye. It's unclear when he will be able to return.

While members of the Twins organization take it in stride, Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn) was incensed to learn of the practice and how it had derailed Mulholland's 2005 season. "This isn't baseball," Coleman said on the Senate floor, "this is some liberal sorority party."

Whispers on Capitol Hill say that Coleman is considering attaching a rider to John McCain's anti-steroid legislation that would ban "any form of recreation involving pillows or other soft objects." The bill has a legitimate shot at passage, say Washington insiders.

Ron Gardenhire, for one, will fight it tooth and nail. "They say they don't want to be soft on sports," he says, "but if [Coleman] doesn't watch it, he'll wake up to a mouthful of feathers."

Joe Christensen is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.


2005 Amateur Draft Preview


Very soon, Major League Baseball will hold its annual amateur draft. We asked Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker to answer some questions about this year's crop of talent, and to discuss how teams prepare for the draft. During his time managing the Giants and Cubs, Baker developed a reputation as a genius at developing young talent, including such pitchers as Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano and Jason Schmidt.

Brian (ZONA): hey dusty what's up man giants suck and cubs suck. lol. anyway what do u look for in someone you draft?

Dusty Baker: Brian the most important thing a player can have is heart. That's not something scouts look for, and it's not something you can see in stats. It's something you see only when you shake a man's hand and look him in the eye. If he can look this ole boy in the eye and give me a good shake, I can trust him. I shook Willie Mays' hand. I shook Barry Bonds' hand. I shook John Paul II's hand. They all knew how to shake. See what I mean?

Carl (ny, ny): Hi Dusty. How do you feel about Justin Upton? Everyone says he plays like Bo Jackson and is gonna be the #1 pick.

Dusty Baker: You got me, Carl. I'm gonna have to look this kid up because Bo Jackson could play. I just hope they don't bring him up too soon.

Carlos Z. (chicago): stop chatting or your gonna get tennis elbow!!!!

Dusty Baker: Los that best not really be you "chatting" again!

Eric (seattle): What are the Cubs looking for in the draft this year, Dusty? How much input do you have?

Dusty Baker: You ain't gonna get me to say nothin', boy! Who do you think you're foolin? I worry more about what's on the field than that front office juju, but I do get consultated from time to time. I tell them to give me players with heart and grit, veterans who know how to play. I hear today that Oil Can Boyd is coming back. That's the sort of player Dusty Baker wants.

Steve (letsget highway): which latin american country puts out the best players?

Dusty Baker: I've had many great experiences with the Latin people. They know how to hit them tacos. But I think that some teams bring along their Latinos too quick, but maybe that's because they all lie about their age. I hear that Albert Pujols is really 43 and David Eckstein is 12. You just can't trust them unless you look 'em in the eye. Venezuelans like to look people in the eye, so I guess that answers the question?

josh (las vegas): if you could draft any player currently in baseball to be on the cubs, who would it be?

Dusty Baker: Mark Gruzelanick, no question. Tom Goodwin a close second. They leave it all on the field. Lenny Harris is in my personal hall of fame.

Sergio (Mexico City): Should Japanese players have to enter the draft like all other rookies?

Dusty Baker: Who cares?

chris (Austin): Which is the best pitcher coming into the draft: Luke Hochevar or Mike Pelfry?

Dusty Baker: Trick question, right? Those are fake names.

mike (sf): would you draft your kids?

Dusty Baker: Haha. Probably! Give them 40, 50 years and they really might turn into something. Just the other day I shook Darren's hand and let me tell you, he's got something special. He's got his old man's heart!

Jason (NYC): Off topic, but what are your five favorite books?

Dusty Baker: "I'll name four: the Art of war, Book of Five Rings, The Old Man and the Sea, Bob Marley."

Dusty Baker: Thanks for stopping by! Work on those hitting drills!


The Fee Simple! O Simple!

The news, as long as it is about baseball, never travels as quickly as it does around a team's locker room. It is fair to say that the Reds were taken by surprise, which is to say poleaxed, which is also to say stunned, ambushed, shocked.

Stymied. Undercut. Poleaxed. Blindsided.

Flim-flammed. Jimmied.

Hoosiered. Shanghaied.

In a word: poleaxed.

The locker room, so often the site of boyish hijinks, was more like a freshly-dug grave, or a Trappist monastery, or a swimming pool in winter. No one dared speak. They had lost The Closer.

So often, The Closer had been their rock, their salvation. The Closer was famous for his merrimaking japes and jests -- everyone remembered that disastrous outing earlier in the year, when The Closer had staggered into the locker room, yelling, "Oooo, I got the Homer Neck! It hoits! IT HOITS!" Yea, The Closer had brought them through the good times, and the bad, a very Mercutio; always a smile wreathing his visage, always a can of shaving cream at the ready to hastily assemble a Santa Claus beard, or to squirt in Adam Dunn's cap right before it was clap't upon that slugger's mighty dome.

But, despite the presence of the mighty Sean Casey, there is no joy in this Mudville tonight. Tonight, the Reds weep bitter manly tears of regret. Of release. Of farewell...to The Closer.

For he had gone too far this time, bit his thumb at the wrong man, inflamed a local conflict with ill-timed words, taunting words, words that needed to be repressed within. But don't they understand, those Pharisees of the Ohio River? Mercutio is not to be contained within your narrow strictures! He was made to walk free! And damn the consequences!

The Closer is free now. He walks among them, still keeping that grim-visag'd rictus of a smile on his jaw. He distributes one last gift to each: to Ryan Freel, a box of condoms (O how they laugh!); to Ken Griffey, Jr., a fistful of soy sauce packets (O how they roar!); to D'Angelo Jimenez, nothing more than a jolly chest-bump.

But there is a lot of melancholy in that jolly. No matter how many handshakes are exchanged, no matter how many promises to "keep in touch," no matter how many humorous threats against anyone's wife and small children, The Closer is gone. And they all know it at once, and the slap-and-tickle fades to a grey mist.

Suddenly, up pipes Paul Wilson. "Hey, seriously, Danny, we know you're hurting, and we feel real bad too. We have an off night tomorrow, and we all wanna go out. You gonna be around? Or is the pain of taking the fall for our whole shitty season too much for you to bear?"

The walls wait, quivering, for an answer. An eon passes -- did I say eon? I meant an eternity.

And The Closer speaks one final line:

"'Tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church-door; but 'tis enough,'twill serve: ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me a Graves man."

The On Base Percentage Era

The last eight or nine years are known as the home-run era, and I think justifiably so, if for no other reason than Roger Maris' home run record was broken three times, by Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. But all three of those players are also suspected of steroid use, so now people say this is the steroid era, which makes sense, too, depending on how you want to look at it. Another steroid user was Jason Giambi, and, like Bonds, he hit a lot of home runs, too. Another thing Giambi and Bonds had in common was high on-base percentages, and that's something that the Moneyball people don't like to talk about.

Now of course I believe it's important to get on base. If no one got on base then there would be no need for sacrifice flies or bunting or stolen bases. But the problem with the Moneyball/steroid people is that they want to sacrifice those things in favor of bases on balls because the Moneyball people know that steroids improve vision and patience and so they like bases on balls. I think the base on balls is bad for baseball because it sets a bad example for kids wanting to play baseball, in that it encourages drug use.

So when you see something like Moneyball, which glorifies steroid use and was written by two steroid proponents in Billy Beane and Jose Canseco, and you hear people outside of baseball talk about what a good book it is and that sort of thing, it makes those of us close to baseball nervous about the future of baseball. So far the steroid craze hasn't spread past the Oakland A's clubhouse and we can be thankful of that. But if people like Mr. Bean and Jose had their say, we'd all be juiced right now with needles in our butts and none of our hats would fit right. And that's not good for the game.

Cafardo Variations

"If they were cars, John Smoltz would have been the gas-guzzling SUV while Matt Clement would have been the economical, efficient, precision driving machine." - Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe, May 23, 2005.

If they were roaming about the Great Plains in pioneer times, Matt Clement would have been the noble Lakota, boiling even the smallest bones of the buffalo for precious tallow, while John Smoltz would have been the white man, leaving the carcasses to rot in the Fenway sun.

If they were Victorian-era industrialists, John Smoltz would have been William Randolph Hearst, indulging in grandiose displays of pitching profligacy, while Matt Clement would have been Andrew Carnegie, efficiently using his considerable means to enhance and enrich society.

If they were rappers, John Smoltz would have been M.C. Hammer, erecting a gaudy mansion high in the Oakland hills and hiring an enormous entourage, while Matt Clement would have been Master P, parlaying his success with No Limit Records into a global media empire.

If they were Roman emperors, John Smoltz would have been Caligula, wallowing in the excesses of his own bloated pitch counts, while Matt Clement would have been Claudius, shrewdly conquering the middle third of the Braves' lineup like so much of southern Britannia.

If they were competitive eaters, John Smoltz would have been William "Refrigerator" Perry, foolishly equating wasteful mesomorphy with success, while Matt Clement would have been Takeru Kobayashi, employing his trademark Solomon method to divide and devour the Atlanta Braves' potent bats.

If they were lead guitarists for 1980's hard rock bands, Matt Clement would have been Angus Young, playing clean, economical riffs over the boogie-based backing of the hard-nosed Jason Varitek, while John Smoltz would have been Eddie Van Halen, even though nobody likes that power drill "Eruption" bullshit besides Valerie Bertinelli and guys who work at Daddy's Junky Music.

Fantasy Baseball Advice

Ed. Note:Welcome to another installment of Fantasy Baseball Advice here at Yard Work. Our guests this week are a couple of Oakland A's stars -- 2002 Cy Young winner Barry Zito and first baseman/"Moneyball" hero Scott Hatteberg. We caught up with them on the afternoon before Zito's Sunday night start against the Giants.

Q: A GM in my league wants to take Jake Peavy off my hands in exchange for Keith Foulke. I could use a better closer but other than his save numbers, I don't think Foulke is pitching well. I rejected the trade but he offered it again a few days later. I rejected it again, and yesterday he offered it for a third time. He's insisting that Peavy is young and therefore more unpredictable, whereas Foulke is a consistent year-to-year performer and therefore isn't as much of a risk. Should I rethink this deal?

Tom H., Milwaukee, WS

Barry Zito: Your friend is seriously uptight, man. He's pestering you all the time and that negative energy isn't healthy for you, or for your team. You can't talk baseball with this dude until he chills out a bit. Tell him to veg, listen to some Ben Folds, and relax for a while. Once that happens, you guys can work on improving your teams together.

Scott Hatteberg: Unfortunately, you haven't provided us with much information here. So I can't make a fully informed decision, but I can give you some useful advice. You didn't say what the GM's name is, so I'll call him Joe. You'll need to gather information on every trade that Joe has made over the last three or four years. For each previous trade between you and Joe, assign a number based on the following ranking system:

0 - trade worked out strongly in his favour
1 - trade worked out mildly in his favour
2 - trade worked out evenly
3 - trade worked out mildly in your favour
4 - trade worked out strongly in your favour

You'll need a minimum of five or six trades between you and Joe in order to have a meaningful sample size for the calculation. Average the ratings for all trades between you and Joe. Then, assign similar ratings for Joe's trades with everybody else in the league, and take the average. Now, subtract the league average score from your average score, and normalize the result by dividing by 2.0 (since the rating for all trades by all GM's in the league must necessarily average out to 2.0). This final number represents your Baseball Upper-Normalized Trade Scores (BUNTS) with Joe (for future reference, you should also determine your BUNTS between you and every other GM in your league).

If your BUNTS are positive, then relative to the rest of the league, you are faring well in your trades with Joe. Therefore, you should continue to trade with him. Anything over 0.5 is excellent. If your BUNTS with Joe are greater than 0.5, then you should certainly accept any trade he offers you. On the other hand, if your BUNTS are negative, then you should think twice about making any deals with him.

Obviously, you should give trading preference to GM's based on high numbers of BUNTS. There are a lot of fantasy baseball trade strategies, but BUNTS are almost always a winning strategy. Good luck.

Q: My outfield has been decimated by injuries. I've been scouring my league's waiver wire for a short-term pickup, and I'm trying to decide between B.J. Surhoff and Reed Johnson. Johnson has played very well so far this season, but he might be hitting above his head because his OBP and SLG are way above his career numbers. Should I gamble on the youngster or play it safe with the veteran?

Norman J., New Orleans, LA

SH: Johnson has some "hidden value" in that he gets hit by a lot of pitches. If HBP is a stat in your league then you should lean toward selecting Johnson. On the other hand, Surhoff can ... [Ed. Note: at this point, Mr. Hatteberg abruptly stopped talking in mid-sentence and approached a member of the grounds crew]

BZ: (following a very long pause ) I guess I'll give my answer until Hatty comes back. But yeah, I agree, I'd go with Johnson. He's got that soul patch and he looks like a laid back guy. I'm liking the vibes from him.

SH: [returning three minutes later] ... help your counting stats, provided he gets ample playing time. He'll probably finish with more RBI's than last year because of that great offense they've got in Baltimore. And I'm sorry for leaving you a few minutes ago, but the groundskeeper is my neighbour's best friend's uncle. I had to tell him my story about Jeremy Giambi and the green-eyed chihuahua. I've been meaning to tell him for months.

Q: I'm preparing for the draft in my midseason league. In a league with fifteen teams, do you see Jon Garland getting picked in the first two or three rounds? He must be due for a 2nd half dropoff, at least that's my feeling. Also, will Ben Sheets come back strong from the DL in the second half? I'm thinking of making him my first pitching draft pick if he's available.

Luis B., San Bernadino, CA

BZ: (extremely long pause ) Sheets, man, he's a wild dude. Totally cool. He's a funny guy, too. I'd much rather hang out with him than Garland. Does that answer your question?

SH: This is a tough call. When was Garland drafted last year? Were you involved in a full-season draft this spring with any of the same GM's, and if so, when was he drafted? You'll need to acquire the video from past drafts and study the events leading up to his selections. For any given draft, before Garland was picked, how long was the pause between his selection and the previous selection? If it was shorter than seven or eight seconds, then he was queued up on somebody's preranked list and likely will be again. If his selection took sixty seconds or more, then that GM may have taken a flyer and Garland's draft position is probably due to luck, particularly if it was in the first four or five rounds.

Q: Barry Zito is single-handedly killing my pitching staff. I selected him in the third round of our draft, thinking that he would step up his performance after the Hudson and Mulder trades. It was a dumb hunch, I know, particularly considering his steady decline since the 2001-2 seasons. Anyhow, I've tried to trade him for anything ressembling a real pitcher, but no other teams want this decade's Steve Avery, and to be frank, I can't blame them. Zito has one win, his peripherals are bad, and I don't see much upside. Is it time to give up and put him on waivers? Or do you think I should hang on for a little while longer? I might be able to trade for a decent utility player or long reliever if Zito can put together a couple of quality starts.

Horace P., Trenton, NJ

SH: Er, I think ... hey Z-man, do you want to take this one?

BZ: (cavernously huge pause lasting approximately seventeen minutes) Hey man, that's cool. Totally understandable. You're frustrated, and I can sympathize. But there may be a greater power at work in your league this year. There are some bad spiritual demons working against you right now. If you don't win this year, then it wasn't meant to be, and it's out of your control. Set your lineups for the next two weeks and just head to the beach for a while. Waking up on the beach, man, watching the sun rise in the morning, feeling the surf coming in and washing over your toes, it's the best feeling. It's a much better feeling than winning some fantasy baseball league. Come to think of it, I just might do the same thing myself.

Ed. Note: thanks for reading, and keep your eyes peeled for future editions of Fantasy Baseball Advice!

Game Of The Week Re-Enactment: Yankees v. Mets

EDITOR'S NOTE: In the storied tradition of E! Entertainment Television's daily re-enactments of the Michael Jackson trial, BBTN is proud to bring you a regular series of posts featuring chatroom re-enactments of Fox's Game of the Week broadcast, featuring Emmy-award winning broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

[L-R: MiggityMac, BucKKKarooBonzai!]

SATURDAY, MAY 21, 2005


BucKKKarooBonzai!: you ready gramps?

MiggityMac: ready to kick you mofo

BucKKKarooBonzai!: hahaha watch that hi blood pressure george burns

MiggityMac: hahaha eat a cowpie

BucKKKarooBonzai!: mets?

MiggityMac: Inconcistent, Pizza Struggles, TAKE ONE PITCH JOSE, They Fired Me

BucKKKarooBonzai!: yankees?

MiggityMac: Hott Cross Buns On A Roll, Tino On A Pizza Roll, Jeter = BEST EVAH (buns!), New Lineup = Torre Is A Genius, Relationship George Breathes Fire And Gets Results, Winningest Franchise Ever In All Of Everything All Time, They Fired Me


MiggityMac: he's phat!

BucKKKarooBonzai!: lol shut up

BucKKKarooBonzai!: YANKEES WIN if jetes doesn't get hit

BucKKKarooBonzai!: get well soon jetes! yr the man dog!

MiggityMac: word

BucKKKarooBonzai!: benson looks GOOD today

MiggityMac: yeah kris too

BucKKKarooBonzai!: rofl no doubt! anna holla back gurl!



BucKKKarooBonzai!: one VIAGKRA lol

BucKKKarooBonzai!: B-A-N BANANAZ!

BucKKKarooBonzai!: how bout KOO KOO KAJOOB

MiggityMac: OMG dbl + head-1st slide just as good as HR

MiggityMac: thanx to no one @ home

MiggityMac: way to be payfraud


BucKKKarooBonzai!: and then save washing machien from fire

BucKKKarooBonzai!: and then hit 5-run HR



MiggityMac: hahaha QED ALEXIS


MiggityMac: F I R E

MiggityMac: I N C

MiggityMac: A I R O

BucKKKarooBonzai!: LOL yr old and goth

MiggityMac: so's RJ - 12 H, 6.2 IP, and C A I R O

BucKKKarooBonzai!: HAHA pwned

BucKKKarooBonzai!: also - hi McC there's only one chris berman

BucKKKarooBonzai!: or three

MiggityMac: huh?

BucKKKarooBonzai!: stupid song references

BucKKKarooBonzai!: GARY US BONDS




BucKKKarooBonzai!: hahaha EASY MAC

MiggityMac: whatevah 8head

MiggityMac: go sell some beer


BucKKKarooBonzai!: dude


BucKKKarooBonzai!: hahaha shut up


BucKKKarooBonzai!: FU and your hair in a box

BucKKKarooBonzai!: yeah deion called

BucKKKarooBonzai!: wants his asti spumanti back

MiggityMac: DON’T GO THERE

MiggityMac: how's your boy LEON doing huh?

BucKKKarooBonzai!: DEION

MiggityMac: hi LEON can I rub ben-gay into your sore hammies?

BucKKKarooBonzai!: DEION

MiggityMac: LEON can I have your autograf for my bedroom wall?

BucKKKarooBonzai!: DEION

MiggityMac: LEON make it out to your best friend ever JOSEPH P. BUCK, ESQ

BucKKKarooBonzai!: DEION


BucKKKarooBonzai!: DEION

MiggityMac: LEON

BucKKKarooBonzai!: DEION

MiggityMac: LEON

BucKKKarooBonzai!: PRIME TIME

MiggityMac: hahaha nice suit berman! purple = teh hottness

BucKKKarooBonzai!: hahahah PWNED k sall good

MiggityMac: :-)

MiggityMac: we done?

BucKKKarooBonzai!: yeah almost


MiggityMac: hahahahahahahahaha

BucKKKarooBonzai!: I'm sterling get me booze and media guide

BucKKKarooBonzai!: and yr finest fried meats

BucKKKarooBonzai!: hahahaha you're WALD MAN

MiggityMac: shut up


MiggityMac: SHUT UP omg

BucKKKarooBonzai!: sterling agknowlidge my insite into the game

BucKKKarooBonzai!: stop talking to jack daniels! Talk to MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

MiggityMac: rofl

BucKKKarooBonzai!: OK B&M out

BucKKKarooBonzai!: jeanie z your face could scratch diamonds girl


MiggityMac: lmao


Fever of Beisbol: Drink It! by Ana Maria Callejeo Guillen

Hello, and thank you very much to the good men (and the women? jajaja I does not think so) in Beisbol Tonight to let to me write this new column, Fever of Beisbol: Drink It!

As the superior writer of the beisbol for El Universal, the newspaper of Caracas, I am very excited about the connections making by the new E$PN Somos Deportes. I ahead watch to be able to give my impression of a "spicy Latina" on the great and glorious game of the baseball, that has given so much to the good people of Venezuela.

We must begin with the controversy that fills the conversations of each one in Caracas: the conflict between Ozzie Guillen, the one in charge of the Chicago Medios Blancos, and Magglio Ordonez, that plays for los Tigres de Detroit. Ay, que apuro! I will not take sides, although both men are related to me distantly; I am third cousin to Magglio and niece of Ozzie. (That's Venezuela!) Both are good and fine Venezuelan men that they have made a fine and good life in the game of beisbol.

So why must they fighting? With my uncle saying that Magglio is un pedazo de mierda (sorry!) and my cousin tercer saying that Ozzie is his enemy! It is a deep shame of beisbol, truthfully a low point in the glorious game of the diamond. It is to have no place in beisbol, and both men should apologize faster than oil coming up out of a well, or yanquis coming here to take possession of that oil.

I do not want our American readers to think that this is the way all Venezuelans act toward each others! We are a kind and loving people. Our hearts are as great as the ocean, and twice as wide. We think about many things, from emotions of ambiguity about the policies of Hugo Chavez to our many fine beauty queens and pop groups, all the way to the recent shellacking of our national futbol team at the feet of those pinche bolivianos.

In addition, Magglio had better focus on putting his intestines back into his body, and Ozzie needs to upgrade at the 3B (¿Joe Credi, usted me está embromando?) and get ready for when his pitching tightrope finally comes to an end.

Well, I have "yakked" at you enough here. I am very córneo to do a column of regularity for this blog, I only hope my English is not too badly for you! Until next time, as we say in Caracas, ¡muchos besos, y mojados del lleno-cuerpo abrazos de la pasión para el béisbol!

Ana Maria Callejeo Guillen, a former pop star and Miss World 2001, is the top baseball writer for El Universal, and an anchor for E$PN Somos Deportes.


Where Is The Love For ... MR. JIM TRACY?

Dear Mr. Jim Tracy:

Your lack of acumen with regards to in-game management is only exceeded by your disrespect for the English language and our readership. I am SHOCKED (yes, SHOCKED) that you assaulted the fine audience of our BBTN weblog with your ill-informed and indiscrete profanity. Just look at what this weblog had to say about our site:

"...their profanity-laced writing reminds me too much of Eddie Murphy's less-than-comic triumphs; Tourette's Syndrome might work as a punchline, but it's painful in real life, and merely tedious as style."

No doubt Mr. 6-4-2 was referring to my rant regarding a certain Marlins pitcher I refuse to name for fear of releasing another impassioned alcohol-fueled blitzkrieg of F-bombs, and, of course, Mr. Bowa's charming asterisk-filled anecdotes. Yet, Mr. Jim Tracy, note that we - Mr. Bowa and myself - both put the sensitive sensibilities of our audience first in obscuring such coarse language. Not that you have proven you know anything about being sensible.

For instance, when your starter, having been woefully ineffective in recent outings, gives up a single, homer, and homer in the 5th inning, why do you stick with him? Are you hoping for a confidence boost to lift his spirits? Are you too busy busting up possible "panty-*ss bullsh*t" that might destroy the hirsuite masculine integrity of our team unit? Or maybe you were looking for a new way to phrase your Stone Age reasoning for platooning one of your best hitters? Or talking to the other teams to find ways to put a hit on me (like in this game)?

Never mind that poor hangdog Jeff Weaver gave up super big flies to hitters that hit big flies like Carlos Delgado and Miguel Cabrera, but then he gives one up to DAMION EASLEY. I believe the instrument he would be compared to would be a banjo. Or perhaps a Jew's harp. Perhaps an autoharp is an appropriate reference. Regardless of the simile, no one compared to a stringed instrument should be able to hit home runs off of a pitcher of Jeff Weaver's skill. And yet, there is Damion Easley, touching them all. And STILL you do not pull Jeff Weaver out - why? Because his giving up a double to Alex Gonzalez immediately before being saved from himself proves that he needs to suck up his testicles and learn what it means to be a man through such sucking?

Yes, you are my manager, and I respect your position and your title, but I do not respect your baseball acumen, Mr. Jim Tracy. Your no-run strategies are inexplicable. Your quixotic bench usage is inconcievable. Your confidence in Scott Erickson (a player whose arm is held to its place in his shoulder socket by hopes, dreams, and wet chewed licorice) is unsubstantiated. And, because of you, Mr. Jim Tracy, we have lost our first-place lead and are now behind two teams. I do not blame you, though. I pity you. I pity you because you are a victim of your own failure.

At first, I had yet another puckish impassioned reply in mind to answer your ill-founded claims and assertions and aspersions. But anger is not the answer here, nor is the answer for me to tell you where you are wrong and type "COME ON!" with alarming frequency while drinking box after box of substandard wine-like product. We are working towards a common goal, and we must both reach the root of these problems, and we must understand why these problems occur, or order for these problems to be problems no longer.

I have done some research on you, Mr. Jim Tracy. For one, you are from Ohio, which I thought was a blue state, so I do not understand where your colloquial contractions and corn-fed demeanor come from. Was there a Wild West or Dirrrty South in Ohio? Or are you running from your heritage because you fear red-blooded Americans will shun you as an educated Yankee (or worse, a Cub)? Believe me, I understand - I have to think that the only reason baseball announcers and writers say and writer such odd things about my defensive shortcomings or my weaknesses as a hitter has some root in my ethnic heritage. Do not fear your history, Mr. Tracy. Embrace it. Learn from it. And do not repeat the same mistakes. Like this:

vs RHP
AB: 175
AVG: .250
OBP: .343
SLG: .378

vs LHP
AB: 13
AVG: .231
OBP: .231
SLG: .231

Do you recognize these numbers? These are your numbers, Mr. Jim Tracy, as a major league hitter. Only 13 at-bats against left-handed pitching. No doubt your managers said things about you such as, "We don't want to hit him against left-handed pitchers, as he might mess up his approach against right-handed pitchers." Given your RHP stats, though, maybe you were already messed up. But never mind that - no doubt this failing of yours has haunted you for the past quarter-decade. But the sins of the father are not the sins of the father's baseball team.

I am a major league hitter, Mr. Tracy. And I am a young major league hitter. I can learn, if given the opportunity to learn. And given the opportunity to fail. Because long-term success cannot be realized without experiencing short-term failure. Let me fail, Mr. Jim Tracy, so that I may achieve success. So that WE may achieve success. So that THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS OF LOS ANGELES may achieve success. Especially against those glory-grabbing, not-base-stealing, walk-fearing, nomadic-name-changing, Hudler-employing Angels. Thank you.

PS - I am rubber, you are glue. Watch as your words bounce from me into your former horse parts like Enron employee checks. Nyeah nyeah.


More Cowbell Than You Will Ever Need II

I've been "on hiatus" from work for a couple of weeks but believe me, I've been busy. Between the Red Sox trying to catch the Orioles while holding off the charging Yankees, three exciting 2nd round NBA playoff series when none were expected, and biting my nails in anticipation of tonight's season finale of "The OC", my plate is full. Oh yeah, I've been occupied with that whole fatherhood thing, as well.

Once you've had kids, your friends without kids look at you differently. They shake your hand, pat you on the back, and offer their sincere congratulations, but their faces say "you've got a kid now -- so much for taking spontaneous trips to Vegas! We'll have to go without you next time because you've just lost a large chunk of your freedom!". Expectant fathers think those thoughts a thousand times in the last weeks before the birth. It's just like the Colts losing at Foxboro in January -- you mark the date on your calendar months ahead of time, you know it's coming, and there's nothing you can do to stop it from happening. And when the big day finally comes, you can do two things. You can walk around looking bewildered, wearing a Peyton Manning "I can't believe I lost in New England again" face. Or you can realize that you haven't lost freedom, you've gained freedom. Look at it this way -- I've got a readymade excuse for attending any baseball game I want. What's the point of having kids if you can't take them with you to Fenway Park?

The most interesting thing about the baseball season so far has to be the confirmation of the Ewing Theory with respect to closers. Granted, closers aren't exactly superstars, but they get treated like it by their teams. Closers lose their jobs all the time, year in and year out, and yet every time a guy get appointed as his team's closer it gets treated like a coronation. When James Eckhouse left 90210, he wasn't replaced. Like a closer, he played a small, but high profile role on the show. He got two or three minutes with which to put his stamp on each episode, and nobody complained. In fact, he was quite often praised for it. So the producers were smart enough to know that they couldn't make a big deal about trying to replace him because the fans wouldn't a) accept an incoming father figure as though he was a big deal, and b) respect him. Case in point -- five years later, they inexplicably tried to parachute Joe E. Tata into the father figure role, attempting to transform a bit player into the wise sage of the show and worthy of his own spot in the opening credits. Look how that turned out. See what I mean?

You can't just name somebody as the closer and expect the fans to accept it. Like with Britney Spears, she can't name some trashbag guy as her husband and expect her fans to accept him and watch a reality show centred around their daily minutiae. By the way, did you *see* "Chaotic" on Tuesday? The Unintentional Comedy scale doesn't come close to covering it. This past week, I think we saw the dawning of a new era of bad reality TV. My favourite part was Britney's huge 300 pound bodyguard saying that his first impression of Kevin Federline was that he was interested in her for the fame and nothing else. My head exploded when I heard that and my insides leaked into the pile of diapers on the couch next to me (oh no, I promised that I wouldn't be one of those columnists who talked about fatherhood all of the time). On second thought, maybe my favourite part was Britney taking inspiration from cinematography of "The Blair Witch Project" and using it as a vehicle to tell us about art appreciation. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Who thought that it would be a good idea to put this stuff on TV? Did Ian from Survivor:Palau negotiate the TV deal on behalf of the network? And despite all of this, why can I hardly wait for next week's episode?

So, in line with the principles of the Ewing Theory, closers are treated like royalty in baseball and yet teams are managing to win without them. The Cards are running away with the NL Central despite injuries to Jason Isringhausen. The Dodgers have been near the top of the NL West all year without Eric Gagne. NL saves leader Brandon Lyon is about to go on the DL -- imagine how good the Diamondbacks will be without him! My buddy Hench heard the news about Lyon and immediately got 3-1 odds in Vegas that the Dbacks will have the league's best won-loss record by June 1. Baseball GM's have countless different strategies for assembling a winning team, but from what we've seen so far this year, I think that Joe Garagiola Jr.'s "lose 110 games, start strong the following year, injury to closer" method is ready to take off.

The Braves are ready to claim their annual pennant even with Danny Kolb as their closer. Kolb's ERA has been struggling to stay below Barry Bonds' hat size all year, and yet the Braves keep winning. He's so awful, they might as well not even have a closer. This was obvious to seemingly everyone except for the Braves, but finally they wised up and removed Kolb from the closers role this week. Look for them to run away with their division from here on in.

And in Boston, you'd think people would be concerned with injuries to Schilling and Wells, Manny Ramirez hitting .230, and Rob and Amber's wedding. But they're not, because all anybody talks about is how much Keith Foulke is struggling. The whole year has been a race between Foulke's ballooning ERA and the pathetic ratings for "The Contender", but the Red Sox are six games over .500 regardless. Tom Cruise's flying skills improved after the Goose went down, so why can't the Red Sox improve without Foulke? We don't have to seriously hurt him. One day, maybe he could fall against a table while pulling on a pair of cowboy boots? Can somebody see to it that he has a nightmare about spiders and sleepwalks through a plate glass window, pitching hand first? Are there any hypnotists out there who can make this happen?

BLEEP BLEEP - May 19th

Yeah, OK, BLEEP BLEEP, whoop dee f*ckin doo. I gotta make this kinda quick - HR and JB spiked Ravvy's super special double mocha super sissy latte w/ some ruffies and Exlax, and the Nutless Wonder's about done w/ pennying the supply closet door shut. Fun times, no doubt. WELCOME TO THE BIG LEAGUES MEAT! Hope you like fudge! F*cktard.

Anyway, my name's come up a few times in recent weeks about going back to baseball and saving the Kansas City Royals from their dead ass self. So, yeah, I'm gonna get interviewed, and, yeah, I said this:

"Because you're young doesn't mean you're going to get beat," Bowa said Wednesday. "Playing winning baseball is hard. You've got to put in the time and the effort, respect your other teammates, respect your manager and respect your coaching staff. It takes work."

…but, really, for all you dumsh*t folks that think I'm serious, learn to read between the f*cking lines. You want me to translate for you? Maybe you no speak good Engrish, Babar? OK, then. Get real close to the screen, Duckie. What I ACTUALLY F*CKING SAID, you walking fart, was: "If you think I want to leave my sweet-as-a-prom-date gig here w/ E$PN for a gig where I'd have to deal w/ MATT F*CKING STAIRS as my clean-up hitter, that f*cking milk-and-cookies g*dboy, and a bunch of pissant kid pitchers that don't know a brushback pitch from a set of baby back ribs, then you *sshats need to think about doing mankind a favor and make like lemmings taking a tour of the Brooklyn Bridge." I mean, really, how f*cking bored or stupid do you have to be to throw my f*cking name onto this f*cking shortbus? What do you think I f*cking did in Philly? You think those were BALLPLAYERS? Are you fat knoblickers blind or just brain damaged? Sh*t. I'd have better luck managing the Bad News Bears, WITHOUT Tatum O'Neal and that Kelly Leak f*ck. Incidentally, that little greasy Leak-looking d*cksquirt on the Suns - he's all right! Kid knows how to play the f*cking game! And he's not even American - whoda thunk it? That f*cking hair, tho - HEY THERE SPUNKZILLA. TEN BUCKS AT SUPERCUTS. GET ON IT PALEFACE.

Kansas City hasn't done sh*t since George Brett was kicking the crap out of the AL - why not bring him in as manager? Yeah, he might be a little light in the cleats, but f*ck it, dude was tough as nails, and could rake like a motherf*cker. Or, what the f*ck, bring back that Jimy Williams sped. "Manager's decision." Yeah KMART SUCKS too, Gramps. Surprised the old cooter can actually say big words without spitting up an organ. But, y'know, say what you want about him, but the guy was a winner. F*cking couldn't explain his way out of 2+2, probably couldn't tell you what he just dropped in his drawers, but had great f*cking ingame instincts. You'd have great f*cking instincts too, tho, if you had a jockstrap crawling up your *ss for 50 f*cking years while trying to teach greencards how to f*cking bunt.

Like it's so f*cking hard - you CATCH the g*ddamn ball with that f*cking stick in your f*cking hands. CATCH the g*ddamn f*cking piece of sh*t ball with your g*ddamn motherf*cking piece of sh*t f*cking bat. How many F*CKING times to I have to say it, Padilla? You hold that f*cking bat like you know what the f*ck you're doing - it's a piece of f*cking wood, not your f*cking priest's d*ck! You HOLD the f*cking bat like this, and when a pitch THAT YOU CAN F*CKING BUNT - this is the KEY PART OF THIS DISCUSSION, Padilla, don't f*cking give me that f*cking siesta sh*t, ese - when you get a good f*cking pitch, then you square around and you let the ball hit the f*cking bat. You don't punch at the f*cking ball like it b*tchslapped your face.

And that goes f*cking double for you, Millwood - for f*ck's sake, you were a f*cking Brave! Didn't any of those "chicks dig the long ball" f*ckwits teach you a g*ddamn thing about handling the f*cking bat? You keep that foul strike 3 sh*t up, I'll pinchhit for you w/ that f*cking In & Out Burger loaf I squeezed off last night. THAT piece of sh*t actually HAS some f*cking stones! Probably has a better f*cking change-up, too. F*cking hell, I can't wait for your dead *ss to get the f*ck out of my f*cking life. F*cking get the clap, you soft-tossing j*zzmop.

All right. I got time for one f*cking question, and boy oh boy I can't wait to f*cking answer it:

Dear Larry: I am just writing to tell you that you have lots of gay fans. I have started a tribute website to you at thebowaconstrictor.net. Would you like to write something we can use as an endorsement of you on the site? Keep smiling! [R. Santorumm, Bethesda, MD]

I've gotten a few f*cking e-mails like this the past week (f*ck if I know why), but I just want to take the opportunity to tell all you well-dressed, well-groomed, oily *ssgrabbing sausage-smoking b*tchtits what I think of your f*cking shit. That's why I'm using the ripsh*t pic of me at the top of this post - I'm about to unleash the f*cking fury on your pansy *sses. Now listen up and listen good, because I'm only going to say this one f*cking time, and I don't repeat myself. And if I have to f*cking repeat myself, I'm gonna do it with my f*cking fists. OK - for the last f*cking time, if I EVER get ANOTHER f*cking e-mail from any of you f*cking people, I will, so help me f*cking G*d, get out a pair of f*cking pliers, take your f*cking

[EDITORS NOTE: Unfortunately, this portion of the post was somehow lost between being written and being posted to the Blogger servers. Mr. Bowa can't remember what he was going to say here, but I'm sure, if he wasn't nursing yet another hangover, he'd be happy to thank you for your interest in his career, and appreciates the show of support from you and other fan wesbites. However, Mr. Bowa prefers to distance himself from such fan-based endeavors, for the sake of professional integrity, and as such refrains from actually endorsing such things directly. Please know that Mr. Bowa appreciates your support very much, though, and as a token of appreciation would like to send you some autographed photos from his unpublished Playgirl spread ("Ramrod Hardball") - please get in touch with your address, and we'll send the pics right out to you! Feel free to post the photos on your website, or auction them off to allieviate the burden of your webhosting costs. This offer is extended to any and all interested parties. Thanks for reading our weblog, Mr. Santorumm, and good luck with your future endeavors!]

EAT IT YOU PIGGY B*TCH! SQUEAL! YEAH! YEAH! JUST TRY IT F*CKER! YEAH! BRING THE F*CKING PAIN! YEAH RIGHT THERE! WHOS YR DADDY! WHO IS YR F*CKING DADDY! Yeah, that's right. That's what I f*cking thought. C'mon, try it again - I f*cking dare you. Who's yr daddy? B*tches.

OK - Ball One just came back and told me the Ravinator's coming around. "C'mon, guys, I really gotta go bad!" Hahahah. Showtime. Until when the f*ck ever, ladies.

Book Club: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

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While I've been serving my one-year suspension for steroid use … uuhhh, while I've been rehabbing my knee, I've found myself with a lot of time to indulge in deep thinking. Though I've been able to absorb many of the lessons of the literary classics simply by intuiting them from the arc of my powerful home-run swing (storage of which intuitions has so massively increased my cranial capacity over the years), filing them away in the vast warehouse space that is my brain for consideration in the reflective years of my retirement, I didn't think actually reading would have much to offer me as I wait for Bud Selig to let me out of the hole errrrrr go into the trainer to have my knee drained again. But there is one volume that I feel is particularly relevant to my current struggles, and I have become quite taken with it. That book is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I'd like to thank my friend Terrell Owens for recommending it to me.

For those of you not familiar with Ayn Rand, she is the founder of the philosophy of Objectivism, which is all about getting paid despite the obstacles thrown in your way by lesser beings, most especially the media. Ms. Rand herself suffered many setbacks in her career. Her writings were continually refused by benighted publishers, she was consistently messed around by the media, and she was forced to breast-feed a young Alan Greenspan until he was well into his 20s. Then, after she died, all of her manuscripts were stolen by Congress. I can relate.

Anyway, The Fountainhead details the exploits of a character named Howard Roark, an aspiring architect whose plans are continually botched because meddlesome outsiders have to go and get in his way. He is the ultimate Objectivist hero for several reasons. First, he is driven to excellence in his chosen field and he pursues professional glory with single-minded dedication. Second, he is forced to rape a lesbian. And ultimately, he is destroyed by a craven newspaper publisher (of course!) named Pedro Gomez er I mean Gail Wynand.

I highly recommend this book. There was also a movie starring Gary Cooper but I think Gary was a little light in his tapshoes.



Ball Five Pt 2

Editor's Note: John Rocker, the maligned former closer for the Atlanta Braves, has signed a book deal with Regnery Publishing (publisher of such bestsellers as Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry) to chronicle his comeback attempt. Regnery and Mr. Rocker have graciously agreed to post some of the pitcher's entries here, as they happen. Expect a new entry each week.

Things are looking up for me after a couple of tough outings. In only one week, I've lowered my ERA by nearly four runs. Nobody else on our pitching staff can claim that they've improved so much in such a short time. Hopefully Don McCormack, our manager, appreciates this and will get me into more ball games.

The morning of Saturday's game, the hurlers worked out with our pitching coach Dave LaPoint. We had just lost a couple of close games against Camden and Newark and he wanted to speak with the bunch of us. He said "you guys have to concentrate when you're on the mound", but I just had to roll my eyes. Believe me, we're not dummies, we're concentrating out there. Well, except for that lunkhead Todd Erdos, I'm not so sure he's with it. But he's a dumb lightbulb changin' Kowalski, so he can't help but be stupid. Anyhow, we all give 100% when we're out on the mound and sometimes we scan the stands for teenage jailbait between pitches but we don't let it affect our performance.

Well, LaPoint kept going on and on about concentration and discipline and crap. Finally I'd had enough so I decided to lighten the mood a bit. I told them that I had a question and squinted with my eyes as if I was concentrating really hard while trying to read something off the pitch charts. Then, in my best Jackie Chan accent, I said "Hideo Nomo say dat first pitch strike -- velly important!". The guys didn't laugh but I think they were stifling a few chuckles because they didn't want to embarrass the coaching staff. But a team has to stay loose to be successful. They'll learn that lesson from me as the season wears on. It's a long season.

Today I got some letters from my John Rocker Fanclub of Macon, Georgia. Having my very own fanclub in my hometown makes me so proud. This one kid wrote to say how much he admired me. He had just read my Sports Illustrated article from 1999 and agreed with everything I said. He also said that his brother was sent to Iraq a few months back and his family had no idea when he'd be returning. I wrote him back to clear up a few things. I mean, I'm flattered that he liked that SI piece, but I've grown up a lot since then. Some of the things I said weren't cool, and I needed to make sure that the kid knew that. Also, I can't believe that a member of my fanclub got sent to Iraq. My fanclub members are great kids and the ragheads don't deserve them, particularly when there are so many spics in this country who aren't doing anything useful. For instance, our utility infielder Cesar Tovar is hitting about .150. If they need somebody over there, they should send him because he's not helping our team.

Diamond Notes

When it came time to negotiate a new contract this off-season, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek told his agent Scott Boras to play hardball, but in his heart Varitek knew that there was only one place for him - manning the plate in Fenway Park as he's done for the past seven years.

And if you're wondering why the Red Sox signed Varitek to that monster contract before the season began, they can sum it up in one word: intangibles. Intangibles. "He does all the little things, and makes them seem so easy," gushed one Red Sox executive recently - and this was before Varitek hit that walk-off homer against embattled A's closer Octavio Dotel last week. People in the know about intangibles report that it isn't a surprise that the Yankees are struggling to play .500 ball while Varitek is near the league lead in hitting. With such a limited supply of intangibles in this world of steroid testing, and Varitek may be staking his claim to the territory once intangibly occupied by the likes of Derek Jeter.

Without Varitek, the Red Sox would be a good team, but not the powerhouse they've proven themselves to be over the last couple of weeks. He's a versatile switch-hitter with serious home run clout, a good baserunner for a big man, but his real talents lie in preparation and pitcher management. He has a real rapport with everyone on the Red Sox staff - even ladies' man David Wells. Although closer Keith Foulke is struggling, the Red Sox aren't concerned; they think they can win the AL East outright, and Varitek is the reason.

-- If Dotel's collapses are a harbinger of anything, it's that these Oakland A's are going to have their work cut out for them in the AL West. It might be tempting to count them out if they played in any other division, but let's not forget that nobody in their division is flawless. "Anaheim can't hit, Texas can't pitch, and Seattle's bullpen anchor is J.J. Putz," reports a scout. "And the A's finish every year faster than Brady Anderson on his wedding night." Barry Zito is probably cooked, however, and the A's might be better off starting the actual LaMarr Hoyt every five days than the once-dominating lefty whose career arc resembles Hoyt's more and more.

• Privately, the Marlins have no regrets about trading Derrek Lee and Hee Seop Choi, not with big bopper Carlos Delgado making the transition to the NL smoothly, but somewhere in that front office, someone's got to be second-guessing the moves that sent two of the most patient and intelligent hitters in the league to greener pastures in Chicago and Los Angeles. They know the true extent of Mike Lowell's decline, and it might not just be an early-season slump; the problem is that staff ace A.J. Burnett's impending free agency makes him Priority Numero Uno on the Marlins' off-season slate.

Finding a capable third baseman (maybe Bill Mueller?) for insurance in case Lowell's lost his smile may be too much for Florida's limited budget to bear, especially with so much dinero tied up in Delgado's deal; some Miami brass think that Lowell may have simply lost his ability to produce on a stage bigger than "People en Espanol," but replacing his once-potent bat could be muy complicado in this competitive market.

• As for Choi, the same Dodger higher-ups who were recently decrying him as a "useless sack of s---" are now hailing his pitch selection and power to all fields. Making the transition to Dodger Stadium is hard for any hitter, but for Choi, a still-young prospect, it was doubly so. He didn't spend long in Marlin teal before being dealt, and he didn't have much time to acclimate himself to the quirks of Wrigley Field before that.

In LA, though, the wounds of the Lo Duca trade are still fresh, and Dodger fans' lingering distrust of Paul DePodesta affects the reputations of players like Choi and Brad Penny. Old-line manager Jim Tracy, reluctant to change his stubborn ways, might be served by remembering an ancient Chinese proverb: "Jade requires chiselling before becoming a gem."

• How excited is Nationals star Brad Wilkerson about the upcoming "Star Wars" prequel? Following the lead of Washington lobbyists, Wilkerson has hired a proxy to wait in line for him at the Uptown Theatre in Cleveland Park before Friday's midnight premiere. Following the Nats' Thursday matinee game against Milwaukee, Wilkerson will rush home, change into full Luke Skywalker gear, and replace his stand-in. Wilkerson says he's "psyched" about the movie, adding that he showed up at the midnight screenings of the first and second prequels during his previous stints in Harrisburg and Montreal.

• Boston prospect Cla Meredith failed mightily in his first big-league game, issuing a grand slam to Richie Sexson in a loss to Seattle, but don't fear, Sox fans; the experience will help him immeasurably, either next year as a replacement for aging reliever Mike Timlin or as a possible trade chit in a deal for a first baseman (perhaps Lyle Overbay?). Meredith also won accolades when he threw himself into Commonwealth Avenue traffic to shield a family of ducklings from oncoming traffic as they crossed the road. Meredith was feted by the local chapter of noted humane organization Friends of the Ducks, although three pedestrians died in the subsequent pile-up. Reached for comment, clubhouse manager Joe Cochran said, "Meredith's a great kid. He really gave 110% out there; it's just a shame that God was batting in the bottom of the ninth."

• Don't look now, interleague fans, but this weekend's Brewers/Twins series ought to be more exciting than "Battle of the Gridiron Stars" on ESPN. Wes Obermueller is quietly turning into a gamer. Gamer.