Wednesday Wisps

July 1, 2009

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The big news story of last week was the death of pop icon Michael Jackson at age 50.  News accounts have indicated that Jackson left behind $400 million.  Jackson’s estate does, of course, contain some valuable assets.  Most notable is his music portfolio, which includes his own music, as well as a portion of royalties from The Beatles.  The day after his death, 9 of the 10 most downloaded iTunes albums were Jackon’s.  This also underscores the ability of digital content providers to be able to seamlessly adjust to spikes in demand.  If stores like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Sam Goody sold out of Jackson CDs, they would not be able to satisfy the demand until they were able to restock.  Since the demand will likely dissipate as time passes, they will likely lose some of the impulse sales.  Digital providers such as iTunes are immune from this.  iTunes can’t “sell out” of a CD.  They just throw more hardware into the iTunes Music Store to handle the spike in volume.

Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff was sentence to 150 years in prison.  If Madoff serves the entire sentence, he would be 221 years old when he is released.  Essentially, the judge gave Madoff a life sentence.  Madoff will likely spend his remaining years in a medium security prison (a prison with bars on the windows and a fence) rather than a country club of a minimum security prison, due to the length of the sentence and the corresponding flight risk.  The judge also ruled that Madoff must also forfeit $171 billion.  It seems impossible that such a large amount will be recovered.

Minnesota finally has a winner in their Senate race.  The state supreme court unanimously declared Al Franken to be the winner, and challenger Norm Coleman has given up his fight.  The win by Franken mkaes it easier for the Democrats to invoke cloture (a procedure to end a filibuster and force a vote on an issue; 60 votes are required for cloture).  I have a question, though – does Franken get paid the salary of a Senator for the last 8 months?  Or does the money that was allocated to his salary go somewhere else (Chrysler, perhaps?).  I wrote a humorous article about the Minnesota Senate situation a couple of months ago.

Another Airbus jet suffered a deadly ocean crash.  This time, a Yemeni jet plunged into the Indian Ocean with 153 people on board.  At the time this story was written, one child had been found alive, and authorities were hoping that other survivors would be found.  The Airbus jet involved is this crash is a different model that the Brazilian jet that crashed on June 1, leaving no survivors.

South Carolina governor Mark Sanford admitted having an affair with a woman in Argentina.  This came to light after Sanford recently was unreachable by his staff.  As it turned out, he was in Argentina at the time.  Many politicians include Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, have called for Sanford to step down.  If Sanford does step down, Bauer would stand to gain the most.  He would become governor, and this would greatly aid his 2010 run for the office, as he would be elevated to incumbent without being voted into the office.

Manny Ramirez will rejoin the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, after a 50 game drug related suspension.  Ramirez has played 5 games in the minor leagues in an effort to get back into playing shape.  I disagree with this aspect of the suspension.  Some would argue that preventing a player from playing in the minors during the suspension would essentially turn a 50 games suspension into a 55-60 game suspension.  My opinion is that if the player can’t hitting the ground running on day 1 after the suspension, that’s his problem, not mine.  He should not be allowed to play any games during the suspension, whether it be in the minors or majors.

Randy Johnson & more

June 5, 2009

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We’re taking a break from our typical friday fiction to do a roundup of the world of baseball.

Big Unit, big milestone

Randy Johnson expected to pitch for the Giants in pursuit of his 300th win on Wednesday night.  Unfortunately, mother nature had a different idea, and the game was rained out.  Thursday was also a wet day, but Johnson took the mound in the first game of a double header.  The weather and the early start time resulted in a much smaller crowd than you would expect for a historic game.  Johnson did not disappoint the crowd (in Washington vs. the Nationals).  He pitched six innings and allowed just two hits, two walks, and one unearned run.  The bullpen closed the door on the Gnats.  Nice job, Randy.


MLB’s amateur draft will commence on Tuesday and finish up on Wednesday.  It will be televised on the MLB Network, which I unfortunately do not get through my cable provider.  Mediacom, if you’re reading this, PLEASE add the MLB network.

Stephen Strasburg is far and away the top prospect in the draft.  Unless the Nationals balk at the demands of Strasburg’s agent, Scott Boras, he will be taken with the #1 pick.  Sports Weekly had an interesting compilation of the thirteen pitchers who have been taken with the #1 pick in the draft since the draft began in 1965.  1981 #1 overall pick Mike Moore has the most career wins in the group, with 161 (as well as 176 losses).  1989 top pick Andy Benes is the most game over .500 for his career (+16).  A number of the pitchers have had careers derailed by injury (Ben McDonald) or being rushed to the big leagues (18 year old David Clyde skipped the minors after being drafted by the Rangers).

I like Strasburg, but pitchers are inherently risky.

The #2 prospect is University of North Carolina’s Dustin Ackley.  Ackely will likely play center field as a pro, but has played first base this year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery last year.

Pitchers Aaron Crow and Tanner Scheppers were drafted last year but failed to sign.  Crow could not reach a deal with the Nationals.  Scheppers was considered to be a high first round talent last year before an injury put some question marks on his resume, causing him to fall to the second round.  Both are likely to go in the top ten picks.

For more on the draft, check out John Sickel’s and  Andy Seiler’s MLB Bonus Baby.  John’s blog focuses on the minor leagues, but gives the draft a decent amount of coverage.  Andy’s blog is relatively new, but very informative.  Andy had previously posted a lot of draft related stuff on MinorLeagueBall before taking the plunge and starting his own blog.  Very impressive so far.

If you have an eye on the 2010 draft, check out  Summer Ball – a site devoted to the college summer leagues.  The college players play in summer league that use wooden bats – to prove their mettle with the wood (pun intended).


Manny Ramirez has gotten a lot of All Star votes, in spite of the fact that he is serving a suspension for using performance enhancing dugs.  Come on folks, don’t vote for Manny this year.

The Pirates traded Nate McClouth to the Braves.  I’m sorry, Pirates fans.  I feel your pain.

The Braves released future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine just as he was rounding into form after an injury.  This makes their free agent signing of Glavine even more moronic.  The Braves got one season out of Glavine (2-4, 5.54 ERA in 61 1/3 innings).  Few people expected such a lackluster return for their investment, but many pointed out the signs of decline (particularly in Glavine’s peripheral stats) and questioned the wisdom of signing a player who would be 42 years old on opening day of the 2008 seasons.  Most painful is the price the Braves paid.  They forfeited their 2008 #1 draft pick to their hated rivals, the Mets.  The Mets also received a sandwich pick as compensation (this pick didn’t come from the Braves, it was created out of thin air).  The Mets drafted Ike Davis with the Braves pick (#18 overall) and Bradley Holt with the sandwich (#33 overall).

The Midwest League’s Cedar Rapids Kernels have a promotion that could result in a fan winning one million dollars on June 8!  Before you get too excited – a Kernels pitcher (or group of pitchers) much throw a perfect game.  The odds of a perfect game are always tiny, but especially in low A.  Even if the pitcher does his job, it’s quite likely that the fielders will commit an error.

Sports Beat

May 12, 2009

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Who is more upset right now? The Los Angeles Dodgers ownership, or all of the fantasy baseball nuts who have ManRam on their squads and have to find a 50 game replacement? I thing the Red Sox are pretty happy they have Jason Bay right now with all of the problems of their former left fielder on the West Coast.

Rachel Alexandra, who won the Kentucky Oaks (a race for fillies ran on Friday before the derby), is looking to run in the Preakness Stakes. Sounds like she will get her chance to run against the boys. A number of owners who did not run in the Kentucky Derby had considered entering horses in the race. This would have in effect blocked her ability to run in the race due to a hierarchy system that gives preference to those horses who were pre-nominated to the Derby. I am glad this worked out or we would be screaming Title IX for the horse racing next.

The Kansas City Royals are 18-14 and on top of the American League Central. A new refurbished Kaufman stadium is not the only reason fans are showing up. This small market team once again shows that if you put a good and WINNING product on the field, the fans will come out to the ol ballgame. The Royals have been very good on the mound but losing Joakim Soria on the disabled list will not help their cause. Keep an eye on these guys and see how they respond in the next couple of weeks.

I bet the Lakers are rethinking their inability to sign Ron Artest earlier this past year. There have been so many radio talking heads and fish wrap folks talking about how soft the Lakers are in the playoffs that you would think they were describing the bedding in a new hotel chain.

Speaking of NBA playoffs. Here are some stats on League MVP Lebron James in the postseason. He is averaging 34 points, almost 9 boards and 5 assists per game in the playoffs. Scariest stat of all…his age….just 24.

Being the golf fan that I am, I watched a LOT of the Players Championship this weekend. It amazes me how good the pros can play as they continue to make the course conditions tougher all the time. I look forward to the switch back to the “old style” grooves next year on the PGA tour so we can see all of these guys look more like us and less like a video game when they play.

The U.S. Open is just around the corner. I wonder what Tiger is thinking – right now as he is really fighting his golf swing as well as his putter. I think soon he will put it all together, but in the meantime, some of these other guys better make hay while they can. Until next week, hit em long and straight!

Manny and Brett

May 7, 2009

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It was a great sports day for me. Two of my least favorite sports figures made the news.

The twice retired quarterback Brett Favre told my Minnesota Vikings that he does intend to stay retired this time. I truly hope that this is his final answer. I have a great deal of dislike for Brett from his days playing for the Packers, and I would be unable to cheer for my Vikings if he was the starting quarterback. Most likely, I would have to take a short sabbatical until Favre hung up his cleats for the third time. Luckily, it appears that I will not need to go down this route.

Overshadowing Favre’s decision was the news that LA Dodgers superstar Manny Ramirez was being suspended 50 games (and losing more than $7 million in salary as a result) after testing positive for HCG, a female fertility drug. This drug is often used by steroid users to bring their testosterone level back to a normal level after steroid use had dropped it to a very low level.

Manny claims that he was given a prescription by a doctor who was not aware that the drug was on baseball’s banned substances list. I’m not buying that excuse, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s not the doctor’s responsibility to verify that a drug is OK to take, it is Manny’s responsibility. Check with the team’s medical staff and your union rep if you’re not sure. Second, Manny has decided not to appeal the suspension. If he was telling the truth, why not fight the allegation? Millions of dollars and the Hall of Fame may be at stake.

The Dodgers were already pulling away in the NL West and might have already printed playoff tickets. It will be interesting to see what they can do without Manny. They do have a decent player to plug into the spot in Juan Pierre, but Pierre’s bat does not even begin to compare to Manny’s.

Sports wrapup

March 6, 2009

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World baseball classic
The WBC got underway on Thursday, as Japan beat China 4-0. Japan starting pitcher Yu Darvish set the pace early, allowing no runs and walking just one batter. The five relievers each allowed exactly one hit and did not walk anyone. Third baseman Shuichi Murata provided offense with a two run homer.

Darvish is a candidate to be the breakout star during this WBC. Many die hard fans already know him, but the WBC will allow him to reach a wider fan base. The 22 year old Darvish is the son of an Iranian father and Japanese mother who met while attending college in Florida. They settled in Japan, were Yu was born.

Yu had a very successful high school career. Several major league teams were interested in him, but he stayed in Japan and was drafted by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (note: Hokkaido is the name of the island, Nippon Ham is the name of the sponsor, Fighters is the team name).

Yu has had great success for the Fighters:
2005 (age 19): 5-5, 3.53 ERA
2006 (age 20): 12-5, 2.89
2007 (age 21): 15-5, 1.82
2008 (age 22): 16-4, 1.88

Yu has also increased his strikeout rate while decreasing his walk rate. The net result is a strikeout : walk ratio of more than 4:1 over the last two seasons.

Of course, it must be noted that many baseball people consider the Japanese leagues to be on par with an AAA league in the US, a step below the major leagues. However, if a 22 year old player was putting up these numbers for an AAA team, the team would be very happy, as these would be great numbers and would suggest that the player would have a successful major league career.

Darvish has stated that he has no intention of signing with a US team any time in the near future and that he would like to win 200 games in Japan. This is a bit disappointing to me, as I would like to chance to see Yu pitch on a regular basis (preferably for my team).

Korea and Taipei face off at 3:30 AM Central time on Friday. This is too late of a start time to meet the TCO’s publishing deadline. The Asian teams are starting a couple days early because of travel considerations (they play the first round in Tokyo; all other pools play in North America)

Baseball injury watch
Alex Rogriguez has a torn labrum in his hip. He may face a surgery that would require four months of rehabilitation. Keep on eye on this story before grabbing A-Rod high in your fantasy draft.

Boating accident
In sad news, two NFL players (Marquis Cooper and Corey Smith) and two other men (Will Bleakley and Nick Schuyler) were on a fishing trip in Florida when the weather turned bad and their boat overturned. Schuyler was rescued. The other three have not been found, and hope is fading.

Matt Cassell trade
Former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassell and linebacker Mike Vrabel were traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for pick #34 in the NFL draft. Even with the high value teams place on draft picks, I think this is a great deal for the Chiefs. It is true that Cassell had a lot of weapons at his disposal in New England, but you still have to make effective use of those weapons.

Manny Ramirez ended months of posturing by finally signing a contract with the Dodgers. Manny will make $25 million in 2009, with a player option of $20M in 2010. $25M of the money is deferred over the span of five years. I’m not a big fan of the player option. In theory, this would allow Manny to hit .200 with 5 HR, and then exercise his option and make $20M in 2010 – but if he hit .370 with 50 HRs, he could opt out and perhaps sign with the Yankees for $30M. If you wanted Manny for two years, make it a regular two year contract.

Kurt Warner
In negotiations that were considerably better (although Warner did allow the 49ers to woo him) Kurt Warner signed a deal with the Cardinals – two years with a total compensation of $23M. Warner will give back $2M if the Cardinals are able to renegotiate the contract of WF Anquan Boldin. I’m a big fan of Warner (although my wife is even more of a fan) and I’m hoping he lights up the skies again next year. Maybe he can seal the deal and win a Super Bowl for the Cardinals (how strange does that sound) and punch his ticket to Canton.

TCO weekend
The Soap Boxers will bring you some light reading this weekend.

Saturday: Some good time wasters on the internet
Sunday: The importance of a good fantasy team name

Manny Ramirez signs with Tigers

February 27, 2009

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[Disclaimer: this is a work of fiction. The author has taken dramatic liberties with the personalities of any real person portrayed within this story.

Note: when reading this, keep in mind the fact that the exchange rate is roughly 100 yen per 1 US dollar]

The Soap Boxers has had some well placed sources eavesdropping on the Manny Ramirez situation. As a result, TCO is the first media outlet to bring you this breaking news – Manny Ramirez has signed with the Tigers.

No, not those Tigers. The Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League. TCO sent our Chief Observation Officer, reporter Scoop Chevelle, to the Ramirez compound to get the inside information. When Scoop arrived on the scene, Manny was dressed in a kimono, resting in his Lazyboy and sipping some red sake.

Scoop: Manny, I must say that I am shocked at this news, as is the rest of the sports world. It really seemed to come out of nowhere. Why did you decide to sign with Hanshin?

Manny: Well, Scoop, they offered me a three year deal at thirty million yen per year. Thirty million! I was having a lot of difficulty getting the Dodgers to give me even twenty five, and then Hanshin drops in with an initial offer of thirty. Needless to say, I was very impressed. I was able to negotiate the deal myself – I didn’t even involve Boras in the deal.

Scoop: Are you sure that it was wise move to negotiate the deal without an agent?

Manny: Yeah, I saved a few bucks cutting Scott out of the deal. He takes a big chunk of the money.

Scoop appears to be on the verge of making a comment, then thinks better of it and remains silent.

Manny: Also, they’re naming the stadium after me. Very cool.

Scoop: How familiar are you with the Japanese culture? Do you expect to have any difficulty adjusting to a new country?

Manny: Me, have trouble adjusting? No, way, man. I’m like a chameleon. Manny the chameleon is what they called me in Boston. I blend in wherever I go. I’m really looking forward to experiencing the Japanese culture. I love egg rolls and fortune cookies, and I’m anxious to see that wall that everyone is always talking about.

After wrapping up that interesting interview, Scoop jumped on TCO’s private jet and flew across the Pacific Ocean to talk to Hanshin manager Akinobu Okada.

Scoop: Congratulations on signing Manny Ramirez, Mr. Okada.

Okada: Thank you Scoop. We were actually pleasantly surprised at how quickly we were able to negotiate a deal with Mr. Ramirez. We think we have a deal that is fair to both sides.

Scoop: Manny mentioned that Hanshin will be naming the stadium after him. Is that really true?

Okada: That’s not quite true. We’re actually naming the field after him. We will play on Manny Ramirez field at Koshien Stadium. You might say that we’re taking a page out of the book of your Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Scoop: What do you expect from Manny? Do you anticipate any problems with his adjustment to the Japanese style of baseball?

Okada: We think that Mr. Ramirez can really help strengthen our offense. Hanshin not won a Japan Series since 1985 nor a Central League title since 2005. Our fans deserve a title. We feel that signing Mr. Ramirez gave us the best chance to win. We certainly don’t expect any problems with Mr. Ramirez’s adjustment. The American players typically adjust fairly quickly to the mindset that the players must always follow the orders of the manager. We foresee a quick adjustment for Mr. Ramirez.

Scene shifts to TCO Studio

Scoop: Well, there you are, folks. After months of wooing Manny, the Dodgers had him stolen away at the last minute by Japan’s Hanshin Tigers. The addition of Manny should put Hanshin in a position to battle Central League juggernaut Yomirui for the league title.

Sports roundup

February 25, 2009

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Today is the first game of the season for my Colorado Rockies! We play our hated rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sure, it’s a “meaningless” spring training game, but I am absolutely stoked to finally have games. This also means that I need to resubscribe to MLB audio so that I can catch all the games this season (it’s a bargain at $14.95!).

I definitely will be watching a few battles during spring. Rockies top prospect Dexter Fowler will be in camp, and I’m pulling for him to win the centerfield job. I want Ian Stewart to somehow win a starting job. Preferably, this would be at 3B, although this would probably require a trade of Garrett Atkins, which seems less likely since the Twins have now filled their 3B void by signing Joe Crede. Stewie might end up at 2B or in the outfield. With SP Jeff Francis out for the year, a lot of players will be competing for jobs at the back end of the rotation. I’m hoping that Franklin Morales can harness his talent and make the team. And of course I want to see my favorite player, SS Troy Tulowitzki, get off to a hot start.

World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic begins on March 5. Since baseball has been dropped from the Olympics (at least in 2012) this is going to be the best international tournament we see for a while. Many of the top major league players won’t be playing, but there will be some familiar faces. Six Rockies will be participating. Catcher Chris Iannetta and outfielder Brad Hawpe will play for the USA. Rockies pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez (Dominican Republic), Jason Grilli (Italy), Manny Corpas (Panama), and Adam Bright (Australia) will suit up in the uniforms of our enemies.

The WBC is divided into four pools (A,B,C,D) with four teams in each pool. There is a double elimination tournament in each pool, with the top two teams in each pool advancing to the next round (pools 1 and 2). Once again, there is double elimination. The top two teams from each of those pools advance to the semifinals. The champion of each pool plays the runner-up of the opposite pool to determine the finalists.

The USA is in a pool with Venezuela, Canada, and Italy. Here are my predictions. Japan, Korea, Cuba, Mexico, USA, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico advance to the second round. Japan, Cuba, USA, and Dominican Republic advance to semis. Japan loses to Dominican Republic in the finals.

Taipei and South Africa could be on the wrong side of some really ugly games. Pool D is probably the toughest, top to bottom. It features the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, and The Netherlands (which includes the Netherland Antilles).

Manny watch
Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers continue their negotiations. Manny originally wanted 100M over 4 years. However, with the economy being in the tank, the Dodgers being his only serious suitor, his reputation as a malcontent, and his age (36), there is absolutely no chance of this happening. We’re about five weeks away from the start of the season, so it’s about time to end this game of chicken.


My Vikings are apparently on the verge of trading for Houston Texas backup QB Sage Rosenfels. Sage and I share an alma mater (Iowa State) and I am a big fan. He was the QB of a 9 win season in 1999 – the first 9 win season since 1906. It would have been 10 wins if not for a bad call on a field goal at the end of the game. I’m not much of a fan of current Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson, so I would love to see Sage take the starting job away from him.

Bad first impressions
Last week was the NFL’s scouting combine (“the combine”). For those of you who might not be familiar with the combine, it is an event where all of the top college players get together in one location. They are measured, weighed, interviewed, given an IQ test, and put through a variety of physical drills (weight lifting, 40 yard dash, and everything in between). This is the opportunity for players to make a strong impression with the scouts. It is an extremely important day for these players.

Perhaps not so important for Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith. Smith had previously been touted by some experts as a top 5 pick. He showed up at the combine overweight, with the explanation that he got a late start with his training. He didn’t offer an explanation (such as an injury the impaired his ability to train), leaving the scouts to wonder why he got a late start. After all, he had been suspended for Alabama’s bowl game for violating team rules (red flag) so he basically had 3+ months to focus on getting ready for the combine. Smith then abruptly left the combine early.

Smith definitely left an impression on the NFL personnel, albeit not a good one. Some people are suggestion that he will fall to the late first round or early second round. The average first contract (multiple years) for a late first rounder is about $20 million less than the average first contract of the #5 pick.

Now Smith admits that he didn’t handle things very well. Of course, a good media skewering tends to get you to look in the mirror.

The top wide receiver in the draft, Texas Tech junior Michael Crabtree, was unable to compete in the combine due to a stress fracture. He does not have blazing speed (but does possess awesome talent in every other area) and he could have erased some doubts with a fast 40 yard dash time. The injury may cause him to fall in the draft. I personally think that it would be a serious mistake to pass up Crabtree. While it is true that he benefited from a pass-crazy offense at Texas Tech, Crabtree has crazy skills and could be a special player in the NFL.