Urbs2

Good For Ball, Bad For Ball

2013-07-03 16:12:24 bigurbsports

From Josh Reddick’s biker/philosopher goatee, to Joba Chamberlain-to-the-Giants rumors, to chilled beets staining your salad -– everything in life can be labeled one of two ways: Good For Ball, or Bad For Ball. It’s time again to check out what’s what.

… Reddick’s chin sock? Good For Ball. Especially when it’s paired with the slicked-back, serial-killer wig he’s been favoring. Menacing works in baseball, and given that Reddick looks like he weighs about a buck-fifty, it’s much-needed if he’s to be taken seriously as a legitimate power hitter (and not the one-season wonder his anemic first-half stats are suggesting).

Oh, and please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks Reddick’s a dead ringer for the pre-Mark-McGwire’s-obvious-influence-through-advanced-chemistry Jason Giambi. Same uniform number and oversized affinity for attention, too.

Giambi, by the way, is a prince of a human being. I covered the A’s for MLB.com during his MVP season, and a more engaging, gracious superstar you’ll rarely meet. I have nothing but great things to say about the man.

Doesn’t mean he wasn’t a lab beaker with arms and legs, though.

… Moving on to the Joba rumors: Ooooh. So Bad For Ball. Like, chilled-beets Bad For Ball. Call me crazy, but the Giants do not — repeat DO NOT — need an ineffective middle man. Isn’t that George Kontos’ role?

Anyway, remember when the hyperventilating New York media tried to force the phrase “Joba Rules” upon us? Yeah, that was when the big fella actually had promise. Now he’s pretty much the white Hideki Irabu.

… Speaking of Irabu, does anyone else miss George Steinbrenner? He was a colossal ass at times, no doubt about it, frequently morphing into a cantankerous caricature, but he was never, ever boring. Look around these days, and virtually every owner in every sport is less interesting than your neighbor’s blog about his rescue beagle.

George was volatile, dynamic, unpredictable, entertaining. And best of all, he poured a ton of his own money into his team in an effort to win for the fans of New York. A lot of people criticized him for trying to “buy” championships, but isn’t that what every team does on a fundamental level? Yes, it is. The Boss was Good For Ball.

… If the baseball gods were mocking the Giants’ recently pathetic offense by having a pitcher named Homer no-hit them, well, that sucks for the Giants and their fans. Good For Ball, though. Baseball is by far the sport most easily mined for humor, so it makes sense that its gods are a little bit twisted.

… The notion that Dwight Howard would destroy the Warriors’ admirable harmony is ludicrous. Bad For Ball. It’s also a slap in the faces of Mark Jackson and Steph Curry, the team’s unquestioned leaders. That Howard is a freakishly large man doesn’t mean he’ll be able to impose his seemingly petulant will on the Warriors.

If anything, what we know of Jackson thus far suggests he’s the perfect coach to turn Howard back into the humble, infinitely likeable young man who spoke so openly of his Christian faith upon joining the league as a teenager in 2004. That kid is still in there somewhere, and Curry’s general good-guy-ness would likely help pull him out.

And while it’s impossible be stoked on giving up Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes in a Howard deal, at this point Warriors fans should be pretty open to buying whatever Bob Meyers might be selling. A healthy and mentally rehabilitated Howard makes a second-round playoff team a conference finalist at worst.

… Still reeling from unthinkable tragedy, Boston didn’t just lose the Stanley Cup Finals. It lost by blowing a pair of two-goal leads before falling in triple-OT in Game 1, dropping another heartbreaker in OT in Game 4, and, worst of all, giving up two goals in the blink of an eye during Chicago’s Game 6 clincher.

Ergo, we can come to no other conclusion than this: Unlike the baseball gods, who rise to the occasion and give us moments such as Mike Piazza’s post-9/11 homer for the Mets and President Bush’s perfect strike at Yankee Stadium during the World Series, the hockey gods aren’t just Bad For Ball. They flat suck.

… I never let my daughters leave the basketball gym without making one last shot. It’s the same principle I apply in making “I love you” the last thing they hear from me every night: end on a positive. I’ll apply it here, too, because I don’t want “suck” to be the last thing I write before we celebrate the birth of this great country.

Joseph Zito, the father of Giants lefty Barry, passed away a couple of weeks ago. Barry, as many of you know, is a friend of mine. So Joe’s passing wasn’t just a few lines in my favorite newspaper’s “Giants Notes.” In fact, Joe played a pivotal role in my life.

Let me explain: I’m friends with Barry in part because when we first met, he was as comfortable in his own skin as anyone I’d ever met. He was a young stud with the A’s, rich and famous, with a ridiculously bright future — but he was straight-up normal. No airs whatsoever. What you saw was what you got, and what you got was a young man who’d clearly been raised right.

So when I got to meet Joe, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to pick his brain. I was about to become a father for the first time, and I wanted to do it right. In my opinion, Joe had done the Dad Thing right, so I asked him for advice.

He happily obliged, and his message was essentially this: Expose your children to as much as humanly possible, then hang back and watch intently. Just stay the hell out of it once you’ve presented them with the options.

Sports? Have ‘em play ‘em all. Music? Every genre. Art? Same deal. People? Ditto. Travel? High and low.

“They’ll show you what they love,” Joe told me. “And ‘show’ is the key word. Telling you they love something is one thing. But do they show it? That’s what you wait for, Wait for them to show you they love it, with their actions, with their passion. And when they do –- and only then –- you can step back in and encourage them to move in that direction.”

Best parental advice I’ve ever gotten. Good for Ball.

Thanks, Joe. Glad you’re Home.

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Good For Ball, Bad For Ball

2013-07-03 16:12:24 bigurbsports

From Josh Reddick’s biker/philosopher goatee, to Joba Chamberlain-to-the-Giants rumors, to chilled beets staining your salad -– everything in life can be labeled one of two ways: Good For Ball, or Bad For Ball. It’s time again to check out what’s what.

… Reddick’s chin sock? Good For Ball. Especially when it’s paired with the slicked-back, serial-killer wig he’s been favoring. Menacing works in baseball, and given that Reddick looks like he weighs about a buck-fifty, it’s much-needed if he’s to be taken seriously as a legitimate power hitter (and not the one-season wonder his anemic first-half stats are suggesting).

Oh, and please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks Reddick’s a dead ringer for the pre-Mark-McGwire’s-obvious-influence-through-advanced-chemistry Jason Giambi. Same uniform number and oversized affinity for attention, too.

Giambi, by the way, is a prince of a human being. I covered the A’s for MLB.com during his MVP season, and a more engaging, gracious superstar you’ll rarely meet. I have nothing but great things to say about the man.

Doesn’t mean he wasn’t a lab beaker with arms and legs, though.

… Moving on to the Joba rumors: Ooooh. So Bad For Ball. Like, chilled-beets Bad For Ball. Call me crazy, but the Giants do not — repeat DO NOT — need an ineffective middle man. Isn’t that George Kontos’ role?

Anyway, remember when the hyperventilating New York media tried to force the phrase “Joba Rules” upon us? Yeah, that was when the big fella actually had promise. Now he’s pretty much the white Hideki Irabu.

… Speaking of Irabu, does anyone else miss George Steinbrenner? He was a colossal ass at times, no doubt about it, frequently morphing into a cantankerous caricature, but he was never, ever boring. Look around these days, and virtually every owner in every sport is less interesting than your neighbor’s blog about his rescue beagle.

George was volatile, dynamic, unpredictable, entertaining. And best of all, he poured a ton of his own money into his team in an effort to win for the fans of New York. A lot of people criticized him for trying to “buy” championships, but isn’t that what every team does on a fundamental level? Yes, it is. The Boss was Good For Ball.

… If the baseball gods were mocking the Giants’ recently pathetic offense by having a pitcher named Homer no-hit them, well, that sucks for the Giants and their fans. Good For Ball, though. Baseball is by far the sport most easily mined for humor, so it makes sense that its gods are a little bit twisted.

… The notion that Dwight Howard would destroy the Warriors’ admirable harmony is ludicrous. Bad For Ball. It’s also a slap in the faces of Mark Jackson and Steph Curry, the team’s unquestioned leaders. That Howard is a freakishly large man doesn’t mean he’ll be able to impose his seemingly petulant will on the Warriors.

If anything, what we know of Jackson thus far suggests he’s the perfect coach to turn Howard back into the humble, infinitely likeable young man who spoke so openly of his Christian faith upon joining the league as a teenager in 2004. That kid is still in there somewhere, and Curry’s general good-guy-ness would likely help pull him out.

And while it’s impossible be stoked on giving up Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes in a Howard deal, at this point Warriors fans should be pretty open to buying whatever Bob Meyers might be selling. A healthy and mentally rehabilitated Howard makes a second-round playoff team a conference finalist at worst.

… Still reeling from unthinkable tragedy, Boston didn’t just lose the Stanley Cup Finals. It lost by blowing a pair of two-goal leads before falling in triple-OT in Game 1, dropping another heartbreaker in OT in Game 4, and, worst of all, giving up two goals in the blink of an eye during Chicago’s Game 6 clincher.

Ergo, we can come to no other conclusion than this: Unlike the baseball gods, who rise to the occasion and give us moments such as Mike Piazza’s post-9/11 homer for the Mets and President Bush’s perfect strike at Yankee Stadium during the World Series, the hockey gods aren’t just Bad For Ball. They flat suck.

… I never let my daughters leave the basketball gym without making one last shot. It’s the same principle I apply in making “I love you” the last thing they hear from me every night: end on a positive. I’ll apply it here, too, because I don’t want “suck” to be the last thing I write before we celebrate the birth of this great country.

Joseph Zito, the father of Giants lefty Barry, passed away a couple of weeks ago. Barry, as many of you know, is a friend of mine. So Joe’s passing wasn’t just a few lines in my favorite newspaper’s “Giants Notes.” In fact, Joe played a pivotal role in my life.

Let me explain: I’m friends with Barry in part because when we first met, he was as comfortable in his own skin as anyone I’d ever met. He was a young stud with the A’s, rich and famous, with a ridiculously bright future — but he was straight-up normal. No airs whatsoever. What you saw was what you got, and what you got was a young man who’d clearly been raised right.

So when I got to meet Joe, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to pick his brain. I was about to become a father for the first time, and I wanted to do it right. In my opinion, Joe had done the Dad Thing right, so I asked him for advice.

He happily obliged, and his message was essentially this: Expose your children to as much as humanly possible, then hang back and watch intently. Just stay the hell out of it once you’ve presented them with the options.

Sports? Have ‘em play ‘em all. Music? Every genre. Art? Same deal. People? Ditto. Travel? High and low.

“They’ll show you what they love,” Joe told me. “And ‘show’ is the key word. Telling you they love something is one thing. But do they show it? That’s what you wait for, Wait for them to show you they love it, with their actions, with their passion. And when they do –- and only then –- you can step back in and encourage them to move in that direction.”

Best parental advice I’ve ever gotten. Good for Ball.

Thanks, Joe. Glad you’re Home.

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HPH and other Friday fun

2013-06-07 13:24:00 bigurbsports

Honest. Positive. Helpful.

These are three traits to which the old me paid little to no attention, and the results were predictably unfulfilling. Miserable, even.

Now? Being as honest, positive and helpful — HPH — as humanly possible in everything I do is the primary goal. During my morning commute and throughout each day, I remind myself that HPH has to be my personal GPS.

It’s an approach I adopted, ostensibly, to offset/counter/combat my destructive self-centered tendencies; HPH is, after all, largely selfless.

But the more I practice HPH, the more I find that it’s NOT all that selfless. I get a TON out of it. Turns out being selfless is a little bit selfish — in a good way. My life now is the polar opposite of unfulfilling and miserable!

It only took me 44 years to figure that out, by the way. My jackassness never ceases to amaze me.

Now on to some sports …

One of my Twitter followers, @Michael_RA, asked me to update my thoughts on a discussion we’ve had in the past regarding the Giants’ Brandons, Crawford and Belt. Specifically, he asked me who’s better at this point in their budding careers.

Great question, isn’t it? You could make a strong case for either one.

Both have Gold Glove potential at their respective position, but Crawford’s position is more important, and despite the fact that he’s made errors in bunches at times, he’ll be the superior defender in general over the long haul.

Crawford has proven that the I’ll-be-happy-with-.250 stance many fans adopted in regards to his offensive upside, but Belt, despite his propensity to slip into extended funks at the plate, has more power and will be, over the long haul, the superior (more productive) hitter in general.

So again, the question: Who’s the better Brandon?

Sorry to give you a Waffle Cone, folks, but from here it seems pretty much a push. One’s a rock-star defensive shortstop who contributes his fair share offensively and runs the bases well. The other’s a corner infielder with power who can pick it, play some outfield and run a little bit himself.

Ask any GM in the game which type of player he’d rather have. His answer will probably be the same as mine:

Yes, please.

———-

With all due respect to LeBron, he’s not the most unstoppable player in the NBA right now. That would be Tony Parker. Holy crap, is there anything he can’t do when he really wants to do it?

OK, maybe he can’t smash on a 7-footer, but he doesn’t need to. It’s just as demoralizing to drop a feathery floating runner over the big fella’s fingertips.

———–

I understand the fascination with professioinal drafts. Sports are an escape, a fantasy, and every sport’s draft allows its fans to fantasize about the future. But you can’t put earrings on a pig, and that’s what MLB has been trying to do with all the TV time and analysis.

The NBA, NFL and even the NHL drafts are mostly dealing with the immediate future. MLB is mostly dealing with three to five years from now. That’s, like, three more versions of the iPhone down the road. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

———–

Thanks for stopping by, folks. If you download one song today, make it “Roundabout” by Yes. Especialy you youngsters with, um, hippie tendencies. Feel me?

–Urbs

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HPH and other Friday fun

2013-06-07 13:24:00 bigurbsports

Honest. Positive. Helpful.

These are three traits to which the old me paid little to no attention, and the results were predictably unfulfilling. Miserable, even.

Now? Being as honest, positive and helpful — HPH — as humanly possible in everything I do is the primary goal. During my morning commute and throughout each day, I remind myself that HPH has to be my personal GPS.

It’s an approach I adopted, ostensibly, to offset/counter/combat my destructive self-centered tendencies; HPH is, after all, largely selfless.

But the more I practice HPH, the more I find that it’s NOT all that selfless. I get a TON out of it. Turns out being selfless is a little bit selfish — in a good way. My life now is the polar opposite of unfulfilling and miserable!

It only took me 44 years to figure that out, by the way. My jackassness never ceases to amaze me.

Now on to some sports …

One of my Twitter followers, @Michael_RA, asked me to update my thoughts on a discussion we’ve had in the past regarding the Giants’ Brandons, Crawford and Belt. Specifically, he asked me who’s better at this point in their budding careers.

Great question, isn’t it? You could make a strong case for either one.

Both have Gold Glove potential at their respective position, but Crawford’s position is more important, and despite the fact that he’s made errors in bunches at times, he’ll be the superior defender in general over the long haul.

Crawford has proven that the I’ll-be-happy-with-.250 stance many fans adopted in regards to his offensive upside, but Belt, despite his propensity to slip into extended funks at the plate, has more power and will be, over the long haul, the superior (more productive) hitter in general.

So again, the question: Who’s the better Brandon?

Sorry to give you a Waffle Cone, folks, but from here it seems pretty much a push. One’s a rock-star defensive shortstop who contributes his fair share offensively and runs the bases well. The other’s a corner infielder with power who can pick it, play some outfield and run a little bit himself.

Ask any GM in the game which type of player he’d rather have. His answer will probably be the same as mine:

Yes, please.

———-

With all due respect to LeBron, he’s not the most unstoppable player in the NBA right now. That would be Tony Parker. Holy crap, is there anything he can’t do when he really wants to do it?

OK, maybe he can’t smash on a 7-footer, but he doesn’t need to. It’s just as demoralizing to drop a feathery floating runner over the big fella’s fingertips.

———–

I understand the fascination with professioinal drafts. Sports are an escape, a fantasy, and every sport’s draft allows its fans to fantasize about the future. But you can’t put earrings on a pig, and that’s what MLB has been trying to do with all the TV time and analysis.

The NBA, NFL and even the NHL drafts are mostly dealing with the immediate future. MLB is mostly dealing with three to five years from now. That’s, like, three more versions of the iPhone down the road. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

———–

Thanks for stopping by, folks. If you download one song today, make it “Roundabout” by Yes. Especialy you youngsters with, um, hippie tendencies. Feel me?

–Urbs

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Syringes half-full

2013-06-05 08:49:32 bigurbsports

According to Tuesday, MLB has persuaded one of the ringleaders of suspected cheat factory Biogenesis to rat out a large collection of suspected cheaters, which we’re told will likely lead to an unprecedented slew of suspensions.

If the reports are true, the nickname “A-Fraud” will have never been so apt — before PEDs came to the fore, it simply mocked his transparent, plastic personality — and Ryan Braun, the other headliner in the soon-to-boil-over cauldron of controversy, will officially and irretrievably lose any shred of respect he might have maintained in the wake of his MVP/overturned drug bust drama.

Here in the Bay Area, the A’s will have to once again make due without Bartolo Colon, a loss perhaps offset competitively by the fact that Rangers stud Nelson Cruz is said to be among the dopes, and Giants fans get to thank their lucky stars that Melky Cabrera got popped last year — BEFORE the Giants convinced themselves they needed to sign him to a monster multi-year deal.

Across the country, baseball fans will be taking sides.

On one side will be those who skew negative, using this unprecedented-in-scale scandal as support of their theory that big-league ball is as dirty as ever. The testing program isn’t working, they’ll claim. The penalties don’t serve as a severe enough deterrent. The players have no respect for the game, its history or its authority.

We’ll probably get some racial nonsense, too, given the surnames of the players implicated.

Are those on this side of searing condemnation wrong? Not really. Truth is, there is no right or wrong here. Any frustration, disappointment, anger or indignation associated with this story is certainly justified.

It’s another flaming bag of feces on the so-called national pastime’s doorstep, and a great number of fans long ago resigned themselves to the notion that very little that’s seen on the fields before them can be believed as the product of talent plus hard work and sacrifice. The preponderance of evidence to the contrary makes it hard to assume anyone’s 100 percent clean.

Unfair to those who ARE clean? Sure. But a sadly understandable stance.

The other side? That’s where I’m choosing to sit on this one, in a place where what’s sought is progress rather than perfection.

Is baseball ever going to be cheat-free? H-to-the-ell no. You’ve heard the saying, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying,” right? Well, there’s a lot of truth to that. It’s not the most pious approach, but it’s taken in one way or another by virtually everyone who’s played the game at a relatively high level.

“Cheating,” of course, is difficult to define in sports. Stealing, for instance, is unacceptable in the real world unless it’s in reference to glances or kisses. In basketball and soccer, though, stealing the ball is an art form to some, as is stealing signs in baseball and football.

There are rules against scuffing the pearl in baseball, or loading it up with the nectar of Gaylord Perry’s essence, but it’s in an entirely different class of “cheating” than popping greenies or stabbing needles in your ass. In fact, there’s a wink-wink/nudge-nudge admiration associated with the practice of subtly getting over on umpires.

Hey, I did it too. You ever throw a ball accessorized with a little sweat and some Ivory soap? Pretty damn magical movement, and pretty damn easy to get away with when you’re wearing home whites. Just rub a bar against your thigh before every inning, step off the mound to wipe your brow, introduce fingers to said thigh, and say hello to that strikeout you so desperately need.

Cheating? Some call it gamesmanship.

Drugging it up, though, is something we can all agree is Bad For Ball. It’s absolutely cheating in every sense of the word. There is no gamesmanship in a lab. And unfortunately, it’s likely that no matter what happens when the Biogenesis dust settles, a certain segment of the player population will choose ego and the lure of bloated stats, money and fame over integrity.

They will try to beat the system. They will cheat.

But some of them will get caught. Given the progression we’ve been witnessing, it seems likely that a LOT of them will get caught.

Not all of them, of course. Good and evil will cat-and-mouse it ad infinitum; baseball’s scientists on both sides of the equation are no exception. But we’re seeing more and more players exposed as sullied every year, and that, at least to me and those of like mind, is proof that the game really is serious about cleaning things up.

It wasn’t always that way. We have those “Chicks dig the long ball” commercials as evidence of the blind eyes once turned.

Those same eyes appear wide open now. Who cares if they were shamed open by the pathetic showings of Big Mac, Sammy Sosa and Pointy Palmeiro in front of Congress? Open is open, and open is good.

Bust are up. Home runs, and the pajama-style unis that juicers used to rock to hide their freakishly enhanced Frankenstein physiques, are down.

That’s progress, and as long as there’s progress, we should be encouraged, not discouraged.

Perfection? Not often found in this world. Queen’s Live Aid set, Sophia Loren and Halle Berry in their prime, and Vin Scully’s handling of Kirk Gibson’s homer in ’88 (sorry, A’s fans) are about all we’ve seen.

Are we going to see more imperfection in baseball regarding PEDs? Yup. No doubt. Some people are flat-out dumb and greedy and dishonest.

Keep combating that with honesty and sincerity in the effort to eradicate the issue, though, and the pastime will always survive the occasional angst of the present.

————–

Thanks for stopping by, folks, and if you download one song today, make it Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight.” Dude was a teenager when he bust that out. Insanely good.

–Urbs

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