August 31, 2006

You Punch Like a Kennedy

Sincerest apologies for the lack of posts lately. Rest assured that next week things will return to normal as The OCC returns to home base after a three-week vacation/exile.

A few things to ponder as the week nears its end:

1) How many times have you counted them out and rejoiced that their run was finally finished in '06? Yet somehow, those enigmatic, pesky Atlanta Braves are only four games out of the wild card race as we speak. Sorry, but it's not over yet.

2) A little late in discussing this, but Allen Iverson's mom is now the proud owner of an ABA team. Given her propensity for wearing XXXXXL Iverson jerseys in the stands at Sixers games, this cannot possibly be a bad thing, regardless of whether or not she knows a thing about owning a professional sports franchise.

3) Joe Torre on Angels' rookie Howie Kendrick: "He's a very good-looking young man." We think Joe meant this in the sense that Howie is an impressive young baseball player, but there's no telling for certain. Howie Kendrick fever is sweeping the nation, and it can't be ruled out that the Yankees' skipper has developed full-blown man lust for the Angels' infielder.

4) Speaking of the Halos, if you would, please recall that fight from a couple of weeks ago (if it could be called a fight) in which Rangers' reliever Scott Feldman plunked Adam Kennedy, only to have the second baseman charge the mound and unleash a series of floppy-wristed slaps that was closer to Elaine Benes dancing than Jean Claude Van Damme brawling. If you don't remember the fight, refresh your memory here.

And now, consider this semi-shocking stat: Kennedy has only been hit by a pitch four times all year. Wouldn't you think, based on that performance, that he'd be among the league leaders in the category? Wouldn't pitchers not only designate him as the go-to man to bean on the Angels, but also just occasionally buzz one up under his chin in the hopes that he might charge the mound and provide a moment or two of hilarity?

Maybe people have just been slow to figure it out. In his fourth game back from the suspension he got from his fight with Feldman (food for thought: was he suspended because he fought or because he fought so poorly?), Kennedy got drilled by Yankees' reliever Brian Bruney.

5) New nominee for the Great Names Hall of Fame: The Cowboys have a rooke wideout by the name of Jamaica Rector. Sorry Taco Wallace, you've got nothing on Jamaica Rector. Sounds like it could be the name of a rare but severe form of indigestion one might get from ingesting too much tropical fruit.

August 28, 2006

Kramer vs. Kramer (vs. Weaver)

A couple months ago, passing reference was made on this site to the physical resemblance between Angels' rookie pitcher Jered Weaver and noted cinematic hurler Mitch Kramer from Dazed and Confused.

The comparison at that time was made primarily with their hair in mind -- the long straight locks billowing out to near shoulder length from beneath the baseball cap.

But in the weeks since, it has become clear that this comparison goes far deeper than just hair. And it's gotten to the point where it can no longer be ignored. Consider:

Both Jered Weaver and Mitch Kramer pitch on the same day. On Thursday, August 24, 2006, Jered Weaver took the mound for the Angels against the Red Sox. The very same night, The OCC happened to pop in the Dazed and Confused DVD only to find Kramer taking the hill against Vanpatton Plumbing. Coincidence? Okay, probably so. But that's not all...

They had eerily similar debuts. On May 28, 1976 (The Last Day of School), Mitch Kramer went 7 innings in a 6-1 victory. (Okay, technically this was not his "debut," but it was his debut in the sense that we had never seen him before.) Then, on May 27, 2006, almost precisely 30 years to the day later, Jered Weaver took the hill against Baltimore, going 7 innings in a 10-1 victory.

(7 innings each, on May 27th and May 28th -- one day apart? Admit it, you're intrigued.)

Both have overbearing siblings who initially cause them trouble but ultimately become the less important member of the family. Vieweres of Dazed and Confused will remember that Mitch's sister Jodi sets everything in motion for him by telling the seniors to take it easy on him. They of course respond by bludgeoning his arse into submission, and then they take him out on the town. Soon afterwards the greatest night of his life ensues, as he becomes popular with the seniors and takes home an older woman, while his older sister is almost an afterthought.

In Weaver's case, after a scintillating 4-0 start to his Major League career, he was sent down to AAA because his brother Jeff was still occupying a spot in the Angels' rotation. However, Jeff was eventually shipped to St. Louis, Jered was called back up, and he is now, with a 9-1 record and 1.92 ERA (to Jeff's 5-13 record and 6.11 ERA) undoubtedly Weaver Brother #1.

They both have a good rapport with their catcher. Before the final out of his game against Vanpatton Plumbing, Mitch's catcher (and good friend) Tommy comes out to the mound and tells him not to worry about the seniors waiting to beat his ass and that he should just focus on getting the final out. Mitch obliges, and Tommy is pleased. (Though it should be noted that the moment the game ends and it's clear Mitch is going to get spanked, Tommy promptly sprints off instead of helping his friend.)

Weaver and catcher Mike Napoli have good chemistry going back to last year when both were in Double-A. And thus far in the Majors, the two have been an inseparable tandem -- Napoli has caught 12 of Weaver's 13 big league starts. Keep in mind that there is no proof as of yet whether or not Napoli would completely leave Weaver in a lurch in the event of a fight.

(As a side note, it would be funny to attend an Angels game dressed up like Benny, O'Bannion & Co. and spend the entire game heckling Weaver with lines from that scene at the ballpark while menacingly holding wooden paddles. Even though most people wouldn't really get the joke, and you'd most likely be escorted out by security.)

And as for the jersey numbers? Wish this worked out better, but as it just so happens, Mitch Kramer wears #50 for McKnight Auto, and Weaver wears #56 for the Halos. Though when he was in the minors and at Long Beach State, Weaver wore #36, which is actually his go-to number. Is that close enough?

Hey, no one ever claimed that this comparison was perfect. And besides, if the jersey numbers were the same (or incredibly close), some of you might start to get freaked out given the incredible evidence already put forth.

A couple random thoughts to ponder as you attempt to digest the mind-blowing breakdown that just took place:
  • Says here that you have not officially had a successful fantasy football draft unless one of your friends accidentally cuts himself and proceeds to smear the blood all over his face, calling it "War paint." (Note: similar but slightly different acts of savagery will also be deemed acceptable in the absence of an accidental laceration.)
  • Gotta take a moment to pimp, a new website founded by some associates of The OCC that is dedicated to educating the world about the drink known as the "Whynatte." Curious to learn more? You'll have to take a look. (And for the record, any resemblance between any persons depicted in pictures and/or videos on that website and The Off-Color Commentator himself is pure coincidence.)

August 24, 2006

Size Matters

At a time in sports history when fans spew skepticism like Steroid User X's backne oozes rivulets of puss, it's a question we often ask when considering some of the world's most high-profile athletes:

Could that guy really only be xx years old?

The fact is, we're not willing to believe what we see. So if we're not questioning whether or not an athlete's clean, we're taking aim at his alleged age.

We've wondered it about LeBron James -- could someone that physically developed possibly only be 21? Ditto Albert Pujols and Freddy Adu, just to name a couple.

Truth be told, we'll probably continue to wonder and speculate about these athletes, unless something definitive comes along (which it most likely won't). But in at least one case, we can know for sure. Saudi Arabian Little Leaguer Aaron Durley is listed at 6-foot-8, 256 pounds.

And there's just no way in hell the kid is only 13 years old.

Come on. Seriously. This is just not possible. At age 13, The OCC weighed in at 5-2, 95 pounds. Some of the kids Durley is playing against are 4-foot-9. Other kids he is playing against, he ate. And it's not like he's some baby-faced giant, a child trapped in a sasquatch's body. Look at his picture -- this is a fully-grown man.

Even with the benefit of the doubt, he's got to be at least at least -- 17. And this is not to suggest there is conscious cheating going on here -- maybe it's just a case of sloppy record-keeping. But no 13-year-old can possibly be the size of Ben Wallace (who for the record is listed at 6-9, 240, 16 pounds less than Durley).

A couple other questions to consider:

1) Does Aaron Durley sound like a made-up name to anyone else? (As in, "Hmm...what should we call this 6-foot-8 baseball-playing cyborg we have created in an effort to dominate the Little League World Series? How about...I don't know...Aaron Durley?") As a side note, if you say it fast enough, the name sounds just vaguely like Tyler Durden. Interesting.

2) One of Durley's teammates is named Fitzmaurice. Pretty sure that's a one-name deal, like they use in Brazil. Kind of has a nice ring to it. Is there also someone named Clarettmaurice on the team?

3) Has anyone actually seen Durley at the plate? Rumor has it he doesn't possess the smoothest swing. But you'd have to think that even with the most mechanically unsound technique he'd still be able to swat the ball at least 350 feet. In any case, efforts to track down footage on Youtube have been unsuccessful. Please send along if anyone can find it.

4) And on the subject of swinging a bat, this behemoth must be remarkably uncoordinated, because otherwise why would he be playing first base and not pitching? Even if he couldn't throw that hard, the pants-wetting factor (as in, a 4-foot-9 midget standing in there against a 6-8 guy would definitely cause the midget to pee himself in fear) should be enough to make Durley absolutely unhittable regardless of velocity. (For the record, The OCC thinks there's a decent chance he'd pee himself if forced to stand in against Durley.)

In closing, though it says here there's not the foggiest chance this "kid" is only 13, your instructions are to cast aside all skepticism and simply enjoy the spectacle. For at a time in sports history when we really can't enjoy much of anything without at least a dash of distrust, this story has just the perfect amount of innocence to be enjoyable even if Durley turns out to be 25. Because who among us hasn't dreamed of playing in the Little League World Series as a fully-grown adult and seeing the levels to which we could dominate? Whether he's 13 years old or not, Aaron Durley is living that dream.

So for once, let's all stop being sticklers about the rules. For old time's sake (so to speak), let's let this one slide. And if it just so happens that Aaron Durley is older than 13, let's just say more power to him for sneaking his way onto the field.

August 14, 2006

Gone Fishin'

The OCC is on vacation this week, something resembling spring break in the middle of August. So posts may be less frequent, but keep checking back because more is on the way.

In the meantime, your homework is to go see Talladega Nights immediately. Then stay in your same seat and watch it again. Without a doubt the movie of the summer.

Now back to tanning. Thank you and good day.

August 10, 2006

Some People Call Him Maurice

It seems that in the wake of all of his troubles with Johnny Law and his inability to stay in football shape, a lot of people have questioned Maurice Clarett's motivation.

Where's his drive? Where's the passion? These people might ask.

Well, the answer is simple: Maurice Clarett is actually quite motivated.

He just happens to be motivated to committ criminal acts.

Consider the facts of his most recent encounter with the police on Wednesday:

The cops found Clarett near the home of a witness who was going to testify against him in an armed robbery case, with four loaded weapons in his vehicle (one of which was an Egyptian-made AK-47).

First sign of being well-prepared: He had done the research to find the witness' home, and had brought along not one gun, but four, for extra blasting power. One of which came from Egypt, which means that someone presumably had to go to Egypt to get it.

Then, when the po-po attempted to Dale Davis Clarett with a Taser, they received an unwelcome shock (so to speak): They were unable to drill him with the Taser's special electro prods because he (Clarett) was wearing a bulletproof vest.

Clearly, Maurice did his homework. Though he may not have been specifically thinking "I'll wear kevlar so they can't Taser me" and was more likely thinking "They won't be able to riddle me with bullets as easily if I'm wearing a bulletproof vest," he still gets credit for being prepared for the failed Tasering. When you take precautions, good things happen. (Well, "good" being a relative term here.) For instance, if someone's wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle and said helmet happens to randomly deflect an errant arrow from a crossbow, the rider still gets credit for wearing the helmet even if it was not being worn with an arrow in mind.

Also of note: Clarett had a hatchet in his car. This is actually pretty disturbing to think about considering what criminals often use hatchets for, but it is yet another indication that the man had a plan of some kind, as diabolical as it may have been.

There are also reports circulating that Clarett was taking pulls off a bottle of Grey Goose vodka during the encounter with police. Which on the surface seems incredibly stupid and self-destructive until you realize that obviously he was drinking the booze in a pre-emptive maneuver to lessen the pain should he happen to catch a stray bullet or two in a shootout with officers of the peace.

So call Maurice Clarett what you want -- sociopath, sick bastard, completely insane, infuriatingly misguided, dangerously self-destructive -- it's all valid.

But don't call him unmotivated, because clearly that's just not true.

August 07, 2006

Raising the Game? A State of the Union on the WNBA

The sign on the subway has a scoreboard-style graphic that reads:

New York Liberty: 10, Those Who Said it Wouldn't Last: 0

Below that, it says: Celebrating 10 years of raising the game of basketball.

Ponder that statement for a moment and you're likely to think of some kind of snide or sarcastic remark. And it will probably be out of habit -- because dismissing the WNBA has become almost ritualistic for the average sports fan. Ever been involved in a game of pick-up hoops when after one particularly sloppy or unathletic sequence someone refers to the play as "WNBA style"? Well, it happens. Hell, considering the terrible stigma attached to women's basketball and the WNBA in general, it's kind of shocking that you've read this far.

But how many of us have ever sat down and actually watched a WNBA game? Aren't most of our opinions based on preconceived notions of what women's basketball is really like? Wouldn't it be a great story if the New York Liberty really was raising the game while the Knicks continued to dig a trench for the game to rot in?

Sunday night, The OCC sat down and watched the Liberty's game against the Detroit Shock in an effort to answer some of these questions. Here's what we now know after 40 minutes of WNBA basketball:

Liberty Stinks
This is not meant to be an overarching comment on freedom in general; it's more of a statement about just how rotten the NY squad is.

And forget the team's 9-21 record coming into the game against Detroit -- there are far bigger issues at play here. Consider these stats:

The Liberty scored eight points in the first 14+ minutes, 13 points in the first 18 minutes, and 19 in the first half (spanning 20 minutes). That's less than a point per minute. Odds are if you laced up a herd of yaks with high tops and taught them how to head the ball in the air with their horns (do yaks have horns?) they could top 19 points in 20 minutes. That's just rotten.

Cumulative first-half stats for New York: 28% shooting, zero free throws attempted, and 10 turnovers.

Too Many J's
If Sunday's game was any indication, the WNBA's biggest problem may be that it suffers from a jump-shooting epidemic. There seems to be a general inability to get to the hole that leads to a rash of outside shots. And the biggest problem with this is that a lot of them are bricks -- no player on the Liberty roster is shooting better than .435, and collectively, the team is shooting .394. Great batting average for Tony Gwynn in 1994, but as a team shooting percentage...not so good.

And for Detroit, one of the WNBA's elite teams, it's hardly better: The Shock collectively shoots .410. For a game that's supposed to be a much purer version of NBA hoops, this is inexcusable. Detroit's Katie Smith is by all accounts one of the great shooters in league history, and her career percentage is .410. By comparison, Reggie Miller shot .471 in his career.

Give It Up
Watching the game on Sunday, you get the sense that where the WNBA could really make its mark is with creative passing -- driving to the hole for lay-ups, behind-the-back passes, etc. Shouldn't WNBA hoops be a deluge of cutting to the basket, quick ball movement, etc? On Sunday at least, it was none of this. Just a worse version of NBA hoops with bad shooting and no dunking. A perfect illustration of the problem: The league leader in assists (Nikki Teasley) is averaging 5.4 per game. Even taking into account the shorter game length from the NBA (40 minutes versus 48), that's unacceptable.

Shock Value
Though Detroit's shooting percentage is too low for elite basketball standards, the team is actually somewhat reasonable to watch. Though maybe Detroit only becomes reasonable in comparison to the Liberty, which should probably be called the Ball and Chain or the Shackles, because realistically that's what it would take to keep most people seated on the couch for one of their games. One thing that's for certain: Cheryl Ford (a.k.a. Karl Malone's daughter) is pretty good. And in a fitting homage to her father, and WNBA hoops at large, she compiles impressive stats without ever doing anything particularly remarkable.

Nice Balls
If there's one thing the WNBA has gotten right, it's the look of the basketball, with each section of the ball alternating between brown and white. Points are definitely awarded here. Not to say that the NBA should adopt this exact color scheme, but it adds a lot to the game to be able to easily see the rotation on the ball when players shoot. Might be time to bring back some incarnation of the ABA ball.

The Verdict
The final score on Sunday: Shock 65, Liberty 53, in a game that was neither close nor gripping.

The current verdict on WNBA hoops: If the Liberty truly has been raising the game for 10 years, it would be horrifying to see where the game started. Because based on what was on display Sunday, this is a sport in need of some elevation.

The most frustrating thing is that a partial fix would be simple. If you can't have jaw-dropping dunks to help mask the game's bigger problems (as the NBA does), then you need something else. In this case, the WNBA needs more (and better) passing, more showmanship, more up-tempo play.

Try to pick the top three plays from Sunday's Liberty-Shock game and you couldn't really do it. The entire night, only one play truly stood out: A driving, fall-away lay-up by New York's Loree Moore at the end of the first half that cut the halftime deficit to 35-19. It's a play that wouldn't make the highlight reel of an NBA game, but you'd be hard-pressed to leave it out of any highlights covering last night's game.

Ultimately, it was a meaningless shot in the midst of a game that was nowhere close to compelling, but it was the only relatively exciting play that happened the entire night. And therein lies the problem: The WNBA attempts to exist without fully embracing the value of entertainment. The best way to raise the game is to make it look better. And until the WNBA grasps that concept, it doesn't have a prayer of earning the average sports fan's respect.

August 03, 2006

Sounds Uncomfortable

The news broke out of Colorado earlier this week: Brewers' infielder Jeff Cirillo has soggy balls.

No, wait...that's not quite right: Jeff Cirillo is complaining of soggy balls.

Actually, he's complaining about soggy balls, but they're not his -- they're the baseballs that have been sitting in the humidor at Coors Field.

To quickly debrief anyone who hasn't been following this story, baseballs have a tendency to dry out in the thin Colorado air (and thus travel unnaturally far when hit), so the Rockies have taken to storing baseballs in a humidor to balance out that dryness. (Sounds like it could be the name of a dry skin lotion: Humidor -- to balance out the dryness in your life.)

Earlier this week Cirillo, who once played in Colorado, did a bit of investigative journalism and took a ball that was brought from Milwaukee and compared it to the one that had been in the humidor. His finding: Your balls get way too soggy in Colorado. (Rumors that people's balls have been getting very soggy in the recent New York heat wave could not be confirmed.)

The complaint that Cirillo is essentially making is that the humidor has swung the balance too far in one direction -- whereas there was far too much offense in Colorado before, now there's not enough. Having not handled one of the aforementioned soggy balls (and hoping never to do so), this sounds like it could be a classic case of the placebo effect -- people know that the humidor is in use and as a result, pitchers are approaching Coors Field with a newfound confidence. And with that confidence comes better pitching in the thin Denver air.

Obviously the humidor must have some physical effect on the flight of the ball, but you have to think that if the balls were really as dramatically soggy as Cirillo claims, we'd have heard many others complaining before him.

Because if we can all agree on one thing, it's that in baseball or everyday life, soggy balls are more or less intolerable.

  • No word on what adverse effects it may have had on his testicles, but Dale Davis had a tussle with Miami police Tuesday morning that ended when an officer blasted him with a Taser gun. For those not in the know, a Taser is an electric blasto type gun (yes, that's the official nomenclature) that pretty much will render a victim useless if not making him altogether mess his pants. At any rate, it doesn't sound like fun. But The OCC would just like to go on record as saying that there is no shame in what happened to Dale Davis on Tuesday. In fact, he should stand proud -- if it takes a Taser shot to bring you down, you know you're a true stallion. Because let's face it, most of us would cower down and start whimpering if an officer of the law simply talked to us in a stern and accusatory tone. I don't think we'd ever come close to making it to Taser phase. As a side note, Dale Davis' agent is named Chubby Wells. Is this Bonzi Wells' extremely talented but woefully overweight older brother who has the skills to play in the NBA but can't stop eating Malomars long enough to get in shape? Probably not.
  • In baseball news, there were reports this week that Cuban national team star Yulieski Gourriel had defected while playing a tournament in Columbia, with speculation that he planned to come play in the Major Leagues (read: for the Yankees). But apparently those reports were completely untrue, and Yulieski is back in Cuba, claiming to be as happy as ever. As he told, "My commitment is to my family, which has guided me since I was little, and the revolution, which has guaranteed me everything I've needed to become a ballplayer." The revolution...whoa. That's intense. Does anyone else think he was most likely reading that statement in a dimly-lit room with his hands tied behind his back while a Taser gun was being held to his chest? If The OCC ever mentions a revolution of any kind, you have every right to assume he's been kidnapped and/or brainwashed. (In the event of a kidnapping, please send help immediately.)

August 02, 2006

Stop That Train

Tales From the New York Underground, Vol. 1

Why? Because subway riding is a sport, whether you like it or not...

You drop in at 59th Street/Columbus Circle. It's been called the worst station in all of the five boroughs -- always crowded, and in the summer it gets hotter than a puss-filled blister in The Devil's armpit.

After swiping through the turnstile, you immediately sense that your train is coming, and pick up your pace accordingly. From the top of the stairs, you see it, your train, and you know you must make it on board. You'd sooner dive in front of an oncoming train than stand on the platform in this heat.

You get to the bottom of the stairs, and see that the doors are still open. You're almost there. However, the first open door is packed with people. Same for the second. And third. Up ahead, you can see an open doorway where there's room to get in, and you accelerate. Now it's a half run.

You're ready to make your final surge for the door when you realize you've somehow failed to notice the rather round woman and her man lover who are slowly walking along ahead of you. Evasive action comes too late, and you bump into into the round woman from behind. Yet somehow you manage to bounce off her, shoving ever so slightly off her shoulders and diving into the open door. She lets out a yelp to signify her displeasure. The man lover is not amused either, primarily because he's heard her yelp and assumed you hit her much harder than you did.

"Hey, what the hell?" he says, stopping and turning around.

"I'm just trying to get on the train," you respond.

"So is everyone else, but there's three other open doors right here," he says, as if to suggest there was no reason for you to shove past.

"Look, I had to get in this door," you say.

Any escalation to the argument is averted when the subway doors pull shut. To your left stands a man who, according to the name on the back of his jersey, goes by "Ghetto." Just below the name is the number 8. He's been watching the whole thing, and he shakes his head in what is meant to be a sign of his support.

You look back at him and shrug, as if to say, What can you do?

Dabbing at his sweaty forehead with a hand towel, #8 turns to you and says, "Only in New York, man."

  • One of the most interesting subplots to yesterday's MLB trading deadline was the Mets suddenly being forced to trade away starting right fielder Xavier Nady for bullpen help after top setup man Duaner Sanchez suffered a separated shoulder in a taxi cab accident in Florida. The lesson here, of course: Never ride in taxi cabs. Well, actually, sometimes riding in cabs is inevitable. The real lesson is, always wear a seatbelt. Omm...hang on, actually we don't know if he was wearing a seatbelt or not. Perhaps the most appropriate takeaway from this incident is, Damn, that sucks. Sorry dude.
  • It's been a good several days for Devil Rays' prospects: First, B.J. Upton, Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes all publicly criticized the organization in USA Today for not having brought them to the Majors. Then on Tuesday, the organization suspended Dukes indefinitely in connection with a previous incident in which he was suspended for arguing balls and strikes in a AAA game. And in the wake of this most recent suspension, Dukes decided to take his toys and go home, suggesting that he might never play the sport again. Upton has finally been called up, but it's a shame to see Young and Dukes languishing in the minors when all they have to do is be on reasonably decent behavior to get called up. Which is pretty selfish when you think about it, because they could really be helping the OCC's fantasy team if they were so inclined.
  • Did anyone else happen to catch Bobby Abreu's first AB in pinstripes Tuesday night? It was a routine grounder to second, so you didn't miss much, except that something strange happened: Abreu sprinted, and nearly beat it out. Has Bobby Abreu ever run so hard on a routine ground ball in his life? The OCC has been witness to many an Abreu AB over the years, and the site of him busting it to first looked very strange. If memory serves correctly, he is one of the worst loafers in the game. And logic would suggest he probably hasn't turned into Charlie Hustle for good; he's just trying to win over the New York fans. The bet here is he'll be dogging it again come September, and New York fans will hate him for it. That dude is so lazy, he wouldn't lunge for a subway car if the door was opening right in front of him.