Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Morris Almond...Almost.

Quick hit from the Las Vegas Summer League, where NBA bloggers enjoy better access to players and personnel than at any point during the season that counts. I, of course, will be following along from home and contributing snark where appropriate.

The Las Vegas Summer League is a place where the unknowns and also-rans have a chance to make a name for themselves against first round draft picks. The games are all about high-octane offense and highlight dunks. Consider it a cross between And1 streetball and the NBDL. While fouls are counted, players cannot foul out of games. This makes for a pick-up basketball atmosphere.

One of the also-rans in Vegas this summer is Morris Almond, a former first rounder from Rice. He was drafted in 2007 by the Utah Jazz with the 25th pick. Almond was a deadly shooter in college (26.1 points per game his senior year) and seemed like a strong candidate to play a Kyle Korver type role in the NBA.  Unfortunately, it has not worked out that way. Almond played atrocious defense and when he got the ball in his hands on the wing, he thought one thing only: nylon! Jerry Sloan is not a big fan of me-first shooters and Almond is not a guy who gives up the rock once he has it in his hands. Not much has changed in the time spent in the D-League. Once there, he was chucking away, posting 50-point-plus games. He eventually worked his way to Spain and then back to the NBDL.

 Now he has signed with the Chicago Bulls to play on their Vegas team. What are the chances he impresses and makes the squad? He will impress because he will score; that is what Morris Almond does. He will not make the team. How do I know? Because the Chicago Bulls told everyone this when they released their Summer League team roster yesterday. H/T ShamSports:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Kobayashi Starved in Jail

World champion eater Takeru Kobayashi has been freed on bail after spending a harrowing and abusive night in a New York jail. We wrote yesterday that Kobayashi was arrested while trying to participate in Famous Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. While world cried out for organizers to "let him eat!" he was shackled and hustled away.

The shameful treatment didn't end there. According to wire reports, Kobayashi was nearly starved to death during his jail time.

Kobayashi told reporters he had a sandwich and a glass of milk while being held.

"I am very hungry," he said. "I wish there were hot dogs in jail."

One sandwich? Let's do the math:

One sandwich = 1.2 hot dogs (conversely, 1 hot dog = 80% of one sandwich)
Last year, Kobayashi consumed 64.5 hot dogs in 10 minutes, thus eats 6.45 dogs/minute
6.45 x 0.8  =  5.16 sandwiches per minute
60 seconds ÷ 5.16 sandwiches = 11.6 seconds.

The six-time recipient of the Mustard Belt ate for a scant 11.6 seconds during his time in jail? This man once went jowl to jowl against a grizzly bear. He needs more than a skimpy sandwich to get through the night. I smell a lawsuit here.

This is how New York City's lawyers will feel once Kobayashi's attorneys are through with them.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fall From Greatness: Takeru Kobayashi Arrested

There was special drama today at the Famous Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest on Coney Island. It wasn't the competition itself where Joey Chestnut retained his championship after eating 54 tubes of lips and assholes in ten minutes, besting his nearest rival by nine dogs. That's four years in a row for Chestnut for those of you counting at home. Clearly the drama wasn't from Chestnut and the also-rans. Rather, it came in the form of Takeru Kobayashi,  the six-time former champion who made an appearance after the competition and was arrested by New York's finest.

Kobayashi did not participate in the contest this year as he refuses to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating, saying he wants to be free to compete in contests not promoted by the organization. He took his case to the people by gate-crashing Nathan's and was promptly arrested by the police. Check the video below. The people of Brooklyn are lucky to have avoided a major riot. Thankfully, Kobayashi doesn't speak much (any?) English and thus could only pantomime his issues with Major League Eating. The people knew what they wanted, though. Once he was recognized, the crowd chanted, "Let him eat! Let him eat!" They can be heard yelling, "Free Kobi!" in the video. It should be noted they could barely contained their laughter while doing so.

Some say it was the arrival of the Bay Area's Joey Chestnut that sent Kobayashi into his downward spiral. Indeed, analysts suspect Chestnut's middling consumption of 54 dogs was the result of a lack of genuine competition. Only Kobayashi has proven to be a worthy rival.

However, true fans of the sport point to Kobayashi's 2003 contest on Fox's "Man Vs. Beast" with a 1089-pound Kodiak Grizzly as the start of his demise.  Kobayashi was destroyed by the bear and just hasn't been the same since. Blame the programming geniuses at Fox for the decline and fall of one the greats. Now he has been reduced to non-violent civil protest to get his name back in lights. See the video below and enjoy Michael Buffer's intro:

Warriors Trade Rumor: It's a Three-Way

Courtesy of the NY Post, by way of Golden State of Mind, we have the latest of what are sure to be many trade rumors involving the Warriors. We know the team is looking to get rid of long-term contracts (see Maggette, Corey) and to add bodies to play center (see Gadzuric, Dan--actually don't). The team is looking to build around point guard Steph Curry and erase the mistakes of the Mullin era, read Monta Ellis and Andris Beidrins.

Here is what the Post has cooked up with their specialty, a writer's trade idea masked as a rumor from unattributed sources:

"When Stoudemire becomes official, it would end the five-year era of David Lee, but set up a possibility of a sign-and-trade to add another piece. There's been rumors of a three-way trade talk between Golden State, Minnesota and the Knicks where Lee winds up with the Timberwolves, Monta Ellis comes to the Knicks and Al Jefferson goes to Golden State. Lee visited Minnesota yesterday and it has only $7 million in cap room, meaning he'd want a sign-and-trade."

I would be glad to have either Lee or Jefferson on the Warriors. Yes, Jefferson has a lackluster season last year (17.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks) and had ACL surgery in 2009. It typically takes players two years to fully recover from a tirn ACL and the 2010-11 season would be that year. Before his injury, Jefferson was one the best offensive centers in the NBA, averaging 23.1 points and 10.9 rebounds. He's not a good defender but he would be a bull in the paint. If Curry can get reliable production out of Anthony Tolliver, I think he could work some magic with Al Jefferson.

David Lee might be an even better fit. First, he is more durable, playing 81 games for each of the past three seasons. Second, he greatly improved his offensive game last season, averaging 20.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He, like Jefferson, is not a strong defender but he would be an ideal partner to play the pick and roll with Curry out of the high post. He passes well, has a reliable mid-range jumper and the athleticism to consistently get to the rim. Besides, you can't build Rome in a day. Defense is key to building championship teams, true. The Warriors should be focusing on getting out of the Lottery before worrying about if they are Larry O'Brien material.

Importantly, both guys are good citizens. No motorbike, er, moped accidents. No sulking or complaining about teammates either. They go out and play hard. They just don't play effective defense. Then Monta isn't exactly known for his shut-down defense either. If they can land either big man, the Warriors would have my full support. In other words, I expect nothing like this to happen at all.

Busted: The World Cup Trophy

Think you know drug smuggling? Swallowing condoms packed with heroin? That is so 1990s. Swallowing lambskin condoms packed with heroin? That is so 1970s. Want to know how the cool kids are muling these days, check this story from the AP:

BOGOTA, Colombia — Fans worldwide have fashioned replicas of the World Cup trophy out of everything from papier-mache to plastic. But a lawbreaker in Colombia gets top prize for most original material: cocaine.

Airports anti-drug chief Col. Jose Piedrahita says that Colombian authorities found the unusual statue during a routine security check by anti-drug agents Friday in a mail warehouse at Bogota's international airport.

The 14-inch-high statue was inside a box headed for Madrid, Spain. The statue was painted gold with green stripes on the base.

Piedrahita said Saturday that laboratory tests confirmed the cup was made of 24 pounds of cocaine mixed with acetone or gasoline to make it moldable.

While, one is moved to applaud the innovative techniques employed, there are a few issues:
  1. The dealers clearly weren't thinking about the freebasers with their design. Gasoline-infused coke? Richard Pryor was able to light himself on fire using only coke and 151-proof rum. This could've wreaked havoc on the freebase community. And as Tony Montana once said of the cocaine business, "Don't light your fucking customers on fire, mang."

  2. The choice of disguise was misguided considering the country of origin. Colombia hasn't made a World Cup since 1998. The team simply hasn't been the same since the shooting of Andres Escobar in 1994. Escobar scored an own goal in the '94 Cup against the host United States and was assassinated in Medellin soon after returning home. Even the last name Escobar couldn't save him. Had the dealers shipped a replica World Cup trophy from Chile, Brazil, Argentina or either of the 'Guays, South American countries that actually qualified for the Cup, it would have been seen as the creation of enthusiastic fans. From Colombia, where they shoot people for playing soccer badly, it can only raise eyebrows.

  3. However, the biggest mistake the dealers made is where they were sending the trophy. Spain? WTF? Turn on your TVs, Colombian drug dealers! Everyone knows Diego Maradona is in South Africa. Man, is he going to be pissed.

"Spain?!!!  F-ing Spain??!!"

Turns out the mistake wasn't in the destination, it was in the trophy itself. It should have been shipped to Madrid. However, it wasn't supposed to be a World Cup trophy; it should have been the men's championship trophy for Wimbledon. Man, is Rafael Nadal going to be pissed.

"Wait a second..."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Fat Man Has Sung; Now We Wait for the Player to Be Named Later

According to SFGate , Bengie Molina has been traded by the Giants to the Texas Rangers. The deal will be completed Thursday and immediately makes Buster Posey the full-time catcher for the G-Men.

The Giants lose the slowest man in baseball and gain Chris Ray, middle reliever who used to strike people out, and the dreaded PTBNL (player to be named later). Chris Ray is kind of decent and adds depth to the middle relief crew. He has been OK for the Rangers so far this season but there are some troubling stats sitting underneath his solid 3.41 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. First is his K:BB ratio. It's 1. Yup, Ray has walked as many hitters as he has struck out; that would be 16 each in 31.2 IP. This represents a career-worst mark in this stat.

Ray after issuing a bases-loaded walk. Why did I pick this picture? No reason really.

How to spin this? Well, he must be getting his outs on the ground, right? Not really. According to FanGraphs, he is allowing more fly balls (51.5% of all batted balls) than at any point in his career.  Of course, one can point to his 7.7% HR/FB, a new career-low. But then, you are faced with the fact that he has been extremely lucky, especially when you consider his home park has been the launching pad in Arlington. His BABIP stands at .214, insanely low. Ray has been the beneficiary of a lot of at 'em balls. I have to wonder if that kind of luck will continue with the Giants' geriatric outfielders patrolling the sward at AT&T Park.

This leaves us with the PTBNL. The names dropped at SFGate were lefties Chris Davis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  The former is power-hitting first baseman, with a love of the long ball and the strikeout. He was sent down after just 48 ABs earlier this season and has been hitting at AAA ever since. He plays excellent defense at first but has been a K-fiend at every level of play. On the plus side, he has hit for average and power at every level of play. Well, unless you count the majors. But whose quibbling? This year at Triple-A Davis is hitting .327 with six HRs and 30 RBI in 44 games. Good on the average but the power seems to have been lost somewhere between Arlington and Oklahoma City. He is striking out less but Davis' value comes from his tremendous power. This cyclopean talent clubbed 36 home runs in 129 games between Double- and Triple-A in 2007. He has shown promise at the big league level as well, hitting 17 dongs in 80 games in 2008 when he was first called up. That kind of pop is something the Giants could use.

My vote for PTBNL. Despite the K:BB, WAR and ISO.

The other option is Mr. Saltalamacchia, owner of the longest last name in baseball history. Unfortunately, he is also the owner of an arm that has struggled to throw the ball 60 feet and six inches to the pitchers' mound. Really. Check this report from the Oklahoma City RedHawks web site:

RedHawks catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be back in the major leagues if he didn't have a problem throwing the ball - not to an infielder, but back to his pitcher.

In Salty's last game, Tuesday night at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, 12 of his throws back to the pitcher landed either short of the mound or in center field. He had five errant throws in the first inning alone.

"He's just got to keep playing until he gets it right," RedHawks manager Bobby Jones said. "I don't know what else to do. It's a shame. It's definitely what's keeping him here. He's blocking the ball well and swinging the bat well. He's just got to figure it out. It's a shame."

To be fair, reports are that Salty has cleared up these issues but nonetheless has not returned to the big league club. While the Giants could use more depth at catcher, they have a greater need at first base. Posey and Eli Whiteside should cover every available game at catcher, leaving precious little for Saltalamacchia to do in San Francisco. The seamstresses in the Giants employ will be glad if the team passes on him. Davis is a hell of a lot easier on the hands than Saltalamacchia.

It takes nimble, child-like fingers to stitch the name just right.

As for Bengie, he moves to hitter's haven and should see a definite improvement in his offensive numbers. Fantasy owners in AL-Only leagues should be all over him. Wait, I am one of those. Be right back. Molina will be missed for his expert handling of a young pitching staff. Also, until this season he has been the most reliable bat in a terrible Giants lineup. He has looked slower both at and behind the plate this season but I like his chances of rebounding for a solid half-season with the explosive Rangers. On the plus side for the Giants, they should immediately cut down on their double-plays and increase the number of infield hits. Last, I am not sure how happy Molina was about being Giant this season. This is based on nothing more than speculation but Bengie was the man for the past three seasons. He was the best hitter and a seasoned vet other players looked up to. This season he was a rental, holding Buster Posey's spot until the rookie was ready. I don't think he liked being that position. On the Rangers he will again be the man behind the plate and should see a lot more of his fly balls head over the wall. Then he can do what he does best: jog slowly around the bases.

Molina was just fast enough on this day in Milwaukee:

Posey was drafted to be the everyday starting catcher and now that day has come. I know Tim Lincecum will miss Bengie behind the dish but I am betting Posey wins him over quickly. Molina wasn't blocking balls in the dirt like he used to and Posey's athleticism will make a difference here. This deal will be a positive for the Giants if  they land a left-handed bat who can help a struggling offense. I am hoping, for all his flaws, that bat is Chris Davis.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lego My World Cup

One the best by-products of this year's World Cup has been the Lego animations of various moments of big games. What, you thought I was going to talk about the vuvuzela apps (yes, there's more than one)  for the iPhone?

Here's the US v England (3.5 stars):

England v Germany (2 stars but only because it's in German):

"Nein. Nein. Nein Nein." I don't speak a word of German but even I know in this series of neins the announcer was convincing himself (and no one else) that Lampard didn't score.

And one fan's reaction to the above game (4 stars):

Why is Lampard's disallowed goal such a big deal historically? Note the the poster in the previous video and keep it in mind as you view the following: 

England v West Germany, 1966 (4 stars):

Points awarded for use of black and white as well as the flickering "filmic" effects used in this one. There will be more lego footie, no doubt, and if the referees oblige us, we will have plenty to laugh about.