1) It's my birthday. I just had to note that. It's also Dwight Gooden's birthday. I hope the coming year is better for him than this past one was. I am not a Mets' fan, but I don't think I have ever enjoyed watching a pitcher in my lifetime more than I did Gooden during his first two season, 1984-1985.
2) Good article on ESPN.com today (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?id=2662960) about Japanese reaction to the red Sox’ $51.1 million dollar bid for the right to negotiate for the services of Daisuke Matsuzaka.
According to Jim Price, of the Daily Yomiuri, the news of the bid “shook the nation.” Price points out that many people associated with Japanese baseball are concerned that Matsuzaka’s departure is “another nail in the coffin” of baseball in that country, as the country’s star players increasingly want to play in the major leagues.
According to Price, the six billion yen price is triple of the payroll of the Seibu Lions, Matsuzaka’s soon-to-be former team.
Nice to see a piece from a non-American perspective.
By the way, Orestes Destrade, former major leaguer and current ESPN baseball talking head, was on with Mike and the Mad Dog the other day, and was extremely impressive and knowledgeable about baseball in Japan. (Destrade played there).
Among his insights – that the big difference between Japanese and Major League baseball is depth – that hitters 5-8 or 9 are simply not of the quality that they are in MLB lineups. Destrade also shed light on the origins of Matsuzaka’s superstardom. Japan has a national high school tournament that Destrade described as the equivalent of March Madness, with the whole country tuning in. During Matsuzaka’s final year in the tournament, he won started and won a game, came back the next day for the save, and then on a day’s rest pitched a no-hitter, and has been a legend ever since.
3) Dave Zirin’s piece today sounds the alarm about the possibility of “sectarian war” between Michigan and OSU on Saturday. As others have done, Zirin points out that the counting of the absentee and provisional ballots for the contentious race for Congress from Ohio’s fourth district, between incumbent Republican Deborah Pryce (up by 3,600 votes) and Democratic challenger Mary Jo Kilroy, scheduled to begin on Saturday is being postponed. That prompted the Chicago Tribune coverage of the congressional race to declare: “It’s no contest: OSU-Michigan in a landslide.
Those of you read me regularly know that I like Zirin’s writing a lot – he’s a kindred spirit in some ways. But, he’s over the top today, warning of the possibility of fires and other forms of violence by fans on both sides:
“Fire is a real fear in the game's aftermath. I heard a
local sports radio announcer joke uneasily Sunday about how people should make
sure they burn their old
couches, not new ones--a reference to the more than fifty fires that took place after Ohio State defeated Texas earlier this year.”
Zirin also catalogues instances of boosters calling for blood (or something like it):
“But for those who can't wait until after the game, a Friday
night "Hate Michigan" rally is
planned in Columbus, headlined by local band the
Dead Schembechlers (named after former Michigan
coach Bo Schembechler). For those of us who think punk rock is
about raging against provincialism, the Dead Schembechlers want you to know that they can be as hateful as an RNC campaign ad. A notice on the band's
website declares, "We will march on a road of Wolverine bones and dance about on their graves singing 'Hallelujah!' We expect to see everyone in the
Buckeyes Nation at The Hate Michigan Rally to help bring victory! It is the solemn duty of all the faithful to attend. Woody be praised."
Sports riots following big games have certainly happened in the past. But, often, the dire warnings before a big game come to naught. And, I don’t think there’s any real malevolent intent in the Dead Schembechlers’ pronouncements. Zirin’s getting a bit carried away when he writes “this is a farce carrying the threat of tragedy.”
4) Speaking of Matsuzaka, I heard a painfully bad discussion about Scott Boras, Matsuzaka’s agent on the morning Mojo the other morning. On AM 620 in Durham, the Morning Mojo is a generally perfectly agreeable show, co-hosted by the innocuous Joe Ovious and the Sports Pig, Morgan Patrick. But, as word emerged of the Sox winning bid, the Triangle tandem saw this as confounding Boras’ master plan. What was that plan? As best as I could follow, it went as follows: Boras convinces Arod to stay in New York because of all the endorsements, etc. (personally, I’d be willing to bet that Arod would make more money on endorsements in Chicago than he does in NY), and in exchange for Arod staying in NY, Boras would somehow ensure that Matsuzaka came to the Yankees. And, according to Ovious, “the plan almost worked.”
If you have absolutely no clue what the hell I am talking about, neither do I. But, I am faithfully reporting what I heard. I spend enough time defending people who are a tough sell, and I am not going to add sports agents to that case load. But, the bogeyman way in which sports agents, like Boras, are portrayed is just silly. Like all of the billionaires he deals with, Boras is a businessman looking to make as much money as he can. He’s not a puppet master and he obviously has no control over things like who makes the high bid. And, there’s no remotely plausible connection between Arod’s status with the Yankees and the Matsuzaka process.