Friday, October 3, 2008

MLB Playoffs Live Blog Day #1: Time for Someone to Kick Harold Reynolds in the Junk

2:30 p.m.
Great to see that Harold Reynolds will be calling the Rays' game for TBS. Harold's famous for hitting on sports columnists' girlfriends and getting fired by ESPN for a pattern of sexual harassment, culminating in his creeping out a co-worker by hugging her in a Boston Market. When it is time to sup with eros, it is time for rotisserie chicken, meatloaf and gravy. Also, if I remember correctly, in Will Leitch's God Save the Fan, there's a story about one of the Deadspin writers catching Reynolds and many other ESPN personalities in a bar with their road beef.

Far be it from me to insinuate that Reynolds is a terrible commentator because he cheats on his significant other, tries to fuck employees and seems to think that a restaurant where people can buy ham and mashed potatoes with gravy in a snapped-shut plastic carrier is the place to make the first move. That would be ridiculous, and honestly I couldn't give a damn who he has sex with. He's a terrible commentator because he's a fucking moron.

For example, it took less than 120 seconds of the broadcast for him to say this:
[BJ Upton] is a great player. He is as good as anyone in this league.
First, Upton made at least two critically absent-minded plays this year that might have cost his team two wins. He routinely quits running down to first, at least once memorably turning a sure double off the wall into a single because he was too busy watching what he thought was a home run. More importantly, he isn't even in the top 75 in the league in OPS, not in the top 10 at his position, and not in the top 60 in VORP. In fact, he's probably not even in the top 90, but apparently Baseball Prospectus is crashing right now, so that can't be verified. The point is: BJ Upton is as good as anyone in this league, as long as you're not talking about the 75 or so players who are better than he is.

You can tell why Reynolds likes him though: he's fast and overrated; Reynolds was fast and overrated. (Well, not so much anymore. Even his former employer now lists him as one of the all-time worst players in Mariners' history.) He's admiring himself by proxy. Like a lot of former ballplayers, he's gone on to commentate about a game that he's never bothered to learn about beyond his own experiences. The formula is simple: Bunch of Baseless Sports Clichés + Self-Approval + Gritty Scrappy Smunchy Ecksteiny Player Just Like you = Praise, Praise, Praise!

Also, fun fact about Harold Reynolds: he and his brother became legal guardians of Gregory "Toe" Nash, a semi-fraudulent teenaged phenom from Louisiana about whom people told Josh Gibson-esque stories (only, unlike with Gibson, only a third of them weren't fables). Reynolds' brother is a sports agent: their motives were transparently unaltruistic. Especially given that they dismissed the importance of Nash's anally raping a teenaged girl in his home town. Then dismissed accusations that, while living nominally under their care in California, he cheated repeatedly on his girlfriend and responded to her accusations of infidelity by severely beating and then anally raping her too. (You can read his whole story in The Best Sports Writing of Pat Jordan.) Then they dropped him like a hot rock after the prospects of a fat contract evaporated.

Forget what I said at the end of the second paragraph: Harold Reynolds is a piece of shit.

3:28 p.m.
Akinori Iwamura squares off to bunt, then takes the pitch for a ball. He smashes the next pitch to centerfield for an RBI triple. Hmmm, perhaps this adds credence to the radical idea accepted as gospel by statisticians for only about 25 years or so that bunts are incredibly stupid. Hell, just the fact that George Will adores them should tell you as much.

Not Sure of the Time:
Two at bats, two home runs. Evan Longoria is a beast. An absolute beast.

3:37 p.m.
Harold Reynolds:
You know, another thing that happens when you're playing in dome stadiums? You get a lot of people in the dome, and the ball carries. I'm speaking from a lot of experience playin'—and it really does. People are goin', "Yeah, right," but it does. And we're seein' that today. The ball's jumpin in this place.
You heard it here first, folks. According to Harold Reynolds, the larger the attendance of a domed ballgame, the farther the ball flies through the air. Now, just looking at this from a high-school science perspective, yes, more warm bodies would elevate the ambient temperature. Warmer air is less dense, which allows the ball to travel greater distances due to less resistance. However:
1. The climate-controlled environment corrects for this, perhaps not immediately, but surely within a couple innings, which would make the likelihood of borderline flyballs becoming home runs decrease with each passing inning, which is not what happened in this game.

2. More warm bodies means more people cheering and sweating, belching hot beer breath and breathing out more moisture. Increased humidity means increased density of the air, resulting in the ball traveling a shorter distance. The increased distance from warmer air is probably offset by decreased distance from greater humidity, and both of them are eventually corrected by the climate control.

3. Why are you even worried about reasoning this out? Harold Reynolds is fucking retarded.
I'm trying to picture what it would be like if Harold Reynolds and Tim McCarver had a "brain off" at each other. Here's what I see: two men in suits, standing ten feet apart, facing each other. Each balls his fists at his sides and bends his legs at the knees, squinting his eyes hard and flattening his mouth into two tight lines. Each looks like he's painfully constipated and trying very very hard to shit directly into his pants. As if coming out of the tops of their heads, an ambient noise like air slowly being let out of a tire suffuses the scene. This goes on without interruption for hours until, at different times, each of them passes out from forgetting to breathe.

3:39 p.m.
Finally got an update on Carlos Peña and now no longer panicking nearly as much. Peña scratched his eye at home, and it's a little blurry. I've done that probably three times, and it always goes away practically overnight. Everything will be fine. Also, this article is great and summarizes everything I was thinking about Manny Ramirez already.

4:10 p.m.
TBS runs highlights of BJ Upton absentmindedly not running down to first base and making himself an easy out. Reynolds conspicuously quiet about his league-wide excellence.

4:17 p.m.
My friend Devri IMs me to complain about the gloomy weather in her hometown and how it seems like today is the official start of the Seasonal Affective Disorder part of the year. She follows it up with, "I'd perk right up if I weren't at work," just as the TV blares, "Viiiiivaaaaaa Viiiiiiiiiiiagra!!!!!" I'm totally serious: if, when I get older, I spend all my time in a garage band with a bunch of other old dudes, playing quasi-rockabilly with them and singing about my penis, punch me in the fucking face.

4:25 p.m.
Reynolds and The Guy Significantly Less Stupid Than Reynolds (TGSLSTR, hereafter nicknamed "The Slugster") mention how many balls have stuck in the catwalks just under the roof of Tropicana Field, both from balls in play and balls hit during batting practice. If a ball in play strikes the catwalks hard enough, it could dislodge countless other stuck balls, dropping them onto the field of play. Not only must this happen, the announcers absolutely have to scream, "MULTI-BALL! MULTI-BALL!"

4:32 p.m.
The Slugster mentions the difference in managerial inspiration between the hilariously crazy Ozzie Guillen and Tampa Bay's intellectual, oenologist skipper Joe Maddon. For example, Maddon has a sign in the clubhouse displaying a quote from Albert Camus: "Integrity has no need of rules." In short, act with integrity, and you won't have to worry about what the rules are, since you're likely following them already. Unsurprisingly, Reynolds has no clue who anyone's talking about.

4:47 p.m.
[Ken Griffey Jr.]'s gonna go down as one of the greatest players of all time. How good was Griffey? You think about it, when they had the All-Century Team—when they picked that All-Century Team—he was on it, Barry Bonds was not. That's how good Junior was playing at that time.
First of all, just taking a cursory glance at the All-Century roster, Griffey's name is the only one that instantly jumps out as wrong without looking at the stats. Second of all, what a great way to praise someone: he's so good, other people who are notorious for evaluating things through a counter-productive luddite lens make stupid appraisals about other people! "How good are Burger King breakfast burritos? My dog who eats cat poop and acorns wolfs them down faster than steak." Makes sense to me!

4:59 p.m.
Grant Balfour gets back-to-back strikeouts with the bases loaded to bail the Rays out of the bottom of the 6th. During the second at-bat, he jaws back and forth with Orlando Cabrera, strikes him out, and points at him and clearly says, "Siddown!" On the one hand, settle down. Act like you belong there. Act like you knew you were going to get that strikeout and had no doubt about being the better man. On the other hand, that was genuinely sort of cool. Also, apparently Grant Balfour is Australian, loves Joseph Conrad, and pumps himself up while on the mound by screaming out quotations from Heart of Darkness. Let no one say the Tampa Bay Rays aren't pretty interesting.

5:00-6:30 p.m.
Phone call. Don't ask.

6:53 p.m. — Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies
C.C. Sabathia gives up a grand slam. People are going to point to his pitching on three-days' rest, but there's nothing to indicate that three-days' rest contributes to more pitcher abuse than four days' rest: it's the amount of abuse incurred while pitching that tears up arms. Granted, I think C.C. threw 120 pitches the last time out, but I don't think weariness accounts for the grand slam. I think it was two straight walks featuring at least three strikes that were called balls. Two of those were "out" pitches that would have ended the inning. This strike zone is inexcusable and has made this game unwatchable.

7:17 p.m.
Frank Caliendo — he of the many ads in the update from yesterday — as Dr. Phil, Frank TV ad:
Yew need'ta quit complainin' about all these Frank TV ads and accep' the fact that we're gonna bombard yew with the message that yew need to watch Frank TV.
While I appreciate that they're cognizant of the saturation of their ads, I don't want to appreciate it, because that's what they want me to do. The meta-advertisement is an interesting proposition, in that it can win over audiences by acknowledging the tenacity and, to a certain extent, mendacity of its pitch. But it relies on their knowingly doing something you don't like and then using a gimmick to skate past responsibility for it.

It's like someone with a drinking problem who steals your money coming up with a hilarious Youtube apology that says, "I know I steal your money to supply my drinking problem. It's really bad of me." It's clever, but, well... duh. You knew that already, so what do they expect you to do? They expect you to think that their acknowledging the existence of bad behavior excuses knowingly engaging in future bad behavior: that since they winked at you and since you're all in on it together, it pardons the fact that they're repeatedly being incredibly irritating and rude.

7:20 p.m.
Too depressed watching Sabathia get lit up, and no beer means no amelioration of the sudden doom. Also, I suddenly hate Phillies fans. Gloating does not become them, because you know if they were down four runs, they'd be hurling garbage at their own players. Watching Fringe on TiVo to find out if it's still as hokey and terrible as episodes #1 and #2 (all signs pointing to yes so far).

12:04 a.m.
Jesus Christ, the program guide said "MLB Playoffs 2008." No one said anything about the entire greater Chicago area being drawn and quartered and force-fed parts of their own hearts.