Archive for May, 2012

The Avengers

An Honest Critique of an Awful Film and What We Can Learn From It

[Note: this is a critique, not a review of the Avengers movie. If you have not seen it and are not already familiar with the characters therein then much of this will not make sense.]

The immediate difficulty that crops up when attempting to critique a movie like The Avengers is that there is extraordinarily little which can be said of it that does not also apply to innumerable other films. This in a sense is the problem in a nutshell; because of its phenomenal and inexplicable financial success and popularity The Avengers has typified a collection of failings that have become increasingly pervasive in cinema.

The simplest place to begin is with the characters and plot, or more specifically the complete lack there of. One of the most frequent bits of praise I heard from people regarding the characters in the film is that since they all had had previous movies devoted to their origin and exposition this once could be devoted entirely to the interplay between them. In principle this is a wonderful idea, and considering the enormous cast of characters Marvel has to work with – and indeed needs for the Avengers title/franchise – it is a practical, albeit mind-bogglingly expensive approach. What made it to the screen however is a far cry from this. The banter between the characters that I was told repeatedly was hilarious and clever amounted to little more than making moderately snarky and childish jabs at one another. The character’s individuality is only costume deep. Virtually any of the lines of dialogue could be switched randomly around and said by any other character and they would make an equal amount of sense, which admittedly is little at the best of times. For a movie with a larger principle cast than most TV shows there is not depth or sense of personality to any of the characters. This is most disheartening in the case of Captain America.

While I grew up reading Marvel comics Captain America was never a character that held any interest for me. The 2011 film however was to my immense surprise and delight incredible. The protagonist and all the supporting characters were thoroughly developed with true arcs of growth, the plot was well written, paced, structured, and never broke its own internal logic, and was in all other ways a well made and thoroughly entertaining 50’s era pulp-style action adventure movie. Not without its flaws by any means – the largest of which being the jarringly abrupt ending – but I would easily place it alongside X-Men (2000), Daredevil (2003), The Punisher (2004), and Batman Begins (2005) as one of the best made superhero comic adaptations.

In Avengers on the other hand the only character to go through even a modicum of change would be Tony Stark/Ironman. That being that he imperils his own life in order to save others in the climax, which was painfully predictable the moment Captain America said that it was something he would never do roughly halfway through the movie. In essence relearning the same paper-thin lesson from his own equally abysmal 2008 film.

All the failings in character development combined don’t come close to equaling those of the plot. The story, much like the dialogue, alternates between being predictable and completely nonsensical. Listing all of the absurdities that occur throughout the movie would amount to a small novel in its own right but here are a few of my favorites:

  • The Tesseract (Cosmic Cube in the comics) is an ultimate weapon capable of anything and a source of infinite power but needs a separate item (lump of mineral) to actually be used and a separate power source to be activated.
  • The ‘secret’ Bruce Banner has for preventing his transformation into the Hulk which he alludes to numerous times throughout the movie is that he is ‘angry all the time.’ After saying which he transforms at will and joins the long tedious final action sequence. During that battle he is seemingly completely aware of his surroundings, recognizes everyone, and is in total control of himself and his abilities. Ridiculous as this reasoning may be – along the same lines of saying you avoid all infections by rubbing dirt and mold into the wound anytime you get a cut – it would be almost moderately acceptable if it was at least consistent throughout the movie. However it was already contradicted by the only other time he changed into the Hulk earlier in the movie; in which falling to the ground apparently made him uncontrollably angry, transformed into the Hulk, and behaved as the savage beast totally oblivious to his surroundings and the identities of everyone therein.
  • The emergency fail-safe plan to kill the virtually indestructible Hulk if need be (and later the God Loki) is to drop him out of a plane.
  • Loki’s first action toward taking over the world is to blow up a car and yell at everyone standing around him to kneel. No actual explanation for his trying to take over the world – nor for the Skrull/Chitauri wanting to wage war on every world – is ever given.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D.’s first plan to find the Tesseract is to tap phone and CCTV transmissions; which in all fairness would have worked had Loki called his friends to brag about having stolen it or turned it into a gaudy Flavor Flav style necklace and worn it while walking past an ATM.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D.’s second plan to find the Tesseract comes from Banner, an expert on gamma radiation whom they brought on because the Tesseract emits gamma radiation and whose brilliant advice is to check for gamma radiation.
  • Loki wants to kill the Avengers (a group which no one knows of because it did not exist before his coming to Earth) in a public spectacle because seeing this humanity would then allow him to take over the world. His first attempt at doing so is by attacking them on the top secret camouflaged airship while it floats in the middle of nowhere.
  • By far the most morally and intellectually insulting part of the entire movie is that the act which convinces all the petulant bickering heroes to finally work together as a team is the death of Phil, a single S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was virtually anonymous save for his obsequiousness. Bearing in mind that several scenes earlier they made the point of saying Loki had already slaughtered 80 innocent people, and dozens of others were presumably killed in the subsequent large action sequences including the one in which Phil died.

Picking the plot to pieces could go on endlessly – what is listed above are roughly a tenth of the notes I took while watching – but they are all only symptoms of the larger problem. The main issue from which all the other flaws stem, the problem that has been rampant among “big budget” films and has only grown worse over the years is the overwhelming superficiality of it all. Time and again when I would bring up these or any of the other problems with the movie to those praised it – more than one going so far as to call it the greatest superhero film ever made – I would be met with replies all along the lines of ‘it doesn’t matter,’ ‘the plot/characters/writing/etc aren’t important,’ and ‘I don’t care.’ What it ultimately boiled down to is fan service. In the broader sense beyond just the Avengers/superheroes this is cinema as spectacle. Other recent offenders on this scale being the Transformers trilogy and James Cameron’s Avatar. – In fact after two viewings and a good deal of time devoted to pondering the matter the only difference I could think of between Avengers and any of the three Transformers movies is that the individual characters in Avengers are visually easier to pick out in the action sequences, and that is only due to the more or less keeping with the traditional character designs from the comics (all except of course the Skrulls/Chitauri who were reduced to moderately shiny dirt colored nonsense). – If you take this argument though, that appearance without any substance is all that matters, and apply it to other media the ridiculousness of it rapidly becomes apparent. ‘What does it matter that the novel is just 300 pages of random words? This typeface is beautiful!’ ‘I don’t care that she’s singing Mien Kampf, her voice is gorgeous! Who listens to lyrics anyway?’ The only instance in which this line of though seems to hold any validity is, oddly enough, pornography. In which there is only one specific intent that comes literally to the exclusion of all else.

I have been frequently told that I take movies too seriously and that I am expecting too much from “just an action movie,” but film is an art. Simply because a movie is of a particular genre doesn’t mean it can and should be lacking all substance. Action films can be intellectual (Body of Lies, Syriana, Children of Men), poignant (Blood Diamond), philosophical (The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell, Innocence), even spiritual (Kingdom of Heaven). They can have richly developed characters and stories (Collateral, Tombstone, Fearless, Hero, The Warlords), and even those that are just silly and fun can be beautifully well written (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Kung-Fu Hustle, Brotherhood of the Wolf). If you are content with the superficial works than there is an enormous volume out there to satisfy you, but do not think that that is what defines the genre nor that it is the measure by which films are to be judged.

Please direct all hate mail to matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com

Or harass me on Facebook, Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

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by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

You should read yesterday’s opening post to get an idea of where I’m coming from with all this. Also, before we continue on, check out the Chicago Cubs prospect tracker over at Prospectus, keep it in mind when you’re reading the rest of this. If’ you’re looking for Rizzo, he’s still listed with the Padres.

Cub fans seem acutely aware of both the farm system and the MLB draft this year. What we’ve been told ever since the arrival of Theo Epstein is that the Cubs will build a winner from within. A new emphasis has been placed on the draft and player development. It’s something that was set in motion with last year’s draft which impressed Theo Epstein for its approach, even if he didn’t value the players the same way the Cubs did.

I do understand the excitement about the farm hands, the Major League club has been awful and really hasn’t given much reason for excitement. Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson have been top of mind for Cub fans, ditto with Javy Baez and Josh Vitters. The problem with the Cubs farm system is that it lacks impact talent that can help the big league team. Jackson’s ceiling is “good player.” Rizzo can be an above average 1B. Baez isn’t going to stick at short, and he’s so raw no one knows what he’ll do. Vitters lost a lot of stars off his prospect status and no one knows if he’ll ever be ready. And then there’s the thin pitching depth…

It’s not good, it’s not close, and it’s not going to happen soon. Know this, let it sink in, understand there is no savior that is coming in to save the Cubs. It’s a long process TheoCo is undertaking, and it’s all about drastically changing the very infrastructure of a franchise that was slow to adapt to the new way of doing baseball. This isn’t add a few pieces here and there. The Cubs aren’t in “just add a free agent 1B mode.” We’re talking a complete and massive overhaul of a system. I think it could be fun. All the people dressed as green seats at Cubs games are telling me that most don’t think it’s very fun at all. That’s ok. That’s expected.

So, while you’re watching the draft, keep this in mind.

  • You can’t trade draft picks. Can’t stress that enough. Teams aren’t allowed to trade picks at all. Don’t ask for it.
  • This isn’t the NFL draft. In several respects. The Cubs are probably going to take a SS with their first overall pick. I would put money on it, actually. The talent selected here is a huge unknown, and it’s not a sure shot that any of the 50+ players selected will be a contributor at the Major League level in even 3 years. Think about that for a moment, 3-5 years from now you still might not see any of these cats up with the big league team.
  • Theo does a blend approach. Numbers/scouting eyes. That’s his M.O. That’s how he builds, and that’s the right way to do it in my humble opinion.
  • AAA isn’t really a proving ground anymore. AA is where it’s at. AAA is full of old Quad A players who are filling out rosters. Young kids with stuff to prove will go to Tennessee. Guys waiting for a spot to open end up at Iowa.
  • Good young prospects don’t go to Peoria, they end up at Daytona. You’ll be able to tell what the Cubs think about a guy depending on where they send him. Daytona is advanced A ball, Peoria is A- ball. The players they value early will end up at Daytona.
  • Watch the plan of attack. The draft is meh this year. Watch what they acquire though, this is the first year the CBA is in effect and it will affect who they draft and why.

The Cubs have the 6th overall pick, so let’s get straight to that. The reports are small because, well, I’m not going to project too much there. I can tell you what I like, what I don’t like, and what I think they end up being. Honestly, that’s all you need too. No “if he” bullshit. These are 5 guys I would target with their pick, in no particular order.

Kyle Zimmer – RHP University of San Fransisco

[youtube http://youtu.be/GB1KG-ZDeQo]

What I like

Easy gas. Has been clocked at 96-97, but recently sitting at 93-95. Good action on his two seamer. Decent offspeed offering. Stats show that he misses bats. Has a solid body, looks like it can carry some extra good weight. He can handle the SP load. Decent delivery…

What I don’t like

…right up until the follow through. Falls to the 1B side, compromising some control. Stats say he only issued 17 BB’s, but I can see him having control issues once he hits pro ball. Conference record, which is usually against better competition, was meh. Loss in velocity is a concern.

Synopsis

I like him, quite a bit. Scouts are a bit put off by his dip in velocity. Just as likely to go 1-1 as he is to fall even beyond the Cubs. I would take the flyer on his arm, it has good action and it pitches an above average fastball, sometimes an elite fastball. That’s big. The rest you can learn, the fastball is the framework for everything. If he’s there, that’s the guy I take.

Carlos Correa – SS Puerto Rico Baseball Academy

[youtube http://youtu.be/xxkCTTe-4m0]

No stats I could find.

What I like

He’s clearly been taught the game of baseball by professionals. Small hitch in the swing when he loads, but what he does to create leverage is outstanding. He’s an athlete, solid body, looks like it’ll fill out well. He’s really short to the baseball, creates good batspeed, flashes good power. He’s a refined baseball player, which is rare in a kid this young.

What I don’t like

I don’t think he sticks at short where his bat potential is special. He has the arm to play third. He’s not fast/quick enough to survive at short with a bigger body. Don’t know how he’ll handle some of the breaking stuff he’ll see at pro ball. I don’t like the hitch at all, and sometimes he can swing from his front leg more than his back.

Synopsis

Raw. His bat is obviously much more tantalizing at short, I don’t think he sticks there. I think he’s a 3B, and he’ll have to hit better than I think to justify him being an everyday player. Worth the risk, but it’s a big one.

Mike Zunino – C Florida

[youtube http://youtu.be/W67frV4rCyE]

What I like

Mean swing. Great balance, simple load, quick to the ball. Great bat speed. Generates a lot of power. Stout body, well-built, looks the part. From what I’ve read about him, he’s improved as a catcher by leaps and bounds. Frames pitches well, good arm. He looks like he can be a solid catcher for a long time.

What I don’t like

That’s a lot of strikeouts, too many for that type of swing. It’s not a hole, so it’s likely pitch recognition/bad command of the strike zone. Obvious risk factor for a catcher.

Synopsis. 

I would consider taking him above Zimmer, I would probably take him over Correa too. His bat looks like it can play in the Majors, his strike zone command needs improving. Defense is key, and it looks like his is good enough.

Kevin Gausman – SP LSU

[youtube http://youtu.be/NCelzHSiPjE]

What I like

Great fastball. Great frame, good quick delivery. Quick, athletic, misses bats. Fastball has good movement on it, slider shows potential. Changeup looks like the fastball.

What I don’t like

He’s really raw, has issues with command, likely needs to scrap a middling curve and pick up a new pitch so he can develop the slider. High risk guy because he may never figure it out. Bad control.

Synopsis

He has #1 potential, which makes him so tantalizing. He’s also really far away from MLB at this point. He flashes a good slider and his fastball-change combo will be good enough to get him through High-A ball. I don’t know if the slider will develop enough to survive AA though. If I were the GM, I’d pay to find out though.

Byron Buxton – OF Appling County HS

[youtube http://youtu.be/_jEOvrNoBlE]

Dark horse candidate. I don’t think he falls to the Cubs, but at least there’s an outside chance of it, unlike Appel.

What I like

All of it. He’s a 5-tool guy. Great athlete, good repeatable swing, good arm, solid fielder, can probably play CF/SS/2B, bat projects well to all those positions. Stays on balance with his swing and he has really easy speed. I’d be surprised and ecstatic if he fell to the Cubs.

What I don’t like

Obviously raw, power potential might be overstated. Fundamentally lacking in the field.

Synopsis

It would take a cascade of events for the Cubs to get him, but if he ends up there, be it because scouts are turned off by…something I dunno, or Scott Boras shenanigans, the Cubs should take him.

Overall

This is an important draft. My twitter handle is up at the top, I’ll be doing some live tweeting during the event. I’d love to talk with you guys and see what you think about the picks. See you guys June 4.

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

The purpose of this article is to inform you, the Chicago baseball fan, about the draft as much as I can. If you want some hardcore draft analysis, check out Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus. I’ll reference that and other sites a lot, so it’s probably a good idea to get yourself acquainted with their work.

The MLB draft is gaining a lot of attention locally with Theo Epstein coming to town to run the baseball ops of the Chicago Cubs. I think this is the most attention the draft has ever received locally. What the draft means to White Sox fans should also be important for a few reasons. The Chicago White Sox have been in a weird “Win Now” mode since 2000. I can’t think of many developmental years since Kenny Williams became the GM. He’s earned a reputation as a gambler, someone who views prospects as suspects, and most importantly, a GM that isn’t afraid to empty the system to go after talent.

That’s why the White Sox farm system is panned so often. We can look it over and talk about the contributions that former farm hands are giving to the Sox, most impressively Chris Sale. However, it’s no big secret that Kenny’s impact guys usually come via trade or Latin American/Free Agent signing. Gordon Beckham, Brent Morel, and Tyler Flowers are the only position players that were drafted by the Sox and up with the big club. All three are failing to produce and all three are likely candidates to be replaced next year. The pitching side has done much better, pumping out Chris Sale, Addison Reed, and Nate Jones in an extremely small sample size.

It’s not fair to say that the White Sox don’t draft well, they clearly do as they are able to flip prospects for good talent with some regularity. They landed Peavy for Dexter Carter, Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard and Adam Russell. All talent from their farm system, all turned into a solid contributor so far this year. They flipped Gio Gonzalez for twice. He was traded to the Phillies for Thome, sent back to the Sox for Freddy Garcia (the White Sox also landed Gavin Floyd in this trade), sent to Oakland for Nick Swisher and then he finally ended up in Washington where he is currently enjoying some success.

What does that say about the White Sox and the draft in general? It says to me that the White Sox don’t trust the draft much. You can’t really blame them for that either, the MLB draft is one of the biggest enigmas in all of sports. The talent is so raw yet so far away from the Major League level. The chasm between AAA ball and MLB ball is wide, and it’s illustrated by the MLB failures that proceed to tear up AAA ball for years. Bobby Scales currently has a .945 OPS at AAA Buffalo and he isn’t close to being a Major League player.

With all that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind when watching the draft:

  • Nobody drafts for need. Best Available player is always selected in the first 12-15 rounds. Sometimes teams will end up drafting 4-5 shortstops in the first 10 rounds because those are the best players on the board. You don’t know who will actually end up sticking at their positions either, especially shortstop.
  • High school players are still a bad bet. If you find the right guy, he could turn into Rickey Henderson, but more often than not they just end up being Billy Beane.
  • Speaking of Beane…It’s no coincidence that the best player that Beane took in the Moneyball draft was a guy that both the numbers guys and scouting guys loved, Nick Swisher. Keep that in mind. Both of these things must work in harmony. Numbers tell only one side of the story, ditto with a pretty swing.
  • This draft blows. Consensus is that there is no franchise changer in this draft. It’s also really thin and some are calling it the worst draft in 20+ years.
  • Don’t expect the kids to come up anytime soon. Or at all. The most important thing to watch during a draft, I think, is to look for a plan. What are they drafting? Are they going all athletes? Are they going after pitchers with raw arms? Are they targeting more groomed College pitchers? Are they taking risks on broken wings? What’s their plan is more important than who they draft in a lot of ways.

Let’s get to the names that are being projected for the White Sox. Like I said, check Prospectus for their big board, it should be coming out pretty soon and it’s a really great board.

There isn’t a consensus #1 in this draft, which makes the unenviable task of projecting picks even more difficult and impossible. A few different outlets have the Sox taking either an SP or a 3B, but let’s look at 5 guys I think they should take with the pick if they’re there.

Joey Gallo – 1B/3B Bishop Gorman HS

[youtube http://youtu.be/oXVr2gKr1Po]

He pitches too, but he projects much better as a corner infield prospect. Here are some of his scout videos. From what I gather about his defense, it’ll be a shocker if he sticks at third. He’s committed to LSU, but if he gets drafted and offered the money, I can’t see how he would turn it down.

What I like

The swing is nice and easy, it’s fluid, repeatable and generates power. It’s not a batting practice swing either, he shows it in the game. He hit .506 last year with 20 HR’s in high school. He’s got a big frame that projects to fill out nicely. Strong arm.

What I don’t like

He’s not quick on his feet, I can’t see him sticking at third at all. He’s a high school kid, so the risk factor is high with him there. Also, his speed is meh already and he won’t get any quicker. His bat would play better at third.

Synopsis

Good bat, has a lot of potential. If I was Kenny I would draft him if he were available.

Richie Shaffer – 3B/1B Clemson

[youtube http://youtu.be/899EWcexyGU]

Another 3b/1b guy, this isn’t to replace either Konerko or Morel, but I think these guys project to be the types of guys that can rake at the Cell.

What I like

Good swing, consistent approach from the cages to the game. Improved his OBP and SLG every year at Clemson. Athletic body, closer to being a finished product.

What I don’t like

Looks like he didn’t handle the transition to third too well, sporting a .935 FLDG%. Swing plane is a little flat. He strikes out too much. 48K’s in 218 AB’s at the collegiate level.

Synopsis

Interesting guy, better feet than Gallo, can learn to be adequate at third, but he’ll never be a good 3B. Decent enough arm.

Deven Marrero – SS Arizona State

[youtube http://youtu.be/TLQyIC9iWsI]

The Pirates are high on him, but he could slip.

What I like

The glove and the arm are nice. Feet are quick too. Bat has some life to it.

What I don’t like

His stance is weird and will probably be corrected in the minors. His hitting collapsed this year, even though the tools are still evident. He didn’t put together a solid year with the glove even though the word on him is that his glove is close to MLB ready. Plus arm, reads the ball well off the bat, and he can pick it. The high error rate is perplexing.

Synopsis

The bat will be a project. He does flash power, but that stance/weight transfer is just ugly. He has the tools to stick at short, but he’ll have to cut the mental errors.

Lucas Giolito – SP Harvard-Westlake School

[youtube http://youtu.be/WeqhrGzMjjM]

Ahh, the prototypical problem HS arm.

What I like

God that arm.

What I don’t like

God that arm is hurt.

Synopsis

He’s got an incredibly high ceiling, and if he stayed healthy, he could have creeped into the top 10. He was a fireballer with intriguing breaking stuff before the injury, now teams will be interested to see how he bounces back into form. I would risk it.

Andrew Heaney – SP Oklahoma State

[youtube http://youtu.be/JytqYmEbt9w]

Could go in the single digits, but he might be there for the Sox

What I like

He misses a lot of bats. 120 K’s in 102 IP. Good command too, only 19 BB’s. Decent fastball, sits around 93, drops to 88 late in games. Off-speed stuff is interesting.

What I don’t like

He throws a bit like Walter Johnson, which worked for The Big Train, but not so much this guy. The delivery is easy and repeatable, but I’m not a fan of it. His body is slight, and won’t get bigger in a good way. Fastball is what it is.

Synopsis

Potential to be a 3/4 starter, flashes good stuff, can obviously miss bats at the college level which is key.

 

Yeah I know, there’s a lot of HS talent there. That’s what’s up there in terms of talent in this draft though. College players didn’t wow this year. Those are the five I would target as the Sox. There isn’t much in this draft. The good intriguing talent should be gone by then. Cubs tomorrow.

Mute Your TV, Form Your Own Opinions

Posted: May 29, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Sports

You’ve been told what to think since you started consuming sports. You’ve been told what’s a good play, what’s a bad play, what’s an awful play, since you turned on a TV or a radio to watch a sporting event.

The question I want an answer to, what do you think? Really, what do you think of all that goes on during a game, without any outside input? I want you to watch a game, think about who’s really good, who’s really bad, what was really a great play, what wasn’t, without anyone telling you what to think.

Think for yourself, and get back to us either with this form, or via email.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Bear Down, bitches!!

This week, the Bears are ensconced in their first Organized Team Activity (just a fancy term for practice) with plenty of new personnel and coaches. Mike Tice has taken over for the tyrant known as Mike Martz as offensive coordinator and Jeremy Bates has been installed as the passing game coordinator. Bates is a good friend of Bears QB Jay Cutler and has always worked well with him. That’s a far cry from the adversarial relationship Cutler has with Martz. Listen closely at the 0:24 mark. This says it all about their relationship…

Martz’s system was never a good fit for Cutler’s strengths, which include being mobile and being smart enough to read a defense and change the play at the line. Martz’s offense did not include audibles and frowned upon the QB moving out of the pocket. Tice and Bates have said they will allow Cutler to have plenty of input into the playcalling, which is a great thing. When your QB hates the system and the coach who stubbornly insists on running it, even when the franchise QB is getting mauled while running it, replacing the coach is a no-brainer. Cutler took more sacks and hits than any QB in the NFL the past two seasons. Check my math, but that sucks.

As for the new personnel, we haven’t added the offensive linemen we needed, but if Gabe Carimi comes back healthy, the line will improve by his addition. But the big additions are to one of the worst WR corps we’ve seen in forever, which is saying a bunch considering the Bears have never had much of a top-flight corps to begin with. All-Pro WR and legit asswipe Brandon Marshall has a great history with Cutler from their Denver days and have already expressed their joy at being reunited. 2nd round draft pick Alshon Jeffery is another big-bodied WR who should pair nicely with Marshall. This bumps Devin Hester down to play in the slot and Earl Bennett, Cutler’s recent favorite target, to play as the 4th WR. An actual, legit NFL WR corps. I may wet myself.

The defense was bolstered in the draft and the core guys, Urlacher, Briggs, Tillman and Peppers, should have enough left to give us a chance to have a top-10 defensive unit. Well, with good health we have a shot. The window is closing on the effectiveness of these guys so we need to take advantage.

Football season can’t get here fast enough, since the Cubs blow ass right now.

Perfecting the Art of Suck

As things went from piss-ass shitty to fucking unbearably craptastic for the Cubs, the buzz has been about bringing The Riz up to fix the offense, cure cancer and convince Kate Upton to do a sex tape and upload it for free. Or something along those lines. As much as I can’t wait for The Riz era to start, he won’t do any of the aforementioned stuff all by himself. He’ll help when he gets here, but the service time issue is the greater concern. They’re going to wait until June sometime to bring him up and delay his free agency eligibility. Fine with me.

There is so much wrong with this team that I don’t know where to begin, so let’s focus on a few positives for now.

Starting Pitching

The starting pitching has been really good for the most part. Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Jeff Samardzija have all been about as good as could be expected, with Samardzija exceeding any expectations anyone could have had for a converted reliever who has been as inconsistent as a depression case using homemade Prozac. Paul Malholm has been pretty good as well and Travis Wood has contributed as well. It’s nice that the Sean Marshall screamers have been silenced for now with Wood pitching well. Those clueless fools never fail to give me a chuckle.

Starlin Castro

The lone Cubs All-Star last year, Castro has picked up where he left off after becoming the youngest player in NL history to lead the league in hits. He’s still a work-in-progress in many areas, but he’s brimming with talent. As evinced here…

Gotta love this type of stupidly good talent.

Dale Sveum and the coaches

The Cubs have been playing aggressive baseball. From baserunning to defensive positioning to going right after hitters, the coaches have put their stamp on this team in the way they want them to go about their business. Even with the recent stuff about Garza and Marmol not throwing the pitches the staff wants, this has been a positive so far. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do with some more legitimate ML talent.

The Show that Won’t Fucking Die.

Over 13 million votes for the final vote on Wednesday. (No, I don’t watch this show. My wife and girls do and I caught the last 5 minutes the other night when the winner was crowned.) Apparently, some guy named Phillip Phillips won, beating some 16-year-old girl. I haven’t heard him sing yet, but I’m sure he’ll be coming to a low-rent dinner theatre near me sometime soon. There have been some very talented winners, of course, but chances are they would have been discovered anyway. Jennifer Hudson and Carrie Underwood come to mind. Some of the shit that has won…Taylor Hicks, David Cook, Fantasia….really are pushing it as to being considered stars.

While the world certainly would manage to not explode if this show went off the air, the thirst the American public exhibits for this show never fails to amaze me. The early shows are pretty funny, when the truly talentless come in and get their metaphorical nuts squashed, but when they whittle the “talent” pool down to whatever they take to Hollywood, it gets silly. Shoving some of these clowns down America’s throats…anyone remember that hack Sanjaya they tried to hype as an uber-talent?….is just crap. I’m no great judge of vocal talent, but I know what I hear and some of those people have no business doing nothing more than singing in church choirs or in the shower. Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s Elvis pissing on my leg.

Unfortunately, this show is a phenomenon and isn’t going away any time soon. I’ll stick to Laverne and Shirley reruns, thanks.

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

Growing up is hard. There are expectations that must be met as you grow older, society expects X from you, and you must provide X. Everyone goes through growing pains, some go through them more harshly than others. There are a select few, however, that go through the maturation process in front of millions of people. We call them athletes.

Watching a player struggle through his early years is all part of the game. We saw Griffey and A-Rod grow up before our eyes on the national stage, ditto with Michael, LeBron, and currently Toews, Kane, and Rose. They all went through/are going through growing pains. What I’ve noticed around Chicago is that while we don’t expect much from other cities young kids, we place impossible expectations on the rookies that come up through Chicago. This is specifically true in baseball.

Beckham and Castro

Gordon Beckham had an .808 OPS as a 22 year old rookie. He was brought up as a reactionary move to an offensive black hole that occurred when Josh Fields failed to produce. White Sox fans were anxious to see the Georgia kid at the major league level as they expected the Sox to repeat the surprising year they had in 2008. Ozzie famously said that if the White Sox had to call up Beckham it showed that they were in trouble. Well, they got into some trouble during the season and Kenny made the call to the farm.

Beckham’s start was good enough to earn him the Sporting News’ Rookie of the Year award.

‘‘I wish that kid was a two- or three-year veteran in the big leagues because he has that attitude,’’ Guillen said. ‘‘He has that right frame of mind. He was a leader his whole life from when he was in high school, college. I think he wants to be the face of the franchise, and we need something like that. When a player thinks like that, doesn’t hide in the weeds, you don’t see many players come up from the minor leagues and think that way. It’s a big challenge. But I don’t have a doubt in my mind that he has the right tools to be one. Obviously, it has to come from help from myself, Ken Williams and the staff to make him a great leader.’’

-Ozzie Guillen

Expectations were pretty high from there on out. When his offense cratered over the next two years, fans were puzzled. His rookie year was so outstanding, how could he not build on that and improve?

Starlin Castro has been a hit machine since he debuted with 6 RBI’s. With the bat in his hand he has been stellar. The major knock on him is his defense. He goes through lapses of concentration that are as baffling as they are infuriating. There isn’t a player in the majors that makes me go “that’s a great play,” to “that was a dipshit play,” in the same game quite like Starlin. As of writing time, he has twice as many errors (8), as walks (4). This makes a lot of Cubs fans irate.

And gives some ammo to Sox trolls

I’m pretty sure this guy is a White Sox troll

This invariably leads to a lot of talk of moving Castro to 3B, 2B, a corner OF spot, or 1B. The “Castro isn’t a SS” movement is gaining a lot of traction locally, and while it has quieted down some over the past month (He hasn’t committed an error in 16 games), you can bet that discussion will start cooking again when he commits another error.

I think it’s obvious that both Beckham and Castro are going through growing pains, albeit in opposite aspects of their respective games. Beckham plays sublime defense at 2B, he’s smooth, has range, and can make all the throws. He has an ugly hitch in his swing right now though, and he just can’t hit consistently. His minor hot streak has his average up to .204 with a paltry .627 OPS. Castro is still prone to lapses in the field, he’s flashing better leather lately, but he’s going to have to continue to play solid defense to shed the “butcher” tag. His defense is still a violent game, with flashes of smoothness. Both players are trying to make adjustments in the glare of the public eye. Both had the savior tag applied to them when they were brought up. Both need to be given time to properly show you what they are before you pass judgement. Beckham’s time is shorter than Castro’s because he’s older, but Cubs fans need to relax on the “Move Starlin off SS,” movement too.

Which, you know, brings me to Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.

Superkids

Anthony Rizzo is still destroying AAA.

Geez, settle down

Brett Jackson…not so much

Cubs fans are eagerly anticipating the arrival of both players at the Major League level. Rizzo has a cute little twitter dedicated to him, @FreeRizzo. There are a few things that Cubs fans need to keep in mind when it comes to both players, and the Cubs in general.

  • Neither Rizzo nor Jackson are going to save the Cubs in the short-term. This is a full on dedicated rebuilding that will look a lot like the Royals rebuild had a baby with the Nats rebuild. It’s going to take time. I hope the Cubs will be much better in 3 years, but much better is 80-85 wins. That could potentially be 20-25 wins better than the hypothetical 2012 record.
  • The Cubs are ridiculously devoid of talent at the Major and high Minor League level. This past draft was the first one the Cubs have had in a while that impressed people around the league. There is zero pitching help at AAA.
  • Trading Soriano is going to be really hard. He’s gimpy and people already know what kind of hitter he is. Why do I bring this up? Well, how else are you going to make room for Rizzo? LaHair to left, Rizzo at first is the aim.
  • Speaking of Rizzo, I haven’t heard any respected talent scouts call him the second coming of Albert Pujols. I think that his ceiling is Paul Konerko level production, and he’s likely to simply be an above average 1B. That’s awesome, trust me, but it’s not a franchise changer. He shortened his swing, and I do think he’s ready for MLB, but he’s not likely to turn into a perennial MVP candidate.
  • Jackson will be lucky to be Curtis Granderson pre-Yankees. Again, that’s awesome and I’ll take it, but we Cub fans need to stop pretending that he’s more than what he is. He’ll be solid, but I doubt he is ever considered an “impact” player.

Cub fans need to check our collective reality meter. We need to understand what this team is now, and what it will be in the future. This is a deep and real rebuild.

Speaking of reality checks

If the White Sox make the playoffs, and that’s a huge if, it’ll be because the other teams in the Central failed. Don’t start pretending like this team is good because they won 5 of 6 against the two worst teams in MLB. I would get pissed as a White Sox fan if Kenny Williams sees this squad and starts trading prospects for vets because he sees fools gold. Let’s look at a few things.

  • The White Sox pitching staff is the best component of this team, but it’s schizophrenic at best and average on the whole at worst. The White Sox have a slightly above average staff ERA that is buoyed by Jake Peavy and Chris Sale.The other three starters all have ERA’s over 4. The enigmatic John Danks keeps alternating between good start and bad start. Phil Humber is similarly quizzical, as it looked like he had figured some things out with the perfect game, only to regress to “inconsistent” status over his next 5 starts. His walk rate is close to double what it was last year, and I think that’s a symptom of nibbling that could lead to future trouble. Gavin still lives in Gavin world, where sublime stuff is permanently married to a low pitching IQ.
  • That offense is putrid, and Orlando Hudson will only help it so much. You can’t survive in the Cell with 3-4 offensive black holes. Eventually other teams will come into town and hit the HR’s that you aren’t. This is reflected in their 8-13 record at home.
  • Jake Peavy is a ticking time bomb and you need to trade him for value. Seriously, he’s not going to sustain a .249 opponents BABIP. He’s stranding 79% of baserunners, which is similarly unsustainable, and his GB rate is at 31.1%.That flyball rate is asking for trouble in the Cell. The xFIP number is also pointing at a big ole regression to the mean. You can’t pitch on the margins like that and survive in a homer haven. It’s damn near impossible.
  • Addison Reed is likely the only reliable reliever the Sox have in the pen. I have no idea what happened to Matt Thornton, but he’s been inconsistent the past two years. Will Ohman is still Will Ohman, and Hector Santiago is still trying to figure it out.

What the White Sox look like to me is a mediocre team in a mediocre division, it would be foolish to sell off parts of an already thin farm system when they declared this year to be a transitional year. White Sox fans have already spoken with their wallets what they think about this team so far, the empty seats are telling me that you don’t think they’re for real, so don’t be mad if they sell at the deadline.

At the end of the day

Both fanbases need to settle down. The Cubs shouldn’t rush Rizzo, the White Sox aren’t poised for greatness as currently constructed. The Cubs have awhile before they are true title contenders. The White Sox might seem closer, but be wary. Depending on the moves they make this year, their championship clock could be moved back by years.

As the endless dance of the seasons waltzes once more into the months of summer the first thought to return is invariably the same. …Holy flerking schiznit it’s hot! Or at least it was when it came time to do this weeks cartoon. I can’t speak for the rest of you but personally when it gets to those days where you curse the sun’s very existence with a venomous passion all I want to do is nothing. Absolute uninterrupted nothing. In the spirit of said seasonal lethargy here is yet another Rejected Sport.

If you ever find yourself overcome by your own boredom and wish to murder it in the traditional manner of piddling away time on the interweb be sure to check out my art on Facebook, Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Patrick Kane needs to learn how to drink

Over the Cinco de Mayo weekend, Deadspin cover boy Patrick Kane visited the University of Wisconsin at Madison campus and proceeded to get so liquored up that pics of him and accompanying stories of debauchery swept this glorious thing we call the internet. What, you missed them? Well, here’s a sample of KANER’s weekend fun…

So what’s the big deal, you ask? Surely there’s nothing wrong with a 23 year old multi-millionaire superstar athlete having a good time cruising the co-ed population and drinking enough to kill a large yak, right? Well, yes and no.

Here’s what’s no big deal….Kane is of legal drinking age and his team is out of the playoffs. He didn’t do anything wrong aside from acting like a drunken buffoon. (As of today, Madison police said no charges will be filed against Kane and they are unaware of any complaints filed by anyone against him. Kane was rumored to have choked a co-ed at some point during his weekend.) Even with his appalling fashion sense, I’m sure he got a little somethinsomethin as long as the whiskey dick wasn’t overwhelming. Hell, I wish I had gone with him.

Here’s what is a big deal….Kane represents a first-class hockey organization and this isn’t the first time he’s acted like a wank. He has been a Deadspin favorite for years now and is always good for some drunken hijinks. The Vancouver limo pics are a personal favorite of mine.

He’s guilty not only of hogging here, but also of being a pattern dickhole. The incidents like this have been piling up over the past few years. Remember the parade on June 11, 2010? I was there when Kane was crocked out of his mind and slurred his way through his turn at the mic. Not a big deal as the first championship for anyone, especially the guy who scored the Cup-winning goal, is bound to be an occasion where you totally overserve yourself. Pattern behavior like this isn’t good.



CHUG-A-LUG!!

When you are a superstar like Kane is, you need to make smarter choices, especially in this day and age when EVERYONE has a cameraphone and is all too happy to snap away when a guy like Kane acts like this. You simply can’t continue to give the masses who want to tear you down ammo to blast you with. Until he starts making smarter choices and either tones this WAY down or opens his own private bar and drinks alone like the George Thorogood song suggests, I’m sure Kaner will be social media’s favorite drunken clown.

As for his future, the TRADE KANE!! faction is up-in-arms again, imploring the team to get rid of him ASAP for any return he can bring. Those people should not only be beaten with a rubber hose, they are hypocrites of the highest order.

First off, trading Kane right now would be stupid for a couple of reasons. One, you will not get anywhere near full value for him. When you have a 23-year-old who is an elite playmaker and possesses a resume like Kane does, you don’t deal him when his value is compromised. We went through this last season when Kane was slumping. Giving away an asset like this, only to watch him find his game again for the next decade or so would be grossly incompetent.

Secondly, you are hurting your team on the ice in a huge way. We need another top 6 forward as it is and with Hossa’s return uncertain, we may need two. Dealing Kane would leave a hole as big as the hangover I’m sure he had after the weekend in Cheeseland. For a team with its championship window still wide open, this would be a catastrophic blow and isn’t in the best interests of the team or the fans.

As for the hypocrite part of my statement, the fans screaming to trade Kane are the same fans who cheer Bobby Hull unreservedly. Hull, in his day, was the biggest lush ever seen on Rush Street. He was a carouser of the highest order and would make Kane look like a Boy Scout on a mild sugar high in comparison. Add in the numerous domestic abuse charges Hull encountered and the little incident where he said, “Hitler had some good ideas. He just went a little bit too far” (kinda makes Ozzie Guillen’s comment about Fidel Castro look like a love song, doesn’t it?) and Kane again looks like a pussy cat. You can’t ignore what Hull did and condemn Kane for far less. He’s not the “bad guy” some idiots in the media claim him to be, either.

While Kane is still young and immature, it’s far too early to give up on him. He has a vast amount of skill that is still untapped and is readily apparent. The guy who scored a goal-scorers goal to win the Stanley Cup is not to be whisked out of the organization. We need him here to do this again….

[youtube http://youtu.be/nDgnfm3NOVY]

Thanks for this Kerry. The rest of it didn’t go how we all wanted to, but this is the best baseball game I ever got to watch. You infuriated me plenty in the aftermath of ’03 and during this 2012 year, but we’ll always have Houston, 1998.