Monday, December 14, 2009

Red Sox Looking To Improve Depth At Unbearable Asshole

According to reports from Ed Price, Ken Rosenthal, Jayson Stark and Buster Onley, the Red Sox have given a physical to and are close to signing a deal with former Angels pitcher and notorious douchebag John Lackey. The deal is assumed to be in the same neighborhood as the one the Yankees extended to A.J. Burnett last offseason - 5 years and over $80M.

"He's just the kind of prick they are looking for, but it doesn't look like the deal will be completed until tomorrow at the earliest" said a league official with knowledge of the negotiations.

The Red Sox have long led the league in such categories as Demonstrative Home Run Celebrations, Verbal Umpire Abuse, Unprovoked Mound Charges and Intra-Team Dugout Scuffles, but their depth at the position of Unbearable Asshole had recently grown thin with the departure of Manny Ramirez.

Of course, the Red Sox still have consummate dickfaces Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek and Dustin Pedroia but the presence of semi-likable Canadian Jason Bay and former Yankee Mike Lowell had made them nearly tolerable to opposing fans and players.

The acquisition of the shit-talking crybaby Lackey, who some are intimating would preclude them from signing Jason Bay would be a major step towards restoring the culture of rampant fuckfacery in the halcyon days of Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Kevin Millar, Nomar Garciparra, Wil Cordero, Jose Offerman and Ugeth Urbina.

Another source with familiarity of the Red Sox specific brand of thuggery said "It's going to be nearly impossible to find players who will eventually go on to attack people with bats or attempt set them on fire, but their previous acquisition of that wife beater [Julio] Lugo and the emphasis on signing Lackey over [Jason] Bay shows that they are certainly heading in the right direction".

One player who is reportedly upset with the deal is Jonathan Papelbon who rightly believes that it threatens his position as the undisputed biggest fucking asshole on the team.

More on this as it develops.

Mondays With Curtis

Mitch Albom is very good at writing about "life". Life in quotation marks is inspiring and fits neatly into books which sell lots of copies and get turned into TV movies. "Life" teaches you important lessons about compassion and morality and kindness and faith and - most prominently in Albom's books - death. Unfortunately, baseball has little to do with "life" and everything to do with reality, so Mitch isn't very good at writing about it.

In his column in the Detroit Free Press yesterday, Albom tries to talk those Tiger fans who are distraught about the loss of Curtis Granderson down from the ledge. It's an admirable goal since Detroit lost the de facto face of their franchise and a guy who is by all accounts a very likable person. Except Mitch chooses to pretend that Granderson was never good in order to do so.

What did we know about Curtis Granderson? He had a great smile. He had a foundation. He made a few highlight plays in centerfield and had a good first half and a not-so-good second half in 2009.

That's what someone who is a casual fan of say, the Marlins knows about Curtis Granderson. We (as the supposed audience of this column - Detroit Tigers' fans) actually know a lot more about him than that. We know that in 2007 he hit 23 triples, 23 home runs and stole 26 bases while being caught only once which is pretty fucking amazing. We know that he's hit 94 home runs over the past 4 years which is great for a center fielder. We know that he is a pretty awesome player who doesn't cost that much money, neither of which are things that Dontrelle Wills, Jeremy Bonderman or Nate Robertson can say.

He'll also be 29 years old. Been an All-Star once.

Well he is 28 years old, so like anyone else who is under the age of 29, if he doesn't die tragically he'll be 29 years old eventually. And guess what year he made that All-Star team? This year of course, which was by far the worst of his previous three.

Only once has he hit 30 home runs or batted .300.

Another way of saying that would be "He has both hit 30 home runs and batted .300 before, although in separate seasons" which doesn't sound like the degradation that Albom tries to make it out to be.

He hit .095 in his lone World Series.

My favorite part of this sentence is the fact that Albom uses the word "lone" as if the fact that he made it to a World Series in his four full seasons as a pro was a knock against him. All the while, Albom is seemingly oblivious to the fact that 21 at bats over six games probably isn't a sufficient sample size to draw an actual conclusion from, especially when Granderson hit .313/.378/.719 in the ALDS and ALCS that same year.

Last year, he was benched occasionally against left-handers.

Could you be a little more vague here, Mitch? You know that they track statistics based on what hand a pitcher throws with, right? You could cite something called a "platoon split" if you wanted to make the case that he couldn't hit lefties.

Granderson was as close to a star in this town as the franchise had, mostly because Justin Verlander is too low key (and plays once every five games), and guys with flashier numbers -- like Miguel Cabrera or the 2007 Magglio Ordoñez -- seem eminently distant. They bolt town the minute the season is over. They seem... rented.

That is impossible to fathom. You mean to tell me that two players from the beautiful tropical nation of Venezuela return to that country to spend time with their families instead of staying in Detroit in the fucking dead of winter?

But baseball-wise, he was no Derek Jeter, a guy justifiably adored in New York for achievement and personality. He was no Albert Pujols in St. Louis. He was more like the closest thing we had to those guys, which says something about the Tigers.

Yes, it says that they have not been lucky enough to develop and retain an incredibly gifted franchise cornerstone player who has pretty much already punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame. Look around the league right now, who else fits this mold? Um, no one? Choke on that one Curtis Granderson... You may be an above average baseball player and an overall class act, but like everyone else in the MLB, you are not Derek Jeter or Albert Puljos!

"It's sad, but most likely you're not gonna see players in the same uniform for 10, 12, 15 years anymore," manager Jim Leyland told me last week. Leyland understood fans' frustration. He said Granderson was everything good about baseball. But he fell short of saying "we're losing a great talent" or "the heart of our team."

I know it would probably be futile to try to explain this to someone who cited a player's batting average in six games as a crucial stat, but the Amount of Praise Lavished Upon a Player By Their Manager After They Have Been Traded (APLUPBTMATHBT for short) is not a very good measure of their value.

What's surprising is how thin the "beloved superstar" tag has become for the Tigers over the past decade. Pudge Rodriguez? How connected was he to Detroit, really? Todd Jones? Bobby Higginson? Hardly superstars. We liked their longevity.

Considering the team lost 83, 96, 106, and 119 games in each of the first four years of the decade, it's really not that surprising at all. And just for fun, Bobby Higginson only hit 30 home runs and batted over .300 once and he played left field during the steroid era.

Granderson became someone to embrace, at least a bit, the way we once embraced Gibby or Tram, even if he wasn't that caliber player here, nor did he win the things they won. Good talent. Great guy. But I wonder if we don't lament the idea of him leaving as much as the departure itself.

But don't worry guys, Curtis Granderson the sixth person you'll meet in heaven.

Joyful Noise: The Derek Trucks Band At The Egg

Good morning Fackers. When Matt and I first decided to go to the Derek Trucks concert at The Egg last night, there was a chance that it wouldn't overlap with the Giants game. NBC still had the option to flex another more significant game into that spot, but as it turns out, the match up between the G-Men and the Eagles was one of the more important games of the week.

In a way, attending the concert was a win-win proposition. If the Giants had won last night, we would have been thrilled but if they lost, we would have spared ourselves the agony of watching it all unfold. In either case, because of the venue, the performers and the circumstances, we were fairly certain that the concert was going to be one to remember.

The venue is an intimate 900 seat theater in a building called The Egg which feels even smaller than that. Since The Egg is a center for the performing arts and a non-profit, they rely on donors to keep it running and sell season tickets. The upshot is that there were a considerable amount of empty seats (maybe 5%), probably already paid for by people more interested in the ballets or orchestras that take the stage there.

The opening act was Shannon McNally who played with guitarist Eric Deaton. Before performing one of her original songs, she described how she sat in on the one microphone recording session done as a tribute in lieu of a funeral for Jim Dickinson, whom Matt paid homage to when he passed away back in August. Her last song was Long Black Veil, famously covered by both Johnny Cash and The Band (among others) and McNally said that the latter version was what made her want to become a musician.

There was a short intermission before Derek Trucks and the rest of the band took the stage. As Matt mentioned yesterday, it was dTb's last show for the foreseeable future, but it didn't contain any long speeches or list of "thank yous". It did, however, contain two sets of music and an encore, something which the rest of their shows on this tour have not.

The crowd was remained seated for most of the show, with the notable exception of a guy in front of us with a "Got Melky" t-shirt who couldn't contain himself during a few of the tunes. The acoustics were crystal clear, in equal parts due to the design of the auditorium, the pure sound of the band and the largely polite crowd who cheered at times during changes within a song but mostly reserved their applause and chatter until their completion.

They opened with Soul Serenade, a song by King Curtis covered by Duane Allman and more recently, recorded by dTb for the title track of one of their albums. The first set also included personal favorites I Wish I Knew, Get What You Deserve, Volunteered Slavery, Already Free and a blistering version of the Bob Dylan tune Down In The Flood.

The second set consisted of some older tunes like 555 Lake, which was on their first (self-titled) album, along with dTb staples Leaving Trunk and Gonna Move. It also featured two Derek and the Dominoes tunes - the appropriately chosen Key To The Highway which came late in the set, and a long and winding version of Anyday which was chosen as the encore (although without the song's last verse).

Before the band started up with the 2nd set closer Joyful Noise, drummer Yonrico Scott stood up to the microphone behind his kit and said "So, after 16 years...", a reference to how long the band had been touring. However, he didn't finish. Or maybe that's all he had planned to say. And maybe that's because The Derek Trucks Band isn't finished.

Who knows what this hiatus will bring for Derek and what direction he will go in next. But it's hard to imagine the seemingly effortless chemistry between Trucks, Scott, vocalist Mike Mattison, keyboardist Kofi Burbridge, bassist Todd Smalley and percussionist Count M'butu not being rekindled at some point in the future.

Since I haven't found it anywhere else online, here is the setlist as Matt transcribed it last night.
Set 1
Soul Serenade
Preachin' Blues
I Wish I Knew
Get What You Deserve
Volunteered Slavery
Already Free
Yield Not To Temptation
Down in the Flood

Set 2
Leaving Trunk
555 Lake (instrumental)
Sweet Inspiration
Young Funk
Home In Your Heart
Gonna Move >
Key to the Highway
My Favorite Things
Joyful Noise

E: Anyday