Friday, September 28, 2007

Mets Lose Another, Fall Into Tie with Phillies

Or maybe I should say "Mets fall into oblivion" because right now that's the only place they are going. There are 4 games left and at the end, the Mets will be on the outside looking in watching the Phillies play the Rockies in the first round of the playoffs. I'm so disgusted at the way the team completely collapsed. Bring on the NHL and NBA.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Trading Spaces: NBA Style

Wow, has there ever been such an exciting offseason in the NBA? Big names like Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Zach Randolph...and yes, I'm including Al Jefferson in the mix too, have changed teams. Other lesser players have also changed zip codes. So far the Celtics and Rockets seem to be the clear winners of the offseason, although the Blazers and the (Seattle-Oklahoma City) Sonics have made moves with an eye towards the future.

But in recent days two more prominent players -- with perhaps the best nicknames in the NBA: The Matrix and AK-47 -- especially in the fantasy ranks, have asked to be traded. Now will their pleas go unheeded like those of Kobe and Jermaine O'Neal? That's still to be seen, but GMs and fans around the league are hoping to take advantage of the Suns and Jazz.

What's amazing to me in all the coverage is how little trade value Kirilenko seems to have. When motivated and given a chance to participate he's still a top player in the league. But of all the commentary, the most shocking was this one from ESPN's JA Adande: "And if Kirilenko does want to go elsewhere in the NBA, he should be wary of following in some dubious footsteps. There's a steady trend of players who have left the Jazz -- including David Benoit, Howard Eisley, Bryon Russell and Donyell Marshall -- only to see their stats decline when they got to their new teams." I usually like Adande, but what is he smoking comparing AK-47 to those guys. Kirilenko is a thousand times better than those guys.

Now many newspapers are talking about proposed trades. Few, if any make any sense. The one that makes the least sense is the Marion for Kirilenko swap. In my opinion, Marion will suffer the same ills that Kirilenko does in Jerry Sloan's plodding system. It's one thing for the Matrix to be 3rd fiddle to Nash and Amare. It's another to take a backseat to Boozer and Williams. Plus it doesn't solve any financial issues on Phoenix's side, so this is not happening.

Of course, the New York papers are talking about how nice it would be for either player to come to the Knicks. But they have nothing that anyone wants.

My thoughts? I think that either AK-47 or Marion would be awesome in Cleveland's maroon and gold. Both would thrive next to LeBron (who wouldn't) and solve a lot of problems on the offensive and defensive end. Plus the Cavs have some assets to send back and cap issues should fit. Here are 2 trade scenarios:

* Cavs trade Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall to Jazz for AK-47. The salaries are a virtual match. Hughes has been a bad fit in Cleveland, but would satisfy the huge hole at shooting guard that has been there since Jeff Hornacek left. Marshall would still be good off the bench and would help stretch the defense to open the middle for Boozer and Paul Millsap.

* Cavs sign/trade Andeson Varajeo and Aleksander Pavlovic and a #1 pick to Phoenix for Marion. This solves the Cavs issues with both of their restricted free agents and brings possibly one of the 10 best players to put next to LeBron. The upside for Phoenix is that they get one very active big man back, a good shooter, one of the thousand draft picks they've traded away for cash the last 3 years...and continue the parade of foreign players onto the Suns roster.

Will something happen? Probably not unless one of these players flat don't report to camp and hold out. Otherwise, I don't see either team taking the proverbial "bag of donuts" that they will be offered. But if something does happen it could change the course of the NBA and fantasy leagues around the world.

Bush Taking a Beating in the Press

Expecting an article on "Dubya"? Nope this one is about Reggie.

The once sure-fire future HOFer from USC is having a tough second season with the New Orleans Saints. Even before the beat-down that the Saints got from the Tennessee Titans the sharks were starting to circle Reggie. There were open questions about whether Reggie was really a franchise-back or just a feature-back. Paul Kuharsky, covering the Titans for the Tennessean, called Bush "overrated" before the Titans game. Shortly after the game, ESPN's Matt Mosely and Scout's Inc's Matt Williamson seemed to agree, especially after Bush couldn't fill the shoes of Deuce McAllister who left the game early in the first quarter with a torn ACL. Check out this quote from Mosely:

I know he scored two touchdowns, but when am I allowed to point out how overrated Reggie Bush is? We're led to believe that the Saints sit around dreaming up plays for a guy who can't run the ball effectively. I'm already sick of hearing how great he is at the second-level. Doesn't he have to get there at some point.

Now Bush will have plenty of time to provie his doubters wrong with Deuce out for the season. But first he's going to have to show he can run between the tackles. If he can't and the Saints continue to regress towards their infamous 1980 1-15 season and the "'Aints" heritage, his only highlight for the season will be kicking it with Kim Kardashian.

Another Devastating Loss for the Mets

I'm actually glad that I can't get Mets games on TV up here in Rhode Island. I don't think I could turn the TV on at this point.

With the season basically on the line, the Mets trot out former 1st-round pick Philip Humber for his FIRST EVER major league start. OMG, is this waht we're down to? I guess so. And the predictable result followed. Staked to a 5-run lead after 3 innings, Humber and the bullpen couldn't hold on. Humber, the former Rice standout is recovering from Tommy John surgery. The former strikeout king at Rice, couldn't log one in his 4 innings as he gave up 5 runs.

And the bullpen followed suit. Joe Smith the sidearm picture that was the surprise in spring training, gave up 2 more without recording an out.

The Mets pitching staff has given up more than 8 runs per game over the last 11. I don't see anything turning around either. Even if the Mets make the playoffs, and it's a BIG IF, I can't see them getting past the first round with this pitching. The hitting has been pretty good, but how many 9-8 games can you expect to win?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Justice and the 10-Year Warrantee

So you thought white-collar criminals get off easy in America? Get this. Earlier this month it the Chairman of South Korean carmaker Hyundai, Chung Mong-koo (it's just fun to say, try it), had a 3-year sentence -- for embezzling $100 million -- suspended.

According to the Boston Globe "[the] Presiding Judge Lee Jae-hong told the packed courtroom that Hyundai has great influence over the nation's economy and Chung, its hands-on leader, is the symbol of the company. "I am also a citizen of the Republic of Korea," Lee said. "I was unwilling to engage in a gamble that would put the nation's economy at risk."

South Korea - what a country. The real irony is that the funds that were embezzled were used to pay lobbyists to gain government favors and for personal use. I wonder if Judge Lee's name was found in any of the books uncovered by the prosecution.

Hyundai has become the 6th largest automaker in the world, starting from obscurity about a decade ago. While the 10-year warrantee that they provided helped assuage buyers concerns over substandard quality (remember the Yugo?), I believe it was their sponsorship of the TNT NBA Halftime Show -- and especially Kenny Smith's lyrical pronunciation -- that really improved it's brand image and helped sales take off.

Bridge to Nowhere Goes Nowhere

A piece of good news. The boondoggle of all earmarks has fallen short of funding and is officially canceled. The pet project of crazy Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) is finally dead. The bridge that would have connected dozens of people on Ketchikan island to another small island would have cost almost $400 million.

This had to be a terrible blow to Ted Stevens who has been lampooned mercilessly -- not without merit of course -- by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show. While there have been many collages of Stevens screaming at Senate colleagues from the Senate floor, none was better than the bit about Ted Stevens' description of the Internet as a series of "tubes". Sit back and enjoy the show.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Another Loss to the Nats?

You've got to be f-ing kidding me. Another loss to the lowly Washington Nationals? And this time it's Glavine that gets lit up? The only saving grace is that the Phillies also lost and they still have to face Smoltz and Hudson.

But the Mets right now are terrible. They have to win the games against the teams they're supposed to beat. They have another chance to do so tomorrow night, but with rookie Philip Humber making his first major league start, I'm not so confident.

Games Left: 5
Magic Number: 4
Blood Pressure: through the roof :(

Monday, September 24, 2007

7 Games to Go...I Can't Look

I'm sure for the true baseball fan what's happening in the NL East race is exciting. Probably so for a Phillies fan too. But I'm a Met's fan. Have been all my life. A week ago, all was good. A 7 game lead with a little more than 2 weeks to go. Then a death swoon that has the Mets holding on for dear life. And it really is for their playoff lives. It's pretty good odds that whoever loses the division will not make the playoffs. I really can't bear to look at scores in the morning or at night on the scroll on EPSN2. It's gut wrenching. At least after tonight, the Mets have a 2.5 game lead with 7 games to go. Please guys, hold on just a little longer.

And please don't let the Phillies get the Wild Card. After 10 straight losses, I have no confidence that the Mets can beat them head-to-head.

Political Roundup: A couple of quick hits

I'm woefully behind in half the stuff I want to write, so I'll hit some of these issues quickly.

Russia Rejects Stronger Sanction on Iran: It's hard to say if this even qualifies as news. Of course Russia would object to sanctions. They are selling a lot of equipment, especially nuclear related equipment to Iran. Other than oil and gas (which were private institutions before Stalin, I mean Putin, "nationalized", the only burgeoning market for Russia is to sell dangerous materials to dangerous countries. The only thing surprising about the story is that the push for these sanctions came from -- wait for it, wait for it -- France! The pussies from Old Europe getting tough? Maybe this Sarkozy guy is actually pretty cool.

Can Someone Please Explain Why John Edwards is Popular?
: I don't get it. Somehow this bozo is still in the top half of the Democratic field for President. Yes, he's good looking, affable and so on, but he's still just a shyster lawyer. He rails against high medical costs, but he made his millions through frivolous law suits which helped to raise the cost of medical care and insurance. He's pandering to the left of the party by flipping his position on the war in Iraq. Big deal. First, it's ingenuous. He's only doing it to be popular with the most activist parts of the party. Like Mitt Romney, I'm not sure I will ever believe him when he tells me the color of his eyes, let alone his "current" position on any issue. But there he is running 3rd or 4th (depending on whether Gore is included in the poll). Yet a guy like Joe Biden, who is arguably the smartest guy running for President in either party, is only polling at 2-3%. I guess voters are stupid. What's worse is that it looks like in an election that the Democrats can't lose, they are leaning towards nominating the one person that has absolutely no chance to win in the General Election -- Hillary. Exasperating.

Lebanon's Bloody Road to a Stable Democracy: Another anti-Syrian member of parliament, Antoine Ghanem, along with 4 others was killed a week ago. He was the 8th Anti-Syrian legislator killed since the February 2005 assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which sparked widespread protests that led to the ouster of Syrian forces from Lebanon (known as the Cedar Revolution). Of course this is happening leading up to Tuesday's scheduled Presidential Election in Lebanon where they are about to vote for a successor to Emil Lahoud, the current President and lap dog for the Syrian regime who must step down at the end of November. The timing of the assassination was so bad, even Hezbollah objected. The latest is that it appears that Lebanon will postpone the election by at least a month. The sad thing is that I don't believe that there's anyone on the planet who doesn't think that Syria was involved. But similarly, I don't think that any country of international body (think the UN) has the balls to do anything to help the citizens of Lebanon. The bloody march to democracy continues.

Petreus' Testimony to Congress
: Did anyone expect anything different? Other than the opening line (let me paraphrase -- 'nobody helped me with my homework'), it sounded eerily like Bush's position on the war. I'm not a military analyst by any stretch, but it seems like the same story we've heard since the run-up to the 2004 election -- we're making great progress and the Iraqi military forces should be able to take over soon. Back in the first Bush-Kerry debate Bush stated that by January 2005 there would be over 125,000 Iraqi troops trained to take over some of the military and security duties of US-Coalition forces. I don't think we have that level today, nearly 3 years later. Especially when many non-partisan organizations like the GAO are painting a very different picture of the situation in Iraq, it's hard to believe General Petreus' "interpretation" of the situation.

Progress in Israeli-Palestinian Relations?: OK, here's another one where I won't hold my breath. Nothing would make me happier than a safer Israel and the end to the 60-year old conflict that began when Israel repelled a 5-nation attack on the very day it was formed. But while PM Abbas seems to be a reasonable partner in peace, most of the sticky issues (Jerusalem, right of return) aren't close to being solved. And it's not like Abbas represents the entire Palestinian people. Hamas is quickly turning Gaza into a fundamentalist Muslim theological state, and there is great suffering within those borders as the economy is in tatters. I'm not sure I see an end in sight. I wish I did, but peace still seems out of reach.

Continued Fallout from ADL Position on Turkish Genocide of Armenians

It continues to sadden me to see what's happened on the suburbs of Boston in relation to the ADL's position on the Turkish Genocide against the Armenian population during WWI. To recap, see my earlier post.

Since then a lot has happened. Let me shortcut it:
* Andrew Tarsys, Director of New England chapter of the ADL, breaks with the ADL party line and calls the killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during WWI genocide
* ADL fires Tarsys
* After much pressure from various groups in the American-Jewish community, the ADL reverses itself and Abraham Foxman, Executive Director of the ADL calls the actions of the Ottoman Empire "tantamount to genocide".
* ADL re-instates Tarsys

All of this happened in a matter of little more than a week.

Now you would have thought that the actions of the ADL, and especially the defiant stand taken by Tarsys would have had a significant impact on relations between the Armenian-American community in Watertown and the ADL. But instead, the Town of Watertown decided not to re-join the "No Place to Hate" initiative that was started by the ADL to promote racial unity and make neighborhoods safer and nicer. What's worse is that Newton, an affluent neighboring town with a large Jewish community, also pulled out of the "No Place to Hate" program.

It disturbs me on two levels. First, the action by Watertown to pull out of the "No Place to Hate" program had its intended effect -- the ADL changed it's position to be essentially in line with what the community has been asking for, actually for decades. This was a huge deal for a prominent national organization like the ADL to reverse itself so quickly. But apparently it was not enough. I personally think that it's unreasonable to have expected more. Certainly there was fallout for the ADL, Israel and the Jewish community in regards to it's relations with Turkey, one of the few Muslim nations that has good relations with Israel. To have gotten what you wanted and then still walk away seems disingenuous.

That leads me to my second point. The results of these recent weeks is that a program that was designed to bring different groups together is now being used to drive wedges between them. I have read that leadership from both sides are trying to work things out together and re-build bridges, but I don't buy it. I think it's a shame that the divides between the Jewish and Armenian communities in the suburbs of Boston seem to be getting wider.