Thursday, March 27, 2008

A's vs. Boston in Japan - A Horrible and Complicated Waste of Time

The Oakland Athletics played in Japan against the Boston Red Sox in a two-game exhibition that actually counts in the American League Standings. The series turned out to be a split, which was good for both teams, as Japan is a long way to go to get swept. Amazing waste of time though. The Japanese know all about Baseball by now, I think, and there is absolutely no need to send MLB teams there to play at all, let alone in games that count in the standings. But it was done - Damn you, Bud Selig. With that money-grabbing crap-fest over, the A's and Red Sox will come back to the U.S. to play out the rest of Spring Training before beginning the regular season again. So if you are keeping score at home, that's; U.S. Spring Training, Fly to Japan for Spring Training, Open the Regular Season in Japan, Fly back to the States, Continue Spring Training, Start Regular Season again.


Richie Harden looked as impressive as always, which means that if his history holds true, he will pitch like Cy Young right up until he gets injured for the season.

And can the Giants look worse? That team is going to be a spectacle to behold in S.F. this year.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Jason Jones is Awesome; John is a Jackass.

Jason Jones latest column is a Q & A.

The last question is from some asshole named John in San Francisco:

Question: Is the last sentence in your bio right? At the very least it's awkward...shouldn't it say something like "His favorite athlete of all time is Magic Johnson, and his favorite team is the Los Angeles Lakers."

I know you didn't write and may not have even seen it.

Anyway, keep up the good work. The Hall coverage was outstanding.

John, San Francisco

Answer: You’re right. I didn’t write it, just filled in the blanks for a format. I never gave it much thought.

If Hall’s coverage is better than mine, I’m sure you’ll be much happier with him.

So who's the asshole?

That's right, this guy. The thing, is I really meant it when I wrote "keep up the good work." The "Hall coverage" I was referring to was Jason Jones' coverage of the DeAngelo Hall trade. And it was outstanding. He waited at the airport. He talked to Falcons beat writers to find out what kind of guy Hall is to interview.

And he's a Lakers fan.

So if my question came across all lit-nerd douchey, correcting the grammar on his bio and whatever, I apologize. I'm flattered it was used.

So, keep up the good work, Jason.

If Hall covers receivers next year half as good as you cover the Raiders for the Sacramento Bee, I'll definitely be happy.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Unfortunate Metaphor

Just caught the fourth quarter of the Lakers/Warriors game from Staples. A player on the Warriors hit two clutch threes in the final 38 seconds to seal the win.

Bob Fitzgerald, understandably excited, said something like, "Every good western has its gunslinger. And tonight, that's Stephen Jackson."

The Stephen Jackson who has this tattoo.

Ric Bucher wrote an excellent profile of Stack Jack last month that doesn't shy away from his history with guns and violence.

It's just interesting to me how prevalent and cherished the "gunslinger" metaphor in our culture (Fitzgerald went on to say this evening that tonight Jackson was "John Wayne.") And personally, I use it all the time. But when an athlete in real life gets shot (Darrent Williams, Shaun Taylor), some of the same people who throw around these labels are the first to moralize about "ghetto mentality" and "thug life." I'm not saying Fitzgerald does that, I'm just noticing the irony. There's a similar dynamic with the term "warrior," which gets thrown around a lot, but then when Kellen Winslow, Jr. rants after a game that he's a "soldier" gets scolded about wounded veterans at Walter Reed (I'm talking about you, Mark May).

So we, as sports fans, should maybe stop using these terms. Or we should lighten up a little when Kevin Garnett takes the metaphor a step further and says he's getting strapped with his "nine, his uzi," etc...Brad Miller certainly added to the levity there when he said he was getting his crossbow and shotgun or whatever Nugent-style arsenal he was going to meet KG with.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cold Meds + Beer = Awesome

That's the equation I recommended to Dan yesterday via email

And I can vouch that it's true.

But the upsets are killing me. I picked a lot in the first round, and only Western KY and K-State came through.

You'll also be shocked to know that I've been rejected by both Oregon's and Cornell's MFA in creative writing programs.

So far, Wisconsin is the only school to reject me still playing.

I'm still waiting to here from the University of San Francisco, but not even Eddie Sutton could help their team.

On Wisconsin

From my couch, Wisconsin looked strong today dispatching a feisty Kansas State team. They played up-tempo when they had to, locked down the defense in the second half, and played a really physical game. When key players got into foul trouble they had the depth to avoid missing a beat.

The game provided a rare bright spot for my bracket, which has Wisconsin in the Final Four.

And in local news, that was quite a Warriors-Indians game. Jerel McNeal got cold at the wrong moment and Fresno's own Brook Lopez made an incredible shot to win it in OT for coachless Stanford.

Good day to be on the couch. Even if it is 70 and perfect outside.

Friday, March 21, 2008


The Raiders don't rebuild, they reload. At least that's what they said until forced to sift through the wreckage of the failed second Art Shell administration. Last year was clearly a "rebuild" as JaMarcus was brought along, a running game was installed, and the roster was purged. So has Al decided that one year is enough or that rebuilding is the wrong approach? This offseason, draft picks and cap money have been sacrificed for players that fill holes to help the Raiders win now.

A now popular cliche is that you can't build a winner through free agency. Is this really true? The argument seems to be that free agents are always overpaid, leaving limited cap money to cover the rest of the roster and preventing the team from filling important holes. So the Raiders are destined to continue their downward spiral, right?

Not necessarily. If there's one thing Al Davis knows, it's cap manipulation. With today's higher cap numbers Al has decided to go back to playing his game this year. Think about it: who were some of the key pieces the last time Al built a winner? Rich Gannon, Charlie Garner, Jerry Rice, Eric Allen, Lincoln Kennedy, Rod Woodson, Bill Romanowski. None grew up with the Raiders.

Perhaps the Raiders are in an organizational death spiral. But the personnel moves this offseason have made them a better team.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Update #1: Half day 1

Already eight games have been played and no upsets. If you speak tourney lingo this apparently has something to do with chalk. We have 11 brackets that have a chance to remain perfect throughout the tournament. 2002 Champ took a page out of AAA Bail Bonds' book and appears at the top of the list that includes Alan Hsu, Charity and Dean Sutherland, Diane (Richard) Rydelius, Eric Johnson, Haen, Jeremy Bloom, my mom, Matt Fiedler, and Rico. Speaking of 2002 Champ, here's a trivia question:

In what year did the Vikings last win the NFC North?

2007 Champ, aka Charity Sutherland, continues the chalkish choosing method that carried her to victory last year. Her final score may not be high, but it will likely be higher than all of ours. At this rate it will be several times higher than Jennifer Hannis' (hey English majors, do you add an s to that or not?) score, which sits at an incredibly low 14, or 1.75 per game played. She is at the Bottom of the Heap.

Possible upsets on the way - as I write this K State leads USC and my neighbors to the north are tied with Duke. Maybe there is something to this idea of banning smoking in people's own homes after all. Or maybe this Belmont is not in California at all.

Kiffin Speaks!

So the DeAngelo Hall deal is done, and the Raiders released a statement from Lane Kiffin:

“We’re very pleased about the acqusition of DeAngelo Hall to the Raiders," said Raiders Head Coach Lane Kiffin. “This, following offseason signings of Tommy Kelly, and Gibril Wilson, we feel have one of the most talented defenses in the league.”

After all the rumors, too many to link to here, of Kiffin being out or having his role reduced, the speculation about which exploded when he didn't make any statements about any of the previous signings, this is music to my ears.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lighting $10 Bills on Fire

So, every year, Dan runs a tournament pool. The entry has doubled in the 5 years I've been playing, but then again, so has the fun. Making it even more fun, I've decided to share my brackets, and Dan and I are planning at least one live-blog event during the tourney. I just got HD installed at the house, and with my nephew and brother having moved into the basement along with a 57" DLP, it's about to be ON.


Carolina over Coppin State. Obviously, I'm picking the Heels, but I'm super glad Coppin St. won the play-in game, because I get to share a story. During my sophomore year of high school, I was on the JV Basketball team at Antioch High. We were playing College in a non-league game, and losing. They were viewed by we Panthers as a scrub school, having not been invited into the new league of powerhouses after the old Diablo Valley Athletic League was disbanded. So Coach Post comes into the locker room at half time, and he's pissed. He starts ranting about a game that had been on the other night, in which Coppin State had shocked Maryland, 70-63. The point was that Maryland thought they would crush Coppin State just by showing up. We were now overlooking College Park the way the Terps overlooked the Eagles. He finished his rant by screaming,
I mean, what the FUCK IS A COPPIN STATE?!

I don't remember if we went on to win that game or not, but later, after we had showerd and joined the baseline bums for to watch the varsity game, we hounded this one College Park player mercilessly. He was really hairy, so we called him a neanderthal, and sasquatch, and probably something else. What I really remember was this guy got so flustered he eventually fouled out of the game, and as he took his seat on the bench, he looked over at our section and gave everyone the finger.

Good Times.

Arkansas over Indiana. Go Hogs. Bernard Petrino can't quit on the basketball team, and Hoosiers are thinking about re-hiring Bobby Knight, since while he might be a dictatorial A-hole, he never committed any recruiting violations. He only chokes his players and in close games.

George Mason over Notre Dame. My first Upset special.

Washington St. over Winthrop. Go Pac-10, and what the fuck is a Winthrop?

St. Joseph's over Oklahoma. To quote Hank Hill, "No offense, but he's from Oklahoma." So are the Sooners. The Kelvin Sampson curse covers two teams this year.

Louisville over Boise St. Jared Zabransky is not walking through that door. Ian Johnson is not walking through that door. And if they did, they play football.

Butler over South Alabama.

Tennessee over American. My brother got his master's degree in journalism/public affairs from American. He's owes them like $70K, and he lives in my garage. Must be an awesome school. Plus, he sweats like Bruce Pearl.


Kansas over Portland St. The professor has one of her degrees from Portland State, but Kansas is good. They'd beat Yale, too.

UNLV over Kent State. I have soft spot in my heart for UNLV dating back to the Tark teams of the late 80s early 90s. And as far as I know, Neil Young never wrote a song about UNLV.

Villanova over Clemson. [Insert Strom Thurmond joke here.]

Vanderbilt over Siena.

Kansas St. over USC. I like K-State's Freshman better than I like SC's Freshman. Reminds me too much of the time Harold Miner's team got beat in the first round.

Wisconsin over CS Fullerton. Wisconsin's MFA Program in Creative Writing rejected my applications. Regular readers of this blog will recognize this as good judgement, and expect it to carry over to the University's basketball program.

Gonzaga over Davidson. Blah blah blah. I don't care.

Georgetown over UMBC. I've printed my bracket and am typing off of it, and I have no idea what UMBC even stands for.


Oh, who gives a shit? My the rest of my bracket looks goes like this:

Round of 32:

UNC over Arkansas, GMU over Washington St, Louisville over St. Jo's, Tennessee over Butler.

KU over UNLV, Vanderbilt's Victorious versus Villanova, Wisconsin over K-State, and Georgetown over Gonzaga.

Memphis over Oregon, Pitt over MSU, Stanford over Marquette, Texas over St. Mary's.

UCLA over Texas A&M (Whoop!), UConn over Western KY, Georgia over Purdue, and Duke over AU.

Sweet Sixteen:

Memphis over Pitt, Stanford over Texas, UCLA over UCONN, and Duke over UGA

KU over Vandy, Georgetown over Wisconsin, Louisville over Tenn, and UNC over GMU.

Great 8:

Memphis over Stanford, UCLA over Duke, UNC over Louisville, and Kansas over Georgetown.

Final Four:

UCLA over Memphis, UNC over KU.


UCLA over UNC.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Raider Season

As expected, there has been no shortage of excitement in Alameda since we got those annoying games out of the way. It began with a head-fake on Rob Ryan that slapped Kiffin out of his decidedly non-Raider blunt honesty with the media and into dancing around every issue. It continued with locking up key Raider free agents with smart deals (Fargas, Rhodes' restructure), crazy deals (Kelly), and necessary deals (Asomugha). And a lot of long tenured players and/or team leaders hit the road - Sapp, Porter, Sims, McCown.

In free agency, the Raiders aggressively addressed major gaps and the notion that no one will play in Oakland at once. Walker, Wilson, Harris, Carter, Joseph. It's a reasonably impressive haul. And now there is talk of a trade to address a secondary gap by acquiring DeAngelo Hall.

This is a classic Al Davis offseason. He seems to be back in "win now" mode after a year dedicated to rebuilding. It's clear that he blames last year's defensive struggles on talent and not scheme. He is rewarding home grown potential and cutting loose expensive older players. Long term salary cap ramifications will be dealt with in the long term. Locker room chemistry be damned.

On the one hand, a look at the Raiders' recent past tells us that free agency has been kinder to the Raiders than the draft has been. On the other, Kiffin was brought in to help solve those draft problems and the Raiders' draft woes are certainly a factor in these annual 4-win seasons. Perhaps by trading away all draft choices Al will succeed in cutting Kiffin out of Raider personnel decisions after all. Then again, one theory regarding Al's anger with Kiffin is that Lane publicly blasted the talent level upon arrival - talent that Al had gathered. This offseason is proof that Al was not pleased with the talent level, either.

The potential Hall trade seems to be an admission that Al's draft choices have failed (Washington, Routt). If it happens, the Raiders may have the NFL's finest defensive secondary. But the potential for disaster is high. Can they get a long term deal done with Asoumugha if they throw Samuel money at Hall? If not, we've just traded a home grown, hard working, emerging star for a guy who ran onto the Georgia Dome field with a Mike Vick poster and recently announced, "I will not be a part of another losing team for another year. I've got to do what I've got to do. No matter who hates me."


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sllaacs Baseball - 2008

The smell of the grass and the wet infield dirt. The sound of a ball slapping into a mitt. The calls of "Attaboy", "Cut Two!", and "Play Ball!" echoing around the field. This is spring training baseball, an almost magical prologue that happens only prior to the baseball season. Every team is a contender in the spring with the same surprises always around the corner: The kid that's going to hit .600 this spring and then get sent down anyway; the has-been's and never-was's making another try at getting a spot in the Show; the starting pitcher who dominates like he's Cy Young in March and then gets lit up like he's Willie Lump-Lump in April - and vice-versa, of course. How about the O.G's - the dudes like Frank Thomas and Alex Rodriguez - who will hit something like .143 and say something like: "Well, I'm just working on bat speed", or "I'm just trying to see the ball," and then the season starts and it's; "Hall of Fame Bound" being mentioned before, during and after each at-bat they have? Baseball is incomparable to any other sport. For one thing, baseball is harder than any of the big four sports, (Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey) and almost as frustrating as Soccer,(which is a very tough, athletic sport that very few Americans give a damn about, myself included.) Some of the most nonathletic looking "Athletes" have dominated baseball for stretches of time that makes an outsider think that anyone can play the game. Well, anyone who is physically able can play baseball, the question becomes more about playing the game with near-perfection - something you will only see consistently in the Major Leagues... Unless you are a Giants or A's fan. The Giants are what baseball aficionados call "Horseshit" as far as projected offense goes, and the A's are not much better. Both teams are actually going into the season touting their pitching staffs as a strength. These claims are only somewhat laughable in Giants case - they are bringing back some pretty good pitchers, (Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum) but they lost Noah Lowry to an arm injury, Barry Zito is getting smoked and their bullpen closer situation is at best unestablished, and at worst: Horseshit also. Now, Oakland's claim that pitching is their strength is laughable because; 1) the A's don't have any strengths - they traded them all away; B) The pitching probably will be the strength anyway; and III) Revenue sharing will still reward Bean for putting out a shit product. If you like young, raw and unproven talent to root for in your favorite teams' colors - and pretend that your squad will duplicate the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks successes of last year - then you are going to be excited and a-rarin' ta go, cuz' that's what Brian Sabean and Billy Bean are presenting us with in the Bay Area this year. The Giants new motto "All out, All the Time", is not only a swipe at Barry Bonds, but absolutely is the only formula that will allow them to compete for the post season in the National League West. The A's... Well, maybe next year.

Sllaacs 2008 Predicted order of Finish for the S.F. Giants and Oakland Athletics respective Divisions:

American League West: W-L

California Angels 104-58
Seattle Mariners 85-77
Texas Rangers 83-79
Oakland Athletics 76-86

National League West: W-L

Arizona Diamondbacks 92 - 70
Colorado Rockies 90 - 72
San Diego Padres 88 - 74
San Francisco Giants 71-91

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Busy Day

It started with Brett Favre's surprise - but not shocking - retirement announcement. Then, fittingly, Favre's rival Warren Sapp made it slightly more official. (Although at the moment I don't see it on the Raiders' website).

And now, the Raiders have completely broken the bank - this time on the offensive side of the ball. They have addressed the two gaps that had remained unaddressed by signing Javon Walker, a man who caught more TD passes from Favre than Chuy, and Kwame Harris, a bust of a 49er first rounder, to massive deals.

The only explanation that I can muster is that Al is absolutely going to throw money at fixing things now, and he'll deal with the repercussions later. Prior to the increase in the salary cap a couple of years ago, the Raiders were always the team facing a dire cap situation in the offseason, yet they always worked around it and signed big names.

Perhaps Al figures if he isn't facing a cap situation, he isn't trying.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Filling Gaps

The Raiders had two major on-field problems in 2007:
  1. The defense couldn't stop the run
  2. The offense couldn't stretch the field

To fix those problems - and, indeed, to field a full team - the Raiders need to acquire players at four key positions: Safety, Defensive Tackle, Wide Receiver, and Offensive Tackle.

Safety - this gap appears filled as of yesterday's Gibril Wilson signing. If we are to believe the coaching staff, the most significant contributing factor to Problem #1 was a penchant for giving up the big play. Stu Schweigert's name has become synonymous with the missed tackle, and Hiram Eugene, whose name sounds more like a suggestion, did no better. It's no coincidence that the Raiders' press release leads with this stat: "Over his pro career, Wilson has averaged more total tackles per game (6.9) than any other NFL safety." His versatility should give the Raiders some flexibility to transition Michael Huff from a relatively anonymous TE coverage specialist into a playmaker who begins to live up to the expectations of a #7 overall draft pick.

Defensive Tackle - maybe losing Rod Coleman and Grady Jackson in recent years has caused Al Davis to develop an intense fear of losing home-grown DT talent, leading to Terdell Sands' multi-year invitation to laziness last year and Tommy Kelly's bank-breaker this year. But there is a sense of desperation here, too. Downhill, up-the-gut runners destroyed the Raiders in 2007. Warren Sapp was never a power run stuffer, but his retirement leaves a major hole. So throwing this money at Tommy Kelly means the Raiders thought this was their best shot to address this critical need in free agency, especially in light of the Haynesworth and Williams franchise tags. Kelly can play end, but the money seems to indicate that this is meant to fill a hole at DT. The other tackle position could be filled by Sands, Warren (due a large bonus if he's retained), or by taking Dorsey or Ellis at #4 in the draft. Do we risk speculating that Kelly could play end in a Rob Ryan 3-4?

Either way, the money is outrageous given Kelly's limited track record, but not out of line with top DTs. Combine the Raiders' desperation with this year's availability, and Kelly's rich. At least he's described as a "character guy."

Wide Receiver - The Jerry Porter era has finally come to a close. As a result, the Raiders really have one proven WR on the team: Ronald Curry. Johnnie Lee Higgins got my vote for most disappointing rookie last year. At least this situation helps temper the "Interim Coach in Waiting" theory regarding James Lofton. He'll have his work cut out for him as WR coach. But who will he coach? Berrian signed with the Vikings. Stallworth signed with the Browns. Keary Colbert (Broncos), Devery Henderson (Saints), and Ernest Wilford (Dolphins) are off the board. Javon Walker? Just what the Raider locker room needs . Bryant Johnson? He may be signed by Buffalo by the time I finish typing this. That guy from New England?

At least I see that one of my favorite names is still available: Craphonso Thorpe. But this position must be high on Davis' list given the strength of JaMarcus' arm. I'm just not sure how they are going to find the bodies.

Offensive Tackle - The Barry Sims era has finally come to a close. As a result, the Raiders really have no proven and healthy tackle on the team. Given Problem #2 and $60 million worth of JaMarcus to protect, this is a gap. Living in the Bay Area I've even come to dislike Kwame Harris, so I was pleased to see him leave Alameda without a fat contract. But it illustrates just how desperate the Raiders have become at this position. Will we see Cable plug in some unknown free agents or draft some guys on the second day to play the zone scheme? Will the Mario Henderson Project ever result in playing time? Or do they spend pick #4 on another Big Ten Tackle?

One last question: Should we read anything into the fact that since free agency kicked off we are +2 on Ryan's defense (Kelly, Wilson) and -3 on Kiffin's offense (McCown, Porter, Sims)?