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Living in New York can be annoying, in no small part because the place is crawling with New York sports fans. Yankees fans are like Paris Hilton --and not just because lots of them (especially the men) wear jeans that reveal far more butt crack than is socially acceptable.
No, it's that no matter what they do, they're going to land on their feet because they've got more money behind them than they know what to do with. But you know what I've decided in the past couple of weeks? They're not nearly as annoying as Red Sox fans. (And this place is crawling with them, as well. I'd say they've got Mets fans outnumbered in the city by a hefty margin.)
I know I should feel some empathy with Sox fans. As mentioned, yours truly is a lifelong Indians fan, and Boston's misery exceeds ours. (Need I remind Hub denizens that the Tribe won the World Series in 1948 after performing a vicious double Boston strangling, beating the Red Sox in a playoff for the AL pennant and then taking out the Braves in the Series?) But there's nothing more annoying than seeing Boston fans scramble to justify the Nomar Garciaparra trade.
I realize the guy had to go. Nomar was a cancer in the clubhouse, he's a liability defensively, he's not the same hitter he was three years ago, he's as delicate as a hothouse flower, etc. But if anyone should have seen these things happening it's Theo Epstein.
A few years back Carlos Baerga was basically Nomar. He had put up a series of incredible offensive seasons in Cleveland, and then he lost it, taking limos to games and yapping on his cell phone at inappropriate times, while putting on pounds and forgetting how to hit. (Baerga might have been the best bad-ball hitter I've ever seen; he made Nomar look patient. But when he got fat he lost enough of his reflexes that he could no longer golf sinkers off the plate and into center field.)
After watching the early stages of Baerga's decline first hand, Indians GM John Hart, for one, realized what was happening and offloaded him to the Mets for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino. (Of course, because he's John Hart he then let Kent leave to become a superstar in San Francisco.) But the point is, he traded Baerga at the ideal time: when he knew the player was junk, but no one else had figured it out. Now look at what Epstein did. He had to know in February that Garciaparra's season was going to be a train wreck. His physical skills were in decline, and he was unhappy -- you've got to figure Epstein, because he saw him every day knew how bad Nomar's attitude had become.
Instead of moving him then, he put Nomar on display and let the whole world see how far he'd fallen. So when Epstein finally decided to pull the trigger, he ended up getting a Gold Glove first baseman with no pop in his bat (Doug Mientkiewicz) and a shortstop (Orlando Cabrera) who seems to have forgotten how to hit -- and he had to throw in a prospect to get that.
Now Sox fans are lining up to praise Epstein for having the guts to make the necessary move and trade Nomar. All I see is the bottom line: He traded a two-time batting champ, who is the best shortstop in the history of the franchise, and he got nothing in return. Sorry Sox fans: It's a bad deal. Yeah, it had to be done. Trading Garciaparra needed to happen, but it needed to happen five months ago. ...
I hate the NBA. It's so ugly I can rarely bring myself to tune in. So I've got to admit, it felt good watching the "Dream Team" get spanked by Italy. Maybe if the U.S. players were accustomed to performing in a league where actual basketball skills were required they wouldn't have been embarrassed when they were forced to play a bunch of guys who knew how to function as a team in a contest in which officials called walks and hand checks -- you know, enforced the rules.
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Check this out. My new hero is officer Scott Newell. A couple of months ago Devil Rays managing partner Vince Naimoli threatened to revoke the credentials of a writer who brought a pizza he bought at Tropicana Field into the press box -- a violation of the "no outside food in the press box rule" he sagely instituted. (Hey, Vince, be happy the scribe was spending money in your stadium.) Maybe if Naimoli spent less time worrying about what visiting writers were eating and bickering with cops his franchise wouldn't be the laughingstock of Major League Baseball. Remember when losers were lovable? Well, the D-Rays might be the least lovable team ever. They stink, they play in a park that makes the Metrodome seem as quaint as a Sonoma B&B and their owner is a jerk. That's a combo fans can really get behind. ...
I was watching the end of Beverly Hills Cop recently, and it got me wondering: Which movie features bad guys who shoot worse and good guys who shoot better? The seemingly innumerable goons in Victor Maitland's compound were armed with machine guns, yet they shot like Shaq taking free throws lefthanded while wearing a blindfold. Don't you think if you were popping off round after round and every bullet landed a few inches short of Eddie Murphy's feet you'd eventually raise the gun? (Perhaps it's because the goons were all deafened by their gun blasts, had bad backs from lugging around hundreds of pounds of ammo and had to deal with the blisters that inevitably pop up when you hold melting metal in your hands. Check out this great site to see what I'm talking about.) Meanwhile, Eddie is running around turning flips and squeezing off precision shots like a cross between Bart Conner and the Barry Pepper character in Saving Private Ryan. At any rate, if you can think of a movie in which there's a more egregious case of baddies who can't shoot straight, I'd love to hear about it.
Good rappin' at you again. Stay classy, blogees.
Mark Bechtel covers NASCAR for Sports Illustrated and SI.com.