Friday, August 21, 2009

Summer of Sports Reading

I always complain that I never have free time to read casually. This summer, I decided to change that. I knew I had a busy summer ahead of me, what with working 40 hours a week at the MTC in addition to my wedding and such, but I was confident I could get a couple of books read over the summer.

You might say I surprised myself.

From May 1 to August 31, I will have completed TWELVE books. All but one of them are sports-related, so I figured this would be an appropriate forum to let you know what I thought about them. For my review of the non-sporty book, check out the married blog.

As for the other eleven, here they are, in the order in which they were read (At least, I think it's right):

1. A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez by Selena Roberts
Oy...I've already written about this book. Let's just look at a funny ad instead, eh?

2. American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime by the New York Daily News Sports Investigative Team

This was an engrossing read. Clemens is in the title and on the cover, but he is not the only one whose dirty laundry is aired within the pages. The back stories of unsavory characters like Brian McNamee, Kirk Radomski, Jason Grimsley, Rusty Hardin and many others are intended to give the reader a sense of just how deeply steroids dug into both baseball and the well-being of the steroids dealers and their associates themselves.

3. The Teammates by David Halberstam

After wading through the muck of a couple of scandal-based books, this was a nice change of pace. Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and the immortal Ted Williams were four men who were clearly destined to be together. This recollection of decades-old stories frames the tragic motivation for their compilation: the imminent death of the Splendid Splinter in Florida. No mention of the cryogenic freezing, though. Probably for the best.

4. The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci

A definitive history of the first dynasty I vividly remember as told by its ringmaster. The stories are straightforward: the book starts the week Torre is hired and ends when he refuses to take the Yanks' diminished offer. Lots of in-depth interviews with Torre's players also make this a very vivid story. My personal favorites were David Cone and the Captain, Derek Derek Jeter Jeter.

5. Game of Shadows by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams

The book that started it all. I saw it in hardcover on a bargain rack at Barnes and Noble for $6 and gobbled it up immediately. If you already hate Barry Bonds, this book will thoroughly satisfy you. Victor Conte and his BALCO cronies don't come off any sweeter; slimier would be an appropriate word.

6. Hideki Matsui: Sportsmanship, Modesty, and the Art of the Home Run by Shizuka Ijuin

In addition to winning the "Most Intriguing Title" award, this skinny Dollar Tree find is very Japanese: succinct, honorable, modest, and interestingly translated. Maybe it's just because the author is a close personal friend of Godzilla's, but Matsui is essentially beatified throughout as the most honorable Japanese man in America.

7. Man in the Middle by John Amaechi

Another Dollar Tree pick-up. I remember the firestorm when this book first came out: A pro athlete coming out of the closet? I bought it specifically to see how he handled being in the SLC during his tank job with the Jazz. (He blames it entirely on not meshing with Jerry Sloan's abrasive coaching style. The lesson: Don't let large, sensitive, gay British men near Jerry Sloan. He will single-handedly force them to average 3.2 points and 2.0 rebounds per game...or less.)

8. The Punch by John Feinstein

My first Feinstein, which is a Dollar Tree find from nearly two years ago now. Not the smoothest read, but I was amazed that Feinstein could get over 350 pages out of a vicious blow that landed in less than a second. It is a study in contrast: Rudy T's rise to prominence as the Rockets' head coach, and Kermit Washington's fall from grace that has reverberated in his inability to both find an NBA head coaching job and maintain his marriage.

9. Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

I bought this from a bargain pile in the BYU Bookstore about two years ago and just now got around to it. I wish I had gotten to it sooner. The book vividly reminded me of the small Texas towns I served in during my mission. The human element in the machine that is Permian High football (and, really, Texas high school football as a whole) is at times heroic and at times tragic. A fascinating study of a small town's struggles to fulfill big-time aspirations.

10. Why Not Us? The 86-Year Journey of the Boston Red Sox Fans from Unparalleled Suffering to the Promised Land of the 2004 World Series by Leigh Montville

Yet another Dollar Tree find. I'm glad I found it there, because I would have been upset with myself if I had bought it for $22.95 when it first came out. For me, this quick mash-up just wasn't memorable. You can tell the fans' stories were mashed together very quickly to get this book on the shelves. Maybe I couldn't get into it because I'm a bitter Cubs fan. Oh, well...

11. Turning of the Tide: How One Game Changed the South by Don Yaeger with Sam Cunningham and John Papadakis.

This was a Wal-Mart $4 purchase. I don't know why I've been so intrigued with the blending of race and sports, but this book is a nice blend of the two. Plus, it's getting me excited for the impending college football season. As I said with Feinstein earlier, I am constantly amazed that writers can get so much material out of just one game or one moment.

Now school is starting and the leisure reading will probably stop for the foreseeable future. My next great read? Not sure yet, but you'll hear about it when it happens.

Monday, August 17, 2009


What can you buy for $4.2 million? I googled it. No, really, I did! Some of my personal favorites: a dog tiara, a whole mess of pot and pot-growing equipment in Canada, and a shady painting found in an attic.
But no.....the Cubs found something else to spend that kind of money on:

Yeah, yeah. I know it seems like he's still having a better year than Kerry Wood. I know he has 23 saves compared to Kerry Wood's 15 in Cleveland. I know he has 58 strikeouts in 58 appearances and that his WHIP is .08 lower than Woody.

I dug deeper tonight after Greggers got shellacked by the LAST PLACE PADRES!

Blown Saves: Wood, 5. Gregg, 6.
Hits allowed: Wood, 37. Gregg, 50.

Runs allowed: Wood, 22. Gregg, 30.

Losses: Wood, 3. Gregg, 5.

Here's the kicker that reared its ugly head tonight in the form of Kyle (Don't call him Billy) Blanks:

Home Runs Allowed: Wood, 7. Gregg, 12!

12 Home Runs for a closer?!? Unacceptable. Especially when you consider that FOUR have come in August, in addition to three of the six blown saves.

At least Gregg has the chutzpah to admit it:

"It's just making stupid mistakes. Seeing something in a hitter and not executing it. The bottom line is getting people out. It doesn't matter how you do it. I could throw underhand. If they get out, I don't care. They hit three line drives and they're out, I don't care. The biggest thing is just getting people out and I didn't today."

Hold off on that underhand, buddy. Please.

Just to put it in perspective, Kevin Correia, the Padres' starter tonight, has also given up 12 home runs this season. He, however, has pitched 140.2 innings as opposed to Gregg's 56.1 innings. It's not like Correia is Lincecum-esque or anything. He's 8-9 with a 4.41 ERA.

I admire Sweet Lou's refusal to take this lightly:

"I think we are going to make some changes as far as what we're going to do late innings. We'll see what we do. I'm going to think about it tonight."

Trouble is, who else do we have? Marmol's stuff has fizzled. Maybe we can move Dempster out of the rotation? Angel Guzman?

Whatever the answer is, the Cubbies need to find it.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Slick Like Vick

Photo Courtesy of Deadspin

Q: If an animal attacks a PETA supporter, do the rest of the PETA people have to stand there and watch it happen so as not to hurt the animal? Or, would the attackee even want to be saved because if he was saved, he would be interrupting the animal's meal?

This question was posed by an Edmontonite named Ronnie in a mailbag column by Bill Simmons back in 2004. Any time anyone references PETA for any reason, this question pops into my head and I have a good chuckle.

Let's just say I've had plenty of reasons to chuckle tonight.

Michael Vick is headed to the Illadelph with a two-year contract. Understandably, the most commonly-used adjective thus far has been "shocked". Listening to the Brian Kenny show on ESPN Radio on my way home from picking up dinner, the reaction was mixed. Some fans were geeked, one said he was turning in his season tickets.

Here's why I think this is a good move for Michael Vick:

The Eagles are one of the most stable franchises in a city full of incredibly faithful fans, no matter how boisterously they may boo some days. The team is already full of athletes and playmakers: Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, DeSean Jackson, and the rookie Jeremy Maclin, among others. Despite all of Andy Reid's so-called struggles, he has shown that he can get all he can from his players. (Well, almost...but really, has ANYONE put a leash on T.O.?)

Anyhoo, Vick can be useful in that kind of system and may be a missing piece to the Eagles' Super Bowl puzzle. They do have to confront the Falcons in Atlanta, however, on December 6. What a reunion that would be...

PETA, of course, has already said their piece through spokesman Dan Shannon:

"PETA and millions of decent football fans around the world are disappointed that the Eagles decided to sign a guy who hung dogs from trees. He electrocuted them with jumper cables and held them under water. You have to wonder what sort of message this sends to young fans who care about animals and don't want them to be harmed."

As much as young Philly fans surely love puppies, they and their daddies would probably love a Super Bowl trophy a little bit more.

By the way, the answer to that question to start the column? Here it is from the Sports Guy himself:

I'm afraid to say anything right now. Those PETA people are like Scientologists -- you don't even want to look cross-eyed at them. They're terrifying.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wait 'Til Next Year Already?

With Holly's recent health scares, you would think I haven't had much time to contemplate on things like sports. Truth be told, it's soothing to think about sports instead of stressing out while Holly is sleeping or resting.

Well, at least until I think about the Cubs' last week or so.

Maybe it's dumb bad luck, maybe it's a just couple of potent offenses back to back; I don't know exactly what it is, but the Cubbies are scuffling.

Four losses in a row, seven games dropped over the last ten, a thorough shellacking by the Rockies for three out of four games, a schooling by a 37 year-old in his first Major League start in NEARLY A YEAR, and the impending threat of Cliff Lee on the bump against them tomorrow.


It makes the golden shower laid on The Flyin' Hawaiian Shane Victorino tonight almost justifiable. Almost.

Looking at the schedule for the rest of August, though, gives me a glimmer of hope still: home with Pittsburgh Lite, @ San Diego, @ Dodgers, home against the Nats and Mets and starting a series against the 'Stros. Having a good run heading into September can give us the momentum we need.


Monday, July 27, 2009

The Fightin' Primobolans Daily Update: 7/27/09

Holly and I went to the new Texas Roadhouse in Lehi tonight, so I'm surprised I even have the wherewithal to type, but I guess I found a way.

A new week, and a huge matchup of division leaders got started tonight! Let's rate the best and the worst from Monday, Monday.

MVP-Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants-9 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 15 K

Wow. I tell you what, wow. The Freak strikes again with another dominant performance. Granted, it was against the usually toothless Bucs, but 15 strikeouts is what it is. I am so glad I took this guy with my first pick.

LVP-Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners-5.2 IP, 11 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

Who knew the Jays could make King Felix hurt nearly as bad as this? Couldn't even muster more than 2 K's. OUCH!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Fightin' Primobolans Weekend Update and Week in Review: 7/25-26/09

Got home late from a fondue function in Sandy last night, so didn't get a chance to update. SO, I'll double dip today, along with providing the new feature: The Week in Review!

Let's get to Saturday's action:
MVP-Gavin Floyd, Chicago White Sox-6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

Not the smoothest line of the day (adding to the fact the bullpen blew the win), but the 7 strikeouts are the reason I keep this guy around. He has 7 K's in each of his last three starts, and just crossed the 100 strikeout mark for the season.

LVP-Mike Cameron, Milwaukee Brewers-0/3, R

Only three hits this whole week for Cameron. Might be on the way out unless he gets hot soon.

Now for the best and worst from Sunday!

MVP-Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins-2/4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R

An emphatic exclamation point to cap a sensational week for Morneau. Doing it at the expense of the red-hot Angels makes it even more impressive. He may just end up as the Primobolans' season MVP.

LVP-Ryan Ludwick, St. Louis Cardinals-0/4

Russell Branyan went 0/4, too, but I'll always take slighting a Cardinal any day. I drafted Ludwick, dropped him when he got hurt, and then picked him up again about two weeks ago. He's done OK since then, but not enough to keep the Cubs out of first place in the Central (Whoo-hoo!)

And now, let's take a look at the week that was with THE WEEK IN REVIEW!

A huge Monday set the pace for a dominating week for the Primobolans. Even though the final score against the Utah Lint Trap was 6-4, the numbers weren't that close. This is the 6th straight weekly win for the Primobolans, still tied for the division lead with the almost equally hot 92. With Movement, who wrapped up their 5th straight win today.
Now for the coronation for the MVP of the Week!

Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins-.333 AVG, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 8 R in 7 games

Can you believe this guy fell to me in the 4th round? Two multi-homer games this week were enough for Morneau to beat out Ryan Braun for the award.
Next Up: A HUGE matchup against fellow division leader GAME OVER.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Fightin' Primobolans Daily Update: 7/24/09

Went to the Owlz game with Holly tonight. Check out the pics on our married blog:

Meanwhile, here's the update!

Most Valuable Player: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers-2/3, HR, 2 RBI, 1 R

The Braves beat the snot out of them, 9-4, but Braun landed one in the seats to try and make it respectable for the Brew Crew. They, like the Cubbies, have to be groaning about the addition of Matt Holliday to the Cards. Grr.....

Least Valuable Player: Brandon Inge, Detroit Tigers-1/7, 1 R (2 games)

Word on the street is he has a torn left patella tendon, but says he is playing through it and can hit 15 more homers this season. Just get more than one hit in a double-dip, and you and I are just fine, Brandon.