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Cloud9 Sports: Opinionated musing on the sporting world.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

TMZ-Style Sports Blogs are Journalism!

With the blog v. MSM issue simmering on the back burner the MSM have cleverly fired back at the blogosphere. Allegedly misquoting members from Deadspin, and potentially The Big Lead, a piece in the Los Angeles Times (of all bloody places) has incited recent infighting. Taken from TBL.com:

Reader comment: “Could it be a MSM ploy to divide the emerging blogosphere?”

The Big Lead: “They definitely want this. Some of them. I think someone wrote about this.”

What the hell is going on?

Discussion arose on the merits of posting scandalous or potentially humiliating material in the fashion of sites like TMZ, or thedirty.com, on sports blogs. [It should be noted that the discussion spurred from the LAT piece with the disputed quotations.] While this dubious material is useful in gleaming interest and market share within a crowded niche, the integrity of this practice has long been questioned by those morally opposed to 'publishing' information of objectionable content. But in the digital environment alongside bestiality and ruthless Nigerian spam there are few rules and fewer lines one risks crossing.

Ok, so you're the New York Times and he's Egotastic – why do I care? You care when it influences peoples livelihoods; when entertainment becomes questionably lascivious and defamatory. Or you roll with anything that might make a few bucks on your website (Note: this blog is still (foolishly?) Ad-Free). Regardless of your position, never has the decision to publish been so weighty.

I disagree with posting defaming and humiliating material because most of it shouldn't reach the public record. We have spies that profit greatly from candid photos of famous people, and that we somehow endorse this practice is disappointing. Imagine having your privacy eliminated following your success?* A terrible fate unfit for most peoples' enemies, our interests are casually justified: it's the path they've chosen.

Your feelings on the paparazzi/celeb-sports culture aside, there is a reason people publish ruinous or embarrassing material: traffic. Readers already off the ESPN-beaten path are scanning the dense shrubbery of the blogosphere are looking to get more entrenched in the lives of their favorite athletes. They aren't about to glance over the headlines describing the a Yankee crushing strippers and or a Cardinal getting wasted with barely legal tail, would you?**

The reason is simple: As much as fans desire greatness in athletes, nothing is more satisfying than a complete personal disaster. We love a good train wreck. It's why we have Celebrity Rehab as a reality TV show; why Jerry Springer's bodyguard is still on the air; why Vick's dogfighting and Rose's gambling are immortalized by the sports media.

But scandal comes in many forms. What the MSM craves (see: Vick) is almost G-rated to bloggers -- the murky rules and skewed lines deem it such. Some suggest that change is afoot and I say no chance. The allure of others failures is too strong and agonizingly persistent; when coupled with limited eyes reading yet fewer blogs, you'd be a fool to predict a reversal in this trend. As far as some of the big players changing their tune? It's the path they've chosen.

*I acknowledge the existence of certain celebrities who's sham careers are dependent on, and in some cases owing to, the presence of the paparazzi-generated, or gossip-type material. These people are often more worthless the ones with the cameras.

**Reading this confirms you know what I am referencing, hence your admittance of guilt.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fantasy Trade: Jays and Rockies shake things up?

Why Adriana Lima: because we can ------------->>

How about a stick and an arm for a softie and headcase? That is the focus of todays vicious, totally unsubstantiated trade rumour courtesy of Cloud9 Sports. I'm just gonna throw it out there, if you don't wanna take it just go ahead and push it back:

Vernon Wells and AJ Burnett for Matt Holiday and Jeff Francis.

Bullocks you say? Lets take a closer look and reserve judgment for a moment...

Overweight, under achieving, would-rather-be-playing-in-the-U.S.A. Vernon has been no where near the player his contract indicates he should be. Many would place him in the relocate-and-thrive club after two seasons of disappointment for the blue birds. With his Gold Glove years apparently in the rear-view mirror to stay (his range factor was a league-worst for CF'ers in 2007), he'd be a tough sell as a stand alone. Armed with a no-trade, a move to a contender would be preferred, but if the Blue Jays get any worse, who's to say he doesn't loosen his criteria for relocation?

Consider AJ Burnett and his well-documented mental lapses and trade eligibility as the perfect addition to any potential trade package. He all but asked for a ticket out of town, and what better way to spite him then send his ass to a struggling Colorado team?

All that Jays GM JP Riccardi need ask for in return? A near-MVP and a potential stud left-hander. However unlikely the transaction in the form above, acquiring pieces like Holliday and Francis could go a long way in solidifying the Jays push to get out of the AL East for the first time since 1993. Pitching, particularly left-handers, will always be welcomed. As a Canadian-lad, Jeff Francis would likely welcome the trade with open arms, having little connection to the Rockies other than his roots in Vancouver.

Holliday is coming off his best season to date and is a potential franchise slugger. Following his RotY performance in 2004, Matt has steadily improved on his ability to hit for average and power. Nearing triple-crown numbers last season he lead the Rockies in their push for the World Series title and was reward with a 2-year extension. With the Rockies in a tenuous financial situation, perhaps Holliday will welcome a transition to a team willing to re-up their studs in manner fitting (and in the case of Wells, surpassing) their contribution.

But, does it work for both sides? Not really, no. The Rockies would be crazy to part with both of these relative youngsters for guys that are looking washed up and potentially past-prime. Asking for both Francis and Holliday will likely receive a laugh from Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd. The trade is design to elicit a counter-offer, perhaps in the form of Holliday and a pitching prospect.

With the prospect representing fair value for the near valueless AJ Burnett, one switches their attention to the Wells v. Holliday discussion. The numbers and potential greatly favor Holliday, so what's in it for the Rockies? Perhaps the addition of some maturity (?) and a little bit of presence in the locker room? Nah. Wells has shown these attributes to be minimal, but managers can fall in love with past performances which in this case, might be his (and Torontos') saving grace.

The likelihood of a deal like this being executed is admittedly quite low. Perhaps this piece best serves are a barometer for the (sadly lacking) talent of certain Blue Jays. At best the Rockies agree to a blockbuster and get robbed of two promising players for two over-paid disappointments. At worst, the Jays let AJ walk at seasons end, and Vernon flounder in center as Rios' defensive talents marinate in right. The end game is JP Riccardi's failure manifest in a playoff-less Blue Jays team so desperate to shake things up they are signing everyone from the 92-93 World Championships. Burn.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out the Radio show tomorrow (Tuesday 6-9pm) and subscribe to show your love. Cheers, Derek.

Monday, June 16, 2008

AJ Burnett burns the Blue Jays; they don't mind.

AJ Burnett is going to get traded; we should get used to talking about this. If and until it happens, according to him, he's pitching the best he can for the Blue Jays. However, if a trade happens he'll welcome it with “open arms”.

So you're thinking I am going to turn this into a rip on the same jackass who tipped his hat after being a dumpster fire last week, but I'm not. I ripped him for his gesture then because he was being defiant and agitating to the people who want nothing more than to see him succeed. Thats the not the attitude fans want to see, but honest by contrast is greatly desired.

So when AJ Burnett says:

“If something were to happen and I'd have the opportunity to go to a place where baseball is breakfast, lunch and dinner, that would be awesome. Right now, my focus is with this club. But if something like that were to happen, I'd accept it with open arms. “

... I can deal with it. Not because I'm a fan, or even a supporter, but because I think he's totally in line with everyones expectations. Who doesn't respect a little honesty from an athlete these days? I welcome any comment not a clichéd sound bite the same way I would a free lapdance: the more the merrier. Burnett just broke the mold in a fashion we'd expect from the Mad Ink member.

He is a talented pitcher who has underachieved and and frustrated as a Blue Jay. His contract contains an opt out clause at seasons' end. The team is struggling, has excellent young starters and needs a bat. It all adds up to Burnett being logical trade bait – everyone knows this. His decision to address the matter in the manner he did shows his character: I welcome a trade, but I'll bust my ass while I'm here.

That's Burnett – in your face and nasty. Also, a relatively simple man as exhibited by his two-pitch arsenal. His response is what a millionaire athlete on a well-paid 3-year stop over in Toronto is probably thinking, except he's the only one with the stones to say it.

Burnetts' get-out-of-jail card in my books is the fact that effort doesn't explain his flaws. (In fact, he could use a little less at times, particularly when his control issues arise.) Because it's always been there for Allan James, we'll know when it isn't. It doesn't suit his purpose to screw the pooch and someone as shrewd as Burnett (at least in the current situational context) has recognized this. (OK, maybe his agent told him...)

Whatever the compensation outcome for Burnett and the Blue Jays both parties will be better off. Don't waste time and energy getting upset over a player that we already knew would rather be playing elsewhere. Instead, lets focus on the ROI; a youngster with a bat in the outfield might be great, but I'm sure Riccardi will manage to get much, much less. Maybe at that point we can finally get to talking about his ticket out of town...

Thanks for reading. Check out the Radio show Tomorrow (Tuesday) night and subscribe for the win. Cheers, Derek.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is the Blue Jays potential being stiffled by their mismanagment? Um, yeah.

Whats up in the MLB? The Blue Jays are behind in the standings. Get it? ------------->

If passive managing was the fashion required to produce champions in baseball, one would rightly assume bench managers wouldn't exist. The fact that they do, in spite of Toronto Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons reluctance to assume the role, makes one question his value as he appears to be a well-paid spectator, interested merely in the full-access to the clubhouse spread. In contrast to his conduct, the finest illustration of his importance lies in the teams mediocrity under his passive reign.

Managing is about pushing the right buttons at the right time. Simple but vital are coordinating the tangible fundamentals like batting order, fielding position; technical maneuvering in the form of controlling base runners and utilizing a pinch hitter and the bullpen moves. These are things that John Gibbons has (tragically) only recently adopted and integrated into his managerial collection d'armes. Lacking however, is a consistent effort to control the intangible side of the game by nurturing his players' psyche.

On countless occasions I've espoused the montra: team identity is essential to success. It's here where Gibbys glowing mismanagement affects the Blue Jays the most. His lack of psychological influence on this squad makes them the best team in the MLB at finding a ways to lose. They've stranded more men than Mary Rose, have their right-fielder playing center (and vice-versa), and continue to flounder in the standings as a result.

Insisting that the bats will come around won't make it so; having a definitive batting order and a set role for every guy on the team will. Instead, the Gibbons pencils in his lineup card much the same way children enjoy their Lite Brite – pull a colour out of the pile and toss it in to make something special. But, unlike the spectrum of coloured pegs in the aforementioned kids game, all Gibbons has to choose from is grey – arguably by his own error.

Gibbons shuffles his players so frequently they have all melded themselves into jack-of-all-trade types, ostensibly mastering none. Indistinguishable from one another the Jays diffuse the responsibilities fulfilled by winning teams. In this, the irony of their battle with .500 during Gibbys tenure is brilliantly personified. Without a role, the player lacks a specified purpose, and the team lacks a distinct identity. On Gibbons squad, guys don't hit for power or average, they just hit. They approach every at-bat with the blind ambition of a little leaguer swinging for the fences in desperation, unlike winning clubs whose approach to the plate is calcuated and meticulous.

Granted the players have contributed their share of failures, leaving only a fool blaming John Gibbons exclusively. However, his shortcomings seem to account for a great deal of the issues with the Toronto Blue Jays and their lack of mental focus and clutch execution. Gibbons needs to stick his neck out and establish a role for every player according to a winning philosophy. Place the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of those most fit to carry the load, and ride that wave of newly-minted identity as far as the bastard will carry you.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Understanding Ozzie: Madness Meets Motivation

That another rant has gotten Oswaldo José Guillén Barrios in the Sports pages surprises no one. The shock comes with the subject matter of his rant: no, he didn't call Jay Mariotti a fag again, but he did indirectly call out just about everyone in the organization. Indeed, the principals of a more 'personal' approach that has begun to prevail in organizational circles, while Ozzie Guillen continues to demonstrate his preference for irate verbal slurs and condemnations.

Despite these and Ozzies' numerous other unorthodox
moral-building techniques, the results seem to support his idiosyncrasies. The Chicago White Sox are currently riding atop the AL Central (Twins 1-game back) and have won a World Series under Ozzies' guidance (2005, the same year he was awarded Manager of the Year). Irrespective of his track record and history of odd behavior, the media continually drops the ball when opining on the man who knows no filter.

Like players, managers can be cast in a variety of molds: some are cerebral and calculated, other intuitive and spontaneous. Whatever their demeanor, it can nearly be guaranteed that their behavior and temperament are reflected in the way they communicate with the media (and I don't need to tell you the category in which Ozzie falls).

So when a guy with a history like Guillen shoots off, we shouldn't treat it the same way we would if Mike Scioscia or Joe Torre called one of their players 'a fat boy from Venezuela'. Unlike Ozzie, the latter men are methodical and calculated when using the media to manipulate the psychology of their players, if and when they deem the tactic appropriate. The result is something subtly formulated which intentionally requires translation or (media) interpretation.

Ozzie knows not the means to be so coy. Instead, he uses his crude grasp of the English language to express his oft emotional concerns. The resulting commentary rarely needs interpretation – it is what it is, to paraphrase something Ozzie himself has surely uttered. So when he calls out his boss, he does so without previously assessing the unintended consequences. He says the bullpen and hitting are weak not because he wants some hack from Yahoo or ESPN to write about his sleuthy undermining of GM Kenny Williams, but because he thinks the bullpen and hitting are weak. This is the type of analysis that has alluded much of the media commentary directed towards Ozzies' comments. Sometimes the simplest explanation is most plausible (but evidently journalists prefer complexity to correctness).

We should appreciate the candor and enthusiasm that Ozzie Guillen brings to his job: if everyone else had the stones to be so frank the office-gossip would be endlessly rich. Unfortunately, those who speak their mind do so risking subsequent unemployment, a fate that at least now, it appears Ozzie won't have to deal with.