Though he was pulled from the lineup this week, J-Dubs has indeed survived the trade deadline and will remain with Medium Happy. The rumors of a three-team deal involving Deadspin and Grantland proved to be erroneous. Though both outfits were intrigued by Dubs salary structure, one couldn’t find enough f-bombs in his past and the other was confused by his inability to draw an immediate correlation between Arcade Fire and the Dodgers starting nine. (Puig=Win Butler? Silence. When pressed, the outfit said all they were looking for was how they could both obviously link back to the Karate Kid.)
Alas, John will return next week. You’re stuck with me for the next three minutes and 56 seconds.
1. Israel, A’s Bolster Their Lineups For the Stretch Run
Both clubs have always been plucky and played above their punching weight, but neither has ever really been able to get anything done since the 1970’s. In moves designed to push them over the top, both teams added big pieces on Thursday morning. Israel called up 16,000 reservists and asked the U.S. for more ammunition, while the A’s went all in by trading slugger Yeonis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for lefty ace Jon Lester. (If you’d like to leave now and go read Mr. Simmons’ 12,000 word piece on the Lester era, go ahead, we’ll wait. Was Lester Rondo or Jo Jo White? Welker or Gronk? Roadhouse or Shawshank?)
It seems that Billy Beane has decided to finally turn into Brad Pitt, because let’s face it, to this point he’s only been Ashton Kutcher. Good looking, had some success with not very much talent, but hasn’t been able to win the big one.
The A’s are now armed to the teeth and have to be considered the World Series favorites in a year where the LCSs might change their name to, “The California State Championships.” Tired of being “the cute little team that always makes the playoffs, but gets crushed by a team with stars on it,” GM Beane now has a starting rotation that boasts Lester and Scott Kazmir on the left side (2.52 and 2.37 ERAs) and Sonny Gray and Jeff Samardzija on the right side (1.18, 1.11 WHIPs). This probably turns starters Jesse Chavez (15th in the A.L. in strikeouts) and Jason Hammel into shut-down middle relievers in the post-season. By the way, Lester has the lowest career ERA in World Series history (0.43).
Now if the Angels are truly the 2014 version of the Yankees, they’d snap their fingers and land David Price. Lester for Cespedes is a fun trade in that it involves two stars, which is rare these days.
2. Sharknado 2: The Second One (It Was No Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo)
You: “Whoa, “Sharknado” is at #2? C’mon man!!!!” Me: “Sorry, but it’s the end of July. I can’t break down ‘True Detective’ or anything. ‘The Bridge’ is off to a weird, boring start, so this is what you get. Remember, this is only 3:56 of your time.”
“You know what you just did, don’t you? Jumped the shark.” Robert Hays flying a plane. Judd Hirsch driving a cab. Isn’t this kind of like being a guy who goes to a wedding dressed in a Dumb ‘n Dumber tux? It’s funny for like half a second (not laugh funny, just slight smile funny) and then he’s just a tool in an orange tux for the next four hours. I’d at least like to see Mark McGrath’s next meeting with his agent. Mark: “Soooo, do you think maybe….um…?” Agent: “Ah, no. Those parts are all still going to Ethan Hawke. This is pretty much your ceiling buddy.”
3. The Minnesota Twins Finally Sign That Paul Bunyan Statue
The Minnesota Twins signed a 6’6″, 240-pound pitcher who’s been clocked at 100 mph, and who’s never been drafted. He got a $250,000 deal. And in the strangest twist of all, he’s not from Cuba and he’s never played cricket. Brandon Poulson is a 24-year old who’s been pitching for the Healdsburg Prune Packers in a collegiate summer league. The Twins apparently first heard about Poulson while he was pitching for Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where he had a 8.38 ERA. Until last fall Poulson has been operating heavy machinery, driving 18-wheelers, front-loaders and backhoes. The Twins are saying that Poulson is among the best athletes they’ve ever gone after. Poulson is a health nut who has a 40-inch vertical and runs a 6.6 60-yard dash.
This sounds more made up than Sharknado. Apparently his parents are Superman and Wonder Woman. But wait, a 8.38 ERA at Academy of Art University? Isn’t that like Bo Jackson playing backup tight end at a Division III school? The movie equivalent of this isn’t even a sports movie, it’s “Flashdance.” (Well, maybe not, but close enough to post a Jennifer Beals pic.)
You know who’s never going to believe this story if Poulson makes it to the big leagues one day? The guys in the bar, who are listening to some 5’5″ guy who played baseball at “The School of Tap” in Modesto, say, “I used to rake that dude.”
4. Pat Riley Says the Heat Will Be Fine Without LeBron
Otherwise known as “the one where I pander to Susie B.”
Well, actually I’m not going to pander to Susie B, but I look forward to her rebuttal. Pat Riley is wrong. I mean, this is like Journey thinking they’d be fine without Steve Perry. (Your Day of Yore: Journey’s “Escape” dropped today in 1981. It opened with “Don’t Stop Believin'” and closed with “Open Arms.” When you’re ranking the best openers and closers to albums, that’s not a bad entry.)
Okay, that’s an exaggeration, the Heat aren’t going to fall off the face of the earth and then hire a You-Tube sensation from the Philippines to lead them. Although there is a resemblance between Arnel Pineda and Erik Spoelstra, no?
There seemed to be a little sour grapes to Riley’s presser Wednesday, when he talked bout LeBron leaving for the first time. “I went into it with the notion that he was coming back, so I was selling that to players. I let him know that. He never said, ‘Don’t do that.'”
C’mon Pat. It’s your job to know which way the wind is blowing, and we all knew LeBron was going to follow the yellow brick road. The Heat in 2014? I guess we’ll find out how much better LeBron is than Luol Deng.
5. Tiger Is Back on the Course
Tiger is about to tee off in Akron, Ohio at the Bridgestone Invitational. That means that Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Johnny Football are all within about 30 miles from each other. Could that mix finally get Skip Bayless’ head to explode? Anyway, it’s a World Golf Event, of which there have been four a year since 1999. They are not to be confused with the majors, but they pay nearly as much and Tiger dominates them. He has 18 wins in the “World” events, and his closest pursuer is Geoff Ogilvy with three.
If you’re not a golf fan, it can certainly get confusing, especially since next week is the PGA, the last major of the year. This week is big, but next week is much bigger. I only bring this up for two reasons: 1. J-Dubs is not a golf fan and I wanted to take the chance to get golf on here and 2. This week gave us a sterling example of why Tiger will never be as beloved as he could have been. (I mean other than the whole, “cheat on your wife with 1,000 grubby whores thing.)
Rory McIlroy won the British Open two weeks ago and is the best young player in the game. It was his third major at just 25-years old. When he’s on, he’s stunningly good, Tiger good. He’s just not always on like Tiger was in his hey day. I was as big a Tiger Woods fan as their was back then, everyone who liked golf, loved Tiger. He was just so damn good. But as his career has wore on, he’s become less beloved. And the problem (again, breaking commandments aside) with Tiger is, he doesn’t, at least publicly, have an ounce of charm. Zero. Yes, there’s a charm to being SO much better than everybody else, but that starts to wear off for some people. You could argue that no athlete would ever have had to do less to get everyone to love him than Tiger. Because, arguably, nobody was ever as good at what they did as Tiger was at what he did. Even after the Soddom and Gomorrah stage, I rooted for Tiger whenever he was in the hunt. It’s just fun to watch somebody be that good.
Now everyone loves Rory. He’s amazing at golf and he’s charming. He doesn’t treat reporters or fans like a nuisance like Tiger does. We know more about what Rory’s thinking than we ever did about Tiger. Rory has stumbled at times, been petulant, had a public breakup. But he’s accountable. Watch this brief clip from his Wednesday presser and try not to like him. If it’s Tiger and Rory down the stretch this week, it will be a win for everyone. And I’ll be rooting for Rory. Tiger will win again, and he might even have his “let’s all root for the old guy who used to be the best” day in the sun. Hopefully by then, he’ll have learned to throw his arms around the world a little bit, like Phil learned to do. Like Rory’s done from the get go.
— Bill Hubbell