Thursday, May 29, 2014

How Wrong Was I About Tanaka?

It's time for a mea culpa. Before the baseball season started, I made a big mistake about Masahiro Tanaka. When Sports Illustrated featured the Japanese rookie on its MLB Preview cover, I wrote:

"The Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx is a real thing ... Tanaka's doomed, and the season's over before it has started. Hey, at least Tanaka's got a hot wife."

Well, it's been almost exactly two months and Tanakasaurus Rex is one of the main reasons the Yankees haven't been doomed. While dominating the White Sox last weekend, the righty dropped his ERA to 2.29. He's been one of the best starters in baseball, posting the sixth-best fWAR among pitchers and striking out more than 10 batters every nine innings. His splitter has been one of the toughest pitches in the game, making hitters look absolutely foolish. Oh, and his wife is still hot.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How Embarrassing Was 50 Cent's First Pitch?

Last summer, I outlined some of the horrible ceremonial first pitches we've seen through the years. Well, before last night's Mets game, 50 Cent might've topped them all.


A few thoughts about the disgraceful throw:
1. Fitty grew up in Queens during the heyday of the wild Mets team that won the World Series in 1986. Apparently, the rapper emulates the team's cocaine use more than their stellar play on the diamond.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

How Great Is Memorial Day, Still?

Here's a link to Kavanaugh's post from last year about Memorial Day. Have a great holiday weekend!

From 2013:
MDW Kicks Off the Summer

Friday, May 23, 2014

How Depressing Is the Shameover?

One of my good friends -- who will remain nameless in this post -- often complains about feeling anxiety on Sunday morning as a result of some of the mistakes that may or may not have been made over the weekend.

Last week, I posted this on that friend's Facebook wall:



Initially, I was dumb enough to think I invented the term "shameover." Of course, a quick Google search spit out 221,000 results, including that Urban Dictionary definition. Damn! Nobody can make up anything anymore.

Still, I have a few original thoughts to add to our society's valuable conversation about the shameover. Bill Simmons' famous Levels of Losing theory contains 16 tiers of pain experienced by sports fans. I've come up with a more streamlined list for shameovers, with just five levels. Here they are:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How Frustrating Is "Saving" the Closer?

I HATE the "save the closer in a tie game on the road" strategy. Here's the thinking behind it: Your closer usually pitches just one inning, so there's no need to bring him into an away game unless your team has the lead. In other words, your offense needs to score in the top half of an inning to warrant using the closer to finish off the home team.

Jonah Keri and some other prominent writers have moaned and groaned about baseball managers' groupthink in late-game situations. Here's the conclusion Keri reached:

"[A]s much as some managers might talk a good game when it comes to bullpen usage, the vast majority of them can't resist following nearly identical usage patterns. Ned Yost might not be making the right choices, but he's hardly the only one."

Well, in Wednesday afternoon's Yankees-Cubs game, Joe Girardi continued the trend of "saving" his closer so that his closer might net a save. After tying the game in the ninth inning, the Yankees used every one of their relief pitchers before scoring the go-ahead runs in the thirteenth. Every one of their relief pitchers, that is, besides David Robertson. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How Crowded Is This Rangers Bandwagon?

All aboard!

video

How Nice Is it To Be Appreciated?

I first wanted to ask "How Does it Feel to Cheat on How Blank?". The answer: not great. I've been putting together weekly recaps of the Knicks' offseason for the fan blog The Knicks Wall. It's fun, but tends to lead me away from my home here at H.B. Check 'em out every Thursday afternoon/Friday morning from now until the regular season begins.

Speaking of basketball minutiae, tonight I happened upon a story in the Jalen Rose Podcast on Grantland that was too good not to share...

Jalen changed his pick for this year's NBA Champion from Miami to Oklahoma City. When asked why, he said it all had to do with Kevin Durant's MVP acceptance speech, in which he thanked each of his teammates individually for helping him achieve that individual honor.

Friday, May 16, 2014

How 'Bout That NBA "Parity"?

When the NBA playoffs started, there was a sense that the road to the championship was wide open, with five or six teams feeling like they had a real shot to least make the Finals. A frantic first weekend of Round 1 -- which was filled with road wins and fantastic finishes -- only reinforced the idea that the NBA was moving toward a system of greater parity.

Now? It's the eve of the conference finals and those possible Round 1 "upsets" seem like a distant memory. In both conferences, the top two seeds will clash for a chance to make the Finals. And in both conferences, we'll be watching matchups that many people correctly predicted way back in October. Did we really need each team to play 90 games in order to figure out that the Heat and Pacers were the class of the East?

At the same time, isn't it great that the NBA cream almost always rises to the top? As exciting as it was to watch five series go the distance in the opening round, the best teams made it to the Final Four. Unlike the other three major American sports, pro basketball has a postseason that always rewards its most-talented, well-run franchises. Home-court advantage and the seven-game series usually ensure that the best squads move forward.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How Funny Are Disney Bit Characters?

In animated movies and shows, much of the comedy is provided by the bit characters. Those of you who have seen Frozen know what I mean. (Olaf, represent!)

One of the first-ever posts on this blog outlined some of the best bit characters on The Simpsons. Today, let's count down the best minor characters in Disney movies.

Top 10 Disney Bit Characters

10. Iago (Aladdin)
Iago was voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, who possesses one of the most obnoxious voices I've ever heard. When I was in college, we had a Greek Myth professor who sounded just like Gottfried, and we blurted out countless Iago lines throughout the semester.

9. The Hyenas (The Lion King)
My cousins actually named their cat "Ed" after the dumbest hyena. God, I hated Ed the Cat. The last time I checked, Ed was actually still alive. Is that possible? How long do cats live?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How Fluky Are MLB's Division Leaders?

The surprising Brewers took two of three from the Yankees over the weekend, winning 5-4 on Saturday and 6-5 on Sunday. Those two games ran Milwaukee's record to 8-4 in one-run games.

As of Wednesday morning, the Brewers and every other first-place team sported winning records in one-run games. That group includes the Orioles, who are 9-3 in such contests and sit atop the AL East. In 2012, Baltimore was a surprise playoff contender, largely on the strength of a record-setting 29-9 record in games decided by a single run. Last year, they went 20-31 in one-run games and found themselves outside of the playoff race by the end of August.

Clearly, a fringe contender's record in close games is often the difference between a successful season and an October vacation in the tropics. Moreover, success in one-run games is subject to factors over which teams have limited control. As Rob Neyer wrote last week, "Despite what you might hear on the radio, a team's record in close games is determined largely by luck, along with a small dollop of relief pitching."

So getting back to those division leaders, let's try to figure out which ones are for real, and which ones have benefited most from good fortune in one-run games.

Monday, May 12, 2014

How Much Does Grandma Love Gambling?

This weekend, my cousin had her First Communion party, giving me the opportunity to see a bunch of relatives and drink a case of beer in honor of an eight-year-old. My grandmother attended the party and one of my aunts informed her that I've been making fun of her on my blog. The particular insult in question appeared in How Blank's Gambling Draft post, in which I wrote this:

My grandmother is absolutely ADDICTED to scratch-offs. Sure, she also loves slot machines like all old cooters do, but scratching like a fiend is the highlight of her day. Fortunately for her, she experiences the highlight of the day about five times per day because that's how often she goes out to buy a new round of scratch-offs. 

By the time my aunt pulled this post up on her phone to show Grandma, the old lady had already scratched at least 20 tickets that day. And we're not just talking about $1 and $2 tickets. Those are too small-time for her. Grandma had bought several $20 tickets in the morning, and most of us gave her a few such tickets for Mother's Day. My uncle, meanwhile, didn't buy her scratch-offs, but his gift was her favorite. He framed this photo, from her $2,500 trip to the casino on Easter:


Thursday, May 8, 2014

How Did Rust Cohle Make Those Beer Can Men?

Kavanaugh and I are in the middle of a draft of our favorite fictional drinkers. One of us drafted Rust Cohle from True Detective and I started thinking back to Rust's beer can men. All of a sudden, I had a great idea: I'm going to build a beer can man of my own.

However, this being the Age of the Internet, someone already pursued that exact same idea. Aaron Goldfarb at Esquire wrote about this topic back in March. You know, back when people were still interested in reading about True Detective. Still, I really wanted a beer can man.

Here's what I was shooting for:

Photo via esquire.com
For the last 15 minutes, here's what I've been up to:

How Dedicated Is My Mother as a Sports Fan?

In anticipation of Mother's Day this Sunday, I thought I'd share a few anecdotes about my mom's history as a sports "fan." Some of these stories might have gotten exaggerated a bit through the years, but they're mostly true.

Now, don't get me wrong here; my mom doesn't have an aversion to sports. She played Division I tennis in college, and she's always enjoyed running, swimming, and competition in general. But her past as a sports fan is checkered at best. To wit:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How Many TV Man-Crushes Have I Had Since Jack Bauer Last Left Me?

Five. Before Monday night, 24 had last aired on May 24, 2010. Here is my quintet of recent TV man-crushes, in no particular order:

1. Jesse Pinkman (Breaking Bad)
Jesse had me crushin' the first time I heard him exclaim "Bitch!"
2. Tywin Lannister (Game of Thrones)
He's adorable, cunning, adorable, funny, and adorable.
3. Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation)
A man's man. Ron loves steak, hates the government, and sports a truly impressive 'stache. Also, I think he'd give Jack Bauer more of a fight than any of these other guys. (Meaning it might take Jack at least five seconds to snap Ron's neck.)
4. Phil Dunphy (Modern Family)
He's a good father and successful real estate agent, but he never takes himself too seriously. Oh, and he always stays fit.
5. Nick Miller (New Girl)
I'd get along well with Nick -- we're both dirtbags who don't mind a few cocktails.

I was already over some of those guys before Monday night, but a few of my TV man-crushes got dumped hard with the return of 24. As you might have learned on Twitter, Jack is back...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

How Are NBA Players Similar to 24 Characters?

I don't do this too often, but I'm re-posting something I wrote a couple months ago. In honor of the convergence of these magnificent NBA playoffs and tomorrow's return of FOX's 24, here are the NBA players that most resemble characters from the show.

The most addictive show I've ever watched -- 24 -- is returning to FOX for a 12-episode series entitled "Live Another Day," beginning on May 5. In honor of the show's triumphant return, here are the NBA stars most similar to 24 characters. (Warning: Spoilers abound.)

Kevin Durant -- Jack Bauer

(Photos via huffingtonpost.com and realqm.com)

Durant's been the calmest, deadliest player in the game this year, especially after losing running-mate Russell Westbrook for a few months. Similarly, Jack becomes even more cold-blooded after the death of his wife in Season 1. He tortures Russian assassins and American traitors like Durant has been torturing NBA defenses all season.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

How Much of a Bandwagon Fan Am I?

I was walking to the bar to meet my friends for Game 7 of the Rangers-Flyers series last night, and a horrific thought crossed my mind: Have I become a bandwagon Rangers fan? I haven't followed the team that closely, but I'm sure as hell catching Playoff Fever. I've always despised the fair-weather/bandwagon types but I think I might be one of them now.

I don't usually do this, but I'm going to try to objectively answer the title of this post. How much of a bandwagon fan am I? Let's break it down.