Wednesday, June 29, 2005

"Never Heard of Him"

NBA Draft Review

A few months back, I decided to test a theory. The theory was that you could determine how well an early entrant will do in the NBA Draft by taking a random group of people and asking them if they've heard of the player. (Theoretically, if this works, it could be turned into a consulting service for players considering entering the draft early.) Preferably, these people would come from all walks of life and all levels of college basketball familiarity. In reality, the people polled were all KankaManiacs. Here are the results of year one of this poll. After a few years of data collection, we can start to see if we can accurately predict how an early entrant will do in the draft.

One note: In this case, all people polled were Notre Dame alumni. As Notre Dame basketball is in the Big East, this will tend to skew the results for players from that conference.

For each of our pollster's names, a 1 indicates that that person has heard of the player. A 0 means they have never heard of the player.
For the Round, -1 indicates the player later withdrew from the draft. 0 means they remained draft eligible but went undrafted.
Player Year Position SchoolDaveEllenMikeKankaTotalRoundPickOver-all
Alex Acker Junior Guard Pepperdine0000023060
Hassan Adams Junior Guard Arizona10012-100
Andray Blatche Senior Center South Kent (Ct.) Prep School0000021949
Kelenna Azubuike Junior Guard-Forward Kentucky10113000
Andrew Bogut Sophomore Center Utah10113111
Brandon Bowman Junior Forward Georgetown10113-100
Dee Brown Junior Guard Illinois10113-100
Ike Diogu Junior Forward Arizona State10001199
Monta Ellis Senior Guard Lanier (Miss.) HS0000021040
Raymond Felton Junior Guard North Carolina10113155
Torin Francis Junior Guard Notre Dame11114-100
Francisco Garcia Junior Guard Louisville1111412323
Gerald Green Senior Guard Houston Gulf Shores Academy1000111818
Mike Hall Junior Forward George Washington00000-100
Chris Hernandez Junior Guard Stanford10102-100
Jarrett Jack Junior Guard Georgia Tech1001212222
Dwayne Jones Junior Center St. Joseph's01001000
Linus Kleiza Sophomore Forward Missouri0000012727
Carl Krauser Junior Guard Pittsburgh11114-100
Sean May Junior Center North Carolina1111411313
Rashad McCants Junior Guard-Forward North Carolina1111411414
Pops Mensah-Bonsu Junior Forward George Washington10001-100
J.R. Morris Junior Forward Seton Hall01113-100
T.J. Parker Junior Guard Northwestern00101-100
Chris Paul Sophomore Guard Wake Forest10113144
Kevin Pittsnogle Junior Center West Virginia11114-100
Anthony Roberson Junior Guard Florida10102000
Nate Robinson Junior Guard Washington1011312121
Chris Rogers Junior Guard Arizona00101-100
Chris Taft Sophomore Center Pittsburgh1011321242
Charlie Villanueva Sophomore Forward Connecticut11114177
Von Wafer Sophomore Guard Florida State000002939
Matt Walsh Junior Guard Florida10012000
Martell Webster Senior Forward Seattle Prep (Wash.) HS10001166
Deron Williams Junior Guard Illinois10113133
Eric Williams Junior Center Wake Forest10102-100
Marvin Williams Freshman Forward North Carolina10102122
Shawne Williams Senior Forward Laurinburg (NC) Institute00000-100
Louis Williams Senior Guard South Gwinnett (GA) HS0001121545
Kennedy Winston Junior Forward Alabama10001000
Antoine Wright Junior Guard-Forward Texas A&M0000011515
Bracey Wright Junior Guard Indiana1011321747

For those of you who like pretty pictures, here's a chart of the overall pick of a drafted underclassmen versus the number of people who have heard of that player. Seniors are not included in the chart as they were not part of this poll. There's no Bell Curve to this chart, at least after one year, so I will let you draw your own conclusions. You can see that only two first rounders were unheard of (junior Antoine Wright of Texas A&M and sophomore Linus Kleiza of Missouri), while a majority of the second rounders were unheard of.

Finally, here's a breakdown of the average number of "Heard of Hims" for certain categories of players:
CategoryTotal Heard of HimsPlayersAverage
Round 138162.38
Round 2771
Drafted (Combined)45231.96

What does this tell us? Well, we knew quite a few of the players who withdrew, but there were a large number of Big East players on that list. On average, the first rounders were familiar to more than half of the pollsters. Logically, if you're considering leaving early, you would want a majority of people to have heard of you. I'm going to call the rest of the data inconclusive for now, largely because the numbers for the undrafted players were so much higher than the numbers of the round 2 draftees.

Conclusions? Well, as the baseball statheads like to say, this was too small of a sample set. This is only year 1, so we'll need more data under our belts before we can start making predictions. It is fairly safe to say, though, that you should make sure a majority of people have even heard of you before you consider leaving early to go pro.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Browns Position Preview #1: Quarterback and Offensive Line

(Editor's note: This is my debut as a member of the All-Sports Ohio Network. Link here.)


8 Trent Dilfer

2004 (Seattle)52582543.133313
Career (11 years)110962620144055.217,03195105

When Trent Dilfer left Baltimore following the 2000 season, a year in which he helped them win the Super Bowl no less, everyone asked why the Ravens would give up on such a proven winner. Apparently, though, the decision to let Dilfer go wasn't made by current Browns GM Phil Savage (then with the Ravens). After four years as a backup in Seattle - a job that didn't give him much playing time due to the emergence of Matt Hasselbeck - Trent Dilfer is back in a starting role. The 1997 Pro Bowler is 53-43 in his 96 career starts.

12 Doug Johnson

2004 (Tennessee)2012650.06800
Career (5 years)251138421856.826001318

The brunt of Doug Johnson's NFL experience came in the 2003 season, where he made eight starts filling in for the injured Michael Vick. That year, he had 1655 yards passing, 8 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Project that over 16 games, and that's not bad work for a backup. Last year, Johnson was the third stringer in Tennessee. Will the relative inexperience of the Browns' quarterbacks (only Dilfer and Johnson have seen NFL playing time), I predict that Johson will start the season as the second stringer. In time, though, don't be surprised if he gets bumped down the depth chart in favor of a progessing Charlie Frye.

9 Charlie Frye

2004 (U Akron)111134622063.62623188
Career (U Akron)4644143691363.611,0496432

A hometown kid (Willard, OH), Charlie Frye is said to be the real deal. Considered by some to be the best all-around quarterback at the combine this past year, Frye had 429 career rushing yards to go along with his 11,049 passing yards. This was good enough to make him #11 in the NCAA in career total offense. The rushing total would have been higher, too, had he not been made into more of a pocket passer his senior year to impress the scouts. It make take some time (rumor has it that Johnson was signed because Frye and Josh Harris looked shaky in early camps), but Charlie Frye has a chance to become the next hometown favorite at quarterback for the Browns.

5 Josh Harris

2004 (Baltimore/Cleveland)00000000
Career (1 year)00000000

Listed as an "athlete" in press releases of the Johnson signing, Josh Harris is just that. Harris had 7503 passing yards and 2473 rushing yards in his career at Bowling Green. In addition to quarterback, he played running back, kick returner, and punt returner as a freshman for the Falcons. Don't be surprised to see him add "reciever" to that list in the NFL. Interesting note: Josh is the son of Michael "ML" Harris, who spent 6 years with the Bengals.

Lang Campbell

2004 (William and Mary)141445529865.53988305
Career (William and Mary)??125849539.364945412

This year's "who dat?" special at quarterback, Lang Campbell comes in as an undrafted free agent. In his senior season, Campbell led his team to 11 wins and was given the Payton Award, Division I-AA football's highest honor. (Note: Campbell's career attempts/completions come from, and I'm not so sure that they're correct.)

Offensive Line

66 LJ Shelton LT

2004 (Arizona)129
Career (6 years)8277

LJ Shelton was Arizona's first round pick in the 1999 draft, and he went on to be a 6-year starter for the Cardinals. After being waived by Arizona, Shelton was signed by the Browns to replace the departing Ross Verba. Shelton is yet another MAC alum on this team; he is a graduate of Eastern Michigan.

63 Joe Andruzzi LG

2004 (New England)1616
Career (8 years)9576

When the first move of the Savage/Crennel era was to go out and sign free agent Joe Andruzzi, it was a sign that this new regime wasn't going to take the offensive line lightly. Not only is he a proven winner (three Super Bowl rings in New England), but he is just the kind of veteran class act that a young team needs. The hard working Andruzzi is heavily involved in community efforts including firefighters, muscular distrophy, and brain cancer research.

50 Jeff Faine C

2004 (Cleveland)1313
Career (2 years)2222

Jeff Faine is yet another controversial Butch Davis first round pick. Davis' offensive line coach never really seemed to like Faine, and that seemed to affect Faine's performance on the field. He appeared to be too concerned with helping out the guards, and often would let a linebacker run right through the spot he had just vacated. Even his tenacity and impressive work ethic from college seemed to slip away. When this year's first set of workouts came around, the press complained that Faine looked too skinny, and blamed it on his health-conscious diet. Still, Crennel thinks Faine is the man, and although I may be a bit biased, I think the coach is making the right choice.

60 Cosey Coleman RG

2004 (Tampa Bay)1616
Career (5 years)7163

Cosey Coleman was sign number 2 that the new Browns staff wasn't going to take the offensive line lightly. Everyone said that Cleveland needed a major improvement at guard. Along with Andruzzi, this former four year starter for the Buccaneers provides that improvement.

72 Ryan Tucker RT

2004 (Cleveland)77
Career (8 years)9668

A proven commodity when he came over from St. Louis in 2002, Ryan Tucker has been one of the lone bright spots of the "new Browns" offensive line. If Tucker can fully recover from last year's knee injury, Trent Dilfer et al. can spend their Saturday nights sleeping soundly, knowing that this line will do a fine job for them come Sunday afternoon.

70 Enoch DeMar G

2004 (Cleveland)1511
Career (2 years)2013

Enoch DeMar will be starting his third season with the Browns, after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2003. One of the line's super-subs in 2004, DeMar played in 15 games, starting 11 at left guard.

67 Melvin Fowler G/C

2004 (Cleveland)153
Career (3 years)3014

Highly regarded by his former line coach ("Melvin Fowler is a better center than Jeff Faine"), Melvin Fowler was the center of the future when he was taken in the third round of the 2002 draft. That bright future dimmed a bit when Jeff Faine was selected in the first round the following year. Perhaps most famous for having his jersey worn by Flavor Flav on The Surreal Life, Fowler is a versatile guard/center who should see decent backup time in this coming season.

78 Phil Bogle G/T

2004 (San Diego)00
Career (2 years)1513

A free agent signing at guard, Phil Bogle began his career in 2003 with San Diego. Injuries to the line that year allowed him to play in 15 games at right guard and right tackle, starting 13. Unfortunately for him, though, those injured players returned the next season, and following the first two games of 2004 (in which he was listed as inactive), he was released by the Chargers.

75 Javiar Collins T

2004 (Carolina/Cleveland)00
Career (4 years)114

Right tackle Javiar Collins spent time with Carolina and Cleveland in 2004, but did not see playing time with either team. His only game action came as a member of the Cowboys; in 2002 he played in 9 games and started 4 as injuries haunted the Dallas line.

68 Marcus Spears G/T

2004 (Houston)163
Career (11 years)10421

I believe the term "wily" was invented for guys like Marcus Spears. He is to an offensive line what a veteran utility infielder is to a baseball team. In his 11 year career, Spears has played everywhere on the line except center. Most of his time has been spent as a backup; 16 of his 21 career starts came with Kansas City in 2001.

62 Craig Osika C

2004 (Cleveland)00
Career (3 years)10

You can tell that Craig Osika football plays for the love of the game. He's spent the past two years bouncing up and down from Cleveland's practice squad. His only game appearance came in 2003 on special teams. It doesn't sound like much, but it's something that a lot of people would love to do just once.

71 Jonathan Dunn T

Virginia Tech stats unavailable

The Browns' 7th round pick this year, Jonathan Dunn became a starter at right tackle for the Hokies mid-way through his sophomore year.

65 Kirk Chambers T

2004 (Cleveland)60
Career (1 year)60

Cleveland's 6th round pick in 2004, Kirk Chambers played 6 games in his rookie year, mostly on special teams.

79 Lewis Dawson

2004 (Cleveland)00
Career (1 year)00

An undrafted rookie from the Citadel, Lewis Dawson spent 2004 on the Browns' practice squad.

68 Sterling Harris T

2004 (Cleveland)00
Career (1 year)00

Cleveland signed right tackle Sterling Harris as an undrafted free agent out of SMU. An early foot injury turned out to be season-ending, as he was placed on the Injured Reserve on September 1 of last year.

73 Greg Randall T

2004 (none)00
Career (4 years)5139

If it's an odd-numbered year, Greg Randall can expect to see good playing time. Randall started 16 games for New England in 2001 and for Houston in 2003. While with the Patriots in 2000 and 2002, he played in a combined 19 games with 7 starts. He was out of football last year after being released by St. Louis, but his track record shows that he should serve as at least a decent backup on any NFL team.

74 Clint Stickdorn T

2004 (U Cincinnati)1212
U Cincinnati career stats unavailable

Rounding out Cleveland's offensive line hopefuls is Clint Stickdorn, an undrafted free agent who played right tackle for the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Weekend in Review

"I can't think of a good subtitle" Edition

Miscellaneous Ramblings

  • Hey, what do Ellen and David Wright now have in common? Matching bruises from the seats at Shea. Seriously, though, that was a great catch. It was the only way anyone could beat Casey Blake's tarp walk catch for top Web Gem that night.

  • I got last-minute tickets to the Indians game Monday night, thanks to my cousin. It was a hard-fought 10-9 loss to the Red Sox. Between this game and one I went to last year (Jake Westbrook beat Curt Schilling 2-1), I've had my fill of Red Sox fans for a while. No offense, Pete.

  • It really was quite a game. A six run fourth by Boston made the score 9-4, but the Tribe kept battling back. Back-to-back homers by Travis Hafner and Vic Martinez made the score 9-7 going into the ninth, and a Johnny Damon solo shot in the top of the night increased the lead to 10-7. That run proved to be the difference as the Indians were able to scrape together two runs - but no more - in the bottom of the ninth. A tough loss, but you have to love it when your starter gives up 9 runs (ok, you don't have to love that part) and a scrappy group of kids who are still "a year away" battle back to take the World Champions down to the final out. (OK, so next day's 9-2 loss wasn't great, but still.

  • The bleachers started a "Get a haircut!" chant to honor Damon while he was in center. At the end of the inning, Damon turned, graciously removed his hat, and bowed to the bleachers. I'm sure there might have been a few words in there, too.

  • Apparently, before the game, some Cleveland sportswriter or radio talk personality suggested the fans boo Manny Ramirez every time he came up to bat. So, each time it was Manny's turn in the lineup, he glared in the direction of the press box as he walked from the first base dugout to the right-handed batter's box. Unfortunately, as another Cleveland radio personality feared, the boos only served to fire up Manny. He's had two homers in the first two games of the series, and appeared to actually be trying on defense. On a personal note, I hope it was a writer who suggested the booing. If that was the case, then we should all congratulate Manny on learning how to read - as there were many rumors during his early days in Cleveland that he was illiterate.

  • Ramirez staring into the press box reminds me of another story I've heard a few times. Hal Lebovitz is a respected Cleveland sportswriter and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame (as a writer). He loves to tell this story: One time, when the Red Sox were in town, Hal blasted Ted Williams for brushing off his teammates as they came to congratulate him at home plate after a home run. The very next day, Williams homers again. After he crosses home, he shakes the hands of every teammate standing there, and the bat boy. But he didn't stop there. He also surprised the opposing catcher and home plate umpire by shaking their hands as well! After doing this, Williams looked up to Lebovitz in the press box and pointed at him. Hal could easily read his lips: "How was that, you S.O.B.?!"

Transaction Wire

  • Browns claim Nick Setta off waivers. Ooh, Ellen, I think this means you have to move here now! A serious look at Setta's chances isn't too promising. Browns place kicker Phil Dawson has been consistent year in and year out. (Unless you count the Jets game last year.) He has only missed three games due to injury in his career, all coming at the end of 2003. Can he make noise at punter, though? Last year, Butch Davis didn't want to spend money on a punter, so he went with the no-name Derrick Frost. That didn't turn out too well (go figure), so this offseason the new Browns regime signed veteran Kyle Richardson. As I see it, only an offseason injury to Richardson and a strong showing at punter by Setta will get him on the team. Yes, if they do agree to let him try punting, I can see him beating out Frost with a good preseason performance. Side note: I came across this news when I checked my site logs and found several people had hit KankaNation by Googling "Nick Setta Cleveland Browns." I Googled it myself, and that's how I found out about the signing.

  • Torin Francis withdraws from the NBA draft on the last day possible. I know you all have your own opinions on him, so I'll leave it at that.

  • Carl Krauser withdraws from the NBA draft. Apparently, "random 35 year old guy" is a huge need in that program. I wonder if I'll still have eligibility left in 12 years.

  • Larry Brown isn't the only reason why the Cavs can't wait for the NBA Finals to finish. Reportedly, there's also a very strong chance that they will offer the GM position to Spurs Director of Basketball Operations Danny Ferry. Ferry says he wants to wait until the Cavs and Brown have contract details worked out before making his own decision. Brown would become team president, but it remains to be seen how much control he would have (or want to have) over personnel decisions. Ferry, who played for 10 years with Cleveland, has also said that he is happy in San Antonio and wouldn't mind keeping his current job.

Here's Looking at You

On the left, that's Tribe rookie sensation Grady Sizemore. On the right, next to a certain F-Bomb, that's Sarah Paulson. I think it would be best if I let you make your own comments about this one.

Well, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I haven't had much time to write lately. I'm working on a piece on potential World Baseball Classic lineups, which I may or may not deliver in installments. Look for that tomorrow or next week.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Weekend in Review

Wait, did I actually do anything this weekend?

Miscellaneous Ramblings

    First of all, I'd like to welcome a familiar face to the ever-growing list of links in the right sidebar. Dominic Yonto (Ellen loves him) has started a blog chronicling his ACE experiences.

  • Chris Thomas reportedly has been doing well in pre-draft workouts. He's auditioned for 13 teams so far, including the Cavs - who haven't had a great point guard since the Mark Price/Terrell Brandon days. No word on Torin Francis, who has until June 21 to withdraw from the draft.

  • Notre Dame has fallen to 16th in the (Sears) Director's Cup standings. Wish I could find a source, but I'm lazy.

  • Three Irish are currently playing in the WNBA. Jacqueline Batteast has played two games for the Minnesota Lynx, totaling 2 rebounds in 11 minutes. She's missed both of the shots she's attempted. Detroit is the home of the other two WNBA-ers. Ruth Riley has started all 7 of her team's game, averaging 7.1 points, 4.86 rebounds, and 1.29 blocks per game. Niele Ivey has come off hte bench in all 7 games, averaging 1 point, 1 assist, and a rebound and a half in 11 minutes of work per night.

  • Finally, is running a contest where you can pick the greatest game ever played in Notre Dame Stadium. You're invited to pick 15 games from a list of 45. The ballot includes four recent classics: Gary Godsey Beats Purdue! I, the Glenn Earl Hand of God Game, and Ty's two wins over Michigan. Click here to enter.

Transaction Wire

  • Bears release Nick Setta. The move virtually coincided with the end of the NFL Europe season. Ellen, get on the phone right now. If you help the Giants land Setta, it would look great in your post-sports school career.

  • Speaking of Ellen's post-sports school career, Georgetown names Bernard Muir Athletic Director. There's now an opening for Deputy Director of Athletics at Notre Dame. Has Jessi turned in her resume yet?

  • Reds draft Notre Dame pitcher John Axford in the 42nd round. Speaking of 42, Axford is the 42nd player selected during manager Paul Manieri's 11-year reign at Notre Dame. Also speaking of 42, I'll bet Mike has made a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference by now. Axford had a 14-5 career record before a 2003 injurey required Tommy John surgery.

  • In more ND baseball news, second baseman-turned-third baseman Brett Lilley was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Magazine. Thirty-four walks and 30 times hit-by-pitch led to a .502 on-base percentage. Shoot, Paris Hilton doesn't even let her boyfriend get on base that much.

  • Megan Duffy has been named a finalist for the USA U-21 team that will play in the World University games. There are a total of 16 finalists, and that number will be cut to 12 after a training camp. The WUG will take place from August 10-19.

  • Brewers trade Junior Spivey to the Nationals for Tomo Ohka. A great trade for everyone. The Brewers free up space for the second of their Big Three infield prospects, Ricky Weeks. Weeks, selected behind only Delmon Young in the 2003 draft, will play second between JJ Hardy, who started the season in the majors but has struggled, and Price Fielder, who was called up Monday to play DH as the Brewers tour the AL. Spivey gives the Nationals a solid replacement for the injured Jose Vidro as they are in the midst of a division race that's closer than Ellen and me at a busy night at The Backer. And Ohka will get his wish to be a full-time starter, after making a few bullpen appearances while with Washington.

  • Devil Rays designate Alex Sanchez for assignment. A day after Manager Lou Piniella complained that Tampa Bay's ownership doesn't care about winning, the Rays... released a guy hitting .342. This comes months after he was released by Detroit after hitting .322 in 2004. How much of a clubhouse cancer was this guy? I mean, I've seen Manny Ramirez and Carlos Lee. Was Sanchez's defense really that bad? What's the story?

  • The other day, Steve Phillips was on Baseball Tonight hypothesizing about several moves that would make contending teams better. Whether a guy who currently has a GM job should listen to a guy who's on TV because he can't get a GM job is a story for another day. But, he did mention one deal that concerned the Indians. Apparently, he thinks they're out of it (well, 10.5 games back in mid-June), because he felt that Bob Wickman would be a great, affordable pickup for Atlanta's bullpen. So, I got to thinking, who would Cleveland get for Wickman? They would need a closer, but certainly they'd go to one of their current guys - all who have been doing wonderfully this year - before asking for Danny Kolb. What they need is infield help. Ron Belliard is doing well, but since mid-2004, everyone's been waiting for the day he leaves the Tribe to seek more money elsewhere. Aaron Boone is great defensively, and his hitting is finally coming around, but Cleveland doesn't have a long-term answer at third base anywhere in its organization. A few "experts" think current shortstop Jhonny Peralta will outgrow (a polite word for "outeat," perhaps) short and eventually be moved to third. At age 23 and with 6 homers so far this year, he's shown that he should have just enough pop to play third for this team. Then who do you put at short? Brandon Phillips was supposed to be the shortstop of the future, and he can already field like it. However, he's struggled at the plate in the majors, and his subsequent pouting about his performance has led to poor hitting at AAA as well. So, Well, the Braves have a great infield, don't they? Surely, Wickman for Chipper Jones, Rafael Furcal, or Marcus Giles doesn't quite stack up, though. But, Atlanta does have a trio of young infielders on the roster right now. Twenty-six year old Pete Orr has played second, third, and the outfield, and is hitting .286 in 70 at-bats this season. Twenty-one year old Andy Marte has been slick with the glove filling in for Jones at third, but he's only hit .143 so far. Wilson Betemit, who made his Major League debut in 2001 at age 21, has played the three "regular" infield positions this year, and is hitting .309 in 44 games. If the Indians have to make this deal, I'd go with Betemit.

Well, there you have it. I'm off to find the name of the book I'm reading, so I can finally update the link over to the right.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Transaction Wire

  • Phillies take Matt Edwards in the 16th round of the MLB Amateur Draft. Dr. Dye celebrates with a comment about Townie's mom. Wait, what? No! Not that Matt Edwards! This Matt Edwards played first base for Notre Dame, and was First Team All Big East for the second time this year (he also was 1st team in '03), leading the conference in RBI. More ND draft picks to come, I'm sure.

  • Cavs plan to interview Kiki Vandeweghe for the GM position. Vandeweghe, currently the Nuggets' GM, would apparently be willing to accept working under Larry Brown. That is, of course, dependant on what the media thinks Brown's decision is as of this moment.

  • Indians annouce Ryan Ludwick cleared waivers and was assigned to AAA. Great news, considering Juan Gonzalez' comeback lasted 4 pitches before he re-injured his hamstring.

  • Indians fire Eddie Murray as hitting coach and promote organizational hitting instructor Derek Shelton to interim hitting coach. Well, the Tribe wasn't hitting, and someone had to take the blame. Eric Wedge decided that it had to be Murray. One interesting note on Murray: I've always been taught to use a lighter bat and choke up. Last year, in the midst of a good hitting season, Murray taught his pupils to move towards heavier bats for more pop. No word if he went with the lighter approach this year in the midst of the Indians' offensive woes.

  • Indians name Robby Thompson interim bench coach. Robby, who had been in the Indians' front office, is the second most famous Robert Thompson in Giants' history.

  • Royals trade Eli Marrero for a no-name A-baller. Marrero, a versatile C/1B/OF, was essentially released by the Royals shortly after Buddy Bell took over. A career .250 hitter, Eli hit .320 last year for Atlanta, but was hitting only .159 so far this year for Kansas City.

  • Mets sign Danny Graves. Graves' numbers have been a major point of criticism, but he does often get the job done. His release was a part of an apparent salary dump/rehaul by the Reds, and an inappropriate gesture after a blown save was the excuse to hand him his walking papers. He will join a bullpen that features a closer that one "expert" said has AA-quality talent.

  • Tigers trade Ugueth Urbina and Ramon Martinez for Placido Polanco. With a guy like Kyle Farnsworth and a closer like Troy Percival, the Tigers could afford to give up Urbina (especially when Urbina was disgruntled about not being a closer). The Phillies, who are 1.5 games back in their division compared to Detroit's 11, add depth to their bullpen with Urbina, and now have a great contingency plan for oft-injured closer Billy Wagner. Polanco is a solid infielder, and will most likely play every day second base, when not spelling Carlos Guillen or Brandon Inge at their respective positions. Now that Polanco's out of Philadelphia, Chase Utley will finally get a well-deserved chance to play second base every day. Many people looked at the Phillies and said that the best move would have been to release David Bell, move Polanco to third, and let Utley play second. But, I'll take a bullpen upgrade like Urbina any day, especially in a tight race like the NL East (where the last place Marlins are a mere 2.5 games back of the first place Nationals). Plus, you could always use Martinez, who looks like a poor (but not too poor) man's Polanco, to platoon with Bell at third, when not filling in for Utley or Jimmy Rollins. Overall, I'd say this is a really good trade for the Phillies. If the Tigers start to contend next year - and they are showing signs that they can - I'll say it's a good trade for them as well.

Finally, a story Cristin passed on to me about this year's graduation. Three of the most well-known people receiving honorary degrees this year were papal candidate Cardinal Arinze, underrated baseball legend Hank Aaron, and Maria from Sesame Street. The person who got the longest standing ovation from the students? You guessed it - Maria.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Weekend in Review

Baseball, Baseball, Baseball Edition

Dream Sequence

I don't remember dreams often. This one was definitely worth sharing, though. Actually,this was more like three smaller dreams rolled into one, as I drifted in and out of sleep last night.
It started with me at some kind of summer camp with some people from my high school. It wasn't just my friends, though - it was also some random people I hadn't even talked to since I graduated 6 years ago. Apparently, every single Notre Dame sport was holding walkon tryouts at this camp at the same time. So, of course I decided I was going to try out for baseball. While I was at it, I figured I might as well follow some of my camp roommates and try out for football as well. Then, I remembered that I couldn't play because I don't go to school any more. So, that was the end of that.
The next thing I know, I'm playing left field for the Giants in Chavez Ravine against the Dodgers. For some reason, I was the only guy available to play outfield, and they even had to move Barry Bonds (who was apparently healthy again) from left to right field to put me in. The inning ended, and the team headed back to the first base dugout. I'm thinking, "Man, Barry probably doesn't want to sit next to some nobody rookie like me." Since I'm coming from left field, I'm the last person back to the dugout - and of course the only seat left on the bench is right next to Barry. I sat down, kept my mouth shut, and looked straight ahead. He seemed to be OK with that, and one of the vets was even nice enough to move in between us so Barry didn't have to sit with the riff-raff.
The next thing I know, I'm apparently on the largest cruise ship in the world. This ship is even big enough to have its own small indoor softball field. Of course, the bones - who are on this ship along with some of the same random high school people - decide to start a game. Apparently, since this is such a nice ship, everyone has to play in a suit and tie. I get changed, but I'm running late and everyone's done and at the field before me. I take the elevator up to the softball floor, but accidentally go one floor too high and end up on the Presidential floor. Now, the Presidential floor is even nicer than the rest of the ship. Once I get off the elevator, the crew immediately has to change me into a tuxedo. Now, the Presidential floor is so named because it houses two special suites. I see two doors with a sign on each. The first reads: "Presidential Suite (Bill Clinton used to stay here)." The second, "Vice Presidential Suite (Al Gore used to stay here)." I thought it was nice, and kind of amusing that they mentioned Bill Clinton and Al Gore, just in case you didn't remember what the words "Presidential" and "Vice Presidential" meant. I couldn't figure out why the signs hadn't been changed recently, though. At this point, my infamous cousin shows up. In his true style, he convinces one of the crew to open the door to the Presidential Suite so we could look inside. Just as we get a quick glance, the guy who's staying in the suite - some random heavyset balding guy in his 60s with graying hair - shows up, and our mini-tour is over. After a minute or two in the room, the guy comes back out to use the bathtub. The bathtub, shared by the two suites, is in an open room with no door between the suites. Deciding that I don't really want to see this guy's hairy back, I move on. Remembering the softball game, I stop some random old lady in a ball gown and we start playing catch in the hallway. It was then I noticed that the ceiling on the Presidential floor was really low for it to be a place to play softball. At that moment, someone rushes in to tell me that the softball game was going on one floor below. In a rush, I decide to hurry down the spiral staircase. This takes a couple minutes, of course, because the softball floor is very tall - it has to be big enough to play softball, remember. In my haste, though I forget my glove. I get there to see Dave pitching and Steve Cronk in center field. Brian Cronk had been called to fill in my place in left field. (Again with left field, I don't know why.) The softball floor is very nice - wooden floors, a not-quite-regulation sized infield, overall a great place to play. Seeing me rush in, Steve looks relieved. He tells me he doesn't want to play any more (I get the impression that he never wanted to in the first place) and hands me his glove. (Note to Cronk, if you're reading this: this was a dream, I had no control over whether or not you were wearing the Eli Manning face while playing softball.) Still in my tux, I jam on the glove, take Steve's spot, and... my alarm goes off. Dah.

Baseball Recap

It was a big baseball weekend for me: the Ohio Valley Redcoats were in Lorain trying out a potential new hometown, I was invited to a Lake County Captains (Indians mid-level A) game, and ND baseball was playing in the Regional Tournament.

Ohio Valley Redcoats 4, Richmond Roosters 3: Sadly, I was only able to make it to one game of this three game set, but it was a good one. Highlights of the game: Ohio Valley's second baseman made a great backhand catch and went into a slide right as he hit the bullpen mound behind first base, causing him to flip a little, but he held on. The Richmond center fielder, who I described to Ellen as Julius on 'roids or Darrell Campbell still weighing 300 pounds but only being 5'9" (basically, this guy was short but very built) absolutely blasted the catcher on a play at the plate. The same center fielder also let two runs score when a line drive went right over his glove - that was the "oh yeah, this is still basically low-level ball" moment for me. The Richmond shortstop made a play where he was running to his left when the ball made a high bad hop. As a reaction, he stuck out his bare hand while still moving to his left, snagged the ball, and made the play at first. Later that same inning, the second baseman for Richmond almost made a similar play. He too got a bad hop, but was only able to knock it down with his bare hand. He tried to dive and throw to first all in one motion - an impressive move - but couldn't get the batter in time. The bottom of the 9th featured some great drama. Tied 3-3, Ohio Valley lead off with a double. Everyone knew the bunt was on, and Richmond had the "wheel play" on. In the wheel play, the third baseman charges, the shortstop covers third, and the second baseman covers second. Theoretically, if the player who fields the bunt has time, he should throw to first. This is what happened, but the runner at third was called safe by the lone base umpire - who was in great position for the call. Well, the Richmond manager came flying out of the first base dugout, and I could here him say some words that definitely weren't intended for an audience full of little leaguers. The second baseman, who wasn't in on the play, came over to "help," but the manager shoved him aside with one hand without even looking away from the umpire. The next thing I hear is " wheel play! " Classic. I think "wheel play!" is my new favorite curse word. Well, apparently it was the second baseman - who, remember, was 90 feet away from the play - who uttered the "wheel play" tirade, because he got the hook. That didn't make him any happier, and the center fielder (remember, a very built guy) had to come rushing in and spend the next 5 minutes wrestling the second baseman away from the action while the manager continued to argue. Well, when the dust settled, it was first and third. Two outs and a walk later, the bases were loaded. The Richmond pitcher started with 2 strikes to the Ohio Valley batter, and everyone was bracing for extra innings. Then came three straight balls. Oh, the drama! Two outs, bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, full count. What comes next? Ball four, game over! How's that for excitement on a Thursday evening?

Lake County Captains 6, Delmarva Shorebirds 2: On Saturday, I was invited by Cristin to take in a game in Lake County. Our seats were very nice - right behind 3rd base, about 15 rows up. Of course, at a stadium that small and that well built, there really aren't many bad seats. Our section was made up almost entirely of people from Cristin's church - we were bussed to the stadium after mass. Apparently, due to my baseball experience, my bare hands were the only thing keeping the entire section from massive injury from a foul ball. Fortunetly, nothing came our way, though. Now, Classic Stadium knows how to entertain its audience. One lucky Delmarva batter was named "White Castle Strike Out Batter of the Game." If he struck out at any point during the game, everyone got a free White Castle hamburger. I was excited for free food, but not so excited when I found out it was White Castle. Oh well, he didn't strike out, so it was a moot point. Miller Lite sponsored a contest. All this guy had to do was hit a tennis ball off a tee over the fence from 100 feet away. He did on the second try, and for it he took home a 6-pack of Miller Lite. Nice. The following inning was the Arby's Home Run Inning. If the Captains hit a home run, everyone gets free fries from Arby's. A Captain did, and everyone was ecstatic. I was slightly less ecstatic, though. You see, Lake County is east of Cleveland, an hour plus away from Lorain. So I'm thinking, "great, I won these free fries, but I'm not going to drive to an Arby's an hour away from home just to cash in my coupon." Fortunately, the coupon says "any Cleveland area Arby's," so I could be OK. Lord knows I love my curly fries. Now, I mentioned the Miller Lite contest. But not all the entertainment was geared for adults. Oh know, Classic Stadium knows its entire audience. During a Delmarva pitching change, the new pitcher got to warm up to a sing-a-long of the Spongebob Squarepants theme song playing on the video board. Of course, the kids weren't loud enough the first time around, so they were asked to sing it again. Good times. Oh yeah, there also was a baseball game going on, but apparently I was the only one paying attention to that.

Notre Dame plays in the Gainsville Regional: This was a double-elimination tournament with Florida, North Carolina, and Stetson. As the #3 seed in the regional, Notre Dame lost the first game to #2 North Carolina 5-1. They bounced back the next day in the losers' game, beating Stetson 7-4. North Carolina lost to Florida in the winners' game, which meant the Irish would again have to face the Tar Heels. Notre Dame pitcher Dan Kapala pitched a gem for 8 innings, and this time the Irish won 3-0. Now, they would have to knock off Florida twice to get to the Super-Regionals. Of course, to do this, the first game against Florida would have to take place mere minutes after the Irish win over UNC. Notre Dame plain ran out of gas, and Florida rolled to a 23-3 victory, end of story. It was an up and down year for the Irish, and their two final games truly showed that. Better luck next year, guys.

It looks like I'm going to be playing softball again this summer, and that'll severely reduce my writing time. So, until further notice, I'll accept any and all guest columns from you loyal KankaManiacs. I'll try to sneak in a Transaction Wire later this week, but I did want to pass on an interesting piece of news that most ND sources apparently haven't picked up yet: There is a good chance that the Gator Bowl will drop its alliance with the Big East, replacing them with the Big 10 or Big 12. However, it is expected that the Big East (and Notre Dame) will be able to replace the Gator Bowl with another of a similar payout.

Until next time, Go Irish.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

KankaNation Movie Review

The Longest Yard, or as I like to call it, The Gary Godsey Movie

by Ellen Fitzgerald with some assistance from Dave Schmitt

Ok, so last Friday night Dave and I got all spiffed up for opening night of The Longest Yard to pay homage to member of the KankaNation Hall of Fame, Gary Godsey. Ok the second part of that is true, but not the first. We actually went to the cheap ($6), small, old theater by my house that also plays Indian films where, in the spirit of the degenerated venue we were going to, brought our own popcorn and soda. It was still a good time! So anyway, I actually have never seen the original film so I can’t make a comparison. (It was actually on the SPIKE channel the night before but I didn’t want to watch it because I didn’t want to know the story line.) I know that the Sports Guy trashed it, but Burt Reynolds said earlier that day on Live! With Regis and Kelly (unfortunately Regis did not ask Burt about working with ND alumn Gary Godsey which I thought he might) said that he thought it was funnier than the first. Regardless, I thought it was GREAT. It was funny, plus it had some great sports action scenes; plus, how can a movie about football, especially one that has Gary Godsey in it, be bad? The only part that I had a tough time with was believing that Adam Sandler was a pro quarterback. The huge numbers of sports related cameos was unbelievable. Totally out of control. I think there were more wrestlers (Stone Cold, Goldberg, and I believe WCW’s The Giant), former football players (Michael Irvin, BC scumbag alum Bill Romanowski), and ESPN and other media personalities in it than regular actors. Actually the only “real” actors that come to mine were Sandler, Reynolds, Chris Rock, Nelly (if you consider him an actor, although he was a very convincing running back. . .he made me want to call Charlie Weis and have him recruit him), and Courtney Cox. It was a virtual “Where’s Waldo” of sports stars. Actually Dave and I pretty much played “Where’s Gary” though out the football scenes. Every time we would see his number or him running by we would get all fired up. While I liked the entire movie, I think that my two favorite parts were:

Favorite Part #1
As Sandler is being led to the warden’s office in the prison, the guard with him tells him that he played college ball at Miami. In response to that Sandler says something to the effect of “I bet a lot of your teammates are locked up here then, huh.?”

Favorite Part #2
Sandler and Rock are lamenting the fact that they can’t get any of the convicts to join their team and decide to come up with a plan. Rock goes to Sandler, “Hey how did they get you to go to FSU?” Sandler responds, “Well, they recruited me.” After a silent moment, Rock says, “I’ll go get the strippers!”

I love how they really grasped football reality!

There was only one super cheesy, necessary in a sports movie line. Very typical. Sandler has an epiphany that he should throw the game and gets his ass off the bench and tells his team the stock “you were there for me, I’ll be there for you” line.

But besides that it was definitely worth the discounted price at the sketchy theater and even a full price at a real theater. I mean, would you want me to tell Gary next time we are in the Backer that you didn’t see it (after I show him my butt, of course)?