Plenty of fans spent most of last year and all of April criticizing the play of Aubrey Huff. Another weak grounder to second? Great… Yeah, I ripped him too. But knowing now that he’s dealing with some anxiety issuesbrings into focus an obvious truth: The human spirit can be fragile. No matter how much money you make, it’s not easy to deal with expectation, pressure to perform, a broken marriage and who knows what else. The Giants have a great clubhouse, and Aubrey Huff has been an integral part of it since he came west. And he will be again. Could he use a hot streak? Sure. But he could use some patience and support even more. Most decent people are pretty understanding.
I love the NFL Draft, all 63 days of it. Well, it only feels that long. In America there are two seasons: There’s Football Season….. and there’s getting ready for Football Season. More vetting is done on these college prospects than on Vice Presidential candidates. And yet nothing is guaranteed. There are top draft picks that don’t pan out (Ryan Leaf, Rashaun Woods). And there are those taken in the later rounds who turn out okay (Joe Montana, Jerry Rice). No, it's not an exact science.. but there’s about 48 hours of programming to fill. As for the 49ers, Trent Baalke is funny. When he suggested there’s a guy they’re targeting at number 30, people went bat$##t crazy. The fact is, there will be a good number of excellent prospects available at that spot when the time comes. Whomever they take… guard, wide receiver, corner, tight end…. will be the guy Trent had on the radar, don’t you think? Hilarious.
From what I can gather, Mike Adams of Ohio State is a highly regarded prospect going into this weekend’s big NFL Draft …. but I have to wonder if he’s the sharpest knife in the drawer. The massive offensive lineman tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine, even though everyone in the universe knows they’re gonna be tested. Marijuana use is not the end of the world. I think the bigger question an NFL team would ask is…”How dumb are you?” Sure, premium linemen are hard to find and someone will surely draft him. But there’s a chance he’ll drop a few spots, which could end up costing him a lot of money. Then again, if he can pancake a linebacker on the goal line, he’ll just be “misunderstood.”
The Kings ownership still insists they want to keep the team in Sacramento.So why does it feel like we’ve been punched in the gut? I know these deals are complicated, but I’d envisioned a sparkling new downtown arena, surrounded by top-end eateries… bringing energy, fans and new life to an area that had been neglected for so long. I am such a sucker. Watching the principals blame each other is frustrating at best… at worst, it’ll make you scream. Even David Stern sounded exasperated… I think he’s had it. I don’t even know who to blame. Take your pick. The Maloofs are bozos. The Mayor backstabbed them. The City big wigs are a clown car. I don’t know. What I do know is this: Another six months of finger-pointing, and we’ll no longer have a team to talk about.
A professional athlete counts on consistency every time he or she competes. And Detroit Tigers ace pitcher Justin Verlander is very serious about how he prepares his mind and body for each game. It turns out he has the exact same pre-game mealthe night before each of his starts. Protein shake? Wheat germ? Uh, no…. he goes to Taco Bell. “Three crunchy taco supremes, no tomato, a cheesy gordita crunch and a Mexican pizza, no tomato. Every time.” As you know, Justin is not some rag arm taking up space in the bullpen. He’s a Cy Young Award winner and former MVP. Taco Bell? I think he’s onto something. I can see a couple hundred thousand Little Leaguers asking mom to head to the Drive Thru right now.
The Dodger Giant rivalry has been intense for the good part of a century. Yes, Frank McCourt nearly ran Big Blue into the ground… but after selling his teamfor more than 2 Billion dollars, the landscape has changed. As Joe Torre would say.. “That’s a lotta glue.” I know Frank’s ex-wife will take a handsome cut, and there are a zillion creditors who have to get paid. But come on, you’d think he’d have something left for himself. So the bitter rivalry is going to be hotter than ever. The Dodgers now have the resources to do whatever the hell they want… to add to a team that already has Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. Will they make a run at Tim Lincecum? I don’t even want to think about it. Yeah, the Los Angeles Dodgers were nearly the laughingstock of Major League Baseball. No one’s laughing now. And what else would 2 Billion dollars buy? Well, you could actually buy the Sacramento Kings, build them an arena, buy season tickets for every seat holder, give each person a new car… and provide all the Luigi’s Pizza you can handle. And even though the beer would still be $16.00, you'd have at least a half-billion dollars left. But the City of Sacramento would probably drown in paperwork over that money, and after a year of finger-pointing… nothing would happen.
If I didn’t see it, I wouldn’t have believed it. For three straight games, front line members of the vaunted San Francisco Giants pitching staff cough up a hair ball, and who saves the day? No. Don’t tell me. It was Barry Zito, the most vilified man in the history of baseball. Well, maybe not in history but you get the picture. Not just a win to follow three humiliating losses, but a complete game shutout, which is about as rare as a company that’s hiring. I think the Colorado Rockies were expecting to face a batting practice pitcher, and got more than a little flustered when their balls didn’t fly out of the park. Does this mean new life for the beleaguered Giants lefty? Maybe, maybe not. But I don’t care. Because for one brief shining moment, Barry Zito was on top of the world.. again.
The audio is everywhere. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was caught on tape just before the 49ers-Saints playoff game, encouraging his defense to knock the hell out of the Niners. Speeches like this have been going on in locker rooms for decades. Football is brutal… we get it. But it’s particularly chilling to hear him single out players by name for intimidation and maiming. And insisting on head-hunting shots against Alex Smith, Frank Gore and Kyle Williams… in effect, to take them out of the game, is especially disturbing. How about Vernon Davis’s ankles or Michael Crabtree’s ACL? You have crossed the line. Looking back on the game, I can see why Donte Whitner’s clean hit that knocked out Pierre Thomas must have been especially satisfying. And it explains why, after that spectacular Alex Smith to Vernon Davis touchdown pass… Alex was seen trash-talkin’ the Saints. I’ll bet he’d heard enough all day. As for the self-proclaimed Dr. Heat, cheap shot artist Gregg Williams… I hope the Commissioner makes an example out of your sorry ass.
Back in his day, real drag racers actually popped the clutch and had to strong-arm 4-speeds down the quarter mile….. and no one did it better than Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, the NHRA legend who passed away last week at age 81. You could argue that what Richard Petty and Junior Johnson are to NASCAR, Bill Jenkins was to Pro Stock drag racing. He was a savant with all kinds of motors, but the performance he coaxed out of small-block Chevys in the early 70s was outer-worldly. The Grump recorded Pro Stock’s first nine-second run, a 9.98 at the 1970 Winternationals in Pomona and beat his nemesis Ronnie Sox for NHRA’s first national event Pro Stock title. Long before the blogosphere, the only opportunity to get to know guys like Mr. Jenkins or see photos of him, was in magazines or in National Dragster. Of course, NHRA drag racing was hardly ever on TV, unlike today… with expert reporting from the great Gary Gerould. So if you wanted to see Bill Jenkins in person, it would be during a Major Event on the West Coast, like the Winternationals. Seeing Grumpy in the flesh was so electrifying, we’d just be in awe... and we'd stand around watching him... stand around. Bill Jenkins was not a big talker and was hardly a media-darling. He was never a shill, never had a reality show… and was never consumed with promoting himself. No, he wasn’t warm and cuddly. Why do you think they called him The Grump? But drag racing has lost a great one. And I promise you, we’ll not see his like again. John Jodauga of National Dragster has a great piece here.
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