Friday, March 29, 2013

180 Days of Pain: A 2013 Major League Baseball Preview

I shouldn't really say "pain" per se. That might be misleading. As I lined out on a friend's blog yesterday, the New York Mets' 2013 season does have an air of anticipation and optimism about it because after many years of "rebuilding" the Mets' top prospects are finally making their way to the Majors. That doesn't mean New York is going to compete for a postseason berth this year. Doing that was already a pretty far-fetched idea before the news broke that oft-heard-of-yet-little-seen Mets' folk hero Johan Santana will again likely miss the entire season.

Devastating and sad as that news is -- and it really is on multiple levels -- it was silly to think that this really altered the trajectory of New York's 2013 campagin.

No, this is a team going somewhere and going nowhere all at the same time. The Mets are not making the playoffs. They are almost certainly not finishing 2013 with a winning record. They will probably not even finish above fourth place in the NL East. In fact, the most immediate positive to come out of this season will be the totally sweet new batting practice caps and the fantastic new alternate jerseys, finally removing black from the team's color scheme.

But there are more lasting impacts than simply an improved uniform set. Matt Harvey is getting a full Major League season under his belt, Zack Wheeler and Travis d'Arnaud will make their way to the big leagues and Ike Davis might actually be healthy for a whole campaign. There is no need for excitement in the outfield or bullpen whatsoever, but that's not the point. Those can be patched in the future with free agency if the team is actually close to real title contention. The point of this year is that we'll finally get to see just how far off we are and if the moves of Sandy Alderson and the gang are going to finally bear fruit.

From the looks of it, they are, and that means in 2014 and 2015 the Mets might actually be good. And in 2016 they might actually be World Series contenders. And as long as I ignore the fact that I'll be 31 during the 2016 World Series, it doesn't feel like it's all that far off.

But if this season doesn't exactly go well? Well, then it really will feel like pain. Kind of like the pain Mr. T brought down in Chicago this week.



Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I'm throwing my bracket out with the chametz

Hello, dear friends. I know it's been a while, and I will be honest, a lot has happened since we last spoke, but I will try my best to cover all (read: some, not much) of it in this super special passover edition of the ridiculous things I'm going to ramble about. For those of you who live in boxes, or at least not New York City, you may not be aware that Passover, one of the holiest Jewish holidays, began last night, which meant a boozy, wine-filled and mildly vindictive seder, as well me being unable to have bread, cookies or beer (basically anything delicious) until sundown next Monday night.

So yeah, חג פסח שמח, everyone!

See this is a pretty big deal. So big, in fact, that in Israel, the land where you wouldn't be able to swing a dead cat without hitting a door with lambs blood over it this week, the entire country is prepared in basically every way it possibly could be. But hey, we're prepared over here, too! That's why Barack Obama, once again, held a seder at the White House, something I'd totally love to get invited to sometime, even if Obama recently proved during his trip to Israel that while he gives great speeches with keen geopolitical insight, he's definitely not a Jew.

Seriously. "That's good matzah?" There's no such thing as good matzah. Every Jew knows this.

But that's a whole different blog entry. Either way, Barack was prepared, I was prepared and apparently the Angel of Death was more prepared than my bracket, which neglected to put lambs blood over its door and was therefore brutally slaughtered this weekend in the West Regional. (See, we're getting to the whole sports thing).

See, this past weekend was the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, that annual rite of spring in which we all openly admit that we have no idea how college basketball works because it's nearly impossible to get a correct bracket and the likelihood of yours surviving the first four days is about as likely as a swimsuit model showing up at your doorstep, the Mets winning a World Series before I die or finding matzah that is actually enjoyable to eat.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The City of Angels and the Staples Center Trifecta

I attended a small stand up comedy show in the East Village last night and one of the comedians had a set involving his experiences as a high school basketball player in Philadelphia. Apparently, because of his height, he was matched up against the best player on an opposing school, who was the son of a mediocre NBA player and an awfully nasty trash-talker on the court.

The punchline: It was some asshole named Kobe.

This seemed bizarrely appropriately to me, and not just because another comedian had talked about his L.A. Lakers-themed Bar Mitzvah with its curiously named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar table, but because in approximately 25 hours, I will be taking off from Philadelphia International Airport (I'm taking a brief layover in a cost-saving measure) en route to LAX for a momentous weekend in Los Angeles.

This is probably a bit odd if you know me. After all, I'm not a big fan of L.A., which is to say that short of Philadelphia, it's probably my least favorite city in the U.S. And how convenient for me that I get to go through both of them tomorrow. All that said though, I am quite excited for the trip for quite a few reasons. For one, at least four or five people I know in L.A. are going to try and convince me the city is actually awesome, which I admit will be a tough sell, but I'm at least willing to hear them out on this. For another, according to weather.com it's supposed to be mid-to-high 70s with sunshine all weekend, and I'm more than just a little tired of winter at this point. For yet another, I'm determined to prove to all of them that mass transit is actually great and they should all try it some time, provided the city bus I'm on isn't in danger of being blown up by Dennis Hopper.

Also there are sports there.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

It's the Chicago Blackhawks' world. We're all just living in it.

I like the Chicago Blackhawks. Anyone who knows me knows I was once an intern with the organization and knows that, as a result, they hold a soft spot in my heart. They're not my favorite team, obviously, but when the Blackhawks are playing anyone other than the New Jersey Devils, which in a lockout-shortened season such as this one is every game, the Blackhawks are the team I'm rooting for.

So considering that, you can probably imagine that I've enjoyed Chicago's historic start to the current season and most of the nonsense idiots have written about it. Lately, however, my impression has gone from excitement, through awe to simple befuddlement.

Because, kids, this shit is just crazy.

After their 3-2 win against Colorado last night, the Blackhawks are now 21-0-3 over their first 24 games, which, if you're wondering, means they've liteally gotten through half of the season without losing a game in regulation. Half. Of an entire season. 50%. Yes, it is a shortened season, but it's half of a season nonetheless. The previous mark for most games without a regulation loss to start a season, held by the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks, was 16 games, meaning the Blackhawks' streak, regardless of season length, is 50% longer than the previous record.

To give you an idea of how impressive that is, a comparable mark would be if someone broke Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak by 23 games. Granted, this isn't a perfect parallel. The odds of Chicago's current run place them at happening roughly once every 700 years, whereas DiMaggio's hitting streak probably shouldn't have happened ever. Still, there's no denying the fact that Chicago's current run is one of the more improbable things to occur in recent sports memory.