Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Enough, Already

I've just finished mocking the NFL Draft (which is very different from conducting a mock draft, something you'll never catch me doing), when I learn that the NFL may have even bigger plans.

The Dallas Morning News reports NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is considering making next year's draft a three-day event. Under the Goodell proposal, round one of the draft would be held Thursday night (Live! Primetime! Watch young millionaires put on jerseys and caps!), with rounds two and three on Friday night (More Primetime Draft!) and the final four rounds on Saturday.

Two thoughts:
  1. Count me out. I can't imagine anything more boring than a draft, for crying out loud. Tell me when it's over.
  2. I'm sure sports bars will pack 'em in. Nothing goes better with the NFL Draft (don't forget to capitalize Draft) than Buffalo wings and beer.

How did we get here? A place where people will spend parts of three days watching a clerical process?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Riddle of Z

Not sure what was more memorable about my trip to AT&T Park yesterday: being part of the smallest paid crowd in the ballpark's history (26,593), enjoying my first Cha-Cha Bowl of the young season, or watching Barry Zito deal like we haven't seen him deal in a Giants uniform.

Zito went 7 shutout innings, throwing 92 pitches (66 for strikes), walked no one, and simply had the Padres off-balance all the way. His breaking ball had bite and he had command of it. His fastball was in the upper-80's range and he kept it away from the center of the plate.

So the Zito-Meter jumped sharply upward. My esteemed colleague Steve Bitker is baffled by how quickly everyone seems to want to proclaim a Zito turnaround at the first sign of success. A scoreless first? "Zito's back!"

I think it's because people genuinely want to like this guy. He's not like most ballplayers; his heart always appears to be right out there where you can see it. This year, his Twitter posts are garnering attention (and furthering the perception that he's, well, wired a bit differently).


(after that Padres outing): "F__k yeah baby! Let's take this show on the road."
(after a rocky performance in LA): "Not happy about Dodger game. take a day, reset and kill em Wed..."
(from somewhere on the road): "Happiness is a worthiness issue, sometimes we'll ask ourselves whether it's okay to be "this happy", then comes the sabotage.."

What? A jock talking like that?

I'll argue it's part of the Zito charm. He's a little like the Grateful Dead: talented and maybe a bit flawed. Not unlike a Dead show, a Zito start is a bit of an unknown quantity: you never know exactly what you're going to see. Sometimes it's magical; sometimes it's a bit of a disaster.

And it's all there on Twitter to see.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Painfully Slow

The baseball season is only a couple of weeks old, and one of the Giants' weaknesses is being exposed painfully often.

Bengie Molina can't run.

I know, this is not new information. Bengie is a fine catcher, a tough hitter, and one of those heart-and-soul guys you want in your clubhouse.

But on a team that's struggling to score runs, the last thing you need is a guy who has trouble scoring from second on a double. Just in the weekend series against Arizona, which saw the Giants score 4 runs in 3 games (and win 2 of 3 thanks to lights-out starting pitching by Sanchez, Lincecum, and Johnson), it seemed every time I looked up, poor Bengie was blocking the basepaths like Southern cooking clogs your arteries.

The problem is magnified because the Giants only have one catcher on the roster (everyday 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval is the backup catcher). What this means is that manager Bruce Bochy is loath to pinch-run for Molina late in games.

What's the answer? Beats me. On a team with a ton of firepower (and more home run threats than the Giants), you might be able to ignore the Molina Roadblock. But on this team, this season, he's hard to hide.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Panic Early

One of my favorite people in the broadcast business, longtime KTVU-TV producer Bill Weeks, likes to say it: "panic early". It's his way of dealing with the relentless pressure of the news desk.

And it might be time for Major League Baseball to think about a little panic. It's not like the ballparks have been empty in the first week of the regular season, but the early returns are less than overwhelming.

19,000 in San Diego (many of them Marines in the upper deck) on a sunny Sunday, with Tim Lincecum pitching for the Giants. 12,000 in Oakland. 18,000 to see the loaded Mets in Miami. 14,000 in Cleveland. 25,000 in Phoenix to see Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers. And so on.

OK, those are Easter Sunday figures, and some parts of the country are still emerging from winter. But I pulled some numbers, and many teams that have just wrapped up their season-opening series are averaging about what they did for the full season last year. That's not a good sign, because typically, the first series includes an Opening Day sellout, skewing the average gate high.

Overall attendance numbers will be padded by the openings this week of the two new ballparks in New York. The Dodgers will fill their yard. But the reality of a down economy is like an annoying noise in the next room. MLB has to be hearing it.