Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Getting to Know... DJGel

Mark Sweeney: As everyone knows, you are a diehard fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, a storied franchise that has boasted such legendary figures as Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith and Ozzie Canseco. What are the most memorable moments you have experienced during your tenure as a Cards fan?

D.J. Gelner: Well, Mark, first of all, I wanted to say I’m glad as hell to be here today. Working with an accomplished interviewer like yourself not once, but twice, is truly an honor and a pleasure.

Obviously, the most memorable moment was winning the World Series this past season against the Detroit Tigers. I went out and got a sixer of Budweiser before the fifth game in anticipation of celebration, while my buddies Jamie and Billy told me that I was “jinxing” the Cards by doing so. Well, fuck you guys—look who has the trophy now. The downside was that it was pouring in Charlottesville that night, so I couldn’t spread my drunken ramblings and hollering to all of the ladies downtown, who would have all obviously found it irresistible.

However, ranking a close second is the terrible flop against the Boston Red Sox in 2004. I’ll never forget seeing Renteria grounding into that last out, followed by me screaming at one of the many “bandwagon BoSox fans” in our fraternity and breaking a mop over one of the poles in the basement, all while people were yelling “fucking Gelner!” and “Cool the fuck out, bro!”. Good times, good times…

MS: If you obtained the chance to allow one player induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame -- assuming this player would not gain induction by the traditional methods -- whom would you choose and why?

DJ: Well, as a Cards fan, I obviously enjoyed watching Mark McGwire launch steroid-fueled shot-after-shot into the upper deck of old Busch Stadium, and believe that he definitely should be in the Hall of Fame in some form, even if it’s a life-size statue of Jose Canseco jamming a steroid needle into his ass in a stall at the Oakland Coliseum. Which reminds me, all the talk about how St. Louis fans feel “cheated” because they didn’t know he was using? Give me a break! You’d have to be a town full of dumb, slack-jawed hoosiers who couldn’t tell their…well, I guess I’ll stop there for fear of being run over by a tractor when I make it home again. However, for all-around contributions to the game, no one has quite had an impact on the game like renowned whistle-blower and all-around great freak show Jose Canseco. He really has gone above and beyond the call of duty over the past several years, and deserves to be in the Hall.


MS: You are renowned as a connoisseur of first-rate literature, so it was no surprise that you purchased "Juiced" by Jose Canseco soon after it hit the stores. What pearls of wisdom did you glean from reading the work of such a master literary craftsman?

DJ: The first and foremost lesson to learn from the book is never try to kill yourself with an automatic shotgun called a “street sweeper”, because no matter how depressed you are at the time, if you don’t pull the trigger and then later release a book chronicling the incident, other people will laugh at you. Also, contrary to what other people say, steroids DO NOT (I repeat, DO NOT) make your penis smaller. If anything, they make it bigger. Furthermore, apparently steroids lead athletes not only to outrageous feats on the field, but also incredibly homoerotic behavior off the field, as Canseco, McGwire, and Jason Giambi can attest. And finally, when speaking of Canseco at the Home Run Challenge in Vegas, Barry Bonds didn’t ask reporters “What’s that guy on?”—he asked “What the FUCK is that guy on?” This final lesson was one that Pedro Gomez had to learn the hard way. Still, just a masterful work that should go down alongside “Ulysses” and “War and Peace” as one of the great works of our time.

I mean, seriously, though, can you imagine if there’s a huge cataclysm and our society is destroyed, and years later archaeologists found Canseco’s book as the only remnant of our society? Would they think that it’s our society’s equivalent of “The Illiad” or “The Odyssey”? Would they speculate that it had been handed down for generations since nothing else survived, and “Canseco” was simply the great bard who put it in print? These are the kinds of things that I think about on a daily basis. And yes, the nice, tight coat and the padded walls really are comfortable in here.

MS: You have spent considerable time in a disparate range of places, having lived in St. Louis and then continuing your education in New Hampshire and Virginia. What are the pros and cons of those locales?

DJ: Well, jeez, Mark, where do I start? I guess I’ll handle St. Louis first. It’s a unique city insomuch as at any time you’re simultaneously a half hour away from some of the most terrifying ghettos in the world on the East Side, and a half hour in the other direction from some of the most delirious hoosiers in the country. I mean, it’s a great city, but you have to be able to think “OK, we’re now in hoosier country, so be ready for some irrational hicks”. Also, for some reason, people can base their entire opinion of you on where you went to high school, so that’s kind of weird. Still, I love my Cards, and I actually love the city.

Hanover, New Hampshire would be a great place to try out one of my ideas for a reality show—see how long people could survive there without getting drunk. There really is nothing to do there other than go to Dartmouth and play pong. And pong really does influence the culture of the school. For example, I’ve never trusted people who consistently hit low. Even though that last sentence won’t even make sense to 99% of the people out there, if you know the game, you know what I mean. Still, that said, a trip to the bustling metropolis that is West Lebanon will show anyone that St. Louis has far from a monopoly on hoosiers.

So far, Virginia has been a pretty cool place to live. There are a few major flaws, though. Drivers around here are the worst in the country. Period. It’s not even like L.A. where there are a different set of unwritten rules that everyone can learn or follow—these people are just flat out nuts behind the wheel. Also, there aren’t enough bars around here. My buddies and I have exhausted every option several times, even the place that fails every few months or so and then “re-launches”. Other than that, Virginia is a pretty decent place to be right now.

MS: With what character from a motion picture do you most identify?

DJ: Aside from the obvious “John Rambo” or “Harry Tasker” comparisons that I get all the time, it’s funny that you ask this one, Mark. I had to answer the same question on an application for a scholarship when I was looking at colleges, and I put down some stupid shit about Jim Carrey in the Truman Show. Yeah, I was a dense little fuck.

I guess now it would have to be Phil Connors, from “Groundhog Day”. Every day now, it seems like I get up, go to boring class for a while, sleep, go to more boring class, then sit my ass in a recliner and watch a bunch of old Tivoed shows for the 456,342nd time. It’s not a terribly stressful existence, but it’s not exactly blowing my skirt up, either.

MS: If I were to ask you to name three geniuses, you probably wouldn't say Einstein or Newton. Who would you classify as geniuses?

DJ: Milligan, Cleeves, Everett. Sessions. Seriously, though, the afore-mentioned Canseco has to be in there somewhere, as, knowingly or not, he is the true comedic genius of his generation. I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard ever since reading his book.

Another genius is Omar Knedlik—the inventor of the Icee machine. I live for Icees. They are the greatest beverage ever created on God’s green earth. “Oh, D.J., what flavor Icees do you like?” you might ask. Obviously the only true Icee is a Coca-Cola Classic Icee. I don’t think I hate—and I mean HATE—anything in this world more than the exhilarating rush I get when I see an Icee machine in a mall or movie theater, followed by the crushing depression that ensues when I realize that the Coke has been replaced by Blue Raspberry. Blue Raspberry? Are you serious? What is this, Russia? That polar bear mascot of theirs is also the coolest mascot in the world—not because he wears sunglasses (sorry, I meant “shades”) and rides a skateboard, but rather because he’s always clutching an Icee in those paws of his like a bum clinging to his last bottle of gin. Amazing.

Finally, I think that the creative team here at Blogmogger can be seen as geniuses. No matter what you guys come up with, it’s always entertaining and insightful. I only wish that you guys will keep me on running this ship as we move on into the future…

(OK, good, that should get them off my back about setting up an adsense account for a while, those fucking sheep. Jesus, I haven’t heard so much bitching since Cal Ripken wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame unanimously. Oh fuck, Mark, you’re still there. Eeeeeeeeee…)

MS: Lastly, it's well known in legal circles that you are pursing a J.D. in an effort to emulate Tony LaRussa, who himself graduated from law school and went on to attain a pair of World Series titles. If/when you take over the Cardinals, what will be your first acts as manager/GM/team demagogue?

DJ: My God, there is so much to be done. First of all, trade for Jeff Weaver. I sided with the Cards on this one initially—until I heard that our best offer was $5 million guaranteed for one season. Are you guys serious? I thought that that whole Braden Looper thing was just to put pressure on Weaver. I thought we’d get him signed eventually. Now, it turns out that we were going to only pay him the same amount as Looper anyway? Ridiculous.

Other than that, I would explore any and all trades to get rid of Scott Rolen. Oh, shut up, Cards fan. His value’s never going to be higher than it is now, and he’s one more devastating injury away from being Scott Cooper.

I would then start building one of those new, spaceship-looking stainless steel stadiums (like the new AZ Cards stadium) next to New Busch, which, though a nice stadium, is essentially a Camden Yards rip-off. We need more stainless steel downtown! The arch can’t do all the heavy lifting itself, damnit!

Finally, I would sign Albert Pujols to a five year extension to the 5 years he currently has left with the club. If people thought that this offseason was nuts, imagine when Pujols hits the open market. What could he get? $30 million a year? He’ll make A-Rod look like the little girl that he is. I’m confident that with these moves, we could contend well into the 21st century, and could continue to lead the world in stoner pitchers, surly Latin Superstars, and stainless steel structures, all at a time when we desperately need all 3. Thanks Mark.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Free Agency 2007

Most of the big names in the MLB free agent pool have been signed, so I thought I would rate the five worst signings of the off-season. Just to give a brief introduction to anyone reading this who isn't writing on this, I ain't no fancy "law student", and I ain't no fancy "celebrity columnist" who's been linked to "deadspin.com". I'm just a common man living the life of a John Mellancamp Chevy commercial. When I eat a cheeseburger I use two additional beef patties as my buns. I sing the national anthem twice every morning and evening, and once more in my dreams. But enough about me...To the ratings.

Worst signings

5. Jason Marquis, Cubs, 3yr/$21mil

I'm a Cardinals fan so I've seen the man pitch and it makes me bitch. He is terrible. And he pitches with the biggest sour-puss look on his face I have ever seen. Keep in mind that the Cards won the World Series because they left Marquis and his big puss-face on the bench. Had Marquis taken the mound in the series, the Cards would have only won four games to two. 3/$21 doesn't seem that bad, especially with the ridiculous pitching market this year, but after sitting through 2/3 of Tino Martinez's contract (which was identical), believe me it is rougher than it looks. The best part of this deal is that the Cubs managed to spend over $60 mil on starting pitchers this year and they still don't have a viable number two starter. Assholes.

4. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs, 8yr/$136 mil

Don't worry, I'm not only going to list Cubs players. Hendry's General Managing this year, however, was perhaps the worst performance of all-time. When you spend around $300 mil and still have no chance at a division title, let alone a World Series, you are foolish. Did I mention that Soriano is 31? Well he is and I'm leaving it at that.

3. Gil Meche, Royals, 5yr/$55 mil

If you are one of those people who think, "This signing represents the Royal's commitment to improvement, so it isn't so bad", then you are an idiot. They were going to get a lot of dead money off the books and actually have a chance to make some smart signings and compete by 2008. Instead they chose to handcuff themselves by giving an average-to-below average starter a 5 year/$55 mil contract. They are like the shy, weird kid in middle school who gathers some courage, approaches the hot girl in the class with the intention of asking her to the big dance, but then as soon as he says hello to her, he freaks out and says some assy thing in a screechy voice like, "I just farted". That is why this signing is so tragic because the Royals are the shy, weird kid from middle school. Much like the move described above would shatter the weird, shy kid's confidence for years, this signing will destroy the low-resource Royals for years. If they were the High School Quarterback, they could shit their pants during their speech for School President and still be banging the prom queen on the weekend, but they aren't. Now the Royals will have to return to the AV room and nobody will pay attention to them for the next five years.

2. Barry Zito, Giants, 7yr/$126 mil

This is just too much money for a pitcher. Way too much. And its not just the volume, but also the length. Its ridiculous. Brian Sabean has been an overrated GM for years. He can thank Victor Conte for his 2002 World Series appearance. No one gave him the memo that Zito has fallen off from his previous Cy Young form and will never return. He must have also missed the memo that giving any pitcher this side of Johan Santana a seven-year deal is the height of stupidity. In a semi-related note, I am also sick of ESPN columnists hyping up the NL West. They are always the most boring division in baseball and they haven't done enough to change that. Maybe the division winner this year will get 89 wins this year!!!!!! Spicy!!!!!

1. Jeff Weaver, No team, No money

This one rests directly on the shoulders of my home team the Cardinals. How they have not already locked up the greatest competitor in the game, boggles me. GET THIS DEAL DONE NOW, JOCKETTY!!!!!!! THROW IN A BAG OF WEED OR TWO IF YOU HAVE TO!!!!!! It seems like a no-brainer. Weaver wants to play in St. Louis, Tony La Russa wants him here, Dave Duncan wants him here, and, most importantly, the fans want him here. The Weave brings a feistiness and an unparalleled entertainment value to the team. There are an unlimited of amusing stoner comments to be made during a Weaver start. My friend and I made up a running story about how The Weave lives with his brother Jared Weaver, and Jared is the straight laced professional and The Weave is the irresponsible stoner who sits on the couch and stacks pizza boxes to the ceiling, and it is always hilarious. All I'm saying is that if the Cards can sign The Weave we instantly become favorites to win the NL this year.

(Editor's Note: As of Friday afternoon, it appeared that Weaver was close to signing with Seattle for one year. I imagine that Grant will have something to say about that once he gets back in town)

And that's the top five worst signings of the off-season. Feel free to comment. Coming soon: The top five best signings of the off-season. Peace in the Middle East.

G-Gel Unit

Monday, January 22, 2007

BLOGGIN'!: Monday, January 22, 2007

Newest member of the Blog Mogger team here. Originally a high school friend of DJGel and G-Gel “G-Spot” Unit, I was recruited to provide some insight into the world of hip-hop. I envision my posts will take various forms: in this inaugural edition I’ve decided to go with journalistic satire. I also plan to make contributions in a more freeform style like DJGel and, when an important album comes around, give a serious review. Unfortunately, while hip-hop is easily my most favorite genre of music, recently I’ve felt that albums as a whole have been unsatisfying. I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that only one rapper (T.I.) who released an album in 2006 has gone platinum (a paltry 1.5 million at that). As much as any decently produced album is guaranteed a catchy single or two, I feel that the rest of a given album is usually boilerplate addressing some combination of money, cars, hoes, cocaine, and stunting. But I digress…

Hopefully you’ll enjoy the entries and any comments/emails are welcome (blogmogger@yahoo.com). The one thing I’d like to emphasize in closing is that I’m a huge hip-hop fan and my entries will hopefully provide some sort of self-effacing catharsis to what can sometimes be a bit of a guilty pleasure.

Still the same old G,
½ Man ½ Am-Asian
Hustler-In-Chief

BLOGGIN’!
America's Hip-Hop Source

HEADLINES

Area Rapper Dies Tryin’

REPORT: Scott Storch: Wait…He’s White?

Kanye West to Sample Entire, Unchanged Album
CHICAGO, IL – Resting comfortably in a black suede couch in the downtown Chicago recording studio for his GOOD record label, Kanye West announced that his next album will sample Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book in it’s entirety. As a follow-up to his critical and commercial success Late Registration, West, known for his sampling of R&B and soul music, claims this is “the truest respect [he] could give this music.”

“Once I laid down the tracks, everything just kind of fit into place already”, West said. “I’m a minimalist when it comes to this. I try to keep my tracks crisp, clean. It’s like I sat down and the songs, they wrote themselves.”

Tentatively titled Speaking Scripture, West seems to be gaining critical acclaim even though the album is not slated to be released for another six months. University of Chicago professor of African-American Studies Steven Mosley has been an outspoken proponent of West’s forthcoming effort.

“What Kanye is doing is bringing hip-hop full circle”, Mosley said. “What better way to emulate the predecessors of hip-hop than to sample an album? What’s more, [West] has the savvy and subtlety to know when less is more. I think he may have a classic.”

Area Youth to Finally Watch End of Scarface
PENSACOLA, FL – Harry Truman High School junior David Valiant will finally view the end of Brian De Palma’s 1983 gangster movie Scarface. A favorite among his friends because of its prodigious use of expletives, violence, and drugs, until recently Scarface has only been viewed in segments by Valiant and his friends because of parental concerns for the same reasons. Unbeknownst to them is that the story’s protagonist, Cuban immigrant and drug dealer Tony Montana, meets a grisly end at the conclusion of the film after alienating or killing his friends and family.

“I love this shit”, said Valiant hours before the scheduled viewing. “He gets the [cocaine], the bitches, the power. I mean, this shit is basically why I started fuckin’ with [marijuana dealer and classmate] White Mike and them.”

When asked about what he thinks will be the film’s conclusion, Valiant speculated, “Tony probably takes over [associate drug trafficker] Sosa’s part of the game. That’s what this is about: going from nothin’ to everything and finishing on top.”

Added Valiant: “This is the shit I live by. Can’t wait to see Tony retired with a bitch, blunt, and big-screen, just like how I’m gonna do it.”

In Memoriam:
James Brown (1933-2006): Pioneer in Music, Entertainment, Coke Binges
James Brown, a seminal influence in music, entertainment, and cocaine binges, unexpectedly passed away from congestive heart failure due to complications of pneumonia early Christmas Day 2006. His passing rocked the music world as his influence spanned five decades and impacted everything from gospel music to dance and disco to prodigious narcotic consumption and domestic violence.

His innovative music style and broad appeal, as well as his known trademark of abusing both cocaine and women were among Brown’s most notable career hallmarks. University of Southern California professor of African-American Studies Daniel Ellis noted some of Brown’s more salient contributions to American culture.

“Virtually all things in popular music and its associated practices and production that you see today has been influenced by the Godfather of Soul”, Ellis told reporters December 27th. “Be it the seemingly outlandish performances of, say, Prince, Michael Jackson’s energetic dance moves, or just your average club-gore blowing an eight-ball in the bathroom stall, none of that happens without [Brown].”

On the stage or off, Brown earned the moniker of “the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business.” Brown notched a whopping 52 top ten singles during his career, a number rivaled only by his police citations. Of particular note are his four albums that appeared Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and his charging of an electric repairman with a steak knife.

Brown leaves behind his wife Tomi Rae Hynie, seven children by various partners, and several grams of cocaine hidden in the spare tire of his 2002 Lincoln Continental.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

NBA ME-ter: Which Star's Selfish Play is Good for his Team?

Unless you've been wearing Bose headphones for the last month, I'm sure you've heard the buzz surrounding BlogMogger. Basically, we are blowing up like the Bash Brothers after a locker room needle session. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that you can now find your favorite blog at NBA-bloggers.com. (for those of you who found us that way, welcome and if you have any questions email blogmogger@yahoo.com).

Recently I had an argument with a friend who has an unnaturally large obsession with Gilbert Arenas about how Agent Zero was the most selfish player in the NBA. Mostly, I was just saying this to piss him off but it did seem that prior to this season, whenever Arenas went off for a 40 point game the Wizards would lose. I used this as evidence that the winning formula for the Wiz was not to rely on Gilbert jacking up 40 shots but rather to play team ball and distribute the wealth. Anyone who watched the Detroit-LA Finals in which the "team ball" Pistons dismantled Kobe and Shaq in five games can tell you that post-MJ, the key to winning a title in the NBA is having a strong core of players - not a singular star.

In the star-focused NBA, analysts seem to always criticize teams without a clear-cut go-to-guy for not having one guy that the team knows they can lean on when the game is on the line. The idea being that a team needs that one player who can elevate his game to new levels in big games and carry his team on his back (such as DWade did in the Finals or Dirk did prior to the Finals).

All of this led me to wonder: Is it better for a team's leading scorer to stay within the usual team scheme or to take it upon himself to lift his own personal game (and point total) and try to carry the team on his back? The result: The NBA ME-ter.

The "ME-ter" measures the effect of the team's leading scorer "upping the ante" and scoring more than 20% above his season average in a game. For example, if Elton Brand averages 20 points per game, what happens when he scores at least 24?

In order to get each scorer's ME-ter rating, I compared his team's winning percentage in games in which he scores at least 20% above his average (ME games) to the team's winning percentage when he stays below the +20% mark (TEAM games).

The ME-ter Readings: (as of 1/16/o7)

"ME in Team" - Players whose teams get the biggest jump in win % from their stepping it up:

1) Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics = +62.2% - this comes as no surprise since the Celtics have no other All-Star caliber players and have gone 2-11 since Pierce has gone down with an injury. Boston is 6-1 in games in which Pierce goes 20% above his average (32+points) and just 4-13 when he doesn't.

2) Baron Davis, Golden State Warriors = +54.2% - the Warriors are hovering around .500 for the year (19-20). Perhaps a greater focus on scoring from their point guard could get them into the playoff race as they are 8-1 in Baron's ME games and just 9-17 in TEAM games.

3) Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards = +45.6% - much to my buddy's delight, it turns out the Wiz are well-suited to being a 1-man show. They are 9-1 in the Eastern Confernce's leading scorer's ME games and 12-15 in the TEAM games. However, unlike the Celtics who simply can't win without Pierce going off, it's possible that "Hibachi's" big ME-ter rating could indicate that when Jamison and Caron pull their weight AND Arenas goes off, the Wiz are tough to beat.

4) Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors = +43.5% - the leaders of the horrific Atlantic Division are 18-21 overall but actually went 6-6 without their best player. However, when he is in the game, it's Bosh or bust for the team north of the border as they are 6-2 in Chris's ME games and just 6-13 in TEAM games.

5) Elton Brand, LA Clippers = +34.3% - the Clippers have slipped this year after breaking through last year. The unselfish Brand would never demand the ball himself so I'll say it for him: if you want to win, feed Elton rock! The Clip Joint are 7-3 in EB's ME games and 10-18 in TEAM games.

Trends: other than the Wizards, these are teams in the bottom half of the NBA. In the case of the Raptors, Warriors, and Celtics, there aren't many other players who can shoulder the scoring load and therefore the team only wins when the star goes off. It's simple, if you only have one great player and he has a big night, you have a chance to win. If he doesn't, you lose. Therefore, as I said earlier, one great player is not enough to win in this league.

"Win Together, Lose Alone" - players whose teams are hurt the most by their "big" nights:

1) Rip Hamilton, Detroit Pistons = -45.5% - Considering they were the proof that a great team beats a great star, I am not surprised. The Pistons are built on solid defense and balanced offense. When Rip, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, and Tayshawn Prince are all contributing the Pistons are a dangerous team. Rip has only had 5 ME games but Detroit is 1-4 in them and 19-10 in the rest. His leading this list probably has more to do with Rip having a good night when all of the others were off rather than his hogging the ball and costing his team.

2) Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns = - 18% - the league's leading assist man has had 9 ME games (6-3) and 26 TEAM games (22-4). His - 18% is misleading and is mostly due to the Suns high overall winning percentage and their Sun-N-Gun 3-pointer happy style of play. Clearly, Nash knows that the Suns are at their best when he is setting up his teammates and the numbers back him up.

3) LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers = -17.8% - the Cavs are only 4-4 in the King's ME games and an impressive 19-9 in TEAM games. It seems that when his teammates are playing well, LeBron reduces his scoring and the Cavs win. However, on the nights when the supporting cast can't get it going, #23 is forced to take things into his own hands. The 4-4 mark may actually be more of a testament to LeBron's ability to pull out Ws when his team is struggling rather than a condemnation of his trying to take over a game at the detriment of the team.

4) Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs = -15.7% - the Big Fundamental is a reluctant scorer, preferring to use his post presence to draw double teams and create open shots for his teammates. A tip for opponent's of the team with the league's 3rd-best record: let Timmy score and D up everyone else! The Spurs are 7-5 in Duncan's ME games and 20-7 in TEAM games. Much like when Shaq went for 40-20 in a Lakers loss in the 2004 Finals, the key to beating the Spurs is to isolate Duncan and take your lumps and hold down the rest of the Spurs (easier said than done).

5) Carmelo Anthony = -11.9% - the Nuggets have gone 5-8 without the league's leading scorer and 14-9 with Melo in the lineup so clearly he is the straw that stirs the drink in Denver. Before the brawl at MSG, Carmelo was remarkably consistent while averaging 31.6ppg, totaling only 2 ME games (1-1, TEAM 13-8). His negative ME-ter rating is a product of a low sample size and therefore is not really that useful.

6) Yao Ming, Houston Rockets = -5.6% - I am including Yao on this list because his numbers caught me by surprise. The critics always implore Yao to take charge and be more aggressive but the Rockets were 5-4 in his ME games and 11-7 in TEAM games, a negligible difference. However, unlike the Nuggets who have crumbled without Carmelo, the Rockets have gone 9-2 since Yao broke his leg compared with 16-11 with him in the middle, suggesting that Houston may be better served to let Tracy McGrady play a bigger role when the big man returns,

Trends - All of the teams whose leading scorers made this list are playoff claiber, including title contenders Phoenix, San Antonio, Cleveland, and Detroit. It would seem that the negative ME ratings for these players are caused by their team's high overall winning percentage and possibly losses that occur when the usual supporting players are not on their games and the star player is forced to do significantly more than usual. It is important to note that the ME games are those in which the leading scorer is taking on an especially large scoring load compared to his average, not just a large number in general. However, the numbers do seem to suggest that the "big players come up big in big games" axiom may not be the best way to win, but rather "big teams come up big in big games" as good teams tend to lose more often when their leading scorer has a big night.

Best ME Win % - the players whose teams win the most games when they go big:

Top Dog - Dirk Nowitzski (9-0, 100%) - when the Big German goes big, Big D goes home happy. The league's best team is undefeated in Dirk's ME games.

2) Gilbert Arenas (9-1, 90%) - what can I say, I was wrong - let the Hibachi slice!

3) Baron Davis (8-1, 88.8%) -Without JRich, he's all Golden State's got

4) Paul Pierce (6-1, 85.7%) - they are bad with him, horrendous without him

5) Kevin Garnett (5-1, 83.3%) - the T-Wolves are 15-15 in TEAM games. KG is still the man

6) TIE: DWade, Kobe, Bosh (6-2, 75%) - the Heat without Shaq are basically the same teams as the Lakers without him so it makes sense.

Worst ME Win %

"Dish the Rock" Award: Rip Hamilton (1-4, 20%)

2) Pau Gasol (2-5, 28.5%) - more a reflection of how bad the Grizz are, Pau is trying his best

3) Ray Allen (3-5, 37.5%) - he got game, the rest of the Sonics don't

4) TIE: 42.5% - Chris Paul (3-4) Emeka Okefeor (6-8) - talented young players on really bad teams

The next time your buddy claims that his boy is carrying the team, you'll have some ammo. Enjoy!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Vegas Archives: Trip 1

Happy New Year to all. My brother and I just returned from our annual trip to Vegas with some of our buddies. Before I got to all of the new stories, I thought you all might like to hear a bit of our previous Vegas history:

-The first Vegas trip I went on was during Senior Spring back at good old Dartmouth. It included my buddies Org (rhymes with gorge), Sweeney (of "Greatest Minor Seinfeld Characters" fame), and Tucker (who looks exactly like Harry Potter, even though he's now 23 years old). We planned it pretty quickly, and when some of the other guys in the house heard about it, they took offense as if we weren't inviting them, even though we clearly told them that they could get another room of people together to go if they wanted to. Unfortunately, petty differences among fraternity brothers kept this from happening.

-Their animosity was only increased when literally the night before we were scheduled to leave, Org and I convinced one of our rather attractive female friends, Cynthia, to come along with us. At first, I thought she wasn't serious because we were all drunk at the time. However, I woke up the next day and lo and behold, there was Cynthia, all packed and ready to go.

-The situation before the first trip was exasperated by the fact that we had to beg for a car to take down to Boston up until two days before we left. Finally, our buddy Willy agreed to let us borrow his car, which happened to be an '85 Old Cutlass with over 400,000 miles on it. Again, this is no exaggeration.

-To make matters worse, Tucker was still drunk on the ride down, so by the ten minute mark into the drive he was pulling his patented "Fucking Gelner! You're gonna get us all killed!" routine. I swore numerous times to pull the car into the next embankment if he didn't shut the fuck up, to no avail.

-We stayed the first night of Trip Number One at the Excalibur. Yikes! We all didn't know any better when we booked the place, but by the end of the night, we were all fearing for our lives. Here's a good tip for the future: Don't stay at any casino where the sports book is kept on a white board and kids are being led around on leashes. Really, it is not a fun place to be.

-We all blew a decent amount of money gambling that first night--except Cynthia, who put a nickel in a slot machine and immediately won $235. I swear, she was charmed that entire trip. We got about as far north as Bally's that first night looking for $5 blackjack, and ended up back at the Excal playing $5 single-hand with an Asian woman dealer--always the kiss of death. Org finally complained several times that he was going to "shit his pants" if we didn't go back to the room, probably saving us roughly $100 each in the process.

-At some point that first night, Sweeney got really drunk, to the point that when we were at MGM, he kept yelling "I need a Big Mac!" until we finally got to the food court there. He proceeded to devour three of them in a row, all the while opening up about all the shit that people in the house had done to him before. Now, Sweeney is usually a pretty reserved guy, so it was probably the most we've seen him open up before. This episode became a recurring theme for the trip, as we would keep asking Sweeney "Hey Sweenes, need a Big Mac?", to which he would simply reply with his slow head shake no, followed by a "jeez..." or "oh brother..."

-The second night was an epic night in Vegas lore. We started by moving to the Bellagio. What a difference. Even though it was the nicest hotel in Vegas at the time (now the Wynn arguably gives it a run for it's money, but I digress...), it seemed that much nicer since we had been staying at that flea-bag Excal the past night. Bellag was great. I cannot stress that enough.

-We then kicked off the gambling day by placing some small-time baseball and basketball bets at the Aladdin sports book right across the street to try and recoup our losses from the night before. Sweeney and I stayed pretty much on three-team MLB parlays while Org prefers outrageous six-team NBA parlays. He made one of note for $2 to pay $145, contingent on the Knicks covering later that night. At dinner, Org found a tv and watched it like they were revealing who committed the Kennedy assassination. It turned out that the Knicks score a buzzer beater to take it to OT, then push in the extra frame. For all of you non-gambling addicts out there (gambling addicts can skip to the next paragraph), a "push" occurs when one team beats the other by the exact amount of the point spread. Normally, in a "parlay", which is several bets strung together that must all win to pay huge odds, if one of the games pushes, it simply knocks that game out of the parlay and makes Org's six-teamer a five-teamer. I know, I know, it sounds complicated, but if you've ever bet on sports, it's fairly standard.

Well, at any rate, Org thinks that he has just won $90 on a five-team parlay. He's going nuts. Cynthia buys us all shots with her winnings to celebrate. She also tells us that some of her friend's friends are in town, and they want to meet us down at the Venetian later that night. We're thinking that everything is coming up roses. We head back to the room, polish off a fifth of Jim Beam between the four of us and bring another along for the walk to the Venetian. Tucker and Sweeney say they'll walk to the Venetian with us because they want to check out the poker room. What a couple of assholes.

At any rate, along the way, we discover O'Shays, which we refer to as some combination of "O'Malley's", "McShays", "McMurphy's", or "That 'Mc' Place", as well as the oasis that is Casino Royale, which offers $1 Michelob bottles and $1 margaritas. So we have this bottle of Jimmy, we're drinking tons on the way, and by the time we get to the Venetian, we're all blasted. We try to call Cy several times to find out where her friends are. She says that they're in Registration, and we should come on down. For the life of us, we're all having trouble speaking clearly, let alone figuring out where Registration is in a big Vegas casino. So, unfortunately, we head back to Bellagio having not met any of Cy's friends.

(Note: The next part of the story is as told to me by Org the next morning)

At some point, Org and I separated from Sweenes and Tucker, as they were both in serious relationships at the time, and we found ourselves back at Bellagio outside of the room. Org was talking on the phone to a clearly upset Cy, who told him to "get his ass downstairs". We get in the room, and I start taking off my shirt in anticipation of passing out. Org tells me, "Gel, get dressed man, we've got to go meet Cy and her friends, and they're PISSED." I apparently say, "Just a minute" and fall like a lumbering redwood face-first onto the bed, completely passed out.

-Fast-forward to the next morning. I wake up, and Org has a look of disappointment mixed with devastation on his face. Apparently, after I had passed out the night before, Org went back down to talk to Cy and her friends after I had passed out, and found that they were all incredibly hot. However, they all bitched him out for 15 minutes straight about how we "stood them up" at Venetian the night before. To top it off, Cy is getting her own room because we apparently "made her sleep on the floor the night before." She should have just tried waking us up, but maybe she did, for all I know. I swear, I wish I was making this up, but the more incredible any Vegas story sounds, the more it's probably true. Org finished the story with a sigh, then perked up a bit, "Well, at least I have this to cash," holding up the parlay that he had hit on and wearing a $90 grin on his face.

-Sweeney and Tucker had apparently spent the past night hanging around the high-stakes poker room, slobbering over their professional poker player heroes. Tucker brags that he said hi to T.J. Cloutier the night before. I might have been mildly impressed if I had any idea who the fuck T.J. Cloutier is. They also claim that Org looks exactly like some guy named John D'Agostino (note: after having seen D'Agostino in passing on tv, they are 100% correct. It's uncanny). I call them losers. They don't care--they're like a couple of teenaged girls that have just seen Justin Timberlake.

-We head over to Aladdin to cash out Org's parlay ticket. Sweeney, Tucker and I watch from afar as the following sequence of events takes place:

1. Org triumphantly says something to the cashier and hands her the ticket.
2. The cashier takes the ticket, scans it, and says something to Org without skipping a beat.
3. The color drains from Org's face.
4. Org says something to the cashier, first angrily, then conciliatorily, then sheepishly.
5. Org slowly walks back to us

Org then says five words that would change Vegas forever.

"At Aladdin, pushes lose. Devastating."

We are all in shock. Tucker doesn't know what's going on with sports betting to begin with, and Sweeney keeps shaking his head. We start to walk in the circle that is the shops at Aladdin, looking for a much cheaper place to eat than we anticipated. I alternately try to empathize with Org's sadness ("That sucks, man. Un-fuckin-believable") and anger ("That's fucking bullshit, man. What the fuck kind of cut-rate, gyp-joint, fly-by-night casino is this?"). Meanwhile, all Org can say, in an unflinching monotone that captures the tone of the utterance perfectly is "Devastating." He repeats this for the next 45 minutes as we try to find a suitable place to eat.

-Finally, Org snaps out of it. "Last night, I spent a ton on drinks and gambling because I thought I had that $90 in pocket. Devastating." he laments. I think we eat at Cheeseburger in Paradise or something like that, I dunno, I wasn't really paying attention.

-More devastation: after the meal, we figure that it's a great time to play blackjack. We find a $10 table and sit down, except for Org who is still licking his wounds. What we didn't realize at the time was that the dealer was an Asian woman, and even though we all read a fair amount of Bill Simmons' stuff, we didn;t realize how deadly accurate he is when he says that you never want to play blackjack with an Asian woman dealer.

Tucker and Sweeney tread water for a while, then get out down $20 each. meanwhile, I think that I can tame the dreaded ice princess who's dealing me 12's and 13's. I put down a $20. Poof. Gone. Another. two hands--gone. Another--two hands, gone. Sweeney said it was as if I was an ATM dispensing twenties to this dealer. Finally, I get out down $120 at that table. Devastating.

-Since we were all down at this point, we decide to listen to Tucker, who has been bitching that we should head downtown for an afternoon. After going back for a quick Jim Beam break, we get a taxi and head downtown. We all assume that the driver is taking us for a ride since it costs $20 to get there.

-Once downtown, we realize that it is a total shithole. It's as if all of the divey casinos on the strip were transported downtown, only they became ten times divier and worse-smelling. There was Binion's, which Tucker wanted to stay at because they (until recently, I hope) played the World Series of Poker there. It makes Excal look like the fucking Ritz. There's the "Four Queens", which was fitting considering the composition of our group at the time. They even have their own McMurphy's rip-off called "the Fitz". Org, Tucker, and Sweenes decide that they want to play some blackjack at the Fitz, mainly because I think $5 is the max at any of the tables. I'm still having trouble sitting down from the ass-reaming that I got at the Aladdin, so I figure that I'll just help Org out with basic strategy, as he's a relative newcomer to the game. The three of them sit down interspersed between three, well, how should I say, "worse for the wear" individuals who did not have smiles on their faces.

Now, by this point, Org had gotten fairly drunk, and was sitting in the last position on the table. Because this crowd looked pretty rough, Tucker and Sweeney were trying to play extremely conservative, by-the-book blackjack. Org, meanwhile, was pretty out-of control. He was hitting with thirteens against fours and fives, staying on fourteen against an ace. We finally got to a hand where the people at the table were shooting Org some terrible looks when he had a fifteen against a three, and he tells me, "Gel, I'm gonna hit." I whisper to him, "Org, you're supposed to stay here, man, the other people are getting pretty angry with you." He replies by yelling out "FUCK THEM!", busts, and bolts from the table with what chips he has left.

-Having had enough of downtown, we decide to head back to the strip. Since the Stratosphere looks close enough and we think that the cabbie took us for a ride before, we decide we can walk it back to the strip. My God what a mistake. Keep in mind it's around dusk at this point. There is literally no one on the streets or sidewalks. At one point we pass the Vegas Lock-Up. "Oh look, the lock up, get ready to stay here tonight, fellas." Tucker says. One of us replies, "We might have better luck at the morgue." No one laughs because it;s a distinct possibility at this point.

We head through some eerily quiet neighborhoods with bars on the windows. We see one family barbecuing. It's a rather large Mexican gentleman and his friends. Tucker yells out something to the effect of "look at those dumb motherfuckers barbecuing! What fucking idiots!" Luckily they were out of earshot. We all tell Tucker that if he does that again, we'll beat the shit out of him. He laughs his impish laugh with a boyish glee that only Harry Potter himself could.

-Finally, we get to the North Strip. Yeesh, and I thought Excal was bad. This place is twenty times worse. There are all kinds of crack-addicts, itching themselves from withdrawal and shit. Finally we get to the Stratosphere and decide to cab back the rest of the way. We tell the cabbie that we had been walking from downtown. He does a double-take and asks us, "Shit, you white boys serious? Those are some rough areas." We reply that we know.

-The rest of the third night involves more drinking than anything. We're sick of gambling for the moment, so we take it pretty easy and get ready for the fourth night.

-The fourth night was filled with surprises. Early on, Tucker and I decide that we're going to head up to the area around TI that night. We take the following as supplies:

-1 bottle Jim Beam

-We stop at all of the usual spots along the way. We're getting good and liquored up. We decide to play some blackjack at TI, and we're each up $60 after a couple of hours. We then decide to blow some of it on craps, which we have no idea how to play, but we keep rolling the dice and hoping for the best. It turns out that we lose. Oh well, whatever, fuck it.

-On the way back, I'm pretty drunk. Some street-wise gentleman agrees to sell me a ROlex watch he has, only he's asking $100 for it. Tucker, slightly more sober, asks to see it. The guy tries to pull the old switcheroo on us. Tucker's not buying it. We say thanks but no thanks. Then the guy asks me how much I'd be willing to spend on it. Trying to find a suitably insulting figure to get the guy off our backs, I say "$60". He says "It's yours". Tucker says "What are you, nuts? Thanks, but no thanks, sir." We bolt back to Bellagio.

-On the way back up to the room, we spot a $5 table with a Sam Elliott-looking dealer at it, handlebar mustache and all. He even has a name tag that says "Sam" on it. Tucker and I decide to sit down for a while.

-After an hour, I'm up big. We've gotten several free drinks while there, so we're both in happy-land. After being dealt a thirteen, I say "Boy, oh, boy, Sam." His eyes immediately narrow and he spits out "Don't call me boy!" Feeling slightly insulted, I retort, "Oh, OK, MISTER Sam." I continue to call him "Mr. Sam" for the rest of the night, and order Sam Adams in his honor.

-After a while, Tucker and I decide to switch to a $10 table with a sweet-looking Asian woman dealer. She actually takes care of us, and we're up $100 each in roughly fifteen minutes. Tucker decides to call it a night. I decide to stay down and do battle with Mr. Sam.

-Time passes. I keep ordering more and more drinks and winning more and more. I finally see that Org has come down. "Org, what the fuck are you doing up so late?" I ask. "Gel, Sweenes and I just got up. It's 9:30 in the morning and we just got up to put down our sports bets." I'm shocked, but I'm having too good of a time to care. I order another Sam Adams from the waitress. "He's had enough", Mr. Sam barks at the waitress. Sensing that I've worn out my welcome, and somewhat pumped that I got cut off at a casino, I head to the book to place some baseball bets.

-We've got $40 on a three team parlay that would pay $300 if we hit it. I think it was Brewers, Yankees, Cards. I head up to pass out. It's 10:00. Check out is at noon.

-I snap out of my slumber with a rush. Org claims that they thought I was dead--they had been hitting me for ten minutes or so. I feel like shit. They hand me the phone and tell me to check out. I have no idea what the person on the other line is saying or what I'm saying to them. It feels like a bad, bad dream. One hour of sleep after a night of heavy drinking and gambling will do that to you, though. We get a quick bite to eat at Aladdin. I'm still feeling terrible.

-We head back to the book. Brewers have already won. The end of the Cards game is on. David Eckstein just got the Cards within one, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, one out, Albert Pujols up. We feel that this game is a lock.

-Pujols grounds into a double play. We are all devastated. We head to the airport.

-Somehow, I get through security. I buy two large water bottles to take on the plane. I feel like death.

-I have a middle seat, Org is next to me by the window. There is a very nice lady next to me in the aisle. I spend most of the next five hours with my head resting in my hands on the tray table in front of me, probably reeking of whiskey and making some terrible-sounding noises. The lady next to me desperately is trying to pawn me off on other rows, but to no avail. She finally gets up and moves herself. I still feel terrible. As a last-ditch effort, I pop two advil and hope for the best.

-Within 30 minutes, I feel like a new man. The dull headache is gone, and I can think semi-coherently. We arrive in Boston at 1 am.

-We fetch the piece of shit that has to get us back to Hanover. I ask, "Who's driving?" They tell me that since Willy trusted me with the car, I should. I tell them that I'm going on one hour of sleep and a massive hangover. They tell me to at least get them halfway.

-An hour in, we stop at a small shithole town somewhere in northern Massachusetts. I absolutely can't keep driving. Sweeney volunteers to drive the rest of the way, even though he looks as tired as I am. We spend the next hour and a half having Sweeney ask us trivia questions so that we can all stay up. We finally arrived in Hanover at 3:30 am. What a trip.

Up next: Vegas Archives: Trip 2

Until Next time...

DJGel