Bay Area Blues: What’s Wrong With Tim Lincecum?

Close to home, Ubaldo Jimenez has struggled mightily for the Tribe. After years of dominating in the most hitter-friendly park in the ML, the Dominican defector has underwhelmed on the shores of Erie, tallying up pedestrian stats for a middling ballclub. But laments concerning Jimenez’s performance seem trivial when measured against Giants “ace” and poster child of the West Coast antiestablishmentarian culture, Tim Lincecum.

How a player transitions from Cy Youngs and punchouts to criticism and punchlines is perplexing. Lincecum, diminutive and unorthodox, captivated Giants fans with his successes. Like a magician with an unsolvable trick, Lincecum’s whirling, corkscrewing mechanics bewilderingly retired batter after batter to the delight of Giants backers. Eschewing the science of economy, his getup is unadulterated art, an eccentric painter brushing his canvas with fastballs and curves.

If a bear attacks, common advice is to make yourself look big. Lincecum is fending off ursine aggression with each pitch, rearing his left leg back before a kinetic thrust towards the plate. His delivery brought home 2 consecutive Cy Young awards and 4 straight spots in the All-Star game. More standard instruction when a predator attacks: play dead. In 2012, Lincecum has been a welcome mat for opposing hitters.

Just how bad has Lincecum been this year? After his All-Star selection last year, his ERA at the All-Star break was 6.42, dead last among starters in the league. His record was 3-10. For these gaudy stats, Lincecum is making over twenty million dollars. That projects to over 3 million for each win. Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn, who is 13-4 in 20 starts, is earning more then 40 times less then Lincecum, at $482,000.

Fortunes have flopped before, but Lincecum’s regression may be the most severe freefall in baseball history. One past precedent where an unconventional pitcher goes from unhittable to unplayable is the case of Dontrelle Willis. His rookie season, he won 14 games and led the Marlins to a World Series win, baffling opponents with his high kick. Like Lincecum, he was successful for about 4 years. In 2005, the apex of his career, Willis netted the Marlins 22 wins and a 2.63 ERA. Since a 2007 trade to the Detroit Tigers, Willis has won a total of 4 games in 53 starts, with an ERA above 5 each season. Signed and released by 6 different clubs since 2007, Willis announced his retirement earlier this month. Popular theory holds that once batters were acclimated to Willis’ unique delivery, the novelty quickly faded and Willis got shellacked.

The Hurler Formerly Known as Fausto Carmona carries a volatile track record, with his inconsistencies providing statistical peaks and valleys. His sophomore campaign in 2007 was a 19 win season, but Carmona went 1-10 in his rookie year. Carmona toiled again last year, posting a 7-15 record just two years after a 5-12 season. The rest of his years have been respectable, but nowhere near the mirage of dominance beget by his 2007 performance. Carmona struggled even more this offseason than during the regular season; he was busted for identity fraud, gaining 3 years overnight. Sure, he duped Indians scouts and the oraganization into signing and spending millions on him, but the Tribe got the last laugh, giving him three birthday cakes upon his return to compensate for lost time.

Lincecum’s trajectory has mirrored Willis’ more than Carmona’s in all arenas- except for a treasure trove of media fodder. His affinity for marijuana, belied by his image, was confirmed by a 2009 arrest for possession. 2009 also saw Lincecum appear on the cover of pot periodical High Times Magazine, holding a baseball printed with a marijuana leaf.  Tim further entrenched himself in a cannabis conundrum following the Giants 2010 World Series victory, when he was asked about how San Francisco is reacting to the victory. “A lot of beer flowing. Smoke in the air, I’m hoping.”

The remark sparked controversy in the national media, but it lit a flame under progressive fans who embarked on a popular T-shirt campaign pleading “Let Timmy Smoke.” Lincecum’s carefree attitude resonates with Giants backers, making him a fan favorite. His surfer aesthetic magnifies Bay Area ideals, almost an amalgam of local attitudes, the physical manifestation of the city.

So why have the wheels fell off? Giants staff don’t have definitive answers to the $40.5 million dollar question. Lincecum’s velocity on his fastball is down, a malady credited to losing weight after omitting In-N-Out Burger from his diet. He’s allowing more walks per inning then in previous years, highlighting control issues prevalent throughout the season.

San Franciso has struck it rich with a gold rush of offense, scoring a revitalized Melky Carbrera for Jonathan Sanchez, a starter who was demoted for pitching worse than Lincecum. NL All-Star starter Matt Cain and Giants compatriot Madison Bumgarner have shouldered the burden of Lincecum’s collapse and kept the Giants afloat and in contention. His career prospects are comatose on life support. The Giants have a difficult decision to make: Should they terminate the career of a fan favorite, or do nostalgia and monetary investment stop them from pulling the cord?

Advertisements

Will Meek Mill Inherit the Earth?

Last May, hip-hop ascendant Meek Mill released Dreamchasers 2, the most downloaded mixtape of all-time and a thunderous precursor to this Maybach Music Group dominated summer we’re experiencing.  In “Amen” – the only track from the mixtape to penetrate radio airwaves – Meek compares his dutiful affinity for Sundays at Miami’s Club LIV (where he is the featured performer tonight) to a churchgoer’s adherence to the Sabbath.  The religious imagery continues: Meek blesses the “bad b****** in the building” with a resounding “Amen!”, channels his Bawse, Rick Ross, by noting the Holy Ghost’s presence in his vehicle, and laments the Devil’s temptation.  In effect, he eschews the traditional Litany of the Saints in favor of a litany of sins, much to the chagrin of Rev. Jomo K. Johnson, a pastor hailing from Meek’s hometown of Philadelphia who believes the song to be blasphemous.

At the fabled May 2nd MMG press conference, Warner Music CEO Lyor Cohen famously declared that “Rick [Ross] has the biggest office in the world.  The streets.”  One would assume Ross’s dominion over the streets extends to his labelmates (with the probable exception of Omarion), which is why negative critiques of “Amen” (or any song from Meek’s extensive catalogue) weren’t likely to resonate in the hood.  However, in the name of righteousness, Rev. Johnson implored his city, the so-called City of Brotherly Love, to boycott Meek in the weeks leading up to the August 28th release of his debut album, Dreams and Nightmares: “As a hip-hop fan, I want to encourage every rap fan in Philadelphia who is a believer in Jesus Christ, to boycott Meek Mill until he acknowledges this blatant disrespect.”  Also: “And being resident of North Philadelphia and pastor, I revoke Meek’s ‘hood pass’ until this happens.”  OH NO HE DIDN’T.

As Philadelphians rushed to take sides in the most heated controversy since TO/McNabb, Meek and the Rev. Johnson put their cheesesteaks down and hashed out some differences on Philly’s Hot 107.9.  A scornful Meek punched first: “This looking like you trying to get famous, or you need some attention, because you could have came to me and said anything you wanted to.”  Initially, I shared Meek’s skepticism toward the Rev. Johnson’s motives.  I mean, the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff said some unbecoming stuff back in the day and he didn’t call them out!  According to Meek, he “mighta even remixed the song with Kirk Franklin”, a prominent gospel artist, had Rev. Johnson expressed his concerns privately.  They continued to trade barbs – basically, Meek contended that his philanthropic efforts render the crude lyrics in tracks like “Amen” meaningless; Rev. Johnson reasoned that these vulgarities sully the minds of impressionable listeners.  The conversation devolved into Sabermetrics for Dummies when Meek, not exactly a master debater, brought forth an anonymously-sourced quantitative analysis: “Let’s do the statistics on rappers and pastors with rape. Zero percent rappers ever came to the light of raping a child. Pastors, it’s no match. What you talkin’ about? Are you protesting Eddie Long?”  Host Q-Deezy swiftly ended the proceedings, and may or may not have compared the Meek-Rev. Johnson squabble to Lincoln-Douglas and/or Bohr-Einstein.  Not your grandfather’s debate!

But back to the crux of the issue: Is “Amen” blasphemous?  It depends.  If Meek is intimating that the level of devotion required to do LIV on Sundays can only be matched by the deep-seated piety of a congregant, then no.  However, the song could represent something more ominous – Meek actively worshipping the strip club experience, in which case Rev. Johnson may have a point.  When Meek sashays into a club, does he, like, pause to genuflect, pray, and look to attain canonization and/or martyrdom?  Let’s examine the empirical evidence.

Meek Millz and NFL’s Top Players “Make It Rain” at “Showtime Saturdays” at Stadium Club in DC!!!

Disclaimer: When YouTube user streetzmedia labeled Pacman Jones and Darnell Dockett “NFL’s Top Players”, he/she presumably utilized Urban Dictionary’s definition of “player”.

Pacman’s strip club prowess is well-documented – he comprised the rainmaking vanguard with Fat Joe and Colbie Caillat – and it is important to note that if anyone led a sect relating to the adoration of establishments that regularly promote “Showtime Saturdays”, it would certainly be him.  The first minute of this video is exactly what you’d expect: flaming champagne bottles, gratuitous shots of a yellow Ferrari, amateur shawtys laboring for a dollar, some guy defiantly chewing his money.  Meek, inexplicably going by Meek “Millz” here, finally shows up at 1:07 exuding that hands-in-his-pockets vibe, adorned with 3 Chainz, one of which is a cross!  Does Meek Millz look like he’s prepping for a religious service?  I can’t really tell, but I can tell you that Pacman is “street approved”, if his gray tee is to be trusted.  For fun: try to guess what the stripe-shirted man posing with Pacman (2:04) says.  My guess: an expletive-laden adaptation of DJ Khaled’s proverb-of-choice, “We The Best!”   Meek caps off his Showtime Saturday in the most orthodox of ways – sipping straight from the bottle (potentially an “Amen”-ized communion practice, but that’s probably a reach).  VERDICT: INCONCLUSIVE.

Meek Mill ft Drake – Amen (Official Music Video)

I know it’s just an advertisement, but doesn’t the Dreams and Nightmares poster with Meek in full brooding-contemplation mode seem kinda suspicious?  He’s got that pseudo-regret portraiture down to a science – and a spiffy glove!  “Amen’s” official music video begins in an RV park (0:06), seemingly after a night of worship/Ciroc mass consumption.  There’s some murky bathtub action…and not much else, at least until the flashbacks begin, allowing the viewer to piece together the mystery of “last night” a la The Hangover or Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?  My favorite part, by far, is Drake – looking like Andy Roddick – reappropriating Rocky Balboa’s signature dash up the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s steps (1:53).  Sadly, while the word “churrrrch” is used early and often, no scenes in an actual church occur.  Silver lining: Waka Flocka can be found dangling a Pink Panther pendant at 2:46.  Meek delivers the final verse at Club LIV, insouciantly musing on the temptresses that wobbledy-wobble for his viewing pleasure.  It doesn’t sound like prayer – sorry, Rev. Johnson.  VERDICT: BLESSED ARE THE MEEK.


The Plain Dealer’s 1999 Browns Season Preview: An Examination

A pop quiz on the occasion of me jonesing for the start of football season:

Which former Cleveland Browns Head Coach was described by The Plain Dealer as having “the sound of a winner”?

A. Paul Brown

B. Marty Schottenheimer

C. Chris Palmer

D. Bill Belichick

The answer is …(drumroll)… C-Palms!

My grandma recently gutted her attic and, in doing so, unearthed a stash of historically significant newspapers.  The front-page fodder was mostly political (JFK’s assassination, Clinton’s impeachment, hanging chads) with the exception of one event: the rebirth of the Cleveland Browns.  With hindsight being 20/20, I sat down and devoured a lot of information on the 1999 squad, all recorded before the first game – a 43-0 loss to the Steelers.  Here are my findings:

CHRIS PALMER AIN’T NEVER TOLD NO LIE

“Fumbling the football,” Palmer said one day in training camp, his eyes burning like lasers into the guilty party, “will get you cut.”

Tim Couch fumbled fourteen times – 14! – in 1999 and remained with the team until 2003.

LUGGING A WATER COOLER WAS ONCE THE HAPPIEST THING TO DO

Having read all these words on the expansion Browns, I am quite content to be in 2012.  But this full-page ad rendered me kinda sentimental about the 20th century.  All those times I promenaded down the driveway with my mom (egregiously underdressed, carrying some sort of breadbasket-purse hybrid) and dad (who was cool enough to gel his hair, but aware enough of the threshold he had crossed some years ago that prohibited him from frosting his tips), orange cooler in hand, readying myself for the Browns game but secretly excited for the pit stop at Kohl’s before the Browns game, which of course was the place to be when it came to showing my support for the team – those were the days!

FRAN PALMER, CHRIS’S DAD, SHOULD HAVE TEMPERED HIS EXPECTATIONS FOR THE 1999 BROWNS

“I’m not predicting nothing for this year,” Fran says.  “I just hope they win more than three games.”

The 1999 Browns finished the season with a 2-14 record.

THE 2012 BROWNS COULD BENEFIT FROM THE SERVICES OF LESLIE SHEPHERD, BECAUSE THEY NEED A PROVEN PLAYMAKER

On the receiving corps, which consisted of Leslie Shepherd, Kevin Johnson, Damon Gibson, Darrin Chiaverini, and Ronnie Powell:

Shepherd is the only proven playmaker.

Shepherd ended the year with 274 yards on 23 receptions, considerably smaller numbers than rookie Kevin Johnson (986 yards, 66 receptions) and Scrawl So Hard devotee Darrin Chiaverini (487 yards, 44 receptions).

OWEN MARECIC IS UPHOLDING THE TRADITION OF FULLBACK-LINEBACKERS IN CLEVELAND

Consider Tarek Saleh:

DAVE BURBA HAS PROBABLY LOST MONEY IN VEGAS

 

UMM…

Uprgrade: Palmer over Belichick.


YOLO of the Week: Twitter Tags Yu, Freese for All-Star Births (and Why They Chose Them)

Arguably, the vote has surpassed the duel and the deathmatch as the most popular way of settling things. Election year means that (about 55% of) people act in their patriotic duty to make a choice and have a voice in the excellent (at evoking discontent) political staple, democracy. Though the presidential vote is in November, Twitter rocked the important vote on July 5th, exercising their right to hashtag guaranteed in the 1st Amendment and electing the final two participants in the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.

The tag #FreesePlease was an Ovaltine-esque campaign that carried St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese onto the National League squad. Freese rose to prominence during the 2011 World Series, hitting .545 with a playoff-record 21 RBIs and a Game 6 walkoff homer. Freese’s hot bat reduced Albert Pujols to discardable flotsam, casting the former MVP off to Los Angeles.

Freese has a checkered past preceding his sudden stardom. He quit baseball at one point in college, endearing to the slacker generation more likely to participate in a daytime Twitter vote than a government one. Freese’s blew a .232 in 2009 while driving in a St. Louis suburb, higher than the batting average of both of the team’s second base starters. Freese is hitting .285 on the season, eclipsing the Mendoza line on both the field and the road.

For a man whose name is is synonymous with chill, Freese is hot under the collar. His 2009 arrest violated a 2007 probation for “Public Intoxication plus Obstructing and Resisting an Officer.” And as a 19 year old, Freese earned his first DUI. That’s three strikes, but the catcher must have dropped the third one; the Cardinals enrolled Freese in a substance abuse program and he has been incident-free since 2009.

The creative hashtag may have added to Freese’s electability. His opponents (Aaron Hill #FinHillVote, Bryce Harper #Brycein12, and Michael Bourn #VoteBourn) went with less alliterative slogans. Freese is literally the William Henry Harrison of the All-Star vote.

Now that I closed with my strongest joke, an ode to 19th century politics, we can move on to the American League representative, who…actually isn’t an American at all. It’s Nipponese hurler Faridyu “Yu” Darvish, the Far-Eastern import who inked a 4.47 billion yen contract to practice his craft in Texas. Yu is also inking American headlines. He wore this shirt on his inaugural flight to Texas, a marijuana leaf with the words “I will survive” printed on it. Bee Gees fan? Flower Child? Medical Marijuana Bear Gryllis? The shirt caused quite a stir among the press, but raised more questions than answers.

And Yu was involved in another T-Shirt controversy, this time a shirt that he wasn’t even wearing. Teammate Mike Napoli attended a press conference wearing a “Yu is My Homeboy” shirt manufactured by a fan. As Deadspin  reports, since Yu wasn’t profiting on the shirts, his lawyers sued the guy selling them. Chinese basketball guard Jeremy Lin experienced a similar thing, with many shirts of questionable origin popped up online using “Linsanity” and “Linning” taglines. It seems the Far East just can’t appreciate a good cross-cultural pun.

Yu has the 2nd goofiest mug in this picture

The website AngryAsianMan.com is an eponymously curated site that found another media storm brewing around Yu. A Rangers analyst classified weak hits during a Darvish start as “a couple of chinkers” , provoking the incensed Asian-American running this site to highlight the questionable diction. This again parallels Lin’s ascension, when an ESPN staffer was fired for running the headline “Chink in the Armor” describing his turnover-laden play.

In Yu’s group of selectable AL pitchers, Jake Peavy (#TakeJake) had the catchy campaign, while the other eligible pitchers, Jonathan Broxton, Jason Hammel, and Ernesto Frieri, joined Darvish in running the conventional #Vote(Name) candidacy. The monumental outpouring of overseas support that got the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui and Red Sox pitcher Hideki Okajima voted into the game (in 2004 and 2007, respectively) with pedestrian stats likely boosted Darvish’s totals. The Chinese contingent voting for the NBA’s All-Star game picked Yao Ming in 2011, his 8th appearance. That year, Ming played in a grand total of 5 games and averaged 10 points per game, yet was nominated as the starting center for the West.

Not to suggest that Darvish’s stats weren’t worthy; he posted a decent 3.59 ERA with a strong 10 wins in the first half of the season. But his overseas support dwarfs the other choices, elevating him to a Godzilla-esque vote total.

By taking the vote to the tweeters, MLB acted like the hip league for once. America’s nostalgic pastime is typically conservative and traditional in the sporting world, but their official Twitter isn’t as stuffy, promoting giveaways and fan interaction. By being early adopters of this new medium, MLB is approaching the YOLO generation at home plate, turning in the lineup card, and hollering a resounding “#PlayBall” @theworld.


Love for This Club: Usher’s Confounding Run as Cavaliers Part-Owner

Prolific urban crooner Usher Raymond IV achieved marginal fame in the 1990s, but he reached prominence after releasing 2004 mega-hit Confessions. It sold over 10 million copies, especially strong considering the crop of releases from that year, which included laudatory albums from Ashlee Simpson, martial artist and current celebrity sheriff Steven Seagal, and slightly drunk hood-hopping teen J-Kwon. Netting the highest grossing first week in R&B history meant that we got to see Usher just about everywhere- cutting the dance floor/rug on MTV countdown bonanza Total Request Live, graciously accepting trophies from the seemingly endless barrage of awards shows, and (perhaps in a nod to Ludacris’ pledge to “milk the cow” in Yeah) endorsing calcium-fortified nectar from a cow’s teat.

But in 2005, Ur-sher brought “the voice to make the booty go” to Quicken Loans Arena, helping to usher in a new era of Cleveland prosperity. “I look for Cleveland to be my home away from home,” Raymond proclaimed. Usher’s business arrangement with majority owner Dan Gilbert brought the requisite sex appeal to Quicken Loans’ tax empire, a seminal marriage of business and pleasure. During the honeymoon, Usher was at many of the games, invigorating the city with an awesome new hand symbol that really got the crowd going.

C up, C-town…inverted?

It was an exciting time for Cavaliers basketball. Fans would play Where’s Waldo, searching for the man with the flat brimmed cap. We had an exciting new owner in Gilbert, who could see that the team needed to spend money and was willing to open the coffers. A local talent who had yet to trade his hairline for an outside jumper. Even the pregame pyrotechnics let it burn in Cleveland.

As for my confessions? Let’s just say that I could shine in a Confessions karaoke contest if the machine malfunctioned.

But ever since the early flames of excitement burned out, it seems like Usher has had trouble finding his seats. After being at many games in 2005, Usher has been MIA on a nightly basis. Rumors surfaced that Raymond wasn’t able to pony up the 50 million he pledged to join the ownership group, or that he had a falling out with the organization after former coach Paul Silas booted him and his entourage out of the dressing room. Both plausible, but unconfirmed.

In 2006, after Usher lost interest in his new toy, his publicist told AP’s Tom Withers that he is still a minority owner of the team. A US News article from 2009 pins the blame for Usher’s absence on a n uncustomary culprit: volunteering. It alleges that between campaigning for Obama in 2008, the birth of his son, and trying to halt malaria in Africa, Usher is simply too busy to show any sort of public support for silly endeavors like basketball. Charity is serious business that quarantines celebrities from the spotlight for years at a time, as we learn from other prolific humanitarians like Madonna, Angelina Jolie, and Oprah, difference-makers who shun the spotlight.

But for a definitive answer, we tun to America’s biggest talking head (literally), George Lopez.

During the 2010 playoffs, Lopez proposes a friendly wager pitting the fortunes of his Lakers against the success of Usher’s Cavs, and Usher is “wit it.” Lopez states in the clip that Usher is still a part owner, and Usher brags about the Cavs “being rewarded the Eastern Championship Conference” as a picture of him with LeBron appears on the screen. For what it’s worth, James appears annoyed and disinterested with Raymond’s presence. Furthermore, Usher pledges allegiance to his fandom by accepting some serious stakes: If the Lakers do better than the Cavs, Usher’s wax figure has to wear a Lakers jersey for ONE WHOLE DAY. That’s a gamblin’ man who loves his team right there. After a needless Facebook tie-in, the clip ends with Scrawl So Hard favorite Ron Artest coming out, presumably to intimidate Usher with his dual cred citizenship as a both basketball player and member of the rap game.

So Usher is still here in Cleveland, but in some sort of bizarro sideshow where he could care less about the actual games. Usher’s influence could have been pivotal, but has instead dissolved into a mutually useless relationship between himself and the Cavs.

At this point, Usher, life is reflecting art- yours.

It's been a long time comin
But we done been fell apart
I really wanna work this out
But I don't think it's gonna change
I do but you don't
Think it's best we go our separate ways

Burn by Usher