Monday, June 11, 2007

Dany Heatley has no future in NASCAR, McGowan’s pork chop sideburns the future in Toronto and other random thoughts

- Amazingly, in roughly the last year, Canadians have been chosen as the most valuable player in the NBA, NHL and American League. Rarely do we see Canadians dominate major North American sports unless it’s hockey, making me curious how many great athletes we “lose” to the ice. In the past, few Canadians have aspired to achieve athletic supremacy in other sports (something guys like Steve Nash might change) and they probably didn’t believe it was very possible anyway -- even superstars like Nash and Justin Morneau still regularly blab on about hockey.

It got me wondering: could many hockey players have cut it in other pro leagues? Off the top of your head you’d have to say Of course, but like my buddy Arby pointed out, it’s difficult to imagine whispy, 41-year-old Dom Hasek, one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, getting buzzed by 95-MPH fastballs. And can you picture Joe Sakic running post patterns for the Eagles while Roy Williams lurked in the secondary? How about Jagr trying to post up Lebron James? Though his lack of teeth might help him smoothly transition into the culture, Dany Heatley would be a nightmare on the NASCAR circuit.

For some reason, hockey players don’t seem to get the same credit for possessing great athleticism like players in the other major North American sports (okay, baseball is probably a poor example). Could many of the NHL’s top guys have cut it, or more importantly excelled, in other professional sports leagues?

- I love Dustin McGowan’s new pork chop sideburns, though it’s a little disconcerting that besides McGowan himself, his burns are the best call up Toronto’s depleted minor league system has mustered this season (McGowan’s facial hair, by the way, still makes him look like an overachieving Grade 9 student compared to Brian “Wolverine” Tallet -- though considering Tallet isn’t exactly the most feared reliever around the majors, “Wolverine” might be a bit extreme in terms of nicknames. My buddy Dave and I actually dubbed him “The Pizza Man” after a weekend series against Philly last year. The Rog has a promo where if the Jays collectively notch 10 strikeouts, everyone gets a free slice of pie. Two out of three games that weekend Tallet emerged from the bullpen to whiff a couple of batters and push the Jays to 10 Ks. Amazing, isn’t it? The guy could wager his firstborn child and Tallet wouldn’t be able to hold a four-run lead in the seventh but, when there’s a goofy, free pizza promotion on the line, The Pizza Man delivers). Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, though; McGowan has looked like a new man recently and logic -- yes, logic -- dictates that his burns have either settled him down or given him newfound confidence. He may be unstoppable is we come up with cool nickname.

More importantly, though, McGowan’s burns help round out what’s beginning to shape up as a formidable roster of funny facial hair -- it seems J.P. Ricciardi has a plan after all (this week’s J.P. Ricciardi Fun Fact, courtesy of The Sun’s Steve Simmons: In 2005, J.P. sent Chad Gaudin to Oakland for Dustin Majewski. This season, Gaudin is 6-1 with a 2.43 ERA. The 25-year-old Majewski is hitting .232 in double-A). McGowan, Tallet, Sal Fasano and Reed Johnson’s facial hair must rank them with any quartet in baseball. The Jays are like the Mets, except instead of everyone shaving their heads they grow ridiculous beards (and lose).

- While we’re discussing fashion, does anyone have a good reason as to why the Jays haven’t switched back to their baby blue uniforms yet? Retro is huge right now and look how well the Chargers’ old outfits were received. Obviously, they could be updated (though I’d leave them essentially the same, I wouldn’t even add buttons) and it’d be a nice change of pace considering it seems like teams only wear black or red these days (seriously, check out the NBA -- including alternates, Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, the Clippers, Miami, New Jersey, Portland and Toronto each have a red jersey. The NBA would start sharing team nicknames if it wasn’t afraid of being sued by the CFL).

- Why didn’t anybody tell me about Tim Lincecum?!? Undoubtedly, baseball aficionados and fantasy nerds have known about the righty for a while, but wow -- I should have been notified sooner. I recently watched the Giants’ young fireballer against the Mets and his stuff is filthier than the alleyway Rob Babcock lives in. He has an incredible 95-98 MPH fastball with some wicked late movement, a very solid breaking ball, and looks like a young Alan Ruck (the guy who played Ferris Bueller’s testosterone-deficient best friend) when he’s in mid-delivery. Enjoy it while it lasts, though. His throwing motion is so violent he looks like he’s trying to behead a 13th century heathen with one arm.

- Very random European football note: Graham Poll, a ref for England’s Football Association, has retired after becoming disillusioned with the FA’s lack of support for its officials. A few years ago -- he says this has nothing to do with his retirement -- Poll was refereeing a second-round World Cup match between Australia and Croatia. He gave Croatian defender Josip Simunic three yellow cards before tossing him from the game. The match ended 2-2 and the Aussies advanced but, had Croatia won, Australia could have protested Poll’s mistake and the game would have been replayed (which apparently has never happened before). The thing is, even though his mistake didn’t actually affect anything, it crushed Poll’s psyche:

“A lot of tears were shed and it will always live with me,” Poll recently said of the mistake. “My last thought before I die will probably be ‘why?’”

How hilariously sad is that? This guy is ready to hang himself over a call that didn’t matter and we can’t get Vince Carter to care about his job more than the guy who pumps shit out of my septic tank. What a world.


malcolm said...

Don't underestimate the athleticism in baseball. While you will find guys like Wells with a little excess fat, or a few sluggers like Mo Vaughn with no real mobility, the outfield's that field's a hell of a lot bigger than it looks.

Consider the number of time the third baseman, shortstop and left fielder end up each camped underneath a ball (with time to spare, and often the catcher or pitcher in the mix as well).

For that matter, try fielding a ground ball five strides to your right when it's coming off a major league slugger's bat and rolling along Astroturf.

Pitching is also near the top in terms of necessity for proper muscle conditioning, given the strain it puts on your arm -- fireballers who don't take care of their arms just end up needing Tommy John surgery.

The bottom line is that, like in any sport, there are a few aging superstars who have lasted late in their careers with a little excess fat or a slowed pace simply by virtue of their skill in the game, but all it takes is one look at the college level to tell you need to be phenomenally athletic to play high-level baseball.

malcolm said...

On a more important note, how does Gustavo Chacin not make the funny facial hair list?

Mark P said...

Technically, Gus shouldn't make the funny facial hair list for the same reason that Jim Abbott doesn't make the 'awesome right hands' list.

Kevin said...

Leave it to you to Jinx Lincecum. Good timing, though.