verlanderodu.jpgI know everyone’s writing about Justin Verlander today, and that is as it should be. He’s done one of the most difficult things in sports, especially in an era where managers are terrified to let the pitch count get too high on a young stud. Even though the subject will be covered ad nauseum, I am writing about him anyway, and I have my reasons.

My first is homer pride. I live in Virginia and take classes at Old Dominion University. Justin Verlander is a Virginia native who played his college ball at ODU.

Second, my homer pride caused me to reach for Verlander in my office Fantasy Baseball league, and a decision based on emotion has paid big dividends. So that’s a first for me (see – picking Kansas in the NCAA brackets).

But in general, his story is an interesting one with twists and turns met with fortitude and faith, and that’s a story worth telling.

Verlander is from Manakin-Sabot, a suburb of Richmond, VA. When his talent became obvious to his parents, he was sent to the Richmond Baseball Academy to get some professional training. Soon, he had a reputation for throwing hard with little control – a common enough story. But when a bout with strep throat cost him some arm strength in his senior season, professional scouts were not wowed by his 86-mph fastballs and let him slide to the college game.

Whether his illness also caused his stock to slip in college recruiting circles, or Verlander just wanted to stay close to home, he ended up at Old Dominion University on the Virginia seacoast. There’s a decent baseball program in place, but it’s no match for the true powerhouses. Justin recovered from his illness, bulked up, and started throwing 100 mph. I’d go to the ODU site and get you some pertinent stats from that time, but it seems to have been crashed in the wake of the no-no.

Verlander was drafted by the Detroit Tigers with the second pick in the 2004 amateur draft (weep, Padres fans, for your brain trust passed). He made short work of minor-league batsmen, striking out 136 in just 119 innings. The reformed control demonstrated in those starts earned him a call-up to the big club in late 2005, where he impressed with his durability and power.

In 2006, he earned a permanent spot at the bottom of the Tigers’ rotation. He went 17-9 with a 3.63 era and won AL rookie of the year. Predictably enough, he struggled in the postseason, picking up just one win and watching his ERA blow up over 5.00. Still, he was allowed to pitch the first game of the World Series, and was the Tigers’ leader with 11 innings pitched in the Fall Classic. He lost both games he started, but he managed to do it without any black stuff on his hand.

When we look around the sports landscape, it is cluttered with prized draft picks who squandered their talent. Josh Hamilton turned to drugs. Elijah Dukes has threatened violence against his girlfriend and children. What makes Justin Verlander pull through all of the temptations? It sounds corny, but he is a man of faith.

girlfriend1.jpgHe has dated the same woman since high school. He paid a friend $3,000 to settle a half-serious chocolate milk debt. One major league scout has said “the best thing I can tell you about Justin is that 10 years from now, the only difference between Justin then and Justin now is that he’ll be driving a nicer car”.

Obviously, these stories will be few and far between in the sports world. But for today, at least, a nice guy didn’t finish last.

Congratulations, Justin!


USA Today



The Fanhouse

UPDATE: I got this hilarious notification email from CBS Sportsline overnight.

CBS SportsLine.com Fantasy Baseball Notification

Justin Verlander found out real quickly how much a no-hitter
changed his life. When the Detroit Tigers young ace walked
into a restaurant with his girlfriend, he was greeted with a
standing ovation. “Yeah, the second one of the night,”
Verlander said Wednesday, about 17 hours after pitching a
no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. Verlander was
not-so-special when he reported to Comerica Park for
Wednesday night’s game. “I had a drug test,” he said. “I
guess that happens when you throw 100-something in the ninth

Nice game, kid. Now piss in a cup.


In 1992, Reebok set out to bolster interest in their Track and Field shoes by televising short advertisements capitalizing on a friendly rivalry between two decathletes bound for the Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona. They ran frequent ads touting the Dan and Dave phenomenon, hyping up the inevitable matchup of two American greats.

Oops, did I say inevitable? [inigo montoya]You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.[/inigo montoya]

obriendan2.jpgThe whole deal fell apart when Dan O’Brien (left) muffed a pole vault in trials and failed to qualify. To someone like me, with a short memory and very little interest in Track or Field, that is where the story ended – a humorous cautionary tale for our marketing-mad times.

Not so, says the Portland Tribune. The newspaper’s Steve Brandon covered the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson were reunited and immortalized on the same day.

“It’s really an honor, especially to go in with Dave,” says O’Brien, 39. “I wouldn’t have accomplished any of the things I did in my career had it not been for Dave. He was the guy I was chasing the whole time. He kept me hungry.”

It’s important to remember that Dan and Dave did accomplish great things in their careers. They just failed to live up to the contrived situation Reebok placed them in. Dave Johnson made the Olympic field in Barcelona and won a bronze medal in the decathlon in spite of a broken foot. Dan O’Brien, three years younger than Johnson, was able to come back for the Atlanta Games in 1996 and take a gold medal.

davejohnson.jpgBoth men give back by teaching. O’Brien trains young athletes in speed and conditioning, and owns a gym in Scottsdale, Arizona. Johnson (right) has been a special education teacher and is now the Vice Principal and Athletic Director of a High School near Salem, Oregon. In case you think a Bronze Medal isn’t worth the cost to melt it down, listen to the way Johnson uses his:

“When I need to, I put it around a kid’s neck and let them know I was once their age and had to make some changes in my life to win that medal. It’s an incredible tool to use. Kids listen.”

It’s all well and good to watch the inspirational videos during the Olympics, but it’s ten times more refreshing to realize that some of those soft-focus profilees really do go on to do special things with their lives. Too bad we’ll never know which one of them was “the best”.

markcubanmfff.jpgInstead of looking at the sports implications of Mark Cuban’s proposal for a new professional football league to rival the NFL, I decided to look at the business implications of Cuban’s seemingly blind desire to meddle in sports ownership.

Now, I’m not worth billions of dollars, so who cares if I think Cuban is a good businessman? Nobody, that’s who. But Forbes magazine has written an article detailing Five Marks of a Great Leader, and it is through that prism that I will view the head of the UFL.

From the article:

1. Moral Courage

This matters most. It is the willingness to stick to one’s beliefs, to pursue a course of action in the face of overwhelming criticism, great adversity and, not least, the faintheartedness of friends and allies.

I can give this one to Mark without hesitation. He believed that he could take the Dallas Mavericks from doormat to contender, and he has done so. Along the way, he has made Dallas a destination for free agents by building locker rooms where you can drop the soap without having to check and see if Dirk is about to “post you up” – there are individual shower stalls instead of a group-prison scene.  (speaking of which, the blog Steroid Nation has turned up Mark’s blog about his colonoscopy)

President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair have demonstrated it in standing by their Iraq policy.

Urg. Well, there’s always a downside. This might explain investments like The Benefactor , the toilet seat with a built-in bidet, and the UFL.

2. Judgment

When I need advice, I rarely turn to someone with first-class honors from a top university. I turn to someone who has knocked about the world and cheerfully survived “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

I think Mark is golden here. His parents were working class, he worked as a bartender, a dance instructor, and a party promoter. Cuban is a hustler, plain and simple, and he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Being able to judge well is often linked to an ability to mix with and learn from other people–not so much from experts but from common people.

Yes, from what I hear, Mark Cuban has quite a touch with the common people.

3. A Sense of Priority

Sorting out the truly big from the small takes an innate horse sense that’s not given to most human beings.

Hmm… I’m struggling with this one. Mark seems to have trouble sticking to one thing. If you have a team that’s on the cusp of the NBA championship, do you really need to go tilting at windmills by trying to compete with Roger “The Punisher” Goodell? Just thinking about starting something this risky has to pull focus away from the things he’s already succeeding at – namely basketball ownership, and self-promotion.

Clever leaders often have a habit of pouncing on minor issues and pushing them at all costs, even to the detriment of their real interests.

Yep, this UFL thing has all the marks of arrogance and dilletante-ism. No soup for you, Cubes.

4. The disposal and concentration of effort

Leaders must allocate their time and energy.

This dude is definitely fidgety. He spends too much time trying to live up to the media-promoted image of Donald Trump, fighting with officials, and pulling publicity stunts. He doesn’t really have a core project that defines him – he’s always trying to find the next music-sharing service or toilet seat that shoots water up your bum. At least the Donald always has “Real Estate Mogul” to fall back on when his hairstyle implodes.

5. Humor

A subordinate always serves more zealously and obeys more faithfully a leader who can joke, and the public–painfully aware of the harshness of life–warms to a potentate who can make them laugh.

Here, at last, is the area in which Mark Cuban stands head and shoulders above all other NBA owners. He is quick with a one-liner and has a sense of humor about his own quirks. Some may deride him as an obnoxious nerd, but he brings life to the proceedings, and for that, we can thank him.


I can give Mark Cuban high marks for Moral Courage and Humor. But his Judgment, Sense of Priority, and Concentration of Effort are called severely into question. If the Dallas Mouth had chosen to compete with the NHL, I would have called him brilliant. But to take on the most powerful sports league in America at the peak of its popularity rates really poorly on the wisdom scale. Probably the best thing we can hope for is that Mark will let this one fizzle out and hope nobody remembers that he ever said anything.

But what the hell. If he goes ahead with it, at least we’ll have plenty to write about. Right?

It’s Launch Day

A couple of new sites launched today, and I want to give both a mention.

First of all, my wife put up her first slideshow on her new photography blog called Fofalani. She’s very talented, so check back from time to time for new photos. Especially if you want to see more of me & my son, as well as beautiful nature photos like the one to the left.

And I got a communique from Ryan stating that the new interactive sports community FanBash is online, and I’ve been over there playing with the controls a little bit. Looks like a fun place to have your opinion heard. My favorite so far is the poll about the most alarming hypothetical sports defection. Coach K to UNC is the easy chiller #1, but I made my case for Jordan in a Knicks uni as a strong #2.

voodoosabermetricsbanner1.PNGVoodoo Sabermetrics reminds us that our love for the team includes our love of individual players. We usually have a favorite superstar hitter or pitcher or both. But what about those guys that you just… like? Maybe someone who pinch hits or steals a base now and then. Maybe an aging vet who is like an extra coach in the dugout. Rather than judge everyone by their stats, we’re going to use unique categories and scoring methods to check out baseball’s characters.

Our High Voodoo Council are:

Jack Cobra from The Cobra Brigade Neighbor Quotient and Scrappiness
Sarah from Strike Zones & End Zones Hottness and Behavior
Sunil from Hurricanes Are For Drinking Atomic Mass and Exposure
T.J. from Gheorghe: The Blog Clutchness
Sooze from Babes Love Baseball Jollyness
TC from Mr. Thursday’s Curious Mechanism Appearance and Quotability
Extra P. from The Extrapolater Name Quality (including nicknames)

The only introduction our next target needs is this image:

That’s right, baby, it’s Dmitri Young time!

Name: His full name is Dmitri Dell Young, so I’m immediately giving his parents credit for foreshadowing, since they named his younger brother Delmon. That little hint of what’s to come in the middle name region is nomenclature genius.

When it comes to nicknames, Dmitri might have one of the best of all time. “The Big D” is pretty predictable, but when some wag laid “D’Meat Hook” on our Pillsbury Dough Boy, a legend was born. If you read to the end of this piece, you’ll see that a popular sports site has been having fun with Dmitri by creating a unique online presence for him as well.

I give Dmitri Dell “D’MeatHook” Young 8 out of 10 for name quality.


sunil.jpgAtomic Number: 234.43, the number of Soul Glo. Just let your soul glow.

Exposure: Sure not as much as it should be. I remember when Dmitri Young first came up to the majors, he was supposed to be the future of the Cardinals organization. Instead, he’s bounced around from team-to-team, without any real successful seasons. [facetious] Maybe his younger brother will learn from his example, stay out of trouble, and will dominate the game on the field for the next decade, while avoiding Dmitri’s negative pub. [/facetious]


Neighbor Quotient: Can you name one good team that Young has produced on that has done well? I can’t. Even though he was on the Tigers last season, he didn’t play that much before being let go. By being let go I mean that Jim Leyland kicked him out of there as fast as he cold. Young is one of those players who will always play on a poor team but never will start for a good team. Therefore, I don’t want him in my neighborhood because it might have the same effect. He might be a decent neighbor in a bad neighborhood, but put him in a good neighborhood and he might bring us all down. 2 out of 10.

Scrappiness: It’s hard to be scrappy when you were the 4th pick in the 1991 Draft. The type of players who define scrappy are those guys who have grinded and hustled their way into the big leagues on marginal talent and getting the most out of their ability. With his mediocre career it seems that Young never fulfilled his potential and thus, can not be scrappy. 0 out of 10.


Hotness: 1

I’ll admit, trying to find any redeeming qualities to give Dmitri Young any hotness score was a struggle. Between the Krusty the Clown hairstyle, highly neglected mid-section, and often scraggly facial hair, the prognosis is not good. Even his original fan site hasn’t been updated since 2004! Sometimes one can be “hot by association”, so I took into account his teammates such as Ryan Church (yum) and Felipe Lopez (hello). And looks don’t count for everything, but looking into his personal history definitely did not help his case (see behavior below). And then I looked at his hair again, which almost sealed the deal. I did, however, find a picture of him holding his son who is absolutely adorable. That’s got to count for something, no?

Behavior: High Risk

Between pleading guilty in domestic violence charges, yapping his mouth about his former team and teammates, and standing in the baseline to give baserunners concussions, Young is definitely one to be on alert for. His lack of self control and disregard for authority make him a baseball version of Terrell Owens. Factors that kept him from being rated a severe risk? His admittance of a drug and alcohol problem which he continues to seek treatment for. Also, I don’t think he’s smart enough for any pre-meditated acts of malice. He’s just
naturally a jack ass.


mrthursday-96.jpgMy numerical scores will correlate to the alcohol contents of various beers. In case you care, here’s the scoring system.

Appearance. Behold the many faces of DMitHook! DaMeatHook? Whatever. Dmitri came into the league with St. Louis, but really started making a name for himself as a Red in 1998. This overweight outfielder (who, remarkably, was an above average corner outfielder for a number of years) looked remarkably fierce with his varying degrees of bearded-ness and hair length.

When Dmitri was traded to the Tigers after the 2001 season, he started to let himself go. The hair started reaching out, leaving his hat to sit on the heavy, wild Afro, instead of on his head. At times, the hair gets braided, and, working in conjunction with Young’s once overboard drinking habits, DmitHook looked like the man you hope doesn’t have to shower at the same time you do in prison. When the ‘fro is out, though, Dmitri is such a friendly looking guy that a few years back Boys and Girls Club had Dmitri teaching little leaguers how to rob home runs, which seemed odd because, well, I’m not sure this big-haired gentlemen has any experience in such a thing. Oh, Dmitri has himself at least one tattoo, also. After struggling with alcoholism, he found help with Alcoholics Anonymous, and wears a tattoo of their logo on his wrist, as both a reminder of his commitment to sobriety, and a thank-you for what the organization did for him. I like that.

Whether wild and fun, or scary prison rapist, either way, Dmitri, have yourself a Stone Russian Imperial Stout.

Quotability. There doesn’t appear much said by Dmitri, of note or otherwise. He talked trash to a professional wrestler (Edge). He has offered heartfelt apologies and insights about alcoholism (and, it would seem by his current health and ball clobbering, he’s sticking to the program). While Young isn’t overly quotable, he’s spent his career in St. Louis, Detroit, and Cincinnati–not exactly media hubs. While he’s in the bright lights of the nation’s capital now, he’s playing for the cellar dwelling Nationals, so the national press isn’t exactly lurking around his clubhouse. Dmitri’s only a little crazy, and he’s got a certain kind of honesty, I think. While it’s nothing special, it’s fine by me. Have yourself an Aldaris Porteris, Dmitri.



Dmitri Young’s mom was so stoned when she named him, she forgot the other I in his name. Which is cool, cause he smokes himself so jolly that he forgets how to spell it, anyway.

Between the Oscar Gamble fro and several postitive tests for the lazy lettuce, Dmitri gets a generous “Don’t Worry Be Happy” Bumper Sticker on the jollity scale. That’s just how Da Meat Hook rolls.

Gheorghe was recently asked by Eric of The Extrapolater if he could pinch-hit for regular columnist Gary GNU on Voodoo Sabermetrics. G:TB was happy to oblige, as we can only post so many YouTube clips and pictures of washed-up midgets throwing (I use that term loosely) baseballs. This week’s VS victim – Dmitri Young of the hometown Washington Nationals. I was asked to talk about Dmitri’s “clutchness” (someone check with Colbert to see if that’s a word)…well, even though I’ve seen Da Meat Hook play several times this year, I decided we needed to recruit an expert for this discussion. So who did we bring in? Dmitri’s mild-mannered younger brother Delmon, of course. We caught up with Delmon at the nearby Chuck E. Cheese’s, in between rounds of his court appointed Whac-A-Mole therapy session. Dmitri’s “clutchness”, as told to us by his crazy younger brother:

“First of all, what kind of scale are you using, because I’ve got to tell you, Dmitri DOES NOT like scales (laughs heartily to himself). No seriously, are we talking about stats here? Look at the trifling 24-35 team he plays for, and look at the clutch line he’s putting up (now, we all know I’m 100 times better than him, so even I am impressed with this):

.319, 5 HR, 28 RBI, .401 OBP, .494 SLG

Just think where the Nationals would be WITHOUT Dmitri. And all this after a 2006 that would make Tom Sizemore blush: an assault charge, treatment for alcoholism and depression, a divorce AND hospitalization for diabetes. Hell, the Tigers rubbed salt in the wound by cutting his ass a month before they played in the World Series.

His play on the field not clutch enough for you? How about this – my bro appeared at WWE’s 2005 Survivor Series and laid the smackdown on that punk Edge and his skanky sidekick Lita. Dmitri wasn’t going to stand for some fake-ass wrestler mocking his team.

Soooo, if you forced me to create a clutchness scale, I would say Dmitri is a 8 out of 10 (with me of course being a 10)…but you’re not going to make me actually create a scale, right? Good, because some punk just cut me in line for Skee-Ball, and I need to go pull an ‘Elijah’ on his ass.”

Thanks, TJ. I am still in awe of your meeting with the legendary Gheorghe himself.


Dmitri is the kind of guy this feature was made for. He’s never really been the megastar many hoped he would be, but he’s just about as entertaining as they get. He’s fat, he’s a bit nutty, he has that great Forrest Whittaker sleepy smile thing going on. He has charisma, and I would definitely sit down at the table with him and TC and have a Russian Imperial or a Aldaris Porteris, or two.

But my absolute favorite thing about Dmitri is the way he lends himself so readily to the MLB chat room at The Dugout. His encounters, both criminal and romantic, with Lady Cop, are a saga I follow like a soap opera. Check DaMeatTree out, starting here. Then you can catch up with Dmitri’s other exploits by reading the posts as indexed by player name. NSFW, though, because your boss hates it when you sit at your desk laughing your ass off.

Boom, bitch!


Read past issues of Voodoo Sabermetrics here.

The time has come for me to accept that I am out of the Ladies… Hot Blogger Challenge and move on. Though I must say that pulling 46% against Monday Morning Punter was a pleasant surprise. I mean, he put in a better picture, a better writing sample, and has a huge fan base. I will take the moral victory.

Now, as any good primary loser does, I will throw my weight behind the remaining players.

First of all, in the bracket I so recently vacated, the Mid-Atlantic:

AA News Team Member Brian from OMDQ took a big risk and submitted a very personal piece for his writing sample, and it paid off. He offers excellent writing and a big hug. Vote for him.

Another News Team member with a tough matchup. After coming out of the middle of the bracket, he gets to face the reigning #1 seed in the region – Dan Shanoff. Don’t let that sway you, you know you love June Madness upsets. I love it that he recently moved to WordPress so I can read his writing whenever I want.

As thanks for his vocal support for me in my battle with the Punter, Jon gets to face the sudsy one in the second round. I was Jon’s first interview subject, and he is rising quickly in the blog world, so get him while he’s hot. Where OMDQ offers a hug, Jon is going bold with a smoochie-face.

The AFC North:

I usually root for the underdog, but in this case, I’m pulling for a front-runner. Jay is a great writer, and a damn nice guy, to boot. He has had me as a guest on his blog Sports Gone South, and wrote a smartass profile of his alma mater for my side project, College Rule Notebook. He is always handy with advice as I belly-flop into the waters of freelance sports writing as well, so he’s aces in my book. And I mean that in a totally hetero way.

RUTS took his clean dome and spice-addled eyes (cutting-edge Dune reference) up against the abs of Sven and won. He faces the dangerous T. Kyle King. This will test the Big Ten stolidity of Penn State fans vs. the dog-fetishists of Georgia. Surely you can’t vote for dog-fetishists.

Jack Cobra is the American dream. He’s a clean-cut former college athlete in a tux in church. He is a stud writer. I wouldn’t even be worried about him, except that he’s going up against marginal pro basketball player (and, like me, former Kansas resident) Paul Shirley. C’mon kids, let’s make history and give a Cubs fan a championship.

The Campbell Conference:

Mike and I started our WordPress blogs around the same time last year. He wisely divided his passions into Tar Heels and Everything Else. He allowed me to do some guest-live-blogging during the ACC tournament, and was also kind enough to contribute to College Rule Notebook. He has already begun his campaign to upset #1 seed Orson Swindle in the second round. Vote America, vote Mike White.

The National League West:

This is the toughest bracket, with some high-profile matchups and enormous vote tallies.

You might think this guy needs none of your help. He runs link-factory extraordinaire Deadspin, right? But he drew a difficult second-round matchup in Matt from Kentucky Sports Blog, who mobilized rabid Kentucky fans via his radio show, and brought in the highest total number of votes of any participant in the contest (over 2,000 in his matchup). Still, why do I vote Will? Because 2/3 to 3/4 of the 120,000 hits you see in my counter were nicely giftwrapped and hand-delivered by the moody man you see above. Beat that.


This one breaks my heart. AA used my choice of nickname when pulling together the AA live-blogging force that is the Channel 4 News Team. He gives me a blank canvas to write The Press Buffet every weekend. Shorty writes very well-recieved posts for The Extrapolater in addition to his fine work over at Milk Was A Bad Choice. I’m inclined not to feel too bad for Shorty since he has a fine honey smooching him in his pic, but I can’t root against either guy. I’m going to have to recuse myself and see how it plays out, but you don’t have to. Go make your choice.

That’s it. There are a lot of other bloggers in the brackets I like for various reasons, but these are the ones I feel some loyalty toward, and think are deserving of your votes. See you at the Ladies… place.


“You know how I know you’re gay? You watch old clips of Horse Racing on YouTube and get teary eyed.”

I don’t know exactly what is going on, but I am absolutely obsessed with this clip of the 1973 Belmont Stakes that I found on YouTube this weekend. My brother was at Belmont yesterday, so I payed pretty close attention to the race. It was a surprisingly exciting race and as most of you already know, Rags to Riches became the first Filly to win the final leg of the Triple Crown in over a century.

Back to my obsession with Secretariat. There is something genuinely amazing about seeing this incredible animal run away from the pack like he does. His dominance in that race is the reason that most horse racing fans consider Secretariat to be the greatest race horse of all time. Does it make me any less of a man because I am enthralled by the video of the race over the Rudy theme music? Am I getting a bit too emotional over a race that happened over 30 years ago? Probably, but know what? I’m OK with that…

Shorty is creator and lead writer of Milk Was a Bad Choice