This is a new weekly column from Leitch. It has words, and pictures. It's called Ten Humans Of The Week. It might or might not work. But here it is.
There has been a lot of talk this week about Mike Piazza, from Murray "their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans' enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein" Chass' not-a-blog!-post about the catcher's back acne (which Daulerio already knew all about) and rumblings that Jeff Pearlman's new book about Roger Clemens contains allegations about Piazza.
I've always liked Mike Piazza, and not only because I saw one of his 18 at-bats with the Marlins. But when you're doing a ranking of '90s players who were rumored to be involved with steroids, he'd easily be in the top 10. (If you're doing a ranking of '90s players who were rumored to be gay, he's a solid third, behind Roberto Alomar and Bruce Chen.) I've read Pearlman's book, which actually hits newsstands tomorrow, and I can confirm the section about Piazza using steroids is in there.
In fact: I have it right here. Let's quote!
As the hundreds of major league ballplayers who turned to performance-enhancing drugs throughout the 1990s did their absolute best to keep the media at arm's length, Piazza took the opposite approach. According to several sources, when the subject of performance enhancing was broached with reporters he especially trusted, Piazza fessed up. "Sure, I use," he told one. "But in limited doses, and not all that often." (Piazza has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but there has always been speculation.) Whether or not it was Piazza's intent, the tactic was brilliant: By letting the media know, of the record, Piazza made the information that much harder to report. Writers saw his bulging muscles, his acne-covered back. They certainly heard the under-the-breath comments from other major league players, some who considered Piazza's success to be 100 percent chemically delivered. "He's a guy who did it, and everybody knows it," says Reggie Jefferson, the longtime major league first baseman. "It's amazing how all these names, like Roger Clemens, are brought up, yet Mike Piazza goes untouched."
"There was nothing more obvious than Mike on steroids," says another major league veteran who played against Piazza for years. "Everyone talked about it, everyone knew it. Guys on my team, guys on the Mets. A lot of us came up playing against Mike, so we knew what he looked like back in the day. Frankly, he sucked on the field. Just sucked. After his body changed, he was entirely different. 'Power from nowhere,' we called it."
When asked, on a scale of 1 to 10, to grade the odds that Piazza had used performance enhancers, the player doesn't pause.
"A 12," he says. "Maybe a 13."
So, there you go. By the way, I had forgotten that Reggie Jefferson quit baseball because the 1999 Red Sox left him off their playoff roster.
And now you know what Pearlman reports about Piazza in his book. You should buy it. It's good. Now I assume we're all done promoting it on Deadspin, yes? That's all you get, Pearlman.
Darren Davis. I share Spud's and FanIQ's fascination with Wonderlic scores. In every other sport, we have to just guess and assume the tragic lack of education provided to our professional athletes. In the NFL, they make them take a test! Vince Young's 6 — later upgraded to a 15, which, you know, isn't much better when you consider it was his second try — is the most famous score, but former Iowa State running back Darren Davis has the record with a 4. (They sure do teach 'em up in Ames.) Because the Wonderlic company — an actual company — is so proprietary about their test, you can't take a sample one online, though there are some reasonable facsimiles. I'm a little afraid to take it, myself, in the same way I'm afraid to click on one of those ads and learn that I have a lower IQ than Patrick Dempsey or something.
Lazar Hayward. In the wake of that crazy Missouri-Marquette game, more people are talking about Kim English than Lazar Hayward this week, and that's probably for the best. After all, Hayward's just a 22-year-old, and there's no need to drag a kid like that through the mud. But man: It's difficult to come up with a worse way to be a goat in an NCAA Tournament game that stepping on the end line when you're just trying to throw the ball inbounds to tie the game. (It's Hayward's relative good fortune that it was only in the second round. In the Final Four, he'd be remembered forever.) It's one thing to miss a free throw to lose a game, or to dribble off your foot out of bounds. To be so overwhelmed by the moment than you forget you have to stay out of bounds, that's something that'll stick in your brain for a while. Imagine if Dan Orlovsky had ran out of his own end zone in the last minutes of a playoff game. Lazar Hayward should probably average 24 points a game next year, just to make sure I'm the only one who will still remember.
Chris Kramer: OK, OK, so maybe the Big Ten didn't end up with four teams in the Sweet 16. But hey, two's not bad! That's as many as the ACC has! (And they had a chance at three, maybe even four.) That said, the conference did just enough to annoy everybody over the first two days of the tournament: They didn't do as well as the conference's defenders (like me) were hoping, and they didn't completely crap out the way everyone else was. Because the NCAA Tournament doesn't have quite enough villains for my taste, allow me to introduce you to Chris Kramer, the very epitome of the guy you hate when he's not on your team. (The Illini version of this was Lucas Johnson.) Kramer is a defensive pest, a cocky asshole, a taunter of opposing fans (the highlight of my Orange Krush sojourn was Kramer telling us to fuck ourselves — and, to top it all off, has an attractive, obnoxious camera hog mother. He's the perfect college basketball bad guy. Enjoy him this Thursday night.
Tracy McGrady. Remember when everyone thought Tracy McGrady was a tragic hero, a noble warrior against whom the sporting fates had conspired? The great Free Darko wept openly: "McGrady is the dismal mirror image of this: the emptiness and pain of his career are much bigger than quibbles over his game or teammates. If there's no reassurance to be found, it's because the ballad of Tracy McGrady is immune to sports. See him on the streets, and you'd probably try to hug him. And on some level, I'm sure he'd appreciate it." Lots has changed in two years! Now McGrady is the selfish jerk who left his team in the lurch to go under the knife — it's up for debate whether he desperately needed it or was doing the indefensible — and then watched his team take off without him. Since McGrady was declared out for the season, the Rockets are 27-9 and have passed the Spurs in the standings. How far has McGrady fallen? He's turned Ron Artest into a hero! Though, to be fair: The Rockets are using different math than the rest of us. (See what I did there? I just pulled a Murray Chass on the NBA. It's fun! So much easier than actually researching anything!)
Joe Morgan. Sunday night's USA-Japan World Baseball Classic was the first ESPN baseball game I'd watched since last November, which meant it was the first time I'd dealt with a world that had Joe Morgan in it, but not Fire Joe Morgan. It was pretty rough. Morgan's already in midseason form — my favorite was when he said, because he Played The Game, he had a superhuman ability to recognize speed — and I found myself obsessively reloading FJM, thinking that, dammit, screw the new TV show, we need Ken Tremendous back. Are we all going to be able to handle a full season of ESPN baseball coverage without FJM around? It was sad in November, but now that the game is back, it's really starting to sink in: FJM is really gone.
Lute Olson. Considering the circumstances of Olson's departure from Arizona back in October — in which his doctor publicly speculated that Olson's bizarre behavior over the previous year might have been because of a stroke, causing "personality changes" — it's rather remarkable that Arizona has made it to the Sweet 16. (Though the future NBA players help.) They still have an interim coach, Russ Pennell, who said Olson called him after the second-round win. "He said, 'Well, we had it in the bag all the time.' And then he started laughing." I hope the laughing was not of the maniacal variety. By the way, if you wanted to know why people who aren't bloggers hate bloggers, here's a possible reason: Google "Lute Olson." The first three entries are his Wikipedia page, his official site and an ESPN story reporting his retirement. The fourth? Lute Olson: Still A Dirty Old Man." This is why no one over the age of 70 should be introduced to Google. By the way, I suspect this is why I was getting notes from Vince Papale three years after I wrote a post about him.
Kenny Powers. Count me among the faithful masses: I absolutely adored "Eastbound and Down," which ended its first (and probably only) season Sunday night. Danny McBride might not be able to simulate throwing a pitch to save his life — he has the patented "shot put like a girl" technique — but he sure is freaking funny, and his show has a little more heart to it than you might suspect. Powers, for all his arrogance and lack of self-awareness, is not actually a terrible person; I love it when he screams apologies at people. (Think of him as Michael Scott on steroids. And I mean literally on steroids.) McBride's awfully busy these days, as is his show's co-creator, director Jody Hill, whose Observe & Report is wowing people and pissing them off in equal measure. (Variety loved it, and my friend Tim definitively does not.) So the show might or might not return. I'm begging it to. It's a baseball show that knows nothing about baseball ... and, honesty, thank God for that. You know what show knew a little about baseball? Fucking Arli$$. Remember: "There is one vision that gives me constant happiness: Your two enormous breasts."
Curt Schilling. One of my favorite old pieces from when I was writing the daily baseball column for the Times was this column about Schilling after his excellent performance in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series. It ended up being his final game, after his blog retirement yesterday. I love the post because it was heartfelt, corny and even got in a Rick Reilly-ism ("To say I've been blessed would be like calling Refrigerator Perry 'a bit overweight.'") Even though Schilling was as relentlessly self-promoting as any athlete I've ever come across, you forgave him, because he did it in a real, old-fashioned way, wooing sportswriters and other media folk, pulling cheesy PR stunts, telling whomever he was in front of whatever they wanted to hear, as opposed to letting some fancy agency or representative pull the same shit, but in a more cool, efficient way. Schilling was completely full of crap, but that was kind of what made him great, and unique. And — lest you forget — he was as great a big-game pitcher as I can remember. I really will miss the big lug. I just hope Corbin Bernsen plays him in the movie, and that the Cubs don't get tempted to call him in July.
Stacy Dean Stephens. A couple of weeks ago, one of my favorite little-known blogs was shut down. Diary of a Police Officer, an anonymous blog by "Officer Gary" that explained, from a policeman's perspective, what kind of madness and pathos they see every day. You don't see many cops online, and they're such a large part of our lives that it's a shame so few outside the cop circle are privy to their daily existence. (I am getting so old: I've gone from "Beautiful As A Rock In A Cop's Face" to "Hug A Cop!" in about eight years.) Anyway, Officer Gary's supervisor made him shut down the blog, so we are, again, shut out to that world. The best I can come up with today: This badass police car, which has "a 300-horsepower clean diesel engine, flashing lights visible from all angles, an ergonomic cockpit, an onboard computer with voice command and instant license plate recognition and integrated shotgun mounts." Sweet! I want that! (Stephens is one of the co-founders of the company.) My favorite part of the story:
Perhaps most popular among cops is the rear compartment, which is sealed off from the front and made entirely of seamless, washable plastic, with drain plugs in the floor.
"Numerous times I've had less than pleasant experience" with prisoners vomiting or relieving themselves in the back seat, said Stephens, a former Texas police officer.
God it must suck to be a cop. The car freaking rules, though.
Mark Zuckerberg. The 23-year-old founder of Facebook is a billionaire, but he's been taking extreme heat over the last couple of weeks for futzing with Facebook's design, making it more like Twitter and less like ... well, whatever it was before. You might think that Facebook is just some way to check in on ex-girlfriends and people whose careers you planned on surpassing in college. Nope! It's changing the world! Either it's about to reconstruct the world of finance in its own image, or it's ruining what was once a piece of organic beauty! Lots of people think a lot about this. I have no idea of the answer. I just wish people would stop writing on my wall, or more specifically, that my mom would stop writing on Daulerio's. That makes me deeply uncomfortable.