Friday, March 28, 2008

Jose Canseco: Dumber and meaner than your average idiot

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. I think we all knew Jose Canseco was a blinking moron, but his public image - or at least the way I perceived him - was that of an amiable caricature, a mostly harmless if egomaniacal doofus, the kind of guy who, I don't know, might get busted racing his Ferrari at 120 mph or let a fly ball doink off his thick coconut for a home run. Man, have I been set straight. In this this probably NSFW piece, written for Deadspin by the brilliant Pat Jordan*, Canseco is exposed beyond a doubt as an incurable scumbag, a stupid and pathetic shell of a man who seems on the fast track for an early demise. A snippet:

Jose spends his days at his house in Sherman Oaks, California, off the Ventura Freeway near the San Fernando Valley, home of the porn industry, waiting for producers to call to inform him that the time is ripe, America is now hungry for a Kung Fu movie starring a steroid-inflated, Cuban, ex-baseball player in his forties. In anticipation of that call, Jose showed off his martial arts moves to the man who choreographed "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The man watched Jose's 250-pound body spin and kick and leap into the air for a few minutes and then he told Jose that his moves "were stiff, not very fluid, and you don't kick very well." Jose told Rob, "That guy doesn't know what the ---- he's talking about."

While there's much more tragedy in Canseco's life than comedy, I have to admit the visual of that oblivious meathead breaking out the ninja moves made me laugh out loud.

* - Jordan, a famed and prolific freelancer, authored two of my most beloved books, "A False Spring," about washing out as a Braves' bonus baby in the '50s, and "A Nice Tuesday," a sort of follow-up memoir about returning to the pitching mound at age 56. Read them if you haven't. I promise you'll be glad you did. Jordan also had a memorable take on Roger Clemens in the immediate aftermath of the release of the Mitchell Report. Check it out here. And finally, yes, I stole the asterisk concept from Posnanski**. I only wish I could steal his talent. Or Jordan's.

** - Who admits he stole the concept from David Foster Wallace. So there.

2. Chris Webber limped into retirement this week, the health of his knees and the last remnants of his vertical leap sacrificed to the Hardwood Gods long ago, and I guess that makes him something of a sympathetic figure. But there will be no sentimental farewell coming from this corner for Webber, a charming, charismatic chameleon who coasted by on his natural talents and who must be remembered as one of the least clutch players in the history of the sport. He departs with some fine numbers and countless Stu Scott-voiced highlights, but I'll remember C-Webb as one of is game's great underachievers given the gifts he possessed. Or maybe I'm just bitter, since his retirement left me with the realization that the Fab Five - Michigan's high-flying, trend-setting freshman class of Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwon Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson - burst onto the scene 17 years ago. God, I'm ancient. Maybe I ought to retire.

3. And while we're here, might as well also add this to the list of things that make my pre-geezer self consider swigging a Metamucil-and-Drano cocktail: I remember watching Davidson phenom Stephen Curry's dad play . . . when he was in college at Virginia Tech, before he embarked on a 16-year NBA career. And the son definitely got his father Dell's dead-eye jumpshooter gene - his release is blink-and-you'll-miss-it quick and his form, save for a slightly low release point, is nearly as picture-perfect as his old man's. While I'm tempted to equate Stephen Curry's NBA chances with those of someone like Salim Stoudamire, the wish here is that all of his hoop dreams come true, because it has been an absolute treat to watch him work his long-range magic during Davidson's improbable, delightful run.

4. Enough with the contrived arguments that make the Patriots sound like the New England Home For Wayward Young Men And Talented Football Players. Yes, Randy Moss and Corey Dillon both have pockmarked histories, and we know they both redeemed themselves to varying degrees when given a chance by saintly Father Belichick. But Pacman Jones, for all of his talent - and he was the best player on the field when the Pats played the Titans in '06 - is an entirely more menacing case, and he doesn't exactly seem eager to reform himself. Let's put it bluntly: He's more likely to be on the giving or receiving end of a gun than current any athlete I can think of; I don't want the guy in New England, never mind playing for New England, and I'm glad the Patriots apparently feel the same way.

5. Southern Cal's Keith Rivers was my sleeper pick for the Patriots with the No. 7 overall selection, and it seems as though they do have some interest since the versatile linebacker was scheduled for a visit this week. But if reports that he scored mediocre 16 on the Wonderlic are true, I have to imagine that would send him slip-sliding down their draft board. The Belichick Pats have little use for linebackers who are in danger of redefining the term "tackling dummy."

6. One game I'm dying to see on ESPN Classic: Eddie House's 61-point performance in Arizona State's 111-108 double overtime victory over Cal in January, 2000. Sadly, the network's decision to switch to all Stump The Schwab all the time means I'll probably get to see it only if it somehow materializes on YouTube. No luck so far.

7. Yeah, Jason Varitek looked calcified during his 0-for-Tokyo performance, and I did chuckle when a Whiner Line wise guy wondered if he was somehow paying homage to the departed Doug Mirabelli by whiffing six times in eight at-bats in the series. But does this mean we should worry that Varitek, who turns 36 two weeks from now, is cooked as a hitter? Nah . . . c'mon, it's too soon for that stuff; hell, let them play a game on this continent first before making any rash judgments. Varitek's bat looks slow even when he is hitting, and I tend to think Bill James's 2008 projection for him (.253-17-70) is right about where he will end up.

8. This week's selection (yes, a new recurring feature!) from the addictive, potentially life-altering SI Vault: Jack McCallum's June 26, 1995, cover story on Chicago prep star Kevin Garnett's decision to skip college and head straight to the NBA. I thought this take on what Garnett might become as a player was fascinating and quite accurate, though I don't think anyone has compared him to Reggie Miller lately:

The buzz about this year's draft is that, yes, it's good and deep, but it's also short on future superstars. Jerry Stackhouse might be one, and Garnett might be one. That's it. Garnett's leaping ability is off the charts, he runs the floor like a sprinter, he shoots 20-foot jumpers with ease and perfect rotation, and he's the best-passing big man in the draft. Most teams believe he'll eventually be a do-everything small forward, but for now let's give him a new handle. Call him a faceup 4, a power forward who can hurt you from anywhere, a cross between Reggie Miller and a kinder, gentler version of Alonzo Mourning.

Notably, McCallum wrote this in his mock draft in which he predicted Garnett would go to Washington Bullets with the No. 4 pick:

We've long thought Washington 's youthful star, Chris Webber, has the savvy to be a stabilizing influence on other young players. Chris, you're Kevin's favorite player. Here's your chance.

There's some irony there, no?

9. Couple of quick housekeeping items: For the few of you who asked, it looks like the big move to will be happening right around April 8, which, not coincidentally, is the date of the home opener. I've seen a mock of what the blog will look like, and I really like it. Also, keep the Facebook friend requests coming. It's nice to see you suckers as names and faces rather than IP addresses.

10. As for today's Completely Random Basketball Card:

Of all the talented and intelligent players from the Lakers/Celtics rivalry in the '80s, who would have thought that the most enduring and/or successful coach from either roster would be Scott, with Rick Carlisle a competitive second? I think my money at the time would have been on D.J., though Larry was much better on the bench than he's been in the Indy front office.