What happened to Pronk?

It was just a few years ago that Travis Hafner was arguably baseball’s best DH. He hit for average, power and in the clutch.

Then something happened. Maybe SI doomed him. Perhaps there were problems at home. Juice?

It’s not that 2007 was a bad season — hell, for anyone else it would’ve been a solid year. But Pronk’s .266 average was about 40 points lower than what he averaged from 2004-06 and his 24 home runs (in approximately 100 more at-bats) were nearly half of his ’06 total. More alarming, Hafner finished by hitting .186 in 11 playoff games. This article (scroll down a ways) has a nice chart.

Hafner’s slump has continued throughout the first quarter of the 2008 season. He’s hitting .217 with four homers and is on pace for over 150 strikeouts. That is if he can stay off the DL, which is a possibility after missing his third straight game with a bum shoulder.

But hey, cool jacket, man.


All-Star voters like the Yankees and Red Sox, don’t follow baseball

Here’s what we’ve learned from the first balloting results for the 2008 MLB All-Star Game:

1. There are a lot of Yankee and Red Sox fans. (But you already knew that. We did, too. So we guess we didn’t learn that. Sorry.)
2. Voters don’t have any fucking idea of who deserves to be representing the American League.
3. Voters have a much better idea of who deserves to be representing the National League.
4. Raisins are just dried grapes.
5. Perennial sluggers are having lousy seasons.
6. There aren’t that many players who are having non-lousy seasons.
7. If these votes stand, the National League might finally win this thing. (This time it counts!)

We’ve listed the people you’ve selected first and listed who should be selected below. There’s more than a month left before ballots must be submitted, so these names will/should change.

Fan voting:

C – Jason Varitek — .268, 6 HR, 19 RBI
1B – Kevin Youkilis — .306, 9 HR, 35 RBI
2B – Dustin Pedroia — .289, 3 HR, 27 RBI
3B – Alex Rodriguez — .286, 7 HR, 17 RBI (DL stint)
SS – Derek Jeter — .286, 2 HR, 24 RBI
OF – Manny Ramirez — .292, 9 HR, 34 RBI
OF – Ichiro Suzuki — .292, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 22 SB
OF – Vladimir Guerrero — .258, 7 HR, 28 RBI
DH – David Ortiz — .253, 12 HR, 40 RBI

Should be:

C – Joe Mauer — .329, 0 HR, 20 RBI
1B – Youkilis
2B – Ian Kinsler — .294, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 15 SB
SS – Michael Young — .279, 5 HR, 24 RBI
3B – Miguel Cabrera – .275, 8 HR, 29 RBI
OF – Josh Hamilton – .329, 13 HR, 58 RBI
OF – Carlos Quentin – .297, 14 HR, 44 RBI
OF – Carl Crawford – .281, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 14 SB
DH – Ortiz

*All stats through Tuesday.

Funny, too, is that all those Red Sox fans didn’t vote for their most legit candidate: outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. And Carlos Quentin isn’t even on the ballot! Write him in!

All-Star ballots must be submitted by July 3. So go support Democracy. Like, now!

Here we go on the Reds again

About two months ago we got really excited about the Reds. Cincinnati is loaded with young talent, the Great American Ballpark is gorgeous (and is the best-named stadium in baseball) and Cincinnati is a blossoming city. That last part we made up.

So when the Reds’ young talent makes as big of an impact as it did Tuesday, we can only help but get excited.

In his MLB debut, Jay Bruce went nuts, going 3-3 with a double, two RBIs and a handful of other nice stats helping the Reds to a 9-6 win over Pittsburgh.

He wasn’t the only youngster doing wonders. Joey Votto went 3-5 with a run and Johnny Cueto gave up two earned over five innings for the win.

Hey, all their names start with a J. Steve Rushin would probably make a play on words about that.

Start rooting for the Reds. Seriously. They’re going to be fucking raw. Same with the Rays. They’re raw, too. And young. Maybe we should be writing about the Rays.

If Indiana Jones characters were MLB players

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opens today and we are whip-lashing, grail-seeking ecstatic (whatever that means. But “that belongs in a museum!”)! We have a big-time man crush on Indy and watched the first three installments of the series the past two weekends to get us all riled up.

Now we want to share the excitement with the Nazis Kali Ma you by comparing the most memorable Indiana Jones characters to Major League Baseball players.

Indiana Jones:
Greg Maddux

Indy, besides being a Nazi and cult-killing badass, is a charming professor of archeology. Dr. Jones uses his historical knowledge and wits to outsmart the bad guys before pulling out the signature whip to finish them off. And he hates snakes. Enter Maddux, whose nickname is “The Professor.” Like Indy, Maddux uses his smarts to beat the opponents. His stuff isn’t overwhelming, but he keeps batters off balance and has pinpoint control. During his span of four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-1995 he maintained a walks and hits per innings pitched under 1.00, so he’s equally effective with the WHIP. Now that he’s in the NL West pitching for the Padres, he hates the Diamondbacks. And they’re both ancient.

Arnold Toht:
Marty Cordova

Toht is the creepy Nazi character who is remembered for:
1. Being really freakin’ creepy
2. Burning his hand on the medallion while torching Marion’s Nepal tavern
3. Having his face melted by the spirits of the Ark (1981 special effects!)
We don’t know Cordova to be creepy, but the former outfielder once missed a game in 1992 after burning his face in a tanning bed. So, in a way, his face melted. Sort of. Maybe. We think.

The Ark of the Covenant:
The Major League Baseball Players Association

The power of the Ark is said to make any army invincible — possess the Ark, control the world. In baseball, the players control the union — the ark — that has prevented a salary cap in the league. The ark looks cooler, though.

Mola Ram:
Joe Carter

The villain in Temple of Doom is the cult leader and brainwashes people with the blood of Kali Ma. The guy’s a total wack-job and is best remembered for making human sacrifices by ripping out peoples’ beating, burning hearts. Joe Carter is no cult leader, but he ripped out the hearts of Philadelphia fans in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series with a series-clinching walk-off homerun. That blast, in a way, killed Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams.

Kevin Youkilis

Shorty’s the happy-go-lucky sidekick of Indiana Jones in Temple of Doom. He’s a scrappy little fella who’s always there to give Indy a hand, and is a nag on the bad guys. In baseball terms, Shorty would be the “tough out.” He’s not the best hitter in the lineup, but he sees a lot of pitches and can hit with two strikes. That’s Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. His average is steady and he averages more than 4.0 pitches per at-bat, putting him in the top 10 in the league. He’s that guy who always seems to get the key hit. And the two look a lot alike.

Henry Jones:
Cecil Fielder

Played masterfully by Sean Connery, Henry Jones is the father of Indiana Jones. He’s a religious man who has dedicated his life to finding the Holy Grail instead of raising his son, causing an estrangement between the two. Cecil and his son, Milwaukee slugger, Prince, have a rocky relationship. They like don’t get along at all. Kinda sad, really. But the younger Fielder seems to have surpassed his father’s ability — like Indy. (See, we draw parallels.)

The Holy Grail:
Julio Franco

The Grail is said to give eternal life to whoever drinks from it. In the baseball world, that’s Julio Franco who just retired after a 23-year career. We have a suspicion he’ll still be playing when he’s 65.

Now go see the new Indiana Jones flick. Their marketing people didn’t pay us for this healthy promotion. They probably should have. (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.)

Your comparisons in the comments please.

Tom Brady…not so bad after all

We always considered Tm Brady evil. He wins MVPs, Super Bowls, has millions of dollars, endorsement deals and doesn’t exactly struggle with the ladies.

If that’s not the epitome of evil, we don’t know what is.

But then the above photo appeared on The Big Lead Monday and we remembered that Brady is a Bay Area native. He rides BART, witnessed “The Catch” in person and roots for the Giants. Now what could possibly be evil about that?

We believe that lady next to him is his sister, who we would consider after, oh, two Long Islands.

Is Jim Edmonds the best centerfielder of this era?

Or does he just make some spectacular plays, like this one Monday.

Edmonds is also known for these spectacular catches when he was on the Angels and Cardinals.
(Video anyone?)

We’ve always loved the way that Andruw Jones plays center and Griffey Jr. was magnificent in his prime.

Sometimes players who make fantastic diving catches just aren’t fast enough to track the ball and get under it — Jones used to have that speed that he made any play look easy.

Edmonds is one of the best for highlight reels, no doubt. The best centerfielder though? Certainly debatable.

Sports’ biggest non-stories

Sometimes there just isn’t news. It’s the sad reality of the media. And it’s ethically incorrect to make stuff up, we’re told.

But blowing shit out of proportion isn’t against the rules, and it has happened far too often lately. It leads to drawn out, meaningless “stories” that have little-to-no effect on, well, anything.

Sounds like a list.

The biggest non-stories in sports from the last year or so:

8. Barbaro

Nope. Very much a story.

7. Joba Chamberlain’s antics.

Fans, too, no longer should pump fist, yell or gyrate. Gyrate?

6. What to do with 756?

Send it to Cooperstown? Send it to the Hall with an asterisk? Launch it into space?

Ah. Mark Eckō. Fashion designer. Baseball purist.

5. Jessica and Tony split.

Good for US Weekly, People or National Enquirer. Bad for ESPN, SI or Fox Sports.

4. Clemens sleeps with unknown country singer.

Clemens joins probably about, oh, a thousand other professional athletes who have had affairs. But, hey, he also allegedly took steroids! Let’s make him wear an “A “on his chest and then burn him at the stake!

3. Earnhardt joins Hendrick Motorsports.

We once met a cabbie who went from Orange Cab Co. to Yellow Cab Co. Riots ensued.

2. Matt Leinart likes to fight for your right to paaar-taaay.

Elsewhere, young superstars have just started listening to the devil’s music, called “Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

1. Spygate.

If we are subjected to this one more time, we’re going to commit seppuku with a parking meter.

We’re missing some. Surely. We always do. No need to make a big fuss. Just let us know other big sports non-stories in the comments.