Friday, June 22, 2012

The Hippodrome: Here's What Dickey Do

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 8:00 AM

This Week In The Drome: Meet the Met, a team of Luccis, the goodness of Griffin, and more ...

Johan Santana is Sonic, by the way
  • Johan Santana is Sonic, by the way

Opening Face-Off

R.A. Dickey vs. Physics : This week in the dead-tree, I write on R.A. Dickey, baseball's unlikely pitching ace.

Appropriate perhaps that Nashville-reared Dickey — he recently sold his Green Hills home — is garnering attention at a time when New York is repeatedly (and often ham-fistedly) turning its eye to Nashville.

Yes, Dickey is the Nashville of baseball — a once-forgotten commodity turned sudden phenom. And if it took Jack White moving here to get the New York Times and GQ to notice us, then the knuckleball is the Jack White of baseball pitches: like Jack, it's a study in effective if often completely unpredictable weirdness which no one understands but most everyone enjoys.

The concern with the knuckleball is that, at some point, like a jukebox screeching at last call, it will stop the dancing. But Dickey, a convert from a more standard style of pitching, seems to be a special case. He's only walked five batters in his most recent six starts, leading some to argue he has control over the capricious pitch than none other has ever managed.

If he can manage to keep the ball jiving for another few weeks, Dickey's a shoo-in to start for the National League in next month's All-Star Game — wake up, Mr LaRussa. If he can keep it up for a few months longer, the man who once gave up six homers in a single start may get a Cy Young.

The Week Behind

Lucci (center)
  • Lucci (center)

Lucci Men, Real Talk: As the league took a blissful respite from speculating about Ryan Suter, things did not go the way the Nashville Predators wanted at the nearly unwatchable NHL Awards.

Captain Shea Weber came second by an oh-so-close margin to Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, who won the award given to the league's best all-around blueliner despite playing nearly as much time on penalty kill as you did. Weber also apparently spent the off-season working on his jokes.

Unsurprisingly, goaltender Pekka Rinne did not win the Vezina Trophy.

Rinne was also denied the cover to EA Sports NHL 13, despite a full-on marketing assault by the Preds. David Poile continued the bridesmaid parade, denied the as-yet-unnamed GM of the Year award.

The lone saving grace was Mike Fisher winning the I'm A Super Nice Guy Who Gives Away A Lot of Money Because Let's Face It Me and My Family Would Be Doing OK Because The Wife Just Sold 80 Jazillion Records Trophy NHL Foundation Award.

There were plenty of disappointed Predators fans — and for Weber's loss, rightly so — but in a year where the team was close-but-no-cigar, the denouement at the season-ending fete should come as no surprise.

Griffin Enterprises: Despite being hanged with the franchise tag — usually an all-but-explicit indicator team and player can't get it together — Titans safety Michael Griffin did all the right things and was rewarded with a contract extension.

Like many safeties, Griffin receives more than his share of the blame when things go wrong defensively. When a safety makes an error, it typically ends up a highlight-reel long-yardage touchdown; when, say, a defensive tackle goofs, the results are usually less noteworthy.

But the Titans saw no better option to backstop the defense than the former Longhorn, who — for the barrage of criticism he takes — has never missed a game and ranks relatively well in interceptions during his career.

Garbage Time: Brian Baker is going to Wimbledon. ... A Belmont runner hopes to compete for his native UK in the Summer Olympics. A trio of Harpeth Hall swimmers will try to make the US team, as is a Vandy swimmer. ... The Predators 2012-13 schedule is out. You know, if the season starts on time. ... CBS and Cumulus — owner of Nashville's 104.5 The Zone — have announced a new sports-talk partnership. ... Depending on when you are scoping The 'Drome, this may be old news, but isn't that always the way — but the city and the Preds are unveiling a revamped incentives package at 10 AM today. Check NashvillePost.com or Twitter for the details.

Halftime Entertainment

Sam Page (artists depiction)
  • Sam Page (artist's depiction)

Fear of Flying : Friend of The 'Drome Sam Page found himself on a very awkward flight with Predators GM David Poile as the GM worked a deal which sent potential candy-loving back-up goalie — a seventh round pick — and future minor-league captain Kyle Wilson to Tampa for two second-round picks (perhaps the Preds will draft this guy) and a third.

So what does a blogger — upset by the pending departure of his favorite player — do?

Then I realized, beyond even those images, there's a unique culture jamming opportunity here. What subtle protest should I affect? Lean my seat back as far as possible in protest of the impending Radulov trade? A kind of "you take my favorite player, I take your leg room" brand of personal vengeance. Or maybe something more oblique, like blasting a playlist of familiar Bridgestone Arena pre-game pump-up songs? I could just feign getting up to go to the bathroom, only to drop to my knees in the aisle beside his seat, begging him to bring back Antti Pihlström. Or maybe I would give my best William Shatner in the Twilight Zone impersonation: "Stewardess, there's a...Russian...winger...on the wing! You've got to believe me!"

Of course I did none of this. I won the World Series with the Blue Jays and took a nap.

This Week In Sports Entertainment: Drunk Digester Pierce Greenberg has found himself another great story from the world of professional wrestling.

Nashville-based Total Nonstop Action Entertainment, who Hogan works for, filed a verified complaint Monday in Chancery Court asking for an injunction to stop Steiner’s “disparaging remarks.” Steiner made headlines on wrestling blogs and websites in April when he launched a social media campaign to “save” TNA.

In a series of tweets, Steiner bashed TNA, Hogan, and TNA wrestling booker Eric Bischoff. In additional to critical, sometimes profane, comments on Twitter, Steiner called TNA “bush league” and compared them to the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling organization.

TNA is claiming that Steiner’s comments violate a contract he signed with them in December 2010. The contract specifically stipulates that Steiner is forbidden from making public statements, including tweeting, concerning TNA or any of its officers, wrestlers, or other individuals without prior approval. TNA claims those acts constitute a breach of contract.

Meanwhile, Titans new signee Kamerion Wimbley found time to do a taping of American Ninja Warrior, which will air this weekend.

Clangers: Via e-mail, a reader informs me in last week's 'Drome I used "disinterestedly" when I meant "uninterestedly." He's right. No hard feelings.

The Week Ahead

Re-cast using Vanderbilt Commodores please
  • Re-cast using Vanderbilt Commodores please

Three For The Show: As noted all season, three Vanderbilt Commodores may hear their names called by David Stern and with Jeff Taylor and Festus Ezeli coming out as seniors, Stern may give his Shane Battier Face.

Joining the pair of four-year players is the most coveted prospect in the trio, sharpshooting John Jenkins.

None of three are going to be in the lottery portion of the draft, but that may actually work to their advantage. By going later in the first round, all get to go to established teams on which they won't be expected to be saviors. Jenkins will get to settle into a role as a specialty shooter off the bench. Festus Ezeli — who hasn't been playing basketball all that long, remember — could use some time playing with a similarly-styled big. And Taylor? Well, long as he was at Vandy, he'll still be at draft: a wild card with tremendous gifts but a reputation for not quite getting it all together at the right times. He seems the kind of guy who could develop into a legit NBA contributor if put in a good situation.

Worthless Prediction: Sort of a low-rent version of Florida at the 2007 Draft, the three could all jump off the board with some rapidity, just late in the first round.

If A Tree Falls In A Forest: Last year, I shared the story of the Nashville Storm, a semi-pro collection of local small college stars and ex-high-school studs who crowd minivans and station wagons, shlepping across the country to play for a chance at maybe, just maybe, an Arena League tryout.

And of these modern barnstorming teams, the Storm are the best: two-time defending national champs. Off to another blistering start this year — 6-0. In the five games they won on the field — the opener against Clarksville was a 2-0 forfeit — they've outscored their opponents by an average of 39-13.

The Storm take on the Panhandle Crusaders Saturday at 7 p.m. at Stratford High School.

Worthless Prediction: According to the league Web site, Panhandle comes in undefeated as well. But these are the national champs we're talking about here. Playing at home? Storm 35, Crusaders 14.

Overtime

being_less_bad_is_not_being_good_by_Shira_Golding_April_29_2009_flickr_creative_commons.jpg

One Set Of Problems For Another: I've been lukewarm to a full-fledged college football playoff, in part because tournaments can reward teams that get hot at the right time rather than the teams that are the best.

The four-team mini-playoff the power conferences (and Notre Dame, because apparently the muckety-mucks think it's still 1964) settled on is a nice compromise. Four teams is a manageable number that doesn't reward mediocrity while still "settling it all on the field."

The BCS was a nightmare. In fact, the old system of hard-and-fast conference bowl tie-ins had more certainty and was easier to understand. While the BCS generated the Two Best Teams (as determined by computers, your mileage may vary), it didn't solve the problem it was created to solve, as there were still gripes about who was selected and it still produced a split national title one year.

This new system creates its own set of issues. The four teams (and by that I mean: the two best SEC teams and the teams they are going to lose to) will be selected by some cadre of selectors with the make-up thereof still to be determined. A Council of Elders? A randomly selected group of writers? Marginally popular local bloggers/real-estate reporters? Some other goofy process? And of course, once the selection committee is announced, the Big 12 will moan about it.

The fact is: college football is going to be a morass of controversy: unless someone comes up with a round-robin system, someone else is going to say, "Well, X is better and they didn't get a chance to prove it on the field."

And that's why we love it so much.

'Drome favorite Shaun Smith won a UFL title with Las Vegas in 2009. Help me be like Shaun Smith. And e-mail anytime at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com and listen Tuesdays at 4 to 102.5 The Game.

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