A few links while honoring King Felix

Here's when fantasy baseball rips your heart out: Last summer, my buddy Hench and I were trying to win our A.L.-only keeper league without trading Felix Hernandez, our prized stud who was locked up as a keeper through 2009. Our roster was loaded enough that we could conceivably carry a 20-year-old phenom, weather his up-and-down starts for six months and still win the league. We were simply hoping for a 14-12 record, a 4.20 ERA, 180 innings, 175 K's and a decent WHIP. Seemed reasonable.

Nope. Through the first two months, Felix murdered us: ERA in the high 5's, terrible WHIP, opponents hitting .289, shelled every other start. Meanwhile, a last-place owner named Jack was already rebuilding around young guys and prospects for 2008. Jack had one major trade chip: Johan Santana in the last year of his fake contract. The logical deal was Felix for Santana -- Jack would get a building block for the future, Santana would win us the league. Every week, Jack e-mailed us the offer. Every week, we turned him down. Finally, Felix got shelled in an early June start and we couldn't hold off anymore ... we pulled the trigger, hoping and praying that Felix wouldn't turn things around.

Well, Santana ended up winning us the league. Whether it's your real sports team or your fantasy team, you can't regret any trade that directly results in a championship. You just can't. The whole point is winning a title, even if it's the League of Dorks. Still, it was hard to remember that axiom as Felix destroyed Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Red Sox at Fenway last night. The pitching line (111 pitches, one hit, six K's, two walks) didn't do the performance justice. Boston never had a chance. There wasn't a single moment where you thought, "All right, we're gonna get him this inning."

And sure, there's a chance Felix might not become a superstar over these next three seasons, whether it's because of his weight issues, Seattle's shaky bullpen, Mike Hargrove's penchant for blowing out young arms or whatever. You never know with young pitchers. But after watching Felix blow through Fenway like Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western, I'd believe any outcome for the next few years of his career. The ceiling of the Felix Era has officially been removed.

Looking back, would I make that Santana-Felix trade again? Yes. We won the league because of it. I keep telling myself this. Over and over again.

(And again. And again.)

Time for some Thursday links ...

• Remember when I linked to the "Jackie Rogers Jr." SNL sketch last week? Well, I missed something delightful at the tail end of the clip, as Casey from Pittsburgh explains: "How could you have possibly put up that link without making reference to the last thirty seconds: Bruce Willis dancing around a porch and singing an advertisement for Seagram's wine coolers. Did you see the tightness of those jeans? He's holding a wine cooler like a microphone, for God's sake. I thought the skit was funny, then the commercial was hilarious."

Jon from Cincinnati adds: "Wow ... just wow. While the $100,000 jackpot wad was good, it paled in comparison to the Seagram's wine cooler commercial. I bet that if you polled everyone born after 1982, 99 [percent] would think that was another SNL sketch that was tacked onto the end. God bless Bruce Willis and his leap into the 50 Best Damn Unintentional Comedy Moments."

(After going back and watching it, I agree -- it's funnier than the SNL sketch. The '80s were especially magnificent because celebrities thought they could sing and there wasn't an Internet around to ridicule them, so they just kinda kept plowing along and coming up with moments like that Seagram's ad. VH1 really needs to get going on a "50 Most Embarrassing Celebrity Career Moves of the '80s" show. That's a ratings layup.)

• Jeremy H. in Illinois has a picture to bolster the case that Scottie Pippen had the worst shaved head in NBA history: "A picture of the 'Oatmeal Toupee' at its finest. Looks kind of like the short half of Wesley Snipes' head in 'New Jack City.' "

• We might need to send some reality-TV cameras to follow Jim Ed Rice for a few weeks. Seems like he's getting even nastier in his old age. I received a few e-mails from readers who attended this event; everyone agreed that the only way it could have gone worse is if Borat and Azamat ran into the luncheon naked and started wrestling in front of the podium.

• Wait, they're cracking down on ticket scalping at Fenway Park? I feel violated for some reason. Whatever happened to the good old days, when you could scalp tickets as a cop stood three feet away?

• Brendan from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes, "Here's the Cincy Mayor trying to redeem himself on Jimmy Kimmel's show. How can this guy get re-elected now?" You know why the mayor choked so badly? Because he didn't Jimmy that day.

• Had a couple of screwups in Wednesday's blog about the NBA lottery: First, two more top-four picks (Darko Milicic with the '04 Pistons, Glenn Robinson with the '05 Spurs) technically won titles, although they never played and were completely inconsequential. Second, Antonio Daniels ('99 Spurs), Marcus Camby ('99 Knicks) and Antonio McDyess ('05 Pistons) all played in the conference finals or NBA Finals with teams other than the ones that drafted them, so you could add them to the list (which now includes Camby, Daniels, McDyess, Kidd, Stackhouse, Wallace, Van Horn, Billups, Bibby, and LaFrentz). I like to pretend that the '99 strike season never happened, but there's no excuse for forgetting McDyess. Third, I forgot that Utah traded with Portland to get Deron Williams in the 2005 draft (the Martell Webster deal ... ouch), which means there are only five top-four picks playing on the top-six teams right now. And fourth, I forgot the league made a rule in the mid-'90s that expansion teams couldn't get the first pick. ... In '96, Toronto "won" the first pick (Iverson) but dropped to No. 2 because of the rule.

While we're here, the Charlotte fans keep e-mailing me the same argument, as summarized by Andy B. in the Queen City: "It's absurd that you think Charlotte isn't a market that can support an NBA team (or a professional sports team at all). That was a concern when the league made Charlotte an expansion city, but they had consistently over 23,000 attendance since the inaugural season, peaking in '95 through '97 with over 24,000. The reason the Bobcats are struggling is because the lingering bitterness from George Shinn still resonates with the fans that have been around for a while. The fact that Charlotte is the second-fastest growing city in the country, coupled with the love of the Queen City for the Panthers, should be clear that the fan base is completely capable of supporting the team."

Look, I'm not arguing that you DID support the team once upon a time. But you said it yourself ... Shinn turned off the entire city to the point that fans stopped attending games and the franchise had to relocate. Even when the NBA threw you a bone with the Bobcats, you're still not supporting them for whatever reason. Look at the attendance numbers: The Bobcats are fourth from last. I've never heard a fan base whine more than Charlotte's NBA fans. We don't like the owner, they don't market the team well enough, we're still mad about George Shinn ... Charlotte fans act like theirs is the only franchise that's had it rough -- I guarantee Shinn didn't do anything as catastrophic to his fan base as that slime-ball Paul Gaston refusing to re-sign Rodney Rogers and Erick Strickland to keep the 2002 Celtics together, green-lighting the Vin Baker trade, then selling the team two months later. Would you rather have a morally questionable guy own your team or someone who willingly destroyed the long-term cap flexibility of the franchise right before he left? I'll take the morally questionable guy.

Anyway, get over yourselves, Charlotte fans. If you don't think the fans of the T-Wolves, Pacers, Kings, Knicks and Sonics have it worse than you right now, you're crazy.

• One more follow-up link to those tanking columns: A few readers wondered if the contraction of three teams would really solve the competitive problem right now. Check out this column I wrote back in 2003 about how expansion destroyed the competitive ceiling of the league. It's a fun column to re-read just for my mock dispersal draft in which I had Alvin Williams ranked six spots ahead of Shane Battier.

And while we're here, here's another relevant column from the archives (now open to everybody) since Drew Bledsoe retired Wednesday: My 2002 column right after Bledsoe was traded from the Patriots. Hard to believe how much changed for the guy over the past seven years.

• At long last, Frankie Williams' epic performance on "Piper's Pit" makes it to YouTube! It's now the Mona Lisa of YouTube clips.

• Two enjoyably dopey glitches on the Web right now:

1. Brandon from Wilmington, N.C., instructs us, "Go to Google.com, click on 'maps,' then click on 'get directions.' Type in 'New York, NY' as your starting point and 'Paris, France' as your destination. Once it computes your directions scroll down to No. 23. Just plain funny."

2. Bazzy from Knoxville, Tenn., (along with many others) sent this one along: "Check out Robert Horry's line for the Spurs game against the Suns. This has to be the funniest thing I've ever seen in a box score."

• Lou from Farmington Hills is about to ruin the last "Sopranos" for you: "I just had an epiphany about the ending of the 'Sopranos.' It fits into one of your three possibilities, but it could almost be its own category: Tony gets killed by Janice. We know that Bobby was talking about DNA, and the kid he killed ripped his shirt. He's probably got fibers under his fingernails and those fibers have sweat and whatever on them. Anyway, that's going to get Bobby arrested, and it's going to piss Janice off. She knows that Tony ordered it, so she'll blame him and end up killing him. She's done it before. I think it fits in perfectly because when you think about it, the women have been the most powerful people throughout the whole series. They pretty much control the men and their happiness. Also, in closing, Janice is effing crazy."

(Agree with everything. Also, it would make sense if David Chase's original plan for the last show was to have Tony's mother kill him -- a premise that's seems plausible in the pilot -- but since she died in real life, Janice took the torch as the female Soprano who kills Tony. Also, we've already seen her blow away Richie Aprile, so we know she has it in her. I like this theory.)

• Speaking of TV, my favorite TV critic is Tim Goodman from the San Francisco Chronicle -- he's just like Tom Shales, only entertaining, funny and likable. Anyway, a few people sent his well-done column on the new season of "Entourage" so I couldn't resist passing it along.

• Hey, remember when I passed along the clip of the great Ronald Jenkees pounding away at his keyboard? Whooooooooooo! Well, Keith from Harrison writes, "You don't know the diamond in the rough you have found when you posted Ronald Jenkees. That guy can lay down a beat! Watch his face and tell me he isn't jamming out."

• A charity link for Red Sox fans living in the NYC area: Gordon Edes and friends have been working on behalf of the Jimmy Fund for the past few years. Their first event is in NYC on April 28, and to kick it off, they're doing a pre-event auction of two tickets to Sox-Yanks on April 21. This auction can be found here.

• Roy from Omaha: "Stumbled across a Web site you should see ... it's funny at first but becomes really creepy really fast." I'd like to think that it becomes eventually creepy after five or six minutes. But whatever.

• James H. in L.A. follows up on the craziness of my buddy Daniel being able to watch a Red Sox game on his Treo as he's driving: "How dare you!?!!? Telling us that one of your buddies has figured out a way to watch live sports in the palm of his hands at anytime ... without providing at least a description or a link on HOW TO DO IT was just wrong! So I got off my butt and found some information that was pretty comprehensive in case your other readers have the same needs (there are six pages total). Now excuse me while I figure out a way to configure my Treo to pick up In-N-Out and open a Newcastle."

• Nancy from Washington, D.C., (and many others) passed along the WATFO Link of the Week: "You may have already been sent this by hundreds of readers, but here you go. I personally don't watch the Hills or Laguna Beach because I can't tell the characters (they're not really real people) apart and they're annoying. That said I thought this tidbit might add to your claim that we are living in the Golden Age of Reality TV."

• Multiple people sent this along: One of the best NBA reporter/bloggers out there (Sekou Smith) had a funny take on the latest incident that got Josh Smith suspended and directly defies Peter Vecsey's New York Post story about an "incident" between Smith and Zaza Pachulia. Thought this was really good.

By the way, I'd pay at least $500 to have someone who gives a crap like Seiko Smith covering the Boston Celtics. I'm not kidding. Something tells me he wouldn't be regurgitating the "young players have really improved under Doc!" (a bold-faced lie, by the way -- the only one who's gotten better is Al Jefferson) and "you never want to enter a season with a lame duck coach" B.S. (really, the players give a crap if their coach is in the final year of his contract?) and hoping Doc Rivers comes back just because another season of Doc makes their job easier. The way the Celtics have been covered over the past few years makes me want to throw up. Shame on everyone. This team has changed its long-term plan four times in four seasons, they don't play defense, they have one guy who's gotten better in three seasons, they're the second-worst team in the NBA ... and every Boston media member is fine with the coach and GM coming back? Nobody's even questioning it?

• Great point from Josh R. in L.A.: "I'm very disappointed you didn't figure this out, but the player Corey Brewer most resembles is Latrell Sprewell (at least offensively). From the out-of-control dribbling to the streaky shooting and the uncanny ability to morph his body mid-air, Corey Brewer is the second coming of Spree. This is a compliment by the way."

• The editors of Rotten Tomatoes sent this along: A list of the best-reviewed sports movies of all time. I couldn't look at it yet because my week has already been ruined by the possibility of a Doc Rivers extension ... and you know lists like this make me crazy. So I can't click on it yet. But I'm going to assume it's readable.

• Four columns I really enjoyed this week:

1. Geoff Calkins celebrating the night that Memphis clinched the worst record in the NBA.

2. Our old friend Jason Whitlock had a superb take on the Imus/Rutgers debacle.

3. Really liked Michael Wilbon's take on the situation as well.

4. The Sports Law Blog did a good job of breaking down every possible reason why tanking occurs in the NBA and not other sports. I think it's a little more simple: The NBA season is so damned long, it lends itself to throwing in the towel ... especially if there's a franchise rookie coming out. But I liked all their theories.

• Andre from Portland says, "All right, first I apologize for making you spend $64 on a hoodie. But you live in L.A. so that's gotta be pretty reasonable. Anyway, I know you won't be able to resist this one." Andre, I resisted. But you did make me think it over.

• Four funny links for the hell of it:

1. Dan from San Fran: "Here's a link to what I love most about the '80s. I totally want to party with this guy.

2. Justin from Kalamazoo, Mich.: "This guy has Carl Lewis beat. Trust me."

3. T-Ap in Burlingame, Calif.: "This is one of my favorite clips of all time. You've gotta love the talent at the Home Shopping Network."

4. Jeff from Chicago passed along a VERY intriguing NBA gambling story from a blog called The Angry T. Thoroughly enjoyed this one.

• Many thanks to HRE in Birmingham, UK, for passing along the following clip and the note, "Christian Laettner lives and dies for hip-hop." This decimated me. I was a puddle. If somebody spliced all the parts of Laettner dancing and worked it into the Apache video, every one of my internal organs would be in danger.

• Marius from Vancouver alerts us, "That's right, Lil' John is apparently doing a NHL playoff blog for NHL.com. My first thought upon seeing this was that Bill Simmons must be alerted." That was the right first thought. I support any form of journalism that could lead to excerpts like this: "The first Thrashers game I went to they got into a shootout. That was amazing, and they won, and I was like dope!"

That reminds me: In an honest effort to get sucked into the NHL playoffs (which look fantastic in HD, assuming you can find the channel), I decided to wager on the Penguins (+150) and Canucks (-120) in Round 1. Unfortunately, gambling isn't legal, so these were, um, pretend wagers. But I am paying attention. A little. Also, my old friend Haven from "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (one of the biggest NHL fans I know) has a knack for picking a Stanley Cup sleeper every spring. This year's pick from Haven: the Predators at 20-to-1. Consider yourself warned.

• Finally, if you want to send along a link, it really helps us out if you put "LINK" in the subject heading of the e-mail. Thanks.

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