Man Crush of the Week: Theo Epstein

 

I wouldn't go this far, but Theo did some work this offseason.

The Boston Red Sox were able to trade for Adrian Gonzalez and sign Carl Crawford in the matter of a week, pretty much securing their position as a serious World Series contender in 2011. As a result, former “wonder boy” GM Theo Epstein is already being called “unstoppable” by certain Boston media outlets.

I’m not going to go that far but Theo has, for at least a few days, made me like the Red Sox…and for that he certainly deserves the MCOW this week. Since the whole 2004 thing, the Red Sox have really supplanted the New York Yankess as my least favorite team in baseball. They took on that air of pretension after winning the World Series and Red Sox fans immediately became more annoying than Yankees fans.

But you have to applaud Theo for what he’s done, getting two of the best players at their position in the game…who also happen to be two like-able guys. Now you’re looking at a team core of Crawford, Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis. As much as I can’t stand Youkilis, that’s a team that I can not only watch, but also root for (just a little…quietly).

What’s even more awesome about the Crawford signing is that, by all accounts, Theo just swooped in out of nowhere to make this deal. Apparently he was blowing smoke by throwing money at Mariano Rivera and Cliff Lee, all the while secretly wooing Crawford. In a world where we always get unverified stories by “sources close to the situation”, it’s amazing that Theo was able to pull this off with such stealth.

Plus I had to give out some Yale love, and Theo had a much better week than the Whiffenpoofs.

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Man Crush of the Week: Blake Griffin

 

You can't get dunked on much worse than this.

One of the drawbacks of being out of the USA for six weeks was not being able to see the NBA. Understandably, when I got back to Toronto I went nuts watching every NBA game I could find on the Rogers Satellite Dish. Unfortunately I was treated mostly to Toronto Raptors action (the promos for games literally feature Sonny Weems and Ed Davis…catch the fever!). Luckily my fiancee’s parents have NBATV and I was lucky enough to see, for the first time, a little glimpse of Los Angeles Clippers rookie Blake Griffin.

I had heard he was doing well, but the first highlights I saw were of Griffin destroying the New York Knicks. As soon as I saw that Griffin was immediately catapulted into Man-Crush consideration.

The deal was sealed last week when I went home to L.A. for Thanksgiving and actually got to see the man play live on TV. Goodness.

I keep thinking back to something I heard when he was entering the draft. Jay Bilas said he heard someone describe Griffin as “a dumptruck on a trampoline.” I’m not usually a Jay Bilas fan, but that description is pretty perfect. Then again, I guess Jay didn’t come up with it so I can still hate him. Nice.

Anyway, it’s not just the dunks for me with Griffin (although if it were just the dunks that would probably be enough), it’s the fact that he’s actually good at basketball. Too often you see guys like that who are over-hyped, but Griffin is beyond legit. Plus he looks really good as a woman.

 

Don't act like you're not thinking about it.

And with the grown-out red hair he kind of reminds me of this guy from my childhood. So Blake Griffin easily wins this week’s MCOW and I’ll leave you with a nice treat to get you through your day at work:

Man Crush of the Week

 

You know how much it frustrates you that girls always seem to be attracted to the bad boys? You know, the ones that smoke, ride motorcycles, and wear leather jackets? Ok, maybe we’re not in the days of The Fonz anymore, but today’s women seem to be attracted to the jerk who goes to the bar for the sole purpose of waiting until he inevitably gets bumped and then shouting, “You wanna start somethin, bro?” before pushing the culprit to the ground, who he later finds out is a girl.

I could never understand why girls were attracted to this guy. That is, until Thursday night when I suddenly and inexplicably developed a man-crush on Julio Castillo. I know, I know, the name sounds familiar. Well, maybe this will refresh your memory:

 

 

 

 

Ooooooooooh yeah, he was the lunatic that launched a 94 mph fastball into the opposing dugout……and missed…..and sent a helpless, unsuspecting fan to the emergency room. Talk about a high hard one.

Apparently this is nothing new for Castillo, who has less control than a sex addict at the Playboy Mansion. Castillo has 47 walks in 90 career innings, and according to former Ivy League Player of the Year Marc Sawyer, who played with him in Boise last year, Castillo has absolutely no clue where the ball’s going. That can be quite an advantage for a guy who throws in the mid-90s. Guys fresh out of high school and college were inching into the back corner of the batter’s box shaking like Henry Roengardner.

The fear factor has allowed him to have success thus far in his young career…that is until Thursday when he started taking taking target practice on the Dayton Dragons’ helmets.

So all this begs the question, how on Earth is this guy my MCOW? Let’s start with the basics. I do not condone what this guy did in any way, shape, or form. As a fan and former player, I’ve seen my fair share of brawls and NEVER have I seen someone fire a baseball as hard as he can towards a human being.

It might even be understandable if Castillo was being charged by the batter, and in a state of panic and desperation he threw the ball at the charging Dragon. Ok, still uncalled for, but somewhat understandable.

What nobody can understand is while his teammates and opponents rushed out of the dugout, Castillo thought that his best move was to take a baseball and wing it towards the opposing dugout. I mean, was he actually trying to kill someone? That’s really the only logical explanation. He’s a contract killer. He was hired to take out one of the players in the Dayton dugout. He failed and sent a civilian to the hospital in the process.

I bet he’s being worked over by the Dayton police right now, trying to get him to give up his boss. Good luck, Castillo is probably giving them the Sammy Sosa “I don’t speak English” defense. Although from what I hear he actually can’t speak a word of English.

I know he should be suspended for the year by his team and deserves whatever legal punishment he gets, but for some reason, I can’t stop thinking about the guy. I guess it is the brash defiance of all reason and logic that intrigues me. Or maybe it’s the “Who else want some!?!?” look on his face after he throws the ball at the dugout. In any case, I don’t know why, but Castillo was the object of my affection this week.

Hopefully next week I’ll pick the nice guy who’s really been there for me during the hard times and never tries to force the issue. Or maybe I’ll just pick another A-Hole. Does Barry Bonds have a team yet?

Man Crush of the Week

 

Talk about a no-brainer.

Not only is Rafael Nadal the Mr. Olympia of tennis, but he also just outlasted the greatest tennis player of all time in the longest Wimbledon final of all-time. Nadal, in four hours and 48 minutes, effectively displayed to Roger Federer how the guns will, in fact, get you.

What a week for Spain. First Euro 2008, now this? I’m telling you now, watch out for the Gasol brothers leading Spain to Olylmpic basketball gold in a couple months.

We all have ESPN, so I don’t need to tell you what all the analysts have been saying. This is the greatest Wimbledon final, and possibly the greatest tennis match of all time. I’d like to argue that the epic three-setter that my brother and I played two years ago on the Taft High School hard courts (finished on a whopping 74 mph ace that I called out and he called in) was better, but we’ll leave that for another time.

 

Watch out for the guns

Watch out for the guns

The greatness of this match almost made me miss my flight. I was in Buffalo (on my way back from Canada) and Rafa and Roger were on the plasma in the bar, about 4 gates down from mine. It was 6-5 in the fifth set when it was time for me to board, so I walked down to the gate. Since I saw no plane I asked the lady at the desk what time we were scheduled to board.

“You want to watch the tennis game don’t you?” she said with a smile. “Just be back in 15 minutes.”

Despite the unusually friendly suggestion by a flight-related worker, I still was forced to board when it was 7-7.  My new best friend in 7A (he had a blackberry) informed me that it was 8-7 just before the flight attendant called the “writ of no electronics.” It immediately occured to me that Federer had served that 15th game, so Nadal must have broken him and was now serving for the championship.

Fifteen minutes on a prop plane later, we landed in Rochester and as soon as 7A got the all-clear signal from the flight attendant he turned around and shouted “Nine Seven!” On one hand I was disappointed I didn’t get to see the conclusion, but from what I hear the last two games were played in near darkness, so it’s not like I missed anything, right? Right?

 

Anyway, by beating Federer on a surface that you can’t make pots out of, Nadal has now turned this into an official rivalry. It’s great for both of them and, more importantly, it’s great for men’s tennis.

Rafa, with your flowing locks, bulging biceps, and propensity to teasingly wipe yourself down with a towel after every single point, you have unanimously (one vote to zero) won the coveted MCOW Award.

Man Crush of the Week

 

It’s rare as a sports fan that you get to witness history. I may have done so on Sunday when I was fortunate enough to witness the highly-anticipated debut of one of the best prospects in baseball: 20 year old pitcher Clayton Kershaw. I watched the young lefty’s first start in the big leagues from the Loge level of Doger Stadium on a cloudy afternoon in Southern California, and I left with the same butterflies I came in with.

Now I’m not one to believe the hype. I am one of the biggest cynics you will find when it comes to young talent, especially young, hard-throwing pitchers. I’m used to seeing guys come up from the minors with electric stuff who fail because they have no idea how to pitch.

They throw 95+, but leave it in the middle of the plate. They have a devastating breaking ball, but can’t throw it for a strike. They get caught up in trying to strike everyone out, and build up 100+ pitches by the fifth inning.

And that is exactly the kind of immaturity Kershaw displayed in his first inning of work. After striking out Cardinals leadoff hitter Skip Shumaker, he walked the second hitter and gave up an RBI double to the great Albet Pujols (due in part to shotty fielding by Juan Pierre). Kershaw ended up striking out the side, but threw over 20 pitches and looked like he had no chance of locating his breaking ball. I figured he’d struggle to get through 5 innings and give up 3 or 4 runs while striking out 7 or 8 (shades of Chad Billingsley, and we see how that’s turned out so far).

But, presumably after a mid-inning talk from dugout leader and catcher Russel Martin, Kershaw turned the corner. He got a groundout on the second pitch of the at-bat to start the second inning, and he cruised from then on.

With the game tied at 2 (the second run scored on a sun-ball off James Loney’s face and a high throw to home from Blake DeWitt), Kershaw, rather than being satisfied with a great first start, finished his job by getting a fly out to left field with runners on second and third to keep the game tied. After the Dodgers took the lead in the bottom of the sixth, Kershaw was in line for the win in his first big-league start, and would have gotten it if not for a leadoff walk by Cory Wade and a throwing error by Martin in the seventh.

Kershaw’s final line: 6 innings, 5 hits, 2 ER, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts, 102 pitches

they look good together, don\'t they?I know the Cardinals aren’t exactly the ’27 Yankees, but Kershaw looked brilliant. More impressive than the mid 90s fastballs and the 12-6 curveball was the fact that he actually PITCHED. He was economic with his pitches and got big outs when he needed to.

I believe the hype. Kershaw is the best lefty starter the Dodgers have seen since….um….Odalis Perez? Kaz Ishii? Carlos Perez? Wilson Alvarez?

I don’t want to draw any comparisons to a certain Dodgers Hall of Fame left-handed starter (we’ll just call him Randy Nofax), because that would be unfair, but Kershaw certainly looks like the real deal.

 

Man Crush of the Week

With the NBA playoffs in full swing, I’m surprised my man crush has taken me in different direction. After Lebron and Paul Pierce went back and forth last night in Bird-Dominique fashion (or so I’m told by ESPN every five minutes), I was sure one of them would secure this week’s MCOW Award.

Or maybe it would be Chris Paul who, as a third year player, has taken the New Orleans Hornets to a seventh game at home against the defending world champion Spurs.

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, most of the time you can’t control your feelings. That’s why this week’s Man Crush goes to Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun.

I’ve thought about it long and hard, and here’s what I think drew me to Ryan Braun:

1. He’s a SoCal Native (Thousand Oaks, about 15 minutes from my house)

2. He hits dingers

3. He hits a lot of dingers

Quite Braun-y

Quite Braun-y

After a mediocre start (by his standards), Braun’s bat has turned smoldering hot this past week, hitting 8 homeruns in his last 8 games, bringing his total to 13 for the year. In the process, last season’s Rookie of the Year earned himself a monster contract extension that will pay him $45 million over the next eight years.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he packs on some pounds in the future ($45 million + 8 years in Milwaukee = lots of sausage and beer) but as of now Braun’s slender frame makes his unbelievable power a mystery. Adding to my Man Crush is the fact that Braun, unlike most power hitters, hits breaking balls just as well as fastballs. That mean’s he’s not going to stop hitting homeruns when pitchers stop throwing him fastballs(see: 1994 Rookie of the Year Bob Hamelin).

Braun also officially announced his presence as a left fielder (after a horrendous stint at third base last year) by appearing on the SportsCenter Top 10 with a sweet diving catch.

Sorry Bron Bron, but Braun takes the MCOW this week. Wait, what?

There’s Nothin’ Wrong With A Little Man Love

Today I’d like to start my weekly installments of the MCOW Award, otherwise known as my Man Crush of the Week.

 

For those of you not familiar with the term, “Man Crush,” it is simply an expression of one man’s respect and admiration for another man. Often times a MC extends beyond simple admiration to the point where you find yourself daydreaming about him or feel butterflies when you hear his name mentioned.

 

Let’s get something straight (no pun intended); a Man Crush has nothing to do with sexual attraction. It’s just like in middle school when you suddenly and inexplicably find yourself attracted to the nerdy girl in class. You can’t put your finger on it, but for some reason you just can’t take your eyes off her. 

 

You don’t want to admit it and risk getting ridiculed mercilessly by your friends, so you just chalk it up to hormones and hope that it goes away in a couple days. And usually it does.

 

For example, my first Man Crush came in 2001, when the Lakers were playing the 76ers in the NBA Finals. Having not seen much of Allen Iverson (that year’s MVP) during the regular season, I found myself mesmerized when he dropped 48 points to single-handedly deal the Lakers their only loss of the postseason in Game 1 (and humiliate the self-proclaimed “Iverson-stopper,” Tyronn Lue, in the process).

 

 I don\'t think Tyronn had a man-crush on him

Iverson’s remarkable performance (and his dreamy brown eyes) left me swooning over him for about a week, at which time the crush subsided and moved on (probably to Kobe).

 

Now that you have a reference point, I would like to hand out the inaugural MCOW Award to none other than…Orlando Magic Center Dwight Howard.

 

This one’s probably long overdue, as the crush hit its apex during his mind-boggling performance in the dunk contest earlier this year, which led me to use the image of his “superman” dunk as my desktop background. Howard, 6’11” 265-lbs., displayed the agility and leaping ability of a guard while bringing the dunk contest back to where Vince Carter left it in 2000.

 

 

Howard took the next step this year, becoming the most dominant big man (21 points, 16 rebounds per game) since Shaq’s glory years (yes, they’re over Shaq). He put up ungodly numbers (22 points, 18 rebounds, 4 blocks per game) in the first round against the “best” Toronto had to offer (cue Stephen A. Smith exclaiming “Rasho Nesterovic!”), and has now boldly taken the Magic where Tracy McGrady has never gone before.

 

After having a tough series opener in Detroit, Dwight bounced back to almost lead his team to victory in game 2. He then gave the Pistons a solid thumping in game 3, officially announcing his presence as a playoff force.

 

Add to the list of accolades that on Thursday he was named to the All-NBA First Team, and it’s easy to see why I have developed a Man-Crush on big Dwight Howard.

 

Who knows where Cupid’s Arrow will land next week.

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