Three hours before his third game in the majors, Yasiel Puig, the 22-year-old Cuban defector whose feats of superhuman strength have made him the talk of baseball, stood at his locker and answered questions from a small group of reporters. A pretty, impeccably dressed woman stood by his side — the interpreter assigned by the Dodgers PR staff to deal with all the new media requests for the Dodgers' new right fielder. Puig answered questions in Spanish and for the most part seemed to be enjoying the attention. At some point, a reporter asked Puig if he felt that Double-A ball had been beneath him. After hearing the translation, Puig closed his eyes, shook his head, and laughed. He was already learning to avoid questions. A few minutes later, after much ribbing from teammate Hanley Ramirez, Puig was asked if he enjoyed hitting leadoff. With a wry smile, Puig said, "I just want to go out there and play the game …" The rookie's boilerplate received high marks from Ramirez, who announced to the reporters, "There you go!"
Puig is a dead ringer for a young Floyd Patterson if he had decided to shave his Jheri curl down into a Mohawk. Like all great athletes, Puig's body almost looks like it has been spliced together from Olympian parts. If you ever stand next to Dwight Howard, you'll swear that he's just a skinny tall guy with a pair of Hulk shoulders stapled on. Puig, who stands about 6-foot-3, is broad, trim, and chiseled. He wears the baggiest pants this side of Manny Ramirez’s muumuu, which conceal a pair of thick, powerful legs. But a lot of baseball players could be described in this way — I’m pretty sure some overcaffeinated Dodgers beat writer back in 1993 used the same words to describe Raul Mondesi. Puig’s freakishness comes from his massive forearms, which look like they've been cut by a particularly optimistic German wood-carver. As Puig practiced his boilerplate with the reporters, I considered hiking up my pant leg to see if his forearms were bigger than my calves.
Hooray, Kings! It's been a couple days since your Game 6 win over the New Jersey Devils, but Grantland is still excited for you! We sent intern Juliet Spies-Gans to check out your Stanley Cup victory parade on Thursday. Someone told her to "get out of my personal space." So that's a thing that happened. You'll find some of her images below, as well as images from photographer Kevork Djansezian after the break.
Great Moments in Mets Sadness: Carlos Beltran’s bat slumped on his shoulder, his knees made of pink slime; Doc Gooden lost in a crack house while his teammates celebrated a World Series in the streets; Luis Castillo’s too-early pop-up squeeze; Bobby Valentine’s Groucho Marx routine; "A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar."; Dykstra-for-Samuel; twin collapses in ’07 and ’08; the Madoff follies; Kazmir-for-Zambrano; "The Walk-off"; Vince Coleman’s firecrackers; Mike Scioscia’s heroics; Oliver Perez’s left arm.
It goes on.
The Mets — and their convulsive, overreacting, gallows-humorless fan base — thrive in a culture of ignominy. It’s bad, or it’s going to get bad. Despite two World Series wins and a surprising long-term profitability in the Land of Yankee, the Mets will always be baseball’s drunk uncle, prone to moroseness and pratfalls around the coffee table. Even in victory, there’s weakness. The 1969 Mets were the product of a “miracle.” The baseball-dominating, 108-win 1986 squad has been branded by Buckner Ball historicity and disappointment in the non-dynastic years that followed. The saddest of these sad stats: Across a 50-year pitching-rich existence, the absence of a no-hitter. That’s over now. Eight thousand and nineteen games later, it’s over. Johan Santana did it.
Before he became the Lakers’ coach, Mike Brown worked under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. During his first season in Los Angeles, Brown hasn't used many sets that came from the Spurs — until last night, that is. Tied 93-all against the New Orleans Hornets with 2.1 seconds left, everyone expected Kobe Bryant to get the ball in isolation. You know the drill: He runs to the ball and fires up a tough jumper. But last night, Brown used the threat of Bryant’s standard one-on-one last shot to set up a much easier, wide-open look for Bryant, and the play came almost straight out of the Popovich playbook.
I’m from Los Angeles, and lately, I’ve been wanting to move back. I’d be closer to my family — and Grantland headquarters. Also, I’d get my pickup basketball game back.
They call it “noonball” at USC, my alma mater. I've played ever since my sophomore year, about a decade ago. Pete Carroll played with us for years before leaving to coach the Seattle Seahawks. But we were all equals on the court. It was almost like a fraternity.
A regular pickup game is therapeutic and calming. I’ve lived in New York — the mecca of hoops — for more than three years, and haven’t found anything remotely close to what I had at USC. I played at Columbia for a while before they realized that I didn’t actually go there, and that was the end of that. Most gyms cost more than they should and don’t even include basketball courts. Frequent travel makes it an unwise investment. And the East Coast weather means outdoor games aren’t always an option.
It's January 18, a little less than half an hour before the Clippers are set to tip off against Dallas at Staples Center. From each corner of the downtown L.A. arena, smoke machines funnel into small fans. There’s a faint cloud hovering over the court. It feels like a low-budget rock concert before the lights have gone down.
At game’s end, the announced attendance will be 19,252 — another sellout — but as both teams go through pregame warm-ups, the lower bowl is lined with stretches of unfilled seats. The first row behind the baseline is empty, and throughout the section, pieces of paper have been taped to seat backs: Next time, pay a much lower price for these great seats. Season ticket packages for 2012-2013 now available.
Welcome back to your monthly dose of Schadenfreude. Here at the Depressed Fan Base Committee, our job is to kick a city while it is down. And man, there are some down cities in this country. This month, 10 voters identified 35 cities as worthy of recognition. Along with the Top 10 list below, nominees included Detroit; Atlanta; Stillwater, Okla.; every city in Texas; the entire state of North Carolina; and the Three M's: Montreal, Manchester, and Milwaukee. (They still call those “The Three M's,” right?)
Disclaimer the First: We're not doing Happy Valley or Syracuse, so don't even ask. I had a whole slew of jokes lined up, but the Department of Justice flagged every single one. Come on, DoJ, don't you guys have something better to be flagging? I've got a neighbor who listens to Bruno Mars nonstop, and he doesn't even get audited by the IRS.
There may be no position in all of sports that can more single-handedly and consistently alter the course of a single game, a playoff series, or an entire season than a hockey goalie. (And there's certainly no position in all of sports — or, really, life — that boasts better helmets.) These guys are fearless, flexible, fast — and often fairly unhinged. Here, we salute five of the week's noteworthy performances in net.
Over Labor Day weekend, 10 of the ablest minds at Grantland briefly stopped typing their own names into a Google search bar and devoted themselves to a sad question: Which city's fan base is enduring the roughest stretch in sports right now? Where should the sympathetic among us direct our pity? Or, for the cruel at heart, our Schadenfreude?
Each member of the Most Depressed Fan Base Committee selected their top eight cities, based on factors known only to them, and point values were assigned on a 1-8 scale (most depressed earns eight points, least depressed earns one). The individual lists were then compiled into an overall ranking, which is presented below.
Before we get there, though, some clarification. We're concerned with which cities are suffering now, at this exact moment in time. As William Faulkner once wrote, "the past is dead." (I'm reciting that one from memory — hopefully I nailed it.) For example, the Red Sox World Series drought is irrelevant because it ended, while the Cubs drought holds weight because it's ongoing. You get the idea.
When the voting concluded, 31 cities/geographic areas were represented. Among those who earned just one vote and didn't make the final list were Lubbock, South Bend, San Diego, Baltimore, San Antonio, Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Phoenix, Long Island, Vancouver, Denver, Tennessee, and St. Louis.
In case you were curious, Lubbock came from Chuck Klosterman, and it came without explanation. But his e-mail signature is a picture of Mike Leach as God in a parody of the "Creation of Adam" painting, so maybe that explains it. (In the painting, Chuck replaces Adam.)