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A Requiem for Grantland

“I am going to write for Grantland. I am going to be very fucking good”
 
Four years ago, that was my mindset. I was going to write for Grantland. And I was going to be very fucking good.
 
In mid-2011, I was still wondering what to do with my life. I had just joined a company in the marketing wing, signing up to be a lowly executive assistant and holding out hope every day that my betters would throw me a scrap of real work. In between my long days of answering phones, creating meeting invites but generally doing a whole lot of nothing, I would write. And then I would write. And then I would write some more.
 
I’d write about my hatred for Adrian Beltre, the inevitably unpredictable nature of the baseball playoffs, how unstoppable Albert Pujols was, the frustrating nature of Lamar Odom’s being and of course, the top 10 ugliest players in the NBA. Starting as a mortal Blogspot site, thegreatmambino.blogspot.com was a place where we cut our collective teeth. Along with some of my idiot friends, we increased our output and tried to get content flowing nearly every day. Some of the posts were great–I would hold up this Jeremy Lin article up against anything I’ve ever written–and some of them weren’t. I mean, some of them really weren’t. But either way, we were writing with purpose. At least, I was. I was trying to get better. To be great. To be good enough to be a staff writer for Grantland.… Read more...

The San Francisco Giants make it historically difficult to be a Dodgers fan

It’s been 56 days since the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series championship in five season. I know the days. It’s tattooed on my brain. That’s how long it’s taken me to write this article–enough time to heal and get up from off the floor.
 
I couldn’t watch the World Series this year. Not an inning. As a huge Los Angeles Dodgers fan, seeing our time-tested rivals play for yet another title was just too much for me to grit through. It was a feeling I had become accustomed to—a very same set of stomach acid-inducing ulcers that burned the lining of my gut two years ago. And then two years before that. Worse yet, I knew it was coming.
 
From the moment that Brandon Belt hit a monstrous home run in Nationals Park during their 18-inning slugfest with Washington (the same night as the Dodgers’ lone playoff win), I knew that there was no stopping the Gigantes as they walked down the golden road they were all-too familiar with. It was the same formula I had seen twice already in the last five years—dominant starting pitching, an unheralded bullpen that would bend but not break and a motley set of hitters whose stars aligned all at the same time. I knew the recipe. I could smell it.… Read more...

MAMBINO on vacation

Like the great Craig Biggio once said, “even the best bloggers in the world gotta take a break sometimes. Believe me, I know first hand. Donkey punch-style”.
 
Well, no, Biggio never said that. But he might have. If he were me.
 
MAMBINO will be on hiatus until the end of the month for our yearly break. We’ll recharge, reduce, reuse and recycle, and be right back at you with the smarm you’ve come to love in the fall.… Read more...

Bad NBA Contract of the Week: Charlie Villanueva

(In the vein of the highly esteemed David Shoemaker, AKA The Masked Man’s Deadspin column entitled “Dead Wrestler of the Week”, we here at MAMBINO are going to parse our way through the worst contracts the NBA has to offer. Part dedication to the great men who have swindled their way to big checks, part commemoration to GMs that should have been fired and part commentary on the ills of a capitalist society gone wrong, we’ll be here every week with a look at the L’s worst deals)
 
Charlie Villanueva
 
Contract: 5 years, $35 million
Signed by:
Detroit Pistons
Salary this season: $8 million
2013 Slash Line: 7.2/3.8/0.7 in 52 games
Expires: 2014

“My comment to Charlie was in fact ‘You are cancerous to your team and our league.’ I would never be insensitive to the brave struggle that cancer patients endure. I have lost loved ones to this deadly disease and have a family member currently undergoing treatment. I would never say anything that distasteful. The game of life is far bigger than the game of basketball.”—Kevin Garnett

 
And with that eloquent statement in response to a most heinous allegation, the Big Ticket simply said what a lot of us were thinking.
 
No, not about cancer, although I’m sure there’s not a person alive who doesn’t want the disease eradicated.
 
About Charlie Villanueva being cancerous to the team and perhaps the very league that team operates in. Whether he’ll admit it or not, Charlie V is a physical manifestation of the precipitous decline of Detroit Basketball.… Read more...

Bronx Tales: Who’s Behind the Dish for NYY?

KOBEsh: This week’s question is relatively simple; with the offseason departure of Russell Martin (yet another casualty of the Steinbrenner’s crusade to get under the luxury tax threshold), who’s going to be the Yanks’ starting catcher? And how early will the team really miss Martin’s power, play calling and leadership?
 
Vin:  To tackle the first part of this question, I would say there is a 50% chance Chris Stewart starts the year as the main catcher, a 40% chance Cervelli does, a 5% chance Austin Romine does and a 5% chance someone else does. While the Yankees letting Russell Martin skip town was all about money, the move does reveal something about their baseball thinking: they are willing to entertain the possibility of starting an all defense, zero offense catcher and concentrating resources elsewhere. … Read more...

Andrew Bynum still affects the Lakers, even from 2,300 miles away

(My latest from Silver Screen & Roll)
 
After an 80-minute workout, a sweat saturated Andrew Bynum talked to the Philadelphia media while staring straight through them. It was the same faraway look that he had given the Los Angeles media for seven years; a trained, halfhearted sense of etiquette that made him seem patiently aloof. In the Sixers training facility, Andrew was asked repeatedly about the state of his problematic knees, ones that had dampened his playing career from blossoming into full-on super-stardom. Talking with his usual tones of misplaced bemusement, Bynum said “I’ll definitely be back sometime this year, I’m focused on getting back and being right versus trying to rush.”
 
As sure as the first part of his statement was, the second seemed to be a very carefully placed caveat on what seemed like a guarantee. Drew’s statement was a conflicted as his hair that day, a brilliantly compelling skull half immaculately braided and half out of the Don King playbook. Less than two weeks later, Bynum found himself backtracking, admitting that he might not play at all this season. The Philadelphia 76ers season has been an abject disaster without the big man, falling almost completely out of the playoff picture.
 
It’s been strange to see Bynum give continuous updates himself on what seemingly should be a team issue. John Black, the Lakers PR czar, leads a tight-lipped operation out of Downtown L.A. and El Segundo, keeping roster-related information at a premium. Throughout Drew’s tenure as a Laker, the organization gave hazy updates on whatever their center’s latest malady was, keeping fans and the media speculating rather than dwelling. It’s a testament to just how strong a hand the Buss operation was when seeing just how much commotion Bynum has caused without stepping foot onto the court.
 
Considering that these injuries appeared during summer conditioning and bowling of all things doesn’t bode well for the big man.
 
Regardless of what’s coming out of the former lottery pick’s mouth, the bottom line is that the man hasn’t played a single minute of his new team’s 56 games this year. He has been sitting out with bone bruises in both knees, and battling chronic soreness and swelling. Bone bruises vary in severity and disability from person to person, but obviously with Bynum, the problem is more than just an inconvenience. He can’t yet do any physical activity without pain, which a salve of months-long rest was supposed to help heal. Worse yet, these latest injuries seem to be mostly non-contact based. Though he battled problems all throughout his Lakers career, Bynum’s medical absences were all tied to freak on-court contact injuries in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Considering that these injuries appeared during summer conditioning and bowling of all things doesn’t bode well for the big man. More than likely, Bynum’s enormous seven foot, near 300 pound frame simply isn’t equipped to withstand the rigors and stresses that an intensely physical NBA game places on him. There are some who speculate that he may never be able to play a full season ever again.
 
For the Lakers and their fans, watching Bynum’s erratic behavior from afar has been illuminating, comical, and sad usually all at once. With every ridiculous sound byte, we’re reminded that “close-out games actually aren’t that hard” and with every tale of season-endin… Read more...

Bronx Tales: What To Do Without Curtis Granderson?

KOBEshigawa: After several years toiling away in the Major Leagues, left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ may have made his first significant contribution to the game…but not in a good way.
 
Last Sunday in a spring training game, Happ served up a breaking ball in the most literal of senses, fracturing Curtis Granderson’s right forearm. The Yankees, already having lost the offensive punch of sluggers Nick Swisher, Russ Martin, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones this offseason, will be without a potential 35-40 home run threat for at least the first five weeks of the season.
 
Knowing full well how competitive the AL East is with five teams that could compete for a playoff spot, the Yankees simply cannot afford to fall behind seven, eight or nine games behind the division leader even as early as April.
 
We of course sent out the Pinstripe-Signal to our man Vin for some insight on the Yanks in this latest edition of MAMBINO’s Bronx Tales.
 
Vin, will the Yanks really miss Curtis Granderson? And who should be the opening day left fielder?
 
Vin: Obviously, the Yankees will definitely miss Curtis Granderson over the first month plus of the season, which seems to be the time he is guaranteed to be sidelined even if he comes back from his broken forearm as quickly as possible. As has been said by many, the only silver lining (playbook) of this injury is that it occurred during Grandy’s first spring AB and thus will missing as few games that actually count as possible. Of course, missing spring training could affect Granderson’s numbers after he returns (presumably he’ll have some rehab games in the minors but nowhere near the preparation time he otherwise would have had), but you’d still rather him miss spring training than larger chunks of actual spring or summer.… Read more...

The Curious Case of Carmelo Anthony

On Saturday, Carmelo Anthony attended a basketball game at Syracuse University. Although the game was memorable more because it was The Otto Porter Breakout Party, Anthony was in town to be honored by the team and school as one of its best basketball players of all-time, his number never to be worn by another Orange player.
 

NY Daily News


 
In 2003, my cell phone had an antenna, and the Anthony-led run by Syracuse culminated in a national championship. Every game was dominated by #15, as he played his way to Final Four MVP. The numbers were especially nice, as Anthony was a 20-10 machine with dreadlocks for days. But it was the eye test that confirmed the notion that Melo would be getting paid for playing basketball the following year. He bullied smaller opponents in the post and left bigger ones in the dust. He didn’t take games off and was especially active in coach Jim Boeheim’s roaming 2-3 zone defense. But most of all, he inspired his teammates, most of whom were older, to play with him, as opposed to playing alongside of him.
 
Anthony established a mature identity as a young Syracuse freshman, and his legacy remains significant today. 22 double-doubles on the march to his legendary coach’s only title was enough to cement his place in the hearts of the 35,012 strong that set a record at the Carrier Dome this past weekend. Yet Carmelo Anthony spent three of his NBA millions to build a practice facility that aims to produce the next of his kind. Carmelo Anthony isn’t just a hero in Syracuse; he’s a legend. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)
 … Read more...

(Not So) Instant Trade Analysis: NBA Deadline Round-Up

I checked Twitter for 36 hours straight. I kept a line on my e-mail, waiting for gchat boxes to change color. My phone sat next to my computer on vibrate. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
 
Josh Smith stayed put. So did Monta Ellis. No one got sent in or out of STAPLES Center. The Jazz defied expectations and stayed pat. A few Celtics got dealt, but none of the ones anyone thought. Not even Fab Melo.
 
It was probably the least eventful five hours leading up to the trade deadline ever. The “big” trades, including guys like Thomas Robinson, Rudy Gay and Jose Calderon–zero All-Star berths between all of them–had already been made in the previous two weeks.
 
Still, there was some activity on deadline day. Let’s round ’em up and tell you what you didn’t miss.
 
Milwaukee Bucks get: SG JJ Redick, C Gustavo Ayon, PG Ishmael smith
 
Orlando Magic get: SG Doron Lamb, SF Tobias Harris, PG Beno Udrih
 
Unsurprisingly, the Bucks made the “big” trade of the day, but surprisingly, it didn’t involve J-Smoove, Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis. The team acquired JJ Redick in a last minute deal, the one player that any NBA GM or scout was positive that would be moved.… Read more...

The State of the Devils: Do not pinch me under any circumstances

ImageContemplate what the Giants would look like without Eli Manning, the Lakers without Kobe Bryant or the Mets without David Wright. Well, I suppose in the case of the Mets it wouldn’t make much of a difference, but typically the loss of your best player is detrimental to a franchise. If he happens to be an all-American marketing dream who pushes himself to the limit every shift, is clean cut, a born leader and always says the right things in front of the cameras it can leave an even bigger void to fill.
 
Oh, and did I mention he’s only 28?
 
Well, that’s essentially the fate that befell the Devils eight months ago when Zach Parise, already arguably the best forward in the franchise’s history (though Patrik Elias could lay significant claim to that title) opted to return to his home state of Minnesota to play tiddly winks with the Wild for the next 14 years. Already the Devils’ captain and poised to be a leader and a talent for the next decade-plus, this was perhaps the most significant blow the team had ever taken in its history, at least as far as personnel was concerned.
 
As a result, the expectations for New Jersey in the 2012-13 season, truncated as it is, were not, how you would say, “high.” Yes, the Devils had gotten within two wins of an unlikely Stanley Cup title in 2012, but in the eyes of many, this author included, that miracle run was the product of multiple relatively flukey factors. For one, New Jersey rode a no-name defense that played well above its head and somehow got four goals and 10 assists in the postseason out of 36-year-old Bryce Salvador, a blueliner who had a total of seven goals and 32 assists in his previous three seasons. The Devils also got somewhat surprising play out of legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur, who despite turning 40 during the playoff run played as if he was 10 years younger. The rest of the luck came from a surprisingly effective checking fourth line of Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta, players who might not make the rosters of some NHL teams, and an incredibly favorable draw of Florida (young and inexperienced), Philadelphia (emotionall exhausted after a massive first-round upset of Pittsburgh) and the New York Rangers (physically exhausted after going seven games in two rounds and throwing their bodies around like rag dolls to do it).
 
Yes, there was offensive talent in Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, gritty forward David Clarkson and, yes, Parise, but the general consensus was that the Devils had a remarkable, inspiring run that belied a base of talent not so on par with the rest of the League. Take Parise out of the equation and you have a roster with one overpaid sniper, one elderly goalie and a dozen complementary pieces that can help you win a Cup, but can’t lead you there. As a result, many prognosticators had the Parise-less Devils scrambling to make the playoffs this season, and quite possibly missing them altogether.
 
So all of this hasty exposition begs one simple question to anyone who glances at the NHL standings this morning:
 
“Why do the New Jersey Devils have the most points in the Eastern Conference with a third of the season gone?”… Read more...