In case you missed Colletti-on-Kemp above-average peptalk

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KABC-AM 790′s Josh Suchon played the clip during the break between the Dodgers-Mets doubleheader Tuesday afternoon — the one where Dodgers GM Ned Colletti joined the station’s morning host, Peter Tilden, for their weekly conversation.

Colletti started on the fact that the Dodgers were struggling:

“Some guys, I guess, think that they’re better than they are. And they think that the opposition is just going to roll over and get beat by them. That obviously doesn’t happen. We’ve lost two out of three to Cincinnati, two out of three to Washington, two out of three to Pittsburgh. All three of those teams – no offense to those three teams – we’re better than they are. We should be winning those games. And when we don’t do it, you know what, it’s utterly frustrating.”

Tilden then asked why it seemed as fans calling into recent “DodgerTalk” shows were particularily hard on center fielder Matt Kemp, the Rihanna-dating, GQ magazine modeling star who won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger last season, but whose fielding and base running has, as usual, been suspect.

Does it have anything to do with Kemp’s new two-year, $10.95 million contract?

“Why is it? Because he got a new deal? Can’t tell you. But you know, it’s below-average. If this is the last day of the season and people are voting for the Gold Glove, his name is not even on the ballot. It’s a shame that he would go from where he was a year ago to revert back to when the ball goes up in the air and you’re not sure where it’s going, or if it’s going to get caught.”

Now show the kids how you use two hands to make a grab, Matt.

Suchon said this morning that he and co-host Ken Levine discussed this story “heavily” on Tuesday night’s “DodgerTalk” after the second game loss, but “to be honest, I think most L.A. fans had given up on the Dodgers by that point in the night and turned their attention to the Lakers game. I wouldn’t be surprised if more people want to discuss it today, after they’ve read about it.”

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’10: Day 28 — When in San Pedro de Macoris, do as the Macorisanos do

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The book: “The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris”

The author: Mark Kurlansky

The vital stats: Riverhead Books, 282 pages, $25.95

Find it: At Barnes and Noble (linked here)

The pitch: Pedro Guerrero, Adrian Beltre and Alfredo Griffin. Rico Carty, Joaquin Andjuar and Rafael Ramirez. George Bell, Julio Franco and Juan Samuel. Mariano Duncan, Jose Offerman and Guillermo Mota.

And Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano and Robinson Cano.

Seventy nine players have emerged from this tiny town in the Dominican Republic to play in the U.S. major leagues, several familiar to Dodgers fans who recall how Vin Scully still says the city’s name like some song lyric whenever he sees it next to someone’s bio.

The first was Samuel Amando, a shortstop who played with the Milwaukee Braves and New York Mets in the early ’60s. Carty was the most famous, until Sosa came along. Cano, the son of another big-league ballplayer from the city, could be the next big thing as the Yankees’ hot-hitting second baseman.

How has this pipeline been established? Jose Cano, Robinson’s dad, says in the book: “Because we don’t have anything else here and we aren’t tall enough for basketball.”

Kurlansky, writing his first sports book after several historial tomes on such thing as the evolution of cod fish, salt and oysters (seriously), did a piece on this fabled connection between the Dominican and the U.S. for Parade magazine in 2007, “and the magazine received more than 100 leters from readers,” he writes in this book. “Most complained there were too many foreigners, too many Latins, or too many Dominicans in (U.S.) baseball … must of the criticism comes from African Americans.”

Those who also think that they’ve been outsourced in trying to get high-paying roster spots in the big-leagues.

With Kurlansky’s expertise in life in the Carribean, he traces the history of the country, and this tiny former fishing village that now specializes in sugar cane, all the way back to Columbus, Sir Frances Drake and Napoleon staked their claim.

While Ozzie Virgil was the first Dominican to make it to the U.S. major leagues in 1956, Kurlansky finds that the first accepted date of baseball in the country was 1886, introduced by Cuban sugar makers.

But while baseball players may be the region’s biggest export — one of every six Dominican players in the pros are from San Pedro de Marcoris — this is really about how the culture hasn’t changed much despite its success. It’s one of poverty and survival, colonialization and ethnic diversity.

As the city’s major Tony Echavaria says: “Baseball gives an activity to the poorest children and it changes their lives and the lives of their families.”

But there’s the flip side of that — mostly with how a player like Sosa is depicted as not really giving back as much as he claims to have during his days of multi-million riches. Kurlansky writes that as Sosa has found out, “no matter how rich you are, you are even richer in the minds of the poor, and he was constantly criticized for not giving enough” — even by his grandmother, who lives in the city in a three-story cinderblock house who continues to ask for money to survive.

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Still, Kurlansky points out with some irony, Sosa may be the only person in the world who has a shopping center named after one of his statistics.

The other dark side of this town is trying to get out from under the suspicion of steroid use by its players. Kurlansky writes that the most easily obtained steroids are ones designed to be used by vets on animals, primarily horses. With Sosa’s association to the region, it is further tainted.

How it goes down in the scorebook: As long as the children there snap off brances of sugar cane to use as a baseball bat, wacking rocks around on the street, San Pedro de Macoris will continue to be a destination spot for professional talent.

The MLB estimates it has spent more than $14 million on 30 academies in the area, leading to 2,100 jobs. It also guesses that more than $200 million a year goes back to the citizens some how from the players who came from there — but you’d never know it by seeing how its used. This is not a travel guide to lure you into visiting San Pedro de Marcoris, but more of a human guide to connect readers more to the region and culture, a better understanding about the lack of choices these people have to make a better life for themselves.

And another reason to rend the DVD “Sugar” to see a dramatization about how once a player does leave the island and come to America, how tough it is to adjust.

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While you Fantasize about ‘Victorious Secret,’ stick with your first instinct: ‘Isotopes’ rule

CBSSports.com put out its top 200 most popular fantasy baseball team names based on the number of times they were cited in a random sampling of the more than 100,000 leagues on their site.

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1. Evil Empire
2. Springfield Isotopes/Isotopes
3. Chico’s Bail Bonds
4. Black Sox
5. Bronx Bombers
6. Yankees/New York Yankees
7. Bombers
8. Ball Busters
9. Red Sox/Boston Red Sox
10. Cubs/Chicago Cubs

11. Gashouse Gorillas
12. Chin Music
13. Mets/New York Mets
14. Roid Rage
15. Bad News Bears
16. Tigers/Detroit Tigers
17. Young Guns
18. Bulldogs
19. Brew Crew
20. Murderer’s Row

Outside of the top 20, other names that were in the Top 200:

== Chicks Dig the Long Ball (#24)
== Cobra Kai (#27)
== Slump Buster (#31)
== McLovin (#35)
== Dodgers/LA Dodgers (#39)
== Kenny Powers (#43)
== Vandelay Industries (#50)
== Honey Nut Ichiros (#51)
== Smell the Glove (#126)
== Little Lebowski Urban Achievers (#128)
== Jeters Never Prosper (#139)
== Fat Bastards (#141)
== Jerry’s Kids (#147)
== Victorious Secret (#177)
== Good Wood (#189)

The full list (linked here)

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’10: Day 27 — You say he never really said ‘Say Hey!”?

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The book: “Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend”

The author: James S. Hirsch

The vital stats: Simon and Schuster, 628 pages, $30

Find it: Powells (linked here), Amazon.com (linked here); Barnes & Noble (linked here)

The pitch: Because of the effort Hirsch took in just getting Mays to agree to this book — and he documents well here in the the final chapter — this was worth our effort to plow through the 600-plus pages and do this one right.

The persistence of Hirsch, who also wrote “Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter,” allows Mays’ story get told in total — starting with his young, unmarried parent’s discovery that they were having him (she was 16, he was 19), raised mostly by his aunt, with his father’s guidance into sports … all the way to his mentoring of Barry Bonds and consulting with him on how to handle his steroid issues.

There is plenty of paragraph worship in Hirsch’s prose — which is how most of America has also embraced the Mays’ legacy. So that can’t be so much denied. Still, included are lesser investigation into Mays’ darker sides, addressing the public attacks made on him by Jackie Robinson in the 1960s for his lack of political activism, his probable use of amphetamines as a player, his often brisque demeanor around people.

Because the book is authorized by Mays, there seems to be a little holding back, so as to not worry that he would shut down the project. In a way, it would almost be better if Hirsch had the same approach to this as David Maraniss had with his 2006 classic “Clemente” — without the player around, there’s more freedom to dig into darker matters.

Continue reading

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X Games shift events from Home Depot Center to Coliseum

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The seventh edition of ESPN’s X Games in the Los Angeles area will expand to the Nokia Theatre and the Coliseum, making the event entirely in the downtown area from July 29 to August 1, the network announced today.

The Coliseum will be home to the Moto X Freestyle, Super X, Rally Car Racing, BMX Big Air, Skateboarding Big Air and Skateboarding Big Air Rail Jam. Most of those had been at the AEG-owned Home Depot Center in Carson for the last several years.

Those who remember Mickey Thompson Off-Road and Motocross events at the Coliseum back in the 1980s may have some flashbacks.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have the X Games back at the Coliseum,” said Pat Lynch, general manager for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum & Sports Arena. “As the original home to the precursor of the X Games, the original motocross, we truly appreciate and love showcasing this world-class action sports event.”

X Games 16 is scheduled for 31 hours of live programming on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic and online at ESPN3.com (none, apparently, on ABC?) in high def.

“It has been seven years since we first had X Games events at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and ESPN couldn’t be more thrilled to be returning this year with several of our sports,” said Jack Wienert, ESPN executive director, X Games Event Management. “As the X Games franchise continues to grow, we are proud and excited about our continued great relationship with AEG as we expand our presence this year downtown at Staples Center and L.A. LIVE.”

Staples Center will continue to host Moto X Speed & Style, Step Up, Best Whip and Best Trick. L.A. Live will have the BMX and Skateboard Park and Street; the Nokia Theatre will now have the BMX Vert as well as the Skateboard Vert and Vert Best Trick.

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