Friday, July 31, 2009

J.P. Licked

It's official -- barring some miracle deal just before the 4pm ET Friday trading deadline in Major League Baseball, Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi officially effed up.

Big time.

And in this case, it's basically 100% all his doing. Nobody made Ricciardi come out a few weeks ago and declare publicly that the team was entertaining trade offers for ace Roy Halladay. That could have been left more on the DL, as is usually the case. But for whatever reason, Ricciardi decided earlier this month to depart from the usual practice that has teams always taking steps to hide their real interests (in this case, to trade Halladay for maximum value) so as not to hamstring themselves in their negotiations in getting done what they need to get done.

So announcing so publicly to other teams his desire to trade Halladay was I think mistake #1 made by the Jays' GM this month. This definitely appears to have set the wrong tone for the offers that were made to him, with interested teams perhaps not putting their very best foot forward early given their foreknowledge of the Blue Jays' interests. Mistake #2, or maybe this is more like #1a, was telling Roy Halladay of this desire, which I think was at least as bad as telling all of his potential suitors of his desire to make a trade. Why is it bad to have told Halladay about this? Because it's just about the most distracting thing you can do to a guy -- tell him that he, and his family, are likely to be moving cities (in his case countries even) and that he could be pitching anywhere, in either league, in just a few weeks' time. This makes it very, very difficult for anybody to perform to his potential, and even the nearly infallible Halladay has shown the signs, going 0-2 in his last two starts as the trade talks have really heated up heading into Friday's trading deadline. Not that Halladay has been horrible or anything, but the bottom line is, not only has he not pitched his best over the past couple of starts, but now Ricciardi is left with an emotionally deflated Halladay for the rest of the 2009 season. Halladay will know already that he is pitching on a dead-end team with no shot of making the playoffs, and he also now knows that he is basically a lame duck with the team, since the GM has already made public his desire to trade away the superstar pitcher, and the likelihood is probably significant that he gets dealt away in the offseason after the Phillies go back to back in October for the first time in their illustrious franchise history.

Another thing Ricciardi did wrong with this whole Halladay business is his insistence right from the getgo that he only wants cheapo prospects in return. Now don't get me wrong -- it's not lost on me that money is the only reason the Jays would even consider dumping a pitcher of Roy Halladay's caliber in the first place. So I understand they are looking to make a big salary dump in moving the AL's best workhorse of a pitcher. But you know what? Ricciardi should have considered that some players -- especially those at the top of their games at a position like starting pitcher -- cannot effectively be replaced in terms of getting "fair value" back by only receiving prospects and other young, minor league talents. I mean, how many 21-year old Tommy-John-surgery-having pitchers, 18-year-old fireballers and 22 year old outfielders can really be piled up to equal one Roy Halladay? It's a difficult thing to really imagine equaling what the Blue Jays would lose by trading away Roy Halladay, but that's exactly the corner that Ricciardi backed himself into at the beginning of this whole ordeal by announcing that he was looking for prospects.

After making what I view as several mistakes in the conception of trying to trade away Roy Halladay for prospects this month, Ricciardi then compounded his error by turning down what was far and away the best offer he received from any team, which was a 4-prospect deal from the Phillies than included the World Champs' young pitching phenom J.A. Happ, our #2 pitching prospect Carlos Carrasco as well as the #1and #3 position player prospects in our league-best farm system. Ricciardi immediately balked at this offer, insisting instead on the Phils including #1 pitching prospect Kyle Drabek in addition to Happ and the other big names in the Phillies' proposed trade, and the Phils were able within one day of those talks dying down to nab the reigning AL Cy Young winner -- beating out Halladay in the process btw -- Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians without giving up Happ, Drabek or Taylor in the outfield. Although the Phillies obviously did a great job getting tremendous value out of the four prospects included in the Cliff Lee trade, the fact that the Indians accepted such an offer just shows how much Ricciardi was overvaluing Roy Halladay's worth on the trading block.

And the end result of the Blue Jays' GM's missteps this month? J.P. Ricciardi is now left with Halladay, pitching awesomely for a hopelessly non-playoff-bound losing team, with no prospects for improving in the entire second half of this season. Halladay knows full well that the team tried to trade him, and he has spent the past few weeks preparing himself and his family for a move across-country(ies) -- mentally and physically -- and now he must resign himself to staying in Toronto to pitch out the rest of the hopeless 2009 season. And he knows he will likely be moved anyways after this season is over with, but with much less likelihood of actually ending up on a contending team. And, Ricciardi also had to eat some serious crow this week, declaring late on Thursday night that trade talks surrounding arguably the best pitcher in baseball are "dead".

It's amazing, really, if you think about it. With all the teams still alive in the playoff hunt at this point in the season, here we are with deals going on all around us with less than 24 hours to go before the trading deadline, and the guy who owns the best pitcher in the entire sport has literally zero offers for his guy. No players on the table, no prospective deals, no talks going on at all. He has alienated his star player -- the only true star left on the Blue Jays' squad -- and he has managed to turn down some very attractive offers, only to see clearly worse ones coming in from other teams, and eventually just no interest at all. The bottom line is that, truth be told, it probably would have been difficult for Ricciardi to have played this whole Halladay thing any worse than he has, and I predict that his team will be paying the price for Ricciardi's obvious misstep for the rest of the 2009 season. Ricciardi may have been Billy Beane's protege back in Oakland at the beginning of this decade, but as we have seen after this whole Halladay mess this month, Ricciardi is no Billy Beane.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Trade

I'm calling it. The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies' acquisition of starting pitcher Cliff Lee from the Indians is a slam dunk. Here's why.

It's simple, really. I'm not trying to say that Cliff Lee is just as good as Roy Halladay -- in my view, it just doesn't get any better than Halladay's combination of control, power and stamina -- but when you look at what we need, what we got, and what we gave up to get it, I am a big fan of this deal, even in comparison to what the over-greedy Blue Jays' GM was allegedly requiring in exchange for his star pitcher.

In a nutshell, the Blue Jays' latest offer to trade us Roy Halladay required us to give them 7-2, sub-3 ERA third-year upstart pitcher J.A. Happ, #1 pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, and our #1 position player prospect Dominic Brown. We rejected this offer, indicating that we would consider parting ways with our top outfield prospect in Brown, and one of our two youngest up and coming star pitchers in Happ or Drabek. But not both. The Blue Jays would not move off of their stated requirements to obtain our best young pitcher, our #1 pitching prospect and our #1 outfield prospect, so we ended up turning our attention elsewhere to see what else was available.

And just look at how much less we got reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee for instead. For Cliff Lee -- plus right-handed batting outfielder Ben Francisco -- from the Indians, the Phils gave up 18-year-old single-A fastballer Jason Knapp, right-handed starter Carlos Carrasco whose 6 runs in 6 innings failed to wow Blue Jays scouts this past weekend in central Pennsylvania, catcher Lou Marson, and shortstop Jason Donald. Now to be sure, a package of four young promising prospects is a great deal to offer for essentially just one Cy Young winning arm to add to our rotation. But it's what isn't included in this deal that's at least as important as what is.

First off, there's no Kyle Drabek. So we will get to keep the 21-year-old son of former major league Doug Drabek, also the #1 rated pitching prospect in the entire Phillies' farm system. And by the numbers, Drabek's minor league career is about as good as it could be at this point, as the kid is 11-2 right now through two different teams in 2009, sporting a 2.78 ERA with a complete game and two more 8+-inning performances in 18 games started. On the stamina and control side, Drabek is averaging nearly 7 innings per start in 2009, and has given up well under a hit per inning in pitching to a very impressive 1.15 WHIP so far this year. He's also compiled 123 strikeouts in his 129 innings pitched, or again nearly a K an inning, balanced against just 2.6 walks per 9 innings pitched. In all, keeping Drabek has a real value for the team that has -- far and away -- the best farm system in all of baseball, and it is fully reasonable given the plethora of home-grown stars playing nightly at Citizens Bank Park to expect that the fans in Philly will get to see Drabek up close and personal for a long time starting later this year or perhaps in 2010.

Also, another player not included in the Cliff Lee trade but who the Jays were insisting be included along with Kyle Drabek in any deal for Roy Halladay is J.A. Happ. Happ was stuck into the rotation to plug a hole shortly before the All-Star break this year, and he has been nothing short of amazing in his brief time back up with the major league club, pitching to a 7-2 record with an ERA that has risen to 2.97. In 13 stars with the Phillies so far this summer, Happ has pitched an average of just over 6 innings per -- not bad for a 26-year-old kid -- in compiling another impressive WHIP of 1.16, the best on the team so far in 2009. So here is another real deal of a player -- more than just a random prospect -- and the Phillies now get to keep him in the rotation, in addition to priming Drabek for the major league roster at some point in the near future, and now adding Cliff Lee as well.

So, if the Phillies had accepted the Blue Jays' last offer for Halladay, our starting rotation would have consisted of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, and Pedro Martinez. As bad as Martinez surely is going to be, it's hard to be too excited at this point about wizened old Jamie Moyer either, as neither one of them is likely to ever see 90 on the radar gun again as long as they both shall live, and that result would leave me seriously questioning the bottom of our rotation, especially heading into a short playoff series. But now look at our rotation after the Cliff Lee deal -- it's Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Jamie Moyer. That rotation is flat-out better top-to-bottom than what we would have had even with Halladay in there in my view -- remember, no matter how overpoweringly awesome Halladay pitches, he can still only win once every four or five games, tops -- and to boot we also get to keep Drabek and have him up hopefully helping to anchor the staff for years to come starting in 2010. And we also pick up Ben Francisco in the deal as well, even further showing just how much better the Cliff Lee trade really is for us than getting the ultimately more skilled Halladay for the huge price being asked of him.

What's more, the players we are giving up in the Lee trade -- in stark contrast to what the Jays were requiring for Roy Halladay -- are mostly players who were not likely to get a shot anytime soon in Philadelphia in any event. Jason Knapp is 18 years old and in just single-A ball -- still a good couple or few years away from even sniffing the major leagues, and that's assuming he continues to progress from this point as it is -- plus right hander Carrasco, catcher Lou Marson -- a good player but one who is not likely to steal any time away from Phillies' catch Carlos Ruiz who knocked in a crucial run in the deciding game of the 2008 World Series, plus shortstop Jason Donald who is not likely to even touch the turf any time while Jimmy Rollings is still kicking around in Philly. So although these players represent some good young value to the Indians, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro did a good job in offering up players that have far more value off of our team than they do on our team.

In all, this was a great, great move for the Phillies, who already didn't need to add someone of Halladay's caliber in order to make their way back deep into the playoffs. Cliff Lee is a great addition to our starting staff, which was pretty much one solid pitcher away from where it needed to be, and getting to keep J.A. Happ in the deal ensures that Lee then fills that one-pitcher need instead of simply replacing it for another void that would then need filling as well. And nabbing Lee instead of Halladay also enables us to keep our #1 pitching prospect and our #1 outfielding prospect within the confines of the major leagues' best farm system, both of whom are likely to advance well given the tremendous success of farm players on the major league roster in Philly over the past several years.

I know a lot of Philly fans were going crazy about us paying whatever price was asked for Roy Halladay, but in looking at the deal we did make, I just can't help but notice what a great move it seems to be. There's little doubt at this point (was there any already even before this deal?) that the Phillies are now the clear team to beat in the National League.

Two straight World Series appearances? For the Phillies? I still may have to see it to believe it!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

End of the Line

Well, today one of the great NFL stories of the past several years has come to an untimely end.

What's that? Brett Favre? No, I'm talking about the passing of longtime Eagles' Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson, who died today after succumbing to cancer.

Jimmy Johnson had been the Eagles' DC since 2000, shortly after Andy Reid was hired from Green Bay as the Eagles' head coach. And what a job he did.

In short, the Eagles defense this decade has been more than inspired by Jim Johnson. It has been Jim Johnson. Think how many times you've watched 7 different players coming from all different directions to rush the quarterback and wreak havoc on what otherwise would have been a great offensive play by the opposing team. Think of the interceptions, the fumbles caused, the touchdown runbacks. Think of the 4th-and-1 stops, the goal line stands. And think again of the sacks (second most in the NFL this decade). And the blitzing. And most of all, the winning. Since Johnson's arrival in 2000, the Eagles have been to the playoffs seven times in nine years, including one superbowl appearance and five NFC championships.

The Eagles dominated on defense basically since the minute Jimmy J. first stepped foot in Philadelphia. Jim Johnson, you will be sorely missed and impossible to replace.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Woe is Vick

God, between the Mets, Michael Vick and of course the ongoing saga of the trade talks between the Blue Jays and Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies for pitching ace Roy Halladay, it is a real struggle to pick just one thing to focus on today, just in the world of sports. My sense is that there could be more today on the latest situation with the Mets, their GM and the fired Director of Player Personnel, and at this point I am expecting there to be much more in the way of trade talks about Roy Halladay this week, so let me just give my thoughts today on the Michael Vick situation.

For those who don't know, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday "conditionally reinstated" Michael Vick to the NFL, allowing Vick to take part in team functions if he is signed anywhere, including in the final two preseason games of the summer, and said he will consider Vick for full reinstatement to play in regular season games, essentially sometime during or before Week 6 of the NFL season. Privately, it is said that some in Vick's camp are less than satisfied with the Commish's lack of clarity regarding the timetable for Mike Vick to be allowed back into NFL games. Even Buffalo Bills receiver and brilliant sports historian TO lashed out on Monday about the way Vick's return to the league is being handled. And you know what?

Terrell Owens is right.

There's something I bet you never thought you'd read me saying here, isn't it? But it's true. Mike Vick was suspended indefinitely back on August 24, 2007 for his role and direct involvement in his now-famous dog fighting business. Now, here we are two years later -- 32 NFL games, plus a bunch of preseason and potential playoff games to go along with it -- and Vick still hasn't sniffed the NFL. He sat in federal prison for nearly two years, serving his time after pleading guilty to the charges brought against him. That was two years of his life -- more or less right smack in the middle of his prime -- that he's never getting back. And while Vick sat in a jail cell for 23 months, the rest of the NFL sure didn't wait for him. We had two great NFL seasons sans the best-running quarterback in the league bar none, first with the Cheatriots going 17-1 and losing the superbowl to the Giants, and then the Steelers edging out Kurt Warner and the upstart Cardinals this past February. All while Vick sat in jail, not playing the game he loves and not making any money in the best earning years of his life, while also spending most of the money he had acquired prior to the charges on his defense.

Don't get me wrong here. What Mike Vick did was despicable to say the least, and some of the details are so gruesome that I literally cannot even conceive of them. I'm not saying he should have been allowed to leave his jail cell on Sundays to play in NFL games. But let's be fair here guys. Vick has already been suspended from the NFL for two years for his crime. Giving him an additional suspension now is totally ridiculous. He sat for two years already, directly because of the dogfighting stuff. Again, that's 32 games. Think of the other suspensions you've seen coming out of the NFL. Four games for substance abuse. Four games for steroids. Two games for drinking and driving. And here is Vick, who was suspended from August 2007 until July 2009, and now people are clamoring for four (or more) games to be tacked on to the end now? And the Commissioner won't even be straight with him as to the timetable for Vick to get back into actual NFL games?

Of course If Roger Goodell doesn't mind being a wimp, he can heap all the additional suspensions he wants on to Mike Vick at this point. It's the pussy way out because Goodell knows the public thinks what Vick did is detestable and many probably want nothing to do with him ever again, so there is little chance of any public outburst against Goodell or the NFL if he keeps Vick on the sidelines right now. But just because it's easy don't make it right. How about instead of doing the safe thing, Roger Goodell do what's right instead. Leonard Little got drunk, drove home from a party and killed a woman -- an actual human being -- back in 1998 and he served an 8-game suspension before being allowed to play in the NFL. Mike Vick kills a bunch of dogs -- albeit in disgusting, mind-numbingly twisted ways -- and a 32-game suspension is not enough?

Everybody deserves a second chance. This guy has sat in jail for two years and 32 NFL games. Let him back on the damn field already.

If any team will even have him, that is.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

"Unimpressed With Vegas"

Seriously. Who goes to Las Vegas and leaves saying they are "unimpressed"?

Well, this guy, for one:

"I've gotten puzzled looks from friends regarding my assessment of Vegas. I know I touched on it in my previous posts, but other than the WSOP and being at the Rio where the magic happens, Vegas did not impress me at all. Is this because I live in the state with the biggest casinos in the world? Possibly. Is it because I wish Alissa could have been there with me? Absolutely. I will probably return to Vegas, but it would ONLY be to play in another WSOP event."

In addition, my old friend from law school I was fortunate to get to see last month at the Venetian for her first trip ever out to Vegas also left town with a very negative feeling. She texted me that she was actually "feeling sick" from all the lights and the crowds on a Saturday night in the desert summer and ended up heading to bed early.

What exactly is going on here?

And to 1queensup1, for the record, no it is not because you live near the largest casinos in the world. I've been to Foxwoods and Mohegan a hundred times, and to even try to compare those stinkholes to a trip out to Las Vegas is just plain silly. Similar response with respect to AC, which I would argue is actually a closer comparison to Vegas but still falls laughably short when it comes right down to it.

And no, I also doubt that your wife or significant other was not there with you would lead to what you characterize as being "not impressed at all" with the city. I mean, sure that could impact your ability to have the best possible time, and maybe you might have spent more time than you expected thinking about your friends or family back home, but that shouldn't be the thing that leads to you being "not impressed at all" with the entire city, should it?

I mean, I can understand someone saying they thought Vegas was too mouch glamor, too much glitz. Too cheesy I can live with. Too much sluttery and sex (if you're a chick) I can even get down with. Too much gambling, I suppose if you are a massive dorque. But just generally not being "impressed" with Las Vegas?

I just don't get it.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Baseball Kudos and Stats

I meant to post this earlier today, but as is often the case, work got in the way. Things are busy for me pretty much all the time these days, but it's been worse that this even recently. And shit, I'm still employed so you will not hear me complaining. But Kudos to Mark Buerhle of the Chicago White Sox, who on Thursday night pitched just the 15th perfect game in Major League Baseball history for his second no-hit performance in a couple of years. And kudos to Sox center field Dewayne Wise, inserted as a defensive replacement in the top of the 9th inning, who made an absolutely incredible catch in top of the 9th, hauling one in from clearly over the center field wall to preserve Mark Buerhle's perfect game in most manly fashion. Here is where i would normally have embedded the youtube video of the catch, but MLB has nothing better to do than to require everyone to pull down their videos, even from little blogs and not-for-commercial-purposes showings like this. Because, of course, you know how bad it would be if a guy like me was actually hyping up a baseball play on my blog on the night of a historic accomplishment in the sport. Just terrible.

Anyways, you gotta love the shit people can do in the field when a no-hitter or perfect game is on the line for the pitcher. I've seen more great diving stops in the infield and more homers hauled back into the park by the outfielders in this situation than probably any other, and on Thursday night Mr. Wise stepped up in a big way on the road to history. As I mentioned, Buerhle's gem is the 15th perfect game ever pitched in the majors, and lifts Buerhle into very exclusive company among only five other pitchers in ML history with at least two career no-hitters, including a perfect game. The others on this list?

Randy Johnson -- Perfect game in 2004, plus one other no-hitter.
Sandy Koufax -- perfect in 1965, with three other no-hitters.
Jim Bunning -- perfect on Fathers' Day in 1964 for Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, plus one other no-hitter.
Addie Joss -- perfect in 1908, one other no-hitter.
Cy Young -- perfect in 1904, with two other no-hitters.

Now that's some pretty good company, like I said.

There was also some interesting discussion on Mad Dog Radio on SiriusXM earlier about just how rare a perfect game is. A caller posed the question to Mad Dog whether a perfect game was roughly as rare as someone hitting for the cycle. After looking up some basic stats, it turns out that a perfect game is far rarer than someone hitting for the cycle, as there have apparently been four cycles just in the 2009 season so far (barely over halfway through) and I guess over 500 cycles over all Major League records, as compared to just 15 perfect games. One of the co-hosts, however, made the interesting point that hitting for the cycle is still far rarer than pitching a perfect game if you consider how many more opportunities there are for a player to hit for the cycle and not do it. In other words, sure there's only 15 perfect games in history, but only one pitcher has one chance to pitch a perfect game every night for a particular team. Whereas, each of eight or nine batters a night get to take a crack at the cycle, night in and night out.

Then the discussion turned to no-hitters: are those roughly as rare over baseball history as hitting for the cycle? Answer: not really. There have been well more than 100 no-hitters over all time according to the guys with the Mad Dog, but still not really approaching the more than 500 times someone has hit for the cycle since records have been kept for such things.

After much searching, the team on SiriusXM was able to come up another baseball feat very comparable to a perfect game over the history of baseball: hitting four home runs in a game. Surprisingly to me, that feat itself has been accomplished 15 times, most recently by Carlos Delgado, I believe when he was with Florida. So someone has hit four HRs in a game roughly as often as a perfect game has been pitched over the past hundred-some years of baseball in this country. But is that the most rare individual feat in the game? Nope. The team scrounged until they found what they believe to be the single rarest element of baseball, and they found something that's only been done eight times over the entire recorded history of the sport. Any guesses?

The unassisted triple play. Only eight times in baseball history, or roughly once ever 15 years or so. Pretty cool if you've ever gotten to see one, even better if it was live.

And getting back to what Mark Buerhle accomplished on Thurday night, I should also mention that the Elias Sports Bureau reports that Buerhle's opponent, the Tampa Bay Rays -- who are currently third in the Major Leagues in runs scored -- are easily the best offensive team out of all fifteen times a perfect game has ever been pitched. So in a sense, what we just saw might have been the greatest pitching performance of all time. And all the more impressive what little-known DeWayne Wise did putting his body on the line to save Buerhle's big game after inserted into the game for just that purpose. What a night for America's pastime.

Have a great weekend everybody. Back at ya on Monday!

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Satellite Radio FTW

I am going to go out on a limb here and just say it: Anyone who regularly listens to the radio in the car and yet who does not yet have satellite radio simply has no idea what they are missing. I got a 3-month trial to the pre-installed XM Radio with my car back in 2004, and within a week or so I was hooked. At this point, I literally cannot imagine driving for any sustained period of time with just plain old terrestrial radio to pass the time.

There are several factors making SiriusXM Radio the far preferable choice. For starters, the selection of offerings absolutely blows away anything available on regular old radio. Even living in a major media market like New York, I have a choice between just two sports talk radio stations if I listen to the old-fashioned car radio -- ESPNRadio or WFAN. That's it if I wanna listen to sports talk. But if I am one of the more than 20 million subscribers to satellite radio in America today, suddenly I have about six different choices to choose from, just in the sports talk genre. I get ESPNRadio, ESPNNews, MadDog Radio, Sporting News Radio, FoxSports and I think one other general sports talk station, and this doesn't even count all the baseball, football, NCAA and NASCAR stations and shows running basically 24-7 all through the satellite dial. The same is true for stock market news -- in New York, it's basically Bloomberg Radio and that's it, but on the satellite it's Bloomberg, Bloomberg Asia, CNBC and others. I've got 8 or 9 different traffic stations. Two weather stations. Probably 20 or 30 other content-specific talk stations, as compared to far fewer on the regular dial. Basically, when it comes to selection, it's not even close; SiriusXM blows terrestrial radio clear out of the water.

But the improved selection is not limited to just talk radio. The music choices are equally vastly superior on the satellite as compared to the terrestrial radio. Again, even living and driving in New York City every day, there are really only what, a couple of top-40 stations, a few dance music options, one classic rock station and a few R&B or other specific genre options. On the XM, however, there is not only greater selection by far, but the granularity of the choices is far greater. For example, my #1 preset on my XM is Channel 8 "the 80's on 8". It's all 80s music, all the time. Next is Channel 9 "the 90s on 9". They also have a 70s station, 60s, 50s and even a station that just plays music from the 1940s. I guess that would be Big Band n shit -- I don't know because I've never listened -- but my aging father in law with the worst taste in music of all time loves dem 40s tunes.

And it's more than just broken down by time periods too. One of my absolute favorite listens on the satellite is "Hair Nation", which plays 100% 80's hair band music, all the time, 24/7. There really is nothing like turning on the radio and knowing there is a decent chance of hearing Faster Pussycat's "House of Pain", "Never Let You Go" by Steelheart, or last night's commuting favorite for me, "Long Way to Love" by Britney Fox. Sure, you might hear one of those songs once a year if you listen all the time to z100 or whatever it is that old fashioned radio users listen to these days (I wouldn't know), but those are all songs I have heard just during my commute home from work over the past couple of weeks. In addition, there are at least 4 "alternative rock" stations on the satellite, there is a station devoted just to acoustic music, three classical music stations, two college music stations, at least three classic rock stations all cranking it out, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Oh, and did I forget to mention that most of these stations are commercial-free as well? That's right, in addition to buying you this incredible selection of varied music, most of the proprietary satellite music stations are commercial-free, other than short promos run by the satellite company to advertise other shows available on the SiriusXM network.

And all of the above talk about the incredible selection available on satellite radio these days hasn't even mentioned yet all of the awesome "extras" (as I call them) you get for being a SiriusXM subscriber. Every major league baseball game is broadcast every single day and night on XMRadio. Sirius, now merged with XM, has broadcast rights to every single NFL game as well. Every NASCAR event is on the satellite, along with most major college football conferences' basketball and football games. And while we're talking about sports, I mentioned Mad Dog Radio up above, but this is a new station created by and for Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, who recently left his many-year gig on the "Mike and the Mad Dog show" on WFAN in New York to literally create his own station on Sirius. And you know what? It's pretty good. Mad Dog's show "Mad Dog Unleashed" runs from 2-7pm every weekday, and then after that "The Dog House" rounds up the day's Mad Dog Unleashed episode by bringing back some of Chris's best rants of the day as well as some of the afternoon's best callers to further expound on the points they made earlier with Chris. The morning and nighttime hosts include former ESPNer Bill Pidto, John Gresh and several other notable personalities.

This ability for a new medium like satellite radio to essentially create entire channels around individual media personalities is not limited to the Mad Dog of course. Martha Stewart has her own channel on Sirius as well, as does Oprah Winfrey. Now don't get me wrong, I don't dig on overly political super-rich talk show hosts, and I certainly don't dig on insider-trading snobby rich bitch divas, but a lot of people do, and these stars get to not only host their own shows every day, but they can hand-pick the other contributors on their networks to best match the interests of their listening audience. It's a pretty amazing concept, actually, and something that's not even remotely available anywhere on normal, loser radio. Take Howard Stern for example -- I've listened off and on to Howard ever since college, but since his move to Sirius some years ago I have barely caught a whiff of what he has been up to. But now that I have access to his one only one but two networks on Sirius, I have to say that the Howard Stern show is back and better than ever. Not only are the bits as funny as ever, but adding Artie Lange has proven to be one of the best moves Howard has ever made, as Lange is funny as hell and is the perfect complement to Howard's style and that of Robin Quivers and the rest of the Stern clan. It's definitely worth checking out whether you were previously a fan or even for the first time, and this is someone talking who's never really been a big Howard Stern fan overall.

There are several other aspects of the technology involved in satellite radio and its nature of being beamed via satellite instead of regular radio waves that really enhance the user experience as well. For starters, let's think about the reception. Now, I'm not going to bullshit you -- on occasion, my satellite signal will occasionally go out -- never for more than a few seconds at a time -- when for whatever reason my receiver loses the signal due to a blockage, technical problems, whatever. There are a couple of streetcorners in Manhattan, for example, that I notice I basically always lose my reception while I am located there. But that said, otherwise the reception on the satellite is more or less perfect. The sound is crystal clear and the quality of the music is at least as good as regular radio. And you never -- and I mean never -- get that annoying static you're always hearing in the background on the regular radio, especially as you get a little ways away from the major cities. Given that there are redundant satellites broadcasting the entire SiriusXM band from space, there is basically no such thing as being "out of range" of any satellite radio station. For example, when I've gone to the beach with the Hammer Family over the past few years, I have been able to drive all the way from Boston halfway down to Florida on the East Coast while listening to Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies win another game with some late-inning fireworks. The entire way. Without losing the signal or having to listen to even a single crackle of static. The whole notion of having to be "in range" of a particular station no longer exists once you make the move to SiriusXM -- as long as you're in the United States, you are always "in range".

The fact that SiriusXM broadcasts via satellite is another big advantage over traditional radio, in that the satellite providers are not regulated by the FCC.
This of course was cited as the big reason behind Howard Stern's move, and the end result of it is basically a completely censorship-free spectrum of stations. This means Howard can drop the f-bomb in normal conversations whenever he wants to, and the Mad Dog's callers can call the Mets "shitcocks" and "asshats" until the cows come home and nobody's ever going to bleep them except the host himself if he so chooses. Although this can be a bit jarring to hear at first when you're not expecting it, pretty soon you get used to it and in a lot of ways it can be hard to go back to regular terrestrial radio, which in comparison seems overly tame and just generally "boxed in" versus their satellite broadcasting counterparts. Certainly a show like Howard Stern's is 100 times better when listened to in its real, unadulterated form, and it also allows for things like the Playboy Channel on XM, and even a great uncensored comedy station that I have as one of my presets, because you never know when you're going to hear one of those great old clips from Richard Pryor, Louis CK or, of course, the "community titty" bit from Chris Rock.

The last technological advantage I will mention to satellite radio is the great "push" technology they have working where you can basically find out at any time exactly who sings the song you're listening to, what it's called, and what year and album it is from. I can't tell you how many times this comes in handy, especially when listening to all of the 80s, 90s and other stations playing mainly older music that you might not quite remember all the details of. In my older car with the earlier satellite receiver, the title and artist for all music, comedy bits, movies, etc. are pushed right to the output screen at the beginning of every song or bit played on the station. In Hammer Wife's new car with a brand spanking new updated receiver, SiriusXM not only pushes the same information to the LED display at the beginning of every item it broadcasts, but with the click of one button you can find out the same information at any time during the playback of a particular song or bit. It's a very handy kind of information that you never really knew you wanted until you finally have it with SiriusXM, and then you get stuck listening to regular old shitty radio and suddenly want to know what album this old Who song is from, or who it is who did this great stand-up bit about clowns or whatever.

As the last great factor in favor of satellite radio, I should mention the price. Now, perhaps this is part of the problem that forced XM and Sirius to merge, and still had the combined company teetering on the edge of a bankruptcy filing just a month or two ago, but the price is IMO incredibly cheap. Depending on exactly which payment plan you opt for -- and I would not suggest committing and paying in advance for more than a year or so given the current situation at the company -- you can basically get full SiriusXM service for around $12 a month. And that's not to say that $12 a month is nothing -- every little bit counts, especially these days for sure -- but when you compare that cost to other costs associated with your car, it really is like drops in a bucket. I mean, if you have an "average" car in this country, it probably still cost somewhere in the neighborhood of what, 20 grand? More? If you lease a similar quality of vehicle, again you're probably looking at a good $300-400 a month just to have the car. And if you have even a normal-sized commute, you probably put in what, $20 a week of gas at least? With repairs, regular maintenance and other extras, I guess I just don't think another $12 a month for such a clearly superior product to the crap we all used to be satisfied with because we didn't know any better is a really good deal.

I mean, if I offered to make your experience driving your car significantly better from what you've grown up with and gotten accustomed to, with no real drawbacks whatsoever, wouldn't you pay $150 a year for that? And wouldn't you want to help others to experience the great deal that satellite radio is for the user as well as the passengers in any car in which it is installed? Or would you rather keep dropping $70 a pop on the full tilt super turbo 750k sats and then claim they are like having your own mint? Exactly.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More on the Halladay Deal

According to ESPN's Jayson Stark -- a Philadelphia native -- Toronto Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi is looking for talks regarding a possible trade of staff ace Roy Halladay to pick up next week, as the team is still currently scouting the minor league prospects of the other involved teams, including sending scouts to the Wednesday night start of Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies' star prospect Kyle Drabek in Altoona, PA. This despite word that thus far Phils' GM Reuben Amaro has been unwilling to include the son of former Pirates pitcher Doug Drabek in any deal to acquire Halladay.

In posting about a potential Halladay deal yesterday, I mentioned my feeling that I would be willing to give up the top two pitching prospects plus the top non-pitching prospect in our entire league-best farm system, but that I would not also want to include third-year starter J.A. Happ in the deal. That position got some support in the comments, but then I got one comment from a fellow Philly guy in Riggs who stated plainly that he would give up any combination of our prospects and Happ if it meant we could acquire Roy Halladay free and clear with two seasons to go on his latest contract.

So I started thinking about what that would really mean for the Phillies' starting rotation. You guys tell me:

If we went ahead with what I will call the "Riggs Deal" for lack of a better term, the Phillies' starting rotation would become Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer and whoever else we can plug in as a fifth starter. We would have no more J.A. Happ, no more Drabek and no more #2 pitching prospect in the minor leagues either, so other than more free agency signings -- never a big item in Philadelphia -- these are our pitchers for the near future. Moreover, keep in mind that Jamie Moyer turns 137 during the 2009 regular season, so he can't have much more than this season left in him as a useful part of any major league starting rotation. Looking elsewhere on the Phillies' current roster, let's also not forget recent free agent signing Pedro Martinez, who might be useful for the first half of games over the rest of this season, but who also shares a 137th birthday this year with Jamie Moyer and whom I also cannot reasonably count on as contributing to our starting staff beyond this season. Among a few other stiffs like Kyle Kendrick, I also should mention Chan Ho Park, who these days works out of our bullpen but who gave us two solid innings in extra's on Tuesday night on the Phils' way to their 10th consecutive victory after a 13th-inning walkoff home run from Jayson Werth.

We all know at this point that Kyle Kendrick sucks balls. Just like we know that Chan Ho Park sucks 'em too, in addition to Pedro Martinez who anyone with a brain in their head should recognize will be eating testicles within a few innings of his first start at Citizen's Bank Park when the other team's hitters start bouncing his pitches off of every wall in the Phillies' beautiful new stadium. Jamie Moyer has somehow continued befuddling opposing batters with his roaring 80-mph fastball, but you gotta know that can't possibly last. Which, in my mind, leaves the 4th / 5th spot in the Phils' rotation under the Riggs Deal squarely resting on the shoulders of one man:

28-year-old Brett Myers.

Brett Myers is on the 60-day DL following surgery to repair an injury to his left hip, and as recently as today, the Phillies' GM stated that the team is not planning on getting a significant contribution from Myers during the balance of the 2009 season. Myers has been inconsistent over his eight-year career with the Phillies, showing flashes of brilliance followed by periods of ineffectiveness and an inability to find home plate. That said, Myers also reports that the rehab on his injured hip is progressing better than planned, and he recently stated his intent to return to the Phillies' bullpen as soon as late August.

Can Brett Myers successfully battle back from this injury and return to his previous form? Can Myers generate the consistent production needed out of a spot on the starting rotation befitting of the World Champions of baseball? How comfortable are you Phillies fans out there with Brett Myers being our fifth, fourth or possibly our third starter to go along with Hamels, Halladay and Blanton for the near future?

Personally, I am inclined to believe the point raised at the bottom of the article I linked above:

"There has been speculation from other teams that the Blue Jays would try to trade Halladay before he makes his next start, on Friday against Tampa Bay. But Ricciardi said he doesn't expect any deal to be completed before that start.

However, he wants this matter resolved, one way or the other, before Halladay's final scheduled start before the trade deadline, which would be Wednesday, July 29 in Seattle. And based on where trade talks now stand, Ricciardi said he expects Halladay to make that start for the Blue Jays.

'That's just my gut,' the GM said. 'My gut is telling me this [deal] won't happen.'

I agree. Much ado about nothing is my guess for Roy Halladay coming to the National League in the end.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why Not Halladay?

Man, as a fan of Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, this story is really driving me crazy today. Word out of Sports Illustrated is that the Phils' unwillingness to include top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek (son of former Pirates pitching great Doug Drabek) appears to be the stumbling block to getting the trade deal done to bring Roy Halladay to Chilladelphia. The relevant portions of the article are as follows:

"'If Philly agrees to surrender Drabek', one competing executive said, 'they might get [Halladay] real quick'....Beyond that, a package of outfielding prospect Michael Taylor (recently promoted to Triple A in what looks like an obvious showcase), shortstop Jason Donald and pitcher Carlos Carrasco is, according to another AL executive, woefully short....Phillies GM Ruben Amaro suggested 10 days ago Drabek may be untouchable, though more recently he's tempered that remark slightly to say he won't publicly disclose which prospects they might consider trading."

Nowhere in the article is the name of third-year Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ even mentioned, Happ of the 7-0 record, 2.68 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in his 11 starts and 94 total innings this season. And Happ's complete lack of mention in the article by SI leads me to believe that the Phils are not being pushed to include both him and Drabek in a deal with the Jays. Which begs the question: Why the funk are the Phillies not doing this deal?

Think about it. This is Roy Halladay here. This isn't Livan Hernandez or Pedro frickin Martinez. It's Roy Halladay, who just the other night pitched his 39th complete game since 2003, Halladay who has a 2.73 ERA and a WHIP of 1.07 in 18 starts this year. This is, more or less, the best a pitcher can be in the major leagues. I mean, he's doing it all -- striking guys out, keeping guys from scoring, keeping runners off the bases, not giving up home runs, winning, pitching deep into games, you name it and Roy Halladay does it. Essentially, the best we could ever hope for from Doug Drabek's kid would be for him to somehow, some day, by some incredible miracle, be as good as Roy Halladay has been for even just one or two seasons. Am I not right about that?

So we're going to turn down the chance to have Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ and Roy Halladay anchor this staff for the next several years, all because of some prospect who might someday be able in the most optimistic possible outcome to be as good as Halladay already currently is? Sorry but I just do not follow that logic.

Now, if it turns out that Happ is an essential part of the deal along with mini-Drabek, then that changes everything. And I'm not inside those discussions so I don't know what's actually been offered and promised. Giving up Happ to get Halladay certainly represents better aggregate skill overall, but we're also taking on a 15-mill-a-year guy -- soon to be 20-25 million I am sure -- in exchange for someone making the $405,00 salary Happ is making here in 2009 and beyond, and whose best years should still be well ahead of him. And we would have to throw in our top young pitching prospect as well? That changes the balance significantly, and in fact with how well Happ has been throwing the ball just now, I'm not sure I would do that deal. But if we get to keep Happ in the deal, then how do we possibly justify not giving up our top pitching prospect (I would even give up our top two pitching prospects in the deal, for sure) in exchange for getting Roy Halladay? Think again of the triumvirate of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ. Those guys could be good, and be good together, for another five years at least. Those three and me would probably be a good enough rotation to win most playoff series. With the couple key young spots we already have at starting pitcher, how could we possibly justify not giving up our best one or two pitching prospects to nab the biggest trade booty in years?

I mean seriously, you tell me, you Phillies fans out there: doesn't Roy Halladay sound like an absolute lock for back to back world championship parades down Broad Street?

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Why Pedro?

So Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies acquired aging veteran pitcher Pedro Martinez this week, agreeing to pay him just double the league minimum or $1 million for the less than half a season he is slated to pitch for the Phils. There are a number of talking heads out there who have stated their opinion that this is a top quality acquisition for the champs, but I have to disagree. For a couple of key reasons.

First and foremost, Pedro kind of sucks these days. For so many different reasons. I mean, for starters, he isn't just 37. He's an old 37. The guy has spent long portions of the season on the DL over the past several years since the hapless Mets signed him to an ill-advised four-year contract back in 2005. Pedro hasn't pitched more than 132 innings in a full season since back in 2005, the first year of that Mets deal, and he's even starting this season on the 15-day DL with the Phillies due to shoulder issues, so we should expect more of the same. Especially given that Pedro has been out of baseball for most of the past year, he is going to take some time to get back into shape, and who knows how good that shape will be at this point for him even if he makes a real effort.

But it's not just Pedro's longevity that sucks. Pedro went 5-6 for the Mets in 2008, which marks his worst winning percentage since, well, ever. In 1992 Pedro pitched a total of 8 innings and finished 0-1 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but since the next year when he became a real starter, he's never finished with a losing record, period. Never, until last year. Pedro's WHIP in 2008 was 1.57, his highest WHIP since that rookie year in LA as well some 18 years ago. Pedro's 2008 ERA was 5.61, nearly double his lifetime average of 2.91, and more than a full run higher than his previous worst season ERA (back in 2006), prior to which he never finished a full season above 3.90 earned runs per 9 innings. So this is a guy who is well beyond "past his prime". He is fully "in his twilight years" in baseball terms at this point, and that's just not something that I think fills the hole the Phillies need to fill right now. And especially pitching half his games in that band-box of a stadium, I am simply not looking to Pedro to provide much actual spark to the Phillies' ailing pitching staff this year.

But there's another related drawback to signing Pedro to the Phillies' staff: the effect on our bullpen. Even in his last few years in New York, Pedro had already ceased being a true power guy, having lost his 95-mph fastball in his old age, and the result showed in his numbers. Way more pitches thrown in way fewer innings pitched. This guy simply cannot go deep into any ball games anymore, because even when he has pitched well in the past year or two, he's still pushing 100 pitches after just five innings or so. And that's on the good days. Pedro has not pitched a single complete game since 2005. He lasted a fairly dismal 5.45 innings per start in 2008, 5.6 innings per start over just five starts in 2007, and just over 5.75 innings per start in 2006. Basically, the Phillies can't realistically expect more than five innings out of Pedro on any night these days, and that is going to have a marked effect on our already dubious bullpen, which is only going to put even more pressure on the other starters on this team to do well and last later into their own games. Unlike 2008, when the Phillies put out the undisputed best bullpen in baseball and ended up winning the World Series on the heels of in many ways a "perfect" season from a pitching perspective, the 2009 incarnation of the Phillies does would never be accused of having such traits. Out of 15 teams in the National League, the Phils' team ERA is 4.56 (13th in the NL), with opponents hitting at a .268 clip (14th) and an OPS of .768 (15th) against them. Our team WHIP is 1.40 (9th), and our 43 quality starts as a team leave us in 10th place in just the National League.

And this doesn't even get into the problems the team has had at the closer position in 2009. After going a truly miraculous 47-for-47 in save opportunities in 2008's magical year, Brad Lidge has been atrocious in 2009, personally losing more than a handful of games that the team had otherwise won, and posting an 0-4 record with 6 blown saves in just 35 appearances, some of which were not even save opportunities for the former league-best reliever. When the team claimed Lidge was injured to give his some time to clear his head recently, setup man Ryan Madsen stepped in and also blew a couple of late leads, providing further evidence of the shaky state of the Phils' late-game pitching as compared to 2008. Adding in Pedro Martinez and his five innings per start to this rotation does not sound like something that is going to be beneficial to the bullpen I just described. Try as I might, I just can't see this as the move that Phillies' GM Rueben Amaro, Jr. wants to make.

Which gets me to my third and final point about why I don't love the Pedro Martinez signing for the World Champions: I think the signing makes it that much less likely that we trade for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. And that's the guy we really need for this team to dominate for another couple years in the major leagues. Unlike Pedro, Halladay is an absolute horse, having pitched 19 complete games over just the past three seasons, and 28 over the last five. Halladay's ERA so far in 2009 is right near where it was in 2008, which itself was better than any other year in Halladay's 12-year career except for 2005. This is a guy who pitches great, is right in the thick of his prime as a baseball player at this very moment, and who chews up a ton of innigs, having pitched well over 200 in each of the last three seasons. That's what the Phillies need to take the load off of Lidge and Madsen late in the games, as well as our depleted middle relief staff so far this year. With Halladay and Cole Hamels lining up as the 1 and 2 starters every four games for this team, everything changes and we easily become the team to beat again in 2009 for the world championship. Along with the acquisition of Roy Halladay, taking a little $1 million chance on a hungry Pedro Martinez doesn't look so bad. But, if Martinez is going to become what we got instead of Roy Halladay, then I am predicting the Phillies just don't have the pitching to make it back to the promised land for a repeat here in 2009.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

November Ivey

Looks like my rant about Pedro Martinez will have to wait for another day. My sense is there will be plenty of apropos opportunities to vent my frustrations with that whole megillah, but something in the poker world is just more interesting to me today.

Phil Ivey did it. He will be among the November Nine, the delayed final table of the Main Event of the World Series of Poker for 2009. Phil Ivey successfully navigated a field of 6,494 and has reached his first Main Event final table, after already scoring two WSOP bracelets this summer. He did it.


But I digress. Despite the happy ending with Ivey making the final table, the few other stories with mainstream attraction came to quick endings, with tournament short stack Leo Margets (last woman standing) busted out within half an hour, followed within an hour or so by a few other players including Antonio Esfandiari. You can't kill the Magician for the early bust -- he was real short coming in if you recall, and being a pro he would be well aware of the need to double in order to get back his chances of a deep run instead of just lasting one more payout plateau. Ultimately Antonio was eliminated in 24th place, which was close to his chip position coming in to Day 8. In any event, this basically left Ivey as the sole player left out of 23 remaining who anybody outside of the Amazon Room knew anything at all about. For now.

As I imagine ESPN, the WSOP and basically anything and everything associated with the world of poker are feeling, it is very fortunate that Phil Ivey was able to survive to the final nine players. And I use the word "survive", because after a rocky start that included two early losses with pocket Jacks, Ivey was short-stacked for the entire second half of the day, often within the bottom two or three remaining players. And all the while, previous chip leader Darvin Moon -- easily the coolest name among the remaining players in the tournament -- was growing, growing, growing his stack, capitalizing on a huge 40M+-chip pot around midway through the day to eliminate fellow big stack and former chip leader Billy Kopp. Then, literally just minutes into the final table bubble (10 players remaining), Eric Buchman raised it up to 650k preflop, already big chipleader Moon cold called, and then Jordan Smith reraised it to 2.6 million. Buchman folded, and Moon cold called again with what turned out to be pocket 8s. Moon flopped top set, insta-calling with the mortal nuts when Jordan Smith raised allin on the flop with his pocket Aces, Smith's second pocket Aces of the past hour's action.

Seriously, how's that for a real drag? You're in 4th place out of 10 on the ME final table bubble, and you're dealt pocket Aces for the second time in an hour on one of the very first hands on the bubble. Some guy with a bailout's worth of chips across the table separately cold-calls not one but two raises before the flop against your Aces. You get him to bet out on the all-rags flop, and he calls your all-in flop raise with what is probably some overpair. Whooops! Set of 8s, and since he was chip leader, you go buh-bye and no November Nine for you. See everybody else in four months. Poor guy is all I have to say for him. Poor guy with $896,000 more in his bank account this morning. But I imagine that one is still gonna sting for some time with him, especially come the second week of November.

Anyways, Ivey will be the big story for months in the poker world, and the November Nine may finally actually be watched by some people this year. What's more, wouldn't it be awesome if ESPN decides to hire somebody who knows something about televised poker to figure out the best way to broadcast the November Nine? I mean, could last year's coverage of the final table have realistically been any worse? Both in the selection of hands, the number of hands shown, and the way those hands were portrayed, take your pick. Seriously. No matter how ESPN decides to spin it, though, Phil Ivey is going to have his work cut out for him given the starting stacks of the 2009 November Nine:

Seat 1: Darvin Moon - 58,930,000
Seat 2: James Akenhead - 6,800,000
Seat 3: Phil Ivey - 9,765,000
Seat 4: Kevin Schaffel - 12,390,000
Seat 5: Steven Begleiter - 29,885,000
Seat 6: Eric Buchman - 34,800,000
Seat 7: Joe Cada - 13,215,000
Seat 8: Antoine Saout - 9,500,000
Seat 9: Jeff Shulman - 19,580,000

Let me also list those same people this way, in order of how many chips they hold:

1. Darvin Moon 58.9M
2. Eric Buchman 34.8M
3. Steven Begleiter 29.9M
4. Jeff Shulman 19.5M
5. Joseph Cada 13.2M
6. Kevin Schaffel 12.4M
7. Phil Ivey 9.8M
8. Antoine Saout 9.5M
9. James Akenhead 6.8M

Play stopped with a short time left in Level 33 of the tournament, which means a 30k ante and blinds of 120k-240k. After the resumption in early November -- assuming no changes are made to the structure prior to the tournament resuming -- after a few minutes the cost to play should jump to a 40k ante and 150k-300k blinds. So, just like I said with Antonio Esfandiari coming in to Day 8 (and look how well that turned out!), Ivey is very short stacked but he should still have plenty of room to wait for a good spot to get his chips in for the double-up. Right now he has still just over 40 big blinds, and for the next two hours after the quick level change at the beginning of the final table, he will still have 32 big blinds to play with. Make no mistake, he is not in a good situation, but he is far from hopeless here. My last point will just be to say that, when I look at the chip stacks in order like that above, it is clear to me just how similar a position Ivey is in to the one I was in coming in to Day Two at the Venetian last month. About two-thirds of the way down the leaderboard, surrounded by all the biggest remaining stacks in the tournament, many of them having several multiples of my own chips, and knowing that I basically needed to make a move within the first couple of hours or it wasn't worth fighting for. Ivey should have a little more time than that to hang on, but sooner or later in the first part of that final table, Ivey is going to have to make an attempt to double up in the best spot he can find. And if he can double early -- especially if it's against the chip leader Darvin Moon (can't you just envision that now?) -- the scene should start getting pretty electric early on. I might actually even have to watch the November Nine this year, that's how crazy this is!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

WSOP Main Event -- The Final 27

Tuesday claimed a few more of the guys I had any specific interest in heading in to the Day 7 action of the World Series of Poker Main Event, starting right off the bat with pro Prahlad Friedman and just a short while later with PokerRoad guy Joe Sebok. Not that I particularly care about or even like Prahlad Friedman or Joe Sebok, but they are known poker pros, and I think if a known poker pro wins the Main Event, that would actually be huge for poker right now. What pro won't be chomping at the bit to play all the World Series events every year for the rest of time once someone demonstrates to them that, with skill, it is possible for a pro to navigate even the largest minefields in live tournaments? These days, you've suddenly got the many of the pros staying away from the smaller-buyin "donkaments" that comprise the ever-growing World Series of Poker, but if a known pro can win this tournament, I think it could actually spark pros' interest in playing in all the Series' events in the future. If you really know these poker pros, then you know that each and every one of them believes that if Phil Ivey can survive 6500 donks in one tournament, then so can they. Every single one of 'em. Anyways, it's something I would love to see for a lot of reasons and I think it could have an interesting aftermath just like Moneymaker's win back in 2003. But it won't be with Prahlad Friedman or Joe Sebok in 2009.

Another sad moment was later in the afternoon hours, when 2008's last remaining November Nine participant, Dennis Phillips, busted from the tournament in 45th place. He nabbed another $178k to go along with last year's 4.5M take from the Main Event. I don't know what it is about Phillips that seems to have made him such a fan favorite (myself included), but ultimately I suspect that it comes down to this feeling that Phillips is just an all-around good guy. It's certainly the aura I pick up from watching him play, talk in interview, etc.

A couple of hours later, just before the dinner break in fact, the last of the non-huge poker pros busted in 34th place in Blair Rodman. I never liked Kill Phil -- can't believe I paid money for that thing in fact -- but I do kinda like Blair Rodman nonetheless and I would have loved to see a guy who not only plays professional but wrote a well-known poker book and essentially crafted a known tournament poker strategy run deep in the biggest tournament of the year. When no name players were among the last few eliminations on the day, the action stopped around 10pm local time with 27 remaining in the field of the WSOP Main Event.

In a way, all of the eliminations above made things easy for me and probably for a whole bunch of others of you out there, because it really leaves only two names in the field who most of us will recognize and thus have any inherent level of interest in. Of course, the November Nine will be studied, vetted and pried into by the media in the coming months and we will be well aware of whatever stories lurk among the details, but I'm talking about inherent interest -- interest in how these guys do even before knowing anything new about them. In this case, those two players left in the final 27 players of the 2009 WSOP Main Event are Antonio "the Magician" Esfandiari -- another guy whose book I've read, and actually enjoyed for the most part -- and the immutable Phil Ivey. Who hasn't written a poker book unfortunately, but I imagine that's probably because he's too busy prop betting on poker, golf or anything else he can dream up to fulfill his fix.

When the action starts up for Day 8 on Wednesday at noon local time, Darvin Moon, who I believe was also chip leader after Day 6, will once again be in the top spot with 20.1M in chips. Billy Kopp is in second with 16M, and then there is a crush of eight different players in the 9M-12M range, including Phil Ivey who is currently in 4th of 27 with 11.3M.

Esfandiari is not in nearly as good of shape, currently in 20st of 27 with 4.5M in chips. That being said, the very favorable structure of the Main Event means that even someone near the bottom and significantly below average this late into a huge field still has plenty of play, as Round 29 will begin early on Wednesday, which features just a 10k ante and blinds of 50k-100k. So even the Magician in 20th place out of 27 remaining is sitting on almost 45 big blinds, meaning that he has plenty of time to wait for a good spot rather than get involved stealing with total crap. And that means that he will have more of an opportunity to use his skill advantage over the other players to make something happen for himself.

With just 27 players remaining in this 10k buyin event with nearly 6500 runners, we are playing for massive money with every elimination at this point. On Wednesday, those players eliminated from 19th-27th place will each receive $352,832 from the prize pool. Finishers 16 through 18 will each win $500,557, 13th-15th will take $633,022, and finally for today 10th through 12th place will each win $896,730 for their time. It's pretty awesome when you think about it, and although as anyone whose had some real deep tournament runs knows, it's always bittersweet, given a little bit of time everyone who is eliminated today will come to appreciate just how awesome this whole run has been, and how great the institution of the World Series of Poker really is. When the action begins today with 27 players remaining, the average chipstack will be 7.2 million, but as often happens very late in large tournaments when a few enormous stacks can really skew the overall average, only 11 of the 27 players are actually above that mark. So even the shorties around 4-5M like the Magician are still more than half of average. Plenty of room still to play some poker, and two pros whom we've all seen play huge with big, big money on the line are still lurking, one having some work to do and the other in fine shape.

From, the Day 8 starting table assignments:

The Chick table (Leo Margets is the last woman alive in the 2009 WSOP Main Event):

Jesse Haabak - 2,750,000
Ian Tavelli - 4,385,000
James Calderaro - 6,475,000
Jonathan Tamayo - 3,300,000
Warren Zackey - 5,485,000
Eric Buchman - 10,005,000
Leo Margets - 1,530,000
Tommy Vedes - 5,070,000
James Akenhead - 8,615,000

The TV table (current chipleader plus Phil Ivey):

Phil Ivey - 11,350,000
Jeff Shulman - 10,170,000
George Caragiorgas - 1,615,000
Nick Maimone - 1,545,000
Andrew Lichtenberger - 5,625,000
Marco Mattes - 5,285,000
Joseph Cada - 6,565,000
Darvin Moon - 20,160,000
Jordan Smith - 4,510,000

The Magic table (Antonio Esfandiari plus current 2nd place in Billy Kopp):

Jamie Robbins - 9,795,000
Antonio Esfandiari - 4,470,000
Francois Balmigere - 1,440,000
Ludovic Lacay - 5,610,000
Steven Begleiter - 11,885,000
Ben Lamb - 9,410,000
Antoine Saout - 11,135,000
Kevin Schaffel - 11,245,000
Billy Kopp - 15,970,000

Pauly's coverage has been awesome as always, it's still the best way to follow along with the action for any casual observer of the game. I know I'll be responsible for about 150 hits on his site tonight, just me. Maybe I will see some of you there while I invent new ways to run bad on full tilt. Hey wait, didn't the Mookie used to be on Wednesday nights?

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Well, Day 6 saw two of the guys I would have most liked to see survive to the November Nine -- former ME champions Peter Eastgate and Joe Hachem -- both hit the rail late in the day as neither one could hold on and make an improbable second run through the monstrous field that the WSOP Main Event attracts each year these days. Ultimately, Eastgate was more of a fad with me, as I don't know anything about him, and the only poker I've ever really watched him play was the late stages of the 2008 WSOP when he got luckier than just about anyone I've ever seen who hasn't been playing me in an mtt since I returned from Las Vegas earlier this month. Hachem I have always had a good feeling for, first when he stormed through the 2004 WSOP ME field to win out against 6000-some runners, and then when I had the opportunity to sit next to him for a couple of hours in my first World Series of Poker tournament the following summer, when Hachem not only sucked out a 2-outer to eliminate me early from the tournament on the turn, but he took advantage of the short time we played together to really rub off on me an impression of a generally good, down to earth guy. If you've read here for a while you may recall my story of when the dealer failed to recognize Hachem -- then the reigning World Champion of Poker -- and Hachem was really cool about it in a spot when I guarantee you a bunch of other name pros would have sliced and diced the dealer in front of everybody. So Hachem and Eastgate are out, eliminating the last of the former world champions and meaning that we will definitely have a picture of a brand new face hanging up in the Amazon Room after this year's final table comes to an end in November.

After 6494 players put up $10,000 apiece to play in this year's WSOP Main Event, we are now down to just 64 players remaining as we head into Day 7 of action at the Rio. The payouts for the first players eliminated today will begin at over 100 large, and the plan for the day is apparently to play as long as it takes to get down to just 27 players remaining, which means that the final table-full of eliminations this evening will each be paid $253,941 for their efforts. Needless to say, with such an F-load of money waiting to be disbursed, there is a ton at stake here even for the shortest of short stacks with just a wing and a prayer to get back into things before it's too late.

And, although two of my favorites remaining were busted on Monday, among the 64 guys still standing are some fun names and some solid chipstacks to go along with it. The big story, almost since Day One, continues to be Phil Ivey -- he of the perpetually emotionless poker face -- as Ivey recovered from losing set-over-set early on Monday to now sit in 3rd place heading into the Day 7 action with over 6.3 million in chips. Also in the top ten remaining is another well-known-from-tv pro, Antonio Esfandiari, who has quietly been climbing up the leaderboard for days and now sits firmly perched in 6th place overall with 5.6 million in his stack, making for some fun possibilities right there as far as name pros to last this deep into one of the biggest poker tournaments of all time. Also still alive and kicking in the event among other people I have some interest in are last year's November Nine participant Dennis Phillips, currently in 43rd place of 64 remaining players with 2.3 million in chips, with Kill Phil co-author Blair Rodman right on Phillips's heels with 2.1 million. Young pros Joe Sebok and Prahlad Friedman round out the list of people still alive who I care at all about, each sitting in the bottom handful of stacks with under a million chips apiece to start the day.

The action begins again at 3pm ET on Tuesday, so be sure to keep checking in with Pauly, or wherever else you are getting your real-time WSOP Main Event updates fix.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

WSOP Main Event -- After Day Five

Unfortunately, the Main Event of the World Series of Poker got a lot more boring for me personally this weekend, with the eliminations on Days 3-5 of former champions Greg Raymer, Jesus Ferguson, Phil Hellmuth, Bobby Baldwin and Dan Harrington. Meanwhile, on the celebrity side, George Kostanza was also knocked out on Day 3, and even actor Lou Diamond Phillips, who managed to make it all the way to the very last hand of Day 5, got eliminated in 186th place before they packed it up for the night in the Rio when he got allin preflop with KK against AA and AA. Gotta love it.

As an aside, could we have had worse coverage across the major media outlets of Phil Hellmuth's bustout hand? Sure the guy is an absolute douchebag, but the simple fact remains that most of the people who care enough to read blogs for live updates of the main event will clearly want to know how Hellmuth busted, and more importantly, how he behaved when it happened. Based on last year's late elimination, my guess is not well. But, that's just a guess since basically nobody out there could tell me much of anything about how he busted. Hellmuth busted late on Day 4, within the last few eliminations of the day (I think), and all I was able to find anywhere was a simple statement that he was gone. No how, no when, no what he did. That's poor right there. I guess I read somewhere that ESPN was being kinda dick about controlling the information on the goings-on at their featured tv tables -- where I assume Hellmuth was playing, if ESPN's head is not up its ass -- but to not even be able to get a report on how the biggest public spectacle left in the Main Event busted from the tournament is just sad.

Anyways, on a positive note, there are still a good number of people who I would be interested in seeing final table this thing still alive as of the end of Day 5. Heading into Day 6, we have 185 runners remaining out of the 6494 who started, and we are already well into the money here, which started when we had 648 players remaining. At this point, most of the people who adopted a strategy of just waiting until the money back with seven or eight hundred players left are now long gone, and what we're left with is a field of 185 runners who are mostly going to be strong, aggressive players with their sights set not on moving up another payout plateau but rather amassing enough chips to final table the main event, thereby ensuring over one and a quarter million as a guaranteed payout in addition to sponsorship by one of the major poker sites to boot.

Although all those former Main Event champions above were eliminated over the weekend, a few still remain in the field of 185. Peter Eastgate, last year's Main Event champion, continued his huge recovery from around 8000 chips late on Day Two, closing the Day 5 action with 927k in chips. Eastgate will be seated along with Phil Ivey to start Day 6, who survived a set over set debacle early in the day to nearly double on his last hand on Day 5 when Ivey's pocket 8s held up against AQo. Eastgate's 927k in chips joins Ivey's 1.38 million-chip stack at Blue 18 in the Amazon Room, along with current tournament chip leader Warren Zackey, who currently holds 4.872 million chips.

Joe Hachem, the 2004 WSOP ME champion, will start Day 6 at Blue 38, sitting on 540k in chips, joined by J.C. Tran (720k) and last year's final tablist Dennis Phillips (1 million) as well as six other players whose names I do not recognize.

Other notable players still remaining in the field include David Benyamine, who will headline Blue 16 on Monday with 764k in chips. Prahlad Friedman is still alive, with 715k in chips, and will join Tom "Donkeybomber" Schneider (3.168 million) -- currenty in 4th place on the tournament leaderboard -- at Blue 20 to start the day. Blue 30 will also be an interesting stop for those covering the event, as Euro pro Bertran "ElkY" Grospellier (973k) and young pro Joe Sebok (992k) will begin the day at the same table and with very similar-sized stacks. Blue 44 will be another hotspot, where Antonio "the Magician" Esfandiari will start in third place at his table with 1.227 million in chips at a table that includes former top-ten chipstack in this event and apparent tax cheat Eric Cloutier. Blair Rodman, co-author of the popular Kill Phil poker strategy books, will be seated at Green 155 with 905k in chips along with eight names I do not recognize, so Rodman may be in good shape for the early allin and double in addition to many of the others I have named above.

With 185 runners remaining and 30k starting stacks, the average chipstack to start Day 6 should be 1.053 million. This means that most of the pros and other well-known players mentioned above will head into Monday's action at noon PT with at least around average stacks. Even those with 750k or so are just a few blind-and-ante steals away from average, so there is plenty of play left for the big guns remaining in the 2009 WSOP. Looking at the money to be awarded, those who finish between 185th and 163rd will receive $36,626, while 100th-162nd are slated to get $40,288, and then after that the payouts will climb approximately every table (nine spots) from there, starting at $47,003 for 91st to 99th place, $57,991 for 82nd to 90th place, $68,979 for 73rd to 81st, and $90,344 for 64th to 72nd. Once we reach 55th to 63rd we will cross the six-figure plateau at $108,047, while 46th to 54th will pay $138,568, 37th to 45th $178,857, and 28th to 36th, $253, 941, over the quarter million mark. My guess is that they won't get to this level on Monday, but there will still small fortunes to be won with every flip of the river by the time Monday's action heads into the late hours.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

The Main Event Rolls On

I have to admit, I have had a fun time tuning in when I can to ESPN's coverage of the 2008 WSOP Main Event this week. They've smartly been running it every evening this week, I imagine to capitalize on whatever interest there is out there right now while the 2009 Main Event is happening live at the Rio, and I think it's been working. I've spoken with at least two other blonkeys who have been enjoying watching this week as well, culminating last night in the annual elimination of Phil Hellmuth. After having to watch him just generally be a pompous ass and pimp hard for the cameras over the past few days, Thursday night brought Phil's eventual elimination from the event when his AQ -- pushed allin preflop from early position for his last 10 big blinds -- failed to catch against a late position opponent's JJ.

Last year's Hellmuth elimination was different from most of his recent big tournament bustouts. Instead of flipping out and going crazy on the guy for his call or his play in general that led to Phil's elimination, this time there was simply nothing he could do or say to attack his opponent's play. Phil was short, he pushed from EP and the guy woke up with pocket Jacks. Moreover, Phil hadn't spent the past two days bitching and moaning about how everyone else at his table sucks balls at poker (unlike previous years), so he couldn't even go off for an hour about how horrible everyone else had been playing. Instead, all the way down to I think 45th place, we literally got to watch Phil's emotions get the best of him. When he fails to make that Ace or Queen on the river, we can see for the first time how surely Phil believed he was going to win the ME in 2008. Tears literally welled up in his eyes, and he for a few minutes looked like he was going to bawl right there on camera for all to see. He even managed to get in the utterly ludicrous statement "I get so unlucky in this god damn tournament" as we got to watch him try to cope with losing after a long day of getting outplayed by amateurs over and over again. Yeah, the guy with the most cashes -- by far -- in World Series of Poker history, the guy who 20 years ago became the youngest player then ever to win the WSOP Main Event, that guy is unlucky in the WSOP. Right.

Then the camera panned away, and before we knew it, it was all gone. The next shot we see of the Poker Brat is him walking away down the back hallway behind the Amazon Room at the Rio, explaining to the camera that he plays 10,000 times better poker than every single other person at his table. Now that's the guy we all know and are disgusted by.

Anyways, will today be the day that Phil Hellmuth busts from the 2009 Main Event? It could be -- the action will begin with Day 3 at noon Pacific, 3pm Eastern time, and Hellmuth joins another 1700+ remaining of the nearly 6500 who started last week, with all 1700 playing together today for the first time since the Main Event began. After four Day 1s and two Day 2s, today is the first time that the Rio has the resources to seat everyone in the big ballroom and play. And with Hellmuth sitting at about a third more than average, he's got enough chips to wait for the good hands, but at the same time Day 3 will definitely be a day where you have to make some moves and climb up the leaderboard. Assuming that roughly half the field is eliminated during today's action, that means the average chips will double again today to somewhere around 240k. If Hellmuth folds for 10 hours and doesn't do much to accumulate further here, he'll be at a quarter of average or less by nighttime, so you can bet he will be looking for spots to make some moves and take some big hands deep into some pots.

Otherwise, thanks to Astin for some of the information I was seeking. It sounds like Lucko busted somewhere on Day 2B, leaving just sprstoner -- easily the best performing member of our crew in this year's WSOP -- among bloggers remaining to play Day 3. Stoner's blog indicates that he dropped from 70k to 43k over the last hour of play on Day 2B, but if anybody can find a way to nab a quick double and start building from there, it's stoner. That said, 43k is quite a hole to be starting in at this point, down close to a third of the average stack, so stoner will begin Day 3 quite short on chips and in need of something good to happen fast.

One other question I have, which occurred to me after watching the 2008 WSOP on Thursday evening: where is Tiffany Michelle this year? Her website indicates an appearance at the Playboy Mansion this coming Saturday, but do you mean to tell me that after last year's performance, Michelle never even came out to play in the Main Event this year? That can't be, can it? Just from watching her last year, it was obvious that she truly believed she was the best player in the room, so how could she pass up another shot at 8 mill? If that is the case I will be utterly flabbergasted.

OK so that's a wrap on the WSOP Main Event preview for this weekend. Action picks up at 3pm ET today with Day 3, and I believe the cash should be hit somewhere probably on Saturday as the Day 4 crowd inches down to the 648 players who will receive payouts for their ME performances this year. By the end of the weekend we should be down to a very small number of players. Will Phil Hellmuth be among them? Will Phil Ivey keep accumulating chips and for a deep run in 2009? Will Greg Raymer double early and continue his push to a third deep WSOP run in the past five years? And will Dan Harrington continue his run to an amazing fourth WSOP Main Event final table? Only one way to find out: follow along with the action, whether it's with Pauly like me, or at pokernews, or otherwise.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

WSOP Main Event Thoughts Through Day 2

Try as I might, I have just not been able to keep up with what's been going on at the WSOP Main Event as much as I would like, what with work, family and all that I have to do this week after 10 days away from my life. Now, with all of Day Two officially over with after Wednesday's Day 2B action, and with a rare day off on Thursday for the Main Event, I thought I would take the time and use this space just to gather the information I personally am interested in as far as who is left and who is gone from the Main Event heading into the weekend. This is not meant to be anything new, but rather just an amalgamation of information culled from other sites covering the Main Event into one place, with a particular focus on the players I personally am interested in.

OK, so first things first. How many total runners ponied up the 10k for this year's Main Event? 6494. Per Pauly this makes the prize pool a cool $61 million, to be paid out to the final 648 finishers. This will easily be enough to ensure more than a million bucks goes to each member of the November 9, the ME final table which will be suspended until November as it was last year. The 9th place finisher should nab over one and a quarter mill for his efforts, and the eventual winner will take home over $8.5 million. As of the end of all the Day 2 action, according to, there remain 1724 players in the running for that grand prize. By my count, we have four or five of last year's November Nine still left in the field. This includes the 2008 WSOP Main Event champion Peter Eastgate, as well as eight other former WSOP Main Event winners each still on the prowl for their second ME bracelet.

Now, who's out already that I care about? Lots of players:

Jerry Yang. Former ME winner, busting early without making much noise at all for the second straight year, this time out about nine hours into Day 1A. There's just a sense of fairness, of rightness, seeing the guys who donkeypunched their way to millions bust out early this time around.

Allen Cunningham. One of my favorite players and a guy who played a lot in the underground cardrooms of New York City back in the day, AC was eliminated in the final round on Day 1A. No 6th WSOP bracelet for Cunningham in 2009, who remains 7th on the all-time WSOP earnings list.

Andy Bloch. You just never like to see a fellow lawyer go busto, especially a cowboy hat-wearing all-around nice guy like Andy with a lot of poker skill to go along with his J.D. degree and Harvard Law diploma. Andy busted late on Day 1A.

Chris Moneymaker. Here is another former Main Event champion, out in under four hours on Day 1B. Not sure what to say about this guy, but maybe he shoulda just quit while he was ahead and made the 2003 WSOP his first and last live poker tournament.

Doyle Brunson. Doyle busted about 7 1/2 hours in to Day 1B. This caps off an extremely frustrating WSOP for Doyle, who I read somewhere grew so fed up with the increasing donkament aspect of the tournaments that he ended up playing fewer WSOP events than any recent year in 2009. It's always a sad day in my book when the Godfather of Holdem goes busto from the Main Event. With son Todd also eliminated late on day 2A, daughter Pam becomes the only member of the Brunson family still alive in the Main Event through Day 2.

Jamie Gold. The former Main Event winner and nationally-acclaimed douchebag made it about seven hours in this year's Main Event Day 1B, continuing his streak of poker futility that began, well, within seconds of him lucksacking his way to the largest winning purse in poker history a few years ago.

Daniel Negreanu. Out early on Day 1C. Talk about a guy who has cooled from his pace a couple of years ago. There was a time when I met have said Danny Boy was one of my favorite poker pros. Now I barely ever even think of him anymore. What have you done for me lately, Daniel?

Shawn Sheikhan. God, remember when people actually cared about this guy's poker play for about 5 minutes? Out late on Day 1D.

David Williams. Ditto the above comment. What ever happened to this guy, huh? Eat one too many feet maybe? Or perhaps the rest of the field finally caught on to his aggro small-ball ways. Also out late on day 1D.

Phil Laak and girlfriend Jennifer Tilly. Both out very early on Day 2A. Oh well. I guess we won't get to see the Unabomber rolling around on the ground with his hoodie pulled tight to hide his entire face other than maybe the tip of his nose. And with Tilly gone I guess so are the hopes of another famous soul read like when she was so sure Patrik Antonius had pocket Kings in that one hand of High Stakes Poker:

That look on Ivey's face between 2:06 and 2:13 is pure classic.

Gus Hansen. Always a bummer when ole' Gus goes busto. Perhaps the best tournament poker player to never have won a WSOP bracelet (present company excluded, of course), and again this won't be the year after Gus's early Day 2A elimination.

Johnny Chan. Too bad, but the 10-time bracelet winner seems nearly irrelevant in today's mega poker world. Also out early on Day 2A.

Barry Greenstein. I didn't like his book, but he's a heck of a poker player and still the loser of the biggest suckout I've ever seen on High Stakes Poker, at the hands of a two-outer by Sammy Farha for about 400 Large of real cash:

High Stakes Poker Farha KK VS Greenstein AA - The most amazing bloopers are here

Ugh, I have to run to the bathroom every time I watch that garbage. In any event, Greenstein's early Day 2A elimination is probably nowhere near as bad as that hand was.

LJ. This one was a real bummer. Apparently LJ pushed real hard with pocket 8s on an all-undercard board early on Day 2A, and got called all the way through the river by pocket Tens. Some of those details might be off, but I've been there and I have probably lost more tournaments with an overpair to a higher overpair in my day than any other way other than suckouts. One of the significant adjustments I have made to my no-limit game over the past couple of years is to either find out if my mid-overpair is ahead early, or lay it down to sufficient pressure if the action all through the hand indicates a good possibility of a higher pocket pair out there. Anyways, that sucks, I really thought LJ had a good shot this year.

Tony G. No Russian loudmouth asshole to rival Hellmuth in the douchebag department. Out about four hours in to Day 2A.

Michael Craig. No Full Tilt Poker Strategy Guide author to kick around anymore. Out around 5 hours in to Day 2A.

Mike Matusow. Sucks, but The Mouth is out about eight hours in to Day 2A. No drug-dealin', drug-usin', crybabyin' loud mouth druggie to follow during another Main Event deep run.

Anguila. This is a poker blogger, a professional player from Spain, with a good blog but who apparently lost late on Day 2A with AK in his third consecutive Main Event, according to Pauly. Another blogger bites the dust.

Erick Lindgren. Always one of my favorite players. From reading his book and listening to him in videos, he seems to approach the game the most like myself out of all the pros out there. Erick is out within the first hour of play on Day 2B.

Erich Froelich. Also out late in the first round of Day 2B. Good. This is the guy who 2-outerdonked me out of the big 1k FTOPS event a couple of years back. I don't care how many bracelets he won in 2006. "E-Fro" is finished as a poker player.

Howard Lederer. Busted around midway through Day 2B,I have no idea how. Both Howard and his sister Annie Duke are early casualties in the Main Event this year.

David Sklansky. Out midway through Day 2B. I played with DS for about five hours at my table during the 2007 WSOP, and he played just about the most boring, by-the-book five hours of poker I've ever seen. Including of course the super-young Asian girl railbirding him from behind his left shoulder. Well, add this to the list of another year where Sklansky fails to do anything significant in the world of tournament poker.

TJ Cloutier. Amazingly, TJ was among the biggest names who were shut out of the Main Event this year thanks to Harrah's brilliant planning (yet again) and consequent inability to make room for everyone for the first time in WSOP ME history on Day 1D. Not having TJ in the field is pretty ghey if you ask me, given all of his WSOP cashes over the years.

Shannon Elizabeth. I didn't see where or how, but apparently the American Pie star and hot WSOP fixture these days was eliminated somewhere during the first two days of play. Anyone who's been around the WSOP over the past few years has to have seen Elizabeth around, as over the past year or so she's even managed to get her name on the screens as an early chip leader from time to time. But everyone's favorite Rio eye candy is busto. I wonder who the hottest chick left in the Main Event is?

OK, now on to some happier news: who's still alive that I care about, heading into Day 3 on Friday?

First off, the overall chip leader heading into Day 3 is? Amir Lehavot with 610,500 in chips. The rest of the top 10 are no-names from my perspective, with #10 coming in with 370k in chips. And what about after the top 10?

Phil Ivey 325k. This is a huge story in the making, and if he can survive another day or two of eliminations, the press is really going to start going nuts on one of the most reserved, introverted players out there, at least as far as the persona that comes across on the tv.

JC Tran 254k. JC will always hold a special place in my heart because (1) he is an awesome nlh player, and (2) he's the guy whose table I got moved to on the bubble of my WSOP cash in 2007. I've never seen anyone abuse, maul and bully his opponents with a massive stack like JC did that day. Maybe he gets another chance to bully with a big stack in this year's Main Event?

Josh Arieh 225k. Everyone's favorite super dickhead from ESPN's coverage a few years ago has been hanging around near the top of the pack for much of the way through the Main Event so far.

Paul Wasicka 210k. Winner of the National Heads-up Championship as well as a ME final tablist two years ago, Wasicka is in good position with nearly twice the average chip stack.

David Benyamine 199k. Who doesn't love a French guy who donks it up at high stakes on full tilt while banging one of the hottest chicks in poker? Me. I can't stand Benyamine, but he knows the game and is well above average heading in to Day 3.

Justin "ZeeJustin" Bonomo 190k. And everyone's favorite multi-accounting online cheater is once again blazing in yet another big poker tournament. Does anyone hate how good this guy obviously is more than I do?

Lou Diamond Phillips 190k. That's right, this is not a typo. The 47-year-old star of Stand and Deliver is in the top 50 in chips heading into Day 3.

Dennis Phillips 190k. Perhaps the most recognizable and likeable member of last year's November Nine, DP is still alive and doing well with 190k in chips after two full days of play.

Dan Harrington 183k. Anyone who claims not to want to see Harrington make another run to his fourth WSOP Main Event final table is lying. Harrington is everyone's favorite cutiepie old guy at the tournament, and more than a few players know to be scared whenever one of the tightest players around voluntarily puts money into the pot.

Jeff Lisandro 180k. Lisandro has had perhaps the best WSOP of anyone so far in 2009, and here he sits well above average heading into Day 3 of the Main Event. He will definitely be a player to watch over this coming weekend.

Antonio Esfandiari 164k. The Magician is also alive and kicking after two days and nine two-hour blind rounds of play. Average is 113k, so Esfandiari has some room to work his magic early on Day 3.

Jean-Robert Bellande 160k. One of the biggest dickheads from the Main Event a couple of years back, the calmer, quiter JRB sits in good shape after more than 20 hours of poker so far in the 2009 WSOp Main Event.

Dutch Boyd 140k. Keeping with the theme here, surely Boyd is another of the big asscocks of the poker world who are clustered around the 150k plateau. Here's hoping that someone jacks him of all his cash while he is playing on Friday.

Phil Hellmuth 135k. Doubtless the biggest douchebag in all of poker, the only question is not if but when does the ranting start? This clown dressed up like Julius Caesar for his annual three-hours-late grand entrance on Day 1C this year. Let's hope he ends up just like JC did two thousand years ago. You can be sure the ESPN cameras will be all up in Hellmuth's UB-clad mug from now until the moment he blows up like a volcano is eliminated.

Joe Hachem 130k. The 2005 Main Event winner is slightly above average heading into the Day 3 action. Maybe he can suckout-eliminate someone early like he did to me in my first WSOP tournament back in 2006.

Cliff "JohnnyBax" Joesphy 107k. Sitting right around average is one of the big online pros still alive in the field. JohnnyBax has probably eliminated everyone I know at least once from a tournament on full tilt or pokerstars, and he will look to do more damage when the action resumes on Friday at the Rio.

Peter Eastgate 98k. Last year's Main Event winner came in to Day 2B as a short stack, and got even shorter in the earlygoing. PokerNews is reporting, however, that Eastgate rallied from down to around 8k in chips near the end of the day to wind up with 98k and an near-average chip stack (average is 113k per Anybody who flops like he did at the final table last November has got to be considered armed and dangerous while still alive in this tournament.

There are lots of other well-known pros sitting well below average at this point (Jennifer Harman, Devilfish, John Juanda, Miami John Cernuto, Humberto Brenes to name a few), but no need to do more than mention them at this point. If these guys can double up once or twice, then it may make sense to pay some more attention. I understand that 7-time WSOP bracelet winner and fellow New Yorker Erik Seidel is also still alive, although I am having trouble locating a chip count for him which makes me think he could be busto and just not reported correctly to this point. Same deal for Greg Raymer, who I saw in a PokerNews interview was around 100k about halfway through Day 2B, but can't find anything final on him since then. Of course, Seinfeld star Jason Alexander is also still alive and kicking, the first time he has survived until Day Three in the Main Event after his Day Two elimination back in 2007, but unfortunately I don't have a chip count for George Kostanza either.

Lastly, does anyone have any information on the only other two members of our blogging crew that were left playing heading into the Day 2B action? This would be lucko and sprstoner. I know both of their names but cannot locate chip count information on either one on any of the major sites. Any info would be appreciated, in the comments.

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