How should Derek Jeter leave the field in his last game at Yankee Stadium?

Ted Berg:

Lots of Photoshopping for the people.

Originally posted on For The Win:

On Thursday night, legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter will play in his final game at Yankee Stadium. And though the club already celebrated Jeter’s exceptional career with Derek Jeter Day on Sept. 7, the future Hall of Famer will certainly acknowledge the adoring Bronx crowd in some way one last time before he heads to Boston on Friday for the last series of his career.

Here are five suggestions for how Derek Jeter should leave the field in his last game at Yankee Stadium:

1. Classily

JeterDoffingCap

If you’re a gambler, bet on this one: Sometime late in the game, Jeter takes the field to start an inning. Manager Joe Girardi sends out a defensive replacement, and Jeter exits to thunderous applause and 50,000 strong chanting his name. He doffs his cap to the crowd, acknowledges his teammates and coaches, and disappears into the clubhouse. Dramatic photographs of Jeter leaving the…

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New bat designs could help Major Leaguers, if they’d only use them

Ted Berg:

Reblogging this here because it’s a) about baseball, b) something I spent a long time on and c) a topic touched upon here back in 2010.

Originally posted on For The Win:

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins (USA TODAY Sports Images)

This is hardly a secret: Offensive numbers are way down around Major League Baseball. The league-wide OPS sits at .703, the lowest mark in over two decades. Pitchers throw harder. Strikeout rates have skyrocketed. Aggressive defensive shifts turn more hard-hit balls into outs. In short, it’s just not an easy time to be scoring runs in the big leagues.

But there’s a potential advantage already available to hitters, and precious few Major Leaguers have even given it a try.

Multiple companies produce bats with ergonomic knobs that have been shown to improve the speed, power, and control of hitters’ swings and reduce the hand injuries and discomfort common with conventional bats.

(PHOTO: Baden Sports)

(PHOTO: Baden Sports)

“The initial reaction is that it looks like a malfunction happened in the factory,” said University of Memphis manager Daron Schoenrock, whose team exclusively uses Baden Sports’ Axe…

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Controversial former Braves closer John Rocker to compete on ‘Survivor’

Ted Berg:

Great news, everybody!

Originally posted on For The Win:

John Rocker. (PHOTO: Erik S. Lesser/AP Photo)

John Rocker. (PHOTO: Erik S. Lesser/AP Photo)

Retired MLB pitcher John Rocker, a less endearing version of Kenny Powers who had about three good seasons in a career that ended over a decade ago, will compete on the CBS show Survivor this season, according to Entertainment Weekly. It makes sense, because John Rocker absolutely will not go away.

While serving as the Braves’ closer, Rocker became an infamous baseball villain after a hateful 1999 interview with Sports Illustrated in which he seemed to haphazardly spew racist and bigoted remarks in every direction possible, targeting — among others — foreigners in general, an African-American teammate, gay people, people with dyed hair, young mothers, and people who don’t speak English.

Rocker somehow had even less control of his pitches than he did of his mouth, and never found any success in three separate Major League stops after leaving Atlanta in the…

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Bobby Bowden does not know how to order at Taco Bell

Ted Berg:

Hey, remember Taco Bell Tuesday? Been meaning to revive it here for a while. But in lieu of that, here’s a whole lot of important Taco Bell analysis on a Tuesday. Thanks for checking TedQuarters still. Miss you, TedQuarters!

Originally posted on For The Win:

(PHOTO: USA TODAY Sports Images)

(PHOTO: USA TODAY Sports Images)

For a celebrated gridiron strategist, legendary Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden takes an absolutely pathetic approach to ordering Taco Bell. In a Tuesday ask-me-anything session on Reddit, a user asked Bowden what he recommended at the Mexican-inspired fast food chain. Bowden responded:

Wooh. Gosh, seldom do I eat at Taco Bell, I’m not sure. I don’t know. I guess I’d look to see what the most expensive thing was and go ahead and buy it. Hoping that they know what they’re talking about.

Just throw as much money at it as you possibly can: The New York Yankees method of fast-food ordering. Is that what works in college football recruiting? Wait, don’t answer that.

While “seldom do I eat at Taco Bell” sounds like a fancy way of saying, “I’m better than you and MexiMelts both,” what follows here is advice for…

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Thank you, Stephen Colbert

Hello TedQuarters. I am procrastinating. I have actual, paid work I should be doing, but it’s a beautiful Saturday on the Upper East Side. And while I caffeinate, I figured I’d stop by my old haunt here to pay tribute to one of the people who indirectly made it possible. More on that soon.

As for that actual, paid work: It’s still happening, and you should check it out. The transition from writing for an extremely niche audience — Mets fans who want to know what I had for lunch — to the much broader one understandably preferred by USA Today took more of an adjustment than I expected, but I think I’ve finally found a way to marry the style that drove this site with the one necessary to appeal to more casual baseball fans. I’ve been pretty happy with my output lately, which is rare for me, and I suspect you’ll enjoy it too.

Anybody who regularly read this site likely noticed my appreciation for The Colbert Report, since I referenced it a bunch and posted videos wherever applicable. But this you may not know: In college, I hosted a sports-comedy TV show called The Award-Winning SaxaCenter Program. (It was initially just called SaxaCenter, but then we won an award.)

I pray daily that clips from the show — archived somewhere on VHS — never surface on the Internet, since it was generally more juvenile than good, and I try to maintain some semblance of professionalism now that I have a job and a wife and rent to pay and everything. I had a lot of fun making it and don’t regret it at all. But many of the things college kids do are best contained to college audiences. I’m sure you understand.

As the host of the show, I “played,” so to speak, a sort of exaggerated, pompous, ridiculous version of myself. My co-host usually served as my foil, playing a more pathetic version of himself. I never really considered it creating a character, but that’s what was happening. Acting has always come pretty naturally to me, and being myself on camera absolutely does not. (If you saw early SNY.tv videos, you watched me struggle to tone down my instinct for ironic shtick in a studio setting that felt wholly artificial to me. It made for awful web video, and I appreciate our producers for sticking with me while I tried to figure it out.)

I remember calling that college co-host the day after the Colbert Report debuted on Comedy Central in 2005, a couple years after we graduated. Our conversation went like this:

“Dude, did you see the Colbert Report?” I asked, dejectedly.

“Yeah…”he said.

“F@!#.”

That was the only time I ever lamented the program’s existence, but it did frustrate me at first. My dream, at that point, was to someday create a professional version of the show we had in college, to convince someone to pay me to make jokes about sports. And Colbert’s character, from Day 1, was a better-developed, funnier, more polished version of the obnoxious caricature of myself that I had used to make jokes about sports.

I knew immediately that Stephen Colbert was doing what I wanted to do better than I could ever do it, even if he was covering a different subject matter. And I realized that if I were to pursue it, I would inevitably look like I was ripping him off — even if it was something I started doing years before his show even existed.

It didn’t stop me from making jokes or liking sports, of course, since I made jokes and liked sports long before either became part of my professional ambitions. But it did force me to alter my hopes and expectations for whatever I would do in life. Keep in mind: This was before I had my first job in this career. I was in grad school, and prepping high-school kids for the SATs to help pay for it.

I loved the show from the start. Colbert is, I think, still underrated even after all the accolades. He’s a viciously talented guy, so good at and so dedicated to staying in character that its easy to forget he’s in character at all. He ad-libs in character. He conducts interviews in character. He creates SuperPACs in character. He hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner in character. It’s outrageously impressive, and totally punk rock.

About six months after Colbert Report first aired, I stumbled into a job at MLB.com. There, eventually, they let me start writing about the Mets on SNY.tv. In early 2008, I was hired by SNY proper, where they let me continue writing about the Mets, and soon let me write jokes for The Nooner — a well-intentioned but largely underwhelming and under-viewed daily sports-comedy web show.

They let me write. That’s kinda important to note. Maybe they even wanted me to write. But they never told me to write, and it was made pretty clear — especially at first — that I was not hired to write. I’m not bitter about it now, nor do I really blame them. Lots of people want to write, and if they wanted a full-time writer at my salary, they easily could have found someone a lot more established.

Regardless, I like writing, and I saw writing for The Nooner as an opportunity to make jokes about sports, even if it wouldn’t be me on camera telling the jokes. But despite our best efforts, the show kind of sucked. It’s just too hard for a writing staff of two dudes with limited experience to come up with five minutes’ worth of funny but generally inoffensive jokes about New York sports by 10 a.m. every weekday without chronically repeating themselves.

When writing, of course, I try my best to write things I will be proud of. And with The Nooner, I wanted to make jokes I found funny even if I knew they’d never be credited to me, and even if I realized half of them would get cut from the script for being too strange or too edgy or too stupid. Pages upon pages of jokes I wrote that no one but me and the other guy and our boss ever heard — many of which I still find funny — were lost forever when SNY reformatted my old computer. But again, no regrets: All good practice.

And I learned something about myself while trying to make those jokes: On mornings I watched the Colbert Report, I liked my output a lot more. It was never really a conscious thing. But I think, as someone who has always wanted to write comedy in some form, hearing good jokes makes me think about why they work and helps me better understand exactly what I think is funny. Maybe everyone does that. I can only speak for me, obviously.

So I started watching TiVo’d episodes of The Colbert Report every morning before I left for the office as something of a warmup, a habit that continued when they let me start writing this site. And I guess I recognized — again, not really consciously — that the best jokes are usually the most truthful and honest ones, even if they’re presented as sarcasm or satire.

Because that’s the most impressive thing about Colbert, I think: He manages to poke fun at nearly every aspect of our ridiculous political landscape in a deceptively nuanced way without ever seeming like he’s taking himself (or anything) too seriously. It’s a credit to him, his on-air persona, and his writing staff, and something I think often gets overlooked because we’re all too busy laughing to think about it critically. Which is the point, I suppose.

Writing here daily, I made honesty and clarity my overarching goals. So it might seem counterintuitive that one of its prevailing influences would be a show so firmly established as satire. But it was. I’ve always liked sports, but I never read much sportswriting before I started doing it myself.

Certainly I pick up bits and pieces from other sportswriters, taking note of what I like and what I don’t and doing my best to incorporate the former into my work. But if I’m being honest about the people that most influenced the way I think and the way I write, it’s a pretty short list: My family, my friends, a handful of dead novelists, a couple of songwriters, and Stephen Colbert.

Which is all a long-winded way of explaining why the news that Colbert will replace David Letterman on the Late Show nearly moved me to tears: It’s some form of pride for someone I’ve never met but long appreciated, and happiness for the remarkably redeeming reminder that sometimes the all-too-often misguided whims of mass media do reward the stealthy type of honesty, grace, talent and integrity that I strive for — that every so often the cream really does rise to the top.

I’m not saying I think I am or ever will be as good at anything as Stephen Colbert is at being Stephen Colbert, only that I feel vindicated by knowing that his ability and his dedication to it were enough to get him tapped for one of the top jobs in his game. And it makes me want to give the real Colbert — Stephen Colbert (person), not Stephen Colbert (character) — a big ol’ hug. I hope in his final performance on the real show, he can break character long enough for a curtain call, so the audience can give the real guy behind the persona the prolonged standing ovation he deserves.

I studied art in grad school, which does not exactly prepare a student for a career in sportswriting, or anything. But I loved it, because I loved the way it taught me to think and the way it helped me understand what I love about the art I love.

There’s a common thread: All of my favorite things, in every medium, combine the confidence that comes from technical mastery with the transparent joy of an artist who absolutely loves what he’s doing. I think that’s there in Dali’s best paintings and Hendrix’s best guitar solos, and I see it in Orson Welles’ performance in Citizen Kane and Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for Fallingwater and Biggie’s second verse on “Warning.”

And it’s there, definitely, in The Colbert Report every night. And I think, even more than the jokes, that’s what has made the show so helpful to me in my own creative pursuits for the last six years. Colbert is incredible at what he does, and he makes it look incredibly fun.

That should be the goal, I think, for everyone working in any medium, whether it’s sculpture or spreadsheets or woodworking or writing about shirtless photos of Harry Caray. It sounds so simple, but I think it’s all that really matters: Love what you do, and be great at it.

I talked to a college kid a few days ago about his lofty career goals, and it got me thinking about myself in college and my own silly 21-year-old dreams. But then I realized, for the first time, that I’m now doing exactly what I always wanted to do: I get paid to write jokes about sports.

I’m not trying to brag. It’s incredible. And though I may grumble sometimes about some aspects of my job like everyone grumbles sometimes about aspects of his job, I know I’m incredibly lucky.

And I think I owe it, in part, to a TV show that served as a daily reminder of what I want to do and how I want to do it. So thank you, Stephen Colbert. Enjoy being the Alpha Dog.

Wu-Tang Clan member calls Bill Belichick an emotionless narcoleptic

Ted Berg:

Relevant to our interests.

Originally posted on For The Win:

(PHOTO: Justin Scurti/Koch Records)

(PHOTO: Justin Scurti/Koch Records)

Wu-Tang Clan rapper Inspectah Deck shackled the masses with drastic football analysis on Friday, taking to Twitter to mock the New England Patriots.

deck

As a point of reference, here is a photo of Bill Belichick from a recent press conference:

(PHOTO: Stephan Savoia/AP Photo)

(PHOTO: Stephan Savoia/AP Photo)

And here’s “ol Hugo Boss ad lookin ass” Tom Brady modeling for Glaceau Smartwater:

XXX TOM BRADY_GLACEAU_SMARTWATER2.JPG

Deck — also known as the Rebel INS — confirmed that he is a New York Giants fan, as one might have guessed from the way he slams tracks like quarterback sacks from L.T.

Also active on Instagram at @INS_tagrams, Deck engaged Twitter followers in football talk while he awaits processing on charges from the system…

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Why I don’t care who took steroids

Ted Berg:

Hey people who still check TedQuarters! This thing I wrote about Mike Piazza and the Hall of Fame and everything might appeal to you. Also, know that the Grilled Stuffed Nacho is overrated. Noble effort by Taco Bell to mold Taco Bell stuff into a new shape, but there’s no good reason for it to be that shape. Stick with the Beefy Nacho Griller, which is cheaper and features basically the same ingredients but better distributed. XOXOXO, Ted.

Originally posted on For The Win:

(PHOTO: Mark Lennihan/AP Photo)

(PHOTO: Mark Lennihan/AP Photo)

I worked as a vendor at Shea Stadium in the summer of 2000. I stunk at it. Earning only commission but living comfortably in my parents’ house, I lacked the motivation to haul hot dogs up the endless stairs of the upper deck with the briskness that would make me real money. Mostly, I just wanted a free ticket to watch Mike Piazza hit four times a night.

During batting practice that season, women lined up near the Mets’ dugout and held signs offering the Mets’ catcher their hands in marriage. Fans of all ages jockeyed for the chance to call out his name as he jogged by, and cheered when he acknowledged them with a tip of the hat.

In short: He was the man. The real King of Queens, Kevin James be damned.

Luckily for me, no one ever wanted to buy soda when…

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Which MLB player would make the best 25-man roster of clones?

Ted Berg:

Hey TedQuarters readers! I’m alive. And I’m trying out this reblogging function now that it’s an option to me. Here’s something I wrote about which cloned baseball player would make for the best 25-man roster — a topic occasionally discussed here in the past. Also, I ate a bunch of awesome sandwiches recently and I hope to write one up soon. Sorry it’s been so long, and if I continue failing miserably in my plan to post here more often, have a happy New Year.

Originally posted on For The Win:

Mike Trout (PHOTO: Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports)

Mike Trout (PHOTO: Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports)

A recent Reddit thread posed an interesting topic for debate. If you could clone one active MLB player to make an entire team comprised of only that guy, which guy would be best?

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume whatever cloning mechanism we have access to churns out identical copies of the player as currently constituted (but ignoring late-season injuries). The “teams” have spring training to learn all the new positions, but since we’re cloning them as they are now and not as babies, strong-armed position players don’t benefit from years of training to pitch — just a couple of months.

Also, just for kicks, we’re going to assume the manager’s a clone, too. Each team plays its home games in the cloned player’s home park, where the sold-out crowd is also comprised entirely of cloned versions of that player. So…

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Hello, hello

I’ve been updating this site way too infrequently, I know, and hardly sticking to my promise to maintain it in some fashion after leaving SNY.tv for USA Today. But I’ve been busy, and too many hours at the computer make my back act up.

563338_10151521142310135_943651872_nAbout that: I’m again riding my bike for MS research. If you are for some reason still checking TedQuarters, you can help by donating to the cause here.

About that: I’m happy to report that the disease hasn’t progressed much in the years since I wrote this and this and this. My back hurts and I can’t fully feel the pinkie and ring fingers on my left hand. I’ve grown so used to it at this point that I don’t know if I’d even call it pain most of the time. It’s just what it is.

But since I’m used to it — and since I’m gunning for donations here — here’s an anecdote I’m not sure I’ve ever shared publicly before:

It took roughly a million doctor’s visits and tests to diagnose the MS, in part because my case was a bit complicated even by the strange standards of neurological health issues. I kept having to go get MRIs at a place near Columbus Circle, and when you’ve got back problems (and some mild claustrophobia), MRIs suck. I’m not a big drinker, but I used to sometimes buy whiskey at a nearby liquor store so I could take a couple slugs before going in the tube.

It was right after the final MRI I got — the one that diagnosed the disease — when something went awry. Before I could put my all my clothes back on in the dressing room, I entirely lost control of my left arm. It wasn’t the first time it happened, but it was by far the most severe of the incidents. It became spasmodic. I could vaguely control it at the shoulder but nowhere else.

I couldn’t even button my pants, so I had to pull my belt on tight just to walk out of the place with my pants on. And I was so concerned about what the hell was happening to me that I didn’t think to tell the people at the MRI place or anything. It wasn’t even overwhelmingly uncomfortable; it was just terrifying.

To that point, the worst diagnosis I had heard was that I had a strained muscle in my back. One doctor insisted I merely had bad posture. And it was really only at that moment, stumbling around under some scaffolding on 57th and Broadway, that I knew something must be seriously f#@$ed up.

It was such a strange sensation that I couldn’t think of anything else, even decisions as mundane as getting on the subway to go home. I somehow made my way to the obnoxious high-end Columbus Circle shopping mall and sat at a dirty table in the bookstore drinking bourbon out of my backpack until the feeling in my arm was restored.

This reference might not seem appropriate for the gravity of the moment (in my head, at least), but the best comparison I can think of from movies is the scene in District 9 when the guy is first becoming an alien, and the alien arm rips out from inside his and he says, “Doctor, what has happened to my arm?”

That part of that movie was completely chilling to me, because what happened to me felt exactly like some sort of alien life form was taking over my body from inside. District 9. No joke.

Turns out it wasn’t extraterrestrial forces but my own stupid immune system, which has expressed a strong distaste for my body on numerous occasions.

Whatever. I don’t really know where I was going with that, except to try to get at how scary it can be to come down with some indistinct disease that causes you to lose control of your body. So, you know, donate if you can. No pressure.

Also, on a totally unrelated note: You can check out nearly all the writing I do at USA Today here. RSS that piece.

This post might be of particular interest to TedQuarters readers.

The Volcano Taco is dead. Long live the Volcano Taco!

Someone told me the Volcano Taco no longer exists, so I hiked to my nearest Taco Bell to investigate. I’ve been trying to eat healthier of late, but I figured the two-mile walk would more than mitigate the damage done by a single taco.

volcanotacoMy nearest Taco Bell pumps classic rock music all the time, which always seems out of place in the middle of East Harlem. Tom Petty’s “Running Down the Dream” was cranking when I walked in. Speaking of which:

“Do you still make Volcano Tacos?” I asked nonchalantly, as if it were a casual curiosity and not a pointed inquiry. I try to play it cool at Taco Bell and act as if I’m not in the 99.999th percentile of human beings in terms of Taco Bell knowledge. I don’t really know why. I guess I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of the Taco Bell employees.

“We don’t,” said the woman at the register. She stepped back and pointed toward a sign advertising the new Fiery Doritos Locos Taco. “If you’re looking for something similar, I could-“

I cut her off. I’m certainly interested in knowing how the new Doritos Locos Taco tastes, but I don’t particularly want one. Healthier eating means a far smaller monthly quota for Taco Bell items, and I’ve been so underwhelmed by both the Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos that I don’t want to waste any of my very limited Taco Bell intake on more Doritos Locos Tacos.

“Nah,” I said, shaking my head. “Could you–“

“You could get a regular taco with the same sauce,” she said.

“With the Lava Sauce, yeah,” I said, accidentally exposing that I’m aware it’s called Lava Sauce, prompting a fleeting moment of embarrassment before I remembered that I’m not at all ashamed to know that.

“So a regular Crunchy Taco plus Lava Sauce,” she repeated, pounding away at the register. There are buttons for that. We’re in the clear.

A few minutes later, I ate what tasted exactly like a Volcano Taco, containing all the same ingredients. The red taco shell is no longer available, but that was just a novelty anyway, gone the way of the Black Jack Taco shell because Taco Bell’s current gimmicky shell thing is making them out of Doritos, not giving them different colors.

As to that: Whatever. They’re not my thing, but clearly they’re popular, and anything that helps keep Taco Bell flourishing is fine by me. Plus, the burgeoning relationship between Taco Bell and Frito-Lay seems like a step toward global Taco Bell dominance, winning the Restaurant Wars and all that.

Plus, at some point, Taco Bell’s going to start making taco shells out of other snack chips, which should get interesting. How about a pretzel taco? I could get down with that.

As for the Volcano Taco, it joins the pantheon of great retired Taco Bell items like the Bacon Cheeseburger Burrito. It will exist forever in our memories, a reminder of the transitional era in which Taco Bell first started toying with taco shells but before they started covering them with Dorito stuff. And the Taco Bell lifehackers among us will know that we can taste the Volcano Taco whenever we want by adding Lava Sauce to a Crunchy Taco, even if that adds an element of entropy that makes the Taco Bell significantly more likely to screw up your order than if you could just ask for a Volcano Taco.

I walked out to the boring thump of “25 or 6 to 4″ by Chicago, a band inspired by the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life” to fuse rock music with a horn section, and one that enjoyed great commercial success while making largely terrible music. Sometimes good ideas pay off even when poorly executed. Taco Bell powers forward.