Quick housekeeping note: We'll be on "The Show" with Chris Goforth on 1370 AM today for most of the early afternoon. We're hoping to get there around 12:30 and will stay a couple of hours, so stop by if you get the chance.
We're still looking for a couple of mailbag questions for Friday. Let's get to it. From the "7-Up Stinks Studios," here we go...
Baseball does not hit the unofficial halfway point - the MLB All-Star break - for almost two weeks. That said, the Braves played their 81st game earlier this week, so they are officially halfway through the 2011 season. Which means, we have to issue our FHOTSMAADHs (which obviously stands for first half of the season meaningless awards and dubious honors).
Before we do, quick shout out to the Braves, who scored like a week's worth of runs in a 5-3 win Wednesday afternoon. Quick highlights: Freddie Freeman had three hits, including a two-out, two-run single off Felix Hernandez, arguably the best pitcher in baseball; Dan Uggla had a hit - he's at .178 and climbing; Brooks Conrad had a two-out RBI vs. King Felix; closer Craig Kimbrel was electric again (12 pitches, 9 strikes, 3 batters, 2 strikeouts in 1 perfect inning). Good times.
Now back to the FHOTSMAADHs:
- The Dan Uggla award for huge expectations and rotten production: This award goes to... Jayson Werth. Yes, Uggla has earned the namesake title of this award becuase he is hitting .178. But Werth signed a seven-year, nine-figure contract to leave Philly and head to the Washington Nationals and he is hitting .223 with fewer homers (Werth has 10, Uggla 12), fewer RBIs (Werth has 27, Uggla 28) and more strikeouts (Werth has 75, Uggla 70). Feel better Johnny Braves Fan? Everybody start chanting together "Dan's not the worst. Dan's not the worst." (Sidenote: Sweet collectables of all collectables - on the Braves' replay last night (yes, we watched some of it, be quiet) we received news that on Aug. 18 vs. the Giants, it will be Dan Uggla Bobblehead night. Mark your calendars.)
- The first half MVP: Brian McCann, by a whisker over Ryan Braun. McCann's numbers are not as good as Ryan Braun's, but remember that McCann is doing it amid a collection of guys hitting .255 or worse while Braun has Prince Fielder behind him and Rickie Weeks in front of him. Plus, McCann has been handling the league's best pitching staff that has lead a punchless Braves team to the second-best record in the NL.
- The best player of the first half: Amid the nuclear soap opera that is the Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Kemp is putting up ridiculous numbers (.331-22 HRs-63 RBIs-22 SBs with an OPS of 1.043). Plus, he's been rumored to be dating pop singer Rhianna, who also appears to be a handful in her own right, so Kemp has an unbelievable ability to deal with distractions. The only reason he's not the FHOTSMAADHs MVP is because with Kemp's unworldly first half, the Dodgers are still 10 games out of first. L.A. could finish fourth or fifth in the NL West with Shawn Kemp in centerfield.
- Best manager: We'll go with Charlie Manuel by a nose over Fredi Gonzalez. Manuel has managed the Phillies through a series of injuries; Fredi has managed the Braves through a series of slumps. Each has his team poised for the playoffs, but Manuel has his club with the best record in baseball despite serious injuries to his No. 3 hitter, his No. 3 starter and his No. 1 and No. 2 closers.
Shuler as UT AD?
As we wrote in Thursday's TFP, the rumor du jour ("Hmmm, that sounds good. I think I'll have that.) about the Vols' AD job involved Heath Shuler, the former UT quarterback and current North Carolina congressman.
Shuler's name was tossed out by a Knoxville sports talk radio show host, and hey, crazier things could happen - they could hire the 5-at-10, and then see where the chips land, for instance. That said, Shuler appears more news-filler in a newsless vacuum than headliner. Yes, he was one of the better UT football players of all-time - he was the Heisman runner-up in 1993 - but as we've discussed many times, today's big-boy AD jobs are more CEO than coach and certainly more desk jockey than ex-jock.
Shuler's time in government service (even as a Democrat - we're kidding, mostly) could be viewed as a feather in his fund-raising cap. But Vols' athletics are a $100-million-a-year business that prides itself on making money and operating in the black. And if we know anything about congress, operating in the black is not high on their list of priorities recently.
Here's saying that UT has their eyes on someone with more experience in athletic department management that athletic field success. So it goes.
A blast from the past arrived at Wimbledon at almost the exact same point in the tournament that the blast that was Roger Federer was officially relegated to the past.
Maria Sharapova arrived in the Wimbledon semifinals as the most recognizable name - and face - of the final four women in the world's most famous tennis tournament. She says she still feels young, and at 24, who would argue too much. But mixed with the trio of 21-year-olds that complete today's semifinals - Sabine Lisicki, Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka, and yes they are three people that have never been in our kitchen - Sharapova is as much Jessica Tandy as she is Jessica Rabbit in this group.
That said, the women's draw at the All England Club has been dominated by who failed to reach the semis as much as who did. The men's field shared in that news Wednesday when Federer surrendered a 2-0 sets lead for the first time in 178 matches. As our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer stated well this morning HERE the dominant days of Roger the Rocket appear to be numbered.
Granted, he is still ranked among the top three players in the world and could catch lightning in a bottle at one of the next four or five non-French Open majors, but it does not appear likely for Federer, who will be 30 in August.
And if his best days are behind him, it's strange to picture that Gillette advertisement three years ago that had Federer, Derek Jeter and Tiger Woods and not think "Razor burn, indeed."
This and That
- While the NBA heads toward the professional sports purgatory that is offseason labor unrest, the Portland Trailblazers made a qualifying offer to Greg Oden. You may recall that Oden was the No. 1 overall pick four years ago, a spot ahead of two-time NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant, who appears to be headed for super-DUPER-stardom. Oden has played all of 82 NBA games because of injuries and appears to be this generation's Sam Bowie, the former Kentucky center that Portland drafted one spot ahead of Michael Jordan in 1984.
- Ricky Vaughn, the star rookie starter-turned closer for Lou Brown's miraculous Cleveland Indians team that fueled the semi-documentary baseball film "Major League," admitted to using steroids to bump up his fastball. Seriously. Actor Charlie Sheen, who played Vaughn back before he snapped and went off the deep end of sanity and landed in a molten pool of Tiger Blood and Adonis DNA, said he used steroids to increase his velocity for the filming. Remember this was the late 1980s gang. On the real life side, outside of being a rotten dad and worthless husband, this may be Sheen's low point - and that's saying something. On the baseball meta-physical side - which cheating was worse: Vaughn using steroids or Eddie Harris putting snot on the ball? Discuss.
We discussed today's question some on Wednesday. Best movie villains of all time (the 5-at-10 will have our answers around noon):
- The best 1980s (i.e. cheesy) movie villains
- The best horror movie villains
- The best drama villains
- The best sci-fi villains