Each week, Dan Rubenstein, Ty Hildenbrandt and Jacob Osterhout will jump on e-mail and riff about various subjects in the news offered up by SI.com's Jimmy Traina.
Traina: The MLB All-Star rosters were announced Sunday. Do you get upset about snubs? If, so who were some of the biggest snubs?
Hildenbrandt: I am, and always will be, anti-All-Star Games. Maybe I'm the only one. I know MLB uses the result of the game to determine home-field advantage in the World Series, but, really, it's such a popularity contest that some "All-Stars" aren't really All-Stars. Does Josh Hamilton really deserve to be voted in despite being injured for most of the first half? Um, no. Should Manny Ramirez even have been on the ballot while suspended? No. And, if you want to get all historical about it, was Cal Ripken Jr. really an All-Star his final season when he was batting .230?
Osterhout: I don't get upset about All-Star snubs, but if I were a professional baseball player who was having a stellar season, I bet I'd be pretty pissed off. It is an absolute travesty that Ian Kinsler is not the starting second baseman for the American League. Dustin Pedroia, who IS the starting second baseman, has hit only three home runs and has 36 RBIs. Kinsler, on the other hand, has hit 20 home runs and has 63 RBIs. The fact that Kinsler isn't even a reserve makes it hard to take the All-Star Game seriously. Hopefully, the fans will take pity and use the final vote wisely.
Rubenstein: For whatever reason, I think I was more excited about the All-Star Game when I was around 11 years old. It seems like I lost interest when the players stopped wearing their team's uniforms at the games, which is far cooler than having some random NL or AL design thrown together. I never get too upset over snubs, though I'm never sure why every team needs to be represented. Were Cubs fans going to protest and not watch if Ted Lilly didn't get the nod? Some people are upset that Carlos Pena isn't an All-Star (he can still win the final spot), but scientists are still collecting data as to whether he can actually strike out in his sleep.
Osterhout: Back to Ty's opening response, Cal Ripken Jr. deserves to be on the All-Star team for life. In fact, I think he should be the Pirates' representative this year instead of the mediocre Freddy Sanchez, who can't even make a team in my fantasy league, but made the All-Star Game simply because the Pirates have traded every other player this season with a speck of talent.
Hildenbrandt: Ripken deserves to be a Hall of Famer, that's for sure. But are guys hitting .230 at the tail end of their career really "All-Stars"? I guess your definition is different than mine. Regardless, I can't get too worked up over a snub. Any system that selects All-Stars through a primarily online balloting system is tough to take seriously. If 13-year-old Dutch hackers wanted to go on and vote 42,000,000 times for Sidney Ponson, it'd be entirely acceptable.
Rubenstein: Of course guys hitting .230 at the end of their careers don't deserve to be All-Stars, but it's a lifetime-achievement vote. It's the same reason Martin Scorcese won an Oscar for The Departed and not for any of his much better films. The same can also be said for all of the AVN Awards Jenna Jameson collected past her prime.
Hildenbrandt: We can agree to disagree on Ripken. However, trotting out old-time Pirates is something I can totally get behind. What Pittsburgh fan wouldn't pay to see a Kent Tekulve/Don Slaught battery?
Rubenstein: In the case of the Pirates, I say just trot out a retired Pirates great during the introductions. Is Andy Van Slyke available on short notice? You know he is. I'm OK with Ripken getting the nod all those years. The game is (supposedly) for the fans and that's who we voted in. There was something oddly reassuring about seeing him year after year, even if Nomar, Jeter or A-Rod always got the snub -- I had enough of them in my life anyway.
Osterhout: Right, All-Star voting has just as much to do with how the player performed the previous season as it does with his play during the first half of the current season. Hence, Pedroia and Hamilton are starters this year despite injuries and middling numbers. And, I will not sit by idly and listen to any criticisms of Jenna Jameson. Past her prime? Impossible. She is and forever will be an angel of the night.
Traina: Jenna Jameson is a signal to change the topic. Rasheed Wallace has agreed to join the Celtics. Who will have a bigger impact: Wallace in Boston or Shaquille O'Neal in Cleveland? Who is the best team in the East right now?
Rubenstein: I appreciate you not including the Magic, even though they made the NBA Finals, because it appears that they've taken a giant step back this summer. Even though Wallace makes the Celtics no younger, he gives them more defense and an ability to stretch the floor, which is important, especially if Kevin Garnett is only at about 74 percent after his surgery. The Celtics, today, are the best team in the East with the big asterisk being KG's knee. It'll be an interesting power struggle considering they're both power forwards and both have occasional bouts with complete insanity.
Hildenbrandt: I think Wallace could have more upside if he plays to his potential; however, getting him to play to his potential has always been a bit of an issue. The Celtics are already an aging team, and it's clear that their window to win is now, so I like the move for them. But from a purely symbolic standpoint, I think the move to get Shaq is the clear winner. Cleveland's management is showing LeBron it wants to win, and by extension, keep him around when his contract is up. That's really what this is all about.
Osterhout: Shaq might have more of a positive impact on the floor, but I think Wallace will have more of a effect on his new team in the locker room. Every foul call is reason to complain for Wallace. He's like this kid I had on my rec league team who was the best player on the team, but used to cry and storm off the floor when we were losing. That kind of attitude changes a team's chemistry, maybe for good, but probably for bad. Remember, Wallace is the only player to be kicked out of the McDonald's All-American Game. That kind of ability to blow your top is impressive.
Rubenstein: I went to a Suns game late last season, and the weird thing was Shaq was mainly a decoy, but still somehow filled the box score. He trailed almost every play and they ran far less through him than I ever would've imagined. It'll be nice for LeBron to have him clean up some missed shots and be a presence in the middle of the defense, but on a nightly basis, I'm not sure just how much pressure it takes off LeBron. In any case, Shaq should still be able to figure out Dwight Howard's one post move, so there's something right there.
Hildenbrandt: Exactly. The Cavs never expected to see the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals. Perhaps if they did, Shaq would've been on their team much sooner. Maybe if it's a Cavs-Magic rematch, Shaq can be the equivalent of a lefty specialist coming out of the bullpen to negate a power bat. I say this, of course, without knowledge of whether Shaq is righty or lefty, and with full acknowledgment that it's probably a terrible analogy. Don't judge me.
Rubenstein: I think it's actually flipped. Shaq will be another great piece of the locker room (if he likes Mike Brown), but Wallace has always been a great guy to have on the floor, minus his problems with refs. If I were a Celtics fan, I don't know if I'd be convinced it was the best possible move, but it's not a coincidence he handled the best power forwards year in and year out on the most consistent defensive team of the decade. Shouldn't Ben Wallace still be sending him a tiny slice of his $60 million contract each month?
Osterhout: Shaq is at a point in his career where he is playing second fiddle, and he's playing it well. After leaving L.A., he's become a great complementary player. He was great with Dwyane Wade and he'll be great with LeBron. I feel with Shaq, you know what you are getting -- an inside presence with balky knees and an ability to toss out pithy quotes -- but with Wallace, anything can happen. Will Wallace take orders from Garnett? Or will he consistently hurt his new team by losing his temper?
Hildenbrandt: I can only imagine the clever marketing campaigns that are going to take place in Cleveland this year. On a scale of 1 to 10, the low-budget, homemade commercials advertising the team are going to be off the charts. Plus, with Shaq in town, I think there's an outstanding possibility that he does one of those hokey car dealership commercials in which the whole thing is painfully scripted and awkward. I feel like Shaq could make all of Cleveland more enjoyable because of this. And, of course, because Cleveland has no other sports team on which to hang its hat.
Traina: We can do a whole Roundtable on Shaq -- and since the summer doldrums are here, we may do that soon. Anyway, let's move on. We don't usually look back, but I feel like we have to mention the Andy Roddick-Roger Federer match. What were your thoughts on the epic Wimbledon final?
Osterhout: It's amazing, I never thought that a tennis match would compare to last year's epic Wimbledon final between Federer and Rafael Nadal, but this year's was just as amazing. Not only was the level of tennis outstanding, but the head games being played provided more drama than a night out with Terrell Owens. Mentally, Roddick looked like he actually believed he could beat Federer, but after every missed opportunity, you just saw his belief erode. Then, he'd dig deep and hold on for a little longer. I was at a bar/restaurant in Portland, Maine, watching the match and the entire establishment was gathered around the TV rooting for Roddick. A woman actually started crying when he lost. Now that's what sports is all about, a random woman crying on your shoulder after a tennis match.
Hildenbrandt: I got the same feeling watching this match as I did when Syracuse and UConn went into six overtimes earlier this year in the Big East tournament -- that feeling of "holy crap, this may never end." It was just incredible to witness a serving war that dragged the final set to a total of 30 games. I don't know if I was more heartbroken for Roddick or in awe of Federer. The man is just a machine. Some other winners from the final match: random appearances by Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani; the red, Roger Federer logo hat worn by Federer's dad; and Roddick's snappy "you already won five" comment in response to Federer's brief lecture while at the microphone.
Rubenstein: Since I'm a tennis nerd, I watched every point pretty intently. Roddick played the match of his life and will probably never forgive himself for the backhand volley he sprayed wide on set point in the second-set tiebreaker. The match is the strongest argument for no tiebreakers in the fifth, but luckily the U.S. Open likes to cut it short so USA can deliver yet another rerun of Law and Order: SVU.
Osterhout: I would have felt worse for Roddick if his wife, Brooklyn Decker, wasn't cheering him on from his box. The fact that he is married to such a beautiful woman must take the sting off the loss. I also was impressed that Roddick held himself together during the trophy ceremony. He seemed almost gracious in defeat, which is no easy task when you've been so close to victory. I probably would've smashed the trophy and pulled a Luke Wilson in the Royal Tenenbaums where he takes off his shoe and sock and just sits down at midcourt.
Rubenstein: After more than four hours of Roddick absolutely BRINGING IT, I was also pretty amazed at how well he held it together. There's nothing worse than walking away from that match with a plate rather than a trophy. If I were Roddick, I'd pile a giant portion of fish and chips on that thing that night. It's nowhere near a consolation prize after that effort. Every ripped backhand winner down the line was like an inside player in the NBA showing up for camp hitting half of his threes. Ridiculous.
Hildenbrandt: My head hurts, seeing as how my knowledge of the X's and O's of tennis is limited to my experience playing Wii Tennis and, back in the day, Racket Attack for the old NES console. But it's nice to know that we've got a tennis nerd among us for hard-hitting conversations such as this. Jacob, I totally agree. Had Brooklyn Decker not been there cheering on Roddick, I probably would've felt a lot worse for him. And I also agree with the fact that I would've smashed that silver plate over Federer's head and run off with the real trophy like Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore.
Rubenstein: What was weirder to me when watching the crowd shots was that our co-worker (and Roddick's wife) Brooklyn Decker was sitting right behind Federer's wife, Mirka. There's no way it was anything but cordial, but could you imagine how great it would be if they started passive aggressively arguing during the match and NBC's microphones picked it up? I would buy a special edition Wimbledon Championship DVD if this were included.
Hildenbrandt: On a different note, do you think Federer's child will be able to hit 100 mph with a serve immediately after exiting the womb? I couldn't contain myself from wondering this throughout the match.
Rubenstein: The Federer baby vs. the Agassi-Graf wunderkind is already shaping up to be a remarkable 2029 rivalry. By then, I hope, maybe we'll get to see every major sporting event live on TV. I know, I know, I'm a dreamer. Also, can SI.com advertise on Brooklyn Decker's shirt? Can we get an "E-mailing It In" visor on her during the U.S. Open? Somebody should look into this.
Traina: Last question: Entourage comes back this week. I gave up on the show two seasons ago. Are you still watching it? Is it still worth watching?
Rubenstein: You did the right thing, Jimmy. Even though it somehow mirrors my life exactly out here in L.A., the show progressively gets worse with each passing minute and episode. Somehow, though, I keep giving it a chance, mostly because I enjoy ogling the extras who inevitably think they'll one day become Mrs. Piven, although I'm not sure why that's a good thing. It's also fun to see Adrian Grenier struggle to act as an actor.
Hildenbrandt: I'm definitely still a huge Entourage fan, but I think the show needs to get back to what made it successful initially: Vinny Chase bedding random hot chicks and not worrying about his career or financial stability. I enjoyed this Vinny Chase significantly more. I also wish they'd get away from the whole plot of turning Eric Murphy into a corporate entity. This reminds me of Major League 2 when Ricky Vaughn started wearing blazers and saying things like "I've got a career to worry about." It just feels uncomfortable. But, much like Dan, I look past these shortcomings and continue giving the show a chance, if only because Ari Gold and Johnny Drama are still two of the best characters on television.
Rubenstein: As bad as the character development has been, it's still better than watching almost anything on the networks. I'll take them randomly dropping the names of L.A. restaurants and clubs over a half hour of Rules of Engagement or an hour of Private Practice any day. Also, there's a rumor that Jeremy Piven's hairpiece/plugs may get a spinoff, so there's always hope that they'll get it right then. Also, the median height of the cast is around 5-foot-6, so watching them strut around the city is always comical. Notice that they're never on roller coasters or complain about leg room during flights. Actually, I think Entourage is funny for all of the wrong reasons. Whoops.
Osterhout: I strongly yet respectfully disagree. Entourage is still the best show on TV for the twentysomething male population, which I am still barely part of. It is a modern fantasy world. I agree that some of the plot devices have grown tiring and Ari has gone from genius to annoying, but the fantasy lives on.
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