Thursday, March 30, 2006

NL West Preview & Suggested Heckles For Each Team
By Blogger

At its best, baseball heckling combines the brutality of a vintage Iron Mike fight with the sensitive grace of a Seurat still-life. While there is always room for the classic extended BOOOOOOOOO!, there is nothing quite like a witty and piercing heckle. Heckles can enhance the game experience and give insight into the fans' collective mindset. At San Francisco Giants games, it is small wonder that the most common insult tossed at opposing outfielders is also an affectionate term for the Dodgers: call and response style, one person will yell, "What's the matter with Sheffield?" and a chorus will respond, "He's a bum!"

It's not just Giants fans, of course. Some of my most vivid memories of New York come from the night I sat in the right field bleachers for a Yankees-Blue Jays game and alternately participated in and froze in shock at the taunts aimed at Raul Mondesi, then with Toronto. Every time he made a catch, fans would chant, "You still suck! You still suck!" In the second inning, some stood and chanted, "Where's your green card?" And finally, the coup de grace that caused Mondesi to turn around and gesture, as if to ask Why do you badger me so?, several sections chanted, "Dodger reject!" Clap Clap ClapClapClap! "Dodger reject!" Clap Clap ClapClapClap!

But it's not just about the heckling here at Sportszilla. No, no, no. We also aim to inform, educate, and offer our substantiated opinions on important sports issues, such as who the hell will end up sucking least in the Sucky McSuck Suck National League West. So, inspired by Lefty Malo, I give you Sportszilla's National League West Preview & Suggested Heckles For Each Team (patent pending), presented in predicted order of finish, first to last.

Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers offense will be as good as any in the NL West this year, and probably better. I count at least four players with easy twenty home run potential, and a few non-stars, including Bill Mueller and Jose Cruz, Jr., who, if they get their playing time, could each post an OPS+ of 110 or higher. On the heckling front, "Jayson Werth-less!" chants are too easy, and screaming "License and registration!" at Rafael Furcal borders on tasteless. Instead, go with "Mis-ter Hamm! Mis-ter Hamm!" at Nomar, just to mess with him, or, for the more sadistic among us, "How's your groin? Are you sure it's still attached?" To my knowledge, nobody has quite figured out how to heckle Jeff Kent, as "Porn 'stache!" just doesn't have a ring to it. I suggest, "Wash my truck! Wash my truck!" As for The Portly Canadian, there isn't much one can say about Eric Gagne, because he will destroy your team and eat the fecal matter left in the batter's box by his opponents, no matter what you say. Leave him be, children. Leave him be.

On the surface, the starting rotation is an unimpressive lot, but one through five they're solid enough to give the offense a chance to win every day. Derek Lowe is the nominal number one, though Brad Penny could claim the title without much argument, and Jae Seo is a dark horse candidate for end-of-season staff ace. For heckling purposes, you should know that last year, Lowe left his wife for FoxSports reporter Carolyn Hughes. When he warms up before a game, those of you near the bullpen should yell "I..." as he winds up, and then "Do!" as he throws. The cumulative Gregorian effect might be debilitating.

San Francisco Giants
Everywhere he plays this year, Barry Bonds will hear the lilting shuffle of, "BAAAAA-LCOOO! BAAAAA-LCOOO!" or the less melodious, "STEEEER-OOOOIDS! STEEEER-OOOOIDS!" Go ahead and join in, but, later, after you've downed a few cold ones and forgotten how you cheered his batting practice moonshots, take a jab at an old wound, and yell at him, "Sid Bream! Sid Bream! Don't you remember Sid Bream?" He will never acknowledge you, but you know he's crying on the inside. Sid's Slide was Bonds's Chris Webber moment. If Bonds isn't in the lineup, which I boldly predict will be the case for about 120 of the Giants' games this year, you'll have to make do with making fun of Moises Alou's disgusting practice of urinating on his bare hands in order to toughen the calluses. It might be too subtle, but I would laugh if you yelled at him, "Hey, Moises! I dare you to lick your hands!" As long as Bonds isn't in the lineup, the likes of Randy Winn, Pedro Feliz, and Lance Niekro will be sucking up at bats in the middle of the lineup. Yes, so so so scary.

The pitching is a different story. Counter to the widespread and deserved reputation the Giants have for only signing over the hill veterans, the rotation is anchored by relative youngsters. Jason Schmidt is primed for another solid year of Ace duty, while Noah Lowry should continue to be the prototypical number two starter. If Matt Cain fulfills any of his promise and pitches with the nastiness he's displayed in the minors, thus relegating Matt Morris to number four starter status, this could be the best rotation in the division, and one of the best in the league. Lowry is a heartthrob in the Bay Area (at least), and the others all seem essentially good guys, so heckling them doesn't carry much weight. The only real prominent heckling target is closer Armando Benitez. While I'm fond of the basic, "Would you like fries with that baseball?" I'm also intrigued by the possibilities of incorporating his love of country music. "Garth Brooks would take you deep! Or even Chris Gaines!" I don't know. Again, it seems too subtle.

Arizona Diamondbacks
The thing about the Diamondbacks is that nobody on the team is a household name. Sure, Shawn Green, Luis Gonzalez, and Brandon Webb are well-known to baseball fans, but could you really get the box seat crowd to laugh by making fun of Chad Tracy or Conor Jackson? No, you're probably best off sticking it to the best-knowns. While chants of "Dodger reject!" are absolutely appropriate and heartily encouraged for all Shawn Green appearances, Luis Gonzalez requires a bit more creativity. It says here that a dig at his one monster season should do the trick. All references to Brady Anderson are hereby approved. None of the other players are worth heckling too hard, although I suspect they will be in the years ahead. Jackson, Chris Young (the young centerfielder), and Stephen Drew should battle for division titles with the Dodgers' young guns for years to come, but not yet.

Webb is tricky, because he is so bland a character, and so unsung that heckling him seems a waste of energy. Perhaps you should save your vitriol for Orlando Hernandez. Remind him who the class of his gene pool is by chanting at him, "Livan's better!" Russ Ortiz is probably more prone to heckling at home, as his proclivity to issue walks always gets him a few sarcastic cheers each season. God help the D-Backs if they're forced to use Terry Mulholland for significant innings.

San Diego Padres
They won the division last year, so how bad can it be? Well... Let's just say the Vinny Castilla Experience is making its farewell tour on the Padres' dime. I'll give Kevin Towers and Sandy Alderson the benefit of the doubt and assume they think the Mexican community in San Diego will turn out for Castilla. On the other hand, giving up a perfectly serviceable, relatively young, pitcher in Brian Lawrence in order to get Castilla's freezer-burned carcass doesn't make that much sense from an on-field perspective. Did Towers think there was a run on MLB carcasses this offseason? I mean, Mike Piazza's the starting catcher. There's no way this doesn't end badly, especially since Piazza already hears every gay joke ever created during the course of a season. Now that he's on a team with a guy who's fond of kissing his teammates, expect PiazzaHulk to emerge at some point. To shepherd this process along--because, really, who doesn't enjoy a good PiazzaHulking?--I suggest adding layers to the baiting. You don't want to be one of those jerks who acts like homosexuality is a bad thing, but what you can do is remind him of Roger Clemens every chance you get. "Clemens says you're a jerk! He's not inviting you to his birthday party!" Absurdity is fun.

The pitching staff is comprised of Jake Peavy, Trevor Hoffman, six foot ten inch Chris Young (formerly of the Rangers), silly putty, and Chan Ho Park. I mean, Shawn Estes is listed as the fourth starter. There isn't even a punch line. I suppose if you visit San Diego and get a chance to watch Peavy pitch, you could pull off some good heckling, since he's a country boy. When I saw him last year, the PA played the Dukes of Hazzard Theme as he warmed up in the top of the first. I was in the upper deck, so he wouldn't have heard me, otherwise, I might have yelled, "We won! Get over it!" When the Pads visit your team, though, a simple all-encompassing heckle attacking their uniforms should suffice. "You used to look like crap! Now you look like a crap stain!"

Colorado Rockies
How can one derive pleasure from heckling men who are already world-weary and ground to dust by their collective ineptitude? As with the Padres, make fun of the uniforms.

It's a dire situation in Denver. The Rockies are an awful team in more ways than one, from their lack of proven hitters (name one besides Todd Helton), to their lack of any quality pitching (Jason Jennings is eminently average, Jeff Francis is still a few years away, and Byung-Hyun Kim is perpetually on the verge of insanity), but, ultimately, their uniforms are a sheer abomination, befitting this ragtag band of ballplayers. Good God. Who thinks that young men across the country will choose to wear purple? Don't they realize that switching from purple to light blue would probably do wonders for their merchandise and general image? In that spirit, sing a song or two to these gentlemen. "Purple Rain". "Purple Haze". Mention Violet Beauregarde. But do not venture beyond that. It is too much to twist one's heel into a man's scrotum when he's down, so don't heckle these poor Rockies personally. They won't need your help to compete for last in the league.


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