Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Puppies, Kearns

My experience with the Puppy Bowl got off to a fantastic start. I tuned in late but just in time to see my personal favorite, the scrappy and gutty Border Terrier Spencer, plow right into overrated pretty boy Sonny. The violent collision, which ended with Spencer standing over the Puggle like he was Muhammed Ali, was hailed by the hideous animals at the Tailgate Puppy as the reply aired again and again.

The action unfolded as it always does -- which is to say, puppily -- though this year's game was marked by a certain lethargy on the part of some of the pups, no doubt afflicting real life puppy owners with amazement and envy. Harry Kalas' voiceovers lent a gravitas that is sorely lacking in modern major sporting events, too many of have their announcing ruined by manufactured enthusiasm, self-satisfaction, and Joe Buck.

So we all enjoyed the Puppy Bowl. But what's happened since is just a shame. I was pulling for Spencer, but it was obvious to any impartial observer that the Most Valuable Puppy was Viszla mix Larry.

ROBBED!
Larry was all over the field. He started fights, he sniffed butts, and he drank water. That's pretty much all there is to do in the Puppy Bowl, and he excelled all competition in each facet. At first, the MVP voting reflected this; Larry had a commanding lead, and with over 1.5 million (!) votes cast, he looked like he was on his way to joining such titans as Tommy Maddux and Jelani "The Sheriff" Janisse.

And yet when the winner was announced, it was Bomber the Samoyed. Bomber is a dog who not only looks like he was made out of the inside of a pillow, but performed like he was made out of the inside of a pillow. His Puppy Bowl highlight was lounging with one or two of his ridiculous littermates and watching while Larry carried all before him, and for that he wins the MVP.

Bomber: "Duhhhhh."
So what happened? Did Siberian hackers rig the vote to ensure that one of their would win? Did the shadowy organization known only as the "Samoyed Club of America" spread some of their bountiful dues money around? If I'm assuming the worst, it's only because Animal Planet is being suspiciously quiet about the results. While voting was going on, this page gave you the votes for each candidate as well as the number of total votes cast. Now there's only a terse paragraph congralutating the almost certainly fraudulent victor. They're just lucky that the Puppy Bowl is too damn cute to boycott.

Austin Kearns signed a contract extension. You probably already heard about this. $17.5 million gets us three more years of not having to worry about who our right fielder is. Or, a more familiar fear to Nats fans, three more years of not having to worry that our right fielder is going to impale someone on a bat.

I like it. It's a Jim Bowden deal of post-Kasten vintage, so of course I like it. That said, it's not something to get excited about. I've given myself a whole week, and by this point I've given up on feeling the kind of wide-eyed thrill I got after the Vinny Castilla for Brian Lawrence trade.

Is Kearns going to be a $5 million player in 2008? We'd better hope so. Is he going to be an $8 million player in 2009? Possibly. Maybe even probably, and you can bet it would take at least that much to keep him. Kearns isn't a star, and it's interesting that the two projections I bothered to look at have almost identical forecasts for him: identical batting average, identical on base percentage, only 5 points difference in slugging. And that projection is . . . well, it's alright. I'm not going to get too excited about a low 800s OPS from a corner outfielder, even if he is the defensive badass Kearns is reputed to be.

I certainly don't think this deal is worth talking about as an indication of the Nats' long-term approach. Kearns isn't a guy who's going to carry this team into the future. He's useful but not all star-level player who now has cost certainty added to the package, which, if anything, makes it easier to trade him. I would be surprised if his Washington tenure outlasted Cristian Guzman's.

You know what contract was rad? Nick Johnson's. Dude got straight-up ripped off. Now that was an extension to get excited about.

2 comments:

El Gran Color Naranja said...

To make up for it, Nick is going to play no more than 110 games a year

arrScott said...

Bomber won PBIII MVP because there were like four different samoyed pups in the contest, and the thing about samoyed pups is that they all look exactly alike. So no matter when a voter tuned in, he would always see a samoyed romping around the field. Sort of like how Manning won Super Bowl MVP: When a guy spends that much time on the field, his ubiquity overwhelms your ability to judge his actual performance.

Anyway, Lucy was the clear champ, instigating far more puppy play per minute on the field than any of the others. But she's kind of scruffy looking, and Americans like to vote for the articulate and bright and clean and nice-looking candidates.

Kearns extension: Meh. Other than his propensity for crippling his teammates and the fact that he mostly hits fly balls, which would be great if he played in any ballpark other than RFK, he's a well-rounded bit of outfield adequacy. Every team in baseball would love to have an outfield in which Austin Kearns is its worst player. Many already do. No team wishes to have an outfield in which Austin Kearns is its best player. But that's the position the Nats are in.