Uninformed Baseball Preview: 10 Predictions for the Upcoming Season

Poor wardrobe choices aside, Evan Longoria is your AL MVP

The 2012 Major League Regular Season begins tomorrow at 1:00 pm EST when the Red Sox face the Tigers. Alright, so it really began last Wednesday, but who here actually paid attention to the As and Mariners in Japan? Didn’t think so. Anyways, with the season all set to kick off, let’s hand out some awards and make some predictions, all of which will undoubtedly be wrong.

1. AL MVP: Evan Longoria, 3B, TAM (ZiPS projection (AVG/OBP/OPS) .274/.367/.881, 31 HRS)

I’ve said before that I believe that Tampa Bay is the best team in baseball and Longoria is the Rays’ best player. He’s had four good to great seasons in the league already, establishing himself as one of the two best third basemen in the game along with Adrian Beltre. Now it’s time to take the next step and collect some hardware for it. I think Longoria’s OPS will be above .900 with 35+ homers to go with his customary stellar defense.

2. NL MVP: Justin Upton RF, AZ ( ZiPS (AVG/OBP/OPS) .283/.366/.871, 28 HR, 22 SB)

There are safer picks, like Matt Kemp and Joey Votto, but Upton is already so good at 24 years of age that it’s impossible to ignore. I could see the stolen bases dropping a little while the power jumps. Whatever the case, Upton has been historically good at a very young age and players who play as well as he has this early almost always improve as they age.

3. AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, RHP, SEA (ZiPS (ERA, K/9, BB/9, FIP) 3.00, 8.57, 2.54, 2.96)

Why not? The Mariners figure to be pretty bad this season, but Hernandez already won a Cy Young in 2010, when Seattle lost 101 games — perhaps the long awaited final nail in the coffin for pitcher wins as a relevant statistic. In any case, Hernandez, CC Sabathia, and Justin Verlander are the three best pitchers in the AL by a decent margin. Hernandez is the youngest of the three, Verlanders is due for a decent sized statistical regression, and Sabathia’s strikeout rate has been slowly declining in recent seasons.

4. NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, SF (ZiPS (ERA, K/9, BB/9, FIP) 2.92, 9.52, 3.17, 2.89)

Teammate Matt Cain just got the richest contract ever for a right handed pitcher — an overpay, but that’s another conversation for another day — and Lincecum should see his own big payday soon enough. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw seems to have grabbed the mantle of NL’s best pitcher from Lincecum and Roy Halladay and there’s been some hand wringing in San Francisco about “The Freak’s” diminished velocity this spring as well as his decision to junk his slider to preserve his arm. I’m not buying the anti -Lincecum hype. The velo drop could be a concern, but I’m not convinced that it’s not just a case of a veteran pitcher saving some bullets for the regular season. As for the no slider policy, it was Lincecum’s fourth best pitch anyways, and his fastball and changeup are so good that he could probably junk his curve as well and still be above average. Lincecum is perhaps the most successful slight-statured pitcher since Pedro Martinez or Sandy Koufax and while both of those guys had injury problems later in their careers I’m not going to worry about Lincecum until someone reports he’s having a MRI on his rotator cuff.

5. AL ROY: Matt Moore, SP, TAM

With Mike Trout getting sent to the minors for the start of the season (more on that later) there are really only two choices for the award: Moore and Darvish. Given their relative age and experience differences, I could see Darvish being the more effective pitcher in 2012 — that’s not to say I don’t like Moore, I love Moore. This pick is based more on my belief that some voters simply won’t vote for Darvish given his experience in NPB (the Japanese League). I personally don’t think that professional experience overseas should put a player out of the running for Rookie of the Year honors — after all Darvish is a Major League Rookie — but no one ever won any bets by underestimating baseball writers’ capacity for ignorance or logical fallacy.

6. NL ROY: Zach Cozart, SS, CIN

In my NL Central Preview, I highlighted another Red, catcher Devin Mesoraco, who looks to be a more valuable player than Cozart in the long run. Unfortunately, Mesoraco will begin the season backing up Ryan Hanigan. The other smart-money picks for NL ROY honors: Bryce Harper and Trevor Bauer, will begin the season in the minors and when Bauer finally gets the call it might be as a reliever. So, as Rob Neyer points out, Cozart kind of wins this by default of being the guy with the most at bats. He’s got a very good defensive reputation and the offensive bar for shortstops is set so low that he should be serviceable. He’s probably not an All-Star level player, but he might be the highest probability choice at this point.

6. The Nationals will regret sending Bryce Harper to the minors, as will the Angels with Mike Trout

Harper is 19, and he clearly has some work to do in the minors, but he has to be better than current center fielder Roger Bernadina, a replacement level player. The Nationals clearly consider themselves contenders, otherwise they wouldn’t have raided the farm system for a pitcher as flawed as Gio Gonzalez, or given a one year deal to Edwin Jackson, who is apparently on a mission to play for all 30 teams. The problem is that Washington plays in a division with three other playoff contenders — Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami — and even if Harper comes up in June they’ll have spent two months getting nothing from center field, which is something that they’ll have to live with if they miss the playoffs by a game or two. Harper is far from a sure bet to be two wins better than Bernadina over two months of the season, but there’s a possibility that he is, whereas everyone knows Bernadina has no upside.

The same thing goes for the Angels and their decision to send Mike Trout to AAA. Anaheim has a great rotation, but after Albert Pujols their lineup looks awful anemic. No one knows what to expect from Kendrys Morales after two lost seasons, Mark Trumbo puts up sub .300 on base percentages, Torii Hunter is clearly on the downside of his career, and Vernon Wells remains the poster child for bad contract decisions. Trout was pretty bad in his major league debut last season, but he’s been one of the three best prospects in baseball for three years now and it’s not like the Angels have a lot to lose by playing him now. Like the Nationals, they’re going to regret the decision to not start Trout from day one if they miss the playoffs by a game or two.

7. Jason Heyward will hit more than 30 homers

Perhaps not a huge stretch given the power that Heyward showed in the minors, but his high for a season in the majors was 18 in 2010. Of course Heyward is just 22, with only two years of major league experience, which makes the rumors of his demise laughable. After a 2011 season marred by injuries and mismanagement by Fredi Gonzalez, who benched Heyward for an extended stretch, the Braves right fielder looks like a good bet for a breakout season. Remember that it was just two years ago when Heyward was drawing Griffey comparisons — the good kind. Turner Field suppresses home runs, but Heyward has special power, the ball jumps off his bat to all fields. He’s a big reason why I believe the Braves are primed to pick up one of the NL Wild Card spots.

8. Three AL East teams will make the playoffs

You may have caught this if you paid attention to the win projections in my preview columns (it’s okay, I know you didn’t). For the record, I’m not a huge fan of the new playoff structure, which places additional emphasis on the divisions. I personally feel baseball should be de-emphasizing the divisions and moving towards a more balanced schedule so the best teams in each league are in the playoffs every year rather than those who have the privilege of playing in the AL Central (revolutionary I know) — but I digress.

In any case, the AL East is stacked, as usual. I’ve already made my feelings about Tampa clear. The Yankees may have been quiet in free agency, but they made some smart moves to shore up their pitching in the offseason. I think Hiroki Kuroda was a really smart signing even if his performance drops a little as he moves to a tougher league/park. As for the Red Sox, no one should be writing them off, even if Andrew Bailey is out until July. If not for a terrible April and September, they would have had the best record in baseball. I know, I know, hypotheticals are pretty worthless in hindsight, but its hard to imagine the Sox having two historically bad months again, right? Irregardless, I don’t see how this year’s team is worse than last year’s model, and I see plenty of reasons to believe that they could be better.

As for the non- AL East wild card contenders, there aren’t any in the AL Central, unless you really want to dream on Cleveland (you don’t), and you already have my thoughts on the Angels.

9. Will Middlebrooks will be the Red Sox starting third baseman by the end of the season

Bonus Red Sox prediction, because I like to stick to what I (pretend to) know. I’m not sold on Kevin Youkilis’ ability to stand up to the rigors of a full season at third base. Youkilis is a phenomenal hitter, but he’s always had a bad body for a third baseman. My guess is that he hits the DL at some point in June and that when he comes back he splits time between third and DH. That opens the door for Middlebrooks, a guy who Red Sox fans can dream on a bit. He’s improved every year he’s been in the minors and he’s an immediate upgrade defensively over Youk. Middlebrooks’ approach needs refinement, but he’s demonstrated some pop thus far in the minors. A more likely scenario for a Youkilis injury is Mike Aviles shifting to third and Jose Iglesias getting called up to play short, but I’m not convinced that’s actually an appreciable upgrade over simply calling up Middlebrooks.

10. The Texas Ranger will lose in the World Series for the third straight year

I know I just spent a good chunk of this column talking up Tampa as the best team in baseball, and that this prediction seems a bit cruel, but deal with it okay? I just have a feeling that Texas is heading down the path to becoming the baseball version of the late 80s /early 90s Buffalo Bills, an immensely talented team whose flaws reared their head at the worst possible moments. In Texas’ case, those flaws are manager Ron Washington, and a questionable starting rotation which lacks upside outside of Yu Darvish and Neftali Feliz. Colby Lewis is the Rangers’ opening day starter. His 2011 FIP? 4.54. That’s a problem.

So who’s my World Series pick? The Arizona Diamondbacks. How’s that for bold?

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Aaron Sorkin’s “Newsroom” Looks Really Aaron Sorkin-y

If you — like me — are one of the millions of NERDS who tuned in to last nights Game of Thrones premiere then perhaps you caught the promo for Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO program Newsroom — AKA Sportsnight II: This Time Without Sports. If you didn’t then here it is for your viewing pleasure:

All I can say is AARON SORKIN AARON SORKIN AARON SORKIN. Does this guy have any range at all? All he ever does is ‘behind the scenes everyone is complicated, but not really because all their problems are pretty trite.’ For the record, I actually like Sorkin, I love Sportsnight and The West Wing, hell I’ll even defend Studio 60, although The Social Network and Moneyball were kinda weak sauce . That said, this whole act is getting a bit old, no? Did this show really need to be made? I’ll probably still watch, but I guess what I’m trying to say is bring back Sportsnight. 

Mad Men Season 5: Everyone Gets Lazy

I’m in my mid-twenties and I’m a man of remarkably few accomplishments. I’m also tremendously lazy. I guess that’s why I can understand why Don Draper doesn’t seem to care anymore. Don’s pretty much got it all at this point. He’s at the top of his profession and he’s got a 20 year old wife who sings him “Zou Bissou Bissou” on his birthday. So what if he just wants a nap now?

Of course the truth about Don’s new found ambivalence is undoubtedly deeper than simple aging and contentment. Mad Men has always been more about the transformation of American culture than it has been about advertising. From the beginning of this season it’s become pretty clear that the show’s old guard is quickly falling behind the times. Last night’s scene at the Rolling Stones concert was instructive. 1962 Don Draper would have found a way to make that impossible situation work. 1966 Don Draper just isn’t cool enough and he doesn’t really seem to care.

For the past few seasons I’ve been operating on the assumption that Don would basically become Roger Sterling as he aged, a theory that I thought was confirmed when Don married his receptionist at the end of last season. It’s pretty clear now that that theory is flat out wrong. The two men have very different motivations. Roger Sterling has been on an alcohol fueled downslide for some time, but at least he’s still fighting, holding on to the ledge by his fingers, to paraphrase his own words. The reason is that Roger is a man motivated largely by pride. He can’t stand the thought of Pete Campbell — whom he brought into the business — upstaging him and he’ll fight tooth and nail to keep Campbell in his place. Don, for all his other faults, has never seemed a particularly proud man. His motivations have always been more about his insecurities. Those insecurities are now largely gone. Everyone knows about Dick Whitman now and Don can finally let his guard down and do what he really wants to do; sleep.

Don’s not the only one letting himself go. An interesting parallel is ex-wife Betty. Like Don, Betty finally has what she’s always wanted: a rich man who won’t cheat on her, and now she’s going to do what she wants; eat Bugles and ice cream*. Also like Don, Betty has always been driven by her insecurities largely linked to her incompetence as a mother and Don’s philandering**. Now the kids are older, she has help, and Don is largely out of the picture. Betty’s old weaknesses returned for a moment with the cancer scare, but as soon as she was in the clear, she went right back to her bad old habits.

There’s generally an overarching theme to each season of Mad Men, so far this season’s theme seems to be that everyone gets lazy.

* — January Jones in a fat suit has to be one of the most iconic TV images of the past year and possibly the funniest TV moment of 2012 so far. It certainly beats anything The Big Bang Theory has done throughout its existence.

** — I always found it interesting that despite his drinking and wenching, Don has always been the better parent of the two.

Anthony Davis Unibrow Watch: A Rushed and Disinterested Final Four Preview

It snowed less than an inch this morning in Connecticut. We haven’t had much of a winter, save for Treepocalypse 2011, which cost us 8 days of power in late October. However, even though the weather was relatively nice, winter sucked extra because our beloved UCONN Huskies were easily the most disappointing team in college basketball, stumbling through the regular season and losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Iowa State, which is gross. As such, I’ve really only been half watching this year’s tournament, and that half-watching is all hate watching. That being the case, this year’s Final Four is a veritable hater’s buffet. Let’s dig in shall we?

6:00 PM — 4 Louisville vs. 1 Kentucky

The rivalry with the least teeth in all of sports. Literally. Let’s start with the favorite, Kentucky. We could go with the low hanging fruit and simply note that even if the Wildcats do win the National Championship, they’ll just have to vacate it two years from now, when Outside the Lines discovers the Asian kid who John Callipari paid to take Anthony Davis’ SAT for him. However, that wouldn’t be quite mean spirited enough, so let’s just mock physical appearances instead…

UNIBROW UNIBROW UNIBROW. Tweezers are not expensive, you know. Also, Ashley Judd is old now, and has never been in a good movie.

As for Louisville, I’ll start by noting that Rick Pitino is sleazier than John Callipari, which is pretty hard to be. Also, Louisville is the Detroit of Appalachia. Try and wrap your head around that for a moment.

8:49 PM — 2 Ohio St. vs. 2 Kansas

Dear Buckeyes,

Calling yourself The Ohio State University doesn’t make us think that you’re super classy and smart. It makes us all hate you even more. Your entire state is lucky that Florida exists because otherwise we’d just blame you for all of our problems. Thad Matta is a dumb name and Jared Sullinger is a moron who cost himself millions of dollars by not entering last year’s draft. Now kindly go back to being irrelevant until the next time we need a story about escaped exotic animals.

Sincerely,

Everyone

As for Kansas, well you’re just not relevant enough to be mocked the same way as Ohio and Kentucky. Sorry, now return to your cornfield.

So yeah, this year’s Final Four kinda sucks (at least in my very biased opinion). Just remember, when Kentucky loses, we all win.

A Friendly Reminder: ‘Game of Thrones’ is Back This Sunday

HBO’s Game of Thrones was easily the best new television program that debuted last season and it’s back this Sunday to melt all of our faces off again. I’ve read the books (because I’m a dork) so I won’t provide any analysis for fear of giving something away, but even though Ned Stark is dead there are plenty of new characters to whet your nerdy little appetites. So just watch it, K? Sunday 9:00 EST, HBO, and when it’s done flip over to AMC and watch Mad Men because you’re cool and sophisticated. If you don’t have HBO, well that kinda sucks.

$2 Billion Seems Like a Lot for the Dodgers, Just Sayin’

A group led by  Guggenheim Partners (private equity) CEO Mark Walters and featuring Los Angeles icon Magic Johnson bought the Dodgers for $2 billion this morning. You read that correctly, $2 billion. If that seems like a lot for a sports team, especially one in as dire straits as the Dodgers — whose owner is bankrupt, has been running through bridge financing like pez, and spent last summer fighting with baseball over his TV contract — it’s because it is

The price would shatter the mark for a sports franchise. Stephen Ross paid $1.1 billion for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 2009, and in England, Malcolm Glazer and his family took over the Manchester United soccer club in 2005 in a deal then valued at $1.47 billion.

Neither of those teams is a great analogue for the sale of the Dodgers. The Dolphins, despite being the most pathetic franchise in the NFL, are still an NFL franchise, which ensures them consistent profitability. Manchester United is an international sports behemoth, a mothership — if you will allow me a stretched analogy — that sucks money from all the feeble minded people who want to seem urbane by feigning a love for soccer, but don’t want to actually watch the sport. The Dodgers are a team in LA, which means people wear their hats and show up for four innings of their games.

But wait you say, Los Angeles is a large market, and the Dodgers are still beloved by many, and inflation! that has to be part of it right? Well sure, how’s this for a comp:

The current record for a baseball franchise is the $845 million paid by the Ricketts family for the Chicago Cubs in 2009.

The Cubs and the Dodgers are pretty similar actually — big market team, bankrupt owner, recent (or longer) history of semi-competence, cash cow stadium, strong fanbase — I don’t see how two years make the Dodgers worth twice as much. In case you’re wondering, core inflation has been more or less flat since 2009 and inflation would be a weak explanation anyways. Additionally, the Dodgers don’t have a structure in place like the Red Sox and Yankees who own and operate their own regional sports networks, significantly enhancing their values considerably. In fact, the Wilpons — who own the Mets and their network SNY — should probably consider selling right away, who knows they could make $4 billion or something.

As for the aforementioned broke owner, Frank McCourt, he’s making out like a bandit.

McCourt paid $430 million in 2004 to buy the team, Dodger Stadium and 250 acres of land that includes the parking lots, from the Fox division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., a sale that left the team with about $50 million in cash at the time. The team’s debt stood at $579 million as of January, according to a court filing, so McCourt stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars even after a $131 million divorce payment to former wife Jamie, taxes, and legal and banking fees.

McCourt bought the team after failing in his bid for his hometown Red Sox (he made his bones building parking structures in Boston). What the article failed to mention was that $579MM in debt exists largely because McCourt spent much of his ownership tenure treating the Dodgers like his own personal credit card, which was fine until his wife divorced him for being insane and he had to fight a protracted court battle in an attempt to keep the team along with a good chunk of his wealth. Just goes to show you kids, that if you’re rich, you can buy yourself an expensive bauble, leverage yourself to the teeth, and generally behave like a reprehensible tool, and someone else with a lot of money will come along and make you rich again.

This whole debacle speaks to exactly how opaque the market for Major League teams is. If at the start of the bidding process for the Dodgers you set the final sale price at $2 billion you’d likely be laughed out of the room. Most reasonable commenters would have predicted something around what the Ricketts bought the Cubs for, maybe a little higher. At the same time, MLB allows people like McCourt, Jerry Reinsdorf, the Wilpons, and Jeff Loria (look them all up) to buy and sell teams, but basically forced Jeff Moorad to drop his bid for the Padres (he’s already a minority owner) by giving him the silent treatment. Moorad’s proven to be an effective manager during his years as a minority owner and CEO with Arizona and San Diego, so why wouldn’t baseball want him to be an owner? He’s a former player agent, which is way too unsavory for Bud Selig and his cronies, but I digress.

As for Dodgers fans, they should be happy. Having this type of professional investor as an owner is generally a good thing, at least if the Red Sox are to be used as an analogue. Private equity folks get a bad rap — deservedly so in some cases — but one thing that they do know is how to delegate, which is important when running a baseball team. It’s pretty safe to say that Ned Colletti’s days in Chavez ravine are numbered. In any case, after spending $2 billion to get the team, it would be pretty strange for the new owners to get stingy all of a sudden. Also, Angelenos get to have Magic Johnson as their teams’ owner.

Maybe I’m missing something, still, $2B seems like a lot to pay for the Dodgers, just sayin’.

Update: The consensus seems to be that the sale price is based on the ability to build a YES or NESN style network for the Dodgers, which is a very plausible explanation. I still believe the number is high, but it seems like the new owners really wanted the team.

Uninformed Baseball Preview: AL East

This is the sixth in a series of posts previewing the upcoming baseball season.

This will likely come as no surprise, but the AL East is stacked. Three of the four best teams in the AL, if not the entire sport, reside in the division, and the Toronto isn’t far behind the top three. There’s also Baltimore, but we won’t worry too much about them. Here’s how I see things shaking out:

1. Tampa Bay Rays (Projected 2012 Record: 96-66)

There isn’t another team in baseball that looks as good and as balanced as Tampa. The only real complaints that can be made about this roster is that they won’t get much offense at shortstop or catcher, but very few teams do. There are some other question marks, but they’re heavily outweighed by the positives.

To start, Tampa goes six deep in the rotation, with phenom Matt Moore taking over as the number five starter and Jeff Niemann — who’s been a pretty effective pitcher the last couple years — moving to the bullpen. Veterans David Price and James Shields anchor the top of the rotation. Price, a former number one overall pick, has settled in nicely as one of the best lefties in the game and could be making a Cy Young run this season. Shields may regress a bit from next year — he had a .258 BABIP against in 2011, and it’s hard to imagine him pitching 11 complete games for a second year in a row — but he’s got a long enough track record as an effective starter (he’s been worth at least 2 WAR every year since 2007) that both Rays fans shouldn’t be too worried about him. Third starter Jeremy Hellickson is coming off of a season in which he posted a 2.95 ERA. Unfortunately, his performance was greatly aided by a .223 BABIP, so some regression should be expected. Still, Tampa is a spectacular defensive team, which leads to generally lower BABIPs for their pitchers, and Hellickson’s minor league track record suggests that he should be a very good third option. Fourth starter Wade Davis has never quite lived up to the hype that he generated in the minors, but he was much more effective after he started throwing a cutter last September and he should eat enough innings to be valuable at the back of the rotation even if he posts an ERA around 4.4. The real prize here could be fifth starter Moore, a lefthander who in a cup of coffee last season showed easy velocity and quality secondary pitches. In a year, he could be the undisputed ace of this group. Niemann will likely swing back to the rotation if anyone gets hurt. The Rays don’t like to rush their prospects so it would be surprising to see another of their high-ceiling arms like Chris Archer in the majors before September.

The bullpen could be the one thing that keeps this team from reaching its full potential. Kyle Farnsworth returns as the closer, and there are some familiar, if largely unproven, names. That said, Tampa understands reliever volatility better than any other team in baseball and has built some very effective relief corps in the past, largely out of spare parts.

The Rays’ pitching strength is bolstered by their outstanding defense. Tampa is above average defensively at every position in the field, and third baseman Evan Longoria and center fielder BJ Upton are arguably the best at their respective positions with the glove. Where things are less sure for the Rays are in the offensive department. Longoria is a star, as is second baseman Ben Zobrist, but shortstop Reid Brignac was actually below replacement level last year and should probably lose his starting job to Sean Rodriguez. Left fielder Desmond Jennings earns natural comparisons to Carl Crawford, but he looks like a different type of player after hitting 10 home runs in  63 games last season. Jennings’ true power level is probably less than that, but he should be a very effective player for years to come. Upton is another question mark with the bat as while he has shown some propensity for making big plays, he also seems to lose focus in key moments. Right fielder Matt Joyce crushes left handed pitching. First baseman Carlos Pena is another question mark, he won’t hit for much average, but he still draws enough walks to get on base at an acceptable rate. If Pena can hit at least 25 homers he should be an upgrade over Casey Kotchman. With Jose Molina behind the plate, the Rays are basically punting offense at catcher.

The Rays look like the best team in baseball, not because there aren’t any question marks surrounding them, but because the questions seem less critical than those of their competitors. It may be cliched to say that teams that do the little things well win, but the Rays understand their own players better than any other team and manager Joe Maddon consistently gets as much value as possible out of his roster.

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Attention Whores Use Attention Whores to Attention Whore

I generally wake up on Monday and trawl in the intertoobz for silly stories which I can use to knock out a quick post to start the week. Make of that what you will, I find it’s helpful to pick some low hanging fruit to build a bit of momentum. It’s not like anyone reads this blog anyway. In any case, this morning I happened to find the lowest hanging of fruits: politicians complaining about TV. The Inception-esque quality of the attention whoring in this story is delicious:

The West Hollywood City Council wants Bravo’s reality series Shahs Of Sunset to change its ways and stop “perpetuating negative stereotypes about Iranian-Americans.” The pols used their jurisdiction to slam the Ryan Seacrest-produced series about Iranian-Americans living in Beverly Hills (think a milder, West Coast version of MTV”s Jersey Shore, with more money).

Attention whores attention whoring by complaining about other attention whores? BRAHM.

Side note, I think Deadline nailed it with their description of Shahs of Sunset. I can almost imagine the pitch meeting at Bravo:

“Hey, you know how the Jersey Shore is a big hit and all?”

“Yeah, but we can’t put a bunch of Italians in a beach house, it would be too transparent. Besides we’ve already got The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

“No problem, I’ve got the perfect solution: Persians. They’re swarthy and they like graphic tees, hair gel, and clubbing.”

“Genius! Bring on the hookers and coke!”

Fire Geraldo Rivera

I keep promising not to write about politics, but people in politics keep doing stupid things, so I’m forced to write about them. Le Sigh. Anyways, today, America’s favorite mustachioed news clown and failed vault opener Geraldo Rivera took to Fox News Latino, which is like the Doritos Locos Taco of Latin News to pen the single dumbest news column of our very dumb times. I could present it without comment, and then you (the two people who read this blog) would laugh, and then cry, but this is so FJM worthy that it’s hard to pass up…

 “Take that thing off,” I snarled at my dashing, dark, handsome then late-teenage son. Named for his grandfather, in those not so long ago days Cruz styled himself a ghetto gangster, fashion-wise. His baseball cap worn askew, the rim almost unbent, I worried that gravity would leave his brown behind, bare-assed when his low-slung pants completed their descent to his knees just a step or bump away.

Geraldo Rivera, romance novelist. Also, heard of belts, Gerry?

“And pick up your pants,” I often added as he walked out the door.

Bill Cosby demands his royalies.

Let me leave the issue of low-slung pants for another day; except to say that any kid who looks for a job similarly dressed is not seriously looking for a job, unless it is as a bank robber or pimp.

Robbing banks sometimes involves running, so baggy pants aren’t really practical there either, but I digress. Or you do, I can’t tell, get to the point.

Jay-ZEminem and the tiny handful of others aside, as President Obama wisely once said, “Maybe you’re the next Lil Wayne, but probably not.”

Not sure how this is relevant.

It was a refreshing moment when the leader of the political party that sometimes revels in victimization spoke the plain truth. Most success is not flashy. It requires heavy lifting and an education. It also demands personal responsibility because regardless of the bad hand poor folk are dealt; they must do the best they can to provide for themselves and their families.

Like Geraldo Rivera, who has failed upward for his entire career. Again, I don’t see what any of this has to do with Trayvon Martin being shot for being black and wanting Skittles.

Opinion: Does Race Play a Role in the Trayvon Martin Case Even if Zimmerman is Not White?

Not actually part of the column, but yes it does, because again, Trayvon Martin was black and he was shot for that reason — or I guess for looking suspicious, which is code for looking black.

Posing like a hip hop mogul when the holes in your pants are real is ultimately self-defeating.

Not when you’re in high school, and it gets you laid. I didn’t realize that 17 year olds should be interviewing for investment banking jobs.

But leave the subject of self-destructive pretense for another time, let’s talk hoodies.

Oooo, let’s. I personally like zip-ups. I have a personal favorite that zips up all that way around the hood. Sometimes when I’m out drinking I’ll zip the hood over my face and make ghost sounds. I’m super popular if you can’t tell.

His hoodie killed Trayvon Martin as surely as George Zimmerman did.

Not unless his hoodie pulled out a gun and shot him.

Remember when my friend and colleague the estimable Juan Williams got fired from NPR for saying that Muslims formally garbed freaked him out at airports? Juan is among America’s sharpest commentators. He wasn’t justifying his reaction, he was copping to it.

Juan Williams also never shot a Muslim who looked suspicious and then got away with it. Also, what Juan said was pretty racist.

Maybe shock therapy or a semester of sensitivity training could change it, otherwise It is what it is.

Of course everyone is entitled to their prejudices, they’re not entitled to shoot people because of them.

No one black, brown or white can honestly tell me that seeing a kid of color with a hood pulled over his head doesn’t generate a certain reaction, sometimes scorn, often menace.

I can. Nice projection there, Geraldo.

When you see that kid coming your way, unless you specifically recognize him you are thinking ghetto or ghetto wannabe high-style or low-brow wise-ass. Pedestrians cross the street to avoid black or brown hoodie wearers coming their way.

Really? I’ve gotta start wearing hoodies more. Also, again, crossing the street because you’re a pissant racist isn’t the same as shooting an innocent teenager. Just pointing that out for the logically impaired.

Because this is a teachable moment let me speak plainly.

Oh, please do, I’ve had enough of your subtly veiled hate-mongering.

Whatever Reverends Sharpton and Jackson say in Florida Friday, after listening to the 911 tapes and hearing the witness’ testimonials, I believe Trayvon Martin would be alive today but for his hoodie.

Funny, because after listening to those same tapes and witnesses, I believe Trayvon Martin would be alive if George Zimmerman hadn’t  followed him — against police advice — and shot him, with a gun.

I want the feds to thoroughly investigate and prosecute vigorously if the evidence warrants. But understanding the wrath currently focused on George Zimmerman and the police chief and the town council and the gun sellers and everyone else, I am begging parents of kids in Trayvon’s vulnerable demographic to heed my politically incorrect approach to this story.

Kids, please don’t listen to Geraldo Rivera.

If you dress like a hoodlum eventually some schmuck is going to take you at your word.

Wearing a hoodie is not, “dressing like a hoodlum.”

Remember Elvis’ ‘In the ghetto’? or that old Johnny Cash song about not taking ‘your guns to town son, leave your guns at home Bill, don’t take your guns to town?’

Wonderful advice for people like George Zimmerman. All Trayvon Martin had on him was a bag of Skittles and some Arizona Iced Tea.

The kid in the both songs dies in totally predictable gun fights. Trayvon was unarmed save his box of skittles. But his hoodie gave his assailant cause to think him the enemy.

No, for the millionth time, it didn’t. The only things that gave George Zimmerman that cause were his own racism and vigilante complex. Oh and also, Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

Maybe his specific encounter with an over-zealous, gun-toting, blood-lusting neighborhood-watch captain was less predictable than usual, but not by much.

It always astonishes me the way morons can look at information and draw the absolute wrong conclusions from it. This type of situation may be all too common, but it isn’t because of magical hoodies that force neighborhood watch vigilantes to shoot unarmed black kids. If every black kid in America wore a suit all the time, Trayvon Martin would still be dead, because the clothes people wear don’t make racists less racist.

Feds To Investigate Killing of Black Teen by Florida Latino

Also not part of the column, but I love the way that this is already being spun by outlets like Fox as a case of dirty minorities shooting each other. You know, like minorities always do. I feel like puking.

I am begging parents to unbait the trap. Don’t let your child provoke madness. Agonize all you want about the unfairness of stereotypes. Argue how it amounts to a million, million little cuts of racial profiling. Work to change the world. Rail against the inequities of life; but don’t let your child go out into the hard cruel world wearing a costume that is really a sign that says ‘shoot me.’

And while you’re at it, just bleach their skin, that’ll probably help more than changing their clothing.

‘And as his mama cries,’ sang Elvis.

Yeah, just like Trayvon Martin’s family is crying right now.

In all seriousness, it’s fun to tear apart idiots like Geraldo, because they’re low hanging fruit. What’s really sad is that a large portion of the American populace probably read this nonsense and nodded right along. Just to be clear, here’s why Trayvon Martin is dead. A vigilante wanna-be saw him walking home from 7-11, realized he was black and decided that he must be up to no good, because everyone knows that Skittles are the first sign that dusky folks are up to no good. Said neighborhood watch moron called the police, which is his right to do, but then pursued Trayvon — who was clearly terrified at this point — after the police told him not to. Then he shot the poor kid to death. After all this, the police let George Zimmerman go without so much as a breathalizer, because hey, the kid was black and “Stand Your Ground” is the law of the land in Florida. Geraldo Rivera’s solution to this type of systematic malfeasance? Stop wearing hoodies, dark people. This is your public discourse, America. Cherish it.

Old Lame People Will be Delighted

I try not to do a lot of politics, but I figure one thing that we can all agree on is that Mitt Romney is super lame. I don’t really care whether you agree with him on the issues or plan to vote for him, he’s lame. You know who won’t mind? Jay Leno’s viewers:

According to NBC, this is Mitt Romney‘s first sit-down appearance on late-night TV since entering the 2012 presidential contest. Not since December 1st, 2010, has Romney been a guest on The Tonight Show — maybe because Jay Leno makes the GOP presidential primary frontrunner a regular target.

Romney voters and Leno viewers may be the most perfect overlap I can think of since they’re both almost exclusively geriatric and comedy impaired. Enjoy!