Friday, May 30, 2008

Hooray For Me

Not a real entry here; just a-tootin' my own horn. Here's two articles about Josh Hamilton and Ken Griffey Jr—stuff I wrote about already. Which means that these major sportswriters are reading my stuff and then biting off me!! Hooray for ANDAPLAYERTOBENAMEDLATER.com.

Here's the Josh Hamilton article I wrote a while back followed by the SI article:

http://andaplayertobenamedlater.blogspot.com/2008/04/what-might-have-been.html

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/albert_chen/05/27/hamilton0602/


Here's the article I wrote on Ken Griffey followed by Sportsline.com article written a few days later:

http://andaplayertobenamedlater.blogspot.com/2008/05/good-baseball-men.html

http://www.sportsline.com/mlb/story/10847710

Just kidding about all the bragging stuff. I just wanted to say thanks to the readers of this blog. I love doing it and hope you guys like it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Good Baseball Men

I've said this before, I know. I screamed about it, ranted about it and cursed the world for being this way. But at the risk of repetition, I'm gonna say it again.

We pay too much attention to athletes for the wrong reasons—for whom they are dating, for the crimes they commit, for the spectacle they create—and not enough for the genuine achievements they accomplish. And the result of this poorly-paid attention is we overlook indisputably notable accomplishments. For instance, two things happened last week and neither received so much as a blimp on the radar of our ever-decreasing attention.

Mike Piazza retired last week and Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 598th HR, closing in on being only the 6th person ever to hit 600. If you missed this, don't worry, everyone else did as well. Despite these guys never once having a sniff of controversy about them—especially when both of them played in, and accomplished all their amazing stats during the steroid era, it seems we'd all rather focus on Brett Farve's locker and Carlos Guillen's hemorrhoids.

Ken Griffey is 11 HRs away from Sammy Sosa and is closing on 600, which he should have in a week or two. While that is remarkable enough, consider this...Griffey hasn't played in 160 games since 1999 and only played in 140 twice since 2000. Imagine his career is he remains relatively healthy the past 8 years? Like Bonds, he would be closing in on Hank Aaron's home run record; however, unlike Bonds, without the tawdry and farcical charade Bonds' approach of that record was. Also, he would have shattered the 3000 hit mark years ago and would have been somewhere around 3500 hits. He is 19th on the all-time RBI list, 4th on the all-time walk list, 13th all-time in At Bats per Home Run, 19th in total bases and 27th in all-time Slugging Percentage. All of which would have been considerable higher if he had been healthy—which makes it all the more remarkable and commendable that he didn't go the way of Clemens, Bonds and Sheffield and try to "heal himself" via steroids. No, he accomplished these awesome stats the honest and right way. Frankly, if he had stayed just a little healthier, he'd have been in the conversation for title of the best ever.

12-time All-Star Mike Piazza, as we've all heard, was drafted in the 62nd round by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a favor to Tommy Lasorda, who was a friend of the family. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1993, as well as the Silver Slugger Award for catchers—which he then went on to win the next 9 subsequent years. Piazza also finished 2nd twice in the MVP voting (once to Ken Caminiti, he of the steroid confessions) In 2000, he almost single-handedly willed the Mets to the World Series by batting .412 in the NLCS against the Cardinals. He had a slugging percentage of .636 against the Yankees in World Series. He holds almost every hitting record for catchers you could think of—bettering marks by Bench, Berra, Dickey and Fisk. Without question, he is the best hitting catcher in the game of baseball's history.

However, you wouldn't notice any of this if you were a faithful watcher of sports media. Piazza's retirement didn't get one iota of the 16 hours that "Man-Girl and The Meatball's" radio show spent on Meatball's Hotdog-eating challenge? (Truly Hilarious Stuff!!) Ken Griffeys' approaching 600 HRs didn't register a blip of the hoopla that Bonds' Tour of Shame got. Is ESPN championing Griffeys' becoming only the 6th person in baseball history to 600 HRs in any way? Did it offer the retirement of the best hitting catcher in the history of baseball a smidge of the hoopla that it gave Brett Farve's retirement?

No. And it's not right. So, Mike and Kenny, I hope in some small way, this blog makes up of that huge hole. Piazza, enjoy your well-earned retirement. And Griff, here's hoping you stay healthy and make a run way past Sosa and beyond. Good baseball men both.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Transactions....

Guys like Kareem Osgood and Chris Baker amuse the heck out of me. They are upset that they aren't starting and aren't getting starting money. So to rectify this, what do they do. Of course! Don't show up to camp! Please tell me how forcing a coach to design plays and practice plays where you aren't involved is the way to get starter money, dudes?
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So Herm Edwards says he's going to "take it easy" on Larry Johnson. Yeah, right. He said that every year, and by halftime of game one, he had run about 25 plays for Curtis Martin. So, pardon me if I call "Bull!" on Herm. He drives his running backs into the ground. Always has, always will, no matter what he says in May.
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel surmises that if the Brew Crew are out of it by July, they might try and trade Ben Sheets. If that's the case, I think the Yanks should take a good look. Not saying we should sell the farm for Sheets, but he might be had for considerably cheaper than Johan. Say, Melky, Chase Wright and maybe a low-level prospect?
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And what's with the players in the NFL complaining about having to cut their hair because a new NFL policy might force them to. Oh, boo hoo. "I used to have long hair," says Packers tailback Ryan Grant. "It's someone's right, and for some, it's part of their religion or culture." Oh, spare me. Says Dhani Jones, "There has to be a limit to what they can control. Next, it'll be how long your fingernails can be or how white your teeth are." Yeah, maybe they will...because they are paying you. This is a job. And if your boss wants you to wear a suit, cut your hair or look presentable, you do it if you want to get paid. You don't like it, the world needs some checkout baggers.
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So, Vince Young is saying that he almost retired after his first year. Listen to the sad..."It was crazy being an NFL quarterback. It wasn't fun anymore. All of the fun was out of it. All of the excitement was gone. All I was doing was worrying about things." Yeah, I'm sure it was real tough, Vince. But once again, ANDAPLAYERTOBENAMEDLATER calls "Bull!" A couple of days without the monster checks coming in and I think ole Vince would have rediscovered how much he really loves being a QB and what that can bring you. As we can see by this picture, he really, really, does love it. Still, it must be reassuring to the Titans that their franchise QB is kind of a flake.
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Hey, just heard this little tidbit. When that first night game was played 73 years ago, just over 7 million fans attended major league games each year. Today, attendance is more than 10 times that figure with over 76 million people filling the seats at stadiums around the country annually. So if anyone starts complaining they miss the "Golden Age" of baseball when fans were real fans, you tell them we're living in it now.
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And last, ANDAPLAYERTOBENAMEDLATER Man of the Week Award goes to Jay Cutler. Recently, Cutler revealed he has diabetes and lost 35 pounds last year. And not only are teammates impressed with his business-as-usual demeanor, but in continuing to play, he has inspired fans. He has gotten 500 emails from fans saying they support him, many from kids who say they have it too.

"A lot of kids get diagnosed each day who are under 8," says Cutler. "I can't imagine their parents having to wake their 3-year-old up three times a night to prick their finger to check their blood sugar level.

Cutler will practice with an iPod-sized insulin pump to regulate his blood sugar.

"Guys look at Jay and the way he's handled things and their problems don't seem half as bad," Champ Bailey says. "I'm amazed at the way he's handled it. I thought he'd be freaking out right now. But he hasn't shown one sign of emotion. He hasn't missed a workout. Jay's a natural leader. He gets it."

"When I get things settled, I want to do something to help raise awareness, especially with kids," Cutler has said. And for that, he gets the Man of the Week award. And Bailey is right. He does get it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Those Who Served


On Memorial Day, I thought I'd take a few seconds to tell a few stories about guys who served in the Armed Forces. This is by no means a full and comprehensive list, and it is not meant to be a condemnation of athletes who don't serve or who protest military action. It's just a few stories I'd like to share about guys who served.

Yogi Berra:
The king of the Malapropism, Yogi Berra, before he played baseball, served on a boat that invaded Normandy on D-Day. Barely 18 years old, he volunteered for the Navy. In 1944, he was part of the invasion of Omaha Beach and was on a boat about 150 yards off the coast. The ships' job was to clear the way for the army transports, which meant it went in before a lot of the other ships in the invasion. Yogi and his boat were out in the water, under fire for twelve days.

"I never brought it up. I never said that I was in the service, unless someone asked me," said Berra. "There are other things to think about."

Rocky Bleier:
Rocky Bleier was best known for playing fullback for the Pittsburgh Steeler teams during the 70s. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1968, Bleier went to Vietnam to serve his country. While in country, Bleier was ambushed and was hit with grenade shrapnel in his right leg and rifle fire. He was told by doctors he would never play football again. While recuperating, he received a postcard from Steelers owner Art Rooney which read "Rock - the team's not doing well. We need you. Art Rooney."

One year after being wounded, Bleier reported to Steelers training camp. He spent two full years trying to regain a spot on the active roster, and was even waived on two occasions. Eventually, an off-season training regimen brought Bleier back to 212 pounds in the summer of 1974. From that point on, he would be in the Steelers' starting lineup. 1974 was also the first year the Steelers won a Super Bowl.

Ted Williams:
While many consider Ted Williams the greatest hitter who ever lived, most don't know he stats were impeded by 5 years of service he gave his country in WWII and in Korea. After volunteering for a flight training assignment, he served as a flight instructor for the Marines during WWII. In 1952, Williams, who was on inactive reserve duty for the Marines, and was 33, married and with a child, who called up for active duty. He was sent to Korea and flew 37 combat missions. John Glenn, who was in the same squadron as Ted Williams, had this to say about Williams during one mission: "Once, he was on fire and had to belly land the plane back in," Glenn said. "He slid it in on the belly. It came up the runway about 1,500 feet before he was able to jump out and run off the wingtip. Another time he was hit in the wingtip tank when I was flying with him. So he was a very active combat pilot, and he was an excellent pilot and I give him a lot of credit."

"Everybody tries to make a hero out of me over the Korean thing," Williams once said. "I was no hero. There were maybe 75 pilots in our two squadrons and 99 percent of them did a better job than I did. But I liked flying. It was the second-best thing that ever happened to me. If I hadn't had baseball to come back to, I might have gone on as a Marine pilot."

Bob Feller:
On December 8th, 1941, Bob Feller who was an all-start pitcher and who had won the triple crown of pitchers in 1940, joined the Navy. he was the first major leaguer to volunteer for combat duty after Pearl Harbor. He was 23.

He was gun crew chief on the U.S.S. Alabama for the duration of the war, which fought at Tarawa, Iwo Jima, and in the Marshall Islands. For his service, he earned five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars.

"I'm very proud of my war record, just like my baseball record. I would never have been able to face anybody and talk about my baseball record if I hadn't spent time in the service."

Pat Tillman:
There's been a lot said about Pat Tillman. Some people thought he was a "G.I. Joe guy, who got what was coming to him." Others felt he was a hero who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Here are the facts. He was a seventh round draft pick who played his way into the Arizona Cardinal starting rotation. He earned $512,000 as a safety for the Arizona Cardinals in 2001. Then, motivated by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he turned down a three-year, $3.6 million offer from the Cardinals to enlist in the Army. He was killed in action by friendly fire in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004.

Despite the controversial way and subsequent investigations into Tillman's death, Pat's jersey is the top selling Cardinal jersey in their franchise and is consistently on the top jerseys sold in the NFL.

Sometime today, between the ballgame and the B-B-Q and the third beer, remember those who sacrificed their time, money, loved ones and lives for their country.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The 1/4 Mark, pt 2

Let's continue with how well we've done predicting the MLB, and what's gonna happen going forward:

NL East: The Mets are a mess. I predicted them to pretty much run away with the Easy, and now they're barely .500. And really, there is no reason for this. Sure, Pedro is out, but Santana is gold, Maine is a rock, and Billy Wagner hasn't given up in this season. But right now, it seems as if the Mets are playing to get Willie Randolph fired before June 15th. I felt that the Braves could have a bounce back year, and so far, so good. Jair Jurrjens and Tim Hudson make up a great 1-2 punch in the rotation (the Braves have a 3.56 team ERA 2nd in the NL), while Chipper Jones and Brian McCann do the damage with the lumber (the Braves have a .281 team BA, 2nd in the NL). Problem is, Atlanta has a total of 7 saves—10 less than F-Rod on the Angels—and are 2-12 in one-run games. I predicted Chase Utley to be the NL MVP and so far, he's making me look smart—he's batting .306 and has hit 14 HRs. Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard have chipped in with 10 HRs apiece. But outside of Cole Hamels, the Phillies just don't have the pitching. The Nationals are right where we all thought they'd be, near the bottom of the NL. But the surprise of the NL East is the Marlins. Despite shaky fielding, average hitting and middle-of-the-pack pitching, the Marlins lead the I-don't-want-it, you-take-it "race" in the NL East. Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez are doing the damage with the bat and Scott Olsen, despite a Jamie Moyer-like fastball, leads the staff with a under 3.00 ERA.

Going Forward: A surprise...Smoltz gets healthy and helps the Braves surge past the freak show Mets and Marlins.
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NL Central: Pretty much I was right with the first and last place teams in the NL Central. It's the middle that's all jumbled up. The Cubs lead this division, no surprise there. They have the bats (highest BA in the National League) and with Ted Lilly calming down his last few starts, the rotation seems to be solid enough (Carlos Sambrano and Ryan Dempster both being sub 2.5 ERA guys so far). The Cardinals however, have really surprised. Both their pitching and hitting (especially guys not named Albert Pujols) have been better than advertised. We'll see how long they can keep this up. The Astros, I said could be a surprise team, and so far, they are. Lance Berkman has been playing on another level and Miquel Tejada seems ecstatic to be out of Baltimore. Hunter Pence seems like a keeper, and Michael Bourne has contributed 18 steals to the Astros league-leading 48. Beyond them, Milwaukee has been a little disappointing. Ryan Braun has been super and Prince Fielder has been heating up, but Bill Hall, J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks have been sub par. And while yes, both Yovani Gallardo and Chris Capuano are out from the rotation from injuries, the rest of the staff not named Ben Sheets has let the team down. The Reds have been typically bipolar—which is what you'd expect from a bunch of kids playing next to aging veterans. The Reds have a chance to be good, just not this year. And Pittsburgh....sigh. Well, they haven't been as bad as they have been.

Going Forward: Nobody really chases the Cubs....they make it to the NL Championship.
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NL West: Sick was how I described the D-Back rotation and sick is how they'd pitched. First in the NL for ERA with a ERA of 3.8 or less. And Doug Davis due to come back off the DL this Friday. Also, I wrote in March that "They need CF Chris Young (25), Justin Upton (20), Conor Jackson (25), Stephen Drew (25) and the other very young D’Backs to mature and gain more plate discipline." And for the most part, they have, which each betting their 2007 BA. Also playing up to their talent are the Dodgers. That is, except for Andruw Jones, who has been teh-rib-bull. Aside from him, Joe Torre hasn't been afraid to use youngsters like Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Delwyn Young among others...anything he has to do to get the win...which is a nice change in L.A. The other three teams have fallen way back already...which is no surprise for the Giants. They seemed like a terribly built team in the spring and they act like a terribly built team now. The less said about them, the better. Colorado has taken a giant step backwards this year—especially their hitting. With Troy Tulowitski out and Hawpe and Helton regressing a little, it's been up to Holliday and Atkins to provide the hitting. And while they have, it's not enough. But last year the Rockies didn't start rolling till late summer. Maybe they can right the ship by then. The same goes for the Padres...who can't seem to hit anything. Only 1 of their starters is batting above .300 (Brian Giles and only 2 others above .270. They have already let their main free agent go (Jim Edmonds), and with Jake Peavy injured and Chris Young nowhere near his 2007 numbers, it looks like it might be a long season at Petco Park.

Going Forward: Arizona is just too much for the division, though I think the Dodgers might make a run for the Wild Card.

No major changes to the big predictions...we've still got a lot of baseball left, people. Enjoy.

The 1/4 Mark

OK, we're a little over the quarter-mark of the MLB season. How are we doing on the predictions we made?

AL East: The Sox are where they should be, despite Ortiz batting .250 and Beckett pitching mediocre at best. The Yankees are struggling with their pitching and injuries, but expect them to start knocking balls all over the park by the time this month ends. And while I'm proud to say that when I predicted that the Rays "wouldn't be the punching bag of the AL East much longer," I'd didn't realize it would be by May. I also said Toronto would be in the race if they stayed healthy—as of right now, Vernon Wells, Casey Janssen, Jeremy Accardo, David Eckstein and 2 others are on the DL. And Scott Rolen looks a shell of himself. Baltimore is enjoying a nice pitching revival so far, but they don't have the bats for the long haul. Aside from Nick Markakis and Brady Anderson, no one in this lineup scares anyone.

Going Forward: While I expect the Yanks to come back and grab the Wild Card, the Rays might be for real. Right now.
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AL Central: OK, so I was right and wrong in the AL Central. I said Detroit was overrated and had a lot of problems. Yippee on that one. And I said Cleveland was the big frontrunner for the playoff spot. OK, so that one hasn't worked out...yet. Detroit is right where I thought they would be...bloated lineup, poor infield defense (aside from Polanco) and horrible pitching. Granderson is in an extended slump. Nobody can get to Todd Jones for the 9th inning. And Gary Sheffield is a ghost. In Cleveland, after a bad start, Sabathia looks like he'll be back in form to lead a solid Indian rotation. The problem is no one is hitting. Aside from Victor Martinez, the Indians starting .BA is .250 and lower. Which leaves the surprising White Sox, who have gotten bounce-back years from Javier Vasquez and Jose Contreras and a fantastic year from Gavin Floyd. Good enough to lead the Central. The Royals have shown some signs from their younger players—Luke Hochevar is pitching well, Zach Grienke has been lights-out and Alex Gordon is looking like the face of the Royals for years to come—but they still don't have enough pop. As of Monday, they have only 16 HRS as a team; tied with Lance Berkman. In the spring I said Minnesota lost too much pitching...and I was right. Boof Bonser and Kevin Slowey do not make up for Johan Santana. Though Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez might make for a great defensive, and nice offensive outfield duo for years to come.

Going Forward: Cleveland pitchers calm down and catch up to the White Sox to win the division. The Royals become the team no one wants to face in Sept.
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AL West: Looks like the Angels weathered their pitching injuries just fine. Despite John Lackey not pitching until this week and Kelvim Escobar out until at least July, the Angels still lead in the West (right where I said they'd be) because of twenty wins from the starting pitching combo of Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Jon Garland and Jered Weaver. Oh and Torii Hunter has fit in just fine out west. Seattle, on the other hand is way underwhelming. They have a great three-man rotation in Eric Bedard, Felix Hernandez and Carlos Silva—too bad you need a five-man rotation. And their hitting has been atrocious: Richie Sexton .200 BA, Jose Vidro, .207 BA, Adrien Beltre .241 BA. That's close to 40 million for a lot of nothing. Throw in another 20 million for Washburn and Batista's north-of 6.00 ERA and you got a team that is underachieving. And like the Rays, while I predicted the A's to surprise a few teams this year, I honestly didn't think it would happen in May. Following the Oakland Athletic staple of great starting pitching (not one of the 6 main starters they've used this year has an ERA higher than 3.69), they are bettering a .500 winning percentage this year. Texas is likewise surprising a few people this year with a surprisingly solid starting pitching staff—Vincente Padilla had dropped his ERA almost 3 points from last year to lead a pitching staff without it's star, Kevin Millwood who's out with injury. Josh Hamilton—who has been playing out of his mind so far this far, is the absolute star on offense—he already has 51 RBI this season. They have been undermined however, by sloppy field play—40 errors through Monday's games.

Going Forward: Nobody puts a serious threat to the Angels, who coast into the playoffs.

Tomorrow: The National League

Monday, May 19, 2008

Transactions....

So.....Jason Giambi wears a banana hammock. And he needed to put this image in our heads....why?
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So the tests came back on deceased horse, Eight Belles, and it shows.....nothing. No diseases, no pre-existing bone abnormalities, nothing that caused the filly to break down after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby. And with trainer Larry Jones demanding every kind of steroid and drug test known, to further show that the horse was healthy when she came up lame, you might think PETA and other animal-rights activists would let up. You'd be wrong.

The usual suspects were out in front of the Preakness, demanding the criminals be brought to justice. These are PETA's own words:

"We are calling for cruelty to animal charges to be pressed regarding Eight Belles against the jockey and the owners of the horse...We also say the steward's board at Churchill Downs needs to immediately file a complaint against jockey Gabriel Saez for whipping Eight Belles as she came down the final stretch to the wire. We need standards in place to bar horse owners who allow this kind of cruelty."

Really, people. Cruelty? Has there been the tiniest proton of evidence of cruelty—medical or otherwise? Have the trainer or jockey been shown to be guilty in any way? Here's trainer's Larry Jones words, just after the Kentucky Derby. "I did get to see my son yesterday, and I got to see my daughter today, but I got to see Eight Belles every day. She was our family, she's been with us for a year...and I guess it will be my last ride on her." Jones began to choke up here. "I don't know what to say -- we're heartbroke. We're going to miss her."

A number of logical, well informed suggestions from people who know a heck of a lot about horse racing than I do, have been aired recently. Suggestions like the elimination of the whip and the installation of a serious drug-testing program and health program for the horses. However, nothing, but nothing suggests that any wrongdoing occurred at the Derby. All of this PETA nonsense sounds like uninformed pitchfork-wavers looking for someone to blame. And no that there's no proof that there was any medical masking of a injury to Eight Belles, the PETA Nazis are ganging up on the jockey and his use of the whip. But as Jones said, "This filly in every race has tried to drift toward the rail. It's her comfort zone, and Gabriel knows this. This kid made every move the right move, and I hate it that they're wanting to jump down his throat. He did not try to abuse that horse to make her run faster. He knew he was second best, that she wasn't going to catch Big Brown."

So, PETA. Really. Stop it. It was a tragedy, not a crime. Let it go.
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You know, for my money, I can never get enough of Dr. James Andrews and his consultations.
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A huge event took place last week—or rather non-event—but unless you read Businessweek or sports business journals, you wouldn't know. And that non-happening was, the Yankees decided to not sell the YES Network, their huge revenue-generating Yankee Network. Estimates of the Network's value go as high as 3 billion dollars—money which the Yankees use liberally with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. However, some of the equity houses which own a good portion of the channel and have been rumored to be looking to cash out for the past several years. And without their backing, the Yankees might have been forced to sell the channel.
Without the network's revenue, the Yankees would have been in a financially weaker position when it comes to free agency and investing in the team. And it might have been interesting. However, it's not to be, and for now at least, the Evil Empire will still cash in every winter during free agency.
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Sorry to hear Dan Morgan had to retire due to injuries. The guy was an absolute monster when he was healthy. Want proof? In Super Bowl 38, the guy had 25 tackles. 25!! That's a career for some guys. So, sorry Dan. I wish you could have been that healthy all the time.
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And finally girl-Mike from "girl-Mike and the Meatball in the Morning" said maybe the dumbest thing I ever heard them say Monday morning…and that’s saying something. The gist of it went like this. In 2003 MLB told the Player's Union that they wanted to test every player for steroids, and the Union agreed, provided that the test results were supposed to remain anonymous. That is, no one testing positive would be exposed.

However, this week, the Federal Government wants those results, and wants to question each of the 104 players who tested positive to find out from whom they got their steroids. The Feds would then distribute the information to federal prosecutors around the country. Naturally, the Player's Union is vehemently opposed to this plan. They feel the names would get out. However they are losing in court and the Feds should be getting the list soon.

However, here's the bizarre part. Girl-Mike said this morning that this is "unfair." "It's not right," he said. Pardon? Huh? What the heck is unfair about this? Since when do these guys get a break from Federal prosecution when they break a law? Because their Union said so? Because they had a deal? They didn't have a "deal" with the Federal Government...and you know why? Because they broke the law.

You break the law, you pay the price. I can't imagine why girl-Mike would think that it's unfair for the Federal Government to speak to known steroid users in an effort to prevent a crime. Unfair. Tell that to the next high school kid who shoots up steroids he got from one of the dealers the Federal Government didn't bust because Baseball's Player's Union said it was unfair. Athletes are not exempt...even if you think it's unfair.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

When Bad Is Good

When you look at the number of people slumping in April, it's got to make you feel good about the game of baseball. And why is that?

Because that means it's the end of steroids.

OK, maybe I'm overstating, it but really...take a look at Gary Sheffield. Going into 2007, Ole Gary had only once batted below .276, and had been the model of consistency for years. However, starting in 2007, when the Bonds steroid scandal truly broke big, suddenly, Gary's average and power had dropped dramatically. Actually, it fell off a cliff. As of today, his BA. is .190, or a little more than 100 points under his lifetime average. He has two HRs and 8 RBIs.

David Ortiz, who hasn't finished lower than 5th in MVP voting since 2003, was of this writing, batting .239. His slugging percentage is at .436, or roughly 200 points below his average for the past two years.

Jason Giambi, despite a gold thong-inspired jump in average and power this week, is, despite his surge, still batting .193. His bat speed is slower than my Mom's. He has batted over .300 just once since 2002, after having batted over .300 for 4 seasons straight.

Of course, this could all be coincidence. But the way I like to see it is...well....that this is all a good thing. Because people are watching, noticing. Paying attention. And not just fans, but other baseball players.

I'm talking about Barry Zito, Andrew Jones and Dontrelle Willis. Guys who haven't taken the illegal Kool-Aid (that we know of), who are having completely crap years. In my mind, it's the best thing that these guys are having crap years. I'll explain.

Major League players have seen Roger Clemens get dressed down by Congressional members and get their lives autopsied by the media. They've seen Barry Bonds on the unemployment line despite last year's .565 slugging percentage and 132 BBs and in general. The players have seen Mark McGuire get passed over for the Hall of Fame in an overwhelming display of condemnation by the media who once worshipped him. And they've seen the players who once ruled the game, have their bodies break down and these players become shells of themselves.

So, maybe, just maybe, Barry Zito, or Dontrelle Willis, or Andrew Jones, either dropped their steroid habit, thus explaining their precipitous drop in stats, and their having terrible years is all just a correction, which is true and proper for baseball—or they are avoiding steroids, even though they in the past, they might have been tempted.

A few years back, if Barry Zito had had a problem with flagging arm speed, he might have just turned to Jason Giambi or Barry Bonds and gotten some help. And then there would have been "dramatic and miraculous" career recovery, a la Roger Clemens. And the same thing might have happened with Andrew Jones or Travis Hafner—a sustained slump followed by a remarkable and truly unbelievable turnaround with off-the-chart power or newfound bat speed.

However that doesn't seem to be the case. It seems like slumps are lasting and are sustained. Hafner hasn't been the 2004-2006 Hafner. Carlos Delgado isn't having an extraordinary end-of-career surge. And Ben Sheets is still having problems with injuries; not suddenly coming back quick and injury-free.

And all that bad play is good. Ballplayers have slumps. It happens. But maybe, now, with all the infamy and shame from Bonds and Giambi and Clemens, these new guys will try to deal with their problems themselves. They will take their slumps and will ride their bad play out. And all this bad play, is good for baseball.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Transactions....

Just saying....but I think Joe Blanton should shave that little beard nubbin and buy a NYC Subway map. Just a feeling I get.

I'm not one to doubt Donnie Walsh; the guy has an impeccable track record as a GM, but the choice of D'Antoni was a curious one. Currently, the roster has nothing of what D'Antoni usually favors. And it's going to be two to three years before, say Lebron and others can come and make the roster somewhat palatable to his tastes. For starters the Knicks would have to jettison Marbury, who should last about two to three minutes before pouting and sabotaging D'Antoni's authority. Eddy Curry is not going anyplace with cap-busting player options until 2011. Neither is Zach Randolph and another Isaiah mistake, Jared Jeffries. So, is Walsh going to let this year play out and suck up the roster until the contracts run out? Or is he going to drug some other GM and make trades with them while they are under his evil control? In any case, best of luck to Walsh and D'Antoni. They are going to need it to fix Isaiah’s mess.

Jason Giambi is done.

Get this. The MLB Player's Union is investigating whether Major League Baseball owners practiced collusion against Barry Bonds. In other words, poor Barry can't understand why no one wants to sign him for millions of dollars to play baseball. Hmmmm.....why wouldn't they want Barry on their team....why wouldn't some team want Barry in their clubhouse....near reporters.....hmmmmm. It just doesn't make any sense!!

I am shocked, yes, shocked to hear that a major collegiate institution such as USC might have been involved with the illegal gifting of a student-athlete!! That's outrageous!!! It has to be a lie because big-time colleges like USC, Alabama, Oregon, Mississippi State, Indiana and Missouri never commit violations to draw recruits to their universities. It's unheard of!!!

I think Sedrick Ellis is going to be an stud for the Saints immediately.

And last...award for complete douche of the week goes to Darrion Scott. First, last winter he got busted for pot in his car. Ok, fine. But then last week, Scott got busted for holding a plastic bag over a two-year-old's head. Scott claims he was playing a game. OK, what game involves a 290-lb. man holding down a 2-year-old, forcing a plastic bag over his head and seeing if he can get it off before passing out. He shouldn't be banned from the NFL; no. Scott should be banned from the human race.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Most Reviled Franchises In Sports

A lot of people follow sports because they love a certain team. They become attached and identify with that team, bleed the team colors, buy the caps and jerseys and follow the team like a religion, through bad times and through good.

Some people on the other hand, follow teams they have no identity with, and don't share any affection for. Because they hate them. They hate the team, no matter if the players change as the seasons go by, and for no sane reason at all. Aside from liking certain teams, these people (and I count myself as one), follow sports because they absolutely hate certain teams and want them to lose. They love to hate them, and almost nothing is as good as those teams losing...even their favorite teams winning.

Here are some of the most hated, most reviled franchises in sports, and a few reasons why people just hate their frickin' guts so damn much.

Duke Blue Devils
The players change yearly, but that doesn't matter. They haven't won a championship since 2001, but that figures into it little. Hating Duke has almost become a national tradition—accepted and nurtured by the media. Selling "I hate Duke" t-shirts has almost become a cottage industry—and not just in Chapel Hill. Heck, hating Duke is almost an American way of life.

It even defies logic. By all accounts "Coach K," Mike Krzyzewski is a good guy. He genuinely cares about his players, graduates more of his kids than any other major program and has forgone NBA offers with major money attached to them. There hasn't be even a whiff of a recruiting scandal at Duke since Coach K. has been there, and still people scream obscenities at him the second he leaves the campus at Durham.

So why the hate? Let's like NBC sports Mike Ventre say it. "I hate their uniforms, home and road. I hate their warm-ups. I hate the way they carry themselves, with that smugness that says, “We don’t talk trash. We dispose of it.” I hate their fans and wish they would find something more productive to do with their lives than paint their faces blue and white."

"Their fans are smug." "The team is soulless." When Christian Laettner got picked to the Olympic team over Shaq. J.J. Redick's smug smile after draining another three. (Redick estimated he got an estimated 50 to 75 hate calls per day from opposing fans during his senior year.) No college basketball team gets heckled in a more personal, vitriolic way than the Duke guys. But they don't care. Is it arrogant? Not if you’re winning. And like it or not. Duke wins. The Blue Devils have the second longest streak in the AP Top 25 in history with 200 consecutive appearances from 1996 to 2007, second only to the UCLA teams of the 60s or 70s. And that's probably why everyone hates Duke. Because they win.

Los Angeles Lakers
I hate their stupid colors. I hate Phil, Shaw, Magic, Riley, Wilt and his stupid bragging about bagging 10,000 women. I hate Jack Nicholson on courtside. And Leonardo, Penny Marshall and Flea. And who names their kid, Kobe? And what does L.A. have to do with lakes anyway?

They get a big name coach who supposedly is a "Zen genius", but only coaches when future Hall-of-Famers can guarantee him a title. And he complains. Every post-game conference is a diatribe about how the refs hate his team...when everyone else in the league feels that the NBA has tried to steer the title to his Jordan and Shaq-led teams.

They're glitzy. They're "Showtime." They get big names free agents (who take discounts—Karl Malone, Gary Payton), big-time fans and give Hollywood-type halftime shows. In fact, they are Hollywood. They're Botoxed faces and fake boobs. The Fakers.

But they win. The Lakers have the most wins, the highest winning percentage (61.5%), the most finals appearances (28) of any NBA franchise, and the second most championships (14, just behind the Celtics, 16). And just like the college counterparts, Duke, if you win, you get hated.

Dallas Cowboys
Is there any other team hated more than the Dallas Cowboys. Go ahead Google "I hate the Cowboys." (Or, if you are fluent in obscenity, try "F*ck the Cowboys." See how many sites pop up.

There are fan-doctored pictures of Cowboys getting shot a la "The Grassy Knoll." There are license plates with the name "DALSKS" on them. There are Redskins cheerleaders practicing in "Dallas Sucks" t-shirts.

The Boys are so hated; some guy took a film on Hitler and redubbed it so that Hitler is a Cowboy fan.

So why the hate?

Maybe it’s the obnoxiousness of seemingly the entire Cowboys organization. An owner who can't/won't shut up and practically takes over coaching duties in the fourth quarter as he marches up and down the sidelines. Then there's the hole-in-the-roof stadium, "so God can watch us play." Geez. I mean, they call themselves "America's team."

Or maybe it was because of Jimmy Johnson's famous "How 'bout them Cowboys?" comment. Is there anything more obnoxious that you can say after winning the Super Bowl?

Maybe it's the flash of the Cowboys players, or if you will the "bling." See Michael Irvin's suits or Deion Sanders jewelry. And now they get Pac-Man Jones joining the team. And, of course, there's Terrell.

Maybe it's having more than their fair share of drug charges over the years. So many, they were dubbed "South America's team." Here's a joke from one fan site: Q: How do you get a Cowboy to stand up? A: Say "Will the defendant please rise."

But here I go again; they are successful. They are the most valuable sports franchise in the world, at an estimated 1.5 billion dollars. They've won five Super Bowls and have the most 10-win seasons in NFL history. All of this is to the chagrin of people in Washington, Philadelphia and New York. So much so, there's a song I'd like to quote a few lines from; a song written and sung by Angelo Cataldi, morning host, WIP all-sports radio, AM 610 in Philadelphia.

I got a tape of Super Bowl II! Dallas ain't in it 'cause they turned blue! The Packers iced 'em and I would, too! Oh, Dallas s*cks! Dallas s*cks! All through the place smash their face we hate the Cowboys more! I hate 'em! (hate 'em, hate 'em, hate 'em....)


New York Yankees
OK, here we go. Let's get our hate on, proper-like now.

No team, but NO team, is hated more than the New York Yankees.

It's so bad, in Fenway, when the Red Sox are playing anybody BUT the Yankees, the crowd, instead of cheering the Red Sox, will chant "Yankees S@ck!" for innings.

Check through magazines or a few of the thousands of Yankee-hate web sites and you get variations of these popular reasons to hate the Yankees: Arrogant Yankees fans. Bandwagon Yankees fans. New York bias. A-Rod. The Steinbrenners are just buying a championship. They are a corporate team with no soul. They are destroying baseball parity with their spending. Jeffrey Maier. It goes on. And on. usually with lots of cursing.

They are hated so much a construction worker buried an Ortiz jersey under the new Yankee Stadium so it could start a new curse. The Evil Empire. Damn Yankees. The Bronx Zoo. Just a few politer nicknames haters have given the Yankees.

Well, what are some other reasons to hate the Yankees? Well, the have more money than any other franchise and have no problem spending it. They have more championships than any other sports franchises. They have the best winning percentage in baseball history. Oh, and Derek Jeter has dated Jessica Biel. And Scarlett Johannson. And Jessica Alba. And Gabrielle Union. And Mariah Carey.

They aren't allowed any facial hair. No stubble. And no long hair in the back. And any tattoos must be covered. And when traveling, they must wear suits—no casual Fridays for these guys. Like I said...corporate.

Oh, and Alex Rodriguez makes more than the entire Florida Marlin roster.

Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko summed it up when he said, "Hating the Yankees is as American as pizza pie, unwed mothers, and cheating on your income tax.

Or to put it in one sports fan's words: To root for the Yankees is to root for man's worst instincts to triumph: It's to wish for the rich to triumph over the poor, powerful corporations to crush entrepreneurs, Goliath over David....rooting for the Yankees is like rooting against the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath.

Thank you Bill Hatton of Philadelphia. Yankee haters everywhere couldn't have said it better themselves.

There are dozens and dozens of other teams that I left out. Which team do you hate the most? Spew your hate on the board.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Clemens versus Merriman

As a sports fan, you get used to the standards by which athletes live and how they don't make any sense. For instance, a teacher in Brownsville, Brooklyn, teaching math to 7-year-olds makes $25,000 a year while a guy like Jamal Mashburn, a basketball player, who didn't play for the last two years of his career—didn't contribute to any meaningful way to his employer—made $20 million in those two years. Or how about a guy like Jason Giambi, who broke Federal law, cheated his co-baseball players and fans to pad his stats and get more money, yet found himself secure in his job, because despite all his actions, the Yankees still couldn't nullify his contract.

Still, as a sports fan you get used to it. You get used to the absurdity that is modern professional sports. You make your peace with it. But one thing which confuses is when these standards, the ones by which you judge these athletes, aren't applied fairly. And by that I mean to say, with all the scrutiny on Giambi, Bonds and Clemens...what the heck about Shawn Merriman?

Let me back up for a second here. On May 2nd, The New York Times ran an article in which they showed how a steroid maker named David Jacobs not only sold drugs to players in the NFL, but also showed them how to avoid being detected. At least 10 NFL players, and possibly more, were recipients of Jacob's steroids.

Other separate and independent investigations have led to the charges that dealers have sold steroids to players for the Carolina Panthers (including prescriptions written two weeks before Carolina played in the Super Bowl), Pittsburgh Steelers (also, before they went to the Super Bowl) as well as the San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys.

So, where's the controversy?

Where's the hub-bub, the outraged talking heads, the indignant flowery prose in newspaper editorials, the nonstop calls to sports radio? What's up?

Why is it that when baseball players get caught on steroids they make the nightly national news and when NFL players cheat, they barely make a blip on a wire piece on the web? Three weeks ago, Charger starting inside linebacker Stephen Cooper was busted for steroids. The result. No one cared. Pro Football Weekly only reported it as a wire piece, which focused more on the Chargers GM gently rebuking Cooper, then saying "Stephen Cooper will learn from this and move forward in a very positive way."

And it's not just regular football guys getting ignored. No, there are also All-Pro football players who have been busted and have been met by the press and by fans with a collective shrug and a disgruntled "Meh."

And, by the way, said All-Pro stud linebacker Shawn Merriman, a busted steroid cheater, was recently featured in a big-time Nike ad—an ad, by the way, which was created and premiered a year AFTER he was busted and suspended for steroids. So Nike decided this cheater, this law-breaker, was just perfect for their multi-million-dollar ad campaign. What's next, Marion Jones doing Disney commercials? Roger Clemens representing the Boy Scouts on posters?

Ridiculous? Maybe. But again, it's the odd standard we have in this country, and which seems to me to be bizarre. Again, why does baseball pay the price of congressional investigations and intense mainstream media scrutiny while football gets a pass?

A theory. While baseball is America's game, the game of nostalgia and peaceful reflection, football is a violent, Roman arena-type game filled with ogres and gladiators. The natures of the game and how we view them are different. In short, we as watchers almost expect football players to cheat. And almost want them to. We want the violence upped. We want the savage hits from gigantic guys doing harm. We want the bloodlust.

Baseball, on the other hand, doesn't have that sensibility. They are athletes, yes. But they are not violent. Baseball has a peaceable sportsmanship to it. There is rarely any body contact. It's almost gentlemanly.

Take the art of showing up. In baseball, if a guy stands and admires his homer, you hear guys talking about what a bad sport he is showing up the pitcher. In football, if a guy didn't do a ridiculous dance after a sack, people would question if he "really loved the game."

Also, take for instance an incident that occurred last year. During a pop fly to third base during a Blue Jay-Yankee game, Alex Rodriguez yelled "Ha!" which caused third baseman Howie Clark to get confused and let the ball drop. Toronto manager John Gibbons called the action "bush league" and as a former catcher, said he never heard opposing players call for pop ups. Blue Jay shortstop John McDonald was so outraged he had to be restrained from charging Rodriguez. But in football, that kind of stuff happens every play, with defensive linemen saying "Hutt!" trying to draw offensive linemen offsides. Several defensive linemen admit to doing this all the time. And if it happens, most of us as football fans, react with a shrug. "It happens. It's the nature of the game."

So because of their natures, we view the games differently. And take them to task differently, hold them to different standards. Baseball must be pristine. It's holy and should never be sullied by cheaters. And that's great. Totally agree. However, football is a dirty game, played in mud by Vikings and Raiders and as such, is forgiven when guys trying to get an edge are brought to light. Wee see it as a dirty game played by dirty men and we love it for it. Just as we love baseball for it's unspoiled nature and heritage.

Don't believe me? OK, let me ask you. The average NFL offensive linemens' weight has ballooned, over 30 pounds from 281 to 318 in the past twenty years. Has anyone seriously looked into why? No. Which is good news for Shawn Merriman.

And for Ray Edwards. And for Luis Castillo. And for Matt Lehr. And for Stephen Cooper. And for Todd Steussie. And for Dana Stubblefield. And for Bill Belichek...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Transactions....

Man, am I terrified about seeing Kei Igawa pitching in the majors again. Terrified and yet, I can't not look. Like a horrible car wreck. Or when Britney Spears shaves her head and attacks reporters. it's a train wreck, but you must look. You must.
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Ian Kennedy said he was a little surprised about the demotion to AAA. Really, Ian? Really? Look, I think you could have a great career as an artiste type pitcher—like Mike Mussina—but dude. Your ERA was north of 8.00. Surprise? Not really.
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Nobody could have had a dry eye watching that filly, Eight Belles, get euthanized at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. But this nonsense (and predictible nonsense it is) from PETA calling for the immediate suspension of the jockey, because they say, they the horse was "doubtlessly injured before the finish."
"I don't know how in the heck they can even come close to saying that," Eight Belles trainer Larry Jones told The Associated Press on Sunday. "She has her ears up, clearly galloping out." Then Jones, truly choked up with emotion said this: “It was a quarter-mile after the race. (Breakdowns) just don’t happen there. There’s always a reason things happen, but right now I see no reason for this. She ran the race of her life; she put it out there.” The man was broke by what happened after the race.
It's truly tragic, what happened. But to needlessly blame somebody for this would compound the tragedy. No one treated the horse poorly. No one was at fault. Let it go.
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Watching King Felix Hernandez pitch the other day showed me a couple things. A: the guy has absolutely filthy stuff, and B: He doesn't know how to pitch yet. He's better than he was last year, but he's still too emotional, loses composure and doesn't adjust well enough yet. But he's not far away. He can be sick for a very very long time.
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Ridiculously early NFL pick. Buffalo. The draft, the Stroud signing, a year under the belt for Edwards and Lynch. And Poslusny back. Yeah...Buffalo.
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And finally...out of all the wackjob egomaniacal wide receivers out there—Chad Johnson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens amongst others—who the hell thought we'd have a problem with Marvin Harrison? Marvin? WTF?