Monday, June 29, 2009

Transactions....

With the Yankees sporting a big 0-fer against the Red Sox this year, could you imagine what the local papers and talk radio would be saying if the Yankees had left the Red Sox "jinx" jersey underneath the new Stadium. My god, if would be the "Curse of the Big Papi" talk all over the media.


My idol when I was young was first Mickey Rivers, then Don Mattingly (who still is my idol to some degree), but since 1996, it has been Mariano Rivera. He is everything you could wish for, root for, dream about as a fan. He is the model of consistency, and of sportsmanship. He has a 2.3 career ERA, which is 18th all time, and most of the guys ahead of him played before World War 1. The only other active person on the list in the top 100 ERAs of all time; Trevor Hoffman, who has a 2.76 ERA and is 91st.

He is the best that ever was at his position. 34 saves in the postseason, more than twice as many as the next guy on the list. 0.77 ERA in over 117 innings pitched in the postseason. The best ever. And I think New York is spoiled—and don't realize how they are going to miss him when he is gone.


Good article in the NorthJersey.com regarding Mariano Rivera and George Steinbrenner almost traded him for the immortal Felix Fermin. Seems back in 1996, Steinbrenner didn't know if this kid Derek Jeter could hack it....just didn't trust him. So they wanted to trade some other young kid, named Mariano Rivera for Fermin. But thank the gods, Torre and some other folks talked Trader George, and his lackey, Clyde King, out of it. And for once, George relented. Thank the gods.


Man, do the Jets need some backups along the offensive line. Right now, the backup for LT, the most important position on the line, is Mike Kracalik. Last year, when he was with the Ravens, scouts described Kracalik as a practice squad type. The Ravens listened and cut him before the season. Ooooof.


Interesting that Julius Peppers signed his one-year tender after saying he wouldn't do it and never wanted to play for the Panthers again.


Interesting rumor going on out there, and that is that the Indians might be interested in trading Cliff Lee, but would have to be overwhelmed by a deal. And if I were the GM of the Phillies, I would overwhelm the Indians. Right now, even with the Mets completely floundering, the Phillies are only 2.5 games over their rivals (thank you Yankees!). Right now, the lowest ERA in the Phillies rotation is Cole Hamels with a 4.44 ERA. The other 4 ERAs are; 4.66, 5.06, 6.05, and a 6.75 by the awesomely named Antonio Bastardo. And while the Phils clean up against the Washington's of the world to have a 39-34 record, they are only 17-20 against teams above .500. Right now, Cliff Lee is a bone fide no. 1 starter. Except maybe if it means dealing uber-prospect, Kyle Drabek, the Phils should do what they have to go get him, except if it means dealing Kyle Drabek.


Tough article about ole William "The Refrigerator" Perry. You may have heard that The Fridge contracted a very rare disease that cause his own body to attack nerve cells. Perry, who weighed in the 330 range, was at one point down to 220. Story goes that Perry was doing well treating his illness for a while, but couldn't keep up with the cost of the treatments—which can run up to $350,000—so he just quit them. Give it a read.


Tough loss by the U.S. Soccer team, who lost to Brazil (no shame losing to those guys) 3-2 in the Confederation Cup finals. Again, no soccer fan, I, but I had to appreciate Landon Donovan's comments after the game. When asked about a moral victory and the USA soccer team getting respect from the world, Donovon had this to say: “What is respect? Respect doesn’t mean anything....nobody cares about respect. “It’s not good enough just to go for 45 minutes. It’s not good enough to lose 3-2 and say ‘Good try.’ We're at the point where we don't want respect, we want to win." Good speech Donovan. Not that I'll watch soccer, but still good speech.


And lastly, last week was the NBA draft, so you know what that means....wacky suits!!! But I gotta say, I was a little disappointed in this year's draft crop. Not in their talent, but...what the heck, no fire engine red pinstriped suits like Jalen Rose? No mustard yellow morning suits with a yellow bowler hat like Samaki Walker. Damn, well at the very least, James Hardin had a bow tie and funny outlined suit pockets. Well, that's something.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Outrage

"He never lost his sense of rage." — Tom Ricker on Izzy Stone, American Journalist


Of all the things that bother me about the steroids era one of the biggies is the miasma of indifference.

That baseball, in the past twenty years, was being corrupted by drugs designed to make Greek Gods out of regular ballplayers was common knowledge. Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post, as far back as 1988, said that steroids in baseball were a problem. A few intrepid reporters tried at various times to report that, yes, Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds looked ridiculous when compared to their rookie baseball card. But nobody listened. Nobody cared.

Even after Ken Caminiti died of steroids-related complications in 2002, nobody but a few did anything but shrug their shoulders. One of the few, Joe Strupp of Editor & Publisher, wrote this:

But instead of sparking a wave of follow-up articles or investigations to ferret out the details of steroid use in baseball—who was using it, where it came from, what it did to the body—sportswriters essentially left the story alone.

How? How could any sports reporter, following these guys day in, day out, miss the all-too-glaring signs? Especially in 2002, when all but the most blind couldn't see what was going on. If they followed these guys and saw their bodies morph, saw the back acne, and saw all the other signs staring them in the face, telling them that these individuals were cheating, how could they report nothing?

But, the fact is, hardly any journalist did just that.

Here's Jeff Pearlman of Sports Illustrated, at a panel at Blogs With Balls, alluded to the fact that one of the reasons reporters dropped the ball was exactly because they did see these guys every day and had relationships with them. So Sosa and Bonds went from having Bernie Williams's body to Arnold Schwarzenegger's and no one mentioned it because you saw them everyday? They just missed it when Caminiti died and Jason Giambi turned into Frankenstein? Shrug. No questions. Fine. Here's mine now: Where was the outrage? Where was the Woodward and Bernstein "reporters digging for a story" zeal to promote their careers, or (how naive of me to suggest) protect the game they supposedly love?

And this raises the question for me: Have we as a country, have lost our sense of outrage? Does nothing in this day and age of supposed reality shows and insult radio—shock or enrage us anymore?

It would appear so. Look around and you see not only apologists for cheaters everywhere, but very public declarations of acceptance and, in fact, approval of such behavior.

Danica Patrick, in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, was asked by Dan Patrick if she would take a performance-enhancing drug if she wouldn't get caught. This is what she had to say:

"Well, then it's not cheating, is it? If nobody finds out?"

Dan Patrick responded: "So you would do it?"

Danica's answer: "Yeah, it would be like finding a gray area. In motor sports, we work in the gray areas a lot. You're trying to find where the holes are in the rule book."

To be clear, Dan Patrick asked the question "Would she take a performance-enhancing drug?" a number of times, in a variety of ways, including one final time, adding, "Did you answer my question?" To which Danica said, "I think I answered your question." Of course later, amid scrutiny, Patrick claimed that she was joking. Right. Go to si.com and listen to the interview and decide for yourself if she was joking.

In a survey of baseball fans across America, where the question was asked, what is the number one problem in baseball, steroids came in 3rd with only 22 percent of the vote. High salaries for baseball players came in first with 51 percent of the vote.

In an article this spring in the Idaho Press-Tribune, Phil Dailey wrote this:

I understand why Selena Roberts is on the witch hunt to further embarrass Alex Rodriguez, but honestly, what's the point? Will her new book, which is ironically slated to come out just in time for Rodriguez's return to baseball, shed new light on the steroid age? Will it prove that Rodriguez did in fact do steroids longer than what he has already admitted? Was he doping in high school? Who cares! We all know he cheated. Let's move on.
But "witch hunt" implies that no crime was ever committed, Phil. And no, it's not "ironic" that Robert's book came out just as Opening Day was approaching. That was the point.

Writer Buzz Bissinger, in an op-ed in the New York Times in 2008, wrote this stunner:

"But last week’s news trickling out of the endless investigation of Barry Bonds has caused me to feel something for him I never thought possible: sympathy. He has been charged with 14 counts of lying to a federal grand jury about his alleged use of steroids and human growth hormone (as well as one count of obstruction of justice). He denies such usage. And that’s where the whole mess sits until his trial next March. The charges themselves are questionable enough, given that Bonds, even if he knowingly took such drugs, was only doing what so many other major league players were doing...."

As I have written before, just because a number of people commit a crime doesn't make it legal. Lots of athletes drink and drive, or abuse their spouses; should that be ok, then, because a lot of them do it? And when has it become all right to lie to a grand jury? Since when are charges "questionable" because well, "heck, it's only steroid"s and “everybody is doing it”? Bissinger continues:

In the report by former senator George Mitchell to Major League Baseball last December, 86 present and former players were named as having used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. But how many of them are currently being prosecuted? The answer as far as I know is zero. In fact some of those named, such as Andy Pettitte and Jason Giambi . . . are still playing. But the major difference is that Pettitte and Giambi (to some extent) are likeable fellows, whereas Bonds is downright loathsome.

Once again, the charge is not about using steroids, the charge is perjury. If Giambi, or anyone else had lied to that grand jury, then charges would be filed against him as well. For God's sake, the Federal Government isn't spending all that time and money prosecuting Bonds because he's not likeable. It’s doing it because he lied in Federal open court and everyone knows it. Bissinger continues:

But the very lack of a league testing policy gave Bonds and other baseball players carte blanche. When the league finally put in place a system in 2003, it was a joke in terms of providing any real deterrent. It wasn’t until November 2005 that year-round testing was finally instituted with penalties ranging from a 50-game suspension for the first positive test to a lifetime ban for the third. Under such conditions up until 2006, what player in his right mind would not have taken performance enhancers?

Frank Thomas. Larry Walker. Dave Winfield. Cal Ripkin. Greg Maddux. Andrew Dawson. Mark Grace. Derek Jeter.

Also, don't for a second think that the under-the-table allowance of steroids was all a big conspiracy by the owners. The Player's Union fought tooth and nail to prevent a full testing policy. It was only when the Feds starting knocking on the door to the MLB that the Player’s Union finally caved.

It is also ridiculous to assume that Bonds would have done anything else but lie, even under oath. He is a professional athlete, not a role model, despite the fact that we continually insist on confusing the two, with our need to put on those rose-colored glasses. If he had taken steroids and told the truth, he would have been ruined. By not telling the truth, he would have been ruined.

Jason Giambi was not ruined, was he? He told the truth and then played out his contract with the Yankees and signed a new contract this year with Oakland. Andy Pettitte confessed to the court of public opinion and still pitches for the Yankees today.

But the crux of what galls is not just the steroids and the cheating and the lying—human are fallible; they make mistakes—but rather, Bissinger's, and indeed all these writers, cavalier, haughty acceptance of it. Their "What would you do?" assumption of everyone's lack of moral character. "What player in his right mind would not have taken performance enhancers?" "It is also ridiculous to assume that Bonds would have done anything else but lie, even under oath." Those beliefs connote a "It ain't cheatin' if you don't get caught" way of life. And I for one, don't subscribe to that. Why then do anything difficult and inglorious and honorable if you can go the easy way and cheat and not get caught? Why have rules for baseball—or indeed, anything?

But the lack of caring about rules and cheating is by no means limited to the mainstream media. Fans and bloggers all over have defended steroid users for years now. Of the litany of blogs defending Bonds—and they are legion—this was probably my favorite (spelling left as is):

All the Bond bashers who use Viagra or Ciallus sit down and shut up. At this point it is immaterial (really it's always been immaterial) whether Bonds did or did not utilize performance enhancing drugs.

An article I wrote for the web site DugoutCentral.com regarding Sammy Sosa and the allegation that he took steroids received a great many comments, many of which had things like this to say:

"Who cares?
Who cares?"

"I’m sick of hearing about steroids for one big reason: It doesn’t take away from the enjoyment I have (or have had) watching the game. Really, it’s mostly the media acting sanctimonious to elicit the buzz and responses we see above!"

"And I’m willing to bet that 70% of the players before 1980 would have taken anything they could if they felt it would have made them better ball players."

"And now thanks to selfish people like a lot of you, the memories today’s kids have of all these truly special things happening are tainted. You set out on a moral crusade, and you wound up hurting kids, and baseball itself."

And there are more defenders commenting on MSM boards. This is from a Foxsports.com message board (spelling left as is):

Your telling me you wouldn't take a substance that would make you stronger, faster and get you paid not 2X, not 3X, not even 10X what your all ready getting paid, but 20X or more. Your telling me you'd be content with making a league minimum if you knew by taking a substance you could make 500% more.Thats just ridiculous. The answer is obvious. This game of baseball is entertainment. That is all it is. Entertainment. Pure and simple....Why hate if you yourself would give up everything to have what he has....He did what all the other big sluggers did during his time, and you know what I'm not going to sweat the details because professional sports is entertainment, that's all it is.

Most of the comments on the message boards are also unapologetic defenders of Bonds. Yet another web site takes a shot at defending Alex Rodriguez, with many of the same arguments.

Rodriguez (and it pains me to say this) was the bigger victim. He took steroids. In other words, he did what Major League Baseball expected him to do: Bulk up its myths to bulk up bottom lines.

Another blogger, this time on Bleacher Report wrote this:

“Clemens, Bonds, Palmeiro, Sosa, McGwire.

“They're just not likable people. Pompous, arrogant, self-absorbed, quick to judge and quicker to lie in the face of blatant truths....And although those guys have shamed themselves and the game, I can give you 706 million reasons why I can't blame them—that's roughly the combined earned career salaries of those six players, to date, not including endorsement deals and outside engagements.”

And then, there is the Unofficial Barry Bonds/Steroid Era Compendium, an amazing site which breaks down a myriad of the arguments against Bonds with the basic slant of "You can't prove anything." It also links to “further reading” which includes 'Witch Trials, McCarthyism and Baseball" "Valuable Time Wasted in Attempts to Outlaw Steroids" and "Steroids: Not Really a Gamekiller."

In effect, the whole "Defending Steroids" argument boils down to a few simple arguments. "You're self-righteous if it matters to you that ballplayers cheat for an illegal advantage." "It's just entertainment, who cares about the rules." "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'." "Everybody does it and all the old-times would have done it if they could have, therefore it's all morally equivalent and we should ignore it."

And the "morally equivalent" part of it is the part that rankles. Just because some people cheat doesn't mean we should throw up our hands and let everyone cheat. And we shouldn't assume that since some do indeed cheat, that all do, or would. And after all, shouldn't we try to be better, especially in a game we supposedly love? On a field of competition, shouldn't we at least try?

See, that's exactly the reason I watch sports. For the same reason that former baseball commissioner once wrote, "All play aspires to the condition of paradise...It is a dream of ourselves as better than we are." So I can watch human beings try and occasionally succeed brilliantly, to be better than we thought we could be. I watch so I can see Joe Namath or Willis Reed or the 1980 U.S. hockey team, or Dwight Clark, or Villanova 1985.

And wouldn't it disappoint you if you found out that the 1980 Hockey teams were doping? Or that Joe Namath or the Villanova team cheated in some way? Honestly, wouldn't you feel a loss, a sense of outrage that something precious was taken from you? I know I would. And if you wouldn't, why then, on earth, do you watch sports?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wait....Soccer?


Congratulations to the American soccer squad for beating the best team in the world, Spain, 2-0. I know nothing about soccer, but I heard the chances of America beating Spain, who had not 1, but 2 guys with one word names. America had like, google-1 odds of winning this game. But they did.

So, even I who find soccer as interesting as watching the Home Decorating Channel, will give propers where they are due. Games like this are the reason I watch sports. Eli beating the Patriots on the most incredible play I've ever seen in football. The Yankees down 2 games to 0 in 1996 (losing the first two games by a combined score of 16-1, and heading down to Atlanta...and sweeping the next 4. And of course...."Do you believe in miracles?"

So, congratulations to the USA soccer squad. Enjoy this time. it's yours.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Transactions....

Not seeming to understand the relationship of cause and effect, former Al Davis mandated pick Michael Huff is whispered to be cut, possibly as soon as training camp. Huff, a "Davis Special," ran a 4.34 at the Combine, which prompted Crazy Al to ignore all his scouts and make him the number 7 pick in the draft. And like many A Davis mandated picks—despite the blazing speed that Al covets—the pick does not pan out. Just a reminder, Davis picked Darrius Heyward-Bey, who ran a 4.3 at this year's combine, and Davis picked him with this year's number 7 pick (over everybody's thought that Heyward-Bey was a late first round pick at best), so I guess you can expect Heyward-Bey to be cut ignominiously in about 3 years.


Professional malcontent and occasional ballplayer, Gary Sheffield says he wants to play two more years, and he wants them to be in Tampa Bay, where he owns a home. Please tell me if you can think of one reason why the Tampa Rays would sign Mr. SurlyPants. He's a detriment in the outfield and they already have a big-money DH in Pat Burrell. Sure, the Rays might need some slugging, but Sheffield can't even provide that much anymore.


Missed this article when it first came out, but better late than never. Anyway, finally, Fox Sports and MLB have decided to move World Series games up one half hour, so that now, first pitch will be at 7.57.

Selig acknowledges there's been "carping, mostly in the East Coast time zone" that playoff games have started too late for kids — especially on school nights.. "There's certainly a belief that for a younger audience, particularly on the East Coast, this is a real plus. Can this help the ratings overall? You never really know."

Heck forget school kids. I fall asleep sometimes with how long some of these games last. This is a good move by MLB.


Interesting tidbit in the New York Times "Fifth Down" Blog. In it, they use statistics from the past season, and man by man, rate the Jets and Giants offensive lines. And much to their surprise, they stats showed that the Jets have the best O-Line in New York. Check out the rationale and see if you agree.


Class move by the Yankees asking the Bleacher Creatures to move down to the seats just behind the dugouts during last week's 5 1/2 HR rain delay. For an organization that gets blasted as the "Evil Empire," they do sometimes show a class touch with their fans.


In one of the sickest and saddest story, former big leaguer Mel Hall was convicted by a jury in less than 90 minutes, of sexual assault. Now if that isn't bad enough, the story goes that the parents of one of the girls Hall molested, basically sold her for cash and prizes. Hall bought the parents cars and gave them cash, and they let him sleep with her underage daughter. Hall rightfully deserves to be sent to prison, but what about the parents. Where's their trial?


To get that taste out of your mouth, here's a good story. Former NFL bust, Wendell Bryant, who battled with the bottle for years and is now clean and sober, has gotten a second chance and was drafted by the United Football League.

“I got a second chance by the grace of God and this 12-step program...All I wanted was a second chance and I got what I wanted....I’m just excited to be back on the field and run around and chase people. I’m looking forward to it. I’m ready to go get it. I can’t wait to run around until I’m out of breath. This is going to be so much fun.”


Good luck, Wendell and hope nothing but the best for you.


Interesting scoop by Buster Olney. He writes that Huston Street has moved from one side of the rubber to the other, and since he has, Street has posted a 2.33 ERA and has converted 15 of 16 chances. Not coincidentally, the Rockies have won 15 of their last 16 games and are now percentage points out of the Wild Card spot. This of course, raises the dilemma; Do the Rockies keep Street, or try to trade him for big time prospects?


By the way, nice throw, Melky in the 7th inning last night. I know you're still young, only 24, but you've been in the bigs for almost 500 games now. You gotta stop with the bonehead plays. You basically cost the Yankees the game.


And finally, in the bizarre story of the week....Carson Palmer's wife banned Chad Ochocinco from her house. See, it seems Chad has invited himself into the Palmer's house this summer, in order to "work out" with Chad. Or whatever. Anyway, Palmer's wife, Shaelyn was having none of it.

“As soon as I walked in the door from work the other day, she just gave me that look,” Palmer said. “I’m like, ‘Whoa, calm down. It’s media stuff. It’s Chad being Chad.’

However, Mr. Ochocinco is still insisting that he is going to stay with the Palmers. That's after he beats up Mike Golic, apparently.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Relievers Are A Relief

Over the past week, there has been a lot of buzz in the Yankees Universe about going after Huston Street, or Chad Quallis or Jose Valverde—or a reliever of any sort. In the past week, ESPN’s Peter Gammons mentioned that the Yankees should "look into a middle reliever." On June 12th, the Yankee blog, Sliding Into Home wrote that the Yankees need to get a reliever because "...until Brian Bruney can come back and remain healthy the Yankees pen is gonna be in pretty bad shape." Bill Madden of the New York Daily News had a headline last Saturday that said it succinctly: Yanks Need Relief Pitching. And this past week, Ken Rosenfeld wrote on FoxSports.com that the Yankees "...are in dire need of a setup man...will target the best available late-inning relievers."

But here's a stat: Yankees relievers have allowed one earned run in their last 18 innings while striking out 20.

Here's another: Since the start of the season, opposing batters are hitting .265 off of Yankee starters; they are hitting .239 off of Yankee relievers.

Contrary to the buzz on the blogosphere and to the groupthink of mainstream media, the Yankees don’t need another reliever. If anything, they need to look long and hard at their starting pitching.

Let’s look at the relievers the Yankees have now:
David Robertson — 2.08
Alfredo Aceves — 2.54
Brian Bruney — 2.61
Mariano Rivera — 3.25
Phil Coke — 3.38
Brett Tomko — 5.11 (who hasn’t pitched all that much and who's numbers are inflated by 1 bad appearance against the Mets)
Phil Hughes — 4.78 (though he's only given up 2 ER in 8.2 innings as a reliever)

Most of the talk about the Yankees "bullpen issues" come from earlier in the season, before Girardi was able to get a feel for his pen; when Damoso Marte was pitching injured, and Jose Veras (since designated for assignment), Edwar Ramirez and Jonathon Albaladejo were just pitching awfully. Yet even with their stellar pitching lately, the Yankees bullpen is deemed to be weak.

According to Covers.com, the Yankees’ pen ranks 22nd in the league with a 4.48 ERA. Again, however, that is with multiple players who are no longer in the Yankees bullpen. Taking those pitchers out of the equation and calculating the ERA of the pitchers in the pen now, you get a combined bullpen ERA of 3.06. Suddenly the Yankees bullpen would shoot to 2nd place on the list.

On May 24th, Gary Armida wrote on these pages, that Phil Hughes should be moved to the bullpen (Hughes didn't make his first relief appearance until June 8th), due to his ability to get hitters out his first time through the order. (It's true; the first time through the lineup, opposing hitters bat .225 off Hughes; the second time, .321). Armida was right. Since Hughes moved to the bullpen, the results have been excellent. In fact, Hughes has had a solidifying effect since he was put out there. It's no coincidence that the bullpen suddenly gelled when Girardi found someone besides Coke or Aceves to go to. In fact, since Hughes first outing, the bullpen’s collective Era has plummeted to 2.66 (including one terrible outing by Tomko).

Couple Hughes successful bullpen appearances with Aceves' resurgence (2.75 ERA in May, which is not shabby, but a 2.08 ERA so far in June) and David Robertson's emergence (only 1 ER in the last 9.2 inning pitched), and most of all, a healthy Brian Bruney, and you have a Yankee bullpen that is wildly underrated at this point in the season.

Now, I'm not saying if Huston Street can be had cheaply, then sure, Cashman should look into trading for him. However, what should be stated clearly; is that the Yankees problems with pitching lay less in the bullpen and more in the starting rotation. The Yankees have only gotten 46% quality starts from their rotation, which is 5th worst in the AL. Their starters give up 4.94 runs per game, 3rd worst in the AL.

Oh, and one final stat. The Yankees have 3 games where the pitcher left a game in a position to win the game, but then lost it. It's the best in the American League.

The Yankees may need pitching, but it's another starter, not in the bullpen.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hit Pause, Honey. (The Wife Speaks)

My relationship with sports
Years ago, if asked whether or not I was a sports fan, I would’ve said, with great pith: Sure. But I didn’t know what a true “sports fan” was till I met your gracious host for this blog and my husband, Paul. I mean, I liked baseball and football, I liked the New York teams (rivalries were not my thing), I looked forward to the Olympics, I felt I was a tomboy, but as for having my husband’s passion---and I’m talking about more than the info and stats seemingly lounging around in his head till I pose a question and he calls the factoid up---I just didn’t.
What I was was a “call me in at the ninth inning/is it the finals yet?” kind of sports viewer. For instance, I didn’t “get” what a pitcher’s duel really was till I watched games with my husband and he involved me pitch-by-pitch and a whole world of sports opened up for me that I hadn’t known existed. And so now I knew you could tell how Andy Pettitte’s game is going to go by how he pitches in the first inning; and I learned about how much research Greg Maddox does into everyone he throws against, taking him to a level beyond his gifted arm.
As for my ability to play sports, well, when the boys in school accused me or anyone else of “throwing like a girl,” I could only stand there steaming. The alternative was spouting a half-assed, “Not ALL girls throw like a girl, y’know. I mean, me, yes, okay, undoubtedly. And don’t make me catch things either.” Case in point: in grade school, I was on a little league team and I played in right field due to the fact that ten-year-old girls were unlikely to hit it that far.
In high school, I ran track. Not exactly unathletic, but I must admit I chose it so I wouldn’t have to throw, aim, connect, or make a basket. So as you can see, I’m no (Paul, insert name of whoever you think is appropriate here. Thx, babe!)

What’s the rule I always forget?
Sometimes I don’t even have to ask Paul to pause the game for a question. His hand is already reaching for the remote as I gather my breath to say, Is that the guy who … or What’s that acronym … for the thousandth time. I know the rules for most professional sports, but aren’t there some that only come up once in a blue moon? And, don’t tell Paul, but I do know the infield fly rule, it’s just so cute that he always tells me again. (He’s so patient.)

Romance in sports
What I do get about sports is the romance, the drama. As a writer of fiction, I’m in love with story. And sports is all about the great story. The at-the-buzzer triumphs, the soul-crushing losses, the stories of eccentric characters as well as the dignified players who play on through injuries. I hated boxing, until a writer like Thom Jones made me understand it, and until the film When We Were Kings touched me with Ali’s larger-than-life win as much as it did with George Foreman’s resiliency in coming back from a loss that might’ve crushed another person. Sports is where anyone can have a perfect day. Just ask Don Larsen. Anyone can suddenly be “in the zone” and achieve something amazing.
So I do love sports now. I love the Yankees and Jets, and not just because Paul loves them. I loved watching Misty May and Kerri Walsh in the Olympics Women’s Volleyball, which my husband enjoyed on another level completely. When Final Jeopardy! has a sports question, I write it down to test Paul later. I love the colorful metaphors of the sports writers, the courage and humor of the players. And how about those fans? When I’m at a game I don’t see the guy in front of me as a fat, loudmouthed borderline alcoholic. No, I see a zaftig vociferous borderline alcoholic and we’re all friends (as long as we’re wearing the same cap and jersey). And I have a special place in my heart for the sports nerd type with his scorecard and miniature pencil, soberly writing in backwards Ks. (Aw!)
Though I’ve grown to appreciate more things about sports than I used to there are some things that I still don’t get, like Draft Day. And I’ll probably never be a basketball fan since the way I see it it’s: they run this way, they score, they run that way, they score, but Yankees opening day…. Hit Pause, Honey. Let me get us some beers before they start.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shocked!! I Am Shocked!!

So Sammy Sosa tested positive for steroids. Really, is anyone out there shocked by this?

The guy who said he used his corked batting practice bat "by mistake." The guy who was described as "lanky" and "skinny" when he first came up and who gained weight and mass, and then strangely broke down towards the end of his career? Is anyone shocked at all?

And we know how this is going to go from here. "I thought it was flaxseed oil." Or, "It was my wife's steroids." Or "I didn't know when I bought it over the counter that it was illegal." Or some such.

Or Sammy could take the Alex approach, and try to man up: "I was young, I was stupid." But really, he wasn't young in 2003, and while he was probably stupid, he denied ever taking steroids, like 6 1/2 seconds ago. In that interview he said:

"I assure you that I will not answer nor listen to rumors. If anything ugly comes up in the future, we will confront it immediately, but with all our strength because I will not allow anybody to tarnish what I did in the field."

Add to that, the fact that Sosa lied to Congress about taking performance-enhancing drugs, and you have a man who is screwed. The Federal Government doesn't like to be lied to under oath. It gets kinda persnickety about things like that. Ask Barry Bonds.

And you know what else is going to happen. Sosa will have his defenders. Yes, he will, much like he did when his bat sprayed cork all over the baseball field. Reporters and talk show guys and bloggers who will say: "Everyone was doing it." Or "You can't really prove anything." Or whatever. Hell, one week ago, Rob Guerrera of ESPN defended Sammy with this bit of impenetrable logic: "If Sammy was doing steroids at that time, would he really need the corked bat?" And this: "If you're one of those high and mighty voters who is paralyzed by steroid suspicion, I'll never be able to convince you to take the stick out, let alone cast your vote for Sammy Sosa." What a difference a week makes.

But back then....aw, heck. You remember the lovefest the world had for Sosa back then. America fell in love with his chest-pounding, his kisses to the camera, his home run hop. So did the press. They ignored his ever-swelling biceps and chest and took his ego for "charm." They overlooked his contract complaints. His walking out of the Stadium before a game because he was dropped in the batting order. His childish fights with his manager. His overall moodiness. They just took it as "Just Sammy being Sammy." If another played had said, "I will calmly wait for my induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Don't I have the numbers to be inducted?" the press would have taken it as arrogance. Not Sammy.

Well, no one can ignore this now. Sosa and his defenders will have to speak to this. But whatever will be said—and you know it will be truckloads—one thing remains: Sammy Sosa cheated. Sammy Sosa got caught.

And aren't you shocked?

The Case For Cervelli

"I think it's just a matter of that we used everything today," Burnett said. "I don't know if it's the catcher, but we used curveballs and fastballs in good counts. They had no idea what was coming, and that's huge. If I'd miss with a hook, he'd call another one. We didn't stay in a pattern."

The speaker is A.J. Burnett and he is speaking about Francisco Cervelli, the 23-year old rookie catcher for the Yankees. And here it is: I think Francisco Cervelli should begin taking over the catching duties for the Yankees.

OK, I'm putting Jorge Posada out to pasture....yet. But the time is coming. He is 37 years old, which is positively Jurassic by catching standards. And to put it mildly, his best days as a catcher and game caller might be behind him. If the above sentence from Burnett is any indication of how the pitching staff feels, then maybe Posada should spend more time at the DH position than at the catching position.

OK, here are some stats. Opposing hitters are hitting .255 off of Yankee pitchers when Cervelli catches: They are hitting .285 off of the pitchers when Posada catches. When Cervelli catches, pitchers have a 2.26 SO/BB ratio; for Posada it's 1.42. Opposing batters have an OPS of .755 when Cervelli catches; .841 when Posada catches.

And let's see if Burnett's enthusiasm for Cervelli is warranted. Burnett has pitched 13 games in a Yankee uniform so far; In the 4 games Burnett pitched to Jose Molina, opposing hitters hit .211; the 1 game Kevin Cash caught, it was .245; in the one game Cervelli caught, it was .174; and in the 4 games Jorge Posada caught, hitters hit a whopping .330 off of Burnett.

And the truth is, Posada was never the best game-caller; he was always a "hitting catcher." That's not a knock—he wasn't a bad catcher...he just wasn't the best game caller. He was never a Varitek or Charles Johnson type.

And right now—who knows about September?—right now, you're not missing much when Cervelli is in there. Posada definitely has the power advantage over Cervelli, but Cervelli is batting .298 to Posada's .288, which is not bad. And frankly, the Yankees don't need the home runs right now—they lead the league with 102 home runs....by 10.

And defensively, you gain by having Cervelli back there. His fielding percentage is higher (.993 to .986) and has a better caught stealing percentage than Posada (38% to 32%).

Of course, this is overstating it a bit. But not as much as you would think. The Yankees went out and spent the national debt on the front end of a pitching rotation. Why would you then put them in a position not to succeed? To not put them in the best position to pitch well?

And Posada could still do what he does best—hit. He's still a potent pitch-hitter and a home run threat every time at the plate. At 37, however....it might be time to start thinking of slowing him down a little.

It's just that this year—when the Yankee rotation is completely overhauled; when we have two new pitchers in Burnett and Sabathia (by the way, the stats holds true for Sabathia; opposing hitters hit .256 in the 5 games Posada called; a freakish .190 in the 6 games Cervelli was catching.), 2 young pitchers in Chamberlain and Hughes, and a pitcher struggling to return to form in Wang—what the Yankees need more than ever, is a catcher who is going to call the best possible game so that our staff feels comfortable and produces.

And if Burnett is any indication, the staff feels more comfortable with Cervelli.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Transactions....

So Kobe and the Lakers won? Good for them—and the little white kid cheering in the background —now let's get to baseball.


Don't look now, but the Yankee's number one prospect, Austin Jackson, is batting .338 (4th in the International League) with 12 steals. He's also 3rd in the league with a .409 OBP and 10th in the league with a .858 OPS. Get the feeling that Xavier Nady, Hideki Matsui and/or Johnny Damon might be given the "Here's your Hat, what's your Hurry" treatment after this season?


Watching the Yankees yesterday....and don't get me wrong, I love Hideki...but it was painful to watch him try to run. His legs are shot. Completely. He can still swing the bat some....but his days of playing the outfield are over.


One more thing about yesterday's Yankees-Mets game. That was the reason I didn't want the Yankees to sign old Johan. His arm speed towards the end of his Twins career was noticeably lower than it was just a few years earlier. And in the American league, they would have ripped him. Face it, the National League and the American League are two different animals. For instance, his interleague ERA last year, was 4.05, way above his overall 2.53 ERA, and this year so far, his interleague ERA is 9.90. And if he had to face the AL East all the time....well, I think Santana's career might have looked a little differently. As the Yankees showed yesterday.


You know, I'm happy that Dominic Raiola is excited about the Detroit Lions season, but did he really have to dig up Joey Harrington and rip him to show how good he feels about Matt Stafford?


Interesting tidbit in my local paper, the Brooklyn Eagle. It shows how players who participated in the WBC are disproportionately more prone to be injured and miss time. It's a good read, check it out.


Now that Jake Peavy is on the DL list for at least 2 months, watch all the buzz shift to Eric Bedard. With Peavy's injury, and Bedard's 2.47 ERA, Bedard is now in the driver's seat this trade deadline.


Scouts are mentioning how the best pick in this year's draft was.......the Falcon's trade for Tony Gonzalez. One anonymous scout feels the Chiefs made a dumb move in getting rid of their security blanket receiver when a new quarterback is being introduced to young team. Good point, but The Chiefs are rebuilding and Gonzalez isn't someone to develop and grow. Plus, they got back the second rounder they lost in the Matt Cassell trade. Overall, I do agree with the scout said about Gonzalez in Atlanta. "He is going to make Matt Ryan a lot better.”


Interesting rumor about Shaq this morning. No, not the Shaq to Cleveland rumor, the Shaq to the Bulls rumor. Buzz is Luol Deng, Tim Thomas and others. Why? Because then they can dump Shaq's enormous contract and the end of the season to create cap room for......Lebron James. Have to say, it sound's plausible. Playing in a major market with Derrik Rose, Ben Gordan and Joakim Noah sounds a heck of a lot more fun than Eddy Curry and Jarod Jeffries.


And finally, K-Rod....you're not exactly disproving the rumor that you're an overexcitible knucklehead. So relax, would ja?

Jeff Pearlman

Former ESPN and current SI.com writer, whom I met briefly at the BWB convention Saturday gave me a shout out on his site. I read through blog and it is thoughtful, funny and all around, just a cool guy/journalist. Its sports with some thought behind it. Go check out his blog.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How Can It Be?

Watching the Yankees-Met game—and when you see A.J. Burnett pitch the way he's pitching the first two innings, with a sick, knee-buckling curve and serious, moving 95-mph heat, you wonder how does Burnett have an ERA barley under 5.00? David Wright practically backed out of the batter's box on a Burnett curve that landed dead center of the strike zone.

And the same goes with Kyle Farnsworth. Earlier this year, he was electric against the Yankees. A 98-mph fastball with movement and life, and a sick slider that broke practically to the feet of the batter after starting in the zone.

It makes you wonder why some guys who have filthy stuff just can't keep it going; why they sometimes strike out two batters on 6 pitches, then lay an egg and give up a 6-run inning before getting the last out (Farnsworth, I'm looking at you.) Is it lack of concentration? Focus? Just wondering. What do you all think?

Blogs With Balls Convention

LinkWent to the Blogs With Balls Convention yesterday and had a great time meeting some other bloggers with great sites. Got to meet the creators of Pitchers and Poets, and GoGameFace.com, and got to finally meet some old favorites from The Legend of Cecilio Guante and Jetsblog.com. They are good people and they run great sites. Go do yourself a favor and check them out.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Modest Trade Proposal: Cuddyer for Flores

ESPN's Tim Kurkjian was right this week when he said, "After the past two Septembers, the Mets CANNOT miss the playoffs. They just can't."

Unfortunately that's exactly what they going to do if they don't do something to improve their feeble power hitting. Right now.

The Mets—as a team, mind you—have a total of 37 HRs. (Adrian Gonzalez has 22, by himself.), with Carlos Beltran leading the way with 8. Put another way, their arch-rivals, the Phillies, have Raul Ibanez with 20 HRs, Ryan Howard with 18, Chase Utley with 15. Their "Joe Average" catcher, Jayson Werth, has 8 himself. The Mets slugging percentage is decidedly middle-of-the-pack at .410, behind the Nationals, Indians and Orioles. Oh, and take out Carlos Delgado's bat for the next few months, and what you have is a line-up that doesn't have opposing pitchers waking up in the middle of the night screaming in fear.

The Phillies are already in the hunt for Eric Bedard, and are hoping Kyle Drabek can make it back from injury and to the bigs before September. The Phils have the bats, and if they get the pitching (Bedard apparently wants to return to the East Coast), they can run away with the NL East. The Mets, on the other hand, are 6th in the majors in pitching, but definitely need a power bat. OK, so go get someone, right? Well, easier said than done. The trading deadline is replete with bad idea trades made out of desperation. That said, the Mets are 3 behind the Phillies and are heading in the wrong direction—just at the same time as the Phillies seem to haven gotten on track. What to do?

The Mets should try to trade for Michael Cuddyer by offering the Twins SS prospect Wilmer Flores.

Michael Cuddyer, when healthy, is a solid RF, with a good arm and, more importantly from the Mets prospective, power. While he can play a number of positions, RF is where he is best suited—he has had season of 18 and 19 assists from RF, and can handle the new CitiField well. More importantly, he can slug the ball. As of this writing, Cuddyer is slugging .481, or what would be third of the Mets squad behind Beltran and Wright. Also, he has a OPS of .828, which, again, would place him 3rd behind Wright and Beltran.

Cuddyer would walk into CitiField and immediately solidify a weak Mets outfield (outside of Beltran). He would provide protection fro Beltran and Wright and give opposing pitchers something to worry about. His slugging is exactly what the Mets need.

What's more, the Twins have a glut of outfielders—and trading Cuddyer could clear space for other able players. Right now, the Twins are breaking in young outfielders Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez (of the Mets farm system), both young and talented and who need time to grow. The Twins also have Jason Kubel and Denard Span—productive players both as Kubel is slugging .591 and Span is batting .291 with 12 stolen bases.

What the Twins don't have is a blue-chip shortstop, either at the majors level, or anywhere in their minor league system. Nick Punto and Brendan Harris are fine shortstops, but franchise rocks they are not.

Franchise rocks like Jose Reyes. Reyes is the engine that makes the Mets go. And at 26 (his birthday is today), he will be said engine for a long time. Which means, SS Wilmer Flores, the Mets biggest prospect according to Baseball America, will be blocked by the time he is ready to hit the majors. While only 17, Flores is on the fast-track to the majors. Last year, he made Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet while he was 16—he had been playing professional ball a month.

As the New York Times wrote this spring:

The organization is still buzzing about how Flores, one of the youngest players in the minors last season, pummeled rookie-level Appalachian League pitching and slammed seven of his eight home runs before his 17th birthday on Aug. 6. In all, over three minor league stages, Flores hit .307 with 42 runs batted in.

“Think about it,” said Tony Bernazard, the vice president for development. “Realistically now, he would be a junior in high school. Instead, he’s playing in major league exhibition games. It’s unbelievable.”
At 6'3" 195, Flores would be around the same size as Alex Rodriguez was when he played shortstop. And he projects to have the same kind of power A-Rod or Ripken had at the shortstop position.

Make no bones about it; trading a prospect like Flores now would be a move of desperation for the Mets. But as Kurkjian said, the Mets CANNOT miss the playoffs again this year. After the past two September meltdowns, another washout would be devastating to their team psyche. And while Lord knows, Michael Cuddyer is not Albert Pujols, he would solidify a giant hole in the Mets lineup and in right field. As of this writing, the DL-List-Addition-Waiting-To-Happen known as Gary Sheffield is playing left field for the Mets and underwhelming rookie (.222 no HRs) Fernando Martinez in right. Once again, when Cuddyer walks into the Mets clubhouse, he would already lead the team in home runs, and his 9 HRs would be one-third of what the Mets have, by himself.

The Twins and the Mets have a trading history. This trade would make sense for both of them. The Twins have a glut of outfielders and need a prospect for their infield. The Mets need a power bat...NOW. They both should make this trade.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Transactions....

Could not be happier for Roger Federer. A class act, a gracious master; and now, indisputably, one of the greatest of all time. Good for you, Roger.


Oh and love the new camera angle NBC had on the French Open. It was from behind the guy receiving the serve, so it looked like the viewer was actually trying to return the serve. It showed you exactly how ridiculously fast the ball is coming at the guy trying to return it. loved the angle—more of it—even if you did probably lift the idea from Sega Tennis.


Great analysis by the YES broadcasting team on Texiera's influence on the Yankees defense. They showed how much larger Texiera's range is than Jason "Frankenstein" Giambi's was. And how that allows Cano to position himself closer to 2nd base. And then how that ripple effects to Jeter, who can play more in the hole. The Yankees have moved from back of the pack defensively, last year, to the upper middle of the pack. And Texiera replacing Giambi, has no small part to play in that.


Nice to see Jeremy Shockey taking his off-season after a disappointing first season with the Saints seriously.


I am officially of the Fausto Carmona bandwagon. And that goes for Francisco Liriano as well.


And I am officially back on the Eric Bedard bandwagon. People were so down on him last year—it seemed odd to me that Seattle gave up on him so quickly—but he always had No. 1 starter stuff. Now he's healthy and Seattle has 2 potential no. 1 's in their rotation with him and King Felix.


Yet another article about whether to put Joba in the pen or not. At least this one, with all its calculations and theories, should put this argument to rest. Leave him where he is.


Word is that the Braves fleeced the Pirates in the Nate McLouth for 3 nondescript prospects trade. One scout said, "How the heck do you trade one of your your best player and not get an A-type prospect in return?" One answer: It saved the Pirates 15.75 million dollars.

McLouth was signed through 2011 and was due 15.75 million guaranteed. And with the Pirates dead last in the MLB in fan attendance in this down economy (avg attnd: 16, 588; meanwhile the Cardinals average 40,144, the Brewers 37, 389, the Cubs 38,529), and with a very cheap rookie alternative in Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates felt they had to cut costs. The unfortunate reality of this is that, even with the Pirates treading the .500 line for the first time since George Bush Senior was in the White House, this trade sends a terrible message to their fan base. Or what's left of it.


The Sporting News wrote a list ranking the 32 head coaches in football today. And no offense to John Harbaugh, who had a fantastic first season with the Ravens, but how does he rank higher than Tony Sparano. The guy brought a 1-15 team, with a lack of talent at a ton of positions, and with a new, weak-armed QB all the way to the playoffs. And he brought in a bunch of new rookies and placed them in important positions and they fared well. Sorry, but in my book, Sparano deserves to be much higher.


Incredibly surprised that the Panthers were unable to trade Julius Peppers. The man had a career-high 14.5 sacks last year. You would think that somebody would offer something for the man and then renegotiate his contract to a long-term deal.


And finally, for the last time....we mean it.....Brett. Go. Away.