Sunday, November 29, 2009

The State of New York Basketball

Once upon a time, New York could be incredibly proud of the basketball played in the 5 boroughs. Its local college basketball team powerhouse, St. John's were a yearly lock for the NCAA Tournament and its players were often 1st round draft picks for NBA teams. And New York's pro team—the big, bad Knicks, headed, yearly to epic, and often brutal, playoff series. Both teams filled Madison Square Garden each night with devoted, and very loud, fans.

Those days are long gone.

All that's left nowadays for basketball in the New York City area are pale, boring mediocre imitations of those great teams of the past. They wear the same uniforms, but they are an embarrassment to New York's former basketball glory.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

God Quitting: Bob Sheppard Retires

In 1951, America was involved in the Korean conflict, Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train is in the theaters, Elvis Presley's first Sun recordings were still 2 years away, and Bob Sheppard started his career as Yankee announcer.

Already 40 years old when he began his Yankee announcing career that year, Sheppard's "part-time job" would last until 2008, when he announced the final lineup at the old Yankee Stadium.

Since 1951, Sheppard has announced Don Larsen's Perfect Game, Roger Maris' 60th Home Run, Reggie Jackson 3-HR World Series game in 1977, the first game after Thurman Munson's death—where he read a poem in honor of the Yankee Captain—Derek Jeter's first game and about 4500 other games. Along the way, "The Voice of God" called 22 pennants, 13 World Series and 3 all-star games (although he was too ill to announce the 3rd game in 2008).


Sheppard also was the announcer for the New York Giants for 50 years and calls the 1958 Championship game against the Colts (the so-called "Greatest Game Ever Played") one of the best games he was ever fortunate enough to call.


Well, God is 99 years old and is officially retired after missing much of the 2008 and all of the 2009 season due to flailing health. According to the New York Times, Sheppard retired back in April, but the announcement of his official retirement did not come out until this week.


Ever the perfectionist, Sheppard was quoted as saying, "I had a good run for it. I enjoyed doing what I did. I don't think, at my age, I'm going to suddenly regain the stamina that is really needed if you do the job and do it well."


The most famous announcer in sports, Sheppard was not just a "good voice", but also a man who took his craft seriously. His deep booming baritone, combined with a slow, lucid delivery made him an icon, not just in baseball circles, but all around sports and pop culture. To make sure he did his job correctly, Sheppard would contact the players with harder names to pronounce, ask them how they wanted to him to pronounce it and then practice it until he was sure he got it right. Two of Sheppard’s most difficult, and favorite names were Mariner, Shigetoshi Hasegawa and White Sox, Minnie Minoso.


However, probably the most famous announcement—nowadays anyway—that Sheppard makes is his announcement as Derek Jeter approaches the plate. And that is probably because, when Sheppard was sick in 2007, Jeter asked Sheppard to record him announcing, "Now batting...number 2....Derek Jeter." Jeter has said he wants no one else to announce him and will use the recording for the rest of his career. Sheppard called Jeter's request was one of the best honors he's ever gotten.


His honors also included a press dining area in the new Stadium named after him, and his microphone in the Hall of Fame. He is also one of only two people to have a World Series ring and a NFL Super Bowl ring.


But more than that; more than the honors, accolades and the longevity, even more than what Phil Simms called the Voice athletes hope to hear him announce their names, Sheppard became a part of the game. He was part of your experience as a Yankee fan—as much as the white facade or the hot dog or the home run.



And apparently, I'm not the only one who feels that way. In writing that he was "a part of the game," I unintentionally parroted what is written on Sheppard's plaque in Memorial Park. In being one of only 26 men in Yankee history to be honored with a plaque, the Yankees wrote on his plaque that Sheppard is as ..."synonymous with Yankee Stadium as its copper facade or Monument Park."

And they are right. To put how much a part of Yankee history Sheppard has been, here's the first lineup he announced, back in 1951:

Jackie Jensen LF
Phil Rizzuto SS
Mickey Mantle RF
Joe DiMaggio CF
Yogi Berra C
Johnny Mize 1B
Billy Johnson 3B
Jerry Coleman 2B
Vic Raschi P

And here is Sheppard's final lineup. Watch him say it here:

We will miss you, Bob. It won't be the same without you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Five

Sorry for the lack of posts lately/ Will try to catch up soon. Now to the questions.

1. What's the worst sports injury you've ever seen?

2. What's the dumbest sports injury you've seen?

3. Who do you think is the number 1 college football team in the country right now. Explain.

4. Do you think baseball needs a salary cap?

5. Will the Detroit Lions ever be respectible? If so, when and how?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Transactions....

Rumor has it that the Yankees will be scaling back the payroll? Maybe they don't get Miquel Cabrera, Roy Halladay and John Lackey, and resign Damon and Matsui as almost every web site would have you believe.


It does raise a point, however. The Yankees have a glitzy new stadium, and just won the World Series. How could they need to reduce payroll?


Watching the Bears-Eagles game, did anyone else notice that Jay Cutler is morphing into a young,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Five

Let's get to the questions.

1. Does Rex Ryan crying make you respect him for his passion, or does it make you laugh at him?

2. The biggest problem in sports? McCain said steroids. Obama said the lack of a college playoff system. What do you say?

3. Does Matt Holliday go back to the Cardinals? If not, where does he end up?

4. Would you be interested in Allan Iverson joining your basketball team now?

5. Do you find cutomized jerseys cool or repulsive? Explain.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Best

Every football announcer out there has talked about how incredible Drew Brees is. How he is playing the best football of any quarterback out there, how he can't be stopped, etc. And to their credit, they are right. Brees has made the Saints a scary team for anyone to play.

But the best. No.

Check out the leader stats for passing and the name you see isn't Brees. It isn't Rivers or Brady or Farve or Roethlisberger.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why The Yankees Shouldn't Go After John Lackey

OK, this article isn’t to say that John Lackey isn’t a good pitcher. He is.

And this isn’t to say I wouldn’t want the Lackey on the Yankees. I sure would.

This is to say when the terms “Zito-money” get thrown around regarding John Lackey’s free agency, it’s time to pull back on the reins a bit.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Transactions....

Just a question. After watching the Giants last week, and the Jets yesterday ... can anybody in the city of New York actually tackle an opposing player?


Seems like the magic fairy dust that the Denver Broncos had sprayed on them at the start of the season seems to be wearing off.


You know....lately is seems less and less ridiculous that Roy Halladay may be a Red Sox or a Yankee. And I might not be adverse to a Joba & Jesus Montero package for him either.


Aaron Rogers. That poor bastard. He has been sacked a ridiculous 41 times so far this season (an average of 4.5 a game) and has been hit another jillion times. Surprised his bone structure hasn't turned into dust by now. Green Bay had better draft a whole slew of offensive lineman and sign a few more in free agency if they want to keep their quarterback of the future, and present, alive.


Mr. Varitek, just retire. Go get a nice job on the Red Sox coaching staff or front office and sit down. Really. It's time.


You know, if Kevin Faulk doesn't bobble that pass before finally catching it, then Belichek is a genius. Just saying.


So Brian Kelly is the next Irish head coach. How nice for him. Best of luck to you B.K. You will really, really need it.


And in the Jamarcus Russell update... 9 out of 24 for 67 yards. Bleee-argh. But what's even more disturbing is Russell's reaction after the game. “Things were going OK,” Russell said.


More important than getting Arodis Chapman or Roy Halladay, for the Red Sox, is getting Adrian Gonzalez. He is tailor-made for Fenway and for the Red Sox needs right now. They should trade whomever they have to to go get him.


The Braves are trying to trade Derrick Lowe, who they signed less than a year ago to a gargantuan contract. Here's where I pat myself on the back and quote myself:
"...Lowe will be 36 on June 1st, and with Scott Boras saying he wants a "Zito-type contract" for Lowe—which translates into 6 years at 18 million per year, it seems pretty clear that Derek Lowe will be overpriced for the talent he brings to a team.
I wrote that last November 19th. And the Braves should have listened.


For AAPTBNL Man of the Week, we go to Kurt Warner. Warner was 29 out of 38 for 340 yards and 2 TDs. he had no interceptions. And considering the Cardinals have a mediocre at best running game, the fact that Warner is throwing as well as he is is noteworthy. So congrats Kurt, good game.


And lastly.....why on earth do the Irish think that Urban Meyer would leave? Seriously? Unless he bumps his head 300 times and forgets his entire life up until this point, Urban Meyer is staying at Florida. End of story.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Yet More BCS Nonsense

No, this isn't another article on how college football needs a playoff system (although it does).

No, this is about how one BCS coach getting it right....sorta.

Mack Brown, who has the distinction of being blessed with the best job in college football, who gets to recruit and coach 5-star recruits at almost every position, actually tipped his hat to the TCU, Utah and Boise States of the world. Here's what Brown said when asked about the possibility of TCU, ranked 4 in the country this past week, playing in a BCS game:
"I still don't like the way it is set up because I don't think we should have non-BCS schools. I think its demeaning to those schools that are playing really well. You should give all those schools great credit for what they are doing"
Wow. Heck even the biggest coach in the land of the biggest-named school in the country, tipping his hat to the have-nots. Which is great. What other sport penalizes a team that goes perfect for a season, by not giving them the opportunity to play for the title? March Madness rewards small school team by putting them, in the dance. Maybe not with a top seed, but at least they are given a chance.

But as we know, college football, controlled by bowl committees, would never give a school like TCU an opportunity. So Mack is right in that regard. You should give those schools some credit. By giving them a chance.

Unfortunately, Brown continues a little bit.
"At the same time I don't know that they are treated the same as the other schools. Is there as much scrutiny on one of those teams as there is on a Texas, Alabama, or Florida?"
This is where Brown gets a little pouty. If anything, these schools get more scrutiny. Guys like Herbstreit, if TCU only wins by 8 over a BYU, talks about how they really aren't a quality team. Same for Boise State, which, remember, beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl just 2 years ago, have beaten Oregon 2 years in a row, yet still will never get a chance to play for the big game, no matter what they do.

And you, Mack, get nothing but 5 star recruits should get more scrutiny. Texas, Florida, USC, Ohio State, all those schools get get nothing but love from ESPN should be scrutinized more. You have everything working for you, everything on your side. So with all that donor money and blue-chip recruits, comes more scrutiny. Those schools are supposed to go 12-1, so Mack, tough if people get upset if you don't.

But for the most part, Mack Brown showed a lot of common sense. Teams that play well should be rewarded. While he didn't out and out say that college football needs a playoff system, they do. If TCU goes undefeated, defeating along the way, Clemson, Utah, Virginia and BYU, and gets shut out of playing a meaningful game, then once again, college football will be telling TCU, Boise State and all the not-ESPN approved colleges, that "smaller colleges need not apply."

And that is a disgrace.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Five

1. Should baseball expand its replay usage. How so? Explain.

2. Who do you think will make it to the BCS Bowl game?

3. If you were the Pittsburgh Steelers, would you take a chance on Larry Johnson?

4. Will baseball ever have a woman player?

5. What was the greatest sports video game of all time? Explain.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Teams Of The Decade

In the next couple of months, the sports world will be inundated with the "Team of the Decade" article. So, to beat them all to the punch, I'll offer up my take. Here we go.

BASEBALL:
The Contenders: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees

Actually, this one wasn't as close as I imagined it to be. The Yankees won 2 World Series and so did the Red Sox. However, the Yankees appeared in 4 World Series and won the pennant 4 times. The Red Sox won the pennant and World Series twice. The Yankees won the AL East division title 8 times, while the Red Sox only won it once. Also, over the decade, the Yankees won 965 games to 653 losses while the Red Sox had a 920-699 record. No other team approached the Yankees and Red Sox, with the Cardinals and Angels coming closest.

Winner:
...and still champion, the New York Yankees. While the Red Sox made a lot of noise and had a great decade, in nearly every facet, the Yankees were their superior.


FOOTBALL:
The Contenders: Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts

Going from 2000 through 2008 and discounting this season, the Patriots would have the advantage due to most Super Bowl wins. However, they haven't won it since the 2004-2005 season, and lost the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. Meanwhile, the Steelers have won their 2 Super Bowls recently and should they win this season would tie the Patriots in number of Super Bowl wins at 3. The Colts, on the other hand, as Don Banks of SI.com writes, entered this season one win behind the leading Patriots in number of wins with 101 this decade (and as of this writing, have the lead). However they've only won won Super Bowl and only appeared in one as well.

Should the Colts win the Super Bowl this year, they would enter the team of the decade discussion with 2 Super Bowls as well as 8 straight playoff appearances, and best winning percentage. The Steelers and Patriots would not be able to make either of those claims. On the other hand, the Patriots would still have appeared in more Super Bowls overall.

Winner:
Even if the Steelers or Colts win the Super Bowl this year, the New England Patriots would still have played in 4 Super Bowl, winning 3. They have an astonishing 14-3 postseason record right now and can win a game in a variety of ways. Again, should the Colts or Steelers win it all this year, they would be in the discussion, but ultimately, the Patriots take the crown.


NBA:
The Contenders: San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers
Frankly this one is kinda easy. Sure the San Antonio Spurs won 3 times, which normally, in any sport would get you team of the decade. Heck, the Sporting News voted them team of the decade earlier this year. However, when the Los Angeles Lakers are in the discussion, all bets are off. Going from 1999-2000 to now, the Lakers have won the title 4 times and have been in 6. Even if you start with the 2000-2001 season, the Lakers still have been in 5, winning 3. However, the Spurs have the decided advantage over the Lakers in games won, either starting with the 1999-2000 season (659-624) or with the 2000-2001 season (605-542) and never won less than 53 games in any season. Consistency, rather than sporadic greatness counts for something—ask Henry Aaron.

The Winner:
You just can't argue with all the championship appearances. Sorry, Sporting News, but you have to give it to the team that consistently made it to the finals. In a close one, The Lakers.


COLLEGE FOOTBALL:
The Contenders: USC, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, Ohio State
At first look, it would seem easy: USC. However, a closer look reveals its not as easy as all that. Sure, USC, heading into this season, went 93-22 since 2000, including 88-15 under Pete Carroll. And yes, the Trojans have had 3 Heisman Trophy winners. That said, they've only won the big game only once, back in the 2004-2005 season (I'm not counting the split AP nonsense in 2003—just BCS championships). LSU and Florida, on the other hand have won it twice. Ohio State won once, and has been in three. And while Oklahoma, also, has only one once, they have been in 4, the most of any program.

Counting overall wins; LSU has gone 90-27, and Florida has gone 87-29, including 44-9 under Urban Meyer. And that doesn't include this season, where Florida is 9-0 and LSU matches USC at 7-2. Ohio State, since 2000 has gone 91-23. Oklahoma, however, tops them all, going 102-19 under Bob Stoops since 2000—only winning in the single digits only once. They have also had 2 Heisman winners.

The Winner:
Sorry, USC, going 93-22 is nice, but playing in the not-too-tough Pac -10 hasn't properly prepared you for the big games. And same for you, Oklahoma. Sure playing Texas is tough and you've gone 6-4 against them, but Iowa State, Baylor, Texas A&M? Those games pad your record. Ohio State, being in 3 big games is nice, but getting blown out by two other teams on this list disqualifies you.

Playing in the cut-throat SEC, however, is a different matter. Both LSU and Florida play in the toughest conference in CFB and have done well. But the final edge goes to Florida. They have a Heisman winner and the best shot to win it all this year. It was very, very close, but Florida wins it all.


NCAA Basketball:
The Contenders: North Carolina, Michigan State, Florida, Duke, Kansas
Duke, the team of the 90s won more games than any other NCAA team this decade, with Kansas coming in second. They have 4 ACC regular season titles—one less than North Carolina, but have an astonishing 7 ACC tournament championships. North Carolina only has 2. Michigan State, which has the worst overall record of any of the contenders, does however—like Duke and Kansas—have 10 NCCA final berths. Duke, Kansas and Michigan State also measure up with the 3 most Sweet Sixteen Appearances—with 8 for Duke, 7 for Kansas and 6 for Michigan State.

This is where it gets interesting though. Even though Florida only got into 3 Sweet Sixteens, it won 2 championships and played for a 3rd. Talk about making the most of your chances. North Carolina, also won the Dance twice this decade, showing up in 4 Final Fours.

At the final assessment, however, what you do in the final games is what counts, so although Duke and Kansas had stellar records, they showed up in less Final Fours than North Carolina and Michigan State and as many as Florida, though Kansas won less than Florida. And while Michigan State appeared in 4 Final Fours, they won less than North Carolina and Florida. Confused yet?

The Winner: In the end, North Carolina edges Florida by virtue of more ACC league titles—in a much tougher division than Florida—and more Sweet Sixteen and Final Four appearances—meaning they excelled more consistently than Florida. So, its Tar Heels as team of the decade.


That's my list: Yankees, Patriots, Lakers, Florida, North Carolina. Pls write in with your opinions on these choices.

To come in a future post, all these teams duke it out for the title of ultimate AAPTBNL Team of the Decade. Sweet.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Getting Rid of LJ A Good Move

Frankly, getting rid of Larry Johnson was a move the Chiefs needed to make. Even before he made homosexual- and coach-disparaging remarks on his Twitter account.

(As a side note: Shouldn't teams either A: ban Twitter/Facebook accounts, so athletes don't make idiotic remarks on them or B: Have a professional writer edit tweets before they go live?)

The Chiefs are a team in deep rebuilding mode. They have some young talent, and a youngish quarterback to go along with a brand new staff. The last thing a team needs is a big-salaried veteran spreading discontent while the new coaching staff is trying to install a philosophy.

Especially when big-salaried veteran isn't producing. At all.

Sure it can be said that the Chief offensive line is a work in progress. But Larry, you were averaging 2.7 yards a carry. To quote a former running back; "I can fall forward and get that."

And heck, your backup, a younger, cheaper Jamaal Charles was averaging 5.2 yards a carry.

At 1-7, why wouldn't the Chiefs free themselves of Johnson's financial, as well as psychological, burden.

So, even before Johnson went and shot his mouth off, questioning the neophyte coach—as well as making homophobic remarks (always a smart thing to do, Larry)—Johnson's time in Kansas City was nearing an end.

When Johnson was producing big numbers, then sure, coaches and organizations will put up with the psychological baggage of a "troubled" athlete. Heck, Pac-Man Jones got a 2nd chance and he was involved in gunplay. But the second an athlete doesn't produce on the field, football organizations will dispose of said "troubled" athlete—tout suite.

So, Larry, most likely another team will give you a second chance. Probably in a secondary or co-running back role. So when that happens, please Larry, make the most of it both on, and off the field. Get your PR guy to write up a nice apology for past actions and how "grateful for a 2nd chance," blah blah blah. Release the apology to ESPN, and maybe even have a softball interview with Stephen A. Smith (he could use the work), and then try to act of those nice words. Work hard on and off the field, produce for your team and play nice.

Because if you don't, there won't be a third chance.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Eric Bedard To Yankees?

A couple years ago, Eric Bedard was considered a frontline, blue chip number 1 starter. The Mariners, after trading the house to get Bedard, even used him as their 2008 Opening Day starter over Felix Hernandez.

Then the roof fell in.

Injuries, and an indifferent attitude have made his time in Seattle completely forgettable. Though Bedard hasn’t pitched poorly—when he’s pitched—the problem is he spent more time in Seattle mooching off the Mariners’ medical benefits rather than striking out hitters. In 2 seasons, Bedard pitched 160-odd innings and won 11 games. Sorta like a Seattle Carl Pavano, if you will.

Which is why I propose Eric Bedard should sign an incentive-based contract with the Yankees. It might be just what Bedard needs. And vice versa.

Last year, Andy Pettitte signed a contract with the Yankees that guaranteed him 5.5 million plus another 6.5 million for not-that-hard-to-get incentives (Andy, I believe got all the incentives) that put him at 12 million—higher than the 10-11 million Pettitte was negotiating for.

Say Bedard signs a contract like that with the Yankees. Guaranteed 6 million. Bedard’s contract last year was for 7.75 million, so its not that much of a loss should he be out the entire season.

But, add some incentives along the lines of Andy Pettitte’s. $500,000 each for 160 IP, 170 IP and 180 IP. Then $750,000 for 190 IP, 200 IP and 210. Then some other incentives for being on the 25-man roster, reaching certain performance levels (strikeouts, wins, etc), and you end up with a contract that could reach 12-13 million or so.

If Bedard earns $13 million, the Yankees probably would be happy to pay. It would mean he’s healthy and pitching right. If he doesn’t and 2010 is a wash, he earns his 5 mill or so and leaves. For the Yankees it’s low-risk. But it is potentially high reward.

The Yankees went with a three-man rotation in the postseason because that was all they had in terms of reliable starting pitching. Chamberlain was on the “Joba Count” all season. Wang was lost until at least mid 2010. And Chad Gaudin—who pitched pretty decently—was still, for the long term, a question mark.

And while the Joba Count should be off next year, who knows how Joba will respond—the dominator who pitched with aggression and confidence in the postseason—7 Ks in 6.1 IP, sub-3.00 ERA)? Or the tentative, sometimes-lost youngster who had a 1.544 WHIP and a 4.75 ERA?

Also, the Yankees are making noise about putting Phil Hughes back into the rotation. Which would mean the Yankees would have to utilize the “Hughes Rules”. Hughes has only pitched a high of 86 innings in a season—even less than the 100.1IP Chamberlain pitched in 2008—which means Hughes would again be on short pitch counts and might spend some healthy time on the bench.

And who knows if Pettitte will come back. And if he does, would he be healthy. Would Burnett—a notorious Injury Report dweller before last season’s relative health—remain healthy again? Will Wang come back? Do the Yankees even want him? And they do, does he have anything left in his shoulder?

All of this means the Yankees have a surprising amount of question in their rotation, despite winning the World Series on the strength of their staff. Sabathia is a rock at the 1 position, Burnett is a good 2, assuming he remains healthy, Pettitte is a nice 3, but will be 38 and has had shoulder trouble before. At the 4 and 5 spots; Chamberlain is extremely talented, but so far, extremely erratic. Same goes for Hughes—talented but erratic—and with a short pitch count.

And that’s where Bedard would be a godsend. Bedard has been a stud in his career—before his time in Seattle, Bedard was healthy in 4 seasons as a starter in Baltimore. And in those 4 years, Bedard dropped his ERA as well as his WHIP precipitously each season, from a 4.59 to a 3.16 ERA and from a 1.602 to a 1.193 WHIP. In 2007, his last year in Baltimore, Bedard led the AL in hits per 9 IP (6.973), through 5 shutouts and had the 4th lowest ERA with a 3.165. Not bad, eh?

Reportedly, Bedard, who is from Ottawa, wants to return to the East Coast, and with the Yankees as World Series champs, they would be in a very attractive position. Also, the Yankees could probably offer a very nice financial package—the one suggested above would be a nice example—that could interest Bedard.

Right now, Bedard needs to show the world that he can still pitch. He would turn 32 in March 2010, and is at a point in his career where he would like to earn his final big paycheck. While that most likely wont happen this offseason—most teams are still with a diminished revenue base due to the economic recession and wont throw it at a guy with injury issues—the Yankees still have the cash to spend. An Pettitte-type contract makes sense for both sides. Both sides should make this happen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009