Friday, May 29, 2009

Phils Need Pitching Help Pronto

Last week the Phillies promoted bullpen lefty J.A. Happ to the starting rotation in place of the struggling Chan Ho Park. Manager Charlie Manuel also indicated that he expected more from the rest of his starters as well. Happ and the rest of the rotation answered the call and the Phillies starters have been pitching much better. Now, a new crisis has arisen. Brett Myers got shelled by the Marlins in his last outing, and it now appears that he will need hip surgery. This means two things: Myers' wife will now be able to escape his wrath for a while, and the Phillies will need another starter. My main man D Billz was wondering what my thoughts were on the next move for the beleaguered Phillies rotation. he writes:

" I had a quick question- now that bretty myers is on the shelf for a while, who would make the best fit in the phils' rotation? Buster Olney (aka the yellow guy from Sin City) thinks Brad Penny would be a good fit, but also threw out names like Peavy, Oswalt, Bedard, Garland, Marquis, and Duke (In descending order by my personal rankings). I don't think Peavy would work, and they'd have to give up too many of their (thin) farm prospects for Oswalt and Bedard. That leaves Garland, Marquis, Penny, and Duke.

Naturally, when the Phillies and Brad Penny are used in the same sentence I feel compelled to respond right away. I think that Penny would make a GREAT fit for the Phillies rotation, and out of all of those guys listed would make the most sense for the team.

When the Phillies were making their playoff run last season, they caught a lot of flack from the fans for not "making the big trade" for a guy like C.C. Sabathia or Jake Peavy. They instead acquired "FJB" (Fat Joe Blanton) from the A's. The rest as they say, is history. Victorino's grand slam off of Sabathia in the opening playoff round, coupled with Blanton's home run in the World Series made the Phils brass look like geniuses. The Phillies front office believes that when it comes to acquisitions, landing the big name guy rarely ever leads to lasting success. This will more than likely rule Peavy, Oswalt and probably even Bedard out.

Of the remaining guys (Penny, Garland, Marquis and Duke) I think that Brad Penny makes the most sense for several reasons. First, he has had great success in the National League before with the Marlins and Dodgers. Moreover, it looks like hes starting to turn the corner this year. His velocity is rising and he is striking out more batters. Garland and Marquis have always been 2nd or 3rd starters for their clubs. Penny is a legit starter and is the cheapest of the three players (all of whom are in the final year of their contracts) at $5 million. Zach Duke would be a great pickup, maybe even better than Penny. The problem is that he is only 26 and could still be considered a "prospect", which would allow the Pirates to demand more in a trade for him. As you said Mr. Billz, the Phillies don't have much in the way of blue chip minor leaguers to trade away. Penny just turned 30, is coming off of an injury, and is on a team that is looking to replace him with either John Smoltz or Clay Bucholz. The Phils could get him for a song.

Even though I would love to see Brad Penny in a Phillies jersey and it makes a lot of sense, don't sleep on the Phillies bringing up a minor league pitcher. Carlos Carrasco is considered to be the top arm in the farm system, though he is struggling in AAA ball. They might also give Antonio Bastardo (would love to see that name on the back of a jersey) or Drew Carpenter a look. Ultimately though, I don't think a team that is defending the World Series title can get by with minor league arms. Look for a trade sometime soon.

I expected big things for the Phillies rotation this year. I thought Cole Hamels would build off of his amazing post season and become the best pitcher in the NL. I thought Brett Myers would continue to show the form he did at the end of last season. I thought Jamie Moyer would continue making kids half his age look foolish on his way to another 15 wins or so. And I thought Joe Blanton would have a great full year in slimming red pinstripes. So far I have been disappointed by all of those predictions. There is still time to turn it around for some of them, but it is clear now that the Phillies need some more help in their starting rotation. Brad Penny seems like the best option to me, but at this point I'd take any of those guys. Anything but Chan Ho.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Coach Cal Caught

Another one bites the dust. Accusations of major recruiting violations came out yesterday against the Memphis basketball program during their NCAA Tournament Runner-Up year. Of course, Coach John Calipari was the head coach of Memphis during that time. I for one am not surprised. Calipari has been playing it fast and loose his whole career and his success does not make sense. I would also not be surprised if many, many other schools are guilty of the same violations. Moreover, I think there is a systemic problem in college sports that leads to these violations. Each year collegiate sports draw in so much money that these players can't help but feel like they are getting the short end of the stick.

Coach Calipari has always been a pretty smooth guy. Well dressed, Italian, very young when he started his career. It is encoded into my DNA as an Irishman that I do not trust well dressed Italian people. The signs were there from the beginning; Calipari recruits the best player in the land at the time in Marcus Camby to lowly UMass and takes them to the Final Four. What's up with that? Then after a brief hiatus from college coaching, he goes to Memphis and reloads the program with a bunch of "one and done" thugs and takes college basketball by storm. Usually rebuilding a program takes years, decades even. But Calipari was able to rebuild UMass and Memphis in a very short amount of time with these top recruits. The same appears to be happening at Kentucky already. It can't be just because he is a great coach. He's definitely been greasing the wheels for years and these new allegations could open up Pandora's box for him.

By no means is Coach Cal the only one doing this though. We have recently seen programs like UConn, USC, Michigan (and a while back) UNLV get busted as well. Many of these teams were powerhouses during their time. What a coincidence. I wouldn't be surprised if we go on to see the likes of a Villanova, Pitt, Louisville or UCLA get caught with their hands in the cookie jar as well.

The problem in the NCAA is that their is so much money being thrown around. College basketball brings in big dollars and gives national attention to kids that have grown up in very poor circumstances much of the time. They want a piece of the action too. The NCAA has got to figure out a better way to regulate this stuff, impose harsher punishments so that it won't happen anymore, or come up with some sort of way that NCAA athletes get paid. The only real option that makes sense to me is imposing harsher punishments. The point is that there has got to be a better way than what we have in place now. Until that way is found, let the witch hunt continue!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Country Wide Ballpark Review

Having just returned from a action packed weekend in our nation's capital and having just visited yet another baseball cathedral, I find myself going over the different ballparks that I have been to in my life. Some I enjoyed very much so, some I thought were awful. Here is my list of my favorite ballparks that I have been to so far in my life. Obviously there are going to be different factors that weigh in to the experience (seats, people around you, prices, teams playing, whether or not you are 21, etc.) so try to keep those things in mind when reading my list. Anyway here goes;

1. Wrigley Field- Wrigley Field is by far the best baseball experience that I have had in my life. I was able to go to Wrigley last summer after Wesley Mareo (aka Tameo) and I hauled ass across the country. The day prior Tameo and I had driven for about 20 hours from Denver to Wolcott, Iowa, getting in at about 2am and not feeling so enthused. Our room smelled like poop and smoke, and didn't have any air conditioning. Nevertheless, we continued our intrepid adventure to Chicago a mere four hours later in order to get to the Windy City by game time. We got to Wrigley by game time and our tiresome journey the day before was immediately forgotten. A few Old Styles and a hot dog or two later I was feeling great. The Wrigley Field experience was really amazing. The tickets were reasonably priced, the fans were friendly, the stadium was awesome and the area around Wrigley very fun. Dan Plesac singing "Take me out to the ball game" was the cherry on top of the whipped cream bikini. The Wrigley Field experience was by far the best time I've ever had at a baseball game.

2. Coors Field- On an earlier intrepid adventure across the country with Tameo, Josef Scar, and Bo Fitz, we were lucky enough to be able to catch a Rockies game at Coors Field. Though I wasn't 21 at the time, I still managed to have much fun at the game. For starters, the tickets for the game were only 7 dollars and were in the second deck in the outfield. Not bad. Also, there was lots to do for a baseball fan. I got my picture taken with my head replacing the immortal Larry Walker's in a cutout, I struck out Derek Jeter with some 73 mph heat at an interactive pitching game and I enjoyed heckling the Padres relievers from high above the bullpen. Also, as the sun went down over right field, it made for some pretty awesome views. Anything to distract from the ball game I guess. Some years later I would go back to visit Denver and drink many beers in the "Historic Ballpark District" (Coors field having been built in 1996) of downtown Denver outside the stadium. I also enjoyed this. In all Coors Field and the Blake Street area are pretty sweet.

3. Oakland Coliseum- Again I have young Tameo to thank for the chance to visit another ballpark. My experience at the Coliseum was awesome. In three days I got to watch three A's/Red Sox games from the "Diamond Level" right behind home plate, the right field grandstand, and from a Luxury Box. Each one was pretty sweet. This was when the A's and Sox were both pretty good too so the games were all pretty intense. One of the best parts of the experience was in the Diamond Level. We got to park where the players parked, allowing me to see what I thought was Barry Zito's minivan. It looked like this but with a big A's decal on the hood. I'm almost certain it was his. We also got to see the players as they walked in and out of the locker rooms. So awesome. Also, a Barry Zito curveball looks pretty sweet from right behind home plate. The only way this experience could have been better is if I was over 21. Beers in the luxury box would have been money. A+ experience nonetheless though.

4. Veteran's Stadium- I know what you're thinking, but hear me out. Veteran's Stadium holds a special place in my heart as it was the first baseball stadium I ever went to. We're talking back in the 80s here. Before the Braves were even good. In all though, I thought the stadium was fine. Tons of parking, you could get tickets for free (no joke, packages of Phillies Franks came with a voucher for a free ticket), they always had sweet giveaways because the team was lousy, and you got to watch the Phillies. Doesn't get much better than that. Some memorable moments I had at the Vet: lost my first tooth eating a hot dog, watching fireworks from the field on July 4th, getting pictures with the players on the field, windbreaker give away day, going to the last Phillies game ever at the Vet. In a way, my youth imploded with that stadium.

5. Citizen's Bank Park- The Bank is pretty sweet too. There is not a bad seat in the stadium, there is plenty of tailgating room outside, the food is great, you can heckle the visiting relievers and again you get to watch the Phillies. My memories of "The Bank" were also made more fun by the actions of one Ryan Firkser, so that is neat. My only complaint about Citizen's Bank Park is that some of the people that go to the games are not very nice. They are called Philadelphians.

6. Ballpark at Arlington- Back in the late 90s I lived in Dallas, Texas for a summer and got the chance to go to a Rangers/Red Sox game. Somehow, my uncle was able to score first row seats behind the Rangers dugout. This definitely swayed my opinion of this stadium. The food there was great (Lemon chill = delicious), the stadium was pretty cool and I got to witness Nomar hit a grand slam. I think Mo Vaughn had a home run too as the Sox won something like 18-1. Pretty sweet. Texas is awesome.

7. Shea Stadium- I think I am one of the only people that thought Shea Stadium wasn't a shithole. It might seem even harder to believe after I let you know that every game I have gone to there has been rained shortened, and I also received a $25 fine for drinking in the parking lot there once. But I thought that the stadium got the job done. It wasn't great, but it allowed a good view of the action, space for tailgating (as long as the beer is in cups mind you, otherwise it leads to fights somehow according to the guy who wrote us up), and some good baseball. At Shea I was able to witness what I am sure was, and always will be the last complete game for both Tom Glavine and Anthony Reyes. That one will definitely be an Aflac trivia question somewhere down the line. Boo ya.

8. Nationals Park- I still probably haven't had time to digest my Nationals Park experience, but it wasn't great in my opinion. Part of it probably had to do with the fact that it was oppressively hot. Another part of it probably had to do with the fact that it was the Nats vs. the Orioles and the game went to 12 innings (kill me). But the stadium just lacked anything really great in my opinion. There were fireworks after the game, but I couldn't even see them from the side of the stadium I was on. Everything was also pretty pricy, a no no for bad teams. There was a cool bar across the street from left field called "The Bullpen" though, and the tickets were only $20 for the game. Also, the President's race was fun to watch. I wish Teddy would have won though. All in all, an average experience. Time may change my opinion on that.

9. Fenway Park- Believe it or not, I'm not wild about Fenway. Sure there is cool shit like the Green Monster seats or some of the club seats (EMC and State Street), but I will be dead in the cold cold ground before I ever sit there. I usually have to wedge my ass into a wooden seat facing the outfield or suffer on a bleacher seat. Moreover, EVERYTHING is expensive at Fenway. Beer, food, tickets, you name it. Still though, I would never turn down a chance to go to Fenway. Also, the area surrounding is pretty awesome and the people there are like me.

10. Yankee Stadium (old)- I freaking hated this place. I think I went 4 times in my life (3 of which were Red Sox games) and never had a great experience there. The Bronx is an awful place for a stadium, everything was comparable with Fenway price-wise and the people were NOT like me. I very much did not enjoy having insults hurled at me by 15 year old Latinas on my way into the park. You might think that it was so bad only because I like the Red Sox. To that I say "nay". I went to a Yankees/ Blue Jays game as an impartial baseball fan and had a horrible time. Sitting in the no beer, no exit bleachers made me want to die. Hearing the voices of Vinny and Tony Z. from Queens shouting behind me only made it worse. I do have 3 good memories from Yankee Stadium though; heckling Vernon Wells when he was on my fantasy team, getting a Dodgers hat at the team store, and Dave Rattner yelling in the parking structure that Pat Lyons hates black people. Yep, feared for my life there.

Honorable Mention- Rosenblatt Stadium- Very cool place. A short pit stop during the 20 hour cruise from Denver to Chicago by way of Wolcott, Iowa. Me and Mareo each scored a free ticket and were able to moved down to the first row behind home plate for the Memphis Redbirds/ Omaha Royals game. Tons of cool stuff to do and see, and entertainment between innings. Also, you can't go wrong having a guy named Brett Bigler with a porn stache on your team. We also went bowling somewhere in Iowa afterwards. Great fun

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tom Brady is Back!!!!!!!

Yesterday, Tom Brady was seen practicing at Gillette Stadium. With this sighting, I expect Tum's Rum to be back online and posting multiple times per day. Also, we can naturally expect the New England Patriots (or PatriOTTs if your name is Bobby Knight) to challenge for another Super Bowl in 2009. With all his old weapons, and several new ones, in the stable this year the Pats offense should be very dynamic and tough to stop. However, if the Patriots really want to go anywhere this season, their quarterback needs to get off of his high horse and get to work.

If you look at the picture of Tom Brady in the Stetson ad to the left, you will see a man who has come a long way in his life. After a decent career at Michigan, Brady was overlooked by every team several times in the 2000 NFL Draft and was finally drafted in the 6th round (199 overall) by the Pats. Well, we all know what has happened since then. Brady took over the Patriots offense and has guided them to 3 Super Bowl championships and a 16-0 regular season record for the first time ever. However, somewhere along the line the hard working, fun loving kid with a rocket arm and a bowl cut let his celebrity get to him. This guy turned into this guy.

Much like Rick Vaughn in Major League II, I think that Tom Brady's celebrity status is having an effect on his performance on the field. Two years ago, when the Patriots were on the verge of making history in the Super Bowl, instead of seeing a team working hard and practicing together we saw pictures Tom Brady in New York with Gisele. The Patriots season had become a tabloid scandal. Every move was shrouded in mystery and uncertainty. Why was Tom Brady not with the team? Why did he have a boot on his foot? I give all the credit to the Giants for winning that game, but I feel like Tom Brady's head was not and has not been in the game for a while. He threw 50 TDs that year, but it looked like he wasn't having any fun at all. He has let his celebrity status and his hot wife go to his head. Who would care about football when you've got a wife like Gisele and a boatload of money?

After essentially wasting a season in 2008, the Patriots are looking to re-assert their status as the next sports dynasty this year. If they wish to do so, it's gotta start with their QB. He needs to bring himself back down to earth and re-fuel that competitive fire that burns inside of him. If he is able to do this, the rest of the NFL should be on red alert. If we see him on tv dressed as a merman, the Patriots could have a rough season.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

If I May Shift Gears for a Moment

Today's post will only be somewhat about sports. I will depart from my normal articles to discuss several things that have been on my mind recently. My sports writing had gotten kind of stale recently so I figured I'd launch into some solid rants about a few things that have been bothering me recently. I think this might help generate some great responses from the folks in the audience as well. Feel free to sound off on these topics, and to include your own rants as well. We'll have a group therapy session right here and now. Anyway, here is what has been on my mind recently.

1. Mike's Hard Lemonade
What is the deal with Mike's Hard Lemonade? I've never seen anybody but teenage girls drinking this stuff, yet their tagline is "In a world gone soft, someone's gotta be hard". Also, in the commercials they have a bunch of guys in a warehouse type area talking about the drink, then a person slamming a glass of it on to a table at the end. Unless this setting is actually a gay steel mill, Mike's is way off here. They should focus on the underage markets more. I don't know where they got it into their heads that grown men drink Mike's Hard Lemonade.

2. Red stuff in Poland Spring bottles
While watching last night's Red Sox game, I witnessed Terry "Tito" Francona drinking some kind of red juice from a Poland Springs bottle. This was not the first time I had seen it either. The juice is always red, and it is always in a Poland Springs bottle. What is it? Why is it always in a Poland Springs bottle? It must be very tedious to funnel that drink into those bottles. Why not a have it in a cooler? It's like they want us to know that it is not water. This red drink remains a greater mystery to me than why Taco Bell discontinued the Volcano taco.

3. Robert Flores sucks
This guy (SportsCenter anchor for those who don't know) is the biggest loser ever and is everything that is wrong with ESPN. All he ever does is try to make stupid jokes about pop culture and interrupt the other anchors when they are talking. He also is of some Spanish/Latino descent and has kid hair, making him even more annoying. Go suck a railroad spike Flores.

4. This card I got
I got a card a few weeks ago which was very off-putting. Now the run of the mill "Will, remember alcohol causes brain damage" card I get from one of my family members is no big deal, but this one was very weird. It was a card thanking me for organizing a community service trip recently. I was able to find a copy of it on the web. The Big Guy is on the cover. But doesn't he look a little too much like this guy? I don't know who this artist is, but he obviously is trying to convert everyone to the Church of Kenny Loggins. Psalm #1 "Even though we ain't got money, I'm so in love with you honey."

That's what is on my mind this week. If anyone can help shed light on these things, please do so.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Shit Happ-ens

Ladies and Gentlemen, the time has come. Get ready for the J.A. Happ experience. Now that the Chan Ho Park era is over in Philadelphia, we can look forward to much more success from our new 5th starter. I doubt very much that Happ will become the next Steve Carlton or Randy Johnson, but he should help stabilize this Phillies rotation that is sporting a robust 6.35 ERA. In the case of Chan Ho Park, shit happens. Luckily J.A. Happ has been there to mop it up.

The Phillies are not a team that needs great pitching in order to be successful like the Giants or the A's. They count on their offense to get the job done. They just need a guy that can go out there every fifth day, pitch about 6 innings and keep the team in the game. More often than not the Phils bats, especially the bat of Matt Stairs, will do the rest. The problem with the Phillies rotation so far has been the amount of innings that they have pitched. Several times the triumvirate of Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer and Chan Ho Park have failed to go even two or three innings, making it extremely difficult for the bullpen to stay rested and forcing the offense to play catch up all the time. The offense has certainly been able to catch up several times this year, but this is not a recipe for long term success. The Phillies just need a few guys that can stay out there for a while and hold the other team to 4 or 5 runs. J.A. Happ can do that I think.

When the Phils rotation has faltered this year, Happ has been there to stop the bleeding. In 21.2 innings of relief this season, Happ has only allowed 6 runs to cross the plate. Happ also struck out 17 in those 21.2 innings. He has done just what the Phillies needed from a starter, but in the bullpen. In terms of a starting pitcher, the 26 year old definitely has some upside. He is a mountain of a man at 6'6" and about 200 pounds, and he has good velocity on his fastball at about 94 mph. The main question for Happ will be can he sustain his effectiveness over 5 to 6 innings? Moreover for the Phillies, can Ho fill in for Happ adequately in the bullpen? Last year Chan excelled in the bullpen, so hopefully he can find his mojo again in relief. Also, the team will be buoyed by the addition of J.C. Romero in a week or two which will give the bullpen another live arm. All things considered this is a good move for the Phillies.

Hopefully young Mr. Happ can provide a more reliable starter than Chan Ho did. I also expect much more from Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer than they have shown so far. They don't have to pitch great, just eat up innings and keep the team in the game. If they can do that, then they will have done their job. If they can do their jobs, expect the Phillies to really take off in the NL East. If not, look for guys like Carlos Carrasco or Kyle Kendrick to be brought up, or for the Phillies to make a signing or trade. Good luck Mr. Happ. And remember, shit happens.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Youth vs. Experience in the Playoffs

If you were to replace the mug of Dwight Howard with that of Dwayne Wade in this picture, you would have the 4 headliners left in the NBA Playoffs. In the East, Lebron and Dwight Howard will battle to see which youngster has got the next dominant team in the NBA. In the West, Kobe and Melo will face off to see which veteran (relatively speaking) team has got the chops to prove how the West was won (or fun). Much to the chagrin of the Nuggets and the Magic, I think that it will be King James and the Cavs facing off against Kobe and the Lakers for the NBA Title when all is said and done.

Despite the regular and post-season dominance by Cavs, they actually lost their season series to the Magic. However, Cleveland has been nearly unbeatable at home which gives them a huge advantage since they have the higher seed in this matchup. Moreover, King James looks like he is coming into his own as the premier player in the NBA. We are talking Jordan mode here. Which would make Zydrunas Ilgauskas the team's Luc Longley/Chris Dudley, Mo Williams the Steve Kerr/John Paxson and Anderson Varejao the Dennis Rodman. Also, the Magic looked very hit or miss last series against the undermanned Celtics. I seriously doubt that Stan Van Gundy is capable of getting this team to the Finals, especially against coach of the year Mike Brown. Look for the Cavs to lose a game, but not the series. Cavs in 5.

In the Western Conference, we are witnessing the "trade of the century" still pay dividends as the Billups and Melo led Nuggets present a serious threat to the Lakers. Everyone seems to be making a big deal out of how the Lakers struggled against the Rockets in the last series, but I don't think that it is as big of a concern as most. If anything, the Rockets might have provided a blueprint of how to beat the Lakers by being physical but that is it. Just because the Lakers didn't win each series by a sweep doesn't mean anything. The Western Conference is a lot deeper than the East and the lower ranked teams in the West are much tougher competition. This series should be a great one. Chauncey Billups will be trying to further the fact that he is the most underrated guard in NBA history, while Kobe is still trying to prove that he can win a title without Shaq. In the end, I think that this series will go 7 with the Lakers using home court advantage to capture the Western Conference again unfortunately. The finals will showcase the ultimate showdown of youth versus experience. Kobe and his rings versus Lebron, the heir to the throne.

Though it is usually "age before beauty", "substance over style" and "wisdom over youth", I see the Cavs winning the NBA Title this year. They do have NBA Finals experience, and Lebron James is ready to put the team on his back to win the title. Kobe will play the part of the villain again this year and lose another NBA Finals while Shaq comments about it on Twitter. I might actually watch some of these two series, and I'm hoping for some great competition.

Monday, May 18, 2009

It Ain't Over 'Til the Big Papi Swings (and misses)

Don't call it a comeback. I've been here for months. I apologize for my inactivity last week. Very busy week around the old orifice, and my time at home was spent sleeping mostly. I am back with renewed vigor this week though. My first rant back involves the troubles of a man they call Big Papi. After several very successful years in Boston from 2004-2007, Big Papi has put up very limited numbers and has been bothered by several different injuries in the past two years. Now I'm not here to question whether he was using steroids, whether or not he should be benched, or if he will ever break out of his current slump, I am here to call for the end of the experiment. The experiment I am speaking of is the addition of the designated hitter to the American League in 1973. The Designated Hitter allows for too much specialization in baseball and needs to be done away with. After all, what are the Red Sox supposed to do with Big Papi if he can't hit?

Why should a player not have to play defense? Why should a pitcher not have to bat? These are two of the most common criticisms of the Designated Hitter in baseball. I say that the players should have to do both. Designated Hitters just take away from the greatness of the game by covering up weaknesses of players. Look at a guy like Carlos Zambrano. He wouldn't be nearly as valuable a player if the National League had a DH. Or how about a guy like Ryan Howard who has vastly improved his defense over the past few years? Were he in the AL, he probably would not have worked so hard to become a better first baseman because he would most likely be DHing every day. The Designated Hitter has been used to prolong careers of players whose defensive skills are terrible, and to cover up for pitchers who are afraid to hit. Speaking of pitchers, the DH also allows AL pitchers to bean players without any fear of reprisal. If you want to hit, you should have to play defense. If you want to pitch you should have to swing the bat as well. Help your team on both sides of the ball for crying out loud.

Not only does the DH cover up the weaknesses of ball players, it also eliminates much of the strategy from the game. One of the most interesting parts of baseball in my opinion is the tough decisions that a manager has to make in the latter innings of the game. Does he keep his pitcher in, in which case the pitcher will have to bat, or does he lift the pitcher for a world class pinch hitter like Matt Stairs? Decisions, decisions, decisions. Managers in the AL don't have to think about this stuff, making for a less interesting game. Moreover, squeeze plays, hit and runs and sacrifices are much more prevalent in the NL than in the AL where the DH just tries to slug homers. The value of a run is much higher in the National Leauge. NL baseball is much more interesting, and more of an art form simply because there is no DH. In an AL game, a bench player will most likely not play, while in the NL you are guaranteed to see one or two guys pinch hitting. We are all the better for it, because Matt Stairs is a bench player in the NL.

When the skills of guys like Big Papi begin to erode, we can't help but question the merits of the Designated Hitter. What does he bring to the team if he can't hit? Nothing. Abolish the DH for good. If hitters (and pitchers) can't play both sides of the ball, then they shouldn't be playing at all. That's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Can See It Now

With the new book "American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime" hitting shelves this week, The Rocket took some time this today to re-affirm his innocence on "Mike and Mike in the Morning". "I've seen the excerpts, they're completely false" said Clemens about the accusations made in the book. Furthermore he commented that his family has a history of heart trouble so it would be dangerous to take steroids. Why is he doing this to himself? It seems painfully obvious by now that he, and many many other players from his era used and abused steroids. Why doesn't he just admit that he did it? I don't get it. Roger Clemens appears to be headed down the same road as Pete Rose was about 20 years ago. I wouldn't be surprised if in 20 years we see Roger posted up in a bookstore somewhere in Cooperstown, NY selling autographs for 50 bucks a pop.

Almost 20 years ago, the man they called "Charlie Hustle" was sentenced to lifetime ineligibility from baseball due to gambling on games that his team was involved in while he was a manager. Though the report compiled by John Dowd had a great amount of evidence showing that Rose bet for and against his own team, Rose denied the allegations and to this day still denies that he bet against his own team. It is because Rose still has not told the whole truth in my opinion that he is still banished from baseball and not allowed in the Hall of Fame. After all, there are raging alcoholics (Mickey Mantle among others) and druggies (Orlando Cepeda) in the Hall of Fame now. Why wouldn't one of the most talented and hard nosed players ever to play the game be allowed in if he admitted his mistake? Based on the old clips I've seen of Pete Rose I really admire the way he played the game and think he could have been a great role model, but Rose screwed himself over by acting so stupidly and he deserves his fate from here on out.

Now I'm not sure how this whole steroid thing is going to shake out, but it seems to me that with steroids (as with almost everything) it pays to be honest. The man they call "The Rocket" is choosing to deny, deny, deny while those who have come out and said they used are facing no impunity. However, Clemens has now apparently perjured himself in front of Congress: an act that can't go without punishment. I don't know who of the "Steroid Era" will make the Hall of Fame. Maybe they all will, maybe they all won't, maybe those who admit it will. I have no idea. It seems for now at least that the HOF voters are passing on the alleged users (McGwire only got 23% of the vote in 2008). If that continues to be the case, I can definitely see Clemens in a little shop in Cooperstown trying to plead his case a la Pete Rose while selling some 'graphs on the side.

Roger Clemens needs to learn a lesson from Pete Rose. Denying what you did when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary will get you nowhere in the eyes of baseball fans and Hall of Fame voters. Clemens is a man to whom his legacy is very important. He would be far better served to stop this charade and tell the truth than he will be by continually denying the steroid allegations against him.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What Would've Happened If.....

While it is crystal clear that Derrius Heyward-Bey will be the run away Offensive Rookie of the Year this year, one thing remains a mystery from day to day: how the Celtics will play. The Celtics have been extremely difficult to figure out this post-season. With Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe both out for the playoffs, I had the Celts dead in the water in the first round. Somehow though they managed to come out of "The Greatest Playoff Series Ever" victorious. Against the Magic in Round 2 they have been very up and down, but managed to tie the series last night on a buzzer beater by Big Baby Davis aka Jon Frisch. Their success without Garnett this year has led to wonder how the Celtics would be doing if they had not traded for him in the first place. Would they be better off? This writer says maybe.

The championship window for the Celtics is definitely closing. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen(Wellesley...), and Kevin Garnett are all in their early 30's and are already showing signs of losing a step from last year. Pierce can't always create his own shot now, Ray Allen has lapses on defense and can only get open with the help of screens, and Kevin Garnett has not been able to stay healthy this year. The Big Three were definitely fortunate to win the championship last year, because I'm not sure that it will happen again. With the way they are playing this year "anything is possible", but I imagine that if the C's beat the Magic, Cleveland will put an end to their playoff run this year, and possibly for many years to come. By next year Garnett will be 33, Pierce 32 and Ray Allen(Wellesley...) 34. Geezers by NBA standards. Having witnessed many of the Celtics playoff games firsthand last year, the championship for The Big Three was truly something special. I have my doubts that those 3 can do it again though.

Now imagine a Celtics team consisting of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen(Wellesley...), Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo as starting 5. Then throw in Ryan Gomes and Sebastian Telfair off the bench, and two first round draft picks this year. Not looking too bad eh? Its hard to say how good this team would be obviously, but on paper it certainly doesn't look too bad. Al Jefferson was having a monster year before tearing his knee up, and could be a top flight forward for years to come. He would also have helped bridge the gap for the future for Boston with Rajon Rondo. Who knows what would have become of the draft picks as well? The building blocks would certainly have been in place for future success. Food for thought.

It is certainly interesting to think about how things could have been. In all though, I think the Celtics made the right move in getting Garnett. Nothing replaces winning now, and that's exactly what Garnett enabled the C's to do. He brought leadership, toughness, a defensive mindset and the ability to mentor the young bigs in Boston. I doubt Al Jefferson and a few draft picks would have been able to do all this. Certainly not all by last year. With Garnett out for the entire playoffs and the C's still winning though, one can't help but wonder what it would be like if he never came to Boston in the first place.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Clash of the Titans

The NHL counted its blessings when the Pittsburgh Penguins dismissed the Flyers in six games, and when the Capitals came from the brink of elimination to stun the Rangers 4 games to 3 in the first round of the playoffs. They finally got what they wanted in an Ovechkin vs. Crosby showdown. The ratings for these games has been through the roof (relatively speaking) and mirrors the hype and hysteria of when Lex Luger fought Yokozuna at Wrestlemania X, or Hogan vs. Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III. Regardless of who's side you are on, this series has been great for hockey. I have been on record though as saying that Ovechkin is better than Crosby and I am hoping that the Caps pull it out.

Neither player has disappointed in this series so far. Ovechkin has 5 goals, Crosby has 4, and each had a hat trick in game 2. However, you would think that Crosby has done nothing by the way he acts. When Ovey scores a goal he dances around, jumps up and crashes into the boards, and fist pumps like crazy. This is what people want to see; the fans are as excited as he is and feed off of his energy. When Crosby scores, he usually has a very run of the mill celebration. In my opinion, it seems to me as if he thinks he is better than the game. Whenever I see Crosby I think stuck up Canadian pretty boy. Meanwhile Ovechkin resembles more of an unleashed tiger or a whirling dervish. The picture above also speaks volumes. Crosby appears startled and upset as if some hooligan had just knocked off his top hat, while Ovechkin looks like he's ready to go. I'm talking about go. That's what I'm talking about. First one's on the house. Ovechkin is the future. Just accept it Gary Bettman.

Maybe I'm just biased because I hate Pittsburgh, but I think that Sidney Crosby is a big pussy. Alex the Great is a much more exciting and dynamic hockey player and I would love to see him steamroll the Penguins on his way to the Conference and possibly Stanley Cup Finals. Crosby is too worried about his endorsements and the arrival of his first pube to play the way that Ovechkin does. Despite my hatred of Crosby, I would love to see this series go 7 games because we are witnessing some great hockey here. Ultimately though, I think we will see Ovechkin give Crosby the proverbial "Human Torture Rack", "Flying Forearm", "Big Boot" or "Hogan Leg Drop" and take over as Heavyweight Champ in the NHL. See what I did there?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Mannywood Ending

Another one bites the dust. Manny Ramirez was suspended today for 50 games after testing positive for a performance enhancing drug. After the Dodgers worked patiently the entire offseason to sign this piece of crap, this is how he repays them. Everything was going so well in Dodgerland; they had won 13 in a row at home, they had the best record in baseball, and their young stars were starting to blossom. Now this happens. Don't be surprised if the Dodgers drop off the face of the earth after this bombshell (as I hoped in my entry entitled "Listen to the Money Talk" on 2/27). The team and the town placed so much hope in this man, only to be burned by what we can only call "Manny being Manny".

When the story about Manny first broke, it didn't really make sense to me. "Manny?", I thought. "He doesn't care about anything. Why would he care so much about baseball as to take steroids?". Seriously, over the years Manny's mind has appeared to be anywhere but focused on baseball. There were the times he would retreat into the Green Monster to take bong rips, there was his walk up song of "Because I got high" by Afroman, there was the clubhouse fight he got into with Youkilis, and there was the sign he made asking to be traded for Brett Favre. Not to mention the $20+ million he just got for singing with L.A. this offseason. Why would this guy take steroids? He doesn't care about baseball and he's filthy rich. I'm not even sure if he lifts weights. It didn't make sense. Then Manny came out with "his" public statement and I knew it was true.

"I saw a physician for a personal health issue and he gave it to me". Bullshit. Does he think we are retarded? How many times have we been fed that line in the last two years? If you were fighting to save your name, wouldn't you at least name the doctor? And the health issue? Just like Steve Kohut when he got locked out of the KA off campus house because no one likes him, I wasn't having any of it. "It" being Manny's excuse. I gave this guy the benefit of the doubt at first because I thought he was too much of a flake to do steroids. It turns out that he is about the biggest idiot of all time because he took steroids and managed to get caught. Of all the big names who juiced; McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Clemens, Rodriguez etc. Manny is the only one who has been dumb enough to actually get caught by MLB and suspended the 50 games. There is no doubt in my mind that he juiced. Save your excuses Manny, we're tired of it.

I guess the Dodgers got what they bargained for when they threw all that money at the man with the million dollar bat and the two cent head. I'm glad the Dodgers got screwed for wasting all that money on Manny, but it is unfortunate for the city of Los Angeles, longtime Dodger fans, Manny Ramirez fantasy owners like Andrew Brown, and Andre Ethier fantasy owners like myself who put their hope in Manny. They are also getting severely burned for the actions of one stupid person. Add Manny Ramirez to the list of players that we should just ignore completely. Manny will now have plenty of time to be Manny while being suspended.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What's All This About Farva?

Here we go again ladies and germs. It seems inevitable that when the weather begins to warm each year Brett Favre decides that he wants to play football again. I for one am getting pretty tired of the whole Brett Favre story. I never thought that he was that good even when he was playing at his best on the Packers and I am certainly sick of his antics now. My advice to Brad Childress and Minnesota is to do yourself a favor and pass on Brett Favre or, as my grandfather would pronounce it Brett "Fay-vree" giving us a good carbon date of pre 1991 for when he lost his hearing. The man (Favre, not my grandfather) is not what he used to be. And even if he was what he used to be, that still ain't that good.

Brett Favre is like a $5.99 chinese food buffet. People love the idea of it, but sooner or later it turns out to be a bad idea. His persona of being a "gunslinger" and "loving the game like a kid" make him seem like the perfect guy to have under center, but Favre's lovable personality has masked his deteriorating play over time. When I watch him play these days I do not fear a deep touchdown strike at all, but look at his deep balls as more likely to be intercepted than anything. The man still thinks he can throw a football like John Elway can throw a vortex, but his arm isn't that powerful anymore. This leads him to make a lot of bad decisions out on the field and throw a lot of interceptions.

Another aspect of Brett Favre's cool southern guy persona that was overlooked until last year is his relationship with his teammates. The man is a 39 year old from Gulfport, Mississippi. He is from a different generation. What do you think that he and a guy like Adrian Peterson or Percy Harvin (called that pick) would have in common? Favre seemed to alienate himself from his teammates last year, and I wouldn't be surprised if it happened again in Minnesota. Think about it, he'd been rocking out to Mississippi Queen or something by Motley Crue while the other players were trying to listen to Freak-a-Leak or whatever it is those damn kids listen to these days.

I think Brett Favre would probably be a cool guy to hang out with. He makes Wrangler jeans seem pretty awesome and is probably a really good person. However, when it comes to him playing in the NFL, I've been pretty tired of him for a while. Its time for old Fay-vree to go the way of other legends from his era like Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Greg Maddux and hang up his spikes for good. He would be doing himself and the team(s) that are courting his services a great favor.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Give It Up for The Man

Rarely are my blog entry pictures worthy of the "center" and "normal sized" formatting. Usually I just tuck them up in the left hand corner of the page so that my introductory paragraph doesn't have to take up quite as much space. When the subject is Matt Stairs though, exceptions must be made. Throughout his career, Stairs has always garnered my praise because he is an inspiration to fat athletes everywhere. However, over the last two years he has quickly become my favorite player on the Phillies and one of my favorites of all time. I am certain that after reading this article you will become hooked as well.

The first thing that you need to know about Matt Stairs is that he is from Canada. In a country dominated by lacrosse and hockey players, Stairs chose to play baseball. For this he immediately deserves our praise. He had the courage to stand up against his oppressors and play an unpopular sport. He played it well and soon enough the scouts were knocking down his door.

After playing for Canada in the Olympics, Stairs was signed by the Montreal Expos in 1991. After a few years in the minors and a short stint in Japan he was finally signed by the Expos big club in late 1993. Almost immediately he was sold to the Red Sox and sent down to Double A. After spending the whole 1994 season in the minors, he was called up to the Red Sox in 1995 and appeared in 39 games. In the offseason he signed with Oakland and was finally able to make a name for himself. In 1998 he finished 17th in a dogfight for AL MVP after hitting .258 with 38 tall jacks and 102 RBIs. A few years later the A's totally dissed him by trading him to the Cubs for some dude named Eric Ireland. Since Oakland, Stairs has played for 8 other teams including Chicago, Milwaukee, Texas, Detroit, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Toronto. Stairs stuck it out with some dreadful clubs because he knew his time to shine would come.

In 2008 Stairs was traded to the Phillies as they geared up for their playoff run. I for one was pumped. If you have never seen Matt Stairs swing a bat, you must. When he gets to the plate he is thinking one thing: jimmy jack. Stairs waits for a fastball count and then swings as hard as he can. When he connects, it makes you want to cry it is so beautiful. Full extension of his arms along with full protrusion of his gut make for a truly epic swing. I have often described him as less of a man and more of a god. His go ahead 2 run homer in the NLCS last year was easily the greatest home run I have ever witnessed in my life. The words "And Stairs launches one deep into the night" by Joe Buck will forever be burned into my memory. Though it was only game 5, that tater ended the series. Also, I'm pretty sure the ball traveled around 600 feet. This year, Stairs has not skipped a beat. He is batting over .300 as a pinch hitter and has hit some tape measure shots. He also had the distinction of hitting the last home run that legendary announcer Harry Kalas ever called. Stairs' home run to spoil Milwaukee pitcher Dave Bush's no hitter prompted one of my colleagues to reflect, "That ball either hit the foul pole, or went out of the stadium". I doubt we will ever know what really happened, but have a look for yourself. Matt Stairs truly is one of the greatest players of our lifetime.

If you have not become a fan of Matt Stairs by now there is something wrong with you. But if you still need convincing, I will share with you a quote from baseball analyst Bill James about Stairs' potential; "You put him in the right park, right position early in his career ... he's going to hit a LOT of bombs." Amen. Let us all give thanks and praise to the 5'9" and 240 pounds of twisted steel that is Matt Stairs.