Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Old Man Moyer

In 1980 Jamie Moyer decided it would be prudent to skip a day of school during his senior year at Souderton Area High School in Souderton, PA to watch the parade for the 1980 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Little did he know that 30 years later, he would still be playing professional baseball at the age of 47 years old. It seems that every time Old Man Moyer laces up his cleats he is breaking another record. Everybody seems to laugh or brush him off, but Moyer just keeps on playing and winning. With no sign of stopping, the number 50 on Moyer's jersey may be more than a number, it may be a goal for him.

Jamie Moyer is entering rarified air in Major League Baseball. At the age of 47 he is starting to set all the records for "oldest player to...". However, he doesn't appear to be slowing down at all. He is tied for fourth in the NL in wins with nine, and save for one terrible outing against the Red Sox has been pitching lights out this year.

This season, Moyer has become the oldest player to pitch a shutout, the oldest player to beat the Yankees, the only player ever to pitch a shutout in four different decades, and the all-time MLB leader in home runs allowed with 506. Believe me, you have to be a really good player to accomplish all of these things. Oh yeah and one more thing, he's inching closer to 300 wins with 267.

If Moyer can play until he is 50, which right now doesn't seem unreasonable, winning 300 games could be a real possibility for him. If he can win eight more starts this year, he would be at 275 wins for his career. Then he would only need an average of 12.5 wins his next two years to get to the magic number of 300. This may seem unreasonable for such an old fella, but if you take a look at his past seven seasons his lowest win total was 11, while his highest was 16. If he stays with the Phils or signs on with another offensive powerhouse, that is not out of the question at all. I think this is one of the main reasons that Old Man Moyer is still playing, but regardless of whether he reaches 300 wins or not, he is a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame in my book.

I can not overstress the fact that one has to be a really good pitcher to stay in the game as long as Moyer has. Only five players in Major League History have played the game at an older age than Moyer, and three of them are enshrined in Cooperstown. Moyer has an All-Star appearance (and perhaps another this year), a World Series championship, and a buttload of awards for his philanthropy and community service. He deserves to be enshrined in Cooperstown as one of the game's all-time great people, if not all-time great players. If you disagree with me, I'd like to see you go out there throwing 78 mph gas at the age of 47 and try to get anyone out.

When Jamie Moyer skipped school to go to the Phillies parade in 1980, did he ever think that someday maybe his son would skip school to go see him enshrined or Cooperstown, or to see him win his 300th game? Probably not, but both are a definite possibility for Old Man Moyer.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Stop, Flop and Roll

This will be my first and last World Cup post on this blog, and it is not even entirely about the World Cup. It is about the art of the flop. The flop is an act carried out primarily in the professional soccer ranks around the world and to a lesser degree in the NBA. I for one can not stand it, and therefore I don't think I can really ever get into soccer. The flop used to be fairly prevalent in the NHL, but officials did something to change it. The "dive" rule in the NHL was enacted to eliminate this shameful behavior by threat of penalty. Needless to say, this practice should be adopted by both the worldwide soccer governance and the NBA. Like tomorrow.

In my limited exposure to the game of soccer I just can't get into it. Sure I will root for the USA to win because they are the USA, but to paraphrase Frank Costanza; "This game- this is not my kinda game." Every time I watch, I see one of the damn guys get the ball stolen from him, fall to the ground, writhe around in total agony for a minute or so, look up at the ref, realize no penalty is forthcoming, then pop back up and continue playing as spry in his youth as ever. It is fucking terrible. How vain are these guys? This is the reason I don't watch, and I bet it has something to do with why the sport has not taken off in America like it has in other countries. We Americans don't complain when we fall down. We get back up, dust ourselves off, and beat the ever loving piss out of the guy who knocked us down. Fuckin' A.

For the same reason, I really despise many of the players (primarily European) in the NBA. The epitome of this problem for years was the man, the myth, the legend Vlade Divac, but now the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of one Pau Gasol. Listen to the commentary at the end of that Gasol video. That is right on. Flopping destroys the game. As if a referee's job wasn't subjective enough, now they have to guess whether players are actually getting fouled or not every single trip down the court. And that's bullshit. A player should be penalized for flopping; and calling a foul, or giving a yellow card to a player is the way to do it.

Calling penalties for players taking dives in hockey helped to clean up the problem. Now it is getting out of hand in soccer and basketball. The people in charge of these leagues should adopt the same rules for flopping as hockey did in order to eradicate the problem. Nobody should be rewarded for acting, they should only be punished. Get rid of those stupid beehive horns too. Maybe then I could get into soccer.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wide Open

10 years after one of the most dominant performances we as fans have seen in any sport, the U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach. Last time we were here for the U.S. Open Tiger Woods absolutely annihilated the field, winning by 15 strokes and being the only player to finish under par. Unfortunately, I don't think we are going to see anything like that this year. However, it appears as if Pebble Beach is going to play as tough, if not tougher than it was for everyone but Tiger in 2000. Because of that, and because Tiger is not the Tiger of 2000, it is really anybody's tournament this year. Let's have a look at Pebble Beach and pontificate on who might bring home the U.S. Open trophy.

Most of us are familiar with Pebble Beach Golf Links because of Tiger Woods Golf, but there is so much more to the course than hitting R2 and getting the game-breaker. Pebble Beach is such a great course for many reasons; it has a great combination of short and long holes, it has picturesque views, many of the greats have won here, the weather can change everything and it commands accuracy on every shot. Small greens, sloping fairways, treacherous rough and steep cliffs are standard operating procedure at Pebble, and any small mistake will be magnified by this course. That said, this is not a course where you need to be a bomber to compete. Sure there are some long par 5s, but there are also some very short holes where accuracy is an absolute must. Consider the 7th hole; a 106 yard par 3 that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. You could hit a lob wedge off the tee on this hole and bomb it into ocean. It is all about accuracy and control. Holes like this just don't exist in other places, and that is why Pebble is such a revered course and the ultimate test of a golfer. On the flipside, if you hit the ball in the rough on some holes you had better have taken your steroids that morning or you are going to have some trouble. Pebble Beach has it all.

Because Pebble Beach is playing so tough, the name of the game is limiting your mistakes. Par is a good score here, and I wouldn't expect the champion to have a score any lower than -5 when all is said and done.

Since Tiger is not quite back on his game, the field for the U.S. Open is really wide open. However, I am certainly not going to count Tiger out at all. He seems to be comfortable with his game and has the added incentive of defending his number one ranking from that other one. I don't think a top 10 is unreasonable to expect from Tiger, but it is all going to come down to his accuracy off the tee. Here are some other guys I like this week:

Dustin Johnson- DJ is the two time defending champ of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, so it is safe to say that he loves this course. Pebble Beach will play much different this time around, but expect him to be there on the weekend.

Lee Westwood- The Wizard is coming off of a win at St. Jude last week and has three top tens in the U.S. Open in his career, including a fifth place finish at Pebble ten years ago. He is England's best chance to end their U.S. Open drought, and will be fazed by nothing this week after having to endure Robert Garrigus' epic swass last week.

Retief Goosen- The Golden Goosen has two U.S. Open championships to his credit and has been playing pretty well this year. He is deadly accurate and has the potential to carve up this course like a fine surgeon.

Jim Furyk- Another deadly accurate guy. Always worthy of mention when predicting possible major championships. Although, when he loses I think that everyone is happier. Smug bastard.

Charl Schwartzel- Schwartzel has been solid on the euro tour this year, and finished second to fellow South African Ernie Els at Doral. He could surprise some people by competing into the weekend. Moreover, he was my first ever player update on rotowire.com.

Sleeper: David Duval
Last time we spoke of Duval was when he came in 2nd at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He calmly went about his business that weekend and played very well. It may be a long shot, but Duval is the kind of guy who can come out of the woodwork on these weekends when the course is playing deadly tough. Look what he did last year at Bethpage. I know I will be rooting for him.

Those are my thoughts. Again, let me stress it is all going to be about limiting mistakes. Whoever does that the best will be the winner. I know if I went out there I would probably be lucky to shoot a 200. Let us be thankful that we don't have to watch that, and sit back and watch the pros look decidedly average as Pebble Beach tames them. Enjoy!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Many Faces of Big Baby

Glen Davis is nothing short of an entertainment phenomenon. Whenever he makes a great play or gets really fired up, you can bet that a goofy reaction is going to follow. Get your DVRs ready folks because it is always comedy gold. Let's take an amusing look at some of Big Baby's best on court reactions.

Last night of course, we had the Big Baby drooling incident. Might want to put a bib on that baby.

Last series there was the game where Big Baby was the sole beneficiary of a Dwight Howard elbow drop. Looks like that baby just woke up from a nap.

Keeping with the Magic, last year we had the infamous "Baby Shove-Gate" fiasco. The face is priceless, but this baby needs to be taught some manners.

Then there was the Big Cry Baby episode. Maybe he needed to be changed.

Like every baby though, he loves his toys.

Instilling fear into the hearts of other babies all over the world.

Baby's first photo.


Big Baby, don't ever change. You provide me, and the rest of the Celtics players I'm sure, with a great amount of joy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stanley Cup Recap

The Flyers magical run in the Stanley Cup playoffs finally came to an end last night in game 6 of the finals. After coming back yet again to push the game into overtime, the Flyers just simply did not have enough in them for another comeback. A few minutes into the extra frame, Patrick Kane beat Michael Leighton five hole (yet again) to clinch the cup for the Blackhawks. Overall though the series was a great one, and it was great for hockey. Both teams did a great job and have much to build on in the future.

At the beginning of these Stanley Cup Finals I pontificated that this series would be a good matchup for the NHL because it brought together two of the bigger hockey markets in the U.S. that are not considered to be real hockey hotbeds. I thought I was onto something, but I didn't think it would be this good. Game 6 drew 5.8 million viewers last night, the highest ratings that a hockey game has gotten in over 35 years, and not too far off of the 6.5 or so rating that game 3 of the NBA Finals garnered. THAT puts lead in my pencil. I am glad to see that hockey is coming back to the mainstream, and would not be surprised to see a bigger TV station than Versus or NBC's limited plan make an investment in a national contract with the NHL.

Part of the reason I think this series had such good ratings was because of how even a matchup it was, and how exciting the games were. All of the games were close, and high scoring. This is what people like to see. Moreover, it seemed like the two teams were mirror images of each other. Whether it be Briere and Kane, Leino and Hossa, Byfuglien and Pronger, Richards and Toews, or Madden and Hartnell, it seemed that each player had a doppleganger in terms of skill and role on the other team. The difference ultimately was in the goaltending.

I don't want to sound unappreciative of what Michael Leighton did throughout the playoffs, because he no doubt got the Flyers to the finals, but his hot streak came to an abrupt end against the 'Hawks. Meanwhile, Antti Niemi played like an absolute Stanley Cup champion. It seemed that on every Blackhawks breakaway or shot from the point a goal was scored, while every Flyers breakaway or slapshot was turned aside. Niemi was no doubt the difference maker in an evenly matched Stanley Cup finals. Leighton getting beaten five hole was a recurring theme in this series and, poetically, was how the game winning goal was scored. Something had to give, and it was Leighton. It did not take away from what was a fantastic series though.

Going forward, the Blackhawks have a very solid nucleus with which they can compete for many years. Kane (side note: the year Kane was drafted #1 overall, the Flyers had the worst record in hockey by far. They lost the lottery and ended up picking James Van Riemsdyk #2 overall. Ain't that 'bout a bitch?) and Toews will no doubt rival Crosby and Malkin in the near future as the best hockey tandem. Antti Niemi will be solid in goal, and the Blackhawks will be back to the finals very soon I believe. As for the Flyers, it appears that they finally have figured out how to play as a team. Look for them to not quite go through as circuitous a path to the playoffs next year. Also, look for them to go deep into the playoffs once again. I think the one thing holding the Flyers back is their goaltending. Goaltending has always been the bane of the Flyers existence. They have pretty much been in the playoffs perennially for the last 20 years or so, but they have never had a great goaltender. Whether it be Ron Hextall, John Vanbiesbrouck, Brian Boucher, Roman Cechmanek, Robert Esche, Garth Snow, Sean Burke, Marty Biron, Antero Nittymaki, or Jeff Hackett, nobody has had the star power to bring home the cup. Goalies like Leighton have been hot for a while, just like Boucher 10 years ago, but end up fading before too long. The Flyers need to make a serious investment in a star caliber goalie in the offseason. Do that, and they could be the team hoisting the cup next year instead of watching.

The Flyers did not win the cup, but I think that their story throughout the course of the season was a great one and I am very proud of how they played. Sure they may not have won it all, but at least they made every Chicago fan go "Huh?" before they realized that they had won the cup. Now I can get back to focusing on how pathetic and sad the Phillies are right now.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Slowest 2 Minutes In Sports

Everybody always jokes that the last two minutes of an NBA game take an hour to complete. Now, they may be right. I don't know if I just wasn't paying attention in the past, or if it is a brand new rule, but the instant replay in last night's NBA Finals game caught me completely off guard and came off as a complete joke in my mind. Now not only do the teams have handfuls of timeouts to waste at the end of the game, but they have any number of instant replay reviews. I hope to never see these instant replays on judgement calls ever again.

Last night, the referees in the Lakers/Celtics game employed the use of instant replay on three out of bounds calls in the span of about 2 minutes. In my opinion, things like this open up Pandora's box in a league like the NBA. For instance, one call that ruled the ball out of bounds and Lakers ball was overturned to be Celtics ball, but it was clear on the replay that Rajon Rondo fouled the Lakers player in the process of causing him to knock the ball out of bounds. What then? Is the call "more correct" now? How can make that call when it was clear a foul was committed in the process? Refereeing is supposed to be an art, not a science. There is no need for these types of instant replay.

Not only do I have a problem with the type of replay employed last night, I also have a problem with when it is allowed to be used: only in the last two minutes. Since when are the last two minutes any more important than any other two minutes in a basketball game? Every basket counts, so why only allow things like this in the last two minutes? It's got to be all or nothing Mr. Stern. These punch and judy rules don't work.

Finally, these replay rules have to go for how freaking long they make the games go. Every 5 seconds within the last two minutes there is a stoppage of play and a seemingly endless parade of commercials. It makes for an extremely un-enjoyable game. The NBA is supposed to be exciting. I would rather have a running game that may not get every call correct than this garbage they are peddling now. All these time outs and now the new instant replay make for a very boring game and something needs to be changed.

The sports that have instant replay in effect have a very strict set of guidelines that come with them. The NBA instant replay rules seem to be very loosely structured and lead to even more speculation. Not only that, but they aggravate the problem of the final two minutes of a basketball game taking too long. The rule for instant replay needs to be all or nothing, and for the NBA I say nothing is the better way to go.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Capital Gains

The 24 hour period from 8 p.m. tonight to 8 p.m. tomorrow could be the most important 24 hours for the future of baseball in the history of the game. Tonight, the Nationals selected 17 year old Bryce Harper with the number 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft. Tomorrow, the most anticipated prospect in about 25 years takes the mound for the very first time in a major league uniform. Once considered the laughing stock of baseball, now the Nationals will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

For years the Washington Nationals franchise was the biggest joke in all of baseball. When they were located in Montreal, they were a bunch of losers that didn't draw any fans playing in a stadium that was one of the biggest financial blunders of all time. I remember watching Expos highlights on TV and hearing the crack of the bat echo in the Olympic Stadium because it was so quiet in the stadium. After that, the Expos packed up and moved to Washington after being taken over by the league. However, they were forced to play a season in limbo traveling between Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. before they could find a permanent home. If that isn't sad, I don't know what is. After permanently settling in the District, the Nats had some terrible years in the cavernous abyss that was RFK stadium. After finally securing a new stadium, the Nats still played terrible enough to take the #1 overall pick two years running. Now it is all starting to change though.

In successive years, the Nats have been lucky enough to select two of the biggest prospects in baseball history. Throw in the fact that they are starting to improve in the standings even without these guys and you can see that the Nationals are on their way. It may be a few years off, but soon enough the Nats will be a serious force to be reckoned with. By about 2015, I can picture the Nats atop the NL East and with all the makings of a perennial contender.

What can we learn from this? One thing I think we have seen recently is the consistently bad teams of baseball pull themselves up via the draft; specifically with the 1st overall pick. The Rays used to be right up there with the Expos as one of the worst franchises in baseball. What happened? They were able to stock up with 4 number 1 overall draft picks. Now they are a major player in the AL East. We may start to see a new strategy emerge where teams "conveniently" keep all their talent in the minors, trade away their expensive big leaguers, and tank so badly that they secure as many #1 picks as they can in about a 5 year stretch. They may lose fans in the short run, but will no doubt develop a core of amazing players in the long run to help them not only to be competitive, but to be World Series contenders.

With the constant dilution of teams via free agency, the way to win now is to bring up a nucleus of talented players all at once when the team has the most power over their contract. This way teams can take a serious run at a World Series title by spending their money on the necessary parts to put around this talented core that they have control over for about 5 years before free agency. Teams like Pittsburgh and Kansas City might want to take a page from the books of the Nats and the Rays. It's all about being #1 in the draft. Now that the Nats have Strasburg and Harper, they might be #1 in the NL East before too long.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Showdown at Memorial

This weekend at the Memorial has the urgency of a major championship as Tiger Woods is looking to defend his #1 world ranking from that other fella. Tiger is a 4 time champion at the Memorial, so if there ever was a time to regain his dominance on the tour it would be now. That being said, there are a lot of other sharks in the water this week at the Muirfield Village Golf Club, so let's take a look at how things might go down at the Memorial.

Muirfield Village Golf Club is one of the lone bright spots in the boiling cesspool that is the state of Ohio. The course was founded in 1976 by Jack Nicklaus and since then has hosted the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and U.S. Amateur, as well as the Memorial Tournament every year. The course is a challenge for golfers because of its length, deep rough, strategically placed bunkers and winding rivers. It kind of reminds me of Augusta, if Augusta was surrounded by white trash and landfills. The golfer at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday will probably have a good percentage of sand saves, solid driving accuracy and distance, and good putting numbers. But who will that be?

Though Tiger Woods is the 4 time champion here, I'm not gonna give him the TPLIYP curse by picking him this week. There is just too much turmoil in his life right now, despite the fact that he looked better in the skins game yesterday. Here is who I think might have the edge this week:

Zach Johnson- ZJ won at the Colonial last weekend and has been putting pretty well lately. Look for him to continue his success this week in Dublin. If you don't know who ZJ is, you can't afford it.

Hunter Mahan- Hunter has had an up and down year, but is a solid driver of the ball and can get hot quickly. He also wears some sweet shades.

Sean O'Hair- Sean O'Hair has been a disappointment so far this year. He looked decent in the Skins game yesterday though, and even his mishits were landing in the fairway. He's just too good to be playing this badly all year. He's due, I guess would be the main bullet point of this part of the lecture.

Y.E. Yang- Yang is another good driver of the ball, and could sneak in and steal Tiger's thunder once again.

Robert Allenby- Allenby has been playing solid all year but just has not broken through for the W. He is a solid ball striker and if he can get the flat stick going, he could take home his first win in a long time at the Memorial.

Rory McIlroy
- Like Mahan, Rory can go crazy low in a round. Look for him to be in the hunt.

It's always more exciting to have Tiger playing in a tournament. Hopefully this round will be a solid tune up for him with the U.S. Open just around the corner. I don't think Tiger will win this weekend, but hopefully he is on the right path. Also, I hope he plays well enough to retain his number 1 ranking ahead of that one.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Kid Is Alright

After 22 years in the bigs, "The Kid" has decided to hang them up. Ken Griffey Jr. was undoubtedly the baseball icon of our generation, and is one of the only players left untarnished in the steroid era. Griffey's most lasting contribution to baseball though, will be that swing. Even if Griffey, like they say in Field of Dreams, "was playing under a made up name in some tenth rate league in Carolina," you'd be able to recognize that sweet swing. He is the only player whose swing would let you know the ball was gone. A lot of players have home run swings, but Griffey's was so perfect. It left no doubt. Ken Griffey Jr. is no doubt a first ballot hall of famer, and I suppose his retirement signals the end of our youth in some way.

I give you exhibit A (after the stupid guy walks in from the concourse). Neither the London Symphony Orchestra nor the Harlem Boys Choir are as in tune as that beautiful swing. Throughout our childhood, the owner of that swing was the hero of all of us. We all wished we were able to bat lefty just so we could imitate that swing. At school, we all stocked our backpacks with those sweet Mariners pencils. We all watched SportsCenter to see what home run call Kenny Mayne would have for Griffey. And we all rocked sweet Nike high tops just like Junior Griffey.

Somewhere along the way we lost touch with our childhood idol. With injuries and an ill advised trade from Seattle, Griffey got lost in the shuffle. Then the gorilla juiceheads of the late 90s stole our attention by putting up monster home run numbers. We turned our attention from the Kid with out even giving it a second thought. Through injuries though, Griffey still managed to put up his numbers, and slowly surpassed milestone after milestone.

Though Griffey's career has waned since his trade to the Reds, you can be sure that he will be given the utmost respect when it comes to Cooperstown. He will be heralded as one of the greatest players of all time, and I think most fans would argue that they wish it was Griffey who was sitting at 756 home runs right now instead of Barry Bonds. Though he never won a world series, doesn't hold many baseball records, and was never really an outspoken guy, Ken Griffey Jr. had a profound impact on every baseball fan between ages 23 and 35 I would say. The retirement of the Kid reminds all of us that we are not getting any younger, but certainly gives us a great opportunity to look back on our childhoods and a the great career of one player.