Monday, August 30, 2010

Goodbye To Mannywood


The Mannywood era is officially over.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and outfielder Manny Ramirez have officially parted ways and Manny is taking his show to Chicago to see if he can light a spark to the White Sox, who are slipping in the pennant race.

Ok, those are the facts.

I personally have no problems with the Manny era in LA because, after all, it was a success. With the help of Manny's bat the Dodgers made it to two consecutive NLCS (2008, 2009) only to succumb to the two-time defending NL champs, the Philadelphia Phillies.

So Manny's stint in LA was a good one as far as baseball goes.

Now--

My only "hmmmm moment" about the Manny-LA experiment revolves around his suspicious 50-game suspension last year for testing positive to a banned substance.

According to reports, Manny tested positive to a drug called human chorionic gonadotropin or HCG. Manny says it was his doctors' fault because they prescribed him the medication for a "personal health issue".

My question is: Has Manny ever revealed what that "personal health issue" was? Because according to those same reports, HCG is a female fertility drug which is sometimes used by former steroid users to restore testosterone production to normal levels.

And my second question is: Since we live in a country where we are innocent until proven guilty, does Manny get the benefit of the doubt, and we are to assume that the "personal health issue" was a female fertility problem he was experiencing? Because, let's face it, that's what the drug is for and he never admitted to steroid use.

Hmmmm?

I guess, since the Mannywood era is over, we will never know.

But in case it was a female fertility problem-- I hope Manny is over it and his ovulation cycle is back to normal.

SMH!

Photos courtesy of the AP

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Most Feared Man In America!


Yesterday, when I first heard that St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and slugger Albert Pujols were attending the Restoring Honor rally in Washington D.C., I right away knew that they were going to have to answer a lot of questions to those who opposed the rally and publicly criticized it.

And why?

In two short words-- Glenn Beck.

The Restoring Honor rally was coordinated, by none other, than the Fox News Channels' controversial anchor Glenn Beck-- and it's no secret that Beck has a lot of haters out there. So when I heard of LaRussa and Pujol's participation, I said to myself, "Oh, oh, prepare yourselves, Tony and Albert, ya gonna hear it from the 'Beckaphobics'."

And who is Glenn Beck?


To put it simply, right now, Beck is the best at what he does.

Like him or not, in the world of political punditry no one comes close to having the kind of audience that Beck has. His radio program and his show on the Fox News Channel are both ratings machines and as an author Beck has literally owned the New York Times Best-Seller List. In fact, Beck is the only author to ever have two separate books hold the No. 1 spot (Arguing With Idiots-hardcover nonfiction & Common Sense-paperback nonfiction) simultaneously on the NYTBSL. So there is no question the man has legions of followers.

But when you're that big it works both ways. The same way he has legions of followers, he also has legions of haters. And Beck loves to "push buttons" so I can see why so many out there either dislike him or fear him.

Anyway, having said that--

Today my suspicions about LaRussa and Pujols were correct. I read 3 articles where they were criticized for having the "audacity" to attend Beck's rally.

For the record: LaRussa and Pujols attended the rally because Pujols was the recipient of the rally's Hope Award, for his work with the Pujols Family Foundation.

I guess, in the minds of those who reject Beck, they assume that just because someone attended the rally and accepted the award, it meant that they agreed with Beck's political ideologies. I mean, why else would they have beef with it?

I'm not a Beck follower and don't necessarily agree with his political views, but the man was doing a noble thing yesterday. I saw about 80% of the rally on C-Span and all I heard were people talking about God, faith and restoring hope.

What's wrong with that?

Oh I get it, we're all suppose to see the subplots behind the whole thing.



Let me see if I can think like a Beck-hater--

"The Restoring Hope rally was a farce. That evil Fox News Channel host is a crook and a liar. Don't listen to him because that dopey, paranoid psycho is a danger to society. Oh no, honey, hide the kids! This evil man is destroying the fabric of our belief system. He's forcing us to believe in what he believes in, so there must be a subplot to his rally."

Anyway, I gave it by best--

Just in case, I'm not on the Beck bandwagon. But I'm also NOT a Beck-hater either. I guess I can say, I'm just Beck-indifferent. In my world, I live and let live. So to the Beck-haters out there-- just don't listen to the man or watch his show or listen to him on the radio if you don't like what he's saying. By criticizing him and crying out loud every time he "offends" you, you're just giving him more power. It's that simple.

As for the rally, Pujols said, "It's a great experience. Any time I have the opportunity to share with people the good news of Jesus Christ and what he has done, to me that's what it's all about, to be able to share that. I believe that's part of my job."

Beck's rally benefited the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which is an organization which helps the families of fallen soldiers.

Of the foundation, Pujols said, "Now, they, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, have like $30 million, where they can support families. And if people have a problem with that, they need to look themselves in the mirror and say, 'You know what? I'm the one that has a problem.' It is what it is. I can't control what people say. If I'm going to take some heat about the things that I believe and who I represent, then you know what? I take the heat. Just the same way that [Jesus] died on the cross for our sins to give us eternal life, he took a lot of heat. That doesn't bother me at all."



Hey Albert, the problem the critics are having isn't the cause. They are completely blind of that. Their problem is Beck. That evil guy who's hijacking the fabric of their existence. In their world, Beck is an evil man and evil people aren't suppose to do good things. There has to be an agenda behind it.

To them, you, LaRussa and the estimated 96,000+ people who were there, are all part of Beck's diabolical plan to take over the world. So, never mind, that it was a good cause-- they'll rather die before they say, "wow, Beck did a good thing".

And what lame excuses were written?

I read from some of these writers that LaRussa and Pujols should be concentrating on baseball and not attending "political" rallies. Think about that for a second. Here we have one of the most successful manager-player combinations in major league history and these disgruntled people are telling them they shouldn't attend good causes because they need to concentrate on baseball.

I would have more respect for these people, if they just said, "We don't like Beck. We fear what he stands for, so please, Tony and Albert, don't go."

But don't give me none of this, "oh, the Cardinals are falling out of the pennant race" garbage. They can say that bs to a manager with a .350 lifetime winning percentage and a hitter with a .230 career batting average. But not to two of the greatest ever.

In the end, I commend LaRussa and Pujols for participating. In my world, if 30 million bucks are raised to help the families of fallen soldiers, then it's a good thing no matter who is doing it.

I'll leave the "throw Glenn Beck under the bus" rhetoric to the likes of Keith Olbermann. At least Keith is making a fortune by doing so.

Meanwhile, kudos to LaRussa and Pujols!

P.S. I wonder who's more paranoid? Beck or those who say Beck is?

And do any of those Beck-haters have the power and influence to mobilize a quarter of a million people the way Beck does? I don't think so.

So until they demonstrate that they have that kind of "pull", Beck, like him or not, is running the show.

No doubt!

Photos courtesy of the AP

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Bummer In D.C.


The Washington Nationals did everything in the book to protect their prized jewel, Stephen Strasburg. In the end, even "everything" wasn't good enough.

The headline of the day, "Strasburg likely to have Tommy John surgery".

Talk about bad luck!

The one thing I've noticed over the years is that Tommy John surgery is no joke. If Strasburg (5-3, 2.91 ERA, 92 SO in 12 starts) does indeed need the procedure, he's looking at 12-18 months of rehab. In other words, he will most likely miss the entire 2011 season.

And what's sad about it is, there's no guarantee he'll come back and be the dominant pitcher everyone in the solar system has been expecting since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2009 by the Nationals.

I'm not saying he won't, but it's a LONG process and that's what sucks.

Right now, the two Tommy John surgery recipients that come to mind are Francisco Liriano of the Minnesota Twins and Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Both Liriano and Carpenter are having success after the surgery, but Liriano was on the shelf for the better part of 3 seasons (2007-2009) and Carpenter for two seasons (2007-2008). And they weren't even close to being the media sensation Strasburg has been this season.

So keep having patience, Nationals fans, it's going to be a while.

In the end, I have to say that I feel bad for the kid. I guess if it'll make him feel any better, someone should tell him, Tommy John won 164 games after coming back from, well, Tommy John surgery.

So good luck, kid! Hope it works out for ya!

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
SI Cover courtesy of SI.com/Vault

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Say What?!

"The Cubs threw me into the fire. They made people believe I'm a monster."


Who in the world is the above man?

And how dare he (and I mean, HOW DARE HE) be wearing No. 21?

And for that matter, how DARE the Chicago Cubs allow him to wear No. 21?

That, my friends, is what is swirling in the mind of "Say It Ain't So" Sammy Sosa these days.

Apparently, Sosa is livid that the Cubs and Cub Nation have thrown him under the bus and have disrespected him.

In an interview with Chicago Magazine, Say It Ain't So, says, "That number should be untouchable because of the things I did for that organization. That right there shows me that they don't care about me and they don't want to have a good relationship with me."

But what Sosa should have said was--

"Yeah, I screwed up-- BIG TIME! I abruptly left after 2004 because I long stopped caring about the team and the fans. At the time, I thought the juicing thing was never going to be uncovered and explode the way it did and I honestly thought I had a few more 60-homer seasons in me.

So I basically said, screw you Chicago! I'll take my gig elsewhere and become a Hercules for some other fans. But little did I know that the "bleep was gonna hit the fan" and I would be forced to go back to being a crappy 15-homer, .220 hitter.

So to the Cubs and all the fans, I apologize for my reckless behavior."

Anyway--

For the record: Rookie outfielder Tyler Colvin is wearing Sosa's old No. 21. Apparently the Cubs have no intentions of taking it out of circulation and retiring it any time soon.

BUT--

In defense of Say It Ain't So, if MLB is going to turn a blind eye and allow all (steroid era) records to stand, then how can a team not retire the number of a guy who hit 545 home runs (the team's all-time record)? I mean, by not doing anything, MLB is saying that those records are legit-- right?

And whether the Cubs like it or not, Sosa was "The Man" in Chicago for a good 10+ seasons.

So to paraphrase a quote by Vice-President, Joe Biden, "the Cubs don't have a right to rewrite history". And if Sosa's numbers are legit, then, 545 home runs is more than enough for any team to retire that player's number.

In the end, it seems to me like the Cubs are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to this mess. But at least, for now, they can hide behind Sosa's recklessness, as a reason for not having a "Sammy Sosa Day" at Wrigley Field.

And Sosa's whining and ranting is certainly making things easier for them.

Tyler Colvin photo courtesy of Getty Images
Sammy Sosa photos courtesy of the AP and SI.com

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coming Soon to a TV Near You!

In 100 days....


Miami Heat at Cleveland Cavaliers

Folks, mark the date on your calendars....

Because on December 2, 2010-- We will all be witnesses!

Can't wait!!!!

Photo courtesy of nikebasketball.com
Click on image to view larger

Monday, August 23, 2010

Roger Federer Battles On....


Yesterday, World No. 2 Roger Federer won the Cincinnati Masters (6-7, 7-6, 6-4) over American Mardy Fish.

The win in Cincy gives Federer 63 career titles, which ties Bjorn Borg for fifth all-time in career victories.

The win is only Federer's second title of the year (the Australian Open being the other) which by Federer's standards is a bad year. Aside from not winning many tournaments, he also lost the No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal earlier in the year when he "only" reached the quarterfinals at the French Open and Wimbledon, which were both won by Nadal.

To any other mere mortal this would be a great year, but in Federer's world, it's unacceptable.

So there is no question, Federer, who has won a record 16 Grand Slam titles, has his eyes on the only "big fish" left in 2010. No, not Mardy Fish. Federer took care of him in Cincinnati. The "big fish" I'm referring to is the U.S. Open.

If Federer wins the Open it would be career Grand Slam No. 17 for him and a huge step in his quest to win 20 Grand Slam titles. Yes folks, Federer has his eyes on winning 20 before he hangs up his racket. And he's made no bones about it.

When asked about winning 20, Federer said, "I believe that having won three Grand Slams per season three times, and two per year a couple of times, it's something do-able for me. I only play 16-20 tournaments per year, so I'm not over-playing, and that keeps the fire burning."


Aside from wanting to win 4 more Grand Slams, another goal, which I'm sure is in Federer's radar, is regaining the No. 1 ranking and holding it for at least 2 more weeks.

And why is this important? Why only 2 more weeks?

When Nadal took over the No. 1 ranking from Federer back on June 7, it left Federer with 285 TOTAL weeks at No. 1 for his career, which is ONE WEEK short of the all-time record of 286, held by Pete Sampras. He fell just two puny weeks short of setting a new record.

Federer already holds an unbreakable record of 237 CONSECUTIVE weeks at No. 1, which began on February 2, 2004 and ended on August 18, 2008, when Nadal first took over the No. 1 ranking.

So now Federer must regain the No. 1 ranking (once again) from Nadal in order to break Sampras' record, which will be no easy task judging by how well Nadal has played this year.

But who can blame Federer for wanting it all. Players of Federer's superiority come around once in a lifetime and if he's within a whisker of holding every record imaginable-- he might as well, go for it.


And the quest for 20 begins with the upcoming U.S. Open.

Federer has already gone where no man has gone before, but the competitor in him wants more. And my goodness, how much more can he accomplish?

To be continued....

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Farewell, Sweet Lou!


Lou Piniella has officially retired.

Although Piniella first said he was retiring at season's end, due to family issues, he decided to call it quits as of yesterday. Third Base Coach Mike Quade will be at the helm for the remainder of the season.

And although his final season with the Chicago Cubs (51-74) has been a disappointing one, Piniella has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to his managerial career, which spans 23 seasons.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Had an overall record of 1835-1713 (.517) with the New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays and the Cubs.
  • Won a Pennant and a World Series Title in 1990 with the Reds.
  • Won a major league record 116 regular season games with the 2001 Mariners.
  • Took the Mariners to the playoffs 4 times (1995, 1997, 2000, 2001), including three trips to the ALCS (1995, 2000, 2001).
  • Had an overall record of 316-293 with the Cubs (.519), including back-to-back NL Central titles in 2007 and 2008.

But like so many before him, his stint in Chicago was somewhat bittersweet because in 4 seasons he failed to bring the Cubs that elusive World Series championship. His record with the Cubs would probably be acceptable in many other places, but in Chicago (102 years and counting) anything less than a championship is a letdown. And quite frankly, understandably so.

So GOOD LUCK to Sweet Lou in his future endeavors.

But the show must go on....

And as of 2011, let the Ryne Sandberg era begin.

Will Ryno get the job?

And will he be the one to take the Cubs to the promised land?

For some reason, I think it's DESTINY in the making. Who better than one of the greatest Cubs of all-time to lead them to a championship, which he came so close (twice) to winning as a player?

I say, give Ryno the job.

And then there's the billy goat....


Hang in there buddy! Like the Babe over in Boston, you will soon be vindicated.

I just hope it happens in my lifetime.

Photos courtesy of the AP

Friday, August 20, 2010

Why Roger? Why?


Should we feel sorry for Roger Clemens?

My answer is NO-- because, if there's one thing I've learned over the years, is that stubborn people always end up hanging themselves. And now we can add Roger "I never used HGH or Steroids" Clemens to the list.

Let's face it, when the Mitchell Report came out, which fingered Clemens in almost every page, why didn't Clemens just do a Mark McGwire and all of a sudden forget how to speak? Or a Sammy Sosa and suddenly forget how to speak English?

Instead Clemens went on a rampage to clear his name and save his legacy. He VOLUNTARILY went in front of Congress and testified, "I have never used steroids".


Why would he do that?

The key word in this whole mess is VOLUNTARILY. During the hearing most of the congressmen overseeing the hearing were scratching their heads while Clemens rambled on. And today, they are still scratching their heads.

First of all, Congress never subpoenaed Clemens. In fact, they held the hearing at his request.

Last night, I saw an interview with Congressman Elijah Cummings (who was part of the committee) and Cummings said that he told Clemens before the hearing, "JUST TELL THE TRUTH. If you do that you'll be fine."

Apparently, Clemens didn't listen to Cummings.

Now Clemens, who VOLUNTARILY stank it up in front of Congress, is in a whole bunch of trouble. He is charged with 6 counts of perjury for allegedly lying to Congress. According to the federal grand jury, he pretty much did everything he was advised not to do.

And my question still remains:

Why would anyone VOLUNTARILY open up this can of worms?

Why Roger? Why?

Cartoons courtesy of Drew Litton/Rocky Mountain News
Click on images to view larger

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

He's Back!

The saga continues....


Hang in there Vikings fans, it looks like you got your man!

Brett Favre photo courtesy of the AP
Jared Allen cartoon courtesy of GregHalbert.com
Click on image to view larger

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pencil In The Yankees and Red Sox


As of today, I'm penciling in the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

No, not for the playoffs. This isn't a playoffs post.

I'm penciling them in on having a winning season. It's safe to say, both teams will end up with +.500 records. Pretty simple.

And when it comes to CONSECUTIVE WINNING SEASONS, 2010 will be a milestone year for BOTH of these juggernauts--

Because when it comes to consecutive winning seasons-- the current Yankees and Red Sox are in the elite of the elites. When they officially clinch their winning seasons, 2010 will be the Yankees 18th consecutive winning season and the 13th consecutive for the Red Sox.

To put it in perspective, here's where their current streaks stack up amongst the best team winning streaks of all-time--

Most Consecutive Winning Seasons (13 or more):

39 - New York Yankees (1926-1964)
18 - New York Yankees (1993-2010)[active]
18 - Baltimore Orioles (1968-1985)
17 - Chicago White Sox (1951-1967)
16 - Boston Red Sox (1967-1982)
15 - Pittsburgh Pirates (1899-1913)
15 - St. Louis Cardinals (1939-1953)
15 - Atlanta Braves (1991-2005)
14 - Chicago Cubs (1878-1891)
14 - Chicago Cubs (1926-1939)
14 - Milwaukee Braves (1953-1966*)
14 - San Francisco Giants (1958-1971)
13 - Boston Beaneaters (1887-1899)**
13 - Pittsburgh Pirates (1918-1930)
13 - Brooklyn Dodgers (1945-1957)
13 - Boston Red Sox (1998-2010) [active]

* The 1966 season was as Atlanta Braves
** The Boston Beaneaters are the Braves

So a BIG CONGRATS to the current Yankees and Red Sox! As we can see from the above list, very few teams have been able to put together 13+ consecutive winning seasons.

And then there are the current Pittsburgh Pirates and current Baltimore Orioles.


Yes folks, we can pencil them in too, BUT on the opposite list-- most consecutive LOSING SEASONS. It's safe to say, the Bucs and O's will, yet again, have losing seasons. Ouch!

Here's what the Bucs and O's are currently facing--

Most Consecutive Losing Seasons (13 or more):

18 - Pittsburgh Pirates (1993-2010) [active]
16 - Philadelphia Phillies (1933-1948)
15 - Kansas City A's (1953-1967)*
14 - Seattle Mariners (1977-1990)
14 - Philadelphia Phillies (1918-1931)
13 - Philadelphia A's (1934-1946)
13 - Baltimore Orioles (1998-2010) [active]

* 1953 & 1954 seasons were as Philadelphia A's

A quick note: The one thing that jumped out at me is the 2 losing streaks (16,14) by the Phillies. Had the 1932 Phillies (78-76, .506) not had a winning record, the franchise would've had an astronomical 31 consecutive losing seasons. Instead they managed to sandwich in a winning season, setting the stage for the current Pirates to be the record holders. Interesting!

So as the now-defunct rap group 3rd Bass probably would've said, "the current Pirates and Orioles-- get the gas face!"

And of course, no gas face for the Yankees and Red Sox-- they just keep winning and winning and winning and....

Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Logos courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles
Lists compiled by Brian Wood of the Society of American Baseball Research (sabr.org)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Andy Murray Takes Toronto


Congrats to Andy Murray on winning the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada.

The battle of No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 was won by No. 4.

This is how it all went down--

Semifinals:

No. 4 Andy Murray defeats No. 1 Rafael Nadal (6-3, 6-4)
No. 3 Roger Federer defeats No. 2 Novak Djokovic (6-1, 3-6, 7-5)

Final:

No. 4 Murray defeats No. 3 Federer (7-5, 7-5)

This is Murray's second consecutive win in Toronto. He is now the first player since Andre Agassi (1994, 1995) to win back-to-back Rogers Cups.

As a result, there should be a shuffle in the top 4 spots when the new computer rankings come out on Monday. This is how I think the new rankings should look like--

No. 1 Rafael Nadal
No. 2 Roger Federer
No. 3 Andy Murray
No. 4 Novak Djokovic

Federer would definitely move up to No. 2 with his win over Djokovic, after all, Djokovic was only ahead of him by a few points BUT I also think Murray should leapfrog the Serbian and move to No. 3 with his successful defense of the title.



Anyway, next up Cincinnati and New Haven and then the granddaddy of them all-- The U.S. Open. And something tells me, Federer is on a mission to make this year's Open, his 17th career Grand Slam title.

I wouldn't doubt it.

To be continued....

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Showdown In Canada!


The stage is set!

A somewhat-rare phenomena has occurred at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada. The top 4 men's tennis players in the world have advanced to the semifinals in the annual prelude to the U.S. Open.

Very rarely do all 4 top seeds ever make it to the semifinals of any event, as more often than not, a higher seed pulls off an upset and advances to the semis. I guess we can say this is equivalent to all 4 top seeds in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament making it to the Final Four.

So no doubt the tennis fans in Toronto are getting a rare treat.

It'll be: World No. 1 Rafael Nadal vs. World No. 4 Andy Murray in one match and World No. 2 Novak Djokovic vs. World No. 3 Roger Federer in the other match.

In the end, we may see some ranking changes as a result of these showdowns.

Its safe to say Nadal will not lose the No. 1 ranking no matter what happens. He is too far ahead on points for this to happen.

But No. 3 Federer could leapfrog No. 2 Djokovic by winning their semifinal match and definitely if he goes on to win the tournament. Djokovic is only a few points ahead of Federer in the current computer rankings. In fact, they are almost virtually tied for the No. 2 spot.

No. 4 Murray could leapfrog Federer for the No. 3 world ranking if Djokovic beats Federer and Murray goes on and wins the tournament.

And make no mistake about it folks, all four players would want nothing more than to win the Rogers Cup. It'll set them up nicely for the upcoming U.S. Open, both mentally and in seeding position.

And the upcoming U.S. Open is the only Grand Slam left and we know they all want to win that one.

So grab your popcorn and let the battles begin!

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Friday, August 13, 2010

Get Outta Their Way!


The Philadelphia Phillies (64-50) are on a bull run!

For all of us, whose favorite teams, dwell in the NL East, I think it's time we all came back to reality and faced the cold-hard fact-- the NL East is Philly's jurisdiction.

Yes, I know the Atlanta Braves (66-48) currently hold a two game lead, but it's just a matter of time before it evaporates on them and the 3-time defending NL East champions take back what we all knew was theirs from the beginning.

And yes our teams gave us some excitement for a few stretches earlier in the season. They even led us to believe that we actually had a chance. The New York Mets made a run. The Florida Marlins made a run. And even the Washington Nationals were in the hunt earlier. But those days of wishful thinking are over.


Those teams are all officially on life support with only the Braves still breathing on their own. And they too are starting to breath mighty heavily--

Since the All-Star break, the Braves are a modest 14-12, while the Phillies have gone 17-10. Modesty isn't going to get the job done for the Braves so its just a matter of time before the Phils run them over also.

There are two things I like about the Phillies, which to me, make them an unstoppable locomotive.

  1. They know how to win. They lose Jimmy Rollins-- no problem. They lose Chase Utley-- no problem. They lose Ryan Howard-- no problem. They just work around their problems and figure out a way to win. Unlike the friggin Mets who lose their bat boy and the entire team falls apart.
  2. They are lethal. They first inject their opponents with a dosage of Roy Halladay and follow it up with a dosage of their new concoction, Roy Oswalt. And if that doesn't put opponents out of their misery, they finish them off with Cole Hamels. So beware NL-- that 1-2-3 punch is going to be a tough pill to swallow come playoff time.

In the end, I give the Braves a lot of props for still hanging around.

But if I were a Braves fan, I wouldn't get overly excited because at the end of the day, the NL East is still Philly's world and everyone else is just living in it. No doubt!

Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Logos courtesy of MLB and their respective teams

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Nationals Do The Right Thing (Somewhat)


For the past 6 years the Washington Nationals (formerly known as the Montreal Expos) have given me the impression that they are trying to distance themselves from their past. I guess, in a way, we can compare them to a person who led a life of crime, turned on his cohorts and then entered the Witness Protection Program. The Expos had a life in Montreal, then when things went sour, they abandoned the city, changed their identity and moved to Washington D.C., leaving behind all traces of their prior existence.

And why would I think such a thing?

For starters, the Nationals DID NOT honor the numbers retired by the Expos and had the audacity to put them back in circulation. While in Montreal, the Expos had retired the No. 8 for Gary Carter, the No. 10 (twice) for Andre Dawson and Rusty Staub and the No. 30 for Tim Raines. But today, these numbers are no longer retired by the franchise. Justin Maxwell is currently wearing No. 30 and bench coach John McLaren is currently wearing No. 8. In the past, former players Royce Clayton and Ronnie Belliard wore No. 10.

To me it's a dishonor and a slap in the face to those great Expos players. The Nationals should be ashamed of themselves.


But on Tuesday, they at least unveiled a new Hall of Fame Ring of Honor at Nationals Park, which recognizes players who are in the Hall of Fame and spent a significant part of their careers with the Nationals, the Expos, the Washington Senators and the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues.

2010 Hall of Fame inductee Andre Dawson along with fellow Hall of Famer Gary Carter were at the ceremonies as the Nationals FINALLY HONORED them and their Hall of Fame careers. Dawson and Carter are the only two players who are in the Hall of Fame as Expos.

So the Nationals deserve to be applauded for their new Ring of Honor, which at least recognizes 2 of the 4 players.

As for the Expos retired numbers, the jury is still out on whether or not they'll re-retire them. But looking at the current roster, I did notice that no player is wearing Dawson's No. 10 and if bench coach McLaren had any baseball history IQ, he would voluntarily stop wearing Carter's No. 8. I know I would.

And outfielder Justin Maxwell, who apparently has no baseball history IQ either, should be told who the No. 30 once belonged to. Someone should inform him that, once upon a time, the Nationals played in a different city under a different identity and the guy who wore No. 30 was one of the best players in baseball for a LONG time.

Maybe then Maxwell would do the right thing and voluntarily stop wearing No. 30.

But at least now, with the Ring of Honor, the Nationals are starting to get some idea of what baseball history really means BUT putting those retired numbers back in circulation is still inexcusable.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images
For a prior post on this issue follow this link

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Doldrums Continue For U.S. Men's Tennis


Sooner or later it had to happen.

This week marks the first time in 37 years (or since the computer rankings began) that an American men's tennis player is NOT in the Top 10. Andy Roddick, the lone viable American in the past few years, fell to No. 11 in the latest rankings, issued today.

Don't get me wrong, No. 11 is still good, but the fact that no American is in the Top 10 speaks volumes for the state of American men's tennis.

Roddick has been America's lone wolf for quite some time now, taking the baton from Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. He held the No. 1 ranking for a respectable 13 weeks from Nov. 3, 2003 to Feb. 1, 2004.

Roddick relinquished the No. 1 ranking to Roger Federer on Feb. 2, 2004 and thus began the most dominant era in tennis history for Federer. Federer would hold the No. 1 ranking for an incredible 237 consecutive weeks (from Feb. 2, 2004 to Aug. 17, 2008). Then on August 18, 2008, the Rafael Nadal era made it's first appearance. Nadal first held the No. 1 ranking for 46 weeks, then gave it back to Federer for 48 weeks and currently has held it for the past 11 weeks.

But throughout the Federer-Nadal era, Roddick has maintained himself in the Top 10, until this week. An early third round exit in his last tournament (The Legg Mason Tennis Classic) pretty much meant an exit out of the Top 10 for Roddick.

But it's not all Roddick's fault. Good players have been an endangered species here in the U.S. for the past few years. Roddick has pretty much held the fort for American men for the past 7 years. Besides him, James Blake had a decent run in the Top 10 from 2006 to early 2009, but Blake, who is 30 years old, has faded in the last year and a half and is currently out of the Top 100. So it's safe to say, at his age, Blake's days of being viable are over.

Roddick himself turns 29 soon, so his days are numbered also. In the world of tennis, once you pass 28, you're pretty much in "Jamie Moyer" territory.


And looking down the line, there are a couple of Americans who are pretty decent-- John Isner, currently No. 19; Sam Querrey, currently No. 21 and Mardy Fish, currently No. 34. The three have combined to win 7 tournaments this year, albeit, none have been Grand Slam tournaments. Their poor performances in Grand Slam events has prevented them from making a push into the Top 10.

Fish at 28, has gone as far as he's going to go. I wouldn't count on him taking the baton from Roddick. Isner, at 25, hasn't shown he's the guy either and his clock is ticking. In tennis, if at 25 all you've mustered is a No. 19 ranking, then chances are you're not a future No. 1 player.

So I guess Querrey, who's only 22, is America's next great hope. Of the combined seven titles won by all 3 this year, Querrey has won 4 of them, so I think he's worth keeping an eye on.

But like I said, neither Querrey, Fish nor Isner have made any significant noise in any of the 4 Grand Slam events over their careers and until one of them does, the weight of American men's tennis is still on Roddick's shoulders.



And based on his performances in his last few tournaments, it seems like it's getting to heavy for Roddick also.

So in the upcoming U.S. Open we shall see exactly where American men stand--

And right now, Querrey is our guy. I just wonder if he knows that?

To be continued....

Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Andy Roddick photo courtesy of Life Magazine

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Red Sox Soldier On....


The Boston Red Sox are putting on a clinic!

Literally!

I must say though, I give the Red Sox a whole lot of credit for still hanging around, considering the storm of injuries they've had. The Red Sox are an impressive, and I mean IMPRESSIVE, 62-47, which in any other division would have them in first place or withing a whisker of first place.

But unfortunately for the BoSox they play in a kingdom, which they are largely responsible for building, which is the 3-time defending American League champions, the AL East. And right now the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays are running the show, so a 92-95 win season (which the Red Sox are on track for) may not be good enough.

But the good news is, they still have 10 games against the Yankees (67-40) and 6 games against the Rays (67-41), who both sport the best records in baseball. Currently they are 7 back in the loss column, but they start a 4-game series tonight against the Yankees, which will either make them or break them. So its not over for Beantown, especially how they have proven they can win with just about anybody in the lineup.

But even if they don't make the playoffs, the Red Sox will have yet another 90+ win-season which in the long term is a good thing. One of the things I've always like about the Red Sox is that no matter how much agony they went thru for 8+ decades, they always maintained a winning culture and I'm a firm believer that teams who maintain long lasting winning cultures, sooner or later, good things will happen for them.

And trust me folks, as a long-suffering Mets fan, I know what a "who cares if we win" culture is.

Finally, I guess the best thing nowadays about whatever struggles the Red Sox go through is that we no longer have to hear people blaming it on the Bambino.



Because, quite frankly, me and the Babe were getting tired of hearing it.

Terry Francona cartoon courtesy of macleodcartoons.blogspot.com
Babe Ruth cartoon courtesy of Frank Galasso

Click on images for larger view

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What About Shaq?


So far this summer all the NBA chatter has mainly been focused on the "new evil empire", aka, the Miami Heat and their newly anointed "Three Kings". As we all know, all the gossip has been about "King" LeBron James' abandonment of the city of Cleveland and it's fans and how he quit on the city that gave him so much.

Hopefully by now the sobbing in Cleveland has stopped, BUT-- lost in the shuffle during all this "LeBron" drama was, the one and only, Shaquille "The Real Deal" O'Neal. Heck, most of us even forgot that Shaq played for Cleveland and all summer long nobody has cared to notice that Shaq is without a home and few teams have shown interest in him.

The only buzz Shaq got in the early summer was when a Laker fan flashed a sign saying, "back to back without Shaq" at the world champion LA Lakers victory parade. Is that any way to treat a once proud ruler?


The latest rumor has Shaq going to the Boston Celtics, which by the way, is a good fit, since center Kendrick Perkins will be out for a long period of time (at least until January) as he recovers from knee surgery. So having Shaq to help out Jermaine O'Neal is not a bad idea. Also Shaq has said he will only play for a contender and who better than the Celtics? I'm sure Shaq would love nothing more than to be part of the team that denies the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Many have handed Miami the Eastern Conference throne and a Shaq-led Celtics team would love nothing more than to deny them these entitlement privileges.

And did someone say Shaq and the Celtics vs. the Lakers in the NBA Finals? Now that has a nice drama component to it and definitely a must see.

To be continued....

Shaq cartoon courtesy of GregHalbert.com

And So He Retires (Again) (And Again) (And Again)


No doubt the sports buzz of the day is the rumor that Brett Favre has told the Minnesota Vikings he will not play this season and is "officially retiring".

Um--

Ok, Brett. I guess, we'll take your word for it, but I ain't even gonna comment this time. The last time I commented on a Brett Favre retirement, I ended up with egg all over my face, so basically, the only purpose of this post is to once again put up, the above iconic photo, from last season's NFC Championship Game.

I'll have to admit, I was rooting for you and the Vikings in that game. The beating you took (at your age) from those Saints defenders and still almost winning the game in hostile territory was an amazing thing to watch. So I was kinda hoping you'd come back and try it one more time.

But anyway--

Good luck in your next endeavor, Brett-- hopefully it'll be quarterbacking the Minnesota Vikings.

Brett Favre photo courtesy of Getty Images
Jared Allen cartoon courtesy of GregHalbert.com

Monday, August 2, 2010

Total Pitching


Here are the updated point totals (as of 8-1-10) from my new Sunday morning hobby, which I call, Total Pitching. I last posted them at the All-Star break, so now I've updated them thru the end of July. It's kind of neat because it gives you an indication as to how every pitching staff is progressing as the season moves along.

So here it is--

National League:
  1. San Diego Padres - 93.39 (previous rank: 1)
  2. Florida Marlins - 76.12 (previous rank: 6)
  3. St. Louis Cardinals - 75.97 (previous rank: 4)
  4. Colorado Rockies - 75.76 (previous rank: 2)
  5. Atlanta Braves - 73.44 (previous rank: 3)
  6. San Francisco Giants - 71.21 (previous rank: 7)
  7. Cincinnati Reds - 67.65 (previous rank: 10)
  8. Chicago Cubs - 66.91 (previous rank: 5)
  9. LA Dodgers - 65.15 (previous rank: 8)
  10. Houston Astros - 61.81 (previous rank: 9)
  11. Philadelphia Phillies - 59.38 (previous rank: 13)
  12. Washington Nationals - 58.57 (previous rank: 12)
  13. Milwaukee Brewers - 57.62 (previous rank: 14)
  14. New York Mets - 53.90 (previous rank: 11)
  15. Pittsburgh Pirates - 53.02 (previous rank: 15)
  16. Arizona Diamondbacks - 38.82 (previous rank: 16)

American League:

  1. Tampa Bay Rays - 83.74 (previous rank: 1)
  2. Texas Rangers - 74.62 (previous rank: 5)
  3. Oakland A's - 73.82 (previous rank: 2)
  4. NY Yankees - 73.44 (previous rank: 3)
  5. Chicago White Sox - 71.97 (previous rank: 4)
  6. Minnesota Twins - 71.65 (previous rank: 6)
  7. Toronto Blue Jays - 66.17 (previous rank: 9)
  8. Boston Red Sox - 65.93 (previous rank: 7)
  9. LA Angels - 64.54 (previous rank: 8)
  10. Detroit Tigers - 57.86 (previous rank: 10)
  11. Cleveland Indians - 56.08 (previous rank: 11)
  12. Seattle Mariners - 49.62 (previous rank: 13)
  13. Kansas City Royals - 47.29 (previous rank: 14)
  14. Baltimore Orioles - 47.06 (previous rank: 12)

So what did I learn?

  • If it's true that this is "the year of the pitcher", then the San Diego Padres and the Tampa Bay Rays are on a collision course to the World Series.
  • The Florida Marlins and the Oakland A's are impressive (considering they both hover around .500)-- BUT it's because of their pitching that they are both having respectable seasons.
  • The Cincinnati Reds are pitching much better, which may spell trouble for the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • The Texas Rangers are DANGEROUS!
  • The Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins battle royal will go down to the wire.
  • If the Detroit Tigers don't start pitching better, they ain't going nowhere!
  • And then there are the Philadelphia Phillies. What can I say? Philly is Philly. Their crappy bullpen drags their numbers down, yet they figure out a way to get places. The Atlanta Braves fell a few spots, so don't count Philly out.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks were at 35.10 at the All-Star break (now only at 38.82)-- so in other words, their pitching staff has done almost nothing positive since the break. Then again neither have the Baltimore Orioles [from 44.37 to 47.06].

For the record: The NL usually gets more points than the AL, and I'm sure the DH has something to do with that. I did this for the entire 2009 season and every NL team who scored over 105.00 made the playoffs (yes even the Phillies [105.93] and every AL team who scored over 95.00 made the playoffs.

In the end, am I stating the obvious with all this? Probably. But hey, stat freaks like me, always come up with these little pet projects. What can I say, I've been doing it for 30 years. Why stop now. :-)

For the All-Star break point totals go to this link.

Mat Latos photo courtesy of Getty Images