Detroit is hungry to repeat. They're the last team to win back to back championships (1997-98). Pittsburgh wants revenge after losing in last years Cup. NHL's Stanley Cup Finals rematch begins May 30th.
The teams have taken on difference personalities which may or may not factor into which team skates away with victory. Pittsburgh's offense has been on fire since scoring 6 vs Washington in East Semi-Finals. Sidney Crosby (14 goals, 14 assists) & Evgeni Malkin (12 goals, 16 assists) lead all Playoff scorers. Detroit's leading scorers are Johan Franzen (19 points) & Henrick Zetterberg (18 points). Don't be fooled by this disparity as these teams have been playing different styles.
Pittsburgh has relied on offense. They seem to take advantage of every opportunity and make opponents pay dearly. Detroit has been all about defense. Veteran net minder Chris Osgood has been superb between the pipes (12-4, 2.30 GAA, .925 Save %). He'll need to be in top form to shut down the Penguins attack.
During the 80's & 90's repeat champs seemed to be the norm. These decades were dominated by great mini-dynasty teams. Edmonton Oilers won 5 Cups, NY Islanders 4, Pittsburgh, Montreal & Detroit 2 each. There hasn't been back to back matchups since Edmonton ended the Islanders run of 4 consecutive Cups in '84. Pittsburgh vs Detroit has possibilities of 3 straight cup matchups.
I expect Pittsburgh to come out flying putting heavy pressure on Detroit's defense. Beware of the Penguins? Not Detroit. The Red Wings have a knack for dismantling opposing offenses. Osgood is a vet goalie who will not be denied. In my opinion, disciplined hockey will win this series... and the Cup. Detroit has it, Pittsburgh does not.
Detroit wins in 6.
Coaches and managers losing their cool is nothing new. Some go berserk due to terrible officiating. Sometimes, a manager might try pumping up a sleeping squad by getting tossed after an animated tantrum.
I've assembled my short list of memorable hot heads.
Bobby Knight (NCAA Basketball) - 3 time National Champion was one of college basketball's greatest coaches. It's safe to say some remember him better for flagrant fits on the sidelines. Everything from chair throwing to player pushing. Many a face was chewed out by a red cheeked Knight.
Bobby Cox (MLB) - Cox holds the majors record for ejections. Bobby isn't a typical firebrand screamer and many ejections were for protecting players. He's one of baseball's best managers having guided Atlanta to 14 division champtionships.
Billy Martin (MLB) - Billy was known for fighting everyone. Players, umps, owners and unsuspecting drunks. "Billy Ball" often led to famous dirt kicking at umps, bumps and near brawls. I remember back in the 70's when he and Reggie Jackson nearly came to blows in Boston. Martin's run ins with George Steinbrenner lasted for years. Fired, hired, refired, rehired before being fired again. Yanks were nicknamed Bronx Zoo during his tenure.
Earl Weaver (MLB) - Earl was a very fiery manager of the Baltimore Orioles. He holds the AL record for most tosses (97). His style worked as only one of his teams ever endured a losing season. One of the best arguments ever recorded was when umpire Bill Haller was mic'd up and captured one of Weaver's profanity laced tirades.
Lou Piniella (MLB) - Loooooooooooooooooooooooou has had a few explosions of his own. He's tossed bases, bumped umps, kicked up dirt and took on reliever Rob Dibble in a clubhouse melee.
Mike Ditka (NFL) - Hard nosed Ditka's Chicago Bears had a ferocious defense and won the Super Bowl after a 15-1 regular season in 1985. He's tangled with many from refs to fans. He broke his hand during a halftime meltdown (punched a wall) and often engaged in verbal spats with fans.
Mike Keenan (NHL) - Probably hated by former players more than any other coach to win a Stanley Cup. He's had bumps in the road with players, management, other coaches and refs. Flyers fired him after taking the team to '87 Cup Finals. Quit the Rangers after guiding NY to first championship in over 40 years.
Plenty of names could be added to this list. Fill me in if I missed one of your favorites.
There's been plenty of NFL activity in recent weeks. Mini-camps have generated quite a bit of news. Highlights and lowlights caught my eye. Everything from the disaster in Dallas to Tom Brady's return. It's still too early for concrete predictions so lets take a look at some of what's been happening this off-season.
Brett Favre... decision to play again this year will be announced soon. Minnesota has shown great interest in Favre. Vikes are a young talented squad in desperate need of a field general and efficient QB. Favre got a bad rap in NY largely due to terrible play calling and Brett's risky passing attempts. If he feels healthy enough for another season... then the Vikings will challenge in NFC Central.
Terrell Owens... will this full of himself star ever shut up and put up??? His former QB's and coaches are all glad he's gone to play for other teams. His latest outburst was to diss Dallas players. I laugh whenever I hear Terrell the "Drop-a-holic" Owens complain. I think he complains much more consistently than he catches footballs. He's a major distraction. In his San Francisco days he was all over QB Garcia in the press. It got much worse with his public fued against McNabb in Philly. Now, as a new member of Buffalo's Bills, he's taking cheap shots at Tony Romo and Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett. Throughout 2008, TO was very critical of playcalling. He often sounded paranoid accussing Romo and Witten of conspiring against him. Cried foul claiming Romo & Witten conspired to call plays meant for them and not him. Poor baby. If T.O. was a true play maker than he'd be an impact player. He's not. On paper, his stats usually seem outstanding. He's approaching 1,000 career catches and 15,000 receiving yards. But, I wonder... how many career drops? Last year, in between his constant complaining of not getting the ball often enough, TO dropped 10. Owens also gave up on running routes hard during games frustrating players, coaches & fans. Worse yet, he shows off his pearly whites after most blunders. He's never been a team player. Now he's in Buffalo. The Bills didn't win one single game vs AFC East rivals in '08. They're not looking much better getting ready for '09. TO has already missed voluntary workouts & team meetings. How long to you think it is before TO rips apart clubhouse continuity in Buffalo? I give it until loss number 3.
Dallas Cowboys... training facility blew apart in heavy winds a few weeks ago. 12 people were injured including a team scout who was left paralyzed from the waste down. Recent news broke claiming one of the contractor's employees consulted for strengthening the complex wasn't licensed. It gets worse... he's an ex-con who falsified his employment and education records. Somehow he managed to dupe everyone. His credentials were only checked out after the mishap.
Tom Brady... is back on the practice field after sitting out 99% of 2008. New England is hoping he bounces back quickly. Pats played fairly well without him (11-5) but failed to qualify for the playoffs. Brady is a leader and proven winner on the field. New England quickly becomes favorites to win AFC East again in hopes of returning to top dog in AFC. If he's healthy and ready to go... they're the best.
New York, New York... Favre is gone and the future is in. Mark Sanchez was selected by the Jets as their QB of the future. Heavy hype is surrounding this kid and the Jets wasted no time promoting their young star to be. He just finished up a GQ swimsuit shoot surrounded by stunning models. Rumors swirling he's hot and heavy with Hilary Rhoda. I hope this guy isn't burnt out by first snap.
On the Giants side of town they're still looking for game breaking wide receivers to replace veteran fan favorite Amani Toomer & troubled gun toting Plaxico Burress. Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina) was their first draft pick. Rumors of Cleveland's Edwards and a few others have made local headlines but no deals have been finalized. Manning's offense needs a playmaker before NY can make a legit run for the title.
Detroit Lions... their biggest decision heading into this years draft was whether or not to trade away NFL's #1 pick. They opted to sign top rated QB Matt Stafford (Georgia). Their 2nd first round pick was TE Brandon Pettigrew. As a matter of fact, I believe their top four picks in this years draft could pay immediate dividends. Detroit can only go up after a record setting 0-16 season. Or will they repeat? Don't look now, but the Lions could be sitting pretty reshaping the lowliest franchise in the NFL. It's all on the coaching staff to teach these guys how to play NFL football.
Stay tuned in the coming days for periodic NFL updates, news, chatter and predictions.
Baseball 2009 has been full of surprises from teams to invidual players. MLB.com is hosting its' annual fan balloting for this summer's All Star Game. I've put together my list of early season MLB All Stars & All Flops teams.
1B Albert Pujols (STL) (majors top player, .326, 13 HR)
2B Aaron Hill (TOR) (career year, 11 HR, .344)
3B Ryan Zimmerman (WAS) (30 game hit streak, .355, 10 HR)
SS Jason Bartlett (TB) (career year, .379, 5 HR, 12 SB)
LF Raul Ibanez (PHI) (early season MVP candidate, .349, 15 HR)
CF Carlos Beltran (NYM) (.370, 1.051 OPS)
RF Nick Markakis (BAL) (.318, 34 RBI)
C Victor Martinez (CLE) (.400, 14 2B, 30 RBI)
DH Adam Lind (TOR) (.311, 14 2B, 35 RBI)
SP Zack Greinke (KC) (7-1, 0.82)
CL Heath Bell (SD) (1-0, 11/11 Saves)
MGR Cito Gaston (TOR) (27-16)
1B Jason Giambi (.198, 3 HR, AL 1B low .658 OPS)
2B Dan Uggla (FLA) (.204 BA, .394 SLG)
3B Garrett Atkins (COL) (.194, 3 HR)
SS Jimmy Rollins (PHI) (.234 BA, .275 OBA, career low 3.81 RF)
LF Chase Headley (SD) (.237, 3 HR)
CF Chris Young (AZ) (.171, .219 OBA, 38 K)
RF Brian Giles (SD) (.166, 2 HR)
C Geovany Soto (CHI) (.202, 1 HR)
DH David Ortiz (BOS) (.210, 1 HR)
SP Jose Contreras (CHI) (0-5, 8.19)
CL BJ Ryan (TOR) (continues to be a bust, 7.27 ERA, 2 blown saves)
MGR Clint Hurdle (COL) (15-24)
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Another news filled week in sports. Alex Rodriguez made his Yankee Stadium debut. NBA/NHL Playoffs heating up. Michael Vick released from prison. David Ortiz hit his first home run of the year. Ryan Church missed third base. Tragedy strikes the families of Scott Schoeneweiss and Phil Mickelson.
Baseball injuries mounting... A few big name players struggle to remain injury free. NY Mets 1B Carlos Delgado has a career threatening hip injury. Bad news for the Mets as their slugging 1B was red hot before opting for surgery. Cubs SP Carlos Zambrano should be returning from the DL (hamstring) this weekend. Rick Ankiel (STL) & always injured Nomar Garciaparra (Oak) should have been ready to play by now but remain days away from returning. Baseball's injury list continues to put pressure on teams to compensate for big losses.
Football... Michael Vick was released from prison this week. Let the debate continue... let him play or not? Seems like bloggers and NFL experts have varying opinions. My two cents are simply put. Vick has paid his debt to society. Let him play!
Detroit's new Mayor... former NBA star Dave Bing won a special election to finish out the term of scandal ridden Kwane Kilpatrick. Only 15% of the registered electorate voted but Bing won 52%. He's already facing a tough test in limited time. Spiraling unemployment and lack of government trust are just two things on his to do list.
NBA Lottery... Knicks and Nets continue their lack of draft lottery luck. NBA draft order (top 10): 1- Clippers, 2- Grizzlies, 3- Thunder, 4- Kings, 5- Wizards, 6- T'Wolves, 7- Warriors, 8- Knicks, 9- Raptors, 10- Bucks. All sorts of draft rumors will be hitting local headlines in days to come. I think Knicks/Nets are on the outside looking in. Not good draft positions for teams in need... especially when neither have 2nd round picks.
Major League Baseball is full of trade rumors. SD's Jake Peavy apparently heading to Chicago White Sox. This would be a great "now" deal for ChiSox and "future" for San Diego. If this rumored deal becomes reality then Pads will receive Chicago's top rated pitching prospects. I think adding Peavy is exactly what Sox need for an upper hand in AL Central race. Mets rumored to be looking for a 1B replacement for injured Carlos Delgado. How about trading for Padres Andrian Gonzalez? Todd Helton (Col) & Kevin Millar (Tor) would be great pickups too. Red hot Milwaukee has a hole at 2B with Weeks going down for the year. Cleveland's Mark DeRosa's name has come up in blog chatter. A solid handful of second sackers could be had from around the league. Hard to imagine the Brew Crew sitting still while leading tough NL Central.
NBA & NHL Playoffs have dwindled down to final four status. NBA will crown a new champ this season after Boston was eliminated. NHL's Detroit Red Wings attempting a repeat. My picks for Champs are Lakers & Red Wings.
Former scrub NFLer Eric Naposki & ex-girlfriend have been charged in connection to a 1994 murder of the ex's then boyfriend. Apparently, Naposki was given a key to the man's residence where he blasted the victim with 6 bullets. Naposki's ex-girlfriend was after $1M insurance policy and $150K inheritence.
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Are Cleveland and Los Angeles on a collision course to determine the next NBA champion? Or will Orlando and Denver continue to thrive as underdogs?
NHL Eastern Conference Playoffs watched underdog teams stun top seeded teams. Surprising Pittsburgh (4) and Carolina (6) square off and will face whoever wins in the west (Detroit vs Chicago).
(3) Orlando Magic vs (1) Cleveland Cavaliers: 2 great teams playing their hearts out.
Orlando needed 7 games vs an injury riddled Celtics team. Are they gassed after a physical series? Dwight Howard is the main cog. His defense is the key if Orlando's going to advance. Howard is connecting on nearly 61% of his shots, 16 rebounds and 2.75 blocks per game. Coach Stan Van Gundy has been heavily criticized throughout the playoffs for interfering more than inspiring. His style may not jive with everyone. No one can argue his team keeps winning. Can they knock off the leagues MVP to reach the finals?
Cleveland is well rested after barely being challenged (8-0) this playoff season. In 8 wins they've averaged 94.9 ppg while choking opposing offenses to 78.1 ppg. MVP LeBron James leads the way with 32.9 playoff ppg. If Orlando can't contain him then they're doomed.
Orlando will put up a fight but Cleveland is too strong. Cavs in 6.
(2) Denver Nuggets vs (1) Los Angeles Lakers: Not many outside of Denver believed the Nuggets would advance to the conference finals. Perhaps it was due to Coach Karl's less than stellar playoff history. Well, here they are... ready to challenge LA who's coach has been heavily critiqued lately.
Denver averaged 111.5 ppg thru 11 playoff games on 50.3% shooting. Carmelo Anthony (27.0) and Chauncy Billups (22.1) lead their attack. Defensively, I don't think they'll be able to slow down Kobe & Co. These will be a very high scoring series.
Los Angeles comes off a strong 7 game challenge from Yao-less Houston. Phil Jackson was heavily critiqued because it took 7 games against an opponent many thought should have been dismantled in 4. I know he'll have the Lakers extremely focused vs Denver. Kobe (27.4) leads the way. If he can spread the ball around to Gasol (18.5), Odom (12.3) and role players then they might be able to offset a quick Denver D. Shot selection and stingy D is what LA must execute to win.
LA and Denver both figure to score over 100 points each game. This series looks great on paper. Phil Jackson holds the coaching advantage and this will prove to be the biggest key of them all. Lakers in 6.
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (6) Carolina Hurricanes: Nobody expected either team to be playing in the conference finals. Pittsburgh needed 6 games to dump Philly and a tough 7 gamer vs Washington. Carolina knocked off the top two seeds in full 7 game series (NJ & Boston). Both played very emotional, heavy hitting OT filled games. This series will go the distance too. Pittsburgh's offense vs Carolina's D.
Penguins in 7.
(2) Detroit Red Wings vs (4) Chicago Blackhawks: Defending Champion Detroit is no stranger to conference finals. All lines are tough, talented and deep. I read this series as a no contest Detroit blowout. They're better in all phases of the game.
Red Wings in a sweep.
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It's NHL Playoff time. A few big upsets by lower ranked teams stunned Stanley Cup favorites. It's also the time when many fans recollect their most memorable upsets and players from prior years. I'm no different. I was fortunate to see some top notch regular season rivalries and playoff games. A couple changed the NHL for a few years.
So many remember the great games. They've been covered and rebroadcast a ton of times. I went a step further. Instead... how about waking up a few sleeping ghosts of the game? Players selected are some favorites from days of old. Not all were superstars. These guys were impact players in games I watched or teams I followed regularly. I've presented them in line form based on personal popularity or where I felt they best fit. Terry O'Reilly is on my top 3 list but in no way fits 1st line status. All done in fun. Some of the games greatest have been left off since they didn't crack my favs list. See how many you remember. Click on their names if you're stumped.
SportsRagePage... Home for sports scandals & misfits. Check it out!
Out with the old, in with the new. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has built the NFL's newest treasure. Cowboys Stadium is ready for its' 2009 debut. State of the art has taken on a new meaning.
Architecturally manificent encompassing all that is Dallas Cowboys. Stylish, classic, full of team history and geared towards fans. Average ticket price is $84.00. Not bad for a $1.1 billion mega complex. This stadium has it all from superb construction, plush stadium suites, great seating angles to view games, top notch eateries and a magnificent scoreboard hanging above the field. I think Jerry should call the Steinbrenners and explain how profitability can be reached with affordable seating for everyone (Yanks initially charged $2,500.00 per premium seat).
Cowboys fans are excited as ever. Another promising team chasing Super Bowl dreams will be ready for opening day. America's Team is hoping their new stadium washes away recent disappointments in Playoff competition.
Jones just announced no naming rights have been sold. Glad to hear it (sort of). I'm tired of team owners selling out naming rights which have nothing to do with host teams. Citi Field (New York), Land Shark Stadium (Miami), Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia)... give me a break! How about team recognition with stadium naming rights? Whoever eventually ponies up dough to plaster their corporate name on stadiums should have some sort of team connection. Cowboys Stadium presented by X sounds and feels a hole lot better than corporate egotistical donors flinging around other people's money!
I can't wait for my next trip to Dallas. I plan on taking in a game to see this megaplex for myself. Old Texas Stadium was one of the NFL's most recognized venues. New Cowboys Stadium figures to be one of the greatest in the nation.
Here's a great internet site dedicated to sports scandals, cheaters and jailbirds. "Sports Rage Page" (www.sportsragepage.com) is the place to find your favorite disobedient characters. Lots of info for viewing from the Olympic Basketball scandal to Mike Tyson's numerous incarcerations. Corked bats, greased baseballs, drug traffickers and muderers. Who's your favorite degenerate?
Some of the big time names on this list include: OJ, Roger Clemens, Mercury Morris, Pete Rose, Chris Webber, Sonny Liston, Marion Jones, Ben Johnson, Michael Vick, Jeremy Mayfair & Roscoe Tanner.
So what makes millionaire sports figures go berserk? What possessed Rae Carruth to hire hitmen to kill his pregnant girlfriend? Why did Michael Vick fund dog fights? There's no accounting for poor judgement by superstar players. Let me not forget the wannabee's like Tonya Harding who wasn't good enough to beat out her competition. Instead, she had Nancy Kerrigan beat up.
"Sports Rage Page" (www.sportsragepage.com) is fun to read. Check it out.
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"American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime" is a new book written by four New York Daily News reporters which was released this week. Roger Clemens, once again, vehemently denies he's ever used steroids or performance enhancing drugs (PED's) despite allegations and testimony provided by people close to the majors 354 game winner.
Clemens has long denied using any type of PED's. Remember his famous denial tour in Washington before testifying? He made a huge splash signing autographs and handing out memorabilia leading up to his testimony which is now subject of a potential perjury investigation. He was interviewed countless times by sports tv and radio stations... issuing denial after denial. He claims his former trainer lied and close friend Andy Pettitte "misremembers".
Roger now has a new denial tour thanks to release of this new book. ESPN's Mike & Mike in the Morning interviewed Clemens (listen here) on the same day American Icon was released. Clemens had been staying away from the media in recent months. Now he's back on the attack in the spirit of protecting his name. Too late!
Tales of Clemens alleged usage ignited another firestorm. Allegations of his extramarital affairs became front page news after reports he had been keeping company with other women, including a minor. Roger's on again off again retirement quickly became permanent as MLB teams distanced themselves from the 7 time Cy Young Award winner.
I wish some of these players would just fade away. How many denials do we really need to hear from suspected players anymore? In sports, it seems the guiltiest scream loudest. When it comes to Clemens... I really wanted to believe this guy. The controversy surrounding alleged evidence seemed suspect at first. Plus, Clemens workout dedication had been reported for years. So much for hope when it comes to tainted players. Apparently, evidence does exist with Roger's DNA. Friend and former teammate Andy Pettitte supposedly testified of knowing Roger doped up. Rumors swirled of Roger's wife using as well.
This story can only get uglier. I'm betting it will. Who knows what juicy details will emerge from American Icon book? The book book coupled with regurgitating Clemens denials will certainly speed up perjury proceedings. At least, that's what I'm hoping to see sometime soon. Steroids are not the cause of Clemens downfall. It's been his mouth. Shut up Roger and just fade away. It's time to move on.
News of Manny Ramirez 50 game suspension and release of an ARod tell all book reignited baseball's steroids saga. So, I decided to have a little fun by assembling some of the games most famous abusers by position. Here's my Steroids All Stars (note: some players may not have been proven guilty, most "suspected" abusers).
Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez
1st Base: Mark McGwire
2nd Base: Brian Roberts
3rd Base: Alex Rodriguez
Short Stop: Miguel Tejada
Left Field: Barry Bonds
Center Field: Lenny Dykstra
Right Field: Sammy Sosa
Designated Hitter: Jose Canseco
Starting Pitcher: Roger Clemens
Closer: Eric Gagne
Catcher: Benito Santiago
1st Base: Rafael Palmeiro
2nd Base: Chuck Knoblauch
3rd Base: Matt Williams
Short Stop: Mike Lansing
Left Field: Gary Sheffield
Center Field: Rondell White
Right Field: Juan Gonzalez
Designated Hitter: Jason Giambi
Starting Pitcher: Kevin Brown
Closer: John Rocker
ESPN commentator and former MVP/All Star Joe Morgan stated his personal disbelief regarding how steroid usage spread like wild fire throughout baseball. He questioned how players who were clean never spoke up loud enough for the league to take notice of what was happening in every major league clubhouse. In most cases, players taking steroids saw their statistics improve leading to bigger salaries. As players challenged and broke decades old records they were financially rewarded. Gate receipts increased around the league. New stadiums were financed with taxpayer dollars. Television contracts spiked to record revenues. How much did clean players suffer financially? How can they ever be thought of as clean and playing by the rules. This has become one of the biggest guilty by association scandals ever.
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I don't even know where to begin this one. Manny Ramirez. You fool! Just when there was some hope of baseball players finally getting back to playing baseball and putting most of the performance enhancing drug crapola to rest.... here's news of another super star gone wrong.
Manny Ramirez suspended 50 games by Major League baseball. No official word from league officials as to what created the bad results. It's rumored he tested positive for "... testosterone in his body that was not natural and came from an artificial source, two people with knowledge of the case told ESPN's Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn. The sources said that in addition to the artificial testosterone, Ramirez was identified as using the female fertility drug human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG." (espn.com news services, 5/7/09).
What in the world was this guy thinking? Manny quickly came out with a public statement which defies logic in today's state of the game where every player should know exactly what he's taking and potential consequences. Dope. "Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons."
Guess he forgot to mention what prompted this test. A questionable spring training sampling showing elevated levels of testosterone. hCG is commonly used by steroid freaks to restart their bodies coming off a steroid cycle.
So lets see how some of the games most prolific home run hitters of the 90's stack up. Barry Bonds, #1 All Time Home Run King (762), can't find a job and could be wearing stripes soon due to perjuring himself regarding BALCO investigation. Sammy Sosa (#6, 609) never officially named, however often refused Chicago reporters challenges to take a test. Mark "I'm not here to discuss my past" McGwire (#8, 589). Rafael "Finger Waving" Palmeiro (#10, 569). Alex "AFraud" Rodriguez (#12, 553). Manny "I've Been Officially Busted" Ramirez (#17, 533). An endless list from MVP's to World Series Champions of which we'll never know its' true depth.
I think today's announcement couldn't have been timed better for ARod. So much attentioned has been thrown towards the Yankees multi million dollar star steroid abuser this week in advance of a new tell all book nitpicking his please love me compulsion. News of Manny is a much needed distraction (for ARod).
I really hope Hall of Fame voters completely ignore these guys wheh their names appear on HOF ballots. Major League Baseball, from top to bottom (owners to locker room attendants), all played a very large part manufacturing and nurturing one of the games darkest moments. Guess who takes it on the chin? 1- Fans. 2- Baseball history. Records set during this era should be canned. I was never in favor of wiping out records but no matter how you look at it... nearly all are tainted. If there was ever a time for reinventing the asterik, now is it.
All of these artificial statistics. Some have erased the games greatest records from single season to career marks with more on the way. Individual games most likely decided by one juicer pitching to another. As baseball teams started scoring more runs... television revenues soared, players salaries skyrocketed, record books rewritten, championships won and lost....... and......... ticket prices through the roof. So high in one particular stadium (Yankee), that most of the best seats are vacant! The Yanks had the nerve to price tag their best seats at $2500.00 a pop. Ah yes, they soon realized prices might be a little out of whack so they "slashed" dollar amounts. Now premium seats can remain empty at $1250 a pop.
Greed, greed, greed. Yet, the game marches on. It's in a new season. A new generation of players slowing syphoning out steroid hacks. The foreseeable future will be a 20 year struggle of trying to tame smoldering flames generated from one of the darkest era's in sports. Reminders of these years will linger until all suspected players names have cycled off of HOF ballots.
New York bosses named Steinbrenner can't be happy. Billions spent on a new stadium. Millions shelled out for new star ballplayers. The old saying of money doesn't buy happiness applies here too. Arch rival Boston has now beaten the lifeless Yankees 5 times in 5 tries this season.
Superstitious baseball traditionalists warned of moving the new Yankee Stadium from its' former so called sacred ground. "The House that Ruth Built" is gone. Yanks now play in the "Stadium funded by taxpayers". Ghosts of Yankees past have yet to show their magical powers. Some say they're gone forever. Judging by Yanks dismal performance in '08 and again in '09.. perhaps they're right.
The Yankees are in trouble. They've been embarrassed a few times already in this young season. Their new star players haven't delivered (CC, AJ & Teixeira). Old stars struggling (Jeter, Damon, Wang, Rivera). Disabled list trips by key cogs (ARod, Posada, Bruney, Wang). Yankee Stadium surrenduring homers at alarming rates. Another ARod controversy brewing. Attendance figures in the dumps. Hal and Hank remaining silent after losses. Boss George must be ready to explode. In the not too distant past, 22-4 home losses and an 0-5 beginning vs arch rival Boston would have prompted George to sound off. I guess his son's don't possess the same motivational skills.
Joe Girardi's Yankees are struggling again. Five no contest losses vs Red Sox (3 in Boston, 2 in NY) should sound a wake up call. YES network broadcasters make me laugh. They can't figure out how the Yanks played so well in spring and so poorly now. Guess what fellas, it was spring training. Yanks weren't facing prime pitchers for more than three innings in any given game. Don't forget, most big name players were involved with the World Baseball Classic. Most importantly, spring games mean nothing!
Now the heat is on Yankee players and their manager. Losing to Boston without much of a fight should shake the organization to its' core. This is a talented team in disarray based on bad decision making. From where I sit, it's an easy fix. I just don't see the Yankees waking up any time soon. Joba Chamberlain must go back to the bullpen once Wang returns from DL. Yanks bullpen is disasterous. Joba as a starter only makes this wound deeper. He rarely pitches deep into games which creates a double problem (bullpen overuse & 100+ pitches in 5 IP is sure to wreck his arm). Hughes, last seasons great hope, is now pitching effectively replacing injured Wang. Keep him in the rotation, move Joba to setup, Coke to 7th inning reliever and the Yanks are in business. Like I said, this should be an easy fix. So, why haven't the Yanks figured this out yet?
Yanks most daunting teams date back to Rivera setting up Wetteland... and.. Nelson/Stanton setting up Rivera. Joba (best served as closer of the future) is being misused. His career will be jeopardized at this pace. He throws too many pitches as a starter and rarely lasts deep into games. As a result, Yanks relievers are gassed.
Next up... catchers. What's up with the lousy signal calling from behind the plate? Catchers rarely call for starters #1 pitch in key situations or when pitchers are ahead in counts. Yankee pitchers have become predictable and get too deep into counts turning pitchers advantages into hitters hot zones. This is where Girardi needs to put his foot down. It's tiring watching him make up excuse after excuse after Yanks losses. Most have been from a lack of quality pitching.
At what point in time will Yanks hitters stop swing for the fences with 2 strikes and runners in scoring position? Yanks have been horrendous knocking in runs or moving runners into scoring position. How about a bunt or two to manufacture runs when struggling? Or having hitters shorten swings in key at bats? Ever hear of a hit and run play? Hey Girardi, there's more to managing the New York Yankees than filling out a lineup card. Two years in a row as an ineffective field general.
Oh, by the way... Joe Torre? Hal & Hank's first ownership mistake. Joe's helped turn Los Angeles into winners again. His team just tied the Major League record of 12 straight wins at home to begin a season.
It's been quite a week in sports. NBA & NHL Playoffs in full swing. There were a couple of memorable series going the distance and great matchups in progress. Tiger roared but missed his birdies at Quail Hollow. Kentucky Derby surprise winner and a few other items highlighted another busy week in sports.
Tampa Bay Rays Carl Crawford set a modern day Major League record Sunday with 6 stolen bases vs Boston. So far in '09, he's stolen 17 without getting caught. 100 is set between the crosshairs.
Dallas Cowboys training facility was blown apart by a mini-tornado like strong winds (microbursts) causing injuries during rookie training camp. I'm pretty miffed at how easily this building collapsed in the face of 65 - 70 mph winds. Isn't Dallas/Irvine part of tornado alley? A few serious injuries... including a scout now paralyzed from the waist down and a coach heading in for back surgery. Lucky most escaped without harm. It could have been much worse.
Brett Favre a Viking? Rumors are heating up and I think this one will happen. Minnesota will sign free agent retiree #4 to a one or two year deal. Favre had highs and lows for the Jets last year. NY fans had fantasied Super dreams which never materialized. Favre took much of the blame for Jets dismal finish. I lay most of it on the doorstep of lousy playcalling. Favre's arm is still stronger than most and Minnesota is a great fit. He will instantly turn them into contenders. Minnesota has speedy wideouts, a great halfback and a quick young defense which would improve greatly once the offense stays on the field for more than 3 plays before punting. I suspect a deal will be announced by this coming weekend as teams prepare for camp.
50:1 longshot Mine That Bird wins Kentucky Derby! Let the Triple Crown talk begin.
Sean O'Hara survived finishing back-to-back bogies to win the Quail Hollow Championship. For awhile there it looked like Tiger was making another one of his famous late surges. He drove a par 4 tee shot onto the green but missed his short birdie putt for a 3 putt par.
Major League Baseball is investigating Alex Rodriguez. No official word why has been publicly released yet. It might have to do with allegations of steroids/HGH used outside the time frame he's admitted to? It could be from allegations stemming from a new book soon to be released coinciding with ARods return from baseball's disabled list. Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts penned "A-Rod" which casts another potentially dark cloud over one of the games biggest statistical giants. He's been accused of tipping off pitches to opposing batters while playing for Texas and juicing up as far back as high school. (Check out my previous blog from 4/30/09 for more). Baseball would love to put the HGH/steroid scandal behind. It'll be around for quite some time as debates will soon start when HOF ballots are counted. Get ready for more boo-birds ARod.
The NBA Playoffs opening round showcased two epic series. Boston vs Chicago went the full seven games. Four games went into OT featuring double and triple OT wins by the Bulls. Atlanta knocked off Miami in a seesaw, heavy hitting seven gamer. Now it's time for the Conference Semi-Finals. Here's how I see it.......
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Atlanta Hawks: Cavs were barely challenged during their sweep of Detroit. LeBron James & Co. will be too tough to handle. Atlanta is a team on the rise. They'll fight to the finish behind a very balanced scoring attack. Spreading the ball around is what these guys to best. Bibby, Johnson, Smith, Murray, Harford, Pachulia, Williams & Evans all contribute.
Cleveland in 5.
Boston Celtics vs Orlando Magic: I think this will be an amazing series to follow. Earlier this season reigning NBA Champs Boston seemed like odds on favorite to repeat. Injuries have taken their toll. Celtics barely survived a great first round challenge without Garnett. Ray Allen (23.4 ppg), Paul Pierce (23.1), Rajon Rondo (19.4), Glen Davis (18.1) and Kendrick Perkins (13.3) make up Boston's wide open attack. They'll need to set up high percentage looks vs Magics quick D. Orlando, is a team on the rise with star calibur players. They dumped the 76ers in 6. I think the key to this series is Dwight Howard (24.0, 15.0 reb). His defense will be key as will how he handles a series full of double teams. I think Boston is spent after a ton of first round minutes. Orlando is hungry and eager to KO last years champs.
Orlando in 6.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets: LA is on a collision course with NBA Finals destiny. Phil Jackson will keep them focused every game. Kobe leads the way. I'm sure he has orders from Jackson to get everyone involved early to slow down opposing double teams. Lakers are playing sound basketball with a great gameplan. I'm betting on Houston to give LA a big challenge this series. Rick Adelman's defense plays stingy (94.4 ppg) and must create plenty of turnovers to get the Rockets off the ground. Transition basketball is the key to their success. In round one, Houston stymied Portland to less than 90 points in all but one game. This will be a very hard fought series.
LA in 7.
Denver Nuggets vs Dallas Mavericks: Denver is rolling in confidence after their first round win. George Karl tries to put playoff ghosts from his past to rest. Nuggets pile up point in a hurry. Anthony (24.0), Billups (22.6) & Smith (16.0) will be key cogs. Biggest question is if the Nuggest can play D vs Mavs big shooters? Dallas got hot down the stretch to qualify and then shocked San Antonio in 5. Jason Kidd needs to fire high % shots when he's not dishing off to Dirk (19.2), Howard (18.0) & Terry (13.4). Mavs are hot. I'm expecting a shootout in every games. It'll be a battle to the finish.
Dallas in 6.
This round will be great to watch... don't miss it.
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