Archive for October, 2010

Bye-Bye Grizzly Man

The Phillies lost to what looks to be the eventual World Series winner, the San Francisco Giants. The book was out all season on the phils and their inability to score runs like they could in the past, however one player that remembered what it felt like to hit home runs, Jayson Werth, tied the “All Time Postseason Homerun” list for National League players with 13. That is all fine and dandy, except for the fact that the likelihood of him donning the white and red pinstripes next year is somewhere in between slim and none. There are a number of factors that lead me to this conclusion, but I will narrow it to three.

Reason 1, the Phillies internal payroll cutoff point. If you keep in mind the fact that the Phillies will most likely offer Kyle Kendrick and Ben Francisco arbitration for the upcoming season and will include Domonic Brown on next year’s big league roster from the start, the Phillies will have about $139 million dollars allocated to 19 players. Add to that the departure of J.C. Romero, Jaime Moyer, Greg Dobbs, Mike Sweeney (most likely), and Chad Durbin (hopefully) which are holes that must be filled either internally or through free agency, and the efforts to resign Jose Contreras, a free agent, and the Phillies are easily over the 140 million dollar limit that Ruben Amaro stated he is strapped with.

Reason 2, the signing of Scott Boras. Boras happens to be the preeminent king of high priced baseball free agents and always seem to push the price tag a scorch higher than originally thought. Jayson Werth didn’t enter into the league as a highly touted youngster and has yet to receive a HUGE payday like most of his counterparts on the team have experienced. Therefore, I believe it is a foregone conclusion that when Werth signs on the dotted line the number of zero’s on the contract are much more important than the chance of winning is. After all, he already has a ring.

Reason 3, Domonic Brown. The Phillies already had a big name player toil around in the minors behind an acceptable major leaguer (Jim Thome) in Ryan Howard. Many baseball experts believe that the Phillies waited a bit too long in bringing the young kid up, a small mistake that I doubt they will do again. When they implanted Brown into the line-up this past season he quickly became a fan favorite. The Phillies could make him an everyday player in left field while running a double effort in right with Ibanez and Francisco. The winter league that Brown is playing in, how Ibanez recovers from a horrid postseason, and if Francisco and the Phillies agree on arbitration all factor into that scenario.


The Bench is Finally Calling

Having a streak is an admirable accomplishment in any sport, well except ping-pong. But there is a time and a place for every streak to come to an end. Cal Ripken Jr. knew it, and sat out a game voluntarily at the stadium where it all started, Camden Yards. Up next on the chopping block for streaks? Brett Favre, well at least I hope so. 291 straight starts at QB is astonishing, but now it is just plain silly. It is about time for Brett to take his rightful place on the bench for this upcoming weeks game given the fact that the grey-haired grandfather (yes, he really is a grandfather) was in a walking boot up until today, cannot prove that he can actually move in the pocket, and hasn’t done much to help his team win when he “guts it out” the way “only Brett Favre can do”.

Is it just me or did John Madden pass on his ridiculous love affair with number four to every other broadcaster in the business? Or is it that you are not allowed to be a Brett Favre detractor and have an NFL broadcasting job? Here’s a guy who has put multiple teams and fan bases through a waiting game for entire off-seasons and sometimes training camp. He seems to want to involve every media outlet but not involve the coaching staff or fellow players as to what he’s thinking. Maybe he thinks it looks more and more like a triumphant return for a King, but he seemingly forgets the small misnomer that he is a former king. Key word, former! He no longer scares defenses or has that innate ability to pull through in the clutch. In recent memory his late game passes usually end up in the hands of the opponents secondary.

Honestly, what is Brett Favre famous for over the last few seasons? Lets take a walk down Favre lane for a moment. He decided to retire from the Packers, only to sign with the Jets, then hurt his forearm midway through that season and tank the second half for a team poised for the playoffs. Afterwards he decided to retire and was subsequently released by the Jets. He quickly jumped onto the surgical table, because that’s the only sensible thing for a new retiree to do, right? Next, word surfaces that he is interested in playing for his long-time rival, the Minnesota Vikings. Why? Because they run the same offense as the Packers, because they have one of the best running backs in the league, because they could afford him the opportunity to play the Packers twice every season, and because they want him. Which is really what it boils down to in the end, Brett yearns to be needed.

I guess being pathetic on that level is not something that attracts Jenn Sterger, but I will get back to that one. Consequently, after another “I will, I won’t” summer, he ends up signing with the Vikings and has one of the best seasons of his career. After which talks of retirement again surface. After yet another “I will, I won’t” summer he is taken back to Vikings camp by way of a chartered plane, an extra four million dollars, and three players of the team. So far in this young season he has a QB rating under 70 (68), has thrown double digit interceptions (10) after throwing only seven all of last year, has double the amount of turnovers (14) than touchdowns (7), and sent numerous picture messages of his genitalia along with voicemails to the aforementioned Sterger.

Can we start to complain about Brett Favre yet? When is the time when everyone can stand up at his press conference and tell him he’s no longer welcome in the league? If the gentlemen on the corporate take are against taking that action I can assure you there are many fans that will do it for free. The aura of invincibility on the field is long gone for Favre, and the mystique of being a loving family man and husband has been thrown out the window as well. Frankly, what is left for Favre to ruin?

Does ‘Sense of Entitlement’ Equal A Lack of Morals? (October 20, 2010)

Lets call a spade a spade. As much as the stories are spun in the best interest of the athlete’s public persona, a majority of the stars these days cheat in at least one sense of the word. Tiger Woods, in his ridiculous excuse for a press conference after Elin caught him, said it best. “I felt I was entitled.” A very simple sentence that carries with it a myriad of questions that are not exactly the easiest to answer. He easily summed up the question of ‘why’ whenever we hear about another sports star “losing his way” either on the field, ie PEDs, or off. The list is long and distinguished with the biggest names in sports making an appearance in some capacity. Thanks to the media being so in tune with the players habits, a story in this day and age is more likely to be a headline, but don’t forget that running around at all hours of the night with a litany of women, drinking until your liver starts yelling at you, or gambling the night away was commonplace in the time of Mantle, Berra, and the like. Times were different, rules were different, and relationships were undoubtedly different.

Since then the public has decided to project sports stars onto an even bigger pedestal than anyone could have imagined, crowning them ‘the great one’, ‘the next one’, or ‘the king’, even before they’ve done a single thing to prove that moniker true. Everyone loves the stars, and if they don’t they act like they do. Entourages surround these players with only one goal, to keep them happy, but what does that entail? It is hard to believe that many big name players have heard the word ‘no’ since they were ten. With all the accolades come bigger paychecks, today’s players make more money than we can fathom. We go as far as to tell them that they are unstoppable, unbeatable, and simply on a different level. But what we forget to inform them is we only mean that superlative in terms of their specific sports skill. It doesn’t mean they are better at life, does it?

They might live a better life, drive a nicer car, and have more expensive things than the common man, but they certainly haven’t aspired so high as to supersede the basic ideologies of society because they can jump from the foul line and dunk a ball, hit 500 foot home runs, skate past the competition, or throw touchdowns at a high percentage. Perhaps the message isn’t being delivered to the players the way it should, or maybe they just simply don’t care anymore, but being a multi-millionaire for playing a sport comes with some stipulations. Through excelling at their craft they have risen to role model status, whether they like it or not. As a child we all had idols, but now it seems that those famous athletes, who were once revered, ushered out a red carpet of privilege that is being trounced on by today’s stars.

Who is it okay to look up to these days, should sports stars be blacklisted? Being lied to and getting the run around from sports celebrities has become the norm, and the topic isn’t specific to one thing anymore. From infidelity to disorderly conduct to the merry-go-round of steroids to countless D.U.I. and assault charges in every sport, it is unfathomable the way players can screw up a good thing. However, are we really able to blame them? They didn’t build the pedestal upon which they stand, we did. They didn’t write the huge paychecks to themselves, or ask for their own autograph any time they see each other. The idea that they are great and that everyone loves them is a belief that they will never accept as anything but fact, and we beat that into their heads.

There are still good men in the sports world for children to look up to, but the numbers are dwindling. But with more and more stars falling by the moral compass wayside it is hard to believe that there is a good role model left. After a scandal of any sort there needs to be a new litmus test for determining if the actions of a player should be forgiven by the masses in order to be reconsidered for role model status in the future, but taking into consideration societies perplexity on deciding what constitutes a forgivable act and what does not, the test will most likely never come.

My advice is this, look up to whomever you want and try to emulate their success on the diamond, court, rink, field, race, etc. However, do not try to mimic them as human beings, and don’t be surprised when they let you down when it comes to life’s basic lessons. Cheaters never prosper…well except in sports.

Rather Have H20 Than a Cliff Bar?

Cliff Lee is nasty, seemingly untouchable in the playoffs, but I’d still rather have H20. Phillies fans learned last year that one pitcher does not make a team, and the belief that Cliff Lee can singlehandedly beat the Yankees in a seven game series has already been debunked. He probably made hundreds of millions of dollars by fanning 13 Yankees last night combined with his two World Series starts last year and so far being 7-0 in his postseason career with an ERA hovering around 1, but he can’t pitch every game. The Yankees themselves will most likely be depositing said money into his bank account over the next five or six seasons and will soon have a rotation just as good as Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt. It is no secret that the Yankees tried and true history is ‘if you can’t beat them, buy them’, and in their chronicles it has certainly worked in their favor.

H2O, aka Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt, easily win when compared to Cliff Lee, simply based on the number of times each would be available. I realize that Hamels was also on the roster with Lee last year, but he was a shell of his past and future self. His comeback can almost certainly be contributed to Halladay and his mentoring of the young pitching ace. It’s no secret that Lee quickly won over the hearts of Phillies fans; the day he was traded was not particularly a happy occasion for the fan base.; he wasn’t supposed to leave so soon! Acquiring Oswalt helped manage the sting a little bit, but people around the Philadelphia area are still huge Lee supporters, which is understandable. The guy is dominant in the postseason, but he also refuses to pitch on three days rest and mails it in at certain junctures of the regular season. Despite their batting woes the Phillies are more poised now to win a World Series than they were last year, and if I were Ruben Amaro I’d be happy about the end result.

Just A Goon (October 18, 2010)

Before I begin please allow me to preface this with a simple fact, I dislike Dan Carcillo. I dislike his style of play, his lack of actual hockey skill, even his ridiculous mustache. To put it in 2010 terms, Dan Carcillo is on my blocked list on facebook. Anyway, I was given an article by an outspoken lover of Dan Carcillo’s style with the hopes of swaying my lackluster opinion of the hockey player. The article used numbers, specifically his ability to draw penalties versus his knack for committing them himself, to prove that Carcillo is worth much more to the Philadelphia Flyers than most fans give him credit for. Usually having the man advantage is a good thing, however, considering the Flyers obvious misfortunes in terms of power play efficiency, 9.1 percent so far this season, why would it be good for Carcillo to be on the rink at all? The team does not have a ‘set up and pass through the defense’ type of playing style. The Flyers actually excel in quick counters on the rush while at full strength and on the penalty kill, something that is hard to do on a line that features Carcillo skating at about half the speed of most other wingers on the team, or so it seems. In reality it might be about 70 percent.

I do not disagree that he should be given props for annoying pretty much everyone on the rink, including his own teammates from time to time, but the Flyers do not and should not rely on him to win hockey games, which is goal number one, right? If he really isn’t an integral part of that scenario than how important is he? Numbers don’t have the ability to tell the story in nearly every situation. Lets be serious, at one point the numbers made Adam Eaton look like a good pitcher, Donovan McNabb like a great quarterback, and Roman Cechmanek like a quality first rate goaltender.

I think we can agree that in most instances numbers are meaningless based on the ability that everyone has to find a number that can easily help back up a seemingly innocuous point. For example, Brian Engblom led the NHL in plus/minus in 1980-81, does that mean the current ESPN correspondent was a fantastic player? Absolutely not! What does mean something, and is a constant thorn in my side when I think about Dan Carcillo’s addition to the Flyers, is when a player does not understand the flow of the game and gets in a meaningless fight while his team is up 3-0 in a playoff game at home. The only reason for the fight in the first place is so the Penguins player could fire up his team, which is not something you want to happen if you’re a Flyers player/fan. Self-restraint and the knowledge to skate away are things that should have been ringing through Carcillo’s mind at the time. The Flyers went on to lose the game by the way, 4-3. I know that you’re saying to yourself, “But he won that fight Adam”…which is true, but if you know something about hockey the Penguins viewed the act as a slap in the face and were able to use it to rally around for their comeback.

The point is to not fight in certain situations, and as a professional hockey player you should know when to toe the line and know when not to cross it. Fighting is a necessary part of hockey, but it isn’t necessary to use it randomly. Backing up the star player with muscle, fighting for your goalie if he’s getting squeezed, or trying to pump up a team that looks tired are perfectly acceptable reasons for jousting, not because you feel like it. Carcillo is naively unaware of the game itself, and coupled with his general lack of skill while on the ice his only true talent is lost on this Flyers team. The franchise won twice with a team of Dan Carcillo like players who were ready to drop their gloves at a moments notice and weren’t exactly the worlds best overall hockey players, but the game has changed. Physical play is still a staple when wearing the sweater, but the premiums today are put on skating, puck handling, and solid defense. For a player like Carcillo, who can’t do any of those things very well, to take a roster spot is just plain wrong. I’m not the only person to realize this simple fact, seeing as how the Flyers head coach has made Carcillo a healthy scratch recently. There are players who have the ability to help their team by using a combination of broad skill and quality annoyance techniques, but there is a difference between an agitator and a goon. Sean Avery, world-class agitator. Dan Carcillo, goon.

Why Aren’t You Watching?

How does the NBA get more viewership than the NHL? Both leagues have gained TV viewers over the last few playoffs, but the NBA averages about 14 to 16 million viewers per finals game while the NHL garners only about 6 million for the Stanley Cup finals. I understand that more people probably play basketball while growing up, a fact that makes a lot of sense when you consider the cost of each sport, and therefore might not be as hip to the rules of hockey as they could be, but don’t people want to watch something exciting? Hockey is fast and furious for pretty much the entire game, takes far more skill than most other sports, and fighting is legal! This society pays $59.95 for a pay-per-view bout that may last 50 seconds. We love gore and it’s free on the ice.

Basketball’s last minute can literally take longer than the elapsed time it could take to negotiate a peace treaty between North and South Korea. Isn’t it odd that _______________ (fill in the blank with any star player) can sit on the bench for 3 minutes of ‘game time’ but in reality get a 36-minute rest? Yes, the dunks are cool to see, but isn’t that what Sports’ highlight shows are made for? Don’t even get me started on the travesty that is the “Top 10” sportscenter reel aka the only place on earth that would rank a regular one-handed dunk above an ankle-cracking one on four breakaway goal to win the game.

Ryder Cup Review

I’ve had some time to reflect on the Ryder Cup, and given that I fell asleep while trying to watch it on more than one occasion I didn’t think it could make a real compelling story. Team Europe won, Team America (world police, small joke) made a valiant effort at a comeback. Here are my winners and losers:

Winners: 1. Rickie Fowler – the rookie was three down with three to play in his singles match and came back to earn half a point. Making him a captain’s pick was clearly a nod to the future, and he showed he is the future for America.

2. Steve Stricker – How can you not put him in this category when he trounced the best player on the European team, Lee Westwood?

3. Ian Poulter and Luke Donald – These guys were the heroes for Europe. Both thrived under the pressure and were the clear tone-setters for Europe. It’s hard to leave McDowell off this list, but he did get ½ point less than these two.

Losers: 1. Corey Pavin – His decision making was best described as boneheaded. Ok, so he might not have thought that Tiger would get blown out 6 and 5 in a foursomes match with Stricker, but why put them in that position when fourball was an option? Also, making Mahan your anchor was not advised. Give it to a guy who has proven he can handle the pressure.

2. Hunter Mahan – being the last singles match when it all comes down to you is a moment that some people relish and others don’t. Obviously, from his flubbed chip shot just off the green, he doesn’t.

3. Jim Furyk – It must have been the extra 11 and half million dollars that he banked the week before that was weighing him down, because he did not play like a man who had just won the fed-ex cup.