Posts Tagged With: sports

Another football coaches’ silly season has come and gone

The January silly season of football coaches switching jobs, both college and National Football League, has pretty much wrapped up, give or take the occasional Rob Ryan, and it left me with the same question that goes through my head every year. Which means less: Coaches who swear their loyalty up and down at end-of-season press conferences, only to switch jobs later that week; or coaches’ signatures on contracts in the first place?

“This is the greatest job in the world, and I am not speaking to any other teams.”

I don’t know what makes me shake my head more: A coach signing a five-year deal, and then heading for “greener pastures” after one season; or a coach who practically cuts open his veins to show that he bleeds school colors or team colors, despite the fact that he pretty much has the keys to his next office in hand.

Becoming a head football coach at any level is a long and difficult career choice, with the odds stacked against advancing far enough to reach the pinnacle of the profession. I am by no means attempting to gloss over the long hours and hard work involved. But for those who work hard enough and are fortunate enough to advance, is there a better work situation in any other profession?

Once a head coach signs his name on a contract, the only actions that can derail him from either receiving every cent agreed upon or leaving for a better job are illegal activities, either by NCAA, NFL, or actual legal standards. If you do a lousy job and your team loses at an unacceptable rate, you still collect every dime. And if your team succeeds, the next, “better” job is only a phone call away.

However, the days of someone staying in the same job for decades, like a Tom Landry or a pre-scandal Joe Paterno, are long-gone. It’s a different era now, with coaches leaving for better jobs at the drop of a hat, or impatient NFL owners or college boosters, administrations, and athletic directors who are unwilling to allow programs to grow. As sports fans, we may not like this, but we have no choice other than to accept it.

There is one change that I firmly believe should occur, however, on both the college and professional levels. The commitment required by the sport of football, from both coaches and players, is far and away the most severe of any sport in terms of time, mental preparation, and physical preparation. When teams that have had some success during the season near the end of their journeys, the deserving or lucky ones are rewarded with bowl games in college, or playoff berths in the NFL.

I think it is absolutely inexcusable that job interviews are allowed to take place before teams’ seasons are finished, and that includes bowl games and playoff runs. As a player or fellow coach, I want to know that I am getting the full commitment and focus of everyone on the staff so my team can take advantage of the opportunity it earned. There is no way coaches who are interviewing for other positions are anywhere near 100% focused on their current duties. It’s humanly impossible.

I know my proposal is a pipe dream, and it will never happen on either level, with the pressure to beat out competitors and get the “right man for the job” in place as soon as possible, but I strongly believe coaches should be prohibited from contact with other schools or organizations until their teams’ seasons are completed.

The number of years on the contract may be irrelevant, but would it kill these guys to at least finish their jobs for the season before making their next moves?

Categories: football, sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is it time to blow up this edition of the Dallas Cowboys? I vote no

Now that I have had about a week-and-a-half to cool off after the latest end-of-season crumble by my beloved Dallas Cowboys, I believe I can speak rationally about what the club should do going into next season, and my suggestions will not involve the types of violence that would have been included had I tried to write this last week.

To all the haters ... COWBOYS FOR LIFE!

To all the haters … COWBOYS FOR LIFE!

One of the most common thoughts I’ve heard is that the team and coaching staff need to be blown up and rebuilt. This theory has been advanced by “experts” and average fans, and by Cowboys fans and Dallas haters. It may sound like the right thing to do, but the National Football League doesn’t work that way.

Tony Romo has been an obvious target, and considering the fact that the last play he will be remembered for after this season was one of the more pathetic interceptions thrown in quite some time, targeting Romo is expected, and fair. I am pro-Romo overall, but not to the point where I’m 100% all-in and blind to the facts.

When you take the field with Romo as your quarterback, you are signing on for the good and the bad. Romo will single-handedly win games, as he did on several occasions late this season. He will also single-handedly lose games, which he proved quite adept at doing last season, when he gift-wrapped victories for the New York Jets and Detroit Lions. I still think there is more good than bad in Romo. The bad tends to be overly magnified, which is part of the job of being an NFL quarterback in general, much less the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

For those who want to see a change at the quarterback position: I’d love to hear your suggestions. The NFL is not fantasy football. Aaron Rodgers will not be the starting quarterback for the Cowboys next season, nor will Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady (like Dallas needs yet another reason to be universally hated), Peyton Manning, and so on.

Is replacing Romo with a backup with limited NFL experience the answer? Are the Cowboys really better off with, say, Matt Flynn, who had a couple of brilliant outings for the Green Bay Packers, but couldn’t beat out Russell Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks’ starting job? Is the team better off with someone like its current backup, Kyle Orton, who has extensive starting experience, but who played himself into a backup role? Hell, maybe the Cowboys should buy into the hype and go after Tim Tebow, for he shall lead us to the promised land! I would keep Romo over any of these options, without a second thought.

As for the draft, even if the Cowboys are able to swing the type of deal they pulled off last season, in moving up to select Morris Claiborne, are any of the quarterbacks who will be available really game-changers? Scouting and projecting is nowhere near an exact science — think of it this way: JaMarcus Russell was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, and Romo was undrafted — but I just don’t see an Andrew Luck, a Robert Griffin III, or even a Wilson in this draft.

Overall, I see no choice but to proceed with Romo, for at least one more year. I am not a believer in change for the sake of change.

Another popular target, deservedly so, is Head Coach Jason Garrett. The coach is the easiest thing to change. As the cliché says, “You can’t fire all of the players.” And while Garrett do anything anywhere near as foolish as icing his own kicker, like he did to cost the team a game against the Arizona Cardinals last season, there were times when his judgment was questionable, at best, and I had a major issue with his tendency to give up on the running game at the first sign of adversity.

One thing I will say for Garrett is that this team has never lacked effort under his leadership, as it did on numerous occasions when “led” by his predecessor, Wade Phillips. Of course, the argument can be raised that the players should be motivated by their paychecks and the desire to secure their jobs, but sadly, as is the case on most teams in most sports, it doesn’t always work that way.

But I’ll play along: If Garrett is not the head coach next season, who should it be? Will the team really improve if it replaces Garrett with an NFL retread, or a college coach? I don’t believe that’s the solution.

I would have loved to see Sean Payton come back to the Cowboys’ organization, which never should have let him go in the first place, and there was a brief window of hope when his extension with the New Orleans Saints was declared invalid by the league, but Payton is back in the Saints’ fold and off the table.

I would make an exception for Mike Holmgren, but I don’t see any scenario where Holmgren would work for Jerry Jones. Holmgren clearly wants full control of the team, and as long as the Cowboys’ owner fancies himself as a GM, coach, and God knows what else, the two personalities won’t mix. If you need proof of this, recall that another coach who demanded complete control, Bill Parcells, was force-fed Terrell Owens, who he clearly never wanted on the team. Does that sound like complete control to you?

I also thought about Lovie Smith, mainly because the atmosphere around the Cowboys comes off as too relaxed, and it would be nice to have someone come in and put a foot up people’s asses. But Smith has only been marginally more successful than Garrett, and I’m not sure the move would accomplish anything.

Much like Romo, I believe Garrett deserves one more season. If there is no improvement next year, then it’s time for a change.

What should the Cowboys address during the offseason? The absolute top priority has to be the offensive line. The club tried to remedy this issue during the last offseason, by re-signing Doug Free and adding Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, but it failed miserably. Free has been an utter and complete disaster, and if he can be cut outright without drastic damage to the salary cap, he should. Everyone else was just plain mediocre, at best. While former No. 1 draft pick Tyron Smith is probably the most talented member of the unit, he is also a penalty machine, and the penalties tend to come at the worst times, absolutely killing momentum. I don’t have any specific names in mind, professional or college, but changes must be made.

Another thing Dallas must do, which is much easier said than done, is try to figure out just how much they can rely on some of the players that have performed well but missed time due to injuries. Sean Lee, Miles Austin, and Demarco Murray are all outstanding football players, but an outstanding football player doesn’t do his team much good when he’s on the bench in street clothes, or, as was the case with Austin this season, trying to play through (admirable) at much less than full strength. Can the Cowboys afford to base their offensive game plans around Murray and their defensive game plans around Lee, only to see the two of them go down again?

As I said, this is far easier said than done. Injuries can’t possibly be predicted, and they are part of the game of football, but it’s frustrating to constantly see the team’s most valuable players out of uniform.

This should be an interesting offseason, to say the least, but the window on this team is closing, and closing quickly. I am not on board with rebuilding now. Rebuilding in football doesn’t really exist. At least when teams try to do so in Major League Baseball, their fans can follow their prospects’ journeys through the minor leagues and retain some hope (see: Kansas City Royals). Football doesn’t work that way. However, if this team doesn’t succeed next year, it might be time for drastic moves.

One more thing before I go: If this current nucleus of Cowboys never wins a Super Bowl, I don’t blame Tony Romo, or Jason Garrett, or DeMarcus Ware, or Jason Witten, or even Wade Phillips. I will tell you who I blame: Patrick FUCKING Crayton.

Patrick Crayton, the former No. 3 wide receiver? Yes, that bum. Why? The week before the Cowboys played the New York Giants in a divisional playoff game, Crayton did nothing but run his mouth. The two teams are divisional rivals, and the Cowboys swept both regular-season meetings. Talking trash accomplishes nothing. Shut up, don’t motivate the Giants any more than they already are, and play the game.

After running his mouth all week, Crayton dropped the pass that would have put the game away for the Cowboys, who, at 13-3, had their best season by far since the Super Bowl years of the early 1990s. A perfectly thrown ball to a wide-open Crayton in the fourth quarter would have, at minimum, resulted in 40 yards, a first down, and two or three more minutes off the clock. Instead, Hands of Stone dropped the ball, the Giants took over, and the rest is history.

Would the Cowboys have won the Super Bowl that year? Not necessarily, but you never know, and, as I said, the 2007 squad was the best in recent years.

So, to the Cowboys: Stay the course, improve the O-line, and let’s give this one more run. And to Patrick Crayton, wherever you are: FUCK YOU.

Categories: football, sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Overpriced tickets, empty seats, and clueless management

The fact that sports ticket prices are completely out of hand is far from a new revelation, and my favorite club in any sport, the New York Yankees, falls among the worst offenders, possibly even occupying the top spot.

Go team go!

Empty seats, especially in the premium sections, have become the norm, no matter how big the game, or how nice the weather. And as clueless as management at some of these teams can be, they are trying to remedy the problem. But are they trying hard enough?

I became a Yankees season-ticket holder (half-season through 2008, full season for 2009 and 2010) in 1997, and I gave my seats up after the 2010 season (click the link for the long list of reasons why). The Yankees have managed to treat me better as a former ticket holder than when I actually had the account active.

I have received several calls over the past few months from the Yankees ticket office, gauging my interest in rejoining the fold for the 2013 season. I am actually surprised that the club is putting that much effort into cases like mine. When I go to Dunkin’ Donuts, I usually drop the coins I receive as change into the tip jar. The $4,000 or so that my season tickets cost means less to the Yankees than those coins mean to me.

I don’t even bother answering anymore because, in all fairness to the Yankees, I am in no position to commit to tickets of any sort, and many of the factors have nothing to do with the team or its pricing. We are moving, which would make attending weeknight games virtually impossible, and our family expanded, which completely changes the priorities of our budget.

But the few times I did make last-ditch attempts to keep some kind of ticket plan, the seats they were willing to offer me at a reasonable price were pure crap. I may have tried to plead my case with Mrs. 9 if I could have gotten something in the first few rows of the 400 level, in the infield, but when I was offered high rows in the outfield, my response was, “Dude, I have a 50-inch TV. Why would I sit all the way up there?”

And it’s not just the Yankees: A good friend Is part of a group that splits premium (and I do mean premium) Mets tickets, and the Mets actually lowered their prices significantly. Still, the skeptic in me wonders: If the Mets had been a playoff team in any of the three seasons since moving to Citi Field, would they have extended that offer? My gut says no.

Another good friend stopped by tables that the New York Giants and New York Jets set up at an event, and he received the big-time hard sell from both teams. When they asked,” What’s it going to take to get you in these seats?” sounding like desperate used-car salesmen, his response was, “Drop the PSL.” Naturally, they refused.

For years, the only way to get Giants season tickets was to put your name on a waiting list and wait several years (my name was on one prior to the new stadium opening, and I was told to expect a 15- to 20-year wait). I find it almost laughable that I could pick up the phone today and become a season ticket holder if I wanted to, but that would require an investment beyond my means, especially when I don’t root for the team.

For those not in the know, PSL stands for “personal seat license,” which is the biggest scam in the sports ticketing industry. A PSL basically forces fans to pay a large lump sum of money, simply for the right to shell out more money for the actual tickets.

Some PSLs offer owners the right to purchase their seats for other events (concerts, other sports), but the Giants and Jets can’t even do that. When Bruce Springsteen plays MetLife Stadium, who gets the seat: The Giants fan, or the Jets fan? Those teams’ PSL holders receive perks, such as early access to ticket sales, but is that enough?

One of the most irritating things about PSLs is that teams pitch them to fans as investment opportunities, touting how much the fans can profit if they resell the PSLs. I realize running a sports team is running a business, but being a sports fan is an entirely different story. If someone is enough of a fan of the team to consider forking over several thousand dollars per seat for PSLs, selling those rights is the furthest thing from their minds.

Back on topic: It’s obvious that teams are recognizing the fact that the prices they are trying to charge in an economy that is still scuffling are completely out of hand, leading to the large pockets of empty seats in very visible locations (field level behind home plate for baseball, field level between the 40-yard-lines for football), but are they doing enough about it? My experience Saturday, which prompted me to write this blog post, suggests otherwise.

$275? Seriously?

A friend from college was nice enough to give me two tickets to Saturday afternoon’s Yankees game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and we took 0.9 to his first-ever Yankees game. They were fun seats, especially since I usually sit upstairs: section 117a (field level, behind the Yankees dugout), row 30.

However, when I looked at the ticket price, my jaw dropped. The face value of the tickets was $275 apiece. I am not by any means trying to sound ungrateful for the tickets, and I was happy to learn that my friend received them as a gift, so he didn’t shell out that ungodly sum of money for them, but seriously?

First of all, they were technically field level seats, but they were nowhere near the field. As I said, they were in row 30, but the Legends Suite seats are in front of the field level seats, so they were really about 40 rows up.

Second, they were in the back row, and the condiments station was directly behind us. I joked about getting something spilled on me when we first got there, and somebody with an $11.50 cup of Miller Lite soon obliged.

Third, the section to our right had a handicapped seating area in place of rows 26-30. I am all for ballparks having as much handicapped access and seating as possible, and I applaud the existence of this seating area, and all of the others in the ballpark. However, because of the location of this particular handicapped seating area, I could not see anything hit down the right field line.

Charging $275 for those tickets is beyond criminal. I would have been irate if I actually paid that silly price to sit there. And despite the beautiful weather and excellent opponent, there were plenty of empty seats around us.

Also, I have no way to prove this, but if you look at StubHub, there are usually thousands of tickets available for every game. In the case of Saturday’s game, there were more than 2,400 available on the morning of the game. Yet, despite the fact that StubHub users can assign any price they wish to their tickets, there are often large groups of listings at the exact same price, all for seats in sections like 117a, and all from a handful of user names. So, either a few people are rich enough to own several-hundred field level season tickets apiece, or the Yankees are flooding the secondary market with tickets they can’t sell. You decide. I already have.

Sports teams have a choice: Either take a serious look at your pricing policies, or continue to see more and more empty seats. But despite recent economic struggles, the teams’ management remains far too arrogant, for the most part, to admit that the current structure is out of hand. It will be interesting to see if this ever changes.

Categories: baseball, business, life, sports, venting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The 2012 Dropkick Ellsburys: Maybe auto-draft isn’t so bad

Jacoby Ellsbury

I had to rely on auto-draft for the second of my three fantasy baseball drafts this season. With a little one on the way, I am only playing on one softball team, and I will be missing part of the season for obvious reasons, so I elected to play softball and let the computer do the dirty work.

This league is fairly competitive, but not as much as the Section 39 Fantasy League. That being said, I have had no success, and I’ve been in this league quite a few years. These were my drafts in 2011, 2010, and 2009.

Part of the blame goes to injuries (Josh Johnson being a notable example a couple of seasons ago), part of it goes to bad luck, and, admittedly, part goes to poor drafting decisions on my part. Here is my latest attempt to climb out of the second division and into contention.

Three players are kept every season in this league, and players are only keeper-eligible for three seasons before being thrown back into the pool.

Without further ado, your 2012 Dropkick Ellsburys:

Keeper, Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, BOS: His combination of power and speed were matched by very, very few players in Major League Baseball. While it may be optimistic to expect a repeat of his 2011 power numbers, he is still an excellent all-around player, at the top of a solid lineup.

Keeper, Jered Weaver, SP, LAA: He is a top-10 starter, if not top five, and an excellent anchor for a fantasy pitching rotation. Plus, barring injuries, the Angels are stacked. Keeping Weaver was a no-brainer.

Keeper, B.J. Upton, OF, TB: Upton is by far the weakest of my keepers, and he became a keeper by default. I wanted to keep Ryan Howard, but that changed when he crumpled to the ground at the end of the National League Division Series last year. Most reports don’t have Howard coming back from his torn Achilles tendon until June, and most reports also say that he looks like he ate Greg Luzinski, so I couldn’t risk what amounts to a draft pick in the first three rounds on half a season of a possibly healthy but possibly overweight Howard. Upton is a threat for 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases, but his inconsistency is maddening.

Round 1, Hanley Ramirez, SS, MIA: If I were live-drafting, I probably would have chosen Cliff Lee here, but since I was on the softball field, I had no say in the matter. I drafted Ramirez in my other league, as well, and my reservations and hopes are the same. He is coming off his worst season, and there are rumblings that he is unhappy about moving to third base to accommodate the Marlins’ signing of Jose Reyes. But if Ramirez comes close to a typical Ramirez season, he can dominate a generally weak position.

Round 2, Elvis Andrus, SS, TEX: This is where live-drafting comes back to bite you in the ass. I like Andrus as a player, and I love his stolen bases as a fantasy pick, but there is no way in hell I would have drafted two shortstops with my first two picks. If I can acquire enough speed elsewhere, he is definitely trade bait.

Round 3, Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CLE: Bless you! (Thank you, I’m here all week, tip your bartenders!) The Indians are a weak team, but he is a solid ballplayer and puts up solid fantasy stats. If I were live-drafting, I might have taken Matt Cain here, although I might not have, because as I said earlier, I’d probably have taken Cliff Lee in round one. When I took at the hitters drafted around this pick, I like Choo.

Round 4, Madison Bumgarner, SP, SF: Like Ramirez, I also have Bumgarner in my other league. I like him a lot and think he’s a stellar starting pitcher in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. My only fear is that the Giants’ offense will fail to score and cost him wins. It’s hard to say if I would have been thinking of a starting pitcher here if I live-drafted, but if that was my direction, he would have been my choice.

Round 5, Adam Wainwright, SP, STL: This pick is a huge risk, as Wainwright did not throw a pitch last season due to injury. But I love the value in round five if he returns to form. It’s a gamble, but it’s a gamble I would probably have taken if I were live-drafting. The two starting pitchers taken directly before him were Josh Johnson, who also has a bad recent injury history, and Yu Darvish, who is still an unknown quantity, although my hunch is that Darvish will not be a bust like some of the other pitchers who have come to MLB from Japan.

Round 6, Joe Mauer, C/1B, MIN: In what is becoming a familiar team, in the same way I would not have taken shortstops with my first two picks, there is no way I would have used back-to-back picks on players coming off huge injuries. As I said about Wainwright, if Mauer returns to anywhere near his pre-injury numbers, this pick is a steal, especially with catcher being a weak position. But two consecutive gambles are a little dicey for my blood. I probably would have drafted Rickie Weeks here.

Round 7, Nick Markakis, OF, BAL: I somehow end up with Markakis every season, and his lack of power while playing in Camden Yards, where everyone else seems to launch homer after homer, frustrates me to no end. He always ends up posting decent numbers, but the lack of power and the fact that I’ve lost with him before means there’s no way I’d have picked him here if I were live-drafting. There was a little bit of a run on closers going on, so I might have joined that run.

Round 8, Ike Davis, 1B, NYM: I really like this pick. Davis was on his way to an excellent season before getting injured last year, and the Mets moved the fences in at Citi Field. I would have taken Billy Butler or Kendrys Morales here, but both were selected before my pick. And I certainly wouldn’t have taken Morales if I already had Wainwright and Mauer, because there’s only so much injury risk one team can bear. Davis is also on my other team.

Round 9, Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B, TOR: I like Encarnacion, but I don’t know if I’d have picked him this early. Still, his bat showed a lot of life last season, the Blue Jays have a strong lineup, and I like the fact that he qualifies at both corner infield slots. And he is yet another member of my team in the other league.

Round 10, Chase Utley, 2B, PHI: I am a huge Utley fan, but with his recent injury history, there is no way in hell I would have picked him, especially with all of the other walking wounded on my roster. I just have to sit tight and hope he comes back healthy, but I hate this pick.

Round 11, Kenley Jansen, RP, LAD: He was the best closer left at this point, and I’d have picked him here without hesitation. He has a live arm, and I think the Dodgers will be an improved team this season.

Round 12, Sean Marshall, RP, CIN: I absolutely love this pick. I have picked up Marshall the past couple of seasons in a middle relief role due to his excellent strikeout, ERA, and WHIP numbers. If the Reds don’t let him close, they are morons, so add saves to the rest of his stats, and this is a great pick.

Round 13, Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS: I apparently missed the auto-draft setting that said, “Draft every player who was hurt last season.” What the hell? Still, as I’ve said about some of my previous picks, Buchholz was having an excellent year before getting injured last season, and if he bounces back, this is a fantastic pick at round 13. There are way too many injury gambles on this roster, though.

Round 14, Addison Reed, RP, CHW: I like this pick. I am assuming he gets the closer role for the White Sox and pitches well enough to keep it, but he has a bazooka for an arm.

Round 15, Edwin Jackson, SP, WAS: Jackson is solid, but not spectacular. I had him last season, and I have to keep my eye out for a rut, because when he gets into one, it takes him a while to pitch his way out of it. Since Brandon McCarthy was chosen with the pick before mine, I’d probably have taken Trevor Cahill here.

Round 16, R.A. Dickey, SP, NYM: I don’t love this pick, and I probably would have looked at another position here. Yes, Dickey has been solid for two seasons, but I’m wary of someone who doesn’t “get it” until he is well into his 30s. Knuckleball pitchers are ageless, but the Mets are not a good team, and their offense will likely cost him wins.

Round 17, Delmon Young, OF, DET: I’m pretty happy with this pick at round 17, but Young’s OBP is putrid. Still, he’s good for about 20 homers, and the Tigers’ lineup is stacked, so his numbers may rise.

Round 18, Chase Headley, 3B, SD: I like this pick, especially this late. It’s based on potential, but I think Headley started to turn it around last season. The one negative is that he plays in a ballpark that is very unfriendly to hitters, but hey, it’s round 18.

Round 19, Aaron Hill, 2B, AZ: With Utley on the shelf, I hope he remembers what he was doing in his outstanding season for Toronto. I’d have never taken Utley, and I’d have taken a second baseman a lot earlier than this, but it is what it is.

Round 20, Michael Brantley, OF, CLE: He is a solid last-round pick, also based on potential. If everything clicks for him, this could work out well. If not, well, he’s my last-round pick.

Overall, I’m happy with the team, but there are a few too many players coming off serious injuries. If they can all bounce back, this team will contend. If not, I will have to rely on the waiver wire and the trade market to shore up some holes.

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Hoboken Nine, the 2012 edition

Ryan Braun

The Section 39 Fantasy Baseball League held its draft last weekend, and I was a participant for the fourth consecutive season. It’s a very competitive league and, while I have not finished in the money, I’ve held my own, finishing fourth, fourth, and fifth in a 12-team league.

Last season was my most disappointing, as I just couldn’t find any consistency. I vaulted into second place in August on the strength of two consecutive 100-plus-point days, driven my wins from all my starting pitchers and a bunch of wins and saves from my relievers, but I couldn’t stay with the pack.

Here are my round-by-round picks (I had the No. 8 pick out of 12), along with my reasons for choosing the players I selected.

Round 1, Ryan Braun, LF, MIL: This pick was a bit of a risk after the news during the offseason that Braun had failed a drug test. His suspension was overturned, and everything I’m reading suggests that he won’t be suspended again, but there’s always the chance. And, if he really was on performance-enhancing drugs, how much did it help him during his MVP campaign last season, and how will it affect his numbers this season? Still, I thought he was a steal with the No. 8 pick in the draft, and he would have been in the top three if it weren’t for the suspension (big if, I know). I actually thought about Roy Halladay here, but I’m hesitant to take a pitcher in the first round (even one as dominant as Halladay) because if there’s an injury, they just don’t bounce back the way hitters do.

Round 2, Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA: I was all set to grab Halladay here, but he was chosen with the pick right before mine. This pick was also a little bit of a gamble, with Ramirez coming off his worst season, and with rumblings that he is unhappy about moving to third base to accommodate the Marlins’ signing of Jose Reyes. But if Ramirez comes close to a typical Ramirez season, he can dominate a generally weak position.

Round 3, Curtis Granderson, CF, NYY: I love the combination of power, especially with 81 home games at Yankee Stadium, which is tailor-made for his swing, and speed. Yes, I am a die-hard Yankees fan, and yes, I was always a Granderson fan, going back to his days with the Tigers, but I don’t let my rooting interests get in the way of my drafting. I was ecstatic that Granderson fell to the third round.

Round 4, Hunter Pence, RF, PHI: I really wanted a third baseman here, but I was hesitant to pull the trigger on Alex Rodriguez, partially because I hate him, but mostly because he is a big risk coming off an injury. David Wright also scared me a little here, although the fact that they moved the fences in at Citi Field tempted me. But if Chase Utley and Ryan Howard can come back healthy, Pence is an excellent hitter in an excellent lineup, and he has 81 home games at homer-friendly Citizen’s Bank Park.

Round 5, Madison Bumgarner, SP, SF: Again, I seriously thought about Wright with this pick, but I was also wary of not having a pitcher yet, and I liked Bumgarner and pitcher-friendly SBC Park better than anyone else who was left. I would have drafted his teammate, Matt Cain, but he was selected just before my pick.

Round 6, Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN: He is an excellent all-around ballplayer at a relatively weak position, and I thought he was the best value pick left on the board. I thought about another starting pitcher here, but decided that Phillips was my best option.

Round 7, Matt Garza, SP, CHC: Once again, the guy I wanted here was chosen with the pick just before mine, Jeremy Hellickson. I’m a little concerned about Garza because I think the Cubs are a weak ball club, but he’s a solid pitcher. I thought about Tommy Hanson here, but decided on Garza.

Round 8, Aramis Ramirez, 3B, MIL: I felt that there was a huge drop-off at this position after Ramirez, so I decided to grab him. The next third baseman on my list was Mark Reynolds, and I had him last season. Reynolds is an all-or-nothing, feast-or-famine player, and he is frustrating as all hell from a fantasy standpoint. I didn’t want to go through that again.

Round 9, John Axford, RP, MIL: I apparently made a subconscious decision to be a big Brewers fan this season. I don’t like drafting closers this early, but, much like my pick of Aramis Ramirez last round, I thought there was a big drop-off after Axford, so I decided to pull the trigger here.

Round 10, Sergio Santos, RP, TOR: There is usually a run on closers, but that wasn’t the case in this draft. Similar to my choice of Phillips, I just thought he was the best value left on the board, and I also believe the Blue Jays will be solid this season, which will give him ample save opportunities.

Round 11, Miguel Montero, C, AZ: As I said about closers, I also don’t like drafting catchers early, but in what seems to be a theme for me during this draft, he was by far the best catcher left on the board, with good power numbers.

Round 12, Cameron Maybin, CF, SD: I didn’t really need another outfielder here, especially with my lack of a first baseman at this point, but I love this guy’s potential. Petco is not a hitter’s park, but it is a good park for speed guys, and I can see Maybin racking up doubles and triples, and putting up good numbers in runs scored and stolen bases.

Round 13, Ike Davis, 1B, NYM: I finally got my first baseman, but once again, the person picking before me swiped the guy I wanted, Gaby Sanchez. I actually take this trend as a good sign, because she (yes, SHE) knows her shit and has won the league before, so it’s good to see that we were thinking along the same lines. I really like Davis and am not sorry I ended up with him. Now, how far did the Mets move the fences in?

Round 14, Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS: He was off to a good start last season before getting injured, and, while I am obviously counting on a bounce-back, I am very happy with this pick in round 14.

Round 15, Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B, TOR: Lacking a superstar at either position Encarnacion is eligible for, I thought this was a smart pick if Aramis Ramirez or Ike Davis falters or suffers an injury. Encarnacion will likely DH, which will probably help his hitting in a strong Toronto lineup.

Round 16, Brandon McCarthy, SP, OAK: I love this pick and was stunned that he was still on the board in round 16. Oakland is not a strong team at all, but he is an excellent pitcher who seems to get better every start.

Round 17, Adam Lind, 1B, TOR: This was more of a value pick than a need pick, and the strong Toronto lineup definitely influenced me.

Round 18, John Danks, SP, CHW: I was very happy to get a solid starting pitcher this late in the draft. He’s not a superstar, but he eats innings and gets the job done.

Round 19, Jason Bay, LF, NYM: I thought he was a great risk pick this late in the draft. Bay has had two miserable seasons since joining the Mets, but if he can get back to anything like what he used to be (remember those shorter fences?), this will be a great pick. And if the Mets really struggle, he could be good trade bait.

Round 20, Jonathan Broxton, RP, KC: I’m pretty confident he will win the Royals’ closer job, and he throws some serious gas. I love this pick.

Round 21, Francisco Liriano, SP, MIN: This pick was very similar to the Bay pick: Liriano has been a disappointment for a couple of years, but I thought a pick in round 21 was a worthy gamble on his potential.

Round 22, Ian Desmond, SS, WAS: I thought this was a fantastic value pick, and Desmond is a solid backup if Hanley Ramirez slumps or gets injured.

Round 23, Homer Bailey, SP, CIN: This was another pick based purely on potential, and not results, but Bailey has been a highly touted prospect for a while, and I’m hoping he delivers. If he doesn’t, it was a pick in round 23.

Round 24, Delmon Young, LF, DET: 20-plus homers from a backup outfielder made this decision for me. I hope I never have to use him at left field, because it would mean something bad happened to my first-round pick, but he’s good to have on the roster, and a potential fill-in at the utility spot if Maybin slumps or gets hurt.

Round 25, Kurt Suzuki, C, OAK: We are not allowed to cut or acquire players until after the first week of the season, so most teams draft two catchers just in case their starter gets hurt, to avoid the possibility of a zero at that position for the week. Most teams also cut their backup catcher at the first opportunity, but I may hold onto Suzuki and his decent power numbers, unless I really need the roster spot.

I feel pretty good about my draft. I’m not cocky about my team, and I don’t look at my roster and think I’ll run away with the league, or anything along those lines, but I think it’s a solid team that will keep me in contention. If I get into August with a chance, I’m happy. Let the chips fall where they may.

Categories: baseball, sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

No Flash: Just like an iPad, only different (and much crappier)

To say that the PC I use at my freelance job is as useful as a smoldering heap of turd would be an insult to heaps of turd throughout the world. It’s slow, sluggish and lacking many elements that people take for granted, Adobe Flash among them.

Adobe Flash

One of the biggest criticisms of the Apple iPad is that it doesn’t support Flash, which means users of the tablet can’t see a lot of video content on the Web. However, while the lack of Flash support represents a fairly serious issue, the iPad is still much cooler and much more advanced than the creaky Pentium 4 HP with an undersized monitor that I’m stuck with at work.

The problem is that as a freelancer, I’m the lowest person on the totem pole, and I certainly don’t feel empowered enough to bitch about anything equipment-related. When the nice, big monitor I had for my first couple of weeks on the job fizzled out and was replaced by the Etch-a-Sketch I’m using now, I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

My policy as a freelancer is to draw as little attention to myself as possible, because my tenure at this job can end instantly, without the details of letting a full-time employee go, such as dealing with benefits and severance packages.

So while every single person on this planet does personal things online during work hours — and don’t even try to tell me you don’t — I still don’t want to advertise the fact that I engage in that activity. And the lack of Flash hinders me more in my personal use of the Web than it does in my work-related use, although it has definitely tripped me up while doing actual work, as well.

Not having Flash has mostly been a problem when trying to sneak in a little work for my other freelance gig while between stories (hush up now). Tech-related sites tend to use newer technology (not that Flash is that new, but you get my point), so I have a great deal of trouble accessing sites like TechCrunch. I can’t use Scribd to upload documents. I can’t use Seesmic Web to manage my Twitter account (which made me realize just how badly Twitter.com sucks ass).

When it comes to really personal Web use, the biggest annoyance is the fact that live game trackers like those on ESPN.com or MLB.com don’t work without Flash, so when I’m stuck in the office during a Yankees game — which happens far too often for my tastes — I have to rely on my Droid to keep tabs on the team. In my opinion, if I’m going to be stuck in the office during a ballgame, an HDTV feed, snacks and beer should be provided. Unfortunately, management and I don’t see eye-to-eye on that. But at least let me follow the damn game on my PC.

Sadly, until the IT department at this company realizes that Pentium 4 chips, Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 ceased their tenures as state-of-the-art five years ago, I doubt I’ll ever see Flash on this heap of junk.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to refresh the browser on my Droid for the 593rd time so I can see how the Yanks are doing.

Categories: baseball, business, life, sports, technology, venting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hall of Stupid

Former Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson (who also played for the Florida Marlins and Boston Red Sox at the tail end of his career) was the only player elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame today.

National Baseball Hall of Fame

I have no problem with Dawson making it in. He was a stellar ballplayer and, while many considered him borderline, I thought he accomplished enough that his election certainly doesn’t merit scoffing – 438 career home runs, a .279 career batting average, one MVP award, eight Gold Gloves and eight All-Star appearances.

My issue is with the completely unexplainable quirks of Hall of Fame voters. Why was Andre Dawson suddenly worthy in his ninth year of eligibility? How does someone who was not considered worthy in eight years of votes all of a sudden propel themselves into worthiness? As Rob Neyer of ESPN.com pointed out, “Because, you know, he hit all those home runs in 2009.”

Again, my issue is not with Dawson being voted in. My feeling is that either a player is a Hall of Famer, or a player is not a Hall of Famer. I have never bought into the idea of first-time honorees being more special than someone who has to wait, because I don’t feel people should have to wait. The fact that Dawson waited nine years is nonsense. He shouldn’t have been compared with the players that were nominated – he should have been compared with all Hall of Famers and all players. There’s no reason why Dawson couldn’t have been included in the same class as Cal Ripken Jr. Players are either worthy or they aren’t.

I also have a huge issue with the idea of not voting for a player in his first year of eligibility to send a message. This is Hall of Fame voting, not Facebook. If you don’t want to vote for a player because you suspect that he used performance-enhancing drugs, or he was a total douche to the press and the public, then don’t vote for him – ever. Making players wait is stupid. Again, either they’re worthy or they aren’t, period.

Another thing I have a huge issue with is players who have no business even remotely sniffing Cooperstown getting votes. While voters can select as many players as they wish, so voting for one player doesn’t prevent them from voting for another, it drives me insane when players who don’t belong anywhere near the Hall of Fame get votes.

Look at some of the bottom-feeders this year. Two votes apiece went to Ellis Burks and Eric Karros. Seriously? They were both decent players, with Burks better all-around than Karros, in my opinion, but Hall of Fame votes? Why? Worse, the following marginal players received one vote each, for no apparent reason: Kevin Appier, Pat Hentgen and David Segui. Really? Can Alvaro Espinoza be far behind?

I was venting the other day (shocking, I know!) that voting for the NBA All-Star Game should be taken away from the fans, as Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady were in position to start the game, despite barely playing at all this season. But baseball writers vote for the Hall of Fame, and they’re not exactly doing a bang-up job, either. Maybe college football’s BCS has the right idea by letting computers do the work?

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Mc9?

I was adopted and never had the burning desire to research my natural parents. I’ve always been fine with the fact that I was adopted, and my lack of desire to pursue the truth isn’t based on resentment — rather, the opposite: I’ve always assumed there was a good reason for what happened and left it at that.

McJew

McJew

When I was a kid, a lot of people guessed that I was German because of my platinum blonde hair and blue eyes — practically Hitler’s wet dream. But since my hair darkened around age six, the guess I hear the most is Irish.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve actually found myself drifting toward many Irish traits and products.

I definitely like to have a few drinks, and my beer of choice from the first time I tried it has been Guinness.

I love Irish whiskey — John Powers, Jameson, Tullamore Dew, Bushmills.

I took a liking to Irish music after initially playing it on jukeboxes to annoy a friend of mine who hated it, and I consistently listen to The Pogues (just saw them this past Friday), the Dropkick Murphys, Black 47, the Wolfe Tones, the Clancy Brothers, The Tossers, etc.

And I love the way the Irish express themselves. They always seem to find a nugget of humor, often self-depreciating, in the direst circumstances.

I was brought up Jewish, but my family isn’t very religious and, after my Bar Mitzvah, I pretty much dropped religion. I still consider myself Jewish, although I love to tweak people by telling them Yankee baseball is my religion.

I’m certainly not ashamed of being Jewish, and I’d never even think about converting to another religion, but I find religion in general, frankly, to be a gigantic bore, and nothing I’ve ever heard in a house of worship ever really moved me.

Yankee baseball being my religion isn’t that far from the truth, actually. I’ve been far more moved by Yankee rallies, Nets buzzer-beaters and Cowboys sacks of the opposing quarterback on third down than by anything from any religion. If this offends anyone, it’s not meant to, but that’s how I feel.

So is it strange that I feel so much more in touch with the Irish — which I may or may not actually be part of — than with the religion of my childhood? Is it weird that being at the Pogues show Friday night almost gave me a sense of pride, or that I’m extremely excited to go to the St. Patrick’s Day parade tomorrow, while nothing in religion has ever given me feelings like that?

Before anyone makes any suggestions about specific houses of worship, religions or whatever for me to try, please save your energy: It won’t work. At the age of 41, I’m not about to suddenly see the light and find inspiration in something that I’ve found to be nothing but a bore, a chore and a task for most of my life. Religions in general make no attempt to change with the times, and they’re not for me.

Writing this almost makes me want to find out if I am, indeed, of Irish descent. But after 41 years, I will more than likely leave things alone.

That being said, I will not feel the least bit guilty while I’m hoisting a pint of Guinness in a pub somewhere in Manhattan after tomorrow’s parade. I just wanted to get this off my chest, I guess.

Categories: alcohol, baseball, beer, life, music, sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Unprofessional professional football players

One of the great things about the National Football League is that with every single season, week or game, you have a chance to see something you never thought would happen.

This past week was no exception, and I’m still shaking my head.

Donovan McNabb

Donovan McNabb

Donovan McNabb, quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, didn’t know the NFL’s overtime rules.

Donovan McNabb, who is paid handsomely to be the field general for a team that’s been in steady contention for several seasons, didn’t know the rules.

I personally agree with McNabb that ties are lame, and I favor something along the lines of the overtime process in college football, where each team gets the ball at least once and, no matter how many possessions it takes, a winner eventually emerges.

Regardless of how McNabb or I feel about the NFL rules, though, rules are rules. And as the leader of the offense in a sport that has become a full-time job, how do you not know such an important rule?

If I were an Eagles fan (and thank God I’m not), I’d have to wonder if the offense would have operated a little more efficiently if McNabb knew the rule. I didn’t watch this game, so I can’t pick out any examples, but is it possible that the Eagles took their time in the huddle and didn’t urgently get back to the huddle after plays because they assumed the game would go on once the “fifth” quarter ended?

I’m obviously not saying the Eagles weren’t trying to score. The aim of every offensive possession is to score. And in an overtime situation against a weaker team, the last thing you want to do is give that weaker team an opportunity to end the game with one play.

I’m just baffled that the quarterback of an NFL team was completely clueless regarding the overtime rule. How is that possible?

(By the way, for two hilarious pictures making fun of McNabb, courtesy of ProFootballTalk.com, click here and scroll down a little bit.)

And before you think I’m picking on a team I hate, my favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys, won a huge divisional game at the Washington Redskins but still continued to make the types of mistakes that make me want to heave a beer bottle through the television.

As I said in a previous blog (I’m allowed to plagiarize myself, aren’t I?): The days of NFL players using training camp to get into shape are long gone. Now there are mini-camps, passing camps, organized team activities and countless other opportunities for players to work with their teammates. By this stage of the NFL season, teammates have worked together so much that everything should be running like a finely tuned machine.

So why is it that a huge first down by the Cowboys was wiped away by an illegal-formation penalty? How many times was this play worked on in practice? And the wide receivers still didn’t know that they had to line up behind the line of scrimmage, and not on the line of scrimmage?

And don’t even get me started on the constant false-start penalties.

To quote a good friend and fellow Cowboys fan: “This is NOT a hobby … this is what you do for a LIVING.”

I sometimes think the eight-on-eight rough-touch bar-league team I played on for years was more disciplined than some of these NFL teams. We paid to play on the bar team, unlike these stooges, who get paid millions upon millions of dollars. And the Eagles and Cowboys are supposedly upper-echelon squads — hell, the Cowboys were Super Bowl favorites in a lot of national publications.

I guess they can’t fit getting a clue under the salary cap.

Categories: football, sarcasm, sports, venting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Josh Hamilton … wow

I have been fortunate enough to experience some incredible moments at Yankee Stadium, so it takes a lot to impress me. But after witnessing Josh Hamilton’s ungodly hitting display at the All-Star Game Home Run Derby last night from my usual perch behind home plate in the upper deck, impressed isn’t a strong enough word.

Yes, I know, the Home Run Derby is a hitting exhibition that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. And I know, it’s much easier to hit when you can pick and choose only the most perfect batting-practice “fastballs” in your hitting zone, as opposed to having to worry about balls and strikes, breaking balls and all of the other nuances of the game.

Josh Hamilton, 2008 All-Star Game Home Run Derby

Josh Hamilton, 2008 All-Star Game Home Run Derby

But no human being should be able to repeatedly hit a baseball 450 feet, with three of Hamilton’s rockets going more than 500 feet. I don’t care how gift-wrapped the situation was. It was absolutely incredible to watch.

I can generally track home runs very well from my seats, which I’ve had since the 1997 season. But I lost one of Hamilton’s 500-foot-drives against the white background of an ad on the back wall of the bleachers and, until told otherwise by someone with a radio, was positive it had gone completely out of Yankee Stadium. And with the display he put on, I wouldn’t have been shocked if he had accomplished that feat.

I almost feel sorry for Justin Morneau. He ended up winning the contest after Hamilton ran out of gas — the two finalists start the last round at 0-0, so the fact that Hamilton had more than twice as many homers as anyone else during the first two rounds didn’t help him. But last night’s Home Run Derby will disprove the sports cliché that no one remembers who finished second. In this case, no one will remember who finished first because everyone was dazzled by the runner-up.

And Hamilton’s life story — coming back from drug addiction that derailed his career for several seasons and nearly cost him his life — just added to everything.

Just so you know why I say I’m not easily impressed, here are some of the historical games I’ve been privileged enough to attend at Yankee Stadium:

Game five of the 1978 World Series, when the Yankees won their third straight against the Los Angeles Dodgers after losing the first two contests in L.A., going on to win the series in six.

Dave Righetti’s no-hitter against the hated Red Sox on July 4, 1983.

Jim Abbott’s 1993 no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians — only in America can a guy with one hand end up pitching a no-hitter in the Major Leagues, even if he did end up with a career win-loss record under .500.

Jim Leyritz’s game-winning homer in the bottom of the 15th inning in game two of the Divisional Series against the Seattle Mariners in 1995: It was the Yankees’ first playoff appearance since 1981. Who knew they’d drop three games in a row in Seattle, marking the end of Don Mattingly’s career?

• The sixth and final game of the 1996 World Series, in which the Yankees — after losing the first two games at home, then sweeping three in Atlanta, including another dramatic homer from Leyritz — beat the Atlanta Braves to win their first championship since 1978. Current Yankees manager Joe Girardi had the game’s huge hit — a triple. I cried like a baby when Charlie Hayes caught the popup to end the Series. I’m not ashamed.

• Game one of the 1998 World Series, when the heavily favored Yankees, down 5-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, erupted for seven runs — a three-run homer by Chuck Knoblauch, who cost the Yankees a game versus Cleveland in the American League Championship Series by letting a ball roll down the first-base line while arguing with the umpire, and a grand slam by Tino Martinez.

• Games one and two of the long-awaited Subway Series in 2000 against the Flushing Pond Scum New York Mets: Paul O’Neill’s walk in the bottom of the ninth in game one was as professional of an at-bat as I’ve ever seen, and Roger Clemens firing the bat handle at Mike Piazza was just plain funny.

• Games four and five of the 2001 World Series: Two nights in a row, down two runs in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, two two-run homers (Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius). Even though they lost the series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, wow.

• Game seven of the 2003 ALCS — otherwise known as when Aaron Boone became Aaron Fucking Boone.

So when I say I don’t get impressed easily, it’s not because I’m jaded — it’s because I’ve been really fortunate over the years to experience some great baseball moments.

Joe DiMaggio was quoted as saying, “I’d like to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee.” Well, I’m not very religious, but I’d like to thank whatever power was responsible for making me a Yankee fan.

Josh Hamilton: Well done, sir!

Categories: baseball, sports, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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