Friday, April 22, 2011

My Sports Moment of Clarity

The moment of clarity happened on the night of June 18, 2006.  The Dallas Mavericks had just lost Game 5 of the NBA Fianls 101-100 in Overtime.  The loss dropped them to a 3-games-to-2 deficit after winning the first 2 games in Dallas.  The loss in Game 5 featured ill-timed missed free throws by Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, and what Dallas fans felt was a Secret Service escort for Dwyane Wade, who was not allowed to be touched. 

When the game was over, I was angry.  I was mad at the Mavericks for blowing the opportunity to win the series in Miami.  I was angry at Dirk and Josh for missing the free throws.  I was angry at the NBA for suspending Jerry Stackhouse for Game 5 for what was nothing more than a hard foul on Shaquille O'Neal.  And I was angry at Bennett Salvatore for helping decide the outcome of the game.

My wife was already asleep and even though this was just 5 years ago, civilization had not yet fully moved towards constant connection via text, Twitter, and Facebook.  I had no way to vent my anger.  So I just went to bed.  And I stewed.  My heart was racing, I couldn't sleep, and all I could think about were those $#%@ MISSED FREE THROWS!  That's when the moment of clarity hit.  I then became angry at myself for allowing all of these external factors that I had no control over consume my emotions so much that I couldn't sleep.  Why did I allow that to happen? 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gone Missing - Power Rankings 4-18-11

I apologize to anyone who was waiting with anxious anticipation for the updated Power Rankings.  Work and being slammed by allergies got in the way this week.  If I had to throw a Top 10 together this week, I think it would have looked like this.

1. Philadelphia
2. New York Yankees
3. Colorado
4. Los Angeles Angels
5. Texas
6. Cleveland
7. Cincinatti
8. San Francisco
9. Kansas City (no, seriously)
10. St. Louis? (They're 8-8, but they have a +23 run differential)

Like I said, this is just off the top of my head and I didn't do any research into these rankings.  Right now there is a large middle class of teams that aren't great, but aren't awful.  I also would have placed Boston last.  I've given up on the whole idea of "lets give them a chance."  When the Best Team Ever starts out 2-10, it's time for them to start proving themselves.  And maybe they have.  After yesterday's Patriots Day victory they now own a 3-game winning streak. 

One last note.  Has anyone been paying attention to Jayson Werth?  In addition to having just 2 homers and 2 RBI on the season, he took the second game of a double header off because of "general aches and pains."  In April?  He'll probably be fine, but don't you think there are quite a few people in the Washington front office imagining a very long next 7 years? 

Monday, April 11, 2011

MLB Power Rankings 4-11-2011

During the winter of 2000, ESPN had cameras follow the Manny Ramirez free agent saga for Outside the Lines.  A transcript of the show can be found here

The thing that struck me as I originally watched it and has stayed with me is just how coddled and babied he was during the process.  Coddling and babying a professional athlete is nothing new, but to actually see it was eye opening. 

Last week it was revealed that Ramirez had once again failed a drug test.  Instead of complying with a 100 game suspension he opted to retire.  At age 38, I don't think it was a shock that he decided to go that route.  I also don't think it was a shock that Ramirez would continue to use performance enhancing drugs despite the risk to his career and reputation.  A look at his numbers suggests why he may have taken the chance.

2009 was marred by his first drug suspension.  After a quick start before the suspension, he never regained his usual form and hit 19 homeruns in 104 games.  Then 2010 hit.  In just 90 games between the Dodgers and White Sox, Ramirez hit just 9 homeruns and slugged .460.  His OPS was still a strong .870, but it wasn't hard to tell that the end was near for Manny's career.  When the time came for him to sign for 2011, there were some teams kicking the tires, but he settled for $2,000,000 from the Rays. 

This was a player that was used to monster numbers.  This is a player that was used to being adored by fans even as he tested their patience to the point that the fans had to use phrases like "Manny being Manny."  Now he found himself having to get ready to play for a bad team in a bad stadium in front of empty seats.  Maybe he figured he'd have one last hurrah.  Maybe he'd get caught, but maybe he wouldn't.  If he got caught, he'd call it quits.  If not, maybe he'd hit 30 homeruns and give himself a chance next year to get to 600 for his career.  If that's what he was thinking, then that's a sorry thing for him to do to the Rays.  But hey, he was being Manny.  He also has goofy hair. 

But surely he knew that if he got caught again using steroids that his Hall of Fame potential would vanish.  Yeah, he had the positive test in 2009, but maybe people would buy his prescribed medication excuse.  And you know, he was named in neither Juiced nor the Mitchell Report.  He was the 13th player chosen in the 1991 draft, so it's not like greatness wasn't expected.  But a second failed test and he would be setting himself up for the Raffy Palmeiro treatment.  People would look at him and assume that he was always a PED user.

Maybe Manny just doesn't care about the HOF.  He's made over $200,000,000 in his career, he won 2 World Series, and he was a 12-time All-Star.  Maybe he has Juan Gonzalez Disease, where a player feels like he's cursed to be good at baseball.  He doesn't really like the game, but he's good at it and can make a lot of money doing it.  No different than plenty of accountants and salesmen out there today. 

But I keep going back to that Outside the Lines segment.  Manny was on the verge of setting his great-grandchildren up for life and he had grown men twice his age fawning over him like my wife when she sees Michael Vartan.  He wanted to relive those moments.  He wanted to be needed and adored again.  Maybe he was using during his younger years, maybe he wasn't.  The need for the adulation was greater than the risk of getting caught.  It doesn't make sense to me, but nothing really ever did make sense where Manny was concerned.  He was just, well, being Manny.

Now on to the Power Rankings

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Free Barry Bonds!!!!!!!! ---- JDaddy

It is time we men banded together and marched on the federal courthouse and demanded that Barry Bonds is freed immediately! Yeah, I know he is not a sympathetic character. A self centered son of a major league star (Bobby Bonds) who himself was so self absorbed that he once stood in center field, arms folded with no intention of making a play due to his being angry with his manager.

Bonds had it all and we hated him for it. That is unless we were Pirate or Giants fans. Off the field he had little use for teammates, but within the park many of those who played with him, respected the work ethic mixed with talent that produced one of the best all around baseball players in history.

Monday, April 4, 2011

MLB Power Rankings 4-4-2011

Well Opening Weekend has passed, and what did we learn? Not much really. The Rangers can mash, which we already knew. The Phillies can pitch, which we already knew. The Pirates actually look like professionals when they play at Wrigley, which we already knew. And while it's always fun to imagine the possibilities if every game played out like the first (imagine if Albert Pujols hit into 486 double plays this year), it doesn't take long for the realization of the marathon to set in.

As I sat down to rank the MLB teams after one weekend, I felt like when "my friend" was training for a marathon and wondered halfway through his training why he felt the need to just run. The Power Rankings took more time and energy than I thought. Hopefully the Rankings stick around for the whole season, unlike my, I mean "my friend's" marathon training.

Friday, April 1, 2011

JDaddy Could Play Some Scrub

JDaddy's baseball memories start with riding a bicycle to the baseball field with my glove threaded through the handlebars. Instead of choosing sides , in our town we played the game of "Scrub". Scrub was pretty simple. Three kids were "in town" (at bat for you non scrubbers), and they stayed in town until someone got them out. If the batter struck out or was thrown out at any base, he went out to the outfield and the catcher took his place as a batter while everyone rotated spots. Everyone played every position and if there were extra players they took positions as 4th outfielder, 5th outfielder and so on.One caveat to the rule was if you were able to catch a ball in the air, you and the batter traded places and nobody rotated.

We spent hours playing baseball and many of us who began playing scrub as 7 and 8 years old played together through high school. In many cases these games of scrub were the only times we got to bat in any type of game situation.

We have to remember that this was a time before there was a league for each age. A time when Little League teams were made up of 8-12 yr olds and you could bet as an 8 year old, playing time was just a rumor. But we came to practice every day, we learned the game of baseball and we learned to appreciate the game fully. Then one day we woke up as the older boys on the team and got the chance to represent our little town.

We loved playing baseball and were pretty good at it. When we reached high school our baseball team, made up of mainly those of us who played scrub in back yards, playgrounds and the ball park did make our high school playoffs. But it was the hot summer days of playing in jeans and T-shirts, broken bats that we had taped up and hand full of small town kids pretending to be Mantle, Musial and Ford that bring back my fondest baseball memories.