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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ante Up

“There’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die.”
~ ‘The Babe,’ in The Sandlot

Only ten years into his career, Albert Pujols is on pace to write his own record book. The legend of Pujols is of mythical proportions, as Ruth and Gehrig are remembered. If able to maintain longevity and consistent production, surpassing 800 career home runs is a realistic milestone. He is the best hitter in baseball, and he will have the opportunity to establish himself as the greatest baseball player of all-time.

Following the 2011 baseball season, Pujols will have the opportunity to file for free agency. To eliminate distraction throughout the season, Pujols set a deadline to negotiate with his current team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Sources close to the situation have sited that he is seeking a contract worth $300 million over the length of 10 years. That deadline was yesterday, the day before he was to arrive at spring training. Result: The best hitter in baseball, is prepared to be released into the free market.

The amount of money professional athletes are paid is stupid. Our nation’s teachers deserve to be over-compensated and treated with such dignity. The men and women who serve and protect our country have earned the right to be over-compensated and celebrated with such honor. But we don’t live in a perfect society, where right is right and the justifiable is rewarded.

Whether we like it or not, professional athletes will continue to be paid exuberantly ridiculous salaries, for playing a game. But don’t sit there and say, “I would play for nothing!” No you wouldn’t. “But I would play for the love of the game! It’s not about the money!” No you wouldn’t, and yes it is. The greedy, unappreciative society, that has been cultivated throughout our lives, would not permit such a notion; so stop it.

Do not fault Pujols, or any of the preceding athletes that have sought unimaginable wealth during their careers. Why shouldn’t they seek the riches available to them? If someone was willing and ready to pay you an annual salary of $30 million for your service, would you turn them down? As a result of the owners willing to pay such large salaries, it has set an unfortunate precedent going forward. It will never change.

The Cardinals are doing their best to appear poised and prepared for life after Pujols. They’re not fooling anyone. They are terrified of the thought of losing him, for the backlash from their fan base, the depreciation of value of their franchise and the product on the field. Imagine hearing the PA announcer on opening day next season…“Playing first base, #5, Adam LaRoche!” It will be the equivalent of LeBron James leaving
Cleveland. It would be a nightmare for this proud organization and wonderful baseball city.

Somebody will pay Pujols what he wants, and deserves (comparatively speaking with other players). Sources have sited that the Cardinals division rival, Chicago Cubs, would be a major player for Pujols’ service. They have the money, and their fans would erect a statue in his honor before they even played a game. The Washington Nationals are an interesting team, as they too have been rumored to be interested in entering the free-agency sweepstakes this off-season. If they were able to obtain Pujols to join Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper on the way, the Nationals would be a preliminary favorite for years to come.

But I foresee Pujols re-signing with the Cardinals. The organization will stop posturing and pay the man his money. They have no other choice, unless they’re serious about trading for Adam LaRoche, who ironically is currently the Nationals first baseman. Money is not the issue. On paper, it would appear to be a bad baseball move because his contract alone would seize about 30% of the Cardinals payroll. It not only would be a bad baseball move not to re-sign him (because they have no other options), but it would be a bad business move as well. And the Cardinals know that, as does Pujols.

So in advance, I would like to congratulate Albert on acquiring the richest contact in baseball history. Well done.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Fresh Start

Regardless of what Punxsutawney Phil predicted, it is officially spring time! Baseball is back and over the next couple days, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training. This is an exciting time throughout the baseball world, as every team and player, starts with a clean slate. No one has given up a walk-off home run or struck out to end the game. Nobody has been picked off first base or failed to pick up a sign, ending an 8th inning rally. At this moment, the grass has never been greener, and there is no other time during the season with as much hope and optimism. Everyone believes (yes, even the Cleveland Indians), that this is their year!

As pitchers and catchers report, there are many questions to be answered throughout the coming month and a half. Below, I answer a couple of the burning questions regarding the pitching that will most definitely heat up the Grapefruit League and Cactus League:

Will the youth movement in Cincinnati continue to progress?

I am weary about Mike Leake and Travis Wood. They threw a lot of pitches last year in a lot of innings. In the era of babying pitchers, restricting them to strict pitch counts and over analyzing every detail, these guys are not prepared to for such a heavy workload. Anticipate a downswing in their performance, but the slack will be picked up by Edinson Volquez. Volquez is two years removed from Tommy John surgery and we saw signs of his electric stuff return last year. But nobody compares (stuff wise), to the “Cuban Missile,” Aroldis Chapman. If able to stay healthy, even with his violent mechanics, he has a chance to be special.

Why the Brewers are the sexy pick this year?

Zach Greinke. Despite winning the Cy Young Award for a last place team in 2009, Greinke is a relatively unknown. Having the opportunity to pitch in a pennant race will provide everyone the chance to witness such a fantastic talent. Yovani Gallardo is also a really good young pitcher, giving the Brew Crew a legitimate chance to compete in the NL Central. John Axford will need to step up, and fill the void left by future Hall of Famer, Trevor Hoffman.

Can the Giants staff duplicate their 2010 performance, compensating for an anemic offense?

Absolutely. Living on the East coast, I never truly appreciated how good Matt Cain is. Also being overshadowed by two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, he’s always taken the backseat to “The Freak.” I predict Cain will be the 2011 Cy Young Award winner. Am I getting caught up in the moment? I don’t think so. From what I saw throughout the playoffs, Cain possesses an overpowering fastball with north to south movement, with an arsenal of wrinkles. I do question Madison Bumgarner though. He is young and full of potential, but his mechanics are unpredictable and often not in sync. He must harness his adrenaline and focus on each pitch, or else it could be an up and down year for the big lefty. And note to Brian Wilson…you’re not funny. Give the whole “crazy closer” character a rest.

Will the Phillies live up to the hype, as the greatest rotation ever constructed?

Nope. Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball, and he will get his 20-24 wins, but I’m not drinking the cool-aid. Am I bitter about my Yankees losing out on Cliff Lee? Of course; have you seen their rotation? Lee is a really good pitcher, and I don't want him pitching against the Yankees, but the length of the proposed contact and the exuberant amount of money for a pitcher at his age was ridiculous. Lee has a poor track record of nagging injuries throughout his career, and was inconsistent last year. Cole Hamels has and will continue to underachieve following his strong performance in the 2008 World Series. I admire Roy Oswalt for his bulldog demeanor on the mound, constantly battling hitters, but father time is not on his side. Both he and Lee will gut out some wins but will this rotation be the equivalent to the second coming? Don’t hold your breath. Expect a strong year from closer Brad Lidge. He has struggled with injuries and confidence, but with all of the attention on the “Big Four,” he’ll be able to go out there and just pitch.

Can Chicago reach baseball immortality?!

Sorry Cubs fans, I’m referring to the team to the south. But don’t be down Cubbies, you guys are improving…but not this year. The White Sox pitchers will give up some runs, but they’ll be backed up with possibly the most feared lineup in baseball. Because of that, they’ll be more confident, knowing that if they do give up 3-5 runs, they’re still in it. Jake Peavy is returning from a detached latissimus dorsi muscle in his right posterior shoulder. In layman’s terms, it’s not good. No pitcher has ever returned, nevertheless attempted to return from such a devastating injury. He must breakdown his mechanics and start over. The trauma endured on Peavy’s shoulder may be too much to overcome, but Edwin Jackson improved and as Mark Buehrle is the constant professional; expect solid seasons from both men. First round draft pick Chris Sale will also be a major contributor, stepping in as the closer for overrated and often injured Bobby Jenks. If he falters, Matt Thornton is more than capable to fill-in if necessary.

Paging Nolan Ryan…please report to Rangers Ballpark…

After losing Cliff Lee to the Phillies, the Rangers need help. Lee was the catalyst of the Rangers run to the World Series. With the young Athletics improving, and the Angels a constant factor in the AL West, reality will kick in, as Texas will stumble without a bonafide ace on the staff. Lefty CJ Wilson has tremendous stuff, and has the most potential of their pitchers. The manner in which he pitches with a big looping breaking ball and cut on his fastball, is similar to Lee. After Wilson, the remainder of the staff is a collection of back of the rotation fillers. Texas should leave Neftali Feliz in the bullpen. He was phenomenal last season, and by losing him to the rotation would leave a gaping hole in the 9th inning. But because of the current rotations weaknesses and limitations, the Rangers might feel it’s necessary for Feliz to start.

Will the new look offense compensate for Boston’s meager starting pitching?

Similar to the White Sox, Boston is going to put runs on the board. They’ll bail out the starting pitching more times than not, but in the ultra-competitive AL East, they’re going to need the staff to step up. Clay Bucholz shows glimpse of what General Manager Theo Epstein has envisioned by rejecting several trade offers for the young righty. After throwing a no-hitter in his rookie year, Bucholz has struggled with injuries and mental problems. If he’s able to straddle the rubber every five days, and get out of his own head, he’ll secure himself a spot on the All-Star team. Jon Lester is a warrior on and off the field. His potential has peaked, but he still is a very good pitcher. After that, it’s all fluff. Josh Beckett is the most overrated and overpaid player in baseball. Both he and John Lackey will try to intimidate hitters, but it’s not realistic at this point in their careers. The $50 million burned to just negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka is comical. After the Marlins are eliminated from contention in June, look for Boston to go after Josh Johnson. Their bullpen is still very shaky. Daniel Bard is a stud, and he’s being wasted as the 7th inning bridge to Bobby Jenks and Jonathon Papelbon. Jenks was a waste of money and they should have traded Papelbon for a 23rd round draft pick while they had the chance.

Open auditions to be held at George M. Steinbrenner Field…

I will be heading down to Tampa, Florida to tryout for the Yankees rotation. Why not? They don’t have anyone else. Sure they have CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes, whom both will perform at an elite level, but that’s it. After being rejected by Cliff Lee, turning down a ridiculous amount of money and future Hall of Famer Andy Pettitte retired, New York went to a garage sale and found worthless crap that nobody wants; Bartolo Colon was working at a McDonalds (and you thought he was fat while he played), Mark Prior, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2006, and Freddy “Put Your Infield to Sleep” Garcia couldn’t find a job until the desperate Yankees came calling. Instead of hoping for a miracle, Manager Joe Giradi should consider a young movement. I know that’s unheard of in New York, but they don’t have any other realistic options. It’s time for first round giant Andrew Brackman (listed at 6’10”) to emerge as the guy. Keep an eye out for Adam Warren; Warren is the most complete pitcher in the Yankees farm system, and doesn’t back down from anyone. AJ Burnett is a clown. If the Yankees are to compete for the wild card, they need him to focus and compete. His mechanics are fine; it’s all mental with Burnett. As previously mentioned, the offenses will assist with Chicago and Boston, but it’ll be the Yankees bullpen that keeps them in ballgames. By signing Raphael Soriano, New York has the best 1-2 punch in baseball. Mariano Rivera, at 41 years young, is still the best closer in baseball. The Yankees will also be pursuing the Marlins Josh Johnson, as they will need to acquire someone if they are interested in competing this year. To make this feasible and realistic, New York needs Joba Chamberlain to improve, as he will be a significant trading piece.

Throughout the next month and a half of spring training, I will be dissecting each division going into the 2011 baseball season. Each blog will include an in-depth synopsis of each team, and whom I predict to advance to the playoffs. On the day of opening night, when the defending Champion San Francisco Giants face their archrival, Los Angeles Dodgers, I will make my World Series prediction.

To all baseball fans throughout the world, Happy Pitchers and Catchers Report Day! And thank God for baseball!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Eternal Connection

My uncle Carl took me to Fenway Park, introducing me to the game of baseball. I got lost in the game, the ballpark, the people, the color, the sounds, the smells. But then he got cancer and died. It’s a passion. It’s a very, very big part of my life. Sometimes I like to be 11 years old. I like being part of something that's bigger than me...than I. Its good for your soul to invest in something you cant control.

The quote above is from a Boston Red Sox themed film, Fever Pitch, starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. And yes, this is the movie that features the colossal catastrophe of 2004, when Boston overcame a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS to win four straight games to eliminate the New York Yankees and eventually win the World Series. Anyways…In this specific scene, referred to as “Really Big Fan,” Fallon explains why he is such a huge Red Sox fan.

But Rob, you HATE the Boston Red Sox! You DESPISE their being and presence on earth! What does this have to do with anything?!

True, very true, but I can relate to this quote in a manner that is much, much more significant to me than any rivalry.

January 27, 1997, I lost my best friend. My grandpa, Robert Louis Demirjian (known as Bob to his many friends and family), passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. He was 69 years young. The name of my blog, Oh It’s You Rob, was inspired by my grandpa; the license plate on his red 1964 ½ Mustang convertible read, ‘Oh It’s You Bob’. We did so many fun things together when my family and I visited him and my grandma in Wilmington, North Carolina; he really was the greatest, most fun grandpa of all-time. But one aspect of our relationship is still, a very, very big part of my life. We shared a love that was much more than anything else in the world….the New York Yankees.

Each morning, I would wake up before sun rise with grandpa before anyone else. After helping him walk his dog and prepare my grandma’s breakfast, we would read the sports section of the newspaper. He taught me how to read a baseball box score, as we recapped the Yankees game from the night before; we would use an oversized magnified glass to read the tiny print and memorize every statistic. At that breakfast table, we had such passionate discussions and debates about our team, i.e. whom they should trade for, or which player should be playing over another, or what they need to do to win. If my grandpa was here today, he’d be infuriated with the current state of the organization. I can hear him now, “What the hell are they doing?! Cashman (the general manager) is a bum!”

In October of 1996, from 683 miles apart, we shared our first World Series Championship together, as the Yankees dethroned the Atlanta Braves in six memorable games. Following two dominating outings from future Hall of Famers John Smoltz and Greg Maddox, I was distraught with the Yankees performance. My grandpa called me the following day to discuss the first two games of the series. Calmly he said, “Robert, they gotta beat us four times. It’s going to be okay...I promise.” The Yankees would go on to win four straight games in exciting, dramatic fashion to clinch their first World Series title in 18 long and agonizing years. As Mark Lemke popped up a final offering from John Wetteland, and that last out was secure in Charlie Hayes’ glove, the phone rang; it was my grandpa. We had our championship.

Despite the championship drought of the 80s, I assumed we would share many more World Series moments together. I’ve never told anyone this, but the night before my family and I were to travel back to New York after spending Christmas with my grandparents, just weeks before he would pass away, I played cards with grandpa and his good friend, Nick. I asked the two men, “If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?” Nick said, “Win the lottery!” Finishing his deal, my grandpa said, “I hope to live to year 2000. I want to watch you grow up and play baseball.” My grandpa never got to watch me play baseball, but I know he was always with me. Every time I put on my uniform and ran onto the field, I did my best to make him proud.

To honor his legacy, I will continue to carry on our name with pride. I will always be there for my family, working tirelessly to ensure that they are happy and healthy. I will continue to have the spirit of an 11 year old, rooting for our New York Yankees. I to, like being part of something that’s bigger than me…than I. And it is good for your soul to invest in something you can’t control! My love for the New York Yankees is so much more than baseball. It’s an eternal connection that I have with my grandpa that will never die.

Life is so very short and there is no guarantee for tomorrow. Every moment we have together, we must treasure it as if it’s our last. It is truly a gift.
If my grandpa leaves us with anything, it is that I hope everyone has something so special to them, that words can not describe how you feel. Whether it’s a sports team, or an activity, do it with passion! Act like a fool and scream at the players on TV! Paint a masterpiece or read the Harry Potter collection better than anyone else! Regardless, always have fun and live in the moment. The time is now.

I know my grandpa and my dad’s father (whom I never had the opportunity to meet), have become great friends, as they watch over their children and grandchildren. I know my grandpa's been hanging out with Phil Rizzuto and Joe Dimaggio, driving his beloved Mustang around heaven. After a round of golf with Bobby Murcer and Thurman Munson, they reminisce about the glory days and trade stories over a N.Y. strip and a cold beer, later meeting up with Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin for a nightcap. Have fun boys!

Grandpa, you are my best friend. I miss you like crazy and I love you. GO YANKEES!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"The" Ohio State joke

The conduct of the NCAA and its universities is a shady business indeed. We all know this and nobody expects this circumstance to change anytime soon. We expect rules infractions. The way in which the NCAA manages breaches of compliance and conduct is ludicrous. Corrupt practices are truly dishonorable. Today, we focus on the end of honor and dignity in Columbus, Ohio.

Recently, five Ohio State University football players were suspended by the NCAA. No, not for the BCS Sugar Bowl tonight, but for five games most notably
next season!

The players to be suspended are significant contributors for the overrated Buckeyes, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, leading rusher Daniel Herron, No. 2 wide receiver DeVier Posey, All-Big Ten offensive tackle Mike Adams and backup defensive end Solomon Thomas.

Ironically, Pryor sold his
sportsmanship award from the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, along with his 2008 Big Ten championship ring. Most deplorable to Ohio State fans with common sense, is that he sold his “gold pants.” This gold charm (revered by Buckeye Nation) depicting a pair of football pants, is given to all players and coaches following a victory over the rival, University of Michigan. He must also repay $2,500 for selling the three items.

Herron must repay $1,150 for selling his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000 and receiving discounted services worth $150. Posey must repay $1,250 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,200 and receiving discounted services worth $50. Adams must repay $1,000 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring. Thomas must repay $1,505 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,000, his 2008 gold pants for $350 and receiving discounted services worth $155.

A sixth player, freshman linebacker Jordan Whiting, who received a discount on tattoos, must sit out the first game of the 2011 season and pay $150 to a charity.

Ohio State Athletic director Gene Smith concluded a news conference by addressing the issue with a lame joke, at a time when this is not a joking matter. “We might," he said with a smile, “hire a tattoo person and put them in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.”

Are you kidding me?

Buckeye fans are in denial, actually forgiving the players of their actions. I feel sorry for them. They really just do not comprehend the situation.

Sources close to the players stated that the reason they sold their materials were to support their families. Because of this, they had no choice, but to commit significant rules violations and receive improper benefits, while also having enough time to get inked up.


And then the NCAA did not suspend the players for the Sugar Bowl because they “did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred.”


Buckeye fans…your program is corrupt and you should be embarrassed by what’s come of your once proud institution.

Head coach Jim Tressel has built an incredible program that truly honors Ohio State traditions and history. He has instilled pride into Buckeye Nation. Tressel was once of high morals and integrity. He’s won a national championship, wins Big Ten Championships, and most importantly, he doesn’t lose to Michigan.

However, Tressel appears to be just another commoner in the NCAA trash. He has the opportunity to right the ship. He should bench the five players that committed violations and prohibit them from the stadium. In doing so, he would take a stand for his university and program.

By not allowing these players to play in the Sugar Bowl, Tressel would send a loud, prominent message to all of college football that he is a true leader and Ohio State is an elite program for more than just football. He would set himself apart from the trash by breaking away from the norm, putting right before wrong.

I don’t expect he will do so. I expected more from Coach Tressel and of “The” Ohio State University. If he allows those players to play, he will be just another lackey in the NCAA, placing monetary considerations over honor, respectability and integrity.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

When I grow up...

On behalf of all of the weekend athletes around the world, I'd like to thank Tom Fenton for paving the way. Who is Tom Fenton? On December 16, 2010, Tom Fenton became the Phoenix Coyotes back-up goalie.

As the Phoenix Coyotes were preparing to face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, their starting goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov, was stricken with the flu. Hours before the puck was to be dropped, Phoenix didn’t have time to call their minor league affiliate to acquire a fill-in goalie.

The Coyotes Head of Pro Scouting, Frank Effinger, took his search to the streets of New York, scouring the city (and state) for anyone that had experience goaltending. He found Tom Fenton of Purchase, N.Y. Luckily, after ignoring Effinger’s first couple calls because he was getting a haircut, Fenton quickly called him back. Effinger instructed him to get his butt down to MSG as soon as possible.

Fenton, 26, is currently a graduate student and hockey coach from Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. Fenton’s goaltending experience consists four years with the American International College in Springfield, Mass. He won 14 of 81 games with a 3.87 goals-against average, including a 1-12-1 record with a 3.60 GAA in the 2008-09 season.

I don’t think Bryzgalov’s starting position will be in jeopardy after he recovers from the flu.

Sure, it’s only one game and Fenton didn’t even get to play in the game, but who cares?! He lived his dream for one night, putting on an official NHL jersey, warming up on the ice and sitting on the same bench as his heroes. Later asked, how much money he would make for his services, he responded, “Oh, I don’t know; I just signed the paper. I don’t care if there is anything involved there.” Fenton gives hope to all of the weekend athletes out there, that believe they still have what it takes to make it!

While growing up in Chester, N.Y., I had only one dream. That dream was to play for the New York Yankees. After Little League games, my dad and I would meet my best friend, Gary Ciuffetelli, and his dad at the Chester Diner. Over a cup hot chocolate and a piece of pie, I would pronounce that one day, I would be playing for the New York Yankees. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement.

To reach my goal of playing for the Yankees, I put in countless hours at the gym and hitting thousands and thousands of baseballs off a tee into a homemade net in the garage. Unfortunately, despite my extreme work ethic and determination, you can’t teach 6’3” height or flick a switch to run a time of 6.6 seconds in the 60 yard dash.

After high school, I decided to focus on being a student and having fun at a bigger, more prominent university rather than playing for a smaller school in the middle of nowhere, just for the sake of playing college baseball. But to this day, the little boy from Chester, N.Y., still burns deep inside of me. I still believe I can hit that 390 foot home run off the scoreboard against Hoggard High (see picture above); I still believe I can walk onto the mound and strike out the side against Jacksonville High.

I often receive calls from friends I’ve made while playing throughout the years; we’ll reminisce about the great times we had playing together or the battles against one another. Even my dad at 49 years young, still loves the game, often showing off his Tom Seaver-esque pitching mechanics in front of the mirror (I’m guilty too). As we get older, we don't lose that passion; we all wish we could play the game we love, one more time.

That being said, I am proud to announce my return to baseball!

As a lifetime New York Yankees fan, I will grant General Manager Brian Cashman and Director of Professional Scouting Billy Eppler the first opportunity to acquire my services for the upcoming season. Though my strength is hitting, I realize there is a significant hole within the rotation, thus making my ability to pitch, valuable to the organization.

Mr. Cashman and Mr. representatives and I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Boston's Offseason Grade: Incomplete

Since winning two world championships in four years, ending the 86 year championship drought, the Boston Red Sox became an old, unproductive team. The combination of age, injuries and lack of talent resulted in a mediocre product on the field. Through the diligence of Theo Epstein, the best general manager in baseball, Boston is back.

Epstein wasted no time to land one of the most underrated, best all-around players in baseball. Epstein traded three average prospects for All-Star first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez. Before next season, the organization had better reinforce the ‘Green Monster,’ because he will be hammering it on a nightly basis. His ability to go to all parts of the field with power cannot be emphasized enough; he is a great hitter and is an early favorite to win the 2011 MVP award. The addition of Gonzalez will also have a “Teixeira Effect,” for the Red Sox; the Boston infield will shrink with an above-average defender on the corner, enabling the rest of the infielders to cover more ground and play at a higher-level.

Now that Boston has a formable middle of the lineup with Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Gonzo, they needed a guy to get on base, someone that is arguably the most explosive player in the game. Welcome to Boston, Carl Crawford. Crawford possesses more pure ability that anyone in all of baseball. Not only is he a terror on the base paths, Crawford is maturing into a great hitter with notable power. If he and Jacoby Ellsbury are able to stay healthy, Boston will be scoring at a record pace. Crawford’s arrival to Boston will have a similar impact in the outfield as Gonzo has in the infield, providing Gold Glove presence. Bottom-line…speed kills.

With the phenomenal improvements to his program, Epstein still has work to do before pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 14th. Boston’s rotation is not good. Clay Bucholz is the future of their rotation with electric stuff, and Jon Lester is a warrior on and off the field. But that’s it.

Josh Beckett is all huff and puff. The one time tough guy, who would be able to reach back and throw it by you, is finished. I recommend he lose the eight Phiten necklaces, because they aren’t working. John Lackey also tries to intimidate the opposing hitters with a snarling look upon his face. John, you look constipated; just throw the ball. Dice-K is another bad major league Japanese pitcher. He has never proved that he can stay healthy, nor be a reliable option when he is.

Though Epstein is the savior of the franchise, he should have done anything to sign pitcher Cliff Lee. “The Nation,” will be temporarily satisfied that the New York Yankees failed to buy the lefty, leaving them without a clue in the Bronx. Nevertheless, Boston still does not have a championship level rotation. Lee would have fit perfectly with the ruff-neck, self-proclaimed idiots. If you’ve heard him speak, you would understand.

They will considerably regret not signing Lee. Lee has proved time after time again that he is great when it matters and is not afraid of anything or anybody. He’s walked into Yankee Stadium, the biggest sports stage in the world, and embarrassed the underachieving Yankees. Gonzalez and Crawford will help win games from April to September, but Lee would have won games in October. If they did sign Lee, the Red Sox and the city of Boston would have begun planning its World Series victory parade. Now, they still have work to do; the clock’s ticking.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is it 2011 yet?

Sunday evening, following my weekly nap during the dreadful Carolina Panthers game, I found myself on the edge of my seat once again. It was neither a football game nor an update from the MLB Winter Meetings, but golf.

One year after Tiger Woods’ life and career came crashing down, I was once again captivated by the man in red. Following the infamous Thanksgiving car crash and alleged 9-iron to the face that would set off a domino effect in Tiger’s life, I questioned if we would ever witness such greatness on the golf course and if so, appreciate his gift.

Tiger’s inappropriate behavior off the course has been well-documented and talked to ad nauseum. In the future, he will have to explain to his children about why mommy and daddy don’t live in the same house and what he did. No matter how many major championships he wins, he will forever be remembered for his actions off the course.

Following the final round and playoff hole of the Chevron World Golf Championship, I considered my resurgent interest in PGA Golf. I took a few days to think, if it was okay to be so enthralled by this individual and a game? I came to a conclusion…

I don’t care about what he did. I do NOT condone what Tiger did, but as an amateur public course player and fan of the game, I thoroughly enjoy watching him play golf. When Tiger is on top of his game, there is nobody better. His ability to perform with a golf club at such an extraordinary level can only be compared to Michael Jordan with a basketball. I want to watch and be entertained by the best of the best, and Tiger is still the best and most exciting golfer in the world.

Tiger would eventually lose on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to the surprise golfer of the year, Graeme McDowell. The putts McDowell sank in the playoff and preceding 18th hole to win the tournament were extremely difficult; he most definitely earned his eighth career PGA Tour victory.

By Tiger-standards, the 2010 golf year was horrible, on and off the course. But his swing and play has improved, and it will continue to improve going into the 2011. The finalization of his divorce will pay dividends, as he will not longer have that cloud of distraction over his head. This will enable him to focus on golf while also allowing him to live his life however he chooses going forward. I hope the rest of the PGA Tour players enjoyed 2010 because starting in 2011, it’s on and Tiger is on the prowl.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October is finally here

As the Major League Baseball Playoffs begin today, several questions remain unanswered. Will the defending champion New York Yankees rebound from a poor finish, figuring out their pitching woes? Despite winning the American League West, will the Texas Rangers be a surprise contender? Can the Atlanta Braves continue the magical ride and emotional quest for their leader, Manager Bobby Cox? What we do know is that the best professional sports playoff season is finally here!

It’s no secret that the Yankees have a significant weakness going into the playoffs. CC Sabathia has been the only consistent member of the pitching staff throughout the season; Sabathia is likely to win his second (first with New York) Cy Young Award. Even Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all-time, has faltered recently, failing to convert save opportunities. Without the cut to his cutter, Mo is a very average aging closer.

Unfortunately for Texas, Hall of Famer and new-owner, Nolan Ryan will not be available to pitch during the division series versus’ the Tampa Bay Rays. The trade acquisition of lefty Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners has been successful thus far, but for the Rangers to win their second postseason game in their history, they will need for their lineup to get healthy fast. Outfielder Josh Hamilton announced to the world at the home run derby at Yankee Stadium that he was officially back from the brink, but this is his opportunity to become an iconic figure in baseball.

The Atlanta Braves are this year’s darling pick of the postseason. This being Manager Bobby Cox’s last season, he retires after 20 years on the bench with a young, exciting group of players, led by outfield phenom Jason Heyward. But if Atlanta is to continue this magical quest for their manager, they will need their pitching staff be great. They have the guys to do it, but unfortunately they’ll have to go through Philadelphia which will not end pretty for the Atlanta faithful; that is if they even get past the San Francisco Giants.

The ALDS will conclude with the Rangers surprising the favorite Rays and the Yankees destroying the Minnesota Twins. David Price is an absolute stud and in my opinion, the best pitcher in baseball. I have not seen a fastball with as much movement and violent force as his since "The Big Unit," Randy Johnson. I don’t trust the rest of their staff though, leading me to believe that they will not be able to cover up the holes in their free-swinging lineup. The Twins have no chance against the Yankees. As Jay Z would say, “On to the next one.”

The NLDS will conclude with the Giants sending Cox to retirement early and the Phillies having their way with the Cincinnati Reds. The Braves are an emotional favorite, but for the Giants to win their way into the playoffs, momentum is clearly on their side. It also helps that they have “The Freak,” Tim Lincecum, as well as a viable number two and three starters. In the playoffs, it’s all about pitching. The Reds are the surprise of the year, but I just haven’t seen enough from them to convince me that they will be able to compete. The scariest guy on their team is 105 mph flame-thrower/set-up man Aroldis Chapman, whom will not even have the chance to even get in the game. The Phillies are hot and have done this before; they will sweep the Reds.

I could see the ALCS going seven games. The combination of the Rangers having home field advantage and the Yankees having to use Sabathia two, maybe three times will favor Texas. But after Lee, their starting pitching is suspect. This being the playoffs, a completely different ballgame, the Texas staff will not be able to handle the heat, as the Bombers will hit their way back into the World Series. Look for a huge series from first baseman and former Ranger, Mark Teixeira.

The Giants will be a tougher than the Reds were, but in the end, even their strong pitching won't be enough. The Phillies are just too good at the right time. Loaded at every position, this hard nosed group will march into the World Series looking for revenge against the Yankees.

Whether you want to believe it or not, this is the series with the two best teams in baseball. The Yankees and Phillies weren’t always the most consistent teams throughout the 2010 season, but they are the most talented and will show up when it matters. The taste of champagne is too sweet to forget, as they both will battle through a seven game series.

With the addition of Roy Halladay, he will win two, maybe three games for his new team in the series. He is not intimidated by the New York stage or pinstripe mystique. Newcomer Roy Oswalt should pitch well as well. He is as tough as they come and will be amped up to pitch for a contender. Second baseman Chase Utley will not get a pitch to hit; this guy has no conscience and will hurt somebody if given the opportunity to swing.

Alex Rodriguez will quiet the haters and doubters once again, performing at the highest level. Count on Cy Young quality pitching from Sabathia and vintage Andy Pettitte when its needed most. Despite the worst season of his Hall of Fame career, Derek Jeter will announce to the world that he’s not done yet. Never count out or doubt the captain. Jeter was born to play, lead, excel and win in October/November.

But without further ado…

The New York Yankees will win their 28th championship.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Boys of Fall

With a big win from Wake Forest on Thursday night, the 2010 college football season had officially begun. This is a highly anticipated season, as many teams throughout the country believe they will be hoisting the crystal football at seasons end.

Alabama will rightfully begin the season ranked #1 in the country following their championship run from a year ago. The Crimson Tide returns the majority of their championship team and Head Coach Nick Saban is back at the helm. In week two, they will welcome Penn State to Tuscaloosa and the SEC is as dangerous as ever. Arkansas, Auburn and Georgia continue to improve, as they attempt to dethrone Alabama and Florida for SEC supremacy. Simply, the Tide will roll out quietly this season.

Florida will excel despite losing Superman, otherwise known as Tim Tebow. Quarterback Jonathon Brantley will be a star. Despite the colossal impression Tebow has left on Florida and all of college football, the combination of Brantley’s ability to throw the ball down the field and the Olympic sprinters on the outside, provides Florida with a scary new feature. Look for the Gators to be playing in the Sugar Bowl or more likely, the National Championship.

Regardless of a preseason #2 ranking and Heisman hype swirling around quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State will come up short once again. In week two, the Buckeyes better not bring their championship level play (they consistently choke in big games) into the game against Miami, or else they will be dominated up and down the field. Quarterback Jacory Harris of Miami is a big time player. If he is able to cut down on turnovers, the Canes will be dangerous throughout the season.

Ohio State will face a much improved and experienced Big Ten Conference. The team to watch for in the Big Ten is Wisconsin; if able to stay healthy, the Badgers will be booking tickets to Pasadena.

Michigan will surprise the doubters throughout the season. They will not compete for a national championship or even a Big Ten title this year, but Head Coach Rich Rodriguez is assembling the necessary pieces to be successful within his system. In time, the Wolverines will be national contenders once again, but it all depends on if the Michigan boosters can wait that long.

Out west, the Trojans are on the hunt. With everything to play for but a bowl game, USC is looking to make a loud statement. Under the direction of controversial, new Head Coach Lane Kiffin, the Trojans will “Fight on,” and win the conference in convincing fashion. The “experts” predict that the PAC 10 has caught up to USC following a down year. In reality, USC runs out a team of players that will be playing on Sunday; not many teams can or will compete with the Trojans.

Boise State will play for and win the National Championship. They return 20 of 22 starters from last years undefeated team, which includes the soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Kellen Moore. Moore has always impressed me with his composure and natural ability, but after the performance he provided the nation on Monday night against a good Virginia Tech team, I as well as the rest of the country are convinced; the kid is a stud. No, I am not living in the moment and riding the bandwagon from Monday night; this team is loaded all over the field, but most importantly, they have the swagger and confidence of a champion.

This is going to be one of the best years ever in college football. The passion brought to the field every Saturday is truly exciting. Look for many upsets and surprises along the way, but count on a great season full of amazing stories.

In case opening weekend snuck up on you, here’s a video that will put you in a football state of mind. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Just win

“Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next.”
- George M. Steinbrenner III

New York Yankees principal owner George M. Steinbrenner III passed away last Tuesday morning at his home in Tampa, Fl from a massive heart attack; he was 80 years old. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth, children Hank, Hal, Jessica and Jennifer, several grandchildren and most importantly, Yankees Universe.

In the wake of Mr. Steinbrenner’s passing, I began writing about his infamous business practices throughout his tenure as owner. As I greeted each of the popular criticisms of “The Boss” and the Yankees, I came to a realization. Regardless if the Yankees organization is right or wrong when it comes to the usage of their resources and finances, it would not matter. Haters will be haters, and jealously is a crutch for the weak.

As a businessman, Mr. Steinbrenner would not settle on being average or good. His business and true love was the New York Yankees. He did anything and everything that was necessary to be as successful as possible. For example, you must do whatever it takes to care and provide for your family’s well-being. If not, you are not doing your best nor your job. Mr. Steinbrenner not only had a responsibility to his family, but the responsibility of Yankees Universe.

He understood that the fans of the Yankees around the world deserved an organization whose goal was not only to play into October, but win championships. During his 37 years of ownership the Yankees won seven World Series Championships. The 11 American League Pennants and 16 division titles would be an incredible accomplishment for any other team to celebrate, but in New York it’s a lost season and opportunity.

"The Boss" leaves us with many impressions from his larger than life being. The most lasting characteristic we will remember him by is his will to be the best. As clearly stated above by Mr. Steinbrenner, winning was everything. His tenacity and drive to win could not be matched by anyone, as he directed his troops in a General Patton-esque manner. But it was a two-way street; he demanded the most from each of his employees as he would for himself.

Mr. Steinbrenner exemplified the meaning of a Yankee: greatness. From day one in 1973, his message to his team was that he was going to bring back the pride, tradition, honor and championship glory to the once proud franchise. Over time, he brought this mentality and way of life back to the Bronx. Through the spirit of Mr. Steinbrenner, Yankees Universe will continue to reign as the pinnacle of all professional sports.

Rest in peace Mr. Steinbrenner, and thank you for all you have done for our organization. You will truly be missed.