And if you'd like, you can read it here.
And if you'd like, you can read it here.
This New York Post story on Doc Gooden is just very sad. We can all go on about "he made his bed and now he has to sleep in it" and "he broke the law" etcetera etcetera. But when someone loses control and lets a gift go bad, it's probably the worst kind of loss in the world.
It was thrilling to see Gooden come back in '96 after his drug suspension and pitch well, but it brings a sickening feeling to see how his life has gone since his retirement. It would be nice to still be able to think of Doc as the untouchable young stud on ESPN Classic and the happy-looking dude on old baseball cards and Starting Lineup figurines--not a recurring addict looking regretfully back on his unfulfiled promise and a mess of a life.
Who knows; if not for the drugs, we might be talking about him like we talk about Maddux and Clemens. Or he might be in the Hall already.
Last night, I tuned into WCIU (a local station, for those of you non-Chicago area folk) during their broadcast of the White Sox-Indians game just in time to catch some horrendously baffling baseball strategy. With no one out and Pablo Ozuna on second, White Sox leading 3-0 in the top of the third, Tadahito Iguchi attempted a sacrifice bunt that he popped up for an easy out.
Prior to the bunt, the inning had gone as follows: J Uribe reached on infield single to pitcher. B Anderson sacrificed to catcher, J Uribe to second, B Anderson safe at second on throwing error by catcher V Martinez. J Uribe to third on throwing error by catcher V Martinez. P Ozuna doubled to right, J Uribe and B Anderson scored.
The botched sacrifice prompted White Sox commentators Hawk Harrelson and Darren "Dum-dum" Jackson to discuss the team's recent bunting bugaboos. Hawk explained that the Sox have been in a bunting slump "all season long." Jackson then added that first base coach Tim Raines has been "working hard" with the hitters before games to make them practice their bunts.
Now, I assume that Tim Raines values his job and would prefer not to lose it. But should he ever find himself in the mood to risk getting canned to make a statement, he should do the following: In the middle of one of these bunt practice sessions, yell out, "That's enough, boys!," round up his hitters, march up to Ozzie Guillen as a group, and demand to know why in blazes he's wasting outs with sacrifice bunts when his lineup includes Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, and Joe Crede. And more so, why he insists on wasting at bats by Tadahito Iguchi--a productive hitter in his own right--to waste these outs [you stupid stubborn Venezuelan fool!]
I can understand the situational use of sac bunts to draw in an infield or avoid a double play--especially when the hitter is some weak-hitting chump who can beat the throw to first with normal infield depth. But Ozzie Guillen's sac bunts have little to do with strategy and a lot to do with an impatient, control-freak manager who isnsists on directly impacting the game--even at the expense of the optomizing his team's offensive output.
As I said last week, Ozzie Guillen's arrogant insistance on molding his personnel to his own preferred style will get the better of him soon enough. Until then, though, I fully expect the Chicago and national media to belive, hang on, and bleep his every word.
Thanks to this gem courtesy of David Porter of the AP.
"When the United States opens its World Cup group schedule against Czechoslovakia on June 12, Tony Meola will be parked in front of a television instead of pacing the goal line, his toughest decision revolving around whether to reach for the chips or the pretzels."
1.) Ridiculous run-on sentence. I know I'm guilty of that from time to time. If I could point it out, it must be bad.
2.) Breaking News: Czechoslovakia is not a country, nor has it been for more than 13 years. The U.S. opens play against the Czech Republic.
3.) Chips or pretzels? What?
The first sentence is supposed to draw the reader in. Starting off like THAT, it was certain the rest of the article would suck, so it gets none of my time.
As a sports fan, when you see great players like Jerry Rice, Michael Jordan or Sammy Sosa try to hang on to careers that are bound to do nothing but decline, your stomach turns a little. We've seen it a thousand times, and everytime the same sentiment resonates through the sports culture: you never want to see a great player's career end like that.
Well never say never. Now that Roger Clemens has officially agreed to play another year for the Houston Astros, I'm praying for a ballooning ERA and a pile of losses (if the baseball gods want exact numbers I'm currently throwing around a 1-9 record with a 5.89 ERA, but those numbers are flexible).
Who else out there would love to see this selfish bastard, albiet a fantastic baseball player/selfish bastard, crash and burn?
We at YCS have given ESPN a lot of shit over the past couple months. But I would like to applaud them, and specifically Jayson Stark, for this article.
With all the focus on Bonds and the home run record (in which pretty much all non-SF natives still have Aaron, Ruth as no. 1/no. 2) I think it's helpful to remember all the other great records in baseball that cannot/will not be broken simply by sticking a needle in your ass.
During Saturday's Cubs-Braves game on FOX. Players: Tim McCarver and Joe Buck.
BUCK: The Braves scored two runs on a sacrifice fly in the 9th inning Friday following two Cub errors on the play. Yesterday really was rock bottom for the Cubs.
MCCARVER: No doubt about it. Things can't get any worse for the Chicago Cubs.
On Sunday, the Cubs lost a game because a ball bounced off Aramis Ramirez's head, allowing the winning run to score in the 11th inning. NEVER say it is "rock bottom" for the Cubs, or that things can't get any worse. The Cubs will often seem to take this as a challenge to search out and discover new and creative ways to lose games.
During Friday's US-Venezuela World Cup Tuneup on ESPN2. Player: Eric Wynalda
WYNALDA: The reason the U.S. scheduled the game against Morocco was because it would prepare them for Ghana in the World Cup. Morocco and Ghana both play an "African" style of soccer.
Reactions will depend on who hears this and how sensitive they are. At its best, this statement is completely absurd; network filler to be passed on as fact to people who don't know any better. In fact, Wynalda may not even know what he's talking about considering that there are 53 countries in Africa and I doubt they all display the same "style" of play. At its worst, this is one of the most racist things ever said during a live sports broadcast.
I don't subscribe to espn.com Insider because I think it's stupid, unnecessary, and a total ripoff, but even without it, I can tell where this article is headed by the teaser.
What do we celebrate when we celebrate a record? I would say innate abilities and longevity, perseverence in spite of natural limitations, and the sacrifice of comfort to achieve spectacular longevity. Considering that Bonds relinquished each of these qualities when he began juicing hardcore (except maybe for the third, since his ass was undoubtedly sore after injections and his body will likely be a wreck for the rest of his life), what's left to celebrate? A man successfully feeding his ego while destroying his own life and using other people in the process?
Maybe fans have been overly venemous about the issue this year, but how does he fix to compare it to the Salem witch trials?
Do the words "perjury in front of a grand jury" mean anything to Gary Gillette?
So it looks like the family vacation is going to be delayed a bit this year. The 5th-seeded Saint Louis Billikens knocked off top-seeded Rhode Island and beat #2 St. Bonaventure twice in the Atlantic 10 Tournament this weekend in New York City. After the Missouri school was picked to finish 11th in the 14-team A-10 (Yea, I know.) Saint Louis is going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1966, and will learn their first round pairing today.
Ahh, blessed shock value. Both this story's second sentence and its one-sentence synopsis on the homepage mention Raja Bell's encounter with "death threats."
Now come on; I know Raja Bell layed a pretty cheap shot on one of basketball's biggest stars, but how could anyone--Raja included--take seriously the idea that someone would literally murder him for it.
Consider that a hit on Raja Bell would require...
1) Someone who is deranged enough to murder another human being
2) Someone who is deranged enough to murder another human being and who is also a Laker fan
3) Someone who is deranged enough to murder another human being and who is also a Laker fan that really, really loves Kobe Bryant
4) Someone who is deranged enough to murder another human being and who is also a Laker fan that really, really loves Kobe Bryant and who would choose defending the honor of his favorite basketball player as the outlet for his or her derangement
5) Someone who is deranged enough to murder another human being and who is also a Laker fan that really, really loves Kobe Bryant and who would choose defending the honor of his favorite basketball player as the outlet for his or her derangement and who is also crafty enough to find Raja Bell and do so in a location conducive to homocide.
When one considers the targets of all the unfulfilled death threats in the history of sport (e.g. officials who made awful calls, World Cup and Olympic goats, guys who may or may not have raped young women from Colorado), simply broaching the subject is laughable--especially when put on such high emphasis.
Death threats on Raja Bell? I think that's less plausible than that terrible DeNiro movie The Fan. (Sorry, I had to.)
Couple of things to say. First of all, it has always been my belief that YCS was to be a place for people who were specialists in each sport. Here, everyone knew something that could help enlighten the others and our readers. For example, Matt Z is an expert at college basketball, Vinnie in baseball, Matt and Nathan know more about football (pointy ball) than I could ever hope to know. My area of expertise is football (round ball). So I contribute the stories, commentary, and bad writing of those beats that otherwise would go unpunished.
On that note, at the same time, YCS should be a place to rip apart bad sportswriting and poor analysis in general. This seems to be something that fans of all sports could agree with. Even if I can't explain what separates a great offensive line from a good one, or a 2.50 ERA pitcher from 2.75, I can still tell when some asshole writer is full of shit.
Let's also keep in mind that since I became the "soccer guy" on this blog and was told to "leave the baseball to us," (a field where I admit I have little knowledge) there have been 113 articles published on YCS. Only 18 have concerned the beautiful game. That comes out to just less than 16%. Rather paltry showing for the world's most popular sport on the latest addition to the world wide web.
As for my "four-a-day" posting rate, I think one should take a good look around before pointing fingers. The most I have ever posted in a day is twice. An offbeat story and a piece of magnificently bad writing happened to occur in the same day. When it comes time for the "four-a-day" postings, look around at the "Big Four" sports. Nothing wrong with that. I like a lot of postings. Gives me something intelligent to read for a change.
As for a respectable sportsblog and for what the "readers" want, let's not forget what starts June 9th in Munich. I saw for myself 4 years ago how ordinary Americans stop in the middle of their commute to catch a few minutes of a game on tv in a bar in a train station. Not all, but many people who may have never been to a match before, take interest during the world's greatest sporting event. So sit down, kick back, and leave the soccer to me.
Nothing of historical significance occurred during this afternoon's major league action. Balls were hit; bases were stolen; pitches were thrown; fans cheered; fans jeered. Roughly half the teams won, and roughly half lost. Anyone expecting baseball history or a monumental individual achievment was disappointed by today's action, but anyone looking for a pleasant Sunday afternoon of baseball was more than satisfied.
Reporting live from nowhere in particular, I'm Pedro Gomez, ESPN.
Just a couple days after umpire Bill Welke called Clark "Bush League" for leaning his elbow out over the plate, Clark was called out by umpire Alfonso Marquez for being out of the batting box in the Brewers' 9-6 win over the Phillies.
Now I'm trying not to be a homer here, but both of these incidents should never have happened. Yes, the rulebook says you cannot try to get hit by a baseball; in fact, you have to make an attempt to get out of the way. Yes, the rulebook says that you have to be in the batter's box.
But those are just the general overview of the rules. Look a little deeper and Welke and Marquez both owe Clark an apology.
In the first incident, Welke should have kept his damn mouth shut, and if Clark's elbow got hit by a ball while he was leaning it over the plate, Welke should have refused to issue Clark first base. Ned Yost probably would have come out to home plate, but it would be a short talk. The rules make it clear that if you get hit by a pitch that you make no effort to avoid, the umpire has the right to refuse you the base. Instead Welke calls time just to insult Clark. Who's really being Bush League here?
In last night's case, Marquez simply did not know the entire rule. The MLB rulebook states that if a batter hits a ball, fair or foul, with one foot completely outside of the batters box, he should be called out. Clark swung at the ball, got a piece of it, and it went into the catcher's glove. Marquez called him out because he made some contact with the ball. Again, this is an incorrect inerpretation of the rule. As soon as that ball rested securely in the catcher's mitt, any contact is negated and it's not considered a hit. If that happens with two strikes, it's the third strike, not a foul tip. A technicality, yes, but if you're a major league umpire you should know the technicalities of the rules.
So get off Brady Clark's ass umps.
On a number of occasions, other people besides the six of us contributors on this blog have indicated that they have read and enjoyed many of our posts. No, seriously...I kid you not.
But that being the case, why have so few other readers posted comments? We would be absolutely thrilled if every person who reads this blog regularly or rarely or even just randomly were to post comments. Comments stir up converstaion, let us know who--if anyone--is reading, and most importantly, keep us humble and critical.
Even if you just say, "You guys bore me; no one reads; just give it up already," at least that's some honest feedback we can work with. I'm serious; please, please everyone join in the banter.
Your pals at Yellow Chair Sports
If Ozzie Guillen keeps this crap up, not only will he burn out and alienate his team, he will burn himself out--if he doesn't say something stupid to get forced out of town first.
This is not football or hockey. He is not Vince Lombardi. He is not Scotty Bowman. So far Ozzie has been lucky to have a very talented roster of players who mostly respond to his personality. Just like Larry Bowa his first year in Philadelphia. Just like Billy Martin in '77 and '78 with the Yankees. How did those guys hold up?
Major League teams simply cannot be built around a manager. I give Ozzie two more good years--max.
Don't get me wrong; it's great when a writer bucks the conventions of his genre to create a unique style. But sometimes Scoop Jackson doesn't seem to know when to rein himself in.
The mission. The vision. The character. The focus. The execution. The depth. The deaths. The grief. The belief. The nonbelievers. The critics. The haters. The ankle sprains. The broken nose. The broken wrist. The broken … hearts. The Witness. The witnesses. The fouls. The missed calls. The composure. The loss of it. The pressure. The pleasure. The passion. The stops. The unstoppables. The punches. The grabs. The clotheslines. The ejections. The suspensions. The letdowns. The down 3-1's. The comebacks. The never coming back. The Van Exel. The Big Shot Rob. The Mike D's. The No. 19's. The marquee. The marquees. The Matrix. The MVP. The German. The Owner. The Afro. The Prince. The Guaran-Sheeds. The Coach. The Diesel.
The Pistons. The Heat. The Suns. The Mavericks.
The best four teams in the League, I believe. Alive. Still. Standing.
The future? Now.
Doesn't he have an editor? Anyway, you can see the full article (which seeems to be about a week old now) here.
A brief rundown of opinions expressed by contributors of this blog:
Gavin said that Steve Nash rules and deserved the MVP. Zuch said he didn't and that Kobe did. Matt said he really couldn't say because he doesn't watch too much NBA but thought Nash didn't seem deserving. Nate said that if Nash won the MVP this year, John Stockton should have won a few. I said that Nash doesn't deserve the amount of credit the press has given him for his team's success.
So we turn to the "Sports Guy" Bill Simmons and his most recent mailbag column. As it turns out, we all had a point--at least according to Simmons, whom I've always considered a pretty credible authority on the NBA.
From his response to the first question, we can conclude that...
...Gavin was right in saying that Nash's value to his team far exceeds his individual abilities and rivals that of other top MVP candidates.
...Zuch was right in saying that Kobe Bryant, all things considered, is a better player (presumably among Simmons's "top five or six" based on everything he's written this year).
...Nate was right in showing that Nash (by comparison to Stockton) would probably have not had a shot in hell of winning the MVP in the past but that (according to Simmons) the game has evolved to favor Nash's particular skill set.
...I was right in asserting that Nash's teammates are quite good independent of Nash's presence, contrary to what many in the press portrayed.
...Matt was right about nothing because he was a pussy and took no hard stance.
Again, I'm basing this entire post on Bill Simmons's take on the subject, but I just thought it was an interesting response that provides a bit of closure on the issue for us Yellow Chair bloggers.
I'm going to assume that the original interview for this story was conducted in Spanish and then translated. I just can't see Pedro Martinez saying,
"Work is good and it dignifies men, but I want to enjoy the fruits of my efforts. "
Then later, he says (according to the story),
"In order to achieve 200 wins and 3,000 strikeouts, you not only need to pitch in 200 games and 1,000 innings, but you must also count your losses, indecisions, and all the work at the bullpen."
One would assume that a guy who's made 362 career starts would know that it's called a "no-decision" and not an "indecision," though a translator may not realize this.
Alright, there's really no point to this post, except that we like to cover Pedro Martinez's every step because we love him.
No doubt I am not the only one to notice some differences to our site over the past couple of weeks...
Understandably, there have been less posts due to graduation, but someone has to say it...TOO...MANY...SOCCER POSTS!
Damn it Sever, this is not your second soccer blog. We have a link to your "futbol" blog, so the remote population that is interest in soccer can visit that. There is no need to turn Yellow Chair into a soccer blog, because it most definitely is not supposed to be that. So stop posting soccer blogs at a a four-per-day rate!!! Damn it, we are trying to make this into a respectable (and more importantly, readable) sports blog.
On the same note, come on non-Sever bloggers. Pick up the slack (Myself included) and let's keep this going. There is clearly more intelligence in our sports-knowledgeable brains than the entier ESPN staff combined, so we are obliged to put our thoughts into to public sphere.
We are hitting that second month blogger's writing block, and if we let Sever write every post (no offense soccer geek, but actually total offense meant) we are going to have no readers come 6-6-06.
Now today was a good day and I'm not going to ignore that, but we have to keep this up on a day to day basis if we want to have so-called "fans."
Come on Yellow-Chair, it's time to stop being a bunch of bitches.
p.s. In case you haven't noticed by the writing/post time, I am drunk and pissed off.
Why, Dusty Baker, do you continue to play Neifi Perez? And not only do you play him, you start him.
And I swear, I'm not simply reacting to Perez's two-error misplay in the ninth inning today (on a simple relay play where he not only dropped the throw from right but overthrew the catcher on the relay like the worthless bum that he is when even a hobbled little leaguer with mono, two missing contacts, and one arm could have made the play, but Perez didn't because he totally sucks and I hate him so much and wish he would just...just...arghh!!!)
I don't necessarily even care about Perez's negative impact on the Cubs's win-loss total. (Though readers may know me as a Cubs fan, my concern for the success of that particular franchise has wained considerably in my old age.) I simply don't understand how Dusty Baker can justify his presence on the field.
If Dusty Baker actually believes that starting Neifi Perez gives him the best chance to win baseball games, he has either given up caring altogether (unlikely) or has truly and thoroughly lost his mind (more likely). And I say so without the slightest bit of jest (well, ok, a little jest, but less than my usual). However, if Dusty Baker is starting Perez because he believes that Perez has somehow earned the privilege or will eventually prove himself worthy of the playing time, then Dusty Baker has without a doubt lost his mind.
Neifi Perez, first and foremost, stinks. And he doesn't just everyday, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum stink. It's stink of biblical proportions. Through today's play, he has a .461 OPS (.220 OBP, .241 SLG). Friggin' four sixty friggin' one. His lifetime OPS is .677, and remember; that's aided by five years in Coors Field. And no, Neifi Perez is not good enough in the field to make up for his hitting deficiencies. At one point, he may have been (he won the super carefully and objectively awarded Gold Glove in 2000!) But I have seen enough of him over the past handful of years to conclude that he's pretty average--and perhaps not even that anymore.
The way I started that last paragraph implies that I have a second point, but I actually don't. That's the long and short of it; Neifi Perez is brutally horribly awfully bad and really really sucks.
"But the Cubs are so banged up, and Todd Walker's having to play first base, and Neifi is really versatile and can play anywhere..."
Whatever. Without any examination of the Cubs farm system or waiver wires or anything, I feel very, very safe in assuming that someone somewhere out there could outperform Neifi Perez. Hell, I wouldn't even care if a replacement could outperform him; at least play someone for whom any justification at all could merit playing time. Give a young guy his first shot; give a vet with a sad injury story his second shot; give some independent leaguer's grandad his dying wish to see his boy play in the bigs; hell, give Augie Ojeda a call (at least fans liked him for his name).
I don't care. Neifi has to go.
It's so inane that it's really not worth ripping apart. But exposing Skip Bayless as an insufferable hack has become an addiction for us Yellow Chair writers. So let's do it.
The title of this week's column: American Idle (a homonymn play on words! The pinnacle of hilarity!)
I had settled in to watch the Yankees-Red Sox and Suns-Mavs games when I remembered this was the final night of "American Idol." I had checked out "Idol" here and there in its first couple of seasons. But mostly, I referred to it as "American I Don't." Because I just didn't -- watch it or get it.
That's his opening paragraph. So if you're keeping score, that's two super super lame plays on words (title included) through three sentences. And "American I Don't"? Does that even sound like "Idol"?
He missed more notes than Jose Cortez misses field goals.
Please, just ban this joke structure already.
You could find a thousand guys singing in church choirs or even in showers with better voices. But I guess that's the point. Viewers want to make a star out of some goof who's no more talented than many of them are.
Oh, so kind of like the way sports writers drool over David Eckstein? But I digress.
Make that "American Idle."
Just in case you didn't catch the title.
This is what people are wasting their time on?
My sincere wish is that no one reading this has ever watched a minute of "Idol."
Unlike Skip Bayless, who has obviously wasted his time watching many minutes of "Idol."
And America prefers Taylor "Loved by All the" Hicks?
I don't know who or what the hell he's talking about, but I do know that this joke is neither clever nor funny--even by Bermanism standards. Also, doesn't that come off a bit elitist and derogatory? Maybe it's just me.
That's because Steve Nash is doing things with a basketball that no human his size (listed at 6-foot-3) has ever done. The genius passes, trick shots, monumental 3s, contagious heart:
There it is--the obligatory mention of his boyfriend.
Here's your American Idol, even if he's from Canada.
Skip Bayless [sitting on his couch, watching the Suns play]: Ohhh Steve! You're such a dreamboat! [clasps hands together and scrunches neck and shoulders]
Wednesday's SportsNation poll asked ESPN voters to choose their Sports Idol. Tiger Woods won over Tom Brady, LeBron James, Albert Pujols and Dale Earnhardt Jr. But what does that competition have to do with "Idol"? Those sports stars (except for maybe Dale Jr.) are proven stars. They can sing.
Albert Pujols's rendition of "Walking in Memphis" is, in a word, stirring.
"Idol" has one proven star -- Simon, the snippy English judge.
So if you want to tune in to the early rounds and watch Simon humiliate contestants who have been carefully chosen because they're so awful, fine. If you want to sit with family or friends and laugh as Simon knocks 'em out of the park with his witty disdain, God bless.
Why doesn't it surprise me that Skip is impressed with Simon's fish-in-a-barrel style jabs?
Hey, at least we at Yellow Chair take the time to put ours in nicely articulated written sentences.
But if you want to listen to finalists attempt to sing great songs, I don't get it. If I want to listen to "Unchained Melody," very possibly the most beautiful song ever written, I'll listen to the Righteous Brothers.
Skip has a softer side. Well, I'll be.
Next came Prince, singing one of his new songs, which sounds vaguely like his old stuff, just not nearly as great. The old Prince wouldn't have stooped to selling out to appear on this kind of show. This is when doves cry.
And this is when I cry...over the fact that I've just wasted my time reading and critiquing Skip Bayless...and over the fact that people like Skip Bayless are famous, nationally-read writers.
That was it. I'd seen enough. Back to reality, to the beautiful music being made by a real star. Back to Nash.
Again. Again with Steve Nash.
Bob Roberts has written a true gem for the Cleveland Plain Dealer previewing the US Men's National Team's World Cup Warmup tonight against Venezuela at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
First sentence: The U.S. men's national soccer team, with greater understanding of the predatory habits of the Atlas Lions, is in town.
--What is an Atlas Lion is not explained until the next paragraph. It is an extinct lion and the nickname for Morocco's national team, whom the US lost to on Tuesday.
The match is in Browns Stadium, which might not be the best of venues for a team struggling to score goals. The landlord Brownies finished last in the NFL in scoring last season.
--What the HELL kind of comparison is that? Roberts should be slapped for even thinking this, much less printing it.
At times, the U.S. players did appear slow to the ball. When they did get to it and found themselves in scoring position, they failed to capitalize, either shooting wide, shanking, or scuffing their shots.
--Is Yogi Berra writing this article? I think what Roberts means to say is "When they took shots, they missed them, they either went high, wide, or were stopped by the goalie." Only a guy whose formal name is Robert Roberts could be so repetitiously redundant.
His (US Captain Claudio Reyna's) target (for return from injury) is that June 12 date in Gelsenkirchen with the Czech Republic. There is always a large stein of Bavarian brew to make you forget you even have a hamstring.
-- I'm just going to ignore the grammar and weak ending of this article in its last sentence. That being said, while I have no doubt that the Bavarians export their beers, Roberts should take note that Gelsenkirchen is in North-Rhine Westphalia, in far western Germany, and the Bavaria region is in southeast Germany. If this level of geographic confusion were applied to our own country, it would be like me saying that I couldn't wait to get to Denver for some hurricanes, jambalaya and gumbo.
Is this claim (the second one in the following excerpt) in a current Chuck Klosterman column accurate?
You wouldn't become a coach if you didn't believe in the inflexibility of rules. This is why baseball people are still skeptical of "Moneyball"; this is also why every pro football team not coached by Mike Martz plays pretty much the same way, pretty much all the time (the most innovative pro offenses are still just variations on the ideas of Don Coryell and Bill Walsh).
It seems a little fishy. And by the way, is it just me, or is Chuch Klosterman's writing super pretentious? (Oh wait, so is mine.)
Ten games? Man, ten games ain't shit. Maybe next time he should sucker punch his dick.
Straight cash, homey.
Serbia and Montenegro are preparing for their tough group stage in the World Cup Finals next month, which pit them against the likes of Holland, Argentina, and the Ivory Coast.
This should be an interesting look at team chemistry seeing as I would imagine several players on the team are no longer their countrymen as BBC World reports.
As a Bulls fan, the lottery seems to have gone down perfectly for them. Toronto, who won the top pick, looks to be infatuated with Andrea Bargnani, the latest European player compared to Dirk. After that, the Bulls are on the clock. Sitting firmly in the draft Lamarcus Aldridge camp, I badly want the Bulls to avoid drafting Tyrus Thomas. His unpolished game and shocking NCAA hype aside(he only had double digit points in one of LSU's five games), his latest unjustified action toward our friends at Draft Express show his immaturity. Having an extremely young team already, the Baby Bulls do not need another petulant whiner(ahem, Eddy Curry). With an attitude like this, Thomas better sign an endorsement deal with a moving company, because he looks destined for a vagabond career. Thomas, here's some free advice from YCS: shut up and workout against top competition and prove yourself. Shutting out a respected media company just because they have you, gasp, going #7 in their mock draft(we should all be scorned this way) proves you cannot handle the adversity that comes with an NBA lifestyle. Even if he had a great attitude, his lack of an offensive game and thin frame should scare teams with top five picks away, as they need someone who can make an immediate impact. Now, we can that see that the hype has already gotten into Mr. Thomas's head, and some lucky team looks to be in for many headaches these next few years.
I just found this stat from an espn.com article on the Duke Lacrosse situation rather stunning:
"While lacrosse players comprise .75 percent of the Duke undergraduate population of 6,244, they were responsible for 33 percent of the open container cases, 25 percent of the disorderly conduct cases and 21 percent of the alcohol-unsafe behavior cases."
In totally unrelated news, I'd like all Yellow Chair readers to join in a round of applause to Matt Zuchowski, who as of today, is an officially licensed bartender.
His latest object of scorn? Ken Griffey Jr.
Over the past week, Griffey has received much criticism (suprise!) from the local Cincinnati press, who have attacked his diminishing defensive skills and have suggested that Griffey should move from centerfield to left. Griffey, like most other people with pride and a pulse, felt inclined to defend his own perspective on the matter, more or less telling the public, "Back off, and let me do my job."
Today, Jim Rome, among others, lashed back at Griffey's response, insisting that Griffey should stop "caring so much what the press says" and just "go out and play the game" and "let your performance to the talking" and "stop whining" or else "get into a different line of work"...Etcetera etcetera etcetera.
Granted, I understand the wisdom in this sentiment (in theory). But in Griffey's case, how many times does the guy have to bite his tongue? How many times does he have to "let his play do the talking"? Hasn't he done exactly that since, oh, 1989ish? The fact is that Griffey can work as hard as all hell, make spectacular plays up the wahzoo, talk nice with the press, and even learn to sing pretty falsetto, but it would never satisfy a way-too-large number of people on the baseball beat and in the baseball-watching public.
For more than a decade, the man provided them and everyone else with some of the finest individual baseball perfomances we have ever seen--both offensively and defensively--without ever hyping himself, ripping teammates, sparring with fans, or chewing out Hannah Storm. And what does he get in return? He gets labeled aloof and unfriendly, he receives death threats from fans (both from places where he declined trades in 2000 and from hometown fans in Seattle and Cincinnati), and gets tied to the whipping post at every lapse in perfection throughout the latter half of a Hall of Fame career. Hell, even when he gets hurt, the language from the fans and press is usually more condemnation for some phantom fault of Griffey's than it is sympathy over his string of awful luck.
People like Jim Rome are ridiculous hypocrites to say that a high-profile athlete should "stop caring what the press says." Is not the very nature of editorial journalism to defend one's own perspective in the face of disagreement or criticism? Yes, Griffey, or any other athlete, can defend his position with his on-field performance. But what about when he has done so, yet members of the press have already formed their perception of a player and refuse to change it regardless of his performance?
And yes, an athlete should care what is written and said about him. Why? Because the public reads and hears what is said about the athlete, and the athlete in turn interacts with said public. And I don't care who you are; no one wants to be the object of disdain and resentment.
"But when you're making that kind of scratch--"
Bullshit. Again, this objection rarely flies. Whether someone makes $14 million a year playing baseball or counts beans in a financial firm or works in a bus depot for $18,000 a year, people who excel at their work take pride in their work and do not want their value to go unrecognized. This is a human trait that I don't believe has anything to do with the size of the paycheck.
Also, while sports journalists will outwardly say that athletes should take the criticism "like a man" and not defend themselves in the press, they fool no one. Athletes who keep the company line don't make for juicy stories and soundbites. Without the tension caused by athletes who respond to public criticism, the sports press would be even more abusive, incendiary, and hollow than it already is. And come on; as if every sports journalist doesn't get off on provoking a reaction from a pro athlete based on something he or she wrote in the papers.
Lastly, the assertion made by Rome et al that Griffey should get out of the proverbial kitchen (professional baseball) if he can't handle the so-called heat (press scrutiny) is unconscionably juvenile. It implies that Griffey's inability or unwillingness to bear unwarranted public criticism is merely a fault of Griffey's that requires he either grow accepting of something he believes false and personally damaging or quit performing a skill that he does better than almost anyone in the world because that skill necessarily entails external mental abuse.
It's virtually impossible for trends like this to bear out over a full baseball season, but they're fun to point out anyway.
Right now, the Royals are 22 games out of first place through 45 games played. This puts them on pace to finish roughly 80 games back. Yow-sah!
Oh, and so far, Mark Grudzielanek has been their best hitter and would probably represent them in the All-Star Game. He's so lame that I'm not even gonna bother to check if I spelled his name right.
(P.S.: Guess who called that the Royals would lose 121 to break the record before the season started. Yes, I have witnesses.)
Though I'm a day or so late on this one, I hope all of you YCS readers found a fitting and tasteful way to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the birth of Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known to the masses as Bob Dylan.
Yes, I realize this has nothing to do with sports, but it's an important occasion that all should commemorate.
ESPN proves they have the worst writers in sports once again with this doozie of a piece turned in by Andrea Canales of ESPNSoccernet.com where she details some fairly obvious observations about the pros and cons of a league with a great deal of parity like MLS. Some of my favorite quotations follow a laughable introduction, where she claims that Chelsea, Barcelona, and Juventus repeating as champions was "no surprise," never mind that all three of these races were still in contention with only a few matches to play, and Juventus didn't clinch until the final day.
Other favorites include...
Case in point -- last week, the defending MLS Cup and U.S. Open champions, the Los Angeles Galaxy, lost 3-0 to Real Salt Lake
---Let's just ignore the fact that LA is a terrible team, and has yet to win a game at home this year.
Another way that MLS creates parity is through the playoff system. During the regular season teams use the points accumulated in games to qualify for the postseason. The winner of the league title is not determined by the highest point total, but instead by who wins the tournament that the top teams participate in.
---This is the same way that the Champions League, English Championship, and the Dutch League work. She seems so surprised.
In 2003, the Chicago Fire were poised to be the first team to take the domestic treble...Star defender Carlos Bocanegra then transferred to England, where he joined Fulham FC. Though the Fire still retained many core players...
--- They also lost Goalkeeper Zach Thornton to Portugal and playmaker DaMarcus Beasley to Holland, but we'll pretend that only Boca left. Likewise, the 2004 team was very heavy on rookies.
...the 2004 team suffered an extremely poor season and dropped out of playoff contention.
--- WRONG. The 2004 Chicago Fire were in a position to clinch a playoff spot on the final day of the season with a tie, and the New England team that beat them went on to knock off the Regular season Champions, and almost knock off that year's MLS Cup Champions. The Fire also made it to the US Open Cup Final and lost in OT to the eventual MLS Cup runners-up. What a completely absurd statement.
With nearly the same roster that reached the 2004 final, the Wizards failed in 2005 to even make the postseason.
---Again, Kansas City was in playoff contention on the last day of the season.
The maxim of "on any given day" becomes especially true during the playoffs.
---No. The concept of "any given day" means, "on any given day" not "on any given day, except in the regular season where it is less true."
Since 2002 no regular-season winner has also won the MLS Cup.
---True, but misleading. In MLS's first 10 seasons, the regular season champion has won the Championship 4 times, has been in the Championship game 5 times, and in the final four 8 times. In fact, 2004 and 2005 are the only times in league history where the regular season champion has failed to advance from the first round.
In the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated, SI asked four athletes in their "Pop Culture Grid" feature to name a place they'd like to road trip to.
Jim Thome's answer: Hawaii.
Seriously too bad A.J. Hawk can't play offensive tackle. Ok, let's start a count. How many stories are going to break over the next year that are going to make Brett Favre wish he was back on the lawnmower? He's going to have so many guys tackle the shit out of him.
Here's the first one.
Alright, my soothsaying and bone-rolling has produced the results of how I think the group stages of the World Cup will end. If you didn't finish first or second in your group, you are out of luck, and if you lost on a tiebreaker like goal differential, then life just plain sucks for you. With that being said, here's how the bracket WOULD shape out IF this blog's token niche sport blogger is right.
Group stage Finals
A: Germany, Poland
B: Sweden, England
C: Holland, Ivory Coast
D: Portugal, Mexico
E: Czech Republic, United States
F: Brazil, Croatia
G: France, Switzerland
H: Ukraine, Tunisia
Based on these results, the left side of the bracket would be
Germany vs. England
- If any team can beat Germany, it's England, but I like the Germans at home.
Holland vs. Mexico
- El Tri chronically underachieves in the knockout rounds (see: 2002)
Czech Republic vs. Croatia
- A tough match, but the Czechs are just too much of an offensive machine to stop.
France vs. Tunisia
- I'd say Les Bleus are a shoo-in, but the French as a people don't really have a lot of luck against North African upstarts. I like the idea of an upset here...
The right side of the bracket would be
Sweden vs. Poland
- Sweden. In a rout.
Portugal vs. Ivory Coast
- Portugal ends the cinderella run of the war-torn West Africans.
Brazil vs. United States
- This is why it is imperative that the US win their group. If the US plays Croatia, I am convinced they can win, or at least have a better shot at winning than against Brazil. I gotta pick the Brazilians here...hopefully the Stars and Stripes can keep it close.
Ukraine vs. Switzerland
I'm going to pick the Swiss as my upset specials this round. After Schevchecnko, the Ukranians don't really have anyone of note.
Germany vs. Holland
- Holland. Book them.
Czech Republic vs. Tunisia
- Tunisia's fairy-tale run comes to an end against the juggernaut Czechs, but they'll keep it close.
Sweden vs. Portugal
- I still like Sweden.
Brazil vs. Switzerland
- Brazil. No explanation necessary.
Holland vs. Czech Republic
-Holland overcomes years of frustration to reach the Final in Berlin.
Sweden vs. Brazil
Brazil is obviously the favorite to win the tournament, however, the last time a non-European team won a World Cup on European soil was Brazil.....in 1958! One could argue the field at Germany 2006 is a lot deeper than Sweden '58, which is why I'm picking the Upset of the tournament as Sweden knocks off Brazil in a 1-1 game decided on PKs.....just a hunch.
Czech Republic vs. Brazil
-Brazil, but no one really cares. Players are all assigned personal bodyguards for return trip back home.
Sweden vs. Holland
The Dutch paint the town Oranj.
Thank you, sweet fitting circumstance.
Neither I nor the sports media could have asked for a better consecutive three-game microcosm of the criticisms of Alex Rodriguez than we have seen the last three days. Allow me to summarize:
Sunday: A-Rod fails to reach base in a couple potential run-producing at-bats against the Mets--including one in which he makes perfect contact with the ball and blows out 281 of the 316 seams on the baseball, only to see it cruelly fly right into Cliff Floyd's mitt. The next day, the New York Post headline reads, "A-Rod Butcher Job Worst Seen in City Since Berkowitz Murder Rampage" (or something of that ilk), and A-Rod gets ripped by all the ESPN Daytime Trash Lineup talking heads. In addition, a SportsCenter preview headline and ensuing SportsCenter segment both insinuate that A-Rod is somehow a liability to the Yankees.
Monday: A-Rod spots the Red Sox a 9-1 lead by causing Chien-Ming Wang to pitch really badly and then hits a 9th inning home run when he should have just struck out so as not to be such a garbage-time hero. The next day, the ESPN talking heads all say "typical A-Rod," and the New York Post headline reads, "A-Rod Enjoys Failing Except During Blowouts."
Tuesday: A-Rod comes up in the 7th-inning, leading 4-1, and hits 3-run homer just to pad his stats and meaningless RBI total, giving the Yankees a 7-1 lead. The Yankees give up four more runs (probably out of disillusionment caused by A-Rod's lack of heart and team-player-ed-ness) before winning 7-5. Wednesday's New York Post headline reads, "A-Rod Linked to Levee Breaches During Upcoming Hurricane Season."
Now A-Rod bashers--allow me to bring a few insights to your jealous, resentful minds.
First off, over the course of a 162-game season, colassal run production of A-Rod's magnitude--regardless of whether it occurs in that memorable moment when you would like it to occur--will have a huge positive net impact on your team's win-loss record. Even if A-Rod has acquired some unfortunate psychological tick that causes him to alter his swing (or "squeeze the bat too hard" as the old wisdom goes) during notable situations--a possibility that anyone who's played baseball, or for that matter, any competitive sport can't deny--this failing does not in any way negate his contributions during those countless other "non-clutch" situations in which he produces far above-average offensive results. That SportsCenter producers would even insinuate A-Rod being a liability to the Yankees is an utter joke.
Second, make sure the facts bear out the claim. I don't currently have the energy to look up and analyze A-Rod's career "clutch" statistics (RISP, postseason, 7th inning or later, etc.), I would invite any A-Rod basher to do so. I know I have done so in the not too distant past, and as I remember, they proved to be as I expected--only slightly less awesome, if not as awesome, as his total numbers. Don't base his performance in the clutch on those couple times when you really, really wanted A-Rod to get that big hit to stick it to the Sox or Mets during that 9th inning rally that one time.
[Admittedly, I did hear on the Great ESPN earlier that A-Rod is hitting in the low .100-somethings this season during "such and such clutch situation," which on the surface sounded pretty damning. But forty-some games into the season, any situational statistic should always, always, always be given with the statistical sample. In fact, any season stat, period--particularly such a nuanced one--should be given with the sample size. Simply spitting out a percentage--say, a .125 BA--implies a statistically significant sample. For once, just say "2 for 16" and let fans dice that for themselves.
I don't mean to insist that every sports broadcaster, writer, and fan should have an extensive background in statistics and statistical probability, but if one asserts to have identified a trend, he or she should at least know the statistical validity of the trend or have a really really really really awesome intuitive understanding of how trends and statistics bear out.]
Third, why is it that some players can do no right and others can do no wrong, and why are fans--and more importantly journalists--unable to back off of these quickly-formed perceptions? When it's Tadahito Iguchi or David Eckstein or Kevin Millar or Adam Everett or any other "glue guy" making a big mid-game hit or doing something that "doesn't show up in the box score," the reward is a massive verbal pat on the ass. But when A-Rod has big run-producing games that don't end in a walk-off mob at home plate, it's just, "He's a garbage-time player."
Why do people assume that memorable equals less valuable? "Man, maybe if that Derek Jeter weren't so selfish always trying to pad his batting average by going for singles, the Yankees would have a lot more mid-game homers that would help build up leads. Instead, he only tries at the end of the game when he can get all the glory. What a prick." Is that not the exact equally-irrational flip side of the A-Rod criticisms? I don't know; I could be wrong.
Mostly what I'm saying is this: I find it nauseating that ESPN and other media outlets rely on these unfounded, unfair, narrowly-targeted trends to create stories for themselves to compensate for having nothing meaningful to report. Not only do they shed little to no insight on the sport on which they center, but they inevitably turn players into undeserving objects of ridicule by playing on flimsy perceptions. And in my opinion, that's bullshit.
And oh by the way, A-Rod just happens to be the reigning leauge MVP and the greatest pre-Pujols talent of our generation. So lay the F off him, and enjoy his talent for chrissake.
Here at YCS, we will continue to expose the ineptitude of many major media members. However, we will also give our readers sources that do not get the recognition they deserve. When looking for NBA draft coverage, most people turn to Chad Ford(shudders) or even worse, NBA Draft.net. My friends, you need to immediately check out Draft Express. Jonathan Givony and company outwork the competiton, actually traveling to see the players and not relying on thirdhand information like Ford or Andy Katz. For our Marquette people, check out the report on Steve Novak's recent strong workout in Washington D.C.
Props to White Sox Interactive poster Risk for this fitting description of Mr. Moronotti.
The Moron doesn't know anything about sports, so as a "sports writer" he has no credibility with me. All he is, in my book, is the pathetic, lonely person you see at a bar who everyone knows is the town drunk, but still tries to get your attention by saying something completely out of the ordinary in hopes of eliciting a response from you so that he will be noticed.
He's nothing more than a media whore.
Rick Sutcliffe, earlier tonight during the Yankees-Red Sox broadcast, on Curt Schilling:
"He's a really smart guy. He knows a lot about a lot of things."
Speaking of the brainless one at the Sun-Times, Jay Moronotti produced this unbelievably idiotic piece the day after the brawl instigated by Hothead Barrett.
This is what happens when you (A.J. Pierzynski) have a reputation, when you're known as a sport's reigning provocateur/punk:
Pot, kettle's calling back. And doing what it takes to win does not give your opponents the right to sucker punch you after a clean play, something everyone other than Moronotti and brainless Cubbie fans understand.
"If you can tell me what I did to deserve what I got, I'd like to know.'' OK, A.J., I'll tell you. You're an instigator, an agitator, a troublemaker, a wise guy.
You forgot winner, popular teammate, someone who sacrifices himself for the better of the team. Not to mention an alert baseball player who maximizes his talent. Ask Twins fans what they think of him, and the direction their franchise has gone in since trading him. Every team needs a guy like Pierzynski, and quite frankly, when you do whatever it takes to win, you inevitably ruffle a few feathers. Maybe if the Cubs had more guys like him, they wouldn't be floundering in the dregs of the NL Central every year. If that draws the ire of other players, so be it. They still have no right to unfairly assault him.
In A.J.'s view, Barrett rocked him with ''a cheap shot.'' In the baseball world, it's being widely hailed as a vicarious thrill, a right cross to Pierzynski's left cheek that many players would love to have thrown.
No, actually everyone else around the country called it a cheap shot. While Pierzynski may never win a popularity contest, anyone who understands sports realized a line was crossed and that Barrett deserves a lenghty time off.
Rocky Balboa Barrett isn't so sure
Last time I checked, Rocky's punches actually knocked their target down. When the scrappy Scott Podsednik tackles you with ease, a more proper reference would be Peter McNeeley. Not to mention that Rocky is a noble hero, while Barrett is a pathetic punk.
All of that duly noted, my guess is the rumble never would have happened if the baserunner was anyone other than A.J. Which means, yes, based on his pot-stirring reputation, as well as what he did before and after Barrett's punch, Pierzynski still strikes me as a bad guy in this affair.
Dave Roberts begs to differ. Barrett had been developing the reputation for having a short fuse before this incident. This just cemented his place alongside Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield as one of baseball's biggest punks.
Barrett comes out on top
This subhead just confirms the fact you clearly did not witness the brawl. Getting taken down with ease by the aforementioned Podsednik proved that Barrett could not back up his cowardly actions. Pierzynski probably felt more pain from the punches he "took" in his TNA match.
Barrett, despite a loss of control that will cost him games and money, somehow came off better.
Maybe for idiotic baseball fans jealous they don't have a guy like Pierzynski on their team. For the rest of the sports world, they received exposure to the bitterness that comes from playing for a directionless franchise with your crosstown rivals in the midst of building a dynasty. The purposed religious man apparently has trouble dealing with one of the seven deadly sins: envy.
I'm sure after walking out of the meeting for his salary raise, Mark Turgeon had this reaction. Of course, this is the same company that believes Jay Moronotti mindlessly yapping for 30 minutes is good television.
And by "she" I mean Martina Hingis, and by "it" I mean her stunning good looks (and secondarily, her knack for playing competitive tennis).
For the benefit of those who do not communicate with Matt Z. via AIM, his current Away Message reads, "Damn, does A.J. Pierzynski make me proud to be Polish." I just got a good laugh out of that and would feel remiss not to share.
Also, I applaud Pierzynski and his meathead antics and Michael Barrett's right fist for doing the unthinkable--bumping the Barry Bonds home run non-story to second highlight on SportsCenter.
Today I figured I'd shoot out one more World Cup Preview before I head back to the land of green lawns and slow-ass internet. So here's my handicapping on the last two groups, Group G and Group H.
Group G: France, Switzerland, South Korea, Togo
I want to get one thing out of the way. Writers are trying to look at this group and Togo as a dark horse. This seems to only be because France choked hard at the last World Cup to Togo's West African neighbor Senegal. Yes, Togo did beat Senegal, but this is a European World Cup, and traditionally, European sides are upset with less frequency when they are playing on their home soil. I'm not saying that Togo doesn't have what it takes, because any team that makes it to the finals is a good team, but 1998 World Cup Champion France, European power Switzerland, and 2002 World Cup semifinalist Korea are very different beasts from Zambia, Mali, and Liberia. Togo could have some discipline problems, having accured 16 yellow cards in 12 games and the bright lights and big stage of Germany could pose problems. France and Switzerland are very familiar with each other. They finished first and second in their qualifying group (arguably the hardest in Europe) battling to 0-0 and 1-1 ties in qualifying. France is led by Arsenal striker Thierry Henry. Statistics show that Switzerland scored more goals in qualifying than France in qualifying, but keep in mind that six of those goals came on the last day of qualifying against the Faroe Islands. (First person to be able to locate the Faroe Islands on a map, wins a prize.) France's defense is ironclad, only surrendering 2 goals in 12 matches of qualifying. Despite the failure of Les Bleus at Korea/Japan four years ago, I'd be pretty hard-pressed to not pick them to go through to the next round. As for South Korea, I'm going to admit, they're an enigma. They have some players with European experience, most notably Ji-Sung Park of Manchester United, but last World Cup was really an anomaly, it was the first time the Red Devils made it out of the first round, and they were playing on their home soil. This time around, their goal differential is the lowest in their group (+11). They average nearly 2 yellow cards a game, and will be playing halfway around the world in front of hostile fans. As good of a team as the Koreans have become, I can't see them getting out of the group stages. I like the Swiss and the Frogs.
Group H: Ukraine, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia
This is a group that is getting surprisingly little attention. As much as I deride the FIFA World Rankings, everyone in this group is in the top 45. That being said, some teams shouldn't be. Saudi Arabia is making their 4th World Cup Finals appearance, and despite the fact that they won their Asian qualifying group, beating out South Korea, I still don't like their chances. They haven't played any significant opposition outside of their Confederation. They are paired with two European powers in a European World Cup. Oh yea, and the last time they faced a team from Europe was 4 years ago....losing 8-0 to Germany in the group stages at the 2002 World Cup. The Saudis, while much improved, should not be much of a threat to Spain. Ukraine is led my AC Milan star and 2004 European player of the year Andriy Shevchencko, and are making their first World Cup appearance. Do not let that deceive you however, as it was only 16 years ago that this team was known as the Soviet Union. Ukraine won their qualifying group that included tough European powers Denmark, Greece, and Turkey. Ukraine's goal differential isn't that great (+11 in 12 qualifying matches), but the talent level is there. On paper, Spain should win this group easily. They scored at a prodigious clip in qualifying, but I'm concerned. They scored 25 goals in 12 games, but 11 of them came against San Marino. While good teams beat bad teams, Spain had a pretty soft draw in qualifiers. Their biggest results were 2 ties against Serbia and Montenegro. The Spaniards also have a tendency to lose their cool, collecting 22 yellow cards in 12 matches. Combine that with a Spanish history of underachieving in the finals, and this is a team that is ripe for upset. So who goes through at their expense? If it's going to be anyone, it's going to be Tunisia. Germany is not that far from Tunisia, so there should be a fair number of traveling supporters, and Tunisia had some good stats from qualifying. I'm going to make my second ballsy prediction (The first being that the United States would go through), and pick the Tunisians to join Ukraine in the knockout rounds.
So after the group stages, the 16 teams remaining will be: Germany, Poland, Sweden, England, Holland, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Mexico, Czech Republic, United States, Brazil, Croatia, France, Switzerland, Ukraine, and Tunisia. In my fifth and final World Cup Preview, I'll examine how I think the knockout stages will play out if what I've predicted in the group stages comes true.
This may be his worst one yet. We all know how the format works, so let's dive in...
Sorry, just wanted to keep your attention for six letters. This isn't about LeBron. Goodbye.
No, forgive me, this is about the defending National Basketball Association champions.
Oh Skip, you tricky devil. Wait, the title of the story is "Cuban's in charge of this series." I really wasn't expecting anything about LeBron...also, as you find out when you read the rest of his filth, this story is actually not about the Spurs. It's about Mark Cuban, as the title suggests. Oh well, I would expect no less from Bayless.
No, while Duncan once again has been the best player in the playoffs, the MVP of this series has been Mark Cuban. He owns the Mavericks -- and, apparently, the minds of the refs.
First off, way to slip in a statement like "Duncan once again has been the best player in the playoffs" without providing any evidence to support this claim. Remember that guy LeBron that you're not going to talk about? Not only is he scoring six points per game more than Duncan against much better defenses (and defenses that are almost exclusively focused on stopping him), he has single-handedly taken the Cavs to a game 7 (actually, when this column was written, he had them up 3-2) against the Detroit Pistons, who were supposed to waltz through the Eastern Conference playoffs.
As for this claim that Cuban owns the refs, that's what the rest of the column is about...so you can see where this is going.
He (Cuban) once said he wouldn't hire the NBA's director of officials "to manage a Dairy Queen."
Now in Dallas, he has turned the refs into soft ice cream.
The Spurs were privately furious after both games in Dallas.
Here we go again. Note the word "privately." First he claimed to know the private thoughts of Kobe Bryant, now he knows the private thoughts of the entire San Antonio team. It's a good thing we've got our mind-reading sports writer to let us know exactly how everyone feels at all times.
On the whole Jason Terry incident...
This was no judgment call. The tape didn't lie. But now it's as if Dallas has gotten away with so much in this series that Terry thinks he can get away with going Andrew Golota on ex-teammate Finley.
Wow. That just might be the most ridiculous claim Skip has ever made. Terry thought he could get away with a groin shot because Cuban has the refs under his thumb...I hate you Skip Bayless.
Beautiful: Cuban is turning the Mavs into victims. And he knows most of his fans -- and some in the media -- will buy his baloney. Deep down, the refs probably will, too.
But not you Skip, right? After all, you can read minds.
The Spurs have practically no chance in Game 6. Yes, Dallas will be down a quick guard who scored 32 points while playing 51 minutes in the Game 4 overtime win. But you watch: Duncan or Ginobili will be whistled for foul No. 6 before this one is over.
Team Turnoff will be eliminated. The NBA world will be safe.
No Spurs fouled out, and the Spurs won to push it to a game 7 in San Antonio, which they will probably win. Practically no chance? I love it when Skip is wrong.
The sixth (foul) came when Dirk Nowitzki went hurtling down the lane and Duncan merely ran across his path, making sure to hold his hands back over his shoulders and away from Nowitzki's arms.
Merely ran across his path? That's called a blocking foul Skip. You can't run into someone's path. I saw that play. It was a foul. And if we're talking about 'respect fouls' then this was a really bad example: not only because it was most definitely a foul on Duncan, but because the offensive player, Nowitzki, deserves a good amount of respect from the refs as well. If this had been called an offensive foul, which I assume Skip is saying it should have been, it would have been a huge injustice to the best white player in the NBA (I couldn't resist an opportunity to take another dig at Steve Nash).
More on this call...
Referee Joey Crawford, one of the best, was standing in the corner near Cuban. He blew his whistle. Then he walked all the way to the official scorer before divulging if Duncan was gone. You wonder if Crawford was trying to think of a scenario in which he could pin it on any other Spur.
Okay, forget the comment on the Terry attack, this is most definitely the most absurd thing Skip has ever written...in this article. Really, this is classic Skip. Come up with some absurd theory that you have no reason to believe other than an idea popping into your head, select an incident (any incident will do; just draw one out of a hat), and find a way to make this incident support your claim. This is usually accomplished by making claims about what people were thinking or feeling.
The result: Wow Skip, you really have a point there. At first I didn't believe that the games were fixed by Cuban, but now that you mention it, that ref probably WAS trying to think of a scenario in which he could pin it on another Spur. But wait, since Duncan is the best player in the playoffs, and this was his sixth foul, wouldn't pinning it on another Spur have helped San Antonio out? But weren't you trying to say that the refs were against the Spurs? Oh, I'm confused. You're argument makes no sense.
It makes even less sense that this guy has a job...did I mention that the Mavs have been called for more fouls in the series than the Spurs have? No? Neither did Skip.
Add this to the list of the dumbest ideas on how to improve the world's game. Goal.com writer Pat Walsh suggests that officials should have a third card to show players, suggesting a blue card for offenses more egregious than a yellow card warrants, but not bad enough to issue a red.
Yellow cards are like technical fouls in basketball. If a player collects two during the course of a game, he is ejected, suspended for the next game, and the team must play the remainder of the contest without the possibility of a substitute. In Wednesday's Champions League Final, a red card issued in the first half forced Arsenal to play the rest of the game with only 10 men.
Here's why Walsh's idea is stupid.
1.) He says officials are hesitant about issuing yellow and red cards for fear of giving one team an unfair advantage. Nevermind the fact that cards and penalties are issued for one team giving THEMSELVES an unfair advantage. Also, the Champions League Final showed that officials are not at all gunshy about sending a player off early.
2.) If anything, a blue card would encourage MORE aggressive play, not less. Players would play less cautiously because under the current system, a fault would doom the rest of the team. Under Walsh's system, substitutes would be allowed, and the fear of setting the team back with a flagrant foul would be lost as one team is trying to gain the advantage.
3.) With a blue card sending a player to the showers, doesn't that already have the purpose of a red card?
Some other problems with this article- he claims that the final 73 minutes of the Champions League Final were "marred" because of a red card that "wasn't merited" and "an enormous mistake." Lies. The card was totally justified because it was a reckless play. Not malicious, but very stupid. Secondly, the final 73 minutes were some of the most intriguing, suspenseful football I have ever seen. Arsenal's vaunted defense held out for nearly the entire game against Barca's prolific offense. The Gunners were 15 minutes away from being crowned champions of Europe until a furious Barca rally sent the Catalans into jubilation. I wonder if he even watched the game, or if he just heard about it...
For those fine loyal readers who check this blog compulsively (we have many), I would like to apologize for our lax output this week. Because most of us are graduating this weekend, this week has been our Senior Week. As a result, my fellow authors have been persistently and thoroughly drunk--and therefore mostly unable to post--since last Friday.
As for me, I've used this hiatus to perform some exhausting analytical research necessary to uphold the quality of this blog in coming weeks.
Again, our sincerest apologies, and we will be back to posting with ridiculous frequency in a week or so.
Thank you Michael Campbell. Until proven otherwise, Michelle Wie cannot compete with the men. Coming from a respected recent major champion like Campbell, the thought that Wie should stick to playing with the women is validated. Campbell, one of the nicest guys in golf, would not be stating this if Wie had actually made a cut in a men's event in North America or Europe. Thanks to sponsors exemptions, she has had numerous chances. Even better, Wie has never won an LPGA event. It is time for her to take a step back, prove she can dominate the women's tour like Annika Sorenstam, and then come back and compete with the men. Until then, Wie does not deserve to be playing with them.
I'm only posting this to prove I was up this friggin' early in the morning. Lame. Stupid Gavin and having to get on the bus to go back to Puerto Rico.
So I'll just say that I like Barcelona in tomorrow's Champions League Final. On defense, Arsenal has gone 10 straight Champions League matches without surrendering a goal. Frankly, I think they're due. Barcelona just has too much firepower, especially with World Player of the Year Ronaldinho and Cameroon international Eto'o.
On the offensive side of the ball, although Arsenal plays attacking football in their domestic league, they have trouble finding the back of the net in Europe. They beat Villareal in the semifinals 1-0 on aggregate, beat Juventus 2-0 on aggregate in the quarterfinals, and beat Real Madrid 1-0 on aggregate in the Round of 16. In all of those two-game series, there was a game where Arsenal was shut out, and in the last two, the Gunners could not score away from Highbury. If Barca gets an early goal, the match may be over. Barca scored 16 goals in 6 Group Stage matches, Arsenal could only manage 10.
It should be an entertaining match, but I think the Catalans take it in the end. Then again, last year when AC Milan went up 3-0 on Liverpool before halftime, people thought that match was over...
Yesterday, during a quick Mother's Day trip home to the greater Chicago area (a.k.a. Suburbiaville, a.k.a. Whitebread, USA), I noticed one of the most hilarious/baffling/stupid advertisements I think I have ever seen. (Courtesy, Chicago Tribune)
If I can find an image of the ad, I will most definitely post it. But basically, it's your typical "Today @ 1pm on WGN: Cubs vs. __!" newspaper graphic ad with accompanying photo.
But get this; the ad's photo is of Neifi Perez.
...And he's squared up to bunt.
This image is wrong on so many levels. Let's count them:
1) The ad is an obvious reaction to the White Sox's World Series win last year, which (purportedly/laughably) was the result of the "Ozzie-ball" style of play that featured frequent runner movement and many bunts.
2) Neifi Perez is probably the least valuable player on the current Chicago Cubs' roster (.206 BA, .501 OPS this year, .679 lifetime OPS), and his very presence on the team only seems to compound the many problems that the Cubs now have.
3) I don't care how much game trends have changed over the last few years--bunts simply do not evoke passion or excitement (or attendance) from any fan base, let alone the thrill-happy Chicago Cub fanbase.
4) The ad is totally gay. (Basically the same observation as #3 but in less articulate terms.)
Neifi Perez? Bunting? For real???
(Wait...one more before I go...
5) Neifi Perez is such an awful hitter that he no doubt whiffed on the pictured bunt attempt.)
FC Dallas 1, Houston 1 - 120 degree field temperatures stifled two attacking teams in the second Texas derby match.
New England 3, Chivas USA 1- Twellman, Joseph, and Dorman connected for the Revolution on rainy afternoon in Foxborough.
Red Bull New York 1, Chicago Fire 1- New York star Amando Guevara, in protest for being called off the field in the 55th minute, watched the rest of the match in the stands with his wife.
Columbus 1, Colorado 0- Ned Grabavoy scores his first goal for the Black and Gold since being traded from LA midweek.
DC United 2, Kansas City 1- DC takes over Kansas City's spot at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Salt Lake 3, LA Galaxy 0- 19-match winless streak broken as RSL gets their first league win since August 6, 2005.
...Because if 'Sheed calls it, you know God wills it.
(By the way, the first sentence of that story is incredibly corny/hilarious.)
After a short-lived conversation with my brother this afternoon, and much further deliberation, I have come up with an NBA team that HAS to happen. The goal is to just have the entire team look like they are not from this planet. Start with Sam Cassell, and off we go...
PG - Steve Nash (How do I describe what Nash looks like?...you know what, just watch this video.
SG - Sam Cassell (The man? The myth? The alien)
SF - Tayshaun Prince (Nobody, and I mean nobody should be this...long. He looks like a Pictionary stick-figure.)
PF - Charlie Villanueva (Burn victim or alien?)
C - Chris Kaman (Remember that big white stiff in Men In Black that had the alien crawl inside of him? Well now he's using his super alien powers to help the Clippers, the Clippers, become a respectable team.)
And on the bench...
G - Reggie Miller (I'm sure he still has a few game-winners left in him.)
G - Rip Hamilton (As long as he's wearing the mask.)
F - Josh Boone (We'd draft him.)
F - Tyrone Hill (When this guy was on the same team as Sam Cassell, I remember thinking, "Why the hell would you start your world domination take-over in Milwaukee?")
F - Joakim Noah (Another solid pick up via the draft. And though the picture I've provided of him really doesn't do justice to his truly terrestrial background, I just thought it was too damn funny to not put up.)
Okay, well that's what I've got so far. I'm sure I'm missing people that should be on this team, so if I have unfairly given someone a label of 'normal looking' please correct my error.
Elgin Baylor will be named NBA Executive of the Year. The man long considered the worst GM in all major sports before Isiah spread his wings in New York has now built a Western Conference power. If Isiah Thomas would stop trading away draft picks, he'd take the torch Baylor has tried to hand him as King of the Lottery.
In this installment, I'll take a look at arguably the easiest and hardest groups in the tournament- the "Group of Death" in Group E and the coronation group in Group F.
Group E: Czech Republic, Italy, United States, Ghana
Italy is making their 16th World Cup Finals appearance, but I have some concerns about them sticking around in this one. The Azzuri are certainly a team that can play with anyone in the world, but their qualifying round was less then impressive. They were arguably placed in one of the easier groups in Europe to qualify from and only scored 17 goals in ten matches, while collecting 22 yellow cards. The Italian style of play is what most soccerphobes hate. Lots of diving, complaining, and bitching at the ref, and Italian teams usually get exposed in big competitions at the club and national team level. A match-fixing scandal emerging in Italy may also be a distraction as players worry about their domestic futures. The Czech Republic is an offensive juggernaut. They needed a play-off to get to the finals after finishing second in their qualifying group, but don't be fooled. This team scored 37 goals and only surrendered 12 in 12 matches. What may be even more remarkable is their card count. The Czechs only collected 14 yellow cards. They are a remarkably disciplined team. While every team in this group has a great shot at making it to the knockout stages, you can pretty much pencil the Czechs in right now. The good news for Ghana is that they are making their first appearance in the finals. The bad news is they have the most unfortunate nickname- "The Black Stars" after their country's flag, which has a black star on it. I can't wait for some announcer to say, "Is this serious?" after looking at the media guide. While I don't think Ghana will make it to the second round, they have a team that could very well decide who does. The first tiebreaker is goal differential, and Ghana doesn't give up many. Only 4 shots found the back of the net in 14 games of qualifying. This however will be Ghana's first shot at the world powers, and they may be overwhelmed. The Czechs, Italians, and Americans are a far cry from their qualifying group rivals of Burkina Faso, Uganda, and the DR Congo. Last but not least are the Americans. This is arguably the most discussed, most hyped American team in advance of any final. It is also arguably the best team that the USA has ever produced. It's hard to believe that only 8 years ago the Stars and Stripes finished in dead last: 32nd out of 32 at France '98. With a mixture of veterans and newcomers, European stars and homegrown talent in MLS, the United States is expected to match their quarterfinal appearance from 2002. However, several hurdles stand in their way. The most prominent is the US's atrocious record on European soil in the past few years. The United States have only won 1 game on European soil in manager Bruce Arena's 8-year tenure (a 1-0 win over Poland in 2004). In this competition, the United States has not won or tied any games in any European-hosted World Cups......ever! Their only wins/ties came in Uruguay '30, Brazil '50, USA '94, and Korea/Japan 2002. That comes out to an 0-7 performance in Europe. Don't be surprised if the Americans get humbled in their first match against the Czech Republic. That being said, I like the Americans chances against Italy because they're better disciplined, getting more yellow cards than the Italians, but also playing 8 more qualifying matches. Their goalkeeping in Kasey Keller is reliable, and the offensive strike force of Landon Donovan, Damarcus Beasley and newcomer Brian Ching will test opposing back lines. After all is said and done, I like the Czechs, and I'm going to go wayyyyyyyyy out on a limb here and say that I like the Americans, probably on a tiebreaker, so they better keep it close against the Czechs.
Group F: Brazil, Croatia, Japan, Australia
This group should be called "The race for second place" as the biggest question heading into this World Cup is "Can anybody beat Brazil?" The Brazilians are fast, skilled, terrific finishers, and have 2-time World Player of the Year Ronaldinho at the helm. Put them through to the next round...in pen. The rest of this group is harder to handicap. Australia is making their first appearance in the finals in 32 years, and needed a playoff win over Uruguay to secure it. The Socceroos are such a hard team to handicap because nobody knows anything about them. They have great numbers from qualifying, but that was all against Oceania minnows like the Solomon Islands and Fiji. They might manage to scrap a tie, but I see three straight losses for the team from the land down under. Japan turned in a great performance at the last world Cup, making it to the knockout stages, but they should have. They were playing on their home soil. With the Brazilians already through, and the Australians pretty much out of the competition already, it is essentially a head to head comparison between the Japanese and the Croats. The Japanese have a goal differential of +20 in 12 qualifying matches, the Croats have a lesser differential, but what is more impressive is their qualifying resume, which includes a pair of 1-0 wins over offensive juggernaut Sweden. As much as Japanese football has progressed over the last 10 years, I still like the Croats. Brazil, Croatia. Book em.
Okay, not really Tom Selleck, actually NFL.com's Pat Kirwan. Anyway, this guy is generally terrible, but he wrote a recent article about how "you can't grade NFL draft classes until like 4 years down the line," blah blah blah. Cliched and boring, for the most part but nothing too eggregious (see this for one of Kirwan's real gems).
Anyway, the article is generally mediocre but Kirwan decides to end it with the following statement:
You can make your own decisions about a draft class that can actually be graded.
What the FUCK does that mean?
The Dolphins and Lions finally got the deal done to move Joey Harrington to Miami for a conditional draft pick. It's about time, the rumors of this damn deal have been going on forever. Now, while I think it's easy (and admittedly, accurate) to call Harrington a bust-ola in Detroit, I'm on the bandwagon of people who kinda think this guy may not be done yet in the NFL.
The popular argument of course is that Joey Harrington deserves all the blame in the world for his failures in Detroit because of the talent surrounding him at WR. In reality, though, that's an unfair assessment of the actual situation in Detroit. While the Lions invested first round picks on WRs in three straight drafts (a monumentally stupid move by Matt Millen, by the way), that doesn't mean that Harrington was suddenly surrounded by top-tier talent on offense. Roy Williams has been a great talent, but the other two? Not so much...
Charles Rogers, the oldest of the three wideouts is only 24 and in his three seasons in the NFL has only played 15 games and has one (one!) TD catch. Last year, Mike Williams amassed only 350 receiving yards and one touchdown as he struggled to make an impact in 14 games last year as a rookie. The point is this: most of the time, Harrington's weapons were as young and inexperienced as he was (at both WR and with RB Kevin Jones) and not the impact players that people like to assume they were merely because of their first round selection. In fact, more often Harrington's targets included the likes of Az Zahir-Hakim and Kevin Johnson, names that few people would allege as being top flight NFL receivers.
While the lack of experience surrounding him doesn't totally mitigate Harrington's struggles in Detroit, it should be acknowledged more often than it is when evaluating his performance thus far. In Miami, Harrington's targets will have certainly less name recognition (aside from Chris Chambers), but more experience in the league (like Marty Booker, a solid veteran posession receiver). That may make a difference.
Also important here is the simple "change of scenery" factor. For a lot of NFL QBs, a negative reputation is really difficult to shake. But, a lot of times, a simple change of address can alleviate a lot of the pressure and do wonders for a QB's career (think Jake Plummer with the Broncos and Rich Gannon in Oakland).
Of course, this all becomes academic if Culpepper is actually healthy, in which case Harrington is relegated to being a #2 quarterback. But, considering the fervor with which the Dolphins pursued Harrington, Culpepper's status is probably still pretty uncertain. In any case, I'm on board with the moves the Dolphins have made at quarterback based on the simple fact that all they've given up to acquire two good QBs is a 2nd round pick and a conditional draft choice.
Also: the whole "Harrington is a bust" thing got me thinking about guys from the 2002 draft that have Ryan Leafed way more than Joey Harrington:
4th Overall: Mike Williams, OT Buffalo Bills
7th Overall: Bryant McKinnie, OT Minnesota Vikings
12th Overall: Wendell Bryant, DT Arizona Cardinals
16th Overall: William Green, RB Cleveland Browns
22nd Overall: Bryan Thomas, DE New York Jets
29th Overall: Mark Columbo, OT Chicago Bears
Hope you enjoyed my blabbering post, and remember: I'm probably wrong about all of this, I'm the guy that still thinks Patrick Ramsey is a legit NFL player.
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