Thursday, May 28, 2009

Learning from Sweet Lou

Between Lou Pineilla and Carlos Zambrano, temper tantrums aren't a rarity in the Chicago Cubs clubhouse. But after a close play at home plate yesterday, Zambrano took flipping out to a new level. If you haven't caught a glimpse of it on SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight, here's a rundown of what happened.

During a 7th inning passed ball, Zambrano was covering home plate to try to tag out Pittsburgh Pirates runner Nyjer Morgan. The bang-bang call went to Pittsburgh, causing Big Z to lose it. Shortly after getting in the umpire's face, Zambrano was ejected.

Now, when I first saw the video, I didn't see what happened. Apparently, following his ejection, he threw the baseball far, far away. I never saw the ball, so when the replay came on, it appeared that Zambrano was ejecting the home plate umpire. I like my version better.

Anyway, Zambrano went on to slam his glove against the dugout fence. He was just getting started.

I'm not sure whose bat he grabbed from the rack - hopefully, it was his own - but he unleashed several swings of fury onto the Gatorade machine in the dugout. The Cubs may suffer from dehydration tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers, because there has to be an "Out of Order" sign taped to that machine. The guys in Office Space were gentle to the copier compared to how Big Z treated the drink dispenser.

Zambrano only received a 6-game suspension, which gives him plenty of time to finish destroying the rest of the clubhouse. If you know anything about the guy, you know he's probably not over this latest tilt.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Do your part!

Tonight is the night that the war of words between the WWE and the Denver Nuggets centered around. World Wrestling Entertainment was scheduled to have its show in the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO until the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers advanced to the Western Conference Finals. The NBA had Game 4 of the series slated to be played tonight. However, the WWE had signed a contract last year to hold Monday Night Raw in Denver tonight as well.

When the NBA released the schedule, the conflict became headline news and Kroenke simply said "see ya" to Vince McMahon and the WWE was forced to scramble and find another place to host the show. Several cities offered, before the WWE settled on Los Angeles.

The entire situation was handled poorly by Kroenke, who could have attempted to reach an agreement with the McMahon family. Instead, his primary concern was his team and his arena.

McMahon fired back admirably, rubbing in the fact that Kroenke didn't have enough faith in his own team to keep that date open. It was awesome.

So what does this have to do with anybody reading this? Well, you can help stick it to Kroenke, even if you don't like the WWE.

At 9 p.m., tune in to USA for Monday Night Raw. If you have DirecTV, do the same, but at 6 p.m. Help boost ratings for the WWE. If you don't want to watch, put it on mute or something. As long as it's on.

Also, pass up on watching Game 4 of the Lakers-Nuggets series. First off, it's not even the Finals. Second off, it's the NBA, which is much less entertaining than the college game. Third, it would stick it to Kroenke. Finally, it's the right thing to do. The WWE had the building reserved and were unceremoniously booted by the guy who owned it, despite having an agreement. There really isn't a great way to voice your displeasure, but the ratings would help reflect the public's sentiment to some extent.

If you feel like I do, whether you like or dislike wrestling, tune in to Monday Night Raw tonight. I'll be working from 6-11, but my TV will be turned to wrestling, even if I won't be watching. Hopefully, you'll be doing the same.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The best sport nobody on this side of the Mississippi knows about

Has anyone besides me watched lacrosse? Maybe it's the similarities to hockey that I love about it (hard hitting, fast, methodical) or maybe it's the fact I haven't seen a lot of it, so the sport is relatively new to me, but I could see myself glued to the tube for a lacrosse marathon if ESPN ever decides to run one.

Right now, Cornell is destroying the top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers 15-6 with just a couple minutes left and have a two-man advantage for 60 seconds. Now, I don't know much about lacrosse, but even I know that Virginia has been awful on both ends of the field for all four quarters of the game.

Lanes have been left open all afternoon for the Big Red to shoot through, while the Cavaliers tallied just one goal in the first 25 minutes of the game. Virginia hasn't been within five goals since about the early part of the second quarter.

Despite the blowout, however, I'm enthralled. The goaltenders record save percentages that would have NHL netminders pulled and released in a matter of minutes, but are All-Stars. There are power plays. Teams can move the ball 80 yards and score in seconds, like Cornell did late in the second quarter. If the ball goes out of bounds on a missed shot, whoever is closer to it where it rolls out gains possession, but if a pass goes out of bounds, it's a turnover.

It can be fast and hectic or slow and deliberate, depending on a team's style of play. Lacrosse has its fair share of highlight-reel goals, but also highlight-reel saves. The players don't really stop moving, whether on offense or defense. And games are fairly high scoring.

A lot of these qualities are what people love about sports, but nobody realizes that lacrosse has them.

Fortunately, I'm here to spread the word. If you get a chance, check out a lacrosse game, whether on TV or in person. If you like speed, hitting and scoring, you won't be disappointed.

It's basically the opposite of soccer in those aspects. You can't go wrong.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I can't believe I'm rooting for the Lakers

As one of Bill Simmons' readers said, "Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the house in blackjack."

Well, this isn't quite on the same level as that, at least in my eyes, but for the next six games (since Game 1 is in the books), I'm rooting for the Los Angeles Lakers to defeat the Denver Nuggets. I know, it's gross.

It's not that I'm upset Denver bounced the Dallas "If I had a favorite team, they would probably be it" Mavericks from the postseason or anything. In fact, the Nuggets torching of New Orleans in Game 4 of their first-round series made me like them more. Except for Kenyon Martin. I hate Kenyon Martin.

But if anything is going to suck me away from the NHL playoffs and attract me to the NBA, and at this point, it may be the only thing that could do it, it would be a Kobe-LeBron finals.

The best thing about the NHL playoffs so far has been Ovechkin-Crosby and all six people who were watching it got to see that matchup seven times. I was one of those people, at least for a few games, and it was as enthralling a series as I've ever seen in hockey, save for the Chiefs-Americans playing five of seven games in OT a season ago, and that still wasn't top-level hockey.

But a Kobe-LeBron duel would top it for several reasons, and these are coming from somebody who doesn't even like the NBA.

First, Bryant and James would be on the court for just about all 48 minutes. Hockey plays in shifts, so when Crosby and Ovechkin are on the ice, it's electric, but only for 60 or 90 seconds at a time. Kobe and LeBron, meanwhile, spend nearly every second on the court. There are no breathers while the clock is in motion, unless one of the coaches wants to throw his team out on the hardwood at a disadvantage. For either team to win, their superstar has to outplay the other for an entire game. In hockey, it simply doesn't work that way.

Second, each player plays both ends of the court. Sure, you hear about the offensive talents of Alex and Sidney, but neither are a huge factor on the other end of the ice. But as good as #23 and #24 are with the ball, they're just as good without it. Both Bryant and James were All-Defensive First Team Selections this season and while it was James' first appearance on the list, Bryant has been a mainstay for the better part of the decade. Since the 1999-2000 season, Kobe has been a First- or Second-Team choice every year except in 2004-05. Amid the points and assists these players would rack up, you'd also see blocks and steals to add to the quality this finals matchup would produce.

Third, this meeting would be for the title. Crosby-Ovechkin was amazing and I don't want to take away from it, but they were only playing for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. After their dramatic Game 7 clash, the victor still had two win two series to hoist the trophy. Kobe and LeBron would be going head-to-head to be crowned champions. A series pitting these two against each other would end the NBA season, so there's zero doubt that absolutely everything would be left on the court and both players would exhaust every ounce of energy to top the other. Is there any doubt this series would go the distance? It would have to.

Fourth, each player is attempting to put their stamp on history. Kobe has a few rings, but it's often noted that he hasn't been able to win one without Shaq Diesel. He failed spectacularly a season ago as the Boston Celtics stomped LA in Game Six in the Garden by 39 and hasn't reached an NBA Finals in any other season without him, while Shaq won a title in Miami alongside Dwyane Wade.

LeBron might be the successor to MJ as "The Best Player Ever" but Air Jordan won six titles. James is still seeking his first. Of course, Michael had a great supporting cast with Scottie Pippen, BJ Armstrong, Toni Kukoc and the best NBA Head Coach ever in Phil Jackson, but critics aren't going to have much sympathy for King James, despite his second best player being Mo Williams and his head coach being the anti-Phil Jackson. Sports greatest players find ways of winning championships (unless their name is Dan Marino). This would be LeBron's second, and best, chance in his young career.

Finally, this would be the optimal setting to finalize the debate about who is currently the NBA's best player. Kobe Bryant won the 2008 MVP. LeBron James won the 2009 MVP. Each are compared to the other at all times during the season and every spors media member has pondered the question at one point or another. A great case can be made for either player, but if they face off in the 2009 NBA Finals, the analysts, writers, spectators will almost be forced to choose the player who leads his team to the title. And you know for an absolute fact that neither wants to be runner-up to the other when they know that everyone who follows sports will be eying this series if it happens.

But that's still a big "if" considering that Denver gave the Lake Show a run for their money in Game 1 and Orlando got the best of the Cavs during the regular season.

I think it's safe to say, however, that I'm not the only one swallowing their pride when I say "Go Lakers."

Oh, and uh...Go Cavs.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The best thing since the NES

One of my best friends of All-Time, Aaron May, just proved why he's reached that status, sending me this gem from It's basically a portable NES system.

About the size of a Nintendo DS, the system allows you to plug in any NES game, while serving as the controller and the television, and take it wherever you'd like.

The gadget also comes with A/V out cables, allowing you to hook it up to your sweet 60" Plasma TV and play RBI Baseball, River City Ransom or Tetris all day long.

In a world with the most realistic video game features imaginable and some of the highest-quality games ever produced, the makers of this product have managed to sneak up on the entire world and take them all down with one 2.4" screen.

Now, all I need is $50 and 4 AA batteries and I'm set for life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

And since I'm on a hockey high...

ESPN's Poll currently asks which is the best head-to-head rivalry in sports right now?

Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal (30%)

Alexander Ovechkin/Sidney Crosby (27%)

Kobe Bryant/LeBron James (34%)

Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson (9%)

I'm here to make the case for my vote: Ovechkin/Crosby.

If you want to take the question literally, it has to be Ovie and Sid the Kid. Federer and Nadal haven't met in a tennis final in a while. Kobe and LeBron are still a couple weeks away from being the best of these four. Woods and Mickelson aren't the best, since neither are playing at their best right now anyway.

Ovechkin and Crosby are about to head to Game 7 of their second round series. In Game 2, Washington defeated Pittsburgh 4-3. Ovechkin had a hat trick. So did Crosby. In the series, Alex has 13 points, Sid has 10. Ovechkin has 10 goals in 13 playoff games. Crosby has 10 goals in 12. They've played their best hockey against the other and who knows what lies ahead tomorrow night.

If you want to take the question figuratively, though, it's still the hockey rivalry. What does it matter if Tiger and Phil are battling atop the leaderboard at the Masters if they both falter and neither winds up in contention? And it isn't like they're solely battling one another - they're up against everyone.

Nadal and Federer is good, but with Federer's troubles lately, it's typically a foregone conclusion when the two meet. Even when Roger was the top-ranked player, you knew almost always who would win between the two. On clay, Nadal dominated. On anything else, Federer had the edge. This isn't anything close to Sampras-Agassi and never will be since each has a clear-cut advantage on their surface of choice.

Kobe and LeBron are the two best players in the game without question, but how is it even a rivalry when they meet once a season? It should get better in a couple weeks and over the next few years when they meet in the finals year in and year out. But until that happens, they're playing their own game. Bird-Magic was a great rivalry because the Celtics and Lakers engaged in several NBA Finals appearances, but Bryant and James haven't done that yet.

But Ovechkin and Crosby are the best in the game and they see plenty of each other. Being in the same conference, the Caps and Pens play each other several times in the regular season. They just added seven meetings over the past week and a half. Each are matching the other goal for goal and win for win. Ovechkin is the better goal scorer and physical presence, Crosby the better overall offensive player. And each will bring out the best in the other in Game 7. The game's best player might be judged by many as the one who leads his team to victory tomorrow night. There's your rivalry.

By the way, don't forget to read the blog below this. I posted them within about a half hour of each other, so there are two new ones. Hope you like reading about hockey.

The best postseason nobody is watching

If the National Hockey League is EVER going to burst back onto the scene in the United States, it will happen after the 2009 playoffs are through. With very few people having Versus (a TV channel) and ESPN bumping most hockey headlines down in the pecking order, how many people aware of what's been happening through the first two rounds?

If something like this was happening in the NBA, we would be getting baseball highlights on ESPN Deportes, because ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic and ESPNU would be flooded with three seventh games, including one between Kobe and LeBron (in this case, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin), the news that the regular season's best team was knocked out by an 8 seed in six games in the opening round and the next two best teams are headed home for a do-or-die Game 7. Instead, only Washington and Pittsburgh will get much air time on Sportscenter, as the major sports networks will likely defer to news about Brett Favre sending medical reports to the Vikings and Manny Ramirez not apologizing to his teammates and give Boston-Carolina and Detroit-Anaheim five total minutes with the token Barry Melrose analysis included.

In the NBA, the storylines revolve around who will be defeated on the road to the inevitable Cleveland-Los Angeles Finals and who was just lost for the season with an injury.

Sure, the Magic and Celtics are heading for a Game 6 in Orlando and likely a seventh game in Beantown, but when they advance to Cleveland, will either have a prayer? Orlando can't beat the Cavs without Jameer Nelson and Boston couldn't defeat Cleveland with KG, so they probably won't win one game without him.

In the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets have torched New Orleans and Dallas, but only have a puncher's chance against a team with two superstars and a solid supporting cast. As long as Kobe and Pau Gasol are healthy, the Nuggets can't win. Yeah, they'll win a game or two (maybe three), but Kobe's play will dictate the series and you can bet he'll be salivating over the chance to face LeBron for the title.

And when the Cavs and Lakers face off for the championship, everyone should be amped. It will be a memorable series and a career-defining one for both Kobe and LeBron. But that's still a couple weeks away.

In the NHL, the Stanley Cup is completely up for grabs with seven teams still alive. Boston is the best team remaining, but Carolina has been the hottest over the last few weeks. Washington has the game's best player, but the Penguins have the best 1-2 punch in Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Anaheim has already knocked off the league's best team in convincing fashion, but Detroit is the most experienced team and are the reigning champs. And the Blackhawks have the top young core in hockey, with an experienced netminder and a very capable defense. Plus, they just came off a seven-goal outing against the league's best goaltender, Roberto Luongo, to wrap up their second-round series.

The Hurricanes and Capitals are entering their second Game 7 in as many series, while the Bruins and Red Wings are playing a Game 7 after first-round sweeps.

And a slew of goaltenders are making a name for themselves after a season, or career, spent in relative anonymity, even to hockey fans.

Caps goaltender Simeon Varlamov was in the pipes for six games during the regular season, backing Jose Theodore. But after Theo's struggles in the first game of the first round, Varlamov has taken over and started 13 consecutive games, leading his team to the brink of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Anaheim's Jonas Hiller split time with Jean-Sebastien Giguere during the regular season before bursting onto the scene by knocking off the San Jose Sharks and is on the verge of doing the same to the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. Six seasons ago, Giguere led the Ducks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and two seasons ago, Giguere won the title with Anaheim. Now, he's taking a seat to the young upstart Hiller.

Vezina Trophy finalist Tim Thomas had never been out of the first round of the playoffs until 2009. The Bruins' 35-year-old netminder played in his first postseason last year, losing a seven-game heartbreaker to the Montreal Canadiens. This season, he led Boston to the Eastern Conference's best record after posting the best goals against average in the league and has maintained his level of play into the Eastern Conference semifinals. His reward, should he defeat Carolina in Game 7? Ovechkin or Crosby.

What's not to love in the weeks to come? The possibility of the upstart Hiller facing some of the best offensive young talent in the league in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks? Or that explosive offense facing another in the Detroit Red Wings?

In the East, the best team could face the best player or best players. Or Carolina, a team which already went through all-time wins leader Martin Brodeur to get to the Bruins, could face one of the best young goalies in Varlamov or another in Marc-Andre Fleury, who's been overshadowed by Crosby and Malkin.

Beyond that, both two seeds could face in the finals or both six seeds could battle. There could be a rematch of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, or the West's lowest seed could go through both conference's top seeds to capture the Cup. There could be an Original Six matchup in the Finals if Boston faces either the Wings or Blackhawks.

The last three times Detroit won the Cup, they defeated the Penguins (2008), Hurricanes (2002) and Capitals (1998). The last time Pittsburgh won, they beat Chicago, which was the last time the Blackhawks were in a Stanley Cup Finals. The last three champions are all still alive.

The possibilities are in anything-can-happen mode.

And everyone is missing it, thanks to none of the major networks airing hockey, except for a game or two on the weekends.

Here's hoping ratings are high on those days. The NHL Playoffs are as good as they've been in recent memory and have the potential to get better in the coming years.

And in the coming series, if you can believe it.

P.S. Don't miss Game 7 tomorrow between Pittsburgh and Washington (sigh...on Versus). If you don't believe what I've written, just watch that game. You will believe me by the time it's over.

Friday, May 8, 2009

It's amazing he isn't in the Big Leagues yet! Oh wait...

Pat Venditte is a minor league prospect in the New York Yankees' system. I'm not being biased when I say he isn't a great right-handed pitcher. But he's a decent right-handed pitcher. And I'm not being biased when I say he isn't a great left-handed pitcher. But he's a decent left-handed pitcher.

That's correct. Venditte is ambidextrous and is dominating the minor leagues. His glove is six-fingered to allow him to switch hands from hitter to hitter. The minor leagues had to implement a rule to prevent switch hitters and Venditte from going back and forth on which side of the plate to hit from and which arm to throw with, causing the game to stall. He has a 0.00 ERA so far this season.

Meanwhile, in the Bronx, A.J. Burnett has a 5.26 ERA. Mark Melancon is at 5.40. Jonathan Albaladejo stands at 6.43. Jose Veras is at 7.20. And then it gets ugly.

Damaso Marte is at 15.19. Chien-Ming Wang more than doubles that at 34.50. And poor Anthony Claggett sports a robust 43.20 ERA, thanks to allowing 8 earned in 1.2 innings.

So what does it say about the Yankees' organization when a guy who can throw with both hands is stuck in Single-A at 23 years old? Either that they're awful at managing their rosters or that the kid is nothing more than novelty.

In the last paragraph of his article, Reilly claims that the kid is still a few years away from joining the Yanks. But the rest of the paragraph is nothing more than a joke.

Red Sox Nation: Is this kid worth worrying about in the near future?

Uh, no.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

He probably thought it was a Flintstone vitamin

No, this isn't Manny Jr. This is what Manny Ramirez looked like as a rookie with the Cleveland Indians in 1993.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and take shots at Manny Ramirez for testing positive for a banned drug. The man was instrumental in securing not one, but two World Series Championships in a Red Sox uniform, so to sit here and drill him while staring at the banners in Fenway Park on NESN (Sox are up 1-0 in the 2nd) would be very hypocritical.

Whether or not he was on the juice with Boston might not be known, though the evidence is mounting that he probably wasn't clean. But really, it doesn't matter. This isn't about the player that he is or was. It's about his legacy in Beantown.

Boston tried desperately to jettison Ramirez over the years, not just through trades, but also through waivers. They never had a taker. And, like I mentioned earlier, they won two titles.

Then, in 2008, with Manny in a contract year, he tanked a couple months, blaming a balky knee (which, oddly enough, hasn't bothered him in LA). Finally, after a seven-and-a-half-year relationship, the Sox acquired Jason Bay in a three-team trade which saw Ramirez head west. For the rest of the season, it turned out to be a win-win for Boston and Los Angeles (Pittsburgh, unfortunately, got Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen from the Sox. Ouch.). Bay and Ramirez torched pitching throughout the rest of the regular season and into the postseason before the Sox and Dodgers were bounced in the ALCS and NLCS, respectively.

In April of 2009, both Bay and Ramirez got off to hot starts. That trend won't continue in May, June and part of July. For the next 50 games, Boston can bask in the fact that they have a left fielder. The Dodgers, not so much.

Sources have claimed the positive test was due to a sexual-enhancement drug. Others have their own doubts. Regardless, it doesn't change anything for me.

I grew up in the steroids era, so I'm pretty indifferent to anybody, even superstars such as Ramirez, being found guilty of steroid use. Call it cheating if you are old school, or because it's fashionable or whatever. By the late '90s, however, virtually everyone was on the same playing field. It wasn't even illegal until recently.

But under the new rules, Ramirez will pay the price and rightfully so. Not only will the 50-game suspension cost him almost $7.7 million, but it will also irreparably damage his legacy in the eyes of many.

When Manny hangs up the cleats for good and is Hall of Fame eligible in the coming years, I may look back on his career and his impact on Boston from 2001-2008 and feel some sort of sympathy for one of the greatest players to don a Red Sox jersey. I hope I do. For now, I don't. The terms under which he left don't help matters, but it's more than that. I guess as long as Jason Bay is being Jason Bay and Manny is wearing another uniform, I can't feel too bad for the guy.

Regardless, I haven't forgotten what he did for the Sox during the prime of his career. I hope that when he does retire, people remember what he helped do for the city of Boston, whether he was on steroids, Viagra or Flintstone vitamins. That, above anything, should be his legacy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Spo- prefix

I hinted that this was coming in my last blog and now I have the time to address it, so here goes...

Can someone explain to me what the allure is to referring to Spokane as Spo- whatever? It may have been cute when it started, but after a good 30 seconds, it had worn out its welcome.

A few years ago, Spokanada and Spokompton broke onto the scene. I could see the parallels regarding both of these to a point - Spokane's weather and winter sports scene is reminiscient of that in Canada (OK, you got me...that's just speculation since I've still never been to Canada...sigh) and Hillyard is most definitely Compton-ish (again, never been to Compton...stay with me).

I kept waiting and waiting for these nicknames to go by the wayside. Years passed. Now, in 2009, their staying power has resembled that of Keanu Reeves' career. It should have ended a long time ago, but for some reason, hasn't.

This trend reached heights it never should have on Sunday morning at Bloomsday when a group of individuals stumping for the legalization of marijuana donned "Spocannibis" T-shirts roadside.

What does that even mean? What's the connection between Spokane and cannibis? I understand the Spokanada and Spokompton monikers even though I don't like them - both are geographical areas with similarities. But Spokane and weed? Really? Both are green, I guess. That's it.

It's been out of control for too long. We already have Spokandy. How long is it before a local store markets Spokan-openers and Spokandles. What if REI manufactures Spokantenes?

I gotta get out of here... I Spokan't take it anymore.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monkey see, monkey do

Stretching to play the first seven innings, guys?

With Alex Rodriguez out of action for another week or so, somebody had to step up when the game didn't matter as much and choke on the big stage. That's where the Yankees' $180 million man comes in.

After blasting two solo home runs to cut Yankee deficits to the Boston Red Sox tonight, Tex came up with two on and one out in the bottom of the ninth with New York trailing the Sox 6-4. His third home run of the game would have given the Bronx Bombers a dramatic 7-6 walkoff win. Instead, like his injured third baseman, he came up empty in the clutch, striking out against Jonathan Papelbon, who ended the game two hitters later in Boston's 6-4 win.

If New York wants, I know plenty of places where they can find guys who can hit a few homers and do nothing when it matters (like Staten Island and Trenton), but I guess they'd rather shell out hundreds of millions for big names. At least Teixeira and Rodriguez can put people in the seats in the new Yankee Stadium.

Just kidding. That place held more Sox fans than Yanks fans tonight.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I came here to run, not to join the cause

Another year has passed and another dreadful Bloomsday run is in the books. This year, I broke down near Mile 1 and probably ended up finishing around 1:15. More than ever, Bloomsday 2009 wreaked havoc on my body.

What wreaked havoc on my mind, however, were the attendees roadside who were there for no other reason than to promote their cause. Mile 5 was definitely the worst as Doomsday Hill was lined with individuals looking to get marijuana legalized, looking to get a person elected to office and looking to recruit paintball players (the paintball posse was also located on Miles 1 and 3 of the 12k race). On Mile 7 was a religious group handing out advertisements for their church or organization or whatever. I just saw "Jesus" and "Christianity" and decided not to reach for one of their handouts.

I understand that this is well within their rights and all, but come on ... can't this shameless stumping for one agenda or another happen another time? I also realize Bloomsday is a great way to get tens of thousands of people to glance at whatever you're braving the cold for at 10 in the morning on a Sunday, but these individuals were eye sores in a sea of crazed Spokanites (I can't believe I just used that word...) cheering on friends, family and complete strangers. Which reminds me...

It wouldn't hurt for these crusaders to offer up the occasional "Great job runners!" as people fly by or, in my case, limp by. It would even draw eyes to what you're about (which is the goal, right?). But each time I passed these groups, I encountered marijuana propaganda (Spocannibis? Really? Look for a blog in the coming days about Spo - fill in something that sounds like it has Can in it here.), people staring blankly at passing runners with their arms stretched out (the religious front) or silence (from the people who wanted me to vote for what's her face?). I'm sure these people weren't above rooting runners on from the race's beginning to end, but when I passed, the only "You're doing great's" came from the people there to watch others run a race.

And that's all I wanted to do in the first place: run the race. That is what Bloomsday is about, correct? Unfortunately, maybe not for much longer.

Friday, May 1, 2009

I'm not surprised...I'm a Sox fan

Usually when teams win 11 straight games, they can hang with any team at any time. Even after losing the heartbreaker to the Cleveland Indians which snapped the streak, they came back and won the next night to get back on track. Then they went to Tampa Bay.

If you're not a Sox fan, you don't understand that a series in Tampa is not as fun as it was earlier in the decade. The Rays can play now. They hit well, they field well and they pitch well. Especially against Boston.

In game one, the Sox got as many baserunners in nine innings as Tampa did ... hitting off of Jonathan Van Every. Boston's right fielder allowed a hit and a walk in 2/3 of an inning. Matt Garza allowed a hit and a walk in 7 2/3 innings before Grant Balfour finished the one-hitter. The Rays won 13-0.

Coming back tonight with Justin Masterson on the bump against Andy Sonnanstine, I figured it would be a close contest. And it was. Until the fifth inning. Up 2-0 when the inning began, Tampa cut the lead to 2-1 and had the bases loaded with two outs for Evan Longoria.

Understand this about Longoria (and yeah, I'm writing in the heat of the moment, but I mean every word I'm about to put down). He is the scariest hitter in the game. Not Alex Rodriguez. Not Ryan Howard. Not Albert Pujols. I repeat, not Albert Pujols, just so you know I knew what I was writing. Evan Longoria puts a fear into me that nobody else does. Derek Jeter has hit like .836 in his career against the Red Sox. But Longoria is easily around .900. And he's 23 years old, so unless the Sox pony up a few hundred million in a few years, Boston fans will be sitting through this for a couple more decades.

Anyway, when he came up, two thoughts ran through my head. One is that the Sox should just walk him intentionally, bring in the tying run, and take your chances with Carlos Pena. I understand there were two outs and I understand that nobody since Barry Bonds has been issued a free pass with the sacks full, but I didn't care. That was thought one.

Thought two was that I was following the game on ESPN Gamecast and I didn't even want to look at the screen, figuring I was about to see the equivalent of a bad train wreck. But, like the result of a bad train wreck, I couldn't look away. And on a 2-2 pitch, Longoria, obviously, hit a grand slam, his seventh home run of the season and fourth (in five games) against Boston. To go with that, 13 of his 28 RBIs are against Boston and he's hitting just .455 on the season against the Sox.

In last season's ALCS, Longoria was only 7 for 27, but hit four homers in the series. In his rookie year, he ended with a .272 average, 27 homers and 85 RBIs in being named Rookie of the Year. Pujols was considerably better in his 22-year-old season (.314, 34, 127), but I'm stubborn and am saying that Longoria is the league's best player right now. Even if Pujols is at .356 and nine homers.

As a Sox fan, given the choice, I'd send any pitcher to the mound and would rather face Pujols than Longoria. And if I could have either on my team, give me Longoria.

As far as I'm concerned, that's how I define the game's best player.