Friday, July 23, 2010

This article cracks my top-5 nightmares list...

Question: Would the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees ever pull off a trade of any meaningful significance? It wouldn't have to be of the Babe Ruth sale magnitude, but we wouldn't exactly be talking a Single-A player swap either.

According to this guy who felt the need to freak me out today, there are a couple deals that would make sense for both sides.

The less scary scenario presented sent Mike Lowell and a pitching prospect to the Bronx for Mark Melancon. It solves the Yanks' DH problems and Boston's bullpen need.

The more scary scenario presented sent David Ortiz, Jose Iglesias and Ryan Kalish to New York for Joba Chamberlain and Jesus Montero.

First, for my own sanity, let's crush these two ideas. If Boston ever sent a World Series hero directly to New York, it would cause a backlash among Red Sox Nation that would make the 2004 Nomar Garciaparra trade seem like nothing more than a murmur. Both Lowell (2007 World Series MVP) and Ortiz (who hit roughly .914 in the last eight games of their 2004 title run) fit the bill there. Papi, even with his struggles over the past two years, is still the most beloved Sox player on the roster.

In the Lowell deal, the Yankees would send just Melancon to Beantown. While the Lowell/prospect combo isn't the sweetest of deals, Melancon has a career ERA of just under 5.00 and is the exact player people talk about when they describe a AAAA player: too good for Triple-A, but not good enough for the bigs. No thanks.

In the Ortiz deal, Boston would also ship Iglesias and Kalish out of town. Iglesias is Boston's long-term solution to their shortstop problems since the departure of Nomah. Since 2004, the 6-spot has seen Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, Alex Gonzalez (twice), Alex Cora, Julio Lugo, Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro for significant periods of time. It makes less than zero sense to both compound those problems and give the Yankees an heir apparent to Derek Jeter.

Kalish is a highly-touted outfielding prospect who could fit in well with Jacoby Ellsbury and a free agent in a couple years, assuming someone like Josh Reddick or Ryan Westmoreland doesn't step up by then. By offering Ortiz-Iglesias-Kalish, Boston would have to get something huge in return.

And technically, they would. Chamberlain is a fatty. Sure, Joba has shown flashes of brilliance, but he's also taken a big step back this season by being inconsistent and unreliable as Mariano Rivera's setup man. Boston needs bullpen help, but bringing in a guy with a 5.66 ERA isn't exactly a good fix. The only good side is that Chamberlain would become a pariah immediately. Heck, he would even replace Bill Hall as my least favorite Red Sox player. Barely.

Montero would be a nice addition and I haven't grown to hate him yet, but even New York's top catching prospect isn't enough to make this a good trade for Boston. He and Iglesias might be a push, which means you're offering Ortiz and Kalish for Joba? I'll pass.

Second, if any talks even surface that a deal is being kicked around, I'll never forgive the article's author for putting the wheels in motion. I can't figure out how a writer for could find humor in this, as well as not cringe with every word he wrote. Heck, I was cringing writing what I did and I shot down his ideas.

It's just the way it is with this rivalry and to not understand that is idiotic. I know the idea is to build the best team you can, but at the same time, you don't want the team you're chasing in the standings to become better. Especially at the expense of your fan base.

But thanks for the idea, Peter Abraham! Good luck finding a new job!

Show them the money

It’s not often in sports when a person or team does the right thing when it’s not also the easy thing to do. I would like to applaud USC and new AD Pat Haden in how they handled the recent misdoings in their Men’s Basketball and Football programs. They sent a clear and powerful message to all present and future USC student athletes. That message is that cheating will not be accepted.

USC has removed the Heisman Trophy awarded to Reggie Bush from its trophy case. O.J. Simpson’s Heisman is still there and he is a double murderer. But not only did USC remove the Heisman, they removed all images of Reggie Bush. USC has given the same treatment to O.J. Mayo. Two of the schools top and most celebrated athletes in the new millennium have been given this treatment. If I was an incoming frosh at USC I would be on the up and up.

Pat Haden could have easily pushed these issues to the back burner and give a statement about how “USC is focused on the future” and avoided it all. But he didn’t. He did the right thing and I am sure that many Trojan fans weren’t happy about it. Lane Kiffin, if you read this, be on your best behavior because I have a feeling you have one short leash right now.

The USC issue and the current situation with SEC football players and agents makes me wonder why these guys don’t get paid. I know Title IX would force the women to get paid too and they should. In 2010, the SEC signed a contract with ESPN for the rights to their football and men’s and women’s basketball games. That contract is worth $2 billion. Yah that’s right $2 billion. There are 12 teams in the SEC, so by some simple math that is roughly $11 million a year per school. You’re telling me each student athlete should get at least a small amount of that. I don’t blame the players for taking money from agents, especially with rules forcing players to go/stay in school a certain amount of time. One and doners in college basketball don’t even go to class the second semester. It’s a joke. I don’t care how little the amount is but give the kids some money and a lot of these problems will go away.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Devils' Advocate?

When this man's contract is up, I'll be 42 years old. I might be married with four kids. I might be writing something like this for a newspaper in Calgary. I might be dead. Who knows? The one thing I do know is that a SEVENTEEN-YEAR CONTRACT IS CRAZY!

Nevertheless, Ilya Kovalchuk secured his future by signing that aforementioned contract, worth approximately $102 million, to play NHL hockey in New Jersey until 2027.

There's a good chance I spend tomorrow gathering random notes, objects and thoughts and creating a time capsule to look back on when Kovalchuk's deal expires. Because, more than anything right now, I'm curious. I want to be in 2027 for a day to see what's new in the world, in my life and in the NHL. Has cancer been cured? Do we have the first female president in the history of the United States? Have the Cubs still not won a World Series? (Just kidding, we know that's a no. Sorry North Side.)

Who wins in this deal, you ask. There's no arguing a few facts. First, Kovalchuk is one of the top-five skaters in the NHL. Second, super-long-term deals have bombed spectacularly in the NHL in recent years (although Rick DiPietro will be fine once someone finds the person responsible for torturing his voodoo doll). Third, Kovalchuk hasn't exactly been a winner in his NHL career. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, Kovalchuk rejected several other deals (many one-year offers, but at least one 15-year contract from the talent-laden Los Angeles Kings) to remain a Devil. Sure, New Jersey's 2009-10 season lasted one fewer game than LA's did, but the Devils recent history is storied, while the Kings had just their third 40+ win season since 1991.

That last point is crucial. Despite falling short of expectations in last year's playoffs, Kovalchuk must expect long-lasting success in New Jersey, starting with his own play. While the Kings didn't offer as much annual money as the Devils, his one-year offers were lucrative enough to lure him away from Newark, yet he stayed. Also, there's no arguing the talent around him, with stud Zach Parise and the winningest goaltender of all time, Martin Brodeur alongside. But his statement signing could lure free agents now and in the future to New Jersey and potentially create a powerhouse in the relatively weak Eastern Conference.

What remains to be seen could change the landscape of sports as we know it, especially the NHL. Let me lay forth two quick hypotheticals: Kovalchuk averages 90 points a season over the next 15 years while remaining relatively healthy and leads New Jersey to five Stanley Cups. At what point do teams begin thinking, "Hey, this is one of the sport's premier players. He's proven it for almost a decade and if we can lock him up for the rest of his career, we gotta do it." It wasn't long ago Alex Rodriguez signed a similarly staggering 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers. If they could have put a team around him, who knows whether he would be donning pinstripes today. The bastard.

Hypothetical two: Kovalchuk bombs, averaging just 20 goals and 45 points over his first five injury-plagued seasons, winning just one playoff series, before he bounces around from team to team like Kenny Lofton (I don't know enough about hockey to make a more appropriate analogy) for a decade after that. With the growing track record of long-term deals not producing, do teams become more hesitant giving out anything more than four or five years like they're the Boston Red Sox?

The answer to the 243 questions I've laid forth: I don't know. The only thing I do know is that I would really, really like to spend a day in 2027 to see how this turned out. Guess I'll just have to wait SEVENTEEN YEARS TO FIND OUT! Sigh...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Musn't See TV

By Ryan Callahan, guest contributor

I came to a realization last week. It’s one most sports fans come to some time in their 20s. It is a lot like when you first learned that Santa wasn’t real. It’s hard to believe because you never knew any better but in your heart you know it’s true. I’ve been shown the light about All Star Games/Events. They suck; and not NBA regular season suck, WNBA regular season suck.

MLB All-Star week can still be saved with some minor tweaks. The Home Run Derby is a fine event, it just lasts way, way too long. The ‘09 derby lasted three hours. Three hours is too long for anything; I couldn’t watch Blake Lively mud wrestle Jessica Biel for three hours. Just cut the Home Run Derby to two rounds and you have a watchable event. And love it or hate it at least having home field riding on the outcome of the game gives you some reason to watch.

NBA All-Star Weekend has the slightest sliver of hope. It has the best All-Star event, the 3-point contest but it also has the worst, the dunk contest. In homage to Dylan’s post, I give the slam dunk contest the World Cup award. It is something I only need to see every four years. And even then why do you need to have NBA players in it? It’s not like they bring anything special to the table. I want to see the best dunkers in the world not the best dunkers in the NBA. Show me James White, Ziani, John Clark and The Air Up There having a dunk contest. Go to you tube and look up those guys and tell me that wouldn’t be better than what the NBA puts out. The rest of All-Star Weekend can just go. There is no fixing the rookie/sophomore game or the actual All-Star game; they both could go join the dodo bird as far as I’m concerned.

The Pro Bowl is a joke. It can’t even hold the Poinsettia Bowl’s jock. It is the only All-Star Game where the rules are changed and no one is trying. At least in the NBA they keep the same rules. I mean what good is an All-Star Game when all the players from your sports’ two best teams can’t play? I can proudly say I have never watched a Pro Bowl. I will watch my first one after I get done playing one on one with Reggie Lewis.

If you read this and you think I am completely wrong, you probably didn’t notice your mom and Santa had the same handwriting until you were 11.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

RIP George Steinbrenner

Former New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner passed away at 80 this morning after suffering a massive heart attack.

For all the days and weeks I spent, thinking of why I hated him more than anybody else growing up, I am going to kind of miss him. Part of that is due to his character on Seinfeld, sure ("I smell CALZONES! COSTANZA'S in the BUILDING!"), but as a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, I give a large chunk of credit to Steinbrenner for making the Red Sox who they've turned into today.

Growing up in the '90s, I saw Boston play second fiddle to the Yanks year after year. New York's seemingly endless run of World Series championships not only made me hate them more, but made me love the Sox more as well. When the pieces didn't fit for a Yankee team, Steinbrenner's bottomless pockets bought the pieces that did. He is the sole reason the New York Yankees are the most despised team in sports today and I say that as a compliment, not a criticism. The Boss did what he had to do to lead his team to victory and during his reign, he did it well.

What happened to the Red Sox during Steinbrenner's tenure was also momumental. Countless times, the Yankees twisted the knife in the collective back of the Red Sox and their fans when it came to trades and free agency, never in a more bitter fashion than when New York trumped Boston for the services of Alex Rodriguez. After swooping in to nab the most talented baseball figure alive at the time, Steinbrenner had the following to say, in February of 2004, regarding the front office of the Red Sox: "We understand John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated, and disappointed by his failure in [trading for A-Rod]. Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston."

However, with new hotshot General Manager Theo Epstein running the show in Beantown, the Sox approached the trading deadline a bit differently that year, sending one of the most beloved Red Sox ever, Nomar Garciaparra, to Chicago in a three-team swap that landed Boston smaller names in Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz. No longer was it about fighting over the biggest and best players position by position. Besides, it was a fight Boston could never win with Steinbrenner anyway. It was about finding chemistry guys that would jell with the guys already in place. And roughly eight months after Steinbrenner's scathing comments landed on the ears of Red Sox Nation, Boston captured their first World Series championship since 1918.

Since that time, the two AL East powerhouses have traded shot after shot, with the Sox winning again in 2007, while the Yankees currently call themselves reigning champions after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009. With Steinbrenner's sons in charge, the rivalry has mellowed out in terms of front-office vitriol, but the desire to win burns as much as ever before. And more of that is due to Steinbrenner than any other figure in the Sox-Yanks feud.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Final World Cup thoughts...

The 2010 World Cup has come and gone, with Spain defeating the Netherlands 1-0 in a final that no amount of Starbucks could have kept me awake for. In fact, my favorite part of the championship match was the first 90 minutes of scoreless soccer, with my interest peaking in about the 22nd minute, seen here.
In honor of the event, I'm handing out awards named for participating countries based on the good and the bad from the last month in South Africa.

The Cameroon Award (first team knocked out/first thing that I didn't like about the 2010 World Cup): nonstop diving. Reason number 4,310 why hockey is better than soccer: hockey players wouldn't be caught dead pulling some of this stuff off, but if they tried, they'd get two minutes in the penalty box. Soccer players, meanwhile, are scorned, mocked and shamed, but that's about it. If you didn't catch any of the World Cup, or haven't ever seen soccer, I can't really blame you. Some of the acting done by players from the 32 countries was terrible enough to make Brendan Fraser blush. Three honorable mention videos to drive the point home: Keita vs. Brazil, Ronaldo vs. Germany and De Rossi vs. Paraguay. Just terrible.

The Netherlands Award (most underrated aspect of the World Cup): shots of fans crowded in streets from around the globe. For the few fans of soccer reading this, I hope you caught a glimpse of the masses because you will never see anything like this in the USA. Ever. Soccer will never be as big in America as it is around the world and the blocks and blocks of people jammed together like the end of "V for Vendetta" is a testament to that. Cameras in bars around the USA showed reactions of 40 or 50 people when Landon Donovan saved the day against Algeria. Meanwhile, for the World Cup Final against the Netherlands, a shot from Madrid showed thousands of people standing outside, waiting to celebrate Spain's first ever World Cup Championship. The image was unforgettable and unlike anything you would see in any sport in America. If you don't think soccer is the world's most popular game, one look at these crowds would change your mind.

The Argentina Award (most overrated aspect of the World Cup): vuvuzelas. Oh my God, we get it. They're loud. They're obnoxious. They're nonstop. Give it a rest. Personally, I liked them. They gave a constant buzz to the stadium and a sport which has just a few exciting moments over an hour-and-a-half span. You think they're annoying and unnecessary? OK, fine. Can we talk about something else now? Awesome, let's move on.

The North Korea Award (I didn't think that was possible in soccer): two way tie between Giovanni Van Bronckhorst's goal vs. Uruguay and Robert Green's unforgivable goal allowed vs. the USA. This award, in honor of North Korea allowing seven goals in a match vs. Portugal (one fewer than Spain scored in their World Cup title run), was split between Van Bronckhorst and Green in very contrasting ways. Green's goes without saying because at the highest level, netminders shouldn't be allowing goals that high school JV soccer players wouldn't. But Van Bronckhorst's goal from outside the box was far and away the most impressive goal of the 2010 World Cup. How he was able to do what he did combined skill, precision, force and luck into one of the prettiest goals in soccer history. In fact, I just went back and watched it again, mid-paragraph. Wow.

The Spain Award (best team/favorite player): Uruguay's Diego Forlan. The 2010 World Cup Golden Ball winner for best player, Forlan was the reason I enjoyed the World Cup as much as I did. A deadly sniper on free kicks, Forlan carried an Uruguay team to the brink of the Finals without their second-best player Luis "The World Cup's most hateable player" Suarez, before falling to the Netherlands. When my good friend Pat Silvey turned on FIFA 2010 during halftime, he played as Atletico Madrid in homage to the World Cup's MVP. And while he fell 3-2 to Real Madrid, it was Forlan who helped rally Atletico Madrid from a two-goal deficit with an assist and the game-tying goal. Not by coincidence, either. "[Forlan] helped Anne lose weight." "Peter, she's anorexic." "Yeah, I know. The guy's really good." Three points in the fake 2010 World Cup standings for identifying that reference.

The France Award (most disappointing performance): World Cup referees. The refs almost got the nod for the Argentina Award because every media outlet around the globe hammered them for blowing just about every meaningful call. It wasn't just the faux (see what I did there?) foul call against the USA either. Goals were allowed that shouldn't have been. Goals were disallowed that should have counted. It's hard not to make the same Jim Joyce joke that has been done no fewer than 71,387 times over the last month, but could have sent Jim Joyce to South Africa and improved the quality of officiating.

The France Award Part Deux (most stereotypical team): France. Hey, say what you will about the French, but when their backs were against the wall, they did what they do best: wave the white flag. When Nicolas Anelka was kicked off the team (pun intended), players got together and protested in a way that inspired nobody in France: refusing to practice. Would going about that adversity in a different way been a better way of handling the situation (say dedicating the tournament to Anelka and playing to spite the coach)? Yes. Was it stupid to waste four years of preparation to make a point that could have been made in a more constructive manner? Of course. Did France shame their country with their foolish decision? Oh yeah. Did they disappoint me? Nah, I got a kick out of it. Am I out of rhetorical questions? Yup.

The USA Award (got my hopes up, only to crush them): Spain vs. Paraguay. Easily the most entertaining game of the 2010 World Cup (odd, because it ended 1-0), but the game featured really good chances for both teams, including three penalty kicks in a three-minute span. After Paraguay's miss on a PK, Spain bolted down the pitch and received a PK of their own. Spain converted, but officials ruled a Spanish forward offside, resulting in a re-kick, which Paraguay saved. This was the game that sucked me into the World Cup and had me thinking "maybe this is something I could get into for real..." Unfortunately, I missed the only entertaining game after that (Germany-3, Uruguay-2) and am forced to settle for not watching soccer until 2014.

The Germany Award (team nobody in the USA was rooting for): Germany. Call it lame to give two countries awards named after themselves if you want, but I'm going with it anyway. It's another point that's been beaten into the ground like France's World Cup cameo, but nobody wanted Germany to do well because of the historical implications. The Axis vs. Allied match of 2010 featured Germany and England and didn't quite end as well as World War II did. Germany blitzkrieged the Brits to the tune of two quick goals before England responded with one of their own. With the tide seemingly turning, England scored what appeared to be the tying goal before Hitler...I mean Jorge Larrionda, overturned the call and took the wind out of the Merchant Navy's sails before Germany advanced with a 4-1 win. The Germs proceeded to crush Argentina 4-0 before falling short against Spain and allowing the good guys to collectively exhale before the World Cup final.

Finally, the Brazil Award (looking ahead): 2014 World Cup. Thanks to this year's event, the 2014 World Cup, ironically in Brazil, is looking like it won't completely suck. Soccer players have become more recognized for their headers (led by Puyol's statement goal against Germany) than their headbutting. Surprise teams like Uruguay and the Netherlands (who caught favored Brazil sleeping in their quarterfinal matchup) have given the World Cup parity and a plethora of teams to look out for next year. Even the USA is gearing up, having escaped group play for the first time since 2002.

Am I sucked into soccer now, thanks to Forlan, Spain and Van Bronckhorst's wicked goal? No. But I'll be watching in four years. Until then, bring on something other than soccer, please.

King Sidekick

By Ryan Callahan, guest contributor

Has anyone ever gone as Robin for Halloween? Did Gatorade have an ad
“I wanna be like Scottie?” Has the President ever left office to
become assistant Prime Minister of Canada? No, of course not. But in
the NBA the so called “King James” has just handed his crown to Dwyane Wade. I guess Skip Bayless was right all along - it was “Prince James.”
Think of the greatest wing players to ever play; they all had the ball in their hand when the game was on the line, they all hit game winners to clinch series or titles. Jordan over Russell, Magic with the running sky hook, Kobe had six just last year and sadly Lebron will never have a defining moment like this. I mean really who would you give the ball to? Someone with a track record of crumbling when it matters the most or someone who on the brink of going down 3 games to 0 in the NBA finals put his whole team on his back. That team had Shaq too so it was a lot of lifting. Wade has a consistent outside game to go along with his tenacity attacking the hoop while Lebron is much more one dimensional with his ability to score. Wade is the closest thing to Jordan the NBA has seen since 1996 and now he finally has his Pippen.
I don’t understand this move; Chicago was a much better fit for Lebron. He would still be the clear cut number one, they have a better power forward in Carlos Boozer who already knows how to be a number two, Joakim Noah who doesn’t need the ball on offense and still scores 10 a game while bringing down 12 boards (AKA the perfect teammate for Lebron), not to mention Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. I don’t understand what Lebron was thinking this offseason. From his choice of team to the way he handled it, it all baffles me. One thing I do know is if I ran a team I’d much rather have my superstar handle things the way Kevin Durant did.