Pitching is such a vital part of the game, as far as winning is concerned.

On most teams the set up man has become more valuable, on others not so valuable.

Something to keep in mind — it’s raining lightly. The infield could be very wet on ground balls.

What is a drop and drive pitcher? He is a guy who drops and drives. Very simple.

So by guessing right you might have guessed wrong.

Giambi walks too much. He’s always clogging up the bases with all that walking.

As a new day begins in New York, the sun sets in Hawaii.

If football is a game of inches then baseball is a game of inch.

If that ball had more elevation, it would have been a home run.

If the double play is a pitcher’s best friend, what is a fielder’s choice? An acquaintance?

It’s better to have a fast runner on base than a slow one.

One thing about ground balls. They don’t go out of the ball park.

The reason we call that pitch up and in is because the arms are attached to the shoulder.

He wears his hat like a left hander!

Any ball that goes down is much heavier than any ball that stays on the same plane.

The blood on his sock looks exactly like Oklahoma!

You don’t want to use too many statistics. The ones that apply to a July or August game won’t be relevant on Saturday.

American McCarver

September 2011 Archives

Live Simulcast of Tonight’s Rangers/Rays Game

Sorry. We couldn’t get the sound to work.


Careful On the Road Tonight, Boston

The angry guy driving behind you may be Terry Francona, who got fired by the Red Sox today. Full story.


MLB Division Series Picks!

Andrew Anker

Tigers over Yankees in 4
This is Verlander’s year. His 2-hitter in game 1 will shake the Yankees up and they won’t recover.

Rays over Rangers in 4
The Rangers pretty much coasted this year and I like the underdog. The Rays got their wild card the right way and have mo.

Phillies over Cardinals in 3
The Cardinals aren’t that good and I’d rather have the Phils lose in the NLCS.

Brewers over D-backs in 5
Both teams don’t like to lose at home and this will be about breaking serve. But ultimately the Brewers are the better team and will take it.

Michele Catalano

Yankees over Tigers in 4.
Why? Because the Yankees need to fulfill the American McCarver destiny and get us to Yanks/Phils World Series.

Rangers over Rays in 3.
I’m loathe to pick any sports team named The Rangers but I think that series against the Yankees *was* the Rays’ big victory this season.

Phils over Cards in 5.
See Yankees. Destiny. I’m already looking into purchasing a steel cage for Gruber and Monteiro.

Brewers over Diamond Backs in 3.
This is like the Battle of Who Could Care Less for me.

John Gruber

Yanks over Tigers in 4.
The Yankees have better hitting. The Tigers have better pitching — especially in a 5-game series where Justin Verlander can be expected to make 40 percent of the team’s starts. I worry, because pitching so often trumps hitting in the postseason (cf. last year’s Giants).

Rangers over Rays in 5.
I despise the Rangers. I don’t like their players. I don’t like Nolan Ryan. I don’t like Ron Washington. I don’t like the team’s majority owner, George W. Bush. But the Rays are limping.

Phils over Cards in 3.
Pitching, pitching, pitching.

D-Backs over Brewers in 5. 
I just think it’s great to see Kirk Gibson in the postseason again.

Mike Monteiro

Yankees BARELY over Tigers in 5.
I’m tempted to just go Tigers here, but I want my rematch too much.

Rangers over Rays in 4.
Rays are exhausted. I hate this pick. The Rangers are the only AL team I fear. Too many good left-handed pitchers.

Phils over Cards in 4.
LaRussa’s too much of a Tea Party prick not to steal one.

Brewers over D-Backs in 3.
D-Backs are too happy to be here. Last to first. They’ve already celebrated.

Jason Snell

Yankees over Tigers in 4.
I figure the Tigers are good for at least one. Everyone says the Verlander start, but he’s going against Sabathia and assuming that your awesome starter is going to win in the playoffs is never a good idea. If this gets to five, though, I think the Yankees are in trouble. (It won’t.)

Rays over Rangers in 4. 
Sweet, sweet revenge for the devilish Rays. Also, Joe Maddon’s glasses are cool.

Phillies over Cardinals in 5.
The Phillies will win it, but it’ll be closer than anyone thought.

Brewers over D-Backs in 3.
The D-Backs remind me of the 1997 Giants. A team picked to be dead, which through a combination of great seasons and some really magical (and unlikely) moments ends up winning the division in rousing fashion. The 1997 Giants were swept right out of the first round by the Marlins. Cinderella, it’s midnight.

Philip Michaels

Yankees Over Tigers in 5.
While I’m not a fan of the Yankees and their principle owner, Satan the Prince of All Lies, I also find it hard to root for the Tigers who are owned by pizza magnate Herman Cain. Plus, I feel that the Yankees hitting will overpower the Tigers non-Verlander pitching, and New York will be helped by its pregame ritual of bathing in the blood of war orphans to steal their youth and vitality.

Rangers Over Rays in 4.
The Rangers, controlled by a shadowy cabal of bankers, just have too much offense for the Rays, who will doubtlessly be spent by their improbable run to the playoffs. This will surely disappoint the 12 people who attend games at Tropicana Field, as their owner — an irascible St. Petersburg retiree named Maurry, contemplates moving the team to Orlando.

Phillies Over Cardinals in 3.
The Phillies have become a dominant franchise ever since the Phillie Phanatic took a controlling interest in the team. Also, they have lots of pitching. The games will last five hours thanks to one improbable Tony LaRussa pitching change after another. Cardinals owner Will Leitch will not be pleased.

Brewers Over Diamondbacks in 4.
Much of baseball has overlooked the Brewers, I think, as they have the pitching and hitting to get the job done. The front organization that controls the franchise at Bud Selig’s behest can look forward to an exciting NLCS while the undocumented aliens who hold a majority stake in the Diamondbacks are tossed into Jan Brewer’s workcamp for bringing dishonor to the state.


Yellow-Bellied [Link]

Friend of American McCarver Paul Kafasis details the astounding cowardice of the Mets’ Jose Reyes, who, competing for the regular season batting title, asked to be taken out of the last game of the season after leading off in the 1st inning with a bunt single.


A Night of Twists and Collapses

Tyler Kepner reporting for the New York Times

Two championships in the last decade had seemed, at last, to wring the fatalism out of Boston’s fans. Instead of expecting epic failure, they had come to demand championships. The events of Wednesday may have restored the natural order.



Bryan Hoch, reporting for MLB.com:

Jorge Posada came through with the big hit to clinch the American League East for the Yankees, and they’ll look to the veteran for more contributions as the designated hitter in the AL Division Series.

Manager Joe Girardi has confirmed that he plans to use Posada, 40, as the team’s DH for all five potential games against the Detroit Tigers, beginning with Friday’s Game 1 at 8:37 p.m. ET on TBS.

“Our intent is to use Jorgie as our DH,” Girardi said. “We will go with that, and you just play it out.”

This is pretty much the opposite of moneyball. The numbers tell you that Posada shouldn’t even be on the postseason roster, let alone starting at DH. The heart tells you otherwise.


‘Best Team Ever!’

Boston Herald front page in March 2011 proclaims Red Sox "Best Team Ever".

Eric Ortiz, in January: “2011 Red Sox Will Challenge 1927 Yankees for Title of Greatest Team in Major League History”:

The 2011 Red Sox possess all the pieces to have a season for the ages. If everything falls into place and the breaks go their way, they could do more than set records and become champions. They could do more than take their place on Immortality Peak and end up being mentioned in the same sentence as legendary clubs of the past: the 1929 A’s, the epic Yankees teams of the ’30s, the 1970 Orioles, the 1976 Reds.

The 2011 Red Sox could accomplish a feat that has never been done. They could unseat the 1927 Yankees as the greatest major league team of all time.

Eric Ortiz, today: “2011 Red Sox Will Be Remembered as One of Most Disappointing Teams in Major League History”:

I was wrong.

He shouldn’t be so hard on himself. He was right about the Sox having a season for the ages.


A Night You Won’t Forget

Three minutes later, just after the result from Baltimore had been posted on the scoreboard at Tropicana Field, in the bottom of the 12th inning, Evan Longoria hit a low, screaming liner into the left-field corner that cleared the fences by a few inches. Maybe the most stunning few inches baseball fans have witnessed in a long, long time. 

The Rays had won. Comeback complete. 

We spent the past three weeks sweating and cheering every home run, wild pitch, bad call, bullpen blow-up, broken bat, diving catch, clutch hit, rally-killing groundout, triple play and rookie from Yale. Then this night arrives, a gift from the baseball gods.

- David Schonfield, ESPN: A Night You Won’t Forget

Last night was a reminder of why we love the game. There are times as fans when we get frustrated and annoyed with shoddy ownership, millionaire crybabies, Bud Selig and off-field antics, but the incredibly dramatic finish to the 2011 regular season was a thing to behold. For a while, it didn’t matter who you were rooting for or against. Anyone who is a baseball fan knew they were witnessing the greatest finish to a season ever and we reveled in it. That drama, that intensity, the pure joy in Tampa and the despair in Boston — that whole emotional roller coaster is what makes being a sports fan both an awesome and a nerve wracking experience.

I’m a life long Yankee fan. When that ball cleared the wall in the 12th inning, I cheered. Yea, sure, I cheered because that run was a death blow to the Red Sox, but I also cheered because damn, that was a great game. I cheered for the Rays spectacular comeback and I cheered for a game that I once loved with all my heart and fell into a complacent relationship with recently.

This week, I was reminded of all the reasons I adored this game to begin with. And I fell in love again. When a sport can make me finish off watching a three game sweep of my favorite team by cheering, it’s a beautiful thing.


Sean Avery, Intolerance and the NHL

There are circumstances in sports in which you find yourself doing something you said you would never do. Maybe you’re a Red Sox fan rooting for the Yankees to beat the Rays. Or maybe you’re me, defending Sean Avery.

A couple of nights ago Philadelphia Flyer Wayne Simmonds got into a heated exchange with Avery on the ice and called him - ok, allegedly called him - a fucking faggot

A lot has been made of this already. Unfortunately, a lot of what’s been made about it is people saying “Let it go” or “It’s just part of the game” or a hundred variations of what ends up to be boys will be boys. And too many people are yelling about Avery being a whiner about it or not being able to take an insult. They want him to let it go. But it shouldn’t be let go. It shouldn’t be swept under the rug or taken as just a part of the game. It’s not just an insult. Simmonds didn’t call Avery a fucking asshole, which would have been fine and mostly true. He called him a slur that is derogatory and demeaning to an entire group of people. That he used the term toward Avery - who is an outspoken gay rights advocate and made a video supporting marriage equality - may lead one to believe that Simmonds’s choice of words were carefully picked.

Earlier this year, the NBA fined Kobe Bryant $100,000 for calling a referee the same thing. 

[Commissioner David] Stern strongly condemned Bryant’s use of the slur in a statement.

“While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated,” he said. “Accordingly, I have fined Kobe $100,000. Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society.”

The NHL, however, has decided to not do anything about the slur directed at Avery because they claim to not have any real proof of what was said. Regardless, this would be an opportune moment for them to address the issue of insensitivity and intolerance. Given that Simmonds himself was the subject of a racial insult just last week - an incident the NHL predictably mishandled - this would be the perfect time for Gary Bettman to make a blanket statement about acceptable behavior from  both players and fans attending games. I’m not asking for the league to come out with some kind of insults guideline, but to let this sit makes it look like they don’t care.

Considering there has been a media spotlight in the past year on the bullying of gay people in light of how many young gay people are committing suicide or at least contemplating it because they feel like society does not accept them or value them as human beings, Bettman has the perfect opportunity here to show that the NHL is on the right side of the line when it comes to, well, behaving like civilized human beings. At the very least, they should condemn the use of derogatory language that demeans an entire class of citizens. At the most, they could fine Simmonds and donate the money to the It Gets Better project. 

Don’t let a “boys will be boys” attitude prevail because that is one of the reasons a project like It Gets Better needs to be around in the first place. That the NHL is a public entity with public figures who are heroes to many kids is all the more reason for the league to address the issue and turn it into a way to send a positive message about tolerance. 

[image: Bruce Bennet/Getty]


Malcolm Gladwell on Bruce Ratner and the Barclays Center [Link]

Malcolm Gladwell:

The rich have gone from being grateful for what they have to pushing for everything they can get. They have mastered the arts of whining and predation, without regard to logic or shame. In the end, this is the lesson of the NBA lockout. A man buys a basketball team as insurance on a real estate project, flips the franchise to a Russian billionaire when he wins the deal, and then — as both parties happily count their winnings — what lesson are we asked to draw? The players are greedy.


Top 25 Rickey Henderson Stories of All Time [Link]

If you’re not pissing yourself at some of these, there’s no help for you. I mean come on:

In the early 1980s, the Oakland A’s accounting department was freaking out. The books were off $1 million. After an investigation, it was determined Rickey was the reason why. The GM asked him about a $1 million bonus he had received and Rickey said instead of cashing it, he framed it and hung it on a wall at his house.


Playing out the String

“Anyone want four free tickets to tonight’s Mets game?”

“What’s the catch?”

“You have to watch the Mets.”

[Overheard on Twitter from Michele.]


It’s a Great Time to Be Alive

It’s a Sunday in late September. That means there are football games to be watched today. A 1:00 game. A 4:00 game. There is pre-season hockey on tv tonight and while, yea, it’s pre-season, it’s still hockey. The sounds of sticks and skates and whistles in my living room is music to my ears. There’s the final countdown of the baseball season, my Yankees playing the Red Sox, playoff time close at hand. There’s no basketball, but the lockout is part of the day’s course of sports news. And of course, there’s soccer. I’m pretty sure soccer season never ends.

It’s almost overwhelming, this embarrassment of sports riches. I leave Sportscenter on all morning so I can take in everything that’s happening in each sport as I go about my routine. I’m making fun of the Mets to my father in email, fighting with my son about hockey (he’s a damn Rangers fan) and talking Green Bay footbal with my best friend. My twitter timeline reads like a sports ticker and I can barely keep up with all the cheers and boos, shit-talking and score changes. 

It’s almost too much at times, but I won’t tune any of it out because it doesn’t last that long, this convergence of seasons. Soon, baseball will be over, regular season hockey will take precedence for me over football games and the frenzied feeling of having all the sports handed to me at once will abate as I settle into a mood of careful hope with the Islanders and expected disappointment from the Jets. 

Sports may not be life, but early falls sure brings one hell of a distraction from it.


The Saddest Sacks

Read this column by Tony Massarotti for The Boston Globe:

What this all speaks to, more than anything else, is the general attitude and malaise that has enveloped Fenway Park in recent years, no matter the television ratings, ticket sales or intangible buzz. Red Sox fans, like their team, have grown relatively fat and happy. Do we (and they) want to win? Of course. But we (and they) don’t want it the way we wanted it in 2003 or 2004, which is the way the Bruins wanted it last spring or the way the Tigers, Rangers or Brewers want it now. Each of those clubs has thirsted for a title far longer than Boston has. And it shows.

The worst thing that ever happened to Red Sox fans was winning the World Series in 2004, and the second-worst thing was winning it again. Red Sox fans loved the almost-century-long title-less streak. They wallowed in it, like the sad sacks they are.

Massarotti is right about everything, except the bit about whether they actually want to see the team pull out of this September spiral. They don’t. They’re looking forward to the misery of a historic collapse.

Winning should never get old. Never. Winning should make fans hungry for more winning.

The Yankees have lost many painful games in my lifetime, but one of the absolute worst was game seven of the 2001 World Series. The fact that the Yankees had won the three previous titles didn’t make the 2001 Series loss less painful — it made it worse. Good fans don’t think Well, we did win three in row. No, they think We should have won four in a row.

And this isn’t just a Yankees thing. The Yankees have an unusual history of success, yes, but look no further than the Yankees of the National League, my hometown Phillies. Their consistent excellence over the past five years — and keep in mind that the Phillies have won a World Series more recently than the Red Sox have — has done nothing but make Phillies fans thirsty for more. If the Phillies had suffered a late season collapse like the Sox’ that had left the team hanging on to a postseason spot by a mere two games, you would never in a million years see the following written by a Philly sports columnist:

Maybe losing is necessary here. Maybe it isn’t.

No fans other than Red Sox fans could ever think themselves into a pretzel and come out thinking that losing might be “necessary”.


Off to Fenway

I just landed in Boston (for a much anticipated vacation in New England) and decided to start with a game at Fenway. My goal this year was to see baseball games in five different parks and after tonight, I earn that badge. I won’t sully the commercialism of baseball by listing the corporate namers of the parks, but my five pack includes the Giants, Mets, Yankees, Mariners and now Red Sox. Yay for me (and for having pretty mundane goals)!

Of course, when I bought these tickets a few weeks ago, I thought I’d be watching a game phoned in by both sides. A September Red Sox/Orioles game? Apart from an early burst out of the gate, Baltimore hasn’t contended all year. And ever since they signed Adrian Gonzalez at the end of 2010, the Red Sox have been the pre-ordained AL team to beat (calling them the Phillies of the AL would only make Monteiro even more obnoxious so I won’t go there).

Instead, the Red Sox are in danger of joining arguably the worst list a team can be on in Major League Baseball. The late season crash list:

The 1964 Phillies, ‘69 Cubs, ‘78 Red Sox, ‘87 Blue Jays, ‘95 Angels, 2007 Mets and ‘09 Tigers are just a few of the teams that never got to taste the postseason after it appeared to be a mere formality.

My rule when I visit another stadium is that I go with the home team unless I have a pony in the race. Alas, I don’t really have enough allegiance to the Yankees anymore to care and so I’ll probably be cheering on the boys in red tonight. But inside, I’ll be pulling for the Orioles. Partially because their colors are the same as the Giants. But mostly because as the Giants struggle to climb back into the race, I’d love the karmic balance of another team crashing and burning. And since the Phillies have already clinched their place, the Red Sox are the best I’ve got.


My Shit Doesn’t Work in Oscar Season

In advance of this weekend’s premiere of Moneyball,  Eric Augenbraun of Notgraphs conducted a short but riveting interview with Brad Pitt.

EA:  You and your lovely wife Angelina Jolie have amassed quite an impressive litter of children over the past few years. If you had to liken your kids to players from the Beane-era Oakland A’s who feature prominently in the book or film, who would they be?

BP: That’s a really bizarre question.

Enjoy the entire interview.


Let’s Talk About Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera tips his cap to the fans after recording his record-breaking 602nd regular season save.

Jayson Stark on Mariano Rivera’s career numbers:

Among all the pitchers who ever worked more than 1,000 innings in the big leagues — and there have been more than 1,100 of them — you know how many other men have had a lifetime WHIP of 1.00 or lower? Exactly two.

One was Addie Joss (0.97). He threw his last pitch in 1910.

The other was Big Ed Walsh (0.9996). He packed it in back in 1917.

In other words, this was achieved once by two guys who pitched, like, a century ago. And then NOBODY else did it — until Mariano Rivera came along.

There’s simply no argument that he’s the greatest relief pitcher of all time. The argument is whether he’s the greatest pitcher, period, in modern baseball. I know there are some fans who say a reliever, no matter how great, can never outrank or be more important than a great starter. And it’s true that a closer like Rivera doesn’t pitch nearly as many innings during a season as a healthy starter does. But every single inning a closer pitches is an inning where the game is on the line. And a closer is a potential factor in every single game. Starters play only every fourth or fifth game — in the postseason, in rare cases, every third. The closer is ever-present.

No pitcher is unbeatable, even Rivera, but he’s as close to unbeatable as it gets. I’m open to the argument that in any given season, no closer is as important to a team as an all-star caliber starter. But we’re looking back at Rivera’s career here, not this or any other single season. For 15 years, both the Yankees and their opponents have played under the belief that the other team needs to score enough runs to win the game in the first eight innings. And the year before he become the Yankees closer, he was, if anything, even more devastating as their setup man for John Wetteland. That’s 16 years of consistent, reliable, excellence. Not one bum season. No slumps. No significant injuries. He’s 41 years old and his ERA this season is lower than his career average.

Rivera’s postseason stats make his regular season stats look bad. They seem impossible: 139.2 innings, 0.71 ERA, 0.766 WHIP, 109 strikeouts, 2 home runs. He’s recorded the final out of the World Series four times. Here’s Stark on Rivera’s postseason numbers:

In 15 trips to the postseason, Rivera has held the best hitters on the best teams on earth, in the most important games of his career, to this remarkable slash line: .176/.213/.229. When we went searching for any active hitter who hits like that, you know who we came up with? Zach Duke (.176/.205/.217). Yeah, he’s a pitcher. When we confined that search only to active position players, we got Drew Butera (.172/.209/.252). In other words, when the Yankees have sent this man to the mound in October, he’s turned EVERY hitter he’s faced into the equivalent of a good-fielding, light-hitting back-up catcher, or a pitcher with a half-decent clue about what that piece of ash is used for. Unreal.

Consider even Rivera’s worst moment: his blown save in game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Diamondbacks. It hurt to watch, but there was no need for post-game handwringing or second-guessing.[1] The Diamondbacks scored against the best, what are you going to do?

If you want to argue that other pitchers have been better overall during the modern era, I’ll hear you out. Koufax certainly. Gibson, Carlton, Maddux, Clemens, Johnson. But when I hear that argument that Rivera doesn’t even deserve to be considered, simply because he’s not a starter, I think this: let me ask you again, when your favorite team holds a one-run lead heading into the 9th inning of the clinching game of the World Series.

(Photo: Debby Wong/US Presswire)

  1. Well, you can second-guess Joe Torre’s decision to play the infield in, with one out, a tie score, and runners on first and third. Play the infield back, you might get a double-play, play them in, you might cut the run off at home on a ground ball. What happened is that Luis Gonzalez hit a broken-bat blooper over Jeter. He’d almost certainly have caught it if the infield hadn’t been moved in. Torre himself admits regretting the decision. But here’s the thing: whatever regrets Yankeess fans might have about that inning, they have nothing to do with who should have been on the mound. Rivera entered that game with 30 consecutive postseason shutout innings. †©


“My Shit Doesn’t Work in the Playoffs”


I’m a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan, meaning I will be cherishing my team’s win in the 2010 World Series for the rest of my life. But the irony is, that now-legendary Team of Misfits isn’t remotely the best Giants team of the last 25 years.

Which brings me to Billy Beane and “Moneyball.” Now a major motion picture, “Moneyball” is the story about how Billy Beane built a contending team in Oakland by identifying inefficiencies in the market for baseball players. (Don’t let anyone tell you different.)

Aha, the critics natter. But Beane’s Oakland A’s have never won anything, so the whole thing’s a fraud.

Not true: Beane’s teams have had more regular-season success than you’d expect, given their payroll. But once a team has a good regular season, what happens? They playoffs begin. The regular season is a 162-game laboratory designed to expose the best teams over the long haul. The playoffs are a set of short series, where a single bad day from your ace or slump from your power hitter can cause you to be unceremoniously bounced.

Or as the esteemed Mr. Beane famously said, “My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs.”

The Giants of 2010 hit the playoffs at the right time, hot off a tight divisional race with the Padres and with all their pitchers playing at their best. If Tim Lincecum was pitching in October the way he pitched in August of last year, the Giants wouldn’t have even won their first series. If you pit last year’s playoff teams in a simulation that includes average stats for the entire year, the Giants are toast. They were hot, they were lucky, and they were in a playoff system that favors four strong starting pitchers over pretty much all else.

I’d take the Giants of 1993—who didn’t even make the playoffs—over the 2010 crew. I’d take the 2000 version, too, the one with the best record in the National League who got one-hit by the Mets. Those teams were better, but they crapped out in the postseason.

So as we look at this year’s potential playoff match-ups, it’s easy to find favorites. The Phillies are having a season for the ages. The Yankees are always formidable. The Rays, if they manage to blow past the Red Sox, will have some momentum on their side. The Diamondbacks are riding a wave of improbability that reminds me of the Giants in 1997.

But in the end, who will win? Comrade Monteiro will tell you it’s the Phillies. Comrade Gruber, the Yankees. History will tell you that all eight teams will have a roughly 12.5 percent shot at winning that sparkly ring. Lots of great statistical minds have tried to figure out the secret sauce that spells playoff success, but to no avail. In the end it’ll come down to an unexpectedly hot player, or a failure by someone in a slump, or an untimely injury.

In the end we’ll celebrate the winner as having undeniable moxie, and that’ll be true, just like it’s inevitably true that the winner of the NCAA basketball tournament will always finish the season with six straight wins. But how that story unfolds will really only make sense in hindsight. Right now, it’s anyone’s guess.

It might not be fair to those great regular-reason teams (this is why European football awards one trophy for winning your league and others for tournaments), but it does provide great drama. It also makes the fans of a dominant team like the Phillies a little nervous. Being a favorite going into the playoffs is not a good position to be in, because there are no favorites, not really. That shit just doesn’t work in the playoffs.


Artest Officially Changes Name to “Metta World Peace”

Some stories just write themselves:

After a slight delay thanks to some unpaid parking tickets, the Los Angeles Lakers forward formerly known as Ron Artest has officially become Metta World Peace.

The three-week holdup was settled Friday, the parking tickets were paid, and after a short court hearing, Mr. World Peace was well on his way to promoting the ideals behind his new name. “Changing my name was meant to inspire and bring youth together all around the world,” World Peace said. His first name, Metta, is based on a Buddhist term meaning love and kindness to all.

Also Top 10 Dubious Name Changes.


Money Mayweather [Link]

Greg Bishop for the NYT, on Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s Saturday night welterweight title fight:

Roger Federer does not make money off the sales of strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, nor does Derek Jeter’s contract include the Yankees’ TV contract in Asia. Mayweather has devised an altogether different model for marquee athletes. In his previous four fights, he earned $115 million. How novel is his approach? Just ask him.

“It’s never been done,” said Mayweather, who is 41-0. “Not in entertainment history. Not in sports history. You see that arena Saturday? It’s all Mayweather money. Want a hot dog? Mayweather money. Want a T-shirt? Mayweather money. I need all that.”


Don’t Hate A-Rod: He’s One of the Cleanest Yankee Greats Ever [Link]

Allen Barra:

So, as far as anyone has been able to determine, Alex Rodriguez has never taken a substance that is either illegal or in violation of the rules of Major League Baseball.


Has 24/7 Coverage Had a Negative Impact on Sports? [Link]

I wrote a sports thing somewhere else today. 

I leave the television on for my dog when I go to work each day. I know, it’s a weird thing to do, but I think the voices from the TV keep her company. I keep the TV tuned to ESPN.

Typical day: I leave the house, they’re recapping last night’s games. I stop home during lunch hour and they’re discussing how Derek Jeter’s personal life may or may not interfere with his on field performance. I get home from work and it’s Pardon the Interruption and there’s lots of yelling and air horns and arguments.

This goes on for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Constant sports coverage. Like its 24/7 news counterparts such as CNN and FOX have done for news reporting, ESPN has changed the landscape of not only sports reporting, but the sports they cover themselves. 

Read the rest, if you’re inclined. I’m mostly proud of the A-Rod photo I chose to accompany the part about individual achievements. 

Girl Wins Bid to Play Virtual Self in EA Sports NHL 12

14-year-old Lexi Peters wanted to play as a girl character in the EA Sports NHL games. But no female characters customizations were available. 

“I asked my dad, ‘Why aren’t there girls in the NHL video game?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know, write a letter.’ So, I did,” Lexi told the Globe and Mail from her home in Buffalo, N.Y.

She sent a typewritten letter to the executives of one the largest video game makers in the world, asking them to add women players.

She wrote: “It is unfair to women and girl hockey players around the world, many of them who play and enjoy your game. I have created a character of myself, except I have to be represented by a male and that’s not fun.”

The president of EA Sports forwarded the letter to the producer of the games, David Littman, who then got permission from the NHL to build a female character into the game.

Then EA Sports gave Lexi the news. Not only were they adding a female character option, but they wanted Lexi to play the part of the “default” female player that gamers would then be able to customize.

“I was so excited,” says Lexi. “My dad called my grandpa immediately, who called my Uncle Chris, like a chain reaction.”

Lexi Peters has played ice hockey for four years. 

“It’s a big change and it’s exciting to see, because so many girls pay hockey now,” said Manon Rhéaume, the only woman to ever play in the real-world NHL.

I’ll pick up NHL 12 tomorrow on my way home from work and later in the evening settle down for my annual ass-kicking at the hands of my son (I usually play the game once before I surrender it to him - I haven’t been good at a hockey video game since NHL ‘94). But at least this time I get to play as a girl. 

Way to go, Lexi.


Picking Your Battles

On September 21, 2001, in the first sporting event held in New York after the terrorist attacks, the Mets took the field wearing NYFD and NYPD caps. It was a touching statement of solidarity with first responders who’d given their lives in the service of their city.

On the 10th anniversary of those attacks the Mets asked MLB if they could wear the caps again. Bud Selig said no. 

Bud’s reasoning? All teams would honor the anniversary by adding an American flag patch to their caps. Which, by the way, are now for sale on the MLB site. 


Risk and Return

I don’t ever think I’ve seen a ballsier return than Djokovic’s against Federer in this afternoon’s men’s semis. Djokovic had come back from two sets down, but Federer was serving for the match in the 5th. Fed kicks a serve wide and Nole absolutely crushes his forehand return cross-court, and it lands barely in. The crowd, who had been loudly rooting for Fed, was stunned…and then Nole turned to them, arms outstretched, looking for the approval and support he so clearly deserved.

The match turned; Djokovic went on to win 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.

Djokovic, in the press conference afterwards, acknowledged the risk he was taking with that shot.

“If it comes in, it comes in,” he said. “It’s a risk. Last year, I was in a very similar situation. He was two match points up. I was hitting a forehand as hard as I can. You’re gambling. If it’s out, you lose. If it’s in, maybe you have a chance. I got lucky today.”

For his part, Federer wondered if Djokovic had grown up making those shots, taking those risks.

“I did all the right things in so many tournaments,” Federer said. “But like I said, sometimes in sports it just goes the other way. Maybe you’ve already won so much that it evens it out a bit sometimes. I don’t know.”

We don’t know either. But it’s amazing to watch.


‘I Mean This in a Good Way, but He’s a Freak.’

Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera is on the cusp of his 600th career save:

Heading into Saturday’s game, his career E.R.A., over 1,205 innings and 17 years, was 2.23, which sounds like something out of the dead-ball era.

His ERA this season, at age 41? 2.13.

Photo: Ray Stubblebine/Reuters


Brotherly Love

This is what happens when you show up at Citizens Bank wearing a Jayson Werth shirt. A caring fan buys you a Hunter Pence shirt. Typical act of love from one Philadelphian to another. Best fans on Earth. (via Phillymag)


He Was Clearly Ready for Some Football

Last night’s season opener between the Packers and the Saints was good enough to make me thank the lawyers above for the blessed spectacle that is professional football.

And the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers may be my new favorite QB (since it clearly won’t be Alex Smith). First, he bashes Mark Sanchez for his ab-full spread in GQ

“Look at this,” NFL player, Aaron Rodgers told ESPN of Sanchez’s spread in an interview Wednesday. “That’s embarrassing. Page 94 of the GQ thing here. That’s terrible.”

…and then after last night’s game he joked about the workouts organized by players during the lockout…which the Packers decided to skip.

“That was a good start for us,” Rodgers joked. “But I’ve just got to ask myself, ‘What would have happened if we had had offseason workouts?’”


Russian Plane Crash Kills 43, Including Top Hockey Stars and NHL Veterans

The NHL’s off-season continues to be one of grim news. 

A plane carrying a hockey team with international players, including some NHL veterans, crashed as it took off Wednesday afternoon from Russia’s Yaroslavl airport, killing at least 43 people, Russian emergency officials said.

The Yak-42 aircraft was taking players for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl — one of Russia’s leading ice hockey teams — to Minsk, the Belarusian capital, the Russian aviation authority told CNN.

Two of the 45 people aboard the plane, which included eight crew members, survived, a Russian Emergency Situations Ministry representative said. Eleven of those on the aircraft were foreigners, the ministry said.

Yaroslavl’s regional governor, Sergei Vakhrukov, named the two survivors as Russian forward Alexander Galimov and flight crew member Alexander Sizov. Both are being treated in intensive care.

Among the dead are the team’s coach Brad McCrimmon who played 18 seasons in the NHL and several years as assistant coach with the Islanders, Flames, Thrashers and Red Wings before taking the job as the coach for Lokomitiv Yaroslavl. At least five other former NHLers were on board the plane.

The KHL is one of the top professional leagues in the world. The league’s season was to open tomorrow.

The above tweet is from Hockey News writer Adam Proteau. Pretty much say it all. It’s been a cruel summer for hockey.


Hockey, Tattoos and Sports Entertainment

I had a rather heated conversation on twitter a few days ago with someone who was upset that the New York Islanders now have an Official Tattoo Parlor. That’s right, a tattoo parlor - Tattoo Lou’s - is now a sponsor of an NHL team and they will set up a booth right inside the Nassau Coliseum.

The guy I had this conversation with (I don’t know him personally) was livid about the whole tattoo thing. He’s no longer taking his young daughters to Islander games. Because with the addition of a tattoo sponsor, he says Isles games are no longer family friendly.

The gist of my questions to him went like this: So, the beer ads, the bar sponsorships, the Ice Girls shaking their asses, the t-shirt throwing young women with their in-your-face cleavage and the fighting on the ice and in the stands were all fine family friendly entertainment until they had the nerve to add a tattoo shop to the lobby?

Apparently, yes. All of the other stuff was fine, but it’s the tattoos that are going to send the wrong message to his daughters. So he’s boycotting the Islander games this year. And I’m sure he’s writing a strongly worded letter to the team to let him know they have lost a valued customer because of their silly insistence on doing something new to get the average consumer of Islanders hockey - that being a male in his late 20s and not ten year old girls - to spend more money at the Coliseum. I’m sure they will take his complaint to heart. 

Sports arenas and stadiums have come a long way from the days when you’d get to the game, buy a hot dog, watch the game and leave. They are entertainment complexes now. The food courts alone are destinations where you could spend an entire day sampling foods from sushi to pulled pork to deep fried anything. There are picnic areas, interactive entertainment, a hundred things to do besides watch the game. 

Is having a tattoo booth in the lobby of an arena any different or worse than having a full service bar in the lobby? Can you fault the team for trying to do something new or innovative to draw the fans in? Sure, they’re not drawing them into the game itself but once you’ve paid for their ticket management is less concerned about you actually watching the event than spending money at their concessions. For all they care, you could watch one inning of a baseball game and spend the others forking over cash to eat tacos, have your picture taken with a mascot, buying souvenirs or go on rides. The game is almost incidental to your stadium experience in the eyes of marketing executives.

That’s not say I think addition of a tattoo booth to the Nassau Coliseum is the greatest idea in the world. I have nothing against tattoos - my daughter and boyfriend combined have more ink than the Sunday New York Times - but I do have something about the Islanders suddenly coming up with ideas to add more fun and excitement to game nights when they’re just going to be leaving us in a couple of years. It’s like your girlfriend getting a boob job right before she dumps you. 

Ok, maybe a bad boob job. Because the Islander flash you can choose from is pretty damn hokey. I’m surprised you can’t choose a piece that has the words to Billy Joel’s “Downeaster Alexa” scrawled over the old fishsticks logo

Maybe the guy I was talking to on twitter is right. Maybe the tattoo thing is a bad idea. Lord knows there are enough young people walking around Long Island with regrettable tattoos. It’s sad to imagine a future Long Island where hundreds of hockey fans are walking around with flaming puck tattoos honoring a team that doesn’t even exist anymore. Tattoos are permanent. Sports teams are not.

I’m going to skip past the tattoo booth opening night as I make my way to the sushi bar between periods. Not because I don’t like it. I’m just holding out on the tattoo thing until they open a booth at Yankee Stadium. Because I know they’ll never leave me.


Shadows [Link]

The AP:

A day after Albert Pujols complained about hitting in late-afternoon shadows after a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, his manager backed him up.

Tony La Russa said Tuesday he’d been hesitant to criticize conditions after a 4-1 loss because it might be perceived as sour grapes.

I don’t understand. Why don’t they just rotate Busch Stadium so that it points the same way versus the sun that it did back in the years when the Cardinals were contenders?


The Man Who Destroyed Baseball

During the 6th inning of yesterday’s Phillies v Marlins game Hunter Pence hit a towering shot to right field. Marlins right fielder Bryan Petersen made a valiant effort to leap for the ball as it headed towards the wall. At this point two idiots (I won’t call them fans. Fans watch the game. They root for their team. They celebrate the wins. They mourn the losses. They don’t interfere with a game in progress.) reach out and interfere with Petersen’s efforts and the ball bounces off either Petersen’s glove or the idiots’ hands and caroms into the corner. Pence ends up on 2nd with a double and Ryan Howard, who’d been on first, ends up at third.

Had first base umpire, and crew chief, Joe West called Pence out on fan interference at this point we’d have no story. However, after much confusion, the crew decided to review the play under MLB’s instant replay rules, which allows the umpiring crew to review only whether a ball is actually a home run or not.

Having invoked the rule, there were two possible outcomes: 1.) Not a home run. Which keeps Pence at second. or 2) Home run: Which brings two runners home.
Joe West decided to use instant replay to clear up his original blown-call and calls Pence out on fan interference. Joe West single-handedly decided to expand the rules around instant replay.

Baseball has always been a game of human error. By both players and umpires. And as such baseball has become a wonderful metaphor for life. From the time millions of kids put on their first Little League uniform we are taught the value of teamwork, the benefits of follow-through. We’re taught that as we take the field we should bring cap and glove to any teammate stranded on base. We’re taught to clear the home plate area for any runners behind us. We’re taught to back up our teammates. And most of all we’re taught to respect the umpires. Even and especially when they don’t get it right. The game, just like life,  isn’t always fair. And we learn how to be better people by how we react to those moments that life, just like baseball, isn’t fair.

It’s called building character.

Baseball, with it’s mistakes, with it’s lack of clock, without its TV timeouts, prepares us for life. In life there’s no instant replay.

Except that yesterday Joe West, who in 2010 was ranked the 2nd worst umpire in the league, decided to expand the role of instant replay in baseball all by himself. Joe West opened the door for instant replay further than it’s ever been opened. Joe West opened the door for our children to cry out that things are unfair, stomp their feet and call out for an instant replay. Sadly, he won’t be there when a cute girl decides to go out when someone else, or when you don’t get the job you were more qualified for, or when you get blamed for something your brother did, or when someone butts ahead of you in line. And sadly, because Joe West chose to single-handedly change the game that taught us how to deal with a world that can sometimes be unfair, we may not have the character to deal with those situations.


Death in the NHL

The death of former NHLer Wade Belak might have gone widely unnoticed by most news outlets if not for that the fact that Belak was the third hockey player - all of them considered enforcers - to die during this off season.

Belak, who played for five teams in his NHL career, was found dead last Wednesday. His death was ruled a suicide.

On August 15, Vancouver Canuck Rick Rypien, who had been battling depression for more than ten years, committed suicide.

On May 13 Derek Bogard, who played for the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers, was found dead due to a lethal combination of alcohol and oxycodone. 

Boogard’s last NHL game was in December 2010. He suffered a concussion during a fight in that game and never recovered enough to play again.

Rypien suffered a series of injuries in his career, missing so many games at one point that his frustration led him to take a leave of absence from the Canucks in 2009. In 2010 he took another leave of absence, citing personal reasons. 

The sudden deaths of three NHL veterans has made the NHL take a hard look their existing mental health programs and has made many people question if the league provides enough assistance to its players, especially those who have suffered repeated head injuries over the course of their career. That these three men were all fighters is not something that should be regarded as coincidence.

League Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA director Donald Fehr issued this joint statement after the death of Balek:

“While the circumstances of each case are unique, these tragic events cannot be ignored. We are committed to examining, in detail, the factors that may have contributed to these events, and to determining whether concrete steps can be taken to enhance player welfare and minimize the likelihood of such events taking place. Our organizations are committed to a thorough evaluation of our existing assistance programs and practices and will make immediate modifications and improvements to the extent they are deemed warranted.”

Here’s hoping the league makes every effort to connect the dots between the deaths of Belak, Boogard and Rypien. Injuries, concussions and career frustration are all things that can lead to deterioration of mental health, especially when someone is already suffering from depression. The NHL needs to take a closer look at not only how the injuries inherent in playing a contact sport impacts a player’s health, but how not playing the game impacts a player’s mental health.

RIP Belak, Boogard and Rypien. 

[image: Getty Images]


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