Friday, July 13, 2007

In honor of Friday the 13th - 13 Thoughts...

1. Halfway house - The Yankees won last night to get to .500 with a 43-43 record. Right now, at ten games behind the Red Sox, they are halfway between first place and last. The Devil Rays are 20 games back.

With 76 games left the Yankees would have to go 47-29 just to get to 90 wins and 52-24 to get to the commonly acknowledged number of 95 for a legit shot at the post-season. That's a .618 winning percentage from now until the end of the season.

To put it a different way - on a team where the starting pitching has accounted for 30 of the team's 43 wins and 30 of the team's losses, the Yankees need their starting pitching to come up with quality starts in three out of every five starts, bare minimum, and enough offense to win those starts. Is there anyone who doesn't have pinstripes seared into their minds that believes the Yankees can do this?

2. Smells like...desperation - The Yankees gave Alex Rodriguez an ultimatum...promise not to opt out of your contract and we'll work out an extension with you. If you don't, we won't be part of the off-season A-Rod sweepstakes. Yeah, I wouldn't have accepted that either.

In essence, the Yankees have told one of the few bright spots in their otherwise moribund season to give up all negotiating leverage. The bottom line is that the Yankees were willing to pay more while Texas was picking up part of the tab and they're not so sure they want to spend gobs o cash on their third baseman.

Unfortunately, they're over a barrel. They have no one in the minors, and right now their other option would be to overpay for Mike Lowell if the Sox don't extend him. Who else will be on the market this winter that the Yanks would be interested in?

3. Fed up - I have been cycling since I was in high school. When I say cycling, I'm talking water bottles, Trek, Cannondale, Biancchi, spandex, and the Tour De France.

I have even followed le Tour with more than a passing interest in a number of years, but this year there's a bad taste in my mouth. That bad taste has to do with the Tour, and the last three American winners which make up, in toto, half the winners of the last 20 Tours - Greg LeMond (2 X's, three if you go back 21 years), Lance Armstrong (7 X's), Floyd Landis (once).

LeMond, who to this day, had one of the greatest single days in the history of sports when he came from almost two minutes down in the final time-trial in 1986 to beat Laurent Fignon of France seems to have his own agenda. Armstrong and Landis have both faced doping allegations - Armstrong from teammates that had nothing to gain by outing him, and Landis with a failed test during last year's Tour.

All might be guilty of something, and it's possible that none are guilty of anything. Let's face it, if the Tour really wanted to clean up the sport, they wouldn't rely on an incompetent lab, and they certainly wouldn't let the rag of a newspaper, L'Equipe, have access to "anonymous" test samples in order to discredit riders. And all this is just a tip of the disorganized iceberg that is the mess the Tour has going, and it makes it hard to take anything that the Tour officials claim as being the truth since the newspaper appears to have an agenda - and treating the riders fairly does not seem to be part of that agenda.

4. Depth Charges - Listening to ESPN Radio's Sports Bash on the way home yesterday, the host made an interesting...and accurate point about the Red Sox this year. Last year the team had a better record and the team had "better balance."

It's hard to argue that the line-up was better last year - Nixon was better last year than Drew has been this year, shortstop has been a down-grade, and both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz have been scuffling at the plate. However, Varitek is having a better season, as is Youkilis, Mike Lowell, and even Coco Crisp, not to mention Pedroia has been an upgrade at second.

The real key, however, has been that last season the team didn't weather injuries to the pitching particularly well, and other than Jonathan Papelbon, had a pretty mediocre bullpen. This season Okajima and DelCarmen have been spectacular on a Papelbon-like level, and others like Kyle Snyder and Brendan Donnelly have been solid. To top it off, the Sox have starters ready for the Pawtucket to Boston express a-la Kasson Gabbard for whenever the Curt Schillings of the world are done.

It's unlikely that the Sox will experience a late-season skid like last year when inning-eater Tim Wakefield went down with a rib injury.

5. The Boomer and Moss- David Wells recent suspension getting him in the news reminded me of what I thought when the Sox signed him. I realized that when I heard the Patriots had traded for Moss, that I emotionally had the same reaction...I really hate this guy, did my team really need him that badly?

6. Just a couple of weeks - While I am a Red Sox lifer, I have to admit, I am first and foremost a football fan. I was that guy watching NFL Europa. I am happy to remind everyone - pads get strapped on for two-a-days in just about two weeks.

7. Predictions - I don't generally like to do preseason predictions, except for in the NFL. However, I did some for and predicted that the Brewers would finish in first in the NL Central. While they have struggled of late, the team still holds a 4.5 game lead in the division after the All-Star break, and has a legitimate shot of winning what's a fairly weak division.

In all honesty, the Brew-crew was my dark-horse pick. I'm just as surprised as anybody else.

8. Of human Bond-age - Will some pitcher just bean this man already? Nobody outside of San Francisco or ESPN's Connecticut campus wants to see the non-stop Bonds coverage by ESPN.

And on that note, ESPN and their on-air personalities should be ashamed for taking Hank Aaron to task over his choice to not attend the grotesque charade that is Bonds' pursuit of Aaron's record. If anyone has earned the right to do something for his own reasons, it's Aaron, and who the Hell are we to question him? For that matter - why should Bud Selig be present? If the man thinks Bonds cheated, isn't that then just sending the message that he continues to condone the cheating in the sport.

Maybe it is a little disingenuous of him to turn his back on Bonds after years of turning a blind eye to the problem, but wouldn't it be worse if after committing to cleaning up the game he did something that could be construed as condoning one of the league's biggest cheaters?

9. Meet me in St. Louis - I've seen championship teams take a dive following their championship season, and heard all the questions that accompanied the fall, but this one is amusing to me. People are talking like St. Louis has had the precipitous fall from last year, but this team went 83-78 - the third worst record in the history of the sport for a play-off team.

What we had was a team that got hot for the post-season. Think long and hard about the fact that they got quality starts out of Jeff "Let's Throw Some Batting Practice Every Fifth Day" Weaver in the post-season, and then tell me whether or not they were the best team, or just the best at the right time.

This right now is no surprise to me.

10. Hey baby, what's your sign - Can anyone out there tell me what's going on with ESPN and the sexual harassment suits? Anyone?

Who wants to place bets on how long it will be before Isaiah Thomas works there?

11. 20,000 Leagues under the Seahawks - Anyone out there know what the over-under is that Vegas is putting on the two new professional football leagues that are supposed to start up over the next couple of years? With the United Football League already attracting investors such as Mark Cuban, and the fact that they are looking to play ball in the Fall, my money is on the UFL to be the one to show any sort of longevity.

You know...get into the second half.

12. Tennis anyone - Wimbledon has come and gone and the most I saw were some highlights of matches featuring the Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova, and Daniella Hantuchova. All told, I watched less than ten minutes of tennis.

Growing up I used to watch Wimbledon and Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Chris Everett and Martina Navratilova. I even watched when it was Michael Chang, Ivan Lendl, and Boris Becker.

It occurred to me that I couldn't name a single men's player on the current tour without some sort of hint. Yup, I'm one of pro tennis' lost viewers. Oh well.

13. Better for some sports - Throughout the years, Hollywood has often looked to sports to provide storylines. There have been so many sports movies that they are sometimes considered their own genre. I have addressed the movies before, but what I have never asked here is why some sports seem to generate better movies than others?

For example, cycling has produced the classic Breaking Away and the well received Flying Scotsman, but it has also given us American Flyers and little else. Football has given us Remember the Titans, North Dallas 40, and the original Longest Yard but it has also given us Necessary Roughness and Little Giants.

I put it to you, my readers - other than baseball (Field of Dreams, The Natural, The Bad News Bears, Bull Durham, A Soldier's Story, Bang the Drum Slowly, Major League, Eight Men Out, Fear Strikes Out, and Cobb off the top of my head), can anyone come up with a top ten of movies for any given sport? Football? Basketball? Hockey?

Or at least explain to me why sports like basketball end up with more films like Juwanna Mann and Air Bud, than like Hoosiers?


Kate said...

With regard to your cycling post, you are coming from a typical American standpoint without having reviewed any of the actual evidence.
1. The 'incompetent lab' argument is just Landis' way of defending his positive test. It is not a hard fact.
2. There is no evidence as to who leaked test results to L'Equipe, so it is false to say that the Tour are responsible.
3. It is nonsense to say LeMonde has his 'own agenda' simply because he gave evidence against Floyd Landis. You have nothing to back this up.
4. Armstrong's teammates outed themselves as well as him. They were describing the team culture that existed at the time in an effort to show how dirty the sport had become, which the recent Dutch and German revelations also succeeded in doing. It wasn't necessarily in order to 'gain something' by outing Armstrong individually.
This is one of a number of American posts which has been completely inaccurate in its take on doping in cycling, which is why I felt compelled to finally comment. I am not a cycling fan and neither do I support the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport, but if you feel authorised to comment on the situation, please do so with accurate facts, not hearsay.

Kevin Smith said...

Let's start with your first point - during the testimony recently given, a lab technician admitted to knowing exactly whose "anonymous" sample she was testing. She admitted this under oath before the arbitrators. Right there that puts into question the results - I mean, the group that wants Landis to be guilty is paying her salary, and she knows whose blood she's testing? Not to mention the fact that the men who invented the process and the equipment testified that the lab wasn't performing the test right.

The Tour is responsible for any information leaked to the press as to names associated with "anonymous" testing, just as Major League Baseball or the National Football League would be responsible for any anonymous tests they would have their players take part in. As a matter of fact, the NFL commissioner was very unhappy and came down on the teams over a similar issue during this past year's draft.

Also, considering that L'Equipe is owned by the Tour, and the officials associated with the tour have been after Armstrong for years - it seems a little too convenient that the paper they owned suddenly had sample numbers and a key associating those numbers with riders.

I have listened to LeMond in interviews, going back for quite some time. The man definitely has his own agenda - and if you even read his testimony in the recent hearing - he had no actual evidence to offer against Landis, except to offer that he was threatened by Landis' manager when they found he was testifying.

I have no argument with you on point number four - I was just making the observation that Armstrong may indeed be dirty, and that there are indeed accusations even coming from former teammates - but the point was that there has been no hard evidence backing up the accusations.

I would love for you to explain to me how the Tour is not responsible for its own data, not to mention, how the lab competently handled the process.

And like I said - I don't know that Landis or Armstrong are guilty - the preponderance of the evidence seems to point in that direction, however, the circumstances of the evidence also cast the evidence in doubt.