Saturday, August 04, 2007

An open letter to the commentators at ESPN...

I know that many of you who were not either professional or collegiate athletes, were journalism or English majors while in college. It is why I hold you to a higher standing of the language which is the canvas for your art - and why I hold in utter contempt the recent page 2 column by the Notorious PhD.

It seems to be consensus that Hank Aaron's home-run record is the, "most sacred record in sports." I hear this regularly from the pundits. Then I hear the ESPN pundits take Hank Aaron and Bud Selig to task over their disapproval of Barry Bonds', an admitted drug cheat, breaking of said record.

Let's think about this - the term sacred is a synonym for the word holy. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Holy: adjective (holier, holiest) 1 dedicated to God or a religious purpose. 2 morally and spiritually excellent and to be revered.

"Morally and spiritually excellent." Let's stay with that for a second.

Aaron was known to despise cheating of any sort - so much so that, according to reports, he feels that Gaylord Perry who admitted to using the spit-ball, should not be in the Hall. Aaron broke the record with quiet dignity while fielding death threats due to his race.

Many are claiming this is about race, but I fail to see how a criminal breaking a black-man's record could be about race.

And let's make no mistake about this - Bonds is a criminal. Multiple witnesses have testified to his use of substances that are banned by federal law - use of substances that were solely meant to enhance his power numbers.

If the record is so, "sacred," then why do you so badly want a criminal to break it?

Isn't that like deciding that Charlie Manson is indeed the second coming of Jesus? Hey...ignore the murders, this guy is the real deal! Please.

"Everybody else was doing it," is no defense. Do you remember your mother? "If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you too?"

This isn't about breaking a record. This isn't about race. Those of you who convince yourselves that it is are fooling yourselves.

This is about compromising your morals.

What is it about Bonds that is allowing you at ESPN to whore out your moral compass? I would love to, just once, hear one of your commentators rip Bonds without excusing his actions. But of course, this is the same network that gave us that horrible, self-serving pile of steaming dung entitled Bonds on Bonds. I guess journalistic balance and integrity is something I shouldn't expect from a network whose first name is Entertainment.

I take little consolation in the fact that I have not yet heard the venerable Peter Gammons weighing in on the subject. I can only hope the taste of bile in the back of his mouth and his station in the pantheon of baseball writers have kept the brass at ESPN from pushing their pro-Bonds/anti-Aaron stance on the man.

Unfortunately, I know that this will reach none of them.


The Angry Fan

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A few Red Sox observations

The Red Sox landed Eric Gagne as the big piece to put themselves over the hump for the stretch run. I'm not sure I like this move all that much.

I understand the logic - get the proven arm to shore up the bullpen for the dog-days and the post season, while opening a rotation spot for the returning Curt Schilling. Really, I get it.

This is my problem - Kason Gabbard has been a more than solid replacement in the rotation for the marginally effective Schilling this season. He is a left-handed pitcher that hasn't turned 23 yet, and has shown veteran poise on the mound. I would have less problem with it if Gabbard were a righty, but he's not - he's a lefty in a division where the best regular season team for the last decade has struggled against quality lefties. The Sox could have been going into next season with two of them.

Instead the lefty was traded for a rent-a-player to improve what is already, statistically, the best bullpen in baseball. I think I would even have felt better about it if the Sox had gotten a decent bat out of it. Instead, they got a power-pitcher with a history of arm problems.

I'll give Theo to the end of the season on this, but I have to say, I'm not feeling as good about this trade as the rest of Red Sox Nation. Anything less than a World Series appearance would be unacceptable after trading away someone who could be a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy for years to come.

Our Dumb Red Sox Nation members...

Need to either learn math, or stay off the message boards. I say this because there have been a number of our idiotic brethren calling for the Sox to rid themselves of Tim Wakefield making claims like the following - and I quote, "my MOM throws harder than Wakefield!! he'll probably pitch until he's 50....and still be a .500 pitcher."

At least one argument that I read is that he's a waste because he takes up two roster spots by forcing the team to have to carry the light hitting Doug Mirabelli - and as such, doesn't get good run support.

Let's analyze these arguments just to see how ignorant and idiotic they are (I remember when Sox fans used to be knowledgeable).

Wakefield's career record is 164-143 (.534). Last time I checked, that was indeed higher than .500, unless I just don't understand the new math. This season he is 13-9 (.591), tied for the team in wins.

His 138.1 innings pitched in 22 starts is second on the team only to Daisuke Matsuzaka's 144. He has averaged 6.1 innings per start, the same number averaged by Schilling. The only regular starter that has had below six innings per start has been Julian Tavarez. Batters are hitting .261 against him. That's .027 points lower than Schilling or Tavarez.

As for run support - Wakefield is sporting a 4.55 ERA after today's game. Given that he averages just 6.1 innings pitched per start, that means he is giving up an average of 3.20 runs per start. The team is averaging 4.5 runs scored per Wakefield start.

So...can someone explain to me how these people learned to use a computer - it's obvious that they don't know how to read numbers.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Conspicuously absent

My apologies for my recent absence. There were some recent electrical storms that have wreaked havoc with my Internet access here in Western Maryland. I am, however, back, on with the NFC West (finally)...

Arizona Cardinals - Can Matt Leinart and the Cardinals offense progress and build off of last year? Last season Leinart showed flashes of why he was a top draft pick as a QB, often making something out of nothing behind a spotty offensive line. The team has the skill position players in place to make the jump to contender in a weak division, but has historically had issues at quarterback and along the line. If Leinart can stay upright and get the ball out to his big wide-outs, then they will have a chance every week.

St. Louis Rams - Can the front office get Marc Bulger in to camp in time to build off of last year's success? Last season, after several down seasons, the Rams challenged the Seahawks for the division title. Inconsistency plagued the team as they sometimes beat the tough opponents and struggled against the weak ones. However, the offense - led by Bulger and running back Stephen Jackson - clicked down the stretch. If either of those two cogs is not ready for the opener, then the Rams are starting the season with a handicap.

San Francisco 49ers - Can the revamped receiving corps have success? San Francisco made a quantum leap forward last year, showing life on offense. In order to bolster the roster, the 49ers brain-trust went out and got Darrell Jackson from the Seahawks and Ashley Lelie from Atlanta to revamp their receiver corps. If Jackson is healthy, he could still be a legitimate number one receiver. However, it should be a cause for concern that the Seahawks were willing to deal him within the division, and Lelie has been a bust his entire career. A receiver with number one sort of talent, Lelie has only occasionally shown the ability to live up to his potential.

Seattle Seahawks - Can they hold off the rest of the division? Last season the 9-7 Seahawks back-slid, barely finishing ahead of the 8-8 Rams and the 7-9 49ers one season after walking away with the division and going to the Super Bowl. There are a lot of ifs that need to be answered with this team in determining whether or not they can hold off the rest of the division - if Deion Branch can step it up and be a legitimate number one receiver in a system other than the Patriots (most scouts have him as the second receiver), if the revamped secondary can gel in training camp, if Shaun Alexander can fend off time and return to the form he had two seasons ago while avoiding injury. These are some of the questions the team needs to answer - and if the answers to any of these are "no," then it could be a very tough season for the team from the Emerald City.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

NFL Questions: AFC West

Last season this division had three layers - San Diego, then you had both Denver and Kansas City on the same strata, and then somewhere far below...lower than low can go, you had Oakland...or at least their offense and their overall record. The odd thing about it all is that this division sported the best team during the regular season - the Chargers - and they fired their head coach - one of the winningest coaches in the history of the game, and replaced him with, historically, one of the worst (by account of record) active head coaches in the game. KC is in salary-cap Hell, Denver doesn't really know what it has at quarterback and has questions on defense, and just about everyone is trying to figure out what Al Davis has been thinking for the last three years.

But what is the key question for each of these franchises...

Denver Broncos - There are many questions, not the least of which revolves around the quarterback, additions and subtractions on the defense, and the development of their wide receiver corps. The obvious question is whether or not Jay Cutler shows the progress Mike Shanahan is hoping for, and it is probably the most important question given the luck that Shanahan has had in regards to developing a capable replacement for John Elway. The closest he has come has been working with a free-agent, not with any of his drafted signal-callers. If Cutler progresses the way Shanahan's previous picks at QB have, then the Broncos aren't just in for a long season - they're in for a long couple of seasons. If he can improve on last season, then the Broncos will likely make the playoffs.

Kansas City Chiefs - Are the Chiefs really committed to their youth movement? In a win now league, the Chiefs are going to be forced to pick between Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard. Huard was the best signal-caller that the Chiefs had last year, and likely gives the team the best chance they have to win this season, but it also means that Croyle is left holding the clipboard. Based on the little bit of playing time that Croyle got last season, it would be surprising if he actually beat out Huard for the starting spot - but seeing as he is supposed to be the future of the team, Huard might lose this contest before it starts through no fault of his own other than the fact that he wasn't the team's first day draft pick at quarterback last season.

Oakland Raiders - Is Jamarcus Russell more than a one game wonder? Throughout last season, it seemed that the consensus top pick at quarterback was Brady Quinn out of Notre Dame. Russell's name seldom...if ever...came up. He has a great bowl game, and suddenly he's the best quarterback in the draft. Other quarterbacks that this happened to include the likes of Ryan Leaf, Jim Druckenmiller, and Akili Smith. All those previous busts, like Russell, was considered a supremely talented physical specimen - if on occasion a bit rough. Russell might break the mold, but if he doesn't, then watch for the Raiders to continue wallowing in the Black Hole of Despair which they have done a fine job of building for themselves. Even if Russell is everything the Raiders are hoping him to be, it's still likely to be a long season, but the team should show improvement.

San Diego Chargers - Can Norv Turner finally produce winners in what is likely to be his last shot as a head coach? After winning a power struggle with the winningest active coach in the NFL, it is completely possible that personnel guru AJ Smith's future as a general manager rests on the shoulders of Norv Turner - the head coach with a career record of 58-82-1. Not a bet that I would have made. The logic behind his hiring was that Turner and his staff run the same playbook that Marty Shottenheimer (200-126-1, by the way) ran, and as such, it means that the players will not have to learn new assignments.

Great logic - except for the fact that Turner, as a head coach, doesn't use that playbook the
same way that Shottenheimer does, as evidenced by their records. Sure, this team is likely to make the playoffs this year - Smith has kept the core starters together, and the team doesn't have to learn a new playbook, but I'm guessing that we see this team backslide over the next couple of years. Norv could be that replacement that finally gets along with Smith - but I would be surprised seeing as no one has yet.