Saturday, September 30, 2006

SI's End of the Year Awards

Here is Sports Illustrated's year-end awards, and you might want to see who won AL MVP here. I won't say who...but this is the way the debate should end.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Settling the Debate- Jeter vs. Reyes

Granted this is my opinion, but I think it's safe to say that most sports fans agree -- if you can't perform in the postseason, you're not a truly "great" player. How many times have mediocre players risen to the occassion in the playoffs to become fan favorites and legends? Former Yankees 3B Scott Brosius is a career .257 hitter, but a couple clutch HRs in the postseason has made him part of Yankees lore. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez for his career is 70-49 (.588) with an ERA of 4.11. He has pitched over 200 innings in a season only once, in 1999. Yet in the postseason he boasts a 9-3 record with a 2.55 ERA, and he's 2-1 with a 2.20 in the World Series.

Conversely, first-ballot Hall of Famer Barry Bonds, before his 2002 postseason tear, was notorious for his power outage in October. And is he truly one of the game's all-time greats without a Word Series ring?

What I'm arguing here is this -- Derek Jeter and Jose Reyes are each great players with great strengths and minimal weaknesses. However, let's all see how Reyes performs in the postseason before we pick him as the best shortstop in New York. Jeter has collected a record number of hits in the playoffs (142 in 115 games, good for a .307 average), along with four rings.

Why do you think every expert and every fan beats to death the fact that Jeter's value is evident in his intangibles and performance in the clutch? It's not to annoy the haters -- it's because it's TRUE! Reyes, on the other hand, has yet to truly prove himself. I'll take Jeter, and you should, too. So let's not jump the gun and name Reyes as the King of New York shortstops. Because he's not.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Jeter vs. Reyes - Who Is Your SS?

Check out this article, written by ESPN's Jayson Stark and Jerry Crasnick, which debates who is more valuable- Derek Jeter or Jose Reyes?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Yankees Beware: The A's Just Clinched

The majority of baseball experts right now are picking the Yankees to represent the American League in the World Series this October. I've even spoken to a few disgruntled Red Sox fans who have begrudgingly admitted this (through much grinding of teeth and pulling of hair). As a Yankees fan, of course I agree with all this. However, there is one team that could be more annoying to the Yankees than revenue sharing -- the Oakland A's.

The A's clinched the AL West last night with a 12-3 waxing of lowly Seattle, but don't look at their offense. The lineup is competent, with power guys Frank Thomas (38 HR, 109 RBI through Wednesday) and Nick Swisher (34, 91), but it's really their pitching that carries the team. With Rich Harden finally healthy, Oakland boasts the closest thing to this year's White Sox pitching. The postseason staff will likely consist of Barry Zito, Dan Haren and Esteban Loaiza. That still leaves 16-win starter Joe Blanton in the bullpen to go with closer Huston Street (36 saves) and a core of Moneyball guys nobody on the East Coast has ever heard of, led by Justin Duchscherer.

Outside the Yanks and A's, every other playoff team lacks in some aspect. The Twins lost All-Star pitcher Francisco Liriano; the Tigers have virtually no experience and a boatload of tired young arms; the Mets have questions surrounding their aces Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine, and the rest of the NL couldn't win the Little League World Series. That leaves two teams with a fighter's chance at winning it all this year in Oakland and New York. The only problem is they need to go through each other.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Let Madden Feel His Own Curse

Seattle RB Shaun Alexander, last season's MVP and the leader in practically all statistical categories for running backs since 2003 (total yards, total TDs, etc.), is the latest victim of the "Madden Curse." Alexander is out indefinitely with a broken bone in his foot. Since 2000, when the popular NFL videogames began featuring players on its cover instead of coach-turned-announcer-turned-senile John Madden, the curse has plagued or ended the seasons of each coverboy.

Beginning in 2001, each coverboy has either suffered injury or an alarming decline in their statistics. For example, a year after dominating NFL defenses, ex-Titans' RB Eddie George averaged just 3.0 yards per carry. Coincidence? Or curse?

(Interesting note- EA officials point to George's season as "successful." They also believe Baltimore's Ray Lewis had a successful season. The real story is that Lewis failed to record an INT for the first time in his career after a career-high 6 the previous season. Oh yeah, and his team couldn't make the playoffs, as Lewis sat out the final game of the season with an injury. Successful, alright.)

QB's fall victim to the curse as well. Michael Vick suffered a broken fibula the DAY after Madden 2004 was released with his photo on the cover. Daunte Culpepper (2002) and Donovan McNabb (2006) each fell victim to the curse with season-ending knee and groin injuries, respectively.

So to avoid future injuries to marquee players like Alexander, here are two possible solutions-
(1) Put T.O. on every Madden game cover until he retires. Pray he suffers mouth injuries which prevent him from uttering any verbal form of communication. It'll be doing San Francisco, Philadelphia and (eventually) Dallas fans a great favor.
(2) Put the senile Madden himself back on the cover each year. Pray he suffers mouth injuries which prevent him from uttering any verbal form of communcation (as incoherent as his statements are now to begin with). You're welcome, Al Michaels.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Football Returns to New Orleans

You can't not love this story -- football is finally back in New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city. A cynic would say that this is just a game, that there is no real significance to the return of a sport to a city still in need. Well, fortunately, sports fans are not cynics -- they're idealists.

Why is this Monday Night Football more captivating than others? It's because of the very same reason we love sports. Sports allow people of all ages to feel youthful and alive. People can set aside their differences to focus on something powerful, beautiful, majestic. Sports can relieve the pains of life, even if it offers only a brief respite. You can crash on the couch for a football game, toss a baseball with your old man, or let the echo of a bouncing basketball on hardwood flood your thoughts and drown your worries. Sports provides a safe haven, something the people of New Orleans would gladly embrace.

Watching or participating in a sport can fill each individual with empowering feelings of victory, joy, nostalgia and at its finest, essentially. This is what makes the perversion of sports such a shame. Gambling, violent fanaticism and unsportsmanlike conduct all tarnish what should otherwise be a pure endeavor.

So let's allow the game tonight to relieve our stress, our cares and our pains in honor of New Orleans, escaping reality for a time, be it for a 15-minute quarter, 7-minute drive, or split-second play. That's the beauty of the game.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

10 Things I Realized I've Realized

1. I’ve realized Ray Lewis looks intimidating doing his spazzed-out “I’m so pumped for this game I can’t control my body” dance, but if Peyton Manning tried it…well, okay, just picture it.

2. I’ve realized that the cheerleaders on the sidelines of NFL games are ten times more athletic than the kickers and punters for whom they cheer (exception- Adam Vinatieri).

3. I’ve realized that the ancient Greeks, who idolized athletes as physically godlike, wouldn’t understand the idea of the backup catcher (see: Fasano, Sal).

4. I’ve realized that we probably won’t see another MJ…but we definitely won’t see another player/mouth/ego like T.O.

5. I’ve realized that “Manny being Manny” is just another way of saying “playing baseball stoned.”

6. I’ve realized that Greece, Spain and Argentina all have better basketball teams than we do…but I refuse to accept it.

7. I’ve realized that I really enjoy those failed dunk attempts where the players slam the ball against the front rim then jerk back like they’ve just been clotheslined. So I guess I’m saying I enjoy the WNBA.

8. I’ve realized that ESPN broadcasts poker, Little League baseball, billiards and paintball more frequently than professional hockey games (go on, admit it – you don’t really mind).

9. I’ve realized that Byron Leftwich is Kenan Thompson’s long-lost twin.

10. I’ve realized that when an athlete says, “We gave 110% out there,” he or she is really just saying, “I received no real college education whatsoever.”

Friday, September 22, 2006

Jeter's Value

Anti-Yankee fans (aka any living human beings who don't consider themselves fans of the boys in the Bronx) can't stand that Derek Jeter is getting so much MVP hype. They say that he just doesn't put up the numbers. Give it to Ortiz, he has 52 HR. Give it to Dye, he's hitting .318 with 43 HR. They all have valid points. I can't really argue against guys like Big Papi and Dye...they have staggering numbers.

What I can argue, though, is that Jeter needs a little more credit from these nonbelievers. I turned to the ultimate gauge of baseball numbers -- my fantasy league, of course -- to help put DJ in perspective. Here are a few names who are pertinent to this conversation, along with their fantasy value and season statistics. Compare them to Jeter's numbers (.339 BA, .482 SLG, 14 HR, 95 RBI, 32 SB) --

Lance Berkman (Fantasy Value- 12)
.315 BA, .631 SLG, 43 HR, 126 RBI

Miguel Cabrera (16)
.338, .572, 25 HR, 110 RBI

Matt Holliday (17)
.333, .584, 30 HR, 102 RBI

Vladimir Guerrero (22)
.326, .540, 30 HR, 111 RBI, 15 SB

Travis Hafner (24)
.308, .659, 42 HR, 117 RBI

Justin Morneau (26)
.325, .574, 33 HR, 125 RBI

We all agree these numbers are ridiculous, and that these players deserve to be in the mix for MVP voting based on their numbers. But what do these guys all have in common? They're all ranked lower (i.e. have less value, statistically) than Derek Jeter. Go ahead, compare the stats again. Jeter sits at Number 11. Yes, Big Papi (#6) and Jermaine Dye (10) are ahead of him. Fine, give the MVP to Ortiz. Or, if Chicago makes a miracle run at the playoffs, Dye. But give Jeter some credit where credit is due. Fantasy numbers are objective; you either have the numbers, or you don't. They don't account for rings won (which, by the way, would put Jeter atop all lists), and they certainly can't track "intangibles." The numbers can't and don't lie, and Jeter has done enough statistically to rank ahead of all the names you see above.

You don't need to award him the MVP...just give the man his dues.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Poor Fat Kid

I'm a Yanks fan, so I should be happy about their 9th division title in a row. But I'm not. I'm worried. I'm worried a rejuvenated A-Rod will go back into his mental funk because of the recent SI article by my now-former favorite baseball writer, Tom Verducci.

No matter what A-Rod does, if he shows any signs of slumping slightly, he's screwed (or if he leaves any runners on base whatsoever...or strikes out with the bases empty...or watches a double bounce down the line which no player in the world could possibly catch...or scratches his head the wrong way...or chews only the most expensive brand of getting the picture?)

Combine all this booing with the SI article, and you've got a recipe for one Yankee thirdbaseman, overcooked and underachieving. Do you have any idea how painful it was to watch him during his slide this season? It was like the fat kid in gym class got stuck alone on one side of the floor, all the kids on the other side with all the dodgeballs. He's got no hope, no matter what he does. He might as well curl into a ball and cover his eyes.

Some of you can't wait to see what happens. For me and for all Yankees fans, when Johan Santana walks Bobby Abreu to load the bases in the bottom of the 8th and A-Rod steps up, it'll be too painful to watch (thanks in part to Verducci's article.)

So you can enjoy A-Rod's slide, phase two. Enjoy the fat kid getting rocked (again).

I'll be on the couch all throughout October, curled into a ball, covering my eyes.