Thursday, February 27, 2014

If Only Mr. Smith

A couple of days ago hall of famer Ozzie Smith said that he would like to make Opening Day a national holiday and as much as I am for it (being that baseball is my overall favorite sport) it's a bit too late. Sadly, football has become the more popular sport in America and if any sport would have that happen it would be for football. I can see the Super Bowl becoming a national holiday faster than Opening Day in MLB. Ozzie makes the point that people usually "play hookie" to go to the game anyways so why not just make it a national holiday? It would've been nice say 30 years or so ago when baseball was still the national pastime, but like I said that title now belongs to football, just ask ESPN.

Another flaw in Ozzie's suggestion is that most teams have their opening day celebration at night since there are more night games now in baseball than ever before. And since I feel that Ozzie is targeting the 9-5 working crowd, night games kind of takes the wind out of that sail since they'll be able to go once they're out of work. So as much as I appreciate the enthusiasm from Ozzie Smith I know that I'll be headed to work on Opening Day.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In Baseball Free Agency isn't Really Free

When you think about free agency you think about how a player has his choice of where he wants to go play, but that's wrong. In baseball, if you're a valued player you get attached to a draft pick and in today's landscape that draft pick (and the money attached to said draft pick) is everything especially to teams that are rebuilding. So teams like the Cubs and the Astros aren't about to pay a player what he's asking for if he's attached to a draft pick because then they'd have to give up the draft pick which like I said is very valuable. There are teams that don't care about losing draft picks teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and the Orioles (who have given up two draft picks in signing both Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz this offseason).

Yet there are still some major names that are free agents because of the draft pick issue. Ervin Santana, Kendrys Morales, and Stephen Drew are all out on the open market. There has been countless of rumors about all of these players, but because teams overvalue these draft picks and they're not willing to sign a player that can help them win now. The Mets were rumored to be in on Drew, but they'd rather go with a draft pick than with Drew who could help them not end the upcoming season in last place in the NL East. Santana can help countless teams, but teams would rather take a flier on a high school or college kid who may or may not make it to the show. The one thing that the ever powerful baseball union hasn't been able to get rid of in all of the Collective Bargaining negotiations is draft pick compensation for players and until that happens there won't be any real free agency for the cream of the crop.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Will Joe Put Up A Smart Lineup?

This weekend the Yankees signed left fielder Brett Gardner to a 4 year 52 million dollar deal and immediately I thought "Who's going to bat second?" with the offseason signing of Jacoby Ellsbury to a ridiculous 7 year 153M to bat lead off and play center field the Yankees have put Girardi in an interesting position. A 1-2 punch of Ellsbury and Gardner at top of the lineup would be a dream for any manager in the majors, but unlike other managers Girardi has to deal with the retiring legend in No. 2 Derek Jeter. If I were Girardi I would think Jeter would be best batting 6-8 in the lineup. With newcomers Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano who should be fixed to hit 3-5 in the lineup and the returning Mark Texeira who would fit in the 6 hole in the lineup I don't see how Jeter should be in the top 3 in the lineup. 

But considering that this is Jeter's swan song I don't know what Girardi is going to do. How upset would fans be if they come to the ballpark and find out that Jeter is batting 7th, 8th, or 9th? He'd still be playing shortstop (or DH), but would the outrage against Girardi be really that loud? Last season the Yankees didn't make the playoffs and this year they invested HEAVILY into this year's (and several other years') payroll so would having a black hole batting second (a 73% ground ball rate in his last full season and a career 272 double plays) be what's good for the team? Considering that Ellsbury gets on base plenty of times (when healthy) would having a double play machine in Jeter be wise when Gardner would be way more difficult to double off since he can fly down the line? Good luck to Joe on deciding whether No. 2 will bat 2... or 7th.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hands Down Man Down

After watching the NBA All-Star game are people actually surprised that the game set a record for points scored? The new strategy in the NBA isn't "Me stopping you. It's me scoring more than you" and there is a difference between the two. This style of play tends to lay on the side of offensive players like Carmelo Anthony (who set a record for three pointers in last night's All-Star game). Just think of the rosters of both teams how many players are actually known for playing defense? There was no Tyson Chandler in the paint, there was no full court press. Sure, Joakim Noah plays defense, but that wasn't going to happen in this game which is also why he didn't play that many minutes in the ASG.

The game is soft. The players are soft. Their motto is I'll see your two points and raise you three. I'm surprised refs even brought whistles to the game. Watching the game it quickly turned into a track meet. When one team scored the opposing team got the ball to half court in under a second and the race was on. I understand that it's an All-Star game and since it doesn't mean anything (in terms of overall season success) the players have a right to try plays that aren't usually allowed in an actual game like big men shooting three pointers or point guards tossing alley oops from any part of the court. Many viewers didn't have a problem with the lack of defense since they enjoy all the crazy alley oops and stuff like that, but there is another side of the game that isn't promoted by all the events during the All-Star weekend and it definitely showed last night.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Roc is in the Building

When Jay-Z formed Roc Nation Sports in conjunction with CAA (Creative Arts Agency) a talent agency based in LA I thought the tides were about to change in sports representation especially when Jay-Z got his hands on then-Yankee Robinson Cano. Cano was Roc Nation's first big test and Cano landed a 10 year 240 million dollar deal with the Seattle Mariners which was is a huge success wince no one in the industry thought of Cano in that salary range so credit Roc Nation for getting their client the best deal possible. After Cano Roc Nation got their hands on WNBA player Skylar Diggins, NFL quarterback Geno Smith, and, the biggest name since Cano, Kevin Durant.

What Roc Nation can do for these other athletes is yet to be seen, but the names continue to grow on the Roc Nation roster now that NFL defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has signed on. Jay-Z has continued to increase the brand of Roc Nation and has been grabbing big names from all parts of the sports world and it's going to continue to grow especially if Roc Nation keeps getting these types of deals for athletes. The marketing aspect of the Roc Nation brand should continue to attract many more athletes since that's what Jay-Z is best known for outside of his rapping career. I wouldn't be surprised if Cano is on a bunch of commercials in Seattle which equals a bunch of checks that goes to Cano and a cut to Roc Nation.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kudos to Mr. Sam, but the Challenge Lies Ahead

Ex-Missouri defensive end Michael Sam came out and told the world that he is gay. That's huge in the NFL since the macho culture of the NFL has traditionally kept such announcements under wraps, but Sam thought that it was the right time for him to make his announcement. Now the biggest test for Sam will be whether he will get drafted by a team and in what round. There are teams out there that have had gay players in their locker room, but none have been open about it and as much support as Sam has gotten on Twitter from current or former NFL players I think the ignorant folks will have their say. Whether it be ignorant statements through the media or just play ol' ignorant chants from the stands. If Sam isn't like Vince Young who couldn't take all the attacks from fans he should be fine, but that's if he's drafted.

A couple years back an active player in the NFL made anti-gay comments during a radio interview and he was slaughtered on Twitter, but there was no fine or suspension from the league. There are still ignorant people in the NFL as there are in society in general so I'm not sure if there is going to be a general manager out there who is willing to take on the distraction of having the "first openly gay player" in professional American sports. That is a huge title for a sport that's known for (like I mentioned earlier) it's macho culture. Good for Sam for coming out and being ready to take on the challenge, but he shouldn't be surprised if he's either the last pick in the draft or go undrafted all together.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Before Pitchers and Catchers there's the Caribbean World Series

Every year before pitchers and catchers report to major league Spring training there's the Caribbean World Series. Four different countries and one Caribbean territory have their own winter leagues and the champion from those respective leagues get together and meet up in one of these places to play each other to decide which team is the best for that year. The participants for the tournament are The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba, and Mexico. The traditional strength of these nations (and territory in Puerto Rico's case) is baseball and for them to get together and play their yearly tournament is fun to watch especially in the strange time when the football season is over and spring training is still so far away.

What is the most fun to watch is how different the ambiance is between the major league game and the Caribbean game. Where the majors tend to be more business like, the stands during these Caribbean games are the opposite. A more festive surrounding with music, cheerleaders, and a more active and animated crowd makes the games much more entertaining especially during rivalry games like when Puerto Rico plays the Dominican Republic in either Puerto Rico or DR or when Venezuela plays Mexico. Whether it be Caribbean baseball or spring training baseball it's the fact that there is organized baseball to watch during the winter that makes baseball a year round thing.      

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Now that the Game is Over..

So on Sunday I was one of the 111.5 million people who sat to watch the Super Bowl and as unsatisfying as the game was the old moniker of defense winning championships came true once again with the Seahawks dominating the Broncos to a 43 to 8 score. Does this make Peyton Manning any worse of a quarterback or diminish the great season he had up until that point? No. Whenever Manning decides to retire he'll definitely be a first ballot hall of famer. One Super Bowl ring or 2 he'll still go down as one the best quarterbacks to play the game. To some people Dan Marino is the best quarterback of all time yet he has no championships and Trent Dilfer has one ring to his name so does that make Dilfer better than Marino? I think not.

But I must give it to the Seahawks they got to Manning using their front four defensive linesmen (something that no team had done to Manning this season) leaving their physical secondary to rough up the Broncos wide receivers (also something that hasn't happened all season). Leaving Manning looking old, unathletic, and just plain ol' out of it. By halftime the game was over. I predicted that the NFC winner was going to win the Super Bowl and I was right, but I would've liked Peyton to capture his second title, but now let's lace up and play ball.