Bob and Weave

Musings of an impostor. Welcome to the masquerade.

Posts Tagged ‘Sports’

Unpopular Opinions on Sports

Posted by flyingbk on 12/08/2010

This post was inspired by this one. I’ll do sports today, and life another time. Here we go..

Sports
1. I’m rooting for LeBron James and the Miami Heat to succeed. I think most people who attack him are just being haters. I’m also rooting for Tiger Woods to get back to the top.

2. The National League should adopt the DH (I’m tired of watching pitchers “hit”), and MLB should get rid of unbalanced schedules. Let’s dispense with the myth that winning a division matters in baseball (the wild card is just as equal in value).

3. Hard salary caps, like the NFL institutes (well, except for this year), are insanity. It’s not a formula for parity; it’s a recipe for leaguewide mediocrity.

4. I’ll blog later about this, but American football is a fundamentally flawed sport. How do you have a puny kicker decide many contests when he doesn’t play at all otherwise?

5. I’ve read John Calipari’s book. I’m sure he’s as slimy as they come (and he uses people), and yet I can’t help but like him.

6. Baseball and college hoops are the two most exciting sports. The NFL has its moments, but a lot of times it’s subpar.

7. The vast majority of sports fans underestimate how much luck matters in sports, and they make opinions on such matters as “clutch” instead of understanding what’s really going down.

8. The following sports personalities I find insufferable and/or completely wrongheaded in their analysis: Stuart Scott, Merril Hoge, Lou Holtz, Digger Phelps, Clark Kellogg, Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic, Michael Kay, Dave O’Brien, and Rick Reilly.

9. Soccer is boring. Soccer puts me to sleep. I only watch the World Cup out of patriotism, but I probably shouldn’t even bother anymore. That’s because soccer is lame.

10. I can’t stand Rafael Nadal. I respect him, of course, but I just don’t enjoy watching him play.
Of course, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.

Here are a couple things we should be able to agree on. #1, Gus Johnson is the man (my favorite moment is at the 2:34 mark):

And #2, Jimmy V’s speech is worth watching. Every year:

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Surf’s Up 11-18-10

Posted by flyingbk on 11/18/2010

Well, it’s been a while. Here are some links for your browsage:

The NY Times does a nice Q&A with George Dohrmann, author of the book I recently reviewed.

IMO, the best show on TV is Terriers on FX. Every time I watch a new episode, I am blown away by how well-written and acted it is, and the hour just seems to breeze by. The sad thing is that absolutely no one is watching it (ratings indicate that about 500K watch each week, and that number is beyond abysmal). I blame the marketing and title of the show. Here’s a plea by a top TV critic to keep it around.

If you don’t know the sordid truths about Planned Parenthood, this release by the Family Research Council is a good read.  Here’s one telling tidbit that I read over at Bound4LIFE:

Carol Everett, formerly Dallas’ largest abortion chain owner and trained by Planned Parenthood, has explained the grand strategy of the industry. It builds on the methodology of gaining the trust of young people by offering secrecy and promiscuity via free/inexpensive birth control, and then banking on …their inevitable return when pregnancy occurs. Everett has even discussed how they would deliberately prescribe low-dowsage birth control to help ensure that pregnancies occurred. Carol said that their goal was to “get three abortions out of each of their girls by the time they graduated high school.” Their record was nine from one girl.

That may sound shocking to you ,but if you know how Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry at-large operates, I’m sad to say that it’s not a shock at all. Sigh. “Jesus, I plead your blood over my sins and the sins of my nation. God, end abortion and send revival to America!”

So, Sam Harris, a renowned atheist, recently put out this graphic that shows all the supposed contradictions in the Bible. Thus, a few ministry folk are putting the intellectual smackdown on him.

If you are a Christian, I challenge you to memorize more Scripture. There’s no reason why you and I shouldn’t be committing verse after verse to our brains. Here’s a good link to help us.

There was a time I used to watch the Daily Show with John Stewart. Then I got sick of the unfair, gratuitous shots he took at Republicans. I also find him to be a giant hypocrite; you can’t fall back on “hey I’m just a comedian” while wanting people to take your political punditry seriously. James Taranto explains what Stewart really stands for.

Finally, long live The Three Amigos! LGM.

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A-A-U Spells Trouble

Posted by flyingbk on 11/08/2010

Joe Keller and Demetrius Walker (Credit: George Dohrmann / Ballantine)

Tonight marks the first games of the 2010-11 basketball season. College hoops has become my 2nd favorite sport with baseball #1 and all other sports a distant 3rd, 4th, etc. So it’s fitting that today, I review a landmark book by Sports Illustrated writer George Dohrmann titled Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and The Youth Basketball Machine. This is the first book I’ve finished since I moved to Virginia; I took it out from my local library and finished all 432 pages within 4 days. If you love college sports, and want an insider’s look at the seedy world of AAU basketball, this book is an absolute page-turner.

We all remember Mars Blackmon’s (aka Spike Lee) famous proclamation that “It’s gotta be the shoes.” Here’s a reminder in case you don’t recall:

Well, unfortunately, AAU (which stands for Amateur Athletic Union) basketball is all about the shoes. It should be mainly about the young hoopsters who dream one day of procuring a college scholarship and playing in the NBA. It should be about teaching them properly, whether the subject be the fundamentals of basketball, the importance of studying (and staying) in school, and growing in maturity and character. Unfortunately, those three topics are widely ignored even as these teenagers travel around the country and play in many a sports camp or national tournament. There does appear to be some good people working for the AAU; the ones who actually guide kids correctly and help them land safely to play in the NCAA. But the system is broken and ravaged by those who simply want to make some dough, with the help of the shoe companies. It’s gotta be the shoes, and it’s gotta be the Benjamins.

In this book, Dohrmann follows the journey of Joe Keller, a youth coach who badly wants to make it, i.e. become a big name and make a lot of money in the youth basketball scene. In order for him to achieve this goal, he needs to target the right up-and-comers, and he meets his match in Demetrius Walker, who is promptly hailed as the next LeBron James and the best 7th grader in the nation (click here for the SI story from 2005). Keller practically adopts Walker, spending lots of time with him on and off the court. In 2004, he surrounds Walker with top young talent and they win the AAU national championship in Baltimore.

But the agenda for Keller becomes clear when it is time for Walker to enter high school. The best fit for Walker is Etiwanda High School in SoCal; It’s a proven program with good players and the coach has an established record as someone who sends his kids to top universities. Also, Walker would stay geographically close to his mom and friends, a much-needed safety net. Keller, however, has no interest in Etiwanda. Instead, his ideal school for Walker has to be a place where Demetrius can get the most immediate playing time and be featured as its top star. And of course, it has to be a place where Keller can make more money via an Adidas shoe deal. For those who don’t know, shoe companies pay oodles of money and give truckloads of free gear to AAU (and high school) coaches so that they can get in early with the best young players. Therefore, Walker ends up going to Fontana High, despite its major disciplinary problems and its well-earned reputation as a “dropout factory.” It doesn’t matter at all to Keller that Walker will not improve as a player (and he needs to, because all his life he played in the post but now at only 6’3″, he has to learn guard skills).

Dohrmann reports on the inside happenings in regards to Keller and Walker, as well as other kids who played for Keller’s AAU team. There are a few success stories, but overall, it is a sad book as one comes to realize that Keller functions as a kind of basketball pimp who’s simply looking to get rich off these kids. In fact, once Keller reaches the big-time due to his cash cow idea of starting national junior high basketball camps, he practically throws Walker away. During one heart-breaking sequence, Walker emails Keller and asks him to be more involved in his life again. But Keller, with his remodeled kitchen, new wood floors, and bean-shaped pool and waterfall in the backyard (Keller: “When it is all done, my house is going to look like something you would see on MTV’s Cribs.”), no longer has any need for Walker and ends the relationship.

Walker says to Dohrmann, “I mean, I start thinking to myself, like, is it ‘cuz of me that Coach Joe is now living like he is? It eats me up sometimes, because I don’t really know the whole truth, but if it wasn’t for me, if I had joined another team, would Coach Joe be rich like he is now? Would his name be as big as it is?” We all know the answer, but it really isn’t until a couple years later that Walker (as a high school senior) realizes that “They are just out for themselves. He doesn’t care about me. He cares what he can make off me.”

In Dohrmann’s final interview with him, Keller complains about Walker, stating, “I’m not going to hold his hand anymore. People holding his hand was what f—– him up in the first place.” The irony appears to be totally lost on him. Also, while at Keller’s crib, Dohrmann notices the glass-bowl trophy won at the 2004 Nationals. It’s now an unimportant item at the Keller residence since Keller is only interested in purchasing professional sports memorabilia. So Dohrmann suggests that Keller give it to him, so that he can pass it on the kids who won that trophy. Keller’s response? “Hell no! Are you crazy? I’m not giving it to them. That is mine. I earned that.”

Walker is currently sitting out the 2010-11 college hoops season since he decided to transfer to the University of New Mexico (he was at Arizona State).  He almost certainly will not be a player in the NBA, let alone a star in the NCAA. It’s a sad story of what-could’ve-been if he had been surrounded by the right people who actually cared for him, would not spoil him, and desired to make him the best possible player.

Play Their Hearts Out hammers home the importance of parents and good influences that our youth need, whether they be basketball players or not. But in the youth basketball machine, those influences are few and far between. Does Dohrmann think that his book will make a difference? In this article, he is more measured and realistic: “[The AAU and NCAA] know everything that goes on in this book. I’m just putting in characters and pain and suffering with a name, and that may be new. But what I do hope is that the book gets into a few parents’ hands.”

I hope so too.

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today in blogging

Posted by flyingbk on 10/06/2010

I hope to write an entry today about The Snakehead, the most poignant book I’ve read this summer. But I’ll also be watching lots of baseball, starting at 1:30pm with a devastatingly delicious pitching matchup of Cliff Lee vs. David Price.

For now, here’s a couple of quick hits in the sports world that are standing out to me.

  • Somehow, I think this goodie should be marked down even more than it already is.
  • You know what? Most baseball sportswriters are gadawful, especially the ones who believe in such nebulous and unprovable traits such as grit and heart. John Harper’s column in the NY Daily News is a classic example, here’s an excerpt:

    Talent aside, however, winning in the big leagues starts with attitude, with the type of mental and physical toughness that has defined the Phillies and separated them from the Mets.

    You cannot put “talent aside.” That’s just nonsense. The Mets didn’t beat out the Phillies this year because they had less talent i.e. in the form of lineup sinkholes such as Jeff Francoeur, Rod Barajas, and Luis Castillo. Enough already. One of my favorite bloggers, Ted Berg, rightfully takes Harper to task. Harper also harps (pun intended) on Carlos Beltran, one of New York’s favorite punching bags. Beltran will go down as one of the most underappreciated players in Mets history, if not New York sports history. I’ll have to blog about him sometime this offseason.

  • Finally, some good news in Georgetown recruiting!! It’s been a tough cycle as two of the Hoyas’ top targets committed to rival schools (Rakeem Christmas to Syracuse and Tyrone Johnson to Villanova). But now, we have two good recruits for 2011 and hopefully John Thompson III & Co. can snag a couple more. Also, I love that Georgetown is playing the toughest out-of-conference schedule this coming year. Can’t wait until college basketball begins!

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Surf’s Up 9-28-10

Posted by flyingbk on 09/28/2010

So how about my Chicago Bears? Yes, I have been a proud Bears fan since they captured Super Bowl XX back in January 1986. Since I’ve been a fan, they seem to follow a similar pattern: They’ll stink for a couple years, then out of nowhere they’ll have a surprisingly good year (like their run to the Super Bowl 4 years ago). It’s looking like this is one of the good years. Yay!

SPORTS

It continues to boggle my mind how bad NFL coaches are in the area of clock management. Last night’s Bears win over the Pack is a perfect example: Late in the game, with the score tied, the Bears are facing a 2nd-and-goal at the Packers’ 3. Bears coach Lovie Smith should have his team take two knees in order to drain the clock, and then kick the game-winning chippie field goal; Packers coach Mike McCarthy should let the Bears score on the next play so that they can save a timeout and allow All-World quarterback Aaron Rodgers to lead his team on a game-tying drive.

Instead, it became a case of Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber. Smith tried to score twice (with two Matt Forte runs), and McCarthy had his defense play straight up and stop the Bears. The result: An easy 19-yard field goal splits the uprights with four seconds left, and the Bears win. Wow. How stupid can you be? And the sad thing is, most NFL coaches would have played it the same way; they’re really that dumb.

McCarthy’s explanation after the game:
“I did not consider letting them score at the end,” McCarthy said of the Bears. “I felt they [would miss] a field goal in the end.”

Everyone join me and LOL at him. You, sir, are DUMB.

Let’s give major props to Josh Hamilton, who decided not to celebrate with his Rangers teammates in a champagne-drenched locker room. God bless him.

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig lives the good life. Check out the money quote in the 4th paragraph.

A nice feature on Mets’ first baseman Ike Davis and his work to raise awareness of the Holocaust.

I haven’t watched the more recent ESPN 30-for-30 documentaries, but I will definitely check out this one on Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac. Draz was my favorite NBA player when I was in middle school; I was almost in tears when I found out about his tragic death.

I am not a Woody Paige fan, but I appreciated his candor regarding suicide in this piece.

PERSONAL

I leave for Newport News, Virginia in 11 days. I admit that recently, I have been wondering, “WHAT AM I DOING??” But reading this blog entry by Trevin Wax was a help. I also had a good talk with the senior pastor and education elder yesterday, which buoyed my spirits.

I am looking forward to embracing the culture and way of life there, and this blog entry offers me some tips on how to do so.

Last week, I demonstrated how the New York Times pushed the fallacy of moral equivalence. Turns out that James Taranto and I were on the same page, as he noted the same thing I did. But he also makes another good point regarding the story about the violence aimed toward Christians in Indonesia:
Note the way he words that: Not Islamic supremacists attacked Christians, but their “rally” “turned violent.”

Ugh. And they teach you in journalism not to use the passive voice!

IN THE NEWS

A fascinating article on how Afghan women are forced to pretend to be males, and how it’s hard to switch back when it’s time to get married. The article reminded me of the movie Osama, one of the best foreign films I’ve ever seen.

Surprisingly, the super liberal San Francisco Chronicle refuses to make an endorsement in the 2010 California Senate race. I’d love nothing more than to see Barbara Boxer go down, but I am very skeptical. Maybe this non-endorsement helps, though.

Oy, what is going on here?

MISCELLANEOUS

Meet the original 40-year old Virgin.

You, sir, are an idiot.

Psych has been renewed for another season by USA! I love this show, it just makes me happy.

This is also good news, as I am a big Norm McDonald fan.

MUSIC
I leave you with one of my favorite songs these days, Fireflight’s “Core of my Addiction.” Every time this song plays on my iTunes/iPod, I got pumped. “I wanna live, but I would die for you… I’m addicted!” Awesome.

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Surf’s Up 9-21-10

Posted by flyingbk on 09/21/2010

I caught the series premiere of various shows last night as the new fall TV schedule began in earnest. I watched Hawaii Five-0 while at the gym yesterday, and while I enjoyed it, I can’t see myself investing. Lone Star was fascinating, but then I remembered that I don’t really like primetime soaps. Mike and Molly is a comedy about fat people, and while some jokes were painfully obvious, I’ll give it a second look.

On to the links! Feedback is always welcome!

NOTE: This week will have more links than usual because I’ve been storing some of them up for a while (I decided to re-launch this blog a few weeks ago, but I didn’t get around to it until yesterday since I was traveling).

POTPOURRI

Most of you know about the Korean fraud ring in Bergen County, NJ. If not, click accordingly. The Korean community is ashamed, according to councilman Jason Kim, AKA my old hakwon boss back when I was in high school.

I really enjoyed this article on the Trader Joe’s business. It’s amazing how popular this grocery chain has become; when recent news came out that TJ was planning to open two new markets in the Kansas City area, a few of my Facebook friends residing there reacted euphorically as if the rapture had occurred! I admit, when I found out that there’s a TJ right by where I’ll live in Virginia, I was excited as well!

Christopher Hitchens, the famed atheist, skipped out on his own prayer day. It appears that he’s determined to die a proud atheist, but many Christians continue to pray for him. I’m reminded of a quote by Hitchens in the Times book review on August 15, 2010. It regards whether he should look to God now that he’s dying:
This subject is one Mr. Hitchens has mulled over since childhood, when he decided, as he wrote in “God Is Not Great,” that it was “contemptible” to rely on religion just for comfort if it “might not be true.”

I loved this opinion by Camille Paglia in which he savagely attacks Lady Gaga. I could not agree more; I find Lady Gaga highly repugnant, although I acknowledge (and lament the waste of) her great talent.

Is Kim Jong Il ready to pass the baton of oppression?

Here’s a long piece on the havoc that pornography is wreaking in our society.  The author writes about how we not only have an obesity problem in America, but how we also have a ‘sexual obesity’ epidemic. There’s a lot I could excerpt from the piece, but I’ll go with this one about addiction:
Although academic experts may continue to battle over exactly what is meant by “addiction,” surely the tremendously defensive response in the public square by itself settles the question to any reasonable person’s satisfaction. What does it tell us that, when faced with any attempt to make the case that this substance should be harder to get than it is, some reliable subset of defenders can be counted on to respond more like animals than like people? If such is not the very definition of addiction, what is?

POLITICS

One major problem I have with liberal publications is their insistence on moral equivalency. Nicholas Kristof is a columnist I respect (mainly because of his humanitarian work), but James Taranto calls him out for recently written nonsense.

More moral equivalency in the NYT, from this article on Christianization in Indonesia:
Last week, one day after Americans opposed to the construction of an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan pledged to “Stop the Islamization of America,” a group of Islamists rallied in Bekasi, outside the Indonesian capital, to fight the “Christianization” of Indonesia, by blocking the planned construction of a church.

See what the Times just did? The two groups are set side-by-side, as if they’re made of the same moral fiber. Except that the one near Ground Zero by Christians was nonviolent, while the one in Indonesia by Muslims involved Christian leaders being “stabbed in the stomach” and “hit in the head with a plank.” Sigh.

Jim Treacher rightfully asks, how come the media isn’t covering more concerning the plight of Molly Norris? That crazy preacher from Florida gets all this press, but Norris is ignored? Hmm, I wonder why… If you don’t know, feel free to read up about an inch or so.

TRAGEDY

Stunningly sad news regarding a Broncos’ wide receiver.

The pastor of a church and his wife, and four others, died on Saturday near Woodbury Commons in a freak church van accident. There are a couple bittersweet tidbits in the story about how the pastor made a difference in others’ lives. The name of the church: Joy Fellowship Church, a similar name to the church that most of my friends and I attend. Weird, right? My thoughts and prayers go out to this church.

SPORTS

A fan at Amazin’ Avenue is writing up a post-by-post review of the 2000 season. It’s a nice time to wax nostalgic since the current iteration of the Mets isn’t very good. Here is Part I, Part II, and Part III. How can you say no to Benny Agbayani?

Mascot throwdown!

Another crazy fan stomps onto the field at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia (apparently trying to look like Superman). This time though, it’s not a taser gun, but Matt Diaz to the rescue.

Gregg Easterbrook’s TMQ is always a must-read for the football fan. This particular column tackles the need to be more proactive in preventing concussions.

Football Outsider’s Quick Reads is essential fare as well, especially for those of you who think that Michael Vick played really well on Sunday.

Word is that the Nets are frontrunners to acquire Carmelo Anthony’s talents. That’d be pretty sweet, in light of the fact that Knicks fans have been dreaming of Melo since Lebron jilted them.

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angst

Posted by flyingbk on 10/29/2009

angst 1

A feeling of anxiety or apprehension often accompanied by depression.

Yeah, I think that word aptly describes how all Mets fans feel about this World Series. In one corner, you have the team that has been ably named “The Evil Empire.” Every good Mets fan will tell you that his two favorite teams are the Mets and whoever is playing the Yankees. I cringe every time I hear Mets fans shouting  “Yankees SUCK!” at a Mets game because there’s no need for us to possess such a large chip on our shoulder, but I understand the spirit behind the chant. (I have only joined in on that chant once, when I was at this awesome game and we saw on the scoreboard that the Yankees were getting spanked by Barry Zito and the A’s. Of course, that year didn’t end all that well, so you can argue that I received my comeuppance.)

In the other corner, you have our main division rival that has now gotten the best of us for three straight years, and completely embarrassed us with their historical comeback in 2007. The Phillies have players like Cole Hamels, who brazenly proclaimed on New York sports radio that the Mets were “chokers.” There’s Chase Utley, who is probably the second best player in all of baseball, but has openly admitted that he never tries to get out of the way of a hit-by-pitch. Worst of all, there’s Shane Victorino, who looks like a five-year old with his twin ear flaps and claps his hands maniacally, vaguely resembling a chicken in the process.

So what should a Mets fan do? You can’t root for either team. One option is to stay neutral; you can just enjoy the fact that one of your hated rivals is going to lose and that their fans will have their hearts shattered. You’ve just turned your no-win situation into a no-lose delight! Brilliant!

At first, I decided that I would simply root AGAINST the Phillies. Let me give you three reasons why:

1) The Phillies have a lot more players that I can’t stand; there are a few players I can’t stand on the Yankees, but my dislike of them is nothing compared to how I feel about Jimmy Rollins, Hamels, Victorino, etc.

2) The Yankees last won in 2000, so seeing them win wouldn’t be the worst thing. But seeing the Phillies win back-to-back and having that cloud cover the Mets and their efforts to recapture the NL East? And then having to hear ad infinitum about how the Phillies are more gritty and how they just “want it more”? Ouch, those would be hard pills to swallow.

3) I have a lot of friends and youth group kids that are huge Yankee fans. While there are many insufferable and overly brash Yankee fans, most of the ones I know do not fall into this category. Meanwhile, all Phillies fans could use a slice of humble pie.

But I admit, while watching last night’s contest, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Cliff Lee shut down the vaunted Yankees lineup and seeing all those unhappy Yankee fans quietly exit the stadium. And I will be avidly rooting for Pedro tonight, even though I don’t expect him to pitch well. But then when the scene shifts to Philadelphia, I would love to watch the blank expressions on the faces of Phillies fans as their team bites the dust. I would love to see any of the top Phillies hitters fail in a big spot, and I want Cole Hamels to get hammered. Oh, what conflict! What angst!

I think this poem sums up things well. I say, if the Phillies win, let them clinch at the new Yankee stadium and let Derek Jeter strike out with the tying and winning runs on base. If the Yankees win, let them do it because Rollins and Utley made big errors and Shane Victorino knocked his head into the wall for an inside-the-parker. I’m not asking for too much, right? LGM.

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musings 10-26-09

Posted by flyingbk on 10/26/2009

Note to self: When launching a new blog, do not get sick in the 2nd week of operation. Also, do not let your computer get sick. My trusty PC encountered a virus, leading to a reformatting. It’s the first problem I ‘ve had in 3 years.

Here’s a few things concerning what’s been on my mind of late:

  • I caught an explosive report by 60 minutes last night entitled “The $60 Billion Fraud” on how easy it is to rip off Medicare and Medicaid. If you don’t have the patience to watch a 14-minute video, click on the link and then click on the link on the right called “Easy Money.” And then ask yourself if our president was either brazenly misleading us or being mind-numbingly naive when he proclaimed that the new healthcare bill will save money by slashing hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicare & Medicaid waste.
  • Speaking of Obama – when I think of him these days, I think of this iconic video game character. Our president can’t take a punch. I’ve gone through three phases since the 2008 election. The first stage was depression in which I refused to pay attention to his administration because I knew all he did and said would make me upset. Naturally, the second stage was anger as I decided that I should pay attention. But now, I’m at the third stage, and that is gratitude. Gratitude to our president for singlehandedly reviving the Republican Party and reminding us all that we live in a center-right that does not brook extreme liberalism. Perhaps Obama has some healing powers, after all.
  • The baseball playoffs have been quite annoying so far. Here’s the deal: The Yankees are the best team in baseball. There is no doubt about it, and they definitely deserve to be in the World Series. But it would sure be nice if one team actually made them play well before they win the whole enchilada!! The Twins and Angels engaged in their own contest of which team could make more mental mistakes and managerial errors (I think the Angels won by a nose). I mean, the Yankees haven’t actually played great baseball (half of their lineup is asleep and their non-Mariano bullpen has performed poorly) this October, and yet here they are.
  • Favorite quote of the hour comes from Winston Churchill. He once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”  I’ve had my share of failures this year, in my personal life and ministry, and I confess that it’s led to great disappointment and loss of enthusiasm. But I say no more! It’s time to live again with great hope and passion because as Starfield eloquently puts it, “I want to know the mystery/reach out and touch the majesty/I want to hold the hand that holds the world.” Amen.

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LCS thoughts

Posted by flyingbk on 10/15/2009

Like I wrote before, all four teams are excellent. I really don’t think there’s a point in making predictions. The Yankees are clearly better than the Angels, while the Dodgers are a smidge better than the Phillies. That doesn’t mean we’ll get a Joe vs. Joe World Series.  What I hope to do instead is give you three factors apiece to pay attention to as you enjoy October baseball.

NLCS: Phillies vs. Dodgers

1) The battle of the bullpens. Both teams boast deep, versatile lineups. But in the pen, the Dodgers have a clear advantage in terms of quality and quantity. Even more so, they have two strong left-handed relievers in Hong-Chih Kuo and George Sherrill, which will go a long way in neutralizing the Phillies’ terrorizing troika of Utley/Howard/Ibanez. And if that’s not enough, closer Jonathan Broxton is a righty who had an awesome year vs. lefty hitters. Meanwhile, Phillies fans will be nervously chewing their fingernails regardless of which reliever is attempting to close out a game for their club.

2) Torre’s overreaction. Vicente Padilla pitched lights-out for the Dodgers in game 3 of the NLDS; therefore, Torre has decided to reward him with a game 2 start, meaning that Padilla should also start a possible game 6. This move appears to be quite the mistake; Padilla is very difficult on right-handed hitters, but he struggles against lefties. And as noted before, the Phillies’ main strength is their excellence from the left side of the batter’s box. Torre would’ve been much better off starting Wolf in game 2 (I love starting Kershaw in game 1).

3) Who will step up? The Phillies begin this series at a disadvantage because their ace, Cliff Lee, won’t start until game 3. So it’s very possible that the Phillies will be eliminated before their ace can pitch twice. Therefore, they will need their other starters to step up, especially because Charlie Manuel will be looking to avoid using his bullpen as much as possible. Hamels is dependable, but their game 2 and 4 starters will come from a trio of Pedro Martinez, J.A. Happ, and Joe Blanton. Reports are that Pedro will get the nod for game 2; can he stand and deliver?

ALCS: Yankees vs. Angels

1) The peripheral Bombers. The Yankees are a strong favorite. Their lineup is better, their starting pitching is stronger, and their closer is a juggernaut. However, some of the lesser lights in the Yankees lineup- Damon, Cano, Swisher, and Melky- have been struggling. Damon especially has fallen on hard times; I know because he carried my fantasy team before collasping late. The Yankees have always relied on a relentless lineup during their championship years, and a small showing by their peripheral hitters makes them less formidable.

2) Don’t pray for rain. Joe Girardi has been clear that he would like to use a 3-man rotation in which C.C. Sabathia starts on 3 days rest in game 4 (he would start on regular rest in a potential game 7 because of the insane amount of off-days instituted by MLB for the LCS). However, if game 1 or 2 gets rained out (the forecast in NYC calls for lots of rain all weekend), he would have no choice but to start either Joba or Gaudin in game 4. The Angels would get the edge there; while the Yankees’ frontline starters are better, the Angels have a slightly deeper rotation.

3) Where’s the relief? Be careful what you hear as you watch the games; these Angels are built differently than their past editions, including the ones that took down the Yankees in the past. Their lineup has more power (and still lots of speed), but the prime change is in the bullpen. In their previous playoff runs, the conventional wisdom was that if the Angels had a lead in the late innings, it was game over. That is definitely no longer the case. The Halos’ pen is shaky at best, and the Yankees should have plenty of opportunities to forge comebacks, regardless of the inning and score. If the Angels are going to pull the upset, they’ll need at least two relievers (Oliver? Bulger?) to come up big.

OK fine, I’ll make predictions. Dodgers and Yankees, both in 6 games.

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get ready for fall classics

Posted by flyingbk on 10/11/2009

To say that I am not a Yankees fan, or a Phillies fan, would be quite the understatement. However, as a baseball fan, I am glad that both teams emerged victorious in their respective Division Series. How can this be?

To answer this question, let’s look at Game 163 between the Twins and Tigers played a week ago. During and after the contest, fans across the internet raved about the drama. And no doubt about it, there was plenty of back-and-forth action, and the importance of the game only added to the excitement. But there was one major problem that kept me from calling this game an all-time classic: It featured two very mediocre teams, and they played accordingly. Whoever won that contest was going to become the worst postseason participant that I can remember since the Wild Card era began. Both the Twins and Tigers would have finished fourth, AT BEST, in the AL Central. In fact, you can make a good argument that the 4th-place Blue Jays were better than either team; Toronto (+27) finished with a better run differential than Detroit (-2), and was only slightly worse than Minnesota (+52) while facing vastly superior competition in its division.

As expected, the Yankees made quick work of the Twins. It actually wasn’t that easy as Minnesota had its chances to capture Games 2 and 3, but the better team prevailed. And with the Angels, Phillies, and Dodgers all winning, we have the teams with the best four records squaring off in two League Championship Series. For these results, all baseball fans, whether you are impartial toward one of the teams or not, should rejoice. That’s because we can expect some heartstopping drama provided by teams of high caliber. In addition, there are four World Series scenarios, and all of them are delicious. FOX Sports must be salivating.

We all love the underdog and the upset. But in this case, we should be glad that teams like the Twins and Rockies did not play the part of David vs. Goliath. Because now, the best is yet to come, from the best teams in the game.

*By the way, I am so glad that the Twins lost partly in due to poor fundamentals. Hopefully we can put to rest the meme that the Twins succeeded because they play the game “the right way.” No, you fools, they made the playoffs because a) they played in a garbage division, and b) they had the best player in the American League, who made up for a bunch of lineup stiffs. They made the playoffs in spite of guys like Nick Punto, not because of them.  Best Twitter I read this past weekend from my man Keith Law: ‘They play the game the right way’ is the baseball equivalent of ‘she has a great personality.’)

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