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An open letter to the New York Yankees — It’s over, guys.  O-V-E-R…

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An open letter to the New York Yankees — It’s over, guys. O-V-E-R…

Posted on 06 September 2012 by Drew Forrester

To: Joe Girardi and the New York Yankees

I’m sure when you all looked at the 2012 schedule back in March, you probably assumed the post-Labor Day series in Baltimore would be a 4-game walk-in-the-park.

Turns out you were right.

It WILL be a walk-in-the-park.

For the Orioles.

Let me officially welcome you guys from New York to the beginning of the end.  I imagine you started to feel it – for real – last weekend in Yankee Stadium when the Birds buzzed in and slapped you around on Friday and Sunday, serving notice that this September might be different than the others of the last 14 seasons prior to this one.

In fact, let me take a second to remind you that Yankee Stadium actually transformed to “Camden Yards in The Bronx” this year, as the Orioles won all three series’ played in “your” place.  How’s that humble pie taste, Joe?

If you haven’t been paying attention — and honestly, when I watch the Yankees this season, I wonder if you are — the Orioles are threatening to claim the top spot in the American League East.  And with Tampa Bay putting their foot up your ass in Florida earlier this week, the Yankees are in the not-so-delightful position of actually having to fight for the right to make the post-season.

For once, the Yankees are just like any other team, fighting and scratching for wins down the stretch.  You’ve lost more than you’ve won since the All-Star break.  Not all bad for a team of scrubs.  But not good for a team like the Yankees who are supposed to win 55% of their games just by showing up at the stadium on time.

And now, on September 6, the time has come to separate the men from the boys.  Let’s see how the Yankees react to this moment-of-truth over the next four days in Baltimore.  Do you have the stones to man-up and win 3 out of 4 to put a halt to this freight train in orange?  Or will you buckle under the pressure of that 10-game A.L. East lead you squandered in less than 50 days?

Here’s my guess:  The Yankees are going to leave town late Sunday evening embarrassed and battered.

Based on the pitchers you’re scheduled to send to the mound, I’d say you guys will be very fortunate to win 2 of the 4 games and more likely a safe bet to win only one.  And it sure wouldn’t surprise me if you go 0-for-4 in Charm City this weekend.

This weekend, by the way, is simply the finishing touch on a season gone haywire here in Baltimore, where the Orioles have done the unthinkable and gone from worst to maybe-first.  That we’ll be jetting above the Yankees in the process is just icing on the cake.  I’m not naive enough to think this is the beginning of some sort of decade long trend where the Orioles win division titles “on the trot” (as they say in England) while the Yankees wallow in 3rd or 4th place.  That gives me even more energy to laugh at what’s happened this year.  It’s come completely out of nowhere.  We might not experience something like this for another decade.  So while we have it, here, at our fingertips, we’re going to revel in it.  You don’t mind, do you?

How that all relates to the upcoming post-season, I have no idea.  But I know this…when the dust settles in a few weeks the Orioles will be ahead of the Yankees in the standings.

Make book on that.

(Please see next page)

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Phelps makes way onto odd list

Posted on 27 June 2012 by WNST Staff

AshleyMadison.com asked women across America which athlete they would most likely cheat on their husband with. Over 13,500 women responded by picking their top three athletes which yielded the following results :

International Soccer Star and Sex Symbol David Beckham was the overwhelming winner with 43.1% of ALL women surveyed saying they would cheat on their husbands with him.

  • ·         Ultra-conservative New York Jet QB Tim Tebow was second with 19.6% of all women surveyed.
  • ·         New England Patriot and the most prolific QB in the NFL, Tom Brady was a close third with 17.9%. Brady is currently married to Supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
  • ·         Mark Sanchez may be the #1 QB on the Jets but only 8.1% of women said they would have an affair with him, well behind his back-up, Tim Tebow.
  • ·         MLB Future Hall-of-Famer and New York Yankee Derek Jeter led the way with 16.5% of women looking to hit a Home Run with him, edging out Yankee Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez, who garnered 13.2% of women respondents.
  • ·         In the battle of the Manning’s, Peyton edged out his younger brother Eli : 9.6% to 8.5%.
  • ·         NBA MVP and NBA Finals MVP LeBron James is the top NBA player amongst women looking to go to the hoop, with 5.8% of all women surveyed looking to cheat with the King. (Kobe Bryant came in second with 4.4%)
  • ·         Andy Roddick (5.6%) out volleyed both Rafael Nadal (4.6%) and Roger Federer (4.2%) to become the top tennis player chosen amongst women
  • ·         Michael Phelps was the leading Olympian with 10.5% of women ready to jump in the pool with him.
  • ·         Top 5 NFL players (are all QB’s): Tim Tebow (19.6%), Tom Brady (17.9%), Peyton Manning (9.6%), Aaron Rodgers (9.5%), and Eli Manning (8.5%). The top non-quarterback was Reggie Bush (6.9%).
  • ·         Top 5 NBA players: LeBron James (5.8%), Kobe Bryant (4.4%), Lamar Odom (3.7%), Dwyane Wade (3.6%), and Kris Humphries (3.3%)
  • ·         Top 3 MLB players: Derek Jeter (16.5%), Alex Rodriguez (13.2%), and Matt Kemp (1.6%)
  • ·         Top 5 non- NFL, NBA, and MLB athletes: David Beckham (43.1%), Christiano Ronaldo (11.0%), Michael Phelps (10.5%), Kelly Slater (9.2%), Lance Armstrong (7.4%)
  • ·         Top 10 athletes overall: David Beckham (43.1%), Tim Tebow (19.6%), Tom Brady (17.9%), Derek Jeter (16.5%), Alex Rodriguez (13.2%), Christiano Ronaldo (11%), Michael Phelps (10.5%), Peyton Manning (9.6%), Aaron Rodgers (9.5%), Kelly Slater (9.2%).  Tiger Woods came in 15th (6.1%).

**Note:  The percentages are based on 300% since each women picked three athletes.  You could also divide every number by three to get an accurate percentage based on 100%.

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Kill the Umpire

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Kill the Umpire

Posted on 05 June 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

They call him Blue because of the color that he wears (or wore) on the field, but the name Blue speaks to more than just that. You refer to him as Blue instead of by name because you don’t know his name, and shouldn’t care to. “Blue” speaks to his anonymity, as the best umpires are the ones that you never notice. “Blue” works on another level too, as (pun intended) when we do get to know their names it’s because blue, or more often blew, has entered the picture.

Fans don’t pay to see (or know) the umpires and generally when we learn Blue’s name it’s because he screwed something up. We remember Richie Garcia because of the call he blew in the “Jeffrey Maier Game” in the 1996 ALCS. We know the name of Jim Joyce for the call that he blew at first base as Armando Galaraga and the Tigers secured what should have been the final out of a perfect game. We know the name of John Hirschbeck because of the spittle (and whatever else) that Roberto Alomar blew at him on an ominous night in Toronto in 1996. And we know the name of “Cowboy” Joe West for the vocals he blew on his album “Blue Cowboy”. All things considered, fans would likely prefer that all 5 were simply anonymous “Blues” again.

 

The other funny thing about Blue is that, at the end of the day, he may simply be a remnant of a bygone era, a token who remains relevant and necessary simply because that’s the way that things have always been, and for possibly little other good reason. As the world calls Major League Baseball to task for its failure to take better advantage of the technology at hand and implement a more encompassing replay system, perhaps we can look at the whole matter as another symptom of baseball’s inability to get out of their own way or to simply embrace the present and take legitimate steps to make the game itself better…and more fair.

 

In an era of technology in which replay has pervaded the landscapes of nearly every major professional sport and sporting league, in an era where the NFL implemented, refined, scrapped, debated, revived and continues to refine their own replay policies, baseball finally and begrudgingly implemented an archaic replay policy of their own, specific only to home run calls, without uniform camera angles from ballpark to ballpark and one involving a parade of umpires vacating the field to convene in a secret room in the bowels of the stadium for the last month of the 2008 season and beyond. (Furthermore, in typical baseball fashion, the move was seemingly done in response to Alex Rodriguez being denied a homerun before his own steroid revelations, as baseball clamored for the day he’d write Barry Bonds out of the record books.)

 

So here we are, in the year 2011, with high definition technology in every ballpark, and a better view of the games from your living rooms (even without the benefit of replay) than you could possibly have from any spot amidst the action. Historically, MLB has seemingly always been a step or two behind the times, and in this case there’s no difference. As baseball looks squarely back into the barrel of the instant replay debate, it’s evident that they should already be way past that point. Baseball should, by now, be looking to get rid of the umpires altogether. The next time the huddle of umps retreats to the video room to look over a homerun call, someone should lock the door behind them and tell them to stay there. Let them stay there until they get it right, or so that they can get it more right more often.

 

The biggest, and most effective argument against replay seems to be that it will slow the pace of an already lethargic game to the point that even more fans will be put off by its lack of tempo. While that, especially under current practices, is probably true, it’s conceivable that eliminating the umpires altogether, or at least their presence on the field could and should actually speed up the game dramatically.

 

Start with the home plate umpire. Every umpire’s strike zone it seems is a little different, and old baseball logic says that as long as the umpire is consistent throughout the night the size of his strike zone shouldn’t matter, and hitters will adjust. How often though are umpires consistent throughout the night? QuesTec proved (to some degree) that cameras and computers could measure strike zones. Argue its accuracy all you like, but there’s little denying its consistency or its potential to improve. Every broadcast it seems has an instantaneous pitch tracker to show fans the arc and location of a pitch as it crossed home plate. While likely not perfect, they are consistent, which is all we ask of good umpires anyway.

 

Furthermore, pitch trackers, set up to a uniform standard in every ballpark will never expand or squeeze the strike zone based on human nature and game situations. The computer won’t be affected when pitchers or batters roll their eyes when close calls don’t go their way, and who in the hell is going to waste time arguing with the computer? (Which by the way makes about as much sense as arguing with an actual ump as they rarely if ever change those calls anyway.) It’s also unlikely that the computer would issue any 3-ball walks like we’ve seen on a couple of occasions in MLB this year, as the umpire in the control room wouldn’t require a coordination with the scoreboard operator, his counter could be the stadium scoreboard.

 

MLB could mandate video boards in uniform locations in every stadium that would relay calls made from the video booth and could easily add accompanying audio to play over the stadiums’ PA systems, as umpires really aren’t required to say very much anyway. Likewise uniform camera angles could be mandated to insure good replays of homerun and fair/foul reviews. Calls on the bases could be made in a similar way, on video boards with accompanying audio calls, “safe at first”, “out at second”, relaying calls made quickly, easily and much more accurately from the video room.

 

Once play is stopped and the ball is ruled dead, umpires could review any video of controversial plays, and in cases where calls are fixable without compromising the action or game situation (like the Joyce and Meals calls) they could fix them; all done quickly and without a parade of umpires retreating off of the field to deliberate.

 

If baseball really wanted to speed the pace of games, then they could require umps to enforce the 12-second rule in which the pitcher has to release his pitch from the time he receives the throw back from the catcher. Twelve seconds may be a bit quick, and therefore the rule is never enforced, and umpires have enough to look out for without putting the stopwatch on pitchers too. The computers though…

 

Since we’re already blowing the lid off baseball, albeit for the betterment of the game, and digitizing, mechanizing and computerizing the whole thing anyway, why not go for broke? Get ready for the blasphemous part for purists…a clock in baseball?!?!?!?!?

 

Put up a shot clock; make it 15 seconds, with a buzzer at the end if the pitcher is still holding the ball. If he steps off, reset it. If he steps off too much, warn him. If the buzzer goes off, call a ball. If the batter wants time out, he can raise his hand and wait for the audio/visual acknowledgment that timeout is granted. Once it is, put a 10 second clock on him too. When 10 seconds is up the pitcher is free to pitch. Pace quickened…problem solved.

 

At the end of the day it sounds pretty simple, and to some degree overdue. Will there be issues to consider? Certainly. That’s what spring training and Triple-A are for. Stage some of those games at big league ballparks, using the installed technology and test it out and refine it. The human element argument is past its time, and fixing these things would enhance the game, and it’s meaningful components without prolonging it. It could draw fans (if for no other reason, than simply for its inherent spectacle) and by insuring the attention isn’t focused on those who are supposed to remain anonymous anyway, might showcase the game in a way that would keep them.

 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, as there are people’s livelihoods and an Umpire’s Union to consider here too, killing the ump doesn’t actually eliminate him, it simply removes him from view, and notice and scrutiny. It restores his anonymity and provides him a better means to be right more often. Manning the video controls is by no means a one-man job, and umpires would have specific call designations and areas of responsibility on which to focus. It’s also certainly not a practice that could be emulated at lower levels of baseball, and is only conceivable at the Major League level. They don’t get a fresh ball for every pitch at baseball’s lower levels either.

 

In the wake of the latest rounds of ump bashing, it makes sense for baseball to again begin to investigate ways to restore Blue to anonymity, as he’s supposed to be…and oh by the way, to try and make sure that calls are made more accurately in the first place.

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The Reality Check Starting Nine Players We Just Haven’t Liked For Whatever Reason

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The Reality Check Starting Nine Players We Just Haven’t Liked For Whatever Reason

Posted on 29 February 2012 by Glenn Clark

Our fourth edition of “The Starting Nine (Ten)” Wednesday was perhaps the opposite of the previous week. This week’s edition was “Players We Just Haven’t Liked For Whatever Reason.”

If you wanted to know the reason you should have been listening to the radio show. It’s quite good.

Glenn Clark’s Nine (Ten):

Pitcher: Roger Clemens

Catcher: Brook Fordyce

First Baseman: Kevin Millar

Second Baseman: Jeff Kent

Third Baseman: Aubrey Huff

Shortstop: Travis Fryman

Outfielder: Manny Ramirez

Outfielder: Carl Everett

Outfielder: Gary Sheffield

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz

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Friday Mud is the *true* Fall Classic

Posted on 28 October 2011 by Drew Forrester

Snow on Saturday?

They’re kidding, right?

Well, I’m heading to the Towson-Delaware game no matter what kind of weather arrives, but I certainly don’t fancy sitting at the stadium battling 35 degrees and a rain/snow mix.  But I wouldn’t miss this game, as Towson looks to continue their amazing run through the CAA schedule.  If you’re going out, “tweet me” (@WNST) and maybe I’ll let you buy me a hot chocolate.  Or maybe I’ll just stay in the press box where it’s warm.

Either way, I’ll be at Towson on Saturday night for the big showdown with the Blue Hens.

And, of course, I’ll be at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday to see if the Ravens can rebound from Monday night’s crusher in Jacksonville.

Just like you can count on Friday Mud, you can count on me to be somewhere in Baltimore watching and reporting on sports this weekend.  It’s what we do.  Better than anyone else in town.

Happy Friday.

Enjoy your Mud.  You don’t have to shovel it, either.

—————————————————————————–

>  I can’t keep track of all these Presidential candidates who are coming out of the woodwork and putting their names in the hat.  My guess is I’ll wind up not voting for any of them when the time comes, but that’s neither here nor there.  I figured I’d see what you all thought about another man who is thinking about running for office.  He’s been a leader in the past, so experience is on his side.  He’s worked under duress, which is an obvious strength for anyone who lives in The White House. Like any great leader, he’s able to delegate — he’s had as many as 25 men working under him at any given time.  What would you think, Baltimore, if THIS MAN wanted your vote next November?

>  By now I’m sure you’ve heard that LSU football coach Les Miles brought back three of his players who recently tested positive for synthetic marijuana.  I know, it’s an outrage, I’m with you.  It’s a complete joke.  The day the kids returned to practice, Miles went up to each one and slipped THIS in their pants pocket as they were entering the locker room.  How appropriate.  My guess is Miles has a desk full of those for any other miscreants on his team who break the rules.  Jerk.

>  Lost in the excitement of playoff baseball has been MLB’s annual “Miss Baseball” pageant, which gives every team in the majors the opportunity to put one of their fans in the contest that combines looks, their knowledge of baseball, and their individual ticket-buying support of their favorite team.  The three finalists are in for 2011 and here they are:  ”Miss Atlanta Braves” is a 25-year old PR professional who has owned Braves season tickets for the last 4 years.  I’d say THIS GIRL right here is definitely worthy of your vote.  ”Miss San Diego Padres” certainly has that west coast look going for her, as you can see RIGHT HERE.  Then there’s “Miss Boston Red Sox” — give THIS WOMAN a haircut and clean her up a bit and she might have a chance, too.  I’d say it’s a dead heat.

>  Good Joe Flacco and Good Cam Cameron show up this Sunday in Baltimore.  Make it 29 – 10 — Ravens over Arizona.  The only way I’d get excited at all about the Cardinals playing well is if Larry Fitzgerald has some sort of monster day with 115 yards receiving and 3 TD’s.  He’s on my fantasy team.  I’m always looking for a silver lining, ya know?

>  I got into a great pub debate a week ago with a few friends.  The question was:  ”If you could take one coach in the history of the University of Maryland sports and have that person coach one championship game – winner take all – who would you pick to coach the game?”  I didn’t hesitate.  I said, “Come on guys, you’d take the championship winning basketball coach…the best coach Maryland’s ever had.”  They disagreed with me, but I knew then I was right and I know now I was right.  You tell me. Wouldn’t you want THIS COACH RIGHT HERE on your bench?  Right.  Me too.

>  Poor Tim Tebow.  The dude has two wins under his belt this season and no one wants to say “well done”.  He’s so frustrated, he just got a personalized Colorado license plate.  Don’t believe me?  Well, HERE IT IS.  Believe me now?

>  This “Top 10 winners in team sports over the last 20 years” project has taken on a life of its own.  I started with a list of about 25, narrowed it down to 14, picked 10, then went back and thought of a few more…moved a guy out of the top 10, put someone else in, and now I just added another winner yesterday and had to remove someone else.  It’s tough.  So far, my #10 was Drew Brees and last week’s #9 was Greg Maddux.  Remember, there’s a difference between being a great player and “a winner”.  Alex Rodriguez will likely be in the Hall of Fame someday, but very few people would classify him as a winner.  I’m not 100% sure I’d classify Brett Favre as “a winner” but he’ll be in Canton someday too.  Winners are players you could remove from their team and put them in another city, on another team, and they’d help that new team win games.  Sifting through the names to come up with TRUE winners is more difficult than you might think.  But here we are…up to #8.  I thought long and hard where to put this next athlete.  Because his position isn’t over-analyzed with statistics, it’s not as easy to quantify his greatness, the way you might be able to with a quarterback or a pitcher.  But there’s no denying this man’s greatness and there’s absolutely no way you could ever say he was anything BUT a winner.  He’s the epitome of being a winner.  If you took him from his current team – in his prime – and dropped him off in 6-8 other cities, he’d immediately make them championship contenders.  Some will question his position in the rankings at #8, saying he belongs much higher, but this is where he ranks in my mind, fairly.  Take a look RIGHT HERE at one of the greatest winners of the last 20 years.

>  A bunch of Philadelphia Flyers season ticket holders have signed on to work part-time at McDonald’s.  Why, you ask?  Easy answer.  Good marketing on behalf of McD’s, as you can see ON THIS SIGN.

>  As you know, I’m a big fan of typing random phrases into Google search just to see what comes up.  So I typed in the words, “Are you freakin’ kidding me with this idiot coach of mine?” and THIS PHOTO APPEARED.

>  The Shoot Section (where I tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…)

Starting next Monday, October 31, we’ll be starting our 2011 Holiday Charity Drive at WNST.  We’re calling it “Coats and Cans in memory of Fergy”.  Many of you who are longtime WNST listeners and supporters remember our friend Fergy Commodari from his countless calls to the show (“Fergy in White Marsh”).  He was not only an active caller/participant on the various WNST shows, but he was a major contributor to any of our charity fund-raising efforts.  Last December, for example, he brought 100 cans of food to our event at the Fullerton Pub.  Anytime we needed Fergy, he was there.  Sadly, Fergy was killed in a car accident back on July 5, 2011.  We at WNST have pledged to put this year’s holiday charity drive together in his memory.  There are THREE ways you can help us this holiday season.  From Monday, October 31 through Friday, November 18, we’ll be collecting canned food and non-perishable food items at WNST Radio (1550 Hart Road, Towson, MD 21286).  Those foods will be donated to the Canton Baptist Church for distribution to their network of food pantries in downtown Baltimore that feed the homeless — and to the Bea Gaddy Thanksgiving Day dinner.  Last year, we collected 2,400 cans of food.  This year, we’re hoping to do 5,000 cans and food items.  For those of you who can’t make it to the station to donate food, we’re asking you to pledge “a penny per can” (with a limit of 5,000…our goal) to a scholarship fund that has been set up for Fergy’s two young children.  If we reach 5,000 cans and you can spare $50.00 to go to their scholarship fund, we’d greatly appreciate it.  Then, from Monday, November 21 through Friday, December 16, we’ll once again be collecting coats and winter apparel that we’ll donate to the Helping Up Mission in downtown Batlimore, a facility that works with adult men who have encountered problems in their lives and are working their way back to their families through a wonderful program that is run completely by the men who are living in the facility. Last year, our listeners donated 400 coats and winter apparel items that were delivered to men at Helping Up just prior to Christmas.  We will take all of the items donated this year to the facility on Tuesday, December 20.  If you can donate canned food, coats and winter apparel this holiday season, we promise you they will all be put to great use.  And if for some reason you can’t donate any items but you’d like to help with the scholarship fund for Fergy’s children, we greatly appreciate ANY amount you can donate.  For more information or to have any questions answered, just email me (drew@wnst.net) or Glenn Clark (glenn@wnst.net) and we’ll get you all the details you need.  A special thanks goes out to Joe Enoch and his staff at Enoch Office Equipment for helping us with transportation for our canned food and coats/winter apparel delivery.  And thank you in advance to any of you can help us with our various charitable efforts this winter.  We can’t do it without you.

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Is Jim Thome an All-Time Great?

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Is Jim Thome an All-Time Great?

Posted on 16 August 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Congrats to Jim Thome on his historic achievement in reaching 600 career homeruns on Monday night. That said it sure seems like a milestone of this magnitude should have been met with a great deal more fanfare than it is seemingly getting. Maybe it’s evidence that baseball fans, largely joining the masses and embracing the football mentality may to some degree be abandoning the numbers that have defined baseball’s most historic achievements. As those numbers have been rendered all but meaningless in recent years.

Surely it’s a byproduct of the steroid era. Fans have been fooled far too often from Sosa and McGwire to Bonds and A-Rod to wholeheartedly buy into anyone’s entrance into the hallowed grounds occupied by the likes of Ruth and Mays and Aaron. While Thome and Ken Griffey Jr. both seem to have emerged from the steroid era with a plethora of homeruns and an unblemished reputation, given what we’ve seen in the recent annals of baseball, I doubt there are many who’d stake anything of considerable importance on being sure of their “cleanliness”.

 

Beyond that though, even if we are to concede that Thome’s achievements were “all-natural”, because of the backdrop of steroid induced sluggers that surrounded Thome’s career, his achievements while Hall of Fame caliber in their totality simply weren’t that remarkable through the prism of his contemporaries.

 

History will show that Thome’s numbers rank with the highest and most esteemed baseball achievers of all time yet in a 21 year career, he was named an All-Star just 5 times, finished in the top 5 in the MVP ballot just once, and was little more than an afterthought on most of the teams that he played for. How do we quantify someone as deserving of mentions amongst the greats of all time when he was never (even for a moment) seen as the best in the game or the best at his position or even the best on his own team?

 

Surely we should appreciate and celebrate the achievements of Thome as with or without the accompaniment of performance enhancers, the list of sluggers to hit 600 is a short one; shorter still when the court of public opinion excludes Bonds and Sosa and Rodriguez as we have seemingly done. Aaron, Ruth, Mays, Griffey, Thome.

 

Surely the reception has not been commensurate with the achievement. The steroid era is not yet done claiming victims. Our reluctance to celebrate Thome, and our outright failure to understand or appreciate his historic achievements as they were unfolding are both unfortunate byproducts of baseball’s last 20 years or so. It’s unfair to Thome, and equally unfair to the fans that missed out (so to speak).

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Selig Should Deal A-Rod Out for a Year

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Selig Should Deal A-Rod Out for a Year

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Playing poker with Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio may sound innocent enough on the surface. That probably explains why fans, at least to this point, have been largely dismissive of the latest A-Rod indiscretions (if true) and are expecting them to blow over quickly with little or no consequence. But while some will see this as just further indication that in his heart A-Rod pines to be a Hollywood jet setter, others will see it as Rodriguez worst indiscretion to date and grounds for a tough penalty from Major League Baseball. Put me in the camp of the latter.

Baseball has a long and troubled history with gambling and the criminal element, and Rodriguez has apparently already been apprised by Major League Baseball once that his participation in these types of poker games is unacceptable. In addition to the star-studded cast of characters we know about, we can bet that games of that caliber are typically hosted, attended and protected by criminals and high stakes professional gamblers. Therein lies the biggest issue, and likely MLB’s greatest concern.

 

Professional sports gamblers, good ones at least, typically have particular areas of expertise. Often, these areas of expertise are fortified with “inside information”, well placed contacts who can give information to gamblers that the general public has no knowledge of, information that could influence the outcomes of games and therefore information that when in the right hands could prove quite valuable.

 

It seems unlikely that Rodriguez would intentionally feed this type of information to that type of element, but without intending to do so, gossip and anecdotes told over a poker table could potentially yield invaluable insight to an unsavory element clamoring to discern it. For baseball, that would be a big problem.

 

Additionally, and more importantly, it would seem that most tales of athletes or insiders gone awry because of gambling, find themselves at the mercy of criminals because of their inability or unwillingness to pay back big losses from card games, bets on other sports or other gambling losses. No matter how much a person makes, coming out of big money is never easy. Michael Jordan’s alleged $1 million plus in golf gambling losses became an issue not because he couldn’t pay it, we knew about it because he didn’t pay it. Coming off of a million bucks isn’t easy for anyone…even Michael Jordan…allegedly of course.

 

While it’s unlikely that an athlete who’s made in the ballpark of half a billion dollars in his career could find himself in that kind of trouble, there are plenty of guys making half a million per year or less that easily could. As the poker craze continues to grow, MLB is in a position where, like it or not, they’ll be setting a precedent going forward. They’d better make it a strong one.

 

Most but not all of those who have been banned from baseball for gambling were implicit in the fixing of games, but on rare occasions simply consorting with a criminal or gambling element has led to action from baseball. George Steinbrenner was banned for 3 years after consorting with criminal Howard Spira to get “dirt” on Dave Winfield. One year for A-Rod would probably suffice if the accusations against him are true.

 

There are literally thousands of elements to sports that we the public can appreciate, celebrate, even demand, but without integrity in the games themselves the rest of those factors and elements become meaningless and all sports become pro wrestling. While A-Rod is a bad example of someone who could or should find himself in a bad way to a bad element; in the interest of those who are compensated far less, he needs to be made an example of.

 

Begrudge athletes and their salaries if you’d like, but one fact relative to those salaries seems clear: High compensation for professional athletes is supposed to insure integrity in the games. Gambling is a big enough business that gamblers would make athletes rich if their teams didn’t. That the teams do, is supposed to keep players (and officials) above those types of temptations and problems. And like it or not, in addition to the most insane top end salaries of any sport, baseball also seems to have more guys in important roles making half a million dollars or less per season than any other professional sport too. Surely they don’t want those guys sitting down and playing “Rounders” with actual whales, sharks and other sea creatures with unsavory intentions.

 

Speaking of “Rounders”, even if I’m wrong and baseball lets this whole episode blow over, I’d hope at least a 10-game suspension would come down from Yankees brass for losing his money to high profile Red Sox fans Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7: Athletes We’re Glad Have Never Played For Our Favorite Teams

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7: Athletes We’re Glad Have Never Played For Our Favorite Teams

Posted on 28 June 2011 by Glenn Clark

In honor of Terrell Owens having offseason ACL surgery that may ultimately cut his career short, today’s Tuesday Top 7 topic was “Top 7 Athletes We’re Glad Have Never Played For Our Favorite Teams (and we hope never do).”

Self explanatory, yes?

Glenn Clark’s list…

7. Ron Artest

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6. Alexander Semin

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5. Jonathan Papelbon

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4. Michael Crabtree

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3. Scott Rolen

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2. Rasheed Wallace

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1. Jay Cutler

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Zach Britton dishes on the best hitter he’s faced

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Zach Britton dishes on the best hitter he’s faced

Posted on 03 June 2011 by Rex Snider

Yesterday’s edition of the Afternoon Drive served up an interesting and exciting cast of guests, highlighted by a conversation with Orioles rookie phenom, Zach Britton, as he promoted an upcoming event benefiting the Wounded Warriors Project.

And, of course, we talked a little baseball …..

Our conversation covered Adam Jones’ amazing catch during Wednesday’s game, the rigors of a west coast roadtrip, the butterflies experienced during the MLB draft and a commitment to winning.

However, it was my final question and Britton’s response that inspired me to reassess some of the latest rumblings we’ve heard about overrated and/or “over the hill” players.

Pointedly, I asked “who is the best hitter you’ve faced at the big league level?”

Britton qualified his answer by citing the amazing increase in talent among Major League hitters, in comparison to the lineups he faced in the minors.

Surprising to hear? Of course, not.

As for the best hitter he’s faced, Britton feels it’s Alex Rodriguez …..
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In a very brief window, A’Rod has faced the Orioles southpaw just 3 times …. and he’s 3 for 3 in those opportunities. On an optimistic note, the hits were singles.

Ironically, Alex Rodriguez highlights a current Sports Illustrated article that reveals the “Most Overrated Players In Baseball”, in accordance with a survey of current players.

Hmmm …. Britton’s response has caused me to wonder how many American League starting pitchers were polled for the SI article. Perhaps, some envious positional counterparts were personal in their choices?

On the flip side, Britton’s experience on a big league mound is limited; he hasn’t faced a handful of the American League’s lineups, yet. He has yet to throw a pitch that counts to the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Joe Mauer or Jose Bautista.

In blunt honesty, I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. Zach Britton has struck me as a humbly modest, yet fiercely competitive individual. You can hear the interview in its entirety HERE

We are appreciative of Zach’s time and generosity in spending a few moments with us, especially on a rare off day; upon returning from the west coast.

To that extent, it’s only fitting to elaborate on the primary reason for yesterday’s conversation, which emphasized on Zach’s commitment to supporting military personnel and specifically, the Wounded Warriors Project.

The Orioles will be represented by pitchers Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta during an upcoming event at the Under Armour Warehouse, where they’ll participate in assembling backpacks of gear for injured soldiers.

It’s a fitting tribute and act of fellowship, as Britton and Arrieta have active and veteran military personnel among family members. The event is scheduled for June 7th, and you can learn more about it HERE

Lip service is a cheap and easy way to suggest support for our real American heroes. Yet, Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta are selflessly committing time to help those who have made real sacrifices, and that’s a refreshing reality.
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Could Post-Steroid Era Equal Yankees Demise?

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Could Post-Steroid Era Equal Yankees Demise?

Posted on 16 May 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The Major League Baseball season has reached the quarter pole (more or less) and so far it’s been quite a ride and realization. The AL East, despite our sincerest beliefs to the contrary remains at this point very much up for grabs with only 3 games in the loss column separating first and last place. Orioles’ fans were expecting to be moderately encouraged and summarily frustrated with their team all at once and so far that’s been the case. Improved offense however hasn’t been the case for the O’s. It can be argued (and has) that statistically, this year’s team isn’t much better than last year’s version, if at all; and while the pitching has been encouraging, lights out hardly comes to mind when assessing the O’s, whose team ERA ranks 13th in the AL as of Sunday.

The fact that the Orioles remain competitive themselves is seemingly the byproduct of luck and timing (2 proven essentials in baseball success) more than any marked improvement from last year to this. While the expectation that the bats will eventually come around and bring with them even more chances at victories is feasible, recent history suggests that things could just as easily begin to unravel as the weather begins to warm.

 

Even without our modest hopes for a successful season, the respective struggles of the Red Sox and Yankees have added an extra layer of enjoyment to the season so far. Safe money might suggest that market corrections of sorts may be due for both of them soon too.

 

The Red Sox, despite their marked improvements from last year to this and the return of a healthy regime of incumbent stars have stumbled mightily out of the gates. While it’s conceivable that their sweep of the Yankees over the weekend and return to .500 could mark the worm turning for the Sox, there are still lots of questions and potential concerns surrounding a team that many had penciled in as the AL’s best to begin the year.

 

And while the Yankees have probably played above the expectations that followed their most disappointing off-season in recent memory, they too may have seen the worm begin to turn at the hands of the Red Sox last weekend. The Yankees have also, so far been the beneficiaries of an inordinate number of home games to begin the season.

 

After missing out on a few of their apparent earmarked bounties in free agency and while seeing the Red Sox make bold moves to improve themselves at the same time, the most disappointing part of the Yankees off-season might be the lingering contentiousness that they created in negotiations with Derek Jeter. Now that some of that contentiousness may have reached the locker of Jorge Posada too, it may begin to become a bigger distraction than the team would have invited.

 

The Orioles once went through a bit of this themselves. As much as we might point to the ambitious spending that followed the 1999 fire sale as the ultimate demise of competitive Orioles baseball, the devolution of the 1997 team into 1998 probably went much deeper than that. The “Ripken Rules” as they were described and his preferential treatment by the team had been earned no doubt, but surely there were times over the course of the Davey Johnson era where deference to aging superstars had to supersede the best interests of the team. Not just deference to Ripken as was much publicized, but to the wealth of stars past their primes on the O’s roster at that point. Maybe the Yankees too are now reaching that point.

 

While we all waited and hoped against hope that the Yankees and Sox might spend themselves under the table, perhaps it’ll be other market factors that could potentially contribute to their respective downfalls…or at least their returns to Earth.

 

Steroids and the steroid era certainly changed baseball, and they still arguably are changing baseball. If the dramatic effect that widespread steroid use had on the game has now been realized, then surely we are entering an era where the impact of their absence is beginning to be felt as well. How that shapes the next era in baseball is anyone’s guess, but whoever figures it out first, and positions themselves on the forefront of it will see the early benefits as a result.

 

While we can surely measure the impact of steroids and the lack thereof from game to game and intimate the return of pitching dominance to Major League Baseball, the more important impact of the absence of steroids in baseball from a team building standpoint is likely related to career longevity. Steroids not only enabled players to put up insane homerun numbers from year to year, but they also seemingly allowed them to do it at a much more advanced age than had been previously feasible. As a result the realization of value in free agent commodities went up and so did the standard length of free agent contracts.

 

If we go back to 1986 or so, after baseball got their billion dollar CBS contract and $3 million contracts became the gold standard, free agency in baseball was a risky proposition. Teams who endeavored into free agency thereafter, at higher and higher prices, did so at their own risk and more often than not seemed to come up short value wise. Before Randy Johnson with the Diamondbacks and Manny Ramirez with the Red Sox, the list of big named free agents who led their teams to the Promised Land was a short one. More often back then, successful teams were built through homegrown talent and astute trades, usually capitalizing on players trying to build their resumes for free agency.

 

After being controlled by their original teams for 6 seasons or more under baseball’s rules, free agents reaching the market at or near 30 years old likely won’t be seeing 6 and 7-year contracts once teams begin to realize the downside of these contracts and move forward more cautiously. Surely those players can no longer be expected to have primes that extend beyond the age of 35.

 

While the Yankees and Red Sox are unlikely to spend themselves under the table anytime soon, the compilation of aging players, and at times the deference to their years of service over their immediate impact on the team may lead the big spenders down an interesting path in the not too distant future. The Yankees may be halfway there already. While the values being realized between the contracts of both Jeter and Posada might be enough to sink most franchises, that’s probably not the biggest issue as the Yankees see it. The fact that both are feeling slighted by their treatment in this the twilights of their respective careers threatens to be a much bigger problem than simple economics for the Yankees.

 

Expect A-Rod to take them down a similar path before all is said and done, and Sabathia is poised to hold the team hostage for a contract that will pay him handsomely for far longer than he projects to be effective at season’s end.

 

Yeah…with or without genuine expectations for their own team this season, it’s sure shaping up to be an interesting season for Orioles fans anyway; and in some way, for the future of baseball.

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