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I’m Perfectly Justified In Questioning Jose Bautista’s Accomplishment …..

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I’m Perfectly Justified In Questioning Jose Bautista’s Accomplishment …..

Posted on 24 September 2010 by Rex Snider

When Chris Tillman takes the mound in tonight’s game at Rogers Centre, he’ll be facing a distinct first …..

That’s right, in his brief professional career, he’s never faced a hitter with 50 homeruns pegged to his season resume’.

Tonight that will change …..

In yesterday’s matinee against the Seattle Mariners, Jose Bautista stroked his 50th homer of the season. In nailing Felix Hernandez’s 96 mph fastball into the Blue Jays bullpen, Bautista joined a very distinct group of players.

He is officially the 26th player to hit 50 homers in a single season.

And, he’s unofficially just the latest in a line of players we will gauge with a discerning eye.

Is it fair? I don’t know. Is it justified? Absolutely.

We’re still living in the era of mistrust and suspicion, as it relates to gaudy statistical accomplishments by Major League Baseball players. As much as we would love to rave about a player reaching a previously heralded plateau, things have simply changed in relation to our comprehension of the game.

When you hear about a player hitting his 50th homerun of the season, what is the first impression that crosses your mind?

Better yet, when you hear of a player swatting his 50th homer, and he’s never hit more than 16 homers in a single season during his 7 year career, what is your immediate thought?

BINGO.

Yet, Jose Bautista doesn’t want to hear it. In fact, he’s suggesting he hasn’t heard any flak regarding performance enhancing drug usage. “Nobody’s said anything to me, and I don’t see why they should. Baseball has a strict policy against those performance-enhancing whatever you want to call them,” Bautista said during a recent interview.
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Jose Bautista is not the typical meathead, strapping muscle bound figure we encountered on the big league stage during the height of the steroid phase. He weighs a little less than 200 pounds and his body frame is reminiscent of our favorite players of the 1970′s.

And, for Cito Gaston, the physical appearance is resounding proof of innocence. He has defended his star player during every pointed opportunity. I don’t blame him, that’s what he’s supposed to do.

Jose Bautista’s accomplishment should be pretty extraordinary. But, it’s not. If he’s clean, and nobody will ever really know, he has reason to feel pretty proud of his season. If he’s not, we’re likely to eventually find out.

But, as we sit here on a Friday morning, with more than a week remaining in Major League Baseball’s regular season, Jose Bautista is not being celebrated. He’s not being villified, either. His feat is a non-story.

Homer #50 is not the lead story on Major League Baseball’s website. It’s not the lead story on ESPN.com. It’s not even the lead story on the Toronto Sun’s page. How’s that for lack of coverage?

I distinctly recall the day George Foster hit his 50th homerun of the 1977 season. I thought it was a HUGE deal. I was 10 years old and living the game of baseball. It was also the first time a big leaguer hit 50 homers in my lifetime.
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And, it would be another 13 years until it happened again.

Yet, since 1990, the threshhold of 50 homeruns has been reached 24 times. You got that? It’s happened 24 times over the course of the last 20 years. This is why we’re suspicious of Jose Bautista’s season total.

To his credit, Bautista has handled the steroids-related questions in stride. In my opinion, he’s been somewhat evasive – especially when he displays ignorance toward the topic of “performance enhancing whatever you call them.” Please ….

I suppose Jose Bautista is doing the only reasonable thing, possible. He’s just doing his job and letting his career season develop naturally. He’s not fighting the suspicions or rendering a contentious denial. And, he’s not getting angry at those who suspect or ask questions.

That’s a good thing.

If he does end up harboring some eventual anger, I would hope he’ll direct it at the responsible individuals. Blame Mark McGwire. Blame Sammy Sosa. Blame Barry Bonds, Blame Roger Clemens. Blame Rafael Palmeiro. Blame Alex Rodriguez.

After all, they’re the reason we don’t care about Jose Bautista’s accomplishment.

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Where does sportsmanship end and gamesmanship begin?

Posted on 18 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

We all know what happened last night; Alex Rodriguez hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth inning off of Koji Uehara to give New York a 4-3 win over the O’s. The fact is that superstars like ARod make those plays when they need to, so that doesn’t tick me off per se. However what does frost me is the fact that Koji appeared to have ARod struck out on a called strike three, however home plate umpire Ted Barrett inexplicably called ball two. Bad calls happen, although it seems that they generally benefit players of ARod’s stature. My real problem is with what ARod did after that; he looked towards the Yankee dugout with a grin on his face. In other words, he knew darned well that he got a gift.

After hitting what’s being touted as the biggest home run since Bobby Thompson’s shot heard ’round the world, ARod proceeded to round the bases pretty slowly. In all seriousness, I think Cal’s lap around the ballpark after breaking the record in 1996 might have been quicker. Especially against a team that’s playing for nothing but pride, taking your sweet time to round the bases and show them up is a bush league thing to do. And let us not forget that ARod’s already had one run-in with this kind of thing this season, when he ran across the mound in Oakland (drawing the ire of Dallas Braden).

This is all part of a growing trend that I’m seeing in sports and it’s not a good thing. People such as myself might as well be speaking Japanese when we talk about unwritten rules in games. (In fact, it’s all Greek to me!) Nowadays we hear so many players, coaches, fans, and commentators talk about how if you win the game who cares what the unwritten rules are. I see that as misguided. In my opinion this really started in college football when the current BCS system came into play. The UPI rankings are no longer about just winning, but also by what margin you win. If the #1 team wins 14-13 and the #2 team wins 35-3, the #2 team will probably be the new #1. I see this as incredibly misguided and wrong, because it effectively encourages teams to run up the score. In baseball the rule has generally been that if you’re up after the sixth inning by five or more, you don’t steal or try to manufacture runs. Nowadays you see teams like the Boston Red Sox who would argue that you never know when a team’s going to come back, so why shouldn’t they try to score. Bill Belichek has routinely said that it’s not his job to stop his offense, it’s the other team’s defense’s job. It almost seems that winning isn’t good enough anymore, you have to punish the other team for having the nerve to step onto the field with you.

Ultimately, I do put winning above sportsmanship in a sense. However once the game’s won, I see no reason to rub salt in the wound unless it’s done as an act of retribution. As an example, if the Orioles have a sizable lead against the Yankees in tonight’s game (in the wake of ARod’s antics last night), I’d have no problem with throwing down a bunt to move a runner over. I remember in 1987 when the NFL players were on strike, and basically the entire Dallas Cowboy team crossed the picket lines. They beat a Philadelphia Eagle team full of scrubs, and did so by a wide margin. Philadelphia head coach Buddy Ryan felt that the Cowboys unnecessarily piled on the score at the end, so when the two teams met again in Philly (after the strike had ended), Ryan returned the favor. There were only about thirty seconds left and Philly had the ball first and goal at the one (up by two TD’s). Buddy Ryan called timeout to run one more play to rub it in. I was never a Buddy Ryan fan, but I have no problem with someone returning the favor if they were shown up. In other word, if ARod gets plunked tonight, I wouldn’t see an issue with that.

Ultimately, you have to have a respect for your opponents and the game when you play a sport. I don’t see running up the score or showing up your opponent as having respect for the game. Call me old school or a mastedon if you want, but that’s just how I see things.

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The Dirty Half-Dozen …..

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The Dirty Half-Dozen …..

Posted on 16 September 2010 by Rex Snider

During yesterday’s AFTERNOON DRIVE, I came across a list of “Most Disliked Athletes In America,” as reported by CNBC. The list was actually compiled through a public survey by the Q Scores Company (www.qscores.com); a firm that conducts a variety of different consumer studies.

I considered broaching the topic during yesterday’s show. However, I was uncomfortable with the list, because it only contained the TOP-6 most disliked athletes and I noticed an immediate distinguishing theme …..
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Hmmm ….. do you notice any similar visual characteristics? Without really looking at the featured “bad guys”, I wasn’t going to broach the topic with my audience. I have a responsibility to myself and YOU when it comes to talking about a subject from an informed viewpoint.

That said, I’m really wrestling with the notion that the half dozen most despised athletes are all African American. And, if the survey is accurate, does racial makeup play a part in it?

Of this group, 4 of the 6 have never been charged with a criminal offense. So, that can’t be a social discriminative factor. While some of these players have an animated streak to their personality, none of them are known for being “dirty” competitors on the field, nor have they been censured for performance enhancing drug usage.

So, what makes them so hated? Is it their flamboyance or self indulgent ways? All of them have egos; some have huge egos. But, an overwhelming amount of pro athletes have egos.

Are they selfish toward fans or charitable causes? I don’t see that, either. Perhaps, it’s their wealth? Nah …. once again, most pro athletes are wealthy.

Hmmm ….. all of them are or were at the top of their respective games within the past decade. Maybe that’s it. However, if that’s the case, how does top billing of the infamous not include Peyton Manning, Albert Pujols, Jimmie Johnson, Alex Ovechkin and Drew Brees?

I’m just asking …..

I’ve taken the time to really think about the athletes who are disliked in our sports society. Of course, I’m relying on personal conversations, negative publicity, public perceptions and simple common sense. I came up with this group …..
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Ben Roethlisberger – I guess women weren’t surveyed? Maybe, the study was done a year ago? Roethlisberger is universally disliked in our sports society, and his infamy really has nothing to do with his play on the field – outside of Baltimore.
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Jeff Gordon – If you’ve never attended a NASCAR event, you’ll simply need to trust me on this one. Jeff Gordon gets bombarded with the most resounding course of BOOS I’ve ever witnessed at a sporting event. And, it happens every single week. He’s never done anything to anyone. He was an “outsider” and he dominated an era. Those days are over, but the HATE lingers on.
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Alex Rodriguez – He, too, was disliked for being the greatest of his generation. But, when the steroid allegations became truth, A’Rod’s popularity among most baseball enthusiasts sank below the Mendoza line. He’s brash, conceited and surly, at times. He’s a guy that opposing fans love to taunt.
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Tom Brady – Here’s a guy who is HATED and we all know it. Is it the envy? He’s done it all …. Super Bowls, movie star looks, smokin’ hot wife. Yet, fans outside of Beantown hate Tom Brady. How do I know? Well, I’ve always liked him. But, if I mention his name on-air or in conversation, the hate starts pouring out of people.
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I suppose these lists can really be taken as pure subjective matter. We see a few of them, annually. Such studies are compiled and released by Forbes, GQ, Mens Daily and others. However, this is my first experience in seeing a list unanimously devoted to one race.

Believe me, I’m not one who hypes bias of any kind, to include racial considerations. When race is arbitrarily injected into issues or recklessly expolited by persons who just want to provide a convenient excuse, people become divided. That’s not my intent.

However, I do think the Q Scores list is questionable and I just felt compelled to write about it.

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Orioles sign Manny Machado — and now the debate begins

Posted on 17 August 2010 by Drew Forrester

The 11th hour nearly became the 12th and final hour for the Orioles last night in their pursuit of #1 draft pick Manny Machado, but the Birds made a last minute deal with Machado and agent Scott Boras and all’s well that ends well.

And it ended well for the Machado/Boras combo — to the tune of $5.25 million to put his name on the bottom of the contract.  It also ended well for the Orioles, who would have faced great scrutiny and, perhaps, even more criticism had they allowed Machado to remain unsigned, thereby losing the rights to him.

Everyone got what they wanted.

Machado got paid even though he’s never done anything – which happened a lot around baseball yesterday – and the Orioles forked over enough money to show that they aren’t going to let a million or so dollars get in the way of progress.

Let’s hope they won’t let $90 million get in the way of their pursuit of Carl Crawford this off-season.  I assume it will.  But that’s a story for November.

Today, we celebrate the fact that the Orioles came through in the final moments and signed Machado. While they were in a no-win position (lose him and you’re not willing to do what it takes to win — sign him and you absolutely pay more for him than you feel he’s worth), losing out on Machado would have been far more damaging than signing him and watching him turn into Manny Alexander instead of Hanley Ramirez.

Personally, I don’t think signing kids right out of high school is smart.  But that’s not me making a judgment on the Orioles and their drafting of Machado, because lots of major league teams take high school players.  That’s me making judgment on kids who haven’t made a car payment in their life.  A lot can go wrong with an 18-year old.  Depending on their upbringing, it might take until age 18 for a young boy or girl to discover such unique things as…sex…rock-n-roll music…marijuana…staying out late…alcohol…and the rest of that stuff you did when you were younger and didn’t know about the real world and mortgages and cable TV bills and health insurance premiums.

I would hope $5.25 million worth of found money would keep someone like Machado from wrecking himself and setting fire to that investment the Orioles made in him.  But kids will be kids.  Just ask Maurice Clarett.

It’s a slippery slope indeed when you write a young man a check for $5.25 million and he’s never swung at a pitch in anger in his life.  It’s also that way in college football or college basketball, but the level of play at the intercollegiate closely rivals that of the pro game.

High school baseball, even at its highest level, is a juiced up version of really good Little League and nothing more.

For OUR sake, in Baltimore, we need Machado to be the real deal so he can replace Cesar Izturis in a few years.  Most draftniks have Machado not being major league ready until AT LEAST 2014.  That’s a lot of Cesar hitting .241.  Too much, if you ask me.  And as we’ve seen with the likes of Josh Bell, tearing it up at AAA and coming north to Baltimore and lighting it up in the majors are two different things.  Only  the band “When in Rome” had less hits than Bell.  But if Machado fulfills his A-Rod-Lite comparisons, we’ll all be thrilled to death when he shows up in a few years and starts replicating #13 in both style and substance.

Let’s hope Machado doesn’t pick up on that “other” A-Rod habit…if you know what I mean.

Giving a high school kid $5.25 million.  Right thing to do?  Wrong thing to do?

We won’t know for three years or more.

By then, that money will be spent.

Let’s hope the kid is worth it.

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Where Will Rafael Palmeiro Be A Year From Today …..

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Where Will Rafael Palmeiro Be A Year From Today …..

Posted on 23 July 2010 by Rex Snider

As this blog is being posted, the collective population of Cooperstown, New York, is growing by the dozens. After all, it’s this weekend, EVERY YEAR, when baseball is celebrated and the game’s class of immortals grows.

This year, only one player will receive the distinction known as “Hall Of Famer” …..
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Of course, as soon as Andre Dawson completes his induction speech and as the festivities begin to draw toward a close, the Baseball Writers of America will officially be on the clock ….

For the first time EVER, those with the discriminative ability to vote YES for enshrining a player among the very greatest of the sport will have a true dilemma. For the past decade, we’ve discussed steroids and HGH to the point of exhaustion. We’re all tired of it.

Yet, for the Hall Of Fame’s voters, their most daunting task is just beginning …..

As they consider the nominees for the CLASS OF 2011, they’ll be presented with name of the first “worthy” candidate with a noted, distinguishable tie to Performance Enhancing Drugs. And, no, don’t invoke the Mark McGwire inclusion. Regardless of what he might’ve injested, McGwire did not achieve a Hall Of Fame resume’.

But, Rafael Palmeiro did reach the threshhold. In fact, he surpassed it.

3020 hits & 569 homeruns
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End of discussion, right? I sure wish that was the case, but it’s not. Whether Palmeiro cracks 75% of the vote is very questionable. It’s really an unknown, at this point.

Whether he used ONCE, TWICE or SEVERAL times, Rafael Palmeiro is about to become a very vital part of baseball history. He’s the guinea pig for an assembled cast of beefed-up players who were great throughout a substantial portion of their careers.

Trust me, we have another six months before finding out, but Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez will be watching for the results. I’ll suggest it’s fair to assume they’ll need to witness Palmeiro’s acceptance, prior to reasonably hoping they, too, will join Ruth, Mantle, Cobb and Williams.
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For my money, I think Rafael Palmeiro is a Hall Of Famer. But, I’ve got a sobering suspicion he’ll be excluded, next year. Why? Heck, I don’t know.

There simply seems to be alot of contempt for him. And, much of it is attributed to the media members covering the game. We’re more than five years removed from Palmeiro’s darkest days. Yet, many still hold his failed drug test as the determining factor in his destiny.

If the writers decline his entry, I’ll understand. But, they better be consistent and fair about their convictions. All of them make it or none of them do. Anything short of a balanced process will be as damaging as the revelavtion of drug usage, itself.

We shall see …..

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Introducing The “All American League Team” Over The Last 25 Years …..

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Introducing The “All American League Team” Over The Last 25 Years …..

Posted on 21 July 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, Allen McCallum and I spent the better part of Tuesday’s show discussing the American League’s best players over the last quarter century. Of course, we agreed on some and disagreed on just as many.

Below, find my list of offensive players. Tomorrow, I’ll post the pitching staff. Just remember, IT ONLY COVERS THE SPAN OF 1985-2010 …..

Catcher – Ivan Rodriguez
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You could probably make an argument for a few different backstops, but “PUDGE” has simply been the best catcher in the American League during this time span. The AL-only numbers are undeniable – 2477 hits, 281 homeruns and a .301 batting average.

Figure in 13 Gold Gloves and 14 All Star appearances, in the American League, and it’s easy to see he is absolutely unrivaled. Yeah, he obviously used PED’s, but he was damn good when he was skinnier than a rail.
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First Base – Rafael Palmeiro
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Don’t say STEROIDS. I don’t wanna hear it. Plenty of players used, Palmeiro simply got caught. His career achievements are almost exclusive to the criteria – American League (1985-2010) …..

I don’t even see a close second, with one exception. Don’t despair “Big Hurt” fans, he made the list. Just wait a little while …..
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Second Base – Roberto Alomar
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Hello, McFly ??? This might be the single greatest Hall Of Fame injustice of the last 25 years. Roberto Alomar is not only the greatest second baseman of the last quarter century, he’s arguably among the five best players of the cited generation.

Yep, he was THAT GOOD …..
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Third Base – Wade Boggs
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Did you play baseball during Bogg’s heyday? If so, don’t tell me you didn’t try eating CHICKEN before a half dozen straight games …. before figuring out DIET really had nothing to do with it. Boggs was probably among the three very best hitters of the last 25 years – regardless of league.

Here we are a couple decades removed from the Margo Adams debacle. Remember her? I wonder what she looks like TODAY? She was the one HIT & RUN the hitting champ would prefer to forget. If she happened today, it would be a non-issue.

Wade Boggs was a hitting machine …. on and off the field. And, he’s the American League’s best third baseman, since 1985.
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Shortstop – Alex Rodriguez
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Shoot me !!!! Dump my body in the nearest landfill …..

Whatever your heart says, the sobering truth is A’Rod is the American League’s best shortstop of the last 25 years. He hasn’t played the position in nearly 7 years and he still has more hits, homeruns, rbi and steals than any other A.L. shortstop of the last quarter century.
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Outfield (not by specific position) – Ichiro Suzuki
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He has achieved monumental accomplishments in the span of ONE decade. In fact, Ichiro hasn’t finished playing his 10th full season, yet. But, he’s collected 2151 hits, 363 steals and a .332 batting average. At this rate, he’ll collect his 3000th hit approximately halfway thru his 14th season.

Can you imagine if he would’ve arrived on the scene before his 27th birthday, or if he played in a better lineup? Throw in 10 All Star appearances and 9 Gold Gloves (in 9 full seasons) and Ichiro is arguably the GREATEST PLAYER of the last 25 years.
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Outfield – Manny Ramirez
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Love him, hate him …. he’s among the very best of the American League’s STARS over the last quarter century …..

A.L. stats alone – 2318 hits, 510 homeruns and a .313 batting average. Throw in a couple World Championships, and it’s pretty hard to deny Manny Ramirez’s pedigree. And, there is a concrete argument suggesting that he doesn’t always play his hardest. After all, Manny is usually being Manny, right?
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Outfield – Ken Griffey Jr.
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I originally omitted him from the list. But, Junior has enjoyed a better A.L.-only resume’ than Rickey Henderson over the duration of the last 25 years. If the consideration was the last 30 years, it might be different. However, it’s not …..

Of course, Junior hit the scene with an energy and power display that made many of us think he would re-write history. That didn’t happen, but he’s still among the 3 best A.L. outfielders of the last 25 years. In 14 American League seasons, he racked up 1877 hits, 420 bombs and a .291 batting average. Toss in 10 Gold Gloves and just as many All Star appearances, and he’s a notable choice over the likes of Rickey Henderson.

Yeah, I know the RICKEY arguments are coming. Don’t waste your time. As I said, we’re talking about the last 25 years, which means you’ve gotta wipe away the first half dozen seasons of Rickey’s career. Thus, since 1985, he was a slightly above average hitting A.L. outfielder – with 1754 hits, 475 steals and a .278 batting average. Include 6 All Star appearances and ZERO Gold Gloves and Rickey simply doesn’t shape up to Griffey’s achievements.
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Designated Hitter – Frank Thomas
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I told you the BIG HURT would make the list. After all, he’s arguably the most prolific power hitter of the last 25 years. He could hit the ball 500 feet. Yet, he was disciplined. You don’t wanna throw Frank a strike? No problem, he’d gladly drop his stick and trot down to first base. Count ‘em – 1667 walks, while only whiffing 1397 times. That’s remarkable for a hitter who averaged 35+ homers, per season.

Much to my good friend Allen McCallum’s chagrin, the WALK defines a huge part of the Big Hurt’s pedigree. Allen penalizes Thomas for not being more of a ‘swinger, while feeling he should’ve been more aggressive, especially as a #3 hitter. I wholeheartedly disagree. Regardless of batting position, what’s the one thing we know? In fact, what’s a bigger KILLER than heroin and crack, combined? FREAKIN’ WALKS. Ask any pitcher !!!!

Frank Thomas amassed 2468 hits, 521 homers and a .301 batting average in 19 seasons. He’s a first ballot Hall Of Famer. And, if has a hair on his rear-end, he’ll call this guy and ask him to make the introduction, at Cooperstown …..
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And, while we’re at it, lets refute the Edgar Martinez talk, right now. Along with Bret Boone and Jay Buhner, Edgar suddenly found the “Fountain Of Youth” (or Primobolan and Winstrol) as he neared his 30th birthday. Yeah, I know plenty of the guys in this blog USED. But, at least they were good at some point before they found “help.” Who has their best seasons between ages 32-37 ??? Hmmm …. how about Hulk Hogan, Barry Bonds and Edgar Martinez. Gimme a break …..

Lets look at Martinez before 30 …..
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Now, lets look at Martinez after his 32nd birthday …..
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Like I said, plenty of players used performance enhancing drugs. There is no getting around it. I just think some guys really developed an edge they’d never realized, prior to the usage. And, a core sect of those type of players were on a team in the Pacific Northwest.

It surely wasn’t the coffee …..

Tomorrow, I’ll do the American League pitching staff.

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Don’t Believe The Hype – It’s Knicks or Cavs Tonight

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Don’t Believe The Hype – It’s Knicks or Cavs Tonight

Posted on 08 July 2010 by Thyrl Nelson

As the world waits with bated breath for LeBron James announce the venue at which he’ll be applying his craft for the foreseeable future, it would seem all but a foregone conclusion that James is set to join forces with DeWayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. That said, there have been lots of seemingly foregone conclusions surrounding the NBA’s free agent bonanza 2010, and so far few of them have actually come to fruition. So until LeBron makes it official in just a few hours, everywhere is still a possibility; or so it would seem.

 

I’m still betting on Knicks or Cavs tonight. The Knicks fan in me says, “New York was the first to begin making preparations for LeBron.” Indeed the Knicks have skirted the tampering line for several seasons now, through coaching and front office regime changes, their focus has been single minded and unwavering, get the King to the Empire City. By signing Amar’e Stoudamire already in free agency, the Knicks have provided LeBron with the best potential big man pairing amongst his suitors. Even if LeBron hasn’t figured it out yet, Stoudamire, and not Chris Bosh would be the ideal pairing for him if he hopes to advance his championship hopes. He’s an athletic marvel, capable of getting up and down the floor in a Mike D’Antonio system, an adept back to the basket player, who unlike Bosh appears both willing and ready to take on the dirty work, and do LeBron’s heavy lifting.

 

In Cleveland, regardless of your own feelings about the city, LeBron has security and familiarity. He also would return to the team that posted the league’s best records in each of the last two seasons, although one that hasn’t been able to recapture the magic of their NBA Finals run of 2007. As a native of nearby Akron, with a number of his childhood friends serving as confidants throughout this process, I’m still having a hard time believing that LeBron James would simply leave his city high and dry. The economic impact on the businesses surrounding the Quicken Loans Arena and throughout Cleveland would be immediate and seemingly devastating. What’s more, the Cavs still have some maneuverability under the cap themselves, and in Anderson Varejao and JJ Hickson they also have two of the most desirable trade commodities in the league, dollar for dollar.

 

I’d like to believe that seeing through what he began in Cleveland would be important to LeBron. Even more so, I wonder how future free agents might view the Cavs if they were unable to keep LeBron around. If there’s any such thing as karma in sports, LeBron will stay in Cleveland.

 

So where does Miami fit in? Going to Miami, and joining forces with 2 other max deal players seems like a best case scenario for LeBron, but would it be? If Miami is the answer to the question tonight, then you can only imagine that it’ll be a matter of time before Pat Riley pulls another Stan Van Gundy move, and replaces Heat coach Eric Spolestra on the bench with himself. You could also reasonably guess that he’ll do it anyway, with or without LeBron. In either case, the expectations would be immediate.

 

Using the majority of your salary cap on max players seems like such a good idea, that you have to wonder why other teams haven’t done it before. Then you look at what the Heat will have to spend in order to fill out their remaining roster spots, and the reason becomes clear. In order to be effective right away, the Heat would need a journeyman point guard – or a pure shooter since Wade and James are both adept ball handlers – on a mid level exception, they’d need Dexter Pittman to be ready to start at center, and deal with Dwight Howard, Kendrick Perkins or Andrew Bynum at playoff time, or get creative in trying to bring back Udonis Haslem and hope that Pittman can back him up. Rookie Jarvis Varnado will have to be ready to play too, since the Heat’s only other draft pick went to injured forward Da’Sean Butler, who surely can’t be counted on as a rookie, simply based on the injury he sustained in the Final Four. Michael Beasley and his $5 million or so in salary would have to be jettisoned, and finding suitors for him hasn’t been easy, and Mario Chalmers will have to be ready to run the offense for stretches in the third and fourth quarters of games. Let’s not forget how many games in this year’s playoffs alone were decided by the second units.

 

Have I mentioned that Bosh lacks toughness, and is unlikely to mix it up much in the paint? He’s not really a pick and roll player, more like pick and pop. At his best Bosh is Pau Gasol with limited range, at his worst, well Steven A. Smith probably summed it up best when he called him Manute Bol with tiny dreads. The dreads are gone, but that may be all that’s changed about that assessment when it really matters. And lastly, has anyone stopped to think about what would happen if one of these guys were hurt? Talk about scotch tape and bubble gum.

 

Here’s the most intriguing part for me though, and maybe the angle that provides the most insight too, depending on how you interpret it. We all remember LeBron famously sporting his Yankees cap as a guest of CC Sabathia – then with the Indians – at a Yankees / Tribe playoff game. So what does LeBron’s Yankee fandom lend to the speculation about his destination?

 

First, there’s the physical location angle. If LeBron simply loves New York, then Knicks it is, or maybe the Nets on an outside flyer. If it’s Yankee philosophy he embraces though, then consider this:

 

James’ beloved baseball team routinely scalps all of the best talent on the free agent market, and why wouldn’t they? Outside of wanting to build something where you are already playing, piling on to a team that’s already of championship timber and enjoying the ride seems ideal. Again, James own buddy Sabathia succumbed to the temptation to pile on with a winner, so for James to do so in Miami shouldn’t be a surprise. But real baseball fans understand that even while Alex Rodriguez was arguably the AL’s best player for a number of years before joining the Yankees, and while with them, the Yankees have never been A-Rod’s team. Derek Jeter is Mr. Yankee, just like, for now at least, Wade is Mr. Heat.

 

If A-Rod never wins a World Series ring in the middle of an order that doesn’t feature Derek Jeter, his legacy will be lessened; not tarnished, but certainly lessened. Jeter has rings without A-Rod, much like Wade has one of his own already. If LeBron joins the Heat, the expectation will be championships, 3 in the next 5 seasons I’d say. Anything less would just be lame, and we’ll remember those teams more for the ones that they lost than the ones that they didn’t. And they will lose some, Kobe and the Lakers are still licking their chops, the Magic are primed, toughened angry and cohesive already, they’ll be a factor. The Original Big 3 in Boston are setting up to make a run, and desperation is riding with them, and whether you like the Joe Johnson signing or not, the Hawks only laid a proverbial egg in the playoffs because they were a really good team, otherwise no one would have noticed when they fizzled. Atlanta is tough, defensive minded and back together with new and hopefully better leadership.

 

The road to the Finals might not roll through Miami for a couple of years. Still don’t believe that his team can fail? Go back and look at the 2004 Olympic team, they didn’t have Bosh, but they were loaded and coached by Larry Brown, yet lost to Puerto Rico, Lithuania and Argentina, not exactly the Celtics, Magic and Lakers in their own right.

 

Everything to lose, nothing to gain, that will be LeBron’s cross to bear in Miami. He’ll be out front for the criticism, but will have to share the praise. And multiple championships are the expectation already. Here’s betting this was all a clever rouse and it’ll be Knicks or Cavs tonight. 

 

 

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“Hall Of Famers” …. As We Stand Here Today

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“Hall Of Famers” …. As We Stand Here Today

Posted on 08 July 2010 by Rex Snider

I can’t help it. I’m a baseball junkie …..

It’s my favorite sport and regardless of the Orioles demise, I still get wrapped up in anything and everything concerning America’s pasttime. And, as much as I don’t really care for next week’s Homerun Derby, I still get excited about the lure of the All Star Game. So, I write about baseball, to include, my memories and opinions.

Over the past week, I’ve covered current All Stars, as well as MVPs, Cy Youngs and Rookies Of The Year. Where else can I go?

Well, I can take the historical path, I suppose.

Are there sure-lock HALL OF FAMERS in the game, today? You bet. In fact, my list includes players, managers, executives and owners. As with anything else, it’s puely subjective. However, I do feel I’m absolutely right about 99.9% of this crowd …..

Chipper Jones

Quite frankly, he’s going to be a benificiary of NOT being tied to any Performance Enhancing Drug scandals. Did he use? I don’t know. However, as we look at him TODAY, there are no smoking guns.
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Over 17 seasons, Chipper has achieved some HOF-worthy stats – .306 avg, 2464 hits, 432 homers, 487 doubles

He also owns an MVP, as well as a ring. And, he’s well liked. Chipper has spent his entire career in one city and I think such an honor and loyalty gets rewarded by media voters. Perhaps, he’s not a first ballot guy. But, he’s in Cooperstown.
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John Schuerholz

Baltimore guy makes good, huh? Schuerholz has evolved into one of the most respected scouting minds in the game. He was instrumental in the construction of the Kansas City Royals of the 80′s, and more famously, the Atlanta Braves of the past 20 years.
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Schuerholz’s Braves have appeared in the postseason 13 times over his two decades at the helm. He owns two rings and has drafted a gang of future Hall Of Fame players.
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Bobby Cox

Indeed, he’s earned his bust, in Cooperstown. Bobby Cox has skippered the Atlanta Braves through their era of dominance, in the National League’s Eastern Division. Heck, he’s even been recognized with a CAKE, at the U.S. Capitol …..
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His managing career includes 5 Pennants and a World Championship, along with a .556 winning percentage. Bobby Cox is absolutely a Hall Of Famer. And, with his retirement at the end of this season, he probably won’t be waiting too long.
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Omar Vizquel

Before you say “NO WAY,” just consider one name ….. Ozzie Smith. Lets look at their careers …..

Smith – .262 avg, 2460 hits, 580 steals, 13 Gold Gloves

Vizquel – .272 avg, 2735 hits, 391 steals, 11 Gold Gloves
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I think Omar Vizquel is another player who might wait for a “thin year” of candidates. But, I do think he’s ultimately a Hall Of Famer. I’ll admit part of my reasoning is also tied to some dissent. I didn’t think Ozzie Smith’s career was really HOF-worthy. Very good? Yes. Great? No. Thus, I think Vizquel reaches the Ozzie Smith threshhold and earns his place in Cooperstown.
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Manny Ramirez

I’m not part of the group that thinks players with direct ties to Performance Enhancing Drug usage will be denied entry to the Hall Of Fame. This was the Steroid Era – period. Some users will make, some will not. Mark McGwire was not a HOF-worthy player. Manny Ramirez is …..
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Manny’s numbers are undeniable – .313 avg, 2553 hits, 554 homers, 544 doubles. Although, he lacks the organizational commitment of a Chipper Jones, he has been dominant over the course of his career. In fact, he’s a first ballot guy.
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Joe Torre

He’s in …. regardless of the advantages the New York Yankees have enjoyed over other organizations. Torre was a guiding, laid-back influence, who managed an array of attitudes. And, he never panicked under pressure.
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Joe Torre has managed 5 different ballclubs, over 29 years. He owns a .540 winning percentage, along with 6 Pennants and 4 World Championships. Yes, all of these titles came with the Yankees, but he still has them.
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Trevor Hoffman

He’s just short of 600 career saves. Of course, Hoffman is also the all-time saves leader. It’s pretty difficult to deny his dominance in this role and, along with Mariano Rivera, he’s been the standard for closers over the last several years.
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I would’nt be surprised if Trevor Hoffman fails in his first HOF ballot. I think closers always run that risk. But, he’ll gain entry into Cooperstown. After all, his name is always mentioned when discussing the greatest closers in the history of the game.
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Jim Thome

Some people actually agonize over this one. It’s a SLAM DUNK. Jim Thome is another player who has no direct tie to Performance Enhancing Drugs during the course of his career. Are we suspicious? Sure …. but, all players have really earned a lifted eyebrow.
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Thome’s stats are career defining – 574 homers, 423 doubles, 1593 rbi and 1646 walks. Of course, the longball really makes Thome. He’s closing in on 600 homers and in a limted role, he’s swatted 10 in the first half of the season. He’s also a nice guy and voters remember that.
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Mariano Rivera

While he is not the career saves leader, many observers believe Rivera is the most dominant closer in the history of the game. Overtaking Trevor Hoffman is not out of the question, but health and age are crucial, at this point. Regardless, Mariano Rivera has enjoyed a great career …..
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With 545 saves and a 2.22 era, he could walk away today and anticipate his induction into the Hall Of Fame. And, that’s the spirit of this blog …..
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Alex Rodriguez

Yep, he certainly gets lumped in with Manny Ramirez and other sluggers who’ve been busted for Performance Enhancing Drug usage. That said, A’Rod has been the game’s best player over the last 15 seasons. He’s on pace to succeed Barry Bonds as the All-Time Homerun King, probably by 2015 …..
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A’Rod is 3 homers shy of #600 …. 1 stolen base shy of #300 …. 388 hits shy of #3000 and just 35 doubles shy of reaching his 500th two-bagger. Unless, he does something very “OJ-ish”, A’Rod is a shoo-in …..
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Derek Jeter

The Yankees are flowing in now, huh? Jeter is another first ballot guy. He, too, is closing in on 3000 hits. Jeter has certainly been the backbone of a formidable New York franchise, over the last 15 seasons. While he has stellar stats, he also possesses an array of the intangible qualities.
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Derek Jeter is universally respected for playing the game the right way. He’s got a handful of rings and a noted reputation for good character and loyalty. He’s an absolute lock for first-ballot induction into Cooperstown.
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George Steinbrenner

Uh-oh …. here come the negative comments and f-bombs. Hey, it is what it is ….. and George Steinbrenner owns a franchise that has reinvented itself, a couple times. He also has 7 World Championships during his ownership and that’s difficult to diminish.
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I’ll concede Steinbrenner has his critics and dissenters. He’s also been banned from the game; earlier in his ownership. That said, his “business of baseball” has been legendary and he’ll be remembered as such. Some folks will think his dealings hurt the game and some will disagree. I think he was innovator.
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Jamie Moyer

Count ‘em …. 267 wins. Moyer is 33 shy of the magical 300 mark. However, even more amazing is his durability and longevity in this game. He’s 47 years old and midway thru his 24th Major League season.
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Some observers may think he never dominated, and that’s okay. But, Jamie Moyer will be recognized for everything else. He’s headed to the Hall Of Fame – and, regardless, of how many ballots it takes, he’s gonna be an old dude when he gets there. Good for him !!!! It’s a great story …..
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Ichiro Suzuki

Without a doubt, he’ll be coming back across the pond a mere five years after he hangs it up. Ichiro has arguably been the best player in the game, since arriving just nine years ago. In that brief time, he’s hit for a .332 clip and achieved 200+ hits in EVERY full season, along with Gold Gloves. He’s also been an All Star, each season.
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He has shown no signs of slowing down. And, I do wonder where his numbers would climb, if he played in a good lineup. He’s in his tenth season, and Ichiro is a slam dunk first-ballot Hall Of Famer. Don’t even argue it …..
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Albert Pujols

Yeah, he’s in. I’ve always been skeptical of his inflated numbers and behemoth frame. But, once again, there are no direct ties between Pujols and Performance Enhancing Drugs. He’s been a monster over the last ten years.
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Look at these numbers – .332 avg, 1810 hits, 386 homers ….. since 2001. If he retired today, Albert Pujols would be inducted on his initial ballot. There is little doubt of that. And, he’s just 30 years old. That’s just sick …..
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Tony LaRussa

Yep, he’s a Hall Of Famer. LaRussa has managed 32 seasons, while garnering 5 Pennants and 2 World Championships. And, he sports a .535 winning percentage …..
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There is also the argument that Tony LaRussa has been a WINNER wherever he goes. Joe Torre does not have that distinction. And, LaRussa has managed teams with far lesser payrolls. He’ll be elected to the Hall Of Fame at some point.
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Vlad Guerrero

If Chipper Jones is a Hall Of Famer, so is Vlad. While he has battled injuries over his 15 seasons, he’s been a steady, if not dominant performer during the course of his career. In fact, he could’ve been one of the game’s greatest players, but he’s missed nearly 200 games, due to injury.
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The career numbers don’t lie – .322 avg, 2350 hits, 426 homers, 434 doubles. Although, his Major league resume’ is nearing an end, Vlad could reach the 500 homerun club, if he stays healthy. That’s a BIG if …. but, he’s a Hall Of Famer.
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Ivan Rodriguez

While he will always be remembered for his defensive prowess, and a ROCKET arm, “Pudge” has also enjoyed a very stellar offensive career. He has a career batting average of .299, along with 2772 hits, 306 homers and 561 doubles.
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Yet, it’s his skills as a catcher that really makes Pudge the complete Hall Of Famer. He has 13 Golden Gloves and many obervers regard him as possessing the best arm EVER, for catchers. That’s difficult to argue. Welcome to Cooperstown …..

Well, that’s it. Agree? Disagree? We’ll chat about it TODAY @ 2pm …..

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Mailbag: Thursday the 8th of LeBron

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Mailbag: Thursday the 8th of LeBron

Posted on 08 July 2010 by Thyrl Nelson

There’s been some mail, and a few on air discussions cut short that I’ve been meaning to catch up on. And since some of it at least is timely, there’s no time like the present, so here goes, the first edition of Thyrl’s Mail Bag. And if you have a question, comment or idea, send it to me at thyrl@wnst.net.  

 

With all of the NBA’s free agent buzz, a caller off air asked who the highest paid NBA players were in 2009-10.

 

It’s an interesting list, and leads you to wonder where some of the teams spending big might find themselves on the tail ends of these monster contracts, especially with a new collective bargaining agreement on the near horizon too.

 

Here’s the top 10, from hoopshype.com for 2009-10:

1. Kobe Bryant $24.8 mil

2. Rashard Lewis $20.5 mil

3. Kevin Garnett $18.8 mil

4. Tim Duncan $18.7 mil

5. Michael Redd $18.3 mil

6. Pau Gasol $17.8 mil

7. Andrei Kiralenko $17.8 mil

8. Yao Ming $17.6 mil

9. Gilbert Arenas $17.7 mil

10. Vince Carter $17.3 mil

 

For all of the grief baseball gets, there top 10 looks much better. Here are the MLB rankings from CBSSports.com for 2010:

1. Alex Rodriguez $33 mil

2. CC Sabathia $24.2 mil

3. Derek Jeter $22.6 mil

4. Mark Teixeira $20.6 mil

5. Johan Santana $20.1 mil

6. Miguel Cabrera $20 mil

7. Carlos Beltran $19.4 mil

8. Ryan Howard, Carlos Lee & Alfonso Soriano $19 mil

 

And USA Today’s top 10 NFL salaries for 2009:

1. Philip Rivers $25.5 mil

2. Jay Cutler $22 mil

3. Eli Manning $20.5 mil

4. Kurt Warner $19 mil

5. Kelvin Hayden $17.4 mil

6. Matt Schaub $17 mil

7. Julius Peppers $16.6 mil

8. Chris Long $16.5 mil

9. Greg Jennings $16.2 mil

10. Antonio Smith $15.5 mil

 

Jeff, who didn’t identify where he was from wanted to know who has the biggest potential among this year’s crop of free agents to be a bust?

 

For the money Jeff, Chris Bosh seems a bit too willing to concede the driver’s seat to another superstar. Although he’s a willing second fiddle, he doesn’t seem to be a willing #5 in the NBA, and therefore probably lacks the toughness a superstar would need in the paint. If winning the Eastern Conference means solving Dwight Howard, I like A’mare Stoudamire’s chances much better than the pick and pop game of Bosh. But the even easier answer is Darko, again.

 

Kevin in Fallston heard me say – in a moment of weakness perhaps – that the O’s might be close, and wants to know exactly how close.

 

Kevin, I’d say not quite as close as the ’06 Rays or even the ’03 Tigers, but still much closer than the ’46 Cubs. Or so I hope.

 

And Adrian in Essex wants to know what I expect LeBron will announce tomorrow at “The Decision”.

 

The Knicks fan in me wants him to go to New York, the closet Nets fan growing inside of me wants New Jersey, my humanitarian side wants him to stay in Cleveland, but more than anything, I want to see it drug out a little further. I’m hoping to see LeBron at a table, flanked by World Wide Wes on one side, Simon Cowell on the other, and a parade of teams auditioning to win the judges and America over. After that we’ll have a nationwide vote, and Shaq can emcee the results show. I’m almost afraid to see it all end, so are a lot of teams, I’ll bet.

 

 

 

 

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My “Imperfect” A.L. All Star Team …..

Posted on 01 July 2010 by Rex Snider

There is really no such thing as the PERFECT team, regardless of whether it’s of an All Star caliber or not. However, I do think it’s pretty easy to think of very formidable teams, especially when you’re afforded the luxury of selecting players from an inventory of more than a dozen squads.

I have no doubt Joe Girardi and Charlie Manuel will be wrestling with some emotion, obligation, expectation and even POLITICS when selecting the reserve members of their respective All Star rosters.

They have friends in other organizations …..

They have their own players to consider rewarding …..

They have Bud Selig looking over their shoulders …..

But, what would it be like if the All Star managers were truly afforded the latitude of selecting the reserves by distinguishing those whom he feels give the team the very best chance of winning? Why is thIS primary consideration? Well, the game counts.

Bud Selig is hellbent on ensuring the victorious All Star squad secures homefield advantage for their respective league’s World Series representative.

Joe Girardi and Charlie Manuel skippered their team’s to the 2009 fall classic. Heck, Manuel’s Phillies have appeared in the LAST TWO World Series. They’re also the same team that forfeited it’s defense of the World Championship on the Yankee Stadium turf, following Game 6, last year.

Why did 2009′s defending World Champions forsake homefield advantage to the Yankees? We know that answer – the American League won the 2009 All Star game.

On the heels of such a bitter defeat, I would think Manuel has every reason to want to win this upcoming All Star matchup. Girardi should harbor the same desire and motivation. So, would the rosters look different if the managers could select the players whom they believed to comprise the most dangerous of teams?

I think so.

That means beyond the players selected by the fans, the manager would get to choose 25 reserves, to comprise a total of 34 players. And, the STUPID rule of including at least one player from every team MUST be discarded for this process. It should be forgotten, anyway.

This isn’t Little league. You play to win the game. Just ask Herm Edwards …. and Bud Selig.

So, if I stood in Joe Girardi’s shoes and I really wanted to win the upcoming game, this is what my All Star roster would look like …..

ELECTED PLAYERS (voting thru July 1, 2010)

Catcher – Joe Mauer
1st Base – Justin Morneau
2nd Base – Robinson Cano
3rd Base – Evan Longoria
Shortstop – Derek Jeter
Outfield – Ichiro Suzuki, Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton
DH – Vlad Guerrero
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RESERVES (selected by manager)

Catcher – Victor Martinez, Mike Napoli

It’s a shame Matt Wieters is struggling, because Napoli really gets the noD by default. Jorge Posada is not healthy. Heck, Victor Martinez may not be healthy, either.
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1st Base – Miguel Cabrera, Kevin Youkilis

Cabrera is the best of the bunch, including Morneau. And, Kevin Youkilis is a guy I want at the plate with the game on the line. His bush league antics and mannerisms are irritating, but he’s an OBP stud.
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2nd Base – Ben Zobrist

Nobody else carries a likelihood of being a difference maker, especially with Pedroia on the DL. Cano and Zobrist would split the duties.
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3rd Base – Michael Young, Alex Rodriguez

Obvious choices, huh? Forget Adrian Beltre’s .349 clip, I want A’Rod or Young at the plate.
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Shortstop – Elvis Andrus, Erick Aybar

A more traditional run of shortstops, huh? All speed, no power. It’s not a very good year for this position. These guys could do damage on the basepaths.
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Outfield – Shin Soo Choo, Alex Rios, Nick Markakis, Brett Gardner, Nelson Cruz

I’m taking Choo, Rios and Markakis to play LF/CF/RF, respectively. In the second half of the game, I want guys playing their positions. Gardner is a fantastic spark plug and Cruz is a threat anytime he steps to the plate.
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DH – Vernon Wells

I was torn between Wells and Billy Butler. But, I went with the power.
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Starting Pitchers – Cliff Lee, David Price, Felix Hernandez, Jon Lester, Jered Weaver, Francisco Liriano

Why these guys? While they throw hard and have an impressive haul of strikeouts, their success is equally attributed to having a great “out pitch,” beyond the fastball. I think all of them would baffle National League hitters …. and they’re having a GREAT season.
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Relief Pitchers – Mariano Rivera, Joakim Soria, Neftali Feliz

In a word, NASTY. All three of them could nail down a perfect 9th against the heart of the NL order.
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Well, there it is – all 34 players for my American League All Star Team. Now that I’m looking back at it, I’ve made some perculiar observations …..

* I’m taking at least one player from each A.L. team, except the Oakland A’s. That said, if a pitcher backed out, I would probably take Andrew Bailey.

* While Mark Teixeira would not make my team (over Cabrera and Youkilis), two of the players the Rangers acquired for him (Perez and Andrus) are on my squad.

* My roster would include NINE first-time All Stars.

HAPPY WEDNESDAY …. WE’LL TALK ABOUT THIS TODAY AT 2PM !!!!

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