As the regular season winds down, the focus of fans and experts alike turns to two things: the playoffs (obviously) and the major hardware awarded to the best of the best. It has become tradition for analysts to ponder and labor over who will claim the Cy Young award, and wait for the inevitable backlash by fans. This year, the race is particularly tough, with several highly worth candidates.
For this entry, I will concentrate on the peerless pitchers of the American League. The list of worthy candidates, as I see it, is: John Lackey, Eric Bedard, Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona and Kelvim Escobar. Don’t think Bedard should be on the list? First recall that the Cy Young is typically awarded to the BEST pitcher in the league. Whether the team is good or not shouldn’t matter. Bedard has meant more to the Orioles, perhaps, than any other pitcher. He represents a trend in the right direction. On top of that, Bedard struck out 221 batters in only 182 innings, and gave up a mere 141 hits. His 13 wins should not detract from his talent, and he will dominate for years to come.
The rest of this group is equally impressive. Lackey has posted the lowest ERA of the bunch, but gave out hits like candy. Carmona and Sabathia represent the best one-two punch in baseball. Josh Beckett evolved into the ace of the Sox staff while Curt Schilling nearly blogged himself into oblivion. Escobar represents the dark horse of the group, but he may be even more vital to the Angels than Lackey. According to ESPN.com, “Escobar has allowed three or fewer runs in 23 of his 30 starts this season”. Such consistency would carry any team into the playoffs.
With the current statistics, I have to pick Josh Beckett to take the award. His 20 wins will propel him into first, even though wins are heavily overrated. What people should look at are such things as his k/BB ratio and his ability to stop losing streaks. Sabathia will most likely take second place, followed by either Carmona or Lackey. Santana will make it to the list, and the Yankee’s Wang will be up there as will. My personal choice to take the award is Sabathia, but the voters will be too distracted by Beckett’s shiny 20 W’s to choose anyone else.
In perhaps one of the most bizarre scenes in baseball this year, San Diego Padres manager Bud Black took down his own player and jeopardized his team’s chance to reach the playoffs.
The player who was injured was, of course, none other than Milton Bradley. One of the biggest hotheads in baseball, Bradley exploded at a call by umpire Mike Winters and began charging at him. To prevent him from breaking Winters over his knee like a baseball bat, Black took to the field and blocked his player. This little scuffle eventually led to Bradley being tossed to the ground. Bradley clutched his knee in agony, and an MRI later revealed a torn ACL.
But, that is not the end of this sordid tale. Bradley has since stated that he was being taunted and insulted by the umpires. First base coach Bobby Meacham said, “It was almost like [Winters] wanted to agitate the whole thing. He wanted to get Milton boiling for some reason.” All of a sudden this goes beyond the simple “crazy player goes off on umpire” story to something more serious.
Bradley was apparently thrown out because the umpires accused him of throwing his bat in the 5th inning, which he denied vehemently. Winters allegedly instigated Bradley, than began firing expletives at him. If this is true, than Winters and the rest of the crew need to be investigated and reprimanded. This kind of attitude towards players can be detrimental to the game, perhaps affecting how the umpires call certain plays. To prevent this kind of action, umpires should be hooked up to microphones to record any altercations they have with players. As it is now, it’s the umpire’s word against the player’s, which puts the player at a severe disadvantage.
Granted, Bradley is a big boy and should be able to handle his temper. When it comes down to it, Bradley is the only one at fault for tearing his ACL. With 11 homers and 30 RBI’s in 42 games with the Padres, he was probably the best and most consistent hitter on the team. Without his bat, the way to the postseason will be much tougher for the Padres. Their pitching may be able to get them through, but the loss of Bradley’s scorching bat and temperament is a substantial blow.
The cycling world was thrown for a huge loop (pardon the pun) on September 20th, when Floyd Landis was found guilty of doping his way to the Tour de France title. It was ruled that Landis used a synthetic testosterone to spark a come-from-behind victory.
To drive the point home that cheating is just not cool, arbitrators took away his 2006 title, and banned him from the event until 2009. In my eyes, this sets the bar for what other sports should be doing. They acted on a suspicion within their sport, and when the first test failed, they tried again. Using a more accurate testing system, Landis was proven guilty, and the hammer came down hard.
Landis himself called the entire process corrupt, saying, “I am innocent, and we proved I am innocent”. That may all be well and good, but how can he hold that point of view? If a better test finds a person positive, where is the corruption in that? Landis was given every due process, and can only blame himself for fueling his victory with drugs.
Other sports need to follow suit in ridding their field of drugs. If Major League Baseball was to go after one of their top stars and find him guilty of doping, it would shock the entire system. Leaking reports of mediocre players who received shipments of HGH will do nothing. Jason Giambi admitted he used drugs to hit all those homers, and Bud Selig consoled him, gave him a lollypop and thanked him for being honest. Other sports need to come down as hard as cycling and the Olympics, and not let players unions and profits get in the way.
The Angels: Biggest PostSeason Threat
It’s that time of year again for baseball fans. Teams will rally and teams will fall in epic and moribund fashion alike. Die-hard fans hope for the playoffs like children who hear the sound of the ice cream truck, but just can’t see it anywhere. While, for the most part, the American League seems pretty set, the National League has several teams waging a playoff battle as savage as a Michael Vick dogfight.
On Wednesday night, the Cubs completed their improbable run to first place, leap-frogging the bumbling Brew Crew by one game. The game was won in a quirky manner, as the go-ahead run was scored because Ken Griffey Jr. apparently injured himself trying to throw the ball really, really hard.
Though the Cubs’ magic number is still 9, I have to pick them to take the division. Besides Ben Sheets, who went down again from injury, and Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers do not have a proven starter with an ERA under 4.5. Their offense, which boasts five players with over 20 homers, is much better then the Cub’s feeble bat brigade, but won’t be enough to reclaim the division. Rotation rocks like Ted Lilly and the surprising Rich Hill will lead the charge into 1st place, unless Carlos Zambrano murders the whole team before then.
Out yonder in the NL West, the Arizona D’Backs are doing their thing without the aid of 90-year-old, 6-10 southpaw starters. With Brandon Webb for an ace and Jose Valverde (46 saves!) slamming the door, Arizona has done well enough without their resident AARP representative. Their battle for supremacy against the Padres should be interesting, as both teams have glaring weaknesses. San Diego may have a team ERA of 3.61 and uber-ace Jake Peavy, but their team batting average is a painful .250. The Diamondbacks face similar offensive woes. Ultimately, San Diego’s rotation will put them over the top.
Dont blame Willie, He’s Always Been Low-Key
Finally, there is the case of the Incredible Shrinking Mets, who have seen their lead dwindle to a mere 1.5 games. I don’t see why this is so surprising, as I’ve been waiting all season for their pitching (mainly the bullpen) to fall apart. They won games with Jose Reyes, surprising pitching performances, and Jose Reyes. Now Reyes, who I am convinced is a cloned cyborg of Ricky Henderson, is only batting about .210, and the pitching is showing it’s true colors. The Phillies, who have scored a ridiculous amount of runs this season, need only to sit back and watch the Mets self-terminate.
Week 1 of the NFL season dealt the Buffalo Bills a catastrophe that no team wants to endure. Tight end Kevin Everett collided helmet-to-helmet with Domenik Hixon and never got back up. He was taken off the field in the stretcher, and was immediately bought into surgery with a spinal cord injury.
At first, his doctors said if he survived, he would probably never walk again. By Wednesday, September 12th, however, it was confirmed that Everett had slight control over his legs and toes, and could move his arms to a degree. The most recent reports say Everett can now move his hands and has more leg strength. While this news may be nothing short of miraculous, is it morally correct for the public to even receive this news?
While this issue has certainly been debated many times, I cannot help but think how shameless it all feels. The agony Everett’s family feels is certainly enough without hearing it and seeing it through every known media outlet. Sports sites and news organizations alike cover the topic with zeal, knowing the public interest will clamor to hear it. With an injury as grave as this one, I think the media needs to exert discretion. Of course, it is impossible to avoid photographs of the tragedy occurring, but that should be as far as it goes. Sports fans do not know this man, and should not be dealing with his personal struggle.
What make matters even worse are the people who have already begun to speculate if and when Everett will return to the game. Football is no longer the issue here; it has gone far beyond a simple sport. If Everett fully recovers and decides to never touch a football again, I would view that as a perfectly honorable act. He should be paid out the entire length of his contract for nearly losing his life on the football field.
Of course, I must admit that I display my fair share of hypocrisy by merely adding links to this entry. However, as far as moral standards go, coverage on events like this should be kept to a minimum. I wish Kevin Everett a swift recovery, and his family all the privacy and discretion they need.
It was yet another scintillating weekend in New England, with the hated Yankees and the grumpy Chargers in town. To add to the drama, Nascar came to New Hampshire to drive in circles for a while. Out of all these events, the Sox-Yankees match-up (of course) proved to be the most exciting.
While the chance for the Yanks to take the division is still as low as Jason Giambi’s batting average, this series provided baseball fans with a truly great experience. The words “historic” and “epic” get thrown around too often in baseball land, especially when it comes to these two teams, but I find myself hard-pressed to recall a more exhilarating series (playoffs notwithstanding). There was none of the typical drama between the Sox and the Bombers, no 20 minute bench-clearing brawls, just good solid baseball as far as the eye could see.
First off, this series had something for everyone. Game one saw a gut-wrenching comeback by the pesky Yanks, who of course had to do so in glorious fashion. Not to be outdone by their partners in payroll, the Sox pounded them into submission the next time around. This second game featured the league leaders in wins, Josh Beckett and Chien-Ming Wang, and a monster play at the play between Eric Hinske and Jorge Posada. Replays showed that the play, while brutal, was perfectly clean.
For the grand finale, Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens squared off in a battle between two of the premier power pitchers of the last decade. The game lived up to its billing, as both teams were held to one run through seven innings. In the end, Schilling blinked first, serving up a three-run dinger to You-Know-Who. Rivera coughed up two runs in the ninth, and had to dispatch Big Papi to earn a series win.
All-in-all, this series was as close to perfection as you could ever hope for. The Yankees showcased their pitching phenom Joba Chamberlain, (who managed not to buzz-cut anyone this time) and the Red Sox let Jacoby Ellsbury loose on yet another unsuspecting team. The pitching match-ups were great, the offense was electric, and the drama was kept to a minimum. This weekend series was, if not the best of the entire season, certainly among the top three.
Before I get into this latest bit-o-blogging, I would like to get a certain point of joy off my chest: David Ortiz finally, finalllly hit a heart-stopping, walk-off homer to bring the ebullient crowd to its collective feet. Ok…now that that’s all set, its time to delve into a serious sporting issue: the Patriots cheating conspiracy.
The results are in, and Bill Belichick is now the frontrunner for the NFL’s coveted Most Vile Pariah award. What began as a blip on the radar has escalated into a full-blown mess for football. Roger Goodell’s mettle will be tested with this issue, and it seems only the Hammer of God smiting Belichick’s hooded visage will sate all the non-Patriots fans of the world.
EPSN reporter Howard Bryant is right in saying this ruling will be essential for Goodell’s image. Thus far in his career, he has handed out harsh sentences to multiple players, and the same needs to go for coaches. If Belichick himself is left unscathed in this affair, what precedent does that set? The game must not become one in which the players face the axe, but management can scamper off to further sully the game. Sorry Billy, the rings were great, but this can’t be pushed aside.
On Wednesday Belichick offered a formal “apology” to, “everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and players”. Essentially this tells us…absolutely nothing. He delivered a bullshit statement to the press, wanting to avoid the issue entirely. Furthermore, don’t try to tell me that his “interpretation” of the league rules led to some type of misunderstanding. The rules are clear and simple-technological espionage is strictly prohibited.
To make the action even worse, Belichick broke this simple rule against his own former apprentice, Eric Mangini. It was revealed that Mangini knew all about the Patriots’ “sordid camera” act, and was the one who leaked the info. Did Belichick think Mangini would keep such a dirty secret? Unfortunately for him, Mangini pulled the old Darth Vader move, and summarily hurled his old master into a scandalous pit.
Not long after the New England Patriots picked apart the hapless New York Jets in a 38-14 victory Sunday, an ugly rumor surfaced to dampen the mood of Pats fans. According to NFL security sources, an employee for the Patriots was caught for allegedly filming the Jet’s defensive coaches. Using the camera, the employee was said to be sending signals to the Patriots regarding upcoming plays. What is perhaps most disturbing is that when this rumor surfaced, it seemed to barely cause a ripple.
In all other major sports, scandals regarding cheating and unlawful behavior are running rampant. Somehow, though, this incident appears to be remaining under the radar. Why a blatant act of cheating would not gain more attention is very mysterious. It was even confirmed that the same cameraman was questioned in a game against the Green Bay Packers last year. Packers president Bob Harlan confirmed that the man was escorted away, but put up quite a fight. If this is a recurring incident that officials are aware of, why is nothing done about it?
If the NFL finds the Patriots were indeed using cameras to spy on other teams, the largest penalty they would suffer is the loss of one or more draft picks. For such seemingly pre-meditated and deliberate scheme, the punishment should be higher. Acts like this could change the outcome of entire games, putting other teams at a severe disadvantage. Though this is not at the same level of the NBA scandals, this poses a problem in the NFL. Events like this could be very common, and they should be dealth with more seriously.