It’s the first round of the playoffs, and Sox fans have found themselves in a strange (lately) position. Their beloved team has been knocked out of contention by the postseason punching bag, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Two questions now present themselves to hapless Bostonians everywhere: How the hell can the Angels be in Los Angeles and Anaheim at the same time, and where do the Red Sox go from here?
The most obvious thing the Sox need to do is become more offensive. No, not in the Kevin-Youkilis-Will-Throw-His-Helmet-At-You kind of offensive, but the kind that sends a baseball into places that are not the infield or the catchers mitt. This means, first and foremost, getting rid of the increasingly burdensome Jason Varitek and adding some power hitters.
Yes, the Sox were third in the A.L. in runs scored (872) and second in OPS (.806). That is all well and good, but the main power sources in the Red Sox clubhouse may not be sticking around.
Jason Bay, who swatted 36 dingers despite an abysmal half-season slump, is worth a whole bucketful of arms and legs in this lackluster free agent market. He may be too rich for Theo Epstein’s suddenly thrifty blood. He is the best power hitter on the team by far, and his loss would leave a massive gap.
There are plenty other question marks in their aging lineup. Mike Lowell, with his oft-repaired hip, is well on his way to becoming a cyborg and is 35 years old. J.D. Drew, the highest-paid Sox player this season ($14 million!?!?!) did not become the stable offensive force Sox brass thought he would be. Victor Martinez, while an excellent acquisition, is already 30. Finally, David Ortiz is not nearly as threatening as he once was.
The Red Sox made it to the World Series in 2004 and 2007 because they had great pitching and deadly hitters in the middle of their lineup. Now, they have a solid pitching staff and a group of good-but-not-great hitters, with Bay as the only elite source of power.
To remain contenders, the Sox will have to acquire a big bat at third, say goodbye to Varitek, re-sign Bay, and find a solution for the revolving door that is the shortstop position.
Daniel Bard proved his worth this season, so perhaps Boston could use Papelbon as trade bait for a marquee hitter. With Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz leading the rotation, pitching will not be an issue. As the seven total runs against the Angels painfully demonstrated, it was the offense that was not built for the playoffs.
Long praised for their defensive prowess and solid fundamentals, the Patriots have suddenly become a mistake-ridden team this season. Some will point to the losses of Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Ellis Hobbs and Mike Vrabel as the reason. While their departures are certainly a factor, it seems to me that Tom Brady and the coaching staff are not providing the leadership they once did.
Brady is no longer the god who terrified defenses around the NFL. He appears hesitant and often out-of-sync with his relievers. Brady-to-Welker is no longer a sure thing, and that in itself is a major problem for the Patriots offense. The quarterback’s frustration is visible, and may be affecting the abilities of his teammates.
Look at some of the errors the Pats made in the final minutes of the game. With 5:27 left in the final quarter, Brandon Meriweather made the huge mistake of taunting Eddie Royal after he sent him out of bounds. The gaffe resulted in a first down and a 1st-and-ten from the 11-yard line—an open invitation for Orton to work his magic.
That was just the beginning. After the Pats regained possession, Brady waited too long on a 2nd-and-eight and had the ball batted out of his hands. During overtime, the Patriots defense looked confused and unorganized as Orton marched down the field. The Broncos were seemingly stopped at the New England 27-yard-line, but another costly error (an offside by Banta-Cain) gave them an extra five yards.
What would have been a tricky 46-yard field goal became a more manageable 41-yarder, and the Broncos rolled to 5-0.
If they want any shot at the playoffs, the Patriots’ defense and Brady alike will have to regain their old confidence. They need to go back to what they do best: making the other team make mistakes.
Click here for game highlights.
This piece done by 60 Minutes for their Oct. 11 segment compliments my “Stakes Too High?” post concerning the dangers of football injuries. Unfortunately, I am currently unable to upload the full video from the 60 Minutes website. For the full video, click here. Below, I have posted a preview of the piece.
This blog, which I have been keeping track of in various degrees since 2007, has stagnated for far too long. Sports, especially baseball, have been a passion of mine for many years, but I have been unable to translate that interest onto this medium. I am coming to realize that this blog needs a change, and this change will either make or break my efforts here.
Originally, I started this blog as a requirement for a class. Entitled, “Writing for the Web”, the class was one of the most engaging of my college career. I was enticed with the idea of combining so many forms of communication together. On the first day of class, the professor told us we were required to start a blog about the topic of our choosing and make at least three posts a week.
After deciding on sports for a topic, (the internal debate was rather brief) I went about posting. For a while, navigating the blog and monitoring my “Blog Stats” was exciting. Shortly, though, I began to realize that meeting the required number of posts was becoming a drag. I didn’t want to make at least three posts, but did so because I had to. This waning enthusiasm affected my writing and I eventually fell out of love with the entire process.
I kept the blog up and running after the class ended (sort of), but I realize now for all the wrong reasons. I wanted my material to be recognized by some big-time media company; I wanted to be the “Next Big Thing”. Now I see that’s not how you go about doing things at all. Try too hard to do something and you will invariably fail. Instead, you have to (cliche time) do what you absolutely love, and let everything else follow.
So I will let this blog follow–with what I am still unsure. I know I will continue to cover sports here, but now I wish to integrate it with more…weighty topics. An infusion of sports, politics, technology, society, hell even some philosophy here and there. Now that would be refreshing, would be truly Beyond the Stadium. Time to stop dreaming and give this site some new meaning.
For years now, it has dominated television viewing habits on Saturday. Every week, dozens of games are broadcasted on national television. When the leaves begin to change and the air takes on a chill, it can only mean college football for millions of fans. Unfortunately, these rising stakes have come with greater risks.
The ESPNization of college sports has turned a simple game into a multi-million dollar machine. Revenue for the big teams can be enormous, which presents a mixed blessing. Sports programs help to bring money and notoriety to a school. However, much of this money and power can fall into the hands of boosters, and suddenly the game becomes less about fun and more about winning at all costs.
It can be easy to forget that, while the athletes taking the field are skilled and powerful, they are still just kids. Some are younger than 20 and their bodies are still developing. Despite the risks, these college players are sent out week after week, receiving beatings that most people will never endure.
The results have becoming increasingly troubling. Even with penalties designed to protect quarterbacks and wide receivers, marquee players like Tim Tebow and Walter Thurmond are still going down with seriously injuries.
Of course, it is ridiculous to expect a sport to be injury-free, but the mentality of college football is what makes the situation dangerous. Players are taught to fight through the pain. The pressures of the media and NFL aspirations could make it tough for a player to confess an injury.
Even the weight room is not totally safe, as evidenced by the shocking injury suffered by Stafon Johnson. As stated by Arizona coach Mike Stoops, “Kids are pushing themselves to the limit in the weight room”, increasing the chance of serious injury.
The most disturbing aspect of this is the push to return players to the field. Tebow suffered the first concussion of his career, and already the focus is on when he will return. College teams do boast testing and safety measures, but an ensuing concussion could be life-threatening.
College football is fun, exciting and a great way to pass a Saturday afternoon. The games are played by unpaid students, though, and concerns of safety should always come before those of success.
The Baltimore Orioles are finally about to give their fans what they wanted.
According to ESPN.com, the Orioles are ready to purchase the contract of 23-year-old catcher Matt Wieters. The heavily anticipated super-prospect is expected to be called up to the Major Leagues on May 29. Wieters will be facing the Detroit Tigers in his debut.
Currently sitting in last place in the American League East with a record of 19-26, the Orioles are looking to bring an offensive spark to the lineup. They have scored the fewest runs in the powerful AL East with 216, and have also surrendered the most runs with 264.
Wieters will be depended on to make an immediate impact in the lineup. In becoming the primary catcher, either Gregg Zaun or Chad Moeller will be cut from the roster.
The cagey veterans Zaun and Moeller have not exactly been lighting the world on fire with their offense. The 38-year-old Zaun is currently sitting on a .216 batting average, with a single homer and four RBI in 35 games. He is a rare example of a player with an OBP greater than his slugging pct. Moeller has not been any better, sporting a .208 batting average and a terrible .240 OBP.
On the other hand, Wieters has been receiving much attention regarding his offensive abilities. He has drawn comparisons to catching great Mike Piazza, and is generally considered the best prospect in all of baseball.
In triple-A this season, Wieters hit .285 with five homers and 26 RBI. He also showed a good eye for the strike zone by walking 19 times in 137 at-bats. Last season, Wieters displayed prodigious power in single and double-A ball, hitting 27 total home runs with a 1.053 OPS.
So, how will Wieters actually do in the majors?
Well, according to the experts at www.baseballprospectus.com, Wieters will put up above-average numbers for a major league catcher. In 297 projected plate appearances, they anticipate him batting a robust .311 with 14 homers and a superb .941 OPS. Now that he is being called up earlier than expected, those numbers could even see some improvement.
At 6’5”, 230 lbs, Wieters is certainly durable enough to take on the challenge of catching at the major league level. He has displayed strong defensive skills behind the plate to complement his bat as well. The biggest challenge for Wieters may be the rotation he will be handed, which can be described as average at best.
Regardless of the impact Wieters makes on the team, there is one thing that can be certain. On Friday, May 29, baseball fans and managers alike will turn their heads to Baltimore.
The recent scandals involving the Dominican Republic have become so bad that the ever-decisive Bud Selig has given MLB’s security division the all-clear to carry out damage control. The most disturbing thing about it all is the lack of outrage and general interest from the American public.
Problems with scouting and signing players from the DR can be traced back over a year, including the shady exit of Jim Bowden, the former GM of the Washington Nationals. The allegations against Bowden and the Nationals covered everything from kickbacks to false birth records. Two Bowden henchmen, Jose Rijo and Jose Baez, were also kicked to the curb for less-than-savory activities.
Of course, the spin masters in Major League Baseball promised swift retribution for the scandals. The trouble with this is that they let the problem become so wide-spread and sophisticated that it is nearly impossible to stop.
Instead of going to school, these kids in the Dominican Republic are taught to live and breathe baseball. They are guided along by street agents known as “buscones” and led to believe that it is fine to lie, cheat and steal their way into the majors.
Despite the huge impact this is having in America’s pastime, there is little press coverage to be found over the scandals. There are some huge names involved here (the Yankees, Red Sox and White Sox have all been scrutinized closely), but the general public prefers to be spoon-fed A-Rod story after A-Rod story.
ESPN.com reports that officials are smuggling in money and are even sneaking performance-enhancing drugs into the United States. Dozens of players, some of them high-profile prospects, are being detained in the DR and other countries. The buscones are allowed to run wild, developing a thousand more Miguel Tejadas in the making.
Major League Baseball started this mess when they began scouting foreign countries and wowing the destitute locals with promises of million-dollar contracts. These actions have gone on long enough, and now baseball must purge itself from yet another scandal.
It has been quite some time since I have last posted on this site, and I think it is about time to get it up and running again. What better way to kick things off than to talk about the two MLB players we can’t seem to get enough of: Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez .
Considering the rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees, it is strange that there have not been many direct comparisons between these two players. Both were the main sluggers on their respective teams, and both were the face of the franchise (for reasons good or bad). But, like any other comparison in baseball, the question becomes: Who is better?
Because of the absurd amount of coverage A-Rod gets, many people seem to assume he is the better player. True, he certainly has the fleet-footed Manny in the speed and defense departments, especially considering the position he plays. I am making the argument that Manny Ramirez is a far superior hitter.
Despite the fact that Ramirez is three years older and wiser (ok, maybe not wiser) than Rodriguez, they are actually in very similar places in their respective careers. Ramirez has played in 2,103 games and logged 7,610 at-bats. A-Rod is not too far behind with 2,042 games and 7,860 at-bats.
In 200 less at-bats, Ramirez has accrued an almost identical amount of hits (2,392 to 2,404), total bases (4,516 to 4,543) and home runs (527 to 553). The only place he seriously falls behind is runs (1,444 to 1,605). His totals for doubles, RBI and walks beat A-Rod’s by a large margin. Perhaps most importantly, Ramirez boasts a career AVG/OBP/SLG line of .314/.411/.593. Rodriguez lags behind in all three categories with a career line of .306/.389/.578.
Another point to make is that while A-Rod was swinging for the big-league fences at the age of 18, Ramirez did not break into the bigs until about the age of 21. In the 12 seasons where he played 130 games or more, Ramirez averaged 36.4 home runs. It is fair to say if Ramirez had begun his MLB career at the same age as A-Rod, he probably would have 90 or so more homers at this point. Even if we drastically cut down the expectations to just 20 homers per season, that still would have put Ramirez near the 600 mark by now.
Regardless of whether you believe Manny is the better hitter or not, he is set to have an historic season. If he puts up career-average numbers, he will surpass 2,500 hits, 550 doubles and home runs, 1,500 runs, 1,800 RBI and 1,300 walks. That is one of the greatest career lines in the history of right-handed hitters, and he still has a few seasons left in the tank. Pound-for-pound, Manny Ramirez has had a better hitting career than Alex Rodriguez.