Recommended Reading

I do not follow hockey nearly as much as I follow other sports and I have never pretended to be knowledgeable about the sport. When I got my copy of Sudden Death, The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos, I was not sure what to expect. If I know only a little bit about the NHL, then I surely know next to nothing about junior hockey in Canada.

Since Gregg Drinnan is one of the authors, I thumbed through the pages and my eye happened to fall on the name , Graham James; that rang a bell in the recesses of my memory. After skimming a paragraph or two, I remembered that he was the junior hockey coach who plead guilty to sexually molesting junior hockey players while he was their coach. I thought the book would be about that sort of thing; it was not.

The Swift Current Broncos’ team bus went off the road and killed four of the young players right after Christmas in 1986. These players, between the ages of 16 and 20, had to deal with their own injuries, the deaths of 4 teammates and friends and a manipulative sexual predator as their coach. Somehow, they made the playoffs that year and won the Canadian junior hockey championship three years later.

There are three authors. Bob Wilke was a player on that Broncos’ team. Leesa Culp was one of the first people on the scene of the accident who tried to give CPR to some of the injured players and watched at least one of them die in front of her. Gregg Drinnan was the former sports editor of the Kamloops Daily News.

This is not the typical sports book story of how the team rose from adversity to attain glory. This is the story of a singular event that was part of a much larger tragic situation for a group of young men that affected them for the rest of their lives. I am glad I read it; I suggest that you might want to read it too.

Here is a link as to where you can get it…

The Dismal Science

I am not an economist; I took an economics course at the dawn of the Iron Age and recall only a few basic concepts. I am capable of doing arithmetic, however; and that ability made me stop and call “Bulls[p]it” on a report by Bloomberg News asserting that LeBron James return to Cleveland would boost the local economy by $500M. You can read Bloomberg’s math here. I want to do some math of my own…

In order to “boost” a local economy, one needs to count the money circulating in that economy that was not there in the first place and that would be there no matter what. So consider that the Cavs played to an average of 17,300 fans last year – fans who spent their money on the “LeBron-less Cavaliers” and who would presumably continue to do so again. The seating capacity for Quicken Loans Arena is 20,562 for basketball and so let me begin with the assumption that the Cavs will fill the house completely for every home game next year.

    The added fannies in seats will be 3,262 and they will be there for 41 regular season games – and just for fun let me add 9 playoff games to make it an even 50 games. That means attendance will increase by 163,100 folks.

      If you want to stop here, consider that those 163,100 folks will need to spend $3065 apiece to get to the $500M mark.

    Average ticket price could be $60 – adding in the playoff games – meaning increased ticket revenue would be $9.79M. Let us call that $10M to keep this in round numbers.

    Those added attendees will need food and beverages – either at the arena or at local watering holes. Let us assume that per person they spend an additional $80 on food and drink. (Remember, some of these folks will be kids who eat pizza and drink Coke.) That puts another $13M into the local economy.

    Let me throw in another $2M for spending on transportation and the total is now $25M in increased revenues for the Cavs.

According to the 2010 Census, the Cleveland-Elyria Metropolitan Area had a population of 2,077,240; that looks close enough to 2.1 million folks for me. Lots of people there will buy Cavs’ gear in the euphoria of King James’ return. Even if every man, woman and child were to spend $100 on such gear, that would only amount to $210M.

Therefore, we have accounted for the money spent for tickets, transportation, food and beverages and logo gear and giving a high estimate in all categories brings us to $235M in new revenue. As I said, I am not an economist but I have to wonder where the other $265M comes from.

Moreover, I have not even considered here – because I have no idea how to calculate it – the fact that some of the “new money” spent on the Cavs in Cleveland next year is money that would have gone into the local economy in any event. The money someone spent to buy a LeBron James jersey would likely have stayed in the Cleveland metro area and have been spent on something else there – groceries, gas, the opera, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the movies etc. So even the “new money” I calculated above is a highly inflated estimate.

Enough economics… Now I know why they call it “The Dismal Science”.

A couple of months ago, Tom Verducci had this piece at on the topic of reducing arm injuries for young pitchers. In addition to a call to stop having kids pitch all year round, he said that there is scientific evidence that lowering the pitching mound would reduce the stress on young arms and ligaments. Evidently there is biomechanical data to show that the greater the slope of the mound the greater the forces that are applied to the human arm in a pitching motion. As pointed out in the article, when a pitcher is coming back from an arm injury, they begin rehab throwing on flat ground because it is less strenuous on the arm.

In 1969, MLB lowered the mound from 15 inches to 10 inches. Since baseball is more tied to history than any other sport, that fact means that alteration to the height of the mound has historical precedence. If MLB takes the lead here, then other levels of baseball – including leagues with 13-year olds as pitchers – will follow that lead and lower their mound also. Is this a guaranteed solution to the rash of arm injuries to young pitchers? Of course not, but if MLB can lower the mound now, it can also decide to raise it at some future time to correct whatever problem the lowering might cause.

Here is a secondary benefit for baseball with regard to lowering the mound. It will give hitters an advantage and that might result in fewer strikeouts and a quickened pace for the game. Check the stats at the end of Verducci’s piece above for what batting averages in the seventh through ninth innings of games this year. Giving those hitters even a small advantage would not be such a bad idea.

This is an idea MLB ought to consider. What it should not do is to form a Blue Ribbon Committee to study it. MLB’s Blue Ribbon Committees on average take five years to come to the conclusion that – at the end of the day – there will probably be night.

Finally, with college football teams getting ready to begin practicing for the upcoming season, here is how Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald described the level of interest in a part of the country where college football is king:

“Husker Fan Day will be held on Aug 1. For those unfamiliar with Nebraska Football Fan Day, it’s when Nebraskans skip work to line up for blocks, waiting for the autograph of the sixth-team offensive tackle on a rubber corncob.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

RIP Red Klotz

Red Klotz died about a week ago. Most folks know him as the player-coach of the Washington Generals or the New Jersey Reds or the Boston Shamrocks. Those were the teams that toured with the Harlem Globetrotters and lost virtually every game they played. Klotz was actually a good player; he played for the Philadelphia SPHAs – the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association team – and they beat the Globetrotters in a game or two back in the 40s. Klotz was also a guard on the Baltimore Bullets team that won the Basketball Association of America championship in 1948.

Klotz’ last win as a player or coach came in 1971 when he hit a shot with 10 seconds to play to give the Generals a one-point lead; Meadowlark Lemon’s shot at the other end missed and the Generals prevailed. Red Klotz died at 93.

Bob Molinaro had this to say about Klotz in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot over the weekend:

“Red Klotz, the two-handed set-shot artist who played for and owned the Washington Generals, died a few days ago at 93. Klotz’s teams lost more than 14,000 games to the Harlem Globetrotters. ‘Beating the Globetrotters,’ he once said, ‘is like shooting Santa Claus.’ “

Rest in peace, Red Klotz…

There are two reports floating out there regarding the NBA that deserve attention. The first one says that Commissioner Adam Silver is in favor of adding a “mid-season tournament” to the NBA calendar. The tournament would happen in February. I concede that this would make money for the league; and therefore, by definition, the league will consider it carefully. Having said that, this idea is worse than awful.

Let me mention only two reasons why this is a really bad idea:

    1. A Tournament Champion can only dilute the recognition given to the NBA Champion crowned in June. If that were not the case, then the February tournament would have to grow in prestige to the point that it overshadowed the NBA Finals winner in June. If that happened, it would render all of the games in March, April, May and June as JV games.

      Memo for Adam Silver: Look to college basketball for your model here. They have a way to determine a champion AND they have conference tournaments. The conference tournaments make money but are otherwise meaningless, useless and non-productive. Why do you want to add your own version of “conference tournaments” to your league?

    2. The NBA already has too many games. Unless the proposed tournament replaces a bunch of meaningless regular season games – thereby reducing its revenue-raising profile a bit – any rational observer would drop that idea like a bad habit.

The other report out there says that the NBA Competition Committee has a proposal to consider which would reform the NBA Draft Lottery. As much as the NBA has to deny the existence of teams tanking significant portions of seasons, every single NBA fan and observer sees that it happens. The reason for the tanking is the draft lottery because basketball is a sport where a single franchise player can mean the difference between middling success and championship contention. And, there is always a “Great Savior” out there to lust after…

Good luck to the NBA and to the Competition Committee on this one. I can think of draft mechanisms that would render tanking meaningless; the problem is that they could also reward the team that just won the championship with the #1 overall pick. This is a thorny problem with no easy/obvious solution.

Last weekend the Charleston River Dogs of the Sally League held a great promotion. On the day when Bill Veeck would have turned 100, the River Dogs – partially owned by Veeck’s son – paid tribute to Disco Demolition Night. That was a promotion Bill Veeck put on that did not turn out the way it was supposed to. Here is the short version:

    In an attempt to destroy disco music, fans were urged to bring disco records to the park where the White Sox would play the Tigers. These were put in a container on the field and between games of a doubleheader, (They actually used to have such things in MLB.) the container on the field was detonated.

    Fans – obviously well lubricated – rushed the field after the explosion. The field was damaged by the fans and by the detonation so the White Sox had to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader.

Last weekend, Charleston fans had Disco Demolition 2, You Better Belieb It. Any fan who brought a piece of Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus memorabilia got into the game for $1; those memorabilia were destroyed on the field after the game. Moreover, fans got a “Bobble-Leg” to honor Bill Veeck who had a wooden leg as a result of a war injury in WW II. It is not just a Bobblehead; there have been tons of them; this one has a bobblehead and a bobbling wooden leg too.

Somewhere in the cosmos, Bill Veeck nodded approvingly…

Finally, here is Dwight Perry’s analysis of a recent happening in New Orleans from the Seattle Times:

“Kriste Lewis, 40, became only the second 40-something to make an NFL cheerleading squad when she landed a spot on the New Orleans Saintsations.

“Or as they now call her in cheer circles, Georgette Blanda.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Letting My Mind Wander…

I had occasion to watch part of The Open Championship over the weekend. I heard two golfers interviewed as part of the coverage and they both said that part of their “game plan for the course” was to attack the Par 5 holes and try for birdies there. The ESPN interviewer nodded when they said this as if a pearl of wisdom had just dropped from the firmament. So, let me ask:

    Exactly how is that “game plan for the course” any different from every other game plan for every other course in a pro golf tournament?

Personally, I think that “game plan for the course” is not nearly as important as my game plan would be:

    Put the ball in the hole in the fewest number of strokes.

In golf, it is a big deal to shoot a round that is equal to your age. It does not happen all that often and last weekend it almost happened in a major tournament. In the final round, 65-year old Tom Watson shot a 68. A cursory search turned up no examples of anyone ever doing this in one of golf’s major tournaments.

Before the tournament, I read a note that Dan Jenkins had attended 179 consecutive golfing majors but would not be at The Open Championship this year. That represents 45 years without missing one of those tournaments. Hopefully, the reason for the break in the streak is due to something trivial such as an expired passport…

By the way, were you aware that July is Women’s Motorcycle Month? According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, there are 4.3 million women motorcyclists in the US these days and the numbers are trending upward. There are four women represented in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum including two sisters who rode a pair of motorcycles across the entire US in 1916. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the first fully paved transcontinental highway was not completed until the 1930s.

So, if you are in the vicinity of Pickerington Ohio in the next week or so, drop in to see the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum there. I am sure they have spots to park cars too in their parking lot…

The New York Daily News has a report that one of A-Rod’s lawyers is now suing A-Rod for non-payment of $380K in legal fees. After assembling his own version of a legal dream team to represent him in arbitration hearings and losing, A-Rod is now – allegedly – stiffing those lawyers who represented him. Let me do a quick summary of A-Rod’s history here:

    Wore out his welcome in Seattle
    Upstaged the World Series announcing he would opt out of his contract
    Became a pariah with the Yankees
    Now perhaps stiffing his lawyers by not paying for services.

The Maytag Repairman may lose his place as the loneliest guy on the planet…

There was a time when A-Rod was arguably the best player in the game; those days are far in the past. Mike Trout is not yet 23 years old but he might be the best all-around player in the game today. His accomplishments for last week include:

    MVP in the All-Star Game
    Went 6 for 16 in regular season games (1 HR, 3 doubles and 4 runs scored)
    Stole 1 base

Not too shabby…

Last week, news broke that FOX Sports made a change in their NFL coverage lineup. Pam Oliver will be replaced as the sideline reporter for the #1 team this year by Erin Andrews; Oliver will be on the sidelines for FOX with a different team this year and then will not be part of FOX coverage on the sidelines. This will be the 20th year Pam Oliver has been doing sideline reporting.

It is no secret that I put sideline reporting – and dugout reporting and crowd reporting – somewhere on a spectrum between “worthless” and “pointless”. Moreover, it would appear that Brad Dickson of the Omaha World Herald holds a similar view:

“Pam Oliver was reportedly blindsided upon learning Fox is replacing her with Erin Andrews as the network’s No. 1 NFL sideline reporter. We have about 314 million Americans. I’m pretty sure the other 313,999,999 saw this one coming.

“Of course, the sideline reporter is a very important position. Without these men and women, we’d never know that, ‘It’s really cold on the field,’ and that, ‘The players seem to have a lot of enthusiasm today.’ “

A few months ago, FIFA appointed a former US prosecutor to lead an investigation into alleged corruption with regard to the processes that assigned the next two World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar. reports on happenings in the world of international soccer and they are reporting that the investigative report will not be made public; only FIFA’s decision based on the report will be public. The report is nearing completion and will go to Hans-Joachim Eckhart who is “FIFA’s ethics judge”; the announcement of his decision should come by September.

In the milieu of FIFA – and the IOC for that matter –, this is how they define “transparency”…

Finally, here is one more observation from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald:

“MLB games this season have often slowed to a crawl. In the time it takes to play a doubleheader, the typical University of Kentucky scholarship basketball player completes his entire education.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

A “Freeway World Series”?

A couple of days ago, I was talking about the mid-season status of baseball and that provoked an inquiry from a long-term reader of these rants who lives in California and is a huge Dodgers’ fan. He wondered what I thought about the likelihood of a “Freeway World Series” between the Dodgers and the Angels. I told him that at this point of the season that was no more or less likely than a “Freeway World Series” in Northern California between the A’s and the Giants – assuming that there is a freeway of some sort that connects/runs between the two cities. I am sure he was not pleased with my assessment…

I am absolutely confident that there will not be a “Red Line World Series”. For those who have never been to Chicago, the Red Line is the el line that has convenient stops for both US Cellular Field and Wrigley Field. There will be no need for Chicago fans to use that rail line to go to either stadium come October let alone both of them. Consider:

    At the All-Star Break, the White Sox were in a dead-heat for last place in the AL Central. Technically, they were .001 better than the Twins, which is hardly an accolade for the team. The Sox were 10.5 games out of first place in the division.

    At the All-Star Break, the Cubs were comfortably ensconced in last place in the NL Central. They were 12.5 games out of first place in the division and they were 8.5 games behind the fourth place Pirates at that point.

    The Cubs had two players hitting over .292. Brian Schlitter is a pitcher who is 1 for 1 this year. The other player is Arismendy Alcantara who has been to the plate 23 times and collected 9 base hits giving him a batting average of .391.

    The Cubs – not surprisingly – rank 27th in MLB in runs scored and 29th in team batting average (.237).

    The White Sox are hitting better as a team (.250) but it would only put the Sox 4 games ahead of the Cubs if they were in the same division.

    Only two teams have struck out more times than the White Sox. I mentioned in a previous rant that Tyler Flowers had struck out 102 times in 257 at-bats. Well, the Sox also have Adam Dunn in the lineup and he has whiffed 100 times in 263 at-bats.

The Obama Administration started a “Race to the Top” education initiative. The Cubs and the White Sox appear to be in a race to the bottom…

Speaking of racing, – sort of – I noticed that Morgan Shepard was involved in an accident in a recent NASCAR race that took out the driver who was running second late in the race. Normally, that kind of news goes in one eyeball and out the other but what caught my attention was that Shepard was 16 laps down at the time of the collision and he drew the ire of the driver he took out of the race. That is when I learned that Shepard is 72 years old. That was sufficiently surprising that I actually went to Wikipedia to look up his birthday and then did the math; he really is 72 years old and he was out there driving a racecar at more than 160 mph. What could possibly go wrong…?

Moreover, I think the fact that a 72-year old man is able to compete in the same race with men in their 20s and 30s stacks a lot of weight on the side of the argument that says NASCAR drivers are not athletes. Jack Nicklaus is 74 years old; he is arguably the best golfer ever; golf is not the most athletically demanding sport. Nevertheless, Jack Nicklaus cannot – and would not try to – compete against PGA players in their 20s and 30s.

Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times recently:

“What’s a guy to do when his ‘wife’ won’t get off his back?

“Ville Parviainen, with teammate Janette Oksman aboard, covered a grueling 278-yard obstacle course in 1 minute 3.75 seconds last Saturday to capture the 19th Wife Carrying World Championships in Sonkajarvi, Finland, unseating the five-time defending champions, Taisto Miettinen and Kristiina Haapalainen.”

Wife carrying is a sport that does not take itself too seriously. Here is a link to the sport website where you can learn to become a “Master in Wife Carrying”. You can learn a lot reading some of the entries there. For instance:

    The minimum weight for a wife is 49 kilos (about 108 lbs) and if she weighs less than that, she will carry extra weight just as in horseracing.

    Regarding the attitude of participants, here is what the website says:

    “The wife carrying is composed of humour and hard sport on a fifty-fifty basis.”

    Here is what the race is all about:

    “The traditional track for the wife carrying consists of sand, forested terrain, a water obstacle and two log hurdles. If your style is “the wife dangling upside down”, you have better to remember that in the water pool the wife’s head is likely to go under the water.”

    Here are training tips:

    “It is possible to train for the wife carrying competition everywhere in the middle of the daily routines: in the bath, in the super market, in the playground or in the body building centre. The wife carrying is good for your relationship.”

Notwithstanding that final assertion, I do not think I shall suggest this to my long-suffering wife…

Finally, here is another gem from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“From the Sometimes These Items Just Write Themselves file comes word that among those gored (in the thigh) this year was Bill Hillman — co-author of ‘How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona.’ “

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Misuse of Technology

Yesterday, I mentioned the automated/robotic beer-dispensing machine that will debut at Target Field in Minnesota and I wondered why it represented an improvement over the current human condition. I got an e-mail from a former colleague on that subject; here is the salient portion of his communique:

[Beer dispensers] are a bad idea but baseball has done worse with innovation. At least I can avoid the beer dispenser; I can’t avoid their ridiculous use of “replay”. Forget about stupid beer dispensers and rant about how bad instant replay is.”

My former colleague makes a good point. Should beer-dispensing machines proliferate among baseball venues, I can look at them and proceed on to my seat to enjoy the game. The situation is very much like the jillions of slot machines that exist in Las Vegas casinos; I notice that they are there and may even stop for a few moments to watch some of the blinking lights, but they do not interfere with my progress to the sportsbook.

Instant replay – and the folks who adjudicate replays surely have a different yardstick for what is “instant” than I do – interferes with the game. The NFL approved “limited use” of instant replay to assist officials in 1986. It seemed like a great idea at the time. It has not turned out to be such a great idea.

    [Aside: The NFL adopted one other “innovation” in 1986 that sounded like a good idea at the time. The NFL played its first game at Wembley Stadium in 1986.]

The problem with replay is that all of the logical and rational arguments for its use are negated by practice. Let me take those logical and rational arguments and examine them in light of actuality:

    We have to get the call right. No one in his right mind would argue that we need to get the call wrong; nonetheless, sometimes officials get it wrong. The problem is that if there is a definitive “right call”, then why is there so much dispute/confusion after a replay review? The fact is, replay does not get all the calls right.

    Change only comes with “conclusive video evidence”. Really? How many times have you looked at replay in super slo-mo and from 4 different angles and come up with an answer that is different from the one that comes from the replay folks? “Conclusive” must also mean something else to these folks.

    Replay will confirm – or correct – calls on plays that decide games or championships. I completely agree that replay should confirm a play such as Santonio Holmes’ TD catch in the Super Bowl with about 30 seconds to play. Everything rode on getting that right. However, replay is also used for trivial matters – such as a tag play at second base in the second inning of a game.

    Replay will eliminate arguments between the manager and the umpires. Surely, you jest…

Moreover, I do not even wish to discuss the lunacy in basketball of officials deciding how many tenths of seconds need to be on the clock in the final minute of a game. The fact that they always adjust the clock means – conclusively – that the timekeeper is never correct in his manipulation of the buttons that control the clock. Therefore, that never-correct-timekeeper has accumulated a ton of errors over the course of the game, which renders the judgments on tenths of seconds in the final minute nothing but stupid.

Baseball has a problem with “pace of play” even before you add replay to the equation. In a couple of weeks the Yankees will play the Red Sox on Sunday Night Baseball. The game will start at 8:00PM EDT; even if there are no “replay interventions”, the game will likely take at least 3 hours and 30 minutes. That is too slow – and the sad thing is that every time those two teams play each other the games go on like that. Baseball needs to “pick up the pace’ and replay surely does not work in that direction.

Instant replay is a great idea in theory. To date, it has not been implemented in practice in any sport where it continues to look like a good idea. Maybe the “goodness of instant replay” is a mirage; maybe it really is a bad idea. Before I give up on it entirely, I would like to see a sport – preferably MLB – implement a system that is truly instant (never more than 30 seconds of arbitration) and conclusive. If no one can – or will – come up with such improvements, then I might be forced to admit that replay is nothing more than a chimera.

Are you aware that the Tour de France bicycle race is ongoing? Do you even care? I think it would be a good idea to consider merging two annual events to create something more interesting.

    How about turning the Pamplona bulls loose on the cyclists at some random point in the race. They could weave in and out of the fans who line the streets as everyone tries to escape the bulls. That might actually be worth watching…

Are you aware that the WNBA season is in medias res? The three best teams have a combined record of 47 – 14. You might say that the 12-team league is a tad “unbalanced”.

Another basketball league is underway – the Las Vegas Summer League. The NBA will have 24 teams participating this year which means to me that the NBA condones if no supports professional basketball in Las Vegas. However, when anyone suggested moving a franchise to Las Vegas – with all the evil gambling that goes on there – David Stern would go into a spasm. The Summer League mainly involves rookies and developmental players. There are no “grizzled vets” out there in the summer league. So, let me get this right:

    It is OK to expose young “impressionable” players to the evil environment of Las Vegas without the presence of “veteran leadership”, but it is not OK to put a real NBA team in the same environment. Hello, NBA; this is the Earth calling…

Finally, regarding yet another obscure sport, here is a comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“Did you see the new rule for the next America’s Cup? Seriously. The defending champion U.S. team will be allowed a backup boat, but the challenger teams will not. That’s like a World Series where only one team is allowed to have a bullpen.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Catching Up On Baseball

With the All-Star Game out of the way, it behooves me to make a few observations regarding the progress of the baseball season to date. However, before turning to the sport, there are reports of a new technological innovation for baseball that will make its debut at Target Field – site of the All-Star Game – very soon. In Target Field, there will be self-serve beer machines. Here is how it works:

    You acquire a card to operate the machine and put money on the card; basically, it is a debit card that only works in one place.

    Then you go to the machine and dispense beer at so many cents per ounce and the amount is deducted from your card.

Over the course of the industrial revolution, workers have lost jobs to mechanization and now to robots. The mechanical loom killed a ton of jobs for weavers more than a hundred years ago; mechanical mail sorting devices today put lots of US Postal Workers out of jobs. This is more than a trend; it is an inexorable movement. Having said that, how many economists and labor analysts foresaw the robot beer dispenser as a job killer for beer vendors at baseball games? I certainly did not.

    Oh, by the way, why is it “better” in any sense to make a couple of trips to the beer machine instead of staying in your seat and having someone deliver the beer directly to you? I have to admit, I just do not get this “technological advance”.

With regard to baseball itself, the A’s sport the best record in MLB but it looks as if Billy Beane may be jumping off the moneyball bandwagon. His trades in early July have the look of “win it now” since he acquired expensive veterans and gave up prospects. I cannot say that I blame him for doing that since the A’s have been a good regular season team for a while now but not good enough to do much of anything in the post-season.

The AL East standings look strange at the moment. The Orioles and Blue Jays lead the division; the Yankees are dead even playing .500 baseball; meanwhile, the Rays and the Red Sox are way back and neither team even has a .500 record at home.

The Yankees are 47-47 right now. That record includes 16 game decisions for Masahiro Tanaka where he is 12-4; taking him out of the picture, the Yankees are 35 – 43. Tanaka has a “partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament” according to MRI tests and will take an injection of “plasma-rich plasma” (Is there any other kind?) and begin a rehab program to see if he can avoid Tommy John surgery. Yankee fans have to hope the treatment works as planned and that Tanaka can return sometime in September. If not, Yankee fans may have to learn – reluctantly – how to say “Tommy John” in Japanese.

The injury to Tanaka combined with the injury to CC Sabathia leaves the Yankees’ rotation in a mess. Moreover, the contract situations for those two players demonstrate why I rarely think it is a good idea to give big-money-long-term contracts to pitchers. Consider:

    If – I said IF – Tanaka needs Tommy John surgery, he will not pitch for the Yankees again until 2016. The Yankees paid $20M just for the rights to negotiate with Tanaka and then signed him for 7 years and $155M.

    Sabathia signed a contract extension in 2011 that pays him $23M this year and again in 2015 and then $25M in 2016. There is a vesting option for $25M in 2017 and interestingly all of the conditions for the contract to vest involve him not having a left-shoulder injury. His injury now is to his knee not his shoulder. The least the Yankees owe him is $71M; the most would be $96M.

The worst record in baseball belongs to the Texas Rangers. They are 21 games out in the AL West and are a game-and-a-half behind the Houston Astros. If that situation continues to obtain to the end of the season, there will be a gigantic organizational ass-kicking event within the Rangers come October.

The NL Central race looks as if it could be the best one in baseball. Only the Cubs are out of race for the division title. The other four teams are bunched together; the fourth place Pirates are only 3.5 games behind the division leading Brewers. If these teams stay close to one another, that could set up some critical games in September when the schedule focuses on intra-division matches.

The Dodgers and Giants dominate the NL West. Interestingly, both teams are playing better on the road than they are at home so far this year.

The Red Sox signed Stephen Drew in May for $10M to play the rest of this year and then to test the free agent market again this winter. In 101 plate appearances, Drew has this slash-line:


I am sure there is a parallel universe somewhere in which that slash-line is worth $10M…

Speaking of individual player stats, consider White Sox catcher, Tyler Flowers. He has 257 at-bats this year and he has struck out 102 times. If, instead, he had 102 hits in those at-bats, he would be hitting .397. For his career, Flowers has struck out 303 times in 786 at-bats so this year’s level of futility at the plate is only slightly greater than normal for him.

Finally, in keeping with today’s baseball focus, here is an item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“The Marlins tied a record with a 13th consecutive interleague win, a reminder that only Guinness keeps track of more obscure records than baseball does.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Recommended Reading

I am not a golfer nor do I particularly love watching golf on TV. Nevertheless, I have just finished reading Dan Jenkins’ novel, Slim and None. I commend it to your reading with one reservation:

    If you are offended by blatantly politically incorrect dialog between fictional characters with regard to just about every bastion of political correctness, you might want to steer clear of this book.

The story is about a 44-year old pro golfer, Bobby Joe Grooves, who has never won a major and who realizes that time is running out for him to do so. He says that he has two chances to win one this year, slim and none. The four sections of the book concern his time prepping for and playing in The Masters, the US Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Tournament. As with all of Dan Jenkins’ novels, there are plenty of laughs and more than a few guffaws on the pages.

Jenkins is a master at coming up with oddball names for his minor characters in his books. In this one you will meet – very briefly –

    Paregoric Sims
    Blubber Doss
    Hubbard Gilliam and
    Snot Fishy Poot Stain (a talented rapper).

You can easily finish this book in a weekend because once you get into it, you will want to find out what outrageous situation comes next.


Mishmash Time…

There seem to be a bunch of little things on my clipboard today and so it is time to throw some of them together and see what sort of mishmash comes out.

Whenever a player scored a goal in the World Cup – or in just about any pro soccer contest – he/she is generally exultant and then mobbed by teammates in celebration. It is part of the game; it is as if every goal is a walk-off home run. However, an MLS player seems to have soiled that image. It is more than OK; it is well and proper for a player to celebrate with his/her teammates after a goal. Most of the time, others on the pitch had something to do with the outcome. However, a week ago a KC player, Dom Dwyer, scored against Chicago and then proceeded to:

    Whip out a cell phone and snap a selfie with some of the fans.

I think that took soccer’s goal celebrations to a place they need not have gone. In fact, it is simply the final straw with regard to something that has been annoying me for the last 6 months.

    I hereby call for Federal Legislation making it a crime punishable by banishment from the Internet for 5 years for anyone who takes a selfie anywhere at any time.

    Should I start one of those idiotic White House online petitions? Anyone want to sign on…?

Staying in the realm of soccer for another moment, it appears that Manchester United will have a new sponsor logo on its jerseys next year. About ten years ago, Man U wore AIG on their jerseys until of course, AIG sent its shareholders to the poorhouse back in the 2008 financial debacle. Since AIG left the scene, Man U has sported AON on their jerseys. AON is a multinational “risk management company” which means to me that it is like AIG but it did not come to the brink of going paws up back in 2008.

Now, Man U will go in a different direction with its new sponsor – or maybe it is completing the circle. Next year, they will wear the Chevy logo on their jerseys. Chevy is hardly in the insurance/risk management business, but like AIG, they were on the brink of folding their tent and going off silently into the night in 2008. From the point of view of someone on the “business side” of Man U, the only really important thing is that the check from Chevy for the sponsorship does not bounce.

Joey Chestnut won the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest again. This time he scarfed down 61 dogs – and buns – in the allotted time. Chestnut also holds a bunch of other Competitive Eating World Records to include:

    15 pints of vanilla ice cream in 6 minutes. [Holy brain freeze, Batman…]

    70 bratwursts in 10 minutes

    121 Twinkies in 6 minutes

    141 hardboiled eggs in 8 minutes.

      [Aside: Remember how outrageous it was in the movie Cool Hand Luke when Luke said he could eat 50 hardboiled eggs in 1 hour?]

Anyhow, I mention all of this because I read somewhere that ESPN has signed on with the good folks who run the “sport” of Competitive Eating for another several years. I know that ESPN does not jam this down our throats – hey, I had to use that metaphor here – but there seems to be a larger issue. At what point will competitive eating become so disgustingly routine and repetitive that it becomes objectionable?

Seriously, do you care to watch someone try to eat 8 lbs of lard in 6 minutes? For those who do not care to watch that, are you interested to know that someone actually did that or could you consider your life complete without that knowledge? It surely seems to me that competitive eating has lost the novelty/shock factor it had 10-15 years ago. Without those factors, what else is there to watch? It is not as if there is strategy involved or any form of defense permitted in the contest.

Since I do not want to come across totally as a Debbie Downer on this topic, I think the Competitive Eating Mavens should be prepared to morph their event on a rapid basis should whatever popularity is has seem to wane. My suggestion is to create Competitive Digestion. Competitive Eating is the first half; Competitive Crapping would be the second half.

Why wait for the Competitive Eating Mavens to take over that realm. Get me ESPN on the phone…

Gregg Drinnan was the Sports Editor for the Kamloops Daily News until the paper closed up shop early this year. He used to write a notes column, Keeping Score, which ran on Saturdays – except when it didn’t. That was his description, not mine. He has kept that column alive in blog form here. In his 5 July posting, I found this item:

“[Lebron] James, it seems, is intent on spending his playing days chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan. What James, who has two NBA championship rings, seems to forget is that Jordan won six rings in eight years and did it all with one team, the Chicago Bulls.”

I think there is more to it than that. Michael Jordan and the Bulls went to the NBA Finals 6 times. The Bulls won all 6 of those series AND Michael Jordan was the MVP of the finals all 6 times. The simple fact is that James cannot meet let alone exceed that standard. James and his teams (Cavs and Heat) have been to the Finals 5 times. The Cavs/Heat have only won 2 of those 5 series. It would seem to me that the only way to exceed 6-for-6 would be to go 7-for-7. That is mathematically impossible…

Finally, insight from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle:

“Johnny Manziel might be second string in Cleveland, but he’s a starter in Las Vegas, baby. Just before reporting to the Browns, Johnny Football was seen spraying Champagne on Vegas nightclub patrons. How many rookies are willing to put in the time practicing Super Bowl celebrations?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Germany Wins It All…

It is Bastille Day in France; there are celebrations there. It is “World Cup Monday” in Germany; there are celebrations there. Probably the only people celebrating in Argentina today are former Nazi SS officers who fled there after World War II to avoid prosecution for war crimes. Evita told Argentina not to cry for her; perhaps the National Team needs to say the same thing.

Because I have been on the road for the last month or so, I did not get to watch nearly as much of the World Cup as I would normally watch. Therefore, I do not feel comfortable commenting on the entire tournament. However, I did watch the “consolation game” and the final game in their entirety. I make these six observations:

    1. The better team won both of those games.

    2. Brazil’s defense was no more than a rumor.

    3. Argentina’s defense was really good – particularly in the first half when the Germans managed only one dangerous shot on goal.

    4. Lionel Messi is fun to watch.

    5. The German team plays with precision and keeps the pressure on for the whole game.

    6. The German goalie looks as if he should be playing NBA basketball.

Prior to the Netherlands/Brazil consolation game, I wondered if the Brazilians would arrive at the game primed to show that their 7-1 defeat at the hands of Germany was a “fluke” and if they would play with passion and energy. Alternatively, they might be dispirited and just “mail it in”. I did not know which Brazilian team would show up. Clearly, it was the one mailed it in. Brazil came out flatter than Twiggy. [People under 40 need to Google that one…]

Ian Darke and Steve McManaman did a great job calling the final game. Even when the winning goal was scored in overtime play, they were enthusiastic but not crazed. I mention that because in 2018, the World Cup will be on FOX and the execs there have decided to train Gus Johnson for the #1 play-by-play job. Make no mistake; Johnson can get his voice up an octave when he is calling the action of a blinking yellow traffic light. I already know I will miss Darke and McManaman in 2018…

The NBA made news over the weekend when LeBron James chose to leave Miami and “return home” to Cleveland. Two things came to mind immediately when I heard that news:

    1. What percentage of the asshats who burned their LeBron James jerseys and memorabilia four years ago when he left town are going to go and buy new ones now? My guesstimate is 90%.

    2. Given the fickle nature of sports fans in Miami, how many of those bright orange seats are there likely to be on display without customers on the few occasions when the Heat are nationally televised next year?

Certainly one of the most thankless jobs in sports right now is the guy in the Miami Heat’s PR department who has to put together an advertising/promotional campaign to get fans there to buy season tix to the heat games. At the moment, the Heat have Chris Bosh, Norris Cole and Justin Hamilton under contract. That looks like the foundation of a 30-win team; in Miami that translates to 25% empty seats…

Carmelo Anthony decided to stay with the Knicks. Surprise, he chose to go to the team that could offer him the most money. What that does is to underscore the silliness of the coverage provided to Anthony and his “opting out” over the last 12-18 months. He picked the big payday; there is no news there. That whole “story” turned out to be nothing more than a tempest in a spittoon.

Regarding the Brooklyn Nets, Dan Daly formerly with the Washington Times had this item on Facebook last week:

“‎Nets‬ will pay a $90.6M luxury tax for last season. That = the current budget for the ‪‎Omaha‬‬‬‬‬‬ Fire Dept. And the Omaha FD has a better team.”

The Nets also had some internal drama of their own over the last month. Jason Kidd – he of the coaching résumé that spans one entire season – demanded front office level control over the team such that he would pick and choose the players on the team. The Nets do have a GM and in this case, they backed their GM. Kidd took a hike and the Nets got two second round picks from the Bucks so that the Bucks could hire him in Milwaukee. The Bucks’ incumbent coach was Larry Drew; he is now out of a job but in possession of a tidy buyout payment.

Maybe I am missing someone, but I think that Greg Popovich and Doc Rivers were the only NBA coaches with “front office authority”. If the list is now Popovich, Rivers and Kidd, there is certainly one coach on that list who might be considered an “upstart”.

Oh, by the way, check out the Bucks’ roster to see what it contains – beyond a core of players that posted the worst record in the NBA last year.

Finally, prior to the World Cup Tournament, syndicated columnist Norman Chad had these observations regarding the World Cup and soccer in general:

“Group G this year is the so-called ‘Group of Death’ with the United States drawing Germany, Portugal and Ghana. Incidentally, there is a culinary ‘Group of Death’ within our borders – in a one-mile stretch of Lenwood Calif, off Interstate 15 there is an Arby’s Subway, Chili’s, BajaFresh, Denny’s, IHOP, Del Taco, Carl’s Jr., Godfather Pizza, El Pollo Loco, Panda Express and Jack in the Box.”


“All MLS games are broadcast somewhere though many are not viewed anywhere.”


“Russia is hosting the next World Cup. Of course, by 2018 the Russian empire could extend west to Poland and east to Alaska, so host cities are up in the air. Warsaw and Anchorage should be on high alert!”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………