Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gus LOVES the Yankees

The Yankees Are Not The Evil Empire

(Note: This article was the result of me losing a bet. Damn Kent State football team. 3 pts on Miami (OH)? Really? Also, I hate the Yankees)

There are a lot of people who go on and on about how the Yankees are the evil empire because they purchase talent all over baseball rather than developing it themselves. And that's very true. However, how exactly do you think that teams like the Pirates stay afloat? You can't possibly think it's because people actually love them. It's because the Yankees pay a tax that lets teams like that pull in profit while they're trying to rebuild. And don't blame the Yankees for the fact that the Pirates have been rebuilding for 19 years. You could probably raise a winning team from child birth faster than that. But the Yankees refuse to be the Pirates, and that shouldn't be used against them.

The basis of the argument that the Yankees are the evil empire is that they spend way more money than anyone else can. That's wonderful. You're going to tell me that it's bad that they should use all of their resources? And since when was spending money the way you become an empire? You become an empire by occupying foreign countries and demanding things like food, taxes, technology, military assistance, etc. Might I remind you that it's NEW YORK THAT'S CURRENTLY BEING OCCUPIED. But seriously, the Yankees buy the products that other teams make. That's not an empire, that's a trust fund. Big difference.

The biggest problem with the purchasing players argument is that the Yankees don't get to go out and buy a player whenever they want. Those players have to watch their teams refuse to give them an offer they like, and they have to let the Yankees compete with other teams in baseball. It's not like the Yankees get first dibs. Every one of these teams (think CC Sabathia here) has a chance to lock in the player or trade them for fair value. Why don't any of these teams do that? Because they get just as greedy as the supposed "evil empire of the Yankees."

Finally, it's not like the Yankees are the only team purchasing talent. Look at the Red Sox. They had a salary figure of over $160 million and still missed the playoffs! At least the Yankees are showing some success. If you're going to get mad at the system (and there are many reasons to do that), fine. But don't take it out on the Yankees.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Luckstakes, Pt. II

Roughly two weeks ago, we examined the worst 10 teams in the league by record and ranked them by best chance to be the worst team in the league and get the #1 pick/rights to Andrew Luck. Here's round two of the rankings, through Week 6.

1. Dolphins, 0-5 (Last rank: 1)
This team is awful, undisciplined and poorly managed. They have just six TDs through four weeks and don't convert in the Red Zone or on third down. Owner Stephen Ross has privately admitted he's not that mad when they lose because of the Luck possibility. They'll probably keep Sparano through the end of the year to lock up the #1 pick.

2. Colts, 0-6 (3)
Sure, they could use a QB... in like five years when Peyton Manning retires. Peyton can obviously get a little attitude and what would he think/say/do if they drafted a high profile/virtual lock QB at #1? Doesn't help him win in the next few years, can't feel he'd be happy with that, or want to mentor him.

3. Vikings, 1-5 (2)
Haven't looked terrible, but with Ponder looking like he'll be named starter sooner than later, the rest of the season could be very telling... he does well, they're off this list; he sucks, they're locks for the top three.

4. Cardinals, 1-4 (7)
Similar to the Browns, they've looked bad against a bad schedule, one of the easiest in the league. Kolb doesn't look worthy of the pick they sent to the Eagles and the franchise will look to correct that if they get a high pick in April.

5. Browns, 2-3 (NR)
Two wins against the two worst teams in the NFL and neither were convincing. This team really isn't that good after high hopes this year and the 5th easiest schedule so far.

6. Broncos, 1-4 (6)
I've been waiting for years, and it's finally Timmy time. In my dreams, Tebow is going to go HAM and this team will win several games. In reality, they'll win a few. It's not that they've been that bad this year, but more of the competition they've faced. their opponents have a .750 winning percentage, toughest in the league.

7. Jaguars 1-5, (10)
Gabbert has been lukewarm, but the team just can't score enough to win games. They may draft Luck if given the opportunity and move Blaine to another team on this list.

8. Panthers, 1-5 (8)
Can score, but can't play enough D to win games. They'll put it together later and win a few. Even if they don't they're set at QB with Bam Bam Newton.

9. Rams, 0-5 (9)
Just an awful team this year. Scored THREE points vs. Green Bay on Sunday while accruing 400 yards. With Bradford at the helm, it's very unlikely they look for Luck. Shame that S-Jax has to spend his career on such a crummy team.

10. Eagles, 2-4 (NR)
Starting to play better and have no shot at finishing with #1 pick or drafting Luck if they do.

Dropped out
Seahawks, 2-3 (5)
Chiefs, 2-3 (4)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Remembering Dan Wheldon

Dan Wheldon, two time Indy 500 winner and 2005 IndyCar Series champ, died yesterday. Many of you know I'm in the motorsports business and through my work, I met Dan a handful of times. He was one of the first IndyCar drivers I ever met when his team came for a test at Mid-Ohio in 2009. I was nervous at first to talk with him because it was the first time I spoke to a driver that I had seen on TV a lot before I met him. 

When I awkwardly approached him by his transporter and introduced myself as "Jesse from the track" he shook my hand, smiled and and started chatting with me, instantly making me feel comfortable and at ease. I spoke with him a couple other times at the track when he'd compete here later in the '09 season and again in 2010. Always nice, always smiling, always dripping with coolness and looking like a movie star. There are a handful of athletes in each sport that just have that aura around them where if you didn't know who they were, you would still figure it out that they were somebody. Dan Wheldon was one of those guys, and not in an egotistical way, but had an undeniable swagger and an infectious attitude. 

Due to his free agency, great relationship with Honda and technical expertise, he was tabbed as the test driver for the lighter/faster/safer 2012 IndyCar machine. The first test of the program happened to be at my track, the day after the Honda Indy 200. Several members of our staff ogled our ways around the garage and loitered in pit lane, waiting to see history. Dan's helmet mic was broadcast through loudspeakers in the pitbox and we could hear his anxiousness and excitement to put the car on track. When he finally did, it was a quick lap and back to the garage for adjustments, but he spent hours providing feedback, helping the team with information to get the car ready for next year.

At one point during the test, I went to get a photo of him as he was sitting in the garage, talking with an engineer. He never once looked my way, intently focused on their conversation until I lined up a shot with my Blackberry and snapped it, figuring I'd have his profile. I looked at my screen and there was a steely-eyed, intense look right at me... I don't remember seeing his head move my direction when I took the pic, but there it was - sort of like Barney Stinson for HIMYM fans.

It's a shame for many reasons, especially because 2011 was probably one of the greatest years of his young life. He had a baby (his second child) in March, then won the Indy 500 in May in Hollywood fashion by passing JR Hildebrand on the final turn. The younger, more affordable Hildebrand replaced Wheldon in the #4 Panther Racing entry after he was let go at the end of the 2010 season. Still without a ride after his second Indy 500 win, he jumped in the Versus booth for a few races, providing excellent insight and knowledge not often seen or heard in other former drivers-turned-broadcasters. 

One of the great oval drivers of this generation made sure to pass 10 cars in just 11 laps before the crash that took his life. After starting 34th out of 34 cars, with speed like that, I'm confident he would have finished in the top five at the very least, if he didn't win the whole freakin thing. I hope there's a racetrack in heaven that he can turn laps on all day without any pit stops.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is Dallas Going to Become the New Boston?

Not in terms of me hating them - I always have love for the Big D - but in terms of the championship run Beantown went on from 2001-2011. The city I hate won three Lombardis,  a Larry O'Brien, a Stanley Cup and two whatever-they-call-the-World-Series-trophy-with-the-little-flags-on-its in eleven seasons. Though Dallas just earned its first 'ship of the millennium this summer with the Mavericks, it appears it could be on the cusp of something big.

The Rangers appear to be headed to their second straight World Series and have looked very good this October. Let's say they win it all this season. That would give Dallas two 'ships in one year and leave a full decade for the Cowboys and Stars to catch up. At the time the Patriots won their first Lombardi to start this streak, the Celtics weren't very good (coming off the Rick Pitino era), the Red Sox had failed to win the big one for eight-plus decades and the Bruins were typically low seeds if they made the playoffs at all.

The Cowboys have all the talent in the world, but clearly fall below expectations year after year. In my book, they'll continue to do that in the Romo era, but he's not going to have a star on his helmet for the next 10 years. The Stars had their best shot to win a few years ago, falling in the Conference finals in 2008, but they have a big budget, a nice group of young talent (Benn, Goligoski, Eriksson) and very good players in their prime (Lehtonen, Daley, Morrow, Ribiero) to work with.

Obviously, it's not likely that those two teams also win a 'ship soon or guaranteed that the Rangers win it all this year. I'm trying to jump ahead and make some bold predictions so we'll see how it all plays out.

Dallas did have a nice run in the 1990s with three Super Bowls and a Stanley Cup from 1993-1999. During that time the Rangers were good, not great and the Mavericks were awful, losing 60 games three times and never winning more than 36. If the Rangers win it this season, you could take a trip backwards and say while Boston winning seven titles in 11 years is more impressive, Dallas claiming or six in 18 isn't too shabby. It would be a tighter window to win 'ships in all four sports (15 years, Cowboys '96, Stars '99, Rangers and Mavs '11) than any other city not named Boston (note: I didn't actually check this but I'm pretty sure it's true).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yankees Are Done, Who's to Blame?

The New York Yankees lost game 5 of the ALDS last night against the Detroit Tigers... Who's to blame? Let's explore.

Mark Teixeira
Bro is batting .156 in his postseason career as a Yankee. He had two or three hits this series one of them when Game 4 was already out of hand. He played a good first base, but AB after AB was just making outs. It's not good when his best appearance of the series was "working" a walk off of Benoit in the 8th inning of game.

Alex Rodriguez
You can't lift a fly ball or drive the ball in the 7th with the bases loaded in Game 5? Highest paid player in the game, one of the best hitters of all time and you decide to shrink again in a big moment? C'mon Rod! At this point, he's withdrawn all the deposits he made to the playoff bank in that amazing 2009 October.

CC Sabathia
One of the top pitchers in the AL all year long was uncomfortable and ineffective in Game 3 and those same adjectives describe his Game 5 appearance. Though he is the pitcher of record for neither of those games, CC Sabathia's performances heavily counted towards two losses and no wins.

Joe Girardi
I don't like Joe trying things for the first time ever in the playoffs. CC has never come into a game as a reliever in his career so he decides to do it in Game 5. Additionally in Game 5, he pulls Hughes after four outs. The Franchise was looking good and had only given up a single. Joe leaves him in there, then CC doesn't come in when he does, Yankees pen other than CC would have shut the Tigers out for 7 innings. Soriano had never gone multiple innings all year so he leaves him out there in Game 3. What does he do - gives up the game winner against Delmon Young. How Joe leaves Martin at the plate with Posada on in Game 5 and Montero on the bench swinging a hot bat is beyond me.

Russell Martin
Looked absolutely LOST in Game 5. Swung at terrrrrrrrrrrrible pitches.

Game 3 and Game 5 Umps
Game 3 Ump's strike zone was smaller than a postage stamp so CC had to throw pitches over the heart of the plate or else guys were going to take all day and he'd end up with 12 walks instead of six. Game 5 Ump just reinvented the strike zone each inning for both teams. Maybe even as often as each batter.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Your Boy is Back

It's been a blogless few weeks. Without my man the Ghassball inspiring me by writing something every week, I've had trouble popping on and updating the people. For that I'm sorry. I'm going to bang out a blog for you right now, on the MLB Playoffs and Andrew Luck

MLB Playoff Predictions
I wanted to do this earlier, but was stuck partying in NYC and sitting ringside Atlantic City. Basically just balling out of control thanks to my awesome friends. But with three of the four series sitting at 1-1, it's not like I have THAT much of an advantage picking winners so here goes:

Yankees over Tigers in 5
CC wins tonight, AJ sucks tomorrow, Yankees win G5 with Super Nova on the hill in The Bronx.

Rays over Rangers in 4
Pitching is too strong. Too bad the Trop will be half full, so no one will know who wins till they see the highlights on ESPN.

Phillies over Cardinals in 4
Phillies will come back hard in St. Lou after Lee shockingly pissed away a four-run lead during a chokey day for Philadelphia sports teams.

Brewers over D-Backs in 3
This is a remake of the Phillies vs. Reds NLDS matchup from last year. Great regular season story goes up against a team with way too much pitching an an AL-style lineup.

I'm not going to prognosticate any further than that, we'll see what actually happens before picking the Championship Series winners. Of course, I have the Yankees winning the World Series.

The Luckstakes
Who saw my man catch the one-handed pass? He's been a stud QB for a while, but added an extremely memorable play as a WR last week to go with last year's crushing tackle after his team fumbled vs. USC. The Fins suck (again) and have no QB to speak of (again), so for the rest of the year, I'll produce a LeBronian countdown covering each team's chances to get Luck(y) in April. The difference here will be I'll provide a ranking instead of percentages for each team who looks like they'll have a shot at the #1 overall pick in 2012.

Through 25% of the season, only four teams remain winless (St. Louis, Miami, Minnesota and Indianapolis with the Colts on MNF) and seven have one win. Everyone else is at least .500, with the Packers and Lions the remaining undefeateds. Each week, I'll look at the worst ten teams by record and rank them as I see fit.

1. Dolphins, 0-4
Have looked decent through stretches of games, but can't finish and can't get a win. Another terrible outlook behind center for the umpteenth time since #13 retired. Bush has looked terrible since Week 1 and the defense is surprisingly not that good. Need a QB as bad as any team in the league.

2. Vikings, 0-4
Blew huge leads in first three games of the year, but at least the team is good enough to get them with All Day and an excellent defensive line. McNabb is good enough still to win a few games, but isn't the future, by any definition.

3. Colts, 0-3 (on MNF tonight vs. Bucs)
Kertis Paintlinns, Curry Coller...whatever you want to call their trainwreck of a QB situation is not going to help them win (m)any games this year. But Manning just signed a big contract and I don't feel like he'd be happy if the Colts spent a top pick on someone that doesn't help him win another 'ship in the next few years.

4. Chiefs, 1-3
They have been outscored by an outrageous margin thus far (126-49, good for -77) and it seems like they have another season ending injury each week. It would be a good situation for Luck to enter with weapons at WR, RB and TE.

5. Seattle, 1-3
Tavaris. Jackson. Of course they need a quarterback. They have no weapons to speak of on offense, so if Luck were to be projected to go here, he might pull an Eli and refuse it.

6. Denver, 1-3
Orton doesn't get much hype, but he is a good enough QB. However, this team has lacked an identity since Elway (also a Stanford product) left. They thought they had their man in Cutler, maybe they will land him in Luck.

7. Arizona, 1-3
Kolb is looking pretty good in stretches and is young enough where they should be set if he turns out alright. Arizona should be better than 1-3 with all three losses coming by a combined eight points.

8. Panthers, 1-3
Newton has looked good. Only ranked above the next two teams because Carolina drafted Clausen in second round the year prior to drafting Newton 1st overall. So who knows what they might do.

9. Rams, 0-4
No shot drafting a passer that high with the young Bradford at QB.

10. Jacksonville, 1-3
The Blaine Gabbert era just started. They'll give him a couple seasons at least to get things going.