Monday, June 29, 2009

Rivera Saves #500... Baseball's All Time Best Closer!

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

Mariano Rivera is baseball's greatest ever closer. Nobody has done it better. Especially in clutch situations. Regular season, All Star Games, Playoffs and World Series. Sunday night, he reached a milestone. 500 career Saves.

Mariano ranks second in all time saves (Trevor Hoffman, 571, is baseball's career leader). During the Yankees Championship winning seasons, the Stadium would rock every time Joe Torre strolled towards the mound to summon Rivera from the bullpen. There was never any doubt Mariano was about to shut down opposing hitters, 1-2-3. The games greatest Fireman was lights out in post-season competition. Check out these staggering career playoff stats. 76 games, 0.77 ERA, 117.3 IP, stingy 72 hits, 93 K's, 34 Saves.

Never before was a closer more dominating. I've been fortunate to watch him pitch live many times. Only two blemishes standout in this guy's career. First, was his only career playoff loss - World Series Game 7 2001. Second, looms just as large. Perhaps larger for baseball historians. 2004, Yanks were up 3 games to 0, Sox rallied to win the game and then 3 straight on their way to erasing one of the most famous curses in sports history (Sox win '04 World Series). Nonetheless, there's never been a better closer ever to take the hill in 9th innings.

I'm guessing he'll keep going as long as his golden right arm remains faithful. By the time all is said and done, Rivera could retire as the first and only single team 600 save closer.


Friday, June 26, 2009

NBA + NHL Draft Chatter

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

Who had the not so smart idea of scheduling both NBA & NHL drafts on over lapping days? Simultaneous drafts is a marketing snafu for both leagues. The NBA has made great strides in positive self marketing in recent years. NHL has rebounded nicely from a work stoppage which hurt their fan base. However, not only does dual drafts distract fan attention... it's timing in the broader picture of current sporting events couldn't be worse. Wimbledon, FIFA Conferations Cup Finals and interleague baseball play are in full throttle garnering much attention in sporting press news & blogs. Perhaps, both leagues will wise up next year.

NBA kicked off their opening draft day Thursday. LA Clippers got things started selected most coveted Blake Griffin. Clippers have been a laughingstock for nearly all of their 25 year history. Perhaps Griffin can help stabilize Los Angeles' other team.

Draft day boo-birds chirped loudly when New York Knicks selected Jordan Hill with their first round pick. He could be an excellent fit into NY's new offensive scheme. But, this move is a big gamble for a team which has made very questionable picks in recent history.

Making big news from across the ocean... Sacramento Kings first round pick was Israel's Omri Casspi. It's the first time an Israeli has been selected in NBA's opening round. He has strong credentials. Let's see if he can handle the pressures of everyday play in the NBA.

Some of the biggest news has been trades. Cleveland is hungry for a championship. Opponents daily doubling of LeBron James prompted Cavs front office to deal for another dominating presence. Shaquille O'Neal heads to Cleveland after the Cavs had no answers for Orlando's Howard in this years playoffs. Can Shaq still be a dominating force? Teamed up with James provides one simple answer, YES! NBA's Eastern Conference was already extremely tough. Now, it's a whole lot tougher.

Conference Champs Orlando didn't sit still as they added a big gun of their own trading for New Jersey's Vince Carter. Talk about two teams heading in opposite directions. It wasn't long ago the Nets were tops in the East. NJ has been in a tailspin making one bad trade after another. Carter to Orlando brings veteran big game experience to this youthful group on the rise.

NHL draft begins tonight. New Yorkers are wondering if the Islanders will find yet another way to goof on draft day. The local rumor mill has narrowed down the Isles top pick to one of three players. Gretzky-like hype surrounds John Tavares. Victor Hedman has been another name tossed around town. Then there's a player considered most ready to make an immediate impact, Matt Duchene. New York has a penchant for mucking up drafts in recent years. Turmoil has surrounded this team for years. From where I sit, only one pick makes sense. If there's a player with potential rivaling Gretzky then how can they pass? Islanders need an impact player. A scorer. A glimmer of hope. John Tavares must be the top pick. They'd be wise to double up too. After their first pick, they should trade for another first rounder if possible. 2009 draft is loaded with talent. If NY is serious on returning to respectability... the time is now!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Blues

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

Fantasy baseball managers across the country have scrambled all season long to fill voids created by player injuries and subpar performances from some of the games biggest stars. Thousands of teams are played on various internet sites from ESPN to Yahoo. Games are composed in many formats from rotisserie to head to head. No matter which version you play, 2009 has been a rollercoaster year for most players. As for managers, it's been survival of the fittest trying to cope with roster losses.

I've been playing fantasy baseball for years. Since the days of Prodigy Online. Remember Prodigy? As draft day approaches managers spend time ranking players based on personal preferences. Power, speed, pitching and favorite players all factor into decision making processes. 2009 has been a season of a vast injuries and subpar performances from a few key players selected high in a majority of drafts.

Anyone drafting New York players this year are probably disappointed. Alex Rodriguez, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Chien Ming Wong represent a few players disrupting teams leaving managers scrambling for replacements. Just like in the pros... from east coast to west coast it's been a season of trying to field healthy lineups and plenty of trade chatter.

Streaky hitting has also played an important part in fantasy team performances this year. Take a player like Swisher (NY) who was probably a very late draft pick in most leagues. He wasn't slated to be more than a replacement player for the Yankees. Nady was supposed to be their everyday right fielder until an early season injury landed him an extensive disabled list stay. Swisher was red hot in April only to come crashing down to earth in June.

Manny Ramirez, after officially signing with LA, was probably ranked on everyone's top 10. A 50 game MLB suspension certainly riled thousands of fans outside of Hollywood. I'll throw out a few more names which have fantasy managers grumbling... Jimmy Rollins (.214), Garrett Atkins (.206), Jay Bruce (.216), Alfonso Soriano (.224), Grady Sizemore (.227), Russell Martin (.244), Francisco Liriano (5.88), Brad Lidge (7.27, 8 blown saves) and Kerry Wood (5.68, 4 blown). Baseball's disabled list has been overly crowded again in '09. Scrambling to replace a replacement player has also handcuffed numerous teams, fantasy and pro.

One of my favorite fantasy games is Baseball Manager (BBM). It's not your normal fantasy setup and is based on live games and a stat pool compromised of unused stats from previous games. In Baseball Manager lineups are designated against right handed or left handed starters. If a player is in your lineup facing a righty, and also faces a righty in real life on the same day, then his live appearance is used. If not, then a random previous appearance is selected from his stat pool. BBM is a unique style of playing fantasy baseball. Other games are fine but this one requires a bit more of managerial challenges from player salaries to setting lineups and reliever appearances.

Right around this time of year another wrench gets thrown at teams in AL & NL only fantasy leagues. Trades. Teams could lose their star players when getting traded from one league to another. MLB teams out of playoff contention or struggling in attendance often shed heavy contracts by dealing players to contenders. Adrian Gonzalez to the Angels? Michael Young to St. Louis? Anything and everything can happen approaching MLB trade deadlines.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fehr No More: Baseball's Union Leader Retires!

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

Major League Baseball Players Association chief Don Fehr is calling it quits after nearly 26 years as lead man for one of our countries most successful unions. Fehr replaced a legend union man named Marvin Miller who was largely responsible for setting up the mlb's current arbitration and free agency system.

Love him or hate him, during Fehr's tenure baseball's average salary went from approximately $280,000 to $3.2+M. His career consumed highs and lows. There's no question of his ability to negotiate collective bargaining agreements in favor of players gaining greater salaries. Greed has run amuck throughout baseball. Fehr made sure players got their share of the pie. Fehr successfully argued baseball owners were guilty of collusion against free agent players during the 80's (won $280M settlement). Since then, average salaries continue climbing to record levels.

I have one major complaint and a few gripes against Fehr. Performance Enhancing Drugs. For years Fehr lobbied against any sort of drug testing for major league players from cocaine to steroids. It's the steroids (PED's) which had fans in an uproar over the total disregard for morals of the game. The warning signs were there. Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco and various sports reporters sounded alarms but nobody was listening until "The Game of Shadows" was published. MLBPA did everything possible to block testing for controlled substances for far too long. We know the rest of the story. However, Fehr was never forthright with Congress or America's fans until a perverbial gun was placed to his head.

Baseball's 232 day work stoppage remains another of my gripes against Fehr which lead to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series. Lack of a true commissioner of baseball and MLBPA's silence when Selig was named "interim" (later to become "official") was a bit mind boggling. Selig was former owner of Milwaukee's Brewers presenting a direct conflict to the commissioners office.

Fehr's true strength was appearing as a pillar of strength when negotiating new labor deals. Rarely, at least not publicly, did he ever waver from public statements and collective bargaining demands. He's expected to officially step down sometime before March 2010.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

2009 All World All Sports NFL Predictions

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

2009 NFL pre-season is approaching quickly. Team GM's are getting down and dirty trying get player contracts finalized. Coaches are busy fine tuning game plans and drilling players hard during mini-camps. Many personnel changes will be made between now and opening day ranging from trades to cuts. I thought I'd hit prediction road early this year. Pre-season picking vs detailed end of camp predictions. Here's how I see NFL teams finishing in '09 based on current rosters:

New England Patriots
Miami Dolphins
Buffalo Bills
New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns

Indianapolis Colts
Tennessee Titans
Houston Texans
Jacksonville Jaguars

San Diego Chargers
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders

New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys
Washington Redskins

Chicago Bears
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings
Detroit Lions

Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Atlanta Falcons
New Orleans Saints

San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals
Seattle Seahawks
St Louis Rams

Super Bowl: Steelers vs Panthers


Friday, June 19, 2009

Sammy's Turn. Sosa Tested Positive in '03 for PED's

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

Add Sammy Sosa's name to baseball's Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) users. Baseball conducted anonymous random tests in 2003. Test records were never destroyed by the players union and names of alleged users have been leaked publicly over the past few weeks. Is anyone surprised to see Sammy's name? Doubt it!

Sosa spent years denying using steroids. On many occasions Chicago area sports columnists questioned Sosa's truthfulness by challenging him to be tested voluntarily (he refused). It was obvious to most of the country baseball players were juicing when players like McGwire, Bonds & Sosa showed up to spring training with swollen heads and bulging bodies back in the late 90's and early 00's. As I've argued many times, baseball was not blind to players artificially bulking up. MLB turned away from the growing problem allowing it to fester. Why? Dollars and greed.

Sosa carried his bag of denials up to Capital Hill. His carefully worded testimony before Congress was laughable. Sammy often worked out with banned trainer Angel Presinal who was known for distributing steroid-like substances to major leaguers. "I have not broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic. I have been tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean." (steroids are not illegal in the Dominican Republic).

Baseball's record books are forever tainted by substance abusing players. Baseball's single season home run record was once a sacred title held by Roger Maris (61). Currently, the top six home run totals now belong to PED players. MLB rallied around and promoted Sosa, McGwire & Bonds to the hilt milking every single dollar out of their performances. Sportswriters were all over these guys. Promoting their feats while quetioning baseball's integrity.

I'm a bit stunned listening to sports tv recently. With every new name pubicly implicated... reporters seem to soften when discussing potential Hall of Fame votes. In my book, users shouldn't even be allowed to enter Cooperstown as visitors!

PED's domino effect is staggering. Usage led to shattered records, millions in new revenues, taxpayer sponsored billion dollar stadiums, multi-million dollar player contracts and endorsement deals, tremendous surge in ticket prices (up to $2500/seat at new Yankee Stadium) and record television contracts. It's only a tip of the iceberg. There's no doubt in my mind MLB colluded with MLBPA and players by refusing to tackle the growing problem before the games newest scandal spiraled out of control. Living in denial was too profitable. From top to bottom, everyone cashed in on their piece of the pie.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

High's & Low's in MLB 2009

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

Every baseball season brings new surprises. Boston Red Sox of 2004, St Louis Cardinals of 2006, Colorado Rockies of 2007 and Tampa Bay Rays of 2008 are four recent examples of anything can happen in baseball. Sometimes we're treated to career type years from unsuspecting players. On the flip side, plenty of disappointing moments from the games biggest names rattle fans too.

Here's a few standouts, high's and low's, in our 2009 baseball season...

New York's New Stadiums: New York was buzzing for two years anticipating new stadium masterpieces. So far, critics have completely panned new Yankee Stadium and CitiField. Both stadiums have their headaches. In the Bronx, Yankee Stadium is giving up homeruns at alarming rates. In Flushing, fans and former players feeling disrespected due to lack of any recognizable recognition shown towards "New York Mets" teams and patrons.

Alex Rodriguez: Plenty of pre-season buzz surrounding scandal ridden ARod. Steroid usage to book allegations ranging from personal insecurities to extramarital affairs. Lack of meaningful contribution so far plus continuous terrible performances vs arch rival Boston can't sit well with the Steinbrenner clan.

San Francisco Giants: These guys are on a roll. One of MLB's early surprise teams. They began '09 2-7 before going on a 30-21 run. Not bad for a team scoring the fewest runs in National League play. They do the little things well from manufacturing runs for their powerless lineup... to smart defense... and very solid pitching. Hardly anyone seems to be noticing SF's recent rise which affords these guys to play pressure free baseball (at least for now). Personally, I had these guys pegged for dead last. Imagine where they'd be with production from 1B/3B?

Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees: American Leagues most prolific rivalry has been completely one sided this year. Boston has dominated New York. Eight games... eight wins. Boston brings out the worst in New York. Yankees play terrible defense, bullpen implodes, hitters fail in clutch situations and baserunning embarrassingly poor.

Zack Grienke: Kansas City Royals starting pitcher began the year on fire. In his first six games he allowed just 3 runs. He was 6-0, 0.40. Grienke's first loss was by 1-0.

Washington Nationals: Does this team want to win? Ever? Only a few very good players (Zimmerman, Dunn, Johnson). It's amazing this franchise was handed money to build a new stadium without first building a respectable team. Not much future help in minors. From top to bottom, nothing good on the horizon.

Manny Ramirez: Idiot of the Year Award. How can anyone, especially someone of his calibur, get busted for PED's after all of negative attention surrounding baseball's cheaters? MLB suspended him 50 games.

What happened to these guys in '09? (low's): David Ortiz .204, Jimmy Rollins .217, Garrett Atkings .193, Brian Giles .201, Ken Griffey, Jr .211, Chien-Ming Wang 14.34

Steinbrenner's: Hal and Hank remain very quiet cheerleaders. How long would Boss George have kept quiet after 8 consecutive losses to Boston?

Texas Rangers: AL West, 35-25, 1st. Old Rangers fans expecting team to wilt in 100 degree summer months. New fans have hope. Watch out, Angels are getting healthy in rear view mirror.

Florida State University: Ok, so they're not a pro team. But, a 37-6 playoff slaughter deserves an encore.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Baseball's best record 41-22. This team can play with or without Manny. Very well balanced top to bottom. My bets are riding on either LA or Philly to represent NL in Series.

All Star Game Voting: Talk about stuffing ballot boxes. allows up to 25 votes per email address. National League hasn't won a game since 1996. Maybe it's time for fans to pick better players.

Quiet Rumor: No more 'roids. So, does this mean baseball's are juiced again? There was a quasi-quiet rumbling early on suggesting baseball's were flying out of parks. Were owners or league officials nervous of home run production slipping with steroids swept under the rug? When Major League pitchers complain of baseball's not feeling just right, something's probably up. This rumor floated around with greater attention only a few short years ago. High scoring games attract larger crowds. I'd like to think there's nothing to this rumor. Then again, it's not as though baseball is above unscrupulous activities.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Japanese Baseball Loves Bobby Valentine

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

Remember charismatic player turned manager Bobby Valentine? Bobby V was very well liked as a player during his unspectacular 10 year journeyman career. His popularity soon soared during his managerial career in Texas and New York (Mets).

Bobby V quickly became an icon in Japan as manager of Chiba Lotte Marines. In his 2nd stint as Marines manager they were pennant winners in 2005 for the first time in 31 years. A few games later, Chiba won their first championship since 1974. Bobby V mania soon took over. Players and fans love him in Japan. Management seems to be another story. I don't have concrete details other than hearing brief reports stating past personality clashes and ownership currently not willing to renew V's contract beyond 2009.

ESPN recently reported 100,000 Marines fans signed a formal "petition seeking to keep the American as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines beyond the 2009 Japanese baseball season." Will it work? Who knows? 100,000 signatures certainly solidifies Bobby's stature in Japanese baseball regardless of managements decision. His folklore can only grow if this stunt works.

I know of a few Texas Rangers fans keeping fingers and toes crossed hoping for Valentine's contract to expire without renewal. After a recent texting session with friends, it's clear fans in his large circle definitely want owner Hicks to rehire their most beloved former manager. I witnessed Valentine's Dallas area popularity while living in Plano years ago. If the Rangers (currently 1st in AL West) pull another one of their usual summer fades from grace ... then there's little doubt local talk radio (The Ticket) and area fans will lobby for Bobby's return.

I was not one of Bobby's bigger fans when he managed the New York Mets. He had a terrible time handling self indulged personalities during playoff runs. Rickey Henderson, Bobby Bonilla and Armando Benitez were clubhouse disasters. Bonilla never lived up to super hyper NY contracts and often wore ear plug to drown out Shea Stadium boo-birds. Henderson famously left NY's dugout during NLCS vs rival Atlanta to play clubhouse poker with Bonilla and others after being removed from the game instead of using their veteran skills to motivate Mets teammates. At other times, Valentine made rookie type mistakes ranging from illegal lineup substitutions to poor pitching staff decisions. Failing to demand Roger Clemens ejection after intentionally throwing a broken bat at Mike Piazza during Mets 2000 World Series loss vs Yankees was inept. But, hey... that's just my arm-chair quarterback 2 cents.

One of Valentine's most famous Mets incidents occured in 1999 after being ejected. He snuck back into the dugout after changing clothes, wearing a faux mustache and dark glasses. This moment was replayed over and over around New York. Fans ate it up. If Mets fans endure another classic September choke Bobby's name will quickly become local headline fodder campaigning for his return to the Big Apple.

If Japanese fans have their way then Bobby Valentine stays. If he's cut loose then I hope Texas Rangers will quickly jump at an opportunity bring back V. To be fair, Bobby knows how to inspire young players. I'm sure team prez and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan knows this fact. Rangers have a young nucleus of talent. Bobby V might be the perfect fit.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Brett Favre: One More Year? Bring It On!

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

Speculation and rumors surrounding Brett Favre's possible return from retirement is heating up once again. Currently retired, at least for now, Favre's name has become a hot button issue in Minnesota. Favre is currently rehabbing his surgically repaired right arm. NFL's Minnesota Vikings want to tap Favre's arm, leadership ability, Hall of Fame credentials, MVP talent & Super Bowl Championships to lead their squad in 2009.

Favre proved last season plenty of bullets remain in his six shooter. Misguided Jets fans place 2008 failures squarely on Favre's shoulders when management, coaching & shoddy play calling gets my vote. After an incredible career in Green Bay, Favre was to become New York's deliverer. Super Bowl dreams clouded fans minds. Favre had little time to learn Jets offense. Play calls should have been made based on Favre's strengths and most practiced plays. I cringed often at terrible calls on critical downs coming from the sidelines. Jets softness regarding Favre's practices & commuting also upset team chemistry.

I'm pretty sure Minnesota learned from Jets mistakes. Coach Childress runs a tight ship. He's known as a no nonsense detail driven demander of perfection. Childress seems to have this situation under control. Vikings need a field general. Current qb's aren't up to snuff. Favre's rehabbing. Only he knows if there's one more year left after surgery. I'd make a large bet right now... if he feels good enough to start 16 games... then he'll be one of the games best again in '09! Childress trying to play it cool on the outside. Everyone in Minnesota hopes Brett regains arm strength and mental toughness for one more season.

Favre will not return as a publicity stunt. It's not about old broken down sports figures holding on for one more year. No way. Not this qb. If Brett comes back it'll be purely for his desire to win. Too many wrote him off after a few losses at the end of last year. That's mainstream press... promoted Favre as the hero deliverer of Super Bowl dreams when first signed... written off as selfish loser after Jets stumbled down the stretch to miss playoffs.

Minnesota has a good team. A very disciplined head coach. Favre is the missing link for a great 2009 season. Otherwise, it'll be another fine tuning for their future kind of year in a very tough NFC North division. Vikings (10-6) won it last year led by star RB Adrian Peterson. Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit all gained tremendous talent for '09. I'm figuring on NFC North being one of NFL's toughest. Adding Favre is Minnesota's best chance of success.

Let the countdown clock begin. I'm betting Favre makes a decision before the end of this month. Most likely by next weekend. Keeping my fingers crossed one of sports best competitors laces 'em up for one more season. Bring it on.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Curse Reversed... Red Sox Own Yanks

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

Baseball's biggest rivals are currently tied for first place with identical 34-24 records heading into tonight's action. Boston and New York have battled for division honors for decades. "The Curse" was owned by Boston and brought to life on many late season and post-season mishaps (chokes). From last day losses to handing away the 1986 World Series when they were one strike from winning it all.

In 2004, New York was one strike away from sweeping Boston in the ALCS and advancing for another shot at championship glory. Suddenly, by way of clutch baserunning and late inning heroics, Boston found a way to win. "Reverse the Curse" was 2004's mantra. Boston has won two World Series titles (2004, 06) and seem to win most big games vs New York ever since.
Fast forward to this season. Both teams sitting with 34-24 records. Both teams have battled key injuries. Yanks began the season losing more than winning before pouring it on lately. Baseball purists and superstition crazed fans wondered if the Yankees ghosts would follow the team to their new stadium (and location). Old Yankee Stadium was considered sacred land by players and fans. The new ballpark has been subject of harsh criticism due outrageous ticket prices and an alarming amount of early season home runs surrendered... some of which look like routine fly balls.

It's too early to nail down true ballpark effects as of now except for one. And, it's a BIG one. Opposing teams no longer fear playing in Yankee Stadium. Out with the old as the saying goes. Out with it goes history, dominance, mystique and aura.

There's something else too. The Yankees haven't figured out how to beat Boston this season. Boston owns the Yanks so far... 6-0 in '09. Red Sox hitters have pounded pinstripe hurlers for 45 runs. Sox pitchers keeping NY hitters off balance. Stark differences between these two foes. Boston is ready to play. They're upbeat on the field and smart hitters in the box. Yanks seem out of step vs Sox. Pitching horribly, shoddy defense and weak hacks. Of course, with this now in print, NY will win in Boston tonight. Only the first of these games has played as closely as the score might indicate (5-4, 16-11, 4-1, 6-4, 7-3, 7-0). On April 24th, Yanks were leading in Boston 4-2 with two outs in the 9th inning. Rivera pitching... deja vu. BoSox Jason Bay crushes a monster home run to tie the score at 4. Yanks lose in extra frames.

Yanks lost hard. Heads hung limping off the field. They were 9-6 before the loss. A tailspin soon followed dropping their record to 15-17 before they shook it off. 34-18 vs the rest of baseball. Pretty good. 0-6 vs Boston could prove costly after game 162. Part of this is mental. Boston has Rivera's number. And they seem in the heads of most NY players. To me it looks like the Yanks and Sox are in complete role reversal from years ago. Boston (and their fans) used to wonder how they'd blow the next game. Or, by wondering how they manage to foul up another chance at glory. Yanks were always the confident team even when trailing by large margins. It's the other way around these days and it shows.

I love how sports has names for alleged curses. Cities of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Minnesota and others all have lived through slogans tagged on their franchises. "The Curse of the Bambino" lived for years.... right up until the season Alex Rodriguez arrived in New York (2004). How ironic. It was the Red Sox who traded for Rodriguez right before the beginning of the '04 season. MLB denied the trade due to salary restructuring which would have broken MLB Players Association rules. Yanks quickly jumped into the mix and out foxed the Sox... so it seemed.

ARod was given a curse type tag early in his career. As a Mariner, his team lost back to back ALCS to NY in '00-01. Texas offered a ridiculous salary of $250M as a free agent. ARod took the deal (who wouldn't ???) and soon was harassed by fans around the league. He put up huge numbers for a Rangers team which finished dead last in each of his 3 seasons down south. Yanks were coming off a 2003 Series loss to Florida. Trading for ARod was supposed to guarantee championships. Yanks haven't gotten beyond the first round after losing '04 ALCS to Boston. Irony, Boston curse ends in ARod's first Yankees season. As a matter of fact, after Game 4, ARod went 1-12. Playoff performances were absolutely pathetic in following years. He's 8-56 (.143) after Yanks Game 4 choke ('05, 2-15; '06, 1-14; '07, 4-15). Cursed? No. Not at all. Choker? Big time, most of the time. Oh, by the way, he received a multi-million dollar extention from NY too! Curse and choke chatter will pick up if Yanks fail again this year. Especially, if he falls flat again in playoff action.

As for the rest of the squad. In games against Boston they're flat. Shoddy defense, poor swings, getting picked off bases.. even steady vet Andy Pettitte surrendered a stolen base. Pettitte fell asleep with Ellsbury on third base. Ellsbury took off and was nearly home before Pettitte delived the pitch. He stole HOME! A clean swipe.

What will it take for New York to solve Boston this year? I say they need a big time spark. I think it'll need to be a fluke play, bunt, or jarring collision at home to go their way before snapping out of this current funk vs Boston. Red Sox gain confidence and cockyness with each victory against their hated rivals. Sox either smash the ball or Yanks give free bases, errors and poor decision making. It's been a team effort. Someone needs to step up and be team cheerleader. They're too stiff on the field and extremely un-Yankee-like quiteness resonates in their dugout. Current score at posting time... Boston 3 - NY 1 (3rd inning).

Yes, baseball is a funny game.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Randy Johnson Joins 300 Win Club!

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

Five time Cy Young Award winning southpaw slinger Randy Johnson won his 300th career game Thursday night in Washington. 300 wins and 4845 strikeouts spanning 22 seasons. During his prime RJ was one of the most dominating and feared pitchers of all time.

I predict we've seen the last of 300 game pitchers for a long time. There are a few current hurlers who could challenge. Johan Santana (116), Roy Holladay (140), Roy Oswalt (131), Mark Buehrle (131), CC Sabathia (122), Carlos Zambrano (99) & Jake Peavy (91) are the current crop aiming for 300. These guys will need a few 20 win seasons to get there. No pitcher will approach the mark for about 10 years or more.

A couple of pitching records will probably never be broken. Career strikeouts will forever belong to Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan (5714). Here's another of Nolan's records never to be broken... base on balls... walks (2795). Today's generation of baseball focuses on pitch counts so no chance anyone will ever threaten Ryan's records. Cy Young's 511 wins will never be touched either. Back in his day hurlers were starting 40+ games/season.

On the hitters side... Joe D's 56 consecutive game hitting streak seems out of reach. Every once in a long while some one starts chasing. Pete Rose was closest with 44. Ichiro is one player with the ability and mind set to challenge. He's currently riding a 27 gamer and holds the single season hits record (262). I'm a bit surprised no hitter has batted .400 since Ted Williams in 1941.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Baseball Power Rankings '09

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

Joe Torre's Los Angeles Dodgers have been baseball's best after the season's first two months. Most teams have had their hands full dealing with multiple injuries or suspensions. Over 100 games remain before divisions are decided. It's time for my non-statistical power rankings. I'm shooting from the hip here based on current standings and personal observations of games thru June 3.

Top 10
1- Los Angeles Dodgers (36-18) Tough team top to bottom. Continuing to win even with Ramirez suspended for 50 games. Deep bench, clutch hitting, pitchers throwing strikes and one of the games best managers.
2- Boston Red Sox (31-22) Winning thru injuries and lack of production from top power hitter (Ortiz). Rotation to get shot in arm when Smoltz makes his '09 debut. No easy outs in Sox lineup.
3- New York Yankees (31-22) Starting rotation beginning to gel which means doom for opponents. Offense is clicking too. New Yankee Stadium giving up homers at an alarming rate.
4- Philadelphia Phillies (30-20) Need to find another starting pitcher. Offense beginning to wake up. LF Ibanez is MVP candidate.
5- Toronto Blue Jays (30-25) Began season red hot before a recent losing streak knocked them from AL East lead. Dangerous team with a great manager (Gaston).
6- Texas Rangers (31-21) It's great to see Texas finally playing inspired baseball. Top hitter Hamilton has been a non-factor while battling nagging injuries. Starting pitchers turning heads. Head hunter Padilla cut today which should boost locker room cohesiveness. Rangers problems will be dealing with summer heat. Team usually fades when 100 degree July games kick in.
7- St. Louis Cardinals (30-22) Winning thru injuries. Carpenter has been great when healthy. Glaus is out for an extended period. Ankiel banged up. LaRussa has been managing his butt off. Pujols continuing to prove he's NL's best player.
8- New York Mets (28-23) It seems as though a different player gets hurt every night. Reserves have played a big part of NY's success and became quick fan favorites. If the Mets could score some runs for Santana then they'd be leading Philadelphia. Mets need to add a big OF bat. Wilpon lost hundreds of millions in the Madoff scandal. Don't expect (m)any trades in '09.
9- Milwaukee Brewers (31-22) If the Brew Crew could learn to make contact then they'd be runaway winners in this division. Strikeouts will always doom this club. Lack of big time starter could haunt these guys in September.
10- Los Angeles Angels (26-25) Vlad and injured stars are returning. Angels have stayed close and I expect them to turn in on right about now. AL West is tough and it's a winner take all division as wild card will come from the East.

Teams to watch:
Atlanta - Just cut Glavine and traded for McLouth. Team wants to win and will probably solve 1B or RF problem quickly.
Kansas City - Had a great April until fading fast. KC is a good team. I think they'll be back in the race once injury bug croaks.
Detroit - It's all about pitching. If pitchers step up, then Tigers will be one of AL's strongest.
Minnesota - Some days good, some not. Bottom third of order are automatic outs. They need to make a deal.
Chicago - Piniella must be having fits as Cubbies play below potential. Aramis Ramirez injury has been a huge loss.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

NBA Championship: Lakers vs Magic

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

NBA Finals 2009 tips off on Thursday. We've been treated to a great playoff season so far and the Finals matchup promises more of the same. Los Angeles (65-17) shoots for their 15th NBA Championship. Orlando (59-23) takes aim at their first ever title. Disney East vs Disney West... Phil Jackson vs Stan Van Gundy... Kobe Bryant vs Dwight Howard. Plenty of headline hoopla flooding airwaves before the opening tipoff.

This has all the makings of an epic seven game series. Orlando is making their first Finals appearance since the days of Shaq (1994-95). LA seeks their first championship since the days of Shaq (2001-02). Dwight Howard is a player on the rise. Kobe Bryant is trying to prove he's capable of finally winning a title without Shaq (0'fer 2).

Here's a look at keys to winning this years title:

1) Point Guards - Rafer Alston (Orlando) vs Derek Fisher (LA) - Alston can light it from downtown. On D, he leads Magic with 29 playoff steals. He'll have to check his nerves at the door and come out ready to play. Fisher is a savvy vet but has struggled during the playoff season. He'll have his hands full trying to defend a younger, quicker, hungrier opponent. Edge Magic.

2) Shooting Guards - Courtney Lee (Orlando) vs Kobe Bryant (LA) - Lee has his hands full. Bryant is hungry to put ghosts of Shaq to rest. It brings back memories of Steve Young trying to win in the post Joe Montana era. Kobe's on his game averaging nearly 30 points. He'll suck in defenders. Supporting cast must step up to help draw double teams away from one of the NBA's biggest scoring threats. Lee needs to disrupt passes to Kobe. Good luck. Edge Lakers.

3) Shooting Forwards - Hedo Turkoglu (Orlando) vs Trevor Ariza (LA) - Hedo plays big. He runs the floor, finds the open man, is a dangerous shooter, and wants the ball with the game on the line. His presence on the floor seems to spark teammates. Ariza plays hard. Not a household name yet but this might change if he keeps playing big game D (27 playoff steals). He'll be hard pressed to continue shooting at 55%.. but if he does, then Orlando is in trouble. Edge - even.

4) Power Forward - Rashard Lewis (Orlando) vs Pau Gasol (LA) - It'll be fun watching this pairing. Lewis has played well. Gasol has been outstanding on both ends of the court (18.2 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 57% fg, 36 blocks). Gasol is a key cog for LA. Orlando needs Lewis (19.4) to take high percentage shots. Edge Lakers.

5) Center - Dwight Howard (Orlando) vs Andrew Bynum (LA) - Howard is Orlando's main cog. They'll go as far as he'll take them. 21.7 ppg on 62% from the floor. A dominating rebounder (15.4), shot blocker (40) and team leader. Bynum will shuffle in and out of the game with plenty of help trying to contain Howard. Phil Jackson will certainly have a game plan in place to disrupt Howard's dominating style. Edge Orlando.

6) Coaches - Stan Van Gundy (Orlando) vs Phil Jackson (LA) - Stan has led Orlando to back to back division titles. He's often criticized but his successes speak volumes. He was masterful vs Cleveland helping orchestrate multiple double digit deficits as his Magic *poofed* Cleveland in the Semi's. Phil Jackson is an NBA legend who has dealt with many bigger than life player personalities in championship settings. He'll remind LA of Orlando's Magic ride vs Cleveland. Biggest message, take no lead for granted. Edge Lakers.

7) Bench/Role Players - In my opinion role players will have tremendous impact and could decide this series. Both benches are very deep and come ready to play. LA's Lamar Odom is the biggest name and must play big time hoops. Transition basketball by role players is huge. Edge - even.

Experience vs youth. Dynasty vs team on the rise. It all goes out the window after the opening tipoff. From what I've been reading most experts don't give Orlando any chance of beating LA. LA to win headlines will certainly fuel Orlando. Late game Semi-Final heroics had to have given the Magic a tremendous air of confidence.

Keys to victory. For Orlando, it's about team basketball in all phases and keeping Howard out of foul trouble. For LA, it's Kobe. If he ball hogs then Lakers teammates may not get into a rhythm. He must move the ball around, especially when facing double teams.

Prediction: Orlando shocks LA in 7.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Florida State 37, Ohio State 6

All World All Sports

-Digger's Daily-

A quick glance at Florida State's 37-6 blowout over Ohio State might not turn too many football fans heads. Guess what folks? It wasn't a football game. FSU's 37-6 victory was the final score of a NCAA Regional Playoff baseball game!

The Seminoles (45-16) broke NCAA records for runs in a tournament game (37), doubles in any game (15), total bases in a tournament game (66) and hits in a tournament game (38). The score was 20-0 after three innings, 32-0 before OSU finally managed a run. Mercy rule? No chance. Everything FSU hit found a hole. Grounders, pops, liners... it didn't seem to matter according to post-game reports.

Stephen Cardullo (FSU, SS) set the tournament record and tied the FSU school record for most hits in a game with seven (3 singles, 3 doubles, 1 triple). Way to go kid!

The modern day Major League record for runs scored by one team in a single game is held by the 2007 Texas Rangers (30). All Time record of 36 belongs to the 1897 Chicago Colts (soon to be Cubs).

I'll be keeping an eye on when this game is replayed so I can check it out for myself. This ranks as a must see for myself type of game. FSU needs to keep their focus as they advance to the Super Regional. Their coaches know this game was a fluke. Hopefully their players aren't overly confident after their record setting performance.