Wednesday, January 14

The January Sports Scene

Hey everyone, checking in with a few thoughts on the Cleveland and Ohio sports scene, as I like to do from time to time. Let's do this.

You want to know why I posted that picture of the Browns helmet? Because I'm so fucking tired of seeing the logos of the NFL's most despicable teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, who are set to face off this weekend for the AFC Championship, that's why. This is sickening. I hate seeing their logos side-by-side, I hate seeing the montage where they both win their Divisional Round games, and I hate Ray Lewis' dancing. I mean, what are the odds of this stupid matchup happening? (I'll answer my own frustrated rhetorical question: 1 in 120. The Sporting Gods hate me.)

This matchup reminds me of the South Park episode where the school chooses a new mascot and the frontrunners become a giant douche and a turd sandwich. That episode was meant as satire for the 2004 presidential election, but is perfectly encapsulates this infuriating game. You can't win: one of these franchises is going to the Super Bowl, and that sucks. The Steelers have already won five including one three years ago; the Ravens already have one title in their short existence. Neither team and its fan base deserves one nor needs another. THIS SUCKS.

Faced with this unwinnable situation, I'm going with the Steelers this weekend. I simply hate the Ravens more. Nick is going the exact opposite way, and despite his pathetic effort to somehow trying to tear down my having-to-have-dealt-with-Steeler-fan credentials, I'm sticking with Pittsburgh. I lived there for almost 9 years, and backed them (wearing my #2 Tim Couch jersey) last time these two teams met in the playoffs (Pittsburgh won, as I recall, 5679-2). I took a lot of flak from Steeler fans over the year, and I haven't forgotten that one bit, but I still find them the lesser of two evils. I'm not happy about it, but the way the Ravens stole our team, those hideous logos and uniforms, and the presence of Ray Lewis and his stupid dancing is too much. So, in lower-case letters, go steelers.

Regardless of the outcome: GO NFC REPRESENTATIVE!

There's not a boatload I really need to say about the Tribe, other than to express general approval at the way Mark Shapiro has prosecuted his off-season. He's identified needs and filled them, quite simply: Mark de Rosa (Mark of Pink) gives us .850 OPS and versatile defense at third base, Luis Valbuena to perhaps secure the future at second base, and a premier closer in Kerry Wood to lock down the back end of the bullpen. Solid moves, and less scrap-heapy than usual. The only area Shapiro didn't really address as well as you'd like is the starting rotation, where Carl Pavano is a low-risk reclamation project but not someone people are expecting a whole lot out of. For now, the biggest questions facing the 2009 Tribe are whether Hafner will return to any sort of form and how effective our starting staff will be.

The Hall of Fame inductees were named this week, and man do I miss having Fire Joe Morgan around to dissect baseball writers with horrible excuses for their votes. Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were elected, while Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven again fell short. Those who study the numbers can make powerful arguments for why Rice is a so-so pick but Blyleven definitely deserves to make it. Bert himself admitted to being frustrated and upset with the process, and he has every right to be. This is a pitcher who does not get the respect he deserves.

On the other hand: Rickey!

Henderson was an absolute lock, garnering nearly 95% of the vote in his first year of eligibility. But still, only 95% (no one has ever been unanimous)? Yeah, that's right, 28 dudes didn't vote for him. Take away their vote forever, it's that simple. One writer didn't cast a ballot for Henderson because he's "not a Rickey guy." You're not a smart guy either, you're an idiot, and you should stop writing about baseball and go find something else to do.

Rickey was awesome: when asked if Henderson was a Hall of Famer, sabermetrics founder Bill James is said to have replied something to the effect of that you could cut Rickey in half and have two Hall of Famers. Henderson's ridiculous personality (we'll get to that) often overshadowed his accomplishments, but he was an amazing player. A few quick numbers from
- 2295 runs (1st all-time)
- 1406 steals (1st all-time, 81% success rate, including an preposterous 130 in one year. One year! Second place is Lou Brock at 938. That's 50% more than second place all time. Stupendous.)
- 2190 walks (2nd all-time behind only Sir Barrold Bonds)
- Career OPS+ of 127
- Career .401 OBP. Wow, that dude could get on base. Look at how consistent.

Rickey was simply the best leadoff man ever, but he was also a character. ESPN even ran a feature where writers shared their favorite Rickey stories, most of which weren't that great compared to the ones I already knew. One was funny; a reporter asked him about an opponent and Rickey said "who's that?" (he was legendarily bad with names) and the reporter explained that he was the other team's leadoff hitter and Rickey tells him "Rickey's the leadoff hitter - there ain't no other."

Three other Rickey classics:

-According to Jim Caple, this never happened, but it's still funny. Having recently joined a new team, Rickey went out to the field and started chatting with John Olerud, who wears a helmet even in the field. Rickey remarked that he used to have a teammate on another team who did the same thing, to which Olerud responded, "yeah, that was me."

- Harold Reynolds won a stolen base title one year with 60 stolen bases. Among the congratulatory calls he received was a brief one from Rickey where he simply said "Rickey had 60 at the [all-star] break!"

- Rickey strides to the plate and is chattering to himself nonstop, according to the catcher: "Rickey, you got this guy, you're the man, etc..."
Strike one called
"That's alright Rickey, that's not you, you got two more, you're on this..."
Strike two called
"Ain't no thing Rickey, this guy's a chump, he's got nothin', you got it..."
Strike three called
"You're still the man, Rickey."

Indeed. Congratulations to Mr. Rice and Mr. Henderson.

So close. So, so close.
Football fans and pundits alike always balk at pointing to one key play as the reason for a victory or defeat in a football game, helpfully noticing that there were many other plays where the losing team could have turned the tide.

That having said, that CB needs to go for the tackle instead of the ball on that last Texas touchdown. That was a tough one to watch.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the resillient Buckeye comeback. I wish they had used Boeckman a little more wisely (as opposed to having him throw long essentially every time he got a snap) but it was smart to stretch the defense out with him. It will be interesting to see what sort of developed skill set Pryor brings to the table next year, especially without Beanie Wells to carry the load.

Lastly, my friend Mr. X made the excellent point that, now that Wells has declared himself professional, the CaVs should spend a second-round draft pick on him for the chance to sport a Beanie-Boobie backcourt. I support this roster move.

It bears mention, because I have not seen much made of it, that the CaVs have continued to dominate even without center Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the lineup. Consider: that smackdown they handed Boston on Friday was without one of the most productive big men in the league. I'm not suggesting that they don't miss him, just that the CaVs are fairly deep and well-balanced and can hopefully keep on posting regular-season W's even without the big Lithuanian. This upcoming West Coast swing will test the Cavs' mettle, as they don't get to see the weak sisters of the West, visiting Portland, LA Lakers, Utah, and Golden State. Show 'em whatcha got.

Two random notes on this game against the Memphis "Grizzlies" that the CaVs find themselves in as I type:
1) Why didn't anyone tell me that Memphis now has Pau Gasol's little brother who looks exactly like him? This seems vaguely insulting to the team's fans, provided they exist. Like, remember the worst trade in franchise history? No? This refresh your memory?
2) They just played Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks" during the home club's last possession. Nice choice, but why not try Blow's song "Basketball"? Too easy?

3 comments: said...

Agree 100% on the Steelers v. Ravens issue. Gotta hate Baltimore more than Pittsburgh for stealing the team. In any case, its go NFC!

Milkey said...

[i]Mark de Rosa (Mark of Pink)[/i]

Aren't we all technically "de Rosa"?

Unless maybe someone was born C-section.

Ernest said...

What I hate more than Ray Lewis' dancing is his hypoerbolic post game God thanking. I know it is common for pro athletes to thank the Lord for giving them the strength to knock the sh*t out of their opponent, but this is particularly appalling coming from the man who many Atlanta police still believe murdered 2 men after the Super Bowl in 2000.

Go Cavs!