Saturday, December 18, 2010

Legends and Leaders and Buckeyes, oh my!

The Big Ten came up with names for the newly-minted, 12-team, two-division football league that will begin play next season. No big deal you say? Ordinarily I'd agree. Except for the choice of names: "Legends" and "Leaders". Really.

So some team next season will be the "Big 10 Leaders leader"? We already know that there aren't any highly-ranked officials in the Big 10 that can count, so why should their grasp of language be any better? Predictably, it didn't take long for public outcry to begin building against these ill-advised names. Suprisingly, though, is how quickly the Big 10 brass, specifically Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, has reacted to the bad reviews:

"I think we have enough experience with names, and expansion and development of divisions, to know that you never, rarely, get 90 percent approval rating. But to get a 90 percent non-approval rating was, you know, really surprising."

If Michigan had a guy who could backpedal that fast, they wouldn't have the nation's 111th-ranked pass defense. The most remarkable result of the backlash is that Delany is already talking about changing the names. That's just short of convening a committee.

I agree that by randomly shuffling the teams to create the divisions it makes it difficult to use geographical designations. I also don't think Delany is wrong in thinking that Wisconsin wouldn't want to compete in the "Hayes" or "Paterno" division.

That said, the men who run the Big 10 are all highly-paid executives at major institutions. Someone go grab some English Lit majors, put them in a room and check back in a few hours. You'll have some new division names in no time.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Captain Cash

Well, the Yankees finally got their man. After much public negotiation, Derek Jeter and the Yankees have agreed on a 3-year, $51 million contract. While it may have been much ado about nothing, it's a relief all across the board to have the deal done.

Sure, the Yanks are grossly overpaying Jeter. And I'm not sure what he'll be doing in three years, let alone the fourth year of the contract which has an option he'll almost certainly pick up. But as it's been said, the Yankees are probably the one team in baseball that can afford to overpay a player like Jeter.

In the end, this was a deal that had to be done -- neither side would have come out looking good had the two not come to an agreement. At the same time, Jeter was able to hold his ground and make the statement, at least from a salary standpoint, that he's still one of the top players in the game. For the Yankees, they win the PR contest, as they were willing to pay whatever it took to keep the face of the franchise in the Bronx.

Throughout this "free agency" period, much attention has been focused on where Jeter will end up playing as his defensive skills continue to erode. Oddly enough, that doesn't concern me at all. With A-Rod to his right and Robby Cano to his left, Jeter is sandwiched between some good defenders. And with Mark Teixeira cleaning up anything thrown his way, the Yanks can afford to have an again Jeter manning the middle, at least for another couple of years.

Even on offense, perhaps last season was just an aberration, considering how well Jeter played in 2009. Besides, the Yankees have such a talented cast -- and the ability to replenish it -- that even with declining skills, Jeter won't slow the Yanks down.

All told, it's great to have the Captain back in the fold. Considering how it could have gone down -- Ken Griffey, Jr. in a Reds uniform or Joe Montana playing for KC? -- it's nothing but good new for the Yankees and their legion of fans.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What happens if the hostage dies?

It seems all but inevitable that the Rangers are going to win the 2010 ALCS. The Yankees aren't dead yet, but beating the Rangers twice, in Arlington, with one of those games being pitched by Cliff Lee, is a very tall order. So I'm not holding out hope. But it's not as though the Yankees would be the only losers here.

Take FOX. The Yankees are the marquee jewel of the post-season. The Rangers are a nice story, but they're not the Yankees. If the Giants should hold on in the National League, FOX will be left with the two teams they didn't want to be playing.

But it gets worse: FOX is currently embroiled in a skirmish with Cablevision. In an effort to hike their subscriber fees, FOX pulled the plug on their affiliates seen in 3.1 million Cablevision homes. Why now? Because thousands of Yankee fans would be faced with the prospect of missing the World Series unless Cablevision forked over the dough. Now that the Yankees may miss the Series, the pool of FOX hostages drains away. Are you really that upset over missing "House" this week?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pettitte vs. Lee

Were it not for the 8th-inning miracle in Game 1 of the ALCS, the Yankees would find themselves in a sizable hole. Even though the Yankees left Arlington tied at one game each, they played like a team that should be down 2-0. Of course, now the series shifts to Yankee Stadium and tonight's pivotal Game 3, featuring the classic matchup of Andy Pettitte and Cliff Lee.

Lee has been dominant this post-season, as he was last year. The only losses the Yankees suffered in the 2009 World Series were games started by Lee. This season, Lee is 2-1 against the Yanks: a complete-game win in June and an 8-inning gem in September. One positive for the Yanks was a win in August where they managed to knock Lee out in the 7th. (He did notch 11 K's in only 6-1/3 innings, though.)

As for individual matchups, Joe Girardi will likely tweak the Yankees lineup. For his career Marcus Thames is a .194 batter against Lee, striking out 15 times in 36 at-bats. Conversely, Lance Berkman has three hits, two of them doubles, in eight career AB's against Lee. The simple call would be to start Berkman at DH. Oddly enough, the only other Yankee who has truly struggled against Lee is Robinson Cano. For his career, Robby is only hitting .214 (6-for-28) against the All-Star lefty.

On the other side, Pettitte pitched a great game against the Rangers in April, going 8 innings for the win. But April seems like a very long time ago, to the Yankees and Pettitte, who sat out two months this summer with a groin injury. For his career, Pettitte has given up a lot of hits to the Rangers' lineup, though he's had success against Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz.

With the series tied, home field advantage now swings to the Yankees. For 2010, that has yielded the Yankees a substantial advantage. The Yanks won all three game played in New York back in April, and knocked around the Rangers for a 6.14 ERA at the Stadium. (Granted, Cliff Lee was still wearing a Mariners uniform at the time.) The Rangers struggled on offense though, too, managing only six runs in those three games, batting just .181 (15-83) with one home run.

Joe Torre used to call Game 3 the most important game in a series. There's no question that the fortunes of both teams will turn on the outcome tonight.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Normally I don't pay much attention to the Mets. Okay, pretty much none, except to get a laugh here and there. But I happened to stumble across a little tidbit regarding the... ahem... "Amazin's" that struck me as remarkable. Tucked away in a "Mets Insider" column was the following revelation. Apparently, Jose Reyes doesn't always pay attention on defense:

It's hard to get ready for every pitch because how many pitches does the pitcher throw to home plate? A hundred and something? It's hard to get ready on every pitch.

Now maybe I'm naive. But can you imagine -- ever imagine -- those words coming out of the mouth of Derek Jeter? Check that -- can you imagine those words coming out of the mouth of one of Jeter's teammates? It would be the last day they were teammates. Perhaps I am spoiled, but I cannot picture a member of the Yankees saying something like that. Ever.

Oh, but Reyes wasn't finished, either:

Maybe you are going to get lazy with two or three because it's tough to get ready all the time.

Wow. Because when you're nine games out of first, perhaps every pitch isn't that important. Maybe that's just why Reyes is on the Mets. Or maybe, just maybe, that's why the Mets are the Mets. Either way, it's just Reason #184 why it's great to be a Yankees fan.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Beat Goes On

The reality of the situation is this: I rarely, if ever, watch an NBA game that doesn't have the Knicks playing. And the Knicks have been so bad for so long, I could barely stomach watching them play. So now that LeBron is in Miami, it's not like my viewing habits are going to change. I can't not watch the Heat any less than I already didn't watch the Heat.

As for the Knicks, I might -- might -- watch them play to see how Amare and the rest of the lesser assembled pieces are getting along. But chances are, my lack of interest will ultimately prevail. Until next summer, that is, when the Knicks will have the opportunity to be stood up by Carmelo Anthony.

Let's Go Rangers!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Miami? Really?

Here's hoping that the sheer mass of egos now concentrated in South Beach causes the American Airlines Arena to implode.

Fuck off, LeBron.

Yeah, that about does it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bull Feathers

According to a report in the New York Times, LeBron James will be headed to the Chicago Bulls. An unidentified NBA executive

who did not want to be identified discussing a player who is not yet a free agent, said he had gathered from discussions with his fellow N.B.A. executives that James was strongly leaning toward joining the Bulls in tandem with another free agent, Chris Bosh

Aside from the obvious disappointment and unbridled hatred of the Bulls, I still don't like this idea. I just don't get it.

If you told me LeBron had decided to stay with the Cavs, OK. Disappointed, sure. But James decides to be the hometown hero and re-up with the only NBA team he's ever known. Plus, the Cavs are in a position to give him the most money, not that I really think James is in it for the money. Wherever he goes, he will be a rich man.

Then there's the Heat -- sure, you can make a case for that. A running buddy in Dwayne Wade, South Beach, and possibly Pat Riley as coach. Yep, I could see that, too. Even the Nets, if you buy that Jay-Z can get LeBron to put up with Newark for a few years before going to Brooklyn. And you're almost in New York.

But the Bulls? Really? Not to put too much pressure on a guy who seemed to be buckling under in Cleveland, but Chicago? They don't have much of a winning history there. Perhaps he misunderstood about being the next Jordan -- you don't actually have to follow in his footsteps. Why not ask for your #23 jersey while you're at it?

Like the song goes, "If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere". There's nothing like winning it all in New York. While no contemporary Knick can explain this phenomenon, the Knicks may want to bring Mark Messier along with them to Ohio. As with the push for James, Messier was brought to New York for one reason only -- to win a championship. "The Messiah" delivered and will be forever remembered as a conquering hero. Hey, LeBron -- that could be you, too.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thanks for coming -- See you in four years

In the nightmare scenario that ESPN laid out coming into the World Cup, the United States fails to get out of the Group round. This morning, ESPN faces its slightly lesser nightmare -- the U.S. team is eliminated on the first day of the second round. Ninety-eight percent of Americans forget that soccer exists until 2014.

Instead being inundated with stories of how the U.S. is finally ready to compete on the world stage, we are now faced with hearing about how the World Cup will finally make soccer relevant in America. At least, that's what Mike Freeman thinks:

Really, this time, the soccer flame might not be extinguished.

Really, Mike? For me, the World Cup is a lesser version of March Madness. Every year, millions of people with absolutely no interest in college basketball get all pumped up for the NCCA Tournament. Brackets are filled out. Bars are packed. Businesses suffer productivity loss as early round games are streamed live into cubicles across the country. And as soon as the Final Four comes to a close, most of those millions, who wouldn't know a Blue Devil from a Bulldog, go back to ignoring college hoops until St. Patty's rolls around again next year.

Cue "Soccer Madness". Brackets were filled out. Bars were packed. And now, millions of Americans who wouldn't know a volley from a vuvuzela can go back to ignoring "the beautiful game". Bet that seat in the bar won't be hard to find now.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Alton Brown Boils Eggs

Please note that this post has nothing to do with sports. It's just that every time I want to boil eggs properly, I try to remember Alton Brown's preferred method. Unfortunately, I always come up blank. Internet searches sometimes pay off, but I figured this time I'd make my own permanent record.

Here, culled from an internet chat session, is Alton's method for making the perfect hard-boiled eggs:

I put however many eggs I want to cook into a pot of cold water. I bring it to a boil, I cover the pan, I remove the pan from the heat, and I wait eight minutes. Peel immediately under cold running water. That will give you a slightly soft yolk. If you want a really hard yolk, go with twelve minutes.

Feel free to make yourself some eggs. I've got the pot on the stove, now...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Right Call

The headline blared, "Top Michigan recruit Dorsey denied admission to school". One of Rich Rodriguez's big signings, one of the guys who was going to help turn the tide for Michigan, had been suddenly barred at the door:

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon says Florida prep football star Demar Dorsey has been informed he will not be admitted to the school.

And I say, good for you, Michigan. Good. For. You.

Demar Dorsey can't be the only talented defensive back in the country. And despite its recent woes, Dorsey can't be the only talented player willing to commit to Michigan. At a certain point, a university must hold itself to certain standards. Clearly the leadership at Michigan is willing to uphold those standards.

While I am disappointed that Michigan will now be without a potential star, Dorsey would only have been one of many missing pieces in the puzzle. Do Michigan's more stringent academic standards make it harder to compete against Ohio State, where you only need to be a resident to get in? Or Penn State, whose bar for admittance isn't much higher? Maybe. But when the program does turn around -- with Rodriguez, or perhaps, Jim Harbaugh, at the helm -- it will make it that much more impressive.