Situation Wanted: Interest in 2011 MLB Season…Apply Here

 

The Final Four are set. The Masters is less than two weeks away.  The Knicks have eight games left before they get rocked in the first round and come to grips with playing for next year.

That means that Major League Baseball is just around the corner…and I can’t seem to get fired up about it.  The season opens this year on Thursday, March 31st…I  believe the earliest start date ever.  The winter-like temps that fans and players will have to endure (snow is in the forecast for the Yankee home opener) is being done strictly for economics…of course.  MLB will in all likelihood add two more teams to the post season in 2012, meaning an extra round of play-off games and MORE MONEY in the fat and in some cases overextended owner’s pockets. Whatever.

I used to be a huge baseball fan but my interest has declined steadily over time.  Interesting because baseball is an old timer’s game…and I am 7 months away from fitting into the 55+ demographic.  In theory, I should be one of those guys camped in the lounge chair falling asleep to the nightly cable coverage, right? I mean, if you like baseball, you can find a game to watch any night or day of the season.  Not me.

For more than 30 years, my team has been the Cleveland Indians. Loveable Losers in the city often called “The Mistake on the Lake”, my Tribe  is a small market club that has come upon hard times. Boy, are they hard to root for. Talk about breaking your heart, day after day, night after night, year after year. Oh, we had our heyday. The 90’s version of the Tribe, built by GM John Hart, saw the club reach the World Series in 1995, the first time in 41 years….only to go down to the pitching stacked Atlanta Braves in 6 games….5 of which were decided by just one run.  In 1997, we returned to the title series, only to lose in the 11th inning of the 7th game to the Fish….the Florida Marlins. Heartbreaking. Those teams had a true mix of young and experienced talent…..with Carlos Baerga, Ozzie Vizquel, Jim Thome, Albert Belle, a young Manny Ramirez, Sandy Alomar, Matt Williams and Kenny Lofton in the field….partnered with Charles Nagy, Orel Hersheiser among others, on the mound. Those were great seasons and fun times but my interest now is purely emotional….let’s face it (sorry Boz), they really have no chance at even sniffing the post season today. 

I think the apex of my MLB interest was 2004.  I was living in Los Angeles at the time and not working….talk about living the life! I had adopted the Dodgers as my team. Earlier that year, FOX sold the club to Frank and Jamie McCourt and the sale created a whole new level of optimism and excitement (if only Los Angelenos knew then what was in store!).  To this day, I believe there is no finer ballpark in the country than Chavez Ravine.  Its beautiful when empty….and beautiful when full. Great tickets were easy to come by thanks to well connected, generous friends and my own corporate connections. On those nights when you decided to go last minute, upper level seats with great views weren’t just available, they were reasonably priced and the crowd was respectful and knowledgable. I took my two kids many nights and never cringed at things others in crowd said or did.  Dodger games were clearly delightful.

That 2004 Dodger team was full of characters who achieved greatness when they needed it, winning the division for the first time in a long time.  My boy Whitey secured a luxury suite the night closer Eric Gagne set the record for consecutive saves when he notched number 84 late that season (Gagne was eventually named in the Mitchell Report as an HGH user whose career essentially ended due to “multiple injuries” in 2005).  Third baseman Adrian Beltre, in the walk year of his Dodger contract,  lived up to his name by Belting multiple clutch doubles and dingers in the September stretch drive. Re-tread starter Jose Lima, rescued off the Kansas City Royals scrap heap in spring training, gave fans mound antics that reminded me of Mark “The Bird” Fydrich and entertained us with “Lima Time” every fifth day. Nothing but fun.

While the Dodgers got taken to the cleaners in the first round of the post-season, the American League play-offs were nothing short of thrilling. The Yankee/Red Sox rivalry took center stage as the Sox came back from an 0-3 ALCS deficit to sweep the final four games and go on to their first World Series title since 1928, with another sweep, this time of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since primetime games begin and end at a reasonable hour on the West Coast, I found myself glued to the entire Red Sox/Yankee and then Red Sox/Cardinals series….not just me but my entire little family to boot.  The Red Sox team was colorful and talented and immensly fun to root for…and that’s some statement from a guy who grew up in New York.  And root for them we did!

I returnded to NY in 2005 and that signalled the beginning of the end.  I tried to follow the Dodgers….but the daily NY Times never had the box scores of late night West Coast games.  I actually bought the MLB Extra Innings package from Cablevision, thinking I would be able to watch them play on any given night but once again, the time difference did me in. I just couldn’t stay awake and after about one month, gave up trying.  Its downright dangerous to be a Red Sox fan around here. If you like living and you like the Sox, you better lay low. I’ve never been accused of being quiet, so this was not gonna work for me.

That left me with the local NY teams. Bummer.

I can’t root for the Yankees. Don’t get me wrong….I admire and like many of their players. How can you not root for Jeter? I have liked Nick Swisher since he broke in with Oakland. Posada has always delivered….Mariano is the best in the game and Andy Pettite, despite his Houston sojourn, will always hold a place for me as a big game winner. On today’s team, A-Rod has kind of found his place, Cano can be lazy but he can also hit and I like Texeria’s work ethic and demeanor.  But I can’t stand the team.

My lack of support centers around the way the front office deals….period. All that money and the buying of superstar after superstar.  They are built to win day in and day out. What’s the achievement? When they lose, they stink. When they win…who cares?  That’s what this highly paid group is supposed to do. Un-watchable. Un-readable. Un-rootable.

Its no better across town. For a while it was fun. The Mets have always been second class citizens here….they are to the Yankees what the Clippers are to the Lakers…..a few steps behind.  What was once an exciting young team with potential has developed into a group of underachievers.  Jose Reyes can be as exciting as anyone with his speed, glove and the pop in his bat. Too bad he is so inconsistent. And when Jose struggles, they all do. David Wright, the face of the club, needs to move on. He just doesn’t step up when they need him and when he is interviewed, its just a long, boring, monotone, cliche full and flat response to any question asked. WAKE UP!  Carlos Beltran’s story is just sad…Scott Boras duped GM Omar Minaya to sign him for superstar money after a sizzling post-season run with the Astros (remember, Boras gave the Yankees a last call option to sign Beltran at a discount to the  Mets offer…only to have GM Brian Cashman say, “No Thanks”) and he now bears the brunt of fan resentment for the team’s poor performance.  Add to all this a new stadium built for pitching, not hitting, and a roster of pitchers that is underwhelming, especially when outside of the home park, and you have the makings of a long slow slog ahead for the Mets.  And don’t forget that the owners are on the verge of a $1.0 billion lawsuit and they compete in their division with the well run Phillies, re-energized Braves, the Marlins who seem to own them and an improving through the draft Nationals team. Bad times ahead for the Mets, for sure.

So where does that leave me?  Searching, that’s where. I’d consider taking my chances and outright rooting for the Red Sox cuz they’re solid,  the whole Fenway scene is a celebration and I love when they beat the Yankees.   Maybe the Oakland A’s, since Billy Beane has been so good for so long with so little and those green and yellow uniforms with the white spikes  and the elephant logo are kind of spankin’.  You could even twist my arm on Buck Showalter’s Orioles since they are nearby and frequently have cheap seats available.  If my Wahoo Wonders in Cleveland get off to a hot start, I’d consider that season worthy too.

So I guess I’m available……who want’s me????

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Posted in Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, NY Mets, NY Yankees, Uncategorized, World Series | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Baseball, Just Who’s Chasing Who?

Baseball's Best

By Guest Blogger Richie Graeber

 

So let’s just get this out in the open, right now….

I’m tired of reading about how the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox are on a collision course for baseball supremacy in the October classic!!  It’s the second week of spring training for crying out loud.

Despite everything I have read about these two clubs,  both of whom have made significant free agent signings and trades this off-season, as a true Yankee fan, I know that my Pinstripers are NOT chasers in this pennant race.  

I’m not at all concerned about who each team did, and my Yankees didn’t, sign this winter…..as much as I wanted Cliff Lee for the Yankees, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have merely a “decent” season….I mean, he wasn’t exactly “lights out”  after joining Texas last year, except against the Yankees.  Up in Boston,  Lester & Clay Burkholz are the only pitchers who seem to push the Yankees around a bit.  Dice K, a seemingly always injured Josh Beckett and one-time bulldog John Lackey are all good…..but they are certainly not Yankee killers.  Bullpen stalwarts Papelbon and Jenks have both seen better days and the sheer fact that Red Sox management has considered trading the skirt wearing Papelbon is proof, to me.  

Anyone who has followed baseball for any length of time should realize that no one has ever won a pennant or World Series on paper.  We Yankee fans can surely attest to that.   Is there anyone outside of the “City by the Bay”….. or for that matter IN the “City by the Bay”….who thought the Giants would come to spring training this year as reigning World Champions?  I am in no way saying they don’t deserve it, they most certainly do –  but games aren’t won with rosters, they are won with plays….crucial and timely plays…..with both the stick and the leather. 

Great pitching alone can’t guarantee a championship…just ask the Smoltz, Avery, Maddux and Glavine led Braves of the 90s…. or the Orioles or Mets of the late sixties, early 70s ….winners of just one World Series title each with what most would admit were 3 of the better top to bottom staffs in recent memory! 

When it comes to winning, health is a major factor too, of course.  One can only imagine where the Red Sox would have finished in the AL East, and beyond, last year had injuries not decimated their daily line-up for huge chunks of time.  In my opinion, whether on his own or as mandated by GM Brian Cashman, handling the starting line-ups “workload” is one of the best things Yankee skipper Joe Girardi does. 

While I may bleed pinstripe blue….when projecting our chances for this coming season, I am enough of a baseball realist to look at my Yankees, and our roster and talent level, objectively. 

We have an outstanding front 7, led by a slimmer and trimmer CC Sabathia, a maturing Phil Hughes and the much maligned AJ Burnett, whose off-season efforts to change his delivery after a  very frustrating June – September period last year, looks to provide great improvement and consistency in his return to form.  In the back of the rotation, I like the competition among the young guns the Yanks have shown so far this spring….so much so that I’d love to see this young talent on our major league roster ASAP (it seems to me that we’re the only team that waits till a guy is 25 before we bring him up).  I like Nova to secure the 4th….and I think the aging but one time successful Freddy Garcia will win the 5th spot….although my actual rotation would bump Freddie to the 4th slot and drop Nova to the 5th as it should mean less innings for the youngster.  Should Garcia pull-off a season delivering 200 innings and 15 wins, Cashman would deserve to be carried down Broadway on fans shoulders for such an astute signing. And I volunteer to do it!  (And by the way, what did Chien- Ming Wang, after two straight Staff ACE years with 19 wins,  ever do to be banished from Yankeedom?) 

 
But the real Yankee defensive power rests in the bullpen.  Every team that has ever won has not had 4 or 5 All-Star pitchers but instead maybe 2 or at most 3.  Mariano and the newly acquired set-up man Soriano will combine to make each Yankee start simply a 6 inning affair as they combine to close out game after game.  Our Yankees just need to throw strikes , stop giving into hitters by walking them and get to producing more ground balls that our infield can easy turn into automatic outs.  

Don’t let me forget the offense….and clearly Boston’s will challenge the Yankees… the thing I fear most is the Carl Crawford/ Jacoby Ellsworth base stealing combo.  From what we saw last year, the Sox and most other teams as well, have no fear of stealing second…and maybe even third….against Mariano late in games…essentially turning a single or walk into a quick double or triple…and run scoring opportunity….just 2 pitches later!  As for the Phils, great team, great pitching staff(?) that will compete day in and day out….but the story will come to light as the season plays on over time.  And don’t forget, these Phillies have the defending World Champions to contend with on their path to the World Series.  

Ain’t baseball great…………we can talk and write all season long and then, in November, we find out who’s right and who’s wrong.  Regardless of the feared line-ups of Phils and Red Sox, I gotta still like the Yankee chances. In 2010, we snared 95 wins with Pettite out 1/2 a season, Burnett “pitching” at a minor league level and a carousel of faux starters for the better part of the year. 

This Yankee team can and will improve on last year. They are showing more depth and experience along with their youthful potential.  I’m excited.  And just in case you missed it….the Yankees are NOT chasers in this pennant race.

Richie Graeber is a true Yankee living in Lousiana…Rebel country. “I never give up on the Yankees until mathematically eliminated so don’t you!!”

Posted in Balleehoo, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, NY Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Richie Graeber, World Series | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Carmelo’s Arrival just a Car-Wreck-O in Waiting?

By Guest Blogger Bruce Springstead

     WWWHHHOOOOOOSSSHHH. That’s the sound Spike Lee and Knick fans will be hearing on the Garden floor, now that Carmelo Anthony’s racing to New York. Like a NASCAR event, the Knicks will be zooming down the court, rapidly filling the basket for 145 points a game. Unfortunately, their tanks will be on EMPTY when they’re asked to play defense, especially during crunch time. But so what if they give up 150? Isn’t this what Knick fans have settled for — running over opponents and ringing up the score all the way to the playoffs, thumping chests, and assuming all is well again at the Garden? Finally, some excitement, right? Not so fast Kimosabe.

     Knick fans and their front office are skipping down Seventh Ave., giddy with the prospect of playoff fever, which they were virtually assured of anyway, even before Carmelo’s arrival. Given the current state of Eastern Conference teams, the Knicks would still make the playoffs, even if their pre-All Star slump was extended. But will Melo and his fellow Nuggets REALLY bring the Knicks closer to a championship? Not really. Not this year, and not anytime soon. Here’s why.   

     When Amare Stoudemire was brought in to supply plenty of points, rebounds and excitement, the fans were jubilant. He has not disappointed, especially when surrounded by a bunch of non-stars. He’s one of the best athletes in the league, and he eased some of the pain fans felt when Lebron said “No Thanks” to New York. But there’s a LOT of miles on Amare’s knees. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s offensive philosophy — run like there’s a gun to you head — was fun in Phoenix, especially with Steve Nash passing the rock to Amare, but it had already started taking it’s toll on Stoudemire. Then D’Antoni came to New York to erase the stench that was masquerading as basketball in the Garden. Knicks brass apparently felt that an up-tempo offense would clear the air faster, and bring a little glitz back to the playoff starved fans. Adios to Eddy Curry and David Lee. Enter Amare.

     Make no mistake. The Knicks are Amare’s team. Surrounded by an over-achieving point guard in Raymond Felton, an improving Danilo Gallinari,  young and exciting Wilson Chandler, steady and smart Landry Fields, Amare and the Knicks started slow, but then found some chemistry. They began believing in themselves. The Knicks became competitive, feared nobody, and pulled off some impressive wins against the N.B.A. elite. There was a buzz again in New York. People were talking about Amare and the no-name Knicks. Sure, they had holes, none bigger than their defense, but they were fun to watch, and you found yourself rooting for them. D’Antoni spread his offense all over the court, the passing got crisp, and the open man was found. I started watching again. I watched more Knick games this year than in the last 5 years combined.

     But with the trade deadline drawing closer, the Nets and Lakers got more interested in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes, which pressured the Knicks even more. Knick players heard the rumors. It affected their play, and the team slumped. Owner James Dolan didn’t want the Brooklyn bound Nets to steal Carmelo from under him, and he doesn’t want to lose the sizzle of recent success. Then the Lakers lose interest, and “advisor” Isiah Thomas whispers sweet nothings in Dolan’s ear. The trigger’s pulled. Enter Carmelo.

     Carmelo Anthony is a scorer. He can fill it up fast. He can create. He’s also somewhat moody. Along in the trade comes teammate Chauncy Billups, a playmaker who will make sure Melo gets his touches. Chauncy has made a lot of clutch shots in his career at the end of games. He LIKES the game enders. No longer is Amare THE MAN.  Knick chemistry is radically changed. Stoudemire could turn into Sourmire

     D’Antoni’s run and gun show will enter warp speed. Surprised? He has to prove the trade will work. But he also needs to prove he knows the value of a good bench. He thinks a bench is something for his starters to put their warm-ups and water bottles on. With little substitution, Amare will break down more as time goes on, if not this year, then certainly soon. If Carmelo doesn’t get his fill, he’ll sulk. Billups has 16 years in the league. Players like Wade and Rondo will make it tough on him in the playoffs IF the Knicks make it that deep.

   Lastly, Dolan’s dollars will be compromised soon, once the next collective bargaining agreement is reached. He already overspent on Stoudemire, giving him 100 million. And now Anthony drives his own Brinks truck. Caps and new fiscal rule changes will alter the chances of landing more big name free agents anytime soon. So the Knicks now own two studs, an old point guard, limited role players, an invisible bench, a coach who pushes his players to outscore the world, and management who can’t buy a clue, even with all that cable T.V. money. The future has been mortgaged again. Same ‘ol Same ‘ol.   

      The fans should enjoy Amare Stoudemire while he’s healthy. When the wheels fly off his chassis, it will be Carmelo’s team. Then we’re back to the starting gate. The Knicks will never win anything with James Dolan as the owner, and Donnie Walsh as team president. Period. Coach D’Antoni may keep it interesting and fun — for a while. But, can anyone explain why Isiah Thomas advises ANYONE on the Knicks? Is it any wonder this team is always within arms reach of the Self Destruct button?

     Take heart Knick fans. It’s only two years until the 40th Anniversary of their last championship.   Surely James Dolan will be there, promising another one before the 50th Anniversary.  Isaih will tell him so.

 I hope Spike Lee enjoys watching the NASCAR races at the Garden, but he should  bring a fire extinguisher. There’s a crash coming right around the corner….

    

Bruce Springstead is “a long suffering Knicks fan who fondly remembers the days of Clyde, Pearl, Debussch, Bradley and The Captain, Willis.  Cazzie off the bench was no slouch either.”

Posted in Balleehoo, Bruce Springstead, Carmelo Anthony, NY Knicks, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

One Vote For The Tribe Hat

So the stodgy old coots at the Baseball Writer’s Association of America had their annual 15 minutes of fame yesterday when they voted Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven into Cooperstown’s Big House as members of baseball’s Hall of Fame.


Candidates needed the approval of at least 75% of voters to earn their Hall passkey.  Alomar, in his second year of eligibility, secured a 90% approval rating while Blyleven cleared the hurdle with 79.7 in his fourteenth attempt.

Alomar was an easy choice.  A career .300 hitter, the second baseman won 10 straight Gold Gloves and was a 12 time All-Star.  The only thing that kept him out last year, finishing 8 votes shy of the magic number, was one of those instantly regrettable moments of insanity (we’ve all had them, right?) ….as a Baltimore Oriole he spit on the face of umpire John Hirschbeck while arguing a called third strike. You can’t say Alomar wasn’t intense, huh?   Hirschbeck forgave Alomar years ago and Roberto has been a generous donator of time and money to a charity near and dear to the ump.  All good.

Blyleven, on the other hand, was an easy choice for some, but not all.  His 22 year career record of 287 wins impressed many, but his 250 losses held others back.  As one would expect, after 14 tries on the ballot, Blyleven had given his candidacy much thought and perspective and my guess is his summary is fairly representative of the why voters came around to his way of thinking…. ” You know,  there’s so much more that goes into it — the 1-0 losses, the 1-0 wins or the 2-1 ballgames, all the no decisions.  You can’t control as a pitcher, sometimes, wins. You can’t control losses. But what you can control is the innings you pitch, if you keep your club in the game, all those things,” Blyleven said.  “It’s the consistency that’s important in so much of what you do in life, and I think for 22 years in a major league uniform I was very consistent.”

For me, who cares about the numbers?  I have my own reason for loving that these two guys are in….they both played for my favorite baseball team….The Cleveland Indians! 

I love the Tribe.  I got introduced to them in the summer of 1977 when Smitty, Haskell, Steve Waltonski, Ghost and I drove to Cleveland from our rental home in Delaware, Ohio. We stayed with our friend Boz and caught a Tribe/Yankee doubleheader….which just happened to be “I Hate The Yankee Hankee Night”.  We sat way up high in an empty stadium, waving our hankees and booing the hell out of all the Bronx Bums, especially Catfish Hunter, drinking beer and being stupid.  Man, I was hooked.

In short time, Boz got a job with the Tribe and I was totally  connected.  I played wiffle ball in a Tribe batting helmet in NYC school yards and sported the shirts, T’s and jackets…he invited me to the 1981 All Star Game as one of his assistants and I was on the field during BP and in the press box during the game. I’d mooch tickets from him to Tribe games at Yankee Stadium and wear the Indians gear….and when things got desperate for us, would put on some warpaint (true story!) to spur the boys on. And we won more often than not, leaving me fearing for my life at the Stadium more often than not! 

So I am really happy for those guys, to get their due, having watched them do their thing for my team.  That said, they could not have had two more different experiences in Cleveland….

Blyleven played from 1981-1985, stolen from the Pittsburgh Pirates (even then they gave their players away) with catcher Manny Sanguillen for four nameless players who were essentially  out of baseball within two years.  He anchored a rotation that featured, through the years, John Denny, Wayne Garland, Rick Sutcliffe and “Mr. Perfect Game/Long, Lean, Loquacious” Lenny Barker.  During Bert’s Cleveland time, the Tribe posted a 335-416 record and never finished better than 6th in the 7 team AL East. Who cared?  They were fun! “Super Joe” Charboneau, Mike Hargrove, Toby Harrah, Andre “Thunder” Thornton, Ron “Babe” Hassey,  Pat Tabler, Gorman Thomas, and youngsters Brook Jacoby, Mel Hall, Brett Butler and Joe Carter.  They played in that cavernous wreck of a ball park situated right on Lake Erie, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, in front of an average home crowd of about 9,000 people.  The place held 70,000 per game! I’d think players could hear people breathe! If you have forgotten how fun it could be rooting for a team like this, you need to watch “Major League” one more time.

Alomar, on the other hand, played in an entirely different Tribe era. As lean as things were in the 80’s, Cleveland was rockin’ in the late 90’s, having opened a new ballpark, Jacobs Field and making two, albeit losing, trips to the World Series in 1995 and 1997.  Alomar was acquired via free agency after two playoff appearances in three years as an Oriole. He played in Cleveland for three years.
Twice they won their division in both the standings and total attendance, drawing 3.5 million for two straight seasons.  Like past Tribe teams, this one had its share of stars as well….pitchers Bartolo Colon, a young CC Sabathia, Charles Nagy, Chuck Finley and 41-year-old knuckler Tom Candiotti.  Alomar and Shortstop Omar Vizquel formed a highlight reel worthy double play combo for years and others who shared the field with them included Jim Thome, David Justice, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez and Juan Gonzalez. Sluggers a-plenty (and maybe some substance abuse too?)!

I have to admit though, the Blyleven era was much more fun as a Tribe fan. You knew you were going to lose, you just never knew how. And the wins, when they came, were so sweet! In Alomar’s time, everyone else had jumped on the Tribe bandwagon.  Walking the NY streets, you’d frequently see the blue cap with the red bill, proudly fronted by a smiling Chief Wahoo. But they weren’t fans….they just dug the look.

When a player gets enshrined in the Hall, their image includes the cap of the team “where that player makes his most indelible mark” as selected solely by members of the Hall of Fame itself.

Well, if I had a vote in that,  that’s an easy vote for me too.  Forget the numbers and instead vote based on where their impact helped raise a bunch of suffering fans.  Put those boys in the Tribe hat and call it day. Boz, if you need some help working those Hall guys, let me know. I’ll put on the warpaint and pay ’em a visit.

THE LAST BITE

Titans made the right call keeping Jeff Fisher over Vince Young. That means both 2006 Rose Bowl BCS championship game QBs….Matt Leinert and Vince, are seeking a starting role somewhere.  I guess it can happen to anyone!

Posted in Baseball, Cleveland Indians, Hall of Fame | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Ohhhhh and Five!

Happy New Year Jim Delany! Don’t you think, if he could, the Big Ten Commissioner would throw the red flag and ask for a review…..of the entire slate of New Year’s Day bowl games!

The Mighty Big Ten (actually Eleven and soon to be Twelve) played the college football equivalent of the big fat stuffed Thanksgiving turkey this past weekend, losing all 5 games their teams played. ALL 5!

Imagine how proud the Big Ten’s Park Ridge, Illinois offices were when the bowl committees finalized their selections for this post season and had selected Big Ten teams in 5 of the 6 games played on New Year’s Day…..  “We’ll own ESPN and the networks. Everyone will recognize Big Ten prowess. It will be great for recruiting.”

How’s that lookin’ now fellas?

  • Texas Tech 40 (Big 12) – Northwestern 38 (Big Ten)  Northwestern has not won a bowl game since 1949!  Way to keep the streak alive!
  • Alabama 49 (SEC) – Michigan State 7 (Big  Ten)The Tide scored touchdowns on their first four possessions. The Spartans waited until there was about 5 minutes left in the game.
  • Florida 39 (SEC) – Penn State 24 (Big Ten) I’m guessin’ that Joe Pa threw Urban a bone in the hope that when his time comes, someone will return the favor.                   
  • Mississippi St. 52 (SEC) – Michigan 14 (Big Ten) The worst bowl game beat down in Michigan history and surely the end of the Rich Rodriguez experiment.
  • TCU 21 (Mountain West) – Wisconsin 19 (Big Ten) Undoubtedly my favorite of the day. The “Sisters of the Poor” according to Ohio State President Gordon Gee, smash-mouth the Badgers, who thrilled at embarrassing their opponents all season while running up the score.

As tough as the day was, Delany was gracious in defeat….”It was a long day,” Delany told the Chicago Tribune on Sunday. We had a big stage and a big chance to either do well or not do well.  Hats off to the guys who beat us. Nobody beat us on a fluke. The better team won in every case.”   I have never met Jim Delany, but I like his style…..  “We certainly didn’t create any legends (Saturday), but how you handle defeat is part of the lesson of becoming a leader.”

So the Big Ten is looking at the Big ZERO….leaving  everything up to Ohio State, who takes on a very talented, fast and strong Arkansas Razorback team in tonight’s
Sugar Bowl (8:30pm ESPN).

Arkansas lost two games this year…to Alabama and Auburn. The Hogs’ potent offense, on the ground and in the air, has posted over 30 points in 10 of their 12 games this season. They’re good folks, and in my opinion, under-ranked by the BCS crew at #8.

For the Buckeyes, Jim Tressel is always prepared for these big games and I have little doubt that his team, led by the “Tattoo Parlor Five” and QB Terrelle Pryor, will give Arkansas all they got.  Ranked #6 by the BCS, they tied Wisconsin for the Big Ten title and now play the role of Conference Savior.

Vegas makes the Buckeyes a 3 point favorite.  Not me.  I’m pickin’ the Hogs 35-24. And an easier game than the score shows. Too Fast. Too Strong. Too Good. I’m no SEC fan, but they play at a whole ‘nother level than the Big Ten. Tonight caps it.

THE LAST BITE

I liked Rex Ryan more before his lap band surgery. With a mouth constantly full of food, we didn’t have to tolerate all his yapping about how good he and his team are.  Hey Rex, here’s a newsflash:  If you have to keep telling me how good you are, then maybe you aren’t that good after all.

Posted in Balleehoo, Big Ten Conference, College Football, College Sports, ESPN, Sugar Bowl | 3 Comments

The Streak….

2010 Honda-Broderick Cup finalist Maya Moore (...

Image by Honda News via Flickr

So tonight I am watching the UConn/Stanford women’s basketball game on ESPN2.

I love UConn and the streak…and Maya Moore is, in my opinion, the best college basketball player in the country today, among men and women, in their respective leagues.  The clear fact that UConn has won 9o straight games is incredible and I want to see them go and go and go.

But….I also want to see it end. Stanford, ranked 8th in the country, with 51 straight wins at home, was the last team to beat UConn. They are incredibly talented in their own right and can certainly stand up to Geno Auriemma‘s top ranked squad.

I also think it would do UConn good to lose a game at this point in the season. Let the steak end and allow the team to focus on their ultimate goal…winning another championship.

Whatever happens tonight, I’m good.  Love UConn. Love Stanford.

THE LAST BITE

Giants 27-10 over the Skins on Sunday. You think otherwise,  I wanna hear it…..and see it….

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Let the Countdown Begin….

I can’t wait. It’s almost here. Just two more days from today, timed perfectly to the New Year. No, it’s not a revolutionary diet (which I need) or a über effective exercise program (in the film “Something About Mary” Harlan Williams had the hilarious “7 Minute Abs” platform)….it’s so much better than that…..

On January 1st, at NOON, Oprah launches her network!!!!! YES! 24 hours a day of Oprah and her friends! Aren’t you just tingling all over….in a tizzy?  I am soooooo ready to OWN it!

This can’t be anything more than a reminder for you…..I mean, who hasn’t seen the huge volume of stories about this coming, life changing cable channel that will pick you up, spin you around and make your daily existence everything it can and should be! Thanks of course, to Oprah and her version of the Howard Stern Wack-Pack of  stars.

The channel itself has been years in the making, fraught with stops and starts, missed deadlines, big time consulting talent, bigger money and management upheaval.

In what amounts to what I would call a low stakes gamble, Discovery CEO David Zaslav had inherited some underperforming assets when joining the company and was astute enough to approach the Queen of Daytime TV with an offer she couldn’t refuse….a 50% ownership stake in a new channel in exchange for her name, talents and healthy internet properties. The plan was to take the existing Discovery Health distribution platform…roughly 75 million homes….and reformat it to Oprah’s style and messaging. Very smart.

This isn’t Oprah’s first stab at a cable channel. She was an early partner, with other TV heavyweights Gerry Laybourne and Tom Werner/Marcy Carsey in the creation of Oxygen back in the mid-90s. Oprah bailed early on when she found their programming was not quite to her standards and didn’t reflect her unique sensibilities. This time, with her name on the proverbial door and her daily syndicated show set to end this year, I think its safe to assume she sticks around. And if you have read past postings of mine, you know I like 2nd chances since I am searching for one myself….so I will root for her to succeed.

While Oprah herself is not my thing, I am a huge admirer of what she accomplished. The woman clearly resonates with a huge existing fan base. Her daily syndicated show will keep her in the public view and can provide significant promotional support.  And top management has been hitting all the right notes about the challenges that lie ahead and the patience required to hit its stride, lowering expectations early on.

Management is right on….new services take time to find their voice… and it also takes time for audiences to find them on the cable dial.   OWN’s distribution is more limited than the numbers would show….I live in Cablevision country and only this week did the cabler strike a deal to clear the channel…. offered on channels 180 and 760. As a low-level basic services subscriber, I know that 180 is on the basic digital tier that I now don’t pay for and wonder about 760 as well.  I’d be curious to know how many of the now 85 million homes OWN claims to clear can actually get the channel….and what is just cable distribution fluff…..meaning homes that could get the channel if they paid up to another level of service (or pass in cable lingo) versus actually clear the channel itself.

Just as important as clearing homes is where the channel itself is located amidst all the choices. In my house, channel 180 is surrounded by Logo at 179 and Jewelry Television at 182.  Not sure I’d just find that on my own doing some channel surfing.  Ideally, OWN would probably like a slot much lower in number on the cable box, near other services that draw a sizable audience and have a similar message or demographic profile, like Discovery, Bravo, Lifetime, maybe even the news networks.

Other challenges exist as well….we know that cable network revenues are derived for the most part by subscriber fees. In this week’s Cablevision deal, insiders have said that OWN will be free to Cablevision for a year or two….with hopes to earn roughly 25 cents per subscriber down the line. That’s healthy stuff.  On the advertising side, I have little doubt that Discovery sales guru Joe Abruzzese has already exceeded their year one estimates. Advertisers love that Oprah and Joe is smart enough to put any concerns they may have about this new service out of their view.

Zaslav and his team are saying all the right things….give us some time, we’ll figure it out, get the message right and resonate with a clearly definable viewership. I like their chances.

Here’s a link to the excellent TV writer Gary Levin’s USA Today article on the  subject….. http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2010-12-29-oprah29_CV_N.htm

Who knows? Maybe they’ll even create a 5 minute abs workout that I can stick with?

THE LAST BITE

That dude Adam Richman, star of Man Vs. Food, can eat! And he’s pretty funny about it too. Check the show out on Travel Channel.

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Slow and Steady vs. Brash and Bold Part 2

I am so stunned by this weekend’s Giants and Jets games that it has taken me two days to write something.

The vaunted Giant defense collapsed. The Jets game won on a Jason Taylor safety, forcing the Steelers to need 6 points to win the game.

Saturday’s blog needs a slight amendment, but I remain steadfast in my final outcome. The Jets will make the playoffs but it is the Giants who will play later into January while the Jets sit silently at home.

That’s my call and I’m sticking with it.

THE LAST BITE

Does anyone else find it refreshing that Cliff Lee told the Yankees to keep their money and picked a team and city where he, and his family, would be happiest?

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Slow and Steady vs. Brash and Bold

One of the great things about living in New York is that we have multiple teams to root for and follow in all the professional sports leagues.  Yankees and Mets. Knicks and Nets. Rangers, Islanders and Devils. And of course, the Giants and Jets.

With football season midway through the crucial month of December and both the Giants and Jets focused on their post-season possibilities, the stark differences in both teams is wildly apparent.

Think back to mid-October. The Jets were literally soaring, with a record of 5-1, having walked through the AFC East with three straight wins. They owned the back pages of the Post and Daily News. Rex Ryan was a genius and funny and tough. Mark Sanchez was the new Broadway Joe. LT was re-born in NY.  The Patriots were yesterday’s news as the Belichick/Brady dynasty fell back in the rearview mirror.  Talk radio was buzzing as long suffering Jet fans, the players and team management collectively puffed out their chests with proclamations that this was the Jets’ year.  Their time.  “Watch out world,” they yelled, “here we are and we’re  gonna stomp on you.”  They placed the bullseye squarely and prominently on their backs….were glad to have it….and they dared other teams to “come get some.”

In the other home locker room at New Meadowlands Stadium, the Giants were busy righting their ship. After a tough start at 1-2 with losses to Indianapolis and Tennessee, and Tiki Barber forcing his way onto the scene by stating that Tom Couglin had lost control of his team, Big Blue had rallied with 3 consecutive wins to post a 4-2 record.   They won, but it wasn’t always easy. Eli’s passes were just off the mark and tipped passes became interceptions. Brandon Jacobs was fuming about his secondary role, behind Ahmad Bradshaw.   Talk radio callers were concerned about the G-Men’s inconsistency and openly wondered where this season was headed.  Giant players and management quietly and steadily focused on the fundamentals and maintained an attitude of confidence despite their struggles.

Fast forward to today….both teams sport 9 -4 records but how things have changed.

The cocky Jets are reeling with two straight losses to AFC East teams, having scored a measly 9 total points in those games.     Destroyed by the Belichick/Brady combo, along with Jet-castoff Danny Woodhead, the Jets have gone from “Hard Knocks” to “Soft Taps” in a hurry.  While Rex deals with the fall-out from The Trip, he considers benching suddenly inconsistent young Sanchez and throwing veteran Mark Brunell into the mix for good reason…consider this….the Jets have only scored touchdowns against one winning team…the Pats in week 2.  They were stuffed by the Packers, Ravens and Pats in their second meeting. If the season ended today, the Jets would be seeded 5th in the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, there’s still three weeks left to sort things out.  The once screaming Jet fans find themselves looking backwards at the many past seasons of futility…hot starts and “crash and burn” Decembers. What makes things more painful this time around is all the brash and bold talk they threw around early on.

How different are things with the Giants and their fans? Hasn’t life gotten good?  Steadily, quietly, in workman like blue-collar fashion, the Giants are in the thick of things.  Winners of 3 straight games, Big Blue has the number 2 ranked defense in the NFL and has been particularly strong against the pass. The offensive line, always a Giant strength, has returned to prominence as injured players David Diehl and Shaun O’Hara return to action. The receiver corps will miss Steve Smith but Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Kevin Boss have stepped up big time.  Jacobs has replaced Bradshaw as the lead runner and averages 6.1 yards per carry, while Bradshaw has 1100+ yards to date.  All this good stuff happening….all quietly and steadily.

It’s a great lesson…..told again and again over time.   Slow and steady often wins in the end while brash and bold fizzles out.  And more often than not, nobody minds when the loud guy gets his due. If I were in Vegas, my money would be on the Giants to represent NY in the playoffs while the Jets sit home,  quietly, because by then, no one will want to hear them say another word.

THE LAST BITE:

The UCONN women’s basketball team goes for consecutive win #88 tomorrow in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Sq. Garden against Ohio State.  The following Tuesday, 12/21, they take on Florida State in Hartford and should they win that game as well, they will break John Wooden and UCLA’s record with their 89th straight win.  I’m sad to see Coach Wooden fall from the books but truly admire what Geno A. and his teams have accomplished. Coach Wooden knew this day would eventually come and even predicted it wouldn’t happen in his lifetime.  I’ll be at that Tuesday night game with Coach’s grandson Greg Wooden, sitting on the baseline on the UCONN side of the court. It’s on ESPN2….check it out and watch history be made.

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Take the Sting out of the Cold

I’m bummed already. Under 30 degrees again this morning and its only December 9th. We don’t even officially hit winter for 12 more days. WTF!!!!

Even though its too early for this nonsense, I am already prepared. The fireplace and chimney flue are clean and the damper operating properly.  The cord of wood is neatly stacked.  The snowblower is all tuned-up and the gas tank full.

Today I will pull together my final winter survival tactics;  I get my favorite cold weather recipes in order.  Yeah, I am a closet foodie. I love to cook for my little family and friends. Wintertime is the opportunity to create some really tasty stove-top or oven baked belly warmers and I have more than a few in my rep built up over the years.

My spaghetti sauce is handed down from my Italian grandmother Rosalie Caruso, who arrived here from Sicily.  Its the staple for some great stuff….lasagna, eggplant, veal and chicken parmagiana, manicotti, eggplant rolatini and other killers. Braised beef short ribs with mashed potatoes. WOW! A beef stew that seriously warms you all the way to the toes. Split pea soup enriched by the bone from a spiral ham.

My favorite winter feast though is chili. Mine simmers on the stove and then cures overnight, outside in the cold of the screened in porch, only to simmer again just before serving.  The combination of beef, sausage, beans, vegetables, red wine and spices knocks me out and always delivers.  And I make certain that the batch is large enough to always provide a quick meal  sitting in the freezer.

When I lived in California I entered this chili in a cook-off and we took home a second place ribbon.  What do those Californians know about chili anyway?  The winner was a Hawaiian concoction that some guy named Wink drew up. It had 50 odd ingredients including….get this…..pineapple.  That’s not chili, ok?  That’s a gimmick….but it was enough of a gimmick to steal the top prize.

My friend Big Boy, the best first baseman I ever played with in 30+ years of competitive and hack softball, loved my chili so much that he gave it the ultimate honor….a name.  So below, I am happy to share with you my favorite winter dish to make at home and share with your family and friends in this ridiculous cold weather…..

Jed’s El Pass-o Gass-o Real Texas Chili

 Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb. ground beef, 85% lean

8 oz. hot italian sausage, 8 oz. sweet italian sausage

2 cups chopped white onion

1 cup chopped green bell pepper, 1 cup chopped yellow pepper

8 cloves, minced garlic

1 jalapeno, diced

2 tablespoons chili powder

1.5 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

2 bay leaves

1.25 cups fruity red wine

1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand

2 15 oz. cans of fire roasted plain tomatoes, undrained

1 15 oz can of black beans, drained

1 15 oz can of dark red kidney beans, drained

The Fun

Heat a large dutch oven or big old pot over medium high heat.  Sausage first….if its in casing as links, skin it and just cook the meat itself, mixed with the ground beef, onion, bell peppers, garlic and jalapeno. Be careful with the jalapeno. The heat is found in the seeds and the light green rind inside the pepper so use the “fire” to your own taste.  Stir once in a while to mix the ingredients and let the meat brown nicely, 10 minutes or so.

Kick in the spices. I put all mine in a separate bowl together and stir, then dump them in the pot in one swoop. Chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, oregano, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Give the mixture a quick spin or two to spread the seasonings. Add the tomato paste and thoroughly spread it through the mixture. Cook it all up for a minute or so, stirring the entire time. The entire concoction will now have a really great red coating of tomato flavor.

Stir in the wine.  Then the tomatoes and finally the beans. Bring the whole mess to a boil and let it ride for 5 minutes or so. Drop the heat down to a level creating a bubbling simmer and cover, cooking for two hours and stirring occassionally, allowing some of the liquids to cook off as the chili thickens.

Cool overnight and re-simmer for 30 minutes before serving.

EXTRAS and OPTIONS

Every good chili has some final ingredients that you or your guests can add just before eating. Staples like diced white onion, grated cheddar cheese and sour cream are always appreciated. I like to also serve that simple Jiffy corn bread, spiked with diced jalapenos before baking. Some people put their chili on rice…and in Cincinnati they serve it over a bowl of spaghetti, if you can believe it. They call it Skyline chili and as you can imagine, its no light meal.

Well, there you have it. You are now ready to take on Bobby Flay in a Food Network “Throwdown”.  And I am so fired up after writing this, that I am off to the store to get the ingredients so I can bang out a double batch today. Enjoy….

THE LAST BITE

When Cam Newton gets his Heisman trophy on Saturday, I hope they give him a pre-addressed cardboard box so he can return it to the Heisman Trust after the truth in all this comes out.  Shameful.

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