Friday, October 30, 2009

Free Kicks: Baseball & Unscrupulous Sports Leagues Edition

Work has forced me to delay this until late in the day, but hopefully I can get the most out of another opportunity to look silly this weekend- and no, I am not talking about my Halloween costume. Though maybe that too, we’ll see. Lots to get to, so let’s line up for the kick…

Yanks Even the Series at 1-1
This was still a great start for the Phillies, who have wrested homefield advantage from the Yankees and had a chance to win last night. That was an exemplary performance from Pedro Martinez where I expected him to implode last night, but the Phillies were unable to get runners across when they needed to and that right field wall was again kind to the New York hitters. Of course, it was that same jet stream that helped Utley homer twice in the opener. Now we travel to Philadelphia where the park will again be friendly to power hitters of both teams, and Cole Hamels will look to rediscover his magic from last year’s postseason.

I still don’t trust the back end of the Phil’s rotation, and if they have to go into that bullpen with a tied game in the 8th, I have to think that the Yankees will score first. Not that the Yankees bullpen has been lights out either… Still, the pressure is on Philadelphia to make the most out of their 3 games at home. It won’t be easy to take one (much less two) games in New York in Games 6 or 7.

Brett Favre Returns to Green Bay

Just kidding, I will let every single other sports outlet cover this story. They can have it, I am burned out on Favre.

Jeff Datz Hired as O’s Bench Coach

I am no expert on MLB coaching staffs (though I wouldn’t be surprised if Falco knew all about them), but this seems like a solid hire to me. He has 29 years of major league experience, he has been a player (something Trembley was not and at times could have taken away from his legitimacy in the clubhouse), and most importantly, he played as a catcher. He will be able to serve as a mentor to Matt Wieters but is not a “hot” manager-in-waiting who will threaten Dave Trembley’s authority. Yes, he was with the Indians when they went into free fall over the last couple seasons, but I won’t fault the bench coach for the team’s failure. Datz is a good pickup, and seems to know the game. He isn’t a flashy name, but who were you expecting, Davey Johnson?

Sports Leagues Silencing Critics Instead of Changing for the Better
Okay, so the SEC is now fining coaches who criticize the refs following a set of massive gaffes that helped Alabama and Florida stay undefeated in recent games. The Redskins have banned signs in the stadium after fans started criticizing the ownership. Bud Selig has shut the door on expanded replay right as his umpires commit horrible mistakes in the postseason. Earlier this season, the Coaches Poll mulled making their ballots secret to avoid criticizing coaches for their individual ballots that were self-serving or uninformed. It seems like every league is electing to punish their critics or hide their acknowledged failings rather than confront them and make change for the better. They would rather sit back and hope that nothing goes wrong for the rest of the season, and we over time forget until the next controversial move.

Believe it or not, the SEC, Redskins, MLB, and the Coaches Poll officials could learn something from an unlikely league- the NHL. Hockey has not been afraid of changing rules- even in the middle of the postseason- in order to make the game better. When did these leagues forget that there was a game involved, a sport that needed to be nurtured and maintained even as players, coaches, and schemes changed? The integrity of sports has been violated by their only arbiters, the leagues and conferences that support them. We the fans are left with this intentionally imperfect product, with the commissioners’ pride taking precedence over what made the games great to begin with.

And the lack of signs in the stadium? Come on Dan Snyder, a big boy like you should be able to handle a little bit of criticism. If you can handle watching the team you put together, you should have a pretty thick skin by now.

Weekend Prediction:
Should I even do this anymore? Okay, I will take another shot at this after getting burned since my first attempt. Looking at the sports landscape, I try to take picks that I still think will happen but are a little bit of a stretch. I am not going to sit here and predict Arizona over Carolina or Jacksonville over Tennessee, but how about taking another stab at college football? I am drinking the Oregon Kool-Aid, as they have thumped every team since Boise State, and regardless of the Pete Carroll love-fest USC has not looked consistently great for any stretch this season. The nod goes to the Ducks, 38-35.

1 comment:

Tony Herman said...

Nice upset call, even though it's pretty funny that the two games you mentioned you weren't going to predict because of how obvious they were both ended up going the other way.