Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Former Boston Red Sox Player Kevin Youkilis Will Be a Yankee in 2013

It's happened.  Youk will now be a Yank.  

According to Andrew Marchand's article on, "Kevin Youkilis has verbally agreed to become a New York Yankee...."  

The Yankees are also in the process of re-signing Ichiro Suzuki, according to Marchand's article.  

So that means next season's batting order and starting lineup for the Yankees will look something like this:

Batting 1st: Derek Jeter/SS
Batting 2nd: Brett Gardner/LF
Batting 3rd: Robinson Cano/2B
Batting 4th: Mark Teixeira/1B
Batting 5th: Alex Rodriguez/DH
Batting 6th: Curtis Granderson/CF
Batting 7th: Ichiro Suzuki/RF
Batting 8th: Kevin Youkilis/3B
Batting 9th: Somebody/C

I like this lineup as a fan.  Picking up Kevin Youkilis is kind of cool because, as I wrote last week, there's something strangely appealing about picking up a player who you used to hate.  It's also kind of cool for my favorite baseball team to have Ichiro.  Aside from that, all the other players slated to be in 'stripes next season are guys I already know and love from seasons past.  

But there is a problem with this lineup: It's old.  I know my above list isn't perfect.  A-Rod will miss a good portion of the season, which means he won't really be affecting the lineup at all during that time, good or bad.  Still, on opening day, the average age of those eight players I listed will be 33.875.  

That's not exactly a team full of spring chickens.

Their age concerns me because I know they won't be able to keep putting up good numbers forever.  Ichiro hit well over .300 in his time as a Yankee last season, but can he do that again next year?  And will Derek Jeter be able to keep up his numbers, especially now that he's broken his ankle at 38 years young?  

I'm not upset about the Yankees roster for the coming season, but I'm also not sure it's one that will bring them their 28th Commissioner's Trophy.  They needed to add a little bit of youth to their roster, but they can't be all that much younger than they were a season ago.  

And they're certainly not built to keep contending into 2014 and beyond.  Come the end of next season, Cano, Granderson, Ichiro, Youkilis, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda will all be free agents.  That means the Yanks will have to either have a massive re-signing next offseason like they did this year, or start re-building.  

The cracks are showing, and, much as I hate to say this, I'm not so sure the Yankees of 2013 will be as good as the Yankees of the late 90s, early 2000s, or even 2012.  

Friday, December 7, 2012

Someone Says the New York Yankees are Trying for Third Baseman Kevin Youkilis

Will you believe it if it happens?  Youk to the Yanks?  

An article by Andrew Marchand cited "sources" as saying the Yankees offered Kevin Youkilis a contract.

As a big fan of the New York Yankees, I can't help but be a little intrigued by the fact that the Yanks are interested in Youk, former first and third baseman of their arch-nemesis Boston Red Sox.  He was always one of the players I loathed most, and it seemed like Yankee reliever Joba Chamberlain wasn't too fond of him either.  

So how would he fit in with his new teammates?  

After all, Youkilis has been hit by a pitch 99 times during his 9-year MLB career, and 11 of those HBPs came at the hands of current New York Yankees.  And of the eight Yankees who have hit Youk, Mariano Rivera has beaned him most (3 times in just 15 plate appearances).  I can't help but wonder what Youkilis' relationships with his teammates will be like should he end up joining his former enemies.  

But at the same time, I'm not exactly angry about the potential of my favorite baseball team picking up the guy has referred to as The Greek God of Walks.  There's something ironically appealing about the Bronx Bombers picking up one of the baseball players I've disliked most, though I was somewhat less enthusiastic when I read Jimmy Kraft's blog on that mentioned Youk's "constant whining at the plate when a strike is called...."

Brian Cashman isn't talking to the media about Youk.  "Yankees general manager Brian Cashman declined to say whether he has made Youkilis an offer," Marchand wrote in his story yesterday.

But you never know with the Yankees, and I'm sort of hoping that come the 2013 MLB season, the Yanks will have a new starting third baseman ... at least for a little while.  

Friday, November 30, 2012

Want to Play Football? Be a Specialist!

Injuries are extraordinarily common in the sport of football.  NFL quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, and Alex Smith were all injured back in Week 10, and all other positions in the sport also come with a risk of injury that's incredibly high.  

Except, of course, for specialists.

Kickers, punters, long-snappers, and even holders are some of the more overlooked members of any football team.  People normally pay attention to a such players only when they make costly mistakes.  But despite the lack of  recognition special teamers get, they are still largely important to the game of football, and boys interested in the sport should consider putting themselves at one of those positions.  For this post, I'll focus on the benefits of kicking (and punting) the ball.

Even though they're not paid as much as the players at most other positions in football, kickers and punters still make more money in a single football season than many Americans make in an entire year.  

The median 2011 salary of a household in the United States? A little more than $50,000 after adjusting for inflation, according to Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times.  

But the lowest-paid kicking specialist listed on USA Today's salary database for the 2009-10 NFL season, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop, earned a total salary of just over $335,000.  That's a huge disparity, even though it's likely very few people know who Succop is.

Kicking and punting aren't skills that everyone has either.  I'm going almost purely off opinion on this, but I think it's much easier to learn how to block a defender or tackle a running back than it is to punt or kick.  Kicking and punting aren't skills everyone has, or even skills that anyone can teach.  If you can put in the time it takes to learn, you've got a chance to succeed, perhaps even make it to the coveted "next level."  

And the risk of injury of kickers and punters?  Not high, probably in-part because you're not getting hit every play.  A 2010 study of injuries to kickers and punters in the NFL revealed just 488 injuries were sustained by kickers between 1988 and 2007. That's an average of just 24.4 injuries per year, not even one per team.  (Even when you consider that the NFL has added four teams since 1988, it's still not one injury per team).  

By contrast, the NFLPA reported an average of 3.7 injuries per NFL team each week in 2010.  Average that number out for all 32 of the NFL's teams over 16 games in a season (probably not the most scientific way of doing things, but it's all I've got) and you come up with a little less than 1900 injuries per year.  

Positions like kicker and punter are also valued members of a football team, regardless of whether they're recognized or not by fans.  Special teams are important, and the people that perform the special duties are contributing vitally to the team as a whole by doing their jobs and doing them well.  Not many people can do those jobs, but they need to be done by someone.  So if you can snap, hold, punt, or kick a football, you're a valued member of a team because you're contributing to the team's success.

At the end of the day, there are quite a number of benefits to being a special teamer in the sport of football.  You can still make a lot of money if you make it to the League and you get hurt less than everyone else, but you are still a valuable member of the team.  So if you want to play football, sign up for a spot as a kicker.  It probably won't hurt a bit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Peyton Manning Signs Autograph for Jamaal Charles, Poses for Photo With Dwayne Bowe

After the Denver Broncos defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 17-9 on Sunday, Jamaal Charles asked Peyton Manning for his autograph, and Dwayne Bowe requested a photo with the Denver superstar.  

While we don't often hear about exchanges such as these, they do happen on at least some occasions, and aren't limited to soccer players switching jerseys.  Here's a history of some recent trades between professional athletes:

January 15, 2012:

Ray Lewis and Arian Foster exchanged jerseys following Baltimore's 20-13 playoff win over Houston, as shown in the video on this site.  Each signed his jersey  just before the trade.  

August 2012, London Olympics:

From what I've read, swapping pins seems to be a usual practice at the Olympics, and it's one that women's tennis players Kim Clijsters and Francesca Shiavone engaged in this year, as shown on this NBC photoblog. Also, South African Oscar Pistorius and Grenadian Kirani James actually swapped racing bibs after running against each other, according to Joe Battaglia's article on  

And from Timothy Burke on A Tunisian basketball player named Mohamed Hdidane got Kobe Bryant's signature after the United States-Tunisia game ... on one of the shoes Hdidane wore during the match-up.  

2012 NFL Regular Season:

If you thought Manning's gifts to the two players on the Chiefs were the only between-player exchanges that happened this year, you are certainly mistaken.  

Ray Rice has gotten jerseys from Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, and Ricky Williams (though he got Williams' in the 2011 season).  He and rookie running back Trent Richardson of the Browns were supposedly going to trade with each other after the November 4 game between Cleveland and Baltimore.

Rice has also given his jersey to two other Ravens, Ray Lewis and Vonta Leach, and wore Lewis' jersey for at least one practice judging from Ryan Mink's article on the jersey-trading phenomenon.  

So trading among players isn't unique to the sport of soccer, and seems to be a least a little bit more common than one might think.  Rice was quoted in Mink's article as saying the following about trading jerseys: "It's huge.  People want them for memories.  Trust me, these won't go on eBay."  And ESPN blogger Bill Williamson wrote that lots of players request autographs from their rivals, also noting that, "Opposing players often trade jerseys, pose for photos, and sign footballs for each other.  I've seen that many times too."  

So this makes me feel a little bit disappointed in my own athletic career since I never once traded anything with an opposing player, despite having friends on some of the squads my college team played against.  

So since I have one very small souvenir in my room and plenty more still at home ... anyone have good sports memorabilia they don't want anymore?

**Note: All the information in the "2012 NFL Regular Season" heading came from Ryan Mink's The Caw: Jerseys Are NFL Currency, except for the sentence about the Trent Richardson-Ray Rice trade, which came from both Mink's article and the story Trent Richardson has mutual respect for Ray Rice by Jeff Schudel.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Justin Forsett's Touchdown Against the Detroit Lions? Bogus, in More Ways Than One

This might be sacreligous or blasphemous for a sports journalism major, but I didn't really watch all that much football yesterday. I saw parts of all three NFL games, but I didn't watch a single game in its entirety, preferring instead to eat, take audio recordings of Thanksgiving Day (it's for a project on holiday tradition), and watch other television shows.

But I did happen to see Justin Forsett of the Houston Texans run for an 81-yard touchdown that shouldn't have been.

Forsett was tackled after an eight-yard run in the third quarter, but took advantage of a non-call by the officials and ran the other 73 yards to the end zone when the referees failed to whistle the play dead. Jim Schwartz threw a red challenge flag, which nulled Detroit's right to have the play reviewed. Such a reassessment probably would have caused the refs to overturn their original call.

How silly is that?

Imagine you go to a restaurant that promises you a free salad before your meal, but the waiter doesn't bring it right away. So you ask him to bring your salad and he says, "Well, I was going to bring it, but we aren't allowed to bring salads to people who ask for them. I'm sorry."

That's what it's like that the officials weren't able to review Forsett's touchdown yesterday.

Stop and think for a moment just how absurd this rule is. Every other touchdown yesterday, per NFL rules, would had to have been reviewed by the referees to ensure the player who scored actually reached the end zone. But the Lions, just because of a relatively minor error by their head coach, lost that opportunity in the third quarter of yesterday's game. The NFL took away one of their basic rights as a football team just because Schwartz threw a flag when he wasn't supposed to, and a touchdown that should have been reversed was counted.

Reviewable plays in the NFL should be equal opportunity, not based upon mistakes that head coaches make. The Lions got gypped yesterday. It's not even questionable that Forsett's run shouldn't have ended in six points. That really hurt the Lions, who now have very slim playoff hopes at 4-7-0. Sure, you can't say the Lions definitely would have won yesterday's game if that touchdown had been overturned, but there's no doubt the play made a difference in a game that was decided by just three points.

Luckily, it looks like this rule might get changed ... and perhaps sooner rather than later. Peter King wrote on Twitter early this morning that he was, "Told NFL very likely to overturn in 2013 challenge-flag rule that hurt Detroit+Schwartz." And Ed Werder added that the NFL might even change said statute this season.

Good. That's a silly rule anyway. After all, if I'm promised a complimentary salad I want the server to deliver ... even if I have to remind him to bring it to me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

MLB Offseason: Are the Toronto Blue Jays For Real?

If you're a baseball fan living North of the Border, it was a very good week.  Your team, assuming you are a Toronto Blue Jays fan, snagged Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buerhle on Tuesday night.  Then, they gave you a present for the weekend in the form of a two-year deal for Melky Cabrera.  

So, Blue Jays fan, how will your team do this coming season?  AL East title?  World Series champs?


But before we go handing the Blue Jays tickets to the 2013 MLB playoffs, let's evaluate their team on a statistical level instead of just taking them at face value.

First, their offensive lineup.  It's starting to look pretty potent what with the addition of Jose Reyes, whose .291 lifetime batting average should add well-roundedness to a team that last season ranked sixth in the Majors home runs, but 23rd in batting average (.245). 

Melky Cabrera bats .275 lifetime if you remove 2012, the year he was suspended 50 games for a positive testosterone test.  But while Cabrera's accolades as an offensive performer aren't nearly up to the standards of Reyes, his bat is still an improvement over the likes of Colby Rasmus and Rajai Davis, one of whom he'll probably end up replacing in the Toronto outfield.  

The rest of their lineup includes Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, and David Cooper, all of whom should be able to help the team offensively.  

So look at it this way: with those players, the one-through-six spots in the batting order should be very productive next year, which means good things for Toronto's chances at a title.  

Defensively, though, the Jays might have a little trouble at some positions on the baseball diamond.  

First base might be one of the biggest question marks of the entire 
Blue Jays franchise.  Of the players currently on the team, Edwin Encarnacion, David Cooper, Mike McDade, and Adam Lind all could play.  Encarnacion is more of a third baseman than a first baseman.  Cooper has played just 44 games as a Major League first baseman.  McDade hasn't even made his Major League debut yet.  And of the four players, Lind is the most experienced at the first base position with a .995 fielding percentage in 181 games, but he had less offensive success last season than either Encarnacion or Cooper.  

And in the outfield, who will the be the leftfielder?  Cabrera plays mainly centerfield, and most of Bautista's career games in the outfield have come in right.  Will it be Rajai Davis?  Colby Rasmus?  Adam Lind?  These questions about the defense have to be answered before Toronto can win the Commissioner's Trophy.  

There are also some weaknesses of the pitching staff.  The combined ERA of relievers last season was 4.33,  25th in the Majors.  

And as for the starters, they've added Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle.  That's good, but the standard MLB starting rotation consists of five players, and of the pitchers still with the Jays who made at least six starts for the team last season, not one has a career ERA under 4.09.  Combine that with the fact that Toronto is a hitters ballpark, and the Blue Jays will need more pitching before they can truly contend.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Phil Jackson Snubbed, Alabama Loses, and Jose Reyes Goes to the Blue Jays: One Week in the Wild World of Sports

In Chinese culture, each year is assigned one of 12 animals, and January 23, 2012 through February 10, 2013 is designated the Year of the Dragon.  But with all that's been going on in sports, China might have to add to their tradition and call November 10 through November 19 the Week of the Underdog.

Saturday, November 10, 2012: Texas A&M upsets Alabama 29-24.  A collective gasp could be heard from the college football faithful when they realized a team that's not from the SEC just might end up hoisting the crystal football come January.  

But the upsets were far from over even after the universe's top-ranked college football team fell.  The same guy who left his job as head coach of the New York Knicks earlier in the year wound up getting the head coaching job of the team with the second-most NBA titles, as announced via press release on Monday.  And to become coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Mike D'Antoni had to beat out Phil Jackson, a guy who has never coached a team to an NBA championship finishing ahead of somebody who has more rings than fingers ... even if you count thumbs.  

Then Tuesday night rolled around.  Dreary, eventless, Tuesday night.  The middle of the week.  But in a time when anybody can come out on top at any time, there's no reason Tuesday night couldn't be exciting, especially when ... Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle were traded to the Blue Jays!?  Listless Toronto, the team from North of the Border that hasn't even won a division title since 1993, suddenly picks up three former all-stars in one shot.

And there's a chance this epic win streak of the underdog, a streak King Leonidas himself would have trouble matching, won't come to an end for at least another few days.  Four NFL starting quarterbacks were hurt in this past weekend's slate of pro football games, making it possible that the likes of Byron Leftwich (Steelers), Nick Foles (Eagles), and/or Jason Campbell (Bears) will take the field this weekend.  (And it has already been reported that Leftwich will in fact start in place of Ben Roethlisberger this weekend).  

Yes, this streak has to end.  Order will restore itself.  Alabama will go back to winning, the starting QBs in the NFL will heal and re-take the field, and there's a good chance Toronto will still finish third or fourth in the AL East next season.  

But for a few days, the underdog was the champion.  So stand up and rejoice, sports fans.  (Unless you happen to want the Tide to Roll, or miss Phil Jackson, or, like me, are a fan of New York Yankees).  The Week of the Underdog has arrived.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Los Angeles Dodgers Can Match the Yankees in Spending, But Not in Success

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been dishing a lot of money lately, and have even been compared to the New York Yankees a couple of times for their free-spending ways.  But can they match the Yanks not only in money spent but in winning the World Series too?

No, no they can't.  

First of all, their offensive performance isn't good enough in a few key statistics.  Sports Illustrated postulated in their October 8 issue that two big reasons teams win in the playoffs are low strikeout rates among their hitters and high batting averages with runners in scoring position (RISP).  If you look at the numbers, this does seem to be true to a certain extent, since six World Series teams from 2009 to 2012 were in the bottom six in the Majors in number of strikeouts.  Five of the last eight clubs to make the World Series had a RISP in the top eight in the MLB.  

The Dodgers aren't nearly that good.

In the last four years, they've finished no better than 18th in the Majors in RISP, although Adrian Gonzalez ranked second among first basemen last season in RISP (.392).  The Dodgers were also no better than 10th in lowest number of strikeouts since 2009. 

Then there's the problem of winning during the regular season for the Dodgers, who put together a 86-76 record last season.  That's nothing to be ashamed of, but it didn't get them into the postseason.  They need to win more close and extra-inning games if they want to make the playoffs, which would be the first step to winning a title.  

So the Los Angeles Dodgers may be, as Jayson Stark referred to them on, "Yankees West" in terms of spending, but they're not going to match the Yanks in terms of titles.  

There are too many things they need to improve upon to catch the Commissioner's Trophy.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

You Won't Believe What Tennessee Titans Matt Hasselbeck Gets Fined For

During his NFL career, professional quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has played for three different teams, thrown for more than 34,000 yards, and started for the Seattle Sehawks in Super Bowl XL.

He can also add a fine for a horse-collar tackle to his resume.  

In what might be the strangest news of the day, the NFL fined Hasselbeck $15,750 because he horse-collared Kelvin Hayden of the Chicago Bears on Sunday, as reported by an article this afternoon.  

But there are also other quarterbacks who have been fined for dishing out on-field hits, despite the fact that their position is one of the most protected in the game of football.

November 2011: Matthew Stafford grabs Chicago Bears cornerback D.J. Moore by the helmet and tosses him following an interception.  The NFL fines him $7,500 according to an article. (You can also see a video of the hit on YouTube).

October 2010: Kevin Kolb, in his final season with the Eagles, is fined $5,000, "For a horse-collar tackle on Atlanta's William Moore while Moore was returning an interception," according to the website  

November 2009: Brady Quinn, playing for the Browns, hits Terrell Suggs low and injures the linebacker, and is subsequently fined $7,500.  However, Quinn does say in an AOL News article that, "'I was trying to go for the ball carrier.  Suggs came across at the last second in my vision.  I would never wish that upon anyone.  I was upset about it on the field.  We worked out in Arizona together.  I couldn't be any more sorry about that.  That was never the intent.  I'm sorry to Terrell and the rest of their team.'"

Despite Quinn's apologies, it's only right that these quarterbacks get fined for their transgressions. Players at other positions on the field get penalized for illegal hits, so why shouldn't quarterbacks?  They're football players just like everyone else, and when they hit illegally they should be fined for it.  

But at the same time, quarterbacks should be taught proper tackling techniques so they don't have to use banned methods to bring down defenders who've just intercepted a pass or recovered a fumble.  This is just a guess, but maybe one of the reasons quarterbacks get fined for illegal hits is that they don't know how to tackle.  Think about it like this: They spend all their time learning the plays, perfecting their ability to throw, and being protected from everyone else.  Perhaps they should be taught how to properly hit and wrap on a tackling dummy so they aren't faced with having to subvert the rules to bring players down during games.  Yes, that means taking off the red jersey and letting them get a little bit dirty during practice, but then fines, not to mention threats to player safety, could be avoided.  

** and the AOL article from which the Quinn quote was taken provided the information on the fine Quinn received and the nature of the hit.  Furthermore, the only time a video provided information regarding a hit was with the Stafford play.  No videos of any of the other hits that were referenced in this article could be found.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Boston Red Sox Should (Fill in the Blank) To Build Their Roster for Next Season

Okay Boston Red Sox fans, time for a pop quiz.  What should the BoSox do this offseason to make sure the 69-93 debacle the team suffered through in 2012 doesn't happen again next year?  Should they A) Do their best impression of Brian Cashman and go get anybody and everybody that's on the free agent market?  Here we come Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher, Zack Greinke, and Mike Napoli!

Or should the Red Sox B) Say goodbye to all the big names except Dustin Pedroia, keep the young players, and let the farm system do the rest of the work?

The answer of course is option C) Sign some free agents and keep some of the guys who are already on the roster, both veteran and youthful (Don't worry if you answered incorrectly.  It will not count against your final grade).

Why won't signing lots of big names work?  Think about it like this: If there's one thing the New York Yankees accomplished this postseason, it's showing that spending huge isn't always the key to acing the final exam and winning the World Series.  The Yanks are now stuck with high-profile players that are no longer of great use to them and that no one else wants because they're owed way too much money.  Alex Rodriguez' guaranteed salary for the next five years is $118 million, and there's a good chance he'll get more for breaking various home run barriers.  He's just 13 taters away from tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run list, for example, and will receive a $6 million bonus for reaching that milestone.  While there's no doubt the Red Sox shouldn't be frugal, there's no reason they should throw their money around haphazardly either.

There are also players within the organization that should be able to help the team, so the BoSox don't have to go out and buy everything they need.  Pedro Ciriaco is a decent enough shortstop to be able to play on the big league level while also producing at the dish.  And if Xander Bogaerts, a shortstop for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs who was recently listed by as the Red Sox' number-one minor league prospect, turns out to be the real deal, then there's no doubt the squad has a shortstop for the future too.  The 20-year-old's numbers in 23 games with the Sea Dogs are impressive: a .326 batting average and a .948 OPS (on-base percentage added to slugging percentage).  So perhaps he could be a bright star shining in the club's future. 

But at the same time as the Red Sox shouldn't go spending a ton of money and have some good players within their organization already, it's not exactly prudent for them to wave goodbye to all the studs and start over from scratch either.  James Loney certainly won't do at first, and there isn't a first baseman in the organization's top ten prospects as listed by  And who is really able to play third?  Ever notice that Will Middlebrooks' fielding percentage at the hot corner is only .949?  Nothing to actually start jumping up and down about.  So the Sox' roster could definitely use some upgrades for the time being in the form of, say, Jeff Keppinger or Eric Chavez at third, and maybe a guy like Nick Swisher or Adam LaRoche at first.

Keppinger is a sneaky-good for-average, good OBP kind of hitter who might fit in to the Red Sox lineup as a leadoff or number two hitter.  And after his 2012 season with the Washington Nationals (33 home runs, 100 RBI), LaRoche could be the third or fourth guy in the batting order, and would definitely be an upgrade over James Loney.  Just think about how many times LaRoche might be able to go yard in the Lyric Little Band Box.  

Plus, while the Sox might have to shell out some dough to get a player like LaRoche, Keppinger isn't a household name and his salary hit just over $1.5 million last season, so he'd likely come relatively cheap. 

There's also no reason not to re-sign guys like Cody Ross and David Ortiz, two power hitters who can help the club compete right here and right now.  Ross can be a solid sixth man in the batting lineup after hitting .267 with 22 homers last season.  And even though Big Papi is getting old and might not be in the majors for too much longer, he is still extraordinarily effective when healthy.  In 90 games last season he hit 23 home runs and had an OPS of 1.026.  He also struck out just 51 times, which would add up to a mere 91 whiffs if he were to play every single outing of a 162-game season.

Yes, the Boston Red Sox should walk a middle ground this offseason.  Don't go out and spend money like there's no tomorrow, but don't rely only on the players within your own organization.  Either extreme will result in a team that's not as competitive as it could be. With a few tweaks here and there, though, the team should be able to pass the test of making the postseason in 2013. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Boston Red Sox Infield: What the BoSox Should Do

There's no doubt the Boston Red Sox have some holes to fill before the 2013 season begins.  Ben Cherington needs to get to work if he wants to improve the team that tied Miami for seventh-worst record in Major League Baseball last season.  One of the areas that definitely needs help is the infield.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, there is a relative dearth of talent among free agent infielders this offseason, particularly when it comes to first basemen.  The best first baseman available this offseason via free agency is Carlos Lee, who hit .264 in 2012 as a member of the Astros and Marlins.  Yikes.  Go down the rest of the list and you'll find the rest of the players are even older than Lee (Jason Giambi and Jim Thome), offensively inept (Eric Hinske and Xavier Nady, for instance), or were injured a great deal last season (Lance Berkman).  The next-best hitter to Lee is Lyle Overbay, who hit .259 last season but went just 2 for 20 (.100 batting average) after he was traded from Arizona to Atlanta.  

So the best statistical option for the Red Sox at first base is to attempt to sign Lee and let James Loney, who hit just .230 in his 30 games as a Sock last year, walk.  

The options at shortstop for the Sox include starting Pedro Ciriaco or Jose Iglesias, or finding a player via free agency.  Jose Iglesias is purported to be an excellent defensive player, but his offensive numbers are absolutely dreadful.  And the Sox should probably get a free agent third baseman through free agency, which leaves Ciriaco as the starter at short for Boston next season.  He did hit well in his time with the Sox this past season, and is comparable to Iglesias in career fielding percentage as a shortstop(.976 for Ciriaco versus .981 for Iglesias).  

Why do the Sox need a free agent third baseman?  Will Middlebrooks has a career fielding percentage of .949 as a third baseman, and Ciriaco is even worse at the hot corner (.932 fielding percentage).  

Jeff Keppinger is named on Cot's Baseball Contracts' (the site where all the names of free agents on this blog post came from) list of potential free agents  as a second baseman.  He's able to play third too, however, which is definitely a reason for the Sox to go after him.  He has a .964 fielding percentage at that spot, which, though nothing to get overly excited about, is certainly an improvement from the defensive stats of Middlebrooks and Ciriaco.  His batting average and on-base percentage were also very good last season with the Rays, which would add more AVG and OBP depth to a lineup which should be very good in such statistics if they follow the advice of this blog.  

The last position of the infield is second baseman, which the Sox luckily have covered with Dustin Pedroia.  Beyond second-base, though, the GM of Boston should be very busy in the coming months putting together a decent team, and a reliable infield.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

State of the Rotation: What New York Yankees Should do About Their Starters

Despite the fact that some sportswriters were calling for an overhaul of the Yankee position players in recent weeks, the team's starting pitching staff also needs a bit of a tweak. Following the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, Ivan "Super Nova" Nova's ERA exploded, and he pitched to an ERA of 7.05, more than three runs higher than his pre-mid-summer classic ERA of 3.92.

Freddy Garcia was also unimpressive as a starter this season, pitching to an ERA of 5.93 in 17 starts.  

Combine the ERAs of those two pitchers with the fact that Andy Pettitte isn't guaranteed to return to the mound next season, and the Yankees need to be shopping for a starting pitcher or two in addition to their other needs (such as a designated hitter and a backup outfielder).

One way the Yanks could get a new pitcher is through free agency.  There aren't a lot of big-name pitchers in the market this year, but that could work to the Bombers' advantage since they'd like to decrease their payroll.  

Any new additions to the New York Yankees' starting rotation should have the following requirements: low ERA, young, come relatively cheap, and give up few home runs (Yankee Stadium is a home run haven, so the ideal starting pitcher for the Yanks will be able to keep the ball in the park during the majority of his starts).   

So who should the Yankees try to signPerhaps they should start with Mat Latos.  He's only 24, yet has been pitching in the majors since July 2009 and has put up consistently good numbers thus far in his career.  In his 105 starts he's gone 41-33 with a 3.41 ERA and 64 home runs surrendered.  He made just over $0.5 million last season, and despite his sneakily good numbers, his salary has only climbed a tiny bit each year.  Maybe the Yankees can sign him for a minimal deal (perhaps $1 million or so will do?).  

The second-best choice for the Yankees would be Jarrod Parker, who has given up only 11 home runs in his 30 career starts.  As long he continues to keep the ball in play, he should be able to maintain his success if he really does don pinstripes.  He also has a relatively low 3.37 career ERA and is only 23, so he just might be the perfect fit for the Yanks.

One final choice for the Yankees: Kris Medlen.  Medlen, who has spent his first four seasons with the Atlanta Braves, has incredible numbers in his 30 games as a starter: 15-2 record, 2.81 ERA, 19 home runs given up, and a 1.059 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched).  He might also come cheap, since he made less than $0.5 million in each of the last three seasons (his 2009 salary wasn't given on Cot's).  The only problem with Medlen is that he hasn't been a full-time starter during his Major League tenure, making three times as many relief appearances (90) as he has starts (30).  

The Yankees should be able to compete as always in 2013, and should be able to perform even better should they succeed in signing any one of these three pitchers.  Any of them would be an upgrade over Nova or Garcia, and Latos and Medlen in particular probably won't explode, given that they've got some MLB experience under their belts and have pitched well thus far in their careers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

John Farrell Is a Good Fit for the Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox got their man.  Just a few weeks after MLB's regular season ended, they succeeded in bringing back former pitching coach John Farrell as manager following his two-year stint as skipper of the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Boston Red Sox got their man.

More importantly, they got the right man.

Yesterday, Farrell gave a speech following his introduction as manager of the Sox.  "Our effort is controlled, every night, it's something we can control, and to give forth our best effort is a minimum," Farrell said.  

Note: This video was copied from a page on the website  All information about the press conference was taken from the video.

Farrell then want on to say immediately after talking about effort that, "As far as dealing with players...I firmly believe there is an amount of professionalism that every player that comes to the big leagues and certainly that would come to the Red Sox here would have.  That guides their preparation, their motivation, all those...adjectives that you can attest to it, or attach to it.  But, most importantly, because I've been here before, there will be no taking for granted that relationships exist.  I will work my butt off to earn their trust, earn their respect, and create an environment in that clubhouse that is just that: it's a trusting one, it'll be a learning one, and, yes, it'll be a competitive one and hopefully a very successful one at the same time."

Wow.  Forget the numbers.  Forget the records.  Forget everything.  

It's time for the Red Sox to permanently cleanse themselves of the "chicken and beer"fiasco, of the 7-20 finish to the 2011 season, of the general disrespect players felt towards the last manager.  From this speech, John Farrell seems to be the right man for the job.  He can play a huge role in fixing the team by helping everyone drop the attitudes that took the Sox from first to worst in just over one calendar year.  

A nice kick in the pants is probably what both the seasoned vets and untested rookies need to get the old, unproductive attitudes permanently off the team and re-introduce winning attitudes into the clubhouse.  From this speech, Farrell really seems like he's a "my way or the highway" kind of manager.  He'll require that all the players respect him in the locker room, and also that they respect him on the field by playing to the absolute best of their physical abilities.  

"As far as dealing with players...I firmly believe there is an amount of professionalism that every player that comes to the big leagues and certainly that would come to the Red Sox here would have," Farrell said.

Here it seems like Farrell's trying to say that disrespect won't cut it on this team.  It seems like he might believe that in order to play Major League Baseball,  you take whatever the manager says is your place in the lineup on any given night and accept it.  He won't tolerate backlash for the choices he makes, it seems he's saying here.  Exactly the kind of toughness a team that's been imbued with negativity needs.  

"Our effort is controlled, every night, it's something we can control, and to give forth out best effort is a minimum," Farrell said.

The translation here?  Anything less than your hardest play on the baseball diamond is unacceptable.  That attitude is more of the recipe for success that goes not just for the Sox but for any team in any sport.  Get the players to perform at their personal peak on a daily basis.

The list of problems for the Red Sox is about a mile long.  But with the right man at the helm of the crew, the ship can be steered in the right direction once again.  

The Red Sox got their man, and they got the right man.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

New York Yankees: What the Bronx Bombers Should do About Alex Rodriguez and the Rest of Their Crew

The New York Yankees capped off a 95-win season with a spectacular collapse against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.  Now it seems like everyone on ESPN is talking about what they should do with their lineup.  If you want some answers, see below.

First of all, the Yanks will have to get rid of Alex Rodriguez.  If they put him and Curtis Granderson in a package together, maybe, just maybe, they can get Miami to give up Jose Reyes (I think Ben Shapiro was the first writer I read who mentioned a potential A-Rod to Reyes trade).  There's no doubt this is a crazy idea, but this is the same team that signed CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett in the same offseason.  Anything's possible.

But if Jose Reyes is at shortstop, you can't have Derek Jeter at the same position.  What should the Yankees do?  Move the captain to third base to replaced the departed A-Rod.  Jeter's getting old, and will be coming off a broken ankle in 2013, so putting him at an easier defensive position should help him keep playing a little longer.  

As for Robinson Cano, don't pick up his option for 2013.  Instead, restructure his contract and lock him up for the next five years.  He'll turn 30 in just a few days (October 22), a relatively young age for a baseball player, so it would be wise to sign him through 2017 to ensure the all-star stays in New York for years to come (A article noted one of the Yanks options when it comes to Cano is a contract extension).

So next season the Bronx Bomber infield should look like this: Mark Teixeira at first, Robinson Cano at second, Jose Reyes at shortstop, and Derek Jeter at third.  

As for the outfield, enter Yankee money.  There's some guy down in Texas named Josh Hamilton who's a free agent this season and would be a perfect fit to the Yankees' lineup.  What's that?  He comes with some baggage?  No problem.  In New York, bad athletes go good (An idea that came from my father, Matt, Sr.).  Kerry Collins had a drinking problem, but he led the New York Giants to Super Bowl XXXV upon arriving in Gotham.  The new New York Yankee way is supposed to be spending less money, but that won't be a possibility if they want to continue producing on the field year in and year out, so it would be wise to go get The Hammer.

Corner outfielders: re-sign Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, but let Nick Swisher walk.  Ichiro had a fielding percentage of 1.000 as a Yankee last season, and his .340 OBP (on-base percentage) as a Bomber was just 25 points below his career number.  Plus, he also had 29 steals, 14 in his 67 games as a Yank.  These are the kind of statistics the Yankees need: good defense and an offensive player that can help the team fabricate runs.  Keep Suzuki in New York for one more season. 

As for Gardner, fingers crossed that he returns to pre-2012 form.  If so, he'll get on base enough as a number two hitter for Cano, Teixeira, and Hamilton to drive him in on a regular basis.

Behind the plate, Russell Martin will do the Yankees just fine.  He's got the defensive skills, but his offensive numbers are lacking quite a bit.  Hit him eighth or ninth, and let his defensive skills make up for his deficiencies with the bat.

Last, but certainly not least, sign Raul Ibanez for one more season to play the DH spot.  His numbers for 2012 stand just a tad below his career stats, but he came through in so many situations for the Yankees this season that he really deserves another year in the Bronx.  

So in sum, replace Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson with Jose Reyes and Josh Hamilton, move Jeter to third, ditch Swish, and keep everyone else the same.  It might be a little bit crazy, but these are they Yankees after all.

Anything's possible.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New England Patriots: Why the Team Won't be Hoisting Another Silver Trophy This Year

          If you were to pick one word to describe the New England Patriots this season, the term “inconsistent” might fit perfectly.  The same offense that hung 52 points on the Bills took more than 57 minutes to find the end zone against the Cardinals.  The same defense that had more yards on a fumble return-touchdown in Week 1(6) than Chris Johnson had running the ball for the Titans (4) gave up 101 yards to Ray Rice in Week 3. And the same team that beat the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos let the low-scoring Seahawks have their second-highest offensive output of the season with 24 points.

            New England Patriots fans, it is time to face the music.  This 3-3-0 team that has taken the region on a roller coaster ride for the first six weeks isn’t the real deal.  There are too many inconsistencies in the formerly well-oiled machine that is the New England Patriots to say they are going to be the team everyone predicted they’d be coming into this season.

            Now take a look at the offensive output of the Pats.  They scored like nobody’s business when they went to Orchard Park, New York, but the number of touchdowns they scored in the fourth quarter against the Bills (4) outnumbered the total number of TDs they managed against Arizona and Seattle (3). The reason the Patriots lost to the Cards and ‘Hawks wasn’t because they couldn’t move the ball.  It was because they couldn’t find the end zone against good defenses.  Unless you have a defense full of absolute studs, which the Patriots do not, you have to get the ball across the goal line, not just through the uprights, to win football games.  New England hasn’t shown they can score touchdowns against tougher defensive teams.  

            And it’s not only the Patriots overall offense that’s taking on a Jekyll & Hyde persona this season, but the New England running game seems to come in ebbs and flows as well.  The Patriots have been held to under 100 yards rushing as a team in each of their three losses, but have gone for at least 162 yards on the ground in every win. 

            Even worse for the Patriots: the performance of the run game is a bit of a head scratcher statistically.  They netted 87 yards rushing against a Seattle defense that’s given up the second-fewest yards rushing per game this season at 70.0. Understandable. But three weeks earlier they had only 77 yards on the ground against Baltimore, currently ranked 26th in the NFL in yards rushing allowed per game with 136.5.  What will Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, and Brandon Bolden do this weekend?  They could go for 300 yards, but they might get held under the century mark too.  They’re just too unpredictable to be able to know what they’re going to do against the Jets and their defense that’s 28th in the NFL in yards rushing allowed per game (150.5).  When you’re relying on your ground game to help carry the offense to the extent the Patriots have been, the fact that the rushing attack only performs in certain seemingly random games is problematic for attempting to guarantee success.
Then there’s that nasty little injury bug that the Patriots seem to have been bitten by this season.  They lost Aaron Hernandez for three games (four really when you consider that he only made it through three plays of the game against the Cardinals).  Everybody from Tom Brady to Dont’a Hightower has been listed on someone’s injury report at one time or another.  And currently says ten active players are “questionable for Sunday’s game against the NY Jets.” 

Having so many guys nicked up can’t be a recipe for success in the NFL. Take a look at the injury reports of some of the best teams in the league.  The 6-0-0 Atlanta Falcons have just three members of their active roster who are questionable for their next game (October 28 against the Eagles).  Ditto for the 5-1-0 Baltimore Ravens.  And the Houston Texans are in even better position: One member of their active roster is doubtful for the team’s game this weekend, one is described as "out indefinitely," and one is going to be placed injured reserve.  Everyone else is either probable, or not injured.

So New England, prepare for yet another year without a Super Bowl victory.  The Patriots will win enough games to make the playoffs, but will eventually be defeated by a better, more consistent opponent, making it yet another that the New England area will have to suffer through a Lombardi-less offseason.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Concussions, and the Lessons Learned from Having Them

Over the last couple of days the issue of concussions re-emerged as a news topic in the form of athletes who continue to compete despite being injured.  An article by David Newton stated Dale Earnhardt, Jr. hadn't disclosed that he was feeling symptoms of a head injury because he wanted to try for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

And from yesterday's article by Marc Sessler, it seems Calvin Johnson recently hid head trauma as well.  Sessler quoted Johnson: "'He rung my bell pretty good, he got me, he caught me around the chin, that was a good hit,' Johnson told WXYT-FM in Detroit. 'It's part of football, you get concussed, you gotta keep on playing.  You can't get afraid to go across the middle any more than you were at the beginning.'"  

Later in the article, Sessler writes, "Johnson later admitted to reporters Thursday that he believed he had suffered a concussion," though doesn't indicate whether Johnson thought that during that game or after it.

Playing after suffering head trauma isn't a good idea.  I can say this with confidence because my own experiences told me so.

In September 2010, my senior year at McDaniel College, I suffered the second concussion of my football career while running down the practice field on a kickoff.  After spending a few days continuing to participate in football activities (if memory serves me correctly, my line of thinking was that I would get better during the easier practice days), I went to the athletic trainer.

But I was never one to like standing on the sideline.  More than anything else, I think it was my obsessive "never take a day off even if you want to" mentality that wouldn't let me stay out more than a couple of days.  So after just two missed practices, I told the trainer I felt okay, even though I didn't, and started practicing again.  

It was all well and good until I got sandwiched between two of my teammates during a drill about five days later.  If memory serves me correctly, I immediately felt nauseous following the hit, and watching a YouTube video in the computer lab later that night made me feel tired, made me feel like I was going to vomit, and made me feel like my head was going to explode.  

That second hit effectively ended my football career about six weeks early.  I tried to practice again later in the season, only to get pulled out by the athletic trainer once he realized I was still feeling concussion symptoms.  I thought about trying for another season of eligibility, but scrapped the idea in part because it made no sense from a journalism career standpoint.

Unfortunately, calling the head football coach in early January 2011 to say that I wasn't going to play football anymore didn't end the concussion.  When I returned to McDaniel for the Spring 2011 semester, I was still sensitive to light among other things, so looking at a computer screen for too long was out of the question.  That meant I wrote out all my papers by hand before typing them up.  

In April 2011, I tried to participate in a half-credit weightlifting class, but blood flow isn't good for concussions, and pumping iron brought back the dizziness and nausea that had previously subsided.

Fast forward to October 2012 and though the most intense symptoms are now a memory, my right ear is actually still ringing, though that symptom went away for a short time before returning following a late night computer-using session a few weeks ago.  

So what are the lessons to be learned here?  To Mr. Johnson, Mr. Earnhardt, and all other athletes out there who think they're tough enough to play with a concussion: Be honest about what you're feeling.  There are certain injuries you just shouldn't play with, and concussions are one of them.  Play the what-if game for just a minute and imagine if I'd lied about the injury during my freshman year instead.  I'd have ended my football career a few years early as opposed to six weeks.  

Play another what-if game: I probably could have killed myself by continuing to play with a concussion.  

Competing for the rest of the game, or the rest of the season, isn't worth the risk of ending your career, or, in extreme cases, your life.  Take it from someone who ended his sports career six weeks early and could have had it much worse.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

New England Patriots Defeat Denver Broncos in Game Billed as Peyton Manning-Tom Brady Bowl

Sunday afternoon's game in Foxborough was supposed to be the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady bowl, but it turned out to be the Stevan Ridley-Danny Woodhead-Brandon Bolden show instead.  It also had the makings of a blowout near the end of the third, when Ridley rushed for an 8-yard touchdown to put New England up 31-7.  

Peyton Manning tried to do his part to live up to the game's billing, though, leading the Broncos back with two touchdown drives to put Denver within 10 points of New England.  

But in the end, New England and its running backs prevailed with a little help from the defensive line.  With Denver driving deep in New England territory late in the fourth, Rob Ninkovich forced a Willis McGahee fumble that was recovered by Jermaine Cunningham.  New England proceeded to run out the clock, preserving their 31-21 victory.

The Patriots amassed 251 yards rushing Sunday, their biggest performance as a team since going for 277 on December 14, 2008, in Oakland.  And though Ridley netted 151 of their yards on the ground, the Pats used Woodhead, Bolden, and even Shane Vereen in their offensive attack, getting positive results from every RB. 

On their third offensive drive of the game, Woodhead and Ridley each contributed at least one first down.  Shane Vereen finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on his only carry of the game to put New England up 14-7.

Then, on New England's second offensive drive after halftime, Ridley went for 19 yards on a second-and-10 that was the second play of the drive.  Six plays later, Woodhead ran 19 yards on a third-and-17 at the Patriots 43-yard line.  It was the second time Woodhead had converted a third-and-long in the game.  The Patriots continued to march down the field, and Tom Brady got in on the fun with his own 1-yard touchdown to make it 24-7 New England.  

Not to be outdone by the ground game, Wes Welker also put together a 100-yard performance, gaining 104 yards on 13 receptions, three more catches than the rest of the Patriots offense combined.  The last of his grabs was for 6 yards on a third-and-3 just before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter that kept New England's clock-draining drive going.  Welker also netted the game's first TD on a short route into the left flat, adjusting to haul in a Tom Brady pass that went behind him.

But as well as Welker and the running backs played, Stevan Ridley gave Manning and the Broncos one more shot at a comeback near the end of the game.  On a first-and-10 with New England leading 31-21, a Ridley fumble was recovered by the Broncos.  Manning then drove Denver down the field, first with a 17-yard completion to Jacob Tamme, then with a gutsy 28-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas on fourth-and-one at the New England 42.  

Then Rob Ninkovich saved the day with a forced fumble on Denver's own star running back Willis McGahee, and New England closed the game with their clock-draining drive.

Next week the Patriots head to Seattle, where their suddenly powerful ground game will be tested against a Seahawk defense that, entering play on Sunday, had allowed the second-fewest yards rushing per attempt in the NFL this season at 3.0 yards per carry.  Should the New England decide to continue running the ball next Sunday afternoon, the performance of the RBs should be a telling sign of how potent the team's rushing attack will be the rest of this year.  We'll soon find out whether Stevan Ridley and Co. can keep up the good work.