Thursday, July 28, 2011

Death Threats: Why Can't We Be Friends?

Excuse me while I make a goofy music reference yet again in a blog post.

Anyway, if you guys have been watching baseball news as of late, you're probably familiar with the blown call from Tuesday morning's 19-inning finish between the Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Yeah, not gonna lie, that was a horrible call. But since the NL Central race is incredibly tight, the blown call is going so much deeper than that. It looks like Umpire Jerry Meals is going to be under the spotlight for quite a while about this debacle.
(Ripped from
 Although Meals has stated that he has watched the play many times and has admitted that he made a poor call, the fans and even some officials aren't even taking the admittance or apology. In fact, people want this man dead. That, indeed, had to be boldfaced. I would never joke about something like that, but it's true. Over the past day and a half, fans have been sending death threats and harassing Meals and his family. Again, more boldface. Firstly, I don't really think anyone is that crazy enough to even kill someone over something such as a missed play at home plate, but even the fact of harassment is utterly ridiculous and childish. Okay, you're a die-hard fan and your team should have clearly won the game, but it was also what--1:30 AM EST? That's what I thought.

Aside from this wonderful disaster, we have seen many different forms of harassment and death threats pertaining to athletes (and even fans). I'd like to give a synopsis of each one and give my thoughts on them. Good? Good. You wouldn't be at this point in the post if you didn't care about what I thought, right? Right.
This might be an awkward topic because you might think that I would say, "I don't blame them," or "That guy was a complete jerk anyway," but that's not necessarily true. Me being the nutty armchair analyst that I am, I like to pick things apart and research random stuff while I'm bored. Let's get to it, shall we?

Tommie Smith/John Carlos -- 1968 Olympic Games -- "Black Power Salute"

When first researching this case, I had no idea how bad this actually was until I started reading into this more. Of course, the Civil Rights Movement was still relatively huge in 1968, and escalated even further after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So now I understand why this was so huge. In the 200 meter race event, Tommie Smith won the gold in record time, while John Carlos won the bronze. During the playing of the U.S. National Anthem during the medal ceremony, Smith and Carlos both raised a fist in the air with a bowed head. How was this huge? It was so huge that Smith and Carlos were later heavily scrutinized by the U.S. sporting officials. Along with that, both men and their families received death threats for their actions during the medal ceremony. Here's the kicker--silver medalist Peter Norman, an Australian, showed sympathy toward both men and resulted in getting flack as well, such as his rejection of an Olympic team spot for the 1972 Games.
I could fully understand why this ever happened. Racism was quite the touchy subject not just in the United States, but worldwide at this time. Something such as the event that occurred in the medal ceremony was thought to be a rebellious act instead of an "human rights salute." From my perspective, however, this paved the way toward the end of prejudiced acts in an international setting. Have you ever seen the slogan "Say No To Racism" shown during World Cup games? That's one of them.

Steve Bartman -- 2003 NLCS -- "Foul Play"

This is without doubt one of the biggest sports incidents in recent history. Not only were the Chicago Cubs one game away from winning their first NL pennant since 1945, they had been heavily favored to win the World Series in 2003. Then Steve Bartman happened. Or whatever you like to think. On October 14, 2003, Bartman was sitting on the left field side along the foul like where a hit ball was heading his way. Outfielder Moises Alou was just inches away from catching the ball until he and several other people reached for the ball. Unfortunately, that ball never reached Alou's glove, but deflected off Bartman's hands instead. Then all hell soon broke loose. Bartman was escorted, fans threw stuff on the field, the Marlins scored eight runs, and the Cubs lost the series in seven games. In short, "The Curse of the Billy Goat" continues. You see, I personally know a Chicago Cubs fan (Hi, Ian!), and I bet I couldn't fathom how livid he might have been in accordance to that.
I wonder if Ride of the Valkyries was playing on Bartman's walkman.
Despite the defense for him provided by the Chicago Cubs organization and Commissioner Bud Selig, the fans really didn't give a flying flip either which way about it. His name and address were displayed on MLB message boards, and fans hunted for blood. From what I've looked up, it looks like he's changed his name. So he's out of the public eye for now. If I can't find anything, that means he wins the Helen Keller Award for playing hide and seek from the public. Eight years, a destroyed (and "sauced") baseball, and many upsets later, we're still talking about this fall fiasco.
To me, this is just a case of being at the wrong place at the exact wrong time. The main problem with this thing is that the force of fans outweighed Major League Baseball and Bartman's family and friends. I do feel bad for the guy. You shouldn't really mess with fate, I guess.

Andres Escobar -- 1994 FIFA World Cup -- "Gambling with Goals"

Now, this man was a well-respected Colombian footballer that was on the receiving end of something incredibly larger than ever imagined: drugs and gambling. To this day, "The Gentleman of Football" is still well-respected in his home nation, and his untimely fate only increases his love and respect from loved ones. During the 1994 FIFA World Cup held in the United States (you know, with the opening ceremony TV event that was interrupted by a white Bronco...nevermind), a lot of events were taking place underground back in Colombia. Because the World Cup is a really big deal in many countries. Many drug lords had placed bets on games and would do anything in their power to get their money. Some guys wouldn't be very happy after June 22, 1994. While trying to block a cross pass, defender Escobar deflected a spiraling ball straight into his own net. This own goal resulted in a win (2-1) for the United States, and the elimination of Team Colombia.
After the World Cup, Escobar went home to Colombia and went to a nightclub on July 2nd with several friends. However, he had split up with his friends and was left alone. After running into an altercation with a few people, handguns were pulled and Escobar was shot to death outside of the Colombian nightclub; apparently his killers had screamed "Gol" after each shot was fired. This is where death threats are completely avoided and the deaths actually happen.
This is horrible. All over drugs and money too. One life is not worth this. Okay, it was an own goal. It sucks, but who ever said gambling was a good thing? You have the capability of putting lives in jeopardy over something that has the capability of ruining your own life in drugs and money. It's incredibly harsh and horrific, and nothing should ever escalate to this over a sporting event. There I go with my boldface again. It needed to be done though. And to think that this could have all been avoided if he had stayed with relatives in the United States during that time.
This is what happens when death threats and harassment go over the limit.

Bill Buckner -- 1986 World Series -- "Grounded by a Curse"

This may arguably be the most unfortunate thing to ever happen to a baseball player. Considering that your team hadn't won the World Series in 1918 and you were up three games to two in the World Series, you pretty much had to be on your toes at all times. After taking a 5-3 lead in the 10th inning in Game 6 of the World Series, Bob Stanley was on the mound for the Red Sox. There was a runner on second and third with two outs and the Mets' Mookie Wilson was up to bat. A simple dribbler was hit up the first base line...where it went right through Bill Buckner's legs, resulting in both runs scoring and the game to end 6-5. By the way, the Mets then won Game 7. Commence more hell breaking loose and a lot of death threats coming toward Buckner's way, courtesy of the Boston fans. They neither blamed Stanley nor Calvin Schiraldi for this matter; they went and blamed an error by a productive infielder. The Red Sox later released him the next year despite the fact that he was still doing well.
Oh. Crap.
Don't lie--you know Boston may be a brutal city and you might have never ever step foot there. They, like Chicago, are very passionate about their sports and they were rather unfortunate to see a bad thing like that happen to a really good player. No lying...check his stats online. It's a shame that an event like this overshadows all of the good things he did.
You know, my one softball coach taught a life lesson to never let a ball go between your legs (har har har I made a subliminal funny). Buckner did that and practically screwed his franchise over until 2004. This is just when a little slip-up can really make you a legend in the worst way possible. Heck, I feel bad for him being butchered during the film Fever Pitch (or The Perfect Catch in the UK). In short, I think now that the curse is reversed per se, I think he'll be able to rest easy. He received a large ovation after throwing the first pitch in 2008 at Fenway Park--right after the Red Sox won their second championship in four years in 2007. He claimed to not forgive the fans, but the media for what they had put him and his family through. That I totally understand. The media could be your best friend or your worst enemy; there are no gray lines when it comes to something like that.

There are several other historical issues occurring in sports history, such as the death threats toward baseball great Jackie Robinson after breaking the color barrier. I could go on and on about these other ones, but to me, these four cases I just mentioned stick out in my mind as being some of the biggest in sports history. The ones I mention involve destruction, disowning, harassment, and even death. It's scary seeing what can happen if someone makes a false move, isn't it? It almost makes you not want to play (or spectate) again because fans could have you walking on eggshells if a false move is made during something important.

From my perspective, being a die-hard fan of a team is like being in a horribly abusive relationship: they can break your heart countless times, but you can't give them any form of payback; that, and you also come running back to them unconditionally when things start looking up in some way. Do not confuse this comparison with the concept of the bandwagon. The bandwagon is like, the "one-night-stand" of sports. It's like scoring a hot chick (or guy in my case) and then come back when they're pretty much dangling bait in front of you (i.e. some sort of ring).

I went off-topic. Oops.

If you want my opinion about all of this, harassment and threatening is not the way to go about things at all. It would only have been appropriate in the Stone Age when we only grunted to communicate and to solve problems we just had huge rocks and sticks to settle scores. We're a little more mature and advanced than that, don't you think? It's okay to be angry at one player/team and all, but the wrong thing to do is to take that next step and just do something you're ultimately going to regret. The last time I checked, athletes are people too; ergo, they have feelings just like you and I. I hope I'm not telling you anything new on this, because that would be pretty sad. Usually athletes (or other people) acknowledge when they've screwed up. You don't have to inflate the picture for them. However, tt would be another thing if the person denies a screw-up and just act like a heel to everyone...then you can start carrying torches and pitchforks and such. Just kidding. It's still wrong.

Another thing that interests me about some of these cases is that they were heavily blown up by the media and really wrecked a few family member's lives. I didn't really realize that until I read into Bill Buckner's case. If not for the constant focus of the media, some of these things wouldn't be so prominent in people's memories, and other people involved in the case would be able to rest easier than usual. I guess that was just me seeing things through rose-colored glasses because I'm going to be fighting my way into the field after next May.

I think this post alone just adds on to the fact that man will never have self-control and that we should all be institutionalized at some point in life. The things we do because we love so much...

[Now watch the Pirates win the World Series and all of this stuff involving Jerry Meals will be out the window and everyone will be happy again. If that does happen and if I were Meals, I'd be kicking the stuffing out of people for being two-faced. That's just me being a feisty lady though.]


(Information from MLB, Baseball Reference, ESPN, among numerous sporting blogs)

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Name Game!

Over the course of time, we have seen some pretty goofy things in the world of sports. Even the most common of acts, such as the changing of names, have been a long reality in the melting pot of the United States. As of late, we have seen this act been taken to the extreme as a statement, for religious purposes, and for possibly the silliest of reasons. That's right, folks. Silly reasons.

Today at The Sports Nut Blogs, we're going to take a tour--rather, a fun 'ole trip--down the lane of names. Andrew will be joining me in giving opinions on the names we've provided. We're going to be giving the names the lovely Ivy League grading scale treatment as well. (Trust us, we know what it is; our school enforces it.)

(Note: Andrew's thoughts are paraphrased. He didn't write them down. I listened and scribbled down a general gist of what he said.)

Let's get into the spirit of things and put on some music during our little session here:

First we're going to begin with the most obvious and recent ones:

Chad Ochocinco (formerly Chad Johnson) -- Cincinnati Bengals
Why? - For Hispanic Heritage Month in 2008, he decided to change his last name to "Ocho Cinco" which translates to "eight five."
Andrew's thoughts: Nobody really expected this. It's not like he had a name like Peyton Manning. I don't mind the name. He calls himself an entertainer, so I don't see anything wrong with it.
Grade: B [because apparently he plays for Cincinnati]
AZ's thoughts: It's a really awkward reason to change the name--and now that he especially wants to change his last name back to Johnson, he looks somewhat foolish for doing it to begin with. However, at least he put some thought into what he was doing.
Grade: B

Metta World Peace (Ron Artest) -- Los Angeles Lakers
Why? - Good question. I guess because he wanted to. He filed the petition, so it sounds like the name change is official.
Andrew's thoughts: Because his career is on the decline, I think it's a stupid way to grab attention. It's a creative idea, but I still find it stupid.
Grade: C
AZ's thoughts: Ugh...seriously? You think you're going to get away with changing your name to that without getting scrutinized for it? Get real. It's a really cheesy idea.
Grade: D

Now that we've gotten some recent ones out of the way, let's go into the past and see some old-school ones.

Magic Johnson (formerly Earvin Johnson)
Andrew's thoughts: It's a classy move. People called him that as a nickname to begin with, and since he was good enough to have the name, I like it.
Grade: A
AZ's thoughts: I think it's a good move. I know his mom didn't like the fact he dropped "Earvin," but c'mon. In a field of sporting and entertainment, a name like "Earvin" is not going to sell. Magic will. Besides, I'm pretty sure it wasn't his birth name to begin with.
Grade: A

Pele (formerly Edison Arantes do Nascimento)
Andrew's thoughts: Edison? Really? It helped in a big way as far as economic value. Also, could you imagine people trying to pronounce it in the United States? Exactly.
Grade: N/A -- It gets a 'P' for Pass. [This is because I dislike soccer.]
AZ's thoughts: Here's a fun fact for y'all: he got the nickname from his favorite footballer Bile but he would mispronounce it as a youth. It's also Hebrew for miracle. I figured I would just put something here because I agree with Andrew a lot on this one.
Grade: A

Tiger Woods (formerly Eldrick Woods)
Andrew's thoughts: I'm not gonna lie, Eldrick just sounds dumb. It's not marketable either, especially if he was a child prodigy at a sport like golf.
Grade: A
AZ's thoughts: It was an interesting nickname to give the kid, that's for sure. It sounds like a pro wrestler's name, but in the sport he's in, it's something unique.
Grade: B+

Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay)
Andrew's thoughts: I know that he did this because he converted to Islam, but I think this really helped him in the long-run as far as getting the attention for himself and the sport of boxing.
Grade: A
AZ's thoughts: Sure, he did it for the religious reasons, but I don't necessarily think it would have affected his career. His confidence and skill did more talking than the name change. However, this name is as legendary as the man himself.
Grade: A

Babe Ruth (formerly George Herman Ruth)
Andrew's thoughts: This is, in my opinion, the man who originated the name change in sports. It's incredibly identifiable; so much that people think the candy bar Baby Ruth is named after him.
Grade: A
AZ's thoughts: Even though it's another nickname, it's a very iconic one. I bet if we were grading this name back in the 1910's or 20's, we'd be giving this a low grade, but this name is on the face of a baseball legend.
Grade: A

Hulk Hogan (formerly Terry Bollea)
Andrew's thoughts: Since he's a professional wrestler, he needed something that implied manliness. With a name like "Hulk," it really sounds that if you say your prayers, train really hard, and eat lots of vitamins, you're going to be strong like him. However, an Italian with the last name of "Hogan" is just weird.
Grade: A
AZ's thoughts: In the WWE's heyday, a name like this really inspired little boys to be strong and stand up to the bullies. Also, this sounds like a legitimate nickname-style name, which is always a plus.
Grade: A

Bo Jackson (formerly Vincent Jackson)
Andrew's thoughts: It's too short. Plus, I also like the name "Vince," so it really doesn't appeal to me.
Grade: C+ [because apparently he played for the Raiders]
AZ's thoughts: I have no idea how you get "Bo" from "wild boar hog," but whatever. This is also a unique name for a unique player who was an All-Star in two pro sports leagues. However, like Andrew said, I would have been just as cool with calling him Vince.
Grade: B

Chipper Jones (formerly Larry Jones)
Andrew's thoughts: To be honest, it just sounds cooler than "Larry." Plus, it was also a nickname that makes him sound cooler.
Grade: B
AZ's thoughts: Clearly it's a nickname. Clearly the name Larry Jones is too generic even for the sport of baseball. Again, uniqueness in entertainment is good. Just don't get on the bad side of the fans, they'll starting taunting you with "Laaaaaarry" chants during games.
Grade: B+

World B. Free (formerly Lloyd Bernard Free)
Andrew's thoughts: Unlike the name "Chad Ochocinco," this name actually promotes some sort of good. It promotes something larger than the sport.
Grade: B+
AZ's thoughts: The really cool part about this one is that he really didn't have to change a whole lot of stuff for this name to happen. He already had the "B. Free" part in it, so that's lucky. I agree with Andrew's statements.
Grade: B+

During this conversation, we had talked about a lot of other athletes who had changed their names, but for the sake of not having an overdose of repetition, we omitted those. Those names included on that list are Ronaldo (the Brazilian and much better footballer...not Cristiano Ronaldo), Karim Abdul-Jabbar, and Ahmad Rashad, among others.
In conclusion, the whole idea of name-changing is a privilege that is often used and sometimes abused. Sometimes it makes the person a walking, talking billboard. However, we can't make decisions for them. It's what they want to do and how they want to be recognized. Let's just hope it works out for them in the end.

Thanks for playing The Name Game with us while we were keeping Tom Hanks company in the floor. Hopefully the Care Bears won't come after him. (Joke from The Money Pit)

--AZ and Andrew

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The MLB Midseason Slant For 2011 - CROSSFIRE!!!

We're getting caught up in it.
Wow, we're halfway done already? (Then again, it's really been 92 games...not 81 as the midpoint would truly be.) It seems like just yesterday when I was getting ready for my least favorite class in the whole wide world and I was checking the scores of the first season game. Three months, a few no-hitters, a divorce, and a slew of things later, we're nearing the All-Star Break. Some of the records are nowhere near surprising, whereas other teams are saying: "Wow, that was the best nap I've ever had."
Well, in case if you guys aren't exactly keeping up with the other teams among the leagues, I'm here to help.

Let's do this crazy thing.


East Division

Boston Red Sox (55-35) - Now, whoever doesn't expect these guys and the Yankees up top should be beaten with a stick. These guys have proven themselves to be the biggest offensive force in baseball. With powerhouses like newcomer Adrian Gonzalez (who is an MVP candidate at this point), David Ortiz, and well...the rest of them, expect problems for pitching staffs everywhere. Speaking of pitching, lack of Daisuke Matsuzaka hasn't been that big of a deal as of yet. Pitchers Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have been holding their own behind the bulldozing offense.
New York Yankees (53-35) - The Yankees have a well-built team that can duke it out with the rest of them. Of course, they have to have just as powerful an offense as the Red Sox in order to keep up. Along with Yankee hitting king Derek Jeter, the team has been near the tops in hitting (leading the majors in home runs), and pitchers like Sabathia, Colon, Burnett, and Garcia, the Yankees have been showing their too-well-known quality of being a "well-rounded team." The thing I wonder about now is what the heck the Yankees are going to party about now that Jeter is over 3,000 hits. Ha.
Tampa Bay Rays (49-41) - I always feel bad for the Rays, because even though they do so well, they're often overshadowed by the guys up north. They're about as good as you could ask them to be. James Shields and David Price are stellar pitchers as always, and a lot of the hitters hit for average (i.e. Johnny Damon, Casey Kotchman, Matt Joyce, B.J. Upton) which accounts for their always-present small ball tactic. Although I don't see them winning the division, there's a good chance you will see them play the upset in Wild Card contention.
Toronto Blue Jays (45-47) - Ohhhhh Caaaaanadaaaaa, your only baaaseballlll teeeeeeeam... So, while I continue singing like an idiot, these guys shouldn't be counted out, either. Sure, Jose Bautista is giving them a lot of attention, but aside from that, they're just an average team waiting to burst out in fury. I mean, don't get me wrong, Jo-Jo Reyes has a really bad reputation for being really bad, but the rest of the pitching isn't half bad at all. Every team is entitled to have their good days and bad days...they honestly have an equal amount of them. I don't think that will continue for much longer.
Baltimore Orioles (36-52) - After starting out 6-0, they certainly started lying to us. Some people actually thought this group of folks were going to make it after all. Grant it, they get A's for effort, but the lack of team sync and consistency really isn't helping their cause to not have a losing season. What else am I supposed to say about them? Camden Yards is pretty...uhhh....Vlad Guerrero...yeah, I think that's enough. Have a good second half, kids.

Central Division

Detroit Tigers (49-43) - Now here's a good hitting team where the pitching is lucky to be saved most of the time. The only pitcher that is an exception to that rule is Justin Verlander, and that's not saying much. A lot of the bigger names like Magglio Ordonez have been injured for a good part of the half, but for now, a lot of guys are holding the fort and making a good run toward the finish line. Once the bullpen gets a good rest and gets bolstered a little bit, they can be the heavy favorite to win the AL Central.
Cleveland Indians (47-42) - Holy guacamole, Manny Acta, what the heck happened to you that you're actually having success with your team? I don't get it. Even though a rocky June cut off a red-hot first place run, these guys are going to be in the race for postseason the whole way through. While hitting can be shaky at times, the pitching has the tendency to make up for it. Let's put it this way--the wins are often close. Asdrubal Cabrera is the next hot shortstop. Believe that.
Chicago White Sox (44-48) - Is it safe to say that the pitching staff worries me a little bit? Not the bullpen, the rotation. They look awfully shaky to me. Even Mark Buerhle. They're going through a bit of a rough patch at the moment, but until the starting rotation works in unison with the offense, life will be good. With the look of their schedule, the second half isn't going to be very easy on them, so if they don't make the playoffs this year, don't be surprised.
Minnesota Twins (41-48) - Grant it, these guys haven't been doing that bad, they're just losing some really tough games amid everything else. The starters are very hot and cold, and the lack of run support during crucial parts in the game is really killing them. I don't really see much success in the future, but there's a good chance they can pick up the pace with a couple of home series coming up for them. They're not what you would call "road warriors."
Kansas City Royals (37-54) - If there's a team I can give the "Ultimate Inconsistency Award" to, it's these guys. Neither side is really on the same page, if anything. Grant it, they have a good hitting team. They really like to hit for average (you can bet on that if their team average is around .265, which is Top 5 in the majors) but at some times they just don't like showing up to the extent of wanting to save their pitchers' backsides by scoring more runs. I'm telling you, this team does not suck...they're just...tired, I guess.

West Division

Texas Rangers (51-41) - Can I get a "whooaaaa hot bats?" You can't expect anything other than that when it comes to the Rangers. The only problem I see is the bullpen numbers, and that's the reason why Texas' pitching stats as a whole don't look that formidable. Also, one minor problem is their troubles away from home. They're under .500 in away games, and absolute monsters at home. Things need to get better out yonder, y'all. (yeehaw) As the World Series runners-up, they look to go back and take it this time.
[RIP Shannon Stone]
Los Angeles Angels (50-42) - The Angels certainly have the pitching to be a total threat. Jered Weaver and Dan Haren have been absolute monsters. Don't count the offense out, though. Guys like Howie Kendrick and Eric Aybar have stellar averages. However, not a lot of these guys have played over 75% of the season thus far. And to be honest, some of the absences have made a difference in whether plays were made or not. As long as the team stays healthy as a whole, we're going to have one heck of a race in the AL West.
Seattle Mariners (43-48) - This is the saddest statistic I've seen in a long while: Doug Fister is 3-10 with a 3.06 ERA. I think we can figure out what the Achilles heel is on this team: The team is injury-ridden, and they're not hitting very well at all. There's only about four guys on the team that are hitting above .260, and it's showing when guys like King Felix are out on the mound. In the ten years since the Mariners won over 100 games, I think it's about time for an extreme makeover for this team.
Oakland Athletics (39-53) - In seeing this record, you would have no idea how good their pitching actually is. They're tops in the American League in ERA, but the offense won't let you see that, because they're near the basement in batting average. A change in hitting personnel may be necessary for these guys, because it looks like they're having a hard time seeing the ball in a league where the hitting is usually more formidable than pitching and where the designated hitter is implicated. C'mon.


East Division

Philadelphia Phillies (57-34) - A lot of people expected this especially after the shocking acquisition of Cliff Lee in the offseason. Now with what is called "The Four Aces," these guys have pitching powerhouses, which comes in especially handy when it comes to their common slumping offense. With having the best record in the majors, you wouldn't think they'd be near the bottom in batting average, but they are. Thank Roy, Cliff, Roy, Cole, and the other guys that pitch in the five spot.
Atlanta Braves (54-38) - The Braves are what you call a good team that can annoy everybody. Although slumping hitting and injury have been quite contagious, they have been quite consistent and keeping tempo with their rivals with strong pitching from guys like Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, and Derek Lowe. These guys are going to be real contenders if they stay strong throughout the rest of the season; you might be seeing these guys giving playoff teams real troubles in the future.
New York Mets (46-45) - Curse you, Bernie Madoff, you're ruining everything! Not really. Jose Reyes has been red-hot as of late, and the strong small ball being played has been effective. It's tough not being able to win a lot of games at home, but when they can, they get the job done away from home. The controversy surrounding the team hasn't exactly been the best for the team fanbase, but at this point, they're not out of the race if they keep up their strong run that started after interleague play.
Washington Nationals (46-46) - I really hate to put it this way, but it seems like these guys have a hard time keeping their cool when it comes to a winning streak or something else productive. Even after acquiring all-rounded Jayson Werth by spending big bucks this past December, their offense doesn't look as consistent as it should be right now. Because of that, their pitching doesn't win very much, and they look like bird droppings more than they really should. This team is a chemical imbalance at it's finest. Patience is a virtue, dear offense. Stop striking out.
Florida Marlins (43-48) - After chasing out Edwin Rodriguez and acquiring the oracle-aged Jack McKeon, the fish are trying to make up for lost time and regain ground in the East. However, with ace Josh Johnson struggling with injury, it hasn't been easy on the team morale. Although they've been picking up the pace since the new management came through, it's going to take a lot to climb up the mountain of insane pitching in the NL East.

Central Division

St. Louis Cardinals (49-43) - Amid a few speed bumps and bruises, these guys are cruising along in first place with the Brew Crew. It sucks that they lost pitcher Adam Wainwright to Tommy John Surgery, but the rotation has been fairing well without him and haven't missed a big beat yet. Pujols, Berkman, and Holliday have been a terrible threesome, and the team as a whole is going to be a big force to knock off in the NL Central.
Milwaukee Brewers (49-43) - Wow...33-14 at home. Good going, guys. This is the kind of team where they get hit hard, but then hit back even harder through small ball. A big plus for this team is that they've stayed pretty healthy and have had good backups when accidents have happened. For a team that went through a lot of rough business last year, this is a good sign that they're going to be the team to beat in the Central. I know, I sound contradicting, but they're going to be a good matchup against the Cards.
Pittsburgh Pirates (47-43) - Whooaaaa. For those who did not expect this, it's okay--you're not the only one. To not have a sub-.500 team after so many years is a nice breath of fresh air for these guys. It seems like everything is going right stats-wise for this team and now PNC Park is filling rather well. Can we beat the losing streak here?
Cincinnati Reds (45-47) - The main problem with this team is their rotation and bullpen. They have troubles with giving up the long ball, ergo the high ERAs among the team. However, the offense is still trucking through the pitching woes, as 2010 MVP Joey Votto is still pumping out great numbers. Although they're 4th in the majors in runs scored, they're not keeping the leads for very long. It's good to see the ball and everything, but it's not good when the other team does against the pitching.
Chicago Cubs (37-55) - What the Cubbies are currently going through is a mix of stuff: injuries, awkward fielding issues, minor pitching adjustments...that kind of stuff. They currently lead the majors in errors (WOO! Good job, guys!) and their disabled list is never really...empty, per se. At this point, it's all-or-nothing, and they need to get healthy. Games have gotten very ugly at Wrigley Field, and there's only so much pain that faithful fans can take in one sitting.
Houston Astros (30-62) - And here we are folks...our basement team thus far. When neither of your starters have more wins than losses, you know you've got a problem. There really isn't anything wrong with the hitting...their starting rotation is just beyond crap. I hate to put it that way, but it's kind of true. Not much more to say but to have fun, Houston.

West Division

San Francisco Giants (52-40) - It looks like the defending World Series champs are back at it again with their determination and their grit in conquering the NL West. Although the pitching hasn't been at it's strongest as far as the health of their rotation goes, they're still within the Top 10 in the majors, and they're making up for offensive slumps that may affect this team. Injuries to big players such as Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey have made a big dent in their team batting average, but other guys like Freddy Sanchez and Nate Schierholtz have been hitting relatively well. Can they go back-to-back this year? If they remain steady this second half, their chances are good.
Arizona Diamondbacks (49-43) - No joke, these guys have been surprising a lot of people as of late. Although their pitching isn't exactly "tops" due to injury among other things, their offense can get really hot and can save the pitching when absolutely necessary. In looking at their scores, they rarely win games with a lead of more than three runs. Heck, no wonder why J.J. Putz is in the top 10 in saves. In a division that is not offense-heavy like this, they are holding their own. However, if they aren't careful, the second half may not be kind to them unless they search for stronger starting pitching during the trade period.
Colorado Rockies (43-48) - I think "Ubaldomania" is officially over. Heck, he's actually on the trading block right now. While both hitting and pitching staffs are below average in their stats, the usual suspects like Todd Helton are still kicking and shining. This is another team that is being attacked by the accident/injury bug, and they don't seem very comfortable playing in any ballparks other than their own. Then again, Colorado is a huge second half team. They could really make a comeback within the next two months.
Los Angeles Dodgers (41-51) - This is a team where you think to yourself that it's a really good team as a whole. Not's just a couple of guys carrying the team on their backs and everyone else is just watching the McCourt divorce business and wondering how the team is going to fare out financially. This really isn't a home run-hitting team at all; Matt Kemp has more home runs than the rest of the team combined (dead serious). This is just a team with a bad reputation that is hurting right now. It's a shame they don't have a longer break. Stuff could get fixed up over time.
San Diego Padres (40-52) - After the loss of Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox, there's not much saving these guys at the moment. The hitting hasn't exactly been the same--then again, it really wasn't before that, either. The lack of offense makes the pitching staff look weak, even though they rarely give up home runs, let along any runs at all. Trades need to be in the future in all categories. A revamp of the offense is absolutely necessary at this point in time. It might not make a world of difference, but it could at least prepare them for next year.

And that about does it here for the midseason slant. I love doing these, and hopefully I'll get to do more if the lockouts end. (Pretty please, NFL?)
Every division has a tight race between two or three teams. Hopefully these stand and we'll get to see some really exciting games in September. As for the other guys struggling behind, it's going to be hard to even find a spot in the Wild Card chase since all of the races are so close.

For now, we have the second half to look forward to. Who is going to reign supreme at the end of the September? We'll find out, for the fight is now on...



(All information was researched on

Monday, July 11, 2011

Yao-za, He Could Be Gone!

Oh boy, it seems like just yesterday I wrote about how he was going to make a comeback despite injury and a whole bunch of other problems.
Now it's been announced that his career could be in complete jeopardy. Despite reports stating that Yao Ming has declared retirement, those allegations may be deemed false, and a press conference will be held on July 20th to announce what the true answer is.
Just the age of thirty, he may be hobbling off into the distance, bags in hand, hitchhiking to either the broadcast booth or The Land of Retirement: Where People Can't Stand the Pending Boredom [<--- Will be a future post]

If the expected does happen, here is my tribute to him.

The Legacy of a Chinese Rocket
This ran in his family.
His parents were basketball players. They were ridiculously tall (both well over six feet tall). You can basically tell where this is going...he was going to be one big baby. Heck, when he was ten, he was as tall as I am now (I'm about 5'5").
Not too long afterward, he began to play basketball. After hard training, some tough injuries, and pushes to win championships in China, he decided to enter the NBA Draft in 2002. I'll tell you one thing though--his friends had a lot of faith in him. A lot of Chinese officials gave him massive heat for entering an American Basketball Draft. Unless if he was picked first overall, he would not be allowed to play. "Team Yao" wouldn't have that, though. Lo and behold, he was chosen first overall by the Houston Rockets. Even though he wasn't the first Chinese man to play basketball in the United States, there was something different about him.

He broke many barriers.
Not many Chinese men can say that they have been successful in the NBA. Also, very few people thought he was going to be very successful in the NBA. However, he proved those people wrong. In fact, his quick success scared many competitors. To keep hopes up and the confidence fresh, many people played the "Asian stereotype" card to show that they were "ready" for Yao to come crashing through their home arenas. For example, Shaq's "ching-chang-chong-like" press conference and the promotion of fortune cookies in arenas were used. What was Yao Ming's response to this? Seeing the joke and then playing at his best. Even though he wasn't voted the NBA Rookie of the Year, he was still admired by many because of his skill and his talent.

He was a driving force.
Because of his chemistry with players like Tracy McGrady, he eventually became an eight-time All-Star and has led his team into the playoffs several times. Although he had not been there due to some injury, he had played a major role in many of the team's successes. He had also been a huge key on the Chinese National Team when it came to the Olympics and the FIBA Tournaments--where they have won gold medals in the FIBA Asian Championships. However, injuries began to plague his playing. His feet would not really "agree" with him. Although it is normal for a tall man like him to have injuries, they began to pile up until there was no room left for him to breathe. This past season, he was only able to play five games.

He is still a hero.
He is widely known in China as well as the United States because of his charitable work and his numerous advertising deals. He has gone so far as donating money to his home country after a natural disaster, and he has even bought his former Chinese team because of financial problems. Even if he does leave, he is still a might Chinese rocket and international ambassador to sports and charities alike.

However, despite the fact that he could be "retiring from the NBA," he's still technically one of the biggest (no pun intended) ambassadors when it comes to international basketball. I don't honestly think that this will be the end for him. Even though his feet are not agreeing with him, he's gonna have some frequent flyer miles after his official career is over.

Looks like we'll have to wait until July 20th to see what the true result is for our Chinese giant.

I think it may be almost time to say goodbye and go off into the distance...for now.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Double the Lockouts, Double the Not-So-Fun!

Okay, so I apparently missed a lot while I was gone. Thursday afternoon, negotiations between the NBA and the players union basically gave up early on doing an eleventh-hour CBA save. Now as I type this, two major sports leagues in the world are now under lockout, and people are thinking that it can't possibly get any more worse than this.

Today, we're going to be delving into each lockout issue, and how the other major leagues are showing awareness to the situation yet secretly partying about not having to go through it at a rough economical time such as this. We'll also talk about the other additional issues that could spring up from this, and trust me there's a lot of them.

Is this the first time this has happened to the NBA?

Nope. This is the third time it's happened--the most recent one happening in the 1998-99 season which shortened the season to 50 games from the usual 82 games. Of course, the two before it were work stoppages and labor disputes occurring in the early-mid 90's, but of course this form of work stoppage now is much more rough and destructive. Because there was such an abrupt stoppage in negotiations, critics are having a dark outlook on how this CBA is going to be made before the season starts.
(I bet they all wanted to watch the coverage of the Casey Anthony trial instead of coming to a consensus.)
With the harsh economy and the wants and needs of money among players, owners, and the sports centers/merchandise providers, nobody knows how to truly split it. I'm pretty sure they knew they weren't going to come up with something before the deadline. With that said, I think they're going to try to walk into their respective cubbyholes after the July 4th (or Canada Day) holiday and figure out how to reinvent the wheel in their league. How long is it going to take them? Hey, look at the NFL...they're still walking around in circles wearing dunce caps. According to a source that worships Skip Bayless, players are thinking that there won't be a season at all starting in the fall. There is a serious lack of faith among the players, isn't there? Considering there were the degree of labor disputes that existed about 15 years ago, if there's no even negotiations next week, this could get ugly reeeeeeal fast.

What's going on with the NFL?

I seriously don't know. I don't think the NFLPA and the owners even know what's going on. From what it sounds like, commissioner Goodell's proposal didn't go through with everyone. We're now into July, and the first preseason game is scheduled for August 8th. There is so much to do with so little time to do it. Although players are holding mini camps for themselves, a lot of team building, trades, and salary business has to happen before preseason starts. Things don't look very well for these guys. At this rate, it looks like preseason may either be bypassed, shortened, or utilized in full--resulting in a shorter NFL season. No joke, really looks like the short season is going to be happening now.
PS - Did anyone notice that people are still keeping count of the days since the beginning of the lockout just as intently as the days when the people were held hostage in Iran back in the 80's? It's well past 100 days now. Whoop.

So what's next for the other major leagues (i.e. NHL, MLB)? What about the "lesser" leagues?

Honestly, this is the best thing to happen to the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League. In the case of the NBA, the WNBA is going to be feeding off of this for the time being since they're the only functioning basketball league working in the country. Because these leagues are more-or-less "The Replacements" for the fools in lockout, ratings are more than likely going to rise. Also, lost revenue from this season will be going to them, and they will most likely have the freedom to expand. The early bird gets the worm, I suppose.
As far as the other major leagues go such as the NHL and MLB, now is their time to shine. There's no competition for either of them on Monday nights because the juggernaut known as Monday Night Football normally kills ratings and usually messes up postseason ratings in baseball. Week in and week out, the NHL may not have to worry about big NBA games coming up. It'll be like the NHL and MLB are in The Twilight Zone--they'll be saying:
Where's all of the competition?
One thing's for sure, televisions are going to be wondering what they're going to be doing if they premiere a show and then have to replace it with a revived season in basketball and football. What should they do? Sit on their hands? A lot of the TV deals are going to be messed up with this, and unless if there's a surefire backup plan in case if the lockouts don't end by the time their respective regular seasons start, we're going to be seeing a lot of awkward reality TV shows and more unnecessary coverage of the lockouts and the stupidity behind them.

Nowadays, this is what the business is all about.
It's brutal to think about it from the money aspect, but deep down, that's really what these hard negotiations are really for. It's the whole "what's in it for me" type of thing. No matter how you split it, I'm more than certain that people are going to be dissatisfied with what's going to be brought to the table.

You can say: "Well, I don't think the stadiums and sports arenas are given enough revenue--they need some of that profit for themselves," or "The owners and general managers make too much money--give the players better salary caps so labor disputes could be eliminated," and either way somebody's going to like it. No side will want the shorter end of the stick.
I wish I could have an open forum (a la Harold Camping without the end of the world stuff) and we could just point, laugh, and pull our hair out watching people argue and not be fair to each other. It could be fun. We could make tee shirts and stuff.

This is undoubtedly the craziest thing you will probably ever live through in the world of sports. With two major leagues down for the count, it seems like the world of sports and entertainment is really thrown for a loop, and you start thinking, "well, now what?" Even if you don't follow the NFL or the NBA, there is that little empty feeling without hearing something about a trade or whether there's a huge game coming up.
Dude, could you imagine no Super Bowl this year? Oh man, that would really be the apocalypse. Every person around the world that watches the NFL will be so stir-crazy that they will probably start eating people.
I couldn't even imagine what the Miami Heat will be thinking at this point. Let's not start blaming LeBron for being a walking championship curse or something. As the summer lurks on, expect a lot of arguments and doubts rising from sports critics and a lot of questions being ousted from the players not really knowing what they're in for.
Buckle up, boys and girls, we're in for the long haul.

For now, all you can really do right now is watch. If you believe in God or some other higher power, start praying if you really want football and basketball in it's entirety this year.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Best Landing Spot for Donovan McNabb

(Well hello everyone; first let me introduce myself. I am AnimaniacZero’s boyfriend, my name is Andrew. Anyway, getting back on track here, while she is away in Florida she left me in charge of the asylum. I would like to thank her and Sports Nut Blogs for allowing me to be a guest writer for this piece.)

Living in Philadelphia during the 90’s through the 2000’s it is has been ingrained into everyone’s head that Donovan McNabb is possibly the worst thing to ever step foot on a football field. Being an outsider in my own city (For the record I’m a Steelers Fan) I’ve never had this opinion. I thought it was a mistake to trade him within the NFC East, and if it wasn’t for problems with the coaching staff I think if he stayed there he would win a Super Bowl before the Eagles do.
(Insert whole city of Philadelphia stoning me)

With the last sentence of the last paragraph there’s a better chance of me QB’ing the Redskins before McNabb comes back. So when this stupid lockout (another post another day) is over and free agency starts the question becomes if anyone will take a chance on him? I believe there are a number of teams that should look at him, he still has at least 3 good years left in him and could make an impact. Now let the love connection begin!

(AZ's Side Note: You know what? I'm just going to put a link of a picture of Chuck Woolery here for added pleasure.)
1) Bachelor #1 - Minnesota Vikings: (Front Runner in many people’s opinion)

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Didn’t we just go through this washed up QB thing with the Vikings?” And to those people I would say yes, but hear me out on this: the Vikings just can’t seem to find “that piece” they need, because when you look at them they are a pretty darn good team. They have consistently one of the best defenses in the league, up and coming superstar wide receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. Oh and did I forget to mention they have ADRIAN FLIPPIN' PETERSON! (Boomer Sooner...)

Now this seems like a perfect situation. But there is a main thing keeping Donovan from getting his plane ticket and freezing his rear off in Minnesota. That main reason is Christian Ponder--don’t know who he is? Well that’s good cause neither do I! But he was the Vikings first round pick this year, and apparently Coach Frazier is putting “his stamp” on this guy. Now do I think Ponder is the future franchise QB of the Vikings… no..

2) Bachelor #2 - Oakland Raiders:

To any true football fans this idea should come as no shock. Is there any reason why McNabb would fit in Oakland, no not really. But Al Davis loves taking players that have been banished by the rest of the NFL and saying “I can still use them!.” Now these next few sentences are going to be hard for me to say as a Steelers fan (puts on forced smile). The Raiders have a young defense that finished last season up strong and their offense is “not horrible.” This would be more of a project however than Minnesota, and if he were to go to a “project team” it would have to be the right one..

Speaking of the right team...

3) Bachelor #3 - Miami Dolphins

Now I believe that Donovan and the Dolphins would be a good relationship for him to end his career on. Like the Raiders, their defense is young and gave the AFC a run for their money in just about every game they played. Now unlike the Raiders the Dolphins offense is not in the best shape since Dan Marino left! Ricky Williams more than likely won’t be coming back (insert any “substance” joke here) and Ronnie Brown is a shell of his former self. The only upside that Miami has over Oakland is that they have a big time receiver in Brandon Marshall and a decent second receiver in Devone Bess. But for all you doubters that McNabb can work with sub-par receivers how many of you think we would of ever heard of Todd Pinkston or James Thrash or L.J Smith without McNabb. Don’t worry I’ll wait. (Stares)


In closing I don’t believe that McNabb is a great quarterback but I always have believed that he got a bad rap here on Philly. The man took a sub-par offense to the NFC Championship 4 straight years and got the Eagles to the SuperBowl once. He can still play and if he wasn’t getting ousted by the Shanahans in Washington he would have been good there. To all you people that thing I’m crazy or say “I'm not a true Philadelphia Eagles fan.” I would like to reiterate the fact that I'm not...