Thursday, April 30, 2009

All the Rage

I. Hate. Steroids. Can't stand 'em. But let me clarify - when I say "steroids," I'm referring to the idea of steroids. The drugs themselves can actually be helpful when they are taken in the proper context and prescribed amount. The idea of steroids, however, has become so entangled and crushingly synonymous with America's pastime (not to be confused with America's sport, football) that it has squeezed almost all of the positive sentiment out of the concept of baseball. I hate them because they take the focus off the game. I hate them because they ignited a witch hunt the likes of which no one has seen since the Red Scare. I hate them because they got the government involved in something they have no business being involved in, considering the economic crisis at hand, recent rocky presidencies and, oh yeah, all those soldiers we have abroad. (For the record, if you ask a government official about the BCS, the NCAA tournament field, or any other controversial sports issue, the only acceptable response they should be allowed to give you is a blank stare. Thank you, Jon Stewart, for putting it in perspective.) I hate them because no one is safe from judgment now. I was reading Rick Reilly the other day and came across an email in which one reader actually had a solution that sounded plausible, which, as Reilly half-joked, is entirely too simple. No way Bud Selig would take a fan's suggestion and make it policy, even if it's simple and brilliant. I hate them because they destroyed so many role models for Little Leaguers that parents and coaches are now reluctant to point to any ballplayer and say "See? That's how it's done." It's downright awful. Don't get me wrong: I absolutely think that users should be punished, and repeat users should be punished repeatedly. I don't like playing on an unlevel field any more than the next guy, but just having the idea in the public eye erases any shred of credibility that a young player might have, even if the drugs were accidental or happened early on in his career or in the minors. These days, Pujols is all we have left. And if he gets skewered, we're really screwed.

But I digress. The latest word on the street: A-Rod's now being suspected of continuing his sterioid use while in New York. (Can you blame him? It's a slightly more pressurized situation.) However, what I found more interesting was this morning's poll that drew attention to the fact that he was accused of intentionallly tipping pitches to opponents when the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt or when the batter needed to get his stats up. Readers vote 63%-37% that 'roids were a worse offense, but I'm intrigued by the pitch tipping allegations. First off, if his team knew, how did they feel about it? Yeah, it keeps the fan's attention maybe, but you risk losing the game. And it hurts your own pitcher's stats, which affects salary, which affects literally everything. Who does this, really? Is there a batters/pitchers divide that fans aren't aware of? If you're the catcher, exactly how do you deal with that conflict of interest? Having played in high school, I know we would steal signs on occasion (or try to), but giving them away? Nuts. I understand the value of keeping fans in the seats, but I'd be offended if I wasn't watching an honest game. After all, how do you combat that? I'm just bewildered, frankly.

And 1
Stumbled across an sneak peek at Madden NFL 10. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Heroes, Woes and Throwin 'Bows

The Capitals finally got it right. After switching goalies and taking a solid week to warm up to playoff hockey, Washington posted a tight 2-1 home victory last night at the Verizon Center, courtesy of a Sergei Federov "pull-up" top corner wrister with five and change to play. And to think, I used to hate that guy when he was a Red Wing. Varlamov had a super game (again!) and the Caps owned the night until being upstaged a little later by the Hurricanes' final minute comeback to top the Devils in Jersey. Nonetheless, a great series, if a little close for comfort. Brashear's absence was not a factor. Can't wait to take it to Sid the Kid on Saturday.

Orioles lost again today to negate a good 6 IP by Uehara (4 hits, 1 ER) before giving up 2 jacks in the 7th and leaving the game after being hit with a line drive. (He'll be fine. He has to be fine. We can't afford for him to be anything else.) I know it's a day game after a night game, but seriously, 1 run? We can do better. When you're 1-3 hitters are hitting over .350 and the next closest is .272, you know you need more balance. Especially with this rotation.

And 1
The buzz surrounding two egregioius fouls committed in last night's NBA games is off the charts. In case you didn't know, Dwight Howard
's already been suspended for the mean right elbow he threw Sam Dalembert in the opening quarter. (Howard was not ejected and went on to be the difference maker in the gme, which the Magic won.) Rajon Rondo committed a foul in similar bad taste on Brad Miller to prevent Miller's game tying lay-up. To distinguish, Rondo's foul was in the final seconds of the game, but if you foul someone who's about a foot taller and 60 lbs heavier, you must have gone all out to do it. And he did. Miller came up spitting blood. Howard's foul was definitely worse, being totally unprovoked and not relevant to the situaton (the game gets loose during the last few ticks), but Rondo doesn't get off the hook for being the lesser of two evils. The NBA has stated the foul will stand as it was called, although I think he deserves at least a flagrant 1 or 2 - he practically slapped the guy! C'mon, now. Wanna know who said what to whom? Here's a transcript of all the dialogue immediately post-assault:

Brad "Cameron Frye" Miller: Why'd you hit me?
Rajon "Ferris Bueller" Rondo: Where's your brain?
Miller: Why'd you hit me?
Rondo: Where's your brain?
Miller: Why'd you hit me?
Rondo: Where's your brain?
Miller: I asked you first!
Rondo: Did you really just attempt to take it to the hole underhanded? With the game on the line? LEBRON doesn't take it underhanded EVER! What was I supposed to do?
Miller: I spared you from having to defend another ludicrous Ben Gordon floater, and you flipped out.
Rondo: I lightly slapped you.
Miller: You hit me. Look, just don't guard Gordon if you don't want me to participate in your stupid crap. You made me look bad in front of John Paxson - that man could squash my nuts into oblivion! A-a-a-and then, then, because of you, I miss the free throw. Wonderful.

(Ok, you got me. I just needed an excuse to squeeze the phrase "squash my nuts into oblivion" into my post. I gotta watch that again soon - too many good lines.)

Pulled an all-nighter last night to finish that Humanities paper and I am just WIPED. Gotta make it to Friday and I might be alright. Spanish presentation in the morning and then an insane amount of stuff to do this weekend. Might try to make it out to Memphis in May (Memphis' annual music festival) for one night, but probably not. My finals are all blitzing me in the same 48 hour window next Monday through Wednesday and then I'm free. Sort of. Don't get home til the 18th and no O's games til the week after that. You watch, though - my goal is to make at least 4 games in the 28 days I have before I'm off to my summer job. We'll see. Hang tight.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Big One

To be clear, I don't like NASCAR. I don't get the whole fascination with spending an afternoon watching cars make left turns at high speeds (in NASCAR's defense, it's a lot more interesting than drag racing). I can appreciate some of the nuances, like watching people pass one another in a certain stretch through adept maneuvering and use of drafting; nonetheless, I find the biggest attraction of that kind of racing (as opposed to road-course or off-road racing) to be the anticipation/occurrence of a violent, large-scale accident involving multiple cars (dubbed by racing fans as "The Big One"). The latest "Big One" occurred on Sunday at Talladega, a track notorious for its brutal collisions. In a post-race interview, Carl Edwards (who's car collided with the retaining wall while airborne) bashed the use of the restrictor plates by NASCAR as a method of capping the top speed of the cars as a safety measure, later implying that it would take someone's death for NASCAR to revisit changing the use of restrictor plates.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here a little bit, so if you disagree/know more than I do, please speak up. My question is, how has the use of restrictor plates gone on this long without being more closely examined? I was only 11 when Dale Earnhardt Sr. died at Daytona in 2001, but to me at the time, he was NASCAR, along with Jeff Gordon, and looking back on it, I can't see why they didn't do away with the plates right then. Bobby Allison disagrees with Edwards, citing the fact that "the risk [inherent to driving with restrictor plates] is part of the attraction" and that drivers are very aware of the danger, but I think Allison's ability to voice that opinion has a lot to do with the fact that he survived his own crash at Talladega in 1987 without any major injuries. I don't know a great deal about the mechanics of a car, but knowing how much a car's performance can be enhanced by tweaking parts of it makes me wonder whether restrictor plates are a good idea. Theoretically, these are experienced racers who know how to handle fast cars: if they know that, they probably are aware of their own limitations, and racing without plates would be to their advantage because they can control what they do according to their experience. The use of plates, while decreasing speed, increases the level of danger by bunching the drivers together in packs; furthermore, racing in a pack punishes the smallest of mistakes with the possibility of spinning out and hitting other cars on the way.

If there are no restrictor plates, there's a better chance that that a car will not be as close to the pack when he screws up and therefore will only bring damage on himself if it happens. If you choose to go fast at one of the faster tracks (Talladega or Daytona), that's your choice and you make it while understanding the risk you take. NASCAR should not force everyone to be subjected to unnecessary peril - if they're smart, the drivers can "police themselves" by not making dumb decisions that could cost them their lives or someone else's.

Allison likened the risk associated with restrictor plates to being hit in the head and killed by a wayward shot at a hockey rink or a foul ball at a baseball stadium. He's half right: NASCAR, like baseball or hockey, could be considered a "sport" or "game" (although that too is debatable) because it involves some amount of skill. He's dead wrong about the other half (emphasis on dead): you have a slightly higher chance of being killed by a 3,000 lb. piece of twisted metal traveling at breakneck speed than a 9 oz. leather sphere, wouldn't ya say?

And 1
Donald Brashear's vicious hit on Blair Betts in the first period of Sunday's game was awesome, but maybe not worth the price. He's been suspended for five games for that hit and a sixth for a different incident, meaning he won't be available for the all-important Game 7 of the quarterfinals on Tuesday night in DC. So much for sending a message.

Jacoby The Jet

Ok, I realize I'm supposed to be hard at work at the moment, but this is ridiculous (probably my favorite adjective). Updating my update from earlier this evening, the Red Sox beat the Yankees 4-1 to sweep the series. Let me set the stage for the best play of the game:

Bottom 5
2 outs
Bases loaded
Andy Pettitte pitching to JD Drew with a 1-0 count
Sox lead 2-1

And then Jacoby Ellsbury channels Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez

Reasons this play is RIDICULOUS:
1) You're in a tight game against your archrivals, in a situation where you have a chance to go up by 3, 4 or even 5 with one swing. (Don't forget, Drew is ahead in the count, probably expecting a decent pitch to hit, and has no idea Ellsbury is planning on stealing). You pull a move like that, you risk costing your team a lot of insurance runs and possibly getting your pitcher mad at you for being selfish and wanting to make a highlight-reel play.

2) You're running on a veteran pitcher/catcher battery AND the batter is left-handed. You have got to be incredibly lucky to pull that off without either party recognizing what's going on, especially Posada, who has an unobstructed view of the third base line. How they didn't pick up on that, I have no idea.

3) If you watch the slow-mo replay, Ellsbury practically falls down on his way to the plate, tripping just inside the batter's circle. If you're gonna attempt something like that, you better make sure you don't make a fool of yourself on national television, and he came perilously close.

All that said, my respect for Ellsbury just tripled. The man has serious cajones. Props, dude. As they say in Beantown, "That's wickid hahd."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

U(ehara), Me, and Dupree

Not a bad weekend for Baltimore area sports. However, I think my work as draft scout may be finished.

My prediction that they would take a WR with their first round pick (which, admittedly, has been a bust for them in years past), the Ravens' front office surprised just about everybody by drafting standout Ole Miss left tackle Michael Oher, presumably as Jared Gaither's partner in crime and Jonathan Ogden's long-awaited heir apparent. What surprised me most was that Oher was one of the Ravens' 15 highest rated prospects; additionally, it appeared that Brandon Pettigrew (TE, Oklahoma State) had been our first priority before he was drafted by the Lions. Far be it from to me to question Ozzie, though - the man is dynamite in the war room.

A quick follow-up: The youngest O-line in the NFL last season just got younger, and better. The second round saw the Purple and Black add Utah DE Paul Kruger to the roster, giving us yet another versalite defender for the 3-4. CB Lardarius Webb (Southern Miss/Nicholls State) will add depth and compete for time on kick returns, as well as contributing on special teams. Linebacker Jason Phillips (TCU) will play a supporting role, and TE Davon Drew (East Carolina) provides us with another pass-catching tight end. RB Cedric Peerman (UVA) will back up McGahee/Rice and has the chance to help on special teams.

As for my picks, the Texans took Brian Cushing at fifteen, Clay Matthews went 26th to Green Bay, and Maualuga slipped all the way into the 2nd round, taken by the Bengals with the sixth pick (38th overall). Hakeem Nicks went 29th to the Giants and Darrius Heyward-Bey went seventh to the Oakland Raiders, ahead of better prospects like Michael Crabtree (who went tenth to San Francisco) and Jeremy Maclin (nineteenth, Philadelphia). ESPN showed a telling graphic of seven of Al Davis' most recently drafted players, all of whom had one thing in common: a sub 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash. Speed kills, but it's not everything. I feel terrible for Heyward-Bey - with Crabtree also in the Bay Area, he'll be relentlessly scrutinized in comparison and will be forever labeled as a bust if he doesn't perform. I hope for his sake that he plays out of his mind or gets traded faster than General Motors' stock; if he doesn't, Davis' unreasonable standards and fan expectations will ruin him.

Having blown successfully blown the 4-1 lead I mentioned they held on Friday night (and wasted a good outing by Uehara), the
O's continued their losing streak Saturday, nearly salvaging an ugly start by Mark Hendrickson (4.1 IP, 8 H, 5 ER w/ 4 HR) before losing, 6-5. We finally righted the ship today, erasing a 5-1 deficit with homers from Brian Roberts and Adam Jones to secure an 8-5 victory.

AL East

Toronto 14-6 (just won their sixth series of the season today)
Boston 11-6, 1.5 games back (playing tonight vs. Yankees)
New York 9-8, 3.5 GB (playing tonight vs. Red Sox)
ORIOLES 9-10, 4.5 GB (a -23 run differential? Ouch!)
Tampa Bay 7-12, 6.5 GB (2 wins at home thus far)

Biggest news from College Park: reserve center Braxton Dupree is transferring. Not surprising, considering his lack of playing time this season, but a little disappointing. Dupree played at Calvert Hall, not far from my high school, and I like to see kids from our league do well. My buddy Ed played with him @ CHC and once took a charge that gave him a concussion (Ed now plays with a helmet-like covering, a la Petr Cech), and he thinks Braxton will catch on somewhere, possibly at Loyola (MD), which has been a popular destination for ex-Terps in recent years. Oh, and Greivis Vazquez declared for the draft. No surprise there - he's not hiring an agent, and I think we'll see him back for next season.

And 1
Lastly, the Caps dropped 5 on the Rangers this afternoon at MSG, sending the series back to DC for Game 7. Having not watched a whole lot of hockey in recent years, I may be behind in this praise, but I'd like to commend NBC Sports on their telecast - although I've come to prefer Gary Thorne (given his Orioles stint), "Doc" and "Enzo" do a pretty good job, and Pierre McGuire's sideline reporting is the most insightful and least entrapment-like of any sport I've watched in the last few months. Kudos.

Back to work. Due to the fact that Memphis (where my school is) had a weekend of gorgeous weather, I've managed to get through... about 5% of all the stuff I had planned this weekend. Still to go: a Humanities paper, revising some Fiction Writing story attempts, finishing a Spanish project, and oodles of Philosophy exercises. Estimated bedtime: 4:30AM (Central).

Have a wonderful Monday.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Post 1

Orioles 4, Rangers 2, top 7 - we'll see if that holds. Starter Koji Uehara's still in the game, hanging in there pretty well w/ 6 Ks. Just gave up a HR to Hank Blalock though. O's started 6-2 on the year but have since fallen to 8-8. Once again, our pitching's gonna be the dealbreaker this year - behind Jeremy Guthrie, we don't have a quality starter. Cross your fingers. We'll pick up some more run support once they call up Matt Wieters from Triple-A Norfolk, but we've gotta hang in there til then.

Yanks beatin the BoSox 2-1, bottom 5
Toronto's already hung 4 on the ChiSox, bottom 3
Tampa Bay plays later @ Oakland

Everybody's fired up about the draft tomorrow (4PM Eastern, ESPN). Ravens have pick #26 in the first round and 2 more in the top hundred (57 & 88), as well as one each in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. Experts are saying our needs are at wideout, linebacker, defensive end and DB, but Ozzie Newsome's a believer in taking the best guy on the board, so I wouldn't be surprised if we took none of those positions (we have a bad history w/ wideouts anyway - see Travis Taylor, Practice All-Star). If I had my druthers, I'd go w/ WR Hakeem Nicks of UNC. He's not a burner, but he does have great hands and does the little things well. I love guys that pass the eye test, and he definitely does. If not him, I like Darrius Heyward-Bey of Maryland or any of the USC linebackers (Cushing, Maualuga, Matthews) that might still be on the board. Heyward-Bey ran the best 40 yd dash at the combine - the knock on him is, if he's not going deep, he's not nearly as effective. I watched him firsthand a few years ago when my school played his (shout out to the MIAA, St. Paul's and McDonough) and it would be cool to have a kid from the Baltimore area; however, Eric DeCosta demands that the guys he picks have intense passion for the game, and Heyward-Bey originally started playing football just as a way to stay in shape for track. Make of that what you will, but I like Nicks.

P.S. If you think we'll trade for Anquan Boldin, keep your shorts on. DeCosta's whole scheme involves having as many draft picks as possible, and there's no way we'd give Arizona a first and third rounder, even if Boldin is a Pro-Bowl caliber player. Apparently, the Cardinals have just lowered their demands to a second rounder, so it may be a workable deal. More on that as it develops.

P.P.S. I'm not sold on Matt Stafford. The Lions have got to get it right with the first pick, and I think Jason Smith is the safer bet. I hope for their sake that three years from now Stafford hasn't joined the Joey Harrington club.

Not much since both basketball teams lost in the NCAA tournament. Gary Williams has 2 recruits lined up for next season (both in the Top 150 for 2009), so that'll definitely help our rebounding presence (the kids are 6'7" and 6'10"). Lance Stephenson, ranked #11, still has yet to decide, but Maryland's in the running, and that would take a huge weight off Greivis Vazquez if we could get another scoring guard on the roster.

And 1 (more)...
That a baby, Caps! Washington's up 4-0 on the Rangers w/ 5 to go in the third period. We hang on & we can get the series back to 3-2. Ovechkin's scored in his second straight game. Keep truckin', buddy.

Got a ton of work tomorrow - last classes are on Wednesday w/ exams starting next week, so I'll do my best to post when I can, but no guarantees. Keep it real.

What's Up

My name is Tyler, and I have a love/hate relationship with writing. I'm just finishing my first year of college and I figured that the sooner I start at least attempting to write on a regular basis, the better I'll be by the time I graduate. I'm also a sports fan, so pro and college sporting events will occupy a lot of my posts. I'll do my best to keep up, but occasionally writing will get pushed aside in favor of living. Other than that, I hope for a steady stream of...whatever. It'll be what it'll be.