Monthly Archives: July 2017

THE BOYS OF FALL ARE BACK!

We are heading into the last couple of days of July.  Heat waves are embracing much of the nation, beaches are crowded and baseball’s annual flea market is coming to a climax. This can only mean one other thing….FOOTBALL CAMPS HAVE OPENED!

Yes, the NFL is back in business, folks!  Thirty-two American college campuses are the focal point as the pigskin began to fly through the air this week.

When last we saw the National Football League, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were putting the finishing touches on the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.  Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past six months, let’s revisit the events of Super Bowl 51.

The Atlanta Falcons stunned the football world with three second quarter touchdowns and took a 28-3 lead over Belichick’s boys in the third quarter.  It looked like the celebration was about to erupt on Peachtree Street, but the Patriots had other plans.

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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy following a comeback victory in last year’s Super Bowl.

 

Tom Brady’s offense would erase the deficit with four touchdowns in the final quarter and a half to tie the game at 28.  This lead to the first overtime period in the history of the Super Bowl.  James White’s two yard run on the only possession of the extra period capped the comeback.

Okay, so much for last year.  Since that thrilling night in Houston, a few things happened along the way.

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Artist’s rendering of the new home of the Rams and Chargers in Inglewood, California.  It is slated to open in 2020.

 

Actually, the off-season news began in January, when San Diego Chargers chairman Dean Spanos announced that the franchise will relocate to Los Angeles beginning this season. The Chargers will join the Los Angeles Rams at a new stadium in Inglewood, California beginning in 2020.  The Chargers temporary home will be the 30,000 seat Stub Hub Center in Carson.  The Chargers will lay claim to the smallest venue in the league.

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Artist’s rendering of the Raider’s new stadium in Las Vegas.  The Raiders will leave Oakland in 2020.

 

In March, the Oakland Raiders announced that they will be moving out of the area in 2020.  The franchise’s new home will be in Las Vegas.  A new stadium is under construction off of the Las Vegas strip to house the Silver and Black.

As the Raiders finish up business in the Bay Area, they will sport a new face of their franchise.  Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement during the off-season.  Lynch was traded by the Seattle Seahawks to the Raiders and will resume his career in Oakland and eventually in Las Vegas.

Lynch wasn’t the only star running back to change addresses this off-season.  Adrian Peterson signed with the New Orleans Saints where he will share a backfield with Mark Ingram.  As fate would have it, the Saints open the season in Minneapolis in the opener of the Monday Night doubleheader.

So, grab a beer, get the chips ready, and put the wings in the deep fryer football fans.  The Cowboys and Cardinals get things underway this Thursday night in Canton.  This year the Hall of Fame Game will kick off the induction weekend and the pre-season!

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THE GRANDDADDY OF FIRE SALES

The great baseball flea market is off and running.  It’s that time of year, folks,  the non-waiver trade deadline is approaching.  The deadline for non waiver trades in Major League Baseball is July 31 at 4:00 Eastern Time.

Since the abolishing of the reserve clause in 1975, this deadline has gone from a last-ditch opportunity for contenders to put a finishing touch on their roster to an out-and-out flea market.  It’s not even about trading away a player who is in the last year of his contract before he leaves anymore.  It’s become a time when teams that are out of the race are just shedding big contracts with no regard to their paying fans.

Although the practice of shedding contracts has become a way of life in recent years, the idea began right after the birth of free agency.

The Oakland Athletics were baseball’s most dominant franchise in the early ’70’s.  The A’s were American League Western Division champs from 1971-1975.  During that time, they won consecutive World Championships in 1972, 1973, and 1974.

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Former Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley tried to give away much of his team that won three consecutive World Championships.

Finley had control over the likes of Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Dave Duncan, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers prior to the reserve clause’s demise.  Catfish Hunter became a free agent following the 1974 season, and signed on with the New York Yankees.  It was after this signing, that Finley decided to put business before winning.  Before the beginning of the 1976 season, Reggie Jackson and Ken Holtzman were dealt to the Baltimore Orioles.  1976 was the final year of Jackson’s contract.  Jackon would join Hunter in the Bronx the following year.  The Athletics did get Don Baylor and Mike Torrez in return.  Nowadays that trade would be even more lopsided.

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Jim “Catfish” Hunter left the Oakland Athletics for the New York Yankees following the 1974 season, sparking an infamous attempt at a fire sale.

That was just the beginning. Prior to the 1976 trade deadline, Finley contacted the Boston Red Sox about acquiring Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers, Baylor,  Vida Blue, and Gene Tennace for 1 million dollars apiece.  Sal Bando was offered to Boston for a measly half million. The Bosox agreed to pay the one million dollar price tags for Rudi and Fingers.  Vida Blue was sold to the Yankees for $1.5 million. Blue was also offered to the Detroit Tigers.

Three days later, commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided both deals, citing that in “wasn’t in the best interest of baseball.”

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Commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided Charlie Finley’s attempt at an all out fire sale at the 1976 trade deadline.

 

Finley’s actions were driven by getting back as much of his investment as possible before all of the players mentioned in this article either walked, or demanded to be paid their new market value.

Today, you have owners that blatently shed payroll this time of year.  The murmuring around my neck of the woods is an annual occurrence.  The Marlins dealt their top reliever, David Phelps to Seattle this week in exchange for prospects.  That set off an uneasy feeling of “here it comes” around South Florida.  Will the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcel Ozuna, and Christian Yelich still be here on Monday night?  According to the Marlins front office, they are committed to keeping the All-Star caliber outfield intact. That being said, 3rd baseman Martin Prado will almost surely have a new address.

So I ask you Commissioner Manfred, what happened to the “best interests of baseball” that Kuhn cited.  Why are franchises like the Marlins, Padres, and this year both teams in the San Francisco Bay area being allowed to shed payroll and rid themselves of contracts that they signed?  What about the good of the team next year and beyond?  What about the spirit of parity?  Are the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, and Dodgers going the way of the Cavaliers, Rockets, and Warriors in basketball?

Baseball has thirty franchises, all thirty fan bases deserve to have stability .

 

IT WAS AN EPIC WEEK IN MIAMI

It was a very exciting and at times interesting week here in South Florida.  Hometown heroes Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour electrified the faithful at Marlins Park Monday night, despite first round exits in the Home Run Derby.  The transplanted Yankee fans, of which there are a-plenty here in the sixth boro, saw their heroes Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge defeat the star Fish in epic fashion.  Oh, and by the way there was the 510 foot moon shot by Judge that will be talked about for years.  The rookie slugger put on a show of shows to win the event.

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Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge wins the 2017 Home Run Derby.

Tuesday night’s All-Star Game also ended with a pinstripes connection.  Former Yankee Robinson Cano capped off an extra inning 2-1 victory with a game winning homer in the top of the tenth inning.  The Seattle Mariners star also walked away with the game’s MVP award.

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Seattle’s Robinson Cano slams the game winning home run in the top of the 10th inning in a 2-1 American League victory.

 

With Tuesday’s victory, the American League has now won five straight All-Star affairs. Here’s a fun fact, the Junior Circuit’s recent dominance has been on enemy turf.  Four of the last five games have been hosted by the National League.  The Minnesota Twins have been the lone American League host since 2013.

The National League gets to don their home uniforms next year too as the game heads for the Nation’s Capital.  The last time an All-Star Game was in the shadow of the White House was 1969 as an American League venue.  It was held at RFK Stadium, home of the Washington Senators.  The American League will be the home team once again in 2019 when the game will be in Cleveland.

 

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Mariners’ Nelson Cruz poses with home plate umpire Joe West during Tuesday’s All-Star Game.  Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is the photographer.

 

Amid the Aaron Judge moon shots and the Robinson Cano game winner, the All-Star experience is all about having fun.  Cano’s Mariners teammate Nelson Cruz did just that. Cruz entered the game as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning and had an odd request.  He asked home plate umpire Joe West for time out so he can take a picture with the arbiter. West agreed and so did National League catcher Yadier Molina.  The St. Louis Cardinals backstop turned photographer snapped the photo.

During Monday’s Home Run Derby, Marlins’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton was helpful to his teammate Justin Bour.  While Bour was locked in an epic first round battle with eventual champ Aaron Judge, Stanton helped him out during his time-out.  Sensing that Bour needed strength and energy, Giancarlo greeted him with a glazed donut!

The All-Star Game is all about having fun!

I dedicate this week’s blog to my son, Justin Karpel.  When Major League Baseball awarded the Marlins with the 2017 All-Star Game we discussed going to the Home Run Derby.  It was supposed to be a once in a lifetime father and son night at the ballpark.  As many of you know, Justin took his life this past February.

As I sat alone in my living room Monday night I couldn’t stop thinking about what could have been, and what should have been.  On a night that I was supposed to be in Miami with my son, I was home in my suburban Ft. Lauderdale living room watching alone. Rest in peace my son. It never gets easy.

REFLECTIONS ON A SPECIAL TIME IN THE BASEBALL SEASON

Now that the Independence Day weekend is behind us, Major League Baseball moves on to another July tradition.  At the close of today’s schedule the big leagues begins its annual midweek pause known as the All-Star Break.

The elite of Major League Baseball will take its talents to South Beach this year. Miami’s hometown hero Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby crown tomorrow night at Marlins Park.  Miami first baseman Justin Bour will join Stanton at this years derby, while left fielder Marcel Ozuna will start for the National League on Tuesday.

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Giancarlo Stanton at last year’s Home Run Derby in San Diego.

In preparing to write this morning’s blog there were so many memories that ran through my mind surrounding the All-Star Game.  Pete Rose practically ended Indians’ catcher Ray Fosse’s career when he barreled into him during a play at home plate in 1970. Reggie Jackson hit a light tower on the roof of Tiger Stadium in Detroit the following year.  What Mets fan can forget Dwight Gooden striking out the side in Houston in 1984?  Jacob deGrom would repeat the feat in 2015.

In 2001 we saw Cal Ripken, jr. bow out in style when his last at-bat ended with a home run at Seattle’s Safeco Field.  In 2014 we saw Derek Jeter finish his legendary all-star career going 2 for 2 with a run scored at Target Field in Minneapolis.  Both exited to huge ovations.

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Cal Ripken, jr. crosses the plate after hitting a home run in his final All-Star at bat.

Of all of the memories in all of the years that I have witnessed the Major League Baseball All-Star game, the one that stands out the most has to be the 2013 edition.

The baseball elite descended on Citi Field in Flushing, Queens that year.  The game itself was pretty uneventful, with the American League winning 3-0.  What stands out in my mind is a scenario that unfolded following the American League’s half of the eighth inning.  It involved a rival from the Bronx  and a Brooklyn born singer that became an icon in Boston, following a terrorist attack that brought everyone together.

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Yankees closer Mariano Rivera salutes the crowd at Citi Field (home of the rival Mets) in his final All-Star Game appearance.

 

The 2013 All-Star Game was held three months and two days following the terrorist bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  The other twenty-nine clubs in Major League Baseball had picked up on the Fenway Park tradition of playing Niel Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” in between innings.  This was part of the Boston Strong moniker that supported the city following the tragic events of April 15, 2013.

In the middle of the eighth inning at the All-Star Game, the New York boy turned Boston icon took the field at the home of the Mets.  His rendition of “Sweet Caroline” gave me goosebumps, but that was only part one of this unbelievable moment in All-Star Game history.

After Diamond exited the field to a standing ovation, Mariano Rivera’s theme song “Enter Sandman” by Metallica blared over the Citi Field sound system.  What was unique about this is the fact that this was a tradition born at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.  It was the music that ushered in the Yankees closer.  Rivera announced ealier in the season, that 2013 would be his final year. That announcement made this, on the strangest of stages, his final All-Star Game appearance.  The crowd at the house of the hated rival greeted Rivera with a huge ovation.  Rivera took the mound with nobody else on the field.  All-Stars from both dugouts joined in the ovation.

This year the attention focuses on what many call New York City’s “Sixth Boro.”  What memories await us over the next few days in Miami?

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL AT JULY 4TH

July 4th weekend is upon us!  This holiday conjures up thoughts of barbecues, fireworks, and of course, baseball.  There is an old adage that the teams that are in the lead at this juncture of the season will go on to finish at the top.  Let’s look at where the standings are as of this morning.

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The Houston Astros own the best record in the Majors.  The Los Angeles Dodgers are tops in the National League.

The last time that I did one of these progress reports the Houston Astros were head and shoulders above the rest.  Since then Houston has slowed down a bit, while the Los Angeles Dodgers have sped up.  The Astros are comfortably in front in the American League West.  They have a 13.5 game lead over the second place Angels.  Back around Memorial Day the Dodgers were in a three team dog fight in the National League West with Arizona and Colorado.    As of this morning, the boys from Hollywood own a 3.5 game lead over Arizona.  The Rockies huge start has faded a bit, they trail Los Angeles by seven games as of this morning. By the way, the now second place Diamondbacks own the second best mark in the Senior Circuit.

Speaking of recent fades, the boys from the Bronx come to mind.  After a blazing start, the New York Yankees have slowed up of late.  They have lost their hold on the American League East, and currently sit in second place, two games behind the Boston Red Sox.

This season started with a host of ball-clubs getting off to a running start.  Along with the Yankees and Rockies, the Minnesota Twins have also slowed down.  After a blazing start, Minnesota is now two behind the division leading Cleveland Indians.  The Tribe was heavily favored to win the American League Central prior to the start of the season.

Two of the surprises have not slowed down.  To this writer, this year’s biggest surprises have to be the aforementioned Arizona Diamondbacks and the Milwaukee Brewers.

 

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The Milwaukee Brewers currently lead the National League Central.

After all of the miracles and curse breaking that went on at Wrigley Field in 2016, something has happened on the way to a divisional repeat.  A scant 90 miles up the coast of Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee Brewers are making some magic of their own.  The surprising Brew Crew currently lead the Cubbies by three games and the St. Louis Cardinals by three and a half.

There are quite a few questions that surround the National League East.  Although the Washington Nationals have had a comfortable lead from the start, the Atlanta Braves seem to be a surprise.  They are currently in second place, seven and a half games behind the Nats.  So here are the questions. Can the boys from the Nation’s Capitol wrap things up by Labor Day?  Will the Braves keep up?  Will the Mets turn things around and possibly challenge the Nationals?  Will Jeffrey Loria clean house in Miami after the rest of the league leaves town following next week’s All-Star Game?

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Yankees Aaron Judge and Dodgers Cody Bellinger.

There are two rookies that are tearing up the baseball world as we head into the July 4th holiday.  Cory Bellinger of the Dodgers became the fastest rookie to hit 21 homers a couple of weeks ago.  Bellinger currently has hit 24 dingers.  Not to be outdone, Aaron Judge of the Yankees has belted 27 home runs.  We may be in for the biggest home run duel since Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa!

Will the July 4th adage come true this year?  Will the Brewers keep it up?  Will Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich continue to reside on South Beach?  Only time will tell.