Tag Archives: @si

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO PROFESSIONAL SPORTS?

On Friday night, during Game 5 of the opening round Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals there was a scary moment.  Late in the first period a hard submarine check by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri left Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin motionless on the ice for a brief moment.  Ovechkin would be helped off the ice and would return to the game at the start of the second period.

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Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin being helped off the ice following a hit by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri.

 

Kadri was given a two-minute minor penalty for what was deemed “tripping” as a result of the play.  As the call was made, I thought to myself, what was illegal about it? Ovechkin had recent possession  of the puck, and Kadri hit him low and hard.  It was textbook, hard nosed hockey in my old school mind.  It was unfortunate, and scary, that one of hockey’s brightest stars laid motionless on the Verizon Center ice as a result, but it is part of a very physical sport.  The panel of experts on NBCSN tended to agree with me during their intermission show following the first period.  Everyone in the hockey world was relieved and happy to see Ovechkin return to the ice and continue to play.  He’s fine and ready to go in tonight’s Game 6.

This incident made me think of where sports has gone in general.  I grew up in an era where hockey and football were hard-hitting, bone jarring sports.  I grew up in an era where starting pitchers in baseball finished what they started, the bullpen only got involved if the starter was having trouble, or was lifted for a pinch-hitter.  The one on one play at home plate between runner and catcher was also part of the game.  I also come from an era where professional basketball players weren’t rested because of the “grueling” 82 game schedule.

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The new baseball in between innings clock.

 

Baseball was always the game that surpassed time.  When did a day at the ballpark where you can have a hot dog, sip on a beverage, and pass the time with your friends and family turn into a race against time?  Last year MLB in its infinite wisdom, rolled out the “in between innings timer.”  I cringe every time I see this ridiculous clock pop out of the scoreboard.

To continue to speed up the pace of a ballgame they added a new rule this year, the automatic walk!  Automatic walk??? For over a hundred years, four balls equaled a walk, intentional or not.  Anything from a wild pitch or the batter actually making contact with the purposely thrown ball can still happen.  Many of us who were around in the early 1970’s can even remember the Oakland A’s faking an intentional walk during the 1972 World Series.  The fakeout resulted in a strikeout of Reds star Johnny Bench.

If you want to speed things up in baseball, tone down the pitching changes!  Starting pitchers are on such strict pitch counts these days that they are being pulled regardless of how they are performing.  Meanwhile Tommy John surgeries have skyrocketed.  For generations baseball was played without counting pitches.  For generations from Walter Johnson to Nolan Ryan starting pitchers were on the mound until either they were in trouble or were removed because the team was behind and pinch hit for him in order to generate some offense.

Most of us hard-core football fans have seen the sport decline too.  Over the years the quarterback has been a little over protected.  Last I checked, wasn’t it the offensive line’s job to protect the quarterback?  The modification of the intentional grounding rule has also softened things in this writer’s opinion.  Why does it matter if a quarterback is in the pocket or not if he throws the ball to nobody to avoid a sack?

Finally let’s look at basketball.  Multiple times this year the Cleveland Cavaliers rested Lebron James and fellow stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.  Excuse my ignorance, but when did an 82 game NBA season become so grueling that players needed to be rested?  In baseball I can understand resting players, whether or not they are stars.  You are playing day in and day out, sometimes twice a day.  Your team plays at 1:00 after ending a game at 11:00 the night before.  In basketball you play an occasional back to back in successive nights.  I have never seen this before.  I seriously don’t get it.

Maybe I’m too old school.

 

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WEDNESDAY NIGHT BASEBALL-ON THURSDAY!

I would like to begin tonight’s blog with an explanation of why Wednesday Night Baseball is being published on Thursday this week.

At 4:57 Eastern Time yesterday afternoon my daughter gave birth to a 7 pound 8 ounce baby girl!  I am pleased, and thrilled, to announce the arrival of Madeline Grace Beauchamp into this world!  She is the first-born to my daughter and son and law.  She is also our first grandchild!  Mom, dad, grandparents, great grandparents and baby are all doing fine!

Now on to some baseball.

I want to start out by discussing the suspension of Pittsburgh Pirates star Starling Marte.   The Buccos star outfielder was given an 80 game suspension for testing positive for PED use.  The Pirates were planning on holding a Marte jersey giveaway on July 2nd, but have canceled it due to the suspension.  The jerseys were supposed to be given to kids.

Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is the latest player to be suspended for half the year over PED use.

 

First off, when will players learn that they will eventually be caught?  Look at the long line of stars that have been  caught over the years.  We all know that Barry Bonds, despite hitting more home runs than any other player in MLB history has been essentially black-balled from the Hall of Fame because of his steroid use.  Same is true for Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire.  It remains to be seen what will happen when Alex Rodriguez is eligible in 2021.  Is it really worth losing half a season and have that black mark on your career?

Secondly, if you are a Pirates fan, and you have a son that idolizes Marte, how do you break the news to him?  How do you tell your son, who might be playing Little League ball that your star idol was caught cheating?  We went through this here in South Florida with Dee Gordon’s 80 game suspension last year.  I honestly don’t know the answer, but it puts the game in such a bad light.

Besides the Marte suspension, the story of the week has to be the New York Yankees.  After beginning the season on a road trip that took them to Tampa Bay and Baltimore the Bombers were 2-4.  The Yankees won the finale in Baltimore, and opened up for business in the Bronx on Monday afternoon.  The Yankees won their first six home games by sweeping three game series’ against the Rays and the Cardinals.  They also won the opener of a weekend series with the White Sox on Friday, before losing on Saturday.  With the road win in Baltimore, the Yanks won eight straight, seven of them at home and finished the homestand 9-1.

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The New York Yankees go 9-1 on their opening homestand.

 

Following the dramatic turnaround, the boys from the Bronx  are in second place in the American League East.  They trail the first place Orioles by 25 percentage points.

Here’s hoping for an eventful upcoming week in the Majors.  Barring any more births, this proud Grandpa will see you Wednesday!

 

WEDNESDAY NIGHT BASEBALL-GREAT TIMES AT WRIGLEY FIELD

All but one of Major League Baseball’s thirty clubs have now staged their home openers. Sun Trust Park in suburban Atlanta awaits to be christened on Friday night.  Julio Teheran will open the Braves new home against the visiting Padres.

Out of the twenty-nine season premiers that have been staged so far there was one that was over a century in the making.  Before Monday night’s home opener at Wrigley Field, the Cubs held a ceremony for the first time in 108 years!  They raised the World Series Championship flag and paraded the World Series Trophy!

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Chicago Cubs take turns raising the 2016 World Series Flag at Wrigley Field Monday night.

 

So how do you put the finishing touches on a championship 108 years in the making? Well, the Cubs literally did it themselves!  Members of the squad went into the bleachers and took turns raising the championship banner up the flagpole.  Let it be known for all time that the curse is over, the drought has ended.  The 2016 World Series Championship banner now hangs amid the iconic scoreboard and team flags.  The W’s and L’s for years to come will hang in the shadow of the biggest Cubs flag of them all.

Oh and by the way, the Cubs hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night.  Yes, the same Dodgers that were on the wrong end of history last October, when the Cubs headed back to the Series for the first time since 1945.

How did things end on this magical night on the Near North Side of Chicago?  It ended with a walk-off single, courtesy of Anthony Rizzo!  It ended with a 3-2 Cubs win!  It ended with the “W” flag hanging next to what is now its big brother!

The Cubs will receive their championship rings tonight.

Besides the heroics at the Friendly Confines, there were other highlights during the first week and a half of the 2017 season.  New York Mets left-fielder Yoenis Cespedes launched three home runs last night in Philadelphia.  The Mets tallied 20 total hits in a 14-4 route of the Phillies.

The Phillies had an explosion of their own on Saturday night against Washington.  Philadelphia erupted for twelve runs in the bottom of the first inning on their way to a 17-3 victory.

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This week’s defensive gem belongs to Miami’s center-fielder Christian Yelich.

 

On Saturday night at Citi Field in New York, Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich robbed Cespedes of what would’ve been either a home run or a double.  This is my defensive gem of the week.  Miami defeated the home standing Mets 8-1.

That’s it for this week.  I’ll be back next Wednesday for more!

IT’S BASEBALL SEASON! PART II

Since I last left you, all thirty Major League teams have opened their season.  Yes, the rite of every April has come to pass for half the league.  Over the next week and a half those who began play on the road will celebrate their home openers.  Then we will have the grand old game every day until October, and then most nights until early November.

Sunday was the American League’s preview, tonight it’s the Senior Circuit’s turn.

Pitching is going to be the theme in the National League East.  The Washington Nationals boast arguably two of the best individual arms in the game with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.  The Mets might have the best starting rotation in Majors.  Noah Syndergaard leads the rotation, followed by fellow long-haired stud Jacob deGrom.  Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler follow behind the long blonde tandem.  The big question mark in Flushing is the elbow injury to Steven Matz.  For now, Robert Gsellman will take Matz’s spot in the rotation.

The Mets biggest off-season moves are the players they kept.  Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker were both re-signed.  As for the Nats, Adam Eaton was the big addition, Wilson Ramos, the most notable loss.

In Miami the biggest and most stinging loss has to be Jose Fernandez.  Not only the devastating loss of a player, but the loss of an energetic leader and the face of the franchise.  The big question in Little Havana is will this team, and franchise for that matter, rebound after the tragedy at the end of last year?

The Marlins decided to fill the void left by Fernandez’ death by building a communal pitching staff.  Edinson Volquez, who was acquired as a free agent was the Opening Day starter.

The sleeper in this division could very well be the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Phils are stocked with a lot of young talent that might not know they’re supposed to lose.  The only attraction in Atlanta this year will be its new billion dollar ballpark.

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After 108 long years the ultimate “W” flag will fly over Wrigley Field!

In the Central Division, the big question is can the Cubs, fresh off their first championship in 108 years, repeat as champs?  Two main pieces of the championship puzzle have gone elsewhere.  Closer Aldoris Chapman decided to return to the Bronx, and centerfielder (and leadoff man) Dexter Fowler went to the dark side in St. Louis.  Former Royal Wade Davis joins the pitching staff, and former rival John Jay looks to replace Fowler in center.

The Cardinals’ pickup of Dexter Fowler and the loss of Matt Holliday were their two most significant changes.  There weren’t any major moves in Pittsburgh or Milwaukee. In Cincinnati, The Reds continue to be in full-out rebuilding mode.

Out west last year the Dodgers and Giants battled into the final days of the season.  The Dodgers really didn’t make any major moves.  The Giants added closer Mark Melancon, and parted ways with Angel Pagan.

The rest of the division, is just that.  The rest.  It’s going to be a two-horse race in the National League West.  The Padres, Rockies, and Diamondbacks are all in rebuilding mode.

So now it’s prediction time!

Eastern Division:

New York Mets

Washington

Miami

Philadelphia

Atlanta

 

Central Division:

Chicago Cubs

St. Louis

Pittsburgh

Milwaukee

Cincinnati

 

Western Division:

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Francisco

San Diego

Colorado

Arizona

 

Wild Cards will go to Washington and San Francisco.

National League Champions:  Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series Champions:  Cleveland Indians!

Yes, folks I’m putting it on the line.  Another drought will end!

See you next Wednesday for a wrap up of the opening week of Major League Baseball!