Diamonds in the DiRT

It was April 2nd, 1996 and a peppy kid dreamed to be exactly where he was now – except no one really dreams of being in Cleveland.  The city by the lake isn’t the kind of place where dreams come true in sports – hell, nothing good in Cleveland has occurred in the form of championship recognition since the 50’s with Jim Brown and Otto Graham winning titles.  Sure Cleveland’s had its moments. The Indians were good for a stretch in the 90’s, the Browns in the 80’s – they had and lost LeBron, only to get him back – but still the bridesmaid, never the bride and their hopes were always creatively ripped out of their chest only to be shown their still beating heart – Kali-Mah!

But on this Opening Day in 1996, new beginnings and hope belonged to the visiting team.  It was a sunny, brisk 38 degrees, with the wind blowing out to centerfield at a cheery draft.  Jacob’s Field, the epicenter of tribe fans wearing red, white and blue – a bunch of wahoos.  Long sufferring baseball fans in Cleveland had witnessed the eclipse of the dark-ages of baseball in their city, no longer made fun of by Hollywood and each season was a year long celebration that few players/fans ever experienced.  The Tribe was loaded and fresh off a 100-win season and their first World Series appearance since 1954 – they would win 99 games in 1996 and again have the best record in baseball.  Do you remember Kenny Lofton, Julio Franco, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, age less Eddie Murray, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Sandy Alomar, Omar Visquel – this was Cleveland’s Steel Curtain of baseball – the crowd was like a pack of crazed jackals and into town come the Yankees to start the season and another frenzied march to glory, to finally capture a title – all the Yankees brought with them was a new manager and a new shortstop.  “It’s our year!” – Cleveland fans shouted.

Game 1 of the season is rarely a hitchhiker’s guide to the future, but on this day – the God’s of baseball anointed a team, a manager and a shortstop for the next decade.  The Yankees would go on to win their first division title since 1981 and their first World Series since 1978.  Joe Torre would win the first of his 1,173 victories as manager of the Yankees – establishing during his 12 year tenure, 12 straight post-season appearances, winning 10 AL East crowns, 6 AL Pennants and 4 World Series Championships.

For the 22 year old shortstop, thrown to the wolves in Cleveland, all he did was become the first rookie shortstop to start the season for the Yankees, since 1962 – record his first-ever hit off El Presidente-Dennis Martinez, for a home run – building a resume for dramatic moments the rest of his career.  Career-In Memoriam, we do not get to watch Derek Jeter play shortstop for the Yankees anymore and it’s amazing to think back to that brisk April day in Cleveland where the legend began.

 

With Opening Day approaching, a time where we move past the winter of last year’s struggles to blossom once again on what might be.  A time to share a hot dog and a beer with someone special, a time to return to your youth, looking forward to it like a birthday party.  Baseball is seductive to anyone with an enduring interest, knowing exactly how it should be played, secretly believing they could do it – if only the good lord saw fit to make them less inept.  At least Fantasy Baseball let’s you prove your GM skills.  So you weren’t successful today, like baseball, there’s always tomorrow’s lineup.  In honor of the approaching National Holiday here are some alternate position examinations:

Yogi

Catcher

Matt Wieters – had Tommy John surgery so his issue becomes how many at-bats can he get to, but if he can reach at least 400 of them, he should bounce back.

The Beast, Double X

First Base

Aside from Goldschmidt and Miggy there are several other 1st basemen to consider.  Like Adam Lind for the Brewers who gets a shot to start full time and should hit in the 5 hole were he could hit 20+HR’s.  Someone who was productive last year that should see a regression this year is Chris Carter.

Jackie

Second Base

Chase Utley – the Phillies could be terrible but Chase will bat 3rd and will have a chance to provide a surprising rebound – not sure what kind of dead-cat rebound it’ll be, but it could be considerable, for stretches at a time.

Cal Ripken Jr

Shortstop

Stay away from Xander Bogaerts and Jean Segura as both are slotted to bat 8th.  For Xander, batting 8th in what might be the best offense is bad news – batting 8th is never a positive for your lineup.  For Segura and Bogaerts potential on the field does not equate fantasy value consistent enough.

Brooks Robinson

Third Base

Kris Bryant – whenever he gets called up, he has the potential to be a dominate player and another in a growing list of young talent in the game.  But the questions remain, relating to his strikeout rate – almost 30% last year in Triple A.  What does that mean for daily leagues?  It means that you should watch his Batting-Average-Balls-In-Play, because if that doesn’t negate the strikeout rate then he will be a consistent hit-or-miss play.  Either way he will be fun to watch.

Clemente, Mays and Aaron

Outfield

Christian Yellich – is getting a lot of press and is part of one the best outfields in the NL – however consider how often he hits fly-balls – less than 20% of the time.  If you believe he gets 600 plate appearances this year, only 120 of those will generate fly-balls – then multiply that by his Home-run/Fly-ball rate which was 15% last year (3.5% higher than his average) – that is 18 HR’s and he is batting second and likely will not steal as often in front Mike (Giancarlo) Stanton.

Michael Cuddyer – has only recorded 500+ plate appearances once in the last 3 years and now that he is with the Mets and still batting 5th, there is not much to suggest that he has much value left in the tank – or the health to sustain solid numbers.

Corey Dickerson – has the batting average talent, but struggles against lefties and until you see that change you have to pay attention to that matchup.  However if he gets 600 plate appearances he could be a top 5 outfielder with a healthy Tulo and CarGo.

Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and Warren Spahn

Pitchers

You have to look at how many innings they pitched last year.  Example being Bumgarner pitched 270+ innings in 2014 and so expect him to have rest and lightened workloads to save him – plus the Giants only win in even years.  Too many innings is the result we see from all those pitchers breaking down – it has the Tigers worried for Verlander and Wainwright is 700 innings removed from Tommy John Surgery.  Think of it like this – pitchers usually are in the 25-30% risk for injury category and Wainwright is more like 40%.  So look for those new young guys that have the promise for consistency like Jake Arrieta, Jacob DeGrom and Carlos Rondon.

 

As they said in Bull Durham: “it’s an easy game, you catch the ball, you hit the ball, you throw the ball…and sometimes it rains

Monday Dreg

Is this Kentucky? – andersiano.deviantart.com

Ball 1:

The Karmic-Wheel of Justice has two games remaining to rip out the hearts of big blue’s die-hard fans.  We told you how to beat Kentucky and Notre Dame gave it a shot, but something happened when Jerian Grant decided to not pass the ball on ND’s last 3 possessions.  Does it make a difference?  Who knows, but there is a case to be made for that kind of hero-ball costing a team a chance at victory.  Of course, maybe it’s just the (bad) luck of the Irish this year.  That’s twice, in two sports, the Fightin’ Irish have taken the number 1 team in the land to the wire, only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Now, we have the Final Four set and to be played in Indianapolis.  It will be interesting to see what kind of controversy is made or mentioned with Indiana’s new law.

For Kentucky to lose to Wisconsin, LSU gave you the formula:  Athletic big men who can rebound and start fast break points.  Wisconsin is averaging 80+ points per game and Wisconsin has to continue to make buckets from downtown.  Kaminsky gets the press, but Dekker has been the guy in the tournament and he has to continue to light it up.

When it comes to ‘Tucky, everyone has a plan until your punched in the mouth.  In this rematch it is size versus experience because both teams have talent.

What is it about Izzo‘s teams that seem to peak in the tournament.  If you saw them before the tournament, against quality opponents you would never believe they’d be in this position, and yet…

So how does Sparty beat Duke – they have to keep drinking whatever kool-aid they have been and hope the “magic” lasts.  Michigan State is the least talented team left, but might be the team that play together best.

For Duke they have to focus on Mich.St’s guards and shut them down.  Duke plays the most uptempo of anyone left and needs Winslow to keep doing what he’s doing, averaging: 14pts, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, plus 1 block and 1 steal a game.

It’s been a long time, it seems that we have three really talented teams in the Final Four that all would be worthy champions – Saturday we shall see.


Ball 2:

Leave it to the sycophantic media, angry they don’t get enough of the jock-strap tea to slurp.  Dennis Dodd, member of the media, takes to twitter to flame Rodgers because…He has seats better than he does at the game?  Is allowed on the court?  Dating Olivia Munn?  Has hair?  Probably all of it and he brought up most of it in his twitter rant, only when Rodgers declined to be interviewed – as it was about Wisconsin making their second trip to the Final Four, in as many years, to play Kentucky again.  As you will see below – Dennis Dodd acted like a petulent child.  Aaron Rodgers does not need any more help in justifying his place on the court or in the stands, he did just fine by himself.  But why the outcry?  Where was it last year when he was in the stands, in the locker-room?  So what if he never went to Wisconsin (he went to Cal), he has worked in the state for over a decade.  Does that not earn him the right to support the local school they same way they support him?  As for Dodd, the irony is thick, coming from an entitled reporter who gets press passes to any event he wants – complaining on how Rodgers gets special treatment.  Dodd, He’s a NFL-MVP Quarterback and is dating an actress – welcome to ‘Murica!  Besides, how does Dodd justify himself being there – he’s a football writer and never went to Wisconsin either.

Rodgers took notice of Dodd’s manbaby tantrum and responded:


Ball 3:

We have 6 days until the season starts and in honor of that, here is what some high heat looks like.  So go out there, win your beer-league and get a good pitch to hit.  Opening Day around here is treated as a National Holiday – all you have to do is say the words and the room airs out, the light pours in.  No other day represents endless possibilities like Opening Day.  No scores yet, no losses, no blame or disappointment and no hangovers, until at least the game is over.  It’s a signal that the world is waking up from it’s cold slumber, to give way to longer, warmer days, worries as light as the clothes we wear and even the best part of the worst day is knowing it’s all going to be ok.


Ball 4 – take your base:

Only because Sportscenter had to talk about Wrestlemania XXXI last night.  Not sure how that fits within the sporting narative of the world-wide leader when the they just as easily could have opened with the season finale of The Walking Dead – It’s the same thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I have friends, actual grown-ups who watch and follow – and I myself have dallied in the male soap-opera.  But ESPN deserves a C’mon man.  It is not a sport.  A Sport is defined by me as something that is athletic and requires some sort of defense, or prevention of your opponent from scoring.  Chess is game that has defense but no athleticism.  Golf has neither.  Cycling is the worst, it has athleticism but no defense and is nothing more than what any 5yr old can do – except for enduring more pain than the other guy – and they can’t do that very well with all the blood-doping+drug use.  Wrestling it’s fun, it is athletic, however knowing the ending is predetermined, eliminates it – None of this takes away the joy you can find in any non-sport-endeavor.

There seemed to be a lot of surprises dropped this year providing salvation to a crazy week leading up to it – or so I hear – Rousey shows up with the Rock, etc – it appears to have been a blockbuster – I never knew that a guy could lose in another match – bring a briefcase to “buy-in” and steal the heavyweight title from the two guys who wearing killing each other to win.  Looks like I’ve got to watch RAW tonight to find out the DiRT.

  • Full WWE WrestleMania 31 results and winners…
    Seth Rollins defeated Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns in a Triple Threat Match to win the  WWE World Heavyweight Title
    John Cena defeated Rusev to win the WWE United States Title
    Daniel Bryan defeated Dolph Ziggler, R-Truth, Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper, Stardust, and Bad News Barrett in a Ladder Match to win the WWE Intercontinental Title
    Triple H defeated Sting
    AJ Lee and Paige defeated The Bella Twins
    Randy Orton defeated Seth Rollins
    The Undertaker defeated Bray Wyatt
    The Big Show won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
    Cesaro and Tyson Kidd  defeated The Usos, Los Matadores, and Big E and Kofi Kingston in a Fatal 4 Way to retain the WWE Tag Team Titles