Abstract DiRT

because, why not…

Being a sports fan and a credentialed sports writer presents, at times, serious business.  I am a warrior and it’s time to rumble.  Strange things have occurred the last few days – many of them weird, radical things.  Turbulent 180-degree swings between polar-opposites of Joy and Fear, Wild passions and violent rages, sudden love and sudden hate…I have known them all, and sometimes I fear I may have come to like them too much.  I am an addictive personality, they say, a natural slave to passion – and many doctors have warned me against it: saying, “I am a high-risk patient”.

Yet, not all of those doctors are still alive today.  Two committed suicide, and two others had their medical licenses lifted for abusing hospital drugs.  Another misguided his own wife’s Cancer case and was forced to retire from Medicine.  After that, he went into Psychiatry and destroyed the mental health of a whole family by convincing all of them, one at a time, that they were fatally Dysfunctional and probably Insane.  Their only hope, he said, was to have each other committed to long-term, fearfully Harsh and impossibly Expensive private Insane Asylums….The children got the most painful sentences.  One spent two years in the lock-down ward of clinic somewhere in Kansas; another was put in a straight-jacket and turned over to the notoriously cruel Trenton State Hospital in New Jersey, where “Isolation Therapy” is mandatory for nine months.

Quacks are a part of our culture, and we all fall prey to them – that is why Jimmy Dolan and Isiah Thomas exist.  Maybe we think differently about the hiring of a serial sexual harrasser as the President of a Women’s Basketball team, if he had been successful – but Isiah Thomas was a failure with the Knicks, and Jimmy Dolan still flounders among the pimps and C.H.U.D.’s – hence the outrage.   Dolan could use the same care and instruction of the above-mentioned family himself, if he believes this was a good idea.  Or maybe it proves that some of the wealthy, are no different than any of the other mouth-breathers we encounter.  Jimmy’s nepotism for Isiah has reached a critical mass – and clearly this is a ruse to solicit basketball advice from Thomas without undermining Phil Jackson or incurring the wrath of Knicks fans, if he was rehired.  But like our physicians in the story, who among us can say for sure they are honest and competent? Don’t bet on it.


Calgary Seemingly Screwed By No-Goal Call, Ties Game Late Anyway

With Cal-Gary down 2-3 with 6 mintues left in the 3rd against the Ducks, the Flames got a goal by Sam Bennett that looked to cross the line before being kicked out by goalie Frederik Andersen.  Only to have the call on the ice as “no goal” and a subsequent review confirmed it.

Several questions, 1) how do we not have more angles to look at this and not just in hockey, but all sports?  These leagues make enough money to put cameras anywhere to eliminate these question marks.  It is why we have Replay, to get it right – 2) The question should be asked differently than, is it conclusive.  Instead of, “is this a goal?”, reverse the decision and solve it backwards – if this was a goal can you prove or disprove it.  Does anyone believe this is not a goal?  This isn’t the MIB swamp gas theory, nor is it, this dress is really blue – this is a goal.

Of course it becomes inconsequential, because then Johnny Gaudreau scored a real goal to send it to OT – where Cal-Gary won it on a long-distance wrister from Mikael Backlund, giving the Ducks their first loss of the ‘offs.  The point is still, replay needs to do better job of getting it right and the leagues need to take it more seriously.


Mike Conley overcomes mask, overshadows MVP Steph Curry as Memphis Grizzlies are in itOn a night when the NBA MVP was presented to the home crowd – there was another MVP who showed up instead.  Mike Conley showed his value last night for the Grizzlies when he appeared as the masked-assassin, helping Memphis beat Golden State at home, 97-90, stealing home court advantage.

Conley seemed to set the tone of “No Fear” when he scored nine of Memphis’ first 14 points – going 8-of-12 from the floor (3-of-6 from three) dished 3 assists and gave the Warriors the first defeat of the playoffs and are now 44-1 when holding opponents under 100.  The Splash Bros., were 3-16 from the arc and it makes you contemplate if the Chuck-ster was correct in his assessment of G-State not being able to win it all because they are a jump-shooting team.

Memphis is the “Power I” and Golden State is the “Spread”, and with Conley back, maybe the Grizzlies have more than just hope – they might have shot.  This series just got interesting and the pressure is on Golden State to answer the punch in the mouth they just took.


willie mays.jpg

“If somebody came up and hit .450, stole 100 bases and performed a miracle in the field every day I’d still look you in the eye and say Willie was better. He could do the five things you have to do to be a superstar: hit, hit with power, run, throw, and field. And he had that other magic ingredient that turns a superstar into a super superstar. He lit up the room. He was a joy to be around,” said Hall of Famer Leo Durocher of Willie Mays.

Happy 84th birthday to the Say Hey Kid, one of, if not the greatest baseball player of all time.

Career statistics
Batting average .302
Hits 3,283
Home runs 660
Runs batted in 1,903
Stolen bases 338

 

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