|10-06-2005, 05:46 PM||#1|
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[Sports Central Newsletter] #129 - Damn Yankees
The Sports Central Newsletter
October 2005 - Issue #129
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|-- IN THIS ISSUE... --|
* Words From the Editor
* The O-Files: "Damn Yankees"
* Editor's Pick: "When Reality and Gameday Collide"
* Hot Topics From the SCMB
* Shots From the Lip: "The Best and Worst of Baseball 2005"
|-- WORDS FROM THE EDITOR --|
Baseball has finally meandered its way to October, where the hunt for the pennant intensifies and every game counts. With the postseason in sight, this month's issue is dedicated to reflecting on the season that was in 2005. In Brad's O-Files, he laments about those "damn Yankees" and their canny way to always make the postseason, no matter how bad they looked at one point, as well as the reasons America has such a love-hate relationship with them. Later on, Mike's "Shots From the Lip" hands out its 2005 MLB awards.
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Enjoy the incredible array of sports October brings, from the gridiron to baseball's pennant chase to the start of basketball and hockey. See you in November!
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|-- THE O-FILES --|
By Brad Oremland
This isn't fair. This spring, the New York Yankees were under .500. Jason Giambi was a wreck, Mariano Rivera was blowing saves, Randy Johnson looked awful in pinstripes, and there were rumors about Joe Torre's job stability. The Red Sox were defending champions, the Orioles were leading the American League East and looking like contenders, and even the Devil Rays seemed to have New York's number.
Rivera quickly got his mojo back, and George Steinbrenner managed to restrain himself from firing Torre. Then this summer, the Orioles fell apart, Giambi went on a tear, and the Yankees crept back to an even record. On the second day of July, they beat Detroit 8-4 to go one game over .500.
By the end of July, the Orioles had a losing record and were out of the playoff discussion. If the Yankees were still going to miss the playoffs, Boston had to win the AL East and a team from the Central or West had to win the wildcard, but the Yanks were only 2.5 games back in the East and 1.5 in the wildcard race.
This weekend, the Yankees clinched the AL East. The Red Sox, 16-13 over the last month, weren't able to put the division away. The Cleveland Indians, who looked invincible during an 18-4 run last month, faded with a miserable 1-4 stretch that left them likely to miss the playoffs. Now the worst of all scenarios seems likely: both New York and Boston are going to the playoffs.
The Yankees are the most hated professional sports team in North America. A nation of sports fans rejoiced this summer when it appeared that New York would miss the postseason. As recently as a week ago, the team's chances seemed slim. False hope may be even worse than no hope.
Hating the Yankees brings together sports fans all over the country, even those who aren't passionate about baseball. The team's recent and historical success certainly plays a part in that, but there's more to it. Not many people dislike the NFL's Patriots, who have won three of the last four Super Bowls. The Chicago Bulls were largely well-liked during the Michael Jordan era. Almost no one hates D.C. United or the UConn women's basketball team.
Why doesn't USC arouse as much negative passion as Notre Dame? What made Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys so much worse than Joe Montana's 49ers? How can there be so much dislike for recent Lakers teams, when the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s were relatively well-liked and had the respect even of their fierce rivals in Boston?
Many different factors play a role in the public's reaction to successful teams, but it's telling that the Yankees' biggest rival, the Red Sox, are also widely disliked. If the Yanks are the most hated team in baseball, the Sox are probably next in line. On a personal note, this season is especially frustrating for me, because I also hate the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles in California, or whatever it is they're calling themselves this year. My only hope is that the White Sox win the AL, and I don't like their chances.
It's been that kind of year for baseball fans, especially those who follow the American League, although the National League has been frustrating for many fans, too. The Braves won the NL East for the 14th consecutive time, and although Atlanta doesn't provoke the same resentment as Steinbrenner's team does, it's gotten monotonous for a lot of fans. The Cardinals dominated the Central for the second year in a row, clinching the division around the middle of May and taking all the suspense out of the last two-thirds of the season. The West champions are the San Diego Padres, who could still finish without a winning record. The wildcard will be either the Houston Astros, who feature Roger Clemens, one of the most hated people in baseball, or the underachieving Philadelphia Phillies.
Last season, Boston's comeback in the ALCS — the greatest comeback in sports history — inspired a legion of fans worn down by Yankee success and resigned to seeing the Yanks in the World Series. But this season has been payback and worse: it just doesn't seem fair. If the Yankees won their division this year, will they ever lose? It's enough to make a person watch soccer.
Brad welcomes your feedback: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=O-Files
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable.)
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|-- EDITOR'S PICK --|
There have been 14 new articles posted on Sports Central in the last week. Check them all out at: http://www.sports-central.org. The Editor's Pick is:
When Reality and Gameday Collide
By Matt Thomas
Ever wonder what happens when the reality of a category five hurricane meets the novelty of a Sunday during football season? SC's Matt Thomas chronicles a minute-by-minute summary of his family's return from evacuating Hurricane Rita.
|-- HOT TOPICS FROM THE SCMB --|
What's the buzz at the ultimate sports fan community?
[MLB] Palmeiro's excuse... Tejada?
[MLB] YANKEE PLAY-OFFS ......are NOW 9/13/05
[NBA] Turning up the Heat
[NFL] 52 Seconds of Fame
[NFL] Who Will Win the NFL Rushing Title?
[CFB] Alabama Swamps Florida Gators
[OTHER] Your most sacreligious sports opinion
[LOUNGE] Don't go to college...
[LOUNGE] Why can't we ban cell phones while driving?
|-- SHOTS FROM THE LIP --|
THE BEST AND WORST OF BASEBALL 2005
By Mike Round
With the final weekend upon us and, as yet, the destiny of the AL East undecided, your faithful correspondent is gripped by a fearful panic. Who'd have predicted back in April that Yankee fans would have been praying for Chien-Ming Wang to replicate recent performances by such luminaries as Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small? Post-BALCO, baseball has a whole new layer of unpredictability. Without further prevarication, here are the "Shots From the Lip" baseball awards for 2005.
AL CY YOUNG
Randy Johnson, back in the American League after stints in Houston and Arizona, was expected to dominate, but instead started to show his age. Giving up 30 homers and allowing opponents to hit a robust .245 isn't the usual Big Unit. If the award only considered post-All-Star Break performances, C.C. Sabathia would win hands-down. The pre-break winner would be Jon Garland. As it is, Johan Santana edges out Bartolo Colon, despite the latter's 20 wins. Santana hasn't been as dominant as last year, but has still posted a sub-3 ERA and struck out more than a batter an inning. His WHIP of 0.98 is way better than his rivals' and he'd have won more than 15 games with decent run support.
NL CY YOUNG
What more is there to say about Roger? If Tiger is merely Tiger and Kobe is just Kobe, then surely it's time to acknowledge the super-human Clemens by using just his first name? While Boomer Wells fades into obscurity doing his Norm Peterson meets Russell Crowe act, Roger just pitches his way into immortality. The body may be feeling the strain and the strikeouts might be down a touch from the heyday, but you'd never know it from an ERA of 1.89 and an OBA of .197. With Roger, Andy Pettitte, and Roy Oswalt in their rotation, the Astros are a mighty dangerous wildcard team.
Having deified Roger, the award goes to Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals. 21 wins, 7 complete games, and 4 shutouts for a guy who, not long ago, was languishing in Toronto's bullpen and labeled an injury risk. Honorable mentions go to Jake Peavy, Dontrelle Willis, and (through gritted teeth) Pedro Martinez.
A straight fight between Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. Both have big bat protection and guys getting on base in front of them. Both are pivotal players as their clubs try to make it to October. Both have 47 homers (as I write this) and a gaudy number of RBIs. A-Rod gets on base more and has a better average. He's also swiped 20 bases to (Very) Big Papi's 1 — who allowed that, I wonder incredulously? A-Rod plays the field — with distinction. Ortiz rides the pine. A-Rod wins.
Andruw Jones has carried the young Atlanta Braves on his back this year. 51 homers and 128 RBIs, some great defense, and a sunny clubhouse demeanor has inspired a monumental season from a team that — yet again — the experts had ail-but written off. Jones will look great in pinstripes in 2006.
With respect paid to Jones, Albert Pujols and Derrek Lee are the main protagonists for the award. Lee has saved the mediocre Cubs from being dismal and would be a worthy winner if it were not for the presence of Pujols. The numbers are virtually identical but, with Pujols lacking the support of Scott Rolen for the majority of the year, the Cards still walk away with the NL Central. Lee lifted Chicago above stinking, but that's of scant consolation to loyal Cub fans. Pujols by a whisker.
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Does anybody, with the possible exception of his wife, actually find Ozzie Guillen a likeable human being? The man brings to life the word narcissist. That said Guillen, aided manfully by GM Ken Williams, has done a great job in reconstructing a Sox team that seemed to have an inferiority complex with the Twins.
Some of Guillen's moves, particularly with his bullpen, are questionable, to say the least, and his abrasive style might finally wear thin with his veterans, but an AL Central crown gives him plenty of credibility with Southsiders.
Many were questioning how long Eric Wedge would last in Cleveland at the start of this season. Wedge has answered his critics with a gritty run at the play offs, anchoring a young team with a quiet dignity that seems to have helped his players mature. Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Victor Maitinez, Coco Crisp, and Travis Hafner are all short of 30 and promise plenty of offense at Jacobs Field for years to come. The rotation is hardly aging, either, but just needs a bit more consistency from C.C. Sabathia, Jake Westbrook, and Cliff Lee.
If the Tribe make the playoffs, it's Wedge. If not, it's Guillen — even though he's obnoxious.
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
This isn't even close. With due respect to his peers, Bobby Cox is head and shoulders manager of the year — again. Fourteen-straight division titles, ignoring 1994s washout, is unprecedented and Cox has achieved this with a roster decimated by injury, bullpen issues, and an apathetic fan base. Incredibly, 18 rookies have appeared for the Braves this year and every one of his rotation has been injured at some point, yet the Braves have won a division where every team is above .500, as of Friday morning. The bad news is the Braves have too many holes to beat either Houston or St Louis in the playoffs, but that doesn't stop this being Bobby Cox's best year yet.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Normally, I like to see everyday players favored in this award, but to ignore the season Huston Street has had would be criminal. Since Octavio Dotel hit the DL, Street has been lights-out for the A's in pressure situations.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
If Jeff Francoeur can cut-down on his whiffs, he can be an impact player for years to come. In addition to his big bat, Francoeur has a big arm, regularly cutting down runners at the plate or zapping a bullet to his cut-off man. Even though he only played half a season, he had a bigger impact than a thin full season crop of rookies.
GM OF THE YEAR
Is anybody still questioning Mark Shapiro in Cleveland? Shapiro gutted the roster with this year in mind, jettisoning the big payroll, big ego guys, and trusting the youth. Adding Kevin Millwood's stability in the rotation was a masterstroke. Shapiro's offseason project will be the bullpen.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Despite what he's coming back from, Jason Giambi has to win this, especially given that he was offered a minor league assignment following a disastrous start to the season. Batting occasionally, and then at either seventh or eighth, Giambi looked finished as a force in baseball. Now he's recovered his eye for a pitch, has slugged 32 homers, and is almost back to what he was five years ago. Question marks will always remain about him, but he's proved the doubters wrong — Woody Paige had him down for 25 homers in the preseason and he was way higher than anyone else.
BEST FREE AGENT SIGNING
Impact players from last offseason's crop are a bit thin on the ground, but how about this true difference maker that was a complete afterthought, but saved a $200 million a year ball club from disintegrating? Step forward Aaron Small, drafted in 1989 by Toronto in the 22nd round, and 34-years-old next month. For the bare minimum salary, Small has gone 10-0, thrown a complete game five-hit shut out in Oakland and — with Shawn Chacon — rescued the Yankees from October oblivion. Mike Mussina and company should hang their heads in shame, as well as chip in with the odd cash donation to the previously-anonymous pitcher. The only blemish on Small's record is a blown save in Tampa. How ironic it would be if that were to cost the Yankees the postseason, given the man's subsequent heroics. A-Rod may be the AL MVP, but Small is the Yankees' MVP, without question.
WORST FREE AGENT SIGNGING
This is a tough category, with so many big-money, high-profile players totally failing to justify either the money or the expectations. Randy Johnson was the Medium Unit, but not a total failure. J.(D.L.) Drew, Carl Pavano, and Jaret Wright wasted their seasons on the DL. Tony Womack was simply appalling, but Christian Guzman was worse. Both stole $4 million a year from their employers. Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson were anonymous in the Pacific Northwest. Eric Milton was to be the rock of the rotation in Cincinnati for $6 million a year. Instead, he has a shoe-sized ERA and every other ball he throws ends up in the car lot.
The winner, by sheer weight of expectation, is Carlos Beltran. The Mets — at huge expense — added Pedro Martinez and Beltran to propel them into the playoffs. Martinez held up his end, but Beltran barely broke into a sweat. 16 homers, 78 RBIs, and 17 steals don't justify the best part of $20 million a year. Beltran may be the five-tool behemoth we saw in last season's playoffs in time, but right now, he's a serious bust. Cliff Floyd was far better and the Mets spent most of the season shopping him around.
Mike welcomes your feedback: mailto:email@example.com?subject=SFTL
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable.)
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