Monday, May 25, 2009

Has Baseball Started Yet?

May 25th, 2009
Miami Beach, FL

NOTE: Before reading realize I had no time to proof and rewrite. I apologize to you and the English Language.

I've always said that baseball doesn't matter until July, so basically up until that point I only pay casual attention to it. This year, however, Mr. Black had a little more cause than usual to watch.

The Yankees opened the New Yankee Stadium™ successfully destroying nearly 100 years of tradition and pricing all but the most wealthy fans out of their seats. After realizing that having 10 empty rows behind home plate looks bad on TV, they quickly cut prices in the most expensive seats by 50%, meaning it was only $425,000 for a season seat behind home place.

Also, Alex Rodriguez was the latest player to get busted for steroids. Knowing that he is only slightly more sane than a 16-year old on prom night, it was fully expected that he’d quickly fold like a house of cards this year, saddling the Yankees with another multi-gazillion dollar contract.

Finally, it was time to watch all the fun in Los Angeles, as Mr. Black’s least-favorite team would get a whole year’s worth of Manny Ramirez…which would truly test Joe Torre’s innate ability to ignore the massive ego that is the modern baseball star.

Well, the early season hasn’t disappointed. The New Yankee Stadium™ is a complete disaster. A-Roid came out swinging the hottest bat in the league. Manny tested positive and as a bonus David Ortiz is cold as ice, Barry Zito is so cold that after three years he’s become Encino Man and the Yankees are suddenly in second place, only a game out of first. What a great two months. Let’s take a closer look.

The New Yankee Stadium™
Besides being the most expensive ticket in pro sports on a game-to-game basis, the “house that greed built” also is averaging more homer runs per game than Coors Field did in it’s first year.

Stop and read that line again.

Yes, Coors Field gave up an average of 3.7 home runs per game in it’s first year. That was with a starting rotation of Kevin Ritz (the staff ace), Billy Swift (the ever-present high-priced free agent that promptly had a 101.32 ERA), Armando Reynoso (The Silent Assassin, the only guy that understood you had to pitch down in Coors Field), Bryan Rekar (no idea who that was and I lived there at the time) and Starvin’ Marvin Freeman. None of these pitchers had an ERA below 4.20.

With the Yankee’s starting pitching, there is an average of 3.9 home runs per game in the new stadium. Luckily for the Yankees, the field is much smaller than Coors Field, or the solo and two-run homers would be three and four run home runs.

I guess the Yankees figure chicks dig the long ball, and are looking to increase their female fan base. God knows Melky and Robbie are working on it.

Alex Rodriguez
Well, well, well. Mark down the day, because Mr. Black was wrong. Thinking the pressure would be too much, I figured A-Rod would fold and have a terrible year. Instead he’s hitting home runs like every at bat is in Coors Field….oh wait, most of them have been in Coors Field East.

Well, at least he’s been hitting in the clutch. And Mark “Don’t Mess With” Texiera is batting about .868 with A-Roid in the lineup. So now the Yankees have some offense and I hate to say it, but there’s a huge difference with Alex in the lineup.

Manny Ramirez
Oh Manny, you so crazy…using steroids and pissing off the entire LA roster (but not the city since no one watches sports there). This gives me great pleasure, although a small part of me is sad to see one of the scariest power hitters legacies tarnished. Back in the day (before MLB had any testing policies) there was no one scarier to have come up to bat. Unless it was Gary Sheffield, who was also juicing, or…..

David Ortiz
Who’s fall from grace has been fast and furious, not unlike Mark McGuire. Now, I’m going out on a limb here, but doesn’t he look a lot smaller now, and he’s bothered by nagging injuries even though he mainly DHs. Lots of parallels to, well, everyone who juiced. Just sayin’.

And one more thing to watch:

Barry Zito
I had one of those, “Hey, whatever happened to Barry Zito?” moments yesterday morning when I was grabbing breakfast. Well, lo and behold, just as I was thinking that SportsCenter had some lowlights of him getting shelled.

Like Manny and Papi, he was once one of the most feared at his position. His curveball was absolutely sick, dropping from 12-6 and making everyone look foolish. Then, he signs with the Giants in 2006 and proceeds to become Carl Pavano, but without all the injuries (but all the sucktitude).

I’m kind of torn on this, since I really used to like Barry Zito since he seemed like a nice fella and was fun to hang around. So, I’m hoping he turns it around. Especially since the Giants need to make up some ground on the Dodgers.

And a bonus thing to watch:

The Texas Rangers
Wow. 2½ games up in the AL West. Nuts.

But it’s only May.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Millon Dollar Arm and a Five Cent Head

May 21st, 2009
Miami Beach, FL

I mean to post this about the Denver Nuggets yesterday, but things were a little hectic for Mr. Black down in the tropics.

Read the headline above, because 'Melo, Chauncey and the rest of the fellas outplayed the Lakers for 40 minutes in Game One, just to fall apart and hand the Lake Show the game. Personally, I hate the Lakers, Kobe, The Stapler, Pau Gasol (for ruining my fantasy basketball team for three straight years) and Phil Jackson. So nothing worse than that loss could have happened to me Tuesday night.

Still, the Nuggets have no one to blame but themselves because they flat-out choked. Turnovers on inbounds passes, missed free throws by EVERYONE and in playing tight cost them Game One. This points to huge issues in this series...the Nuggets have to finish the series by the sixth game, since they are a little too immature at this point to hang in a big Game Seven.

Mark my words on this one, last night's game may just cost them the series unless they win Games 2, 3, and 4.

Gotta run, a flamingo is giving me the evil eye at the coffee shop.

Happy Birthday!

May 21st, 2009
Miami Beach, FL

Mr. Black would like to wish a happy birthday to Eddie Royal. He's hard at work in the gym today, which is why he was such a pleasant surprise last year, stepping in for Brandon "the slow learner" Marshall. With Eddie in the lineup, the Broncos offense never missed a beat, Eddie piled up huge numbers in the first three games and overall he was a really bright spot in what was an overall sub-par season.

So Eddie, happy birthday and keep up the good work. Looking forward to see what you do next year.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Avery Comments on Tortarella and Offseason

May 18th, 2009
Miami, FL

Newsday had a great article yesterday that covered an interview with Sean Avery where he talked about the offseason, Coach Tortalini and the major needs of the Rangers. The Greek sent it over to me, and I have to thank him. So, well thanks, Greek.

Lots of good stuff in there...according to Avery, we need a scorer, which is obviously a really shocking statement. (Cut to Glen Sather negotiating a trade of Gomez for Roberto Luongo "just so we have some insurance in goal.") Also, Avery has some great things to say about the coach. Overall, it looks like Tortarella is going to change the whole mindset over at MSG. Let's hope the players listen.

The whole interview is here, along with a great survey on who to keep and who to dump. Quite a few people seemed to miss the playoffs this year, as the results will surprise you.,0,4293275.story

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Secret Identities III

May 10th, 2009
Miami, FL

The guy talking to Paul Pierce is one of the best pure shooters in the NBA and had one of the best playoff runs Mr. Black has ever seen in his last series versus the Chicago Bulls. Ray Allen was taking more shots than a sorority girl on spring break, and knocking them down like Pistol Pete Maravich. He was an absolute assassin, killing the Bulls at key moments and hitting game-winning shots, shots to put games into overtime, and shots to kill momentum.

But we all know Walter Ray "Jesus Shuttlesworth" Allen could shoot, but like a true legend he took the stage and showed us a whole new part of his game. Like Jordan coming back from baseball with a sick fadeaway, Ray suddenly developed something totally unexpected -- defense, and that's what is making his playoff performance special.

Which makes Mr. Black wonder, is Ray Allen harboring a secret identity? He looks strikingly similar to Mos Def. Mos is a rap legend. Mos spent years putting out amazing rap as half of Blackstar, and just when we started to think he was just part of a great group, he starts dropping amazing solo records, the last which was a hard rock-influenced sound we had never heard from him and pushed his musical talent further.

In addition to that, just when we all thought, "hey, that Mos Def is a talented musician," he starts to take on more and more crazy acting roles, holding his own against Jamie Foxx in "Collateral," as an action guy in "The Italian Job" and "16 Blocks" and in a variety of comic roles.

Odd, but both of these two guys continue to show that they have many, many sides...perhaps there aren't really two guys, but a single, super-talented guy. After all, Brooklyn and Boston aren't THAT far apart, right?

And on the Eighth Day, He Created the Playoffs

May 9th, 2009
Miami Beach, FL

Mr. Black here, logging on from sunny Miami. I just got back from talking some business with Hyman Roth, and felt that it was time for a blog post.

I’ve been guilty of probably looking on the negative side of sports a bit too much in this little corner of cyberspace, but not today. It’s a day to celebrate all that is good in sports, since right now we’re in that special time. NFL teams are starting mini-camps, the bad free-agent investments are starting to show themselves in MLB, and NHL and NBA are in full playoff stride.

In case you’ve missed it, the NBA Playoffs have been great this year. Cleveland is steamrolling through the East, and they are truly a joy to watch. Lots of fast breaks, alley-oop passes and big plays by guys whos names don’t rhyme with DeRon Flames.

This is a rare situation in pro sports; a team that genuinely seems to enjoy playing together and has a great time winning games. If you have a moment to tune in, do it before the media picks up on the fun they’re having and starts the “they’re young, talented and have a good time” stories and ruin it for everyone. Seriously, you’ll see at least five big dunks, some genuinely hilarious celebrations and the coolest glasses this side of Sarah Palin on Mike Brown.

If you have been watching you probably saw the Bulls/Celtics series, which was the best series since the Lakers/Kings in the late 1990s. Hopefully the Bulls will stay together and go head-to-head with the Celtics for a few more years…the one thing that may derail that is Kevin Garnett’s wonky knees, which might actually be wear and tear. If it is, that will be a real shame since KG has always been one of my favorite guys to play ball. Here’s hoping he retires gracefully if his knees are done, rather than pull a Walton and kick around for another five or ten years.

On the last NBA note, Denver may have finally solved the code by bringing back Chauncey Billups. More than one friend of Mr. Black has observed that he’s just the leader the Nugget’s needed, and if you don’t believe me, watch their games. He’s the Reggie Jackson of this team, the straw that stirs the drink, and he’s making everyone around him better. Right now, the Nuggets are playing nine players deep and getting big plays from all of them. They look a lot like San Antonio did when they won their titles, except you don’t fall asleep watching.

A nice bonus has been that Carmelo Anthony has really blossomed now that he’s not looked at as a team leader. Anyone who follows the Nuggets realized about two years ago that Carmelo, while immensely talented, is not an alpha-dog. Now that he’s had the pressure of “team leader” taken off his shoulders, he’s just asked to be the most talented guy on the court and he’s playing way better, quickly becoming “big time,” as evidenced by the heads-up game winner tonight against the Mavs. The old ‘Melo would have felt contact and just thrown the ball at the rim, this time, he played through a foul and when it wasn’t called, set his feet and made a huge game winner. It should be interesting how he reacts when he meets Kobe. Will he press, or play within himself and let the game come to him.

So that’s three things to really celebrate, and that’s just in the NBA…

It’s also NHL playoff time, and Gary Bettman’s dream matchup between the Caps and Pens is living up to the hype. Both Cindy Cosby and Alexander Ovechkin are playing like me in NHL ’09, and so far it’s been an amazing four games. Start TiVo-ing the games because each one has about three highlight goals.

Not lost in this are great series’ in the Western Conference. We should all be hoping for a Wings/Hawks series, because besides being an old NHL rivalry, the Blackhawks are just young enough to get under the Red Wings’ skin and make this a tough series that also has lots of scoring. Suddenly, those things aren’t mutually exclusive in hockey again.

It’s spring, life is good.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What Were They Thinking III

May 7th , 2009
New York, NY

Welcome back, readers. All five of you.

Mr. Black has been traveling so there hasn’t been a post recently, but there’s lots happening in the sports world, so it’s time to get right back into it. No better way to leap into the world of sports blogging than a quick “What were they thinking.”

Manny Ramirez
Let’s start with the biggest, most muscular story of the day. Manny Ramirez, Mayor of Mannywood, has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and been suspended for 50 games. It seems he was using female fertility drugs to boost his testosterone levels and potentially mask other PEDs.

Manny, Manny, Manny…really? You actually care enough to cheat? I’m shocked. If this was a recent habit he developed, this was incredibly bone-headed, even for Man-Ram. He almost single-handedly made baseball relevant in L.A. (sorry Angels) and the city had a genuine love affair with him. It’s the perfect environment for him since L.A. is a casual sports town at best and Hollywood has so many head cases Manny can actually be considered normal.

After all the contract back and forth this offseason, this may have just used up the entire well of good will for Manny. If the Dodgers don’t hold onto first and Manny hits a cold streak when he comes back, perhaps there will be a late season trade to the Yankees.

By the way, anyone need a dreadlock wig? The Dodgers just bought 6,000 if them for a “Mannywood” promo. No joke.

Selena Roberts
Speaking of performance enhancing drugs, what exactly Selena Roberts was thinking by adding “allegations” of A-Rod using steroids in high school to her book? As a big fan of hers, I was shocked since she’s usually an incredibly responsible sports journalist in every sense of the word. Keeping this in the book was a no win situation, so I wonder what was she thinking.

She already had nailed A-Rod for using during his MLB days, so the book was already going to be a seller. Adding in more allegations just smacks of naked greed and a desire to sell books. As a journalist, she has to know that this will damage her reputation more than A-Rod, and at this point you really need a smoking gun or someone who will go publicly on the record as a witness to nail anyone for using.

Joe Girardi
I’ll keep this one short: Joe, don’t go to mat for your steroid-shooting player when your $200 million dollar team can’t hold a lead and is in third place (again). People might start paying attention to you, and I mean people named Steinbrenner.

Vinny del Negro
Watching the Celtics-Bull series, I couldn’t help but notice that Vinny del Negro had some special assistants. Who helped him sketch out strategy in the tightest of seven game series’? Why it was Bernie Bickerstaff and Del Harris. Yes, you read that correctly…Bernie and Del. Yes, the men who have driven the Nuggets, Hawks and Lakers into the ground.

Vinny is widely regarded as one of the three or four worst coaches in the NBA, so I’m not sure if he should get the “what were you thinking,’ Vinny or if it’s the Bulls management for allowing him to hire his own assistants. Obviously, they are going for the record of lowest basketball IQ on a bench and seem to be doing it quite well since Vinny ran out of timeouts in four of the seven games.

Brett Favrve
Another short one: Brett, you’re 75 years old. Stop calling the Vikings. And when it goes public you did, don’t deny it and retire again. This whole thing is starting to damage your reputation as an inaccurate QB that blows big games down the stretch.