White Hat Sports Headlines

Thursday, October 29, 2009

NBA Black Book 2009

Ty Lawson
Dejuan Blair
Chase Budinger
Earl Clark

Sterling-I want to be on record saying I hated this draft.
Ricky Rubio- Yes I know he isn't coming to the states this year, but I also want to be on record as saying that Rubio will be a transcendant player, the Pistol Pete of this generation. Whenever he comes into the league.
Gerald Henderson Jr.
Dajuan Blair
Toney Douglas

Friday, August 14, 2009

I'm all Healed Up.

It hit me last night. A wave of good feeling that the Red Sox haven't given me since about April. It was the sight of Tom Brady throwing the football on the field of Lincoln Financial Stadium. He was back in uniform for the first time "The Hit", and suddenly I could move on from Super Bowl 42. I know what you're thinking, this is either just a stale column idea or this guy is really overreacting, but hear me out.

When last season started, it was too soon. I had never invested more in a football season than I did in 2007. I looked forward to each game like it was a tropical vacation and watched each game like it was a playoff game. The '07 Patriots were so much fun to watch, with their "F*ck you touch downs" and offense that rolled over everybody all season. For a 5 week period between the last regular season game against the Giants and the Super Bowl, Football reached it's pinnacle of greatness for me. As big a baseball fan and more specifically a Red Sox fan, the Patriots jumped up to that Red Sox level during that time. And remember, while this was all happening in January of 2008, the Red Sox were only 2 monthes removed from winning a World Series. My buddy Sam summed up the feeling of the Boston sports fan's embarassment of riches by saying "We won a World Series last sunday and next sunday we get another big game to watch". Because really isn't that what it's all about to be a sports fan, don't you just want an important game to watch? That's the thing that would make being a Pittsburgh Pirates or a Kansas City Royals fan so hard, it's just that they don't have many games where everybody is thinking about that one game.

The loss of the perfect season in Super Bowl 42 was tough, really tough. It felt like the entire ride of absolute dominance was all for nothing. The offensive records set by Brady and Moss seemed insignificant, the perfect regular season didn't have the same ring as "Perfect Season". I had spent so much time reading about football and thinking about football during January of '08, that when it ended in a unfulfilling way, I felt stranded. A very small part of me wanted the next season to start right after the Pro Bowl and for the Patriots to go out and prove that the Super Bowl was a fluke and that they really could capture the "Perfect Season". Most of me however, didn't want to hear anything about football at all. I avoided it at the gym, I refused to watch Sports Center except when I was forced to at the restaurant I was producing a radio show in had it on three large plasmas. That night after work, my buddies Twan and Zach with whom I made my Pilgrimage to Foxborough with for the Sunday night game against the Eagles, met up and drowned our sorrows with wings and beer and talked about what exactly had happened the night before and tried to come up with reasons to go on. Some how I felt better, sitting there with wing sauce staining my fingers and beer on my breath, I knew the Patriots would be back the next year.
But was I ready for them? That was the question during the summer that I couldn't answer. In late July when the Fantasy Football magazines hit the shelves I didn't even want to look at them. When training camp started and Sports Center had reports from them I would change the channel. I just wasn't ready for some football. I tried to force myself to jump back into it for the season opener telling myself that a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. (Meaning that if the Patriots were to get back to the Super Bowl, we'd have to take it one week at a time.) When the unthinkable happened, I didn't react like I thought I would to something of that magnitude, first off I went into denial. I just refused to believe that Tom Brady was going to miss the season, it couldn't happen. I followed the season anyway and there were some memorable moments, by this time I was working in Augusta on the State Senate Campaigns and I watched most of the games at our office with the guys. It just wasn't the same vibe though. It was my first year out of college and football in college is an event every week. After a big Saturday night there is nothing better than going to brunch at noon, rushing back to set up your fantasy football team and watching the games all day in gym shorts and sweatshirts. It was very different living outside of that envirnment and thus harder to get into the season. When they had a chance to beat the Colts and didn't, it didn't have the sting that it would have had in the past. The highlight of the season was listening to Randy Moss's last second catch against the Jets to send the Thursday night game into overtime in my truck with my buddy Sam. They would lose that game and that was kind of the theme of the season. There was still the swagger of the Patriots and they could pretty much play with anybody (except Pittsburgh which did hurt) but they just didn't have Brady to get them over the hump. When they missed the playoffs it some how felt appropriate some how. The football gods were saying "You've had a great run, now it's time for the other shoe to drop. Think you're making the playoffs with the back up QB? Not a chance, but we'll make it close."
Then last week it happened. I was at Wal-Mart after being offered a great new job and I saw the rack of 2009 Fantasy Football mags. I started thumbing through them and picked one up and since then I've systematically studied the guide. It seems like so much has happened in the last year and a half since the Super Bowl in the desert. (A quick side note. After my freshmen year of college I worked at an all boys sports summer camp in Winthrop, Maine. One of the kids in my bunk, and one that I got along with pretty well, his father was the architect for the Arizona Cardinals new stadium. Was it destiny that the Patriots would win a Super Bowl there? Of course not, his dad has been a Giants Season ticket holder since about 1960. I knew we were doomed.)
The other day talking to my buddy Zach on the phone we hit a quick pause in the conversation after we had covered the Red Sox and Rick Pitino (we swapped Blue Chips quotes and some how made "Don't trap 4 and 5. Only trap 1, 2 and 3. Don't worry about the big guy, he's not going to handle it", dirty.) We both blurted out "I'm getting excited about football" and with that I knew I was finally ready for some football. But when I saw Tom Brady throw a deep ball to Randy Moss, guarded by former Patriot Asante Samuel, without a word saying "You left us and now you gotta pay". I knew the Patriots were back and so am I.

Sterling Pingree

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Memories you can't forget.

I know I haven't posted here in a while, but I just turned on my tv to the 1999 Home Run Derby at Fenway, and as I watch Jeromy Burnitz hit in the first round it has given me inspiration.

When Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games this season I was shocked. He's The Natural, the goofy guy that has all the talent in the world and wouldn't know what a steroid was if his life depended on it. How could he test positive? The more I thought about it the more frustrated I became. Manny has been my favorite player for years, I stuck with him even after he was traded to the Dodgers, enduring the ridicule of Sox fans.

Then I had a realization. What would I do if I had the chance to be great in the sport I loved as a youth, basketball? If I made the NBA and found something that could give me an advantage would I do it? As a sports reporter and anchor, if there was something I could take to make my highlights better, my writing witty, my questions deeper? And I found myself answering that yes I would, and in fact probably had at some point or another.

If that's the case, how can I judge baseball players for using steroids? The fact is we are all hypocrites if we do. 99% of us, if given the opportunity, would take something if we knew it would help us. Hell, we cheered them on as they hit homer after homer out of parks, McGwire and Sosa were glorified perhaps more than any other players in an individual season. They gave us what we wanted. Manny and David provided us with not just one but two World Series championships. Am I just supposed to forget those? The seasons Manny had, the goofy plays, the mammoth shots to give the Sox a win.

I can't, or more importantly, I won't. For better or worse, those memories are a part of me, just like Rex Chapman's miracle shot from the corner that convinced me I needed to practice 3 pointers falling out of bounds.

Players have always used whatever they can to improve their performance, whether it be different bats, "greenies" or steroids. As a society we are taught to do just that; perform at the highest level you can, oftentimes regardless of how you get to that point. To fault these players, to "taint" them, for what they have done, is wrong.

As I watch Mark McGwire hit shots over the green monster while Sammy Sosa watches a smile comes to my face, just like it did when I watched it live. It's just another memory I can't forget, and maybe that's the way it's supposed to be.

~Aaron Jackson

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How am I a Baseball Fan?

The best that I can tell, you start remembering stuff when you're about 5 years old. I have an exceptional memory, so I remember a few things from when I was just a bit younger: like the time Timmy walked out of the bathroom at preschool with his pants down, which is an unfortunate thing to remember. I was born in 1985, so the first things about sports that I remember are Super Bowl XXVI and the Braves- Blue Jays World Series. I remember staying up as late as I could to watch the 1993 World Series and then taping them when I went to bed and refusing to go to school until I saw the ending the next morning. I vividly remember watching those tapes and just as I was about to pop in the tape of game 6, I saw Sports Center first and Joe Carter's legendary home run.
Things were going good for me as a baseball fan, I loved watching it, I had friends that played too and even though Wade Boggs left the Red Sox I had developed a connection to Mo Vaughn. Then it happened, the Strike of '94. Coming off a terrific post season that saw the underrated NLCS between the Braves and Phillies and then the dramatic and also underrated World Series between Philadelphia and Toronto the canceling of the World Series was the worst possible thing that could happen to me when I was 8. I didn't understand what the labor dispute was all about or what the need for replacement players was, but I knew that I wasn't going to have the playoffs or the World Series.
Bill Simmons has said that there is a year in your life when sports means way too much and for me that year was 1995. I had been into the Patriots and Celtics, but the 1995 Red Sox were an everyday thing for me. Mo Vaughn entered idol status and Tim Wakefield was the trusty pitcher who seemed to never lose. (I had heard Clemens was good, but remember 1993 to 1995, I hadn't really seen why he was so good. Wakefield on the other hand started the season 14-1. Who knew 14 years later Wakefield would be an All-Star for the Red Sox.) I remember where I was when the Red Sox traded our phenom pitcher (Frankie Rodriguez) for Rick Aguilera, the final piece of the puzzle. My best friend Zach and I were at my camp and had heard about it while listening to the game. It was a big moment, we thought that this was all we needed. I also remember Zach trying to teach me how to properly say Aguilera, I don't think either of us ever got it right, but we thought we did. An American League East title and Mo Vaughn winning the MVP and we had reason again to be the biggest 8 year old baseball fans you'll ever see. Little did we know the pandoras box we were about to get into.
Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa supposedly brought baseball back to it's heights after the Strike of '94. They were everywhere all the time, you couldn't escape them if you tried. It was a great summer for Zach and I, Sox made the postseason again, this time armed with Mo, Nomar and Pedro and we even saw them win a playoff game, something that had not happened since 1986 (Zach was 1 and I was 10 monthes old). Then the other shoe dropped. McGuire was dirty, Sosa was dirty and the claimet to all the home run crowns, Barry Bonds, was dirty. Remember Roger Clemens? He was dirty too. Yet somehow in the wake of all of that, we persevered as baseball fans. Transfering our love of baseball into a love of the Red Sox, a much bigger thing. While the names of Giambi, Sheffield and Bonds were being torn down by somehting called Balco, we were busy following the first Red Sox world championship since 1918. None of our guys were being caught, so we didn't care, we followed the team and the team finally won. 9 years after we reached our peak, we reached the mountain top again ('04) and again ('07).
That's what made today so hard, David Ortiz, the most beloved Sox player of all-time (think about it and you really can't argue this) was tested positive for PED's in 2003. It hit Red Sox nation like the Ice Storm of 1998, the only difference was that knocked out phone lines and today my phone recieved 35 text messages in the 2 hours after the news broke and none of it had to do with the Red Sox afternoon game. The question that kept running through my head as I tried to process the news was, "How I am a Baseball fan?" I mean look at what has happened in baseball during my lifetime. It started with the World Series being canceled and then 3 years later we entered the steroid era. Maybe that's why now at the age of 23, I find myself looking at highlights and video's from the 1993, 1995 and 1997 World Series. Now everytime you fall in love with a team like the 2004 Red Sox, or a player like David Ortiz, something is happening where their name is being dragged through the mud. It's like everytime you date a woman, she sleeps with the town giggalo. It hurts everytime, you try to move on, but you always think about the giggalo when you think about her. Everytime I see David Ortiz or think back to the best parts of the 2004 and 2007 World Series teams, I'm going to remember that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were not on the up and up. Hell, going back to the beginning of this piece, even Mo Vaughn was named in the Mitchell Report. Though I sooth myself by saying he only did it for a week at the end of his run with the Mets and never during the glory days of my childhood.
I am a baseball fan because I watched the 1993 World Series and found out how great the postseason can be and how the memories can remind you of good times. Once you feel that, you just can't turn your back on it. I remember watching the Phillies take the lead in the 1993 NLCS at my friend Jason's house, I remember seeing Zach the next day at school after the Red Sox clinched the AL East and saw Mo Vaughn ride a police horse. (That's right, Mo started that in 1995, no Wade Boggs in 1996. Sorry Wade, you had your chance and you went to New York.) I remember listening to 10 years of Red Sox play off games starting in 1999 at Fryeburg Fair and hearing game winning home runs in 2003, 2007 and 2008. The older I get the more these memories mean to me and the more I remember things that happened to me because of baseball. So to answer my question, I'm a baseball fan, because I don't know how not to be.

Sterling Pingree

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Business is about to pick up

That's right, when things are weird with the Red Sox, as they are right now, Good Ole JR sums it up best. The Red Sox have lost 4 straight games, matching their longest such streak of the season and to top it all off the team made two trades. The first acquiring Adam Laroche for two minor leaguers who were destined to be trade chips.
The second the Red Sox, in the most inexplicable Cardinals move since the Cubs traded them Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio in 1964, the Cardinals decided to give Chris Duncan and a player to be named later for Julio Lugo and cash considerations. Cash considerations in this case should be called "Every dime of his contract because who would be dumb enough to trade for $9 million of Lugo".
If you're doing the math at home, that means the Red Sox as they stand right now before making roster adjustments to make room for Duncan and Laroche, have Youk, Laroche, Duncan and Kotsay at first base. Their outfield is a log jam as well with Drew, Ellsbury, Bay, Baldelli, Kotsay (technically he is an outfielder) and Duncan. Something's gotta give, but what is it?

My gut reaction when I heard about the Laroche trade was that somebody was hurt already. People were calling it "The Lowell Insurance Policy", (Just pennies a day, you too can get quality term life insurance) which is might be, but I just couldn't imagine Adam Laroche being the guy that you'd want to lean on if something happened to Mike Lowell. Scott Rolen yes, Adam Laroche no.
This could mean a lot of things, it could mean that Kotsay gets released, it could mean Duncan just became the biggest bat for the Pawtucket Red Sox. That seems like the most likely right now, but something big is going to happen. Theo even said as much and he never tips his hand in terms of trades that he wants to make. He said that they are still going to go after a "impact player" before the waiver period. Could this be Victor Martinez?
It doesn't seem so right now, seeing that the Red Sox have turned down a trade offer from Mark Shapiro, GM of the Indians that would send Clay Buchholz to Cleveland for Martinez. What this says to me though is that the Indians are looking to deal him and that they are talking to the Red Sox about him. Imagine if you will for a moment if the Red Sox could swing a deal trading less than Clay Buchholz for Victor Martinez? You get your catcher of the future and your impact bat of right now. An intriguing name to me is Cliff Lee, I'm not really sure why, but I'm very intrigued by the guy who won the Cy Young award last year. Rumor is that he could be bound for Milwaukee, though why would Cleveland trade the previous year's Cy winner to the Brewers?
They did exactly that last year?
Oh, well I guess Kevin Garnett was correct, anything is possible.

Sterling Pingree

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lob Shots For The 4th

The United States blast off fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July, in England they have Wimbledon. I'm American and do you know what I was capivated by?


I don't care what you think, but in the weekend where I'm usually a Morning Glory blazing Yankee Doodle Dandy, I was getting text updates on my phone telling me what was going on in the Gentlemen's Final. In the days leading up to the conclusion of the two and a half week championship, my friends and I were e-mailing about it and actually having arguments on Facebook posts regarding the tourament. I was upset that I was missing this match, in what seemed to be the day that Andy Roddick was about to leap up and slug the mighty Federer for the title. Whether he did it or not, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it, it was the fact that somebody was going for history (Roger Federer's 15th major, and the most all time) and someone was trying to reverse their own history, (Roddick) in the same day.

This all started last year. It started when the greatest rivalry in sports, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal battled in the greatest tennis match I've ever seen. The list of tennis matches that I have seen is not very extensive, but even in my narrow view of what tennis is and who the great players are, I knew that what I was witnessing was something very special. The test of it was that my dad, who doesn't watch tennis and really doesn't care about tennis, was absolutely captivated by what these two guys were doing. The back and fourth of tennis was taken to another level, they were not only returning each shot, they were taking a great shot and improving it to the other. This match was so good, that Jon Wertheim wrote an entire book about it titled, Strokes of Genius. (I haven't read it yet, but it is definately in my Amazon shopping cart.)

This set us up for more this year. Nadal wasn't there because of an injury, but Andy Roddick stepped up and gave us an exceptional contest. Once again I was drawn into the match by it incredible lack of hype; it is hard to build hype when Sports Center only talks about it for 2 minutes per day and talks about Jeff Garcia decreeing himself the Raiders starting quarterback for a minute and a half. Something incredibly appealing to me about tennis is that it is understated in a sports world where everything is overstated and reiterated. I missed most of the final while at church, but was able to see the first two sets before I left and still get home during the 5th set. Fearing that I would miss the end of the match, I was happy to find out it was 6-6 in the 5th when I got home. What I was left with was 95 minutes of back and fourth, give and take, with the greatest of the generation (and maybe ever) trying for history, while his opponant was trying to hit the walk off home run and trying to avoid being Al Downing at the same time. Andy Roddick was in the final with an all of nothing feel. He was either going to be the hero, who hit the walk off home run to win the World Series or he was going to be the goat, who gave up a record breaking moment and always have his name attached to it for all the wrong reasons.

In the end, Federer won, Roddick lost and Tennis has jumped into my conciousness. Now in the midst of barbaquing, fireworks and being with people I like to be around, following the preceedings in Wimbledon, England is going to be added to my weekend. What Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate did last year at the U.S Open in Golf, Federer, Nadal and Roddick did in two years.

Well done and I'll see you next year.

Sterling Pingree

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bit’s O’ Info: NBA Edition

I don’t really have a category for this post, because it’s really a mixture of random NBA thoughts. In case you were wondering about my Black Book draft post, I’m waiting till after July 8th, when I expect a few more trades to pop up.

Thought # 1: I loved the Shaq trade…If it happened 2 years ago when he was still with the Heat. Now? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Sure, he’s a big name and a big body, but he is nowhere near dominant and is always on the verge of a breakdown. At this point in his career he is not even a significant upgrade over Zydrunas Ilgauskas. And by the way, he will clog up the lane like no other. Have fun driving to the hoop now Lebron. You’re going to have drive around your defender, Shaq’s defender and Shaq, because he won’t play away from the hoop like Big Z does.

And let’s say they pull it off and win an NBA championship. Lebron is now just another player that “can’t win the big one without Shaq”. Ask Kobe how that tastes.

Thought #2: The Spurs are THE BEST run basketball franchise in the world. Hands down. And it pains me to say this because I hate Manu Ginobili and generally do not like the Spurs. Here’s what they have done in the past few weeks.
Trade for Richard Jefferson by offering the Bucks a pupu platter of expiring contracts. This is such a great move, because they needed a small forward, but one that didn’t need the ball to be effective. Jefferson is exactly that player. He is unselfish, a very good defender, and can nail the three. He fits exactly what the Spurs needed.

Have no first round picks but still manage to grab the most dominant player in the Big East (DeJuan Blair), at times the most dominant guard in the ACC (Jack McClinton), and a very underrated foreign born player that will be able to stay overseas (Nando De Colo). Blair “beasted” (Jay Bilas’ term) second overall pick Hasheem Thabeet and the rest of the college landscape, and while he is undersized and has past knee issues the guy is an absolute stud. He could start in the NBA right now; I don’t care what any of these “scouts” say. If he can stay healthy he may one day lead the league in rebounding. McClinton is another player that is supremely talented, and a great scorer. He has the potential to be a more consistent Eddie House. As a 7th or 8th man that is a great asset to have.

Thought #3: The Pistons are THE WORST run basketball franchise in the world: This one isn’t hands down, but the mistakes they have made in the last few years are horrid. They drafted Darko Milicic when everyone knew they should take Carmelo Anthony. They signed Kwame Brown to a two year deal despite the fact he had been terrible everywhere he had been. They traded their leader (Chauncey Billups) for a complete opposite in a player (Allen Iverson), putting Iverson into a terrible position.

They drafted Austin Daye, a toothpick that never did much of anything for Gonzaga against some fairly weak competition, in the first round when no one had him going nearly that high. They kind of redeemed themselves by selecting DeJuan Summers in the second and then getting the steal of the draft (other than Blair) in Chase Buddinger. But then they traded Buddinger away.

All of that is bad, but there are other teams *coughCLIPPERScough* that were worse run. Or so I thought. Now they have signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, both to five year deals for 98 million combined. Both players are second or third bananas, not leaders or all stars. They come to a team full of second bananas and non all stars. It’s also been said that Joe Dumars values toughness; clearly that’s not the case because although Gordon has shown some toughness Villanueva has not. He has completely underachieved his entire career, and Gordon is practically the EXACT same player as Hamilton, except with terrible shot selection. The only redeeming quality of trading Billups was the money they were saving, now they have even wasted that. Terrible.

Thought #3: I’m not sure how I feel about the Vince Carter trade. On one side I like that they are making moves, but I’m not sure acquiring Carter is the right one. There are two Vince Carters. One that dominates at times, albeit now with his jump shot rather than his athletics and can be an effective leader on the floor, and one that can disappear at the most inopportune times. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt for now, because I think Vince has matured enough to be a second banana on a championship team.

Thought #4: The Blazers should sign Hedo Turkoglu OR Jason Kidd. Hedo is the better option here…younger, great passer and a much better shooter and athlete. He can play the point at times for them and play the small forward for them. He doesn’t need the ball to dominate the game.

On the other side is Jason Kidd. He may actually be a better fit for them if they think he has a few years left, and heres why. He is the ultimate facilitator. Combine him with the offensive talent the Blazers have and I think he could average 13 assists a game easy, and that’s what they need. With Roy, Aldridge, Outlaw and everything else the Blazers have I could see them being a major contender with a premier passer.

That’s all for now folks
~Aaron Jackson

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Great Idea, Poor Execution.

I am watching ESPN Classic. Which I love and I hate. I'll explain.

I first fell into a disfunctional relationship with ESPN Classic when my parents got Prime Star (a satillite company now defunct) and was introduced to the third ESPN channel in my life, this was late 1996. Back when I wanted the Patriots to draft Tyronne Poole (they would later pick him off the scrap heap, it wasn't as good as I imagined) Mo Vaughn was the king of the world (I even met him in the fall of '96.), so pretty much, things were good. The first show that got me into ESPN Classic was Home Run Derby. A Hollywood television show of the real Mid-Summer classic, where two Major League ballplayers would face off in a head to head, 9 inning home run derby. Looking back, the show was kind of poorly done, it was heavily edited, they would take a clip of the guy swinging in the on deck circle and then show the ball flying over the fence. The show captivated me though and still does to this day because it is interesting to see guys such as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew in their prime. The show came out on DVD a couple summers ago and yes I own them. Below is the link to Amazon.com where you can get them cheap.
The only problem with ESPN Classic running the show was that they showed it 6am. I was just young enough to still get up that this time, but even then I knew Classic wasn't all it should be. I imagined the channel showing old games, old shows like the Derby and other great sporting events from before I was born that were well, classic. Instead what I found was old boxing matches that took place about 3 years before on ESPN 2 that nobody watched then and certainly didn't want to watch now. As if that wasn't bad enough, it went from bad to worse when they would block off hours for nothing but rodeo, bowling and billiards. My question was, are they people who really want to relive the 1987 Dallas Open?
The point of all of this is, why does ESPN classic still show mostly bowling and billiards? Does this get ratings or do they just have nothing else to show? This afternoon they showed something called Sports Challenge. The idea is that 3 people from a team would compete as their team in a sports trivia game show. Now it was a good premice that was horribly executed, much like the Home Run Derby show it was kidn of cool to see Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and John Havlicek sitting at a table like they're on the Newly Wed Game. On a side note, it's funny to see that even on a short lived game show, the Celtics were 4 time champions and openly mocked the other team when they got a big lead. It was fantastic, it was like Auerbach had Hondo and Russ practicing before they went onto the show. Somewhere in his office, I bet Red even had a small banner made up for the Celtics victories on Sports Challenge.
Now sometimes Classic does show an old game, one that has been long since forgotten, but has some sort of significance. This is where Classic is threatened by NBA TV, MLB, NHL and NFL Networks. They show old games, they show documentaries on classic teams and series and pivotal moments. They in essence show everything that you would want to see on Classic, and they even divide it up by sport on their own channels. Where does this leave Classic?
It's hard to say, but they could definately have a niche. They own the rights to the games broadcast on their channel (as does the other major sports as well as their networks) so they can still run those to maintain the classic feel. What they need to do is clean house. The best things that Classic has going for it is the old shows, bring in more of them, find all that you can and show them. The more random the better, who knows what people will like and what will become nostalgic. American Gladiators is about Classic's most watched show. Whenever it's on, it seems like one of my friends are watching it. AWA Wrestling, it can be brutal to watch at times, but at the end of each hour it is fun to watch the "Main Event".
Pretty much, ESPN Classic had a monopoly on the showing of older sports content market, and now that market is fragmented by all of the specialty stations run by MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL. Classic may have missed it's window, unless they are catering to that Bowling and Billiards crowd. In that case, they are in a league all their own.

Sterling Pingree

Thursday, June 25, 2009

NBA Draft Jogging Diary

Welcome to the 2009 NBA Draft. I’ll be your host, Aaron Jackson. Lets hope Blake Griffin doesn’t tear an ACL before reaching the podium.

7:40: Blake Griffin goes number one overall to the Clippers, sealing his fate as a future bust. Poor guy. Meanwhile, John Smoltz has given up four runs in the first inning of his first start in over a year. Uh-Oh. Blake Griffin is informed the Clippers are terrible, and he responds by saying he can’t look to the past. If you don’t look to the past it’s doomed to repeat itself Blake.

7:51: The Grizzlies select Hasheem Thabeet at number 2. Terrible choice, has bust written all over him. Jay Bilas’s thoughts. “He is not very good offensively and needs to build body mass. Dejuan Blair absolutely beasted him this past season. Is not that great one on one defensively.” Nice job by the Grizz. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City selects James Harden 3rd. I loved him at Arizona State, but I think Ricky Rubio was a better fit here. Russell Westbrook and James Harden are too similar to play together right now. If Harden is willing to become a traditional point this could work well. I’ll give Sam Presti the benefit of the doubt on this one.

7:57: Kings select Tyreke Evans 4th. I’m guessing they expect him to play the point rather than the 2, although he could be a small forward as well. Good choice if he can improve his jumper. By the way, sad day for just about every American, as Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson both passed away today. They say bad things come in threes, and that certainly was the case with Ed McMahon, Farrah and Michael over the last two days.

8:10: Timberwolves take Ricky Rubio 5th and Jonny Flynn 6th. I don’t know how I feel about that. Flynn is too short to play the two, and Rubio would be completely out of his element as a shooting guard. I’m not sure that combination is the best choice, especially this high in the draft. I like both players individually, but together I don’t think it works. The ESPN poll has voters giving the Wolves an F for Flynn and an A for Rubio. I agree.

8:21: Stephen Curry goes number 7 overall to the Warriors. He definitely fits their system and can play right away. At 8 the Knicks select Jordan Hill. Not a big fan of this move at all. He underachieved at Arizona, and the Knicks needed a player with a good attitude. Not sure Hill is the right pick, and he’s getting booed pretty hard from the crowd.

8:35: Toronto takes Demar DeRozan 9th. He’s a project player on a team that wants to win now, unless they expect Chris Bosh to resign(not happening). Brandon Jennings then goes tenth to the Bucks, and it’s announced he is not in attendance because he wasn’t sure where he would be drafted. This kid hasn’t made a right move in my mind since graduating high school. Something about his attitude rubs me the wrong way. Terrence Williams is taken 11th by the Nets. I like this choice a lot, especially now that Vince Carter is no longer with the team. He passes well, shoots well, defends well and has good size.

8:50: Bobcats take Gerald Henderson 12th. I’ve already said this once, but I think this guy will be a huge bust. On a side note, this is only the 3rd pick I have guessed correctly. I feel dumb, but you must feel dumber for actually reading me. Indiana is now up at 13. They take Tyler Hansbrough. I was one of the only people out there that had that one right. 4 out of 13 right sounds so much better than 3 out of 14. Thank you Pacers. I like this pick a lot, he has accomplished too much already to be a bust. He has a much better jumper than when he started college, to the point where he was making threes last year. He also has more willpower in his pinkie than most of us have in our body. You may see him in my notebook coming up.

9:13: Phoenix selects Earl Clark 14. I had them taking Terrence Williams, and both players played at Louisville and are very similar. I’m giving myself half a point here. At 15 the Pistons select Austin Daye. Really??? I didn’t even have him in the first round. He’s like a toothpick. The Pistons have made some terrible draft picks in the last few years (Rodney Stuckey aside), this may very well be another one. Next up is the Bulls who select James Johnson, followed by the Sixers with Jrue Holliday. While I may not be getting the actual players right, I am definitely nailing the positions teams will draft. Both teams made good selections considering their needs, and although I’m not sold on Holliday based off last season, I think he has plenty of potential. My computer is burning up, so I’m not sure how much longer I will continue this diary. I’m thinking 20 may be my stopping point.

9:19: At 18 the Timberwolves select Ty Lawson. That’s the third point guard they have taken, and two of the three are under 6 feet tall. Why would they do that? Sometimes I am just perplexed as to how people have jobs, and this seems like it’s the case. Unless there is a trade. Speaking of, there is Ric Bucher saying the pick will be moved to the Nuggets. I like that selection much, much, much, much better. Up next is the Atlanta Hawks, a team that could’ve really used Ty Lawson. They get a great consolation prize in Jeff Teague. Great selection by them, I had him going much higher. He dominated at times in the best conference in college basketball. He may pop up again in my notebook because Atlanta is a great opportunity for a good point guard.

9:36: This will be my last post, as my computer is way to hot. At 20 the Jazz select Eric Maynor. It’s a good pick, although they could’ve addressed other needs that were more pressing. 21 is Darren Collison to New Orleans. I like this pick, but I’m kind of surprised Collison went this high. I had him higher than most of the other mock drafts out there, and he went 7 picks higher than even I thought. At 22 is the Portland Trailblazers. I would like to see them take DeJuan Blair here. He could be a great addition to their team. Instead they take Victor Claver. Not a bad choice, but I don’t expect him to play with the Blazers for the next couple of years.

~Aaron Jackson

Oh What a Night to Have No Life

What a night this shall be? If you are a Red Sox fan, (apparently there are 41,000 more than we though in DC) tonight is going to be an extremely interesting night. You have John Smoltz pitching his first game in the Major's for a team other than the Braves and making his first start in over a year. One of the all-time, ultimate gamers in we've seen in baseball for quite sometime. Also tonight you have Aaron Jackson's night of nights in the NBA Draft.

All that we have heard about this draft is that it isn't very good, besides Blake Griffin. There are a lot of overrated players in this draft and that there will be a lot of busts. I agree with some of that, but not all of it. I think that this is going to be a draft where the rich get richer and the poor get, well you know. I wouldn't want a top 10 pick in this draft really, there are a few picks I like such as Flynn and Rubio, but besides that I like the guys in the teens and 20 much better. I think Dejuan Blair is going to be an absolute monster. I talked with my buddy Duane this morning and I said I thought he was going to be a steal in this draft somewhere around the mid-teens. Duane made the argument that he wouldn't be that good because he was undersized and would have to be a Charles Barkley type. That's when it hit me, Dejuan Blair has as good of a shot as anybody of becoming the next Sir Charles. He has athletic, aggressive and pounds the glass like nobody we've seen coming out of high school or college since the Round Mound of Rebound came out of Auburn.

The other reason that this draft is going to be so entertaining is that I see a lot of trades going down tonight. There have been rumors swirling there are a lot of teams that want to move up to take particular players that they have fallen in love with. The problem is though, that in a historical sense this will be remembered as a hit or miss draft. Teams will move up on guys that they want and if that guy doesn't work out, (especially in the top 10 picks) then it could really set that team back for a few years and assure them that they will be in the lottery for many years to come.

The Shaq trade has gone down which assures us of a couple things:

1. We now have the love triangle of the proportions of Pitt-Jolie-Aniston proportions, now that Shaq has divorced Kobe, had his successful fling with Dwyane Wade and now is snuggled up with Lebron James. This is like Pitt leaving Jolie and shacking up with Jessica Alba and then making having their movie nominated for best picture against something about orphans starring Angelina Jolie. This will be more talked about than the South Carolina Governor who walked around the woods and didn't know why. This will be just under Clinton-Lewinsky in terms of media run.

2. Is Lebron taking the monkey that Kobe just shrugged off his back and putting it onto himself?

It sure looks like it, because if the Cavs win the championship next season, Lebron will then have the "You only won when you had Shaq" stigma attached to him. Ask Kobe, that doesn't wash off so quickly. On a side note, Dwyane Wade has never had this subject broached to him before. Maybe we just need to give it time? On second thought that was a horrible finals and nobody really thinks about it anymore, since it's pretty much been blown out of the water by the last two NBA champions.

3. Shaq might get the chance to battle Dwight Howard in the playoffs next year setting off the chain reaction of story lines involving him getting SVG fired from Miami the year they won the title and their verbal sparring that went on this season. As well as the contrived battle for which center is really nicknamed Superman.

The bad thing about all of this?

I'm an assistant coach on an American Legion team and there is a game tonight at 7. So I will pretty much miss all of Smoltz's start and will get to the draft right about the 20's, where all the interesting trades have happened and Jay Bilas is less punchy.

So in a nutshell, I'm going to miss everything.

Sterling Pingree

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

2009 NBA Draft Preview

UPDATED: 06/24-The final 20 picks are attached to this. I figured this is easier to read than two separate articles. Also, the top ten picks are not changed to show the any trades that have taken place since they were published.

For anyone that doesn't know, every year I do a lot of NBA draft coverage. It all culminates with what I call my "Little Black Draft Diary" where I pick players that I feel will outperform their draft position. I have a set of guidelines that I follow that are explained here. That page also contains a link to look at my past Diary selections, I suggest you take a look. I'm not one to brag, but I am normally really accurate.

Anyway, this post is not the Diary, because that has to happen after the draft. This post is simply my first take on which player will be taken where in the upcoming draft.

1. Los Angeles Clippers select Blake Griffin: I don't think there's any doubt on this one. The Clippers have essentially already announced they will be taking Griffin, and he clearly has the most potential. His problem? He needs to develop low post moves. We've seen how Dwight Howard has been exploited for his offensive inefficiencies, and Griffin has the same ones. If he can develop a consistent 15 footer and a Tim Duncanish turnaround he will be a great player. Well, that and keep him away from Zach Randolph.

2. Memphis Grizzlies select Hasheem Thabeet: Let me first say this is not the player they should pick; in fact, they should not pick at all. They need to trade this pick for either a future pick or a talented young player back. I don't see Thabeet ever being the player people think he will be, especially offensively, and all the other top ranked guys that could be taken here are guards. They haven't given up on Mike Conley yet, and obviously O.J. Mayo has the 2 spot . All that said I believe they do draft Thabeet because, well, they are the Grizzlies.

3. Oklahoma Thunder select Ricky Rubio: This is quickly becoming my favorite team to watch, although I say this after watching very few of their games due to their lack of TV appearances. That will change soon though, as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green are quickly coming into their own as very good players. Westbrook played the point last year, but moving him to the 2 frees him up to be a scorer, which he has proven to be. Adding a talent like Rubio to this team, in my opinion, makes it a contender within the next 3 years. On a side note, when you type in Thunder on google the second link is for www.nba.com/sonics. Real classy David.

4. Sacramento Kings select Jonny Flynn: Some have Jrue Holliday here, others James Harden. This seems awfully high for Holliday, and while I like Harden, he is a 2-guard and the Kings have Kevin Martin filling that slot nicely. By default it makes sense to me that they would take Flynn. He's going to have to learn to be less of a scorer and more of a facilitator, but I think that can come with time. I also like Jeff Teague with this pick, but he seems to have fallen as of late.

5. Washington Wizards select Jordan Hill: Hill has talent, and is a big body, which the Wizards need. They are in a very weird spot here, as they have the talent to be a top 4 team in the east next season, but are picking high in the lottery. Regardless, Hill is raw and probably won't play much because of the talent the Wiz already have. I think DeJuan Blair fits their needs better, but most teams are shying away from him because of his lack of height.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves select James Harden: I'm not really sure exactly what the Wolves do here. The top of this draft is guard heavy, but other than Rubio it's mostly scoring guards that look to pass second, which they have in Randy Foye. In the end I think they pick strictly on talent, which means Harden.

7. Golden State Warriors select Tyreke Evans: And I thought the Wolves pick was hard. The Warriors are loaded with guards, but they are willing to consistently play small, meaning they need more guards than most teams. Evans really fits the mold of this team; quick, versatile, good size, and seems to have the smarts to play the point when needed.

8. New York Knicks select Jeff Teague: This team needs a point guard, but they have time to wait for one to develop. It's a perfect situation for Jeff Teague, a player that dominated at times for Wake Forest, but also disappeared at times. He has the potential to be a great player though as long as he is given time and guidance, which Mike D'Antoni will be more than happy to provide.

9. Toronto Raptors select Stephon Curry: This is a team that needs to win now, and as such should try as hard as they can to trade this pick off for some established talent. If they can't do that Curry is a pretty good consolation prize. This guy can just flat out score. I've been following him for 2 years (yes, I am the guy in your office pool that picked Davidson to go as far as they did in the tourney two years ago), and I can tell you he can contribute to an NBA team right now. Having a player like Chris Bosh to take the pressure off will help significantly too.

10. Milwaukee Bucks select Dejuan Blair: Assuming Michael Redd comes back healthy, they hold on to Richard Jefferson and Andrew Bogut continues the improvements he was making before his injury this team has the potential to be contending for a playoff spot. Blair is a guy that knows who he is (a wide body that is ridiculously strong), and can probably provide a 15 and 10 if given the opportunity. My only concern with him is his size (6'6"). He should fit well with their team. The other player I could see here would be Brandon Jennings, but I don't think most see him as a true point guard, which he would have to play with the Bucks. Plus, scouts don't seem to like his work ethic or attitude much.

11. New Jersey Nets select Demar Derozan: Athletic swing-man that can play the role of a Richard Jefferson type player. Doesn't need to be the top scoring option, but can carry a team at times. Should be a good fit with Vince Carter and Devin Harris.

12. Charlotte Bobcats select Gerald Henderson: It's either him, Ty Lawson or Tyler Hansbrough. This team always takes the Carolina product if it makes any sense at all, and those three players could all be considered here. Personally, I think Gerald Henderson will be a HUGE bust because he doesn't have much of a jumper and never dominated a game in college. Regardless, Bobcats ownership seems to go for the local guys.

13. Indiana Pacers select Tyler Hansbrough: Obviously, as a Tar Heel fan I love Hansbrough. Say what you want about him, but he was able to dominate the best conference in college basketball for four years. Players that dominate consistently in college for long periods of time generally do well in the pros, unless they are injury prone. Even if he is injury prone he is tough enough to play through him. I could see him averaging 15 and 10 over a 11 plus year career.

14. Phoenix Suns select Terrence Williams: Athletic swingman with tons of potential. He is the type of player that will either be a superstar or a bust, and at this point the Suns need to take a chance. Hopefully they actually keep this pick.

15. Detroit Pistons select Ty Lawson: I'm not sure they are sold on Rodney Stuckey anymore, and while I still think he will be good, they may want to take a player that can help out at the point. It's not waisting a pick to do that, because if both pan out Stuckey can easily play the two guard.

16. Chicago Bulls select Earl Clark: This is a team that doesn't really have a position of serious need. Clark represents an extremely talented player at this point, and it's possible he could be a superstar in the Lebron James mold in that he can dribble, shoot and pass well.

17. Philly 76ers select Brandon Jennings: Andre Miller isn't getting any younger, and Jennings, while his attitude isn't the best, he has the talent. He also has a year of experience, albeit in a foreign league.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves select James Johnson: Decent shooter with good athleticism that needs time to develop, something the Wolves have plenty of, especially given their recent moves. They could also go guard here, but it's a guard heavy draft, so they should be able to get a decent one later in the draft.

19. Atlanta Hawks select Eric Maynor: I'm a big fan of Maynor. He is extremely fast, has a great runner, and can get shots off from positions you wouldn't think possible. Think Rajon Rondo. Perfect fit for a Hawks team that needs leadership and speed at the point.

20. Utah Jazz select Chase Buddinger: Matt Harpring is past his prime (if he ever had one), and Buddinger can easily do most of the things he did. Plus, he's white, and we all know how the Jazz love white players.

21. New Orleans Hornets select Wayne Ellington: Definitely a favorite for my diary. Excellent shooter, has learned when and how to drive, underrated defender and overall just a smart player. This guy could end up being the best player in this draft.

22. Portland Trail Blazers select Jrue Holliday: I don't really see a player that fits a need, mostly because the only need they have is at center. Holliday will probably spend some time in the D-League, because I don't think he's ready now to contribute. The Blazers have enough talent they can do that.

23. Sacramento Kings select Omir Casspi: Don't really know a whole lot about him, but it seems the Kings like him.

24. Dallas Mavericks select B.J. Mullens: Unathletic center, but he's 7 feet tall. Probably won't ever make it in the league long term, at least in any type of substantial role.

25. Oklahoma City selects Taj Gibson: Good rebounder that can score at a decent rate. Could be a good 6th man or fringe starter.

26. Chicago Bulls select Victor Claver: Prototypical foreign player with a little more bulk.

27. Memphis Grizzlies select Toney Douglas: Great scorer that can also handle the ball. Good player that can play alongside Mayo at times as well as give him a breather.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves select Darren Collison: Another player that should be higher up, but isn't because scouts have had so much time to watch him that they have gotten bored. He has top 5 talent defensively, and is a good floor general.

29. Los Angeles Lakers select Dajuan Summers: Polished player that can play now but has limited upside. Could be a solid contributor off the bench.

30. Cleveland Cavs select Josh Heytvelt: Was probably a top five pick until the drug bust, then dropped off the face of the earth for a little bit at Gonzaga. Great size and athletic, could definitely play right away for the Cavs.

I'm hoping to do a running diary tomorrow night but am not sure it will be possible because of work. If not, I'll have my Little Black Book on this draft on here soon.

~Aaron Jackson

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Line drives

The title really has nothing to do with anything, except I was throwing batting practice to the American Legion team that I am an assistant coach on, and I got drilled in the right ear with a come backer from about 20 feet. Just a rough night's sleep last night for somebody who sleeps generally on their right side.

Here are a few line drives for the week that should be observed:

~The Red Sox enter the week with a 4 game lead, their largest of the season. They hold this with a day off tomorrow and a 3 game series with the Washington Nationals looming. While the Nat's will never be confused with Murder's Row, in fact they have one of the worst records in Major League history at the 50 game mark, they did steal a series at the new Yankee Stadium last week. Though the craziest thing about that series was not that the Yankees dropped two of three to the lowly Nationals, or that A-Rod had to miss two games after the series because he was 'fatigued', it was that in the series finale' that nobody hit a home run. It was the first game played at the new Yankee Funeral Home, that there wasn't at least one home run.

~ The conversations, and my last column (the one with the studly, cover of a country album look to it of Brad Penny) talked about what the Red Sox were going to do with their rotation. With Dice-K now on the DL for at least 15 days (I got the feeling listening to Terry that it was going to be much longer, more like a couple of months perhaps) we are going to get a good look at what John Smotlz can contribute to this team. I subscribe to the theory that you can never have enough pitching and anytime a starting pitcher goes down, it's cause for concern. In this case though, I think the Red Sox are in really good shape. If John Smoltz isn't able to contribute to the rotation, which if that's the case I think he will move into the bullpen, Clay Buchholz will get his chance to make an impact on the major league club for the first time this season. So like Kodak, "Let's see what develops."

(I don't have a clue if Kodak said that or if anybody else said that or if it's just a excruciatingly bad joke made in the photo department of the Augusta Wal-Mart. If anybody knows the origin, let me know. Like I care.)

~After watching the Dodgers tonight against John Lackey, I think they are without a doubt the class of the National League. I had my doubts at first but this is seriously a dangerous offensive team. Last year the Phillies pitching peaked at the right time and they got more out of Cole Hamels than they had in the rest of his career. Unless they get the same or better this year, I don't think they can make a 7-game series with the Dodgers even go 6 games. The Dodgers have a very good offense, though very young and they are getting solid starting pitching. The biggest decision that they have to make is what to do with Juan Pierre when Manny Ramirez returns. It has already been said during this hot streak of Pierre's, that when Ramirez can return Pierre will return to the bench. But if you're the Dodgers wouldn't you use him at trade bait at the deadline? His value is way up there right now and he's pretty much auditioning right now for a starting job with moderate contender. A destination that I could see is the Texas Rangers. They seem to be serious about contending this season and with Josh Hamilton out for an extended period of time, it would be to their benefit to add some speed and another outfielder. Just the first place that came to mind. The only other team that makes any sense would be the Cubs or the Mets. Then again, I think every moderate, free agent or trading chip that will get too much in return will go to the Mets. I'm not sure if Ned Colletti would trade Pierre to another National League contender or not. I guess it all depends on what he could possibly get in return which might not be much.

~ As the run scoring line drive of this inning, I'd like to float this idea out there. Remember last season when there was the possibility and likelihood that the Red Sox could play against Manny at the Dodgers in the World Series? Well right now the only two teams that have eclipsed the 40 win mark are the Red Sox and the Dodgers. When Manny returns, the Dodgers really could run away from the NL West. The Red Sox are in for a battle in the American League East, but it looks like their prospects for the playoffs are once again bright, even though things could change at any time in a division like this. What would happen if the Red Sox did play the Dodgers in the World Series? There would be no lack of stories lines and here are a few off the top of my head.

1.Manny comes back to Fenway to face his former team for the first time and it's for the World Title.

2. Joe Torre against the Boston Red Sox again, the last time he managed a team against the Red Sox in the postseason, they blew a 3-0 series lead for the first time in baseball history.

3. Doug Mientkiewicz is a back up on the Dodgers right now, there's no doubt that Dan Shaughnessy would bring up the "Ballgate" fiasco again.

4. Brad Penny and Takashi Saito * The asterisk is because they might not be on the team come the trading deadline. They have been the targets of other contenders this season. If they are both with the team, especially if Penny were to make a start in Chavez Ravene in October, the comments of Dodger 3rd base coach Larry Bowa about Penny's work ethic would definitely come back into consciousness.

I got way ahead of myself, but come October, look back on this column. If these two teams play in the Fall Classic, all of these story lines will be beaten to death, or the Manny-Red Sox story line will get beaten more than the Washington Generals or the fact that during the Finals "Kobe really wants this!"

Sterling Pingree

Monday, June 15, 2009

What to do about pitching.

The Red Sox have a surplus of pitching that no other team has. The old saying goes, "you can never have enough pitching," but the Red Sox right now need to figure out the best way to use all that they have for their greatest advantage. Clay Buchholz is dominating Triple-A right now and is starting to get the itch down there. Smoltz is going to be ready to start in the majors this week and that Brad Penny that we thought was the best case scenario when the Red Sox signed him seems to be waiting simply to make his next start. The question is now, what should the Red Sox do to maximize their output from all of this talent that they have.
The rotation right now is Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Penny and Wakefield.
The closest thing to a hole in that rotation right now is Matsuzaka who probably won't be back to what he was for this entire season (just another casualty of the WBC). Lester and Beckett are starting to turn into the pitchers that people hoped that they would be this season while Penny isn't far behind them and Wakefield actually carried the Red Sox for the first month and a half of the season. So where does Smoltz break in? Do you trade Penny? My dad said today he wouldn't trade Penny for anybody less than Hanley Ramirez. Where I don't agree with that, I do believe that his price tag is a lot higher than teams thought or perhaps his price tag has risen since teams started negotiating with the Red Sox. When his name was first being thrown out there in trade talks, Buster Olney said that the Red Sox might get an okay prospect and that's about it. Right now where I haven't heard anything about where he might end up or what for, I would have to imagine that the Red Sox could get the shortstop upgrade that they have been seeking.
Here's what makes sense to me, as good as Brad Penny has been, he has been injured a lot in his career and that could derail the chances of getting anything in return for him. So it might be smart to trade high with him now.
So now with an opening in the rotation it only seems natural that John Smoltz would come in and take that spot, right? Sort of. I think you bring him AND Buchholz into the rotation. Yes, I said it, a 6 man rotation. Where Beckett and Lester have been fantastic, Daisuke could use some rest and I'm sure Smoltz and Wakefield could as well, and it probably wouldn't hurt Buchholz either. I wouldn't use the 6 man rotation too long however, I would use it until the beginning of August and then move either Tim Wakefield or John Smoltz to the bullpen as the long man. Because right now the only long man is Justin Masterson and either Wakefield or Smoltz could be invaluable with the young guys in the bullpen. Though right now the bullpen has been pretty much lights out, the question becomes who do you move out if you move in Smoltz or Wake. I think it's an easy choice (and not because he didn't have a good outing yesterday), I think Bard has to be sent back down. He has shown flashes of absolute brilliance, at times he has lost his command and still looks like a young pitcher. He could use some more seasoning in Pawtuckett until he can be called up again in September 1.
Will any of this happen? Yes, it has to.
Will all of this happen? Not a chance, because for everything I know, there has to be more that I don't. Though this all makes sense right?

Sterling Pingree

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Without Women,We Are Men.

I know the title might need work, but it encompasses a couple things and all actually apply. It is an ode to the piece "Men Without Women" by David Halberstam, where he covered a week long fishing trip with 12 men. Some of them he knew, some of them he knew through a friend and some of them he had never met before. This past week I started as an assistant coach for the American Legion team that I played for in my high school years, but in doing so I was going to have to cancel a planned camping/fishing trip with my buddy Joey. But with rain in the forecast for most of the week, the tuesday and wednesday practices were canceled on monday, giving me a chance to potentially make the 2 hour trip to northern Maine for the trip. Driving back from practice about 11pm monday, I sent a text to Joey, I was going to Boyd Lake tuesday.

We met up in Bangor where I would leave my truck and from there take Joey's car into camp after stopping off at his parents house in Bradford and picking up enough fire wood for what promised to be a cold and damp midweek camping trip. We arrived around 4pm to the camp that his grandfather's camp on Boyd Lake and got our gear unloaded. I had been to this camp once before, only a few monthes ago when I helped Joey clean out the camp, which had not been properly opened up for going on 15 years. I had known of Boyd Lake much earlier however. My grandparents, like Joey's, had once had a camp up there that I had stayed at a few times during the summer. I remember swimming off the boat launch and catching a sunfish with an old fishing pole. There were some very good memories of my childhood spent up there with my older cousins before they started families and while my grandfather was still alive. Since then, my grandmother has sold the camp to one of my cousins and I have heard that they had fixed the camp up nice. After pouring ourselves each a drink we went out to the screened in front porch and watched the waves as they lapped against the shore in front of the camp. Talking about sports, baseball, people we both know, old times gone by, women and fishing stories. It's during this time we see a fish jumping about 12 yards off the dock. Joey decides that it must be a Pickerel, I concur and after my encouragement, he goes out to the dock and tried to land the fish. It seemed of good size and had been quite active as we watched him, leaping half way out of the water 5 or 6 times in a 5 minute period. After coming in unsuccessfully, we spent the night listening to the Red Sox-Yankees game on the radio and playing cards. There were drinks, but the drinks were the main focus, neither was the numerous games of Cribbage, or the hot dogs we grilled midway through the game. Though the Red Sox game was omnipresent, it was present the whole time. Just when you got into the rhythm of playing cards and hearing the familiar sounds of Joe Castiglione call the ballgame, you could instantly be pulled back in by moments like David Ortiz's 2-run home run off AJ Burnett. The Red Sox ended up coasting to a victory and moving their record this season against the Yankees to 6-0.
After the game ended we switched back to another common love, country music. As the songs of George Strait, Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley played on, so did we, battling hand after hand, game after game of cribbage. Never really talking about anything substantial, more just analyzing the hands that we had just played or the cards that we threw into one another's crib.
The second day was darker, grayer and a little wetter. It didn't rain at any point, but the feeling was always damp and the skys always ominous. Forging ahead anyway, we took off in the canoe, to see what we could catch and to try and not camsize in the wake of the now strong winds. In the hours that we were out there the only catch was a small pickerel that Joey caught and released. Like most canoe trips in tough winds, the ride out to our farthest point was much easier than our ride back into camp. Night 2 was similar to the first with the Red Sox once again beating the Yankees, although tonight we had to listen to Jon Risch instead of Dave O'Brien which took away from the experience. After the game ended and we returned to country music we kept the drinks coming, but now we started playing ping pong and we didn't stop. We started with a few games into the afternoon and that quickly escalated until 3am in when our driving abilities had most assuredly abandoned us, but our ping pong abilities had been enhanced. The games took a similar pattern; one guy would get a lead, one guy would blow the lead, we would battle each other for every point with volley's that would make Nadal and Federer at Wimbledon look like two guys playing ping pong at 3am after drinking Crown Royal, Coors Light and Natty Light on a camp porch......on a wednesday night.
Thursday I had planned to head back as there was another practice that night. I awoke and found that the skies were actually lighter and the water very calm. I quickly brushed my teeth, dressed and got out onto the dock and set to cast a line or two and see what I could see. After about 20 minutes and only a nibble from a curious sun fish I got a hit, a big hit. I landed what looked to be about an 18 inch pickerel. I called Joey's name, who had yet to get out of bed, (perhaps the ping pong had taken it out of him, or perhaps it was the Nat Light, who knows) he came out as I was bringing the fish in. I didn't have a Leatherman on me and anybody who has caught or even seen a pickerel before knows you do not want to put your hands in their mouth to get the hook out. Joey and the fish approached the dock at the same time, I brought the fish up to the dock and the fish spit the hook. The timing could not have been better, I brought the fish up and I didn't have to deal with the pickerel allagator like teeth. Figuring that this was a good omen for the day we got our gear together to depart the camp so we could set out and fish on Big Boyd Lake for a few hours first. My goal for the day was different however, to find the camp that had belonged to my grandfather and where I had spent some terrific times during my childhood. We encountered loons, ducks and very little else as we trolled a line behind us and made our assent to the end of the lake where I believed the old camp to be. Just as we hit the corner of the lake Joey said he thought we had something. Sure enough as he grabbed the Shakespeare Ugly Stick rod, I looked back from my spot at the front of the canoe and saw a good sized bass lift out of the water, with the hook in his mouth. After a short battle, and the revelation that we had left the net back at the camp, I grabbed the line and brought the bass into the canoe. We both felt a rush of exhileration, even without the net we had manned up and brought the fish into the boat. We took pictures of the fish and released it back into Boyd Lake. It took a while for our levels of exhileration to come down, but it did just in time for us to paddle along the shoreline to see the camps down at that end.
With the improvements to my grandfather's camp by my cousin Karen and her husband and the fact that I hadn't seen the camp since about 1995, I wasn't sure if I would be able to recognize the camp even if I saw it. The one thing that I did remember about the camp was that there was a road into the camp that was directly to the left of it and then another road in front of the camp, so the camp set on the corner and of the course the boat launch across the street. As we paddled and I was about to give up, there it was, still barn red as I remembered but it looked much improved. But because of the proximety to the intersecting roads I knew it was my grandfathers camp.
It's amazing in life how you can comeback to a place where you once were without expecting so. It's almost like you're supposed to go back there for some reason or supposed to bring back the memories that were made there. The time at the camp, which I will refer to as "The Midweek-Weekend" was something that every man needs. Time away from the world was just what I needed, the Red Sox beating the Yankees didn't hurt either. Sometimes it's just important for guys to be guys without women around, without too much technology around and to be back to where men were once and still are great:

Sterling Pingree