White Hat Sports Headlines

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