Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Not enough

It took me a week to semi-organize my thoughts about the UEFA Final. AC Milan prevailed 2-1 over Liverpool last Wednesday. I watched the game on TIVO - taking a day off two days after coming back from a week long vacation is frowned upon at the Fun Factory - so that kind of dulled the pain.

After a week of thinking about it the same thoughts keep coming back. Rafa waited too long to bring in Peter Crouch. His game plan was solid, but the big names couldn't finish. Stevie Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and John Arne Riise all had chances to score and couldn't find the back of the net. Jermaine Pennant did a great job of creating space, but couldn't do anything once he was open. I guess a little bit of karma was paid back. The magic 6 minutes in Istanbul were repaid with 93---errr 92 and 1/2--- minutes of frustration in Athens.

Watching the replay of the first goal.... it might have been a handball, but there is no way the ref can make that call at real speed. Even watching slow down replays on the TIVO didn't show a definitive replay.

The second goal from AC Milan was the result of a sublime pass by Kaka. Pepe Reina hesitated off his line for a second and the ball was trickled into the back of the net. Crouch played strong once he was in maybe he would have been a factor on some of the wayward crosses from Steve Finnan and Pennant that were harmlessly booted away earlier in the game.

Kruyt's goal in bonus time brought a little hope into the hacienda, but I never had the feeling that they could pull it off.

Time for the mastermind to rebuild. it would be nice to see him build a team that is competitive in Europe and in the Premiership, but that will be difficult. Crouch has been assured he is still in the teams plans, but it looks like Craig Bellamy will be gone as will Robbie Fowler. It should be interesting to see what happens once the transfer window opens up this summer.

Lightning News

This is a little old, but I figured I'd still take the time to mention it.

The Bolts resigned Johan Holmqvist to a one year $1 Million contract. It looks like the goalie situation from last season will roll into next season. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. I think they need Holmqvist or Marc Denis to step forward and play as a true number one. The rotation won't work.

Craig Ramsey was let go by the orginization. Well they fired him over "philosophical differences" between him and head coach John Tortorella. If there is any doubt who is in control of the orginization the latest move should settle it. Torts is in complete control. That isn't always a bad thing.

No payroll cut.... it will still be hard to field a deep team within the salary cap limitations.

I've said in the past that Dan Boyle is a free agent. Apparently I was incorrect. He has one more season with the team. That's good news, bit it also means a year of "when will they trade Boyle" stories. That's not good for the morale of the team. I still believe that the piece that they have to move now is Marty St Louis. I'll expand more on that in the future.

Quick Hits

Some notes while watching the Tigers dismantle the Rays......

Aki is back. In Aki fashion he scores the winning run. The Rays are much, much better when he's holding court at 3rd base.

Gomes is gone. He needs at bats to get his swing back. Hopefully he has a solid visit to North Carolina and is ready to go when the Rays need him later this year.

New team in 2008. Andrew Friedman confirmed that the Rays have been in contact with the league office in regards to uniform and name changes for next season. He mentioned that the color scheme will be the biggest change. I would say the blue/yellow scheme rumors are true and the name change will offically make the team the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays may be holding a very, very big chip come trading time - Al Reyes. Several teams (the White Sox come to the forefront) have had bullpen issues. Look for the Whiz Kids (Friedman and Andrew Silverman) to make the best possible deal for Reyes.

The bullpen will get better..... it can't get worse.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Radio Ga Ga

Alright folks first off I’m sorry it’s been awhile since I’ve typed some words. I also realized that’s it has been quite some time that I’ve given examples as to why I named the blog the way I did. That is to blast fans in this area. With the Rays being swept by the Marlins I figured that there would be plenty of examples of the kind of fans the TBA has on the radio today.

Lucky for you and me the filters at the No Limits Fun Factory no longer block the streaming feed of the local sports station. If you’re familiar with the TBA you know that there is only one real sports radio station and that the local talent – well it leaves a lot to be desired.

I understand that negativity makes for better radio and that in order to fill 4 hours a day you have to take down some sacred cows. However, the local hosts in Tampa take it to a new level. It seems they revel in the current slide Tampa Bay sports has currently taken. The worst part is that they do it with a smugness and ignorance that is appalling.

For their parts the fans that call in aren’t much better. No matter what the topic of the day is 75% of the callers will state that Mike Alstott needs more playing time, the Lightning should never have let Nikolai Khabibulin get away and that they are Yankee fans, but they go to “a lot” of Rays games.

Any caller that has a strong argument or can point out a flaw in the host’s argument is usually subjected to verbal abuse or quickly hung up on. God forbid a caller point out any past errors on a host’s part or question his “sources”. You may as well curse his mother or kick his dog.

So today the plan was to listen to as much of the program as possible to show the world (or at least the 7 readers I have) what it’s like to listen to local radio. It will show you why I am more than willing to pay for Sirius Satellite radio.

I tuned in at 3.00pm expecting to hear the mindless rantings of the one referred to as “The Big Dog”. As mentioned before the Rays had been swept and a major gambling event, The Preakness, had occurred. Unfortunately today was the day of The Chris Thomas Memorial Golf Tournament. Chris Thomas was truly a one of a kind announcer. Articulate, well informed and slightly eccentric Thomas was the former morning drive time host for the sports station. His death 3 years ago has left a great void that hasn’t been filled to this day.

So the “Big Dog” had the day off and was replaced by a younger host, Justin Pawlowski, who does a weekly Saturday show and usually does a good job – if he focuses on football. I would argue that of the on air talent at the station he knows the most about the game and can talk about it very well. When he hosts a show with open topics it seems he loses a little confidence and bit of credibility.

To sum up today’s show: Joe Maddon has to go and the bullpen is horrible and Shawn Camp and Brian Stokes should be executed immediately. I agree the bullpen is horrible, but I would argue that it has been a known weakness going into the season and it’s being beaten into the ground. It would be like going to a Dane Cook movie and then complaining that it wasn’t Oscar worthy.

One fan chanted, “Joe Must Go!” during his call. Another stated that he was the worst manager in the majors right now. The host implied that he was a puppet for upper management while stating that he would “never call anyone a puppet”. Yet another caller, boosting of his status as a little league coach, stated he won’t go to another game until Maddon was gone. Not one caller defended Maddon while I was listening.

As for my take , I disagree 100% that he should be fired. I don’t agree with all of his moves, but I think he is the perfect manager for this club. He is even keeled and he is dedicated to playing the young players to see what they’re going to develop into.

Case in point from Sunday’s game. In the 9th inning and trailing by 1 run the Rays had Greg Norton on first base and Dioner Navarro at the plate. Navarro is hitting .194 on the season. On the bench was left handed hitting Carl Crawford. Maddon elected to let Navarro hit – the portly catcher promptly struck out to end the game.

Outrage followed on the radio. Pawlowski was the harshest as he accused Maddon of not wanting to win the game. Despite the fact that an injury to Josh Paul had left Ty Wigginton as the back up catcher the host was adamant that a team shouldn’t leave it’s best player on the bench in a close game.

Paulowski’s argument was that you deal with the catching problem if it becomes an issue. However, he was missing the object of this season – it’s to see who can play and who can’t. What if Navarro comes through in the situation? Maybe it turns his season around. What if Crawford pulls a hamstring running out a ground ball?

It was a decision that you could argue either way at the time, it’s not the type of decision that calls for the removal of a manager. I think he still has a lot to learn as a manger and he can be loyal to a fault (see Ben Zorbist and Brian Stokes), but to fire him would be a mistake. The fans to a man seem to want someone along the lines of Lou Pinella back with managing the club.

What good would that do? It might be more entertaining with all of the yelling and screaming and hat throwing, but would it be any better for the club? No. Managers like Sweet Lou have better success with veteran clubs. The noise out of the clubhouse in the last year of his tenure with the Rays suggested that the younger players were scared to make mistakes when they played for him. That’s no way to lead a young club.

Maddon may not win any umpire baiting contests or show up on SportsCenter throwing bases around the infield, but he allows the players to develop in the line up. That’s going to lead to losses, more losses than wins as a matter of fact. It will also lead to a better ball club. My friend Big Mike once used the phrase, “long term good, short term bad”. He used it to describe a doomed relationship I was in, but it also applies here. While short term success looks bleak, the lessons learned in losses this season will lead to wins in the long term.

As far as the bullpen goes – well that’s a matter for a whole different column.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I'm back...

Haven't posted in a little bit. It's not from lack of interest rather it's from having more than one interest. I just got back from a trip to the 50th state. Not much Tampa sports news out there - although there was one article on the Rays remaking their image. Go figure.

So this site will be fired back up in the next day or so.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

The World is waiting..... and praying

I haven’t been a boxing fan for my entire life. Much like I haven’t been a hockey fan or football fan for my entire life. The only sport that I can really say that I’ve followed from childhood would be baseball. It’s been there my entire life – ever since I was young American playing tee-ball in Germany.

One might say that baseball has been the constant companion in my life, kind of like the girl that you would marry. Good looking, fun, smart and sensible that would be baseball. Boxing on the other hand would be the crazy ex-girlfriend that you had a fling with during college that randomly appears in your life from time to time.

You don’t trust her, you know she’s bad for you and that it won’t work out. Yet for some reason, even though you know it’s going to end badly, you buy her a drink and give her one more chance. Well get you wallet open ‘cause here she’s back – and “The World Awaits”.

It’s Oscar De La Hoya and it’s Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last month than you know they’re fighting this Saturday in Las Vegas. It’s the Pretty Boy versus the Golden Boy and for the sake of boxing it better live up to the hype.

Never before has a fight had so much riding on it. Multi-city press tours and a semi-reality series on HBO are just two of the promotion gimmicks that have been thrown at sports fans in the last few months. With the decay of the pride of boxing – the heavyweight division – and the rise of Pride/IFC/ Mixed Martial Arts the boxing world needs this fight to be a success.

According to Oscar and Golden Boy Productions the fight should shatter records for most pay per view subscriptions. The number they are throwing around is 2 million subscribers. At $54.95 that’s a hefty amount of money coming in. So what would make the fight a success?

Simply put – a good, exciting fight with an honest decision. It doesn’t seem that hard to do does it? However, with the state of boxing these days you never know what might happen. The good news is that Don King isn’t involved.

With all the hype about this being the fight that may save boxing it’s easy to forget that the actual fight could prove entertaining. Two of the biggest stars are set to face each other and they both have drastically different styles of fighting.

The battle inside the squared circle is going to put the unmatched athleticism of Mayweather against the guile of the slugger De La Hoya. For Oscar to have a chance he’s going to have cut the ring off and force the slick Mayweather to stand toe to toe with him. Pretty Boy has no intention of doing that.

Mayweather is going to use his phenomenal conditioning to move around the ring and avoid the power of De La Hoya. His game plan is to score and scamper. It might not be the most courageous way to fight and it’s probably why Floyd enjoys less fame than his ego desires, bit it’s also the reason he’s undefeated and regarded as the best pound for pound boxer in the sport.

He hasn’t faced a boxer yet that has the finishing power of the golden boy from California. Of course De La Hoya has to catch him before he can hurt him and that may cause a problem. There are some predicting a quick victory for Mayweather (I’m looking right at you Big Mike!) but they are discounting Oscar’s pride.

I fully expect De La Hoya to be spouting blood like an extra from “300”, but Mayweather has spent the last few months hurling every insult in the book at the pride of Mexican-Americans across the country. That’s good enough in my book to make the 34 year old a dangerous commodity in this fight.

Watching and reading all the pre fight hype hasn’t helped determine who’s taking this fight more serious. For all of the crazy antics and distractions happening in the Mayweather camp there are equal stories about De La Hoya and his role as boxer / promoter. It seems that most of the articles written about De La Hoya building up to the match are about him transitioning to the role of promoter rather than boxer. It makes you wonder on where his focus is the fight or the financial success of the fight.

While the preoccupation with his promotion is understanding given his age (34) and recent performance (2 losses in his last 4 fights) people seem to forget he’s still looking to cement his legacy as one of the all time greats in the ring. If he can legitimately defeat the loud mouth “brat” from Las Vegas he does a lot to shut up his critics who say he hasn’t had a real fight in years.

From the Mayweather side this is the career defining fight that he has searched for to silence his detractors. Long hyped as the best pound for pound boxer in the sport his unblemished record hasn’t led to the type of fame he needs. If it’s out of the ring excursions (domestic violence charges, assault charges, brash talk) or his win on points style of boxing that has led those to question the validity of his career he know has the fight to prove the naysayers wrong.

Personally I think Mayweather has too much speed and skill for the lumbering De La Hoya I don’t think the flamboyant youngster (30) has enough power to knock out the legend. I say Mayweather by decision.

Whatever the outcome the world will be watching and for the sake of the sport of kings – it better like what it sees.