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Jim Brockmire: The Greatest Sportscaster of our time

May 6, 2010 Comments off

Thanks to Funny or Die we have (IMO) one of the funniest men in the world Hank Azaria portray great baseball announcer Jim Brockmire. If you care Dan Patrick, Joe Buck, and Rich Eisen are in the video too.Why they didn’t have Chip Caray in the mix is beyond me.

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NBA: ‘Los Suns’ Statement Changes Focus

May 5, 2010 Comments off

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On an off day in Portland, Robert Sarver went to work with his basketball team. He put on a Suns’ T-shirt and black silk shorts. And as players mingled with the media on the main floor of the Rose Garden, Sarver began sprinting up the steps of the arena, one section at a time.

Some reporters were stunned. Was he that desperate for a workout? Or was he that desperate for attention?

Like it or not, the Suns owner has caused a huge stir this time around. His team will wear orange “Los Suns” jerseys Wednesday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Spurs, a maneuver designed to celebrate the NBA’s diversity and illustrate his displeasure with Arizona’s new immigration law.

“It’s two-fold,” Suns General Manager Steve Kerr said. “One, it is Cinco de Mayo. And, two, it is a political statement. We felt the law, however well intended, was not right.”

Sarver is a banker by trade, and his stance is as much about money as it is about civil rights. As a businessman, he does not want to see economic boycotts, cancelled conventions and big events removed from our region. That lowers the tide for everyone in Arizona, at a time when his basketball team is struggling to sell tickets for playoff games.

It’s also brilliant public relations. The move comes during peak visibility of the NBA season. The Suns and Spurs have all the ingredients – a history, a rivalry and a stunning contrast of styles – to guarantee great television ratings. This decision will help soften the national image of Arizona, countering all the body shots we’ve received from pundits, politicians and late-night comics.

It also will mute the scene expected outside US Airways Center before Game 2.

“We hear there will be some protesters outside the building,” Kerr said. “From what I gather, there will be a march from a local church to the arena. So there was going to be some hoopla anyway.”

Kerr said the idea occurred to Sarver during a recent road trip to Portland. The Suns quickly received an endorsement from the league, which doesn’t like anything interfering with potential customers and revenue streams.

Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, LeBron James and other NBA players said they were going to speak out against the atrocities in Darfur, and bring attention to China’s history in human rights. The league effectively stifled that banter, reminding the players that they all had huge economic stakes in China, a market the NBA and Nike both consider an untapped gold mine.

Yet even with the NBA’s blessing, say this for Sarver: He had the good sense to ask his team for permission, and not jam it down its throat.

“They were all for it,” Kerr said. “We said, ‘Look, if this is going to be a distraction, you guys tell us and we won’t do it.’ For them, it means they answer some questions (Tuesday) and they wear orange jerseys (Wednesday night).”

To the contrary, the Suns seemed stoked to make such a bold statement. Amar’e Stoudemire said it was great to “let the Latin community know we’re behind them 100 percent.”

Then again, though most professional athletes prefer the politics of richness, the Suns are a bit different this way. Especially their point guard, who tends to care deeply about things such as global warming, human rights and gun control.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Steve Nash said. “I think the law is very misguided, and unfortunately, to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties. And I think it’s really important for us to stand up for things we believe in . . .

“It doesn’t feel good to have people around the world and around the country look at our state as less than equal, less than fair. So as a proud (resident) of this state, I want us to be held in the highest esteem. I think we have a lot of great attributes and a lot of great people, and I think we need to be very cautious in how we respect our civil liberties, and the tone we’re setting, and the precedent we’re setting going forward.”

The statement doesn’t come without risk. In his statement, Sarver called the immigration law “flawed,” and that won’t endear him to people who support the measure. And if the Suns stink up the place in Game 2, losing home-court advantage in the process, the entire organization will be criticized for distracting the great focus the team displayed in Game 1.

“Look, it’s a major issue here in Arizona,” Kerr said. “It’s much bigger than a basketball game. It doesn’t mean we’re crafting a new immigration bill. We’re not claiming to be politicians and we don’t have the answer. But there were Latino people who feel offended. A lot of people feel offended. I felt offended. I don’t think we should live in a country where you have to show papers wherever you are.”

Say this for the Suns owner: It’s a bold move. And much trickier than any of those steps he scaled in Portland.

MLB: Is Greinke the Unluckiest Pitcher Ever?‎

May 5, 2010 Comments off

After winning the Cy Young Award last year, Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke appears primed to make history of a different sort this season: unluckiest pitcher ever.

Mr. Greinke’s ERA of 2.27 is 79% better than the league average when adjusted for ballpark effects. Yet his record stands at 0-3. In baseball history, only 17 pitchers have won 15 games or fewer with an ERA at least 50% lower than average (minimum 32 starts and 200 innings pitched). None has won fewer than 12 games, and only two had losing records—Ben Sheets (12-14, 2004 Brewers) and Dave Roberts (14-17, 1971 Padres).

At the opposite end of the spectrum, fellow Cy Young winner Steve Carlton won 27 games for a 1972 Phillies team that finished 59-97. Mr. Carlton’s ERA that year was 80% better than average—almost identical to Mr. Greinke’s current pace. A big difference was Mr. Carlton’s completing 73% of his starts while Mr. Greinke has already seen his league-worst bullpen blow three would-be wins.

While Kansas City presently doesn’t rank last in a single key offensive category, the team has scored just 12 runs for Mr. Greinke in six starts. Perhaps former Yankee Mickey Rivers had it right when he famously said, “Pitching is 80% of the game. The other half is hitting and fielding.”

Uh, a Little Help Here Guys?

Here’s how Zack Greinke stacks up against the five unluckiest pitchers in baseball history based on their number of wins and how their ERA compared with the league average.*

PLAYER/TEAM/YEAR ERA COMPARED WITH LEAGUE * RECORD
Zack Greinke, Royals , 2010 2.27 79% better than average 0-3 (so far)
Ben Sheets, Brewers, 2004 2.70 60% better than average 12-14
Tom Candiotti, Blue Jays/Indians, 1991 2.65 57% better than average 13-13
Lefty Grove, Athletics, 1926 2.51 67% better than average 13-13
Kevin Brown, Dodgers, 2000 2.58 67% better than average 13-6
Roger Clemens, Astros, 2005 1.87 124% better than average 13-8

*min. 32 starts, 200 innings pitched; league ERA is adjusted for park effects Source: Baseball-Reference

Alabama Man Wins $1 Million in MLB 2K10 Perfect Game Contest

May 5, 2010 Comments off

When I heard 2K Sports was giving away $1 million to the first fan to pitch a perfect game in MLB 2K10 this year, it seemed like one of those things that would be almost impossible to win, particularly given the extensive rules about how the perfect game needed to be recorded.


Turns out I was very wrong and a perfect game was actually pitched in the first 24 hours of the contest. Never underestimate the determination of the gaming population at large.

2K Sports announced today that 24-year-old Wade McGilberry of Semmes, Alabama has won an unprecedented cash prize in the amount of $1,000,000 by being the first person to throw a verified perfect game in Major League Baseball® 2K10, the latest iteration of the popular Major League Baseball® 2K series.

According to Eric Fisher from SportsBusiness Journal, McGilberry used Braves pitcher Kenshin Kawakami (pictured above) to pitch his perfect game. (This is a real head-scratcher because real-life is 0-5 this season with a 5.47 ERA. I’ll be eager to hear why he picked this particular pitcher.)

If I’m reading Darren Rovell’s story correctly on CNBC, it only took McGilberry six tries to land his perfect game. Another fun note from Rovell’s piece: 2K Sports didn’t take out any insurance on this contest because companies couldn’t come up with odds. That can’t be good for the bottom line of a gaming company that has narrowed its offerings in the last few years.

MLB: America’s Pastimes: Baseball, Apple Pie and Political Flame Wars

May 5, 2010 Comments off

Remember back during the Congressional hearings for baseball, when elected official spent their time, and therefore hard-earned taxpayer money, talking aboutbaseball, of all things? Baseball and politics…whodathunkit?

Now, we can’t seem to get away from it. The New York Daily Newshad a story – albeit under their News section and not Sports – focusing on a group called the Working Families Party, which has drafted a letter to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Mets owner Fred Wilpon asking the two New York teams to boycott the 2011 MLB All-Star game in Arizona if the state doesn’t repeal its new immigration law.

“Will Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera have to show ID to take the mound next year?” asked Working Families Party director Dan Cantor in a letter to the labor-backed party’s 130,000 supporters.Arizona’s new law will require cops to ask for immigration documents from anyone suspected of entering the country illegally. Critics say it could lead to racial profiling, and opponents across the country have urged MLB to move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Phoenix.

“If New York’s baseball teams say they won’t go, they could become leaders in a national push to move the All-Star Game out of Arizona,” Cantor wrote.

Hugging Harold Reynolds profiled the article this morning and made the point most of us are probably thinking: “please, leave your politics out of my baseball.” But at this point, that’s nearly impossible. The comment from HHR even came a paragraph after pointing out that moving the All-Star game could cost the region “approximately $60 million” in revenue, much of which, the post asserts, would be going to the same undocumented workers the law was put in place to eradicate.

“Please leave your politics out of my baseball.” Maybe that should end with a question mark. In reading the NYDN story on the push for a boycott, the right side bar had a link to an opinion piece by S.E. Cupp with the headline, “Starting in left field, Keith Olbermann: He’s embraced by MLB and the NFL while Limbaugh was shunned.”

If you click through to Cupp’s byline you’ll see an error message as this is, presumably, the first article the bespectacled pundit has written for the paper. At the end of the slam piece, Cupp’s personal web address appears, and when clicking through, you are linked to a book she wrote called Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity. So, is Cupp upset with Olbermann because he’s “liberal media” or is she upset because he’s a Yankees fan?

Look, I’m no fan of Olbermann’s heavy-handed style of broadcasting – no matter how much I agree or disagree with his politics – but holy cow talk about taking yourself too seriously. This is too fantastic not to quote:

Nothing says “America” like our national pastime. For a few yawning hours, chronological time becomes primordial time, and within those walls of sacred stadiums, space becomes holy. And the Boys of Summer do what they’ve been doing for nearly two centuries. They play ball.But over the years, nefarious characters have threatened to sully baseball’s good name. Chick Gandil persuaded the Chicago White Sox to throw a few games back in 1919. Peter Edward Rose had a bit of a gambling problem. And, of course, there’s everyone’s favorite recovering opportunist – Jose Canseco, the Danny Bonaduce of baseball – and the long line of performance-enhancing abusers from Mark McGwire to you-know-who.

Now there’s another menace lurking in the shadows of the dugout, someone so ugly, so vindictive, so polarizing that with every word he utters he is bastardizing whatever sanctity remains of the game.

His name is Keith Olbermann.

And that’s just the start. The NYDN unleashed this woman on Olbermann with the angle that Olbermann is such a hate monger at his day job at MSNBC that MLB, and the NFL if you consider his work on NBC for Football Night in America, should be ashamed to associate with him. And, to the point of the article, how dare they let Olbermann have a sports voice when Rush Limbaugh “can’t even buy his way into the NFL.”

Olbermann, thus far on his Twitter feed, has taken the high road. Here’s another gem from Cupp:

So let’s get this straight. Limbaugh is too conservative for football, evangelical minister the Rev. Franklin Graham is too Christian for the National Day of Prayer, and Islam is too touchy for “South Park.”Meantime, Olbermann’s misogyny, race-baiting and fear-mongering makes him a perfect voice for America’s national pastime?

Take me out to the ballgame…take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks…but you better make sure the person selling them to me doesn’t look like he’s from Mexico or I’m calling the cops.

So we’ll root, root, root for the home team…if they don’t win it’s a shame…but not as much of a shame as a former sportscaster having a blog on MLBlogs that anyone who wants to can create and write about baseball…

For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old…ball…game!

MLB: Wagner, 38, plans to retire at season’s end

May 1, 2010 Comments off

Billy Wagner will retire at the end of this season, the 38-year-old closer told Braves manager Bobby Cox on Friday.

Wagner, who is sixth all-time in saves with 387, wanted to reach 400 career saves and has it plainly in his sights. But with or without that mark, and whether he comes close to John Franco’s saves record for a lefthander at 424 , he’ll call it quits at the end of the 2010 season. He said he will not play out his $6.5 million option for next season, which automatically vests if he finishes 50 games.


He wants to spend more time with his family.

“I still like the competition, that’s why I do it,” said Wagner, who turns 39 on July 25. “I like going out and winning, that still drives me. But being home with them last year, I enjoyed it. There’s so much more to offer them at this age, and I need to be home.”

Wagner and his wife Sarah have three sons and a daughter: Will 11, Jeremy 9, Olivia 6, Cason 3. They live on a farm in Crozet, Virginia near Charlottesville. He got a chance to spend more time at home with them last season while he was rehabilitating from September 2008 elbow reconstruction surgery.

Wagner made his comeback with the Mets last year and was then was traded to the Red Sox for a playoff run. He thought about retiring at the end of last season but reconsidered. He was planning to pitch one more year, even as he signed a one year, $7 million contract with the Braves with an option for 2011.

“I told my kids I’d play one more year and that’s it, and the Braves just threw in the option,” Wagner said.

Wagner has only two saves in three opportunities this season. The Braves’ nine-game losing streak heading into the weekend series with the Astros has limited his opportunities. He’s optimistic the Braves team will turn things around, but becoming only the fifth reliever with 400 saves and trying to catch Franco provide him only targets, not determining factors anymore.

“I wanted a chance at 400, and that’s great,” Wagner said. “I didn’t want to have to chase everything. If it happens this year, great, if not, then so be it. Just try to make this one of those years to really enjoy and have a good time and maybe win a championship along the way. Plus Bobby, he’s always meant a lot to me, growing up. To play my final year and him being his final year – it was the right timing.”

Wagner said Cox told him he thought he had the stuff to continue playing a few more years. Wagner can still hit 97, 98 mph with his fastball.

“He’s had a great career,” Cox said. “Hopefully he can get a whole bunch of saves the rest of the way. I said ‘We’ll go out together, Billy.’”

Wagner earned his second save of the season Friday by preserving the Braves’ 4-2 win over the Astros. He faced just three batters in the ninth despite giving up a walk, by inducing a double play to end the game.

MLB: Fallout from immigration law tars Arizona Diamondbacks

April 29, 2010 Comments off

The Arizona Diamondbacks are like one of those fans in the lower deck at Chase Field who gets struck by a foul ball during a game. They didn’t see it coming.

Today at Chicago’s Wrigley Field and in just about every city the team visits, there is expected to be a protest outside the stadium against Arizona’s new immigration-enforcement law, Senate Bill 1070.

One of the people organizing and encouraging such protests is Tony Herrera, the Arizona representative for a national movement (it has a Facebook page) called “Boycott Arizona 2010.”

“This team is an ambassador for Arizona,” Herrera told me. “And the owner, Mr. (Ken) Kendrick, is a big supporter of Republican politics. This new law was a Republican bill. Until the law is changed, there should be protests.”

The Diamondbacks appear to have been caught off guard by such comments, even though it is well known that Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick and his family are major contributors to the Republican Party.

The team’s vice president for communications, Shaun Rachau, told me that the organization doesn’t believe that targeting the team is fair. He forwarded me the following statement:

“Although D-backs’ Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick has donated to Republican political candidates in the past, the organization has communicated to Boycott Arizona 2010 leader Tony Herrera that Kendrick personally opposes (Senate) Bill 1070. The team also explained that Kendrick is one of nearly 75 owners of the D-backs and none of his, nor do the other owners’, personal contributions reflect organizational preferences. The D-backs have never supported (Senate) Bill 1070, nor has the team ever taken a political stance or position on any legislation.”

To which you might ask, why not?

As one Internet blogger noted, “If the owners of the Diamondbacks want to underwrite an ugly edge of bigotry, we should raise our collective sporting fists against them. A boycott is also an expression of solidarity with Diamondback players such as Juan Gutierrez, Gerardo Parra, and Rodrigo Lopez. They shouldn’t be put in a position where they’re cheered on the playing field and then asked for their papers when the uniform comes off.”

Latino players make up a significant part of just about every major-league roster. Likewise, there are many, many Latino baseball fans.

Exactly how WOULD the team, the fans and the players react if a baseball star happened to be singled out and asked to produce his “papers” while in Arizona?

“There’s a protest we’re expecting outside of Wrigley,” the D-Backs’ Rachau said. “We’re unique in that we’re an Arizona company that travels around the country and plays baseball games. So any time we come to a large market the people in that city can put their focus on us. I understand that they’re not pointing at the team but saying that you represent Arizona.”

For Herrera, it’s a little more than that.

“The fact that Kendrick has supported the Republican agenda is significant to us,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of response from across the country. We’re asking for a meeting (with the team) on May 7 with people who are flying in from across the country. We want to talk to the team, but, you know, they do represent Arizona.”

We all feel bad for the fan who gets beaned by a foul ball. Like that fan, the Diamondbacks didn’t think they were in the game.

But they were spectators in the stadium, like every other business in Arizona. At Chase Field, there are dozens of signs warning fans to look out for “flying objects” from the field.

If the team had been paying attention, it would have seen this ball coming.

The outrage over Arizona’s new immigration law has led to demonstrations and boycotts throughout the country, and today those opposed to the law will gather at Wrigley Field.

As of Thursday morning, 790 people said they planned to attend a protest outside of Wrigley Field as the Chicago Cubs take on the Arizona Diamondbacks Thursday afternoon, according to a Facebook event page for the protest.

“We are going to give the Arizona Diamondbacks a message to send back home,” the event’s organizers wrote on the page.

The demonstrators plan on bringing posters and marching, as well as handing out fliers to baseball fans that detail their opposition to the new law, according to the page. The group also asks anyone attending the game to wave posters condemning the law.