Archive | June, 2015

MLB15 Chin Music: All the GM’s Men?

28 Jun

To risk so much, for so little.

That was my first thought after reading report last week of an FBI investigation into a possible hacking of Houston Astros computer database in 2013 by rival St. Louis Cardinals in what would be a violation of federal law and was reported in The New York Times (6.16).

Right out of the chute some were making the Deflategate comparison.

.......Nixon.8.9.74.O.Atkins.WH.thmb

It is true that with today’s trend towards shenaniganism throughout our world of tumultuous merriments, analogizing to the Patriots current plight arising from Colts 2015 late season tip-off, was fair enough to engage.

But comparing the culpabilities, the degrees of wrong in computer hacking, a federal / state offense, versus a strong hunch (Wells Report (“more probable than not (51%)“)) of a rather miniscule NFL ball-management misstep, is, in the words of “Phil Leotardo (The Sopranos),” “apples and bowling balls.” Forget about it.

And besides, given that top-dog NFL has more detractors than you can shake a stick at, or, put in other words, is on more “enemies list(s)” than were names on President Nixon’s infamous album of believed foes (20 (570+)), any tempest in NFL’s “Teapot” is bound to be over-boiled by malcontents & advocacy shills.

.......Watergate.wc.slowking4.thmb..8.18.12

My second thought: I’ve seen this crazy high risk, low payoff thing before, along with those aged 50+ who still remember the 70s and President Richard Milhous Nixon.

I’m referring to the big bad one. The ignominy that gave birth to the ‘gate’ suffix today being attached to every broad-reaching malfeasance since, political and otherwise: the Watergate scandal (1972-74), named for the complex of offices, hotel and apartment buildings in Washington, DC where took place the Nixon White House‘s bungled burglary of the Democratic National offices in 1972.

The differences between these two incidents, Watergate and, let‘s term it, Sabergate (theory is that St. Louis surreptitiously sought statistical & strategy data from Houston and a former employee), are about as many as those figurative apples and bowling balls.

......Mozeliak.wc.d-deee.2011

The contexts: sport business vs. the highest stratosphere of governmental goings-on.

The states of knowledge: one investigation, conducted largely by the Washington Post’s Woodward & Bernstein (“All the President’s Men (‘76)”), finished up long ago, the current one is on-going and this time has full federal cooperation and directive.

Comparative relevance of proven (Watergate) and suspected (STL) misdeeds:

Hacking is a serious crime, whether it occurs in private or business setting, or breaks national security codes by invasion of highly classified files. The crime’s definition aught incorporate the privacy right as well, one that has taken some serious body blows in recent decades (post 9-11), and like due process, is often an undervalued right when it’s someone else’s circumstance and not your own (See; Sterling-Stiviano TMZ tape drop).

......Nixon-Mao.wc.WHPO.2.29.72.thmb

This particular form of hackery, if factual, pales in comparison to the wrongs worked by the Nixon White House and uncovered by the Watergate inquiries.

Many today mistakenly believe the cover-up of the burglary is what did-in Nixon and his operatives. In fact, it was the extensive covert operations that his White House engaged, circumventing federal law and U.S. Constitution in the process, that rightly toppled this President whose handling of economy and declaring college football’s national champ (Texas ‘69) both lacked style, but whose actions in foreign policy seemed to have him on the road to greatness (Détente / Ping-Pong Diplomacy (China)).

Where these two do compare (if Times report is accurate and indictments are filed vs. the Cards), and even Deflategate when last season’s AFCC outcome is considered (NE 45 – IND 7), is a seemingly unnecessary need to know, or, in Patriots’ case, max-flate. In simplest term, the goofy greed.

.....Cardinals.wc.Sportslogonet.1900-19

When all was said & done with Watergate (’75), resignations given (Nixon), convictions won (Haldeman, Mitchell, Liddy, etc.) and promotions received (Ford (#38)), many scratched their heads in manner being duplicated today on this hacking report concerning a standard-bearer franchise in the St. Louis Cardinals (b.1882): Why o’ why would someone with so much power (Nixon) and yet skullduggery to cover (covert ops), so far up in polls over opposition (McGovern), feel need to risk it all and bug Democratic HQ?

Where power goes unchecked, greed, arrogance & corruption follow. A l’il dumb, too. Goal of justice requires ethics, wisdom and bravery, making it optional.

Here, the Cardinals – Astros probe is on-going.

.....DeWitt.wc.10.30.11.JM.Mena.thmb

For it to rise to Sabergate status, facts must put misdeeds in Cards’ Oval Office, as it were, beyond lower-level, eager-beaver saberheads and within purview of Owner Bill DeWitt, General Manager John Mozeliak and / or skipper Mike Matheny.

One thing’s for certain, this hacking hubbub has done little to take the edge off of Redbirds appetite for wins, becoming MLB15’s first team to hit the 50 mark.

Oh, for those simpler days when Presidents let nature take it’s course (Coolidge), cooked in “the kitchen” and never passed a “buck (Truman)” and scouts spotted “a blinder” on a tryout and without a calculator (This Sporting Life (‘63)).

......canned corn

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo Credits: J.Mozeliak, 10.30.11, wc.cca, JM.Mena; R.Nixon, wc, 8.9.74, O.Atkins, WH; Watergate-Complex, wc, 8.18.12, slowking4; J.Mozeliak, wc, d-deee, 2011; Mao-Nixon, wc, 2.29.72, WHPO; St.Louis.Cardinals, Sportslogonet, wc, 1900-19; W.DeWitt, wc, JM.Mena, 10.30.11; canned-corn.
Posted: 6.28.15 @ 7:41pm EST
Copyright © 2015 S.J. Keys

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Steve Kerr: NBA Finals15’s MV-Person

20 Jun

Those poor hockey guys.

“The (Icemen) cometh,” and then goeth in a flash.

..........Kane.12.9.14.wc.L.Gansky.thmb

Blackhawks take an NHL title Monday night on home ice for the first time since FDR took on greed (’38) by besting Tampa Bay Lightning in six (4-2) to take a 3rd Stanley Cup in six years, fashioning what less stingy observers are calling a dynasty, but moved quicker through the media spotlight than a cool, summer breeze.

Added to that couldn’t-be-helped slight was what appears to be a decision of Sports Illustrated’s cover layout crew to obscure any sight of Chicago’s Indian motifs (head & tomahawks) in their supposedly celebratory but somewhat sneaky championship edition. “Clever girl(s),” and boys.

The PCBs (politically correct bullies) ‘are forever busy and need feeding.’

The Golden State Warriors, led by Assoc’n MVP Stephen Curry and 1st-yr coach Steven Kerr, won on Tuesday night their first NBA title since short-shorts, Wolverines (Pres. Ford) and Rick Barry were in vogue (‘75) by dispatching LeBron James and his short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers in same six-game set.

.........Iguodala.wc.7.14.12.T.Shelby.thb

Surprisingly, day after Warriors big win the top trending topic was not the team, star guard Curry or new golden boy of NBA coaching set Kerr (he’s 49), but the unexpected selection made for Finals most valuable player award, that going to Andre Iguodala who, prior to and start of these Finals, had been most often used in a reserve capacity.

Awarding of the championship MVP trophy in any of the four major pro sports has a long tradition, but by that same tradition will rarely receive must discussion in post-series forums beyond quick nod in respectful acknowledgment of its winner.

When MVP takes center stage, dominates dialogue you know voters mis-cast.

Once the Cavaliers took a 2 to 1 lead in the series the critical contest and key combatants became clear to this writer:

“This phase in NBA Finals.15 is, believe it or not, about Steve Kerr and LeBron James. Can Kerr figure a way for his men to frustrate the superstar for an entire game and LeBron (& David Blatt) thwart the strategy? It’s not Bucks-Celtics ’74 or Spurs-Heat ’13 but still an interesting battle of wits & wherewithal (Ahead of the Curve @KeysSteven (Twitter): “No Hyperbole” / Mannix / SI.com / 6.10).”

.........James.wc.1.25.15.E.Drost.thmb

The “battle” didn’t develop as hoped but Kerr’s altering “strategy” finding form in decision to start Andre to guard James proved a game-changer. James, this fan’s player MVP, still performed admirably in all categories but was prevented from controlling tempo and taking Curry out of rhythm as was done in G3.

They don’t give coaches the series MVP trophy but maybe they should.

Steve’s line-up change had it’s element of risk attached but turned the series around as the clear catalyst to Warriors resulting win streak (3-0).

This time blame for Forest City’s frustration can be laid on marble doorstep of the Sporting Gods who decided to make Cleveland wait another year for chance at championship when they took out Kevin Love in early playoff round.

.........Love.wc.11.21.14.K.Allison.thmb

Besides, with what Urban Meyer’s doing in the State of Ohio, the Gods don’t want to spoil the Buckeye bunch, not yet, anyway (See: Jim Harbaugh).

Had Kev played, it’s pretty fair bet the Cavaliers would’ve taken the Finals in 6G. Being the Las Vegas odds favorite to take the O’Brien in 2016 tends to validate that belief.

Biggest winners NBAF15: Warriors world, Misters Curry and Kerr.

Curry won’t be knocking James off his lofty perch as the #1 sport star anytime soon. LeBron sits pretty and weights down heavy with hardware and marketing-media mettle. But Stephen’s now got ringed “presence (“NBA15: Does Curry”)” and seems to’ve cornered the kid-market who crave cool in crazed consumerism.

........Kerr.wc.JM.Rosenfeld.2.2.08;thmb

As for Steven, he’s got a long way to go to overtake graybeard guru greats in Popovich (Spurs) and former mentor, Phil Jackson, but is so laden with likeability that it really doesn’t matter much how many more titles he may take. Guy’s golden.

One caveat to Kerr’s accomplishment: Not in recent memory do I recall that there’s been an easier roadway to the NBA title. Warriors and Cavaliers cars came fully equipped with EZ-Pass® in hand. Memphis put up a fight, but beyond that, ahh.

When the losing teams in both Conference finals (ATL/HOU) win a grand total of one (1) game combined, the quality of competition issue leaves an ignominious mark and fans deserve much better. I remember the 70s and 80s.

Biggest Losers: Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt and Knicks’ Phil Jackson

.......Jackson.1.28.07.M.Sandoval.wc.thb

It’s safe to say that the bloom has officially gone off Phil Jackson’s zen-ful rose.

The zenmeister hasn’t made a mindful major move since joining the Knicks in 2013. Letting his friend Steve slip through their hands pre-season seemed foreboding at the time and came home to roost. Cock-a-doodle do.

For David Blatt’s part, when the coach appears to be throwing up his hands in mid-Finals (post-G5: “Not alot you can do (on Curry)”), I can’t image what good hope players have in future moments of critical conundrum. There’s often a way, if one possesses the will, especially in these particular Finals.

......Blatt.wc.1.25.15.E.Drost.thmb

Some bemoaned LeBron when he made late series boast (“I’m the best”). But clearly, the team leader was merely keeping his game face secured on tite and reminding his ‘mates they had a chance to rebound and take the Finals. Nice try, anyway, James, who definitely does not want to be that guy who gets his coach canned.

Blatt did hit the mark on his closing statement: “It’s a good story,” the Cleveland Cavaliers 2015 season.

No doubt about it. The new Cavaliers went far, farther than many mindful NBA observers expected. And to reach the promised land and get Cleveland it’s first NBA title, LeBron needs some Love.

Just as Bird had McHale, Magic Worthy, Jordan Pippen and LeBron his friend Wade, Cleveland’s megastar needs his multi-skilled cohort in support. And there’s none better in today’s NBA than Kevin Love.

Unless unreported personality conflict(s) developed in Cleveland franchise, everything of non-rumor variety points to Kev staying put in the Forest City.

Next to LeBron, Kevin’s the best all-around in the biz, has money coming out of his ears, wants that jewel-encrusted title ring w/Cleveland motif maybe as much as does James and owner Dan Gilbert and Cleveland will be loaded for bear in 2015-16 making it the place to be.

And if the Sporting Gods are on their game in 2016, we might see a return match of these two talented teams, if the Spurs and Grizzlies fizzly, of course.

......straight_shooter.thmb

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credits: S.Kerr, wc.cca, 2.24.15, K.Allison; P.Kane, wc, 12.9.14, L.Gansky; A.Iguodala, 7.14.12, wc; T.Shelby; L.James, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; K.Love, 11.21.14, wc, K.Allison; S.Kerr, wc, JM.Rosenfeld, 2.2.8; P.Jackson, wc, M.Sandoval, 1.28.7; D.Blatt, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; Straight.Shooter, citrus.fruit, label.
Posted: 6.19.15 @ 8:30pm; edit 6.20 @ 12:28, 10:53pm EST

Major Sport in Las Vegas? Dicey Move

14 Jun

Seems just a matter of time before we hear the news that an NHL or NBA investment group has reached agreement with the Commissioner, player’s union and City officials to locate the first major professional sports franchise in Sin City, Las Vegas, Nevada.

If and when that notable event happens it will mark a watershed moment in American spectator sport.

.........LasVegas.4.19.05.wc.D.Vasquez.thmb

Not the memorable kind the likes of Jackie Robinson breaking color barrier (‘47), passage of Title IX legislation or the first broadly administered blood draws taken in the never-ending, uphill fight against PEDs (MLB ‘13).

No, this momentous occurrence will be more in the nature of the disconcerting variety.

Locating such a franchise in Las Vegas, gambling Mecca of the Milky Way, could possibly be the worst decision ever made in the history of sport planning.

Why? Three reasons to seriously ponder:

1) Early experiment rolled but came up craps

The first run at a semi-major sporting endeavor in the Las Vegas Valley was the men’s college basketball team at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, the Runnin’ Rebels, coached by Jerry Tarkanian (d.2015). It was a top-tier program for much of the 1980s and 90s but the results were mixed.

.........UNLV.T&M.Ctr.10.19.11.G.Skidmore.thmb

Oh, the Rebels won plenty of games, produced some All-Americans and took a national men’s NCAA title in 1990. But the closing act on that show ended with photo of some of Tark’s players from the title team taking a bath (hot-tub break) with a known game-fixer.

So much for team spirit.

2) Standard & Symbolism

Consumers of sport, the people of Las Vegas, they are as good & gracious, greedy & gaudy as people in every city & hamlet around the globe. They’re not the issue.

It’s the serious symbolism that a major pro sport in Nevada will convey to ‘entrepreneurs’ who might decide they’re tired of “anarchy (Miller‘s Crossing (’90)),” i.e., gambling on the up & up, and seek a sure thing, a “fix (“If you can‘t count on a fix, what can you count on (“Caspar”)?”). It’s a message of relaxed standard at a time when they seem to be crumbling all around.

........Paulie.T.Sirico.4.1.10.CJCS.wc.M.Mullen.thmb

Locating a major pro franchise in Vegas is an engraved invitation to trouble. And the Feds don’t have enough on their hands, eh, boys?

Just imagine guys like “Paulie Gualtieri (T.Sirico / Sopranos)” saying something like this down at the “Bada Bing:”

Paulie: ‘Hey, did ya’ hear, theys gonna’ finally do it, put a pro team in Vegas! Imagine that?
Patsy Parisi (D.Grimaldi): Yeah.
Paulie: Never thought I’d live to see the day. Christ is King!
Patsy: Neither did I (chuckle).
Paulie: Hey, watch yourself, tough guy.
Patsy: Lighten up. It’s good news.
Paulie: Say, we know anybody in that operation?’

Yeah, just imagine, Mr. Commissioner.

Rather than moving closer to gambling interests or giving that impression, professional sports should be doing everything in their power to keep their enterprises a good, safe distance away from gaming activities (miles), especially with integrity so scarce a commodity these days (See; PEDs, wet-deliveries (MLB), ball-flation (NFL), fantasy shenanigans (Jones-Drew (Jags‘10))?).

........Landis.wc.underwood.MilwJourl.11.15.20.CHI.thb

The top dog in America’s sporting show, the NFL, seems of the later approach while the new leader of #2 MLB in Rob Manfred is a bit of an unknown at this point, though, red-flagging as a cooperative Commissioner with a lifting of the Pete Rose lifetime ban looming.

If or when the fixing begins, we, the public, will likely never know about it. Too much trouble. ‘What we don’t know won’t hurt us’ may be the boardroom line. The monopoly ‘powers that be’ will keep the lid on so tight you’d need a jackhammer to pry it off.

No jackhammers today. There never were many (Woodward & Bernstein, Bart Giamatti, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Lane & Garrison, Oliver Stone).

3) Like a bump on the head

Staying in the “Bing” vernacular, the NHL and NBA need more teams in their fraternities like they need a bump on their figurative, collective heads.

.......Bettman.wc.6.14.07.captcanuk.thmb

If anything, both Gary Bettman (NHL) and Adam Silver (NBA) should be selling retraction in their respective, oversold operations, as opposed to the ill-conceived belief in an expanding universe of franchise ownerships. The quality of competition.

Glendale’s recent reject of funding for a new Coyotes’ arena may press the point, though, Portland is being floated as a top contender for a franchise shift.

.......Silver.11.21.14.K.Allison.wc.thmb

And then, another hockey club out in the bone-dry West? That may be pushin’ it, fellas.

Of course, that obvious contradiction hasn’t stopped their brethren in the golf world from building more & more water-guzzling, herbicide oozing operations.

Sure, a franchise in Las Vegas will make money for a handful of manicured mitts. They wouldn’t undertake if they weren’t guaranteed at least double back on their investment ($1.5B?). But for the mass majority of fandom it’d be pure dilution.

.......sunset.wc.8.13.12.J.Eastland.HighdesertCASo there you have it, the most compelling reasons why locating a major sports franchise in Las Vegas would be a bad move.

But it‘s realization seems to be in the wind. If a Nevada franchise does come to be, the new team’s tag & tint will quickly become topic of much talk around town. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?

......dice.N.Morberg.wc.cca.2.22.09My personal preference, whether an NBA or NHL club, would be a sundown theme. Day’s end in the wide-open West can be a sight to behold. The name then: Sunsets, with sun-burst design and hues of orange, yellow, pink and red. That’s the artistic take.

But a more typical tack would be a name like Rollers with dice in the design. Gold, silver, green are obvious color choices but might work with the right detailing. A gaming table combo of green, red, black & white. There are possibilities.

......macroecono.lamcasinoroyal.wc.2011Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credits: Vegas.Vic, wc.cca, 5.1.10, J.Gauder; Las.Vegas, 4.19.05, wc, D.Vasquez; T&M.Ctr, UNLV, wc, 10.19.11, G.Skidmore; T.Sirico (“Paulie“), wc, 4.1.10, CJCS, M,Mullen; Kenesaw. Mountain.Landis, wc, underwood, Milwaukee-Journal, 11.11.15.20, Chicago; G.Bettman, wc, 6.14.07, captcanuk; A.Silver, wc, 11.21.14, K.Allison; sunset, wc, 8.13.12, J.Eastland, high.desert, CA; dice, M.Morberg, 2.22.09, wc; macroeconomo, lam-casinoroyal, 2011.
Posted: 6.14.15 @ 7:10pm; edit @ 11:46 EST

Chin Music: Cubs’ Bryant Call-up Coming to Roost?

9 Jun

Just to pose the idea would send shockwaves throughout the sport fantasy world and probably elicit more than a few bellows of ‘bonehead’ directed at the poser, had they a megaphone of any sizable make.

‘(No) hell a fury like a (groupie) scorned,’ eh (Congreve)?

But when you’re a blogger, bonafide variety (unpaid), the reads are measurable, i.e., small in number. The tremors I make would barely wake a mouse.

.....Bryant.7.9.14.wc.M.Haas.thmb.2

Chicago Cubs top prospect, outfielder – 3rd baseman Kris Bryant was given call-up to the parent club about two weeks into MLB 2015 after a massive campaign by young fans and media in what looked to be a cave to pressure by Northsider‘s well-credentialed wheeler-dealer, General Manager, Theo Epstein.

Now, after 45+ days of getting a look-see at the 6’5” Las Vegas native, it’s appearing that Bryant and Cubs might be best served if he were sent back down, that’s right, back down to Triple A Iowa for some re-calibration to find better command of the strike zone.

Nobody likes to admit they’re wrong, a sign of weakness to some.

But stubbornly staying a course that’s not moving forward as was hoped, an assumption on this writer’s part, is more anemic and just may run that ship aground if some steps aren’t undertaken forthwith.

As of this posting, Bryant’s at 62 strikeouts, double+ his walks and it’s early June. The OB% is fine (.389) and he’s shown a little pop in his bat (7hr) which we knew he had but is displayed by nearly everyone who swings for fences.

Kris will likely make it in the ‘show,’ even if he stays put (CHI), but remaining in majors to work out the kinks may not be the most prudent course.

Some lose their confidence, make mal-adjustments and alter the natural minor-league course of things, so to speak. The last thing Cubs want is a whiff king, the All-or-Nothing kind of batsman (See; Kingman (‘86), Dunn, Carter (HOU, also Vegan), Souza (TB)).

.......Epstein,T.wc.S.Slingsby.9.8.10.thmb

The free-swingers are fine for those clubs who’re bottom-feeders or treading water, but for any team with serious championship aspirations, that kinda’ guy is not a playoff enhancer. Why? Because in the clutch, with big arms on the mound and clever cabezas in the dugout, the AON invariably comes up short. Big surprise.

And contrary to what sabrmaticians would have you believe, sometimes the issue is real simple. On the Kris Bryant question (and there should be a question), it’s contact, not the movie (terrific flick), but ball & bat variety.

You can’t press GMs too hard. They must be allowed to groom their prospects their own way, at their own pace or the kiddie krowd of klammer is gonna’ mess…it…up. The suits and field scouts generally know what they’re doing. Missteps? Surely, but start second-guessing and you’re just a mounted weather-vane.

A GM must also have the wherewithal to withstand criticism, even waves of it and even it flows in force from the most-favored marketing sector, fantasy fans.

Case in point: Epstein & Co seemingly caving to pressure and calling up KB when they did, as they did, letting an atypical topicality on what’s normally SOP on team-player contract dictate dialogue, appeared to push the brass to bring up Bryant earlier than initially planned, before their ready.

Now it looks like the top prospect is having a contact issue.

But he wouldn’t be the first young hopeful to experience growing pains. Other greats have and been sent back down to the minor leagues for some readjusting.

Mickey Mantle made the big club after Yankees’ spring “exhibition” in 1951.

.......Mantle.wc.cca.1953.Bowman.thmb

He played 96 games with the New York City club, then in July was “shifted” to their AAA Kansas City affiliate for some fine tuning rest of the regular season, only to be retrieved for a few plate appearances in the Yankees’ post-season which back then consisted of one playoff, the World Series.

The numbers in comparison:

Mantle: 96g, 341ab, 61r, 13hr, 65rbi, 8sb-15a, 43w, 74so, .349ob%, .267ba
Bryant: 46g, 170ab, 29r, 7hr, 34rbi, 5sb, 28w, 62so, .379ob%, .271ba

Kris’ performance is not dissimilar to the Mick’s. In some notable regards the Nevada native is trending better, as in on-base % and stolen bases (4-5a). But in the all-important contact department (SOs) the ‘tall drink of water’ is out-pacing the Oklahoma kid who was no stranger himself to the swing & miss.

Following are some quotes from a 1951 November edition of Sport Stars magazine which featured Jackie Robinson on its post-Series cover and highlighted the “Yankees New Golden Boy (66-68)).”

Tommy Heinrich: “Don’t have any worries about Mickey, he has a great baseball instinct. You tell him something once and that’s it. Just remember, he never played the outfield before (SS). It’s quite a rough deal for anybody to break into the majors and master a new position at the same time.”

Mantle’s rapid rise in the pros was nearly unprecedented.

Having played briefly in “Ban Johnson” league while in high school, after graduation in 1950 he’d begun in Class D ball (Independence, MO (KOM)), quickly moved up to C level for New York’s “Western Association” team in Joplin, MO and then impressed with the parent club the next spring. At the time, only “three other players had advanced so rapidly,” a trio which included “peerless Rogers Hornsby (Cards ‘15) (“(NAPBL)”).

.......Mantle.wc.cca.Gem.ASR.1953.thmb

All this meaning, the Yankees were very high on Mantle (“brightest prospect in a decade (SS)”) and the expected short-lived demotion of Mickey to KC was simply a small detour that afforded the budding star the necessary time in the proper place to bring his game up to the high major league standards of what was baseball’s standard-bearer ball-club.

Should the Cubs be planning on a similar re-designation of Kris Bryant in 2015? Did brass make the wrong call on Kris, timing wise?

Bryant has a tad more pro-play under his belt than did Mickey before the big call-up, with three stops in single A ball (‘13) and moved up to AA – AAA in 2014. In a Sunday win over the Nationals, Bryant went 3-4 with 2 runs, a walk and a solo strikeout (62), raising his BA ten pts (.282).

Fielding, base-running, a smart arm, they all matter, but the hit tally, or better yet, the contact points, i.e., command of the strike zone, is a maker or a breaker. And strikeouts are a key indicator of your future. The good news is that a high rate of whiff can be corrected, if someone seeks to do so.

Were Bryant hitting .243 with half the SOs he’s tallied he’d look the better. But in today’s baseball, a rookie who bats above .260, and with Minor stats and build-up of Mr. Bryant, is likely to stay in the show for season’s duration.

The importance of batter’s making contact is not lost on the Northsiders (See; J.Baez (Iowa ‘15)), but don’t expect the salt & savvy that Casey Stengel and general manager George Weiss exhibited in ‘51’s mid-season Mantle demotion to duplicate w/Bryant at Wrigley.

Yes, the ’51 Yankees were loaded with talent & trophies and could afford to farm Mantle’s might for a spell, but then the Series starved Cubs who hope to turn the corner onto championship row can ill afford to stall or even retard development of what they hope is a key piece to that pennant puzzle in Bryant.

In hindsight, the value of the Mick’s brief sojourn in Kansas City is debatable.

In a near-full season with the Yankees in 1952 (142g), Mantle scored 94 runs, stroked 171 hits, clouted 23 ‘tatters (See; George Scott (d.2013)), knocked in 87 RBIs and lead the AL in SOs with 111 and would do so four more times in his career. A high strikeout total in that era, for sure, but imagine the free-swingin’ pathway Mickey might’ve embarked upon had he not been demoted in ‘51.

......canned corn

Maybe Sunday’s fine showing is harbinger of better things to come for Kris, sign of a plate adjustment that’s been in the works and is starting to pay dividends. We’ll see (6.9, CHI (Lester) @ DET (Sanchez) 7:08 EST).

There’s no disputing his popularity has generated great expectations which may bring on him a degree of over-scrutiny, if that’s possible in this ditzy for digits era.

And maybe it was an aberration, a temporary respite that changes the narrative from ‘strike-outs’ to star-in-the-making. If so, Cubs should remember this, that if designing demotion was good enough for Mr. Mantle, it can be good enough for Kris Bryant, too. FFT.

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credits: K.Bryant, wc.cca, 7.9.14, M.Haas; K.Bryant, wc, 7.9.14, M.Haas, thmb; T.Epstein, wc, S.Slingsby, 8.9.10; M.Mantle, wc, Bowman, 1953; M.Mantle, wc, Gem-ASR, 1953; K.Bryant, wc, M.Haas, 7.9.14; canned-corn.
Posted: 6.9.15 @ 6:14pm; edit 6.10 @ 12:45am, 6.11 @ 5:23pm EST

Rivalries That Rock the Sporting Scene

4 Jun

What, with all the Brady bashing going on these days, it’s gotten this sport fan to thinking: Why all the hostility?

Because America won’t abide a cheater? That’s cute.

First, think of the on-going PED plague and no small number of ‘fans’ who shrug shoulders in apathy. Couple that with recent of rash of MLB pitchers (Smith / Matusz) who’ve suddenly become SPF conscious as they grease their deliveries. Then, add in the opposing, yes, opposing, players & managers (Girardi) who barely bat an eye, and it’s safe to write, cheatin’ ain’t too high up on most folks list of derelictions in 2015.

.........Favre.thumb.M.Morbeck.10.24.10

People weren’t exactly sprouting pitchforks and filling the streets in days following the 2000 Presidential ballot when State of Florida and its electoral votes suddenly flipped from Al Gore to Gov. Jeb Bush’s brother, George W. and what should’ve been a fairly simple re-calculation of castings that turned chaotic, only to have the highly dubious result validated by our skittish Supreme Court (Bush v Gore).

And next time you hop in the automobile, fail to conform with posted speed limit and choose to not ease up on the gas pedal, make sure you turn yourself over to the local authorities lickety-split. Fine.

Okay, so forget about some silly notion that America puts premium on integrity.

Maybe you are one of those that has a moral compass with a directional functionality (there’s a few), disdain Flop NBA and have decided to vest your faith in the Wells Report and NFL’s draconian response.

But if you bank your belief that Brady et al (Deflategate: Tom‘s appeal hearing with Cmsr Goodell is set for 6.23) did “circumvent” NFL rules on ball-mgmt based on the highly speculative Wells (“hunch-a-bunch-a-Fritos® corn chips”) Report (51% std), well, then you can’t possibly be a fan of due process.

Same old story: if it’s your process, ‘long live the Constitution, Magna Carta, yada yada!’, but if it’s the other guy’s right to fundamental fairness, no biggie, right?

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So if it’s not integrity or a strong case of culpability against the Pats that’s driven the demagoguery on Deflategate, that leaves one plausible explanation: prejudice.

That would include NFL haters or arsonists, always fueling football fires, i.e., non-sporting types (anti-Redskinites, anti-Rice bandwagoneers, etc.) & grudge-holders (Bounty-gate, etc.), and Patriots’ rivals.

Rivalry fires the furnace. Celebrity’s big, but like “glory, is fleeting (Patton ‘70).”

Rivalry has substance. It’s what collegiate Presidents & Trustees simply refuse to concede in their dinero-driven game of Conference musical chairs.

Players and coaches will come & go, but teams and their familiar foes will, by & large, always be there with it’s raucous rivalry evident in times of feast or famine.

But while these long-running regional rivalries may constitute the bread & butter of sport, they do have their downside.

Besides the knucklehead fan contingent that are regulars at rivalry meets, piling on a rival who’s feeling the heat (Patriots) is another bad by-product.

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You won’t hear new Bills (former Jets) coach Rex Ryan mouthing about Deflategate.

Rex tends to play the clown but is a savvy customer who knows full well the high caliber of competition he’s been facing in New England during his NFL coaching tenure.

The same sensible tack can’t be said for former intra-division rivals in Jim Kelly (“He (Tom) didn’t need to do it (Tell us something we didn’t know, Jimbo (See; 2H v Indy & SB49 (SEA))”) and Don ‘Get Me Some Ginkgo Biloba’ Shula (“we didn’t deflate”).

With that in mind then, listed herein are what can be called sports best rivalries.

It’s not an all-inclusive listing.

History won’t by itself qualify a rivalry here, nor intra-City / Division versions (CWS v CHC). And the Patriots adversaries, while possibly helping to fuel their media frustrations, have just not had the opponency-value worthy of mention. None of New England’s AFC opponents has been able to keep up with NFL’s premiere team of the past 20 years. Colts did for a time (Peyton) and then Pitt settled for mediocrity with Tomlin treading water (See; Babcock DET >>TOR).

Michigan v The Ohio State (NCAAF)

I put “The” in as pure mockery. An institution as valuable as OSU need not preen.

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Aside from that silliness, this college football rivalry is USA’s best, hands down. Sorry Auburn – Alabama, USC – UCLA, Texas – Oklahoma, Yale – Harvard, this is the big one. It’s been suffering a bit of late but Jim Harbaugh’s return to his alma mater will restore it’s relevancy right quick. “Urban Renewal” Meyer has done a tremendous job in the State of his, and Jimbo’s birth, and Harbaugh’s likely to do the same.

Duke v North Carolina, Louisville v Kentucky (NCAABK)

Great traditions at these standard-bearer college b-ball programs but the current coaches are, as in the OSU – UM football version, what make ‘em all rock n‘ roll.

Pitino (UL) v Calipari (UK), Krzyzewski (DU) v Williams (UNC). Now, UCLA’s gotta’ get back in gear to rekindle a rivalry out West it had going with Arizona.

NHL – NBA

I got nothing here.

In hockey, the originals will always be terrific rivals. But when one is up these days (DET ‘97-09, NYR ’94 or MON ‘93), the other is down (TOR), and then vice versa (CHI ‘10 & ‘13, BOS ‘11). Rangers / Bruins, Blackhawks / Red Wings might be on the verge of a rebirth but time’ll tell.

As for the Association, a truly sad state of affairs when a shoe battle between rival reps (Curry (U-A) v James (Nike)), who rode the EZ-Pass® highway to reach the promised land, becomes media’s focal point of a Final.

MLB (Cubs v Cards; Yankees v Red Sox and Dodgers v Giants)

The sabrmetric (anal-ytics) surge in MLB has altered baseball in some not-all-too-pleasing ways these past few decades (A‘s fans are still scratching their heads about their measured & minor dividends), but thankfully, it has not killed-off the rivalries that are still aflame in America’s national pastime.

The most marketed, though, not necessarily MLB’s best rivalry, Yanks v Red Sox, may in fact pre-date Ban Johnson’s formation of the American (Chicago 1901) in form of other leagues and different monikers, and is going stronger than ever.

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With Giants & Dodgers taking Horace Greeley‘s advice to “go West” in late 50s (St.Louis Browns (Orioles) move East (BAL)), they transplanted their monumental opponency into California soil. There have been lulls but the fun & frolic ((?) See; Marichal v Roseboro (’63)) has returned. Reigning champion San Francisco is head & shoulders above the Dodgers in recent World Series wins (3 in 5y), but Los Angeles’ owners seem committed to finding former glory and the contests are heating up again.

And that’s all great stuff, but the biggest rivalry, not by book of east coast biased Disney-ESPN (CT), of course, is the oldest in professional baseball and all of major American sport: Cubs v Cardinals.

These two clubs, in one form or another, have been at loggerheads since Albert Spalding, Cap Anson (White Stockings) and his National Leaguers (also birthed in Windy City (1876)) took on St. Louis owner Chris Von Der Ahe’s Browns club (AA) for the informal championship of professional baseball clubs in the 1880s.

While Redbirds have gotten best of the Bruins in the World Series tally, something like, 10 to 2, the head-to-heads never lack for fire and the fandom come out in droves.

NFL (Vikings v Packers)

It’s not the bare cupboard that is NBA’s short stock of riveting rivalries, but pickins is pretty slim these days, even in the high-falutin’ NFL.

Cowboys v Redskins, Chiefs v Raiders and Packers v Bears still take place but have lost their zip, largely because one franchise just can get back the magic.

Falcons v Saints have dominated NFC South and look to rekindle the fire in 2015 after some years on the canvas. Other grudge matches thrive for a time but seem predicated more on cult of personality than teams, i.e., NE v NYJ (Rex to BUF), Seahawks v 49ers (JH to UM) and KC / SD v Denver (gutsy but aged Peyton).

Giants and Eagles, Cardinals and Seahawks and any pairing of Steelers (Ben’s good), Bengals or Ravens can all be donnybrooks, but one rivalry seems to retain it’s intensity, no matter the team’s present W-L states: Minnesota v Green Bay.

.........Peterson.1.28.12.wc.Arvee5.0.thm

This one won’t sound too imposing to fans outside the Upper Midwest. Packers have been a formidable force since Wolf, Holmgren, Favre & White worked a rebirth in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley, while the Vikings seem the ultimate snake-bitten franchise.

I don’t know if it’s the common cultural and historical threads that run through these two old Northwest Territory terrains, making ‘similars distract,’ or the fact that one’s championship pedigree has, traditionally (pre-Rodgers), had little or no effect in the usually competitive nature of their frothy head-to-heads, but the rivalry still rocks.

And it should get rockier as All-Pro Adrian Peterson has returned to Vikings fold (OTAs) after a brief stand-off following his tumultuous 2014-15 that involved criminal charges involving a child discipline matter and League suspension.

Apparently seeking a trade that didn’t come as Mr. Jones seems would rather miss out on another Super Bowl (20y) than take chance that he might get “fuzzy end of the lollipop” this time (See; MIN ‘89 (Walker)), ‘All-Day’ and his agent have nonetheless changed the narrative from criminality back to football as the future in Land of 10,000 Lakes looks brightest it’s been since Brett Favre hit the Minneapolis tarmac back in ‘09.

While today’s opposing players are so cordial on the field you’ve gotta’ believe they‘re holding inter-team family bar-be-cues the Friday nights preceding Sunday‘s action, the fans share no such cutesy comradery. Look no further than the switch-a-roos (Favre MIN; Boggs & Damon NYY, etc.) to understand it’s all business for most these dudes.

The mutual dislike between GB and MIN faithful runs so deep it’s safe to say, at times, a loss by their hated rival sings sweeter than hearing news of their own team’s victory. That’s major malice.

And that’s Packer-backers v Purple People, NFL’s biggest rivalry going.

......macroeconomc.lamcasinoroyal.wc.2.5.11.thb

Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credits: B.Favre, wc.cca, 11.15.09, MN-NG, Det; Favre, wc.cca, M.Morbeck, 10.24.10; T.Brady, wc.cca, mongomez93; R.Ryan, wc.cca, M.O’Leary, 10.23.11; Jim.Harbaugh, wc, 12.30.14, E.Upchurch; A.Rizzo, wc, bengrey, 8.1.12; Peterson, Adrian, wc, 1.28.12, Arvee5.0; macroeconomics, wc.cca, lamcasinoroyal, 2.5.11.
Posted: 6.4.15 @ 3:37pm; edit 11:56 EST