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Sports Then and Now



All Hail The Kings 4

Posted on July 13, 2010 by Ryan Durling

It’s been a strange year for sport. A team of Geriatrics made the NBA Finals, taking the defending champs to 7 games. Two teams who had never won a World Cup played for the championship. A team (avert your eyes, Bostonians) with a 3-games-to-zero playoff series lead melted and lost in Game 7 on home ice. At baseball’s all-star break, 3 teams who didn’t finish last year with a winning record lead their divisions. The once-unflappable Tiger Woods flapped and, ultimately, folded. A tennis match lasted over 11 hours, spanning 3 days. The Miami Heat built a basketball franchise that promises to be hated by all.

But when the year is over and Time Magazine writes its Person of the Year issue, these instances will all be asterisks, if that. Sport in 2010 will be marked neither by tragedy nor travesty, but rather by life running its course. Not 40 days after John Wooden – The Coach – passed away, so, too, did The Boss.

George Steinbrenner was, no doubt, a polarizing figure, but nowhere more than in the Bronx. What he represented drew the ire of eyes in Boston, Queens, Atlanta and Los Angeles, to be sure, but it wasn’t until twenty years into his ownership of the Yankees that his own fans warmed to him – and then, only after a three-year, league-imposed hiatus from the game.

Steinbrenner, Guliani and the World Series trophy in 2001 during an Esquire Magazine photo shoot.

But this is not a history lesson. No, this writer prefers to leave history to those more historically inclined. Steinbrenner’s passing happened at a fitting time; it was, after all, the one day of the year in which there is no sports news for ESPN or any other outlet to break. And, let it be known – even in the opinion of one who often criticizes ESPN for capitalizing on narcissistic moments in sport – that ESPN covered the passing of The Boss admirably, devoting an entire morning and early afternoon of coverage to Steinbrenner, his friends, once and former co-workers and the rest.

I am a Boston fan. I grew up in Upstate New York, with the exception some instances during my childhood in which I was transplanted in Massachusetts’ South Shore. That was enough to sell me on the Red Sox and Bruins and Celtics and Patriots, despite the fact that for most of the year I was surrounded by a majority of Yankees, Rangers, Knicks and Bills fans.

That does not make me immune to feeling the same chills that so many others probably felt this morning when Bob Knight, during a phone interview on SportsCenter, broke down crying not once, but twice while talking about Steinbrenner. Or when Dave Winfield got choked up on camera. I’m almost afraid to watch Derek Jeter’s interview, when it comes.

Baseball is the one sport whose season takes place without much competition. Sure, there is the occasional major golf or tennis tournament and every other summer, the World Cup or Olympics take center stage for a few weeks. But really, baseball goes from April to September without rival – it is only its postseason that is really challenged by other, regular sports. So to say that Steinbrenner was almost single-handedly responsible for making baseball what it is today might seem like an overstatement.

It’s not. Read the rest of this entry →

2010 Baseball Previews: AL West – Will the Rangers Rotation Overachieve? 3

Posted on March 18, 2010 by Don Spieles

Over the last six seasons, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have been the winner of the AL West division five times, only missing the title in 2006 to Oakland.  The bad part of that for Angels fans is that in five tries, they did not reach a single World Series.  Even more bad news in Anaheim is that this year they won’t even make the playoffs.  Skillful off season moves from Seattle and a Texas squad who’s coming of age, will both keep the Angels away from October baseball.  One this seems clear, though, the whole race will be very close.

1.  Seattle Mariners

Ken Griffey Jr.’s return to Seattle may have been a lucky move on his part if the Mariners play to potential.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Los Angeles Dodgers

Chone Figgins ran away from the Angels via free agency to be a star in Seattle.

Of course, the biggest story in town (that town, anyway) over the hot stove season was the trade acquisition of Cliff Lee from Philadelphia.  His spring training has been a little rough (one toe surgery, one ejection for throwing at a batter) but never the matter. Lee is a good bet to be an AL leader in at least a couple of starting pitcher categories.

What does it mean when your pitching rotation feathers Cliff Lee as the #2 starter? Well, let’s just say it’s not to shabby.  Felix Hernandez is slated as the top of the rotation guy for the Mariners after his 19 win campaign last season that just missed him the AL Cy Young (he finished second behind Zack Grienke.) Ryan Rowland-Smith, the reliever turned starter who spent a good portion of last year in triple-A, was not too shabby upon returning the the bigs (5-4 with a 3.74 ERA. Ian Snell came to Seattle last August after posting a 2-8 record with Pittsburgh. Before the end of the season he would lose only two more decisions while winning five over twelve starts.  All together, the Mariners should be happy enough with their April rotation to hope it continues.

Seattle’s offense is looking up, as well. They have added Chone Figgins (from Anaheim) to play second base. While a certainly a good acquisition, it means that Jose Lopez will be at third, which is the position he has the least amount of experience with. Griffey will of course be the regular DH, while in the outfield we’ll see Ichiro in right, Franklin Gutierrez in center, and Milton Bradley in Left.

As far as the Bradley situation is concerned, the best anyone is hoping for is that he has a quiet year in the rainy city – though that is, as it usually is, very, very unlikely.  Bradley is a distraction wherever he has been, the most recent case being Chicago where Bradley has accused fans of racial slurs and threats to explain his lackluster performance on the North Side (.257 average, .397 slugging, 12 home runs.)

Jack Wilson and Kasey Kotchman round out the field with average plate productions and fielding to match.

Seattle’s weakest link will be at catcher.  Whether they go with Rob Johnson coming back from three off season surgeries or if the opt for rookie Adam Moore, there the outcome will be pretty much anemic. Johnson does have a rapport with Felix Hernandez and was pretty much his personal catcher all of last season. Look for Seattle to win about 85 games, which will probably be enough to take the division. Read the rest of this entry →

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