Monday, October 30, 2006

Once in a lifetime

It’s hard to forget that night in the 1980s when Red Auerbach came down from his seat in the stands, rushed onto the floor where his Celtics and the 76ers were just starting a tussle – during a pre-season game no less – and jumped right into the mix.

Pushing 70 at the time, Auerbach stepped up to Moses Malone, stuck a bony finger into his chest and challenged him to a fight.

Cooler heads eventually prevailed and the 76ers and Celtics seemed to have a good laugh afterwards, but needless to say Red made his point:

Don’t mess with the Celtics.

Certainly Red messed with everyone during a career as a coach and an executive that was aptly described by NBA commission David Stern as the “most important figure in the history of the NBA.”

Often superlatives are dished out where they don’t belong. They are hyperbolic, trite and cliché. The media, it seems, always wants to anoint someone or something as the greatest this or that. My theory behind this is that people want to be close to greatness and want to be able to tell others that they were there for something extraordinary.

That’s human nature, I suppose.

But in regards to Red Auerbach, who died Saturday night just shy of his 89th birthday, Stern nailed it. Stern, as well as anyone, knows that the NBA would have likely failed in the late 1940s or early 1950s had it not been for Auerbach. Better yet, it was Auerbach’s innovation and foresight that spurred the league’s emergence from one of regionalized interest like the current NHL, to a global force.

Simply, Red Auerbach was a genius.

Fortunately, I was able to have a brush with greatness on several occasions. Auerbach and I became pen pals of sorts during my college days. A few times a year I wrote Auerbach letters asking for his opinions and advice on certain subjects mostly related to basketball. I never expected a reply and certainly never handwritten notes on his personal stationary, but every letter received a response and always with an unforgettable pearl of wisdom.

For instance, in response to questions regarding his team’s relative youthfulness, Red wrote: “… experience doesn’t mean bleep.”

He didn’t write bleep, but the point was one that I heard him espouse in interviews and books – if a guy can play, he can play. It doesn’t matter how long he’s been doing it.

Again there’s the genius of Red. Certainly his experience resulted in him picking out something in Bill Russell and Larry Bird that no one else saw. The same thing goes for Bob Cousy, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.

Red Auerbach was once in a lifetime. Sadly, that long lifetime came to an end.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

2 weeks to go

As indicated in a previous post, I moved the running stuff to the new, running site.

It's all there, including the two-weeks to go breakdown.

Oh yeah: Technorati Profile


We can't see you

If the Eagles play a game and nobody is able to watch it, does it make a sound?

In other words, here in Lancaster, Pa. -- just 60 miles from Center City as the crow flies -- the Eagles game is not on TV. Nope, it wasn't "blacked out," nor was there a technical glitch. Simply, it was not broadcast in this area.

This is despite the Eagles thinking that Lancaster was fertile enough ground for their fandom to open one of their Eagles' Stores in the touristy row of strip malls outlining the outer edge of Lancaster proper and the Amish/tourist zone. This is also despite the notion that Lancasterians believe their town is a de facto suburb of Philadelphia and within the Philly media market.

But the reason for the Eagles snub of the Lancaster viewing area isn't because the cable company or TV networks are mean or have it out for the good folks in the Garden Spot. It's simply the fault of geography, which can be a kick in the pants sometimes.

You see, CBS is the network in charge of carrying the Eagles game vs. Jacksonville on Sunday. Unfortunately, the TV station in Lancaster -- WGAL -- is an NBC affiliate. The CBS affiliate is in York or Harrisburg, which just over the Susquehanna River from Lancaster, is technically the Baltimore viewing market. That means the affiliate is bound by the NFL's rules and regulations to show the Ravens-Saints game.

See, what did I tell you about geography?

The funny thing is that Baltimore is closer to most of Lancaster. In fact, a drive from my house to Camden Yards/Inner Harbor is much easier and quicker to make than one to Philadelphia... not to mention much more pleasant than battling traffic on the Schuylkill or Blue Route.

Yet there is no real connection with Baltimore here. Sure, there are a handful of Orioles' fans, but they seem to have diminished considerably during the Angelos reign in the so-called Charm City. The Ravens? What are they? Where did they come from and what happened to the Colts?

The football team in that city is called the Baltimore Colts. You know, Johnny Unitas, Art Donovan, Don Shula, Lenny Moore, Bert Jones, Gino Marchetti, Earl Morrall and Raymond Berry. The name and colors should have remained locked up in Memorial Stadium when the Irsay's packed up that Mayflower truck and snuck out of town in the middle of the night.

The Baltimore Ravens still have a USFL feel to them, and yeah, I know they won the Super Bowl a few years ago. The opposing quarterback in that game, Kerry Collins, is a former basketball and football standout in the Lancaster-Lebanon League.

Lancaster is Eagles and Phillies country, and it used to be the pre-season home for the 76ers, whose training camp was held at Franklin & Marshall College. Nevertheless, that doesn't do anything for the folks who are bummed out that they cannot watch the local football team on Sunday afternoon.

So what's the remedy? Maybe the NFL can start broadcasting their games on the Internet like every other major and minor sports league? Or, better yet, maybe they can allow the local affiliates to decide on their own which games they want to televise to their viewers?

Then again, it's Sunday. Turn off the tube and hang out with the family.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

It's all over!

I love the playoffs. I just can’t get enough of it and it will be a drag now that they’re over. Without baseball, sports’ watching on TV reaches its hibernation phase for me. Oh sure, I’ll head out and forage for nourishment every so often, especially when it comes to Big 5 basketball, but for the most part sports viewing is for work.

That means the next time channel 25 (ESPN in these parts) appears on my cable box, the weather will be warmer and the Phillies will be ready to head north.

Seriously, does anyone think I’m going to spend any time watching Chris Berman?

Anyway, the final baseball game of the year revealed a little bit about the Tigers, Jim Leyland, Jeff Weaver, the Cardinals and Kenny Rogers.

Oh yeah?


  • It’s a shame when a manager cannot use his best pitcher because the players’ psyche is so fragile that he will not be able to handle the pressure, catcalls or other difficulties of pitching on the road. Leyland would have preferred to use Kenny Rogers and put his 22-inning scoreless innings streak on the line in an elimination game, but he didn’t think Rogers could handle pitching on the road.


    Better yet, Leyland had to map out his post-season rotation so that Rogers only had to pitch at Comerica Park.

    Could you imagine Curt Schilling or Pedro Martinez not pitching at Yankee Stadium during the 2004 ALCS because they were too delicate?

    Then again, Rogers was the guy who attacked a camera man and pump his fist and carried on as if he just got the last out of the World Series following every out during the playoffs. ESPN's Bill Simmons wrote this about Rogers:

    Back to Rogers: Does anyone else believe that he planted that brown stuff on his left hand to deflect attention away from the fact that he fits every possible profile of a steroids/greenies guy? I mean, let's say you just returned from a three-week safari in Africa and I told you, "Yo, there's this veteran pitcher in his early 40s with a storied track record for choking in big games, only now he's working on a 22-inning scoreless streak in October and punctuating each start by screaming after every out and stomping around like a crazy homeless guy trying to clear out a bus stop?" Wouldn't your first thought be, "What's he taking?" Instead, we're worried about some mud on his hand? Somebody make this guy pee in a cup, please.


  • Jeff Weaver's breaking pitches were pretty darned good in Game 5. Better yet, Weaver's outing might have earned him a fairly big contract contract this winter, which is pretty good for a pitcher with the worst regular-season ERA (5.76) to win a clinching game in the World Series.

    Not bad for a guy bounced out of New York, Detroit, Los Angeles and then designated for assignment in July with the Angels so the team could create a spot for his little brother.

  • Enough of the La Russa as genius stuff. First, he's just a baseball manager. Just like Charlie Manuel.

    La Russa didn't outsmart anyone or himself during the playoffs. He didn't second-guess himself or mull over decisions to the point where he turned smart baseball moves into issues of national importance. Simply, La Russa put his players in the position to perform well.

    That's his job.

    Though his batting order was different every night, La Russa didn't get too tricky during the World Series or NLCS. When he "benched" Scott Rolen, La Russa said it wasn't for any reason other than the All-Star wasn't swinging well and needed a break.

    The result: a 10-game hitting streak in which Rolen went 13-for-37 (.351) with five extra-base hits and nine runs scored. During the World Series, Rolen would have been the MVP if he had driven in a couple more RBIs than the two he collected.

  • Hopefully no one forget about how good Detroit's Sean Casey was in the World Series. His .529 average (9-for-17) and 1.000 slugging during the series kind of got lost in the shuffle.

  • Finally, Jayson Stark wrote that the Cardinals are the best 83-win team in baseball history. That kind of makes one wonder where the Phillies would have rated amongst baseball's 85-win teams had they made the playoffs.

    Guess we'll never know.
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    Friday, October 27, 2006

    Game 5: World Champs

    Adam Wainwright, a rookie, entered the ninth for Jeff Weaver to close it out. Wainwright was born in 1981 so he was alive the last time the Cardinals won it. He was nearly 14 months old, but he may have caught an inning here or there on the tube.

    Wainwright got an assist when Magglio Ordonez’s liner nicked his glove and trickled to Ronnie Belliard at second, who threw sidearm to Pujols at first.

    The kid looks composed even though he has just 63 big-league games under his belt after taking over the closer’s role when Jason Isringhausen went out with an injury in September. Interestingly, Wainwright saved just three games in the regular season and three more in the playoffs before entering Game 5. The game just might be his last save chance, too, since it’s likely that Wainwright will be a starter in 2007 and Isringhausen will return to his job.

    Either way it wasn’t easy for the kid, who allowed a one-out double to the white-hot Sean Casey. But when he jammed Ivan Rodriguez to get him to nudge one back to him, Wainwright seemed to give the biggest exhale in Busch Stadium after Albert Pujols gloved the throw to first.

    Should it be fitting that Placido Polanco could have made the last out? When he was with the Phillies, Polanco always spoke so fondly of his days with the Cardinals. One could tell that he wished that he had never left St. Louis. Rheal Cormier and Mike Timlin were the same way.

    But Polanco is a wise man. He’ll overcome his 0-for-17 in the World Series. Who knows, maybe he’ll bounce back like Scott Rolen did after his oh-fer in 2004. Either way, his two-out walk brought the go-ahead run to the plate. One swing from Brandon Inge could turn around not just the game, but also the entire series. Inge could become Dave Henderson or Mookie Wilson in 1986…

    Instead he’s the third out when Wainwright rushed the fastball by him.

    The 2006 season is over. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater on February 15.

    Post script
    David Eckstein, on the strength of a four-hit game in Game 4, was named MVP. Rolen was likely second or third in the balloting, but that doesn't matter. Like Curt Schilling, Terry Francona, Darren Daulton and Jim Eisenreich, Rolen left Philadelphia to get his ring.

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    Game 5: Three outs to go

    When the Red Sox were three outs away from beating the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, I woke up my then six-month old son and made him sit there with me to watch it end.

    I thought the proper fatherly thing to do was to make sure that my son could say that he watched the Red Sox win their first World Series since 1918. After all, the last time the Red Sox had won the World Series, my grandmother was my son’s age.

    But like my 88-year old grandmother, my son was born into a world where the Red Sox were the defending World Series champions.

    Tonight, my son is 2½ and fast asleep. I’m not going to wake him even though the Cardinals are three outs away from winning the World Series after Jeff Weaver mowed the Tigers down in the eighth and picked up his ninth strikeout of the game. These days it’s just too hard to get him back to sleep, especially with the threat of monsters moving into hiding places in his room while he watches the end of the game.

    Besides, he’s already seen the Red Sox win it all. I’d never seen it until my mid-30s.

    Generally, though, I don’t root for teams, but I’ll admit that I’m happy for Scott Rolen. He’s my favorite player to watch and as I’ve stated on these pages before, if my son is ever interested in playing baseball and wants to learn how I’ll tell him to copy No. 27 for St. Louis.

    It would be much more fun if I could say No. 17 for Philadelphia.

    But there is no sense re-hashing all of that.

    St. Louis sits on the verge thanks to eight errors by the Tigers. I suppose that’s how this series will be remembered. The Pirates in 1979 was the last time a team made errors in each of the first five games of the World Series. But unlike “The Family,” the Tigers didn’t have the fire power – or Willie Stargell – to overcome their ineptitude.

    Three outs to go. The boy is fast asleep.

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    Game 5: Pitching and defense

    It seems as if Placido Polanco is doing his imitation of Scott Rolen's 2004 World Series. That's kind of ironic, I guess, since the pair were traded for one another in 2002 from the Phillies and Cardinals.

    Polanco isn't swinging that bat poorly in this World Series, but he's 0-for-17. This oh-fer comes after Polanco was the MVP of the ALCS. In 2004, Rolen went 0-for-15 in the World Series against the Red Sox after slugging the game-winning home run in Game 7 of the NLCS against Roger Clemens.

    Polanco seemed to snap his skid in the seventh, but Albert Pujols may have made the play of the series to rob him. Far off the bag at first, Pujols dived to his right and snagged the ball in the web of his far-extended glove. But in order to nail the reasonably speedy Polanco, Pujols had to roll over to his rear, find pitcher Jeff Weaver streaking for first, and hit him with a hard throw from the seat of his pants just to nip Polanco by a step.

    Meanwhile, La Russa started the seventh with a new right fielder and left fielder. So Taguchi shifted from left to right and Preston Wilson entered the game. It's all about pitching and defense now, especially since the Cardinals have three outfielders who all have spent significant time as center fielders during their careers.

    Defense continued to be a bane for the Tigers in the bottom of the seventh when David Eckstein reached first with an infield single when shortstop Carlos Guillen double-clutched on the throw to first. That was followed by a walk to the free-swinging Preston Wilson from reliever Fernando Rodney, who started the frame.

    Perhaps his crooked hat, fashionably askew atop his head knocked him off kilter during the first two hitters of the seventh?

    But Rodney got Pujols to pop out, and Edmonds to do the same. With two outs and two on Rolen dumped an RBI single to right just a few feet in front of Magglio Ordonez in right field.

    Not only did that hit extend Rolen's hitting streak to 10 games, but also it should have cinched the MVP Award for the former Phillie if the Cardinals can hold the lead.

    The Cardinals ended the seventh with the 4-2 lead. They have six outs to go.

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    Game 5: More errors

    Not too long after Tim McCarver made a salient point about Chris Duncan playing right field in the sixth inning of a one-run game, the young outfielder goes ahead and plays a fairly routine warning-track fly ball into a double for Sean Casey.

    McCarver said: "At this point you go to four innings of defense."

    Actually, nine innings of defense helps, but the point is the Cardinals should worry less about Duncan's offense and more about defense.

    But shouldn't the genius Tony La Russa know this?

    Defense is the most underrated aspect of the baseball. In fact, Bill James wrote something that got my attention which stated that half of good pitching is really good defense. After presenting this to long-time Major League general manager Pat Gillick, he responded with (essentially) a, "well, yeah... "

    Kind of like, "duh."

    Proof? Check out the Tigers and the eight unearned runs this series.

    Gillick is a self-described pitching and defense guy. I guess I am, too. After all, a baseball team wins more games with good pitching than good hitting.

    Nevertheless, Duncan's "error" was a no-harm, no-foul type. Weaver was able to dance out of the sixth with his 3-2 lead to put the Cardinals within nine outs of the title.

    On another note, how come I haven't heard anything about former Cardinal Tim McCarver and Cardinals' announcer Joe Buck calling these World Series games?

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    Game 5: Wha happened!

    So I step away for a minute to put the wash in the dryer and another load in the washer and the Cardinals have the lead? Another throwing/fielding error by a Tigers pitcher?

    What gives.

    While I was away, Verlander fielded a bunt (it was a bunt, right?) cleanly, but his throw to third was behind Inge and skittered into left field. As a result, Molina and So Taguchi scored to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

    Molina, the worst-hitting starter in the National League during the regular season, picked up his second hit of the game and currently has a .400 average in the World Series.

    But more importantly, what's with the errors and the Tigers pitchers? That's one in every game of this series and they aren't hustling, hard-luck errors, either. The Tigers' errors are simple, routine errors on every day plays. Because of the errors, the Cardinals have scored eight unearned runs this series and there is still a bit to go.

    Then again, Weaver picked up two more strikeouts (he has six in five innings) to get through the fifth.

    It's 3-2 and the Cardinals are 12 outs away.


    Game 5: 1982 Cardinals

    The last time the Cardinals won the World Series, a dude from Lancaster was on the mound to get the last out.

    Justin Verlander wasn't born yet.

    Better yet, the Cardinals' second baseman was also from Lancaster.

    In that regard, I wonder what Bruce Sutter, newly inducted to the Hall of Fame this year, and Tom Herr are thinking right now.

    I wonder if they're watching?

    Sutter has become something of a de facto Cardinals celebrity this summer with his No. 42 retired alongside Jackie Robinson's famous 42. He seemed genuinely touched by the gesture, too -- much more than most players who receive the honor.

    I vaguely remember Sutter as a pitcher. The intricacies of pitching were lost on me at such a young age, though I remember how people talked in hushed tones and awe of Sutter's now-famous split-finger fastball. I remember a lot of hitters swinging and missing it when Sutter was pitching for the Cubs, Cards and Braves.

    Tom Herr, the second baseman from the '82 Cards, lives very near where I'm sitting right now. According to baseball people that I have talked to who remember Herr from his playing days, the second baseman was not always very popular with his teammates or the media. A lot of people say he was a bit of a clubhouse lawyer and a sometimes uncooperative. A little arrogant, too, they say.

    What do I know, I wasn't there.

    But if I had to guess, it could be that reputation that kept Herr from becoming a Major League coach or manager after his playing days ended with an unceremonious trade from the Phillies followed by his releases from the Mets and Giants.

    Herr is back now, though... kind of. He spent the past two summers managing the independent league Lancaster Barnstormers. They even won the Atlantic League title this year. Whether that re-opens some doors to the Majors remains to be seen. From what I have learned in my six years is that grudges die hard all over the big leagues.

    Meanwhile, the game has been a bit sloppy thus far. Aside from Inge's error, the third baseman ran the Tigers out of an inning by getting caught too far off second base on a grounder hit to the left side of the infield.

    In the bottom of the the third, Albert Pujols was caught stealing on the back end of hit-and-run in which Jim Edmonds whiffed.

    Chris Duncan muffed an easy fly ball in right field with one out in the fourth when Edmonds decided to do his Kelly Leak impression. Duncan's error -- no thanks to Edmonds -- allowed Magglio Ordonez to reach base so that Sean Casey could pound a long home run just inside the foul pole in right.

    Just like that and it's 2-1 for the Tigers.

    Verlander has the lead.

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    Game 5 2nd inning

    According to a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today, the BBWAA is disappointed with the quality of the press box at the brand-new Busch Stadium. All I can say is it’s a good thing the Washington Nationals didn’t make it to the playoffs.

    Also, I didn’t hear too many complaints from the BBWAA about Shea Stadium, which is the worst press box I have ever been in, excluding the one at Conestoga Valley High School.

    The biggest complaint about the new Busch is that unless one is sitting in the first row of the press box, certain portions of the outfield and the scoreboard cannot be seen.

    To that I say that based on my seat in Citizens Bank Park, I never knew there was a scoreboard.

    Still, I guess I can understand the problem. The BBWAA wants proper working conditions, which is fine. But I also think the BBWAA is attempting to keep some semblance of a firm grip on the coverage of the game while readers and writers slip away to the growing influence of the Internet and blogs.

    Sorry guys, you are nearly irrelevant.

    Aside from this cutting edge blog (he said with tongue firmly planted in his cheek), the NY Times – the voice of the establishment – has a live blog going, too. I’m sure the dude at Deadspin is busy tap, tap, tapping away on his keyboard in front of the TV, too.

    As someone straddling both sides of the fence between the new media and the establishment, I honestly can say I much more excited about the new stuff. Sportswriting and journalism must adapt.

    Or die.

    But as a member of the corporate media, all I really want is access. I want to be able to see someone’s face when they answer a tough question and hear the tone of their voice. I want to be able to have the chance to shoot the breeze with a player and get inside what they do to prepare, recover and the process in which makes them a professional athlete practicing their craft.

    At Citizens Bank Park, all I can do is watch the game on TV like everyone else. The view from the press box stinks, but the bathrooms are nearby and it doesn't take too long to get to the clubhouses or field.

    Anyway, the Cardinals took the lead in the bottom of the second on a throwing error by Brandon Inge. David Eckstein (he’s small and scrappy) grounded a broken-bat grounder to third with two outs and Yadier Molina at third. Inge fielded the ball close to the line, but in his haste to throw out Eckstein, chucked the ball past Sean Casey at first and into right field.

    It’s 1-0 Cardinals. They need 21 more outs to become World Champions.

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    Game 5: 1st inning

    I dislike listening to the announcers, but Tim McCarver might have a point in noting that Justin Verlander is nervous. The kid has a nasty fastball, but it appears to be all over the place in the bottom of the first. Infielders and catcher Pudge Rodriguez have paid a few visits in attempt to settle the kid down. The pitching coach even went out to the mound to relax Verlander.

    It doesn’t appear as if manager Jim Leyland is going to mess around tonight. Just one out and two free passes into the game and Leyland has the ‘pen up. It’s definitely an all-hands-on-deck game for the down-to-the-wire Tigers.

    According to the media guide, Verlander was born in February of 1983. That was the sixth grade for me where a school year was heading toward the backstretch and the move from James Buchanan Elementary to Wheatland Junior High was quickly approaching. If someone were to tell me what I was doing on the day Verlander was born, I probably can remember it.

    My guess is it involved something at John May’s house on Wilson Drive. We probably played basketball or threw mulch at cars as they drove past.

    Hey, it was Lancaster, Pa. in 1983. We only got MTV a few months earlier.

    Anyway, Verlander is only 23. When I was 23 I wasn’t pitching in an elimination game of the World Series. I most likely was hanging around some people who didn’t really like me all that much in Philadelphia. Luckily for everyone involved, I doubt those people and me have seen each other since I was 23.

    In case they are reading this (which they aren’t) I still look the same, but I’m much thinner now.

    Yet despite the three walks and two wild pitches, Verlander escaped the inning unscathed when Carlos Guillen made a dynamic on-the-run throw to cut down Ronnie Belliard at first. Before heading to commercial, the Fox cameras caught Verlander giving an emphatic fist pump kind of like Johnny Drama’s “VICTORY!”

    Is that what the kid needed to relax?

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    Game 5: Live updates

    Are the Cardinals the worst team ever to win a World Series? Are they the worst team to ever be holding the cards in a World Series elimination game? Some think so, but I don’t. At the beginning of the season if one were to say the Cardinals would win the World Series, it wouldn’t be crazy. That was especially the case after watching them rip apart the Phillies in a season-opening sweep at Citizens Bank Park in April.

    The Cardinals were really good back then. They were also pretty good through the first half of the season. But then the injuries came and the Cards limped into the playoffs with many believing they wouldn’t get past the first round of the playoffs.

    They’re lucky they didn’t have to play the Phillies.

    Then again, maybe it didn’t matter. The Cardinals appear to have gotten healthy while tightening up the play at just the right time. And as someone much smarter than me once said, “Once you get into the playoffs anything can happen.”

    Maybe that was Charlie Manuel who said that? Sounds like something a lot of baseball people say.

    Nevertheless, the top of the first opened with California kid Jeff Weaver striking out the first two hitters with a curve ball that bent like a wiffle ball. Weaver might have it tonight. The perfect inning ended with a weak fly to left.

    As for the worst team to win the World Series – How about the 1969 New York Mets? They ended up winning the supposed superior Baltimore Orioles in five games.

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    Best bets

    Last week: 2-1
    Year-to-date: 8-5-1

    I almost forgot about the football picks for this week. With the World Series and running workouts reaching a fever pitch, it’s amazing that I forgot to brag about the 7-1-1 record over the last three weeks. And here’s the best part – this knowledge is free. Anyone who wants a football pick only has to check this site, or, email me. I’ll even go off the board, one-on-one, for those who need the help.

    Anyway, here we go:

    Eagles minus 4 over Jacksonville
    The logic on this one is that the Eagles lost two straight games on last-second kicks and desperately need a victory. Plus, Jacksonville’s quarterback is banged up and coming off a bad game. Sure, people tell me the Jags’ backup is decent, but aren’t they all? Nevertheless, this one could be the easiest win of the year for the Eagles.

    Giants plus 1 over Cleveland
    I don’t know… the line looks good. Plus, I have Tiki Barber on my fantasy team. That’s reason enough, right?

    ed. note: it turns out that the New York on the odds sheet I was looking at was the Jets not the Giants. Apparently, there is more than one New York team even though the only team in the NFL that actually plays any games in that state is Buffalo. In that case, I love that Chad Pennington dude. Go Jets. J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!

    Colts plus 2½ over Denver
    There has been a lot of snow in Colorado this week, which probably means the Broncos have been practicing indoors. The Colts are a dome team and always practice indoors (I don’t know if this is fact, but it sounds right) so that makes it all even. Add in the fact that it’s expected to be a temperate 64-degrees and dry in Denver on Sunday, which makes it feel like the indoors, and it’s still level.


    Just go with the Colts.

    For the record, my favorite football picker is Jeff Johnson, who wrote excellent prognostications for McSweeney's. I don't think he does much of it anymore, but the old stuff is really good and worth the read for those who like good writing.


    It's Game 4!

    More observations from Thursday night's telecast of Game 4 of the World Series:

    * Here’s something from Slate that says people dislike the Cardinals because they read Moneyball.

    I’m not sure about the argument, though. Tony La Russa might have something to do with people’s dislike of the Cardinals, and around here Scott Rolen may have checkered some reaction to the Cards’ run to the World Series.

    * Speaking of Rolen, it might not be too far-fetched to believe he could be the MVP of the World Series if the Cardinals win. After four games Rolen’s batting average is just a shade under .500 and his .813 slugging percentage for an 1.284 OPS. Players with lesser numbers have been named the series MVP.

    The drawback, of course, is the RBIs. Rolen has just one in the series, and one in the entire post-season. Excluding pitchers, the fewest amount of RBIs by a World Series MVP are two by Derek Jeter in 2000, Rick Dempsey in 1983 and Pete Rose in 1975.

    Perhaps Rolen needs just one more?

    * Jayson Stark wonders if La Russa is toying with the Busch Stadium radar guns just to mess with Tigers’ reliever Joel Zumaya’s head.

    * This is just a guess, but I would not be shocked if everyone is sick and tired of hearing that John Cougar Mellencamp song on that car commercial. In fact, I’m so annoyed by it that I don’t even know what type of car it’s for. Worse, it is now officially more annoying than Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock” car commercial song.

    I don’t know what type of car that was for either, but chances are it’s not a car I’d buy.

    * ESPN is taking on the ambitious task of adapting Jonathan Mahler’s wonderful book, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning. The eight-hour adaptation, starring John Turturro as Billy Martin and Oliver Platt as George Steinbrenner, is supposed to be ready for air next summer.

    If ESPN re-creation is half as good as Mahler’s book that documents the summer of tumult in 1977 New York City, it will be well worth sitting still for eight hours to watch the movie.

    I’m curious if ESPN will stick strictly with the Yankees aspect of the book or attempt to reach into the political and societal narratives. If so, I’m dying to know who will play Bella Abzug.

    * If I were David Eckstein I would be very tired of every talking head pointing out that I’m “little” and “scrappy.” Just once I would like to hear a guy like Eckstein look at an interviewer like Chris Myers and say, “Is that all you can come up with? I’m small? Come on, dude… people out there want your best work.”

    * La Russa's move to bring in closer Adam Wainwright for five outs was really smart. Perhaps a starter or two will be in the bullpen as the Cardinals attempt to close it out on Friday night.

    * The Cardinals led the Royals 3-1 in the 1985 World Series and the Tigers 3-1 in the 1968 series. They lost both of those. Moreover, in the two previous meetings between the Cardinals and Tigers in the World Series, the team that won Game 4 went on the lose the series.


    In the 1982 World Series, the last time the Cardinals won one, St. Louis trailed Milwaukee 3-2 before winning games 6 and 7.

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    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    Off the fence

    I always have believed that a person’s religious and political beliefs should be kept out of the workplace. I know that a lot of people define themselves by these tenets and I know that a lot of corporations, including the one I work for, donate a lot of money to specific political candidates.

    In fact, in the past I have worked and campaigned for several political candidates and if one (or two) of my friends run for Congress, mayor or district attorney, I will be there for them for whatever they want me to do.

    But you will never read about it here, nor will anyone at work hear about it either.

    I’m not apolitical – far from it. My political views are hardened by a childhood spent in Washington, D.C. and time spent studying history and politics in school. As I have mentioned in previous posts, in another time my aspiration was to be a political and presidential historian. Because of this I’d like to think my views are well formed and investigated.

    Then again, everyone thinks that about himself.

    The reason I bring this up is because Cardinals’ pitcher Jeff Suppan, slated to start tonight’s Game 4, is involved in a bit of a controversy because of his role in a political campaign ad in Missouri. Suppan (along with Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and Kansas City Royals first baseman Mike Sweeney), it seems, has come out against stem-cell research in response to an advertisement featuring actor Michael J. Fox. The actor, as has been well documented, suffers from Parkinson's disease and actively campaigns for stem-cell research.

    I’m not going to include anything Suppan or Fox said in their ads because neither man is an expert on the subject or a scientist.

    Nevertheless, in six years of being in close quarters with professional athletes, this is really the first time I can remember one jumping into the political fray. Actually, in retrospect, I can remember a handful of political conversations with a baseball player whose views were similar to mine, but that's about it. Some jocks have bumper stickers on their cars with a political bent, but rarely bring those ideas into the clubhouse or near the field.

    No, I won’t reveal anything here either.

    The point is I think it’s good that Suppan is politically active. A generation ago most athletes were very active in the politics of the United States and their sports. They protested, formed unions and engaged the entire process.

    Now, generalizing a little (but not much), professional athletes engage in X-box and gambling or both with a lot of dodging the media and the fans mixed in. Some have no idea about the battles waged and the precedent set by the athletes that came before them.

    So before anyone rips Suppan for his political stance, which definitely is fair game, let's hope that his interest in the process sparks more from athletes on all angles of the spectrum.

    Let’s just keep it off the field and off these pages.

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    It's a rain out!

    Was it me or did it seem that Joe Buck was laughing at us when he said, “So we’ll send you back to ‘The War at Home’ while we wait out the rain delay in St. Louis.”

    It seemed that way to me. Smug and pompous, Joe was taunting us as the camera melted away from the raindrops falling heavily on the tarp at Busch Stadium. Instead of watching Michael Rappaport in some schlocky sit-com, Buck was able to watch it rain. Had he just painted a wall he could have watched it dry instead of watching episode after episode of that show.

    Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks this way.

    But while waiting for a game that was never to be played on Wednesday night, I did a little thinking and here’s what I came up with: “comedy” isn’t as funny as it used to be.

    Yeah, I know. I’m some old guy saying, “things sure were better in my day.” Well… wasn’t it? Does any one think that half of the sit-coms on TV now would have had a chance in the 1980s? Now, it seems as if watching network television is like having a lobotomy without the surgery.

    The same goes for comedy movies. Just for comparisons sake, I watched Animal House to see how it held up nearly 30 years after its release. If you want to know the truth, it’s better than anything being produced now.

    The reason, I think, is there was actual character and plot development in the old-time comedies. There was a motivation and a familiarity with the characters, while in the Ricky Bobby picture, for instance, it was just a highlight film of one-liners and slick editing.

    Don’t get me wrong, Will Ferrell was brilliant in Old School, which I believe is a “throwback” to the glory days of motion-picture comedy, but I’m not sure if he can carry a picture. Take Ron Burgundy -- it was funny and I enjoyed the character, but the movie stunk.

    So that’s what we get with the rain out of Game 4 – bad comedy and a bad blog post.

    On another note, my 2½-year-old boy has been having trouble sleeping at night lately. It seems as if we have a problem with monsters here on Landis Ave. that I’ll have to take care of soon. Nevertheless, the boy and I spent part of Monday night flipping through the dial, watching old movies hoping it would relax him and get him to fall asleep. However, when his mom got home I knew I was in trouble when he walked over to the TV and pointed at the robust and portly man on the screen.

    “Belushi!” he told her. “Belushi!”

    The kid is learning... maybe too much.

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    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    20 years ago today...

    ... the ball slipped through Buckner's legs at Shea.

    I believe there should be a plaque on the grass behind first base marking the site where it occurred, like a historical marker or something. Every time I'm in that tiny visitors' clubhouse at Shea I think about the scene after that Game 6 when workers had to tear down the podium and put away the champagne by the time the Red Sox made it from the dugout, down the narrow, plank board covered hallway and into the clubhouse.

    During the entire inning, Bob Costas saw the entire scene unfold and was prepared to hand the Series trophy to Jean Yawkey and then MVP Award to Bruce Hurst.

    Such a wild, wild game.

    Here's a re-enactment:

    Better yet, here's the Sports Illustrated account by Ron Firmite about Game 6 and the aftermath from Nov. 3, 1986.

    Box score

    Boston Red Sox
    Boston Red Sox    AB  R  H BI BB  K PO  A
    Boggs 3b 5 2 3 0 1 0 1 0
    Barrett 2b 4 1 3 2 2 0 1 4
    Buckner 1b 5 0 0 0 0 0 5 0
    Rice lf 5 0 0 0 1 2 5 0
    Evans rf 4 0 1 2 1 0 1 0
    Gedman c 5 0 1 0 0 1 8 0
    Henderson cf 5 1 2 1 0 0 5 0
    Owen ss 4 1 3 0 0 1 2 2
    Clemens p 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 1
    Greenwell ph 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
    Schiraldi p 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1
    Stanley p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Totals 42 5 13 5 5 7 29 8
    DP: 1.
    E: Buckner (1), Evans (1), Gedman (2).
    2B: Evans (1, off Ojeda); Boggs (3, off Aguilera).
    HR: Henderson (2, 10th inning off Aguilera 0 on, 0 out).
    SH: Owen (1, off McDowell).
    HBP: Buckner (1, by Aguilera).
    IBB: Boggs (1, by McDowell).

    New York Mets
    New York Mets      AB  R  H BI BB  K PO  A
    Dykstra cf 4 0 0 0 0 2 4 0
    Backman 2b 4 0 1 0 0 1 0 4
    Hernandez 1b 4 0 1 0 1 0 6 1
    Carter c 4 1 1 1 0 1 9 0
    Strawberry rf 2 1 0 0 2 0 5 0
    Aguilera p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Mitchell ph 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
    Knight 3b 4 2 2 2 1 1 0 0
    Wilson lf 5 0 1 0 0 1 2 1
    Santana ss 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1
    Heep ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Elster ss 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 3
    Johnson ph, ss 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
    Ojeda p 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
    McDowell p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
    Orosco p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Mazzilli ph, rf 2 1 1 0 0 0 1 0
    Totals 36 6 8 3 4 9 30 11
    DP: 1.
    E: Knight (1), Elster (1).
    SH: Dykstra (2, off Schiraldi); Backman (1, off Schiraldi).
    SF: Carter (1, off Schiraldi).
    IBB: Hernandez (1, by Schiraldi).
    SB: Strawberry 2 (3, 2nd base off Clemens/Gedman 2).

    Boston Red Sox      IP H HR R ER BB K
    Clemens 7 4 0 2 1 2 8
    Schiraldi L (0-1) 2.2 4 0 4 3 2 1
    Stanley 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Totals 9 8 0 6 4 4 9
    New York Mets       IP H HR R ER BB K
    Ojeda 6 8 0 2 2 2 3
    McDowell 1.2 2 0 1 0 3 1
    Orosco 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Aguilera W (1-0) 2 3 1 2 2 0 3
    Totals 10 13 1 5 4 5 7
    WP: Stanley (1).
    HBP: Aguilera (1, Buckner).
    IBB: Schiraldi (1, Hernandez); McDowell (2, Boggs).
    Umpires: Ford (home), Kibler (1B), Evans (2B),
    Wendelstedt (3B), Brinkman (LF), Montague (RF)
    Attendance: 55,078

    Here you can pick up the bottom of the 10th with two outs and one on:

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    New site

    For all the running geeks out there, I moved all running-related writing, training and musings to another site. So if you find this kind of stuff interesting or just want someone to laugh at, check out the new site.


    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    It's Game 3!

    Here are a few observations from Tuesday night’s Game 3 in St. Louis:

    * If I’m not mistaken, commissioner Bud Selig took the “boys will be boys” approach to the controversy regarding Kenny Rogers and his dirty hand during Fox’s pre-game show. In an on-the-field interview with the always-entertaining Penn alum, Ken Rosenthal, Selig said that if Tony La Russa didn’t do anything about it, why should he?

    Selig said that La Russa has been known to be combative.

    What Selig and player’s union president Donald Fehr were with Rosenthal for was to announce the new labor agreement that will last through the 2011 season.

    Selig called the new deal “historic.” You know, like the Treaty of Versailles.

    * Kevin Kennedy, one of Fox’s pre-game analysts with a penchant for dismissing everything controversial in the game, was on top of his game on Tuesday night. This summer he debunked all steroid and performance-enhancing drug accusations and controversies with a hand waving, “He never tested positive!” As well as, “Put your name next to it! Stop using unnamed sources!”

    OK, Mr. Haldeman.

    Much to our surprise, Kennedy was just as dismissive of the Rogers controversy.

    “It happens all the time,” Kennedy said. “It’s part of the game.”

    Could you imagine what Kennedy might say if he were in Uganda with Idi Amin when people just started disappearing.

    “What? It’s no big deal. It happens all the time. That’s just Idi being Idi.”

    Yes, I see how silly it sounds comparing a brutal, homicidal dictator to a baseball pitcher with dirty hands and an apologist announcer. Better yet, it reminds me of one of my favorite Tug McGraw quotes.

    After escaping from a tough, late-inning jam against the Big Red Machine's Joe Morgan, George Foster, Tony Perez and Johnny Bench with his typical aplomb, Tug was asked by a reporter how he was able to stay so cool. “Well,” he said. “Ten million years from now, when the sun burns out and the Earth is just a frozen snowball hurtling through space, nobody's going to care whether or not I got this guy out.”

    My favorite Tug quote is when he was asked what he would do with the money he got for making it to the World Series with the Mets in 1973.

    “Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other 10 percent I'll probably waste.”

    * I had Nate Robertson on my rotisserie team this season, Game 3 was the first time I saw him pitch. He’s a lefty… imagine that. He wears glasses, too. He’s also No. 29 like 1968 World Series hero Mickey Lolich and has been driving the same car for a really long time.

    At various points of the season, I also had Jason Isringhausen, Anthony Reyes, Jason Marquis, Preston Wilson and David Eckstein of the Cardinals, as well as Pudge Rodriguez, Craig Monroe, Brandon Inge and Sean Casey of the Tigers.

    I finished in ninth place of a 12-team league.

    * Richard Ford’s new novel The Lay of the Land is out. This is the third of the Frank Bascombe series, which includes The Sportswriter and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day. The reviews look good, which isn’t too surprising since Ford is a bit of a media darling. Nevertheless, I’m anxious to dive in.

    * I had the chance to tune into the radio broadcast of the start of the game while running an errand. ESPN radio’s Jon Miller and Joe Morgan handle the call on radio, which is filled with much more insight than the TV version.

    Yeah, I know a lot of people are not fans of Morgan’s work for ESPN, but there were a few nuggets from Morgan and Miller that the more superficial TV broadcast would miss.

    This is no fault of TV, I suppose. After all, if someone is listening to the World Series on the radio they are seeking it out. A non-baseball fan isn’t going to drive around and listen to the game, though that same non-fan person could tune in on TV. You know, maybe the batteries on the remote died or something.

    Anyway, Morgan and Miller pointed out that Preston Wilson could be the key for the Cardinals in Game 3. The reason? Wilson is in the No. 2 spot of the batting order, one place ahead of Albert Pujols. It would be Wilson’s job to ensure that the Tigers cannot pitch around the fearsome Pujols.

    Yet because Wilson is hitting ahead of Pujols, the duo pointed out, he should get a lot more pitches to hit than if he were batting in front of, say, Jim Edmonds or Scott Rolen. Plus, they said, Tony La Russa likes for someone with some power to hit ahead of Pujols in the No. 2 spot. That’s why Wilson is so important, the announcers said.

    This is interesting, though if La Russa likes power in the two-hole, why not try Edmonds or Rolen there. Certainly they both have much more power than Wilson and strike out a lot less, too.

    * In the first inning after Robertson came up and in to Pujols, Morgan made a joke.

    “Looks like that one slipped. Maybe he needs some pine tar?” Morgan said.

    “He plays for the Tigers,” Miller said. “I think I know where he can get some.”

    It made me laugh.

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    Not dead yet

    It wasn’t too long ago when people (who actually followed this type of thing) claimed that American marathoning was dead. I never thought much of that was true even though it was clear that American men were not running times any where near those the guys in the 1970s and 1980s ran.

    But then again, guys like Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, et al, defy all eras. Those guys were freaks who worked really, really hard. Shorter and Rodgers used to hammer every day, sometimes doing two or three 20-mile runs mixed into their 140-mile weeks, and then race on the weekend. In fact, Rodgers tells stories about running on access roads near the airport so that he could squeeze in an extra workout while waiting to board a plane on the way to some race.

    Shorter’s workouts in New Mexico with Prefontaine in which the pair cranked out 180 to 200-mile weeks are legendary.

    These days it appears as if those old training methods are en vogue. At least that’s the way it seems from reading Brian Sell’s training logs leading up to his 2:10 performances at Boston and Chicago this year. Better yet, the New York City Marathon on Nov. 5 appears to have one of the deepest fields in decades and that’s not just because world-record holder Paul Tergat or Olympic champ Stefano Baldini are signed on. It’s because Americans like Alan Culpepper, Meb Keflezighi and Dathan Ritzenhein are in the field.

    Keflezighi, 31, won the silver medal in the 2004 Olympics and appears in a MasterCard commercial. Despite the silver medal, two Olympic appearances and a third-place finish in last year’s NYC Marathon, it seems as if Meb’s best running is ahead of him.

    Culpepper, at 34, may have a smaller window than Meb, but there’s no reason why he can’t make a third Olympic team in 2008. With a sub-2:10 marathon under his belt and a strong fifth-place finish at Boston in April, Culpepper could slip into the top five at NYC.

    Then there’s Ritzenhein, who seems like a throwback because he is making his marathon debut at age 23. The runners of the “Dead Era” would never have run a marathon at such a young age, but the guys like Shorter and Rodgers would. In fact, Alberto Salazar won the 1982 New York City Marathon and set a world record for the distance when he was still an undergraduate at Oregon.

    Ritzenhein, a very popular runner in the tight-knit cult of running fandom, appears to be cut from that mold. If his third-place finish at the Great North Run half-marathon in England -- where he beat Baldini, double World Marathon Champion Jaouad Gharib, and 2002 New York City champ Rodgers Rop -- is any indication, Ritz could make a name for himself on Nov. 5.

    Better yet, the best indicator that American men’s marathoning is on the way back is that 44 runners qualified for next November’s Olympic Marathon Trials in last Sunday’s Chicago Marathon. In order to qualify for the trials, one has to run a marathon under 2:22 for the “B” standard and 2:20 for the “A” standard. In other words, run 26.2 miles at 5:25 pace per mile and you’re in.

    Plus, throughout this entire essay, Khalid Khannouchi's name wasn't mentioned once. How's that for proving the health of American marathoning?

    Here’s the list of American men who have met the standard for the November 2007 Olympic Trials set to be held in New York City:

    Rk Time
    Name Race Date
    1 2:07:04
    Khalid Khannouchi
    London Marathon 4/23/06
    2 2:08:56
    Abdi Abdirahman Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    3 2:09:56
    Meb Keflezighi B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06
    4 2:10:47
    Brian Sell Chicago Marathon 10/22/06

    Brian Sell B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06
    5 2:11:02
    Alan Culpepper B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06
    6 2:12:45
    Peter Gilmore B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06
    7 2:12:53
    Mbarak Hussein Seoul International Marathon 3/12/06

    Mbarak Hussein USA Marathon Championships 10/1/06
    8 2:14:09
    Simon Sawe USA Marathon Championships 10/1/06
    9 2:14:12
    Clint Verran B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06

    Clint Verran Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    10 2:14:28
    Jim Jurcevich Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    11 2:14:58
    Ryan Shay USA Marathon Championships 10/1/06
    12 2:15:03
    Chad Johnson Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    13 2:15:11
    Mike Morgan Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    14 2:15:13
    Kyle O'Brien Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    15 2:15:20
    Brandon Leslie Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    16 2:15:22
    Luke Humphrey Chicago Marathon 10/22/06

    Luke Humphrey B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06
    17 2:15:26
    Casey Moulton Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    18 2:15:28
    Nate Jenkins Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    19 2:15:35
    Patrick Moulton Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    20 2:15:39
    Josh Ordway Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    21 2:15:50
    Jason Hartmann Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    22 2:16:58
    Nicholas Aciniaga Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    23 2:17:05
    Martin Rosendahl Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    24 2:17:13
    Josh Ordway Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    25 2:17:32
    Chris Seaton Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    26 2:17:34
    Chris Lundstrom USA Marathon Championships 10/1/06
    27 2:17:37
    Jacob Frey Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    28 2:17:54
    Dan Sutton Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    29 2:18:03
    Ryan Meissen Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    30 2:18:13
    Cecil Franke Columbus Marathon 10/15/06
    31 2:18:14
    Fasil Bizuneh USA Marathon Championships 10/1/06
    32 2:18:18
    Chris Graff USA Marathon Championships 10/1/06
    33 2:18:25
    James Lander St. George Marathon 10/7/06

    Mbarak Hussein USA Marathon Championships 10/2/05
    34 2:18:50
    John Lucas Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    35 2:18:56
    Dave Ernsberger Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    36 2:19:03
    Jason Lehmkuhle USA Marathon Championships 10/1/06
    37 2:19:12
    Carlos Carballo Los Angeles Marathon 3/19/06
    38 2:19:18
    Dan Sutton Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    39 2:19:23
    Donovan Fellows Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    40 2:19:25
    Justin Young Chicago Marathon 10/22/06

    Chad Johnson B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06
    41 2:19:30
    Steve Moreno Los Angeles Marathon 3/19/06
    42 2:19:33
    John Mentzer Chicago Marathon 10/22/06

    Chris Lundstrom B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06
    43 2:19:37
    Jason Ryf Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    44 2:19:45
    Jason Delaney Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    45 2:19:47
    Dan Kahn Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    46 2:19:47
    Andrew Cook Austin Marathon 2/19/06

    Kyle O'Brien B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06
    47 2:20:09
    Jacob Frey USA Marathon Championships 10/1/06
    49 2:20:10
    Trent Briney B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06
    50 2:20:11
    Marzuki Stevens B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06
    51 2:20:12
    Pat Rizzo Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    52 2:20:15
    Matt Levassiur Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    53 2:20:19
    Justin Patananan Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    54 2:20:19
    David Gramlich Chicago Marathon 10/22/06

    Cecil Franke Flying Pig Marathon 5/7/06
    55 2:20:26
    Matt Pelletier Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    56 2:20:27
    Mike McKeeman London Marathon 4/23/06

    Patrick Moulton Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    57 2:20:28
    Michael Reneau Grandma's Marathon 6/17/06
    58 2:20:28
    David Williams Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    59 2:20:32
    Corey Stelljes Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    60 2:20:32
    Antonio Arce Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    61 2:20:33
    Marc Jeuland Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    62 2:20:35
    Karl Dusen Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    63 2:20:37
    Nicholas Stanko Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    64 2:20:41
    Carl Rundell Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    65 2:20:43
    Ben Rosario USA Marathon Championships 10/2/05

    Jason Ryf Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    66 2:20:45
    Miguel A. Nuci B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06
    67 2:20:48
    Gene Mitchell Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    68 2:20:49
    Donnie Franzen Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    69 2:20:52
    Terrance Shea Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    70 2:20:54
    Christopher Zieman Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    71 2:20:55
    Christopher Wehrman Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    72 2:20:57
    Pete Gilman Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    73 2:20:58
    Christopher Raabe Baltimore Marathon 10/14/06
    74 2:21:00
    Todd Snyder Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    75 2:21:00
    Eric Post Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    76 2:21:02
    Kyle Baker USA Marathon Championships 10/1/06
    77 2:21:05
    Thomas Kutter Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    78 2:21:09
    Eric Heins Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon 1/15/06

    Martin Rosendahl B.A.A. Boston Marathon 4/17/06
    79 2:21:16
    Tommy Greenless Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon 1/15/06
    80 2:21:18
    Garick Hill Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    81 2:21:34
    Ed Baker Austin Marathon 2/19/06
    82 2:21:39
    Danny Mackey USA Marathon Championships 10/1/06
    83 2:21:42
    Wynston Alberts USA Marathon Championships 10/2/05
    84 2:21:44
    Chris Banks Los Angeles Marathon 3/19/06
    85 2:21:48
    Jonathan Little Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    86 2:21:50
    Matthew Byrne Steamtown Marathon 10/8/06
    87 2:21:51
    Nathan Wadsworth Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    88 2:21:53
    John Lucas Los Angeles Marathon 3/19/06

    Chris Seaton Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon 1/15/06
    89 2:21:54
    Mike Heidt Portland Marathon 10/1/06
    90 2:21:55
    Steve Frisone St. George Marathon 10/7/06
    91 2:21:56
    Edward Callinan Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    92 2:21:58
    Alan Horton Chicago Marathon 10/22/06
    93 2:22:00
    James McGown USA Marathon Championships 10/1/06

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    Tacky stuff

    Baseball players are very literal. At least they are that way about the rules. If the book doesn’t say one can’t use a chainsaw to aid a pitcher’s grip on a ball, then why not?

    Pine tar, dirt, spit, Vaseline, frankincense? Anything to make the ball avoid a bat better.

    In fact, most pitchers think like former Phillie Larry Andersen, who told the Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury that he is sympathetic to Tigers’ pitcher Kenny Rogers and the brewing controversy over what the unhittable lefty had on his hand during Game 2 of the World Series. Some speculate that it was pine tar. Others believe it was something more sinister. Rogers says it was just dirt mixed with rosin and sweat.

    “Honestly, pine tar is really common with pitchers,” Andersen told Salisbury. “Technically, you could say he was cheating because you're not supposed to use a foreign substance. But I don't look at it that way. He wasn't changing the flight of the ball.”

    Former Phillie Todd Jones, now the closer for the Tigers, was equally dismissive when he talked to Salisbury.

    “It's one of those unwritten rules,” Jones said in the paper. “You don't check if it's not creating an advantage. Everyone is making a big deal of it. This is something that has been going on for years. Other teams have pitchers that are doing it, too.”

    In baseball there is no “spirit of the rules” like there is in track & field and distance running. But even in those sports, the spirit of the rules idea is more about drug doping than actual competition.

    If baseball were track or running, the controversy with Rogers would fall under the spirit of the rules category. He might not have broken the rules, technically, but he was definitely bending them.

    So what did Rogers have on his hand during Game 2 of the World Series? Why it was Gum Benjamin, of course. You didn’t know?

    No, we aren’t certain that it was Gum Benjamin Rogers had on his hand – he isn’t saying. But according to a few experts, the substance on Rogers’ hand looked exactly like Gum Benjamin.

    Actually, Gum Benjamin is benzoin, which is resin obtained from certain tropical Asian trees and used in making perfume and medicine. Sometimes Gum Benjamin is used on cuts or abrasions when a band-aid isn’t big enough, but mostly it’s used by musicians – specifically guitar players or harpists – as a tacky, grippy protection. It’s also used in treating skin irritation, looks like iodine and it stays sticky even after it’s washed off.

    Though Rogers says his hands were just dirty, something is amiss.

    “I don’t believe it was dirt,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

    But La Russa also didn’t rat out Rogers. Perhaps it goes back to the “no-big-deal” code baseball players’ hold.

    “There's a line that I think that defines the competition. And you can sneak over the line, because we're all fighting for the edge. I always think, does it go to the point of abuse? And that's where you start snapping,” La Russa said. “I also know that pitchers -- I was going to say routinely, that may be too strong, because I don't know enough -- pitchers use some sticky stuff to get a better grip from the first throw in Spring Training to the last side they're going to throw in the World Series. Just because there's a little something that they're using to get a better grip, that doesn't cross the line, you know. To me what got my attention was guys that came down and said, man, this thing is real obvious on his hand. I didn't see it. But I did watch video of the other postseason games, so I had an idea of what it looked like, and I said, let's get rid of it and keep playing.

    “That's the attitude I took. If he didn't get rid of it, I would have challenged it. But I do think it's a little bit part of the game at times and don't go crazy.”

    Yes, I see the irony in what La Russa said. I wonder what he thought in 1998 and 1999 when Mark McGwire was hitting all of those home runs?

    Andersen had a better thought in Salisbury’s story.

    “You'd think he'd be a little more discreet," Andersen said. "That was such a big spot. Come on.”

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    Monday, October 23, 2006

    Et tu, Wolfie?

    It wouldn’t be outlandish to believe that Randy Wolf’s future in Philadelphia disappeared as soon as the ink dried on soon-to-be 44-year-old lefty Jamie Moyer’s two-year, $10.5 million (plus incentives) contract signed on Monday afternoon. After all, with Moyer signed on until he’s Julio Franco’s age and 23-year old Cole Hamels a cog in the rotation for the next 15 years, why would the Phillies need another lefty like Wolf in the rotation?

    Besides, the Phillies play their home games in a ballpark notorious for being especially friendly to right-handed hitters (lefties, too), so going after the NL East title with 60 percent of the rotation made up of southpaws might not be the best plan of attack.

    Or would it?

    Sometimes, though, things aren’t as easy as they appear. Even with lefties Moyer and Hamels set for a rotation with righties Brett Myers and Jon Lieber, it seems as if general manager Pat Gillick isn’t ready to let Wolf walk away just yet.

    “We'd like to bring Wolfie back,” said Gillick, noting that the Phillies have been in contact with Wolf’s representatives. “We think his arm is fine and we think he's going to get better. Jamie and I had a conversation in Seattle about three left-handers in the rotation, and we liked the thought of that. We're hopeful that Randy will come back. We'd like to have the same five guys that we had last year. I look at it as a better rotation than we started '06 with. We think bringing Randy back will be a nice way to round out the rotation and start 2007. Hopefully, something will work out.”

    Wolf, of course, is eligible to test free agency this winter after completing a four-year, $22 million deal. He also made a return from Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his left elbow in late July and made 12 starts in 2006. Though he was 4-0, Wolf, 30, tossed just 56 2/3 innings for a 5.56 ERA, while allowing hitters to hit .285 against him. Despite that, Gillick believes Wolf was making strides in his return from the injury and was beginning to re-establish his velocity as evidenced in his nearly seven strikeouts per nine innings.

    Besides, pitchers returning from Wolf’s injury usually regain their pre-surgery form – and then some – in the second year following surgery. By that rationale, Wolf, and maybe even the Phillies, should expect big things in 2007.

    Wolf has stated that he would like to return to Philadelphia for a bunch of reasons. One being that the Phillies drafted him, signed him and gave him the big contract before the 2003 season. More importantly, Wolf wants to be “playing baseball in October,” which might not be such a stretch after back-to-back near misses in 2005 and 2005.

    Meanwhile, Moyer will solidify the back end of a rotation that was a problem for the Phillies in 2006. Gavin Floyd, Ryan Madson, Scott Mathieson, Eude Brito, Aaron Fultz and Adam Bernero were thrust into starting roles to varying degrees of mediocrity last season.

    Needless to say, if the Phillies are able to add Wolf to the mix with the inning-eater Moyer, the team will have very few surprises in ’07.

    What some find surprising is that Moyer, who will turn 44 on Nov. 18, drew a two-year deal from the Phillies. Yes, the Phillies held a $4.75 million option for Moyer the upcoming season, but the St. Joseph’s University alum and Sellersville, Pa. native now calls Seattle home. Gillick believed that Moyer would have been able to find a one-year deal closer to home and had to sweeten the pot a bit in order to keep the 20-year veteran in Philadelphia.

    “I certainly felt that if Jamie got out on the marketplace, there was certainly a club out there that was going to give him one year, and there was a possibility that they would give him two years,” Gillick said. “He was important to us not only on the field, but the intangibles in the clubhouse. We wanted him back. I felt that we'd have to step up with more than one year. We think we worked out a situation that is a win-win for both sides. We're really elated that Jamie re-signed with the Phillies for two years.”

    Moyer was something of a de facto pitching coach for the Phillies when he joined the club after the trade with the Mariners, tutoring Wolf and Hamels as well as other teammates on the finer points of the game he picked up over the past two decades.

    But more than that, the Phillies prospects for getting to the playoffs for the first time since 1993 enticed Moyer. So did the Phillies’ special considerations to Moyer’s family situation where the pitcher can leave the team to go to Seattle to be with his wife and six children when the team’s schedule permitted.

    But unlike the deal Roger Clemens had with the Astros in which he only really had to show up for games he was slated to pitch, Moyer won’t do it that way.

    “The last six weeks of the season were tough on us as a family,” Moyer said. “I can't thank the Phillies enough for being understanding, and I'm sure my teammates will understand. I'm not here to take advantage of that situation. I won't be missing road trips. I won't be picking and choosing what trips I go on. Personally, I can't do that.”

    Most importantly, Moyer believes he isn’t just durable, but he can still pitch, too. At least that’s the way it seemed when he joined the Phillies for the stretch run in August. In eight starts after the trade Moyer worked into the seventh inning in seven of his eight outings on his way to piling up his sixth straight 200-plus innings season and eighth in his last nine years. His 211 1/3 innings in 2006 were the fifth-most by a pitcher at least 43 years old in baseball history.

    “I'm trying to be honest with myself,” Moyer said. “At some point in time, it's going to be the end, but right now I haven't seen any signs. I still enjoy playing, and I still have the passion to play. I still feel like I can contribute, and as long as I have opportunities to do that, why not? Playing allows me to feel like a kid.”

    Why not, indeed.

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    It's Game 2!

    Now it’s a series. Now it gets interesting. Now the pitching match ups will be more meaningful and each and every at-bat that much more nerve-racking. Hands will grip the bats tighter, managers will second-guess their second-guesses.

    Now, for the first time since 2003 there will not be a sweep. Are we headed for seven games? How fun would that be?

    Here are a few observations from Game 2 of the World Series:

    * Let me get this straight… the game was delayed so John Cougar could come out and sing a car commercial? What, did he forget the words to Jack & Diane and Hurt So Good? You didn’t see Bob Seger pulling that crap and he has volumes of songs that double as car commercials. There are generations of people who only know Seger as a jingle writer for TV ads. The Doobie Brothers? Who are they?

    Incidentally, when the Inquirer’s Todd Zolecki was starting out in the biz, an old editor thought it would be a good idea if he went by the nom de guerre Todd Cougar. Later it became Todd Cougar Zolecki, to now when he finally settled on the name his parents gave him.

    Todd’s just finished the final mix on his new album and it should be out in time for Christmas.

    * Kenny Rogers – you know, the guy who beat up a cameraman in Texas – tosses a two-hitter and Rolen gets the hit? It seems to me that the Fox broadcast team believed that Rogers had pine tar on his pitching hand during the first inning because it appeared to be washed off in the subsequent innings. If Rogers doesn’t use pine tar when he picks fights with cameramen, he shouldn’t use it in the World Series.

    Pine tar, of course, is a foreign substance that cannot be placed on the ball intentionally. Certainly, foreign substances are “accidentally” placed on the ball during a course of a game, which can cause it to do all sorts of wacky things. I remember a conversation with Todd Pratt in the Veterans Stadium clubhouse where he revealed all of the zanier things done to the ball in a game. That was fun.

    When I was pitching for my fifth-grade team, the Lancaster Township Phillies, I used to scuff and nick the ball with the metal tags on the heel of my Rawlings glove. By doctoring the ball in that manner I was able to make it move a little more than the chintzy spinning curve I used to huck up there.

    I suppose by revealing this that I am no longer eligible for the Hall of Fame… oh well, I had a good run.

    And since I’m coming clean, I guess I should tell all of my secrets. For instance, I bet on baseball in Las Vegas in August of 2003. I would have won some money, too, if the Phillies would have avoided a sweep in Milwaukee during that ugly losing skid that culminated with team meetings, players-only bus rides and meetings, and Tyler Houston’s inexplicable release that strange, strange day at Shea Stadium.

    Boy those were the days.

    I also use Ibuprofen quite regularly to battle through 100-plus mile weeks, and ingest obscene amounts of caffeine. So obscene that they recognize me when I walk in the door at the local Starbucks and simply pour me “the usual” instead of asking me for my order.

    So obscene that similar amounts of caffeine have been known to kill a Shetland pony.

    The usual, of course, is a venti breakfast blend with a double shot. Sometimes I have two, like last Saturday when I nearly crashed the car into the hedge lining my driveway because my caffeine-addled hands were shaking so much and my vision was blurred.

    In fact, stealing a page from an interview I recently read with Brian Sell, I have begun mixing sugar-free Red Bull with water and Gatorade. I also stopped doing pushups because I read an interview where Lance Armstrong said he quit doing them during his Tour de France winning streak because he was afraid that the extra weight would slow him down during his climbs up the Alps.

    I’m not climbing the Alps any time soon, but the less weight I have to carry around the faster I’ll be.

    Then again, if Gaylord Perry and Ty Cobb are in the Hall maybe there’s hope for Pete Rose and me…

    Uh, maybe not.

    * It’s nice to see all-time good guy Sean Casey in the World Series. Casey is one of those guys who says hello to everyone and can remember the name of every person he meets. Whenever I see him around the ballpark he always has a big smile on his face or is laughing with someone.

    Here’s another Casey story: A classmate of his at the University of Richmond told me that when Casey received bids to join several of the fraternities on campus, he paid individual visits to each governing body thanking them for the offer despite turning down several of them.

    * Back to cameraman thrower Rogers’ dirty hand. After the game, the angry old man said he simply had dirty hands.

    “It was a big clump of dirt,” Rogers said, noting that he had his hands all over the rosin bag. “I didn't know it was there. They told me about, but it was no big deal.”

    Upon washing it off, Rogers got better, allowing just two hits in eight innings to extend his 2006 playoff scoreless innings streak to 23. Not bad for a 41-year-old lefty whose ERA from 1996 and 1999 with the Yankees and Mets was 9.47.

    Besides, according to supervisor of umpires Steve Palermo, dirt is OK. In fact, there is dirt all over the field. Check it out sometime.

    “Dirt is not a foreign substance. That's the playing surface. There was absolutely no detection that he put anything on the ball by any of the umpires. That rule regards if he deliberately put something on the ball to doctor the ball. There was an observation, and [Marquez] saw there was dirt, and he asked him to take it off,” Palermo told reporters in Detroit. “It was observed as dirt. [The umpires] have a pretty good idea what dirt is and what a foreign substance is.”

    * Interestingly, Kenny Rogers’ Baseball Reference web page is not sponsored. Ty Cobb’s page and Gaylord Perry’s have the same sponsor. Pete Rose and Pete Rose Jr. also have sponsors.

    Kenny Rogers? Yours for $70.

    Yeah, I know… $70 seems pretty steep for a journeyman 41-year-old lefty with a short fuse. So in searching for a few bargains, I dug up Jim Todd, an alum of my high school – J.P. McCaskey in Lancaster, Pa. – who pitched for six seasons for the A’s, Cubs, Mariners. Todd is out there for $10.

    The other McCaskey kids to make it to the Majors are both available for $10, too. John Parrish, the wild Orioles’ lefty rehabbing from Tommy John surgery is available, just like his classmate Matt Watson, who I’m told played in Japan after call-ups with the Mets and A’s in 2004 and 2005.

    Remember the 1980 Phillies? How about Manny Trillo, Bake McBride for $20? Marty Bystrom – I hear he lives in Lancaster County – for $10. Nino Espinosa, Dickie Noles, Randy Lerch, Dick Ruthven, Warren Brusstar, and the coup de grace, John Vukovich, are all available for $10.

    That’s money better spent that the $70 for Rogers.

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