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The View from the Cheap Seats

October 28, 2009 under Cheap Seats

By Eddie Mayrose

After Long Wait, World Series Gets Started

Finally, after what seemed like interminable Division and Championship series, we get to the business of  the World Series.  Even though these teams seemcheap_seats_3_ like mirror images of each other, many have given the Yanks a slight edge due to their advantage in the bullpen.  I disagree.  Not that Mariano Rivera isn’t better than Brad Lidge; at this point so is Chita Rivera.  But the Yankee bats have just rendered two of the top closers in the AL powerless and there’s no reason to believe they won’t do the same to Lidge.  In other words, even if the Phillies’ closer was at the top of his game, Charlie Manuel would be making other plans, anyway.  What I think it’ll come down to is who starts Game Five for the Bombers.  We know Sabathia goes in Games One, Four and Seven but the Yankees don’t want A.J. Burnett to pitch in Philadelphia.  If they save him for a Game Six in the Bronx, that’ll not only put an inexperienced starter on the mound, it’ll mean Andy Pettitte goes just once in a seven game series.  Still, I like the Yankees in seven.

Major League Baseball Needs a Salary Cap

Last night’s Game One starters, Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia, stood as monuments to baseball’s biggest problem: the disparity in payrolls between small and large market teams.  As the last two winners of the AL Cy Young Award, they would have been a huge help to an Indians’ staff that featured both until Cleveland couldn’t afford either.  Much is made in New York about the “Core Four” of Yankee vets, Rivera, Posada, Pettitte and Jeter, all homegrown and together for much of the Yankees incredible run since 1996.  What most miss in that analysis is that, unlike many teams, the Yankees could afford to keep all of them once they became stars.  Would the Yanks have swept a Twins’ team that included Johan Santana and Torii Hunter?  Would that Twins team have even won the division if the Royals still had Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon?  The fact is, large market teams don’t do anything better than their small market counterparts.  They simply make more money because of their location; something baseball needs to address.

NY Jets’ Leon Washington Hurt at Worst Time

Next time you want to come down on an NFL player holding out for a contract extension, think of the Jets’ Leon Washington; on the verge of stardom until a broken leg ended his season.  These guys have a very small window to earn their money and each week brings the possibilty of a career-ending injury.

On Bob Griese, Jay-Z and Hypocrisy

ESPN college football analyst, Bob Griese, received a one game suspension from the network for remarks he made last Saturday about Griese_Sep26_bNASCAR’s Juan Pablo Montoya.  When a Top Five list of drivers was posted, another broadcaster asked where Montoya was.  Griese replied, “out having a taco.”  For his part, Montoya told reporters after Sunday’s Sprint Cup series race that he “couldn’t resist making fun of the controversy. I could say I just spent the last three hours eating tacos, but I was driving the car.”  Montoya said of Griese, “I don’t even know who he is and I don’t really care.”  That Griese apologized for the remark twice during the broadcast and ESPN later stated that it considered the matter closed was of no consequence once the PC police got their teeth into it.  Bob Griese is and always has been a professional gentleman on the air and it’s a shame that we no longer look at an entire body of work and simply see a good guy who screwed up.  Instead, Griese and others like him suddenly and inexplicably become bigots.

I’m wondering how long Griese would have been suspended had he, instead, glorified the rape and murder of prostitutes, African-Americans, homosexuals and police.   Didn’t seem to matter much to Major League Baseball or the Yankees last night as they invited rapper Jay-Z to perform before Game 1 of the World Series.  In a song whose title is too despicable for print, Jay-Z promotes each of those; something that doesn’t seem to concern the NBA, either; as he’s a part owner of the New Jersey Nets.  Just because freedom of speech cuts two ways doesn’t make a double standard less hypocritical.

Is There Life After High School?

I write weekly about college and professional sports because of their high profile and the fact that I just love sports.  But, I must confess, despite all of the time spent watching, analyzing and enjoying these televised events, my heart still belongs to the high school athletes.  Their spirit is as irresistible as it is inspirational.  Whether it be the jubilation experienced by a basketball team winning a championship in the last minute, the despair of senior football players weeping at the realization that they’ve just played their last game together or the apprehension of a cheerleader waiting to step on the mat while praying to avoid a misstep, each emotion is so raw as to take me back to the wonderful time when I felt that way, myself.   It’s why I still go to my school’s football and basketball games even though my sons have graduated, why I have my daughter’s competitions circled on the calendar and why I found myself at St. Joseph Hill Academy High School last week for a critical volleyball match with St. Joseph by the Sea.

Seven years ago, the Staten Island Catholic Girls’ High School league was established, with three schools initiating programs and joining two others in their infancy.  Sea quickly established itself as the loop’s dominant force while another school, Notre Dame Academy, grabbed last year’s title.  This time around, Hill started the season 7-0; a record that featured a big home win over Sea but would later include a loss to their rival in a rematch; sending both teams into last week’s rubber match with identical records.  The winner would take the title.  Now, the result, (Hill won), is secondary to my point, even though I have to admit , the victory made for a much happier home as my wife, Virginia, is Hill’s fearless leader.  As I sat there in a packed, noisy gym watching the Hill girls in the stands screaming their support to their classmates, I was reminded again of why I eat this stuff up.  High school is the only sports arena in which the athletes and the fans are bonded by friendship.  The fans don’t cheer for love of school but, rather, love of the players; their friends.  It is the reason the passion is unmatched.  Yes, I know all about the Cameron Crazies at Duke, the Bleacher Bums in Chicago and Cleveland’s Dawg Pound but how many of them studied for a chemistry test with a player the night before a game?   How many had a player decorate their locker on a birthday, cry on their shoulder after a failed road test or celebrate the birth of a baby sister?  And where else is a coach so concerned with a player’s development as a person?

On the prep level, coaches are not motivated by financial gain.  If you ever broke down their stipend to an hourly wage, it would work out to just pennies. Instead, it is the dedication to young men and women that drives so many of them and it is that same dedication that serves as a model for how their impressionable, young players should lead their lives.  It is why I am so grateful to the incredible people that have coached my children and a reason I am so proud to say I am my wife’s husband.  It’s also why I’ll be sitting courtside this weekend watching the St. Joseph Hill girls volleyball team, Staten Island Champion, take on the other boroughs in the city playoffs in front of a gym full of their close friends.  Let me know how Notre Dame does against Washington State.

The View from the Cheap Seats

May 8, 2008 under Cheap Seats

When the Mitchell Report was first released in December, many speculated that the mere mention of a player’s name would serve as its own punishment. We had already seen what the consequences of even suspected steroid use would be when Mark McGwire became eligible for the Hall of Fame. The man who broke Roger Maris’ single season home run record and slugged over 570 in his career was remembered more for his selective memory during a congressional hearing than he was for his exploits on the field.
Possibly because of McGwire’s example, or maybe due to the desire to put the cloud of performance enhancing drug use behind them, player after player came clean and admitted their guilt. After all, hadn’t Jason Giambi gotten himself back into the fans’ good graces with an apology? From former player Fernando Vina to current star Andy Pettitte, many of those named copped to the charges and moved on. And why not? Senator Mitchell himself had advised Commissioner Bud Selig that no sanctions be handed down to any active players named in his report. It was time to cut losses and move on.
Roger Clemens, however, decided to fight. In what has become an incredibly tragic display of arrogance, Clemens has staunchly insisted that he never used performance-enhancing drugs of any kind and that he is the victim of a witch hunt. Ironically, since he first characterized himself as a victim, he has steamrolled down a destructive path leaving a long trail of his own victims.
First, there was the libel lawsuit filed against former trainer, Brian McNamee. Then, after demanding his day in court, he appeared before a congressional committee and firmly stated that Pettitte, who had confirmed all of McNamee’s accounts of their relationship, had misremembered their conversations, stopping just short of calling his good friend a liar. It was during this hearing that it was revealed that Clemens’ wife had used steroids. Regardless of his innocence or guilt, the Mitchell Report was no longer Roger’s biggest problem.
Now, we find out that Clemens carried on a long-term affair with country singer, Mindy McCready, which started when he was 28 and she was only 15. Once again, Roger denied any wrongdoing while, at the same time, McCready confirmed everything. Perhaps the most amazing part of the whole saga is that much of the focus seems to be on the affair itself rather than the fact that it may have been carried on with a minor.
So, to recap, in December, Clemens was suffering the embarrassment of being named as a steroid user in the Mitchell Report. Now, because of his misguided and unsuccessful attempts to discredit any and all who accused him, he is being investigated by the Justice Department as to whether he committed perjury. The IRS is investigating his finances to determine if he purchased steroids. His wife’s steroid use has been exposed, it has now become known that he is possibly guilty of statutory rape, and his chances of ever being voted into the Hall of Fame are virtually gone. His reaction to all of this? Everyone else is lying. Our reaction? Clemens has now joined Barry Bonds as the face of the steroid era in baseball.
* * *
When Moises Alou went down with a hernia during spring training, the Mets’ general manager, Omar Minaya, came under a lot of fire for trading away prospect Lastings Milledge to the Nationals during the off-season for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. Now, however, just a month later, Church is probably the Amazins’ MVP. Displaying not only the proficiency versus left-handed pitching that was the biggest mark against him in Washington, he has also shown himself to be an excellent defensive outfielder with a cannon arm. That such a strong defensive catcher like Schneider was also acquired in the deal makes it one of Minaya’s best.
* * *
Is there a more exciting basketball player in the world right now than Chris Paul? He currently has the entire New Orleans Hornets squad strapped to his back as he barnstorms through the NBA playoffs. It has been a long time since a point guard has been able to dominate games the way Paul has all season long. He gave notice of an official changing of the guard during the first round as he made the Mavericks’ Jason Kidd look very old, averaging close to 30 points per game while dishing out more than 10 assists per contest. Dare I call him the best since Magic Johnson?
* * *
Growing up, I played ball all over Brooklyn. From Shore Road to Bay 8th Street, from the Parade Grounds to Marine Park, I traveled the length of the borough to get to games. Actually, I was a passenger on all of those trips since my Mom did a lot of the driving. And sitting. She did a lot of sitting. She sat down the line in an overcoat during those April games when the weather had forgotten that it was springtime. She sat under an umbrella on those hot days in August to watch me pitch when she could have been at the beach. To me, it was her job in a way. I couldn’t drive, so how else was I supposed to get there? Now, as an adult with a parent’s perspective, I appreciate her being there more than I’ve ever told her. She taught that you can’t give your children anything more valuable than your time. Thanks, Mom.
* * *
When my oldest was 9, he made his pee-wee football all-star team and was excited about traveling to Virginia for a “bowl game.” That is, until we realized that the game was the day after his aunt’s wedding and he assumed he would have to miss it. My wife, however, would hear none of that. Realizing how important it was to him, she decided that after leaving the reception on Long Island at midnight, the kids could sleep in the car as we drove through the night to Newport News, Va. in order to get our son to his 9 a.m. game. Exhausted, she was the prettiest mom on the sideline, still in her hair and makeup from the wedding.
I learned a lot that day, just as I’ve learned a lot sitting with her through all of the ball games and competitions in which our children have participated. There have been championships and heartbreak, a lot of travel and many weekends where the grass grew too long in the backyard or the laundry didn’t get done. Through it all, she has always maintained that we only have a short time to enjoy watching the kids be kids and that we can’t miss it. She has made the whole ride more fun for all of us. Happy Mother’s Day, Gin, from a guy who clearly outkicked the coverage on his wedding day.


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