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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 by Eddie Mayrose

April 17, 2008 under Cheap Seats

Welcome back to New York, Joe Girardi.  If the Yankees’ new manager had somehow forgotten how closely each of his decisions would be scrutinized, he got a very sharp reminder last weekend when the Bombers invaded Fenway for the first time this season.  Girardi’s decision to pitch to Manny Ramirez with two outs and first base open during Saturday’s loss to the Beantowners turned out to be disastrous.  Manny drilled Mike Mussina’s first offering into the gap in right center for a two run double from which the New Yorkers never recovered.  Most fans were left scratching their heads when the skipper consulted his pitcher as to whether he wanted to face a career long Yankee killer like Ramirez instead of Kevin Youkilis, who has posted decent career numbers against Mussina but nothing close to the damage done by the future Hall of Famer.  While the results of the cumulative decision possibly cost them the game, the fact of the matter is that it was only game 11 of 162 and unlikely to have long lasting effects on the developing pennant race.  Lost in the rush to condemn, however, is the likely scenario that Girardi saw an opportunity to tell his new charges that he believes in them and took it.  Let’s face it.  This is a longtime Major League player renowned for his baseball intelligence who was named National League Manager of the Year just two seasons ago.   To think he suddenly had no idea that pitching to Ramirez was not the thing to do is silly.

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Girardi actually has much bigger problems on his hands than being second guessed by the New York media.  In a game in Kansas City that was likely to be delayed by rain last week, he pulled young starter, Ian Kennedy, deciding instead to use members of his bullpen to navigate the nine innings and spare Kennedy’s arm from the multiple warmup sessions that usually accompany bad weather games.  A prudent move but part of a larger issue.  With a full season consisting at least 1,450 innings, Girardi will be severely hindered by the organization’s decision to limit the pitch counts of Kennedy, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain.  Someone is going to have to account for their share of the workload.  If the Yankees continue to pull back on the reins of these young hurlers, the new skipper will be going to battle with an extremely overworked bullpen come September.

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So, the winds started blowing on Sunday at Augusta and managed to squash the Masters hopes of all but South African, Trevor Immelman, who carded a final round 75 on his way to his first major title.  It’s always interesting to watch the faint of heart struggle on Sunday, no matter how well they played in the first three rounds.  Immelman, buoyed by the encouragement of his idol and fellow countryman, Gary Player, was able to ride the momentum of an early eagle and take advantage of a six shot lead to eventually win by three.  Perennial favorite, Tiger Woods, scrambling all day, managed to post an even par 72 and finish second.  In one of sports’ most curious oddities, Woods, despite having won thirteen majors, has never come from behind to win any of them.  There is no question about Tiger’s ability to come roaring back in the final round of a tournament, as he has done so many times in his career. Inexplicably, however, never in one of the four majors.

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For some unknown reason, I found myself at Madison Square Garden last week for an uninspiring matchup between the Atlanta Hawks and the hometown Knicks.  As if the process of the two teams trying to decide which one cared the least wasn’t bad enough, a second quarter odyssey to the concession stand served as the low point of the evening.  After waiting twenty minutes on a line that consisted of only six customers, I missed ten minutes of the period.  Finally, having redeemed my pre-paid  food voucher and juggling peanuts and popcorn, I managed to sneak a ten dollar bill into the fingers of one free hand in order to purchase a beer from one of the vendors.  Imagine my surprise, standing there looking every one of my forty six years, when he ask me for ID to verify my age.  Have to hand it to the Knicks for providing such a fan friendly environment both on and off the court.

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As the Mets continue what has become a three year search for a fifth starter, it is somewhat unsettling to watch former Met, Brian Bannister, follow up his strong ’07 season in Kansas City with a 3-0 start in ’08.  Making matters worse is the fact that the pitcher he was traded for, Ambiorix Burgos, is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, having yet to make any significant contributions to the cause.  Here’s hoping that Brooklyn born Nelson Figueroa follows up the gem he threw at the Brewers last week with a few more strong outings.

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That didn’t take long.  Johan Santana, the game’s best pitcher, needed only three starts to become the target of some Shea boo birds.  Seems the two home runs he surrendered to Milwaukee didn’t sit well with a few of the faithful even though they came in the middle of Johan’s third straight quality start.  Ease up, folks.  Santana led the majors in homers allowed last year and still won 15.  Always a slow starter, he has the best second half record in baseball over the last five years.  Now, if only we could be sure that the Mets will stay healthy enough for the second half to matter.

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Finally, hats off and good luck to the New York Rangers as they try and remind us how much fun the Garden can be in the springtime.

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