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 seem 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 NASCAR’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.