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The View from the Cheap Seats

September 10, 2009 under Cheap Seats

By Eddie Mayrose



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Jeter Chases Gehrig

Anytime a Major League player is mentioned in the same sentence as Lou Gehrig, he’s accomplished something significant. In Derek Jeter’s case, passing Gehrig as the all-time hits leader of the New York Yankees is an achievement that should be listed somewhere near the top of his Cooperstown resume.   For this record, or any like it, to stand for seventy years and survive the many, great players that have been part of Yankee history makes it that much more special when it finally falls.  To have it eclipsed by the team’s most popular player is simply an added gift for the fans as they get to share the moment with their hero; something apparently lost on Yankee broadcasters convinced that the attraction is not Jeter’s assault on the record but their description of it, instead.

The pre-game soliloquies, (Whatever happened to, “Hi, this is Frank Messer and welcome to Yankee baseball.”?), the silly stats and the wink-wink, “I spoke to Derek”, nonsense that seems to have become a competition among the broadcast crew, has grown more and more tiresome as the shortstop has struggled to get the last few hits he needs.  And can you imagine the over-the-top silliness that Sterling has already come up with for the record breaker?   How about just letting the fans enjoy Jeter without getting in the way?

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Missing Mangini

Read this week that Eric Mangini still hadn’t announced his starting QB for the Browns’ opener on Sunday and started to respect Rex Ryan a whole lot more.

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Dedicated Superstars

Next time you hear someone start whining about how today’s athletes just don’t care, that money is everything and team loyalty is a thing of the past, mention Carlos Beltran.  Out three months with a bone bruise that hasn’t completely healed, Beltran came back to a Mets’ squad so devastated by injuries that many advised the center fielder to shut it down for the year.

Or Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford; reigning Heisman Trophy winner.  He spurned the millions that awaited him in the NFL in order to return to school and join his teammates in their quest to win the National Championship that they just missed last season.  Pundits were criticizing Bradford’s decision this week after he sustained a shoulder injury in Oklahoma’s opener.  As if a guy who thinks team first isn’t already above their criticism.

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Denver Broncos: Tough Love?

Strange coincidence in Denver where WR Brandon Marshall, suspended indefinitely for insubordination, redeemed himself in his coach’s eyes just in time for the season opener.

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September Yawn

It’s a sorry September in Major League Baseball as only one of the six divisions has even a sniff of a pennant race.  Despite Bud Selig trying to sell me on the Wild Card, I’m not exactly flipping to Sportscenter to find out how the Red Sox and Rangers did.

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September 11, 2009

Eight years ago, just prior to the kickoff of a freshman football game between Xaverian High School and Xavier High School, the captains from each team proceeded to midfield.   The pregame ritual seemed as mundane as every other coin toss; eight kids who’d never met greeting officials and opponents they probably wouldn’t recognize an hour later.   Until one of the Xaverian captains, the smallest actually, reached across to the Xavier side.  “We’re really sorry about your coach”, he said.  “Thanks, man” came the reply, “thanks a lot.”

Almost two months earlier, on September 10th, a whole new world opened up for those kids as they started their high school careers.  The next day brought a whole new world for all of us.  While football became a refuge for the Xaverian freshmen; their safe haven from the sadness and fear, it was a daily reminder of both for the Xavier kids who’d lost their coach in the World Trade Center attacks.  And now, just before a game that was as much a neighborhood rivalry as any they would ever play, these young boys took a second away from the sport to address their grief.

I thought about that game when I saw that the two schools would open their Varsity seasons against each other tomorrow night, September 11th, at Aviator Field in Brooklyn.  I remembered how I felt back then; that there would never be a time that I’d enjoy anything on that day.  I thought about those high school freshmen; college grads now, and how they managed to find their way through those terrible times.  Finally, I thought of how often since that horrible Tuesday morning I’d been told that the loved ones we lost would want us to enjoy our lives.  That, to do so, would honor the rescuers whose sacrifice was made to preserve that freedom.  Maybe, after eight years, it’s time to let that advice sink in.

So, I’ll be there tomorrow night because, after all this time, it’s where I think I should be.  It’ll be my tribute to those we lost, those we didn’t and those overseas fighting to prevent such an atrocity from ever happening again.  And I’ll carry those eight young football players in my heart; grateful for the example they set on that autumn afternoon.  Thoreau once wrote “All men are children”.  But, on that day, children were men.

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Happy 19th Birthday to one of LaSalle University’s finest, Ryan Mayrose.

The View from the Cheap Seats

August 4, 2009 under Cheap Seats

This time, it’s David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.  In the latest leak of the infamous cheap_seats_3_owumlist of 104 players that tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003, we’ve found out just how Big Papi got that way and that, oops, Manny’s positive test in May wasn’t a one-time thing.  Now, while I still don’t care what any of these cheats put in their bodies and I’m not up in arms about the integrity of Major League Baseball’s record book, there are some disturbing aspects about this revelation that make it different than the others.  In Ortiz and Ramirez, we may, finally, have an indication that, despite their denials, MLB and its owners were aware of the widespread use of PED’s.

In December, 2007, when former Senator George Mitchell released the results of his investigation into the use of steroids in professional baseball, much was made of the fact that, while Mitchell was a part owner of the Red Sox, no Boston player appeared on the list.  Those suspicions were given new life last week, as the exposure of Ortiz and Ramirez as well as speculation surrounding former Sox pitcher, Bronson Arroyo, called Mitchell’s objectivity into serious question.  Could he have directed his investigation away from any of his own players?  Did he ignore information that may have been gathered about them?  It’s likely we’ll never know.  However, the conspiracy theory gained significant momentum when it was discovered that, last year, the Red Sox fired two employees after an MLB investigation into steroid use within the organization.  Jared Remy and Alex Cyr were canned after state police found a vial of steroids in Cyr’s car as he was returning from a Red Sox event last July.  Cyr acknowledged that he had purchased the drugs from Remy, who admitted to his own steroid use.  Remy’s subsequent comments about baseball’s probe were quite troubling.  “I’m sure they were hoping I didn’t know anything,” he said.  “It’s like they didn’t want to know.” 

So, now we have documented steroid use by Manny Ramirez in 2003 and 2009 as well as two employees of the organization with clubhouse access being dismissed.  That it is unlikely Ramirez did not use a performance enhancing drug between his two positive tests casts serious doubt on the credibility of Mitchell’s report.  That the dismissal of Remy and Cyr was not made public for a year points to the possibility that the Red Sox not only knew their players were juicing but may have acted to cover it up.  None of the evidence supporting these theories is any better than circumstantial but, in the court of public opinion, the Boston brass looks bloodier than Curt Schilling’s sock.

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Here’s a question for the Major League Baseball Players Association.  Since it’s obvious that whoever has this supposedly anonymous list plans to leak the names a few at a time, why not get in front of things and release the names, yourself?   Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we knew who the players are?  Those on the list would be able to get past what has to be significant anxiety in just one news cycle while those not on the list would be cleared of suspicion.  Already, prominent major leaguers like Mariano Rivera and Torii Hunter have lobbied for just that.  While a union is charged with protecting its members, how can it justify giving cover to 104 while placing another 500 under the same cloud?  Those numbers should be reversed.

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Former Giants’ WR Plaxico Burress, indicted for carrying an unlicensed gun into a nightclub and then shooting himself in the leg, faces up to three and a half years in prison if convicted.  Welcome, Plax, to the world where athletic ability does not exempt you from bad acts.  That you were the only victim in this shooting was nothing but dumb luck.  Perhaps if you seemed sorry about that rather than the fact that you were caught, you’d have caught a break.

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The stories could have been written immediately after the Jets hired Rex Ryan. Instead, we had to wait until camp opened to read the inevitable comments from players about Ryan’s coaching style.  His demeanor is a welcome change to the iron-fisted reign of Eric Mangini, who was a necessary shift from the easy going Herm Edwards who created a player-friendly atmosphere that was in sharp contrast to the tyrannical reign of his predecessor, Al Groh.  The only thing any of them have in common is that, except for Ryan, all have failed.  It has become a very sorry cycle broken just once, when Bill Parcells was brought in to bring them back from a two season stretch that netted just three wins. 

Despite this very clear record of failure and success, Gang Green chose to ignore five available head coaches with Super Bowl victories on their resume during the offseason.  While Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren, Brian Billick, Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan could have been approached about the opening, Gang Green turned once again to its tired policy of enlisting the services of the hottest young coordinator.  Who knows?  Maybe Ryan will, finally, be the guy.  Unfortunately, recent history says he’s not.

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Even though it was disappointing that David Ortiz didn’t provide the usual bit of nonsense in trying to explain away his steroid use, there were still some yuks to be had.  Thought it was funny that the New York papers chose to taunt the “Roid” Sox and question the validity of Boston’s two World Series titles while completely ignoring the fact that the “steroid apology” press conference has become an annual event for the hometown Yankees during spring training.

 

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The View from the Cheap Seats by Eddie Mayrose

April 3, 2008 under Cheap Seats

Here we are, right in the middle of the greatest sports week of the year.  Major League Baseball opened on Monday; the Masters starts today and the Final Four tips off Saturday.  Three huge events crammed into seven days.  May all of you who are faced with the usual, time consuming Spring projects around the house find suitable excuses to neglect them for just a little while longer as you plop down on the couch to enjoy the weekend.
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Johan Santana certainly came out of the box looking like he’s worth every cent the Mets gave him.  Now, if he can just dominate the Braves and Phillies the way he blew away the Marlins, Willie Randolph may be able to enjoy September, 2008 a little more than last year’s version.

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Thank you, Davidson, for reminding us why we bother to watch these games in the first place.  As if it wasn’t enough that we were captivated by your David vs. Goliath routine, you fashion one of the best sports stories in recent memory by loading  your students onto buses, putting them up in hotel rooms, handing them tickets to the Regional finals and picking up the tab.  Well done.

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Can’t believe that all of the veteran free agents that just signed with the Jets did so with the understanding that the team will be developing a young quarterback.  With the draft just a month away and Kellen Clemens still a huge question mark, could we be looking at the return of Chad Pennington?  If there’s some kind of plan here, GM Mike Tannenbaum and Coach Eric Mangini are doing a good job of keeping it to themselves.

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Speaking of quarterbacks, is it safe to assume that Giants fans feel a little more secure about their signal caller than they did going into last year’s draft?

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Couldn’t help but notice that, since acquiring Jason Kidd, the Mavericks are 0-10 vs. teams with winning records and have fallen into a tie for the last playoff spot in the NBA’s Western conference.  While it’s true that Dirk Nowitzki has been injured for a few of those losses, wouldn’t it be ironic if the Mavs miss the playoffs and the Nets manage to sneak in under the wire in the East?  That should be enough to give Kidd one of his infamous migraine headaches.

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The local High School baseball season got underway last week with all players prohibited from using metal bats.  It’s an idea that is extremely well intended but, has fallen way short of its most important target.  I have a very hard time trying to recall hearing an account of a pitcher on the Prep level suffering an injury due to a hot shot off a metal bat.  On the other hand, I can’t remember the last Little League season in which I failed to read multiple stories of players injured under the same circumstances.  These youngsters stand on a mound just 46 feet from batters who are twelve and, in some cases, thirteen and are swinging bats that are 32 inches long but as light as 21 ounces.  The bat speed generated combined with the short distance creates an extremely hazardous situation.  To ban the metal bats in High School and not on the Youth level is equivalent to treating a broken leg with an aspirin.

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Knicks’ coach, Isiah Thomas, announced this week that he is not a candidate for the vacant head coaching spot at his alma mater, Indiana University.  In an apparently unrelated story, comedian, George Carlin, announced that he is not being considered for the lead role in an upcoming revival of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

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I wonder how many times during this weekend we’ll hear talking heads like Dick Vitale and Digger Phelps refer to Memphis coach John Calipari’s second trip to the Final Four when this is actually his first.  In 1996, Calipari’s UMass Minutemen made their lone appearance in the championship round, only to have all records of their participation nullified after it was discovered that junior center, Marcus Camby, had taken $28,000 from two agents.  A year later there was no longer a banner hanging in the UMass arena and no sign of Calipari, who followed the time honored tradition of taking another job when the NCAA starts asking questions.

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Last weekend, XM Radio, offered a special channel called, Play Ball, which served up everything from classic radio broadcasts and interviews to comedy routines and music, all devoted to the national pastime.  While I enjoyed standards like John Fogerty’s Centerfield and Terry Cashman’s Willie, Mickey and the Duke, I was stunned to find out that Bob Dylan had recorded a song entitled, Catfish, a tribute to the great Jim “Catfish” Hunter.  Another treat was to hear Bob Murphy’s call of the 1969 Mets division clincher vs. the St. Louis Cardinals.  I was struck by the fact that during the entire ninth inning, Murphy never once mentioned the pitch count of Mets hurler, Gary Gentry, a rookie who was allowed to stay in the 6-0 game until the ninth as he worked on the complete game.  Don’t see much of that anymore.

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Make sure that Don’t Call Me Coach, an autobiography by St. Joseph’s University Men’s Basketball coach Phil Martelli, finds its way onto your list of books to read.  It’s a wonderfully candid account of how Martelli’s career path took him to the only job he ever wanted and everything he learned about himself along the way.  It’s a refreshing departure from the usual tomes by coaches who think they invented the game.  A must read for all aspiring young coaches, especially on the High School level.


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