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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

August 12, 2009 under Cheap Seats, Uncategorized

It was the kind of weekend Yankee fans imagined when C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett cheap_seats_3_owumand Mark Teixeira were signed last winter. Burnett and C.C. each turned in a dominant performance on the hill while Teixeira’s big bomb sealed the four game sweep over the hated Red Sox.  Heading into the home stretch with a six game lead, the Yanks have hit their stride; getting contributions from every part of the lineup.  With Phil Hughes filling what was a gaping hole in the Bombers’ pen and Mariano Rivera enjoying a career year; it’s looking like there may be a deep October run in the new stadium.

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In what may be a sign that MLB clubs are feeling the effects of the weak economy, the Blue Jays jettisoned their two time All Star outfielder, Alex Rios, for, essentially, nothing but relief from the obligation to pay the balance of his contract.  Even more alarming is that, despite the fact that Rios is just 28 years old; no team other than the White Sox was interested.

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When they tee it up today in the PGA championship at Hazeltine, it’ll be the last chance in ’09 for Tiger Woods to win a major; something that hasn’t happened since 2004.  He comes in on the heels of two straight wins that followed a missed cut at the British Open.  The way things have gone for him this year, however, if he doesn’t get out fast, it’s not likely he’ll come back. 

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Could we please cease and desist with the ridiculous notion that the Red Sox and Yankees are part of the “greatest rivalry in sports”?  They play each other at least eighteen times each year, the regular season results usually mean nothing as both routinely qualify for the post season and they rarely meet each other in the playoffs.  Earlier this season, New York lost eight straight to Boston and yet, found themselves six games ahead of the pack just two months later.  If Michigan lost eight straight football games to Ohio State, they’d have suffered almost a decade of misery that likely included zero trips to the Rose Bowl.  That’s a rivalry. 

The networks and talking heads calling the games can say anything they want to hype the matchups but can’t undo the reality that the players just don’t care as much as the fans.  They’re too transient and have a much larger financial stake than emotional.  Head down to Philadelphia this fall and ask a Navy offensive lineman what it means to beat Army.  Walk into the Duke locker room on the first day of basketball practice and ask any of the players the date of the North Carolina game.  They’ll know.  There was a time in baseball when Jackie Robinson retired rather than accept a trade to the hated New York Giants.  Remind Johnny Damon of that little bit of history when you ask if he circles the Boston games on his schedule.  Yanks-Sox is a great watch because the teams are two of the game’s most talented and each is a contender for the AL East crown, not because the outcome is a matter of life and death to the participants.

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NationalFootballPost.com reported that the Jets have spoken to an NFC West team to gauge interest in RB Thomas Jones.  A Jet source claimed the report was untrue and I hope that’s the case.   Heading into the season with a new coach, new QB and a scarcity of talented receivers, it’s inconceivable to consider dealing the team’s best offensive player.

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I’ve been chastised at times by Cheap Seats readers unhappy with the lack of attention given to soccer in this column.  So, with the World Cup qualifying game (sorry, match) being played yesterday in Mexico City, I thought it’d be a good time to take a peek.  Imagine my surprise then, when I learned that, despite the fact that the U.S. hasn’t won a game (sorry again, match) against Mexico in its last twenty three tries, its players only worked out together for two days.  Two.  Seems that the players have other commitments and the whole qualifying system is an inconvenience to many.  Could it possibly be that this World Cup stuff isn’t as important to the players as my soccer antagonists would have me believe? 

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In a season that’s become unwatchable, Johan Santana gives disappointed Mets’ fans a reason to tune in every fifth day.  In an ongoing tribute to professionalism, Santana is tied for the Major League lead in wins.  Each offseason, the agent for a sub .500 pitcher will make the case for a salary increase by pointing out that his client’s team averaged a paltry amount of runs during his starts.  It’s a ridiculous argument as it doesn’t take into account how many runs the pitcher allowed.  It doesn’t matter if his run support was bad if his ERA was worse.  Anyway, think about Santana when you hear that argument next year.  If a pitcher is a big, tough guy who cares more about the team’s record than his own, he’ll have plenty of wins no matter how meager the run support.

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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

March 13, 2008 under Cheap Seats

Now that Spring Training has finally started, it’s a pleasure to, once again, be discussing the actual on-field events of baseball.  I had almost “misremembered” how much fun it is.  Fun, however, is probably not the word Mets GM Omar Minaya is using as he spends each day visiting his starting outfield in the hospital or trainer’s room.  Moises Alou (hernia), Carlos Beltran (knee) and Ryan Church (concussion) all must have Minaya wondering how prudent it was to ship Lastings Milledge to the Nationals.  Maybe Johan Santana can play the outfield on his off days.  Seriously, the Amazins need to place a call to the Angels and inquire about Juan Rivera.  A rising star who sat out last year with a broken leg, he currently resides on L.A.’s bench due to an overcrowded outfield. ….  Across town, while it’s true that the Yankees did well to resign their core of Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, they have essentially done nothing to improve a team that trailed the Red Sox from wire to wire in ’07.  In fact, the case could be made that they are weaker at some positions, especially defensively.  AL baserunners are licking their chops at the thought of taking extra bases on Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui as at least one will have to man left field. ARod, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano can’t be too happy about throwing across the diamond to Jason Giambi who, like Michael Jackson, wears a glove on his left hand for no apparent reason.  With the Blue Jays improving, it will be interesting to see just how much of daddy’s DNA was inherited by Hank Steinbrenner, especially if they finish third.  Those rookie pitchers had better produce. …  The Jets went on a free agent spending spree last week, committing more than 70 million dollars to four free agent linemen.  Seven time Pro Bowler, Alan Faneca, garnered the biggest contract in league history for an offensive lineman, inking a deal for $40 million to fill a hole created when the club refused to give Pete Kendall a $1 million dollar raise last year.  With that kind of sound, economic policy, is it any wonder that season ticket holders face increases every year?  None of this will matter, however, if Gang Green can’t find a quarterback.  Am I the only Chad Pennington fan left standing?  Memo to Eric Mangini:  Chad’s your man. …  The Big East Men’s Basketball Championship opened at the Garden yesterday, with St. John’s on the outside looking in for the third time in the four years that Norm Roberts has been at the helm. Further frustrating fans of the Red Storm is the fact that many of the participating teams are led by New York City players that St. John’s failed to sign or decided not to recruit.  There was a time when all of the Big Apple’s players put other schools on hold as they waited for a call from Lou Carnesecca.  Hasn’t anyone noticed that the Johnnies’ fall from the top of the conference started at the same time that they stopped getting city players?  Now, most of the blame for that lies with Mike Jarvis, who guided the program into its most embarrassing era ever and completely disregarded the hoops hotbed that was merely a subway ride away.  But, Roberts, who should be credited for bringing  high character people into the fold, has made little progress in mending fences with CHSAA and PSAL coaches and players.  With St. John’s watching McDonald’s All Americans Sylvan Landesberg (Virginia) and Kemba Walker (UConn) leave the city this year, season five of the Roberts era might be the last…   Nate Robinson scored 46 points for the Knicks last weekend in an overtime loss to the Blazers.  Amazingly, many Knick fans were heading for the exits while the hometown team was down three in the last minute and still more left as the overtime began.  A sad statement for what was once the signature franchise in the league.  The Blazers, by the way, are one of four teams who have improved themselves after unloading disgruntled “stars” on the Knicks.  The Bulls, Nuggets and Suns have all benefited from the same generosity.  Looks like there might be more to putting a team together than just assembling talent…  Finally, there’s this question for all of the deliriously happy Giants fans as they continue to revel in the glow of their Super Bowl title.  Does Eli Manning still stink?


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