Friday, July 1, 2016

Coastal Carolina and monsters

Hats off to the Chanticleers, newly crowned college baseball champs. They done the small town of Conway, South Carolina right proud.

Idle thought: The U of South Carolina calls its teams the Gamecocks, right? A chanticleer is a rooster. They must have a thing for male chickens in the Palmetto State. Regardless, it's a pretty good bet they get woke up fairly early in the morning.

Yessiree, CCU can crow, sorry, as kings of the hill. They slew the might dragon, sometimes known as Arizona. They got a little help with an apparent bad call at home plate where one of the Wildcats appeared to have slid in safely. Also an error committed by an Arizona infielder that led to four unearned runs. And they barely held on at the end as the Wildcats threatened in the bottom of the ninth. They were one hit away from an entirely different outcome. But it didn't happen and CCU sits on top of the NCAA baseball world. Three cheers for roosters.

One Dustin Johnson is quite happy himself. The laid back recent champ of the US golf Open is an alumni of CCU. What are chances of that happening? Maybe that will put a little more oom-pah in his next 350 yard monster drive.

Speaking of which, a few other monster shots happened earlier in the world of Major League Baseball. Guys hit someone ridiculously long home runs, not the least being Yoenis Cespides clouting one an estimated 460 feet. Hitting a baseball that far is impressive indeed.

Or is it? Consider what has happened in the past. Among others, some pudgy first baseman for the Detroit Tigers named Norm Cash hit homers that supposedly traveled well over 500 feet. Mickey Mantle supposedly hit the longest recorded home run ever -- some 585 feet. Reggie Jackson drove one into the lights high above the roof in Tiger Stadium. How far did THAT go? These days players have custom made bats, workout regimens (see stronger) and the balls themselves are reputedly juiced. The pitchers are throwing as hard or harder than they ever did. So how come nobody can even approach 500 feet anymore? Even during the steroid days, the super-brutes didn't hit balls as far as some of the old timers.

It defies logic when you think about it. Could they have had it all wrong back then and overestimated the footage? But by THAT much? Maybe. Still, that ball crashing into the light tower....... Given the technology available today, it's a pretty safe bet they can nail down the footage on any home run fairly accurately. And the comparison between then and now isn't just a matter of a few feet. We're talking well over 50, and approaching 100 in a few cases.

The old Yankee Stadium measured 465 to the left-centerfield wall. Balls were hit over it. What's considered a "monster" shot nowadays might well have been caught for just a long out.

Something definitely doesn't add up.

Nonetheless, congrats to the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina. They can strut like the roosters they're named after. Hey, a national championship ain't exactly chicken feed.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Detroit Tigers. Who are they?

It's tough to figure out the Detroit Tigers. Sometimes they look like world beaters, bombing the ball all over the park. Other times they go meekly, and get bombed themselves.

True, such is the nature of Major League Baseball. On any given day, any team can beat any other team. It's not at all unusual to see a last place team bop a first place team. Sometimes two or three games in a row. It happens all the time.

Strangely, there are instances when an "inferior" team just seems to have a "superior" team's number. There's no good reason to explain such a phenomenon -- it just happens. It must drive the good team, their manager, and fans crazy.

Upsets aren't exactly rare in other sports, but they don't happen with the same frequency as MLB.

The Tigers, and their "lame-duck" manager Brad Ausmus, find themselves in a precarious situation. With almost half the regular season having been played, they continue to hover around .500. Win a few, then lose a few. And .500 isn't going to get it done as far as reaching the post-season.

Few doubt the Tigers have plenty of hitters. When they hit. But these guys can put up 10-12 runs one game, then look totally lost the next game, like they've never seen major league pitching before.

Supposedly, the Tigers had a decent starting pitching staff. But these guys get rocked more often than they should. The weakness was in their bullpen -- but supposedly the Tigers addressed that problem in the off season. It hasn't worked out.

Thing is, while the Tigers struggle to stay above water, other American League teams are starting to gain some "separation". In their own division, the Cleveland Indians have been on an absolute tear. The Tigers have yet to beat the Tribe all season long. And a lot of the games have been blowouts.

It appears unlikely the Tigers are capable of winning their division, so their only hope is for a "wildcard". But the longer they keep plodding along, the longer those odds become. Though the cliche is overused, if the season were to end today the Tigers would be in eighth place out of 15 AL teams -- far out of contention.

Baltimore, Boston and Toronto are faring well in the East. Texas has been on a hot streak in the West, and Houston is playing as well as anybody.

Even within the Central Division, it's likely only a matter of time before the defending champ KC Royals wake up and start making some noise.

The Tigers find themselves playing nip/tuck with teams like the Yankees, White Sox, and Mariners for mediocrity. Did I mention .500 isn't going to get it?

Could the Tigers go on a hot streak and zoom back into contention? Sure. They've got enough horses.

Then again, it could just as easily go the other way. They could fold their way back into the nether regions like they did last year, although it would take a monumental collapse indeed to out-bottom the woeful Minnesota Twins.

It seems like it would be almost better for their fans -- and front office -- if one or the other would happen in the next few weeks or so. And let's get real. Despite their whopping $200 million player payroll, only the hardest core of their followers honestly believe they're an elite team, by any stretch of the imagination. Too many flaws, too many ups and downs, a regular yo-yo that seems to find its equilibrium at mediocre. World Series caliber? Does anybody buy that?

It might be better if they bombed out. At least that way, the manager situation would be resolved. Ausmus would be gone.

But the Tigers have put themselves in a tough situation. They have a few mega long term contracts they're on the hook for paying guaranteed big bucks to guys that aren't producing at that level.

The other teams aren't dumb. Why would any of them want to take some ridiculous contracts off the Tigers' hands for players that haven't been earning them lately?

True, the Tigers have a couple of young players with star potential. But they've also got an aging core of high-priced veterans. For the Tigers to win, they typically have to score a bunch of runs. Most days, their pitching staff is going to give up at least a few. With the on-again off-again nature of the Tigers hitters, it's hard to visualize them getting on a roll for an extended period of time.

Sure, other clubs ahead of them could slump, but likely not all of them.

It's certainly beginning to appear the Tigers are headed for another ho-hum season. All that money obviously hasn't produced a consistent winner.

But you never know. There's a long way to go in the season, and that's why they play the games.

Yet an objective look would suggest the Tigers are mediocre at best.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Cleveland. Cool or not?

No doubt about it. Cleveland is the home of the NBA champions. That's pretty cool. Owner Dan Gilbert is living large these days.

The Quicken Loans PGA tournament is currently going on. Gilbert is the CEO and head bottle washer of that outfit as well.

So how come his company's tourney is being played in Maryland? Don't they have any worthy courses in the Cleveland area? Maybe not so cool.

The Big Easy (no, not a Kardashian), sometimes known as Ernie Els, made an astounding golf shot on Saturday. The South African drilled a nine iron from the fairway into the hole on a par 4 for eagle. True, eagles on the PGA tour aren't exactly as rare as an honest politician. They happen all the time, especially on par 5s. So does the occasional hole-in one. But this particular shot was unique. It landed in the cup on the fly. No bounces or rolling across the green. Just clank, a slam dunk. When's the last time you saw that happen? Ever? Definitely cool, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy and finer gentleman.

Some soccer player got red-carded, as in ejected, for too much flatulence on the field? They have rules against farting in futbol? Really? Sure, it's supposed to be a gentlemen's game, sort of, but c'mon. If somebody's all gassed up, it's got to be vented eventually. And what's the harm? These guys are running around on a playing surface larger than a football field -- in open air stadiums. Some official gives a guy the boot because he ripped off a few beauties?

One thing's for sure. This could only happen to a male player. As we all know, females never do such a thing. Just recently have they admitted to actually sweating under extreme circumstances.

Nonetheless, definitely not cool, but laughable.

In just a few weeks, Cleveland will rock again when the Republican national convention comes to town. Some guy named Trump is supposed to be nominated for President amidst much fanfare. This is very cool for some people, but not so cool to others. Let's just say the opinion of the general populace remains hugely divided. There's lovers and haters on both sides, with not a whole lot of objective people in between.

The parade and aftermath to celebrate the Cavaliers' world championship went well in Cleveland. Nary a report of mass civil unrest, as in natives rioting, looting, and setting things on fire for no apparent reason.

Let's hope the same will be said of the convention when it's all over. Cleveland's on a roll. It would be a shame to see them take a huge step backwards by running amok in the streets over a mere nominating process. And the convention will pour countless more needed millions into the local economy when the politicos and high-rollers hit town. Cleveland's cool right now. That would be no time to screw it up.

Even the Cleveland Indians are leading their division in the American League. After faltering against the KC Royals, the Tribe has come back to sweep series' from the White Sox, Tampa Bay, and are currently trashing the Detroit Tigers. A winning streak of 8 in a row. Put another notch in the cool column for Cleveland.

Alas, they don't have an NHL team and not much is expected out of their NFL Browns again this season. But you never know.

How cool would it be if the Browns shocked the world and marched on to the Super Bowl? Impossible, you say? Hah. Nothing's impossible. Two years ago, who would have thought the Cavs had a prayer of being NBA champions? Or some guy named Trump emerging as the Republican Presidential nominee?

If the Donald is as smart as he says he is, there's only one thing for him to do. Name Lebron as his VP running mate. How cool would THAT be? Talk about shocking the political world. Hillary would quiver in fear.

Of course, between Trump and James, there could only be one King if the ticket was to be victorious. That could be problematical. But hey, they'd sort it out. Maybe.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Bonehead Files. Rio Olympics

Could these upcoming Olympic games possibly get any more screwed up? Let us start counting the ways it already is.

The Zika virus, a mosquito transmitted malady, is giving some athletes pause as to whether they should attend. The medical experts say it can cause birth defects in women who are pregnant. Well OK. Just how many pregnant women compete in Olympics anyway?

Some male athletes are shunning it because their significant others MAY become pregnant in the near future. Here's an idea. Leave them home. Here's a better idea. If they just have to come along, load them up daily with deep woods OFF to keep the skeeters away.

The Russians find themselves in a predicament. One federation determined some of their athletes were doping in contests past, with a little inside help. So what did the international authorities do? Ban all of them. That's not right. Then is was suggested those that underwent, and passed, vigorous pre-Olympic drug screening would be allowed to compete.

But only if they competed as "independents", not under the Russian flag. Yet another federation said Olympic rules only allow athletes to represent a country -- so maybe those that were squeaky clean all along won't be allowed after all. How incredibly Catch 22 bone-headed is that?

Flint, Michigan isn't the only one with a water problem. It seems Rio is awash with liquid pollution. Nothing like row-row-rowing Olympic boats through water chock full of human sewage and other nasty waste products.

Political unrest festers throughout Brazil. Who knows what sort of nonsense and/or mayhem some group might bring to one of the many venues throughout the Olympics?

Rio is already way behind schedule and over budget getting prepared to host an Olympics. The power brokers that picked it to stage such a massive spectacle -- that will be shown world-wide -- knew most of the above was likely to happen years ago.

So here's the question.......  What sort of boneheads are in charge of these things?

And why -- tell me why -- do the Olympics have to be rotated to another country every four years?

It's a colossal waste of money. Billions of dollars are spent building the various required athletic venues and infrastructure that will be used once for a few weeks and then abandoned. Four years later, another city (usually on another continent) will have to do it all over again.

No doubt, politics are involved (aren't they always?). And hosting an Olympics comes with big-time bragging rights for the country that gets the nod.

Thing is, the taxpayers of that country are on the hook to pay for it all. Oftentimes, many of them are dirt poor to start with. The LAST thing they need is their government spending a ton of money they don't have putting on a one-time spectacle.

So here's an idea. The Olympics started in Greece. Put them back there -- permanently. Sure, Greece is broke, but have all the participating countries ante up one time to build a forever Olympic venue. It would be a huge jump start for their economy and we could dispense with all the political wrangling between nations having different philosophies that have long plagued what is supposed to be a pure contest between their best athletes.

Remember how the USA boycotted an Olympics in Moscow a few decades back because the politicians got in the way? The USSR would return the favor just four years later at an Olympiad held in the States. Meanwhile, athletes on both sides that had trained their whole lives to "go for the gold" wound up getting screwed. Through no fault of their own, they were never given the opportunity to compete at the highest level when they were at their peaks. It remains shameful to this day.

And now the boneheads are pressing on with what might very well turn out to be a debacle in Rio on a lot of different levels.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

US men's soccer. Shameful

The ever politically correct talking heads can gloss it over all they want, but the fact remains the US men's national team isn't any good.

Sure, they're probably better than any team in your city and can usually defeat countries who's main claim to fame is putting the banana in "banana republic" or the rum in your daiquiri. But against elite international competition they are exposed as the second class team they are.

Their recently concluded match with Argentina was an embarrassment. Though the final score read only 4-0, it was not indicative of the total domination the Argentines put on the Yanks. At that, in soccer, four-zip is a blowout. That's like an NFL team drubbing another 35-0. Or an NBA team winning by 50. 

Time of possession throughout the game is unknown, but it appeared to be about 99:1 in favor of Argentina. When the Americans had the ball -- it wasn't for long.  Yours truly watched that game and can't remember the USA generating a single shot on goal, let alone coming close to scoring one. This was truly a lop-sided contest indeed. It was like the Harlem Globetrotters toying with the Washington Generals. Knowing they were vastly superior, the Argentines were content to play a conservative game. They ran minute after agonizing minute off the clock and rarely attacked. Had they played more aggressively, it's entirely possible, perhaps probable, they would have scored several more goals. Even in lay-back mode, they narrowly missed some easy chances.

All of which begs a question. In a nation of over 300 million people, why can't US men's soccer compete with other quality national teams from around the world? After all, their lady counterparts have done so, and are arguably the best on the planet.

Here's a theory. The talent pool has been depleted by gifted athletes pursuing other interests.

While many countries, including Argentina, consider futbol the ultimate sport, it is not so in America.

Consider a few rough numbers. Multiply the number of NFL teams by over 50 guys on each roster and there's over 1500 jocks that don't play soccer. 

Do the math on Major League Baseball. Besides the roughly 30 teams in the big leagues at 25 players a pop (750), they all have at least four or five minor league teams. Add it all up and that's a few thousand more deleted from the soccer equation. 

The NBA and it's development league account for at least several hundred more missing in action. True, behemoth football linemen, a lot of pudgy slow guys in baseball, and likely anybody over six feet four probably couldn't maneuver well enough to be effective in high class futbol, but many of the "skilled" players might have made the grade on the pitch had they chose that as their profession. Consider shifty/speedy wide receivers and running backs. Defensive backs. Point guards, etc.

Several truths have become quite evident in recent years. 

Most American male super-jocks choose to take their talents in another direction. 
By and large the American sporting public has always been and remains far more interested in other sports than soccer.
The numbers themselves dictate a promising athlete has a far better chance of catching on with a team in another sports league -- and for more money -- then ever becoming a world class soccer player. 

For those reasons, it's little wonder the US men's national team lags so far behind other countries who's best athletes are devoted to futbol since childhood. They don't have a whole lot of other options.

Conversely,that might also explain why the US ladies team is so good. There is no Major League Baseball available to them. Nor pro football, other than a few rag-tag leagues here and there that pay pennies. True, the WNBA is alive and sort of well, but nobody pays any attention to them until their playoffs start. Sometimes not even then. 

The NHL siphons off countless players every year that might have turned out to be successful at soccer. The fairer sex has never had that option. Hence, it should be no great surprise the US ladies soccer team has so many terrific athletes and is an elite squad. 

The federations, talking heads, and other legions of "trendy" people can blather on all the wish telling Americans that soccer is the "world" game. In many quarters around the globe they're right. Futbol mania rules.

But not in America. Never has and likely never will. Too much other stuff going on. Other pro sports leagues have expanded. Pro soccer leagues continue to fight for survival. 

So hurray for the women being so good, but the men will continue to stink it up against top flight international competition. There's reasons for both. 

It just is what it is...... 

Is Lebron the greatest?

The discussion is raging on again about who's the greatest of all time (GOAT). Lebron James certainly deserves a place in the room.

His soon to be coronation in Cleveland for finally bringing a sports championship to a city that hasn't experienced one in over half a century is a worthy achievement indeed. After winning a couple titles with the Miami Heat, almost mercenary in nature, Lebron Raymone went home on a mission. And he pulled it off. All hail the Cleveland Cavaliers, 2016 NBA champions. Let the parade begin and let's hope the Cav faithful don't burn down what's left of the city in their exuberance.

[Why people celebrating a joyful event sometimes trash their own neighborhoods would seem to be a very good question.]

Uh oh. Time out. What's that? Goldie Hawn was flaunting her 70 year old body on a nude beach? Yikes. What could possibly be next? The Donald and the Hill doing a naked tag team pole dance at a joint fund-raiser? Heaven forbid. Brrr.

Lebron being offered up as the possible GOAT hoopster is a compelling argument. The dude seems to have it all, and can do it all.

At six foot eight and musclebound he presents an imposing physical presence. More importantly, James can not only shoot with the best of them, but ball handle, play tenacious defense, pass, rebound, and take over a game all by himself at times.

Everything Michael Jordan could ever do -- Lebron can do better. Kareem had his sky hook and Magic was flashier on a "showtime team". Bird was a more cerebral player that could pass, rebound, and shoot the lights out as well. Shaq and Wilt were just huge bodies that could push other players around to have their ways -- neither particularly skilled. Bill Russell won a bunch of championships with the Celtics of yesteryear, but one must remember back in those days there was only a handful of NBA teams -- none west of the Mississippi. Kind of like the NHL's "original six" when the late Gordie Howe was racking up so many stats.

Who else might be in the room? Oscar Robertson? He was a wonderfully talented player but does anybody really think he was better all-around than Lebron James? It's not even a close call.

So now that he's reached his crowning achievement by bringing a championship to Cleveland, what might James consider as his next mountain to climb? Keep playing for the Cavs and hope for a repeat, three-peat, etc.? Definitely a possibility. But he's happily married with young kids and has countless millions in the bank on top of all the hardware he's earned playing basketball. It would be hard to top what he and the Cavs pulled off this year, coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to dethrone the Golden State Warriors. If he retired tomorrow, the Hall of Fame would await him when he became eligible, and likely by unanimous ballot.

In Ohio, James is revered as almost god-like. In a way it's ironic. When he left the Cavs years ago to "take his talents to South Beach" in quest of a ring or five, Lebron was considered a traitorous scumbag and Clevelandites burned his image and uniforms in effigy. Fast forward to the present and Buckeye nation has gone from one extreme to the other. Such is the nature of the ignorant masses. They'll love or hate anybody depending on what they've done for them lately. The NBA title certainly swayed a lot of opinions in the other direction.

But what would happen if James decided to get into politics? Would anybody-- Democrat or Republican -- have a chance at winning an election if Lebron James was running for the seat -- even incumbents? Likely not. You think governor John Kasich got bombed in the Presidential primaries? It would pale in comparison to the landslide that would happen if James decided to run for Guv.

At age 31, James isn't old enough yet to qualify as a Presidential candidate. One must be at least 35.

One way or the other, it appears the Donald or the Hillary will be #45. And who knows? Either one could screw it up and be vulnerable to get knocked off in 2020. At that point Lebron Raymone James would have attained the age threshold -- barely.

Hey, he's already called the King. Why not shoot for Prez? If some community organizer out of Chicago could pull off a successful run to the White House, why not a hoops star? Good grief, Americans have elected a crook, an actor, a peanut farmer, a wimp, and an idiot to lead them in recent decades.

President James. It has a nice ring to it. Maybe the Secret Service would call him by the code name of Slam Man, or Dunk Dude -- possibly even the above mentioned GOAT. Enlist Oprah as his running mate for the female vote, and it would be an unstoppable ticket.

One thing for sure. He'd finally get his throne back from ESPN's Scott Van Pelt, who swiped it a few years ago in a TV commercial........

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Shane Lowry. Alas

The Irishman had it. The US Open was there for the taking. All he needed was a little sage advice from his caddie, or somebody he trusted before he teed off for the final round. It could have went something like this ----

[Hey dude. You've got a five shot lead and this course is tough. It's amazing you're at 7 under par, especially including that stupid penalty stroke you were forced to eat yesterday. Golf has some mighty dumb rules, but so be it.

Regardless, you don't need to go any lower. Four or five under is going to win this thing. So don't try to be a hero. Just maintain and play smart, conservative golf. If you can shoot this final round anywhere close to par, the championship will be yours.

Sure, a couple guys will probably make mini-charges, but they're already too far back. So forget trying to bomb 320 yard drives. Use a 3 wood, maybe even a 3 iron, whichever you're more comfortable with off the tee. But keep the shot in the fairway. Going into the ridiculous deep rough will cost you a stroke every time.

How are you supposed to reach the long par 5s in two? Don't even try. Just hit a couple shots maybe 260-280 yards and your third will be a short iron. Chances are you'll get a few birdie opportunities along the way, but it is key to have the ball on the green in regulation. Two putt pars will be just fine. Let the other guys take all the chances trying to be heroes. Most of them will pay for it dearly.

If you find yourself in a bunker, do not under any circumstances try to hit a miracle shot to make up for your prior mistake. Just get it out, safely back into the fairway, and at worst take bogey. You've got a few shots to play with and this is no time to get stupid.

A couple of the par 4s are rather short, even theoretically driveable, but it's fools gold. It takes a perfect shot to drive the ball on the green for an eagle possibility, but these holes are fraught with danger. The slightest miscue could have you hacking away to a double bogey -- or worse. Hey, they're a little over 300 yards. You can hit five iron and wedge for a birdie opportunity, and escape with a par at worst. Keep clicking off pars and you're in great shape.

Here's another tip. These greens are super-fast and have some serious slopes to them. When putting, don't try to ram it in the hole, or your next putt may be longer yet. Do it the Ben Crenshaw way. Try to have every putt die very close to the cup. Maybe it goes in, maybe not. But a tap-in for par is a whole lot better than looking at a 30 footer coming back because you got cocky with a birdie attempt.

Again, just keep it straight, even if short, and be happy if a birdie comes your way. But your mission is to play for no worse than pars.

And one more thing. Forget this is the US Open and the course is so ridiculously tough. It's just another golf tournament and you've played very well so far by being aggressive. Now is the time to dial it back and play boring, conservative golf. Take your pars and be happy.]

Instead, Lowry tried to go out with a bang and wound up self-destructing. The course ate him up rather than vice-versa.

As we know, Dustin Johnson would finally shed his "choke" tag to capture his first major. On Sunday, he didn't do anything spectacular, but carded a respectable 1 under par 69 (which included another stupid penalty stroke because his ball might have moved a thousandth of an inch when he was standing over it). And what kind of sadistic twisted minds came up with such petty draconian rules in the first place?

Lowry could have played it smart, but no. He tried to be a hero and would wind up carding a 6 over par final round of 76.

His once 5 shot lead turned into a 3 stroke deficit by the time the day was done. An eight shot swing in one round of golf is a big deal.

Somebody should have had a serious talk with the 29 year-old Irishman. It was there for the taking, but he blew it.

Dare I say -- Erin go blah?