Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A New Feature: The Walk of Shame

As a new feature here on the Sports Fellas we will be bringing you the Walk of Shame every week with our take on people in sports who need to shape up, shut up, or just go away.

1. Roger Clemens. Apparently this guy doesn't know when to quit. Surely he has to realize at this point that he has no credibility? You would think, but he went out of his way to continue his ridiculous denial of any steroid involvement. Seriously Rog, just go away. No one cares anymore. Your legacy is already ruined.

2. Manny Ramirez. If it wasn't bad enough that he torpedoed the Dodgers hot start with his 50 game suspension, Ramirez has now gone into hiding. Embarrassed to face the media or even his teammates. It's not just gonna go away big fella. The players who have rebounded from their link to steroids did so by coming forward and owning up to their mistake. It's really his only shot at a measure of redemption.

3. Brian Wilson. Wilson, the Giants closer got upset over the weekend that Casey Blake of the Dodgers mocked his save celebration by mimicking it after homering off Wilson. Apparently it's ok for closers like Wilson, Papelbon and others to show up hitters with their unexplained gestures but when the other side returns the favor it's poor sportsmanship. Wilson claims his gesture is done to honor his late father, but how could Blake or anyone else possibly know that? Hard to believe a guy who sports a mohawk haircut and numerous tattoos could be this sensitive. See pictures of the "gesture" here...

Have any suggestions for the "Walk of Shame"? Drop me an email at

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I Have A Man Crush On....... Jeff Weaver?

Yeah, you read that correctly. I'm talking about Jeff Weaver. The same Jeff Weaver that was demoted by the Angels in favor of his kid brother, the same Jeff Weaver that was all but run out of baseball after posting an ERA over 6.00 with Seattle in 2007.

But here is the thing. Weaver was always a much better pitcher in the National League. Insert your "The NL is the AL's bitch joke here", I get it, the hitters in the AL are better. There is the DH, the National League just isn't as good. But the crazy thing about pitching for, you know, a National League team, like say, the Dodgers... Most of your games come against National League opponents. Crazy concept ehh? Weaver was very good for the Dodgers in a 2 year stint from 2004-5, making 34 starts each year and averaging 222 IP per season all while posting an ERA right around 4.00. Now you're telling me you wouldn't be happy with numbers like that from your 3rd or 4th starter?

Weaver was also outstanding in the playoffs for St. Louis in 2006, starting 5 games and winning 3, including the World Series clincher, all while posting an ERA under 3.00. He of course used the momentum from that postseason to sign his contract with the Mariners but I never said the guy made great choices, just that he could be a very solid pitcher in the right situation.

What Weaver brings to the Dodgers is a little of what Derrick Lowe took with him. A veteran who will take the ball every 5 days, keep his team in ballgames and most importantly, eat innings. Lowe didn't just take an outstanding ERA with him to Atlanta. He also took an almost guaranteed 220 IP with him. Those are tough shoes to fill for a youngster, even one as talented as Clayton Kershaw.

Now it just occurred to me that as I type this, Weaver is slated to face reigning Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum tomorrow in the rubber game of a 3 game series at Dodger Stadium. So there is a chance that I am going to look like a fool for posting this article now. But the fact is, I have always liked Jeff Weaver. I was bummed when he left and disappointed when I saw him struggle with the Angels and then the Mariners. He always came across as a good guy and his performance for the 2004 and 2005 Dodgers was vastly underrated. I have often wondered how his career might be different if he had accepted arbitration from the Dodgers in the 2005 offseason.

In the dark cloud that has surrounded the Dodgers the past few days they really needed a few rays of sunshine. Eric Stults provided a few on Saturday afternoon and the re-emergence of Weaver has created even more. So however long it lasts, I'm going along for the ride. Welcome back, Jeff. Welcome back...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Tainted Love

I have been a Los Angeles Dodgers fan for over 20 years. Those years were filled with mostly happy memories. There have however been a few heart wrenching days. Today definitely qualifies as one of them. If for some reason your head has been under a rock and you missed it, Manny Ramirez was suspended today for violation of the MLB Drug Policy. He tested positive for one of the drugs listed on the banned substance list given to every MLB player at the start of Spring Training. What that drug actually was, or why he was taking it are still open to debate. But whether Manny is struggling to hit for the Mendoza line in the bedroom, was trying to trigger his monthly menstrual cycle, or just flat out 'roiding, the end result is the same. 50 game suspension and the burst of the magical bubble that was beginning to encompass Chavez Ravine.

The Dodgers woke up Thursday with a 13 game home winning streak to open the season, the longest such streak in the history of modern baseball. They had a 6 and a half game lead in the NL West and appeared poised to run away and hide from the rest of the division. All that is gone now. Sure the Dodgers are still probably the best team in the division and should in theory have more than enough talent to weather the storm for 50 games. But of far more concern is the impact of this situation on the Dodgers' psyche. This was a shattered and broken clubhouse prior to Manny's arrival last summer. Cranky veterans like Jeff Kent and Luis Gonzalez were quick to point the finger at the Dodgers young core for their lack of work ethic, respect and honor for the traditions of the game. Although to be fair, Kent lost any and all respect his great career might have earned him when he had the audacity to call out Vin Scully. The fact is, the biggest thing that seemed different about the Dodgers with Manny in their midst wasn't just the impact of the long home runs into the LA skyline, but rather the fact that they actually seemed to like playing baseball together. Energized by the arrival of Orlando Hudson, this looked the best Dodgers lineup in decades with the chance to really have a special season. Instead they will spend the next 2 months answering the same questions that we ask ourselves today.

Why, Manny? Why this? Why now?

The talking heads will spend countless hours discussing what he did and didn't take and the impact it has on his legacy. But it doesn't matter. There are no names beyond reproach at this point. Outside of Greg Maddux, I don't think there is a single name from that past 20 years that would surprise me if it was announced tomorrow they had been using performance enhancers. We've seen too many go down. Prior to today the Dodger fan in me would have made a case for Manny. "He's too happy go-lucky, if ever there was a player who just exudes the child-like joy for the game that you want to see, it was this guy". Truth is, the only difference between Barry Bonds, who I loved to hate and Manny, who I grew to love, is the name on the front of their jersey. I'm not quite sure why this one hurt so much. As much as I loved the electricity in Dodger Stadium when Eric Gagne entered the game for the 9th inning during his peak years, it was always there at the back of my mind. "This guy went from failed minor league starting pitcher to the best closer in baseball in 6 months time". The signs were undeniable. I just ignored them and enjoyed the ride and was grateful he was wearing a Brewers uniform when he finally got called on the carpet for his behavior after being outed in the infamous Mitchell Report. Manny was different. He had reeled me in hook, line and sinker. I truly believed he loved the game with child-like abandon and that he loved being a Dodger. I couldn't have been more wrong. The only thanks I got for my misguided trust was my worst day as a Dodgers fan since Mike Piazza was traded for Mr. Cancer himself, Gary Sheffield.

So where do we go from here? Will Dodger fans welcome him back in early July when he is eligible to play again? How will his teammates look at him now when the question will always be at the back of their minds that everything he did and represented was probably a lie? That remains to be seen. Hollywood might be the "fakest" town in the history of the world, so if ever there was a place that might be willing to give him a second chance, he's in the right place. But for that to happen there needs to be a lot more revealed than the, "my Doctor did it", we got in Manny's sterile and bland statement released Thursday morning. So here is my advice for Mr. Ramirez...

Just come clean. Your legacy is already tainted, at least be smart enough to avoid the path taken by Bonds and Clemens and continue to deny in the face of overwhelming evidence. Whether it was for 20 years or 20 days, just tell the truth. It's too late for Scott Boras to spin this one. We're past the point of blaming your Doctor, your trainer, your cousin or your cat. When you make 25 million dollars to hit a ball for a living you bear the ultimate accountability for your actions and what you put into your body. Major League Baseball has even created a hotline that players can call if they are considering a supplement or medication that might contain illegal ingredients so that these types of situations can be avoided. Manny has no one to blame but himself.

So for now I will continue to cheer for Matt Kemp, Orlando Hudson and all of Manny's less famous teammates and nervously await July 3rd, 2009. The first day Manny is eligible to don his Dodger Blue #99. I hope that between now and then he gives me a reason to cheer for him again. I really do. But I won't hold my breath. Not anymore.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Baseball Offseason Has Begun.

As a Chicago Cubs fan, usually as soon as the regular season is over, I really just can't wait til the off-season begins. Over the years, other teams celebrating championships has become less and less appealing to me, to the point where its tough for me to watch the World Series, I guess I'm just too addicted to me team and too bitter to enjoy others success. Lately its been nice to at least make the postseason but the hasty exist have made me care even less about the postseason. According to the TV ratings I wasn't the only one this year as the 08 World Series experienced record low ratings and an embarrassing finish.

Anyway now that, that is over we can get to the good stuff. The first trade of the off-season was made to today, with the Marlins shipping Mike Jacobs to the Royals. Over the next 3 months there will be many more to follow.

And so, my top 5 baseball off-season questions.

5. What Will the Mets do to turn things around?
Last year they went out and got Johan Santana, who had an amazing year, but it still wasn't enough to get in the playoffs. The Mets have as many stars any any team in baseball, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes and the aforementioned Santana. Is it time to rebuild? There has been rumors that they may be shopping Beltran. no matter what they do, the fans in New York won;t put up with the underachieving team much longer.

4. Who will sign Mark Teixeira?

Teixeira is one of the premier names on the market this year as far as offense goes. He was nothing short of fantastic after being traded to the Angels, and is great with the glove too. He would be a huge asset to any team. The Angels will likely make a hard push to re-sign him. There may only be a few teams out there that need a 1B and can afford his salary.

3. Will Manny re-sign in LA?
So far we have already heard the dodgers offered him a contract, then we heard they actually hadn't. We do know that Manny said LA was like being on vacation all the time after the trade last year, and his numbers seem to show it. He was the best hitter in baseball during August and September. Some also believe he may go to the Bronx to stick it to his former team in Boston

2. Can the Brewers somehow hold on to CC Sabathia?
If Ramirez was the Offensive MVP during August and September, Sabathia was surely the Cy Young during those 2 months. He literally almost single handily carried the Brewers into the playoffs on his back. Losing both Sheets and Sabathia would be a huge blow to the Brewers so they are likely to offer anything and everythign they have to keep him. Still there is almost surely to be higher offers available, so it will depend on whether or not CC is willing to give a hometown discount to the Brewers.

1. Who will win the Jake Peavy sweepstakes?

The Padres have made it known they are going to shop the 2007 Cy Young winner to the highest bidder. Peavy does have a no trade clause and is said to prefer to stay in the NL. He has given the padres a list of preferred teams that includes the Cardinals, Braves, Cubs, Astros and Dodgers. The Braves are believed by many to be the favorites but they do not want to part with their top prospects. whoever lands Peavy though will get an instant ace.

Anyway, I'm sure there are to be many surprises and interesting story lines that will develop before spring training in February. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The NBA "Big 9", Power Rankings

As with the NFL, we will be checking in weekly with an NBA power rankings. The rules will be the same. The 9 teams we think are playing the best right now. So if the Lakers lose 3 strait we're not keeping them in the top 3 just because they are the Lakers. Win or go home. Besides... The Lakers suck... :P

So here you go. The Week 1 Edition..

1. Boston Celtics - They're the still the Champs and looked solid in their opener against LeBron and co.

2. Los Angeles Lakers - I try to keep objective as much as possible but I really don't like the Lakers. You can't deny their talent though. They won the west with Bynum unavailable and look to be even stronger this year.

3. New Orleans Hornets - Added James Posey to an already imposing roster. If Peja can turn back the clock they can win it all. If not I still think they're a player away.

4. Utah Jazz - Big year for the Jazz. Will the potential free agency of Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur be a huge distraction or will the opportunity for a big payday have them playing better than ever? As always it will come down to Kirilenko.

5. San Antonio Spurs - Everyone seems ready to write them off despite the fact they were playing without Manu down the stretch last year. I think there is plenty of firepower left.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers - Mo Williams is definitely a big pickup and arguably the best sidekick LeBron has had in Cleveland. But he's still not a legit #2. You can still beat them if you slow down LeBron.

7. Detroit Pistons - Another powerhouse that everyone seems ready to write off. I think they're still good enough for the #3 seed in the East.

8. Phoenix Suns - This one is a bit of a reach but I don't think they ever got comfortable after the Shaq trade last year. With a new system better suited to an aging roster I think the Suns surprise people. Amare, Nash and co. are too talented to fade away and if Shaq is motivated. Look out.

9. Houston Rockets - They seem to be a favorite of many in the media to make a big jump this season but I don't see it. Yao hasn't played 60 games in a season since the '04-'05 season so unless Artest is bringing some sort of special medical staff with him, I don't see how his signing puts them over the top.

Apologies to: Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The "Big 9" for Week 8

Unlike the previous week, this last week in the NFL went pretty much as expected. Most of the teams expected to win, did and our big 9 doesn't change a whole lot at the top. The Chargers and Cowboys continued to struggle however, which makes room for a few new teams this week. Only one prime time game in the NFL this week, thanks to the World Series, but week 10 is not far away, when we start getting 3 prime time games a week. Anyway, lets get to the rankings.

1 (1) Tennessee Titans 6-0 - The Titans kept on rollin' this week with a 24 point win over the lowly Chiefs. Their backfield duo of Lendale White and Chris Johnson combined for over 300 yards and 4 TDs on the ground and their defense continued to shine. Their poor QB play really hasn't caused any problems and they are drawing more and more comparisons to the 2000 Ravens.

2 (2) New York Giants 5-1 - The Giants bounced back from their poor performance against the Browns to pick up a nice road win in San Francisco. The Giants still look like the most likely team in the NFC to make the Super Bowl but they face a very tough test at Pittsburgh on Sunday that may answer a few questions for us.

3 (3) Pittsburgh Steelers 5-1 - Another spot at the top of the rankings that doesn't change this week. The Steelers destroyed the Bengals on the road Sunday even without Willie Parker. Backup Mewelde Moore showed that the Steelers have some depth at the RB position if Parker continues to deal with nagging injuries. The Steelers haven't played this well since their Super Bowl year in 2005.

4 (5) Tampa Bay Bucs 5-2 - Jeff Garcia seems to have answered any questions about a QB controversy in Tampa. He looked very good in the Bucs 20-10 win of Seattle on Sunday night. The Bucs can put themselves in a great playoff position if they can defeat the struggling Cowboys this week. Their defense continues to look very strong.

5 (4) Washington Redskins 5-2 - The Skins looked a little bit skittish this week but still held on for a 3 point win over the Browns. Its still a tough road to the postseason for the Redskins considering the division they play in, but a week 8 match-up against the Lions should put them in a very favorable spot in the standings for the 2nd half. Clinton Portis continues to stay healthy and look better than he has in years.

6 (NR) Buffalo Bills 5-1 - Our first newcomer to the week 8 rankings. The Bills simply continue to win games. On paper they don't look like the best team around but they keep getting it done. They'll have to travel to Miami this week, but if they can come up with a win they will have a great shot at winning the AFC East.

7 (7) Arizona Cardinals 4-2 - The Cardinals had a bye week in week 7 but they still may have improved their chances at an NFC west title. The Rams, 49ers and Seahawks are all struggling mightily so even 8 wins may be enough to seal a playoff spot up for the Cardinals. They get Anquan Boldin back soon and should easily be able to come up with 4 or 5 more wins with their schedule. Its looking more and more like their first division title in over 30 years may finally happen.

8 (NR) Carolina Panthers 5-2 - The Panthers may have looked better than any other team in week 7, drubbing the Saints 30-7. Their defense ranks first in the NFC in scoring defense allowing only 14.8 points a game. The NFC South still looks like a tough division this year but if Jake Delhomme can continue to play like he did in week 7, the Panthers have as good a chance as anyone to win it.

9 (8) Atlanta Falcons 4-2 - Despite their hot start the Falcons fell to 3rd place in the NFC South during their bye week. They will have to play very well against conference foes if they hope to win a playoff spot. It won't be easy but this young team has a lot to look forward to in the coming years. They have a tough match-up at Philadelphia this week.

Apologies to the Patriots, Bears and Packers

Swedish Hockey Fans Know How to Party

Now I've followed sports passionately my entire life and I've seen fans do some pretty crazy stuff. Things can get especially ugly when the target is a former player who now plays for a rival team. But NOTHING I've seen or even heard of can possibly top what went down in Sweden the other night. The target was Swedish National Team defenseman, Jan Huokko who used to suit up for the club AIK out of Stockholm but now plays for Leksand.

Take a look at the incredible welcome his former fans gave him when he came back for a visit...

Unbelievable.. Remind me never to play hockey in Sweden....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Mad Scientist

They used to call him "The Mastermind", but these days he looks more like a mad scientist who refuses to listen to outside ideas and insists on pushing through his own crazy agenda despite the results. I am referring to Denver Broncos' Head Coach, Mike Shanahan. When you win back to back Superbowl titles, you get a lot of leeway but it's clear to this Bronco fan that The Mad Scientist is wearing out his welcome in Denver.

He traded one of the top tailbacks in the league in Clinton Portis to get Champ Bailey and then 3 years later traded the guy that replaced Portis, Tatum Bell, to the Lions for Dre' Bly. The tandem of highly regarded DB's was supposed to help turn around a porous defense. The result? The worst pass defense in the league. And what of that running game? Once regarded as the top rushing attack in the league because of Denver's superb zone blocking scheme, it seemed for awhile like anyone could run in the Denver system. No names like Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson and Reuben Droughns all had big years in Denver. The problem? It was a different guy every year. There was zero consistency in the offense and no chemistry in the locker room. Guys would rush for 1400 yards one year and then lose their spot to an undrafted rookie the next. And the past 2 seasons? Led by lightweight Selvin Young and a series of journeymen including Michael Pittman, Anderson and Travis Henry, Denver is well on it's way to a 2nd consecutive season without a 1000 yard rusher and is being forced to throw on almost every big play.

I know what you're thinking. Denver is still posting solid rushing totals, in fact they currently rank 13th in the league right? Sure that may be true but this team has zero ability to control the clock and put away a team late. In fact, Denver has often squandered big leads because of their inability to put teams away by running the ball down their throat when they had the lead. They even lost to the lowly Chiefs, who allow more rushing yards than any team in the league, because of their inability to exploit the Chiefs weak rushing game. Selvin Young has a lot of talent but he is built more like a kick returner than an every down back and there is a reason nobody wanted to sign Michael Pittman until Denver came calling. His best years are in the rear view mirror. He's a solid 3rd down back and does a nice job of protecting Cutler but you can't build an offense around him. Teams are figuring this out and as they bite less and less on the play action and keep more and more DB's back in coverage it becomes harder and harder for the Denver passing game to be efficient and operate like it is capable of doing.

Don't get me wrong. I still believe Shanahan has a future as a head coach but I think it's time for a change. If he goes somewhere else and starts fresh, I think he has a shot at turning a team around. But you have to take away the personnel decision making power. If you let him mess with the roster the mad scientist will take over and the results won't be pretty..