It’s Time to Give Thanks for Some Great and Maybe Not-So-Great Moments in Sports

Jeter
Jeter
Although I'm not a Yankees' fan, I'm thankful for the career of Derek Jeter.

I have an extensive list as to why Thanksgiving Day is the best holiday of them all but I’m not going in to that. I’ll boil it down this way for you; food and football. Does there really need to be anything other than those two things when we really get right down to it?

Today is a good day for me to give thanks to many things from the world of sports in the last calendar year so let’s not wait any longer.

I’m thankful for…

Derek Jeter. No one did it as professionally and as respectfully as the captain for 20 straight years.

The San Antonio Spurs who proved that winning basketball titles is still about how well you play as a team, not as a group of individuals.

The people at North Carolina who finally had the courage to come out with the news of the academic fraud that had been happening for years.

Ed O’Bannon and the other players who put a stop to the NCAA and EA Sports using their likenesses without compensation in video games. The time I have saved this year not playing the newest version of NCAA Football on Xbox 360 is immeasurable.

Playoff hockey which no matter who is playing it’s still the most thrilling playoff in sports.

The Tallahassee Police Department who continue to make the Keystone Cops look like CIA agents.

The people who bought Devon Still jerseys even if they weren’t Bengals’ fans.

College Football finally getting rid of the BCS.

Brady Hoke, Bo Pelini and Will Muschamp for giving me so much to write about this fall.

The Kansas City Royals who once again showed how great sports can really be.

Roger Goodell who as long as he is running the NFL will give me plenty to rant about.

J.J. Watt who proves that great players can be great people too.

O’Dell Beckham’s amazing catch which took attention away from talking about the Cowboys.

Upton
Why shouldn't we be thankful to Justin Verlander for giving us more opportunities to see Kate Upton?

Justin Verlander who keeps giving us more opportunities to see Kate Upton.

Not having to hear the name “Richie Incognito” this season.

Every player that scores in the waning moments just to make my betting pick look good.

College Gameday Signs which never stop making me laugh and cry for our nation at the same time.

Jon Gruden who makes watching Monday Night Football interesting from either a football standpoint or a “What the hell did he just say?” standpoint.

Officials in all sports and at all levels. It’s the most thankless job in all of sports.

Penn State who continues to wear the same uniform week in and week out rather than something new and flashy every week in an effort to sell jerseys.

California Chrome who gave us another amazing shot at the Triple Crown.

Batters who don’t need to re-adjust their batting gloves, body armor or cup between every single pitch.

Coaches who actually answer questions in their press conferences rather than give the same, tired responses each week.

An A-Rod free baseball season.

For Twitter which reminds me how great and horrible sports’ fans can be in just two tweets.

Jerry Jones who reminds all of us of the dangers of too much plastic surgery.

Jim Harbaugh who makes it OK for us guys to wear Wal-Mart pants. On second thought…

Two more months of NFL football.

Isn’t it nice to be thankful?

 

 

 

 

Jeter Plays Final Game in Pinstripes Today

Jeter
Jeter
Today is Jeter's final game in Yankee Stadium

“Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you…”

When I hear that lyric from Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” I think of a time when our sports’ heroes were as genuine as you could possibly find. Baseball has always been the most pure sport in the history of sports in my opinion which is why it was so difficult to see the steroid era come.

The point in time wrecked baseball forever for a lot of people and some have never returned to it the way we hoped they would. I can’t blame them one bit either.

Later today, another New York Yankee will play his final game in Yankee Stadium 63 years after the Yankee Clipper played his last game in pinstripes. Derek Jeter will end his home career as Yankee after 20 years with the Bronx Bombers.

DiMaggio
When DiMaggio left, there was Mickey Mantle. Who replaces Derek Jeter for the Yanks?

That 1951 season in New York ended with the Yanks defeating the New York Baseball Giants in six games for the World Series title. While it was also DiMaggio’s final season, it was also the first season for young kid from Oklahoma named Mickey Mantle.

As I write this today I cannot tell you that there is another player on the Yankees current roster who will fill Jeter’s shoes the way Mantle did with DiMaggio but who knows? Perhaps that player is in the minors right now awaiting the call.

I’ve mentioned before that Jeter would not likely be what he is had he played for any other team. The Yankees are majesty after-all and as much as I despise them I cannot deny what they mean to baseball. Consider that when the Yankees retire Jeter’s number two jersey, the Yankees will have retired every single-digit number worn in their history.

The relevance and importance of Jeter goes beyond being a Yankee though that certainly does help. There is no player who has conducted himself more professionally from day one of his career through today the way Jeter has.

Jeter never referred to late Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner by anything other than “Mr. Steinbrenner.” It didn’t matter how many titles Jeter had brought to his owner either, that level of respect never changed.

In an era where players hit routine ground balls and rarely get to first base before heading back to the dugout, Jeter ran out every ground ball and every pop-fly. Through 20 years, his two significant injuries, a shoulder and an ankle, both occurred while attempting to make a play.

We will never know what kind of career Derek Jeter would have had had he played in Detroit or Cincinnati or San Diego but common sense tells us it wouldn’t have been as sparkling.

Was he as talented as Ken Griffey, Jr or Barry Bonds? No, I don’t believe he was. Those guys would have instantly made their teams contenders whomever they played. Jeter was the perfect player at the perfect time for the Yankees who were really not built with superstars.

Their five titles during his career were built on good players who played great when it mattered and Jeter was the star who shone most brightly. He is the end of an era in New York and while there are certain to be more, the question is when.

Jeter was the guy who guided purists through the dark ages of the steroid era and that is why there is so much respect and admiration for him.

As he puts on the pinstripes for the final time, I join millions in tipping my hat to him while asking “Where have you gone Derek Jeter?”

Here’s the Latest on the Races in Major League Baseball

Showalter

 

Showalter
Buck Showalter has his Orioles just days away from an East Division title.

With about 14-15 games to go in the regular season of Major League Baseball, there are races that are just about to end and some that are about as close as they can get. Here’s a look at where we stand and who I like for the MVPs as well.

AL EAST

The surprising Baltimore Orioles have their magic number down to just three games as I write this and will clinch their first division championship since 1997 and have not won a pennant since 1983.

Toronto and New York are four and five games respectively out of a wild-card berth and unless something drastic happens neither will make the postseason. An unfortunate end to a great career for the Yankees’ Derek Jeter.

AL CENTRAL

The Tigers swept the Cleveland Indians over the weekend to essentially knock them out of it. Detroit now has a 1.5 games lead over Kansas City who currently has a wild-card struggle with the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners.

The Royals and Tigers will meet for three more games later this week in Kansas City and each still have series’ left with Cleveland and the White Sox.

AL WEST

The LA Angels had their ten-game winning streak snapped Sunday but they lead the division by an amazing 10 games over Oakland. The A’s and Mariners are both still well alive for wild-card berths with only the Detroit/KC loser perhaps being a factor. Whether the Mariners make the postseason or not, Manager Lloyd McClendon should garner serious consideration for Manager of the Year honors. 

AL Picks: Orioles, Tigers, Angels. WCs Royals and A’s.

AL Pennant: Angels

 

Williams
I'm not at all surprised that Williams has the Nationals on the verge of a division title.

NL EAST

The Washington Nationals ran away and hid with this division in the second half of the season and currently lead the Atlanta Braves by 10.5 games. The Braves are currently four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates for the final wild-card spot.

NL Central

Milwaukee has had a rough second half of the season and has dropped to third in the division. St. Louis currently leads the Pirates by 3.5 games for the division lead. Pittsburgh and St. Louis will not see each other anymore down the stretch.

The Brewers can control their own destiny with series against both St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the final 15 games.

NL WEST

The San Francisco Giants have hung tougher than I thought they would with their rivals to the south. The LA Dodgers have a three game lead over the Giants and will entertain them for three more games next week.

At this time, San Francisco would need a major collapse to miss out on the playoffs altogether.

NL Picks: Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers. WCs Pirates and Giants.

NL Pennant: Nationals

THE MVP RACE

I’ll start in the National League where there shouldn’t even be a vote. Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw will run away with the Cy Young Award and should also take the MVP prize as well.

On Sunday, he picked up his 19th win and gave up just two runs. Amazingly, his ERA actually went up to 1.70 for the season. Others in the discussion would include Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, Giancarlo Stanton of Miami and Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers.

This is Kershaw’s year though.

In the junior circuit, the competition might be just as poor with Mike Trout on the cusp of finally getting the MVP Award after finishing twice behind Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera.

There are cases to be made for Oakland’s Josh Donaldson or Kansas City’s Alex Gordon but I don’t know how anyone catches Trout who deserves the award as much as anyone in recent memory.

Don’t Blame Jeter for All-Star Game Tongue Bath

Jeter
Jeter
Don't hate on Derek Jeter for MLB falling all over itself. Just appreciate Jeter for what he has accomplished in 20 years.

I found it really interesting to listen to sports’ talk radio the day after the American League defeated the National League 5-3 in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game. Some hosts and callers were appreciative and respectful towards New York Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter while some were just down-right vicious towards him.

Such is life in the 24/7/365 world of sports’ talk.

Personally, I found it to be almost a sign from the gods when during Jeter’s first at-bat some idiot in the crowd shouted “over-rated” as Jeter stripped a double into right field. In many ways this has been a microcosm of Jeter’s career.

Much of the hatred towards Jeter is the fact he wears pinstripes and has worn them for his entire 20-year career. The Yankees are the ‘Notre Dame’ of Major League Baseball meaning you either love them or hate them. There is no in between.

Jeter
Jeter will not be placed among the game's giants but that doesn't mean he isn't a Hall of Famer.

Many fans and even some ‘baseball’ people think Jeter is over-rated and this is their opinion. It’s wrong, but it’s their opinion. Does he belong on a pedestal with Ruth, Cobb, Mays and Aaron? No he certainly does not. Is he a Hall of Famer? Absolutely he is so why can’t we just appreciate the guy?

On Tuesday night, he was given a standing ovation as he came to bat in the bottom of the first inning. The ovation lasted just over a minute and it was obvious the private, humble Jeter was a bit overwhelmed and ready to get on with baseball.

When he exited the game he was given an ovation that lasted over two minutes as he tried on several occasions to escape into the dugout. If you asked Jeter in a private moment I guarantee he’d tell you it was a bit much but why was everyone mad at him?

Last year, MLB gave a very appropriate goodbye to Mariano Rivera but I fear that who ever is ‘producing’ the All-Star Game is trying to do too much to give each installment a ‘special moment.’

There is no question in my mind that Jeter deserved to be honored and in his first at-bat it was perfect. It could have been finished there and then when he exited the game he could have tipped his cap, received another nice round of applause and retired to the dugout.

The question was raised many times this week and I feel it’s an honest one; would Jeter have received this had he been wearing the uniform of another team? No, no he wouldn’t have and the reasons are simple.

Would Derek Jeter have won five World Series titles while playing in Kansas City? Los Angeles? Atlanta? More than likely not and that’s the difference. Jeter wasn’t the reason the Yanks won those five titles because he had plenty of talent around him but he had a hand in winning them with clutch play and hitting that has rarely been seen in contemporary baseball.

Jeter is currently at .311 for his lifetime batting average and that won’t change a ton over the final few months of the season, but his more important totals were his career average of .308 in the playoffs (158 games) and his .321 average (38 games) in the World Series.

Think of the great plays and clutch hits that Jeter has provided and your left with no doubts as to why MLB wanted to honor him, but MLB also has other agendas as well. This means making sure its’ stars are celebrated but it also means they are searching for the next face of baseball which most believe will be Mike Trout and with good reason.

Hopefully you can just appreciate Jeter’s accomplishments without having to judge where he belongs all-time. Let MLB handle all of the pomp and circumstance.

A Couple of Things to ‘Bet On’ in Sports

Jeter
Jeter
Is Jeter's return giving you something to bet on for the rest of the season?

I spend a lot of time looking over sports. I spend a great deal of that time looking over odds for games that particular night or the next. I pour through the futures of things like NFL win totals for each team and the favorites for the Heisman Trophy but sometimes you just have to take a step back and look things differently.

This week has seen an incredible amount of news from both on and off the sports world’s ‘fields of play.’ Everything from the Aaron Hernandez situation to the looming PED suspensions it seems there is far more to consider the odds of then you might expect. I figured that with news items of the last 48 hours being what they were I’d take a look at things to ‘bet on.’

Bynum
The Cavs are taking a shot on Bynum. Are you willing to as well?

Andrew Bynum Goes to Cleveland – The seven-footer with loads of potential and loads of issues has decided to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers. From a basketball perspective, the Cavs need his presence in the middle. He will compliment a really nice backcourt led by Kyrie Irving but can you bet on Bynum being successful?

Bynum averaged a double-double in his final year with the Lakers in the 2011-2012 season going for 18.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. Then there’s this past season where Bynum was with the Philadelphia 76ers and didn’t play at all due to a knee injury.

Cleveland is wisely tying much of Bynum’s proposed contract to several benchmarks which include health issues as well as games played targets. Despite concerns as to whether he will be ready to go for the season opener, the signing reunites Bynum with Mike Brown who coached him in Los Angeles.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think you can bet on Bynum for the upcoming season. He has to know this is his final opportunity to make good money and prove himself and I think Brown will be the difference for him. The Cavs are listed at 66-1 to win the NBA Title next year but I’d look closer at the over/under win totals which will be out later this year.

Derek Jeter’s Return Will Return Will Get the Yankees to the Playoffs – What I can guarantee you in this situation is that Jeter is an immediate upgrade over anyone of the five guys who have replaced him at shortstop this season. Those five have combined for an average of just .211 and have two home runs and 25 RBIs.

According to General Manager Brian Cashman, Jeter will be the designated hitter tonight against Boston. Travis Hafner, the usual DH, was hurt when a pitching machine malfunctioned and drilled him in the foot leaving a significant bruise. Allowing Jeter to ‘get his feet wet’ so to speak at the DH position.

You can bet on Jeter in this respect; he will certainly hit better than .211 and he will provide leadership and stability to the Yankees’ locker room and on the field. At 39 years of age however, how much can Jeter truly provide?

Betting on him to do better than those who have been replacing him is a sure thing, but whether or not his presence can propel the Yankees to the playoffs is a much bigger question mark. I’m just not willing to bet on that because there are other lingering questions on the club that have nothing to do with Jeter.

Pay attention to the futures for both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Yankees as the days tick by. While each obviously has very different timelines, they are worth watching because of the two players invloved. As always, wager wisely.

 

A-Rod, Jeter on the Comeback Trail for the Yanks

Jeter
Jeter
Will Jeter's return come with results and a switch from shortstop?

I have to admit I didn’t see the New York Yankees being as close to the top of the American League East standings as they as we get ready to enter July. With very little Mark Teixeira and no appearances yet from Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, it really is a testament to Manager Joe Girardi, General Manager Brian Cashman and the players themselves that they are still within shouting distance of division-leader Boston.

With Teixeira now under-going season-ending surgery on his wrist, the returns of Rodriguez and Jeter could not come sooner despite the fact that their expected return dates are still unknown as of yet. Obviously the Yankees would love to have the leadership and clutch-hitting of Jeter back as well as a powerful right-handed bat which A-Rod can hopefully provide.

What you should find intriguing about this is just what will the return of these two guys ultimately mean for the Yankees in the final three months of the Major League season.

The argument can be made that A-Rod may actually come in a provide more in the way of numbers. Actually, any improvement would help their 26th best batting average of .236 which makes their current standing all the more impressive. Rodriguez is of course coming off of hip surgery and on his new Twitter account last week proclaimed himself “ready” which didn’t sit well with Cashman who was pretty clear that the doctors have not officially cleared him yet.

A-Rod
The Yankees are desperate for some more power which A-Rod could provide when he returns.

Yankees’ President Randy Levine said “We need Alex back.” If he means in the purest baseball sense, which I believe he does, he is right. The problem is that A-Rod is such a polarizing figure that many fans will not be crazy to see him. Don’t forget he may have yet another performance-enhancing drug issue hanging over his head with the coming forward of the South Florida doctor. Levine isn’t a fool and clearly knows that the Yanks would love nothing better than to dump his monstrous salary which they are on the hook for for another few years. I don’t see any team wanting A-Rod regardless of how well he performs because of his contract so I believe the Yankees will have to eat it.

In Jeter’s case, he is recovering from that broken ankle suffered against the Detroit Tigers in the first game of the American League Championship Series last October. He was thought to be back for the season opener but suffered a setback in spring training. No figure in pinstripes will receive a more hearty welcome back than Jeter which of course is deserved but will he be able to put up productive numbers?

Perhaps the better question is from what position will Jeter be playing? His top replacement, Eduardo Nunez is getting ready to come off the DL as well and at 26 years old, has much better range than the 39-yeard old Jeter. It’s possible we could see Jeter in a DH role against left-handers because he still has great success against them versus only average success against righties. With Teixeira gone, is first place a possibility? From time to time I believe it is.

Honestly, I don’t think it matters if both men come back and play well in 2013. Boston appears to be deeper and have more pitching and the Baltimore Orioles could have the same thing said about them. I feel like Tampa will hang around but just doesn’t have enough horses while Toronto needed a recent 11-game winning streak just to pull back withing five game of the Sox. I have no doubt the Yanks will add some guys at the trade deadline if they are still hovering around the five-games out area. I don’t believe it will be enough however so put your money elsewhere because we all know A-Rod doesn’t exactly handle pressure very well.