East Coast Bias: The Nation Has Gone Crazy

Mailbag! (kinda)

Daniels had one day’s head start on me in regard to Zidane. And Daniels and Hulse are both cocksuckers. – Eric Szulczewski

This can only be because both of us have the same prediction; that being the Sox getting bounced by the Sawks in ALCS. It could be worse; I could be scheduling them to be facing the Yankees in the ALCS, which, if this weekend proves anything, would be a disaster. Six on Contreras and the Sox confounded by Jaret Wright? Now, the White Sox are considering trading some of that starting pitching for the mythical “good middle relief” that just isn’t out there? Freddie Garcia for the Yanks to Ron Villone and a AA pitcher?

The always excellent Daniels brought this up, with a wonderfully bitchy attack on penalties. However, I’ve gotta disagree with him on this. Penalty Shoot-Outs are a perfectly proper part of the game and are in no way a lottery. Penalty Shoot Outs, test nerve and skill to a supreme degree and produce some of the most riveting sporting action around. And they are by no means unique; almost all sports have some form of ‘tiebreaker’ be it Penalty Kick Shoot Outs in Ruby, tiebreakers in Tennis or some bizarre and complex calculations in One Day Cricket.

In addition, we have to be practical, in today’s world major sporting events are primarily hosted for TV and the television schedulers would have an absolute fit if confronted with (say) a four hour Switzerland vs Ukraine match. And believe me, there are some games that could last four, five hours and there still wouldn’t be a goal because the teams would just sit back and play on the break. Lastly, with the pace modern football is played at it is very arguable that even 120 minutes is simply too long for them to put on an interesting match. I mean if you go back to the excellent FA Cup Final between Liverpool and West Ham this season, after 90minutes of brilliant action you saw thirty minutes of half the players walking around the pitch whilst the other half were being treated for cramp.

So penalties should stay, unless you want to bring back the coin toss?Will Cooling

Look, as I said last week, just because the coin toss was possibly the world’s most stupid idea, doesn’t make a second better-but-still-bad idea good. There is no tiebreak in the fifth set of a tennis match, because even tennis snobs know it’s a cop-out. As for the argument about the television schedulers; too damn bad. Last year, one of the Braves/Astros NLDS games went 18-innings and, officially, five hours and fifty minutes. It happens. When you choose to cover a sporting event, this is the risk you take. The NHL does not decide the Stanley Cup with the shoot-out, and the World Cup is infinitely more important on the world stage than the Stanley Cup. Give me a winner. Play 20 or 30-minute periods until there’s a winner. You’re not going to convince me penalty kicks are a good way to settle a championship that’s awarded every four years. It’s a cop-out. These are supposedly the best-conditioned athletes in the world, they can nut it out and win their game.

Red Sox Fans Need To Settle Down

I recently came to the conclusion that Red Sox fans, since 2004, collectively need to settle down. I was really happy for the fanbase after the victory over the Yankees. I like good stories, and the collapse of the Yankees and their subsequent four-game loss to the Red Sox was one of the greatest sports’ stories I’ve ever witnessed. It was one of the only things I’ve seen that will become part of baseball lore. Baseball went more than 100 years without it happening and it’s entirely possible that, in 2101, two teams will be in a similar situation and Jimmy Joe Buck Jr. will refer to this series. I’m a big fan of actually seeing things that rarely happen. For example, Chipper Jones, on Sunday night, got an extra base hit in his 14th straight game. Last time that happened; 1927. Tomorrow, against Jeff Weaver and his 6.29 ERA, he has a chance to break an 79-year-old record.

Perhaps I just didn’t understand the depths of the Nations’ collective insanity until recently. We all know that fans invest more in their favorite teams than the actual players (or in some cases, even the owners) do, but this seems to be even more defined in the Red Sox Nation. My anger started during the Johnny Damon negotiations, and subsequent defection to the Evil Empire. I said in about September of 2005 that Johnny Damon was going to wind up being wooed, and eventually won, by the Yankees. I was called insane by both members of the Nation, who said the Sawks would pay Damon what he was looking for, and by fans of the Empire, who said the Yankees definitely wouldn’t pay for a rag-armed center field (the irony of this statement escaped most of them) who’s the face of the Sawks. I told them they were wrong, and I was right.

The signing of Damon did two things for the Yankees. It sucked the life out of the Red Sox and made the Yankees better. It got the Yankees yet another marketable face (that people don’t universally hate, which is another column entirely. $10 million per year for the American League MVP? I’ll buy that.) and it filled their center field gap for another few years. It gave them the lead-off hitter and base stealer they were lacking, while delivering a stomach-punch to their closest division rivals.

Of course, did the Nation react with universal bile toward the franchise? Of course not, it was obviously greedy Johnny Damon’s fault. Judas Damon should have turned down the extra $12 million dollars per year to sign a new deal with the Red Sox. A Red Sox team who had been actively trying to sign Coco Crisp while offering Damon a take-it-or-leave-it $40 million dollar deal. Granted, Crisp is younger and put up similar numbers to Damon in 2005 and also granted, Crisp’s 4th year probably won’t be a debacle, but the Red Sox probably should have made Damon a matching offer. Do you know why Bernie Williams’ is sitting on the Yankee’s bench this season? Because the Yankees front office understands how their fans feel about certain players. When Derek Jeter’s contract comes up, do you think the Yankees will make an offer and say “take this or not” and then wave good-bye while Jeter takes a better deal in Boston? Also, I ask any person out there this: if someone offered you $12 million dollars leave your team and become a Yankees fan, would you? 75% of people would say yes and the other 24 of the remaining 25% are lying to themselves.

The fact is, Damon leaving the Red Sox really shouldn’t have been that much of a shock. Jeter leaving the Yankees: news. A guy leaving the Red Sox who had already left a team or two for a payday: not news. I don’t hold it against Damon any more than I hold A-Rod’s contract against him, but Red Sox fans who now have the balls to claim Damon’s over-rated deserve a cockpunch. He left because the Red Sox organization made him feel worthless, and the Yankees welcomed him with open arms. Now, Yankees’ fans like him more than A-Rod, and he’s settled into the leadoff, centerfield, second-face of the Yankees organization nicely and having a great year, assuring that Yankees fans will be calling for him to be inducted into the Hall of Fame by the end of next season.

Which leads me to the new savior; Jonathan Papelbon.

Seriously, I’m happy for the Sawks that they finally got themselves a miracle closer, but could you slow down with the comparisons to Mariano Rivera? For your own sake’s, don’t saddle the poor kid with this comparison. He’s unhittable this season, he’s got a 0.57 ERA, he’s 26/29 in Saves; he’s certainly going to win Rookie Of The Year (East Coast Bias, baby), but to start comparisons to probably the greatest closer of all-time… just stop. You know how after one solid season in the NBA, people immediately try to compare young stars to Michael Jordan? You know what universally happens? The guy turns out to not be Michael Jordan. Rivera’s shut-down high pressure situations almost unblinkingly for the last ten years. Could you all let Papelbon close some playoff games before you start with this nonsense. “Papelbon should have closed the All-Star game.” No he shouldn’t have. If Mariano’s in your bullpen, and he’s available, Mariano closes your game. Period.

Papelbon’s tremendous. He’s unhittable. However, we could go through a list of closers who were really good for a few years, then faded. Eric Gagne comes to mind. Gagne was unfair, now he’s on the shelf for another season. Brad Lidge was money in the bank; now he’s shaky. Do not put Papelbon on the same level with Rivera, not yet; history shows that you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Right now, the White Sox have a better argument than the Nation of having the next Rivera, the difference is they don’t have an inferiority complex to their division rivals which forces them to repeat it every chance they get.

And yes, it’s an inferiority complex. As a Mets’ fan, I know this. If your fanbase starts a “Yankees Suck” when you’re playing the Royals, you have an inferiority complex.

And as for David Ortiz being argued as the MVP, I don’t know what to say here. The fact I can even see the point says something considering I despise career designated hitters. Ortiz would have to have, statistically, a year that blows away everyone else in the league. If it’s even close, he loses. That’s just the way it is. Ortiz will never be, by definition, as valuable as a guy who contributes on both sides of the ball. And, you can make the argument that Ortiz isn’t even the best pure DH in the league; Travis Hafner is (better average, better OBP, better slugging percentage, similar HR/AB and RBI/AB ratio).

The funny thing about the Nation is they’ve become Yankees fans in the last two years. Tell them that, and they’ll want to punch you in the face, but it’s true.

Quick Hits

  1. The Mets put up an 11-spot at Wrigley on Sunday Night, the biggest inning in team history, to clean up a mess made by El Duque in the first two innings. It involved 2 grand slams by Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd, and a 2 run homer by Pretty David Wright. David Wright celebrated this feat with 2 double stuff Oreos and a refreshing glass of 1% milk. He then went to late night mass. Had the Red Sox done this, they’d be convinced they should get the next 79 wins free.
  2. AJ Burnett and Jorge Julio combined on Sunday to lift me to 10-1 in my fantasy week. Since leaving the Mets, Julio is 9/10 in save opportunities with a 1.69 ERA. Talk about a trade that worked out for both parties. Had they traded him to the Red Sox, they’d be ready to give him the Cy Young.
  3. Mark Prior is back on the DL. This will hurt his trade value.
  4. Lebron James signed a contract with the Cavs that will keep him there through 2010, conveniently giving himself another window to get picked up by the Knicks when the Zeke-contract hell expires. Hopefully, Cleveland will be ready for this certain exit by then.
  5. It’s nearly a foregone conclusion that Allen Iverson is going to be a Celtic by next year. Creating the replacement for the Zeke/Larry Brown/Stephon Marbury love triangle for the 2006-2007 season

Links

Eugene Tierney does his midseason picks. He picks Ortiz as the front-runner for the MVP, making my blood boil. He also doesn’t mention David Wright in the MVP race, which also makes me angry.

Nguyen’s IP Sports Radio.

In Conclusion

I’ll be back on Thursday with a wrestling column. There’s a 50/50 chance I’ll have top ten trade possibilities column ready for next week. Until then, have a good week.

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