Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Jurgen Klinsmann's comments, and Yoenis Cepedes' throw-the big picture problems

Jurgen Klinsmann is right, and he is handling it right. The only problem with him and the media is that he isn't American. But, he knows America and the American sports better than Americans do. The coaches that promise the world and come out with loud proclamations set the team, and themselves, up for failure.

Look, if the Americans get out of the group, that will be a heck of an accomplishment. Klinsmann has referenced this as an attainable goal. But let's be serious, a team who's captain consists of a journeyman that couldn't cut it with newly relegated premier league joke Fulham, really doesn't possess the talent to beat the best teams in the world.

The problem here is that Americans fire coaches who speak big and don't accomplish what their words proclaim. Frank Vogel led the Indiana Pacers to the best record in the NBA Eastern Conference and was on the hotseat before the playoffs started. Can anyone explain the rationale in this? Oh, and Lebron James and the heat are in the Eastern Conference.

I remember the days when Joe Torre was on the hotseat with the New York Yankees. He won the division every year from 1996-2007 and forced out the door. He won 4 World Series with the Yankees. Still, he was offered a cut in pay and was more-or-less removed from his duties.

Klinsmann is keeping his job safe, and trying not to let down American fans. I can just see the media frenzy that would ensue after he said he had expectations of winning the World Cup and his team goes 0-3 in the group stage to 3 better teams. His neck would be in a noose.

Americans need to relax and realize that their best athletes play football, baseball and basketball. They don't play soccer. Therefore, their team isn't that good. Ya ya ya, we bleed red, white and blue. How dare you say we won't win the World Cup? Well, Klinsmann isn't American. Neither is half the team. And you can still be patriotic while being realistic- this is something many Americans can benefit from, in many facets of American life, media and politics.

And a quick note on Yoenis Cespedes throw at the plate. This is the problem with American sports and how these athletes are portrayed (Yasiel Puig comes to mind in this situation.) The guy made an error. The routine hop base hit bounced off of his glove. He made a once-in-a-lifetime throw, no doubt about it. The throw was incredible. I can watch it 100 times and be amazed. But it was set up by a fielding mistake that everyone seems to overlook. This is why fundamentals aren't cool. This is why the guy that bats .400 in junior league ball are regarded as awesome players but have two fielding errors a game in right field.

Howie Kendrick would have been on third base and another batter would have come to the plate. But everyone in the media ignores the fact that Cespedes made a terrible fielding play before making a laser throw to the plate. I'll take the consistent fielding on my team over a few highlight reel throws. I know, the A's are in first place, Cespedes is a rising star, and the throw was incredible. But looking at the play as a whole, and the bigger picture-he still messed up big time, before making a great play.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Weighing in on Papelbon

Now that the dust is starting to settle on Jonathan Papelbon's decline to pitch on Sunday, I would like to offer my ever so objective opinion about the guy.

Yes, he has pitched for 9 years without being on the DL. Yes, he is having a pretty good season and we don't want to ruin that. However, these reasons or excuses are underhanded and completely make a joke of the Phillies team and organization. They do just fine making a joke of themselves, now they have Pap helping out.

I don't like Papelbon, never have. You can't argue with the success he had...4 years ago. But he is a prima donna, living off of his success with the Red Sox and thinking he is higher than the team. His contract isn't just $50 million. It's $50,000,058. Come on. Terrific, you wear number 58. Congratulations.

Monday was an off day. General soreness? Stiff neck? You really don't justify $50 million, let alone the extra $58 you demanded. Baseball already has a weak athletes affiliation, Papelbon gets an assist on that.

The biggest thing, I believe, that is missing from the ongoing debates, is the downfall that has ensued since Papelbon made himself unavailable Sunday in a 5-4 loss to the Mets, when leading 4-1 in the ninth inning.

The team has now lost 3 straight. The players are questioning when they can take their next self-declared day off, and the team is pretty much telling their fans that they have given up on the season. If it isn't important enough to you to overcome your 'general stiffness' for a May baseball game, then every game doesn't matter to you. Every win doesn't matter. Your team's success is not important.

As I mentioned in my last blog, Philly loves the blue collar player. It resonates with what this city is and how this city developed. When Aaron Rowand broke his face making that catch in CF, he was a hero. When Cliff Lee said he would pitch game 6 or 7 of the 2009 World Series after winning game 1 and 5 he was a hero. Jonathan Papelbon is the opposite of this. He is the opposite of what this city looks for in its players. No surprise, coming from Boston.

Where does the team go from here? Where they should have gone two years ago. They should clean out Papelbon's locker, trade him, and save the little dignity that they can over their $50 million loss. Let's be honest, Brad Lidge pitched a perfect season, no questions asked, went out every game, and earned a $37 million contract extension. He won them a World Series. Papelbon has ruined many opportunities in 1+ season on a $50 million contract and we will never sniff the playoffs with him. There's no need for him, and there's no need for this team to hang out to players that haven't had success for 4 seasons.

As subjective as Philly fans may be, they have long-term memory. This debacle will not soon be forgotten. Although the misery of the rest of the season could certainly drown out the misery of May 11th. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

I'm Bored-Time to kind of start blogging again. Ben Revere and Civil Liberties

No, the two topics presented above are not related. They just both presented themselves as topics of conversation over wings, Lagers, and DirecTV not showing the Phillies game last night at American Legion post 34.

Anyway, I'll open with the political conversation and leave it open to discussion. One party believes that there shouldn't be any random DUI checkpoints, as it violates civil liberties. The main point is that this party believes that you should only get in trouble if you are caught doing something wrong. The random searching of cars, breathalizers etc is a violation of civil liberties. The other party believes that if you have nothing to hide, there is nothing wrong with being subject to random checkpoints. Random checkpoints, although annoying, have the possibility of finding people with warrants and ultimately keeps the place safer, which is the point of law enforcement. Party A believes that we are not a police state, and therefore, should not be policed unless caught. Party B believes there is no harm in random searches, and that it benefits society progressively. I will leave this one for debate. (I was called a communist during this conversation. I guess this is what happens when you spend 2 years in a socialist country.)

Ok, now the real stuff. Ben Revere and his role with the Phillies. Since Ben Revere was signed before the 2013 season, his defense was heralded as top notch. We put up with his mendoza line batting average for a good part of last year, hoping that his defense would counter balance his struggles at the plate.

As it turns out, Ben Revere turned his offense around, kind of. His defense- started as a disaster, continues to be a disaster and will be a disaster. I don't remember the exact quote he gave a few weeks ago, but he made an ill-advised diving catch attempt in centerfield, resulting in an extra base hit, that should have been a single. Jimmy Rollins confronted him in the dugout. And after the game Revere said that's just the way he plays. He'll dive every time. He plays hard. Blah Blah Blah. That's great Ben. Keep diving and making stupid plays and call it 'playing hard.' Aaron Rowand will always be a hero in Philly for busting his face up against the centerfield wall. It's not because he busted his face. It's because he caught the ball and busted his face. Ben- no one cares that you stupidly dove and sacrificed your body. We care that you didn't catch the ball and hurt your team.

Giving up on that fly ball to center field Wednesday night buried the Phillies. Down 1-0 to the AL East Powerhouse Toronto Blue Jays, Revere looks back to the wall and gave up on a fly ball to center field. The ball, which was easily catchable, hits the bottom of the wall and becomes a triple. No error, so his error stats don't look bad (even though statistically he already has 2 errors and the worst fielding percentage of his career.) But he kills his pitchers and teammates by just being dumb. He's a dumb player. His mishap on Wednesday night led to a 9-run inning, taking the Phillies out of the game. Cliff Lee didn't have the ability to let the mistake go and he caved. I'm not justifying that. I'm just saying that the leadoff hitter gets a triple because Ben Revere is dumb, and the Phillies lose again. He's a leadoff hitter that doesn't walk. He can't hit a sacrifice fly. He can't throw anyone out with his lady arm. He can't read a fly ball. He can't make decisions. He hasn't homered in his career. And he won't.

All things considered, the Phillies did the right thing in trading for Revere. Worley didn't work out as a pitcher. Revere still has an upside. I think he's a great bench player. But the way he thinks about the game, the way he thinks that diving for a ball should be heroic, the way he ruins quality starts for his pitchers. Tony Gwynn Jr. is getting the nod over him. The Phillies organization put so much faith in Revere that they have no depth in the outfield now. The Phillies are bad. Ruben Amaro has ruined them and they aren't going anywhere anytime soon. So what's the harm in playing out this Revere thing? There is no harm. I just don't want to watch them anymore.

I found this clip of Ben Revere showing off his arm.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A great day to be a Dane- Not a Phillies Fan

In a great day for the country/city-state of Denmark, the Phillies fell victim to a game that defines their season.

But let's start with the positive.

Denmark could have lost that game 12-1. But now the so-called 'group of death' has gotten so much more interesting.

The football (or soccer as we're trained to inappropriately label the sport in the US) Gods were clearly on the Danish side yesterday. Maybe it's due in part to the weather Gods being so against the establishment of Denmark, but for one day, and one game, the Gods rewarded the vikings.

Two days after receiving my residency, I found myself enthralled by the contest, as well as the possibility of the Danes advancing out of the group of death.

But my hopes for Holland to win the Euro Cup stand strong. They could easily score five goals a game from here on out.

Let me finish my 'soccer' comments with this. What a great way to draw Europe into patriotism, excitement, and sales. While the U.S. has the same format every year (Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup Finals and the ever-so-enticing title of NBA Finals) Europe gets drawn in with the Euro Cup every four years, coupling well with the World Cup , for a football frenzied summer. The idea is great, the results are even better.

But I hope Holland beats Germany on Wednesday, to move on to the quarterfinals. The Dutch have talent.

As for the Phillies...

They were defined as a team last night.

The 2008 World Series champions stand seven games out of first place in the NL East; and six games out of second place, in a lonely dungeon of a mediocre-at-best division.

Here's the case though: last night's loss is the 2012 season in a nutshell for the Phillies.

Without Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, John Mayberry Jr, Placido Polanco and newly relevant Freddy Galvis in the starting lineup, the misfit Phillies lost in extra innings-again-with a pitcher called up on three hours rest-with many able arms remaining in the 'pen.

But that's the Phillies this year.

Mismanaged games, with a misfit group of starters (Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton, Brian Schneider and Mike Fontenot graced the starting lineup-the Lancaster White Sox could form a better staring lineup).

But once again, when runs were needed in the 9th, 10th and 11th, the Phillies, who ran their success on clutch hitting, had nothing to offer.

So now, the bottom dwellers look at a seven-game deficit, with no hope in sight.

We may have seen the defining game of the season for the Phils. But at least we don't have to have a heartbreaking downfall in September. We can brace ourselves now.

In other thoughts-Pacquiao won the fight. The Heat are back in the finals-and I hope to God the Thunder and their group of school-boys can eliminate the tired-of-reading-about-you Miami Heat.

But this is the  sports world we live in. Any team (or player) can win on any given day. Pacquiao is one of the best fighters of all time-and he lost to a nobody (barely making the news.)

Denmark is a nobody, but for 95 minutes last night, they were a somebody.

The Heat are doing their best to earn one of the least accomplished NBA titles in the history of the league and the Los Angeles Kings are extremely close to having one of the best NHL playoff runs in history-but the US sports media won't give them the time they deserve.

Hockey, soccer and boxing will always be buried in the middle of the newspaper while tabloid sports news, such as LeBron James and the Miami Heat, grace the front page.

See you in a few days my US faithful. That is if the government and its ever so apathetic immigration system allows me to leave. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

They had a chance...

My lack of love for Doug Collins is no mystery. My lack of appreciation for Andre Iguodala has never been hidden.

But in the fourth quarter (and waning seconds of the third) my hatred grew for both.

Two key parts cost the Sixers the game, when they undoubtedly had a great chance to move on to the conference finals. They played in a sloppy, low scoring game, and gave themselves a chance. But were let down by the two most important components- their coach, and their 'high-profile' player.

The first (and secondary) moment was Iguodala's misses at the line at the end of the third quarter. With a chance to take the lead for the first time since their only lead of the game (20-19) in the first quarter, and overcome an eight-point deficit, Iggy misses two free throws and the C's score at the end of the quarter to take a three-point lead into the fourth.

It could have been a one-point Sixers lead.

The second, and much more important moment that caused the loss, came after Paul Pierce fouled out with a lot of time remaining in the fourth (over four minutes.)

Thaddeus Young, who hasn't played big minutes all season, but somehow gets time and the ball in the biggest moment of the Sixers season, passes the ball to Kevin Garnett, who unfortunately, has been playing for the other team all seven games.

Boom, eight straight (and 11 in the last four minutes) for Rondo, and ball game.

Great job Doug.

I understand your intention with Rondo, make him beat you with his jumper. But with the shot clock winding down to two seconds and Rondo having the ball, you have to step up and put a hand in his face. That 27-foot three-pointer capped it.

Why was Young in the game? Who knows. Why did Jodie Meeks hardly play? Good question. Where was Vucevic all series after seeing consistent minutes (and clutch minutes) during the regular season (15 minutes a game regular season, 3 MPG post-season)? I don't know.

Doug Collins did some commendable things with this team this year. They had no business being in game 7 against the Celtics with the chance to go to the conference finals for the first time in 11 years. But they were there. And they blew a great opportunity.

75 points.

And Iggy...well, more of the same.

After hitting a huge three to cut the C's lead to 71-68,  he takes one meaningless shot attempt in the final 4:30. One shot attempt. He came up big in game 6, why not shoot the ball in game 7?

$13,531,750 and a 38% shooting percentage in the playoffs. At least give us a terrible shooting percentage when we need you the most. Show the effort. (By the way, great cutesy layup attempt on the Pierce foul instead of taking it up strong)

Great things were done by the Sixers this season, who had some luck (Rose, Noah, Allen injuries) in their playoff run. But changes still need to be made. Iggy and Collins to name two. The rest looks quite alright for a bright future.

I am not thrilled to be rooting for Boston in the next series, and I give them about a 10% success rate. But seeing LeBron fail is a must. If Bosh is healthy, they won't fail this round. If he's not, and Brandon Bass plays like he did against the Sixers, Boston's odds go up. But I still wouldn't put money on the C's, and I am a betting man.

The worst part is that I get to go back to Boston in a few weeks and see all the people I can't wait to see who will say things I can wait to hear, about how great the Celtics are/were in their win over the Sixers. And what I have experienced over the past 3 years is that you simply cannot talk rationally about sports with the over-biased Boston fan-base (for the most part, I'll give exception to Joel Mode on this one.)

The Celtics, although advancing to their third conference final in five years, are far from a great team. They won this series when D-Rose got hurt. And like watching Tom Brady flop in the Super Bowl and hearing every excuse instead of the truth, Boston sports fans will regard what just happened in the Sixers/Celtics series as something it wasn't- a great accomplishment.

And one last jab at the Boston 'faithful.'

I will not end this mornings blog with an 'at least we have the Phillies,' like I've heard so many times in the past three years, when referring to a Boston franchise's end-of-season failure.

Although glad to have the Phillies, the true failure of the moment is the Sixers loss. It was preventable, but they lost. So yes, Philadelphia, basque in the failure, don't forget it, and hope to grow from it. Because it happened, and it sucks. But please don't go back to being fair-weather Sixers fans. Don't lower yourself to the standards of other sports cities.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Garnett Was Right...

Truer words have never been spoken about the 76ers fans.

The 76ers are Philadelphia's lost professional sports franchise out of the four major sports.

No matter how bad the Eagles and Flyers are, they still sell out every game, or almost every game.

The Phillies, although back on the path to the mid-90's, have escaped the fair-weather fan image for at least the time being.

But the Sixers didn't have many fans until about 10 days ago.

The young and almost talentless, but somehow bring-out-the-worst in opposition Sixers, ranked 18th in capacity attendance all season.

And for some reason I am having a really difficult time finding other game-by-game attendance statistics, but I do know, that I went to a game at home against Boston in early March, and it was no problem paying for $15 seats and walking down to a few rows up from courtside.

The team was nothing special, and the fans treated them as that. And they blew out the Celtics that night.

The point I am trying to make here, is all of a sudden, the Sixers are in the midst of accomplishing some pretty remarkable things, and now they have fans. The Phillies, Flyers and Eagles, regardless of playoff position, would have had fans all year.

So yes, KG was correct.

However...he's and idiot.

Just like Cole Hamels should feel stupid for 'initiating' Bryce Harper. Before last night the Nationals have been initiating the Phillies, winning 13 of the last 16 contests.

Garnett should know better. The veteran is in the midst of a last-ditch NBA title run, and gave the fans and the Sixers unnecessary added energy with his true comments, forcing a winner-take-all game 7.

But you do have to admit, as awful as the Sixers look (and their playoff field goal percentage proves how bad they are) they have a knack for making their opponents play awful as well. The result- a terrible game, but a chance to win.

The Allen Iverson entrance was fantastic, similar to the Sylvester Stallone recognition at Lincoln Financial Field's first game. It got the fans fired up, got the team fired up, and the Sixers landed 82 points...But that's ok, because the Celtics landed just 75.

The verdict for game 7- The Sixers will win if they initiate a sloppy game. Turn the ball over, miss free throws, foul, do whatever it takes to make the Celtics drop to their level.

But know this-if we have learned anything from this playoff run, you can never count the Sixers out-with or without true-fan support.

PS- A good friend of mine and extremely biased Boston sports friend Sean Donahoe said after game 2 the Celtics should have been up 2-0 and the series would be over soon (in Boston's favor). He can join Hamels and Garnett in the idiot bin. The first two games were decided by a point a piece, with the Sixers leading all of game 1 then losing at the end. And although I agree, on paper, the Celtics are the better team. They possess more talent. However, they aren't in 2008 anymore. They aren't that great. Remove yourself from your hometown for a second, then make a comment.

PSS- A bit of an update. I am sorry for the lack of blogs lately. I have been digging holes and tearing down walls, then gracing various gyms with my presence in the evening. Which justifies my monthly student loan payments even more. I will be in Malta the next few days for my first wedding anniversary, and will be hard fought to catch game 7, but I will try my best, of course. If I am successful, I may not be granted a second wedding anniversary. So the Sixers better win.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

So Close Sixers!

They had the Celtics, and much of the sports media, and myself, questioning just how good this 76ers team really is.

Yes, the Bulls didn't have D-Rose, or Noah for a bunch of the series, but still, the Sixers beat the top-seeded Bulls in six games.

Then the athletic bunch of youngsters managed to steal home court advantage from Boston, and very well could have been up 2-0. (Yes, they very well could have been down 2-0, but they have recently improved in close games.)

But that all came crashing down last night. Not only did the Celtics steal back control of the series, but they showed they are the better team. The first two games had people questioning who was actually better, but last night, with a 25 point lead late in the fourth quarter, on the road, and a shooting percentage over 50%, the Celtics showed their dominance.

The Sixers managed to shoot 40%, a respectable number for them, but Brand (1-for-6), Turner (1-for-10) and the near absence (yet again) of Andre Iguodala (six shot attempts) had no answer for a skilled Celtics offensive attack.

Let me point out one more intricate point before moving on.

In my non-expert opinion, an NBA basketball game usually has the better overall team emerge in the second and third quarters. The first quarter is a lot of energy and emotion. The fourth quarter everything changes, foul trouble, free throw shooting, clutch shooting, junk time etc. But the second and third quarters, the game is a bit more settled and structured, and therefore the better team usually shows its teeth at this point. Again, I don't know anything, this is just my opinion.

The Sixers lost the second quarter 32-16 and lost the third quarter 29-17 last night. They lost the middle of the game by 28 points. And lost the whole game by a lot.

In game 1 they lost the middle of the game by six points-and lost the game. In game 2, they won the middle of the game by 12 points, and won the game. Could be a coincidence, but I think there is something to this underdeveloped theory.

And now for a brief Phillies comment.

After winning three games in a row for the first time this season, the Phillies actually managed to make it four games and I must say I am a big impressed.

Still in last place, but only by 4.5 games, the Phillies are once again at .500 and look to have a winning record for the first time since starting the season 1-0.

Carlos Ruiz. What a year so far. And Placido Polanco has stepped it up.

But could this team be good? Yes, they could be good. They are 19-19 with practically a non-existing Jimmy Rollins (.232 BA, .282 OBP), Shane Victorino (.248 BA, .298 OBP) and a partially existing Hunter Pence (.248 BA, only partially because of his nine home runs.) If these guys wake up a bit, and stop making clutch late-game errors (Pence, twice) they could be a 90-win team and earn a playoff position.

But I wanted to examine just one more Phillies point before I go.

This was addressed on my facebook page and ended up involving a banter with Chad Painter (president of the Hunter Pence fan club) and my dad (president of the Rheal Cormier fan club).

My heart goes out to Cliff Lee. He is one of my all time favorite Phillies, based solely on his gritty 2009 playoff performance, and his willingness to go out and pitch in game 6 or 7 of the World Series on extremely short rest.

He is winless this year. His ERA is 1.95. He gets no support and Hunter Pence blew it for him against the Astros two games ago. (Yes, Chad Qualls is an awful pitcher as well and doesn't deserve to step foot on a big league mound and is credited with half of the blown save situation.)

As I battled my 5th or 6th Danish rain storm of the day, Cliff Lee battled his 5th or 6th should-have-won-that-game situation. Finally, a 3-1 lead in the ninth, after eight stellar innings.

And Pence bounces a ball out of his glove while the runner fully intended to stop at third. Add that to a 10-inning 0 run no decision and you have a guy that has to be questioning his move to Philly.

My point-pull Hunter Pence late in the game, like you pulled Pat Burrell late in the game with a lead. There is no need for home run power in the field when your defense is questionable. I don't have the stats or dates in my head, but Pence has looked more than confused at least a few times in right field this year. And you have to love the National League in this situation. The double switch is a beautiful thing.

'But Hunter Pence won the game with a walk-off home run!'


Win the game in nine innings with high percentage baseball.

Then we can start to talk playoff run.