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Rooting for A-Rod

August 19th, 2013 sendarama Posted in baseball | 1 Comment

You know who you are.

Youre recognizable in a frenzied crowd because youre the only one not cheering. You hate all things trite. You cringe when a stranger says Have a good one.

Were you of a different age, youd have condemned HUAC, rooted for the Loyalists, and cheered Muhammad Ali when he refused to step forward for induction. Youre the dopey kid who came to Will Kanes aid in High Noon when the whole town had deserted him. Youre against mob rule. You cant resist an underdog.

Youre A-Rod fan.

Following six weeks of public revilement which would have caused other national disgraces (Tonya Harding, Steve Bartman, OJ Simpson, to name a few) to run for cover, Alex Rodriguez has been unwavering. You are impressed by his steadfastness and calm under pressure. You know that under similar circumstances, you would crumble like a Ritz cracker. You dont like Bud Selig, and you cant help feeling that he is attempting to destroy A-Rods career for the purpose of burnishing his legacy.

Youre A-Rod fan

You dont like that A-Rod was singled out for punishment far beyond the fifty-game suspensions levied on eleven other similarly-situated players, and youre turned off by the faux praise lobbed at Ryan Braun by MLB brass when he copped an early plea to a 65-game suspension. You think that whiners like John Lackey who wants back a home run he surrendered to A-Rod ten years ago are hypocrites because they played with other admitted steroid users. And why should players be upset about A-Rod for exercising the appeal rights available to all players under the Joint Drug Agreement?

You cant help thinking that MLB is trying to discredit A-Rod by the systematic leaking of information 2000 suggesting that he interfered with MLBs investigation of the Biogenesis clinic and divulged information about other alleged users to the press. These events, if true, occurred several months ago during a bidding war between MLB and A-Rod for Biogenesis evidence. Leave it to the arbitrator, you say, to decide whether such activities warrant extra punishment. Despite MLBs holier than thou stance, you know that this is not obstruction of justice, that this is not a criminal investigation.

Youre A-Rod fan

And youre appalled that Rod is being targeted by other pitchers with beanballs, and that fans are cheering when he gets hit. It happened in Chicago last week; and last night, Ryan Dempster hurled four consecutive pitches at A-Rod before nailing him in the back as Boston fans exploded with glee. You thought Dempster should have been tossed, but it turned out for the best when A-Rod turned on the pathetic Dempster two at bats later and smashed his weak serving on a line over the centerfield bleachers, spurring an important victory.

Youre A-Rod fan.

If you are a Yankee fan, then you never abandoned A-Rod in the first place, because team fandom trumps the peccadillos of any particular player. A-Rods return from a season-long injury has already sparked the Yankees to improved play over his first twelve games. If he can somehow lead them into the playoffs, his pitfalls with PEDs will be a mere footnote to the Yankees most remarkable comeback since 1978.

Youre Yankee fan and A-Rod fan.

Youre isolated because the powers that be are aligned against the beleaguered slugger; and everyone you talk to thinks A-Rod is a sleaze and should have the book thrown at him. But you sense that subtly, gradually, public opinion is shifting in A-Rods favor. The bombastic Steven A. Smith praised A-Rods intestinal fortitude. You cant help but appreciate his focus under tremendous pressure, noted another commentator. His inspired performance last night may well mark a turning point for the Yankees and for A-Rods reputation, said Mark Schlereth of ESPN. Even those who detest A-Rod must be saying to themselves, That guy sure can compartmentalize.

Dempster plunks A-Rod.

In the build-up to A-Rods suspension, few came to his defense. Not even the Yankee front office offered support. Following a public dispute with A-Rod over whether he was ready to come back from injury, Yankee GM Brian Cashman told him to shut the fuck up. Later, the Yankees extended A-Rods re-hab past the point when his suspension was likely to be announced. Several talk show hosts predicted he would never again play for the Yankees. Even the Yankees beat writer for the New York Times, Tyler Kepner, lashed out at Rodriguez poor character and weak-mindedness.

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Has any athlete felt such combined heat from Team, League and Public while still competing? Lance Armstrong was retired when his world came undone. And when has a team so publicly trashed its own player? Not since George Steinbreener hired gambler Howard Spira to gather dirt against Dave Winfield in the 80s have the Yankees so turned on one of their own. And that was in secret.

Its been said that some star athletes feel empowered when playing in a hostile environment. If so, can you imagine how pumped A-Rod gets going up against the World? Against this backdrop of hostility, A-Rod is playing well and hes galvanized the Yanks into playing better. The team as a whole is hitting 60 points above its team average since A-Rods return August 5th.

Of course, its the magnitude of A-Rods contract which puts the Yanks in a quandary. If they cut him, they eat 86 million over four years. And they cant trade him. At this point, its hard to know what they want. Do they wish A-Rod to recover his lost magic and be a productive player for the balance of his contract, or would they prefer that the arbitra 4000 tor uphold the 211- game suspension and free them from liability for that period? As the tension between team and player continues to heat up, it appears that they are opting for the latter result.

Yes, A-Rod has made problems for himself by lying about his steroid use on national television, and by being unmindful of the impact of his conduct on his image. By allowing himself to be photographed kissing himself in the mirror, by sunbathing naked in Central Park, by slipping his phone number to an attractive blonde while on the bench during last years playoffs, and by a host of other tone-deaf acts, he has left the indelible perception that he is selfish, narcissistic, and self-absorbed.

All of that may be true. But that does not equate to making him the poster boy for steroid use.

Whiile his legal team mounts open challenges to MLB and the Yankees, A-Rod sticks to his mantra: My focus is on playing well and winning games. If he continues to translate that theme into results on the field, he will mount his best case. Five weeks from now, if A-Rod is batting 320, with ten home runs, and 30 rbis, and the Yanks are in the thick of the wild card race, then he will have done more for his cause than all the posturing by his lawyers. Even the skeptical public will come to appreciate his grace under pressure. When and if that happens, the stage will be set for a negotiated reduced suspension, say 60 games, that A-Rod can accept.

Until then, A-Rod fan will watch every game, savor every at-bat, and yearn for heroic acts.

Heres rooting for you, A-Rod.

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Cuse Asserts Long Arm Jurisdiction

April 4th, 2013 sendarama Posted in college basketball | No Comments

First year law students taking civil procedure are soon introduced to the concept of long arm jurisdiction. This is the doctrine under which a plaintiff in his home state can sue and serve a defendant residing in another state for a cause of action arising in or with sufficient contacts with the home state.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is not a law school professor (though he looks like one); but just as the Courts have expanded their reach against out of state defendants, Boeheim has recruited tall, lean, and long-armed defenders to extend the reach and effectiveness of his 2-3 zone. The 2-3 has been the Oranges trademark defensive tactic for most of Boeheims 30 year reign as Cuse coach, but never has it been so smothering, suffocating, and stifling (pick your adjective) as in the just-concluded NCAA East Regionals at Verizon Center.

Indeed, the Orange defense performed at historic levels during Cuses four-game run to the final quartet. Syracuse averaged 6.5 blocks and 10.8 steals while forcing opponents into 29% fg% and 15% from 3-point land. It held Montana (34), Indiana (50), and Marquette (39) to season low point totals. Against Indiana, one of the nationss most skillful offenses (78.5 ppg), the Orange blocked 10 shots and forced 19 turnovers. Marquette could get nothing going en route to a record low for a team in an NCAA regional final since the shot clock was introduced in 1986.

Through four games, Syracuse has forced more turnovers than it has allowed field goals.

When you struggle to get your shot off, and are frequently blocked or stripped, youre going to get beaten like a drum. We couldnt get one to drop from up close, We couldnt get one to drop from outside, said Marquettes Jamil Wilson. That about sums it up.

College coaches normally employ the zone to cope with bigger, stronger opponents with whom they do not match up man-to-man. But for Boeheim, it is the weapon of choice. And now all the elements are in place. Were very long, and were very active, said Boeheim, and we can be hard to score on.

At the top of the zone are 6-6 Michael Carter-Williams and 6-5 Brandon Triche. Carter-Williams has a baby face, arms like an octopus, and the guile of a cat burglar. He is among the nations leaders in steals, assists, and turnovers. During the regular season, his brilliance was often undermined by ill-timed forays to the hoop, a sub-40 shooting percentage, and sub-30 accuracy from 3-point land. But in the tournament, he has reduced his turnovers and shot the rock from both distances at just under 50%. He is capable of providing highlight reels on the dish or on the dunk.

Triche is a rarity at his position a four-year starter, first as a point guard and now as a shooting guard. Hes started more games (146) than any Syracuse player. His uncle, Howard Triche, played for Syracuse in the late 80s and Brandon looks and plays like his uncle. Steady but not spectacular, with the same bushy hair. Most of the time, MCW and Triche tower over their opponents at guard. Against Indiana, they overwhelmed 5-10 Yogi Ferrell and 6 Jordan Hulls. It was more of the same against Marquette, which started the smallish Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan in the backcourt. They cover ground really good, said Blue.

Yogi Ferrell trapped by Syracuse zone.

The back end of the zone is manned by C.J. Fair and James Southerland. Both are in the Syracuse mold 6-8, 215 with near 7 wing spans and the body fat of a parakeet. Fair is Syracuses most talented offensive player. A lefty, he can score on drives, dinks, finger rolls, and jumpers. Southerland can kill you with the 3-ball. At center is either Rakeem Christmas or Baye Keita. Syracuse runs no offense for either, but they are effective at protecting the basket. The first sub is Jerami Grant, 6-8, 205, with arms from here to there.

When the Syracuse zone is on all cylinders, you cannot beat it off the dribble, and you cannot beat it side-to-side. One theory, employed successfully by Georgetown in its dismantlings of Syracuse 2/23/13 and in the Big East regular season finale at Verizon Center 3/2/13, is to flash a versatile, good-shooting big man to the area between the top of the circle and the foul line where he can turn and shoot or kick it back for an open three. Georgetown picked Syracuses zone apart. But not every team has Otto Porter to play that role.

Anyone who saw Syracuse on March 2 has to be shocked at the turnaround. Three weeks to the day after they were held to 39 against Georgetown, they held Marquette to the same number on the same floor in the regional finals. Even for Team Turmoil, the reversal of fortune is startling

Nobody accumulates talent like Syracuse, and nobody loses more of it to academic suspensions and/or the NBA. Last years Fab Melo affair is a case in point. Had the 7 shot-blocking Melo been available, the Orange might have won the national championship a year ago. Instead, Melo couldnt find his way to class, was suspended, and then bolted to the NBA. He plays now for the Maine Red Claws in the Developmental League.

Southerland missed several games this season on academic probation. In recent years, Dion Waiters, Wes Johnson, Donte Green, and Jonny Flynn left school just when they were getting started. The Bernie Fein episode is still an open wound, and just last week it was revealed that Syracuse is being investigated by the NCAA for serious violations in its basketball program.

But there are no character flaws in the current group. Carter-Williams and Triche, in particular, have been exemplary teammates and great interviews. And Syracuse takes a full head of steam into Saturdays semi-final match with Michigan, which has endured a season of ups and downs similar to Syracuses. Both teams were ranked in the top five early Michigan briefly at number one and suffered a string of late season losses against tough conference opponents which reduced them to four seeds in the tournament. This will be the first time two four seeds have met in the Final Four.

More importantly, Michigan is the most efficient offensive team in the country, according to basketball savant Ken Pomeroys rating system, and has the ingredients to counter the Syracuse zone the nations best point guard (Trey Burke), the nations best young center in freshman Mitch McGary, and a sharpshooter in freshman Nick Stauskas. Burke has been phenomenal all season, but McGarys late-season surge has changed the character of the team.

Through the first 33 games of the season, McGary averaged 6.5 points and 6 rebounds. In the last four, he weighed in at 14 and 11.5, including 25 and 14 against Kansas in the Sweet 16. His 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 steals spurred the Wolverines in their rout of Florida on Sunday. Michigan has its Otto Porter.

Stauskas, a freshman from Canada, also broke out against Florida. He became the first player in tournament history to go six for six from 3-point land. Filling out the starting five are descendants of NBA royalty Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Glenn Robinson III. They have not dishonored the family name.

Syracuses offense relies in significant part on fast breaks triggered by turnovers. They are not a good shooting team in the halfcourt. Where does that leave the Orange if they cannot turn Trey Burke over?

Neither team can afford foul trouble. Michigan cannot survive if McGary is forced to the bench, and Syracuse needs to get full contributions from Fair and Southerland, including at least four or five 3-balls. In a close game, Syracuses difficulties from the foul line could be problematic.

If Michigan coach John Beilein solves the Syracuse zone, it will be a case of first impression. In eleven previous tries against the Orange while coaching West Virginia, Beilein is winless.

But the guess here is that Beileins losing skein ends, and that Michigan advances to the finals against the winner of Louisville-Wichita State.

Even long arm jurisdiction has its limits.

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Boom Times for Court Stormers/ Gonzaga Creeps Up

March 1st, 2013 sendarama Posted in college basketball | No Comments

Mike Krzyzewski has had enough.

Normally imperturbable Coach K lashed out at the security threat posed by court stormers after Dukes loss last night at Virginia. Hes concerned that players might be injured by the onrushings which have become fashionable this year when the home team registers a big upset.

Theres no question that Krzyzewski has standing to raise the issue. All four Duke losses this year at Miami, at Maryland, at NC State, and at Virginia- have been capped by a court storm.

Court storming is the new standing ovation.

The practice dates back to the mid-nineties, but the record for court storms in a month was surely shattered in the February just concluded. The number one rated team has lost eight times this season in ten weeks. There have been nineteen cases of top five rated teams losing to teams outside the top 25 this season, and fifteen of them were in February. Of the aforementioned upsets, thirteen were by heavy home underdogs playing as if on a crusade. You couldnt get better ingredients for a court storm.

But I take objection to a court storm which is not warranted under the circumstances, as when Maryland, a slight underdog, nipped no. 14 NC State 51-50 in a sloppily-played game at Comcast Center in January. Virginia was actually favored over Duke last night. This could be why the Cavalier onslaught was slow in developing.

Rarely does a team storm and get stormed in the same season. Fans of the really good teams dont storm, and bad teams in defeat dont get stormed. Duke fans do not court storm when they beat NC State.

But when a team goes from downtrodden to powerhouse in the course of a season, as Miami has done, the tables can turn. Miami fans court stormed Duke at Coral Gables in January. Then, lowly Wake Forest blew them out at home last Saturday, and it was the Hurricanes who were trampled upon.

Before court storming becomes dangerous, steps should be taken to regulate the rampage. If this were cattle, wed have skilled horsemen regulating traffic. Since Rowdy Yates is not available, we at least need security personnel to surround the losing team and usher it away from the festivities.

And before court storming becomes routine, minimum standards should be set to determine when a court storm is justified. Heres a suggestion:

Court storming shall be allowed if any two (2) of the following five factors are present:

1. Home team is rated outside the top 25, defeated team is rated within the top five.
2. Home team is an underdog by five points or more.
3. Home team wins on buzzer shot.
4. Home team at bottom of conference defeats lst place foe.
5. Defeated team is arch-rival ranked in top 10.

The NCAA has invaded almost every other aspect of college athletes behavior, why shouldnt it try to regulate court storming?

Terp fans gather after February 16 win over Duke.

Back to Krzyzewski, I suspect that there were other reasons for his post-game pique. He must have been concerned with Dukes lack of fight against Virginia, which dominated the boards and Duke center Miles Plumlee. Lately, Plumlee has resembled a second team all-ACC center rather than a player of the year candidate. The slender Dukies were pushed around by Virginia yesterday and by Maryland two weeks ago.

While Duke , Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Kansas, and Florida have been banging heads with tough conference foes (each has three or more conference losses), Gonzaga has quietly won all of its conference games in the weak West Coast Conference and is poised to move up to the number one slot on Monday if (when) it beats Portland Saturday. Indiana having lost Tuesday at Minnesota, Gonzagas path to number one is wide open; and the Zags are likely to stay there for at least a few weeks if, as expected, they breeeze through the WCC tournament.

The Zags are good, but theyve had the luxury of needing to gear up for only two or three conference games. If they were playing t 5360 ough games twice a week, their record would be a lot spottier than 27-2.

Their strengths are that they are extremely well balanced with a strong, veteran front line and skilled guards. Each starter shoots 75% or better from the charity stripe. Their margin of victory is 18 ppg , the highest in the land.

And they may have the sleeper candidate for Player of the Year. 7 Kelly Olynyk, who red-shirted last year after playing two years of varsity ball, averages 17.7/game, shoots 67% from the field, 80.3 from the stripe, 39.1 from 3-point land, is an excellent passer, and has rock-star looks.

The Zags remain suspect because of their weak conference and a history of flaming out in the NCAAs. Since their break-out season in 1998-99, when they made the round of eight, they have appeared in the NCAAs fourteen consecutive seasons, never getting beyond the Sweet Sixteen, and eleven times falling in the first or second round. Its possible they could finish first in the nation and not get a number one seed.

In this most bizarre college basketball season, where no team stands out but fifteen to twenty have legitimate title aspirations, stranger things have happened.

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Heaping Helping of Hoops/ The Deceiver/ PJ Puts Choke on Hold/ Nats Go All In

January 24th, 2013 sendarama Posted in college basketball | No Comments

If youre one of those fringe college basketball fans who wakes up when the NCAA tournament starts, it may interest you to know that the regular season schedule is already two-thirds over, and selection Sunday is just seven weeks away. The longer you wait to get on board, the more difficult it will be to catch up.

The second tier college basketball fan normally checks in after the Super Bowl. But unless youre a congregant in Ray Lewis parish, or a fan of the X Games, the long run-up to the Super Bowl can best be filled by devoting more time and attention to the undergraduates.

The college basketball season has always been an evolving process. In the words of Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, who you are in December is not what you will become in late February and March. This year, conference realignment, the mass defection of one and dones and sophomores, and the heavy recruitment of transfers, has made it a full time job to keep track of the transitions. Missouri alone plays six transfers

Usually, there are a few teams with a concentration of superstars who are clear favorites to win it all. Last year, we knew early on that Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse had far and away the most talent. Of the ten players selected from these teams as number one picks, eight were underclassmen. This year, among the top ten teams, there are no true freshmen who are identifiable as number one picks and only a couple of sophomores who fall in this category. Talent is down, competition is up.

Defending champion Kentucky , the chief utilizer of one and dones, has been a victim of its own success. Despite another stellar recruiting class, including 7 shot blocker Nerlens Noel, the departure of last years entire starting five to the NBA was too much to replace. As great as Anthony Davis , Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Marcus Teague were a year ago, the connective tissue on that team was senior Darius Miller and sophomore Terrence Jones. That continuity is now lacking. Only Kyle Wiltjer holds over from last year, and he hardly played.

You can expect a Calipari team to improve over the course of the season, but this squad has too many deficiencies to be a force in the post-season. Their guard play is erratic; they turn the ball over; only Wiltjer shoots the three; and they dont hit their foul shots. The Cats have already lost five games; and even more telling, in a 48-46 squeaker over weak Vanderbilt, they suffered a 16-0 run in the second half and almost lost. Not very Kentucky-like. Win with the one and done, die with the one and done.

North Carolina, as well, has not withstood the loss of Henson, Barnes, Marshall, and Zeller to the NBA. Theyve lost five games, including at home to Miami. Like Kentucky, the Tarheels will improve sufficiently to make the tournament, barely. But Syracuse, which fielded one of the deepest and most talented rosters in NCAA history a year ago, has enough returning studs to contend for the championship.

The reduction in standout talent has made it easier for the so-called mid majors to close the gap with the BCS conferences. If patterns hold, NCAA spots normally reserved for middle tier teams in the ACC, Big East, and SEC will go instead to the Mountain West, Atlantic 10 and the West Coast Conference.

The A-10, normally a two-team contributor, is a lock to place Butler, VCU and Temple. St. Louis, Charlotte, Xavier and Lasalle are all viable. The WCC may place three for the first time in its 60-year history. And the Mountain West is on track to place four of its nine teams in the Big Dance. Theres no such thing as a mid-major any more. There are just a lot of good basketball programs spread out over many conferences.

With a weekend off day in the NFL playoff schedule, last Saturday offered a scintillating buffet of top-25 match ups, one after the other. In the early game, no. 10 Florida pasted no. 17 Missouri 83-52 for its fifth consecutive victory of twenty points or more. With seven of its top nine returning, including a 4-deep front line, Florida is capable of sweeping its regular season conference schedule and locking up a number one seed.

Michael Carter-Williams finishes off Louisville

The marquis matchup of the day @ 4:00 was Syracuse at Louisville, Freshly anointed as number one, Louisville was a hefty 7-point favorite over the sixth-ranked Orangemen. Louisville had a lot going for it, and was widely expected to win.

Syracuse, as usual, is long and athletic. And no one is longer or more athletic than 67 185 lb. sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who was a bench-warmer on the Oranges very deep roster a year ago, averaging just over ten minutes/game. This year Carter-Williams is the floor leader, plays over thirty minutes a game and is among the nations leaders in assists (9.8 per). Within a several minute span late in the game Saturday, he put together a highlight reel for the player he will become.

With Syracuse trailing 57-62, in principal part because of eight Carter-Williams turnovers, MCW took the game over. In rapid-fire, he scored on a swooping lay-in, stole the ball, made a diving assist, and buried a deep three to give Syracuse the lead. Then, with Syracuse trailing 68-69, he sealed the victory with a steal and full length drive and dunk which will stand out as one of the great plays of the season.

Carter-Williams is so good he may replace Kidd-Gilchrist as the best hyphenated player.

No. 11 Ohio State at no. 18 Michigan State was as expected close, bruising, low-scoring. The box score reflected the difference in the teams. Deshaun Thomas (28) was the only Buckeye with more than six points. Michigan State had five players between eight and 15 points. Michigan State wins 59-56. The Spartans strength, as usual, is in their burly front line, where 6-6, 230 lb. sophomore Branden Dawson is on the verge of becoming a primary player.

The nightcap to the top-25 match-ups was no. 8 Gonzaga @ no. 13 Butler, a pairing of the two most successful mid-majors at the historic Hinkle field house in Indianapolis, site of Hoosiers. Suffice to say that Butler won the game on a steal and shot off an errant in-bounds pass thrown by David Stockton, normally an excellent ball handler and the son of John Stockton.

With that irony in mind, I passed out in my chair, my dreams interrupted by visions of blocked shots, three-balls, and driving dunks.

The Deceiver.. Brent Musburger was right quarterbacks do get the best chicks. But he might have added that linebackers dont, particularly two time All-American, Heisman trophy candidate linebackers. In a coed university, with a sister school across the street, why else would MantI Teo have found it necessary to resort to cyberspace to get a date?

One possible answer is that hes a naive fool lacking sufficient common sense to know that hed been duped well after the point when even Stan Laurel would have caught on. And he made matters worse by continuing to make references to the media about his dead loved one after hed been told that she (?) was dead.

Teos draft stock took a hit when he was pancaked by Alabama in the BCS championship game; but it will suffer a bigger jolt from his unparalleled display of stupidity and bad judgment. The pounding he will take from NFL offensive linemen will be nothing compared to the razzing he will take from teammates, fans, and opposing players. The NFL may need to add a new item to its Wunderlicht questionnaire designed to measure the aptitude of incoming players Have you ever fallen in love with a fictitious person over the internet?

P.J. Puts Choke on Hold .. Until the moment when Latrell Sprewell mistook P.J. Carlesimos neck for a climbing rope, Carlesimo was a hot property, an immensely successful college coach (Wagner, Seton Hall) with a good record at his first NBA stop, Portland.

Prior to being choked by Sprewell, P.J.s record as an NBA coach was 137-109. Hed gone 67 and 167 since, including a 21-74 stint with Oklahoma City just before they became good. Optimistically speaking, the 63 year old Carlesimos days as a head coach were over. Hed been a Nets assistant for two years when Avery Johnson was sacked three weeks ago as the Nets coach. It was not surprising that billionaire Nets owner Mikhail Phodorosky did not look first to the Nets bench to find a permanent replacement. Instead, he openly courted Phil Jackson while naming PJ to coach in the interim.

For whatever reason, Jackson and the Nets could not come to terms, and the Nets went on a winning streak. Now, they are 12-2 since the firing, and PJ is safe for the season.

And Sprewell? Hes still having trouble getting a grip on things. At last word, he was fending off judgment creditors in his home town of Milwaukee.

Nats Go All In The St. Louis Cardinals were not the sole beneficiary of Drew Storens meltdown in the fifth game of the NLDS last October. They may not have even been the primary beneficiary. That title falls to Rafael Soriano, whom the Nats inked to a 28 million dollar two-year pact with an attainable option for a third year at the same price. This is the most expensive contract ever awarded to a closer.

Prior to game five, the Nats bullpen was viewed as one of their strengths, featuring two proven closers in Storen and Tyler Clippard. That perception changed following Game Five, and the Nats may have over reacted. Soriano is 33; he no longer has overpowering speed; and he is a negative force in the clubhouse. Furthermore, fashion-conscious Washington may not react favorably to his save celebration in which he fiercely untucks his shirt.

Trying to plug all possible holes in their run for a championship, the Nats may instead incur buyers remorse when they reflect upon their impulsive acquisition of Rafael Soriano.

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Pro Football Pleasures

December 15th, 2012 sendarama Posted in pro football | No Comments

The exterior of the Riviera Cafe, at the corner of 7th ave and 4th street in lower Manhattan, offers no hint of the pleasures which lie within. Theres no view of the water. Theres not even a sign that says Sports Bar.

You have to pass through the main level, midst the scent of omelettes and eggs benedict, down the stairway, and to the right before you come upon a sight more beautiful than the chorus line at the Follies Bergere seven flat screen tvs, each tuned to a different game, lined up in a row for the ten or so lucky patrons who have secured their seats at the bar for NFL Sunday.

What distinguishes this venue from the sports books at casinos or the gaudy sports bars which have sprouted up like weeds are the intimacy of the surroundings and the close proximity of the televisions. Without crooking your neck, by a mere roll of the eyeballs, it is possible to digest four games at once from the comfort of a bar stool a few feet away. With a nod to the left, or a slight turn to the right , the other three games come into view. Truth be told, one game was left uncovered. On this full house Sunday, with eight games kicking off at 1:00, there was no screen available for Philadelphia-Tampa Bay.

Because the Patriots were playing Monday, there was a smaller crowd than usual at this Boston-leaning bar; and though arriving late, I was able to secure a prime seat center court. Things were heating up. I had invested more than usual in the outcomes of several of these encounters, and felt good about my bets. Throw in multiple Dewars and sodas, an order of chicken wings, and the Sunday New York Times for slow moments, and I was set.

Early on there were setbacks. Pittsburgh fell behind big early, dooming my teaser. My straight plays on Washington, Cincinnati, and the Jets were going back and forth like a pinball. Because of line movements, I had live middle shots on Chicago-Minnesota, and Indianapolis-Tennessee. Of the seven games on the screens, I had action on six.

When youre watching games like this, you develop an awareness of the teams which transcends what you read in the write-ups or see on the highlights. Last-second victories have a way of obscuring mistakes. For example, lost in the euphoria of the Redskins comeback win against Baltimore was DAngelo Halls feeble attempt to dislodge the ball from Anquan Boldin rather than tackle him on a critical play.

At third and four from the Washington 35 late in the fourth quarter, Boldin caught a short pass near the left sideline and turned downfield. Hall latched on early, but instead of forcing Boldin out of bounds, or, God forbid, tackling him, Hall punched several times at the ball. But Boldins grasp was firm, and he ran 28 yards to the 7-yard line setting up the Ravens go-ahead touchdown. Had Baltimores lead held up, Hall would have received his rightful roasting.

Dallas was hailed for its emotional comeback road win over Cincinnati just a few days after two of its players were involved in a fatal car accident. But had the Bengals taken care of business and not muffed several scoring opportunities, the Boys would have been sent packing. A.J. Green bungled a sure touchdown pass in his breadbasket which would have clinched the game.

Even the Jets received plaudits for their second consecutive victory, a snorefest win over Jacksonville. The tabloids praised Sanchez for playing a mistake free game, but the Jets offense was as somnolent as ever. Rarely taking a chance, Sanchez accumulated a less than robust 111 yards through the air, which was an improvement over the previous week , when he was replaced by third string quarterback Greg McElroy. The Jets are so bad on offense that when they get inside the 20, the Red Zone Channel ignores them.

But no discussion of quarterback ineptitude would be complete without mention of Arizonas signal callers who have strung together, in the words of Mike Francesa, the worst quarterbacking performances in the history of the NFL.

Against the Jets two weeks ago, a 7-6 loss, Ryan Lindley, a rookie drafted in the sixth round out of San Diego State, went 10 for 31 and zero for 15 in third down opportunities. His replacement last Sunday, John Skelton, threw four interceptions in a 58-0 loss to Seattle. After starting the season 4-0, the Cardinals have lost nine straight. The most compulsive gambler in the universe could not bet this team no matter the spread.

At this late stage of the season, several of the contenders are revealing themselves to be pretenders. After its thrashing by Carolina Sunday, 11-2 Atlanta cannot be taken seriously. Pittsburgh lost a game which one diehard called the Steelers worst home performance in his lifetime. And hes 50.

Despite their explosion against New Orleans, the Giants defense relinquished 350 yards on the ground the past two weeks and appears vulnerable. Houston was decimated by New England Monday night. Chicago, after starting 7-1, has lost four of five. Only the Patriots have demonstrated the consistency of performance of a potential champion.

By 4:30, all of the one oclocks had been decided, the Redskins overtime win being the capper. Fittingly, after an afternoon of wild game (and mood) swings, Kai Forbaths field goal on the last play of the early games provided the winning margin for the Redskins and for me (-2.5). Three hours of unrestrained debauchery had ended on a high note,
but I was tired, a little bit drunk, and in need of a nap.

After all, I needed to be ready for Giants-Saints at 8:30.

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