Saturday, April 17, 2010

For Pete's Sake.....

Its time, its long been beyond time, but Peter Angelos needs to sell the Baltimore Orioles. He has single handidly killed the sport in Charm City, to the point now that he's irked generations of fans so that the sport may never recover in Balmer.

To get to this low, low point, one must revist the past. The once proud Brids of Baltimore were the most consistent team in baseball from the mid 1960's to the mid 1990's. They had the winningest overall record during that span, even better then the dreaded Yankees & Red Sox. Very rarely did the have a losing season during that span. The O's were routinely in contention for division titles, claiming 6 AL Championships in a 17 year span to go with the franchises only 3 World Titles. If you grew up in the 80's, the old 7 team AL East Division format was ultra competitve with 6 different teams wiining the division in a 10 year period ('81 Yanks, '82 Brewers, '83 Orioles, '84 Tigers, '85 Blue Jays, '86 Red Sox). Only Cleveland never came close to winning and thus they made a movie called Major League to even give Cleveland its Division Title!

If the Orioles of 1966-1996 had played in today's current wild card format, the team would have been in the playoffs on 7 other occassions in just the 80's & early '90's (1980, 81, 82, 89, 90, 92 and 93)!

After the death of Edward Bennet Williams in the late 80's, by the middle of the 1993season, the Orioles were sold to native Baltimorean Peter Angelos, a trial lawyer who made his money in Asbestos cases in the '80's and '90's. At the time, the franchise sold for a record $160-170 million, which seemed outlandish, but really was just the beginning of over inflation for sports franchises. The O's had just become the trend setters in the retro ballpark craze by opening Camden Yars in 1992 and were playing to sell out crowds every night. They had the Iron Man and local hero Cal Ripken, up and coming pitchers like Ben McDonald & Mike Mussina, and the ability to sign any free agent they wanted, like Rafeal Palmeiro and others. They were poised to win and Angelos seemed like a new breed of owner who could push the O's over the top, to compete with the Steinbrenners of the worlds. Beside, when Angelo's bought the O's, the Yankees were in the middle of a 15 year drought of not winning the dividion or making the playoffs (let that sink in for a second. If you grew up in the '80s, you were use to the Yankees sucking every year!)

As Angelos purchased the team and the club just moved from midtown Baltimore and 33rd street to downtown by the Inner Harbor. This move made it much easier for people south of town, specfically Washington D.C., to ride into the stadium off of I-95 and easy access to get out. Prior to this, a trip through downtown during rush hour could take up to an extra hour to make it to the north side of town and Memorial Stadium. Thus Angelos started catering to the new breed of fan from D.C., for lack of a better term, the Yuppie craze of back in the day, the D.C. lobbyists, lawyers and politicians who had no loyalty to Baltimore and the O's, but instead came to the games to be seen and because it was the "in" thing to do.

By catering to the transient D.C. crowd, Angelos turned his back on the loyalists who routinely put 2 million+ fans into Memorial Stadium from Baltimore, Western Maryland, Deleware, the Eastern Shore and South Central Pennsylvania. As a result as time moved on, fewer groups from this area were squeezed out in a ticket crunch due to the increase in demand from the D.C. area. Angelos' shunning of his core group of fans led to a slow dissolve of the O's fan who would come out to watch baseball and the O's, with or whithout the bells and whistles of Camden Yards. By the time that Ripken had retired in 2001, there was no reason for the D.C. elite to keep coming up I-95 to see the Birds as the team was becoming far removed from the 96-97 playoff runs. He ran off the great Davey Johnson and probably cost Baltimore a World Title in the process. No player development from the farm system coupled with bad free agent signing led to a quick demise, coupled with an incompetent front office that had a revolving door at the managerial and GM position. Despite the fact that Angelos always claimed territorial rights on D.C., its two seperate markets (see Ravens and Redskins) and Washington was pushing for its own team which eventually the Expos became the Nationals.

Thus a younger of generation of fans was lost and now the second generation is on the verge of being lost. With the consistent demise of Baltimore as a city (they make TV shows about this stuff, Homicide & The Wire) and a loss of population, coupled in the Nationals taking away millions of potential fans that Angelos catered too for a decade and throw in a horrible product on the field, the end of baseball in Balmer could be in the rearview mirror and be closer then it appears. In all seriousness, I could see the team moving if they keep getting crowds of 9-10,000 at Oriole Park, there is no way they can stay there and Angelos will be forced to sell or move.

Its a sad time to be an O's fans, with unthinkable 12 consecutive losing seasons staring down the barrel of a 13th with a 1-9 start. 1983 has become for the Orioles what 1918 was for the Red Sox. Angelos just turned down an offer from Cal Ripken to come in and work with the younger players pro bono, because the Birds are doing so well without him. The only chance of turning this around is for Angelos to sell the team and then Baltimore must rebuild like the Rays, invest in the scouting and player development. Thats a 10 year fix when you start the process, but on the bright side atleast we don't waste our time getting our hopes up because the O's suck so bad!

Please Peter Angelos, sell the team (preferably to Cal Ripken) and leave!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Playoff Time is finally here!

The NBA's second season has finally arrived, otherwise known as the time of the year that Coach Young drags into work because I'm till midnight watching games from the left coast!

My excitement is a little subdued because of the Celtics plunge from being an elite team at Christmas to a .500 club once the calander switched to 2K10. So I'm not looking for much out of the C's, I just don't believe you can flip a switch a get the job done. But time will tell.

The West should be very competitive even though the Lakers secured the top seed, they've been dealing with injuries lately and have struggled down the stretch. I think they will miss Trvor Ariza once the playoffs begin. He was a huge difference maker last year.

Time for predictions and as always, no wagering unless you want a visit from John Tyson.

East Round 1:
Cavs over Bulls in 6. Cleveland could have put Chicago out of the playoffs last week but instead rested LBJ and now have to deal with Derrick Rose. Of course, this is a match up of incompetent coaches between Brown & Del Negro. Expect this to be more competitive because the Bulls have some decent players & playoff experience.

Magic over Bobcats in 4. Too many weapons for O-Town.

Hawks over Bucks in 5. Atlanta is for real, Jamal Crawford great addition off the bench.

Heat over Celtics in 7. The Celts don't have it and Dwayne Wade is the best player on the floor. Could be enough to end this second era of the Big 3. Rondo could change this series though to a W for the C's.

2nd Round
Cavs over Heat in 5. No contest for the Cavs. They take care of business

Magic over Hawks in 7. Tough series but I wonder if the Hawks are mentally tough enough to win these types of series. They have the talent but still give too many games away against lesser competition for me to pick them over Orlando.

East Finals
Cavs over Magic in 7. I was shocked that Orlando handled Cleveland with such ease last year, especially with how fortunate they were to beat an undermanned Boston in 7games. Shaq's presence on the inside could be the difference because they have extra fouls and bodies to bang with Dwight Howard. That should be the difference.

West Round 1
Lakers over OKC in 4. No contest for Kobe and company.

Mavs over Spurs in 7. I wish the Spurs were the 8 seed and playing the Lakers. Its a better match up for SA then Dallas is. Dirk & company get the job done.

Phoenix over Portland in 5. Easy win for the Suns. PHX is playing well and the Blazers are too young.

Denver over Utah in 7. Great series. Feel that Utah shot themselves in the foot by losing the 2/3 seed late in the season. Now they go on the road to face the emotional Nuggets who are dealing with George Karl's cancer issues.

2nd Round
Nuggets over Lakers in 6. The Lakers have issues and Denver knows they had LA beat and let them off the mat last season. If they get them in the same position, this time the Nuggets will finish them off.

Dallas over Phoenix in 6. Should be a high scoring affair with Dallas squeaking it out in 6.

West Finals
Denver over Dallas in 6. Nuggets make it all the way and the Birdman Spiked hair becomes a national fad. Probably more of a hope George Karl gets to win it all pick, but I liked what Denver was doing last year and maybe they can get it done this time around.

NBA Finals. Easy to pick Kobe vs Lebron, just like Nike, but Denver vs Cleveland would be interesting. Mello vs Lebron and LBJ gets done. Cavs in 6. Lebron stays instead of heading to NYC over the summer.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Gathering Storm...

Besides being the name of an excellent HBO movie about Winston Churchill and England's movement into World War II, The Gathering Storm can also be used to describe the circumstances revolving around an upcoming weekend that happened three years ago.

That event was Nick Saban's first A-Day game as the Alabama Head Coach when over 92,000 people swarmed into Bryant-Denny Stadium to watch a glorified scrimmage. It was at that precise moment that Saban has recollected that he could accomplish special things at The Capstone culminating with another perfect season in 2009 and earning Alabama's 13th National Championship.

While the rest of the country bashed Alabama and their fan base for such a large turnout, recycling the tired stories about the fanaticism of Alabama Football, one thing that was overlooked was the sheer beauty of the moment.

It was a perfect storm of loyal fans who love a university, coupled with the excitement of a new, proven head coach about to take the thrones of the program and add in a dose of absolutely super weather, you had the making of a Perfect Storm (insert George Clooney line here) of over 100,000 showing up at a stadium that seats 92,138.

The large crowd caught Alabama officials off guard. 50-60,000 seemed reasonable, but the place just kept filling. Having driven over from Atlanta for the game, we were caught in a traffic jam over 60 miles from the stadium, lined with cars with license plates from Tennessee to Indiana to Virginia adorned with Alabama flags hanging from windows descending on Tuscaloosa. The city fire marshalls had to turn people away by the middle of the 2nd quarter. My own estimates were that there had to 100,000-110,000 in the stadium or just turned away at the gates. Eating establishments were caught off guard, short staffed for a typical gameday crowd in April. I've never seen as many people in the streets upon conclusion of a contest as I did on that day.

The other thing to examine is this was not a planned event like other schools have staged since that fateful day in April 2007, a university sponsored event like Ohio State or Nebraska have pulled actively seeking to sell out the stadium. Instead this was just a sheer lovefest for a program that had seen low times during the previous 10 years and that many felt could now turn the corner towards being the elite program it should be.

And now that Alabama is currently recognized as the premiere program in college football again, ESPN is seeing fit to televise the event for a second consecutive year. Funny how a ground swell support for event has led to The Worldwide Leader to picking up several spring football telecasts to show to the entire nation. Even little brother Auburn gets a look on ESPNU.

So this weekend, while the rest of the world is salivating or recounting Tiger and The Masters, the beginning of the NBA playoffs or a day 12 of a 162 day baseball season that never ends, the majority of people in the state of Alabama will either be in Tuscaloosa or Auburn or hunkering down in front of the tube to watch Sping Football in stunning HD television.

Laugh if you must America, but the road to # 14 (maybe # 1 1/2 for Auburn) was starting to be paved well before this coming weekend. Roll Tide!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

No COTY love for Jerry

Don Chaney, Sam Mitchell and ahem, Mike Dunleavy.

What do they have in common? They've all been run out of NBA coaching jobs, never made The Finals but they've also been NBA Coach of the Year. Amazingly the most consistent, longest tenured coach in the four major professional sports leagues has never received the NBA's top coaching Honor. Sad considering the shelf life of an NBA job is only 3 years

That man is Jerry Sloan of the Utah Jazz!

The winner of 6 Division Titles, who has been to 6 Western Conference Finals (a very underated achievement) and unfortunately for him he ran into Jordan's Bulls during his two NBA Finals Appearances, has never won Coach of the Year honors in the league.

Yet the hard nosed former Chicago bulls star continues to pluck away in Salt Lake City, consistently producing quality teams for one of the NBA's wildest fan bases. Head Coach of the Jazz since 1988 (think about that, 22 years!), he has compiled 1136career wins, winning over 50 games on 12 occassions. Yet he largely goes unnoticed as a coaching great, which is ashame.

Sloan has bridged the gap from the Stockton/Malone era to winning big again in the last few years while developing star guard Deron Williams and putting the Jazz in position to win in the ultra competitve Western Conference. It was just 3 years ago that Utah came from no where to make the conference finals and prove once again that he can get the job done. They are currently tied with Denver for first in their division and have even inched up to the 2 seed in the West early last week.

If Sloan can somehow get Andrei Kirelinko healthy in the next week, he then has a shut down defender to go up against the likes of Carmello & Kobe late in games to make another playoff run in the west.

Of course, Sloan is deserving of the award again this year, but probably won't get it and that will be fine with him. Someone will more then likely win it and be fired within three years while Sloan continues to work in SLC. Besides, any coach wearing a John Deere hat to a press conference could probably care less about such chivalry anyway.

Friday, April 2, 2010


At yesterday's state of the game address, the NCAA commented on the fact that this organization is looking into expanding the NCAA tournament to 96 teams. Thats not a misprint, 96!

There are a ton of angles to look at this impending decision, but the bottom line is $$$$. The NCAA is looking to milk as much money out of the TV folks, whether that ends up continuing to be CBS or should ESPN, NBC or FOX get in on the upcoming bidding war. But who can blame the NCAA, I guess. Bluebloods like UNC, UConn & UCLA could of made the field this year and boosted ratings instead og being relegated to the NIT!

Nevermind that when I tune in Thursday afternoon to watch NCAA basketball, I see tons of empty seats. The arenas don't sell out. That Old Dominion-Notre Dame game looked like 500 people were there. Even old Big Blue, the Kentucky fan base could not come close to filling up the New Orleans Arena. Why pay $75 for a ticket when I can get them on the street for $5? Even the Sweet 16 in Utah had a ton of empty seats.

This trend will continue with the proposal of extending the the first weekend into a second week. Talk about a water downed product. Who could take off a week to follow their university for 6 days? Most people I know are working and trying to just to make ends meat, only the extreme wealthy would go to follow a team for 6 days over the first 3 rounds, still not even reaching the Sweet 16.

Add into this mix, are you really gonna watch CBS primetime NCAA Tournament basketball when the first round match up is 20-12 #20 seed Cleveland State against 22-8 # 13 seed Texas Christian, battling for the right to take on first bye recipient & # 5 seed Washington??? Let's get real people, I have better things to do, like watch paint dry.

The regular season in college hoops is even more meaningless. Why schedule a tough out of conference game. Why not just build up 13-14 wins on cupcakes, go 8-8 in conference plays and finish 22-8, make the tournament. Who cares about strengh of schedule or RPI, eveybody gets a trophy!

Alot of talking heads say this will provide more job security. I disagree. If I'm an athletic director at a power 6 conference (SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, Big East) and we don't make that Field of 96 two years straight, in the words of Donald Trump, "You're Fired." No excuse. I wouldn't even let you in the building to clean your office out. Again, if I hire you and you don't make the tournament in 2 years, you're done. On to the next candidate. Its inexcusable for Power 6 schools not too make it. Atleast now, if you took over a horrible situation (see Anthony Grant & Tony Barbee), your more likely to get 3-5 years to get if turned around. Not now, get in or get out of my arena!

Finally, the hypocrisy of the NCAA is always fun. They promote STUDENT-Athletes, ahem, yet a team that would play on that first Thursday and advance to a Sweet 16/Elite 8 would be gone from campus for 2 straight weeks of class! Yet they are students. Come on people, these kids miss class all the time with mid week games. Football is the one sport that hardly ever misses class, since their is only 4-6 road games and you leave on a Friday & are back the next day. Yet its academic integrity at its finest, this almighty great NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Thank goodness College Football doesn't have a playoff!