Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fixing the 2008 Reds for 2009...


270 Homeruns
755 Walks
646 RBIs
4th in Rookie of the Year voting
Twice in the top 30 in the MVP vote

Who’s that? Mr. Adam Troy Dunn, ex-Cincinnati Reds, current Diamondback for hire.

Sometimes it’s hard to let it go. As a lifelong Reds fan, I’m utterly dismayed about the state of the franchise…and even more so now that the powers that be decided that they can let 270 homeruns walk out the door for little to nothing.


To further my frustration, I stumbled upon across an article in the Dayton Daily News by Greg Simms stating the Reds wouldn’t look like the same team next year as they do this year. While that’s obvious to an extent, the author of the article essentially says that every position player the Reds currently have is expendable. According to Simms, the Reds have a good rotation and absolutely no position players that are considered untouchable.


Simms' comments on the 2009 Reds are below, with my remarks in italics.




Catcher: Championships are built up the middle, starting here. There's nobody
special, so expect a new face.


For a team that's carried three catchers on the roster in recent memory, it's a sign of the poor team construction that none of the Reds catchers have any right to be on any MLB team in 2009. Finding a new catcher (or two) has to be a priority.



First base: Joey Votto. He has slugger potential, but he's no defensive whiz. He
could play left field, where he would be slow. I can see postage on his
forehead.

Sure, at time Votto has had a lead glove...but he's young and one of the Reds most consistent hitters. In fact, Votto is one of the few Reds that seems to have the "know how" to work a pitcher, select a pitch, and then drive it to make something happen. Of all the positions, first base ought to be one of the Reds' least worries.



Second base: Brandon Phillips. The team's best player, but he could be dealt for
help elsewhere.

You've got to be kidding Mr. Simms. If the Reds trade away Phillips (and presumably you are advocating multiple "young" talents in return to fill multiple positions), the Reds would have ZERO stars. Lest anyone forget, baseball is a business...and since it appears the Reds won't be winning a lot, they better have at least some players worth watching or they'll never make their potential customers part with their hard-earned dollars by going to the ballpark.



Third base: Edwin Encarnacion. A GM's nightmare. All the talent is there, but
he's erratic and he's 25. Could become a star somewhere else.

While I strongly disagreed with Simms' assessment of 2nd base, he's correct in regards to Encarnacion. There appears to be a great chance that Edwin is the Reds' version of Cleveland's Brandon Phillips. While in Cleveland, Phillips was a bit of a loose cannon, one who didn't seem to care nor take instruction...lackadaisical some would say. Edwin also has the same makings in Cincinnati, a trade probably turns Edwin into a star and, thus, makes him difficult to trade away without looking like a buffoon on the GM's part. Of course, given recent Reds trades, it appears the GM and other upper level brass aren't afraid of looking like buffoons.



Shortstop: Jeff Keppinger has limited range. Say goodbye, Jeff.


Keppinger has played quite well, but an upgrade at shortstop (while nice) is bound to be expensive. Of the different positions, shortstop should not be one of the top priorities. I certainly wouldn't dismiss Keppinger as quickly as Simms wants to.


Outfield: Load 'em up and ship 'em out. Fan favorite Jay Bruce might hold down
right field, but he's slow.


Seriously? Bruce, the media-appointed savior of the Reds is now slow and thus should be shipped out? The poor guys only been playing MLB for less than a year and you are ready to ship him out because he's slow?! Freel's fast, but I don't hear anyone (anyone who's sane at least) saying that Freel ought to be a starting outfielder. It takes more than speed, and Bruce has the other skills. That said, the rest of the outfield is problem. Without Dunn and Griffey, the Reds don't have a constant, legitimate power threat...something that they must have in the bandbox of a ballpark (and something fans and media alike seem to forget). Sometimes you've got to play the hand you are dealt, in the Reds case, the ballpark is homerun friendly, so if you don't have any homerun hitters you are shooting yourself in the foot and then trying to run a race...the results aren't likely to be positive.


Pitching: Rotation looks good. Aaron Harang, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and
Bronson Arroyo. Bullpen needs rebuilding. Don't worry. Jocketty and staff know
where the talent is.


I agree here, the rotation is (remarkably) the Reds strength. Of course, that's assuming Aaron Harang fixes whatever has ailed him this year (Dusty perhaps?), Bronson continues on his resurgence, and the two young guns avoid collapsing next year. The bullpen hasn't been as bad as the recent numbers suggest...especially when you consider that Reds had ZERO complete games up until last week.


---
And with that, I bid adieu to the 2008 Cincinnati Reds season. I won't stop watching baseball, but the Reds simply aren't worth my time with their terrible play, lack of stars, and questionable (at best) management and ownership. The good news is, there's always next year (oh yeah, and NCAA and NFL football are starting up).
Source:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

MLB Power Rankings: August 26, 2008

All records accurate as of 11:45 PM EST on August 25, 2008.

For this week’s Power Rankings, each team rank is based (mostly) upon their chance for making the playoffs. Thus, a weaker team in a weaker division (*cough* Dodgers) may be ranked ahead of teams that are stronger but happen to have the misfortune of residing in a stronger division (such as the Cardinals or Yankees). (All playoff odds taken from coolstandings).

1. Los Angeles Angels (79 – 50, playoff odds: 99.9%): The Angels earn the top Power Ranking spot no matter how you slice it, whether you base it on playoffs odds, overall record, rotation strength, etc.

2. Chicago Cubs (81 – 50, playoff odds: 98.3%): The Cubs appear to be the strongest lock for the National League playoffs. Could a Chicago – LA World Series be in the cards? (Hint, it’s possible for it to be the other Chicago playing the other LA…)

3. Tampa Bay Rays (79 – 50, playoff odds: 95.4%): Since my Reds have no shot (literally) at the playoffs, I’m seriously considering adopting the Rays as my team to root for during October. I know my loyal Red Sox readers claim there is room on the Boston bandwagon..but I'm fairly certain the Tampa bandwagon still needs a driver!

4. Milwaukee Brewers (76 – 55, playoff odds: 78.2%): The majority of the playoff scenarios have the Brew crew winning the wild card, but they are still close enough to the Cubs that it is possible for them to win the NL Central crown.

5. Boston Red Sox (75 – 55, playoff odds: 75%): The Red Sox have a 3 out of 4 chance of making the playoffs…something that FOX is probably happy about since it appears the Yankees won’t be joining them (based on TV ratings).

6. Arizona Diamondbacks (68 – 62, playoff odds: 72.9%): In the division that no one seems to want to win, the Diamondbacks have pulled far enough ahead to win their division roughly 7 out of 10 times…

7. Minnesota Twins (74 – 56, playoff odds: 61.6%): The first six teams in the rankings might be safe bets to make the playoffs…but starting with Minnesota, it’s still in the “too early to call” range.

8. Chicago White Sox (74 – 56, playoff odds: 58.7%): The White Sox would probably be pleased with a Chicago – LA World Series, assuming the LA in question was the Dodgers ranked a few spots below them.

9. New York Mets (73 – 59, playoff odds: 53.2%): Flip a coin, heads the Mets make playoffs, tails they don’t. Math lesson complete.

10. Philadelphia Phillies (72 – 59, playoff odds: 49.7%): Flip a coin, heads the Phillies don’t make the playoffs, tails they do. Math lesson review complete.

11. Los Angeles Dodgers (65 – 66, playoff odds: 25.6%): The Dodgers are lucky to be in the NL West…only there can you be 1 game under .500 this close to September and still have better than a 1 in 4 shot at playoffs!

12. St. Louis Cardinals (73 – 59, playoff odds: 17.5%): Bookies pay attention…the Cardinals have an uphill battle to make the playoffs…but they still are predicted to make it roughly 1 out of every 5 times.

13. New York Yankees (70 – 60, playoff odds: 7.3%): As if Yankee fans needed any more proof their season was going down the drain, that 7.3% chance of making the playoffs is mighty daunting.

14. Florida Marlins (67 – 64, playoff odds: 2.9%): Even Pete Rose wouldn’t bet on the Marlins making the playoffs at this point.

15. Toronto Blue Jays (67 – 63, playoff odds: 1.6%): The Blue Jays need to muster some Colorado Rockie magic (circa 2007) if they are to serious entertain thoughts of playing in October.

16. Colorado Rockies (61 – 71, playoff odds: 1.3%): There’s something to be said for being 10 games under .500 and still having some chance (any chance) at playoffs…not a lot mind you, but there is something to be said.

17. Detroit Tigers (64 – 66, playoff odds: 0.2%): Guess the Tigers weren’t so mighty after all. More proof that it doesn’t take a lot of skill to be a MLB prognosticator.

18. San Francisco Giants (58 – 72, playoff odds: 0.2%): Insert your own horrible NL West joke here for a team 14 games under .500….

19. Texas Rangers (63 – 68, playoff odds: 0.1%): Well, they aren’t eliminated yet, that’s a start.

20. Baltimore Orioles (62 – 68, playoff odds: 0.1%): Another rough season for Oriole fans…and yet the Orioles weren’t truly bad this year. My guess is that the AL East causes a lot of Oriole fans to gnash their teeth at night wondering why their team is stuck in that division.

21. Cleveland Indians (62 – 67, playoff odds: 0.1%): The Indians outlasted the Reds for the battle of Ohio teams not yet eliminated from playoffs.

22. Houston Astros (66 – 65, playoff odds: 0.1%): Compared to the other teams with a 0.1% chance of making the playoffs, the Astros look awesome. Unfortunately, the Cardinals, Brewers, and Cubs are look more awesome.

23. Atlanta Braves (57 – 74, playoff odds: 0.1%): Here’s a fun game to play at home, which team with a 0.1% chance of making the playoffs now will be eliminated last?

24 – 30: The following teams all have a 0.0% chance of making the playoffs: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Seattle, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego, and Washington. Luckily, for fans of those teams, football season is about to start (and each of the eliminated cities has a football team).

There you have it, another installment of my Major League Baseball Power Rankings. As always, let me know what you think in the comments.
-fanofreds

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Black Hole Known as Corey Patterson

In my ever growing disdain for the Reds and (specifically) Reds management, last night's game was but a small microcosm of the futility and absurdity plaguing the Cincinnati Reds.

Exhibit A:


Now, that may be difficult to read but it was last night's box score against the Colorado Rockies (one of the few teams still, somehow, worse than the Reds). During last night's game, Dickerson and Bruce each had 1 hit, Phillips and Encarnacion each had 2 hits, Keppinger and Votto each had 3 hits...it is safe to say that the Rockies' pitching wasn't fooling the Reds...except for the black hole known as Corey Patterson.

Patterson managed to go 0-5, complete with 2 strike outs and a whopping 5 left on base. The other day I mentioned that Patterson's average was a pathetic .195. Well, since then he's managed to lower it to .193. I'm fairly certain you could walk up to the plate, close your eyes, and swing and you'd still hit at least .193...

I'm not trying to ridicule Patterson (though it is at slightly deserved), but rather, I'm trying to point out the inherent absurdities that the Reds management and ownership expects their loyal fans to overlook and/or support with our hard earned dollars. I'm particularly critical of the ownership and management because they sent out that now infamous letter to the fans and yet contradicted themselves immediately. Patterson has no right to play now, and he certainly shouldn't be part of the Reds future for next year or beyond.

The 2008 MLB season has been a difficult one for Reds fans. We expected better things but were greeted with a team that seemed to not care, management that seemed to not be watching, and ownership that was all to eager to pocket some coin and let the team flounder like a fish out of water. Corey Patterson isn't the cause of all those problems, but he is one of the results. And much like a black hole, it seems that no one can escape his power and finally cut (or at least bench) him for the remainder of the already ruined season.

Source:

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/boxscore;_ylt=AskhhTlHAjK8j_c9eBFwEfU5nYcB?gid=280822127

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Olympics: Where 14 is the new 16?

To the surprise of probably no one, it appears that China has lied about some of their Olympic athlete ages. According to a security researcher, who was apparently quite adept as using Google, China had online documents stating that two of their gymnasts (Kexin He and Yuyuan Jiang) were actually 14 years old (not the required 16 years).




Not to be outdone, the Associated Press did their own internet-based exploration, where they apparently discovered online documents stating that He was only 13 years old 9 months ago... Mathematically, either the Chinese are lying or people age really quickly in China...


You don't think I'm 16?







According to ESPN, if He's age was "misremembered" as Roger Clemens might say, the Chinese team would be stripped of its team gold medal (which means the United States would win the gold) and He would be stripped of her individual gold medal on the uneven bars (resulting in a gold medal for American Nastia Liukin). The stakes for the American athletes are quite high...which leads to the problem I have with the story.





As an American, I'm obviously pleased with the American gymnast's results during the Olympics (no matter what the final colors of the medals are after the investigation). However, I wish that the investigation wasn't forced by Americans. I'm slightly afraid that the complaining done on behalf of the American gymnasts, by Americans, will come off as mostly "whining" by the rest of the world.

After spending about 10 days overseas during the past summer (Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria), I have become a bit more sensitive to the world's perception of Americans. (For example, many people in Austria equated America to South Park, ouch.) In this world of political turmoil, the Olympics ought to represent the best of each participating country...China already (apparently) let down their end of the bargain (but given their human rights violations, that shouldn't be surprising)...the United States ought to try and take the high road.

Now, I understand the desire for the gold on the gymnast's part (I'm not questioning that). What I am questioning is the "rogue" style of investigations launched by American media members and hackers in a grassroots attempt to invalidate the results of an international competition (one in which the United States Olympic Committee said that they weren't going to appeal at the time). The whole incident adds to the United States international reputation of "selfishness and greed", which is a shame.

That said, I think that the American athletes have represented the United States extremely well. Whether by being gracious in victory or complimentary in defeat, I have been proud of the poise and maturity demonstrated by most of the American athletes. Heck, even the basketball team has said and done the right things this Olympiad (something that cannot be said about the previous Summer Olympics).

Essentially, I hope that the brashness and underhandedness demonstrated by a select few Americans (who were NOT Olympians) won't overshadow the good that the American athletes have done in Beijing. To be fair, I hope that the trickery and underhandedness demonstrated by the Chinese (again, it was NON athletes lying and covering up) won't overshadow the amazing accomplishments of the other 80+ Chinese medals winners.


Sources:




http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-10021343-83.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/olympics/2599227/Chinese-Olympic-gymnast-He-Kexin-facing-age-inquiry.html
http://www.newsday.com/media/photo/2008-08/41678525.jpg

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Letter From Reds Management to the Fans



Yesterday, the Reds' emailed a letter to many of their fans (not me though). Their letter has been discussed on Reds' blogs and other websites, but as a Reds fan myself, I needed to have my say as well. First, the letter:







Dear Fans,
Thank you for your loyalty and support of the Cincinnati Reds. You
are extremely vital to the success of the Reds, and it is important we share
with you the thinking behind our recent personnel decisions.

Since taking ownership of this franchise, we have aggressively tried to improve our Major League roster for the purpose of restoring championship baseball to Cincinnati.
We have sought and signed proven players. We have extended the contracts of
select current players. We added Dusty Baker, a proven winning manager. And, we
have capitalized on our burgeoning younger players like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce
and Johnny Cueto.

We had high expectations for the 2008 season. Unfortunately the team has not played up to our expectations and we have sustained injuries to key players within our starting lineup and rotation.

We opted to trade Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn at this time because we believe it provided the best outcome for the long-term success of the organization. By executing these inevitable changes now, we secured more players as part of our focus towards building a deeper, stronger inventory of young talent.

We are pleased that the trades allow Griffey and Dunn the opportunity to play for teams in tight division races. Both Ken and Adam made significant contributions to the Reds and we are extremely proud and grateful they wore the Reds uniform.

While the run production generated by these two veterans will not be quickly replaced, we chose to endure the short-term ramifications for the sake of building a strong, competitive team for 2009 and many seasons to come.

The vast majority of our 50 draft picks were signed, culminating last week with first-rounder Yonder Alonso and a pair of talented pitchers. Our expanded scouting operations also signed Juan Duran from the Dominican Republic and Yorman Rodriguez from Venezuela, who are arguably the best amateur free agent position players from their respective countries.

As we near September, we will continue to provide valuable playing time to our
young players and new acquisitions who we feel can become significant
contributors at the Major League level. We ask your continued trust and patience
as we build the roster that will get us back on top. We appreciate your support
and look forward to seeing you at the ballpark.

Sincerely,
Bob Castellini
President & CEO
Walt Jocketty
President of Baseball Operations & GM


Now, I don't know who Castellini and Jocketty think they are kidding... Their letter is full of inconsistencies and false hope. For example,


As we near September, we will continue to provide valuable playing time to our
young players and new acquisitions who we feel can become significant
contributors at the Major League level.

Now, that is probably the correct attitude for a team that has no playoff chances to take about this time of year. However, are the Reds actually taking that stance? In a word, no. Here is the Reds' #7 hitter in yesterday's game (the game occurred in the evening, the letter went out earlier in the day).
7. C. Patterson cf (0-3, 1K) .195

In case you don't follow the Reds as religiously as I do (and good for you I must say), Corey Patterson is a free agent after this season. The Reds are paying him $3 million for his .195 average... Do the math, Patterson has 50 hits so far this year... Which means the Reds are paying Corey Patterson $60,000 per hit. But no, the Reds couldn't afford to keep Dunn or Griffey...at least those two were worth watching. What's scary, if the Reds letter is to be believed, Patterson might still be in the plans for next year... I can tell you right now that no other team will sign him - especially for $3 million like the Reds did this year.


I could pick apart almost every paragraph of the letter, but this part also stuck out as something that had to be commented on:

We opted to trade Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn at this time because we believe
it provided the best outcome for the long-term success of the organization. By
executing these inevitable changes now, we secured more players as part of our
focus towards building a deeper, stronger inventory of young talent.


First, I've said it before, I fail to see how trading Dunn provides the best outcome for the long-term success of the Reds. Dunn consistently provides 100 runs, 100 walks, and 40 homeruns. Who else on the free agent market this year could come close to that (answer: overpriced Manny Ramirez and Pat Burrell..aka Dunn II).



Second, ignoring the Dunn debacle, the Reds management seems to not grasp how baseball works. Baseball is a team sport - meaning you need pitchers, a catcher or two (not three), infielders, outfielders, etc. You don't win by having 6 great catchers and no outfielders...which means that "a deeper, stronger inventory of young talent" won't do diddly-squat at the Major League level. You need a strong team, not a collection of third baseman and first basemen. After all, only one third baseman can play at a time...


Finally, I leave you with:

We ask your continued trust and patience as we build the roster that will get us
back on top. We appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you at the
ballpark.

Hah. I'm about as big of a Reds' fan as there is (that's why I have this blog and my Sporting News blog, each mostly dedicated to Cincinnati baseball), but even I can't buy what Walt and Bob are trying to sell. I don't know why anyone would pay money to watch a team "led" by .195 hitting Corey Patterson. I don't know why anyone would pay money to watch a team that's more than 20 games out of first. I don't know why anyone would pay money to watch a team that trades its few stars for a "stockpile" of minor leaguers (none of whom are terribly impressive). And finally, I don't know why Bob and Walt can't figure that out...and that might be what scares me the most.

I'd say there's always next year, but next year looks like it'll be almost impossible to not lose 100 games...


Sources:

http://baseballevolution.com/images/dunnh1.bmp
http://www.red-hot-mama.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/patterson_fail.jpg
http://www.sportslogos.net/logo.php?id=706

Monday, August 18, 2008

Let's Fix Hockey...or why I know nothing about NHL

FYI: This post was originally published on February 12, 2008 on my SportingNews Blog, it has been slightly modified to what you see here. Sometimes I'm asked why I never write about specific sports (especially hockey)...here's why. Please note, the suggestions I make are (mostly) tongue-in-cheek. I truly don't care for hockey, but even I recognize some of my ideas are bit too radical. However, I hope they are food for thought at the very least.

---

I know nothing about hockey. There – I said it. That’s the first step to recovery right?

“But fanofreds,” you ask, “why write about hockey if you don’t know anything about it? Isn’t that a waste of both your time and the reader’s time?”

Ah contraire my little italics speaking friend. In fact, sometimes the best way for other people to understand the weaknesses within their favorite sport is to read somebody else's (negative) opinions...

Alright, well, how about you tell us what you do know about hockey…you’ve got to know something don’t you?

Indeed, my opening statement wasn’t to be taken literally. I know that hockey is played on ice, with a black puck. I know that the professional hockey players were on strike recently, and I know that I didn’t miss them because SportsCenter could be devoted to other sports that I did follow. I know that hockey played a game outside this year, perhaps around Buffalo? I know I didn’t watch the game, nor do I care who won. I know hockey has a penalty box and a zamboni to resurface the ice. I don’t know why I know that.

So, you do know something about it. Can you name any professional NHL teams? Perhaps you know more about hockey than you thought Mr. Fanofreds.

Not really Mr. Slanted Text. Here’s a funny story for you that demonstrates the extent of my hockey apathy. I remember, back in third grade, one of my buddies asked me what my favorite hockey team was. I, of course, had no idea who to pick so I picked the Penguins…not because they were from my home state of PA, but rather, because the penguin was my favorite animal at that time. To this day, I still claim the Penguins as my “favorite” team…but you won’t find many TSN Blogs written by me about the Penguins (a total of 1 entry, compared to 83 about the Cincinnati Reds).



Look at the bright side, at least you didn’t choose them in a bandwagon-style.

Indeed.

Since you appear to be an avid sports fan, why don’t you like hockey? Are there specific reasons?

What a great question, one that certainly requires a bit of thought. Hockey, much like basketball, seems to be too much going back and forth down the rink/court and not enough action. As an ex-high school wrestler (a good 40 pounds ago), I have legitimate reasons to dislike basketball. Hockey, on the other hand, always struck me as a boring basketball game. Besides that, I always found hockey a bit difficult to watch. Keeping track of the puck used to be quite difficult…though I hear they’ve added some television technology to help with that nowadays.

Back and forth?! It’s a game of skill, full of excitement and strategy.

So is ping pong, but have you ever sat next to a table and watched a game? You’ll be dizzy in no time flat from watching the ball bounce back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth…

Enough already, alright wise guy – how would you fix hockey? In other words, make it more interesting for the “average” fan?

You asked for it, here you go:
Fanofreds’ Quick Fixes to Hockey:
1. Goalies pads reduced to the sizes of armor worn by Mr. Barry Bonds. Players should be able to score with a well placed shot. Before you start complaining that the scoring would be off the charts, look at soccer. Have you ever compared the size of the goalie to the size of the goal? It’s amazing there is EVER a 1-0 game…and yet it’s the norm because the players know the value of teamwork and defense.

2. No penalty box. Let them fight, but don’t stop the game. If a fight is going on and a goal is scored, all fighting players should get kicked out. If that’s too harsh, institute a yellow card / red card system like soccer.

3. Shrink the league. Hockey in Florida, c’mon now…you don’t see professional baseball in the arctic circle. Make it 2 six-team leagues, top two teams from each league play each other in a best 5 series (with the team with the better record being home in games 1, 2, and 5). Then the league winners play each other in a best of 7 series for the title.

4. Shorten the season, begin it in December, and let it hit its peak during January, and put the playoffs during the “dead sports time.” That way, hockey will be done before March Madness, and the NHL will have full stage during the month of February with its playoffs.

5. Institute those four ideas, and you’ll end up with a vibrant, highly competitive league with the playoffs occurring during a time where there is little sports news.


---
My thanks go out to Mr. Italic Writing Guy, who seemed to know the exact questions I wanted to answer.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

MLB Power Rankings: August 17, 2008

All records accurate as of 5:15 PM EST on August 17, 2008.

1. Los Angeles Angels (76 – 46): Last week the Angels has a 99.7% chance of making the playoffs, this week it is up to 99.9% (according to ESPN.com). It’s only a matter of days before they clinch their spot in the playoffs!

2. Chicago Cubs (76 – 48): The Cubs have a 97.6% chance of making the playoffs, which is second best behind the Angels.

3. Tampa Bay Rays (74 – 48): The Rays set their franchise win record a few weeks ago – now they are attempting to do something that neither they, the Blue Jays, nor the Orioles have been able to accomplish in a long time: finish ahead of both the Red Sox and Yankees.

4. Boston Red Sox (71 – 53): Boston trails the division leading Rays by 4 games, but they are 5 games up on the Yankees. Something tells me many Red Sox fans will settle for the Wild Card and eliminating the Yankees from the playoffs altogether as opposed to winning the division crown.

5. Milwaukee Brewers (71 – 53): Remember when the National League Central was the laughingstock of baseball? Now, according to the Power Rankings, they are on par with the AL East (2 teams in the top 5, with an average position of 3.5).

6. Minnesota Twins (70 – 53): The Twins sit half a game ahead of the White Sox for the AL Central lead.

7. Chicago White Sox (69 – 53): The White Sox have outscored their opponents by 80 runs (which is best in their division) but they still trail the Twins by half a game. Of course, they appear ready to make up that half a game as they lead the Athletics by 8 runs as the Power Rankings are being typed.

8. St. Louis Cardinals (70 – 57): The Cardinals move up a position in the rankings from last week, and in turn, prove that the NL Central might be the best division in baseball (at least the top half).

9. New York Mets (68 – 56): Last week I said the Mets needed to start playing more consistent baseball if they hoped to make the playoffs. Now, the Mets are riding a 6 game winning streak…which ought to be consistent enough!

10. New York Yankees (66 – 58): According to ESPN.com, the Yankees have only a 6.5% chance of making the playoffs. Something tells me the Steinbrenners won't be pleased this October when they are watching the Rays and Red Sox in the playoffs.

11. Toronto Blue Jays (64 – 60): Toronto’s .516 winning percentage would be enough to put them in a tie for first place in the National League West. Instead, they are mired in 4th place in the much tougher American League East.

12. Philadelphia Phillies (65 – 58): The Phillies are 2.5 games behind the Mets, mostly due to the Phillies putrid play lately (3-7 over their last 10 games, including a 4 game sweep in Los Angeles).

13. Arizona Diamondbacks (64 – 60): The Diamondbacks stay steady at #13 in the rankings (and, more importantly, in first place in their division).

14. Los Angeles Dodgers (63 – 60): Thanks to a recent 4 game sweep of the Phillies, the Dodgers have climbed back into the top half of the Power Rankings (and a mere half game behind Arizona for the division lead).

15. Florida Marlins (64 – 61): The Marlins are last team remaining on the Power Rankings with a chance of making the playoffs greater than 10%. They should thank their lucky stars they play in the NL East as opposed to almost any other division…especially since they have been outscored by 31 runs this year!

16. Houston Astros (63 – 61): The Astros proved me wrong (when I said they would tank the rest of the season) by winning 8 of their last 10. Unfortunately for Houston fans, it’s probably too little, too late.

17. Texas Rangers (62 – 62): The Rangers fell to .500, and in the process fell 3 spots in the rankings.

18. Cleveland Indians (56 – 67): The Indians get the nod for the highest ranked team with a losing record thanks to their hot play lately (5 game winning streak).

19. Baltimore Orioles (60 – 63): Despite being in last place, the Orioles have actually outscored their opponents for the year!

20. Detroit Tigers (60 – 64): So much for 1000 runs and the best team ever assembled. At this point, it’s safe to say the Tigers were nothing but a colossal disappointment.

21. Colorado Rockies (57 – 69): When more than half the teams in baseball have a winning record, the teams in the bottom portion of the Power Rankings are going to be especially bad. For further proof, the Rockies, a team 12 games under .500, are within reach of the top 66% of the rankings with only a few weeks to go.

22. Oakland Athletics (56 – 66): The Athletics are now 10 games under .500…it was not all that long ago when they were 6 games over .500. Ouch.

23. Atlanta Braves (56 – 68): The Braves have outscored their opponents (barely), but that suggests that they have been unlucky this year more than anything else. Of course, cynical baseball fans will say it’s about time the Braves had some bad luck go their way after their run of division titles and pitchers with “slightly” larger strike zones than everyone else.

24. (tie) Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals (each 55 – 69): Combined, the Pirates and Royals have been outscored by 200 runs and have gone 5 and 15 in their last 10 games. Despite that, they are both better than 5 other Major League teams.

25. (see #24)

26. Cincinnati Reds (55 – 70): With the trading away of Griffey and Dunn, the Reds have no hope for a winning record once again, which pains me to say as a Reds fan.

27. San Francisco Giants (52 – 71): The Giants actually have a 0.1% chance of making the playoffs…despite their terrible record.

28. San Diego Padres (48 – 75): Not to be outdone by the Giants, the Padres also have a 0.1% chance of making the playoffs…and they are even worse than the Giants!

29. Seattle Mariners (46 – 76): The good news is, the Mariners are not the worst team in baseball. The bad news is that they are still 30 games under .500…

30. Washington Nationals (44 – 81): The Nationals have been outscored by 162 runs and are currently riding a 10 game losing streak. They might be lucky to win 6 more games (and reach the 50 win threshold) before the end of the season.

There you have it, another installment of my Major League Baseball Power Rankings. As always, let me know what you think in the comments.
-fanofreds

Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic Spirit?

Flip to any NBC affiliated station and you are likely to find some sort of Olympic coverage. Listen long enough (roughly 5 minutes) and you will likely hear mention of the “Olympic spirit”. You’ll probably hear tales of amazing personal trials, agonizing political pitfalls, and exhilarating Olympic appearances…all in the name of the so-called Olympic spirit. Undoubtedly, many of the vignettes you see during the television coverage embody the essence of the Olympic spirit…but do the Olympics themselves embody this seemingly mythical Olympic spirit? Perhaps more to the point, does the American television and internet coverage adhere to the Olympic spirit?

Unfortunately, not really.


For example, take James Blake. Blake is an American tennis player, one who defeated Roger Federer a few days ago for the first time in his career (after losing to Federer 8 previous times) enroute to the semifinals. Blake, for all intensive purposes, has had a great Olympics. On Friday, Blake played Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez, where the winner got to play for the Olympic gold medal. Blake ended up losing an extremely close match, but he didn’t do it with the grace or dignity that the Olympic spirit suggests he should have.

Instead, Blake was quoted as saying “I've spoken all week about how much I've enjoyed the Olympic experience, how much I love the spirit of it. That's a disappointing way to exit the tournament, when you not only lose the match, but you lose a little faith in your fellow competitor." Now, Blake wasn’t completely eliminated (he’ll play for the bronze medal later this week), but apparently only the gold is gold is now good enough for Blake (who before was given virtually no shot at beating Federer for a chance to play for any medal at all).

Blake’s indignation with his opponent was a result of a single contested point where the ball glanced off his opponents’ racquet and then went out of bounds. The referee called it out (which was incorrect since replays showed the ball actually glanced off of Gonzalez’ racquet). Blake become agitated because his opponent didn’t acknowledge that the ball hit his racquet…in Blakes’ mind, his opponent wasn’t showing the same Olympic spirit that Blake thought he was owed.

Gonzalez, for his part, claimed he wasn’t sure the ball even hit his racquet, saying “"I didn't feel anything, I mean, it's just one point. There is an umpire. If I'm 100 percent sure about it, I mean, I will give it. But I'm not sure."

Now, we can argue the validity of Gonzalez’ claim until we are blue in the face, but as a fellow tennis player (albeit nowhere near Olympic level), I can assure you that it is possible to play a point out and not actually know whether your racquet hit the ball or not. If it’s happened to me in casual play, I’m sure it can happen in a match where the competitors are routinely hitting 100+ mph serves and returns.

However, the match was a microcosm for what I have noticed throughout the entire Olympics, namely, the Olympic spirit is only present during times when it’s convenient for the athlete (ie, when they are winning by a “safe” margin). After the tit-for-tat arguing by Gonzalez and Blake, Blake went on to sling a few more barbs Gonzalez’s way saying that “Gonzalez was a great player who does everything in his power to win, ‘usually’ within the rules.” Blake concluded his grievance with a final slam, saying “Whatever he wants to say is fine. Whatever is going to get him to have some sleep tonight, then that's fine.”

Essentially, Blake threw a fit after an umpire’s ruling didn’t go his way for a single point in a match he eventually lost. Blake didn’t lose the match on the contested point…but he did (apparently) let that point get into his head to the point that he ended up losing the match. Blake lost sight of the Olympic spirit and let his pride and ego make him look like a bumbling buffoon to the world.


Unfortunately, Blake’s reaction isn’t an isolated incident during the Olympics. By now, you have probably heard about Ara Abrahamiam, the Swedish wrestler who threw down his Olympic bronze medal and walked off saying “I don’t care about this medal. I wanted gold.”

Whether right or wrong, both Blake and Abrahamiam made their respective countries look bad. Both athletes took an achievement (and participating in the Olympics is a great achievement) and turned it into something negative. Both athletes managed to turn the Olympic spirit on its head and squeeze sour grapes out of it. Blake and Abrahamiam should each be ashamed, they’ve each managed trivialize the magnificence of participating in the Olympics with egos and bitterness…which is everything the Olympic spirit is not.

Sources:
http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/summer08/tennis/news/story?id=3536427&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines
http://sports.yahoo.com/olympics/news?slug=reu-wrestling&prov=reuters&type=lgns
http://www.cbc.ca/gfx/images/sports/photos/2008/08/14/abrahamian-medal-080814-392.jpg

http://www.newsday.com/media/photo/2008-08/41630893.jpg

Thursday, August 14, 2008

FanOfReds becoming FanOfPirates?!


Thanks to my beloved Cincinnati Reds and their perpetually inept management, I have free time during the summer evenings for the first time in years. As a lifelong Reds’ fan, I’ve only been alive for one truly good year (the 1990 World Series sweep of the A’s) and a few mediocre, but at least competitive, years (the last being 1999). During those years, I’ve spent countless hours watching, listening, and even updating the Yahoo! Sports scores page with Reds box scores and highlights. Despite the consistent, annual crappiness of the Reds, I remained a staunch supporter…until last week.


Now, I haven’t bailed on my team entirely. I didn’t throw out my 18 or so different Reds hats in favor of the Red Sox, Yankees, or even the Rays. I didn’t trash my baseball card collection nor did I redo my Sporting News and Blogger screen name. I did, however, give up on the 2008 season.



First, the Reds traded away Ken Griffey Jr. As a realist, I didn’t have a problem with that move at all. Sure, it meant the Reds wouldn’t have a (sure) future Hall of Famer on their team anymore, but it did mean they’d have a right fielder that could run to the ball. I’ve also always liked Griffey, and I hope he gets one last shot at the playoffs with the White Sox. With the trade, the Reds got a little younger in the outfield (but no better hitting, Patterson is a joke). The Reds also lost most of their “star power”…which meant there were few reasons to watch the basement team…mostly just Edinson Volquez (who’s been struggling a bit since the All-Star break) and Adam Dunn…



All of which leads me to the reason I gave up on the 2008 Reds, Mr. Adam Dunn. The Reds traded away their only legitimate remaining power hitter for a damaged minor league pitcher and a couple of players to be named later. That’s right; the Reds traded their BEST player for what are essentially 3 low-ceiling minor leaguers. If that’s all the best player on the Reds’ team can net them, then the Reds can’t possibly be worth watching…



Now, some say that Dunn didn’t care about baseball. Some claimed he was lazy. Some said all sorts of nasty things about Dunn…but the truth is that Dunn played almost every single game for 7 solid seasons. He was the model of consistency, 40 homers, 100 walks, 100 strikeouts year in and year out. He consistently improved his defense (though to be fair he probably could only go up in that category). In short, Dunn did everything a person should have expected a ballplayer to do…but the Cincinnati media (especially) never mentioned that.

So I say to the Cincinnati Reds, and especially to front office, you’ve lost one of your most rabid fans for the season. With the money freed up this off season, I expect some major improvements or you run the risk of losing me for good, and I’m sure I’m not alone.



PS: I hear the Pittsburgh Pirates are on the rise (they are ahead of the Reds in the standings after all) and they are a lot closer to me geographically…maybe I can become fanofpirates instead.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

MLB Power Rankings: August 10, 2008

All records accurate as of 8/10/08, 11:30 AM EST.

1. Los Angeles Angels (73 – 43): According to ESPN.com, the Angles have a 99.7% chance of making the playoffs, so buy your tickets now Angel fans!
2. Chicago Cubs (70 – 47): The Cubs have outscored their opponents by 135 runs! Unfortunately for Cub fans, the Cubs are still lousy on the road (4 games under .500)…which suggests that the Cubs’ World Series aspirations rely on them clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (70 – 46): This just in, the Rays are for real.
4. Milwaukee Brewers (66 – 51): Milwaukee leads St. Louis for the Wild Card by 2 games and New York by 3.5 games. This may end up as the most exciting race in the National League this year.
5. Boston Red Sox (67 – 50): The Manny-free Red Sox lead the White Sox by 2 games for the Wild Card. Much like that National League, the AL Wild Card may also end up the most exciting race.
6. Minnesota Twins (65 – 51): The Twins, yes the Twins, lead the AL Central. If it weren’t for the Rays, the Twins would be the best “feel good” story of the 2008 season.
7. Chicago White Sox (64 – 51): The White Sox round out the Top 7, cementing the American League’s place as the better league with 5 of the top 7 teams.
8. Philadelphia Phillies (63 – 53): The Phillies have outscored their opponents by 72 runs and actually play (slightly) better on the road than they do in their hitter’s ballpark!
9. St. Louis Cardinals (65 – 54): The NL Central earns the “toughest division” award so far this season by placing 3 teams in the top 9 teams overall in the Power Rankings.
10. New York Mets (62 – 54): The Mets have won three straight after dropping 5 of their previous 7 games. If they hope to make the playoffs, they need to start playing slightly more consistent, winning baseball.
11. New York Yankees (63 – 54): Big market club haters, rejoice. The New York Yankees are outside the top 10!
12. Florida Marlins (61 – 56): The Marlins have lost 2 straight, 5 of their last 10, and they’ve been outscored (overall) by 24 runs. Somehow, they still have an outside shot at the playoffs…even so; I wouldn’t count on an all-Florida World Series this year.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks (59 – 58): In what may be the biggest surprise of the Power Rankings, the National League West has finally placed a team in the top half of the rankings!
14. Texas Rangers (60 – 58): My pick for surprise team of the year was finally starting to play like a playoff-caliber team and got to 6 games over .500. Unfortunately for the Rangers, they promptly dropped their next 4 games to sink back close to the .500 mark.
15. Toronto Blue Jays (59 – 58): The Blue Jays have outscored their opponents by 36 runs, yet they remain stuck around .500. Their real problem is that they cannot win on the road (25 wins compared to 33 losses).
16. Los Angeles Dodgers (58 – 58): Like the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers only real chance at the playoffs is to win the pathetic NL West crown.
17. Houston Astros (57 – 59): The Astros have been outscored by almost 50 runs, so they are probably lucky to be “only” 2 games under .500. If anything, look for the Astros to dive further down in the standings during the waning weeks of the season.
18. Detroit Tigers (57 – 59): Remember that talk about the Tigers scoring 1000 runs and setting the all-time win record? It’s fair to say that won’t happen with this year’s Tigers.
19. Baltimore Orioles (56 – 59): Think the Orioles wish they were in the NL West this year? Instead of having a shot at playoffs, the Orioles sit 13.5 games behind the Rays.
20. Atlanta Braves (55 – 62): The Braves have actually outscored their opponents by 30 runs. If I had to pick, the Braves would be my choice for “lousy” team who comes on strong at the end of the season.
21. Oakland Athletics (54 – 62): In my July 7 rankings, the A’s were 6 games over .500. Currently, they sit 8 games under .500…talk about a nosedive!
22. Pittsburgh Pirates (53 – 63): Without Bay and Nady, the Pirates offense will be lucky to score 2 runs a game from here on out. Look for the Pirates to threaten the Reds for worst team in the NL Central.
23. Colorado Rockies (53 – 66): World Series hangover? That said, the Rockies still have a 2.8% chance at making the playoffs thanks to the terrible, horrendous, no good NL West.
24. Kansas City Royals (53 – 64): Losers of 4 straight, the Royals appear to have mailed it in the for the rest of the season.
25. Cleveland Indians (51 – 64): The Indians, much like the Tigers, have been catastrophic disappointments this year. At least for Cleveland fans, their management didn’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars to be lousy in 2008.
26. Cincinnati Reds (52 – 66): Do you think Ohio fans are looking at the football schedule yet? With the Reds and Indians firmly entrenched in the bowels of the rankings, football season can’t come soon enough in Ohio.
27. San Francisco Giants (49 – 66): Barry Bonds showed up at the Giants ceremonies the other day, the Giants won the other day. More proof the Giants can’t win without Barry, right Boras?
28. Seattle Mariners (45 – 72): Can they be the worst team? They currently are one game off the “lead” held by the Nationals.
29. San Diego Padres (45 – 72): See Seattle’s comment.
30. Washington Nationals (44 – 73): The Nationals hold a 1 game “lead” over the Mariners and Padres for the worst team in baseball.

There you have it, another installment of my Major League Baseball Power Rankings. As always, let me know what you think in the comments.
-fanofreds


Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos

Saturday, August 09, 2008

2008 MLB Topps Chrome Set Review

Review: 2008 MLB Topps Chrome


The Basics:

What I opened: 3 different 2008 Topps Chrome Retail Boxes (7 packs with 4 cards plus a 2 card bonus pack each)

What I paid: $19.99 per box



In three boxes, I got 48 of the 220 base cards (21%). For $60, I don’t think that is a very good deal at all…especially since I didn’t receive any duplicate between the boxes. I received seven X-Fractors, which are (by far) the ugliest insert in the set. On the other hand, I received 9 Refractors (which are the best looking of the parallels in my opinion). Since the X-Fractors and Refractors are both seeded 1:3, I was happy with a slight edge in numbers for the set I liked better. I also received 3 blue bordered refractors, I can only assume that are seeded approximately 1 per retail box. At that rate, the blue set is virtually impossible to complete without spending a lot of time (and probably money) on eBay.






I received 6 different Trading Card History inserts. Although each card is interesting on its own, the cards look foolish in a binder together since each design pays tribute to a card design in history (for example Soriano’s Hires Root Beer card). The Chrome Refractor Trading Card History (Ramirez) is ok, but again, with only 400 sets not too many people will complete the set. Finally, the blue Trading Card History card (Beckett, numbered out of 200) is 100% ugly. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to complete that set…but I hope someone does because my card is headed off to eBay shortly.


The two Mantle insert sets are collectively boring. I’m sick and tired of Mickey Mantle overload in every Topps set. Giving the same cards the chrome treatment doesn’t make them any more interesting to me. The All-Rookie insert set is also nice, but again, not terrible exciting. I don’t see any of the three aforementioned sets going for much money.



The inclusion of Topps Heritage Chrome Cards was a nice idea (for me anyhow). I collect the Heritage set (and the Heritage chrome set usually), so I essentially added to two different sets with the same box. Finally, the Dick Perez sketch card insert set is kind of neat, though why Mr. Perez is so famous for his portraits is beyond me, most of the drawings look terrible! The Refractor Perez cards look nice as well, and since the set is smaller there is a chance to complete it without a lot of financial sacrifice.









The Bottom Line:


I give the 2008 MLB Topps Chrome a 65/100.

Pros: I like the Chrome Refractor parallel set and the base cards. I liked not getting any duplicates in three boxes (combined). The Topps Heritage Chrome inclusions were a nice touch.

Cons: The Mickey Mantle overload has ran its course, especially when you only get 4 cards per pack. The X-Fractors are disgustingly ugly. The blue bordered cards seem like a waste of time. Finally, it will take a huge amount of boxes to be able to complete even the base set ($60 for 3 boxes yielded just over 1/5 of the total base set).





Box Breakdowns:

Box 1
17 Regular Chrome Cards
2 X-Fractors
3 Refractors
1 Blue Bordered Refractor
2 Trading Card History (Reyes and Santana)
1 All-Rookie Team (Roy Oswalt)
1 Mickey Mantle Home Run History
1 Topps Chrome Refractor (J.R. Towles, #335/559 Rookie Card)
2 Dick Perez Chrome Sketch Cards (Ichiro and Joba Chamberlain)

Box 2
16 Regular Chrome Cards
3 X-Fractors
3 Refractors
1 Blue Bordered Refractor
2 Trading Card History (Ortiz and Andruw Jones)
1 Trading Card History Refractor (Manny Ramirez, #017/400)
1 Mickey Mantle Story
1 Topps Chrome (Chone Figgins, #0709/1959)
1 Dick Perez Chrome Sketch Cards (Jose Reyes)
1 Dick Perez Chrome Sketch Card Refractor (Prince Fielder)

Box 3
15 Regular Chrome Cards
2 X-Fractors
3 Refractors
1 Blue Bordered Refractor
2 Trading Card History (Justin Upton and Alfonso Soriano)
1 Trading Card History Blue Refractor (Josh Beckett, #062/200)
1 All-Rookie Team (Ryan Zimmerman)
1 Mickey Mantle Story
1 Mickey Mantle Home Run History
1 Topps Chrome (Tom Gorzelanny)
1 Dick Perez Chrome Sketch Card (Mickey Mantle)
1 Dick Perez Chrome Sketch Card Refractor (Josh Beckett)


Insert Odds (as stated on box):
Sequentially Numbered Refractor 1:3
Sequentially Numbered X-Fractor 1:3
Copper Refractor 1:12
Topps Heritage Chrome 1:15
Topps Heritage Chrome Refractor 1:41
Topps Heritage Chrome Black Refractor 1:400
Trading Card History Insert 1:4
Topps All-Rookie Team Insert 1:9
Mickey Mantle Story Insert 1:20
Mickey Mantle Home Run History Insert 1:12

(Plus a bunch of rare autographs and such that I didn't pull)