Thursday, July 21, 2005

Welcome Back, NHL

Originally posted on "Is It Sports?" by Ryan. The Hockey lockout finally ended!

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but hockey wasn’t played professionally this season. There was much gnashing of teeth in Canada and New England. Well, the good news is, the lock out which had caused the work stoppage is over, so I thought I would share a few thoughts on the whole situation.

First, let’s take a look at what caused the lock out in the first place. Hockey was hemorrhaging money because players were paid salaries comparable to those of salaries in other professional sports, except hockey didn’t have a TV deal and their arenas, even when they sold out, were small. Hockey players didn’t seem to realize this so the owners locked them out, opting to actually make money than lose it to the operating expenses. The players remained obstinate, but can you blame them? Most have head trauma.

So eventually, the players went to Europe to play, mostly because they love the game. Turns out, the players, even the ones from there, don’t like living in Omsk during the winter, so they softened their opinion and came crying back to the owners. Not only did they get a salary cap slapped on their heads, but they had a 34% roll back in salary. Would you go quietly if they cut more than a third of your salary?! Phenomenal negotiators for the owners.

So now the owners are looking for ways to make more money, aside from the reduced salaries. They want to lure new fans to the game by trying to make it more exciting. They want smaller pads, they want to take out the center red line like the way it used to be, which would eliminate a lot of icing calls as well as the two-line pass. These changes are fine. Goalies don’t need a foot of pads, and the pace of the game will be quicker without that center red line. Also, they aren’t bastardizations of the game, as its how hockey is played at the international level.

Then there are some other changes the owners wish to make. Eliminating the ties is one. They want to end ties with first a 5 minute overtime which would segue into a shootout. This does two things, both negative. First, it devalues the dramatic power of the penalty shot, what with there being at least 3 games a night with at least 10. Second, it reduces the entire game to short spurt of one-on-one shots. The ties are more valuable, as the points in the standings reflect the quality of the games played.

The other important and terrible change the owners want to make is with the net. They want to, after more than a century of tradition, make the nets larger. This isn’t soccer, NHL owners, and the size of the net hasn’t attracted Americans to that game either. If you want to attract the bored, attention span bereft fans that something like this would try to do, advertise the hits. Americans like violence, not necessarily scoring.

Now, there was another sport that tried to fundamentally alter the game, granted, the league in which they did that was not the primary league. They wanted to jerry rig the game to be more of a spectacle, something that more fans would tune into, if not for the game than for the action. Vince McMahon was wrong when he tinkered with football, and Gary Bettman would be wrong to tinker with hockey.

The Stanley Cup is the most historic sporting trophy in North America, and arguably the most coveted among those who play the game. You don’t hear people say “I want the Lombardi Trophy”. They want the Rings. What hockey needs to do is stay within itself, as a pride filled game with athletes that care about nothing more than getting that Cup. For hockey to recover, they need to demonstrate an internal self worth. They don’t need to change the game, they just need better marketing. Advertise the stories that go along with the hockey and how much it means to the players.

Never mind that there are some cultural problems with hockey, namely, Americans like to cheer predominantly for other Americans, and there are waning numbers of those in the NHL, hockey can do nothing to improve its position via rules changes. I can’t wait to see the product back on the ice however, and I hope you’ll all join me in watching on opening night. - Ryan

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Steve’s Mid-Summer Classic Update (only $39 a post!)

Originally posted on "Is It Sports?" by Steve. I still didn't have faith in the White Sox yet, but at least I predicted a playoff series win this time. This is about when the old site started to fall apart...I started running out of time to post new things. The original post title had the little ESPN insider graphic next to it to add to the joke.

Hey, remember me? I know I’ve gone a long time without posting on here, but I’m still the man behind Is It Sports? All the pretty colors, pictures, and formatting is my work. So since I don’t want to become Ryan’s personal webmaster yet, I figured I’d recap the baseball season so far and check out how my original predictions are doing. But….

Nah, we definitely would never do something like that to you. Thank you, for coming up with a way to swindle people out of money for what are usually ridiculous rumors that you make up. Maybe we can follow that model when we finally crack 4 digits in hits...haha. But here's my recap for real this time:

AL EAST - The collapse and now rise of the Yankees has had a lot of people scratching their heads this season. They were left for dead and now all of the sudden sit 2.5 games behind the Red Sox and 2 games behind the A's for the Wild Card. I'm still sticking to my guns and saying they get in the playoffs, because they'll make the big move, Boston doesn't have that magic going for them, and the upstart Orioles are still a year away (if the old guys can stay healthy). The Blue Jays have surprised me greatly and the Rays are so miserable that I'm highly embarrassed about picking them 4th in the division.

AL CENTRAL - Everyone, including myself, doubted me about my pick for the Sox to win the division, but they're still going strong and somehow have an amazing ability to win close games. Frank Thomas has clearly gone completely insane, with his quest for 500 career homers leading to having 12 this season in only 105 AB, and lets not forget he only had 8 singles while batting only .219 before flaming out and breaking his ankle again. The emergence of Jermaine Dye as someone that actually helps the team has been extremely helpful. Like Ryan said, A.J. Pierzynski has done a phenomenal job managing the pitching staff, even making an All-Star out of Jon Garland. As far as the rest of the division goes, well the Twins are still hanging in the wild card race, even though they've been falling fast and didn't get any deadline deals done, almost like a White-Flag Non-Trade. The Indians have done better than I expected, but still have a very strong chance of just being another .500 team. And the Tigers still seem to have a quest to finish .500 confused with a quest for a division title. It's funny to live here and hear the coverage on them. It's like they talk like the Tigers should be awarded the division title just for having a mediocre year. All I have to say about the Royals is that the Sox were 10-0 against them this year before finally dropping 2 horrendous games against them in KC.

AL WEST - The A's have absolutely came out of nowhere this season and look like a team on a mission. They really have the White Sox number this year, so a playoff appearance by them scares the hell out of me....In fact I'm almost sure it will happen, and that will be the end of the Sox amazing run. My pick of the Angels as division champs looks a little shaky right now, but I would almost prefer they drop it and let the Yankees or Red Sox try to cool off the red hot A's first.

NL EAST - How about those Nats? Wow I was way wrong on this pick, but I'm glad in a lot of ways. A recent slide by them has thrown the perennial (forever and ever and ever) division champs the Braves into the top spot, and who didn't see this coming? People try to write them off every single year but they just keep winning. And I know Kevin liked to knock my pick of Dave Miley as manager of the year (if the Reds were any good at all, he would have got it), but of course he didn't mention anything about Andruw Jones as my MVP pick, which was totally going out on a limb since he's probably not even the best player on the Braves. I'm not saying he'll win it, but he has a good shot at finishing at least 3rd in the voting after Pujols and Lee. Also, my worst pick by far was my surprise HR Derby contestant, Carlos Pena of the Tigers, who has been playing for the Toledo Mudhens all season. Let's not forget to mention that every team here is above .500 and all are contenders still for both the division title and wild card race, but I have a strong feeling that level of competition will lead to too much parity with the Cubs or Astros taking the last playoff spot.

NL CENTRAL - Cardinals Domination. Need I say more? Sure their lead isn't as big as the White Sox, but nothing is stopping them from being in the playoffs again this season. The Astros have decided to step on the gas almost immediately after I traded Roy Oswalt and Lnace Berkman to my friend Jimmy in fantasy, but that's fine with me as long as their keeping the Cubs out of the wild card. Speaking of which, the Cubs lack of absolute success that I predicted against the Brewers, Pirates, and Reds have lead to them only hovering around .500. If they were able to beat these crap teams more often (only 6-7 against Milwaukee) they'd be right in the hunt. I can't help but root for the True Blue Brew Crew this season. They have a winning record against the Cubs, they traded a key piece of the White Sox playoff puzzle (Scott Podsednik) and the got an infamous Cub killer and fan favorite on the South Side (Carlos Lee) in return to terrorize the Cubs and the rest of the NL on a more regular basis. I'll use my 5th amendment privilege on the Pirates and Reds, though I may see the Pirates play in Pittsburgh later this summer.

NL WEST - ugh....This division represents all that is wrong with baseball. Hopefully justice will be served and whoever wins this all sub-.500 crapfest gets swept in the first round by the Braves or Cardinals.

Here are my mid-season picks, though at the end of the year, feel free to hold me to my pre-season ones:

AL Playoffs
White Sox (C) over Red Sox (WC)
Yankees (E) over A's (W)
Yankees over White Sox

AL Awards
MVP - Alex Rodriguez, New York
Cy Young - Mark Buehrle, Chicago
Manager - Ozzie Guillen, Chicago

NL Playoffs
Cardinals (C) over Albuquerque Isotopes (W, all 5 teams will drop below .450 and they'll be awarded the title)
Astros (WC) over Braves (E)
Cardinals over Astros

NL Awards
MVP - Albert Pujols, St. Louis
Cy Young - Roger Clemens, Houston
Manager - Frank Robinson, Washington

World Series
Cardinals over Yankees (sticking to my pick)

Well that's my update, a half month late, but hey, this site is free. - Steve

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Originally posted on "Is It Sports?" by Ryan. Ryan felt he was a little harsh on some people in his early posts, and wants to make up for it. I think this is where this site's love affair with Cliff Floyd began.

Being the ever gracious Minnesotan, I feel the need to make some apologies. One of the things I’ve learned in my relatively brief dealings with sports and the media is that one little request for forgiveness, or even if not that, a sincere apology, goes a long way. Take the Minnesota sports scene for example. On the one hand, you have Juan Rincon, who apologized profusely, despite the fact that he still wasn’t clear exactly as to what transpired. He even apologized for not knowing what was going on!

Then, on the other hand you have Randy Moss. He ran over a cop. No apology. He displayed some fairly obscene treatment towards officials. No apology. Needless to say, Moss was run out of town, Juan Rincon is still a fan favorite out of the Twins bull pen. The list goes on in Minnesota.

Without further ado, I would like to mention a few people I need to apologize to. First on my list is Matt Guerrier. I have to admit, especially in my baseball preview, I didn’t expect much from you, but you’ve turned into one of the three most reliable relievers in a very strong bullpen. Same goes to Jesse Crain, who’s been even better.

Keeping in the same sport, I owe apologies to a couple other guys. A.J. Pierzynski seems to have stepped away from his legendary cancerous history. He’s transformed what for years had been an underachieving and downright poor staff into one that has two starters in the all star game, one of whom is Jon Garland and Jose Contreras is actually respectable. Cantankerous catchers usually don’t promote this kind of improvement.

Then there’s Cliff Floyd. I’ve laid into him pretty ferociously since January. Turns out this guy, whom I had labeled as overpaid is finally playing like his paycheck would suggest. Actually, this season he is the best outfielder the Mets had. I will now turn my ire at overpaid athletes on Carlos Beltran and Mike Cameron.

I have to apologize to the NHLPA. I never would have though that guys with those few teeth would be able to understand the financial issues of the league. They needed to take the salary cap, and contract reductions if they wanted to have jobs in America. The trick now is to convince the owners that they shouldn’t change the rules as drastically as they intend to. The interest in the league is down not because of the pace of the game, but because the games are played in cities without a hockey tradition. Real fans know that, as Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune said, ending a tie game with a shootout is like ending a baseball game with a homerun derby, or a tied basketball game with a three point contest. I’m watching you NHL Owners.

I’m inclined to apologize to you, the reader, as we don’t update quite as much as we should. Additionally, we tend to stray from our initial, base posts on IM conversations that we’ve had. Well, we still do, but we just don’t include them in the posts. Nevertheless, I think the site is growing stronger when we get around to actual updates.

Enough about me though. There are other people in the public eye that deserve to apologize. Like Kenny Rogers. Not only did he shove the camera man, as you may have seen once or twice but he has done something else that has tarnished his career. He’s shared a name with a country singer, bringing him to the forefront. I don’t want to EVER think about the other Kenny Rogers!

That brings me to another annoyance. ESPN. Not only are they overdramatic on whatever scandal they feel like, be it Kobe, who I don’t care about, or Kenny Rogers, who I don’t care about, or even Barry Bonds, who I don’t care bout, but they aren’t handling the hockey strike well at all. Instead of making light of how forlorn the hockey fans are, they make fun of how nobody (besides about 100 million people) cares about the game. Instead of playing programming that people want to see, like Major League Baseball, they play college baseball and softball.

I give them credit, however, that they stick to their guns with the whole poker thing. It’s the sports network, not the network for athletic prowess. Sport means competition, not always athletic competition. So to you naysayers, I demand you apologize to ESPN. But only for that. Demand that the network makes other changes.

That’s all that I need to mention for now. You know there are others that need to apologize, so don’t let them get away with it. And if you didn’t like this post, well then, I’m sorry. -Ryan

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Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Junk #2

Originally posted on "Is It Sports?" by Ryan. Ryan discusses all sorts of things, like baseball, Steven A. Smith, HP Computers, Billy Corgan, and racial ambiguity.

At long last, I’m back. As opposed to writing a long post about something or other, I think the best thing to do is to bring you another edition of the Junk.

-Let’s start with baseball, shall we? Since Kevin decided he wanted to rehash the baseball preview, well, I guess I’ll just have to go through the divisions and reassess them. Let’s look at the NL first, since I don’t care about it as much.

NL WEST: Surprises abound in this division, namely, the division is terribly mediocre. Despite the mediocrity, San Francisco still can’t contend, something that has to do with age and injuries, which in sports tend to be one in the same. The Padres appear to be leading this division only because they aren’t coming up as lame as the rest of the West. Looks like all these teams have serious holes they need to address, but I don’t think any will.

NL CENTRAL: This division is going about as well as I suspected. The Cards are running away with it and there is a heated battle for every other position. The Astros are charging fast and will probably end up in second again. I expect the Cubs to make a boneheaded trade that doesn’t help at all, although I’m impressed they have staved off the rest of the division thus far. They’ll drop to at least third, maybe further should the Brewers continue to play well. Both the Bucs and Brewers look like they don’t have much longer until they are legitimate contenders, what with the maturation of their respective squads. The Reds have issues. Their previously reliable pitchers have decided to start throwing underhand and as a result, they are in dead last.

NL EAST: So, I had the NL East order right so far, except the Nationals are in first, instead of last. It goes back to the maturation process. You can never tell when things are all going to come together, and it’s magical when it happens for a bunch of guys on the same team. It’s really awesome when Chad Cordero is on your fantasy team. All the other teams have a well defined strength, such as the Marlins and pitching, but then drastic holes, like Marlins and offense that isn’t named Cabrera or Delgado. It will be interesting to see if the Nats can hold it together like the ’02 Twins, or if they fall apart like the ’01 Twins.

AL WEST: This is going as expected. The Angels aren’t the best team out there, but they’ll be good enough to sneak in to the post season. The Rangers’ pitching is going to hold them back, especially now that Kenny Rogers appears to have totally lost his mind. Oakland and Seattle are just flat out bad this year.

AL CENTRAL: The White Sox are much better than expected. Much better than anyone, including Steve expected. Here’s the thing though. All the problems I expected are there. Injuries have befallen El Duque and every time I see Contreras pitch he’s weaseling his way out of a jam. The real thing that changed was what nobody expected. Scott Podsednik and Tadahiro Iguchi are constantly on base and scoring, and the bats at the front of the lineup have been absent the past couple years. Buehrle is pitching like the machine he has always been, and to say John Garland has been a pleasant surprise would be an understatement. The overall numbers of most of their players aren’t dramatically different from career numbers, but they have improved across the board. The key for this team is the top of the order. As for the rest of the division, the Twins and Indians are in a dogfight and the Tigers are right behind. The Wild Card will be one of those three teams, and I don’t expect the Sox to remain at the clip they’re at (too many close games) but they’ll still win comfortably.

AL EAST: Not unlike the maturation process, the aging process is fickle. This was the year that the Yankees got old, and nobody saw it coming. This is a team that needs a total overhaul if they want to be any good next year, but good luck on that happening. Boston appears to have woken up from their hangover and I anticipate that they will run away with the division. Baltimore needs to snap out of their slump soon if they want to get to the post season. The Devil Rays ended up being a lot worse than expected and it goes back to their starting pitching. I thought they had some solid prospects, but as it turns out, their pitching is just awful. It doesn’t help that their manager is dying to leave.

- Ok, I want to talk about the Twins for a bit. They have the raw talent to annihilate the bottom half of their division, as well as many of the other teams in the league, but they have two gaping problems. Their first is the first inning pitching. As an example, Brad Radke is rocking a 10+ ERA in the first inning and about a 2.5 ERA for the rest of the game. This would be an interesting fluky thing if it was just a Radke issue, but it isn’t. All five starters have this problem. The only key to solving this problem is to wait things out and hope things get better. However, it is always tought to win a baseball game if you start in a hole, like my Twins always have.

The second problem is the offense. They don’t HAVE any. Now, the Twins, as I said, have a diabolical amount of raw talent, by way of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, but these guys are young and a couple years off from being perennial all stars. Shannon Stewart is doing his job at the top of the order and Torii Hunter is doing better than anyone should have expected in the middle of the order. Part of the offensive problem is a middle infield ravaged by injury. There are currently about 8 middle infielders on the DL. Not 8 Twins. 8 Twins middle infielders. Without someone reliable to play second and short, it’s tough to be consistent.

The best way to fix a gaping hole and revive a flat lineup is to make a deal. I suspect the Twins will be in the market for Joe Randa from the Reds and maybe Placido Polanco from the Tigers, though I don’t see that happening. Another less likely option would be Bret Boone from the Mariners. Less likely, that is, unless the Mariners are willing to eat some salary.

- My dog, for some inexplicable reason freaks out every time Billy Corgan is on TV. I thought this strange, but then I don’t think being irritated by Corgan is an uncommon occurrence.

- I don’t want anyone to say that Andrew Bogut is a bad pick for Milwaukee. A large lumbering white man in southern Wisconsin? Fits like a glove.

- Speaking of the NBA, I’ll come out and say it. Stephen A. Smith is the most annoying person on ESPN, maybe in all of professional sports. I don’t think it’s too much a secret, but the man hates white people, something I take a little offense to. He seems constantly ready to rip out Tim Legler’s windpipe, for no reason than the fact that he’s taking away his own airtime.

But seriously, you can always tell what team Smith is going to like in a series or game. The most obvious example is the NBA Championship series, where he constantly backed the Pistons, whose only white guy is so deep on the bench that you have to send a search party to find him. The Spurs on the other hand, field a lineup with prominent players like Ginobli, Barry, and Nesterovic. Not only that, they have graduates of the Will Smith school of the racially ambiguous, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Needless to say, Smith picked the Pistons every single game I saw.

Now, if you are an analyst, I have no problem picking the team you see as better, even if local biases are influential, but racial biases are archaic and not so much offensive as they are depressing. It’s problematic that someone with such archaic beliefs is on a national network.

- The All-Star game is perfect as it is. It’s a showcase for the fans, so if they want to see Albert Pujols play, he should start instead of Derek Lee. Stats shouldn’t matter, because it’s all about the fans.

- I don’t know what it is about parents, but they seem to always want to interfere with life. They no longer have the authority to motivate me for my school work and now I’m busting my butt to get a job, so they have become extremely interested in my romantic life. Let me tell you, they have terrible taste in women.

- HP commercials have become creepy but mesmerizing. Too bad they make a terrible product.

There was some other note I was going to drop here, but it totally escapes me at this point, so I’m going to let it go. Until next time. -Ryan

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