Sonntag, 30. September 2012
But the Mets have several players due salary increases that will challenge Alderson's ability to meet that $95 million figure. That means he'll have to make some tough decisions over which players to keep and who to let go.
David Wright and R.A. Dickey are two stars under contract that the Mets will almost certainly bring back next season. But would it be the best move for Alderson to move those players if he can't agree to contract extensions with either of them?
Wright and Dickey are among 10 of the Mets' most important players that may or may not return in 2013. What are the chances that each of them will be in a Mets uniform next season? Here's how we see it.
In fact, it may be fair to say that Jackson is getting in the way of the Bills' success.
C.J. Spiller did not just fill in for Jackson when he got hurt in the season opener—he took over, gaining over 400 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in three games.
Buffalo's offense found its catalyst. A guy that could force seven, eight or even nine defenders into the box to account for his speed and versatility.
Spiller opens up windows for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw into and allows him to limit his tendency to throw interceptions.
This week, with Jackson starting, Fitzpatrick was back to his old self, throwing four picks.
The QB was smarter and more conservative through the air with Spiller lined up next to him because Spiller was doing so much work on the ground. Fitzpatrick did not have to force throws and try to carry the offense.
Something he has had the unfortunate task of attempting to do with Jackson in the lineup.
This does not mean Jackson is a bad running back, but when lightning strikes you have to bottle it and run with it.
Jackson's return to the starting lineup in Week 4 saw him rush for only 29 yards on 13 carries.
The offense felt slower with him in the backfield, and his longest rush was for a mere 11 yards.
The math here is simple.
With Spiller in the lineup, the Bills are explosive and dynamic.
With Jackson, they are sluggish and don't win football games.
Jackson can be a great third-down and goal-line option for Buffalo. At 6'1" 216 pounds, he is bigger and more of a downfield runner than the 5'11" 200 pound Spiller.
But to believe he is the best every-down back for this team to succeed is a fallacy.
C.J. Spiller has emerged as one of the most electric players not just in Buffalo, but in the entire league.
The Bills need to realize this before the division race moves along without them.
Arsenal went into their Premier League game at home to Chelsea unbeaten so far this season. They were fifth in the table, but Chelsea were unbeaten in all but the European Super Cup too. It promised to be a very tough test for both teams.
Arsene Wenger made only one change from the team which played so well in the 1-1 draw away to Manchester City last week. Thomas Vermaelen returned to take his place in the team after recovering from the virus which kept him out last week. The player to drop to the bench was Per Mertesacker, and I was more than surprised with the decision.
Mertesacker has been Arsenal's best defender so far this season, and the decision to drop him was a wrong one in my opinion. I don't think Laurent Koscielny was at his best in his first game of the season last week despite scoring Arsenal's goal. Mertesacker 's reading of the game and timely interceptions were features if the Arsenal performance against City, and I worried about how Koscielny and Vermaelen would play together.
From the start, Chelsea looked to pressure Arsenal, and the tactic worked. Arsenal were disjointed and struggled to find any rhythm to their game.
After only 17 minutes, Arsenal lost the services of Abou Duaby after he injured himself having a shot at the Chelsea goal. With his injury record over the past six years, it's a worry that he will be out for longer than the projected three weeks. It meant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on, with Aaron Ramsey moving into a central role and Chamberlain playing wide on the right.
Soon afterwards, Chelsea took the lead from a set piece. Vermaelen gave away a free outside the Arsenal box, and the free kick was swung in by Juan Mata. Fernando Torres reached around Koscielny at the far post to stroke the ball home past a helpless Vito Mannone.
The defending of the free kick was awful from Arsenal, with Koscielny choosing to look at the man he was marking rather than the ball. Torres took the goal very well, but no Arsenal defender attempted to attack the ball when it came in from the free kick.
Arsenal rarely threatened for the rest of the first half with Chelsea's pressing tactics paying dividend. It was strange to see how often Arsenal tried to cross the ball into the Chelsea box considering Olivier Giroud was on the bench. Towards the end of the first half, it was noticeable how much space Arsenal were getting on Chelsea's left-hand side.
When they did manage to equalise a few minutes before halftime, the goal came from that side. Chamberlain passed it to the feet of Gervinho 10 yards out, and he turned and lashed it into the roof of the net as the defenders backed off him. It was a very well-taken goal, but it was the only good thing Gervinho did in the game.
Arsenal had their tails up, and the crowd eventually got behind the team. They tried to push forward and take a lead before halftime, but it was to no avail. Halftime arrived with the teams level and Arsenal needing to play a whole lot better after the break.
They started the second half brightly, but Chelsea took the lead again on their first real attack. Vermaelen took Torres down outside the box in a very similar position to the one which led to the first goal. Mata took the free kick again, and he put it into an area which was very difficult for both the keeper and the defenders.
The ball went right through and finished up just inside the post to put Chelsea 2-1 up. The replay showed Koscielny got a slight touch, and that possibly was the factor which decided its destination. Again, he was not looking at the ball as he ran towards his own goal to try to stop the cross.
Arsenal tried to push forward, but Chelsea kept the pressure on their midfield and they could not find any fluency. Lukas Podolski almost equalised with a header, which Peter Cech did very well to keep out. With 20 minutes to go, Wenger made his last two substitutions with Ramsey and Podolski making way for Theo Walcott and Giroud.
I was amazed to see Gervinho stay on the pitch at that stage, as his contribution at that stage was minimal. Podolski wasn't great in the first half, but he was playing well in the second. He was finding space to run into between the Chelsea defenders and looked the Arsenal player most likely to score to me.
Cazorla had a couple of decent chances to score in that second half, but he clearly didn't have his shooting boots on. Giroud hit the post with a header towards the end of the game and the whistle went for a free kick before anyone could get to the rebound. There were four minutes added at the end of the game and it was now or never for Arsenal.
The chance they wanted arrived in the first added minute, and it fell at the feet of Giroud. He was played in on the left by Chamberlain, and he did his best to round the keeper and get a shot off. Unfortunately he was slightly off-balance when he shot and he only found the side netting.
That was Arsenal's last chance and the final whistle went to give Chelsea all three points. They had played the better football throughout the game and deserved their victory. They had a game plan, and they stuck to it to give them the victory.
It was a very disappointing performance from Arsenal, and very few of their players did anything of real note. They struggled in the second half of the Champions League win at Montpellier when the midfield were pressed hard, and Chelsea did the same thing yesterday. If Arsenal can't find a way through the middle of the pitch, it seems they struggle to find a way at all.
The omission of Mertesacker was a big mistake from Wenger, and the centre of Arsenal's defence suffered as a result. Both Vermaelen and Koscielny were too quick to dive in to tackles and were beaten far too often when they did. They didn't seem to have any understanding, and he must see that Mertesacker has to be his first-choice central defender.
I know Vermaelen is the club captain, and that means he will be an automatic choice for the team, but Wenger has to make the best decision for the team. If that means Koscielny misses out, that's what has to happen, or else he will have to leave his captain on the bench. He cannot afford to leave players who are playing as well as Mertesacker out of the team.
It's very frustrating to watch Gervinho play for Arsenal, as he is so unpredictable. Unfortunately it's not a good unpredictability, as he makes a mess of things far too often. Somehow or other he is Arsenal's current top scorer, but he rarely looks good enough to play in the team.
There's still a long way to go this season, but Arsenal are already seven points behind the league leaders. They need to string some wins together in their next few games to make sure they can challenge at the top. Their solid defence before this game was found wanting from set pieces yet again, and three of the four goals they have conceded in the league have come from set pieces.
They play a home game in the Champions League on Tuesday night against Olympiacos, and it's a must-win game for them. After that game, they make the short trip to play West Ham next Saturday evening in the league, and it's a game they have to win too. Despite all the good play, they have only two wins in six league games and a few wins in a row are needed.
Here are the highlights from yesterday's game.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.
This past week has been huge for sports video games. Both FIFA 13 and PES 2013 released, and NBA 2K13’s demo released on Tuesday. Is there a new virtual king in the world of virtual world football? No, but I’ll tell you why you should still give PES 2013 a look.
Also in this episode of Franchise Mode:
NBA 2K13 Demo Impressions
The shot-stick is the biggest gameplay innovation this year. Find out if the learning curve comes with an exciting and fulfilling payoff in gameplay.
WWE 13 Information Rollout
More and more finisher and entrance videos are being released for THQ’s wrestling title that is due out on October 30. This week’s batch includes Ken Shamrock, The Undertaker and others.
I’m going crazy with the FIFA 13 Creation Center. There are so many options available with this PC- and Mac-based application. Creating and sharing created teams and players works seamlessly. Check out what I have in mind to share with the FIFA 13 community.
The Franchiseplay YouTube channel is loaded with FIFA 13 and PES 2013 coverage. In addition to that, NBA 2K13 coverage is beginning, and it will culminate with a full review here and on my YouTube channel. The regular series featuring NCAA Football, Madden 13 and others will continue after NBA 2K13 and WWE 13 have been released.
On the Hard Drive
This version of top plays is a reflection of the hottest games on the sports video gaming scene. There is a strong world football feel, but LeBron James certainly brings the thunder from the NBA 2K13 demo as well.
Check it out.
Follow Brian Mazique and Franchiseplay on YouTube and Twitter for reactions, analysis and news from the world of sports and sports video games.
Edin Dzeko is a goal-scorer who scores huge goals.
Maybe you remember, possibly you don't, but on that fateful day last May with City trailing 10-man Queens Park Rangers 1-2 in extra time, it was Dzeko who scored the equalizer. Sergio Aguero's title-winner naturally (and deservedly) received all the attention, and will be the clip that City fans will see forever.
Without Dzeko's goal, though, Aguero never has the chance, and instead we would still be living in a world where Manchester United can never be toppled by its noisy neighbors.
Without Dzeko's goal, City's loss to a relegation-threatened side at home with the Premiership on the line would have inflicted untold psychic trauma on City's fans. Not to mention the team, or the manager.
City's title defense is still young, and in six games, the champions have yet to lose in Premier League play. Again, it is Dzeko (with a nod to Carlos Tevez) who has kept City in the discussion at the top of the table.
Given City's embarrassment of riches at striker, Dzeko can often be the forgotten man. Mario Balotelli is brash, gifted and incandescent (literally and figuratively). Aguero is, well, Aguero, now the man who will never buy another drink or meal in Manchester as long as he lives.
And Tevez. Yeah. Tevez is the controversial, mercurial one from whom anything or nothing can be expected depending on his mood and how much he misses playing in South America or whether he was asked to warm up at an inconvenient time.
With all of that going on, Dzeko is easily underappreciated and at times unnoticed. His style of play is not flashy. He does not draw much media attention because he does not run his mouth. At times, because of City's depth, Dzeko is left out of the side. If it bothers him, you would not know it.
Dzeko has three goals in Premier League play this season. His first came in the opener against newly-promoted Southampton, four minutes after the Saints took a 2-1 lead at the Etihad. Samir Nasri's eventual game-winner got the bold type in the papers, but Dzeko made it possible.
Two weeks later, City was again struggling at home against a decidedly mediocre-or-worse QPR side. Dzeko scored the game-winning goal just two minutes after Bobby Zamora had evened the match and caused no end of concern to the home fans.
Then, yesterday, with City looking very much like it would get just one point at Craven Cottage, there was that man again. Dzeko scored in the 87th minute, and City claimed a much-needed three points to stay within speaking distance of the top of the table.
Dzeko is almost certain to be in the side on Wednesday against Borussia Dortmund as City's Champions League run continues. Dzeko scored City's first goal at Real Madrid in the opening-game loss. He clearly belongs.
Strikers' form, of course, is notoriously changeable. They are invincible today, invisible tomorrow.
Right now, though, Edin Dzeko is answering a lot of Manchester City's questions.
The first reason why it's not going to happen is because the Heat's target on their back is only going to get bigger as the season goes on.
Kevin Garnett, former teammate and friend of Ray Allen, has already come out and said that he's "cut ties" with Allen and that he "doesn't have Allen's [phone] number" anymore—as reported by Gary Dzen the Boston Globe.
It's clear that Allen's past teammates aren't too fond of him leaving for the sunny beaches of South Beach, and that means that when the Celtics face off against the Heat, the stakes are going to be that much higher.
Speaking of Allen, the fact that the Heat now have to adjust their roster rotation with Allen and Rashard Lewis on the depth chart is going to complicate things as the 2012-13 season gets under way.
Sure, having more talent is never a bad problem, but in the 2012 NBA Finals, the Heat had found a rotation that worked extremely well for them that consisted of Mario Chalmers at the point, Dwyane Wade and Shane Battier on the wing and LeBron James and Chris Bosh holding down the frontcourt.
As the old adage goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well, the Heat have done just that by adding more talent to an already competent and productive roster.
The big issue isn't going to be making sure players get the looks and touches they need to succeed. Guys like LeBron, Wade and Bosh will find ways to get the ball the amount that they need to.
The biggest question will be if chemistry can be established between the new players on the Heat's roster.
During the Heat's 2011 failure in the NBA Finals, we saw just how important chemistry is, and if the Heat take a step back this season in the chemistry department, they aren't going to even get close to repeating as NBA champions.
While LeBron has what it takes to win the 2013 NBA MVP and earn another round of All-Star and All-NBA first-team honors, he can only win another ring if the Heat have chemistry, and Allen is going to keep them from doing that.
Allen isn't a bad teammate, and he's intelligent enough to figure out how to fit in the Heat's system, but just the fact that the Heat are going to have to adjust their already successful rotation is a major reason for concern for the Heat heading into the 2012-13 season.
Allen's inability to help the Heat win the 2013 NBA title isn't going to be because of him, it's going to be because of head coach Erik Spoelstra's inability to fit him, successfully, into the Heat's rotation.
Spoelstra will struggle to fit Allen, and even Rashard Lewis, into the Heat's rotation because he doesn't do well making effective alterations to his bench rotation.
The Heat have a more difficult road ahead of them than many want to admit, and with teams like the L.A. Lakers, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder only getting stronger, the Heat's path to the 2013 title will be a tough one.
Samstag, 29. September 2012
Stefan Struve is on quite a nice run as of late. The win over Stipe Miocic was Struve's fourth-straight victory in the UFC. Also, all of Struve's recent wins have come before the final bell with two submission victories mixed in with two TKO finishes.
Miocic presented a problem that Struve had previously struggled to overcome in his career—power punches. Miocic is an accomplished boxer who can hit hard, and Struve had struggled to protect his chin while standing above the competition.
Struve took some shots early on and was rocked in the second round, but persevered through the adversity. Just as Jon Anik and Kenny Florian said in the post-fight press conference, Struve is growing as a fighter each time he steps into the Octagon.
We already knew he was a slick submission artist, able to utilize his lanky arms and legs, but showcased his striking game against Miocic. Possessing great height usually translates to a lack of power in the punches, but that didn't seem to apply to Struve on Saturday.
Another obstacle Struve seemed to overcome was winning when he was picked to be the favorite. Every time Struve seemed to be able to get momentum going in his career, a fight with someone like this always seems to cause him to stumble back down the rankings.
With four-straight victories, Struve is poised to finally be "in the mix." His physical gifts are well known as is his ground game, but now Struve appears to have a complimentary striking game as well. He still needs to work on fully utilizing his height on the feet, but fighting tall isn't an easy skill to acquire.
Struve mentioned fighting Fabricio Werdum in the post-fight press conference, but that would be a huge step up in competition for Struve. If he feels he's ready for the kind of fighter that Werdum is, then more power to him and the UFC for putting that match up together.
With many of the top contenders already having scheduled bouts, I wouldn't mind seeing him face Mark Hunt (a match up previously put together on the UFC 146 card), once Hunt returns from his injury.
The first piece of the Big Ten puzzle is in place, as Ohio State edged Michigan State at Spartan Stadium on Saturday afternoon, 17-16.
Braxton Miller was, unsurprisingly, the king of the day. He went 16-of-23 through the air for 179 yards, with a score and a pick. He rushed 23 more times for 136 yards.
But that doesn't tell the story of his day. Not even a little bit.
On three different occasions, Miller appeared to be possibly injured—and twice seriously so. Early in the first quarter, Miller was hit late out of bounds and careened headfirst into an equipment cart. He checked out with the trainers and came back into the game on the next Ohio State possession.
That's one scare.
Later in the first half, Miller found himself at the bottom of a pile after a Michigan State player came flying in late on a tackle. Suffering the brunt of the impact was DE Will Gholston, who lay motionless on top of Miller, who was also not getting up. Miller ended up being fine. He just, you know, had 278 pounds of dead weight on him.
Gholston also came back into the game after claiming he had the "wind knocked out of him" and passing a sideline exam. Seeing the nature of his hit and his immediate condition afterwards makes that notion seem preposterous.
But we digress. That's two scares.
The third scare, starting at 0:45 in the video above, was the most troubling.
While scampering for a first down in the fourth quarter of a one-possession game, Miller planted his left foot and appeared to hyperextend his knee. He fumbled as he went to grab his knee mid-fall, and he stayed on the ground after Michigan State recovered and was attended to by trainers.
And, yet, he walked to the sideline under his own power, passed a knee exam and was back in the game by the time Ohio State got the ball back.
That's three scares. In one day.
And yet the guy's fine. Urban Meyer not only put Miller back out there, he called his number on four more rushes after the injury. And Miller came through, tallying 24 yards and one crucial first down on those rushes.
But even citing Miller's numbers just doesn't tell the full story. He was a whirling dervish against an extremely physical, talented Michigan State defense, spinning out of tackles, avoiding pressure and juking away from All-Big Ten defenders like it was child's play.
One would be tempted to say it was Miller's best performance of his sophomore season, but when he's making phenomenal plays week after week, how could you possibly quantify and assign ordinals to the greatness of his performances?
One thing is clear, though: Braxton Miller is the best player in the Big Ten. He's also the most important player on one of the best teams—if not the single best team—in the Big Ten. There's simply no way Ohio State is 5-0 at this point without Miller's performance, and it's probably doubtful that the Buckeyes even make it to 3-2.
Now, Urban Meyer likes backup QB Kenny Guiton—and Guiton's absolutely no slouch in the athleticism department—but Miller's the guy that runs that show. The Buckeyes have leaned on him all season long, and Miller has responded with an impressive sophomore season. He's now 76-121 for 933 yards, eight TDs and three INTs.
Miller has also rushed 90 times for 577 yards; the next highest Buckeye in either department is Jordan Hall with 40 rushes for 219 yards, and Hall just went out with a knee injury in Saturday's game. His long-term prognosis is still unknown.
So with a continually banged-up running back situation and a coach that likes to run the ball, it's only natural that Miller shoulder the load, and that he has done so admirably is a welcome relief for Buckeye fans. It also underscores, however, how devastating it would have been if Miller had hit that equipment cart harder, or if that awkward foot plan had turned into more than Miller's ACL could stand.
At the same time, however, this isn't about a guy breaking down from overuse. Miller's getting a lot of rushes, but he's barely taking any actual heavy contact. Yeah, he's not built like Tim Tebow, but he's also not getting used like Tebow either, so even with this game's multiple scares, Miller's current average of 18 rushes per game doesn't seem unsustainable.
That's not to say Miller won't be hurting tomorrow, of course, and if Meyer wants to rush Miller about 10 times or so next week, that'd be understandable.
But it's Nebraska coming to town next week. And the potential loss of Jordan Hall for that game means Ohio State's going to be lacking for elusive runners in the backfield.
That is, unless it's time to call Miller's number another 20 times. Hey, if it's what the Buckeyes need, it's what the Buckeyes need.
Edmonton Oilers' owner Daryl Katz and a group of top Oilers executives were in Seattle last week on a "fact-finding" mission after Seattle City Council members approved funding towards a $490 million US arena, sparking debate as to whether or not the team would consider relocating after their current deal with the out-dated Rexall Place expires in 2014-15.
Whether or not this a pressure tactic by the billionaire owner to try and force the hand of Edmonton City Council members has yet to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that if the Oilers do not get a new stadium by the time their current deal expires, the team will almost certainly relocate.
Here are the top five reasons why the Oilers moving to Seattle would crush the City of Edmonton.
Things have not according to plan for the Arkansas Razorbacks this season. Fortunately, there is still time to turn the season around.
After defeating Jacksonville State in Week 1, the Razorbacks were ranked No. 8 in the country. However, they then lost to Louisiana-Monroe in one of the biggest upsets in years. Things got worse when they were humiliated by conference rival Alabama by a score of 52-0.
There are some issues with this team that will not be fixed right away. Still, it must work on these key factors in the upcoming game against Texas A&M to start getting on the right path towards a successful year.
The Razorbacks have lost the turnover battle in each of their three losses this season.
Alabama forced the offense into five turnovers and gave the team no chance at keeping the game close. Of course, that was with backup quarterback Brandon Allen against one of the best defenses in the nation.
Unfortunately, things were not much better with Tyler Wilson back under center. The quarterback threw two interceptions against Rutgers and both were in key situations. One was in the end zone with the team trailing by two touchdowns, and the other was late in the fourth quarter.
As a team, Arkansas needs to get better at holding onto the ball. The squad has shown how things can turn with one big play, and it needs to avoid getting into these negative situations.
Stop the Pass
Opposing quarterbacks have had it way too easy against this defense. The unit is currently 110th in the nation in points allowed per game, and it is mainly due to an inability to defend the pass.
Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browing got the momentum started with a 412-yard performance against the team in Week 2. Things have obviously not improved as Gary Nova of Rutgers was able to toss five touchdown passes on 397 yards passing in the most recent loss.
Prior to that game, Nova had never thrown for more than two touchdowns in a game in his two-year career. This mark now represents a quarter of the sophomore's career touchdowns.
The key is defending the big play. Four different players on Rutgers were able to get receptions of 38 yards or more. The defense must play back on receivers and then wrap up tackles when it gets the chance.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has not reached the level of past Aggie greats yet, but the freshman is very efficient and is getting better every week. He certainly has the ability to torch this defense if changes are not made.
Find a Playmaker
Every elite team needs a playmaker that can be trusted to make things happen when the team needs it most. Tyler Wilson was solid last season, but he was helped by senior receivers Joe Adams and Jarius Wright.
Someone needs to step up and replace these men as not only leaders, but guys who will raise spirits with momentum-changing plays.
Running back Knile Davis has struggled so far this season, only averaging 3.3 yards per carry. Receiver Cobi Hamilton has shown flashes of greatness, but he needs to prove that he can be consistent over the course of a season.
When the game is close in the fourth quarter, Arkansas must find someone to carry the team on his back to victory. Otherwise, the Hogs will be looking at yet another loss.
Follow me on Twitter for more college football analysis. If my tweets were a team, it would be in the SEC.
It’s been 20 years since Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd pitched in the big leagues, but he can still bring some heat when it comes to conversation.
I met up with Boyd for a book signing at New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton, Mass., last weekend, and then stayed after for a few hours to talk with one of my all-time favorite Red Sox pitchers. His book, They Call Me Oil Can (written with Mike Shalin) is a no-holds-barred, colorful look at his career and life, and he's just as open—and outspoken—in person as in print.
From our chat, here are the Can’s reflections on…
How he got his nickname: “Everybody says it's because I drank a lot of beer and they called beer “oil” down in Mississippi, but that's not true. It was rot-gut whiskey. Everybody in Meridian, where I grew up, drank it. You got it from a lady up the street named Big Mama, who was the neighborhood moonshiner. I used to go up to her house and fetch it for my mother, sneaking it into our house under my shirt so my father wouldn't see it."
“When I was seven, I started drinking some myself. One day somebody caught us in a tin shed drinking Big Mama's whiskey out of oil cans, so my friend Pap started calling me “Oil Can.” I wrote it under the bill of my baseball cap, and my high school teammates started calling me that too. It stuck.”
Bobby Valentine: “I played for Bobby in Texas, and he’s a good guy. He’s open and will talk straight to you. He could be temperamental, sure, but he’s a very, very smart baseball man. He knows games and respects players, but he’s the skipper. Ballplayers shouldn’t be telling him what to do."
"Your job as a player is to hit the ball or catch the ball; he manages and you play. When you make up all kinds of distractions, this is what happens—the team can’t win. They got the talent, but they never listened to the man.”
Wade Boggs (who Boyd claims often directed racial slurs at him when they were teammates): “He’s a bigot; it’s ingrained in his family history. Coming from Central Florida, that’s just what you grow up hearing and learning. He was protected by baseball then, and nobody will say anything against him now. The Red Sox don’t invite me to anything that Wade is going to be at because they know I’ll kick his ass. He wasn’t at the 100th anniversary celebration, right? I was—so there you go.”
The summer of 1986 (when he was suspended for 21 games after briefly quitting the team following an All-Star snub, but still went 16-10 to help the Red Sox win the pennant): “Being a young ballplayer, with money in your pocket, makes you very vulnerable. There were a lot of distractions and a lot of ways to get into trouble. I found them. It was my fault, sure, but I felt there was nobody I could talk to about it."
"Still, people looked out for me; I lived in Chelsea, and sometimes I'd be out late at night and the police would come and say, 'C'mon, Oil Can, you don't want to be messing around here, you can get shot or killed,' and they would give me an escort home."
“While I was suspended I hurt my arm in a tussle with some cops; they thought I was getting drugs from a guy and really roughed me up good. I would ice my arm every day, but it always hurt. I could hear a clicking in it. But still I kept pitching, winning the [AL East] clincher against the Blue Jays and through the playoffs and World Series. I didn't tell anybody about the pain.”
On not starting Game 7 of the '86 World Series, when, after a rainout, manager John McNamara decided to go with Bruce Hurst and skip over Boyd: “When it came time for Game 7, and he [McNamara] told me I wasn't starting, I didn't know what to say. I just ran off and cried. They used the rain as an excuse, and said Bruce had the hot hand, but I felt that circumstances during the season led to that decision. They put their personal feelings about me ahead of the team. They were not going to take a chance on my going out there and winning the World Series after everything that went on."
[Hurst, who had already won twice in the Series, pitched six innings and left with the game tied 3-3. Boston relievers broke down, however, and the Mets won, 8-5. Boyd never got into the contest.]
How he stayed focused on the mound: “I smoked dope—every day. I started when I was 12 and never hid it. I was such a thinker, my mind was never idle, but when I smoked I got locked in. I was so focused, I couldn't hear anything else on the field. I became creative, like an artist doing a painting. A little blue here, a little red there; a curve ball here, a slider there. It got to the point where [first baseman] Billy Buckner would come over and say, 'Are you high?' If I wasn't, he'd say go get him some.”
Boyd was clearly upset as he talked about how things went after '86, when a blood disorder required him to inject a needle with blood thinners into his stomach every day. He was on the disabled list much of the time, and after 1989 signed with the Expos as a free agent.
He rebounded to pitch nearly 200 innings each of the next two seasons—often very effectively—but after a trade to Texas and a late-season slump in 1991 was unable to find another big league job at age 31.
Oil Can felt he had been blackballed, and I realized he had a lot in common with another great free-spirited Red Sox who could pitch and talk up a storm: Bill “Spaceman” Lee.
Both men liked their weed, both men were passionate, personable ballplayers embraced by teammates and fans, and both had their careers in Boston end on a down note before a brief resurgence in Montreal. Both felt the baseball establishment kept them from staying on in the majors, and they had two of the greatest—and most famous—nicknames in big league history.
The Can seems at peace with himself these days. After a decade where he said anger over his shortish MLB career forced an estrangement from his wife and two kids, along with a bad cocaine habit, he's quit hard drugs and is back with his family and running the Oil Can Boyd School of Baseball in Providence, Rhode Island.
He does some private coaching with high school teams as well, along with an occasional event for the Jimmy Fund or other charity. And while he rarely gets to Fenway, he was back for the 100th anniversary celebration in April and got a terrific hand from the crowd when introduced. That meant a lot to him.
“I fight every day not to go out and get drugs, but it's a private fight,” he told me. “I don't call it being clean, I call it being tolerant. I stay healthy, and I'm on a baseball field seven days a week. That's where I feel the most comfortable.”
That's one more thing he and the Spaceman have in common: Both are still pitching. Lee has hurled in a variety of leagues through the years, and this summer, at age 65, became the oldest man in history to win a professional game when he went all nine innings for his hometown San Rafael Pacifics of the North American League in a 9-4 victory over Maui.
Boyd, who moved back to New England just in time for the wonderful Red Sox summer of 2004, now lives in Providence and pitches with teams in two divisions of the Men's Senior Baseball League—one for age 35-and-up, the other for 48-and-up. He's still lean and spry a few weeks short of his 53rd birthday, and says he plays shortstop when not on the mound.
“I gotta go work out, I'm pitching tomorrow,” he told me with a smile as he left the Mobile Book Fair. I thanked him for the time, and all the joy he gave Red Sox fans back in the mid-'80s. It was fun to watch him then, and fun to talk to him now.
Saul Wisnia lives less than seven miles from Fenway Park and works 300 yards from Yawkey Way. His latest book, Fenway Park: The Centennial, is available at http://amzn.to/qWjQRS, and his Fenway Reflections can be found at http://saulwisnia.blogspot.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and @saulwizz.
The key to victory in any NBA game is to shut down the opposition's best scorer.
By cutting off the team's biggest source of power, other players are forced to compensate for the lost production, which results in unintelligent shot selection and desperate play. In most cases, this approach works and while it may not always result in a win, it makes for some great basketball to watch.
However, there are some players out there who are just too hard to defend.
LeBron James, for example, is just such a phenomenal athlete that even if one were to shut his scoring down, he'd be able to make up for it in rebounding or passing. As the best all-around player in the league, he is pretty much indefensible. The same can be said for players who are masters at creating their own shots.
That all being said, though an 82-game season is on the horizon and coaches will have more time to make adjustments regarding certain matchups, there are still some players who will give them nightmares from the start of training camp up until the last game of the regular season.
The sad truth is that these select few are so unbelievably talented at what they do, they can take over the game anytime they want to.
Freitag, 28. September 2012
The only thing stopping Bailey from a perfect game was a lonely walk and an error in the field. Beyond that, Bailey struck out 10 Pirates in total en route to the impressive feat. It took the Reds' starter 115 pitches in all.
Bailey navigated the ninth inning carefully, retiring the last three batters in order.
First up was Brock Holt, who went down on strikes. After that, Michael McKenry was the second to be eliminated in the inning after flying out to left field.
With one out to go, Bailey needed to get leadoff hitter Alex Presley. Bailey would go on to get Presley to fly out to second base, enabling Brandon Phillips to record the final out, thus ensuring baseball immortality for the right-hander.
Bailey's no-hitter is the 15th in the team's history and the first since Tom Browning did it way back in 1988 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Coming into this game, Bailey was having a solid season for the playoff-bound Reds. The 26-year-old was 12-10 with a 3.92 ERA before his historic performance.
In the grand scheme of things, Bailey's start helps the Reds beyond just putting them in the record books.
Cincinnati's win is its 95th of the season, and that keeps the pressure on the Washington Nationals, who own the National League's best record. A loss for the Nats against the St. Louis Cardinals would put the Reds in a tie in the running for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
It's one thing to make history like Bailey did, but it's even better when a pitcher making history helps his team's chances to succeed in the postseason.
Chris Johnson is off to a dreadful start to the 2012 NFL season for the Tennessee Titans and his trade value in fantasy leagues is diminishing by the day.
The Titans' running back isn't exactly racking up the points this year and that is a disappointing fact for fantasy football owners around the globe.
In 33 carries, Johnson has accumulated an abysmal 45 yards, making it difficult to say he is a must-start on a weekly basis.
As a result, Johnson's trade stock is in the dumps at this point in the season and trading him will depend on certain factors.
Johnson's depressing numbers this season means that he can no longer be the focal point of a trade. If fantasy owners are looking for something in return for Johnson, they will certainly have to add another solid player to sweeten the deal.
Of course, that would make it a complete waste to make such a deal in the first place.
Fantasy football owners will have to get lucky in order to move Johnson.
The best bet would be looking for another team that has zero assets at the running back position and is willing to take a chance on CJ2K stepping his game up in the weeks to come. But a trade like that would require the team needing a running back to be deep at another position.
Teams in desperate need of a running back would be wise to make a move for Johnson as soon as possible while his stock is at rock bottom.
Fantasy owners must realize that a talented back like Johnson won't play this poorly all season, especially when the Titans are moving the ball through the air with success.
It's just a matter of time before opposing defenses cheat on the pass against Tennessee, opening up the door for Johnson to regain his past success. If that happens, fantasy owners could have potentially landed a top back for next to nothing.
If you have Johnson, he certainly won't be easy to move unless you're willing to give him up for little in return. But if you are desperate for a back and nothing else is working, taking a shot on Johnson could pay huge dividends down the road.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- A busy and productive offseason behind him, Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers can finally look at his reconstructed roster and say without hesitation, ''I don't think we're bad on paper. We're good on paper.''
Choosing a Ryder Cup pairing can be a delicate science.
In the 2012 Ryder Cup, though, Davis Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal stuck to the script. There weren't many surprises among the pairings: Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker were a match, while Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell were an obvious pair selection.
Four foursomes will hit an afternoon round at Medinah Country Club. Points are up for grabs. Let's look at the most interesting battles.
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell (Europe) vs. Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson (USA)
Two heavyweight pairs match up against each other in the second tee time. Both made handy work of their opponents in the morning round.
The leading storyline from this morning's round was Mickelson and Bradley's domination. Let's just say they weren't the top pick to have the most impressive round from the U.S. team.
Bradley, though, has been an emotional spark plug and a great putter in his first appearance. Mickelson may have found the Ryder Cup partner that has eluded him in recent tournaments.
McIlroy and McDowell are proven European players carrying the torch for a young Europe. The Irishmen love playing together and they bring results on the course.
Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts (Europe) vs. Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker (USA)
There was chatter on the ESPN Ryder Cup telecast that Woods might sit the afternoon round, but captain Davis Love III went with the polarizing pair.
They have fared admirably in match play all-time, but if Tiger is off his game as in the opening foursomes, Stricker will have to play otherworldly to keep them in the hunt.
As if Woods and Stricker aren't good enough entertainment, they are matched up with Westwood and Colsaerts, a pairing of veteran and rookie. Westwood has won 16 times, more than any other European on the team.
Think he knows how to win on this level?
That's why pairing the rookie Colsaerts with the veteran Brit could bring some magic on the European side. Westwood can guide the power-hitting first-timer as he goes up against Tiger Woods' team.
Should be a dogfight to the finish.
MIAMI (AP) -- Heat coach Erik Spoelstra looked relaxed Thursday, as if he took the summer off.
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones has been a hot name amongst NFL draft analysts for some time. In September of last year, Mel Kiper called Jones his No. 2 quarterback amongst 2012 draft eligible prospects. Fast forward to this year, and as late as September 5, Chris Steuber ranked the now senior Sooner signal-caller his 19th overall 2013 draft prospect.
Because expectations were so high for Jones a year ago, I started breaking down his film very early. By the time he announced his decision to stay at Oklahoma for his senior season in January, I had already charted eight games of his.
I came away less impressed than some analysts, and while I believe he made a smart decision by staying in school, I feel he thus far he has not improved upon a disappointing 2011 campaign, and question whether he truly has next-level skills.
Jones has prototypical height for the quarterback position as well as the bulk needed to absorb punishment at the NFL level. When he has a clean pocket he flashes the ability to deliver the ball with zip and accuracy on underneath and intermediate throws, and also possesses a quick, compact release.
While Jones passes the initial eyeball test, he has several flaws in his game that will only be further exposed once in an NFL training camp. First off, he appears to be an average athlete that struggles to slide and adjust to pressure within the pocket and is not a threat running in space.
Speaking of his feet, his footwork is a major issue now and will only cause him further trouble next summer when he is asked to take snaps from under center for the first time. He plays with his feet too far apart, which not only limits his mobility in and out of the pocket but also causes him to struggle staying square to his targets.
When he throws with a wide base his accuracy suffers, as he is unable to transfer his weight properly from his back foot and maintain consistent mechanics. This also prevents him from getting proper hip rotation and snap on his throws, limiting his velocity.
When I chart his accuracy (which is different than completion percentage) he was solid on underneath throws but struggled elsewhere. Most worrisome were his numbers in the 5-14 yard range, as he was just 74-122 with 11 scores and four interceptions, and a whopping 17 passes defended. Essentially, defenders got their hands on nearly twice as many balls in this range as he threw touchdowns.
His wildly inconsistent accuracy is not just a result of poor footwork and velocity, but also a frequent consequence of poor decision making. In Oklahoma’s spread offense the quarterback’s reads are generally predetermined, thus Jones is used to making one pre-snap decision and throwing to his primary target.
When his first option is covered, he consistently struggles to get through his progressions efficiently and instead locks on to his initial mark. He also struggles when faced with pressure, as he tends to bail out early and force throws into traffic.
Jones has been an effective rhythm passer in a very generic college spread offense, but his technical and mental struggles mean he has a very long road ahead of him.
Considering his unimpressive body of work at Oklahoma, he clearly does not belong in first-round discussions. Based on my film studies, I do not feel he has the upside in his game to warrant spending a draft pick on him at all, and view Jones as a free-agent prospect.
Donnerstag, 27. September 2012
Thursday the Browns were bounced by an AFC North foe in the Baltimore Ravens, pushing the team's record to a lowly 0-4. With the way things have been going it doesn't appear as if the win column will fill up anytime soon.
There are a variety of issues haunting the Browns right now. Let's examine the biggest issues that are all but ensuring the Browns will be picking first in the 2013 NFL draft.
Mediocre Pass Protection
While it may be easy to put the blame for the Browns' offensive woes on rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, the real problem lies in the trenches along the offensive line.
Weeden has been inaccurate at times, but most of those occurrences have been while under pressure because his line cannot give him enough time to progress through his reads and make a solid throw.
The offensive line is not having issues running the ball, but the interior of the line has been giving up a ridiculous amount of pressure. Pressure up the middle is drastically more detrimental to a quarterback, because if it were coming from the edges, Weeden could just step up in the pocket.
Weeden by no means has been perfect, but the offensive line has been worse.
Lack of a Passing Game
The above issues with the offensive line and Weeden are a major part of the mediocre passing game that ranks in the lower end of NFL through four weeks, but there are other issues contributing as well.
While the running game has Trent Richardson to carry it along, the passing game has no major playmakers that are contributing effectively on a regular basis.
Greg Little continues to have major issues simply catching the football, adding five drops to his 2012 total against the Ravens Thursday night, including a touchdown pass.
Mohamed Massaquoi cannot stay healthy, and rookies Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon have yet to establish themselves as serious threats.
If the Browns could manage to catch the football consistently, the passing game wouldn't be an issue. A perfect example would be against Baltimore on prime time—had the receivers not dropped so many passes, the Browns could have pulled off a major upset.
Head coach Pat Shumur has had a rough go of it so far this season. He decided to go with Weeden at quarterback, which appears to be the right decision to this point.
The problem is how Shumur has handled Weeden. There is no reasonable explanation for a running back like Richardson to only receive 14 carries and Weeden attempting a ridiculous 52 passes like they did in Baltimore.
An ideal strategy would be to run heavily with Richardson because of his outstanding talent, and ease Weeden into the pro game.
Shurmur has done the opposite.
Running backs have one of the more simpler transitions to the NFL from the collegiate level. Quarterbacks have the most difficult.
Shurmur is handling the team the wrong way, and if the 2012 season continues in this fashion, he won't have a job when the season concludes.
2013 NFL Draft Strategy
With the Browns a likely candidate for the top pick, it is not too early to think about what they should do with the valuable pick.
Picking a quarterback again would be a mistake, no matter how talented they happen to be. Weeden is good, but needs pieces around him—just like Colt McCoy did before the organization took Weeden.
Upgrading the interior of the offensive line is a viable option, as is grabbing the most talented receiver available.
An underrated option would be selecting the most talented cornerback available to put across from the elite Joe Haden. The defense is great already, but adding another talented defensive back to the secondary would give the Browns a perennial top-five unit.
If the organization truly believes Weeden is the quarterback of the future, it has to surround him with proper weapons. The best offensive lineman or wide receiver available makes the most sense with the top pick.