Trades, Tirades, and FIFA

First things first. Sepp Blatter has officially entered my list of sports people that are absolutely horrendous for their particular sport. He’s right there with Bud Selig, Donald Fehr, and Don King. Anyone who remembers anything about the ’02 Cup remembers the bull that Italy suffered at the hands of the "ref" (A.K.A Fifa) against South Korea. Guess what? Italy got the nod against Australia this year against an obvious dive in which the the official was in perfect position to see. Mr. Blatter has been blustering about the officiating, suspending a few here and there. But that call was NOT about the officiating, that was about keeping a more globally attractive team alive in a highly televised tournament. It was about deciding the outcome of a game off the field instead of on it. I’m not saying the game was fixed. I think that sort of masterminding is beyond the capabilities of Fifa. But I’m 99.5 percent sure that the officiating crew was told to give the Italian team the nod if it was close.

I have been -blasted- for this opinion. But the only argument I’ve received is "Then why isn’t the US  getting the ‘nod?’ " A stupid argument, when you think about it. The US is still an untapped market. A successful US run isn’t going to get 200,000,000 uninterested people tuning into soccer. People would like to think it would, but no. They need to build up the passion for the game here.

The best way to do that is to get names over here in the MLS. If you don’t believe that name recognition would generate interest in soccer, then you weren’t at the Real Madrid/LA Galaxy friendly like I was, You didn’t go to a Giants game when Barry was fully chemically enhanced. Names put rear ends into chairs. Names sells jerseys. If that means turning the MLS into the equivalent of the Senior PGA tour, then lets do it. Names generate interest, interest generates ticket sales and TV packages, ticket sales and TV packages generate cash, cash generates higher salaries, higher salaries draw in better talent. End’o’story. That’s enough on soccer.

——

I’m officially done with Jeff Weaver. D-O-N-E. The Angels need to just dump him -fast-. We need to cut our losses and move on with Jered, no trade, no bullpen, just flat out eat the rest of that ridiculous contract and move on, Arte can take it out of Stoneman’s pay. With that being said, the Angels need offensive help like yesterday. Outside of Napoli and Cabrera. Nothing his happening offensively. Vladdy finally showed signs of life yesterday, so hopefully he’ll step it up again.

We’re still one RBI bat short, however. We need someone to pencil into the 4 spot to provide protection to Vlad Guerrero, and to possibly be on base for Mike Napoli. First Base and and Left/Center field are the places they need to look. I’m not a fan of the Tejada deal. Its not that I don’t like his bat. I just think that you’d displace Orlando Cabrera, who, as the coaching staff will find out hopefully by the All-Star break, is the closest thing to a lead-off hitter on the roster He’s number 3 of the big three the Angels are after. I’m not big on the Soriano deal either. He wants to play second base? Do we really need to downgrade an already shoddy defense? He’s number 2.

The obvious choice, at least to me, is Carlos Lee. He fills in an outfield void at left field, because I think Garret is no longer fit to play in the field. Unfortunately he’s probably going to be the hardest to get, mainly because the Angels tradeable prospects are playing positions in which the Brewers already have young talent. Plus, you’ve gotta add in the fact that the Brewers are actually still contending in a suddenly struggling NL Central. Its hard to gage what the Milwaukee front office might do. They probably have no chance of re-signing him come winter time and may want to get something for him while they can.

As a whole, I think the trade deadline is going to be very intriguing across baseball. It’ll be interesting to see what pans out over the next 30 days.

Steroids, the Game, and the Rat That Is the Commissioner

Ok. I’m ready for my full Steroid/HGH/Grimsley rant It’s mainly directed a certain commissioner in our sport. It hurts me to do this, it really does, because I bleed Packer’s green and gold as much as I do Angel Red, and Mr. Selig is a former Packers committee member. So here goes.

First off, I’d like to commend Selig on suspending Jason Grimsley for 50 games. Who are you going to suspend next? Sammy Sosa? Mark McGuire? Why don’t we suspend Ken Caminiti while we’re at it. What Selig has done is effectively suspended a guy that, admittingly, is never coming back to the game. He’s already not getting paid. So this suspension, when all is said and done, this punishment has absolutely zero impact on the person it was levied upon. You want to know the sad thing about this? This is probably Selig’s strongest show of power in his entire tenure as the commish.

Staying on the subject of ol’ Buddy. Alot of the burden of this so-called ‘steroid era’ falls on him. It -has- to. He allowed the union to walk all over him, giving concession after concession to Donald Fehr. For what? The privacy of the players? That’s a bunch of bull. Selig allowed himself to be told by the union to turn a blind eye to all the HGH, steroids, and amphetamines. Its a gross failure on Selig’s part.

I’m also tired of the people who say "If they want to screw with their bodies, let them. It doesn’t matter." Ok, let me tell you this. These same ‘bat and glove’ salesmen that venture into professional clubhouses venture into the high school locker rooms your kids are in. And let me tell you, they’re selling the same stuff to high schoolers as they do to the pros. You know how they lock in the high school kids? By saying the pro’s do it, by saying its the only way to get a leg up because everyone else at the next level is doing it. If you doubt that happens, then your just too naive to be a parent, plain and simple. Its more rampant in football and the high school level, but it happens in baseball locker rooms too. You clean up the game, you clean up the high school locker rooms.

But the simple fact of the matter is that a majority of the fans believe it to be a serious problem and want the game cleaned up. That means Donald Fehr needs to shut his pie-hole about players rights. This so-called ‘champion for the players’. needs to realize that players do not supercede the purity of the game. Players who tarnish that purity need to be dealt with swiftly and harshly. ****, the whole union needs to realize that playing baseball is a -privelege-, just like having a drivers license. You are -priveleged- to play this game, and you abide by the rules governing this game, which are installed to protect its purity. Because, face it, the game is really the only thing to sport has going for it anymore. And its being threatened by these peformance enhancing drugs.

Also, Bud Selig needs to step up to the plate and make some drastic and sweeping changes. His tenure is already bound to be remember as a failure. Lack of action here only solidifies is legacy as the most cowardly sports leader in history. If he does something here, it will salvage a little bit of dignity. And don’t give me any of this "His hands are tied" or "What can he do?" bullcrap. David Stern basically has beee-otch slapped the union, and every single one of his critics when he wanted something down. You want a commish that knows how to control his sport? They’re you go. Stern noticed that his sport had an image problem and was lagging behind the two other major sports, so what did he do? He instituted and dress code, and changed the rules around to allow for more marketability. Paul Tagliabue has rocketed his sport to a level of popularity and marketability that rivals, and probably even surpasses, that of soccer in Europe. Yet Bud Selig still allows scandal, after scandal, after scandal to tear at his sport. Just when the sport starts to recover, something else embroils it. Why does this happen? A complete lack of control, that’s why.

Yes, some of this has to fall on the players themselves as well. It, after all, is their jealousy, over-zealousness, and greed that has turned America’s pasttime into a sport of cheaters. For what? An extra half million on a contract? A few more highlights on Sportscenter? Yes, they’re to blame for this too and they need to be punished. But seriously, if we were to suspend/ban every single player on some sort of peformance enhancer, we’d probably reduce every single roster down to 5-6 players at the most, taking down some of the games most popular and beloved players in the process. So how do we do it? How to we start to clean up the game?

Amnesty. . .That’s how.

If you come forward by the end of the year, whether it be public or private, admitting your use of performance enhancing drugs at present or in the past, you’re free to go. You sign a contract admitting that you used some sort of peformance enhancer, as well as agreeing that if you ever test positive for performance enhancers again, you are effectively banned from the game. Those people who do not come foward, and are caught using the drugs, or sufficient evidence emerges that they did use the drugs at one time, are to be banned for life on the spot . No ifs, ands, or buts.

Its plain and simple, cut and dry. It allows for a confession to be done on the spot, it doesn’t have to be public, it could be completely and totally private. I don’t like the idea of allowing people off, but its probably the only way. What’s in the past is in the past, lets concentrate on saving the future of the game. Let it be known that behavior like this will not be tolerated again. A stiff penalty such as a ban, would get that message across. But allowing players to admit usage, saving time and money on investigation, is in the best interests of everyone.

Of course, its not going to happen that way. Mr. Selig is going to find a way to just sit on his hands, allowing the Feds to clean up his mess yet again. Its really a sad state of affairs. I mean, really, it ***** when we have a commissioner that makes me embarrassed to be baseball fan.

La Copa de Mundial

Being a former soccer player, and a good one at that, yes, I am caught up in World Cup Fever. There is really only one bad thing about the world cup this year. Working 6AM-2:30PM in the Pacific Timezone, -every- game during the week happens during my shift. We have a TV set in the break room, but with no cable and a worthless antenna, we get very sketchy Univision coverage. Its all good though, because the games are on the radio as well. Out here the local coverage is solely on 97.5. . ."Cumbia y mas."

Now, being half Mexican, I learned enough Spanish to interact on a basic level. You’ve just gotta talk real slow and keep your sentences short. That is something that Spanish commentators do -not- do. So, during these first two games, I’ve resorted to keying on on the obvious name differences, and certain words and terms I know from watching soccer such as "tiro de esquina", "Penal", and of course "Gooooooooooooooool!!!"

Its going to be interesting, I plan on TiVo-ing all of the US and Mexico games during the week, as well as listening to them during the day. So will see how that turns out.

Without further ado, here are my bold World Cup predictions (in order of predicted finish in the group stage).

Group A: Germany and Poland advance.

The Germans are one of the favorites to win it and will sweep the group sessions. The Poles will probably not make it through now, unless they pull off a dramatic upset of the Germans. I’d change it to Ecuador, but hey, I made the predictions yesterday, and I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong.

Group B: England and Paraguay advance

England let out a collective sigh of relief when Wayne Rooney was eligible, it remains to be seen how effecive he’ll be. Paraguay is a solid squad, helped by the fact that other two teams stand not a chance.

Group C: Argentina and The Netherlands advance

For the so-called "Group of Death" I found this one probably the easiest one to choose. Serbia/Montenegro and the Ivory Coast have nothing on the Argentines and the Dutch.

Group D: Mexico and Iran advance

Watch out for the Mexicans, they are poised to make a run this year. Portugal will falter, as usual, allowing a very respectable Iranian squad to advance.

Group E: USA and the Czech Republic advance

The Stars and Bars tie Czechs and roll ahead of them on goal differential. Ghana is way out of its league and the Italians are going to be too distracted by the whole Scandal in their country.

 Group F: Brazil and Australia advance

You’re **** right I say the Socceroo’s advance.

Group G: France and Togo advance

Only because the head witch-doctor of Togo said so.

Group H: Spain and Ukraine advance

Ukraine is really ranked under -both- Tunisia and Saudi Arabia? Why? They’ve got Andriy Shevchenko!

The 16 . . . . .

Germany beats Paraguay 3-0 – Yes I’m predicting scores too.

England over Poland 2-1 – Insert Ecuador here.

Argentina over Iran 4-1 – No chance for the Iranians, most lopsided game in the 2nd round.

Mexico over Netherlands 2-1 – This really is only an upset because they’re on European soil.

USA over Australia 3-1 – It was a good run for the Socceroo’s though

Brazil over Czech Republic 4-3 – Best game of the tournament, right here.

France over Ukraine 1-0 – The French are just the better team

Spain over Togo 3-1 – I don’t care what the head witch-doctor says about this one. . . . Wait, what’s that pain in my neck?

Quarters

Germany over Argentina 3-2 – Another great match, won on home field advantage. Unless the hand of God appears

USA over France 1-1 (5-3) – Uncle Sam is due to take over the world’s game.

Mexico over England 2-1 – The CONCACAF rules

Brazil over Spain 3-1 – So does Brazil, apparently. Does anyone notice how Brazil is like Duke on your NCAA March Madness bracket? Before you know it, you’ve got them penciled into the final four and you say to yourself "Again?"  And then you look at the bracket and you realize that there’s really no team you can pick with any confidence to beat them.

Semis

US over Germany 3-2 – You’re reading that correctly, yes.

Brazil over Mexico 4-1 – Too Bad, a US/Mexico final would have been like a Dodger/Angel World Series out here, only I’d be afraid to go outside.

Third Place

Germany over Mexico 3-2 – The sad thing is, this is dissappointing for Germany in their eyes.

Finals

Brazil over US 4-2 – I’m not -that- crazy. Only seven teams have ever won the world cup (Brazil, Germany, Uruguay, Italy, Argentina, England, France). Its not going to change this year.

A whole lot of somethin.

A lot to get to, and so little time to write it.

First off. . . .Enough about the Melky Cabrera catch already! Great catches happen, this one is just being glorified beyond belief. Greater catches have happened. More meaningful great catches have occurred. This doesn’t change the course of the season. When Jason Grimsley implicates half the Yankees team for use of HGH, its all gonna be for naught, so don’t worry.

A Yankees fan I work with tried to rub in my face how the Yankees have half the starting spots on the All Star Roster. At this point, I’ve given up on the All-Star game. Its nothing but a ratings ploy, get butts in the seats and make money, that’s all. Yankee and Red Sox fans are voting, no one else really is. So, Yankee and Red Sox fans will get their way. Simple as that.  I’ll tell you one thing, its gonna give Ozzie Guillen fits when he tries to make his roster. Speaking of which, who’s gonna make the team from the Royals? The only person with half-way decent numbers is Mark Grudzielanek. I that’s my bet.

Are the Reds challenging for first? Really? Wow.

On the home front, the Angels are starting to actually play some baseball. The bats are coming around, power is starting to show, pitching is slowly returning to the level it was last year. The only problem is, the rest of the AL West is playing against the same muck we’ve been playing against, and peforming just as well. Here’s my bold predicition The Angels will win 40 games before they lose 40, and win 60 before they lose 50. Its plausible, their schedule doesn’t really toughen up until late July.

I’d write something on the whole Jason Grimsley deal, but its too early to make full assumptions on that. I’ll wait for that to develop a little more. All I’ll say is this: I think its big, I don’t know how big. But big. And I also find it funny  that it was the federal government, and not Bud Selig’s team of heroes that uncovered this. And if it turns out to be as big as I think it can, Super Bud better just step down, and let someone -qualified- clean up the mess he helped cover up. There’s never been more of a worthless piece of trash in the sport and an absolute hinderance to its progess than Bud Selig, and I’ll stand by that until I die.

Vote for Youkilis!!!!!!!

To whom it may concern in the MLB front office,

I’ve noticed a shocking and absolutely absurd omission from this year’s All-Star ballot. Although I am not one of them, I believe I speak for all Red Sox nation (or maybe not) when I write this; I am utterly offended that you have managed to leave Kevin Youkilis off the ballot. He has been the starting first baseman for the entirety of the young season, having arguably one of the better seasons at the position of any player in the AL. The fact that a player of such caliber is left only to be voted in as a write-in is completely out of line. In his place, you have a man who has started in less games at that position over the last three years in David Ortiz. Tell me, what is your reasoning? How do you rationalize that?

David Ortiz is on the team no matter what. If he doesn’t get voted in, he’s chosen by the coaches as a reserve. That’s a given. Now, what about Mr. Youkilis, what happens to him? He, at best, gets thrown into that 25th man vote, where it becomes a toss up, especially if he’s up against someone like Alex Rios and most likely a random Yankee that’s on there as a novelty pick.

Let’s throw this out there, let’s say that only ACTUAL 1st basemen are on the ballot. That, by rule, elminates David Ortiz and Travis Hafner of the Indians (Where Ben Brussard isn’t playing too shabby either at 1st either), meaning there are now. That means, as of the last tally, there would have been 606,309 votes available to other, more deserving *1st Basemen*.  Of those, 451,431 were for Ortiz. You know that probably a good 200,000 of those votes are from die hard Red Sox fans, meaning they would probably vote for Kevin. I’ll estimate that maybe 20 to 30,000 votes from Hafner would go to Yook. With stats alone, another 50,000 votes might have swung his way. That’s 280,000 votes. Putting him, second behind Giambi, making him on pace to be a reserve. Done.

But no, baseballs concern for marketability and name recognition has hindered the ability for him to earn a fair shot at winning the job outright. I know what you’re going to tell me, write him in. You know how many people write in? Ballots, All star, political office, school office, are base on name recognition. You either go in voting (or writing-in) a pre-chosen candidate, or you screen across the choices looking for the most recognizable or desirable name. Rarely ever does someone ask "Where’s so and so?" It just doesn’t happen. Besides, when people get to the write-in portion of the ballot, they usually have already voted for a player in the said position, which, therefore, by voting rules, invalidates the write selection.  So your "write him in" argument  becomes invalid due to the psychological dismissal of the write-in option.

But unfortunately David Ortiz is more marketable. Tell me, if Papi is still DHing for the twins, is he on the ballot as the Twins first baseman? If Pujols played in the AL on his team, is Papi on the ballot as a first baseman? The answer to that is no, and no. So any argument baseball has aside from the
"He’s on the Red Sox, he’s a marketable name" option is wrong. I personally intend to write in Kevin when I vote, because he, by definition, SHOULD be the first baseman on the ballot for the Red Sox.

Thank you

Weaver squared

So Jered is now up and ready to go, he’s pitching tommorrow. Matched up against Erik Bedard. As mentioned in my previous blog here, this isn’t exactly the spot I’d put him in, but hey, I pay  to make comments, I don’t get paid to make decisions. What happens here now is you essentially have brother pitted against brother. Whomever does better in the time between now and the return of Bartolo will earn a spot. Jeff has the advantage, as he’s got a 9 million dollar contract to be a starter, and Jered is still under team control for another 4 years. If they both pitch well, Jeff will remain in the rotation and Jered will return to the minors. If they both pitch bad, expect Jered to go down, Jeff to go into the bullpen and Joe Saunders get called up for a shot. We’ll have to see. Let’s just get through the Jered first start, and then we’ll start making assessments from there.

Note to the Angels brass: Thank you for releasing Esteban Yan. That was the worse signing from last offseason. He’s an ineffective pitcher with less than average stuff that was probably the wink link of our bullpen. ****, past Shields, Donnelly, and Frankie, the bullpen has a significant dropoff, in my mind. This isn’t the bullpen from ’02, when we had Percival, Weber, and Levine in there.

Tonight, the Orioles come to town. Ain’t no reason why we can’t continue winning.

Favorite Angels #23 – David Eckstein

Few players can capture the hearts of the fans quite like David Eckstein can. For 4 years, he was Anaheim’s spark plug. In 2002, he was the epitome of the Angels run to the world title. He’s a guy that’s not supposed to be here. God didn’t give him the classic tools needed to play at this level, save for one. His heart. Eckstein is that little leaguer with dreams of playing in the big leagues. He’s that spark of determination buried deep inside of all of us that drives us to reach goals that our peers say we can achieve. He is what baseball is all about. He’s not going to hit you 30 homeruns, he’s not going to bat .350, he’s not going to steal 50 bases. But, he is going to give you every ounce of talent he’s got, and by doing that, he’s going to bring out the best in those he plays with. 20 years from now, Angel fans, and now Cardinal fans, are going to look back on his playing days and say "Remember that guy? He was a **** good player."

If only every athlete played their game like he did, maybe we wouldn’t have to deal with all the **** there is in sports today. David isn’t likely to be in the Hall of Fame when his playing days are done, but you know, maybe he should be. In this stats driven world, its players like him that bring us back to the true meaning of the game. After all, isn’t that what the hall is for?

Just a few notes.

Mark it on the calandar, the Angels have won 2 in a row.  I’m not quite sure if the Halos have turned a corner, but they’re definitely on the right track. With that, there are quite a few interesting developments happening or bound to come up with this team.

First off, Jeff Weaver. Jeff had a decent start today. There still was a home run hit off of him, as well as two shots that probably would have been if the wind hadn’t been in Jeff’s favor. Going by this start, you can’t justify removing him from the rotation. It was a start you’d expect out of a number 5 starter. I still believe that he’s on a short start-by-start leash, because he’s gotta do more than have one decent start. His next start is against the Twins on Tuesday. It’s a lesser lineup, but the staff is better than the competition Texas put out. Hey, at this point I’m just hoping for an effective start. Not $9 mil effective, but just effective.

Next, Kendry Morales. In our desperation, lets not be too quick to hail him as the savior of the lineup. Yes, I think he’s going to be a good hitter, maybe even a great hitter, but he’s going to go through the ups and downs that most rookies go through. The difference will be his experience with the Cuban National Team, in my mind. At 22, he’s probably more apt to deal with the pressure than alot of people his age in his position. In the near future, maybe by August or next year at the latest, he’s going to become viable protection for Vlad, along with Mike Napoli. Next year, I project that you have Garret batting 3rd, with Vlad hitting behind him as protection, followed by Morales and Napoli. Garret to benefit more by having Vlad behind him as opposed to having Morales.

Next, Darin Erstad. He’s probably 2 or so weeks away from returning. For better or for worse, he’s going to get his spot in the lineup back. The question is; what happens around that? His return is going to affect 3 people mainly; Figgy, McPherson, and Murphy. The most likely scenario is Figgy moving back to third base on a more full-time basis, with McPherson becoming a DH against righties, and Murphy going back down to the minors. This all depends on McPherson’s performance. If he keeps hitting, like he has been, then his value far exceeds what Murphy has. However, if D-Mac starts to struggle again, Murphy becomes the better option. McPherson’s only asset is his power bat. He’s an average fielder, and baserunner. If he doesn’t provide power, then his use is lost. Murphy on the other hand, can be used as a defensive replacement in the outfield, a pinch-runner, and a bunter. I like Murphy, as a utility outfielder, I like him more than Juan Rivera.

Next, Jered Weaver. The kid is just on right now. He is as hot has anyone can be at the moment. Is he ready to be called up?  Most likely. Is he going to be called up? Maybe. The situation has to be right. If Jeff struggles in his start against the Twins, then yes, we will see Jered strike a blow for little brothers everywhere sooner rather than later. Alot of people say to call him up into Bartolo Colon’s spot in the rotation as opposed to Kevin Gregg. I don’t quite agree with that approach, given this "What if". We already know that Colon is going to come back, probably within the next 3 or 4 starts. What if Jeff Weaver picks it up during that time? What are we going to do with Jered once Bart comes back? Sending him back down is going to be a break in his rhythm. If he’s going to come up, lets have it be for good. If older brother Jeff falters, yes, bring him up. If (god forbid) a pitcher has a serious injury, bring him up. But not -right now-.

Finally, Bill Stoneman. I was listening to my favorite sports talk radio show out here in LA, the Big Show with Steve Mason and John Ireland, and Mr. Stoneman was getting tore up by the callers. My word to those callers is ‘ease up’. You don’t just call for the head of a GM who’s brought you a world series and back to back division championships just because of the start we’ve had. Look at the standings, we’re only 4 1/2 out as of right now. Sure, ok, he couldn’t get Paul Konerko. To be honest, Paul made the best decision he could have. A comparable offer to ours to go back to the the world champs? Why turn that down? Ok, he didn’t trade for Manny Ramirez. The Red Sox wanted names like Santana, Kendrick, Wood, and Morales. No effin way. Sure we’re going to have to part with one or two of these prospects to get a power bat at the deadline, but at least now we have a gauge on them. Besides, I’ve mentioned it before, I think the problem has been Hatcher’s approach to hitting. Now, he’s finally preaching a little bit of patience, and guess what, they’re hitting. It’s all going to come in time. Now that they are hitting, the pressure going to start coming off of everyone to hit that 5-run homerun. It should snowball (in a positive way) from there. And if that happens, there’s no reason we can’t take this division.

An end to the madness? Addendum

For the record, about 15 seconds after I sent my last blog, Orlando Cabrera hit into a double play. . . .Irony.

An end to the madness?

I think the Angels have reached step 1 towards recovery. Aside from the final game of the Dodger series. They’ve been getting a fair amount of hits, the problem is they’re getting them with nobody on or a guy on 1st. Then when it counts, with RISP, they’re regressing into the ultra aggressive style that got them in this slump in the first place. Case and point, about 30 seconds ago, Robb Quinlan had a 3-1 count against Francisco Cordero with 2 on, who was struggling with his control. He proceeded to swing at 2 eye-level fastballs and struck out. They, at this point in the game, have left 9 people on the bags. That is completely unnacceptable. While we’re talking about Robb, 5 of those runners were stranded including a base-loaded double-play. 1st base is becoming a liability. Euribiel Durazo has been available, but the Yankees have picked him up.

On a positive note, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Mike Napoli. If he continues this pace, he probably becomes the leading candidate for AL Rookie of the year. He’s been the most patient hitter in the lineup and has some pop. He isn’t bad behind the dish either.

Its now 3-2 in the top of the 9th with one out and one on. Vlad is on deck. So, barring a double play, we just might have a chance.

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