Welcome to my world.....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I miss baseball - stuck with Cricket!

So I'm in Liverpool, UK, on vacation with my daughter and suffering from Sports Withdrawal. I've got limited Internet time and with the time difference (5 hours ahead of US), it's hard to track what's happening on my timeline. In an effort to get my sports Jones soothed, I'm watching the English sports channel SKY. They are showing Cricket. Oy.

As best as I can figure, and using baseball terms, there are two teams of 11 players. The game is divided into innings and a game can last for up to five days. One team takes the field, the other team sends out two batters (batsmen). The inning is over after teach member of the batting team has had an at-bat. Also, there are no "outs" like in baseball - you have to retire the batter. All eleven of them. I guess now I see why it can last up to five days.

So. The pitcher (bowler) throws the ball and tries to hit the catcher (wicket). A wicket is a set of sticks set up behind the batter so the batter hits the ball away from the sticks. If the pitcher hits the sticks, or if one of the outfielders catches the ball after it has been hit but before it hits the ground, the batter is "retired." He can hit the ball even if it bounces on the way to home plate. If the ball is put in play, then he is still "up." The other 10 players in the outfield are in a circle around this little rectangle between home and second base. It's called a "pitch." Now, the second batter is standing behind the pitcher at second base. If the batter puts the ball into play, he and the guy on second try to run straight across the field (pitch) and change places. This is how they score a run.And that's all I got. Watched for an hour, listened to the commentators, and that's about all I've been able to figure out. Now, these people may speak English but I'm telling you it's like the announcers have marbles in their mouths because I could barely understand them. And maybe it's just because I'm a typical American Sports Fan with ADD, but Cricket reminds me of Soccer from the standpoint that this game can go on for days and no one seems to care. I kinda like having an idea when a game will end... but maybe it's just me.

I love football, but I've grown to like baseball quite a bit over the past 15 years or so. And one of the things I like is the relationship between baseball and the number 3. I'm a numbers girl and typically

I only like even numbers, but there is something magical about the number 3 - at least that is what I was taught by School House Rock back in the 70's. (see You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GA69pmhrBiE) And 3 is all over baseball.

3 outs per inning. 3 sets of 3 innings per game (3x3+9). 3 bases (home is a plate, not a base) 3 important stats in the box score: Runs, Hits, Errors. And most usually, 3 hours from first pitch to last. The 3's are all over the game and seem somehow comforting to someone like me with OCD. But Crickett? Well, it's just not for me. Too bad there's nothing else on the telly over here.

I sure do miss baseball...

Respectfully Submitted,


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cleveland Indians - No Trades, Size Matters

Well, the writing's on the wall and it ain't pretty. While the Cleveland Indians have managed (through great pitching and timely hits) to stay in first place, people still don't seem to believe. And by "People" I mean Team Management. I don't think THEY believe in this team and with what's happened over the past week, I'm willing to bet they don't make ANY moves before the trade deadline.

The injury to Grady Sizemore that has him on the 15-day DL - AGAIN - For the THIRD time - was the final straw. They were this close (holding my thumb and forefinger really close together) to being a serious World Series contender.
All they needed was another bat. The pitching is straightening itself out with a little help from the minors - see David Huff. We've got arguably the best Bullpen and Closer going right now, so if Justin (Just Nasty-son) Masterson and Josh Tomlin could get a little help on the starting side, our pitching is looking pretty good. The problem, as we all know, has been hitting.

The Indians are not good enough to live by the "long ball." They played smart baseball at the beginning of the year, getting hits and bunting and sac flies; doing the little things as directed by Manny Acta to get runs on the board. But as the season has gone on, pitchers are lucky to get 2 runs out of the offense and that lack of run support has hurt.

Shapiro and Antonetti have been clear that the Tribe is working it's "Rebuilding Plan" and that being in first place this year has been a surprise. They are at least a year ahead of schedule. They are not willing to sacrifice prospects just to add a rent-a-bat. But pressure from fans was changing their minds. I could feel them sway to the side of "well, maybe we better take another look at do something."

As Cleveland Fans, we all know that there's no guarantees for "Next Year." We've learned to appreciate the moment and take what we've got and run with it. We need to run with this team, not tell them they are playing above their heads and that they really aren't any good. These guys are exactly where their talent has taken them. And if Asdrubal's web gems every day aren't enough, we've got a guy on pace to win 20 games (Tomlin) and another guy going for 40 saves (Perez). Hello? That is awesome and we should be celebrating it.Indians management should be getting these guys the help the need to cross the last hurdle. Instead, they have been dragging their feet. And now Grady is hurt. I truly believe that this is the end of trade talks. Other teams are going to be tough to negotiate with and Management is going to use that as the excuse for not getting a deal done.

The reality is much simpler: they don't believe in this team. They won't give up Pomeranz, Kipnis, White, Hagadone.... for a bat because they don't believe. If they truly believed in this team, they would give up one prospect for a World Series shot. We all would. But Size matters. And this injury to Grady Sizemore has tipped the scales away from "Hope" and back to "Rebuilding." I just wish Management believed in this team as much as the fans do. Even if we don't go to the games, we still believe.

Respectfully Submitted,


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Browns Preview - All about the "Six M's"

The end of the NFL lockout is looming - and the sun about to shine on me again. I have been lost the past months without talk of training camp, possible trades, injury reports, etc., to use in planning my Fantasy Football team for this year. Since I can't figure out a way to get a Head Coaching job in the NFL, that is as close as I can get to the sport I love. And with talks of the upcoming season finally getting underway, it's time to take a look at the Cleveland Browns and my expectations for them this year.

The struggle we've had has Browns fans has largely been due to the teams under performance for the past 20+ years and I blame that on the inconsistencies at the top. Coaching and GM changes have left us without an identity, without a direction. I am finally hopeful that, under President Mike Holmgren, things will change. And I am also hopeful that Head Coach Pat Shurmur will be here a while so that we can regain our identity, and our pride, as Browns Fans.

We've already been told that we are moving to the 4-3 defense and the West Coast offense. The lockout has hindered that effort, but reports are everywhere that the players themselves are trying to keep the movement going. Major props to Scott Fujita for taking the leadership role with the defense. On the one day that the players were able to go to the facility and talk to coaches, he was given a play book and has used this off time to work with the defense. Equal props to Colt McCoy who is working with his offensive counterparts on the WC. No matter how well Fujita and McCoy prepare their teammates, no one can deny that these two have stepped up and taken the leadership roles for this team and that they want to be the guys to lead us into a new future with "Winning" as a core value for a change.

The West Coast Offense is, simply put, a way to use the horizontal pass to open up the run game and the long pass game. With this in mind, my key players to watch this year, the guys who will decide if the Browns "sink or swim," are the "Six M's": McCoy, Montario, Moore, Massaquoi, Mitchell, and Mack.

Colt McCoy is the obvious choice for key player. As the QB and leader of the offense, it's up to him to work out the new WC offense and manage the games. While he ran hot and cold last year (v New England and v Pittsburgh), he showed that he has the "Football Smarts" we need in a QB. He will have the advantage of being the named starter which means he'll be taking all the practice snaps with the first team and that wasn't the case last year. He managed to play really well at times while not having the necessary practice time and coaching that a starting QB gets. This year, he'll have no excuses for bad games.

Montario Hardesty missed the 2010 regular season due to injury. As a second round draft choice, he is expected to have an immediate impact on this team. With Peyton Hillis - The Great White Buffalo - having such a great year last year, we should have serious competition for the main running back position. In his one and only game before being injured, he had 7 carries for 25 yards and a TD. Not too shabby. Perhaps he needs to keep a copy of Madden '12 in his locker to remain focused on the goal. I hope he does make a better RB than Hillis... two RB's that get 10+ TD's and 1,100+ yards? The "H & H Factor" could be amazing.

Moore, Massaquoi, and Mitchell. TE, WR, and WR. A lot of concern has been expressed regarding the receivers for this team, their lack of experience, and their lack of production. The Browns scored a mere 13 passing touchdowns last year, and two of those were to Peyton Hillis and one was thrown by Massaquoi himself. The Browns ranked 30th in the NFL for passing touchdowns scored. 30th! I find that unacceptable, and I have to assume that the conversion to the West Coast Offense means that Mike Holmgren does as well. If these three players can increase their production to simply five TD's each, then we've already improved over last year.

Alex Mack. As one of the top three centers in the NFL, he has proven he has what it takes to anchor the offensive line and, with Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach, can open spaces for Hillis and Hardesty to run through. They can also give Colt the time he needs to get the ball out quickly, a key in the new WC offense. After being selected to the Pro Bowl last year to replace an injured Nick Mangold, Mack should play well enough this year to make it there on his own. It's looking more and more like FB Lawrence Vickers will not be a factor for the Browns rushing game this year, so that just makes Mack and his fellow lineman more important.

Pundits and sports authorities will throw out a bunch players to watch and suggest players that the Browns should be trying to get in Free Agency. I submit that we have all of the pieces that we need right now to make a run at winning the AFC North division. No, we are not ready for the Super Bowl - I'm not that crazy. But I do believe that winning the division is possible with the help of the new offensive and defensive schemes, as well as the improved play of the "Six M's." We should be able to get back the respect that we lost years ago and that alone is enough to make any Browns fan smile.

Respectfully Submitted,


Friday, July 15, 2011

James Harrison - Crazy? or Crazy like a Fox?

If there’s one thing you can say about Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, it’s that they are “Nice Guys.” And if you were asked to say one thing about Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker James Harrison, “Nice” wouldn’t be that thing.
I’m sure you’ve all heard about the stupid things Harrison said last May to an interviewer from Men’s Journal which they conveniently waited to release until this week in their August issue. Well, calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "stupid," "a puppet" and "a dictator" isn’t “Nice,” and it also isn’t “Smart.”

While Brady, Brees, and Manning are repping the players organization to try and get a deal done to end this lockout, which, by the way better be done by July 26th because that is when I get back from vacation and I will need to get my fantasy draft kit ordered or the NFL and I will have serious BEEF. ARGrrrrr! Where was I, oh yeah, the lockout.

I understand the majority of issues the players and owners need to work out and I believe that things need to change for the NFL to continue. And, if you sort through all the crap that Harrison is quoted as saying, there are also some very valid points. The problem is, people listen to guys like Brees and Manning because they are “Nice” and “Civilized.” Unfortunately, people will disregard what Harrison said because he comes off as some kind of gun toting wacko, just another of the NFL’s problem children.

But sometimes a good message can be delivered in a really crappy package…. And I can see two serious issues that Harrison raises which need to be addressed as they are a large part of what needs fixing in the NFL. First – player safety.
Adding more games to the season will almost guarantee more injuries. Throwing flags and handing out fines isn’t going to stop them either. I’m hopeful that the new agreement involves some type of guaranteed contract terms for all players. Tackling someone high up may risk concussion, but from a players prospective it’s better than blowing out a knee and missing the rest of the season. With some kind of guaranteed terms in all contracts, players can go back to tackling the old fashioned way – low and hard and mean.

The other issue that Harrison brings up is the fact that Goodell, as the NFL commissioner, has the final say on fines and sanctions. Now, Harrison doesn’t come right out and say this. No, that silly rabbit tried to accuse Goodell of being a racist and of assessing different fines against him based on the color of the player he hit in the game. I’m really getting tired of the racism card being thrown around by highly paid athletes so I’m just ignoring that.

But the basis of what he said is still valid – The league imposes a fine and then the player has to appeal it to Commissioner Goodell. Yeah, like those fines ever get reduced or rescinded. I’m again hopeful that the new agreement sets up a different system for team and league sanctions to be assessed, as well as the appeal process that follows along with them.

As much as I want the lockout to end, I do truly believe that the NFL needed to take a hard look at itself and make some changes and I hope that the new system takes care of the both the current players properly AND the retired players.

And finally, I hope that James Harrison can explain his comments in a “Nice” way to the Rooney family once the lockout ends and they are allowed to talk again. Because at the end of the day, no matter how many times he is the Defensive player of the year, no matter how many Pro Bowls he goes to or Super Bowl rings he has, I don’t want Harrison in a Browns uniform. I’m not saying the Browns players should be “Nice” but they sure as heck need to be “Smart” – and we can all agree that Harrison sure isn’t “Smart.”

I’m Kate – and that’s my Take.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kate's Take - Getting over it

I’ve heard a lot of talk and speculation lately on why people are not going to Indians games and I have the answer. I blame LeBron.

A year ago I was nervous and excited about watching “The Decision.” A year ago our sports lives were all changed very dramatically. But that decision taught me more about ME as a fan, than it did about LeBron.

LeBron James, his on-court shrinkage, his not finishing games, his leadership problems – those are his problems. They are not mine, and they are not yours. Not anymore. We need to look at OUR behavior as fans over the past year, and it’s not pretty. We’ve been the butt of jokes; we’ve been portrayed as bitter, angry, uneducated and unsportsmanlike. And that is what bothers me. “Unsportsmanlike.”

I have never rooted against a player like this before. I never wished harm on Terry Bradshaw or Franco Harris – unless it was at the hands of Sam Rutigliano’s boys , Thom Darden, and Dick Ambrose. I didn’t celebrate when Big Papi struck out – unless it was against Cliff Lee. I never wished them the kind of pain I wished on LeBron. I have never been “Unsportsmanlike.” Until now.

Before the decision, being a fan was about having a TEAM. Yes we rooted for individual players but we always knew in some part of our logical mind that they were just playing on a team that we were competing against. It wasn’t personal like that. It was city vs city. But WE took the decision personally. And I don’t like the kind of fan that I became this year.

People are still telling us to get over it, and most of us say we have, or that the media won’t let us. I disagree. In order to truly get over it, we have to “own” our part in what happened. WE let a single person become bigger than a team. WE let a single person bear the weight of all the hopes & dreams of an entire city, no, of a country with Cleveland Sports Fans transplanted all over, and we felt cheated when he left without bringing us that ring.

Well, we need to know that it wasn’t our fault as fans that he left; which brings me right back to the Tribe. I truly do believe that there are fans staying away from the Indians games because of LeBron. Our hearts were broken last year and many of us are afraid to connect to another team, another player, that way again.

So we watch from home, cheer when they win, and say “I told you so” when they lose. We complain about the players, the price of parking & beer, and the traffic. And through all that, the Indians are still in First Place. We can’t deny it anymore – this team is for real.

Now, I am calling “Shenannigan’s.” Stop making excuses and just admit that you are afraid to hope again. We are Cleveland. We are Believe-land. We can’t distance ourselves from our sports. It’s not who we are. We are sports fans who live and breathe with our teams. And it’s time to let it go and embrace the Tribe again.
Today I am going to take my first real step towards getting over it – I am buying tickets to the game tonight and I am going out on a date with the Indians. I think that this could be the start of a beautiful friendship for us. And I think you will feel a lot better if you try it too.

I’m Kate, and that’s my take.

Monday, July 4, 2011

MLB All-Star Game: time for a change

Well. I think we can all agree that there are flaws in the MLB All-Star game process. Controversy abounds every year regarding player selection, pitching line-up, and DH/no DH ballparks. And it is warranted by virtue of the fact that the MLB is the only major sport who's All-Star Game has an impact on deciding the champion for that season.

Perhaps the other sports can offer some insight on how to keep the MLB ASG entertaining while also being meaningful.

NFL Pro Bowl. Let's face it, the Pro Bowl game is boring. I've never once had a debate with someone regarding Pro Bowl selections. I don't even care how they do it. Until last year, the Pro Bowl was played in Hawaii a few weeks after the Super Bowl and was considered nothing but a boondoggle (party trip paid for by the boss) by my friends and I. We never watched the game, had trouble finding it on TV even if we wanted to, and aside from being proud that one of our players made the roster, didn't really care about the outcome.

In 2010, the NFL tried to change that by putting the Pro Bowl on the weekend between the AFC/NFC Championships and the Super Bowl. Epic Failure. No player who was going to be in the Super Bowl would play. Why risk injury before the biggest sports championship in America? Not gonna happen. And frankly, the NFL can't have it all. For entertainment, we have the NFL Draft, Thursday Night Football, all day Sunday Football, Monday Night Football, Fantasy Football - geez - we love our football, but you can saturate the market. It's ok that the Pro Bowl is irrelevant. Just move it back into late February. I promise - it's ok.

NHL All-Star Game: little known fact - proceeds from this game go to the players pension fund. I kinda like that. During Olympic years, there is no All-Star game. This is so that players can represent their home countries without missing games since the Olympics line up with the midpoint of the Hockey season - at least that is how they schedule it. I kinda like that too. Finally, this year they changed the player selection format.
Fans select 6 players, NHL Hockey Operations selects 36 players, and then they vote on Captains, one for each conference (east & west). THEN, the captains hold a "fantasy draft" and pick their teammates. Conferences no longer matter. This year, it was "Team Lidstrom" vs "Team Staal." I really like that. It's more fun for the fans as well as the players and since it's just an exhibition game that is meaningless, it should be about fun and entertainment.

NBA All-Star Game: Here is where sports truly meets entertainment. The NBA definitely knows how to put on a show and All-Star Weekend is just one great event after another. Whether you are a basketball fan or not, I bet you've seen the "Dunk Contest" or the "Three-Point Contest." They are just fun to watch and it doesn't matter which team or player is your favorite. There is something in this spectacle for everyone.
The players in the NBA All-Star Game are chosen in a two-step process. First, fans vote to set the starting line-up for each squad. Then, the coaches for each squad vote for players to fill out the roster - and they are NOT allowed to vote for their own players. Oh snap! In case anyone selected cannot play due to injury or some other reason, the commissioner picks a player to fill his spot. Clean and simple. A little popularity contest filled in with some smart strategic votes to get a great group of players for a game that is all about entertainment and means absolutely nothing to the season. Works for me.

Conclusions? It seems as if the other sports have gone for "Entertainment" instead of "Meaning." I really like that the MLB ASG means something. The problem is, it feels like the game is easily manipulated to give an advantage to one side over another. Balloting has become a popularity contest. PEOPLE! This isn't Peyton Hillis getting the cover of Madden! That is a popularity contest and it works just fine for it's purposes. Vote Responsibly! The fans vote for the starting line-up so we end up with multiple starters from large market teams. My suggestion is simpler and I think works better.

First, fan voting continues HOWEVER the players chosen are the two largest vote-getters from EACH TEAM, regardless of position. That makes 30 players per division. Current roster is 34 so it should be expanded to 36. Now, coaching staff selects the starters and would pick an additional 6 players to make sure each position is covered and has a back up. Done. Simple. Everyone is happy (happier?) and frankly, each team better have two guys that the fans can vote for.

Also, it removes the dilemma of strategy. Are pitching rotations being moved around so that a guy can work the ASG? Are the ASG Managers picking their own players with an eye towards winning the game or giving them the three-day-off holiday to refresh them for the second half of the season? This game give the winner home field advantage for the World Series and in a league where pitching and DH's mean so much, that advantage is huge. I think my way appeases everyone and still makes the game fair and meaningful.

If you don't like my idea, then tell me yours... because we can all agree that something has gotta change!

Respectfully Submitted,


Friday, July 1, 2011

Cleveland Gladiators: Playoff Race!

Cleveland Gladiators are tied with the Pittsburgh Power atop the American Conferences Eastern Division with records of 8-6. There are only 4 games left, and Cleveland needs to win out to ensure a playoff berth. The Gladiators play the hapless Milwaukee Mustangs this week, who are a sad 4-10. The mustangs lost to Pittsburgh last week by a score of 39-38. Milwaukee had the lead and fumbled with 22 seconds left and let the Power score to lose the game. The Gladiators beat the San Jose SaberCats last week 82-21 with some amazing defense and nine turnovers. They should beat the snot out of the Mustangs this week.

Defensive beasts Levy Brown (Florida A&M) has 83 solos tackles, Joe Phinisee (Walsh)has 62 and Demarcus Robinson (Henderson State) has 52. They should have a monster game this week. They, along with Tim Cheatwood (OSU) will be the key for the Gladiators as they finish up the season. QB Kurt Rocco is impressive, as are his favorite targets Robert Redd and Troy Bergeron, but it will be their defense that steps up and wins this for them. They are tied for 5th in the AFL power rankings this week in part because of the great defensive play against the SaberCats.

After Milwaukee, the Gladiators travel to Philadelphia to play the Soul. They beat them earlier this season by a score of 59-41 in a game that was closer than the final score would make you think. However, they should win that one as well. It will all come down to the following game at home – July 15th - against Pittsburgh. Assuming that Pitt wins their next two games, that home game could will decide the winner of our conference and a trip to the playoffs.

It's great to have a winning team here in Cleveland and fans should really take a look at the AFL. I know the Indians are trying to get a division win, but if you love football like I do, then the AFL is the best place for you to be.