Archive for November, 2011

It’s no secret or understatement to say this is a busted season for the St. Louis Rams. Following up a season that they made huge strides from the cellar of the league to being a game away from the playoffs, the expectations coming into this season were justified in thinking another slight step forward could happen. All of the good parts of the team were back, quarterback was poised to take another step forward in his development and they were in a division that was wide open for the taking.

At this point, Bradford's preservation may be taking the lead over his development

Yet, they didn’t account for one thing that’s become apparanet: Murphy bought season tickets to the Rams this year, and applied his law non-stop from day one.

None of these elements have taken effect in pushing the team forward. As a matter of fact, no part of the team that was intact on week one has taken a step forward. There are bright spots, and some individuals are showing promise, but overall looking at this team as a project that can still be added to in certain places to get better again would be terrible mistake. A facelift is needed in a “Thriller” vs. “Bad” Michael Jackson style. Because once again, the spirit of the team is back to where it was from 2005-2009, and that played out like prolonged horror flick, that actually got scarier with each sequel.

It’s not an impossible job, but there is no part of this team that should be safe….

 

To read more, head over to St. Louis Sports 360 and see why if the Rams return anywhere close to resembling this team next season, they should be kicked out of the city: http://stlouissports360.com/saving-face-is-the-wrong-path-for-these-rams/

And for more on this and everything else in-between the sports and my world, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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Who Hurt You?? I guarantee it wasn’t Tebow himself.

Posted: November 28, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in NFL
Tags: , , , ,

For all of the either/or situations I’ve ever seen I’ve never seen one as pointed as the Tim Tebow situation around the NFL this year. And before I go into this, let me stick this in here first so that’s its clear: I don’t think the Tim Tebow experiment is going to work. It’s far too one-dimensional and gimmicky.

But I also don’t get the personal vigor he is chased down with. The man has done nothing but play (win 83% of the time), yet he’s struck out against personally with a vigor that would make you think he’s dating everybody’s Mom in a Ving Rhames/Baby Boy style.

Tebow is at the center of a lot of issues...that have nothing to do with "him".

Nobody tells you what to believe in this here sports universe. That is completely on you. If you read/watch/digest all of the opinions on your favorite ESPN broadcast or Twitter feed, and then deem them to be laws and absolute trust that you must adhere to, you’re creating a whole lot of misery for yourself.

So, I want to know, what is it? Why is it that when the Broncos win, it’s either the defense’s glory, bad play by the other squad or “divine influence” (which I seriously think some folks are starting to believe). Let’s walk this down some:

Was it college? He won games, trophies and titles non-stop. And it does get tiring hearing about the same story over and over again. You can say it was due to everybody else on the team around him from Percy Harvin to Urban Meyer to Albert the Gator, but I doubt they would agree with you. But I never remember hearing any story that explicitly stated that I had no choice in having to like the guy. If somebody’s got a You Tube clip on that, toss it in the comments below so I can check it out. Happy hunting.

Is it his personality? Because if it is, there’s you’ve got a much bigger issue than I can help you with in my humble little sports blog here. But there are a few words for that, and one starts with a “B” and the other an “H”. Last time I checked, there’s absolutely nothing that the man has forced on anybody in that regard, and while we defend folks in the same situation as him that have done some outright terrible things. Consider him cocky if you want to, but in light of what he could be with the self-defense he has to put out just for doing his job, he could be Ric Flair in each interview and it wouldn’t bother me.

Is it his style of play? It isn’t pretty and it doesn’t have legs, but there are a lot of worse quarterbacks that are playing a much more textbook style. So why can’t this go for a while? The Broncos were in the toilet before he took over and now they are winning. The point of playing is to win, not look good doing it.

Is it a race issue? Is he getting a shot he wouldn’t get if he was another race? Well, that could be true, but it could also be what he did before he got here maybe actually convinced the Broncos he could be a good quarterback in the NFL. The SEC is supposed to be the Holy Grail (no pun, trust me) of college football, yet he basically made it his playground for four years. If anything, this could help some of the black quarterbacks that have been wrongly overlooked over the years by seeing that this can work. It may not be the breakthrough messenger of that word, but hey I’ll take it if it gets the end achieved.

Or is it the hype? Because if that’s the case, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself. Tebow’s relevance is created just as much by you as it is anybody else. The entire issue around him is that he “isn’t worthy” of the praise he receives. All the while, what makes him so relevant is the backlash that he receives, not the praise. He’s never said anything that puts him over anybody else, nor done much on the field that says you HAVE to pay attention to him with such intensity.

Or is it that he’s not failing? After all of the idea of him being unworthy, not good or being handed credit that “he isn’t due”, is it just the burn that he’s not losing? Losers never get shade thrown on their day in the sun, mainly because nobody’s being proven wrong. But Tebow has been the most effective quarterback in the NFL this year not named Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning (for completely different reasons). The simple word on it is that the Broncos were ass before he took over, and now they aren’t. He may be the brown bag worthiest QB in the league, but it’s working.

No matter what it may be, the real issue is that you have a problem with the system that you feed into. So be mad at ESPN, be mad at an announcer or somebody you socialize with on the internet most likely just to disagree with (I’ll never understand that), but don’t blame the man. He’s done absolutely nothing on any level to have any detractors other than be unorthodox compared to every other standard that is desired at the quarterback spot. Instead, blame yourself for completely missing the point of opinionated commentary; which has never added a single-letter into any rule book of play.

So “rejoice”. The very beast you’re fighting against, you’re also feeding and making the issue bigger and stronger with each week. But I’m not telling you what you “have to” believe. No, I’ve got no such delusions of such grandeur. But if you choose to add me into the parade of other personal lawmakers you adhere to and rebel against, just know up front I’m not telling you have to like Tim Tebow. Rather I’m pointing out why it is that you are so upset at his success. Sounds like a problem that could be solved to me with an adjustment in perspective, but I’m not God, the head of ESPN or the landlord of your remote control, so I don’t make the rules.

But neither does Tim.

I usually say you can get more from me on whatever I wrote about over on Twitter, but on this subject I’m done with it. I just want to sit back and laugh. But you can still follow me at @CheapSeatFan

The National League vote for its most outstanding player had none of the qualification drama that the American League had in route to showing Justin Verlander his proper due. As a matter of fact, it had an arguably tougher call to make between which half of the most potent combination in baseball this summer was more valuable. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the next step involved weighing nearly impossible decision against the validity of the stats of the best all-around effort by any everyday player in the game this year, and a classic revival by the game’s best player as well.

Piece of cake right? Well, that largely depends on what kind of sweet tooth you have.

For me, an MVP is the player whose performance was the best balance of individual effort that also pushed his team to the highest level. So when I cast my final ballot for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance Stan Musial Award (our MVP), the National League was the absolute last one I did; because it was the hardest to pull a definite qualifier of that personal criteria for. Do the St. Louis Cardinals pull off their miracle finish without Albert Pujols having one of his best runs of his career (and that’s saying a lot)? As the case with Clayton Kershaw, was it Matt Kemp’s fault the Dodgers treaded water barely all season? What about Justin Upton, Roy Halladay and Lance Berkman? None of their teams live without them to fight as long as they did.

Yet in the end, it came down to last hurrah of Milwaukee’s back-to-back highlight act, and in the end, the first half of it came takes the pole in the awards race as well.

2011 NATIONAL LEAGUE STAN MUSIAL AWARD WINNER – RYAN BRAUN, Milwaukee Brewers

Braun's "Beast Mode" set the pace for the best season Milwaukee saw in nearly 30 of them.

I’ve got to look at this head to head, because it’s a matter of details about details that give Braun the nod over Prince Fielder. When it’s just a statistical comparison, it’s almost a shared stat line in many regards. Both went over 30 homers, 30 doubles and 100 RBI. At one point in the season or another, they had to carry the load during a lull on the other’s half. However, the edge goes to Braun in the impact, because he put it all into motion. His effort shows why impact says a lot more than stats, which was the trend of much of the rest of the pack in the MVP chase this year.

Consistency and table setting was the name of the game for Braun, and nobody did it did to a greater overall effect than him. He didn’t lead the league in average (he lost that race on the last day of the season) and didn’t lead his own team in homers or RBI (Fielder takes both of those honors), but in-between the lines, his impact was monumental for a division winning club. His .332 average was built on the back of a league-leading 77 extra base hits. He scored 109 runs on the year, and he turned in his first 30 homer-30 steal performance of his career.

An MVP doesn’t have to have the most enormous numbers of all, but when his club’s win total is big and his effort is as well, it means more than anything else. Braun was the catalyst, the hammer and the leader of one of the best teams in the National League. In the end, his performance pushed harder and separated his club, by virtue of himself, more than any other in 2011

Here’s how the rest of my ballot (cast on October 21) played out:

2. Matt Kemp: Wins are an important number when gauge a player as “Most Valuable” instead of “best season”, but his year almost threw out the solid logic of an MVP’s team needing to be in contention even for me. He was a few average points short of a Triple Crown, and nearly turned in 40 homers-40 steals as well. Too bad it all happened for a team that was a non-factor outside of his at-bats.

There's no denying that Kemp had the most dominant campaign of the year, but even that wasn't quite enough.

3. Prince Fielder: The end of the nightmare that Braun started in the middle of the Brewers order. His 38 homers and 120 RBI were second best in the league and he was a point short of a .300 year as well. But he benefitted from having the league’s best player in place for him quite often and in the end just didn’t have the biggest impact on his own team. Too bad that wouldn’t have been the case on any other team not based out of Milwaukee or LA. Wrong place, wrong year.

4. Albert Pujols: A tale of two halves. First half: a nearly broken arm and a missed All-Star game. Second half: a near jump to the top of the MVP list, hitting .327 with 13 homers and 34 RBI over the last two months of the season and kick starting the momentum that carried the Cardinals to the top of the game.

5. Justin Upton: His coming of age also pulled his club from the bottom of the West a year ago, to becoming the biggest party crashers of any division winner in the game. His all-around potential became all-around talent, with 31 homers and 39 doubles to his credit, as well as 21 steals.

6. Lance Berkman: The biggest comeback story of the year carried the Cardinals through a rocky beginning of the season, while the rotation sorted itself out and the lineup rarely played healthy together.

7. Joey Votto: Last year’s MVP played with a much lesser supporting cast, but had arguably an even better season than last summer. His 40 doubles led the league.

8. Jose Reyes: The biggest spark in the game won his first batting title for the first time and tossed in 39 steals and 16 triples for good measure.

9. Clayton Kershaw: Dominant performance on the mound, but I already covered what was so remarkable about this 23 year old run into Dodger legend land.

10. Roy Halladay: The anchor of the league’s best rotation didn’t even come in second on my Walter Johnson ballot, yet he was still undoubtedly the best pitcher in the game, once again proving that there are stats, and then there’s impact.

Come back soon for an complete award recap, a few fill in the blank nods for best gloves, bat-men and relievers, as well as a look at the 100 best players of 2011 and a look back at CSP’s MLB Preview from way back in March, and where I went wrong, right and real.

For everything else in-between, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

So far in the MLB “Award Tour” here in The CHEAP SEATS, the rundown in awards season has been pretty straightforward: name a winner, qualify him and then show the almost there’s behind him. With today being the big flourish in the American League, the MVP, it would make sense to go in and do that formula up as big as possible again.

Well no dice. Just last week, I ran down Justin Verlander’s credentials when I went through the pointless exercise of appointing him as the best pitcher in the American League this year.

This was made “official” in the big sense of things yesterday when he was announced MVP of the AL by Baseball Writers of America as well, But well over a month ago, during the first week of the playoffs, when I cast my ballot for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance’s Stan Musial Award for the best player in the AL, I had little difficulty settling on Verlander for the MVP as well. And he won it from a few different angles.

From his throne on the mound, Verlander rose above all others in the game this year.

I’ll qualify my biases here up front: I’m an ex-pitcher. I would rather watch a crafty 2-1 game any day than a final score that looks like a football game in the summer. It’s the best part of the game to me; the competitive, moment-by-moment chess match that pitching is.  And this year, Verlander looked like Bobby Fisher…if he threw pawns and bishops 100 mph in the eighth inning.

But this time around, even if I hated pitchers more than Ted Williams, it’s undeniable that one was way ahead of the pack.

However, back to the point: his effort this season shattered the bias that a pitcher should win the Cy Young and a hitter should win the MVP….which is some of the craziest alleged logic in all of sports. Is a pitcher not a player (which is what comprises the “p” in M-V-P)? For all intensive purposes, the Cy Young is a ultimate silver medal in all of pro sports awards. It’s got a big name cred, but in the end it still plays second fiddle to the nod that a “Most Valuable Player” gets. So, by saying that a pitcher is not worthy of the MVP because “he doesn’t play every day” or “already has his award” is akin to saying that the best a pitcher can be is the second best player in the game on any given year.

I call shenanigans on that, and although it takes a tremendously dominant effort like Verlander gave this season, notching 24 wins on a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts, no player in the American League came close to making a difference on their more often and pulling them further away from the pack than he did for the Detroit Tigers, and isn’t that the true definition of an MVP?

In May, the Tigers were looking up at the Cleveland Indians & wrestling back the Kansas City Royals, when Verlander went Martian on all of baseball, and over the next four months, the club went 20-3 when he took the ball, and the Tigers won the Central by 15 games. Also during that stretch, he went undefeated during two months and during two of the three games he lost they were by one run, including a 1-0 loss in July. In June alone, he went 6-0 with a 0.92 ERA in 49 innings and struck out 54 to only 6 walks.

Wow.

Verlander did more every fifth day than any other player in the AL did daily this summer.

However, what makes it such a runaway for him is that no other player has anywhere close to case that says they should have the trophy on their mantle. I when I filled out the required 10 man ballot for the BBA’s Musial Award, it was much harder to select two than one, because the pack was just so full of the same type of guys, with the same qualifiers and disqualifiers to really have an honest shot at saying they made a bigger impact on the season than Verlander did. Here are the nine other guys on my ballot and why a viable threat is not emerging from this group (where they ended on my ballot in parentheses):

The Yankee pack – Robinson Cano (2), Curtis Granderson (5) & Mark Teixeira (9): The title says it all on why no one of this group deserves it over the other. They all played a vital role in the Yankees winning out the East. Granderson had a career year with 41 homers and 119 RBI, but Teixeira was right on his heels with 39 and 111 himself. Cano is the best overall player on the team, and his .302 average was 40 points higher than CJ’s average and 50 points better than Tex’s. In the end, how can you pick one from this group and not the other?

The Dead Sox – Jacoby Ellsbury (4) & Adrian Gonzalez (8): I’ll say it right now, if the Red Sox didn’t have that historic collapse and miss the entire playoffs despite being in the driver’s seat for much of the season, either of these guys would have been good choices. But in the end, after the impression of the Titanic this club did, there’s no way anybody involved can be called an MVP.

Best Players on the Best Team – Michael Young (7) & Adrian Beltre (10): Both had solid seasons and carried the Rangers at one point or another. But no team wins more ways than the Rangers do across the board, and they fall into the same grip that the Yankee guys do, albeit carrying a bit more weight at times.

The Teammate – Miguel Cabrera (3): He’s the best hitter in the game not named Albert Pujols, and he put up another effort while winning his first batting title this year. But Miggy wasn’t even the most impactful player on his own team, and that says a lot about what Verlander did. Tigers didn’t start playing their best ball until Verlander shifted into gear, not him.

The One Man Show – Jose Bautista (6): He had another epic season, but it didn’t pull the Blue Jays into above 4th place. Joey Bats has big, yet still empty, numbers until they start to equal a more competitive club up North.

So in the end, what’s it going to be? Disqualifying the most perfect storm season of any major player in the league based on the fact that he doesn’t swing a bat? No, can’t do it. In the end, the fact that it only took Verlander every fifth game to make the biggest impact in baseball says even more for his cause. In a year of an even field, with flawed candidates abound, one amazingly dominant effort did more to raise his team’s level of play than any other player that had a chance to do it on a nightly basis.

Nothing says most valuable pitcher player than that.

For more on why the pitcher isn’t a second class citizen in baseball, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Awards season is in full swing, and today in the at-large world, National League will announce who’s bringing home its Cy Young for this time around. Here in CSP, we adhere to the Baseball Blogger’s Alliance awards cycle (because I’m a member and all) and hand out the Walter Johnson Award to each league’s top tosser.

I’ve covered why exactly Walter is such a big deal here before, when he measured out as not only the top pitcher, but the greatest player of all-time in the GOAT series last summer. Once again, he’s being paid appropriate honors again by another amazing performance by the game’s biggest “against all odds” performance of the year.

Yesterday, CSP handed down his namesake honors in the AL to Justin Verlander. Today I’m paying appropriate respects to the man who joined him winning his league’s pitching Triple Crown this year; making it the first time this had been achieved in both leagues since 1924.

Also in 1924, “Big Train” Johnson won 23 games, struck out 158 batters and notched a 2.72 ERA, becoming half of that until this season historic duo. Coincidence? Nah…

2011 National League Walter Johnson winner: Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers

At only 23, Kershaw's one-man show put him on par with another legendary Dodgers lefty already.

It’s no surprise that Kershaw put together the type of year that he did this season; since his debut … years ago, it’s been known he was going to be this type of pitcher. However, he reached his best when everything else around him was at its worst. The Dodgers were never in the mix for any type of baseball after the required 162 games ended, and their year off the field was even worse. Yet, somehow all of this missed their most talented lefty since Sandy Koufax left the field 40 years ago, and he put together a dominant season with very little support.

As a matter of fact, he’s already chasing Koufax’s footsteps with his 2011 performance. After winning 21 games, with a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts, he became the first Dodger since Sandy in ‘65 to win the NL pitching Triple Crown.  No pitcher in the game was a more polar opposite of his surroundings, and on nights were he took the bump. Yet like 2010 AL winner Felix Hernandez was for the Mariners, the Dodgers were as good as the best in the game when Kershaw took the bump. He went 5-0 against the defending World Series Champion Giants, and beat two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum four times in the process. This was his second consecutive year going over 200 strikeouts and he bettered his previous best win total by seven games. At only 23 years old, perhaps no player in the game has brighter days ahead for himself than Kershaw, regardless of what goes on around him.

Left in the Pen

2. Cliff Lee: If this is what an adjustment to a new league looks like, 2012 may belong to the now NL familiar Philly lefty. Lee’s first full season in the NL saw him go 17-8 with a Major League-leading six shutouts, three of which came consecutively. He even ran up a streak of 34 consecutive scoreless innings.

3. Roy Halladay: It takes a dominant performance on the level of what Kershaw did to keep Doc off of what is basically his to lose each year. A 19-6 record on a 2.35 ERA & a league-high eight complete games shows the best hurler in the game title still is his to lose.

4. Ian Kennedy: The biggest surprise team in the NL was lead by the biggest surprise on the hill. Kennedy was the first National Leaguer to reach 20 wins on the year and his 21 total tied for the lead. His .840 win percentage was unmatched.

5. Cole Hamels: And yet again, another Phillie. But a deserving one for what were efforts that easily up to the chops of his more respected rotation mates. Before being slowed by injuries, he was tough to touch. His 0.99 walks-plus-hits ratio was the second smallest in the NL.

Before I go today, lets hit that awards recap so far:

Connie Mack Award (Top Manager): Kirk Gibson (Diamondbacks) & Joe Maddon (Rays)

Willie Mays Award (Top Rookies): Craig Kimbrel (Braves) & Jeremy Hellickson (Rays)

Walter Johnson Award (Top Pitchers): Justin Verlander (Tigers) & Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)

Next: Goose Gossage Award for best Relievers

For anything else, as well as up to the second highlights on what I had for lunch and could have for dinner, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Once, again it’s time to get CSP’s take on the year-end awards for Major League Baseball. So far I have completed my word on both league’s Rookie of the Year nods, as well as Manager of the Year on both halves, but it’s time to kick it up a notch now. Let’s get into the Cy Young Award, where on one half the most obvious bread winner of the year gets his first due, followed by a pretty impressive, yet anti-climactic race for runner-up.

This is a part of my on-going entries towards the Baseball Bloggers Alliance’s year end award circuit, via the Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year Award (our Cy Young nod). While the winners for the BBA have been announced at-large, over the next week or so, I’ll be setting right what was wrong, and showing exactly why the CSP ballot got it right the whole way through (jokes guys, everybody else did their thing too).

2011 American League Walter Johnson winner: Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers

Only Verlander and the Tigers had anything to smile about when he left the field this summer.

I mean is there any question here? Verlander turned in one of the most dominant performances of any hurler in the last 20 years, at least. This year’s effort is eye to eye with Greg Maddux in 1995, Randy Johnson in ‘02, Pedro Martinez in ‘99 and Roy Halladay’s double perfect/playoff no-hitter last year. From his notching his own second trip to no-no land in May and taking three other games into at least the sixth inning without giving up a hit. A lot of pitchers get called “automatic” wins when you see them on the schedule, but Verlander literally was. Matter of fact, he went undefeated for two months of the season, which is pretty crazy. He was so dominant that he won his 20th game in August with a full month of the season left, and the next pitcher who hit the mark didn’t for another weeks.

In the end, he won the AL pitching Triple Crown, getting his Major League-leading 24 wins with a 2.40 ERA and striking out 250 along the way. As if this wasn’t enough, he only lost five times and led the league in winning percentage, and only three games he pitched in were lost by more than three runs. An all-time classic performance here; I hope everybody appreciated this campaign.

Left in the Pen

2. Jared Weaver: The Angels’ ace was nearly as unhittable as Verlander was in the beginning of the year. He couldn’t keep up with that pace, but his 2.41 ERA was just .001 behind Justin’s mark.

3. James Shields: He put the team in Tampa on his back, for longer and more often, than any other hurler in the game. His 11 complete games were five more than next best total and he held a 2.82 ERA with them.

4. CC Sabathia: No pitcher carried more weight than CC did this year, literally and figuratively. He was saddled with steadying an uncertain pitching cast in the Bronx, and answered by winning the second most games in the AL with 19 and netting another AL East title.

5. CJ Wilson: The steady lefty headed a solid overall staff in Texas, but really turned it up in his second year as a starter. His 34 starts led the league, while his 2.94 ERA, 206 strikeouts and 16 wins were all career highs

To keep up with everything baseball and around the diamond, even when the stadiums are closed for the year, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Back to the future is the vibe with the most recent string of big news coming out of . After the sudden (yet not completely unexpected) retirement of , the St. Louis quickly ended their search for a successor by going with a familiar face from TLR’s tenure.

will be announced today as the new manager of the Cardinals, closing out a coaching search that included a variety of different options and ways the team could have went in. And in going with Matheny, the team will get a world of game experience, but no management (or even big league coaching) experience. This is general manager John Mozieliak’s first coaching hire since taking over control of the team in 2007, and it is a radical departure from the course the team has been on historically.

Take this for the lineage of Cardinal leaders: with the exception of Mike Jorgensen, who briefly stood in as interim manager in 1995, the last three managers of the team are, or will be soon, members of the National Hall of Fame. From ’s run throughout the 80’s, to who replaced him and finally to franchise’s most winning coach of all-time in LaRussa. Not to mentioned other HOFers such as , Frankie Frisch and Branch Rickey, there’s no shortage of expectation that comes with leading the St. Louis’ flagship sporting institution.

Matheny went from darkhorse candidate to heir to a lofty role in the baseball universe in just two weeks time.

Enter Matheny, who’s lack of experience (0 games as a MLB coach in any capacity) is a worry point for many, and justifiably so. There is a lot of nothing here: nothing that says he can’t do it, but nothing that says he can either.

 

 

There’s a lot to consider here with this move. It’s neither doomsday or business as usual. Check me out at St. Louis Sports 360 to see the rest of THIS ARTICLE and my extensive covering of all things Cardinals related here: http://stlouissports360.com/

And follow me on Twitter for more on this and everything else between at @CheapSeatFan.