Archive for December, 2011

So earlier I did my biggest misses of the year, and hey it happens. But all in all, it was a good year in CSP. I had fun writing it and I hope everybody that stopped thru had fun reading it. If anything, this year was a progression, the vision of what this site is head towards is getting clearer. And it helped that this was an amazing sports year several times over.

At any rate, the goal this year was to be more conversational and more in tune with what the point of this whole site started off as: to be the voice of an average sports fan looking at it from the outside….that has a bit of knowledge mixed in. I hit those points this year I feel, and all the contributors did as well. I hope it resonated the same way with everyone that took a moment or a day to stop by here too.

So here’s my best of the year to me. And if you see anything that’s missing that you dug, let me know. Here’s to 2011 birthing an even better 2012 here in the CHEAP SEATS. Hell, maybe I’ll even turn this into a bit more be able to get into the Mid Range-to-Kinda Pricey Seats by this time next year. Domain name stays the same though, because a) www.MidRangeToKindaPriceySeats.com sucks as site name, and b) I gotta stay true to what I really am: a regular dude typing my mind on this all. Enjoy.

 

10. Taking Em To School – The Story of Swish Dreams (April 6): My first shot at a community interest sports story went over well. This is the story of an inner city Chicago-youth basketball/counseling league and how it’s grown as institution…and truly turned hoop dreams into hoop (and life) realities. Came across this just visiting a friend and it was the first piece that kicked off the revamped CSP look this year.

9. Black Diamonds: The State of Blacks in Baseball 2011 (April 14):  My annual call to awareness of the state of blacks in Major League Baseball. This is by and far one of the most important pieces to me I write per year, and shows why while “we” aren’t checking for “us” enough in the game, but the culture is still represented big time. Yet, there is still a ways to go in reclaiming a throne atop the National Pastime we once owned.

Kemp's nearly historic season showcased just what's still great about the African-American influence on baseball.

8. The Decent To Madness Series (March/April): My first site hosted NCAA Bracket went over big. The spoils of victory were a bottle of Crown Royal Black (which needs to ship still….sorry Sledge, come holla at me while you’re in STL), so it brought out all my lush friends. But it also got a few ladies in the mix and a few folks that had never done it before. The daily updates of both games, the real time bracket struggles via Twitter and the element of the best playoffs in all of sports made this a big deal. 60 teams in the first year let’s double up in ’12.

7. You Gotta STFU….Outta The Blue “Fans” (October 28): My love letter to the casual sports fan that feels the need to speak to diehards like we are equals. Trust me, we are not. My apologies to the state of Texas for being caught in the crosshairs here, but some of your lessors brought this on you all.

6. Battle of the Sexes…or Sexist (May 26): The battle cry of many males against women watching sports (and what they watch it for) needed to be broke down. In this piece a real rabid sports fan calls out men who fashion themselves as sports gurus, but really know as much as ESPN tells them, against calling women out, who many times know more than they could. Jealousy is deciphered all sorts of ways here and humility is handed down.

5. Cream of the Crop, The NBA All-Time Top 60 (April/May): One of the most debated pieces in the two year history of the site; I took my shot at ranking the best to ever do it in NBA history in a six-part breakdown. And this one is still getting more and more heated by the year. Here is each section for review and it’s current to pre-playoffs of last season. Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six.

#1 wasn't too hard, but everything else is still a fight to sort out.

4. 10 Degrees of Sports Crazy (March 4): From the antics of Ryan Leaf & the manic majesty of Milton Bradley to the antics of the Ultimate Warrior and Mike Tyson’s greatest quotables, my look at the 10 craziest figures in sports history rounded the bases of best that sports insane asylum could bring out.

3. I Don’t Believe What I Just Saw (October 28): There are classic sports showdowns, then there’s Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. The last hour/three innings of that contest were among the most pressure filled, emotional roller coaster stretches of my life overall. The countdown to David Freese’s two classic moments, and my split my head open (literally) in excitement is worth the ride alone.

Freese's walkoff nearly had me not able to do the same.

2. And Then There Was Nothing… (December 8): My parting words for Albert Pujols and why the disappointment in his departure will stretch long beyond this year alone. St. Louis is in this one for the long haul, and it’s only just begun.

1. That’s A Winner: Me & MY World Series Win (November 1): There is NOTHING like your team winning it all. More than that, there is nothing that touches your hometown, 365 day focused, favorite sport club winning it all. On top of that, celebrating it at the scene of the victory with 80,000 of your new closest friends. The best of the year, and maybe the new standard bearer of any of my thoughts-to-post products, is everything that happens to the fan that has it all. The real essence of why there is nothing like sports.

 

There you have it, the best of 2011. Here’s to having #1 this time barely crack #10 next time around.

For more on this and whatever else “that” is at the moment, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

It’s time to round down another year in the CHEAP SEATS, and that can mean only one thing: it’s time to make fun of myself again. In the sports writing/predicting/claim staking world, there’s a lot of chance to hit the ball out the park…or strike out swinging, tee ball style. Many folks like to cover those errors up, find ways to make them not seem as bad as they were.

Well not me. I embrace the foolery that I do here, because hell I’m wrong sometimes and deserve to be chastised for it first-hand.  The good thing here: I got better from last year, in 2010’s edition of this column, I was littered with an amazing amount of “WTF was I on?” moments. But luckily this year, there were less “Bengals go to the Super Bowl” predictions or the Rams will win once claims (although both of those clubs will reappear again in this year’s version as well, for opposite reasons). This year, it’s more about, good and bad ideas. And it’s safe to add a VERY in front of the bad.

Yeah, I can relate. It looked like I was on beer & pain pills too writing some of this. But I kept my gig.

However, you’ll get all of that here shortly, so without further delay, here is the Worst of the CHEAP SEATS in 2011, including some straight snores, overly ambitiously boring efforts and the usual awful predictions that have me looking the other way every time the topic is brought up now. Check em out and if you had some personal favorite awful things I did…well keep that to yourself! Trust me, I know already.

10. Touch Em All: Final MLB Preview (March 30): Man, I really believed in the Red Sox this year. I mean by reading this it seemed like they had already won the Series and it was a season recap. Well needless to say after an epic pitching collapse and fall off the map, I came up wrong here in handing them another World Series off the bat. I even tossed Jon Lester a Cy Young in the process. At this rate, you’d figure I may have predicted a Ted Williams defrost and mid-season return to grab his first ring too.

In my defense, there was no way I could have predicted that chicken in beer in the dugout would come into play either. But still, I’ll take my lumps.

9. A Passing Interest (July 27): This was a terrible idea from the jump: to write a prediction on where players would fit in…while ESPN was announcing where they were really going. Terrible, terrible idea. What’s even worse? Tossing in a byline like this…

Kolb represents one of the few long term fixes for many of the teams in need...if Philly lets him loose

I actually said & believed that. Yeah…moving right along.

8. MLB Power Poll Series (April – June): This was a good idea, in theory: Following each team in baseball, game-by-game, every week and showing how they are doing against each other with some analysis too. Oh wait, that’s an awful idea that took 4 hours to write every Monday.

7. NFL’s 10 Greatest Wide Receivers (August 3): This started off as a tribute to Randy Moss’ retirement, but quickly became completely redundant and about as anti-climactic as any of the Lineup series list could have possibly been. I believe countdowns should have some drama, and while waiting to see who got the nod for #2 between Moss and TO could is guaranteed to spark some arguments, #1 was pointless. I mean when Jerry Rice, at his position, is stacked up against anybody it’s over. A list of most exciting ways to tie your shoes would be better.

6. NFL Lockout Is Almost Over…But Is This A Good Thing? (July 20th): What the F**k? Of course it is? Moving right along…

Because none of this was a good idea right? None of it....SMH.

5. Bradford’s Big Debut, Outside the Numbers (August 16): In this piece, I championed Bradford beginning to master the little things and about how his performance meant a lot more than his numbers on the board. Four months and 15 games later, those numbers still haven’t shown up for Savior Sam, and not coincidentally, not many numbers have been put up in the Rams’ win column either.

4. The People’s Choice NFL Top 50, Parts 1 & 2 (September 16/19): This is usually a nice bit of debate piece over who’s the best in the NFL before each season. This year I took it a step further and let folks cast ballots on who they’d put in their top 50 for it to be more than just me. After taking in a number of ballots that were spread out all over the place (including a few that didn’t have Patrick Willis, Michael Vick or Ray Lewis on them at all), it became a mess of epic proportions. Next year I’ll stick to casting & posting my ballot maybe again. (PS: In a small victory a few weeks ago, I got the caster of the Ray-less ballot to admit the error in his ways).

3. CSP’s 2011 AFC North Fearless Predictions(September 6): I’m just going to leave the Bengals alone. Last year, coming off a strong season, they picked up TO and looked ready to go over big…and went 4-12. Coming into this year, they dumped everything that resembled that club, lost their best defensive player Johnathan Joseph, made no change on the sidelines and started a second round rookie at QB…and are a game away from making the playoffs. Me? I gave them a chance of winning a grand total of 1 game this year in this year’s preview. I give up, I’m skipping them next year.

2. Late Registration-NFL Rookie QB ETAs (August 10): This was a colossal exercise in foolery right here, mostly because I was proven wrong right away by the first possible suspect that could do it. After I humbly predicted it would be week 10 before Mr. Newton took over the reins in Carolina, he went out and threw for 850 in his first two starts…in the first two weeks of the season. Christian Ponder joined in the prediction crashing party as well, as did Blaine Gabbert. At least in Blaine’s case, it may have helped if I was right though.

I feel like he's been laughing at me all year now...or least for 10 weeks. My bad man.

1. You Gotta STFU…Tony LaRussa (September 28): This may be the worst timed piece in the history of the site. While it held some weight several times over many years, picking the end of September 2011 to tell Tony LaRussa to shut up and get out the way was pretty stupid. He’d only guided the Cardinals back from the grave and was in the middle of the greatest stretch of coaching his career ever saw. And that’s saying a lot for guy that might as well go stand in the Hall of Fame and wait for his plaque to come take his place.

The “STFU Series” is on point and is my way of straightening out the mess some folks make for themselves watching these games. But in this case I may have been better off taking my own advice.

At any rate, come back a bit later for the BEST of CSP, including what rounded out as my best works to date on a pretty good year in sports for the Cheap Seat Fan. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter at that same name.

Originally posted 12/23 @ St. Louis Sports 360…

 

So far, it’s been a rather uneasy offseason for the St. Louis ’ faithful. After losing a Hall of Fame manager (Tony LaRussa), the game’s best player (), its head of minor league development to a division rival (Jeff Luhnow) & already being faced with a big injury two months before Spring Training (Allen Craig), the tides have not been too promising heading into the season.

However, in-between the big issues, there have been some important moves made to shore up the team. Resigning  was a start, but the hunger for more was still there; the hunger for a major move that is answer back to all that has been taken away. On Friday, afternoon the team struck that deal, and signed All-Star outfielder  to 2 year, $26 million deal. This deal is victory for the team on every level, and not only takes it back to the level it was at already, it could potential take it to a higher one.

It was a deal the team had to make. With Pujols departure, there was a major hole in the potential of the lineup, from both a power and average perspective. Craig was penciled into the right field job after his breakout postseason run, but after a badly timed knee injury, an already existing need in the lineup became a critical one. The other options weren’t amazing at all…

Beltran adds several new dimensions to a Cardinal team that is becoming full of them.

 

For the rest of exactly where Beltran fits into the Cardinals immediate plan, as well as why it’s the most logical deal of the year, head over to St. Louis Sports 360: http://stlouissports360.com/beltran-signing-deepens-the-whole-bird-bath/

 

And for this and all of the rest of my word today, on this wonderful Festivus for 2011, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Originally on St. Louis Sports 360 on 12/20:

It’s usually well past this point in the year when the complete look of any part of a team is known. However, without some highly unlikely maneuver or another freakish injury before April, the St. Louis have aligned their pitching staff completely in mid-December. With the signing of left-handed reliever JC  last Thursday, the last remaining question of what direction the team would go in off the mound was resolved. However, with this scene most likely set, how good of an offering will the team really put forward?

The club hopes that a Romero rebound will give the team long-missed left handed bullpen depth.

 On one half of the board, we’ve been here before. At this same point last season, was resigned and it essentially locked the starting rotation before the calendar year rolled over. However, that theory was thrown out the window in the first week of the season when tore his elbow apart in before the first lineup was even posted, and threw the staff out of slots that they never really recaptured even by the postseason.

Now, act two of that effort looks to get underway. Wainwright, , , and Westbrook are all basically locks for the rotation. There is some kicking of the tires to move one or both of the latter half of the rotation, but with both clutching no trade causes it’s highly unlikely to happen. And it’s not an all bad thing, because top to bottom it’s arguably the best rotation in the National Central. There’s a lot riding on how Wainwright comes back from surgery and if Garcia can finally kick his Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hide act on the road vs. Busch, but all in all it’s a clear strength of the team.

However, their bullpen mates are in well rounded shape now, and actually may have too much of a good thing; which of course is the best kind of problem to have….

 

For the rest of how the Cardinals have troops and reserve troops of pitching to lean on this year, check out the rest of this article at St. Louis Sports 360: http://stlouissports360.com/cardinals-new-strength-is-pitching-depth/

 

And for all other things Cardinals, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Be sure to check me out tonight live on “The Exchange” on Blog Talk Radio with Jason Clinckscales & Sumit Dasgupta. Jason is a freelance writer in the New York area who currently provides high quality insight in the New York Giants (firsthand) weekly. However, when the show hits the air, anything and everything is in play.

As for me, I’ll be discussing the Albert Pujols fallout & what happens from here with the St. Louis Cardinals. Also, I’ll be talking NBA and shedding a bit of light on what is proving to be the most pointless lockout ever.

The show kicks off at 10 EST/9 CST, and be sure to check them out every week, as it truly brings together the best of both of many worlds of the expanding sports commentary universe. Be sure to follow Jason on Twitter at @asportsscribe for more on what’s going on & live links to follow the show and topics.

To catch the show, reach the chat room and to be able to hit the line to leave your mark on the air, be sure to log on to http://blogtalkradio.com/theexchange tonight.

To learn more about the show hit here: http://asportsscribe.blogspot.com.

 

Check back tomorrow here in the CHEAP SEATS, and get information about where you can catch me in part 2 of my radio rounds this week when I get really deep into Cardinal Nation with the guys over with C70 At Bat & the United Cardinal Bloggers side of the game.

 

In the in-between time, follow me & the cold I’m fighting off with two fists at @CheapSeatFan over on Twitter.

Originally & completely posted 12/10 at St. Louis Sports 360

 

On Saturday afternoon, the post Pujols-era gained it’s first “new” Bird on bat…albeit he was familiar face already.

The St. Louis  came to terms with   on a two-year, $7 million deal with the to return to the club. The 34 year old joined the team last August at the trade deadline from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and instantly made an impact with his glove for a team that struggled with middle infield defense the entire year. In 50 games for the Cardinals, he hit .255 and spent much of his time as the lead off hitter, a role he will very likely resume.

Furcal's signing both solves a group of problems and open up more possibilities all at once.

The signing is a winner on three levels for the team. Firstly, it answers a question that was running out of time, and options, to find an answer to: who will be the club’s shortstop. Last season, Ryan Theriot opened the year in the role, but his limited range became an issue, as well as an inconsistent bat. After him, Tyler Greene received a look, and brought speed and a glove to the equation, but was a further drop off at the plate. It wasn’t until Furcal that the club finally solved all of these issues in one player.

 

For the rest of  this article, including why Furcal’s return answers a group of questions that couldn’t have been any other way, read the rest of this piece at St. Louis Sports 360: http://stlouissports360.com/furcal-signing-is-a-win-three-times-over/

 

And for more on these moves, my moves and the sociology of moves in general, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

12/9/11 via St. Louis Sports 360:

What’s the difference between staying with the only home, fans and place you’ve ever known?

For , apparently it’s roughly $30 million dollars and 2 years’ worth of difference.

That was the difference in what the his former employer and new one offered, and it was enough to draw the All-Star away from the St. Louis and to the on Thursday morning. The biggest decision since the Alex Rodriguez saga of 2008 came to a close, and a chapter (and the hearts) of closed it’s time on the Pujols Era in a sudden fashion.

After a week plus of aggressive pursuit by the Miami Marlins came to an official end on Wednesday afternoon, with the Cardinals matching their best offer, it seemed that the club was on the road to regaining its within the next few days. Then, like a script straight out of the WWE, the Angels entered the fight at the last second, and finished off the seemingly guaranteed winner for Pujols services with a devastating blow. This blow was fully guaranteed 10 year deal worth a reported $255 million dollars, which was too good for Pujols to not take.

The last person to blame Pujols for turning his back on St. Louis is Pujols himself...

Now, the Cardinals are left with their hands in their pockets and wondering what’s next. This wasn’t just any player they lost, or even just any All-Star lost. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t just any best player in the game they lost out on. This was a once in a few generations talent that will most likely not stop with just being the best first baseman of all-time; no he’s destined for far more than that. A nod amongst the Mays, Williams, Ruth, Cobb and Aaron’s is where he will land. There is no such thing as just replacing icons, especially when they have so much more left in them.

So how did we get here? Well, that’s a both complicated and simple at once. But just know, the last person to blame is Albert Pujols…

 

To read the rest of this and see why there literally was no price the Cardinals could have hit that would have made it worth Albert’s while, read the rest of this article at St. Louis Sports 360: http://stlouissports360.com/the-avoidable-end-of-the-pujols-era/

Also, follow my effort to cope and accept the next era of Cardinal baseball by the minute on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.