Friday, July 31, 2009

Sprint Cup 2009, Race 21: UPDATE - Qualifying Washed Out, Bottom of the Field Washed Up

Rain Scrubs Qualifying: Nobody Goes Home

The starting field for Sunday’s Sunoco/Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono will run according to owner’s points as qualifying was rained out. Of note was that only 43 teams registered to start for this race meaning no heartbreaks for teams having to haul back to Charlotte early. The bottom of the field surely looks like there will be plenty of cars pulling off the track before the first pit stop with teams notorious for starting and parking filling out six of the last seven starting positions. The Red Bull team with rookie driver Scott Speed in the #82 Toyota starts in 37th, but the rest of the rides from 36th on down are likely headed for the garage early with those mysterious reported vibrations or handling issues. These include: 36 – Sterling Marlin; 38 – David Gilliand; 39 – Joe Nemechek; 40 – Dave Blaney; 41 – Patrick Carpentier; 42 – Mike Wallace; and 43 – Tony Raines. While these cars tend to just politely stay out of the way are often off the track before they could go a lap down, there’s something that’s just not right about showing up for a competitive event with no intent of winning or attempting to place as high as the team is capable of achieving. Of course, this race is in Pennsylvania and such conduct is all too familiar to some Pennsylvania sports fans as the Pittsburgh Pirates are essentially doing the same thing in trading away all their players with any value to other clubs. To think, early in the season before the fire sale began, the Bucs were looking pretty good.

Is there a solution to the “park and ride’ situation? Is the NASCAR starting field too large? Only in recent years have all races been punched out to a 43 car starting lineup. Perhaps some consideration should be given to reducing the field to several fewer cars for some of the less supported venues. Perhaps the best argument for permitting the “park and ride” entries is that they appear to be relatively harmless, but could padding the field with slackers impact the competitive balance higher up?

How many folks will be heading home Sunday afternoon with fresh new Dave Blaney t-shirts?

The NASCAR Hall of Fame: Our Thoughts

Twenty five legendary figures have been selected as nominees for the first induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a list which includes drivers, owners, and other leaders who contributed to the success of the sport.

The list consists of:
Bobby Allison
Buck Baker
Red Byron
Richard Childress
Dale Earnhardt
Richie Evans
Tim Flock
Bill France Jr.
Bill France Sr.
Rick Hendrick
Ned Jarrett
Junior Johnson
Bud Moore
Raymond Parks
Benny Parsons
David Pearson
Lee Petty
Richard Petty
Fireball Roberts
Herb Thomas
Curtis Turner
Darrell Waltrip
Joe Weatherly
Glen Wood
Cale Yarborough

While certainly no one can deny the significance of what owners like Rick Hendrick provided the sport, all the innovations Glen Wood set in motion with the Wood Brothers, or that Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr. had the vision to create and develop the sport in the first place, the Hall of Fame initially belongs to the drivers. Should Abner Doubleday been included in the first class of baseball Hall of Famers who joined Babe Ruth to be enshrined in Cooperstown? Clearly, for our purposes, we start with drivers to be honored in the NASCAR Hall of Fame soon to be completed in Charlotte, NC the epicenter of NASCAR.

We voted for Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, David Pearson, and Cale Yarborough. There are plenty of other drivers in this list of 25 who should and most likely will be honored in the near future. Surely Lee Petty, Joe Weatherly, Darrell Waltrip, Junior Johnson, and Ned Jarrett just to name a few are absolute shoe-ins. But the five we selected were by far the most accomplished and dominant drivers during their times as active drivers with Richard Petty standing far above all of them not just for his seven championships, only matched by Dale Earnhardt, his unequalled 200 wins, but also the leadership and character he provided the sport.

The field of current and recently retired drivers provide many can’t miss prospects led by Jeff Gordon and his four championships followed by teammate, Jimmie Johnson with three consecutive championships. Tony Stewart with two championships is also a can’t miss prospect. To think, Johnson’s and Stewart’s best days could still be in front of them and Jeff Gordon is far from being out of it for many more incredible achievements. Dale Jarrett as a former champion and multiple Daytona 500 winner should be right in the thick of consideration. Terry Labonte is in rare company with two championships. Rusty Wallace and Bill Elliot won titles in the late 80’s and were dominant drivers right behind Dale Earnhardt for many years. Mark Martin is like a modern day Junior Johnson, while the sun is setting on his chances for winning a cup championship, his consistency, finishing second in the standings many times makes him look like a strong candidate. Jack Roush, as a team owner, with two championships and a long list of top five finishers in the point standings should also find his spot in the hall.

Perhaps NASCAR might consider having two classifications for the Hall of Fame, one for drivers, one for major figures who helped make the sport successful. Should journalists be included as they are in baseball’s Ford Fricke award? Should drivers who dominated the Nationwide/Busch series be considered?

Having been a popular sport for more than sixty years, having its own Hall of Fame is perhaps long overdue for NASCAR. Just a brief consideration of the names mentioned above, the Charlotte shrine will be a huge attraction for all who love the sport.


The Beer Summit

What’s wrong with this picture?

It all started after Obama Henry Louis Gates Junior, an Obama Harvard crony, went ballistic when the Cambridge Police were summoned by a concerned neighbor who thought she was witnessing a break in at Gates’ residence. Subsequent revelation of the 911 tape revealed no evidence of any racial profiling, just simply a citizen expressing a legitimate concern.

Experienced and highly recognized Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley responded to the call and from the get-go, Gates, a Harvard professor of African American culture, was highly uncooperative and confrontational shouting obscenities and racial slurs at the officer. Only after the confrontation spread outside and Gates continued to refuse to cooperate, Gates was arrested. All evidence including meticulous detail in the police report indicates that Sgt. Crowley went by the book and gave Gates every chance to cooperate. Gates was charged with disorderly conduct. Those charges were later dropped viewing that situation was a misunderstanding that ratcheted way out of control due to Gates’ continued defiance but he was on his own property.

It should have ended there, but then came the Obama Press Conference supposedly staged as a media opportunity to pitch his health care plan rapidly losing support, but at the end of the conference, reporter Lynn Sweet, from the Chicago Sun-Times, the President responded:

"I don’t know – not having been there and not seeing all the facts – what role race played in that, but I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two that he Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home,"

He added, “(Gates) "is a friend, so I may be a little biased here. I don't know all the facts."

The reaction to Obama’s absurd criticism of how Sgt. James Crowley handled the Professor Gate's outbursts and defiance accusing the police of acting “stupidly” and painting the event as a black/white conflict drew immediate outrage even from sources who’d typically sympathize with such a situation forcing Obama to concede the following day that his remarks needed to be “recalibrated.”

“Recalibrated?” What kind of bull is that? Is that supposed to be some kind of half-assed attempt to apologize or admit his remarks were wrong? How does one recalibrate one’s remarks?

After speaking to the principles involved, the notion of the “beer summit” was born. The two parties in the dispute, Gates and Crowley, would be invited to the White House to talk things over, sing “Kumbaya” and great big multicolored rainbows would arch from sea to shining sea. Barack Obama had such high expectations he hoped that the little get together would even provide a teachable moment.

A teachable moment? Okay, if so what’s the lesson? Gates is a pompous ass who sees the world in racial terms and likes to throw his weight around as a long-tenured professor at the most elitist school in the nation? After all during his tirades cut lose on the embattled officer, he even suggested he didn’t know who he was messing with.

A teachable moment? How about the connection between Barack Obama and the notorious racist radical Reverend Jeremiah Wright is starting to come into clear focus. While Obama’s campaign persona was designed to project a dignified even-keeled post racial posture, it was supposed to be some kind of strange irony that he would have a twenty year association with someone who defines the world in stark black and white terms with white Americans and traditional American institutions being the root of all evil in the world. Yes, Wright was acknowledged by Obama himself as his spiritual advisor, the man who married him and baptized his children. Somehow, we were supposed to believe that perhaps Obama was just too busy to notice Wright’s treachery. The longer we get to know Obama and see his leanings, the more the connection becomes clearer. First, it appears on every turn when the President travels overseas, he constantly apologizes for America’s past as if our conduct has been the root of the world’s troubles when in almost every single instance our foreign intervention has been at the invitation of other nations to cool off international crises. Nothing could be more revealing of Wright’s influence than the uproar over Professor Gates’ arrest.

That the President would invoke racism and take sides on such an issue is disturbing enough but he openly admitted he did not know all the facts and might have a personal bias, regardless, he issued his criticisms anyway. That is absolutely irresponsible and ignorant behavior for a person of such high responsibility. If there was ever a situation where a polite, “no comment” would be appropriate, this was it.

A teachable moment? The President is the nation’s top law enforcement official who should be held out as a role model for all. This distinction holds an implicit responsibility to speak up for respect for obeying the law and respecting the police. Even after the President started his tap dance to create some distance from his original shameful remarks, at no time did he ever stress the importance of cooperating with the police or speak of what a difficult job they have that in some instances they are caught in situations that are easily misunderstood but the rule of law protects society from absolute chaos.

A teachable moment? Haven’t we learned that episodes like the Gates affair when spun by racist opportunists can quickly unravel out of control and lead to riots or other major disruptions? The President was dangerously flirting with igniting such violence in the Boston summer nights.

There is one winner and two losers in this bizarre episode that never should have become a national news story. Sergeant James Crowley came across as the consummate professional, a dedicated officer firmly dealing with a situation spinning out of control. Professor Gates and President Obama show the absolute worst of the racist attitude that pervades the Liberal elite in this country showing their contempt for those who protect their liberties.

Imagine this. Suppose the police did not respond and Professor Gates’ home was being burglarized. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Gates would have responded they stayed away because they probably thought it was just another case of black on black crime.

Meanwhile, the news coverage of this event has been downright comical at times. The press has gone out of its way to avoid the obvious, that Barack Obama clearly screwed up. How’s this for ridiculous, two of the three major cable news networks, the two with clearly liberal leanings made a big production out of the build up to the “Beer Summit.”

Both MSNBC and CNN, one network fanatically in support of the President and the other clearly in Obama’s court had similar techniques to build up to the occasion. MSNBC had a countdown clock with three beer mugs. CNN had two clinking beer mugs with their countdown clock. According to Dana Milbank writing for the Washington Post, CNN have five cameras broadcasting from the White House and used the Google Earth mapping system to attempt to show the exact place of the picnic table in the Rose Garden.

Memo to MSNBC and CNN, Shakespeare said it best, “Much ado about nothing.”

The long lasting meaning of the “Beer Summit” affair is how it portrays President Barack Obama as a bitter racist whose knee jerk reaction criticizing the police response as acting “stupidly” is a particularly dangerous pronouncement given the inflammatory racial politics constantly exploited by racial hucksters, many of whom are Obama supporters, and the difficult task every law enforcement officer faces given that every action the police are called upon to perform does not take place in a vacuum. The smallest events taken out of context can have serious repercussions even when the law is clearly in the right.

We criticize Barack Obama’s conduct in this matter in the strongest terms and condemn him for his flagrant abuse of police authority.
For a little more insight, leave it up to New York's former mayor and one tough prosecutor, Rudy Giuliani to weigh in on the subject. His advice to Barack Obama, "Shut up!"

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sprint Cup 2009, Race 21: Pocono Deja Vu

NASCAR Déjà vu: Sprint Cup Tour Returns to Pocono

Of the tracks where the Sprint Cup tour visits twice each year, the turnaround time between visits to the two mile track at Long Pond, PA is the shortest, only eight weeks. Unlike some of the other tracks with two races where races might take place during different seasons or one at day, one at night, conditions don’t vary that much from June to August, but in the drivers’ mind, the season’s landscape is quite different. In June, the season is still on the ascent, approaching the halfway point, the competition is still sorting out the field picking out which teams are true championship contenders versus which ones wind up being the also rans. In early August, the competition for “The Chase” is starting to come into sharper focus. Most teams have been eliminated. There are those teams in the top twelve nervously holding on to their position; while lurking just below #12, a few teams are knocking on the door competing to get in. Meanwhile, atop the field, some of the best bets for the eventual championship are starting to look pretty obvious. For some, after the massive build up to the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis just one week earlier, the Brickyard is a little bit of a letup. The media spotlight and massive attention doesn’t burn as brightly in the tranquil mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania.

After the Brickyard, the battle for inclusion in the field for the Chase has taken some interesting turns. Kyle Busch, despite being tied for the second most victories with three, stands two positions outside the field in 14th. David Reutimann in 13th position continues to flirt with breaking into the Chase and the Red Bull team piloted by Brian Vickers continues to show improvement in 15th position, 120 points outside of 12th place. Meanwhile, hopes continue to dim for any of Richard Childress Racing’s teams to fight for the Cup as Clint Bowyer is fading away in 16th spot, 151 points away from the field with Jeff Burton next in line in 17th with little hope of knocking on the door.

Meanwhile, Juan Montoya dropped a position after dominating the Brickyard field victim of his speeding penalty on pit road, in 10th place 100 points into the field with Mark Martin, the season’s most winning driver just ten points ahead of him in 9th. Greg Biffle was the biggest gainer in the upper standings leaping into the Chase field in 11th, 84 points into the field. His teammate, Matt Kenseth, nervously holds the last spot in the Chase in 12th, 68 points into the Chase. Three other teams are perhaps a disaster away from the danger zone, from 6th to 8th, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, and Kasey Kahne. That leaves four drivers looking locked in at this point. It’s easy to imagine the season could come down to a dual between multiple champs Tony Stewart currently 192 points atop the field versus Jimmie Johnson. Fifteen points beneath Johnson stands his teammate, four time champ, Jeff Gordon, with another champ, Kurt, yes Kurt not Kyle Busch, in 4th much further back.

For the rest of the field, the remainder of the 2009 season is now a battle of survival or a battle of respectability. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick, two championship caliber drivers, having suffered dreadful seasons hold on to rescue something that will point to better results in 2010. Martin Truex Jr. closes out his career with Ganassi/Earnhardt racing switching to Michael Waltrip’s team next year. With Crown Royal sponsorship moving from the #26 Roush team to the #17 team for Matt Kenseth, driver, Jaime McMurray, holding on to 20th position, is not going to be a horse in the Roush stable next year. NASCAR mandated no ownership group can enter more than four teams for the entire season’s field forcing Roush to cut one team. Now it’s clear that team is #26. Roush and Ford Motor company hope that team can be absorbed into the Yates operation which couldn’t sustain sponsorship for the historic #28 team with Travis Kvapil earlier this year having only Paul Menard in his first year with the organization struggling in 33rd but looking like a sure bet to remain in the top 35. Yates also has a support agreement with Hall of Fame racing fielding former champ, Bobby Labonte, who has only one top five all season trying to stay in the top 30 in 28th position.

Much attention will continue to focus on 19 year old rookie, Joey Logano, with one victory and four top 10’s, is showing improvement each week for Joe Gibbs operation replacing Tony Stewart in the powerful #20 team.

Locking up spots in the top 35 in owner points, assuring teams of starting spots in the first four races of 2010 shows very limp competition for 2009 with only the 36th team being a threat to break through with the Earnhardt/Ganassi effort driven primarily by John Andretti in 36th two points below Red Bull rookie, Scott Speed, but from there Robby Gordon has over a 300 point advantage over Speed in 34th. Though it’s a long way to Homestead, a 300 point margin is a lot of ground to lose.

Who’s looking good for Sunday? All of the top nine drivers have had success at Pocono, so we’d almost have to call the odds a “pick ‘em” this week. Beyond that, surely the #42 team for Earnhardt/Ganassi with Juan Montoya will have much to prove after his powerful showing in Indy. All teams with scores to settle in the standings or for determining their fate for next year find the pressure getting hotter as the determining countdown to Richmond on September 12th intensifies with only five races to go.

While the attention dedicated to the second Pocono race is far more peaceful after the tremendous hype surrounding last week’s huge event in Indy, no one can realistically call the upcoming race any kind of relief as what’s at stake intensifies heading toward September. As drivers sharpen their focus and pit crews labor to tweak every last bit of performance out of their cars, a large field of teams realize they could be just one bad finish, a blown engine or being caught in an accident away from having hopes for 2009 ruined. Victory alone does not assure success as the fate of the #18 team proves with their run of bad luck this year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dog Days in Birldand

Where is this thing heading...???
The Dogs Days Are Looking Sadly Familiar in Birdland Again

The faces are different. There’s been a massive infusion of youthful talent, but so far the results are the same, the “dog days” are here and the Orioles suck. How bad, they’ve only won two games since the All-Star break while losing nine. At their current pace, they will lose close to 100 games which would be a decline from even the disasters the last three seasons have been.

Base running blunders, fielding miscues, and at times just lack of hustle going after the ball or zipping down to first place are all too common for players who are supposedly auditioning for their future. At times, it is difficult for even the most experienced watchers to determine if the Orioles’ poor play is youthful inexperience or a lack of commitment and skill.

The team is suffering from obvious weaknesses that were built in to the team from the beginning of the season. The starting pitching is terrible. When it falters, the bullpen gets strained and becomes ineffective. More than anything else, the team’s problems key from poor starting performance.

Tomorrow affords Orioles fans a glimpse of the future as pitching prospect, another reward from the Erik Beddard trade, Chris Tillman takes the mound. The kid has been most impressive in his march from Bowie to Norfolk the last two seasons. He has great stuff and tremendously high potential. Even more impressive prospects are working their way up. Given Brad Bergesen has proven to be the most effective starter gaining more experience with each start since his call up, Tillman’s arrival should be most welcome. While fans can expect some miscues and shoddy games as a young pitcher comes of age in the majors, hopes will run high that this young man will be part of a much improved rotation for 2010. Having a rotation that can hold up for the remainder of the season is the only hope to rescue the team from its horrendous late season fate of the last few seasons.

Meanwhile, the team does not lack bright spots. Brian Roberts and Nick Martakis continue to show that they are among the sport’s elite. Adam Jones in his second year in centerfield is becoming one of the sport’s most promising centerfielders. Norm Riemold and Matt Wieters are showing grow with each passing week as promising rookies. Pull it all together, there are five of the team’s starting nine with the outfield set to be one of the best in the majors, and strength up the middle with Wieters, Roberts, and Jones.

Still, wins and losses add up and every loss becomes a great letdown. It’s hard to believe that the potential this team has should not yield better results. Losing two straight to Kansas City is unacceptable.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jimmie Johnson Looking Like a Four Time Champ After Strong Brickyard Win

Get used to it, race fans. Jimmie Johnson is on the move.
2009 Brickyard 400 Lives Up to Legend Status

Okay, unless you’re a Jimmie Johnson fan, the end of the race had to be a letdown. NASCAR’s most boring driver might not just be the best driver active today but right up there with the most accomplished legends of the sport. The “who’s who” of Brickyard 400 winners reads like the book of champions as some of NASCAR’s most elite drivers from the last 15 years, most of whom have won championships. The multiple winners are Jeff Gordon, 4 wins, Jimmy Johnson, 3 wins, Tony Stewart and Dale Jarrett, 2 wins.

Still, what could have been is hard to deny. Suppose Mark Martin had won the race from the pole. Martin ran a valiant charge for the win at the end but couldn’t quite put it together to slip ahead of his teammate, Johnson. What a story it would have been to have Juan Pablo Montoya, a former Indy 500 winner take the trophy. He clearly had the best car in the field dominating most of the race and gaining the most laps led, but perhaps being a little nervous or over anxious, Montoya got busted for speeding on pit road requiring a drive through penalty that not only cost him the race and an 11th place finish, it also dropped him back one position in the standings. Tony Stewart, finally running his own racing team sporting the #14 for his car in honor of his racing idol, A.J. Foyt and also a former Indy 500 participant finished in 3rd. Any one of these three drivers would have made a much more satisfying story to tell than ….”Oh God, not him again.”

After the tire fiasco of 2008, this year’s race seemed to have the perfect tire for competition. Drivers changed tires at normal intervals corresponding with fuel stops. There were just three cautions for the whole race none involving big multicar pileups. So if everything was so smooth and clocklike did that mean the race was boring?

Hardly, while Juan Pablo Montoya leading in such dominant fashion for most of the race, there was undeniable tension something was going to break loose. Danger came to single cars having trouble. The journey to downtown Indianapolis proved disastrous for the series brat, Kyle Busch, after a rather successful stand to the west of town at O’Reilly Raceway Park finishing 10th in the Camping World truck race Friday night and dueling with Carl Edwards to wind up in 2nd place in the Nationwide race Saturday night, his downward spiral in the big series continued dropping a valve spring and exiting finishing a miserable 38th dropping four positions in the standings out of the Chase contending top 12 all the way down to 14th position in the standings. The #18 team has its work cut out between now and Richmond but given their ability to rattle off wins, a little hot streak could put Kyle Busch right back in the thick of the fight by September.

If ever there was evidence that Dale Earnhardt Jr. just can’t buy a break, racing a brand new car from the Hendricks garage, he qualified 3rd despite suffering from a nasty virus and looked good in practice. All looked well early in the race, then after the first pit stop, the engine blew which the ill-fated driver blamed on himself missing a gear during the restart. That the #88 team dropped another position in the standings to 22nd hardly seems to matter now.

Several drivers benefitted tremendously from their race at the old Brickyard. The Roush-Fenway crew needed strong finishes to attempt to maintain a run at championship contention. To that end, Greg Biffle jumped two places in the standings to 11th with his 4th place finish. While finishing 15th isn’t exactly championship form, it benefitted Carl Edwards enough to add a place in the standings to land in 5th swapping places with Denny Hamlin.

The bright spot in an otherwise dismal afternoon for Joe Gibbs Racing was rookie Joey Legano who had to start at the rear of the field. On a track that’s difficult to race through the field, the young driver soldiered on to a 12th place finish advancing one place in the standings to 19th where surely a final position in the top 20 would be seen as a fine success for a rookie driver.

The 2009 season has been pure hell for the once Happy Harvick. While this has been a tough season for Richard Childress Racing in general, Kevin Harvick’s #29 team has been the most snake-bitten perhaps not getting quite the attention such a dive would attract for all the publicity Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s tough season has attracted. Finishing in 6th was a major triumph for the struggling team.

Six races remain before the field is set for the chase in Richmond on September 12. As the Sprint Cup caravan moves on to its second voyage to Pocono next week, the Brickyard 400 helped make the championship Chase clearer. While Mark Martin would lead the Chase if he makes the top 12, a feat he went a long way to securing with his 2nd place finish now standing in 9th place. Jimmie Johnson is now tied for 2nd in wins with three with Kyle Busch, but for now Busch is out of the picture failing to place in the top 12. Tony Stewart leads the point standings but needs more than his two victories to get in control of the Chase in September. Meanwhile, the other driver with two wins, Matt Kenseth, is struggling just to stay in the top 12. From perhaps 6th place down, a couple of bad races could knock a contender out of the top 12. The drivers outside looking in with a realistic chance of moving into the top 12 would be David Reutimann, 68 points out; Kyle Busch, 82 points out, and Brian Vickers 120 points back. Clint Bowyer resides 151 points out of the top 12 but given RCR’s troubles this year and how his season has been languishing, it would take a tremendous serge to jump into Chase territory.

The more the season progresses, how can anyone bet against Jimmie Johnson getting championship #4 in a row. His chief competitor going for his 3rd title is Tony Stewart who is one of the sport’s strongest second half performers. Viewing Johnson’s performance with crew chief, Chad Knaus pulling together all the support efforts, the #48 team never looked better. Still, with Watkins Glen and Bristol standing in the way, these are two tracks notorious for shaking up the points standings.

The stage is set for one of the most meaningful races to play out in Pocono in years. The next six weeks will be loaded with intrigue as the field has seldom been bunched so closely together from fifteen through five. The heat is on as August approaches.

Hall of Fame: Pete Rose and the Steroids Gang

A consequence of each year’s the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductions is the subject of Pete Rose. Today, sports media is abuzz with stories that several noteworthy players are calling for the expelled former highly accomplished all-star to have his ban from the sport lifted so he could be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Stories further suggest that Hall-of-Famer, Henry Aaron, has personally appealed to commissioner, Bud Selig to have the ban lifted.

The question remains should “Charlie Hustle” be considered for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. It is this writer’s opinion absolutely not. Gambling on baseball has been explicitly spelled out as grounds for permanent banishment from the sport. The policy is posted in every Major League clubhouse. While issues like steroids and performance enhancing substances are serious misdeeds which might also be grounds for not selecting players for induction, it is bad enough to try to get an unfair competitive advantage to win games, but to purposely attempt to lose games for the sake of one’s personal fortune contrary to the team’s well-being is serious business. Further, while gambling is yet another vice society wrestles to deal with, when that activity could destroy the very integrity of a sport, it is very serious. Otherwise, baseball would only be an entertainment spectacle like Pro-Wrestling, a scripted farce staged to look like competition.

The evidence is clear, Pete Rose bet on baseball. He bet on the outcome of his own team’s performance. Additionally, after accepting the life time ban, remember this Pete Rose agreed to the life time banishment. He flaunted his love of gambling showing up in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Add to that the matter of income tax evasion, due in part to his gambling involvement for which he did prison time. Only years later did Rose meekly concede to some gambling involvement in a television interview that was in part to promote sales of his autobiography. To confess under the most self-serving circumstances further dilutes the sense that Rose takes any responsibility for his behavior.

Could Rose have made himself worthy of the commissioner pardoning him to allow for reinstatement?

Probably. Had Pete Rose provided an unconditional apology and fully acknowledged the full scale of what he had done, that would have been the first door opener for reconsideration. On top of that, he’d need to engage in some meaningful activities helping to show the dangers of gambling and also working on service oriented projects around some cause that MLB supports. In essence, Rose would have to show public behavior that acts as a positive roll model for the sport not a major embarrassment.

Baseball is wise to include matters of character in determining Hall of Fame candidates. To be so honored, a player not only has to be an outstanding player but should also represent the sport and the virtues of sportsmanship and team play with honor. Players who do that, are worthy of the Hall of Fame.

For those who argue shouldn’t it just be a matter of what they accomplish between the lines? Our answer is, NO! The record books will immortalize those accomplishments. Whether Barry Bonds would ever be considered for the Hall of Fame, there is no removing the fact he set the records for the most homeruns in a season and the most homeruns for an entire career. Surely, those records can be posted with an asterisk or even disqualified. He still objectively achieved those marks. Anything beyond that is interpretation and valuating.

Record holders are not necessarily Hall of Fame inductees; likewise, some Hall of Fame inductees are far from record holders but their lifetime achievement, how they contributed to the sport and their teams’ success, and how they compared to other players of their time at their position is what makes them belong in Cooperstown.

Jim Rice was denied and almost shut out of the Hall of Fame based on his career stats. It would appear he didn’t play long enough to hit those legacy stats typically assuring Hall-of-Fame status, but when one considers his role with the Boston Red Sox from when he replaced Carl Yastrzemski to his early retirement brought on by injuries, few players were such clutch players as Jim Rice even hitting a pinch hit homerun in a game he was rested filling in for Wade Boggs who was practically batting .400. From the mid 70’s to the late 80’s, few players delivered in game situations the way the Red Sox left fielder did.

Baltimore’s own Brooks Robinson might not have set the highest career marks in many offensive categories, but for his multiple Gold Gloves and overall leadership and promotion of the game, who could deny him of the highest level of respect afforded Hall of Fame inductees.

While the Pete Rose debate continues, Mark McGwire was denied enshrinement despite being eligible to enter with Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn. His association with performance enhancers did him in. Soon, baseball writers will have big names who are way up on the all-time stat lists; Barry Bonds, Raphael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens to consider with the steroids hypodermic needle stuck right in the vein of their Hall of Fame discussion.

The Hall of Fame should be a rare and unique distinction for players who are truly the best on the field and for how they represent the game. There is no honor to gambling on one’s sport or taking drugs for the elusive pursuit of the magic winning edge.

Watch how Derek Jeter plays and represents the game and see a real future Hall of Famer in action. Cal Ripken Jr. will be ready to extend Jeter a warm embrace when his rendezvous with baseball immortality is bestowed on him in just a few more years.

Palin Post Mortem: It's All Over but the Shouting

Sarah Palin hits the road, finally

but isn't shouting Sarah Palin's one stock in trade?

Sarah Palin: It’s Over

Yesterday, amidst much politicking and hoopla, Sarah Palin handed over her position as Alaskan governor to Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell. Her final ceremony was a good old fashioned, campaign rally fundraising style picnic, an opportunity for the ex-Alaskan Governor and former Vice President Nominee to level some parting shots and engage in lots of self-congratulation.

The focus of her remarks was certainly timely admonishing her audience to beware of big government. With a true sense of self-importance she told the crowd, "With this decision, now, I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right, and for truth. And I have never felt that you need a title to do that.."

And there in lies the big self-deception, while she may not need a title, the only title that qualifies her to look beyond is holding the governor’s office in Alaska for only 2 ½ years. While she would argue Alaska, given it’s unique geography, its massive size and not bordering on any other states, presents some unique challenges, it is also one of the nation’s smallest states in overall population with only North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming having fewer citizens. Alaska does not have many of the typical kinds of problems that help define major national issues. The Alaskan economy is more dominated by a single industry, oil, than any other state depends on a single source for its economic health. With Anchorage as its largest population center with 279,243 municipal residents in 2008, and 359,180 residents within the Metropolitan Statistical Area, few of the issues surrounding urban and major metropolitan areas impact the state’s political situation.

Add it up, Ms. Palin’s experience amounts to nothing and her lack of experience is now further enhanced by witnessing how lack of experience is one of many factors that is making the Obama administration such a dangerous disaster.

For the Republicans to offer America a good alternative to the incompetence, inexperience, and radical ideology of the Obama administration, they must field a candidate with significant experience who has proven the ability to get results, not just give red meat speeches that appeal to some factions of the Republican base. Sarah Palin is a superb role model for the anti-abortion constituency given her personal decisions and her daughter’s, but this is not the issue that will rally moderate voters, attract independents or alienated Democrats. While Sarah Palin can address issues such as health care and economic reform, she does so only as a commentator not someone who has the depth of knowledge or experience to manage efforts to deal with such efforts.

The bottom line is America has already seen her upsides and they simply are not going to be enough to sustain her. Poll results show her popularity slipping. She’s still strong with the so-called Republican base, but her appeal is sliding away elsewhere with unfavorable ratings rising into very dangerous territory. In a Washington Post/ABC poll, her overall favorability has fallen from 58% to 40% with a 28 point drop-off from Moderates and noteworthy 16 point reduction among conservatives. Worse, her overall negative rating is up to 53% with 40% still seeing her positively.

Perceptions about her being a quitter, unable or unwilling to take the heat, and her lack of experience are getting louder and louder regardless of how many conservative commentators and handful of Republicans defend her. Her defense is not coming from Republicans currently holding office.

Right now, Sarah Palin has little problem getting media exposure. Tune in Fox news for more than a couple hours and count how much talk she gets. It’s quite substantial and questions about her are directed to most major conservative and Republican figures. However, how long will this last?

Being a governor, gave her an anchor, a position from which she had potential credibility, Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska. From this point forward, she is “Former one term Governor who resigned having completed only 2 ½ years.” While she still might have some value as a fund raising speaker, talk alone won’t make her relevant, and she has given up the one platform she had to gain experience and gather accomplishments.

She guards her public appearances carefully fearful to face the national media which has been highly critical of her, but any candidate seeking leadership in the Republican ranks must come to terms with the media and show tact and toughness in interviews and Sunday morning talk show exchanges. Appearing on conservative talk shows and Fox news and speaking before obviously sympathetic audiences which provide instant good photo ops will never build bridges to any audience she needs to reach to gain wider appeal.

The longer we see her in action, the most dominant impressions are her shrillness, lack of substance, self-pity, and quickness to dwell on blaming others for her problems rather than having strong positions and a unifying message to rise above the rabble.

The 2012 Presidential election is still a long ways off. By the time the primary season heats up, Sarah Palin will be yesterday’s news. She might be hosting a talk show somewhere or write a column for some conservative action group. She will not be drawing crowds or taken seriously as a contender. She is rapidly losing her ability to serve as a draw to help Republican candidates in the 2010 midterm election. This election will be decided on specific issues and fear of what the radical overhaul of American society the Obama administration has so rapidly attempted to heave upon us is destroying the country. The economy will be front and center. How is Sarah Palin uniquely qualified to raise consciousness on these issues?

Sadly for her sake, all she can do is make a lot more noise and that noise is becoming more and more irrelevant and cacophonous with each passing day. Her pages in the history book are all but written. She will be relegated as a unique curiosity, that someone from Alaska, largely considered outside the political mainstream, would be the Republican’s first female candidate for national office.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Erin Andrews: Punished Like So Many Women Who Are Smart and Successful but Also Incredibly Gorgeous

Erin Andrews (left), Christine Brennan (right)

There is a price to pay for a woman being highly successful in her profession and also being strikingly beautiful, ask ESPN reporter, Erin Andrews, who recently suffered humiliation from a video of her undressed circulated around the Internet apparently taken through a hotel room door peephole.

What was done to Ms. Andrews was dead wrong, period. It’s not funny. The person responsible should be held legally responsible for his actions if criminal laws apply. If not, certainly Ms. Andrews would be fully justified to pursue civil charges.

The reaction to this event is disturbing. Just as the stereotypes persist that somehow rape victims invite their attack, a strong current of commentary is circulating that somehow holds Ms. Andrews responsible for her misfortune. Try to make sense out of this. A woman required to travel frequently by the nature of her job and thus stays in hotels often does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a hotel room?

That notion is ridiculous. Popular women are frequently subject to stalkers, sex perverts, and sleazy opportunists who could make a quick buck trading on embarrassing or suggestive photos and videos of them.

Enter Christine Brennan, an experienced sports journalist, quite normal and professional looking one who would never be the subject of sleazoid fascination the way Ms. Andrews has been. Her comment on Erin Andrew’s plight would seem to further the stereotype – the sense that beauty deserves its consequence.

"She doesn't deserve what happened to her, but part of the shtick, seems to me, is being a little bit out there in a way that then are you encouraging the complete nutcase to drill a hole in a room.”

"Erin [Andrews] did not deserve this. I want to make that crystal clear. But she's got to be smarter and better."

The truth is both woman are damned good at what they do but they’ve chosen their path in different ways and each one has different abilities.

Sports journalism is an entertainment business. It’s all about getting ratings and creating widespread name recognition. Ms. Andrews knows her stuff and knows how to play up to her audience, that all important male audience 18-35 to which much sports advertising is directed – not that she shouldn’t be appealing to other demographics as well.

The only way any pictures that present Ms. Andrews in a manner she does not chose to be seen are ones from her functioning in a public capacity or ones she specifically approves for marketing purposes. How bad is it? Do a Google image search for Erin Andrews and see how many photos are amateur exploitation pictures or others edited to emphasize her anatomy.

The creeps are out there. Maybe Christine Brennan might not be taken advantage of the same way Erin Andrews has but there are plenty of nutcases capable of all kinds of wicked adventure.

Obama: Blatant, Self-Serving Lie on Health Care

Obama is Either Extremely Ignorant, Full of Shit, or Purposely Misleading

Read this quote from a recent news conference where President Barack Obama addresses the issue of greed and fraud in medicine. It’s quite revealing.

"Right now, doctors a lot of times are forced to make decisions based on the fee payment schedule that's out there. ... The doctor may look at the reimbursement system and say to himself, 'You know what? I make a lot more money if I take this kid's tonsils out,'"

"Now, that may be the right thing to do, but I'd rather have that doctor making those decisions just based on whether you really need your kid's tonsils out or whether it might make more sense just to change; maybe they have allergies. Maybe they have something else that would make a difference."

Question to the President: How many parents would take their child directly to a throat surgeon for a sore throat?

A child with a sore throat would be taken to a primary care physician, a clinic or HMO facility or in some rare instances the hospital emergency room by his or her parents. A pediatrician would examine the child, possibly initiate tests such as a routine series to identify possible infections like strep throat, and only in rare instances where certain symptoms persist then refer the child to a throat specialist. Tonsil and adenoid removal is done far less frequently now than a generation ago – perhaps another fact lost on the President.

President Obama seems to have some real hang ups about successful people making money in traditional ways as the medical profession once afforded doctors. The cold hard truth is all too often, a doctor’s decision for what course of treatment to follow is based on what Medicare or limited private insurance plans will pay for which is often not the best possible treatment but either the cheapest or the one the health care payment provider has documented as the preferred method.

Barack Obama should be ashamed of the vicious selfish stereotype he is attempting to create of our doctors. Equally alarming is his stated ignorance of how a child’s sore throat is handled and by what kind of doctor. His smug, cocky tone in addressing this issue is also quite nauseating. The guy has an answer for everything.

America does not need or deserve a health care system based on false assumptions, vicious class warfare stereotypes, and ignorance of the current system.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cambridge Massachusetts Episode Reveals the True Racism of Obama's View of Society

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a hateful race baiter who represents that absolute scum of the left wing elite in this country. Gates is a Harvard professor of African American studies, a discipline that in itself is a source of spreading a racist ideology of black victimology drawing sharp racial divides where essentially black Americans are entitled to all kinds of special considerations for wrongs committed against them in the past.

Against this background, a very unfortunate episode took place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard University, and where Gates resides. Mr. Gates returned home but was not dressed in his normal attire as he attempted to enter through his back entrance. A concerned neighbor, concerned for the security of the professor’s residence, not his adversary, called the police because from her vantage point, it looked as though there was a burglary in progress. Sgt. James Crowley, a respected veteran Cambridge police officer responded to the call.

Gates was attempting to forcefully enter his house as he was apparently locked out of his home. Witnessing this and not knowing the suspect’s identity, Sgt. Crowley responded accordingly. The police report he wrote indicates his account of the situation. Here’s the report with explanation from “The Smoking Gun.”

Witness accounts of the episode support Sgt. Crowley’s reporting.

Is it unrealistic to believe that Professor Gates, a person with a long history of stoking the fires of racial division painting the police as agents of oppression hell bent on persecuting blacks on the basis of racial profiling, purposely went out of his way to attempt to get the Sergeant to step over the line to help provide Gates with his own first person narrative of personally being victim of the wrongs he attempts to establish?

Either Gates purposely provoked the scene or his outlook is so jaded that his ability to react to a situation in a controlled civil manner gives way to an emotionally charged madness based on some sort of persecution complex or blind faith to his hateful ideology.

Clearly, Sgt. Crowley appears to have handled the situation professionally; however, given racial conflicts are almost always lose/lose propositions, while it is totally unacceptable for the verbal assault professor Gates cut lose on the Sergeant, perhaps the officer would have been better off to found some face saving way to back off once it was clear to him that Gates was, in fact, on his own property. However, a police officer is entitled to maintain some sense of command. Citizens should cooperate with officers and address their grievances in without being confrontational realizing that the officer’s sworn responsibility is maintaining the public safety.

Professor Gates would have no part of it. His insults and taunts continued to escalate. What options did Sgt. Crowley have? Had he turned the other cheek would he not be demonstrating open defiance of the police is acceptable?

Though charges against Dr. Gates were ultimately dropped, Sgt. Crowley emphatically insists he has no reason to apologize for his actions and intends to stand his ground.

Meanwhile, Professor Gates and his supporters seek to use this episode to establish notions of racial profiling and police hostility toward minorities. This flies in the face that the police action was specifically initiated to protect the perceived threat to the property of a black citizen. One has to wonder had a police officer observed what Sgt. Crowley observed and it turned out to be a real burglary, how would have Professor Gates reacted if the Sergeant ignored the episode fearful of the potential extreme reaction? No doubt, the police would again endure charges of racism that they don’t take protecting black homes as seriously as they do white homes.

In Gates world, the police are damned if they do and damned if they don’t but always hateful agents of white racism regardless. As long as these vicious racial stereotypes of law enforcement continue and enablers in the press continue to deify Gates’ work as noble, getting beyond these horrible racial conflicts will not advance.

If what has been discussed so far was the totality of this episode that would be bad enough. A horrible uproar disrupted a community over what should have been at worst a small, easily resolved, misunderstanding.

Leave it to the White House press corps and Barack Obama to make this into a national furor. In a nationally televised news conference designed to drum up support for the Obama socialist take over of the American health care system, he was asked about the Gates episode. Professor Gates is a former Harvard associate of the President and they share tremendous mutual respect. Obama responded to the reporter first stating:

"Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home."

Further, the President asserted that racism “still haunts us.” Then he added, "I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact.”

If Barack Obama had any sense, he simply would have told the reporter it is not appropriate for him to comment on an open legal issue and maybe make an appeal for calmer heads to prevail. “No comment” is often the best answer.

Thus Barack Obama not only ginned up the severity of the Cambridge neighborhood incident, but as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, he undercut the authority of rule of law not citing the difficulty of the job and stirring up divisive racial issues. However, just simply the comment that “the Cambridge police acted stupidly” is enough for the damage to be done.

Aside from the President stooping to the worst of racial politics, he is further guilty of the same crime his cronies on Capitol Hill are guilty of when they pass legislation without reading the bills. Obama popped off about a situation without doing his homework and considering all angles.

Finally, the President realized his comments needed to be “recalibrated” and is attempting to spin a new version of how to handle the aftermath of the Cambridge lesson. Should we assume that this was learning experience for the President or just the actions of a smart politician covering his butt after talking himself into a corner?

The dangerous lesson we learn from the President’s comments inserting himself into the Cambridge controversy is the extent to which Barack Obama sees America in strictly racial terms where the establishment and white Americans are the bad guys and black Americans are forever victims.

Every false issue that arises on the subject of race distracts from the real challenges our country must address to heal the racial divide and provide equal opportunity for all. The plight of black males in this country is well-known. The public school system refuses to adopt teaching methods and developing compassionate learning environments where black male students are stimulated to live up to their potential and learn the skills and values to succeed in society. College aged black males are more likely to be in the criminal justice process – in jail, on parole, probation, or awaiting charges than attending college. In many urban settings, on any given night chances are better than not at least one young black man will die from gun and drug violence.

We’ve addressed how the Democratic alliance with the teachers’ unions has destroyed reform measures that were helping in environments where such programs were enacted.

So much for the post partisan, post racial transcendent figure the Barack Obama and his campaign used to create the myth the media would buy into to market him as an agent of effective change for our country.

In truth, Barack Obama is an angry man immersed in a situation putting him in deeper waters way over his head given his very limited experience as a first term United States Senator only having background as a rabble rousing lawyer working with corrupt and dangerous “community organizations” like ACORN> Clearly, Obama resents the positive institutions of America and seeks to rebuild the country as a radical left regime designed to redistribute wealth and centralize power of the national government taking control of industry, health care, banking, and increasingly more aspects of every day life.

The real Obama is quickly emerging. The American people must stop him cold before any more long lasting harm to our great nation can be done.

He truly could be the most dangerous person ever to serve as President of the United States with no other figure coming close.

Veterans' Cross Yet Another Focus of ACLU's All Out Attack on all Public Expression of Faith

A small cross stands against the elements on Sunrise Rock in California’s Mojave Desert. It was erected in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in memory of fallen soldiers who died for our country. This site was chosen by World War I veterans who sought out the desert environment as a healthy location for their recuperation. Since then, Marines have had memorial plaques placed with the cross honoring their lives and sacrifice.

The following article from gives more background about the cross, its history and the controversy brewing.

More background is provided by individuals directly involved with maintaining the shrine the cross defines in the following video clip that will both make the extremely angry and heartbroken.

Sadly once again, the radical left-wing hate group, the ACLU has gone to court to have the cross removed under their obscene misinterpretation of the 1st amendment suggesting that because the cross stands on Federal land, it constitutes an attempt by the state to impose religion on the people.

Issue after issue, Right Minded Fellow has established that the very rationale for our existence as a free republic invokes the understanding of God as the Declaration of Independence so clearly articulates:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

If in fact, we derive our basic freedoms which we found denied us by the British crown from our Creator, then is not recognition of that Creator a logical part our public dialog?

The first amendment in how it addresses religion is designed to support this notion not to deny it when it states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

Somehow, the ACLU turns this whole concept inside out that any free expression of religion on public property is the government somehow legislating the establishment of religion. In any of these cases, where is Congress involved in the first place?

The Constitution is crystal clear, it designates Congress as the agency and mandates that that institution of government neither imposes religion through law nor prevents people from freely practicing their religion.

In the Sunrise Cross case, the ACLU is seeking to use the court specifically to block the free expression of religion by seeking to have a passive symbol of deceased veterans’ faith to be removed. As such the memorial for these servicemen and the values it represents are prohibited by the 9th District Court as the agency of government actively denying expression.

As citizens of the United States, we live in a culture where citizens of all faiths are supposed to be free to practice their religion and freely express their beliefs. Whether it was the Catholics in Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania, or Pilgrims in Massachusetts, settlers came to colonize America for the promise of religious freedom fleeing Great Britain and Europe denied them.

Because the British government established the Church of England with the British king or queen acting as the head of the church and many continental countries acknowledged the Catholic Church as the official religion of the state, our founding fathers sought to make it part of our nation’s legal framework to make any officially established state church illegal and further would not allow the state to legislate the ways individuals chose to celebrate their faith.

When the Supreme Court under Chief Justice, Earl Warren, banned compulsory prayer in public school it argued that the state was mandating religious observance since the public school as the agent of the state prescribed a specific religious act, prayer, to be performed by all public school students. Because students are compelled to attend school and the school determines the content of a religious activity that clearly falls under the courts’ prohibition. The act of praying required specific behavior of students.

Sadly, that ruling opened the door for radical elements in society with a purely anti-religious agenda to attempt to extend that concept essentially to argue any mention of religion or presence of any religious artifact on public property with the approval of the state also constitutes an attempt to establish religion and thus impose it on the unwilling.

In recent years, court action has ordered the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings be removed. Courts have ordered Christmas decorations especially such displays as nativity scenes off of public land, but now the 9th District court attempts to personalize it even further in denying recognition of veterans’ faith in memorial.

The logic and reasoning is clearly set forth in this concept, there is nothing if the ACLU succeeds in getting this measure judged in their favor, then what would keep them from demanding the removal of crosses under the same logic from plots on Veterans’ cemeteries? Would the court see a difference between memorials for an individual being any different than that of a group of Veterans?

When one considers the language of the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution and considers the historic challenges that compelled our founding fathers to articulate those rights, there can be no question that the ACLU’s attempts to create what amounts to a complete and total freedom from any public expression of religion, that somehow the simple display of items with religious meaning or symbolism infringes on a person’s liberties is absolutely absurd. One can chose to embrace or ignore the items of religious expression. No one is being mandated to do or believe anything nor is anyone’s ability to freely express his or her religious beliefs or lack of being adversely affected.

Once again, the radical left is shown as the champions of absolute intolerance.

For now, the current alignment of the Supreme Court could very well overrule the decision of the 9th District Court on the Sunrise Rock cross. However, in openly trying to apologize for American behavior to followers of Islam, President Barack Obama stated that the United States in neither “a Christian nor a Jewish nation.” President Obama has consistently supported the most radical contentions of the ACLU and his administration is loaded with leaders who have a long history of openly anti-religious behavior.

As such, people of faith must be fearful of potential Obama nominees not just to the Supreme Court but the entire Federal Bench. After all, as Sonya Sotomayor asserted, policy is made at the appeals court level.

Brett Favre is Officially Off My Good Guy List

jerk (n) - one who jerks around others for personal selfish or confused motives. EXAMPLE: NFL veteran Quarterback, Brett Favre

Dear Mr. Favre,

It's time to poopy or get off the potty.

-several million NFL fans, most of whom loved you

It's so hard to see someone who was one of the most likeable, hard-nosed players who played football with boyish enthusiasm but with the genius of a seasoned coach toughing it out for so long now turn into a self-absorbed head case. The game will go on with out Brett Favre, and Brett's life will go on after football. We all have to grow up some time. Enough of the Peter Pan with a #4 jersey stuff, chump.

Here's the article from NFL.COM. What more can we say? How much patience can anybody have left for this brooding figure to make up his mind. If this fellow can't make a commitment to be a Minnesota Viking by now, why the hell would they want him on their team?

The Orioles: The Birds Cannot be Dogging It as the Dog Days Set In

Take it from “Cakes”

We could almost take the Orioles' hall-of-fame team's greatest pitcher's number, and say there are currently 22 questions regarding the 25 roster spots on the Baltimore Orioles with only Nick Martakis, Adam Jones, and Brian Roberts who provide definitive answers for what can be expected from them on the diamond every night. While Matt Wieters absolutely figures to be the team's catcher for years to come and Norm Riemold might be the third outfielder, as with all rookies, the book is wide open on how they will develop as full-time big leaguers.
Jim Palmer's seen it all having been a connected with the Orioles since coming to town as a teenaged rookie in 1965. Few can put the Orioles ups and downs in perspective a man with 44 years as a pitcher and broadcaster can do.
Jim Palmer commented on what the young Orioles could learn from watching the Yankees as it was clear they were likely to be swept in yet another futile trip to Yankees Stadium. Palmer observed that the Orioles don’t take batting practice before day games. He indicated the young players could take cues from a player like Derek Jeter who gets his practice in before games regardless. While not maintaining the regular practice routine in day games after night games surely is not the only cause of the team’s miserable performance in such games as their Sunday record the past two seasons so clearly indicates, it does reflect on how much the team and its field management is truly dedicated to establishing a winning routine. While we’re not calling for Dave Trembley’s head at this point, he surely has some positive attributes that are good for a rebuilding team, being more forceful about routine requirements from pregame practice to some in game factors like missing assignments on defense and base running blunders reflects badly on his leadership. Likewise, while it’s good to work all players on the bench in as starters during the course of the week, it appears as though the Orioles field a “B” team in day games where three or four regular starters are rested. If winning games is the goal, these substitutions should be staggered taking into account players’ strengths and weaknesses as reasons to make substitutions at the right time.

It’s on to Boston tonight where the Red Sox are returning to their happy home of Fenway Park after an absolutely disastrous road trip to open after the All Star break. Unless the Red Sox are in the throes of a historic meltdown, they will be in fighting shape ready to take on a team they have mastered with little difficulty in recent years especially when playing in Boston.

While the Orioles could possibly be seen as lucky to escape Boston with a single win, having won just one game out of six since the All Star break coupled with their likely fate in “Bean Town” cannot be the prelude to yet another miserable late season collapse.

Sadly, our question posed in our last evaluation of the Orioles on what it would take for them to finish at the .500 breakeven point has surely been resoundingly answered by their performance this week. Over their next thirty games, they play the Red Sox six games with a home series coming from July 31 to August 2. They also face the Tigers for four games and White Sox for three more games in Chicago, the two teams locked in battle for the AL Central title. From August 14 to 17, four games against the Los Angeles Angels who have dominated the Orioles convincingly in recent history. Add to that trips to Toronto after visiting Detroit and opening a road trip in Tampa for three games at the end of this thirty day span, the Orioles have played miserably against these division rivals particularly on the road. As inconsistent as the Blue Jays have been, they can look well in a hurry when the Orioles come to town. So what’s left for hope? The Orioles host Kansas City for four games opening a short seven game home stand with Boston the other visitor next week. The Oakland Athletics come to town for three games before the Angels settle in from August 10 to 12. The Orioles could only manage a split against KC when they played the Royals in Kansas City in May and as weak as the Athletics have been this year, the swept the Orioles in Oakland in early June.

Looking beyond the next 30 days, the late schedule rides heavily on division rivals with home and away series against all four teams. The other rivals include home and away against Cleveland, one team with a worse last place record than the Orioles, the Minnesota Twins who could be trying to claw their way into the AL Central race, and the Texas Rangers, a much improved team that has clobbered the Orioles especially late in the season also come to town. Fans should not let individual team records fool them, every single team in the American League has some substantial strengths to deal with and are quite capable of dominating a three game series. There are no Washington Nationals or Pittsburgh Pirates in this league.

2009 is the season this team must show improvement in the second half to validate their rebuilding process which is now in full swing. Matt Wieters, Norm Reimold, and Brad Bergesen look like they’re on their way to being established major leaguers but their inexperience cannot escape notice. Speculation runs hot that another pitching prospect, Chris Tillman, could be starting for the big club as soon as the Orioles return home early next week.

While it is a delight to see young players with tremendous potential coming to Baltimore as part of the big design of becoming a team that can take on the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays, who is there on the big team who sets the kind of example players like Derek Jeter sets which shows the Yankee way or how Cal Ripken Jr. was the roll model for so many players to don the black and orange? Likewise, does Dave Trembley and his staff maintain the kind of high expectations, discipline, and leadership required to mold these enthusiastic youngsters into a winning team in the tough American League East?


Sunset is getting notably earlier and the back to school goods are on display in all the stores. While it’s only natural to feel a melancholy sinking feeling knowing summer’s end approaches, the most dramatic marker of the transition of the seasons occurs this weekend as NFL training camps open across the country. Some teams set up shop in obscure locations, isolated from the attention of anxious fans and local media when there’s hard work to do and keeping the players distraction free on task for their mission ahead toughening up and learning the playbook to be one of the twelve out of thirty two teams that will make the playoffs with a shot at the Lombardi trophy in February.

Entering camp the two biggest stories involve the tale of two quarterbacks, Brett Favre and Michael Vick. Their stories couldn’t be more different.

Last year, NFL fans followed the heated soap opera playing out between Favre and Green Bay Packers’ management on Favre’s desire to rescind his intention to retire and continue his career with the Packers. When the Packers’ brass made it clear that they had committed to a new path behind Aaron Rodgers, how could Green Bay save face but still yield to let Favre play elsewhere. Speculation ran wild just where the great #4 would land, ultimately he landed with the New York Jets where he helped lead the Big Apple’s bridesmaid franchise to a winning record looking much like Favre of old despite inconsistent play in the early season before being rendered ineffective by a shoulder injury. At season’s end, once again, it looked like retirement was inevitable. The Louisiana sportsman would at very least require surgery, an option he clearly balked at initially. Still, through it all, there was a mutual flirtation going on between the disillusioned veteran and his former arch rival, the Minnesota Vikings. It became hard not to recognize that perhaps Favre’s greatest sports fantasy before marching off into the NFL record book would be to stick it to his former team’s power suits for not welcoming his desire to continue as a Packer. To be able to return to Lambeau Field and embarrass the green and gold would settle the score.

So will he or won’t he? Brett Favre has been working out with a dedicated cadre of local high school players down in the Bayou, but he won’t indicate his intentions as the Vikings brass and even overtures from some players openly entice the legendary QB to join them as perhaps the missing piece for a playoff ready team who could play deep into January given their possible opponents in the NFC playoffs.

While one year ago, at least in the opening stages, fans were clearly sympathetic to Brett Favre and supported his desire to return; however, a year later, his act is starting to wear thin. His desire to continue to play is tainted by his obvious contempt for the leaders of his former team. While continued successful play will continue to fortify his lofty credentials and many records on the all-time NFL legends list, at what cost does his possible continuation tarnish his great reputation? This saga is making him look selfish, spiteful, and like a fellow who simply can recognize and accept the inevitable in all athletes’ careers has arrived. Enshrinement in Canton, Ohio as one of the greatest Green Bay Packers ever awaits him in a few short years. He’ll have many bridges to mend before than eternal day arrives somewhere in the middle of the next decade.

Michael Vick has paid his debt to society according to law for the hideous dog fighting ring he lead. Here’s a former rising star with unbelievable unique skills as the Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback who electrocuted and tortured dogs whether it was ones who didn’t stand up as competitors or helpless beagles used as attack bait to help toughen the pit bulls supposedly bred specifically to be killers. No human being who has ever been captured by the pleading gaze of a dog’s sad eyes can stomach any of this story without a feeling of total repulsion and anguish.

From one standpoint, Vick has paid his price, at least by law, for his crimes, and should be able to rebuild himself as a valuable member of the workforce. In his age and condition, he still has the physical makeup to be an extremely capable football player. However, having paid his legal debt, is he now subject to some additional sanctions from the NFL for the horrible disgrace he brought on the sport? Does his jail time also equal compensation for his misdeeds as an NFL player? Granted he was placed on indefinite suspension as the legal charges developed, but the commissioner, David Goodell must way the appropriate response from the league.

While we absolutely hate what Vick has done and openly confess to being real dog lovers who can’t resist the joy beagles bring their human companions, we attempt to bracket those feelings and put Vick’s situation in perspective. Ultimately, once the NFL has determined he has paid the price for his horrible sins, the league should allow Michael Vick to be signed as a free agent should any team want to give Vick the opportunity if he has a roll to play for that team’s success. Saying that, as a Baltimore Ravens fan, even at the expense of a Super Bowl trophy, this fan would NEVER want to see him play in this town and would openly encourage fans to bark and howl to taunt Vick should he ever do battle on the field of M&T Bank Stadium. Yes, Mr. Vick, you will have to live with your crime for the rest of your life regardless of what the law provides. No law says the public has to forgive and forget, but we must at least have some degree of civility, something hard to define in these circumstances.

If Michael Vick is to return to the NFL, it would probably be best for all concerned for him to play in one of the alternate leagues or Canada to dust off the rust and reconstruct his reputation. How he melds with a future team and what he does as a private citizen will go a long way to determine his fate. There can be no nightclub outings where bad things happen. There can be no reports of attendance at strip joints. There’d darn well better be reports of community work or church service. Selective good behavior will not cut it.

We’ll have to see how teams gel in training camp before making preseason predictions for 2009. A few things do stand out. It’s hard not to like the Pittsburgh Steelers to put up a strong defense of their Super Bowl trophy. That team remains largely intact and they are the kind of pros who won’t let success go to their heads.

The New England Patriots look reloaded and ready to be one of the best bets for the AFC crown. The Indianapolis Colts could be a team in transition. How much will the loss of Tony Dungy’s steady guiding hand affect Payton Manning and the boys with some of the key players from their strong run for most of the decade having moved on?

The AFC East could be the most interesting division to watch as it’s hard to imagine the Miami Dolphins will be as fortunate as their remarkable comeback in 2008 provided with their rivals looking stronger. How will Rex Ryan’s tough guy approach and defensive genius improve the New York Jets? Do the Jets have a quarterback who can play winning offense? Then what of the Buffalo Bills, usually a very low profile team especially since the Marv Levi era with four consecutive Super Bowl appearances, all losses, now that Terrell Owens comes to town after making scorched earth of the Dallas Cowboys’ locker room?

It’s hard to generate any excitement for the NFC west, while Indianapolis and Tennessee should compete for the Southern title with Houston continuing to look for how to be a winning team and Jack Del Rio does the same in Jacksonville.

How good will the Ravens be in the AFC North? They would seem to be in desperate need of an impact receiver or two to help Joe Flacco run a more balanced offense. Will Derek Mason report to camp or was the dispatch on his agent’s blog correct that he intends to retire. Early indications point toward Cleveland and Cincinnati being improved over the last couple years, but how much?

The NFC is clearly the weaker conference. Surely, the Arizona Cardinals get lots of attention as last year’s champ, but do they have the depth and power to repeat? The biggest off season move appears to be Chicago finally gaining a potential quality quarterback snatching up Jay Cutler from Denver, a clubhouse in apparent free fall after firing long standing coach, Mike Shanahan. No doubt, almost by default, most of the attention will fall on the Dallas Cowboys in their new billion dollar palace, a new stadium as big as only the Lone Star state could envision. Without the distraction and turmoil created by Terrell Owens, the pressure is clearly on head coach Wade Phillips who must deliver a strong post season presence or it’s impossible to think he’d return to the sidelines next year. Further, offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett looked like the man groomed to be the next head honcho in Big D, but Tony Romo’s failure to grow as a quality quarterback last year and numerous other offensive deficiencies has certainly taken the luster off his Dallas star. Two years ago, he was openly courted for open head coach positions. That his name did not come up with the many vacancies this past off season also helps to serve as an assessment of his diminished reputation.

As the fantasy drafts heat up and the football pundits start preaching their prognostications, could anyone ever dare to predict a dull or routine upcoming NFL season?

No doubt about it, the AFC will be loaded with all kinds of exciting developments as the Steelers and Patriots fend off an impressive list of challengers. Meanwhile, the NFC scene could be wide open where the conference is more noteworthy for trying to forget one of its own, the Detroit Lions, suffered a winless season and for them, three wins in 2009 would probably be triumphant. St. Louis can pretty much be written off as a no chance in hell team as well, but beyond those two lowly organizations, right now, it doesn’t take too much imagination to draw up a respectable fantasy to put any of the remaining 14 teams at least in the Wild Card hunt while one could just as easily write a script of how miserable even the better teams stack up against rather bland AFC counterparts.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sprint Cup 2009, Race 20: The Brickyard

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, “The Brickyard,” surely is the most celebrated race track in all of racing and likewise one of the famous venues in all of sports. For decades, millions of sports fans who’d have no connection with auto racing would at least follow the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend as some folks tune in the Masters but would never follow the PGA or watch Wimbledon, yet otherwise ignore tennis. The 2 ½ mile legendary site also has a longer history than just about any sports setting in the United States with ground being broke in 1909, it predates even Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.

Ironically, despite the substantial legend behind the Indy 500, American open wheel racing is in trouble with its future at stake. Were there no Danica Patrick, the readily marketable sex kitten, advertising poster child, and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model bringing much attention to the Indy Racing League (IRL), would the series garner much attention at all? Most of its races are now broadcast on Versus, the Comcast upstart sports network, that aside from IRL and the NHL has little more to show for itself other than outdoor life programming and the Tour de France. Fans can say what they will about Danica Patrick’s “sexploitation,” she is a highly competitive driver, who despite only having one win in the series consistently pulls in top 5 finishes and looks good in the series’ point standings. Auto racing worldwide follows a similar dichotomy to football. Just as the world follows their kind of football Americans call soccer and America follows the NFL and college game, everywhere in the world outside the United States, open wheel racing, the Formula 1 series rules while NASCAR rules supreme in the USA. So where does that put the IRL? Likewise, for the sake of this discussion, what happens when the legendary sports Valhalla hosts NASCAR?

The Brickyard 400 started in 1994 and helped establish the reputation for the career of sophomore racer, Jeff Gordon, who won the first race of his four Indy races. The following year, NASCAR’s legend of the era, Dale Earnhardt, holder of seven championships enjoyed the victory ritual akin to those celebrated by A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, the Unser’s, and all the legends with Brickyard trophies. In 1994 and 1995, open wheel racing was much healthier in America. The crippling IRL/CART split was still a couple years in the future and plenty of American open wheel drivers were among the regular who’s who of American sports fans, but even when the green flag dropped starting the first Brickyard 400, the implication was clear. America’s most popular racing series was now racing at motorsports most famous track. Fifteen years later, one could easily debate what is truly the most popular racing event in America: the Indianapolis 500 or NASCAR’s Daytona 500 in February. Clearly, the buildup to the Daytona 500 gathers far more attention in sports media than the Indy 500.

When the first Brickyard 400 ran in 1994, NASCAR still had its grand slam of races, the Daytona 500, Charlotte’s Coca Cola 600, Darlington’s Southern 500, and the second race at Talladega advertised as the first, the longest, the oldest, and the fastest. That landscape has changed. The Southern 500 got the ax moving the legendary South Carolina event to a miserable fate for NASCAR racing on Labor Day weekend in Fontana California where the beautiful people hardly acknowledged the good old boys coming to town. This year, the Labor Day event will take place in Atlanta while the name of the Southern 500 now stands with the lone event in Darlington in May. In fourteen years, the NASCAR/Brickyard marriage has produced NASCAR’s number two sensation, second only to the Daytona 500, as the Brickyard 400 is the sports new classic. While other races surely have a greater impact on the NASCAR season, the history of the Brickyard and giant capacity of the Indianapolis track taking place during one of the sleepiest times in the entire sports seasons, this weekend’s upcoming race is a huge event. Looking at the winner’s list, the Brickyard 400 winners club forms a fraternity of some of NASCAR’s greatest drivers, many of whom have series championships, some the same year as their Brickyard victory. Besides Jeff Gordon with his four wins, his teammate Jimmie Johnson holds two wins, both championship seasons for the California driver. Two time champ, Tony Stewart, and former champ, Dale Jarrett, both have two wins. Other champs with Brickyard wins include Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Labonte, and Bill Elliot. How elite is this field of winners, only Ricky Rudd and Kevin Harvick, a Daytona 500 winner, round out the field of NASCAR Indy winners.

While most of the NASCAR races in Indy have been worthy of the buildup full of all kinds of quirky twists and turns, heartbreaking wrecks and failures, and intriguing matchups fighting for the win, the 2008 Brickyard 400 was one of NASCAR’s greatest embarrassments of all time. Between the racing surface having recently been “diamond grooved” in an attempt to improve grip on the high speed 2 ½ mile surface and Goodyear having a tire that simply could not hold up to the substantial friction with the added down force applied by the “Car of Tomorrow,” the race was reduced to a series of heats separated by “competition yellows” every 10-12 laps with only one yellow flag dropping for action on the track when Brian Vickers’ Toyota engine exploded. Frustrating fans in the stands and NASCAR viewers alike, an afternoon’s racing came down to a final shootout between Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards.

After substantial apologies and finger pointing, noting that the racetrack surface rubber combination never allowed the track to “rubber up” as the tire compound was ground off to little more than dust, Goodyear, NASCAR, and the track’s management shook hands agreeing such would not be repeated in 2009. Goodyear invested heavily in tire testing formulating a rubber compound that should assure this year’s race should be a truly competitive affair.

Going into this year’s race, perhaps for many, Mark Martin will be the obvious sentimental favor, leading the series with the most victories, four in 2009, a Brickyard trophy would be a glorious feat for one of the sports’ greatest drivers never to win a championship or Daytona 500. From a truly competitive standpoint, it would be hard not to put money on Jimmie Johnson or hometown favorite Tony Stewart, #2 and #1 in this year’s points standings, both drivers look like the clear cut favorites to duel for the championship through the Chase. Sure, Jeff Gordon is in third place in the standings and the veteran driver surely knows the Brickyard. Consider that neither Joe Gibbs Racing nor Roush/Fenway have ever won at the Brickyard. As qualifying and practice approach, NASCAR fans will discover quickly if a year’s worth of effort have prepared these teams for success and an attempt to put life back into what has been a disappointing season for both teams. Not to be ignored, consider Roger Penske is synonymous with Indy success on Memorial Day. His premier NASCAR driver, Kurt Busch is in fourth place ready to strike while teammate Sam Hornish is a former Indy 500 winner. Speaking of Indy 500 winners, how about Juan Pablo Montoya who is surging forward in the standings breathing life into what has been a moribund atmosphere at Earnhardt/Ganassi racing?

Weather conditions should be near perfect for late July with a forecast for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the high 70’s. The late July classic finds television coverage shifting to ESPN who will broadcast the balance of the 2009 Sprint Cup season with all events up to Richmond appearing on ESPN and all the remaining races from Richmond, the deciding race for the final “Chase” lineup and all ten “Chase” races leading to the final showdown in Homestead on ABC. While ESPN invested heavily in returning to covering NASCAR, race fans see need for much improvement in their coverage. With so many personalities and production segments, the coverage often gets distracting, unfocused and confusing. This is no knock on the guys in the booth, Dr. Jerry Punch, Andy Petree, and Dale Jarrett, the Hickory, NC fraternity. Alan Bestwick, a fine announcer and Rusty Wallace host the event in ESPN’s version of Fox’s “Hollywood Hotel.” Watching races on ESPN the past two years, one would often think that during the race, the network is more focused on showing off all its production toys with more emphasis on Tim Brewer’s cutaway car than what Jeff Hammond’s role or Larry McReynolds’ role on Fox and TNT entailed. While the technical information is interesting, it can be distracting if used too frequently or if the segments are not concise. ESPN’s greatest sin, particularly when broadcasting over ABC affiliates is the rapid exit from post race coverage wanting to cut away quickly to additional ABC programming or local news. Effective NASCAR coverage must include at least a segment with the winner in victory lane, some interviews with the key competitors, drivers or crew chiefs, and a skillful wrap up by the appropriate members of the broadcast team putting the race in perspective in the points competition and setting the stage for the following week. If ESPN falls short on any of these variables, their coverage is not fully satisfactory.

Thankfully, everything appears to be lining up for a weekend where the story will be told on the track and in the pits not being dogged by tire technology failures or bad weather. RMF will be cheering for Mark Martin, but would find a Tony Stewart or Roush/Fenway victory quite satisfying. Okay, could it be possible given how successful Hendricks cars including Tony Stewart’s stable are racing this year, how about Dale Earnhardt Jr. dramatically turning around his season with a stunning win in his father’s footsteps at the historic track? Not likely but fun to think about, surely thousands of fans will be cheering for just that.