Monday

Monday Mailbag & DFTU


Hello again everybody...

Happy Monday to you all. And it actually is a "happy" Monday since for most of us, this is a short work week. Thank you 4th of July! Hope your week goes smoothly and you cruise into the weekend ready to have some fun!

Speaking of fun, today I'll have the weekly Sports Take Mailbag segment. And then, of course, I'm gonna have to return to the DFTU and discuss this past weekend and the week ahead for my favorite teams (and by extension, the Brewers as well)!

A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings.
- Earl Wilson (1934-2000), Pro Baseball Pitcher

«Read More...»


Here's this week's Sports Take Mailbag question:

What are the differences between a stadium, a coliseum, an arena and a ballpark?

- Cathy in Maple Grove

On the surface, this may seem obvious to some of you. But consider the dictionary.com definition for "ballpark":

ballpark [bawl-pahrk], noun

1. a tract of land where ball games, esp. baseball, are played.
2. a baseball stadium.


So when one of the words is contained in the definition of the other, it can get just a wee bit confusing.

Technically speaking they're fairly interchangeable. Or in the case of "coliseum" they're basically brand names. It's like calling facial tissue Kleenex. That sort of thing.

But because we here at The Sports Take seek clarity at any and all costs for the benefit of you, our dear readers, here's the "Sports Take-tionary" definitions of those terms:

Stadium [stay-DEE-um], noun

1. An edifice dedicated to use by athletic franchises, generally football or soccer teams, generally open to the elements, though sometimes domed or having a retractable roof. Usually seats between 40,000 - 100,000 spectators.

2. A building, the construction of which inspires seemingly endless debates between "greedy billionaire owners" and the "I-don't-use-it-why-should-I-pay-for-it crowd".

Example: Minneapolis' HHH Metrodome, Green Bay's Lambeau Field, etc.

Coliseum [KAHL-ih-SEE-um], noun

1. An ancient ruin in Rome where I've never been.

2. The stadium in Los Angeles built in 1923 and used for the 1932 and 1984 Olympics. It has played host to the NFL's L.A. Rams (1946-1979) and Raiders (1982-1994), the USFL's L.A. Express (1983-1985), the XFL's L.A. Xtreme (2001), MLB's L.A. Dodgers (1958-1961), the NCAA's UCLA Bruins (1928-1981) and currently hosts the USC Trojans (1923- ).

Example: see above

Arena [uh-REE-nuh], noun

1. A building generally dedicated to athletic contests with fall/winter seasons, specifically basketball and hockey. Also often used for concerts and other indoor entertainment events. Usually seats between 12,000 - 20,000 spectators.

2. Not as strong a source of political wrangling as stadiums and ballparks. Generally because they can be built for far less than the other two.

Example: St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center, Milwaukee's Bradley Center, etc. (I could include Minneapolis' Target Center, but I don't have good memories there)

Ballpark [bawl-pahrk], noun

1. A building dedicated to athletic contests, specifically baseball. Generally open to the elements, sometimes domed (though they shouldn't be), and sometimes having retractable roofs (eh, I can live with it). Usually seats between 30,000-60,000 spectators.

2. In 2010, the culmination of years and years of political wrangling in Minnesota. See the progress here.

Example: Milwaukee's Miller Park, Phoenix's Chase Field and the yet-to-be-named Twins ballpark (rumor has it "Land o' Lakes Field" is a possibility... I like it... call the place "The Lake"... that works)

So I hope that answered the question in a semi-entertaining way. Remember, if you want your question answered in the Sports Take Mailbag, send me an email at dcook93@yahoo.com.

Now it's time for everybody's favorite segment, Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 45-37, in second place in the AL Central, 1.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox.

How about that Brewer Fans? Okay, you broke the Twins' winning-streak Saturday night (I nearly sent a Brewer fan friend an email saying, "Now those are the Twins bats I'm used to". But I didn't want to put a sort of double-reverse whammy on my own team). But the Twins took the series 2-1 including a gem of a 3-hit shutout thrown by Kevin Slowey on Sunday. Fortunately for you Wisconsinites, the Cubbies got swept by the White Sox, so you actually picked up a game! Kudos.

That makes it: Milwaukee 5, DFT's 4. Next up? A 4-game series in Arizona vs. the D'backs. See below.

You may have noticed that Minnesota's record adds up to 82 games. 1 game past the halfway mark of the season. So here's a quick grading of the Twins' season so far:

Offense: B-
Believe it or not, the Twins have scored the 5th-most runs in the AL. Their power numbers are still pretty low (they have the fewest HR's in the AL and a middling Slugging Percentage), or they'd get a higher mark here.

Pitching: C-
Though the pitching has been red-hot lately, for the entire 1st half it's been shaky. They have the worst Opponent Batting Average in the AL, a middling team ERA and have given up the 4th-most runs. Hopefully the current turn-around lasts through the second half.

Defense: D+
Yes, that's harsh. But for a team that's based its success on pitching and defense, to have the third-most errors in the AL is unacceptable. Youth is a big part of the problem, so hopefully they'll improve over the second half.

Overall: C+
No question that the Twins are much better than I feared they'd be. And they seem to be getting better as the season rolls along. I'm guardedly optimistic that it can continue. But I'm not talking playoffs just yet.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 41-41, in first place in the NL West and 2.5 games ahead of the L.A. Dodgers.

So now you crew fans will get your fill of Chase Field. The Brewers swept a 3 game set earlier this year at Miller Park. A sweep deserves a sweep, right? Unfortunately, the Snakes aren't playing anywhere near the level that would be required to sweep anybody. They've won just 2 of their last 6 series. Not what you'd expect from a division leader.

But they are 24-15 in the friendly confines of Chase Field, so perhaps a 4-gamer at home will get them back on track. So buckle up Crew fans. Here we go again!

Here are my first-half D'back grades:

Offense: C
Despite the torrid start that Arizona got off to, their offense has gone completely in the tank over the last month-plus. They're middle of the pack in Runs, Home Runs and Slugging Percentage and 3rd-worse in the NL in Batting Average. A C might be generous.

Pitching: B+
The starters alone deserve an A, no doubt. But the bullpen has been shaky enough to drop this grade down. Outside of that glitch in Florida this weekend, Brandon Lyon has been reliable in the closer role. It's everything before him that's been hit or miss. The same pitchers that are untouchable one day, turn into human gas-cans the next. But overall, the pitching has been the anchor for this club.

Defense: D
Arizona's fielding can make their games awfully tough to watch at times. And they're messing up the simple stuff: hitting the cut-off man, covering the appropriate bases, throwing out runners, etc. Cutting down on their errors alone could earn them an extra 5 or so wins in the second half. And when you're talking about a team leading a division with a .500 record, 5 wins can be crucial.

Overall: C+
It's hard to argue with first place. But that .500 record is worrisome, especially given the start they got off to. Watch very closely for moves post-All Star break. That'll tell you a lot about where this team thinks they're headed.

Okay, that's all for today folks. I'm back on Wednesday with the official Sports Take All-Star ballot. Until then, keep your eye on the Boston/Tampa series to see if there are more fireworks between those two teams. Oh, and good luck Milwaukee!!!

Friday

6-27-08: Pantheon of Hate & DFTU


Hello again everybody...

I hope you're as happy as me to reach the end of yet another work week. Can you believe that next weekend's the 4th of July already?! It doesn't feel like we should be that far into the summer already, but we are.

With that in mind, today I'm going to write the segment I've been threatening to write for a while now, The Sports Take's "Pantheon of Hate". I'm going to list off the teams I despise most and the reasons for which I loathe them. Hopefully you'll agree with some, and disagree with others and feel inspired to argue your points. Or at the very least you'll be able to provide me with contact information for a good therapist. And to round out the week, I'll drop some DFTU on you!

«Read More...»


pan·the·on (pān'thē-ŏn', -ən), n.
-A group of persons most highly regarded for contributions to a field or endeavor.

In this case, I'm listing the teams most highly regarded for annoying me to the point where I officially hate them. So without further ado, I give you the Pantheon of Hate:

1. Boston Red Sox (whom I hate) - This one of course comes at no surprise to any regular reader of The Sports Take. I simply loathe the Red Sox (whom I hate) more than any other franchise, professional or amateur, in popular sports. But I don't know that I've sufficently explained why.

The Red Sox (whom I hate) are a group of arrogant, self-important, insecure, mindless, game-insulting jackasses. Really. I can back this up!

In 2004, Alex Rodriguez was traded from the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees. That deal was consumated after a deal to trade him to the Red Sox (whom I hate) fell through because MLB rejected certain clauses in the contract. After his clubs negotiating ineptitude and getting out-done by the Yankees yet again, Red Sox (whom I hate) managing partner John Henry held a press conference where he railed against the Yankees:

"Baseball doesn't have an answer for the Yankees. Revenue sharing can only accomplish so much. At some point it becomes confiscation. It has not and it will not solve what is a very obvious problem."-- John Henry, Red Sox owner, Feb. 18, 2004

Do you know who had the second-highest payroll in baseball and would have, in fact, had the highest had they managed to complete the trade for Rodriguez? That's right, the Boston Red Sox (whom I hate). So shut up John. If revenue disparity is a problem in baseball, you're just as big a part of the problem as anybody.

This is a team that lives with a constant inferiority complex. They're constantly whining about not getting the respect the Yankees get. Only they're on TV as much if not more than New York. ESPN is basically the Red Sox (whom I hate) National Network. And they've won 2 out of the last 4 Worlds Championships! How much more respect do you need?!

I'm sorry to tell you this Bostonians, but you're not the Yankees. The Yankees have been Major League Baseball's most successful franchise with 26 World Series Championships and 39 American League Pennants. The Red Sox (whom I hate) have 7 World Series Championships and 12 American League Pennants. The disparity could not be more clear. Stop trying to be New York. You're not. Just stop it!

And finally, there's the player-culture that's grown up in Boston. Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Those guys are all players and I can't complain about them. But Manny Ramirez is possibly the most dis-respectful player in the game. Not only does he not run out balls on "obvious" outs, but he poses and preens every time he hits a home run. Seriously, he should lead the league in "chin music recieved". And unfortunately his attitude has spread to guys like David Ortiz and Coco Crisp. Add to that group a guy like Kevin Youklis who apparently feels the need to destroy a piece of equipment every time he makes an out and you have a team who's "respect for the game" can be easily called into question.

So to make a long story short, I hate the Red Sox. I really, really do.

2. Dallas Stars - Hopefully this one's also obvious. The Dallas Stars were formerly the Minnesota North Stars until bealzebub, er, Norm Green, left town for the hockey Mecca that is Dallas/Ft. Worth. I try as much as I can to pretend that they're two separate franchises. And to Dallas' credit, they've refrained from using the North Star logo in any significant way. They haven't tried to go "retro" with the green and gold sweater.

But as much as I've tried to get over this one, I just can't. I hate this team for leaving. I hate this team for having success after they left. I hate this team for developing the ugliest alternate sweater in the history of the NHL. In short I just hate this team.

Last spring I was visiting my parents in Phoenix and attending a Spring Training game hosted by the Texas Rangers. Sitting behind us were some folks from the Dallas area. A friend of my parents was chatting them up and out of the corner of my ear I hear him say something about the "North Stars". One of the Texas gals said, (insert Texas-sized drawl here) "Oh you mean the Stawrrrs?" It was at this point my dad put his hand on my arm in an attempt to restrain me from the visceral reaction he knew was coming. I looked over my shoulder and said, "Ma'am. You stole my hockey team. I can't ever forgive you for that." Her response was a very kindly, "Well, we're takin gewd cahr of them fer y'all..."

I mananged not to weep... but it was touch and go there for a moment...

So I can't help it. I still hate the Stars.

3. University of Minnesota Golden Gophers - This covers mostly their football and basketball programs. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the first 3 years of my college education (the last 2 were at UW-Eau Claire... Go Blugolds!... don't ask me what a Blugold is, I have no idea).

During my 3 years in Madison an athletic program renaissance was taking place. The football team went to it's first Rose Bowl in 32 years. And the basketball program was finally becoming competative in the Big Ten. And yet the Badgers couldn't seem to beat the Gophers at anything.

In 1993-94, during their Rose Bowl run, the Badger football team went 10-1-1. Their only loss on the season? Yep, to the the Gophers. And not only was I in attendance for that debacle, but my younger brother and his fellow Gopher fan friend were there to rub it in. Not cool.

At it was that kind of thing that really soured me on the Gophers. Every time they'd beat the Badgers - and they did... repeatedly... football, basketball, hockey, club-level underwater basket weaving... it didn't matter, Minnesota won - I'd get phone call after phone call, "Neener, neenering" me over the Wisconsin loss. And most of those people didn't even attend the U of M! They were just calling to rub it in. And that grates on a guy after a while.

Fortunately for me, the programs have gone in nearly opposite directions. The Badger football team has won 11 of the last 13 match-ups with Minnesota including the last 4 in a row. The Badger basketball team has been in a Final Four in the last ten years. The last time the Gophers made the Final Four, the accomplishment was stricken from NCAA records because the players couldn't write their own term papers.

Thanks to my job, I've been able to meet most of the Gopher athletic staff. AD Joel Maturi is a good guy, but the only coaching decision he's made that can be lauded is the hiring of Tubby Smith. And the way he dealt with the dismissals of Glen Mason and Dan Monson left quite a bit to be desired. Football coach Tim Brewster has a lot of sizzle, but I've yet to see much steak. Perhaps the most intruiging guy in the department is wrestling coach J. Robinson. This guy's part coach/part drill sergeant. But my point is, there hasn't been any of them that have won me over to the point that I've stopped hating the University as a whole.

So there you have it. The top three rungs on the Pantheon of Hate. Hopefully some of my rumblings and grumblings make more sense. Or perhaps you think I'm completely out of my mind. Either way, I feel much better now!

To wrap up the week, here's everybody's favorite segment, Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 43-36, in second place in the AL Central, only a half-game behind the Chicago White Sox.

Oh my are the Twins hot right now. The hottest team in all of baseball as a matter of fact. They've won 9 in a row and 11 of their last 12. They've swept 3 straight series over the Nationals, Diamondbacks and Padres respectively. Granted none of those teams are running well right now, but as they say in baseball, all you can do is play the team that's in front of you. I don't care who you play, three straight sweeps is an accomplishment.

They're getting offense from unexpected places. Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher have been driving in runs all over the place. The expected sources (Mauer and Morneau) have been hitting well too. And perhaps the most under-rated move of the year has been sliding Alexi Casilla in the 2nd spot behind Carlos Gomez. Having that kind of speed at the top of your line-up creates all kinds of havoc.

But the hot streak also be largely credited to the starting pitching staff. If my math is correct, the Twins starters are working on a streak of 9 Quality Starts in a row. Quality Starts aren't the end-all be-all of pitching statistics, but if I could promise a manager that they'd get 6+ innings giving up 3-runs or less for a week and half straight, they'd take that in a heartbeat!.

This weekend is the 2nd installment of the I-94 clash between the Twins and Brewers. Crew fans, the Twins are up 2-1. Welcome to the Terror-Dome! The Brewers aren't exactly scuffling though. Winners in 8 of their last 10, they'll be formidable opponents for the Twins. Should be 3 fun games. Hope you're able to tune in!

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 40-39, in first place in the NL West and 3.5 games in front of the L.A. Dodgers.

It hasn't been a pleasant road trip for the Snakes. They got swept in Minnesota and dropped 2 of 3 to the REd Sox (whom I hate). And now they're in Florida to take on the Marlins who swept them in Miami just last month.

Needless to say, Arizona needs help and needs it quickly. I think they were hoping that a returning Eric Byrnes would spark the line-up. And to a degree he did in Boston. But I fear it's going to take more than him to get this ship righted.

And something needs to be done about the middle-relief as well. Chad Qualls has gotten pounded in his last two outings. Tony Pena and Juan Cruz have had moments of brilliance, but haven't been consistent either. Brandon Lyons has been solid as the closer, but getting the game to him has been a big issue.

I can only assume that G.M. Josh Byrnes is working the phones trying to see where he can find some help. A veteran hitter and/or a solid late-innings relief pitcher would work nicely. Unfortunately there are 29 other clubs looking for the same thing.

There still aren't any other strong contenders out West, so that's going in the D'backs' favor. But a G.M. has to be looking forward at all times. And if this club wants to be any kind of force in the playoffs, they're going to have to make some additions soon.

As I previously mentioned, the Snakes hit Miami this weekend. Then it's home for 4 versus the Brewers. So for the next week straight, I'm going to be at odds with you Crew fans! Best of luck!

That's it for today folks. I'm back on Monday to recap the first portion of "Operation: Beat the Crew"!

Wednesday

Good Wood/Bad Wood & Peek at the Picks


Hello again everybody...

We're at the middle of the week again. It's finally starting to feel like summer here the the Twin Cities. I could've lived with a few more weeks of 70's myself, but you can't be picky with Mother Nature. So I'll enjoy the heat the best I can, and hold off on the A/C as long as humanly possible (damn you electric bill)!

Today I'll weigh in on my thoughts on the maple bat debate in baseball. Then it's time for this week's Peek at the Picks.

"I never blame myself when I'm not hitting. I just blame the bat, and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn't my fault that I'm not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?"

- Yogi Berra (1925 - ), American Professional Baseball Player and Manager


«Read More...»


Yesterday the MLB Player-Management Safety Committe held a meeting to discuss the recent bevy of broken bats. Over the last 5 years, the incidents of broken bats have increased steadily. So the question being asked by the comittee is, what's primarily responsible, the material, or the dimensions?

Baseball bats have primarily been made of ash since hickory was banned in the 19th century. But in the early 90's, Toronto's Joe Carter was credited for beginning to use bats made of maple in addition to the traditional ash bats. Maple is preferred by many players because it's a harder wood than ash.

In Detroit OF Curtis Granderson's latest blog he says, "I really like maple bats over ash bats mainly because they tend to last a lot longer. This year, I am on my second batting practice bat since spring training. If I were using ash, even if I would tape my bat or bone it (apply pressure using something hard like a sink or an actual bone to eliminate the air and space between the grains to make it harder), it would still break or splinter much quicker than maple."

So what's the downside? When maple bats finally do break, as any wood bat inevitably will, they tend to splinter into many dangerous fragments. Last night, umpire Brian O'Nora was hit in the head by a piece of Kansas City C Miguel Olivo's broken maple bat. The piece opened a gash on the back of O'Nora's head which required a trip to the hospital to treat.

Players and umpires getting hurt is one thing, but the real concern for baseball would be a fan getting hurt. We'll see from time to time a bat slip out of a hitters hands and go spinning into the stands. And while having a 36 oz. piece of lumber hurled into the stands is plenty dangerous. Having a 15 oz jagged piece of lumber hurled into the stands is a serious concern.

But material isn't the only reason being cited for the rash of broken bats. Currently, MLB rules dictate that bats can have barrels no wider than 2 3/4 inches, handles no thinner than 16/19 of-an-inch and a length no greater than 42 inches. As baseball fans are well aware however, hitters are constantly tweaking and monkeying with their bats to gain whatever edge they can. Some hitters think that making the bat handle smaller allows them a stronger grip, which allows them to propel the barrel of the bat through the strike zone quicker. And increased bat-speed means increased power. Unfortunately decreased handle size means increased torque which is what causes a lot of bats to break.

So far Major League Baseball is taking a suprisingly prudent approach. They will begin immediate field and laboratory tests on bat strength and breakage patterns. They will also consult with experts and manufacturers. And finally they'll survey each of the 30 big league parks to determine what safety measures are in place for fans, players, coaches and umpires.

Simply instituting a ban on maple bats doesn't make sense until you can specifically determine that the material is the root cause of the problem. And instituting arbitrary rules on demensions is no good unless you can scientifically show what bat-tolerances actually are. So for once, I'm not going to be critical of baseball. They should take their time and determine what exactly is going on, and then take appropriate steps to correct the problem. If that means banning maple bats fine. Just show us exactly why it's necessary.

In the meantime, if you've got those prime seats behind a dugout? Do yourself a favor and keep your head up!

Now it's time for this week's Peek at the Picks segment where I compare the current major league standings to my preseason picks and you all get to laugh at how awful some of those picks were! Here we go...

AL East: Boston Red Sox (whom I hate), 48-32 (Dan's Pick: Boston, whom I hate)
The Rays trail by only 1 game, so they're still hanging right there with Evil Incarnate. I really need to put together that "Pantheon of Hate" column I've been threatening to do. Maybe Friday. And don't look now, but the Yankees have climbed to within 5.5 games of the lead. I bet a co-worker $10 that the Yankees wouldn't make the playoffs, so I'm sweating that move a little.

AL Central: Chicago White Sox, 42-34 (DP: Detroit Tigers, 6 games back)
The Tigers have managed to work their way into 3rd place. Given how horribly they started the year, it's a lot to have accomplished. Chicago's not running away with the division by any means, and the Twins are awfully young and tough to count on down the stretch. Losing Bonderman for the season was a blow, but the depth of talent on the Tigers should be able to over come it. I'm not giving up on this one yet!

AL West: L.A. Angels 48-30 (DP: Seattle Mariners, 19.5 GB)
Torii Hunter Watch: .279, 9 HR, 37 RBI. June hasn't been a fun month for Torii. He's been stuck on 9 HR for a while now. Suddenly, I'm sweating the hell out of him even making the All-Star Game! C'mon Torii! I've been pulling for you all year. Pick it up!

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, 42-36 (DP: NY Mets, 4 GB)
Interim Mets Manager Jerry Manuel is 3-4 since he took over the reins, including an 11-0 loss at the hands of the lowly Mariners last night. Obviously GM Omar Minaya's hope that a new voice in the clubhouse would spark the team hasn't panned out. Philly's staying close to the pack, so anything's possible, but strangely enough, I like Detroit's chances better than the Mets', even though the Tigers are further behind.

NL Central: Chicago Cubs, 48-29 (DP: Cubs)
The Cubs still maintain the best record in the league. St Louis is 3.5 back and the Brewers are 5 behind. The race here may be for second place. It appears Zambrano will be back and ready to go after his short DL stint. So that injury shouldn't be too costly to the Cubs. The Brewers are hot as a pistol. Winners of 8 of their last 10 and 4 in a row, they've really picked it up. Keep it up Crew fans, you might get the Wild Card at least!

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks, 40-38 (DP: Arizona)
After getting swept by the Twins the D'backs have responded nicely, splitting the first 2 games of their series in Boston. And last night they had a 4-1 lead in the 8th before the bullpen blew it. Game 3 is on ESPN tonight and I can't wait to watch it! Even though the Snakes have fallen to only 2 games over .500, the rest of the division remains as pathetic as they have been all year. A good stretch of intra-division play would do wonders for Arizona right now.

That's all for today folks. Back with more on Friday. Thanks for reading!

Sunday

6-22-08: Twins/D'backs Commentary & Monday Mailbag


Hello again everybody...

Happy Monday to you all. Hope you had a fantastic weekend and are refreshed and rejuvenated at the start of another work week. Oh who the hell am I kidding? It's Monday and none of us want to be at work! Friday can't get here soon enough!

Today, I'm ripping off yet another idea from well-known sports writers by providing you with a running commentary from Saturday's Twins/Diamondbacks game which I attended with my dad. Then it's the makeup Monday Mailbag since I missed it on Friday!

“A baseball fan is a spectator sitting 500 feet from home plate who can see better than an umpire standing five feet away.”

-Unknown

«Read More...»



Saturday evening I attended the Twins/Diamondbacks tilt at the Metrodome with my dad. My two favorite teams slugging it out. What better excuse to check out a ball game?! Here's my running commentary from the game:

Pre-Game: Tonight is the induction of former Twins closer Rick Aguillera into the Twins Hall of Fame. Before the ceremony, Rick got Joe Mauer to take a couple of pictures with his daughter. That ought to come in handy when she starts asking for the car keys! "Hey, remember when I got Joe Mauer to take a picture with you? Tell one of your friends they can drive."

The ceremony itself was all right. Former Twins Manager Tom Kelley formally inducted Aguillera. Tom's not the wordiest fellow in the world, but he did slip in a nice shot about Dan Gladden's "70's hairdo". Perfect.

Bottom 1st: The game got going a little late due to the ceremony, which apparently had an effect on Joe Mauer's timing. He strikes out swinging on four pitches. Somewhere the story about him striking out only once in his entire high school career was just told for the 8 billionth time.

Bottom 3rd: We're through 3 innings and there's still no score. Nick Blackburn and Micah Owings are locked in a heated pitchers duel surrendering only 1 hit a piece. Did I mention that it's a perfect night outside and in 2-years we'll be basking in the perfection of outdoor baseball?


Top 4th: So much for that scoreless game. D'backs SS Stephen drew leads off the inning with a double. I thought that was the perfect set-up for 1B Connor Jackson to bring him in, but Jackson flew out to center. Instead DH Chad Tracy lines a single into center to plate the run. A small part of me wants to celebrate, but I said I'm rooting for the Twins this weekend and I'm sticking to it!

Bottom 4th: Joe Mauer strikes out again? Color me genuinely concerned. Micah Owings has some good stuff, but I don't think it's this good! Somewhere Rick Aguillera's daughter just burst into tears.

Bottom 5th: Michael Cuddyer gives the Twins hope with a lead-off single. Which is promptly erased by a double play ball courtesy of Jason Kubel. Note to Gardy: keep Kubel and Delmon Young separated on the bench please? It's starting to rub off.

Bottom 7th: I tell my dad that the Twins have to get something done here, or they're in serious jeopardy of getting shut out. They've got the heart of the order coming up. And if they don't get to Owings here, the D'backs will bring in Pena and Lyons in the 8th and 9th and put the baby to sleep.

Augie Ojeda replaces Mark Reynolds at 3rd after Reynolds turned an ankle breaking from the batters box in the top half of the inning.

And Joe Mauer makes a brilliant baseball play. Recognizing the replacement at 3rd and how badly the Twins need a baserunner, Mauer drops a bunt right down the 3rd base line and beats it out for a single. I can't begin to express how good a play this was. Wow.

Justin Mornaeau spends the first two pitches trying to hit a ball to the moon. Finally with a 1-2 count he hits a rocket down into the right field corner for a double which scores Mauer. Morneau moves up to 3rd when D'backs catcher Chris Snyder mis-handles the throw from right field. Please tell me this isn't the start of another D'backs defensive melt-down. I want the Twins to win, but not like that... not like that.

D'backs manager Bob Melvin has had P Chad Qualls warming up in the bullpen since the start of the inning. I turn to my dad and say Melvin should go make the switch right now. After a Cuddyer groundout and Kubel walk, Melvin finally agrees.

Oh my god. I just realized that Delmon Young is up to bat with runners on first and 3rd and two outs. Will the human rally-killer strike again?!?

On a 1-1 pitch Young singles to right. The Twins lead 2-1. I turn to my dad and tell him, "I told you he'd come through"! He's kind enough to chuckle and not point out the obvious lie in my statement. You have to love dads!

And the flood-gates are opened. A Buscher double, Harris double, Gomez strikeout, and Casilla single later, the Twins lead 6-1. Mixed in there are a passed ball and several more bad throws from the outfield to the infield by the D'backs. I know I said the Dome would be a problem for Arizona, but this isn't the Dome's fault. This is just good ol' fashioned lousy defense. It's tough to watch and a real shame after Owings pitched such a solid game.

Top 9th: Dennis Reyes takes the hill for the Twins in the 9th. No need for Joe Nathan with a 5-run lead, but Reyes always seems to make things interesting. Stephen Drew grounds out. Connor Jackson singles to center. And Orlando Hudson does Reyes the favor of hitting a tailor-made 4-6-3 double-play ball. And that's your ball game! Twins win 6-1. The 25,000+ who were in attendance (and judging by what I could see, many of them weren't) rejoice!

As I was enjoying the game, I sent the following text to one of my best friend's, who's son was going to Sunday's game courtesy of his Uncle and Aunt-to-be:

I got us a win tonight. Now tell Logan it's on him to get us a sweep!

After the Twins managed to get that sweep with a 5-3 win over D'back ace Brandon Webb, I got the picture you saw at the top of the post. That's one of the most brilliant things I've ever seen. Well done Lon!

Oh, and by the way D'backs fans, you can also put Sunday's loss square on my Mom. She called me from Phoenix after the top of the 4th inning when Arizona scored their 3 runs. I warned her that the baseball gods don't look favorably on boasting that early in a game, but she "neener neener'd" me anyway. So baseball karmic retribution was in full effect in the 5th when the Twins put their 5 runs on the board. Sorry Mom. I tried to stop you! Some lessons have to be learned the hard way.

But have no worries D'backs fans. I'm back on the bus and it's headed to Boston tonight for a big tilt between the Snakes and the Red Sox (whom I hate). Tonight it's Dan Haren's turn to try and slay the beast from the east as he faces Josh Beckett. Together folks, we can defeat evil!

Next up, it's a Monday version of the Sports Take Mailbag!

Today's question comes from Craig in Burnsville,

With Soriano and Pujols both going on the disabled list, what are the chances of the Brewers taking over 1st place in the NL Central?

This question was sent to me a couple of weeks ago, so you can now throw in Cubs P Carlos Zambrano amongst those important injuries at the top of the NL Central.

To directly answer the question, I'd say the Brewers are still at best 7-1 against winning the Central. They're playing pretty good baseball, but the Cubs are looking pretty much unstoppable after sweeping the White Sox over the weekend.

(I've got to say thanks for that by the way. The Twins sweep of Arizona moves them only a game and half back in the AL Central. Thanks Cubbies!)

Put it this way, the Brewers have won 7 out of their last 10 and picked up only 1 game on the Cubs.

Here are some stat rankings to consider: the Brewers are 9th in the NL in runs scored and 12th in team batting average. But they're 3rd in home runs and 4th in slugging percentage. On the pitching side they're 8th in runs allowed and opponent's batting average and 9th in team earned run average. Not awful, but they're going to have to step those up if they want to catch the Cubs.

We're still in the early stages of the Zambrano injury though, so it's tough to assess how much of an effect that will have on the Cubs machine. But so far, there's been few signs that the Brewers have enough to overtake the Cubs.

They have managed to close to within 2 games of the Cardinals, who hold the Wild Card lead in the National League. That perhaps is a more realistic goal for you Crew fans to set your sights on.

And with that, I'm going wrap things up for today. Hope you enjoyed the running commentary. And once again, sorry Mom! I'll be back Wednesday with more Sports Take wonder for you!


Friday

Congrats Celts, More Firings & DFTU


Hello again everybody...

Happy Friday to you all. It's a damned near perfect weather day here in Minnesota. Hope you're experiencing much of the same.

I neglected to mention the Celtics' victory of the Lakers in the NBA Finals on Wednesday, so I'll touch on that for a moment today. Then there are more firings - and a head-scratching hiring - to tell you about from the world of baseball. Then it's my own personal mini-Armageddon as the teams from the DFTU collide this weekend!

"I cant just fire people for making some mistakes. What kind of person would that make me? What if I fired him and made you manager, then I fired you and maybe hired him back? That's NO WAY to run a business!"

- George Steinbrenner, New York Yankees Owner, in an SNL Sketch from 2004

«Read More...»


First off, we here at The Sports Take would like to offer our congratulations to the Boston Celtics (whom I don't necessarily hate) on their NBA Championship. Folks who know me know I couldn't be less interested in professional basketball. I'm not the NBA's target audience and for good reason. I like college basketball. I get just as into the NCAA men's basketball tournament as the next guy. But the pro game has just moved beyond anything that I'm interested in.

That being said, I watched more of this year's Finals than in the last 10 years combined. Why? Simple. It was Celtics vs. Lakers. Yes, I got sucked into the Boston/L.A. nostalgia like millions of other Americans. And this time, much like the Celtics/Lakers feuds of my youth, I sided with the Celtics. Mostly because I can't stand Kobe Bryant. I respect his talent, but I don't like his attitude. Especially towards his teammates. And to be honest, I've been sour on him ever since he forced me to listen to a summer's-worth of "Colorado-gate" stories on ESPN.

So I was happy when the Celtics won the series. Especially with the way they forced the Lakers to roll over and play dead in the championship-clinching Game 6. But I'm not one of the people who are saying they're happy because, "KG deserved to win a title". Say what? How exactly does Kevin Garnett "deserve" that victory?

Yes, he's a great player. Probably a Hall of Famer. But plenty of HoF'ers haven't won championships. Yes, he nearly single-handedly breathed life into a moribund Timberwolves franchise. But he was paid more money than any player in NBA history for his efforts. I think that takes care of anything he might have "deserved".

The point is, I'm happy for Kevin. But I'm just as happy for Ray Allen. And I'm probably even happier for Paul Pierce since he was the only one of the three with the team who originally drafted him. But enough of this "deserved" stuff folks. That's just a bit over the top, don't you think?

In the world of baseball, there are a few folks who won't be winning a championship any time soon. You'll recall on Wednesday when I detailed the start of "pink-slip season". Well the axe has continued to fall.

Three days after Seattle Mariner ownership fired G.M. Bill Bavasi, they furthered their house-cleaning by firing field manager John McLaren. I could only speculate as to why both of those firings didn't come at the same time. Perhaps they needed longer to work out the buy-out of McLaren's contract. It's hard to say.

What's not hard to say is that a change had to be made. The Mariners (admittedly my pick to win the AL West) are 25-47, 17.5 games behind the L.A. Angels. They're on pace to become the first team in MLB history with a $100+ million dollar payroll to lose 100 games. That's just amazing. It reiterates the point I made earlier this year in reference to the Florida Marlins: money doesn't buy championships in baseball.

While McLaren's firing was expected, the Toronto Blue Jays made a move that was definitely not expected. The 35-39 Blue Jays relieved John Gibbons of his managerial duties today. And much like the Mets did on Monday, they blew out several coaches along with their manager.

The Jays are 10.5 games behind the Red Sox (whom I hate) and in last place in the AL East. And after losing 12 of their last 15, perhaps it wasn't a complete shock that management decided to fire Gibbons. The shocker to me was that they brought in Cito Gaston to replace him. Yes, the Jays decided to go back to the 90's and bring in the manager who won them back-to-back World Series in 1992-93.

Really? That's your solution Toronto? You blew this guy out in 1997 because you didn't think he meshed with the "new athlete of today". And now you're going to bring him in to turn around this mess? Wow. Good luck with that fellas!

Finally today, it's the "Frazier/Ali-Celtics/Lakers-Cowboys/Redskins-Yankees/Red Sox" version of everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 37-36 (back over .500, woo!), in 2nd place in the AL Central, 4.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 39-34, in 1st place in the NL West, 4.5 games ahead of the L.A. Dodgers.

I'm combining the rest of the DFTU today because my two favorite teams in baseball are colliding in a three-game series here in Minnesota.

First off, here are your pitching match-ups for the 3 games:

Friday: Randy Johnson (4-4, 4.76) vs. Scott Baker (2-2, 3.71)

Saturday: Micha Owings (6-5, 5.18) vs. Nick Blackburn (5-4, 3.87)
Sunday: Brandon Webb (11-3, 3.27) vs. Livan Hernandez (7-4, 5.51)

First off, let me state for the record that I'm rooting for the Twins in this series. My apologies to my fellow Arizona fans, but I grew up with the Twins. I celebrated in '87 and '91 and I suffered through the doldrums that were the rest of the 90's. I have a history with the Twins that simply supercedes any allegiance to a team I've adopted. No worries though, I'll be right back there rooting with you on Monday.

Secondly, let me say that I have no freaking clue how this series is going to go. My impression is that the Twins are on a bit more of a roll than the D'backs coming into this series. But when you look at the numbers the Twins are 6-4 in their last 10, while the Snakes are 5-5. Not a significant difference.

The Twins are coming off of a 3-game sweep of the Washington Nationals. A sweep's a sweep is a sweep. But the Nationals are 29-45. That's the second worst record in baseball. (Yes, the Mariners whom I picked to win the AL West have the worst record at 25-47.) I think that takes only a *small* bit of shine off the Twins sweep, however it does make it more difficult to assess how well the team's actually playing.

The D'backs just took 2 of 3 from the 39-33 Oakland A's. I think it can be argued that it was a more impressive feat than the Twins sweep considering the competition. However, I will note that Arizona lost the first game of the series 15-1 with their ace Brandon Webb on the mound. That's a concern on several levels. If your Cy Young candidate is suddenly coming down with a case of a "dead arm" while your hitting still hasn't picked up the pace, you could be in for all sorts of trouble!

Home field favors the Twins who are 22-16 in the friendly confines of Metrodome, while the D'backs are 15-19 on the road. And with the "dirty-tarp" dome over the field in Minnesota, road teams have an even greater disadvantage, especially those who don't make regular trips to the Twin Cities. Look for at least 3 routine fly balls/pop-ups to be misplayed by the D'backs over the series. And I think I'm being conservative there.

My prediction? The Twins take 2 out of 3. I'm going to do my best to be in attendance for at least one of those, so if you're in town and want to go, let me know!

That's all for today. Have a fantastic weekend and I'll be back on Monday with more ST wonderment for you!

Wednesday

Tiger's Tamed, Let the Firing Begin & Peek at the Picks


Hello again everybody...

Welcome to Wednesday. Does anybody else feel like the early part of the week has gone by quicker than usual? I probably shouldn't say that as I'm working late today and tomorrow, and now those days will seem to go by even slower! So yeah, disregard.

Today I'm talking about the latest revelation about Tiger's knee. Then I'll run down who's new to the unemployment line in baseball. And finally it's this week's Peek at the Picks segment.

Two things scare me. The first is getting hurt. But that's not nearly as scary as the second, which is losing.
-Lance Armstrong (Sept. 18, 1971 - ) American Cyclist and 7-time Tour de France winner

«Read More...»


I thought that quote was appropriate given the latest news on Tiger Woods. For those of you who haven't heard, Tiger announced today that he's going to sit out the rest of the current golf season to allow himself to recover from surgery to repair his ACL as well as to allow a pair of stress fractures in his left tibia to heal.

A little background. We've learned that Woods initially injured his ACL while running at his Orlando home back in 2007 after competing in the British Open. Doctors told Woods that there was no immediate surgery necessary and given time the ACL may heal on it's own. Tiger went on to win 5 of his next 6 events, so apparently the knee wasn't bothering him much at that point.
But this Spring, Woods underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his knee after finishing second in the Masters. This past weekend's U.S. Open was Wood's first tournament since that surgery. And it was obvious to anyone who watched that Tiger was suffering a significant amount of pain, especially during his swings off the tee.

So today comes the news that Tiger's going to have full-on ACL-repair surgery which will take him out of action until next year. Why does this really matter? Well to the PGA it means that there'll be significantly less interest in the rest of their season. Which is especially a problem considering this is the second year of their FedEx Cup, which Woods won last year. It's tough to try and promote your new playoff format to an audience who's not interested if Tiger's not involved.

Then there's the question of how it affects us here locally. We at The Sports Take were looking forward to the possibility of the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazletine National Golf Club here in Minnesota being a potentially historic tournament. Currently Tiger Woods has 14 major championship victories. The record is 18 held by Jack Nicklaus. There are 5 majors between now and the '09 PGA. So if Tiger'd won 3 of those 5, he'd have come to Minnesota attempting to tie Jack. And if he'd won 4, he'd be trying to pass Jack. Now with this latest news, you can cross off 2 of those 5 opportunities. That means that Tiger would need to win the '09 Masters, U.S. Open and British Open to create a historical opportunity at Hazeltine. Which creates an interesting scenario in and of itself, since doing so would not only put him in line to tie Jack, but also would mean he'd be shooting for a Grand Slam.

But there's no guarantee that he'll even be competing in the '09 Masters, much less winning it. The only time-table we have currently is that he'll be missing the rest of this season. Here's a quote from TigerWoods.com:

"While I am obviously disappointed to have to miss the remainder of the season, I have to do the right thing for my long-term health and look forward to returning to competitive golf when my doctors agree that my knee is sufficiently healthy. My doctors assure me with the proper rehabilitation and training, the knee will be strong and there will be no long-term effects."

So hopefully the surgery will go well and Tiger will be in shape for the majors next year. In the mean-time, there's still baseball to watch everybody!

Though not everybody's going to be enjoying the rest of the baseball season as much as you and I. This week saw the beginnings of baseball's annual "pink slip season".

On Monday, the Seattle Mariners fired G.M. Bill Bavasi. This move is interesting on several levels. Generally if a firing happens in the middle of a season, it's the Manager who gets the axe. Sometimes that can light a fire under players and turn a season around. But firing the G.M.? That doesn't usually have the same effect.

Don't get me wrong, the guy deserved to get shown the door. Look at this short list of free agents and players acquired via trade under Bavasi: Carlos Silva, Erik Bedard, Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, Jose Guillen, Jarrod Washburn, Brad Wilkerson and Jeff Weaver. Outside of Bedard, who's been mediocre at best, the rest of those guys could easily be considered busts. And that many busts will get any general manager fired.

But if you're going to fire the G.M. in the middle of the year, why aren't you bringing in the guy who's going to rebuild the thing, so that he can get a half-season's look at what he'll be starting with? Instead, they promoted an assistant G.M. on an interim basis. And while it's possible that the assistant could get the job, if you're looking to go in a different direction, you'd want to bring in someone from the outside of your organization, no?

As for field manager John McLaren? It looks like he'll last at least until a new G.M. is hired. After that, his odds of remaining employed drop precipitously. McLaren was hired by Bavasi, so the new G.M. wouldn't be expected to have any particular loyalty to him.

Not that managers always enjoy the loyalty of the G.M.'s who hire them. Enter Willie Randolph. On Monday night, after a victory over the Angels out west, Mets general manager Omar Minaya fired Randolph, as well as his pitching coach Rick Peterson and hitting coach Tom Nieto. There are generally about 6 coaches on a staff, so blowing out half that number is a significant firing.

The firing of Randolph wasn't entirely unexpected. In fact, I predicted it in a previous column. The manner in which it was done was a bit surprising however. Randolph had a conversation with Minaya on Sunday before the Mets left for California. According to Randolph, he asked Minaya to go ahead and make the move if that's what he was going to do, instead of letting Willie travel all the way out West only to fire him then.

"I actually asked him," Randolph said, according to the New York Times. "I said: 'Omar, do this now. If you're going to do this, do this now. I know you've got a lot of pressure on you, but if I'm not the guy to lead this team, then don't let me get on this plane.' I did say that to him."

But Minaya didn't make the move then, instead waiting til Monday night after the Mets beat the Angels. Conveniently it happened at 3 a.m. Eastern time. Long after the New York papers had gone to press. The alleged reasoning for the delay is that Minaya hadn't yet finalized the hires he was going to make to replace the coaches he was going to fire. Whether that's true or not, we may never know. But either way, Minaya's catching all sorts of grief in the New York media over a move that's being described as very disrespectful to Randolph and his staff.

The Mets certainly aren't where they wanted to be. They added a significant amount to their payroll in their offseason. And this year's poor start, coupled with last year's blatant collapse meant that a change needed to be made. It's too bad that the nature of the change is overwhelming talk about whether the change has a chance to be successful (my picks hope so, but at this point I'm highly doubtful). But that's all part of living in the crazy world of New York baseball!

Finally today, it's time for this week's Peek at the Picks segment where I compare the current MLB standings to my pre-season picks.

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, 42-31 (Dan's Pick: NY Mets, 6.5 games behind)
The Mets aren't dead and buried. But I have serious doubts as to whether interim manager Jerry Manuel is going to be the type of personality to get that club turned around. The Phillies are starting to put some distance between them and the rest of the East, opening up a 3-game lead on the Marlins.

NL Central: Chicago Cubs, 45-26 (DP: Cubs)
Things are settling down in the Central. The Cubbies maintain a 3.5 game lead on the Cardinals and a 7.5 game lead on the Brewers. One of those two teams is going to have to get hot to challenge the Cubs, otherwise Chicago could walk away with this thing.

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks, 37-34 (DP: D'backs)
The Snakes are still scuffling. They got destroyed last night by the Oakland A's even with Brandon Webb on the mound. They still have a 4.5 game lead on the Dodgers. This may turn out to be the only division in baseball won by a team with a .500 record. Oof.

AL East: Boston Red Sox (whom I hate), 45-29 (DP: Boston, whom I hate)
I was really hoping that losing David Ortiz and Daisuke Matsuzaka would really put a dent in the Red Sox (whom I hate), but apparently not so much. And now both are on rehab assignments and will return soon. Tampa Bay's hanging in there only 2 games back. And they do lead the Wild Card race. But they'd better maintain that Wild Card lead, because they're not getting to the post season any other way.

AL Central: Chicago White Sox, 39-31 (DP: Detroit Tigers, 6.5 GB)
The Tigers are on a mini-roll lately, winners of 8 of their last 10. Has the warm weather finally woken up their bats? Perhaps. There's a lot of time left and Chicago's shown no indication that they're going to run away and hide. I'm not dead yet here folks! Not yet!

AL West: L.A. Angels, 43-29 (DP: Seattle Mariners, 17.5 GB)
So what's the over/under on how many games back the Mariners finish? 25? 30? Yeesh.
Torii Hunter watch: .273, 9 HR, 36 RBI. Still no eye-popping numbers from Torii. Not bad either though. Torii's currently 11th amongst AL outfielders in fan voting, meaning he'll need a nod from AL All-Star Manager Terry Francona in order to make the mid-summer classic. I'm starting to worry that may not happen. So click over to http://www.mlb.com/ and get your votes in now!

That's all for today folks. I'm back on Friday with more sports pontification!

Monday

And We'll See You Tomorrow?! & DFTU


Hello again everybody...

Hope you had a great weekend. Mine was busy, but fun. So busy in fact, that I saw virtually no baseball what so ever. So I'll limit the baseball talk to the DFTU today. Before that, I'll explain the new poll. That's right. It's time to talk a little golf in The Sports Take. I'm currently watching the 18-hole playoff to decide the U.S. Open. Should I be? Let's discuss!

"If you're caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron."

-Lee Trevino (Dec. 1, 1939 - ), American Professional Golfer


«Read More...»

So as I mentioned, I'm currently keeping an eye on the 18-hole playoff between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate to determine the 2008 U.S. Open Champion. And it's Monday. That's right, every other major championship of golf determines their champion on Sunday (except in cases of bad weather) except for the U.S. Open. The Masters uses a "sudden death" playoff format where the contestants play until someone scores lower on a single hole. The British Open uses a 4-hole playoff, where the player with the lowest aggregate score over 4 holes wins the tournament. And the PGA Championship uses a 3-hole playoff system similar to the British, just one hole shorter.

So why does the USGA require players tied for the lead after 72 holes to play 18 more on the Monday following the tournament weekend? Tradition mostly. Oh you'll hear other explanations. Last night as I was flipping through the channels I watched some of the Golf Channel's post-game coverage. One of their analysts, former player Brandel Chamblee, was arguing in favor of the 18-hole playoff claiming, "This is a National Championship. It's way too important to be determined by just one hole or even just a few holes."

Way too important, you say? Sorry Brandel, it's a major golf tournament, not nuclear disarmament negotiations! And there's no way people are going to convince me that the U.S. Open is more important than the Masters or the British Open (sorry PGA).

So basically it comes down to a tradition that was instituted before the advent of mass media. Back before television and radio covered sports like they do today, having an 18-hole playoff on Monday was no big deal. People just had to wait another day to read about it in the newspaper. But these days you've got a massive audience tuned in for a dramatic finish on a Sunday afternoon and after 72 holes you tell them, "Thanks for tuning in, we'll see you tomorrow for the actual finish!"

Umm, no, you won't. People work on Monday. Sure, some of us are lucky enough to have access to televisions in our respective offices. But most of the casual fans that you've captured on Sunday aren't going to bother tuning in on Monday. Maybe some of them will check the web or SportsCenter to find out the result. But the enduring memory that you're leaving them with is, "oh, that's the tournament that doesn't always finish on Sunday".

Not the greatest marketing slogan.

So as you've probably determined by now, I'm in favor of changing the structure. If you don't want one hole to determine your champion, then go with the 3 or 4-hole format like the PGA or British. Hell, if the USGA's determined to make their championship a more strenuous test than the other majors, make it 6-holes. Whatever. Just get it done on Sunday! If the USGA's goal is to grow the game of golf, isn't cutting your audience nearly in half for the determining holes of your championship counter-productive? Think about it.

So now it's time for you, my thoughtful readers, to weigh in. I've posted a new poll on this very subject. Take a moment, think it over and cast your vote. And if you have strong feelings one way or the other, or if you feel I've missed some critical point, click on the "comments" tab a the bottom of this post and add your thoughts!

Next up, it's everybody's favorite segment, "Dan's Favorite Teams Update"!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 34-36, in second place in the AL Central and 4.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox!

So I thought I'd finally give the reverse jynx a try and I'll be damned if it didn't work! You'll recall Friday when I predicted that the Brewers would take at least 2 out of 3 from the Twins, if not sweep the series entirely. What I didn't say is that I was hoping my prediction would have exactly the opposite effect and actually put the whammy on the Crew. And while it didn't quite get the Twins a sweep, the boys did come through with a 2-1 series victory!

Friday night saw a 10-2 thumping of the Brewers followed by a dramatic 9-4 win on Saturday. Twins hurler Scott Baker pitched reasonably well on Sunday, but the Brewers' Seth McClung was better. And not only was he the better pitcher, he was also the better batter adding a double to his solid 6-inning pitching performance to lead the Brewers to a 4-2 broom-busting win.

I can't break down the nuances of the series much more than that because I honestly didn't see more than a couple innings of each game. But the point is, I put the hex on the Crew and I wanted to crow about it a little!

The Twins are off today before continuing inter-league play by hosting Washington and Arizona in back-to-back 3-game series.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 37-33, in first place in the NL West and 5.5 games ahead of the L.A. Dodgers.

The opening salvo in this latest run of inter-league play was not so kind to the Snakes. 3 games at home versus Kansas City? That's got to get you two wins at a minimum. Unfortunately, Arizona dropped 2 out of 3 to the scuffling Royals. And dropped them in grand fashion. After squeaking out a 1-0 win Friday night, the D'backs managed to get thumped twice. 12-3 on Saturday and 8-3 on Sunday in a game where David DeJesus collected 5 RBI, including a Grand Slam. David DeJesus?! Not good.

The problems haven't changed. The offense is still not picking up the pitching. And now it looks like the back-end of the rotation is starting to scuffle. It's hard to get too down on a team that has a 5.5 game lead on their division. But as I've mentioned in the past, that's as much a function of the quality of the other teams in their division as it is of their own play. So yes, the Snakes are still far and away the favorite to win the NL West, but they'll need to get their offense going and find a dependable 3rd starter if they want to make any noise in the post-season.

The D'backs are also off today. Oakland visits Chase Field for 3 starting tomorrow. And then Arizona travels to Minnesota to take on the Twins over the weekend.

That's all for today. Back on Wednesday with more Sports Take goodness. Oh, and by the way, the U.S. Open playoff just went to sudden death...

Friday

Mailbag, Milton's Meltdown & DFTU


Hello again everybody...

Happy Friday to you all. And an early Happy Father's Day to all those dads out there! If you'll indulge me, I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you to my dad, Tom Cook. After all of my neuroses and stress-fits, he's managed to keep a lot more hair than I have! Way to go Pop! Happy Father's Day!

So on to today's blog. First of all, I'll unveil this week's Sports Take Mailbag question. Then, speaking of neuroses and stress-fits, Texas OF Milton Bradley had yet another meltdown moment. I'll discuss. And finally, it's a "Twins/Brewers Clash of the Titans" edition of the DFTU!

Baseball players are smarter than football players. How often do you see a baseball team penalized for too many men on the field?
- Jim Bouton, former major league pitcher and author of "Ball Four"

«Read More...»


Here's this week's Sports Take Mailbag question:

Now that I've lost nearly all of my retirement savings "investing" in your various sports picks, any recommendations on how to get that money back? Given your track record, I'm looking to do the complete opposite, but need a little guidance first.
- David in Milwaukee

First of all, thanks for the question David. (Remember, you can submit your question for the Mailbag at dcook93@yahoo.com)

Secondly, sorry about that. For those of you who weren't privy to my college football emails last year, I offered a weekly troika of picks against the spread on college football games. I think by the end of the season I had 7 wins, 13 losses and 2 pushes. Not exactly a stellar record.

I tried to offer an appropriate disclaimer. Namely that I wasn't willing to put any money on these games, so I can't imagine why anyone else would. But apparently that didn't stop some folks from trying.

And then when you throw in my 3 whiffs on trifecta bets at the Triple Crown races (which I did actually bet on) and I guess I haven't exactly helped anyone's retirement prospects.

So yes, I guess the easy answer is to bet the opposite of what I suggest. But if I've learned anything over the past few years, it's that the gambling gods are crafty. Any attempt to find a black and white, systematic plan for beating them is bound to fail. Instead I'd suggest that you find a way to vary things up a little bit. Bet with me some weeks. Bet against me other weeks. But most importantly keep it random. Don't let the gods figure out any kind of pattern.

It's like Bruce Lee's philosophy on fluidity:

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.

Be water David... be water!

Next up I have to talk about yet another Milton Bradley incident. (No Lon, it has nothing to do with Candyland) Wednesday night, Texas Rangers OF Milton Bradley found himself in the visitor's clubhouse of Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, when he heard comments he interpreted as negative towards him from Royals announcer Ryan Lefebvre. Lefebver is the son of former major league player and manager Jim Levebvre. He's also a University of Minnesota alumnus and spent some time announcing Twins games.

According to reports, Lefevbre was discussing the turnaround in Rangers OF Josh Hamilton's life and career (a subject previously discussed here) and contrasting that with the image that Bradley has acquired over his time in baseball. Both Texas officials and Bradley himself contend that he's worked hard to change that image.

And to demonstrate that point (insert a large helping of sarcasm here), Bradley left the clubhouse and attempted to enter the television broadcasting booth to inform Lefebvre that his comments were incorrect and out of line.

According to Bradley, "I came in to watch my at-bat on the video and all of a sudden I heard my name. It was a spiel like five minutes out of the blue about me. I didn't think anything he was saying was anything positive.
"I never met him and I heard him talking about me on TV. I was upset and was going to introduce myself. … All I wanted to do was introduce myself and tell him the stuff you're talking about is uncalled for."

Of course you did Milton. I'm sure it would've been a calm, collected, civil conversation about the incorrectness of a media member unfairly judging a player. There would've been no cursing, chair throwing or random acts of violence of any kind.

Remember folks, this was the guy who threw a water bottle back into the crowd after someone had thrown it onto the field. Of course fans shouldn't be throwing things onto the field, but for a player to throw it back, having no idea who threw it in the first place, is just begging for a lawsuit. This is also the guy who got so enraged at an umpire, that as a coach was trying to restrain him, he twisted his knee to the point that he tore his ACL.

What I'm trying to say is that if there was a vote for, "Player Most Likely to Commit Homicide During a Professional Sporting Event", I'd be the one printing "Vote for Milton" buttons.

So be aware faithful readers. If you're attending any game involving the Rangers, be very, very careful what you say or do around Milton. You never know when he'll decide to "introduce" himself to you!

Finally, it's time for everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 32-35, in second place in the AL Central and 5.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox.

Well here we go again Brewer fans! You thumped the D'backs. Now lets see what you can do with the Twins!

Oh who am I kidding?! The Twins have lost 8 out of their last 10 and are stumbling mightily. Last weekend they got swept by the White Sox in a 4-game set. Then dropped 2 out of 3 in Cleveland. And now they finish their road trip in Milwaukee (Algonquin for: the good land).

The Brewers on the other hand have won 7 out of their last 10. And are 19-10 in the friendly confines of Miller Park. Their bats have seemingly awoken as of late which has made up for the injuries they've sustained to their pitching staff.

So I'm going to call 2 out of 3 for the Brewers this weekend. And while a sweep would kill me a little bit inside, it wouldn't come as a shock.

*sigh*

After the Brewers series, the Twins host the Nationals (a Washington franchise travelling to meet a former Washington franchise) and then the Diamondbacks next weekend.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 39-31, in first place in the NL West and 4.5 games ahead of the L.A. Dodgers.

After starting their latest road-trip on a god-awful note by getting swept in Milwaukee, the D'backs stumbled through a split in Pittsburgh before finally rebounding by winning 2 of 3 in New York against the Mets.

Even in those games though, the Snakes did their best "cardiac kids" routine taking 2 of those games to extra innings. They lost Wednesday night 5-3 in 13 and won Thursday afternoon 5-4 in 10.

The pitching is still carrying this club. They lead the league in Quality Starts, Walks/Hits per Innings Pitched and Opponent's On Base plus Slugging Percentage. In English that means their starters are pitching late into games without giving up a lot of runs. They're not giving up a lot of big innings by surrendering lots of walks and hits in bunches. And that means that opponents aren't getting on base much and when they do, it's not often by way of an extra base hit.

The D'backs hitting? Still struggling. Arizona's 14th in the league in Batting Average and Stolen Bases. It's almost as if the All-Star break can't get here soon enough. The boys just look like they need a vacation. Just a few days off to get their heads together and try to reboot a season that started off so promisingly.

Alas the All-Star break is still a month away. In lieu of that, the D'backs get 3 games with the Kansas City Royals who've been surrendering runs in bunches. Hopefully that'll warm the bats up in a hurry.

After those games with the Royals, Arizona hosts Oakland for 3 before travelling here to Minnesota to take on the Twins. I'm planning on attending at least one of those games, so hopefully I can have pictures for you shortly thereafter.

That's all for this week. Back on Monday with more for your perusing pleasure!

Wednesday

Congratulations Junior, Big Boo-Boos & Peek at the Picks


Hello again everybody...

Welcome to the mid-week edition of The Sports Take. Hope it's sunny and warm where you are. It's rainy and flooding here in Minnesota. If you have a home on a lake in southern Minnesota or Wisconsin... well, sorry 'bout that. Does anybody know if the mini-golf place in the Dells is still above water?

Today I'll talk a little bit about a historic achievement by a future Hall of Famer. Then I'll run down some significant injuries that have occurred recently. And finally, it's this week's Peek at the Picks segment.

«Read More...»


Let us away...

First of all we at The Sports Take would like to offer our congratulations to the many being proffered to Ken Griffey, Jr. on achieving the milestone of 600 career home runs.

Monday night, Griffey became only the 6th man in MLB history to reach that mark. Though it's unfortunate that the 600 home run plateau has been sullied in recent years by Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. Griffey (who has never been suggested to be a performance enhancing drug user) joins Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays amongst those who've hit 600 legitimately.

Griffey's now in his 20th season in the big leagues, split nearly evenly between the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds. What's amazing about his achievement is that he's played 130 or more games in only 10 of his 19 full seasons. For nearly half of his career he's been limited by injuries. It makes you wonder what his career home run total would be had he played full seasons in even 15 of those seasons. Perhaps Barry Bonds' tainted numbers would already have been passed.

(Aside: To those of you who hate the Yankees. Fine, be that way. But you have to agree with me in encouraging A-Rod to pass Bonds by sooner than later. Please Alex. We're begging you!)

There were rumblings earlier in the season that Griffey might be traded back to Seattle to finish his career there. But thanks to Seattle's early-season swoon, those rumblings quieted quickly. It's still possible he could be moved, but the size of his contract makes that difficult.

So what will Griffey's legacy ultimately be? The sweetest swing since Ted Williams? The first in a trend of amazingly athletic center fielders? Now that he's passed the 600 home run mark, hopefully it won't be "what might have been".

Kudos Junior!

Next up I wanted to mention a couple of injuries that are likely to impact races in the near future.

Tom Glavine of the Atlanta Braves left Tuesday night's game against the Cubs with what's been preliminarily diagnosed as a strained left elbow. He's scheduled to have a MRI in Atlanta today, after which he's likely headed to the DL for an extended period of time. Coming on the heels of John Smoltz's season-ending shoulder surgery, Glavine's injury is a devastating blow to an otherwise thinly-stretched pitching rotation.

Perhaps you'll recall in the MLB Preview, when I mentioned the following:

They have some very promising young talent along with some grizzled veterans who are about to close the book. This may sound like a good formula, but I think you'd like your young talent a *little* less green and your veterans a *little* less grizzled.

Unfortunately, I think this is the "grizzling" of the Braves if you'll allow me to create a term.

Atlanta's currently 6.5 games behind Philadelphia in the East and also 6.5 back of St. Louis in the Wild Card race. So while they're not in the thick of the race, this latest injury has a major impact because it may turn the Braves into sellers rather than buyers in the forthcoming trade market.

Speaking of St. Louis, Albert Pujols left Tuesday night's game with what's being called a left calf strain. I also noted Albert's status in the preview column, only that mention was in reference to his already-injured elbow. Technically Pujols is listed as day-to-day, but indications are that he won't escape this without a stint on the DL.

Currently the Cardinals are only 2.5 games back of the Cubs in the NL Central and they lead the Wildcard race. Look for that to change if Pujols is on the DL for any great length of time. So this is your chance Crew fans! The door is open for you to at least try to challenge the Cubs and perhaps even climb atop the Wildcard standings!

Good luck!

Finally, it's time for this week's Peek at the Picks! This is the segment where I break down the current MLB standings and compare them to my pre-season predictions.

AL East: Boston Red Sox (whom I hate), 40-27 (DP: Boston)

God I hate the Red Sox. The Rays are still right there, 2 games back in the Win column. But even with Papi's injury, the Red Sox are just too loaded with talent for the competition out east.

AL Central: Chicago White Sox, 37-27 (DP: Detroit Tigers, 10 games back)

I said it a couple of "Peek's" ago. If the Tigers can't get this thing down to a 5-game deficit or so by the All-Star break, we can officially stick a fork in them. And now the Twins are perilously close to joining them in that sense. After the broom-job they recieved in Chicago, the Twins are now 6.5 games behind the White Sox. Suddenly the White Sox are heads and shoulders beyond their competition.

AL West: L.A. Angels, 40-26 (DP: Seattle Mariners, 16.5 games back)

Torii Hunter watch: .268, 8 HR, 31 RBI. Solid, but not the spectacular numbers I forecasted. Torii's still a favorite to make the the All-Star team and it's hard to complain about his performance when he's on a first-place club. Speaking of notable home runs, Torii his his 200th career round-tripper Monday night.

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, 39-27 (Dan's Pick: NY Mets, 7.5GB)

I don't really want to start beating the "fire Willie Randolph" drum again. But if Mets G.M. Omar Minaya is going to pull that particular trigger and try to save their season, he's going to have to do it soon. The Phillies are rolling and the Mets are in danger of being left in Philadelphia's proverbial dust.

NL Central: Chicago Cubs, 41-24 (DP: Cubs)

The Cubs are still going strong. And with the aforementioned Albert Pujols injury, their lead may be increasing in the weeks to come. The Crew is still 7.5 games back. Come on boys, you can do it!

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks, 35-30 (DP: Arizona)

The D'back roller coaster continues. A nice rain-delayed comeback win over the hapless Mets last night got the Snakes to 5-5 in their last 10. As has been the case for most of the season, the rest of the division is below .500 giving Arizona a solid, if not entirely comfortable lead.

That's all for today. Back on Friday with more Sports wonder!


Monday

What Happened?! & DFTU


Hello again everybody...

So what the heck happened on Saturday in the Belmont? The short answer is that nobody really knows. But naturally that won't stop me from offering some speculation. And then I'll bring you a healthy portion of the DFTU since we missed it on Friday.

«Read More...»

Off we go...

Needless to say, I was terribly disappointed with the outcome of the 140th running of the Belmont Stakes this past Saturday. I attended my local race track and card club, Canterbury Park, to check out some live racing and the Belmont itself. The early races at Canterbury went mostly to form. But in the Belmont? The horses left the gate at approximately 5:30pm. And by 5:30:30pm, I knew we had a serious problem.

Prior to the race there weren't any indications that Big Brown was unhappy or otherwise ill-fit for the race. But shortly after he left the gate, the problems began. There's an adjective used in horse racing used to describe a particular kind of bad start:

Rank - A description used when a horse fights the rider's attempt to relax it during the early and middle stages of a race, before full speed is needed.

That fits Big Brown's early race to a "t". Whether it was not being used to the inside post-position, or if he was just worked up because of the heat, I don't know. But it was painfully obvious early that Big Brown was unhappy and that his response to said unhappiness was to try and break clear of the horses around him. His jockey, Kent Desormeaux tried to hold him up and find a good spot for him, but for the first couple of furlongs, they were fighting each other far too much for comfort.

Eventually Desormeaux was able to get Big Brown to the outside into some open space and it looked like maybe the horse was calmed down and in position to strike. Then came the final turn into the backstretch. When the time came, Desormeaux gave Big Brown the usual tap to the haunches to tell him it was time to fire. But the horse didn't respond. Desormeaux tried to signal him again by rubbing his neck. But again, Big Brown didn't respond. Finally, Desormeaux gave his horse a couple of raps with this whip and still Big Brown didn't respond. And it was at that point, that Kent decided that something could be seriously wrong, and pulled his horse up and slowed him to a gallop.

So why didn't the horse fire off when he was asked to? Well that's the million-dollar question. My first suspicion was that the quarter-crack we discussed on Thursday bothered him. But his trainer and owner immediately dismissed that notion. Plus if you go back and watch the tape, there's nothing in Big Brown's stride that would indicate that he was favoring that hoof in any way.

So today, after extensive medical tests, we still don't have an answer. As near as any veterinarian can tell, there's nothing physically wrong with the horse. So the best explanation I can offer at this point is that the horse just didn't have another race in him. 3 races in 5 weeks, especially at the lengths at which the Triple Crown races are run, is a more strenuous experience than a horse will have during the rest of their career . And for the last 30 years, we've been unable to find a 3-year-old that could handle it. Apparently Big Brown was no different.

Maybe in the next few days we'll get more information about what went wrong. But for now, all I can say is that he just didn't have enough gas in the tank to get the job done. And what's really got me dispirited is that if this horse can't get it done against this field, then it's only natural to wonder if we'll ever get to see a Triple Crown winner again.

Oh, and naturally, all the bets I made were keyed around Big Brown winning the race, so yeah... that's that.

Next up it's time for a catch-up version of everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 31-32 and in 2nd place in the AL Central, 5.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox. (Understand as I write this, the White Sox are looking to complete a 4-game sweep of the Twins. It's 7-5 Chicago in the bottom of the 8th.)

Oof. I use that term a lot, I know. But it may never have been more appropriate than it is right now. The past week has been a particularly rough one for the Twins. After salvaging a split a 4-game series with the Yankees, the Twins turned right around and dropped 2 of 3 to the Orioles. And unfortunately, it was only going to get worse.

Heading into Chicago, the Twins had a chance to seize the lead in the central. And they responded by getting their tails whipped in three straight games. Friday they lost 10-6. Saturday they lost 11-2. And Sunday they got beat 12-2. Surrendering 33 runs in 3 games. Not exactly what we had in mind heading into this important series.

So now what? The Twins are half-buried 5.5 games back (6.5 if Chicago holds this lead). The starting pitching's been sub-par and the bullpen hasn't been much better. Not to mention the fact that the bats have gone relatively quiet. Nick Punto's back on the disabled list and there's no sign that Adam Everett's coming back in the near future.

And things aren't likely to get easier any time soon. The Twins' lengthy road-trip continues as they head to Cleveland for 3 and then to Milwaukee over the weekend.

So the bad news is that the boys are playing terrible. The good news is, thanks to the nature of baseball, there's always another game to play tomorrow. And it looks like Carlos Gomez is finally starting to settle into his role a little bit (this last line written while Dan furiously knocks on the counter which he hopes contains some sort of composite-wood product). His on-base percentage is at least solidly over .300 at .310 now. Still not where you'd like your lead-off hitter to be, but it's certainly an improvement over earlier in the season. Plus Joe Mauer and even Delmon Young are starting to show some flashes of the power we expected from them.

So there *are* positives. It's hard to trust them when they've lost 8 out of their last 10 (Monday's game has gone final now. Chicago's your 7-5 winner. Dammit). But Twins fans have to cling to something right? Right?!

Arizona Diamondbacks: Arizona is 34-30, in first place in the NL West and 3.5 games ahead of the L.A. Dodgers.

The D'backs are in the midst of an east-coast road trip. So I haven't been able to see as many of their games as I'd like. But I've been following them as close as I can via the Internet.

Which is to say, not terribly closely.

Obviously the series in Milwaukee is one I'd like to forget. Losing the series? Yeah, that happens. Getting swept by the team that many of your readership root for? Well that's just cruel.

Fortunately, they headed from Brewer-ville to Pittsburgh where they proceeded to take 2 of 3 from the Pirates.

And that's just the kind of "treading-water" pattern they've been engaged in for the past several weeks. Most of that instability has come from their once red-hot offense having cooled considerably. Currently the D'backs have the 3rd-worst team batting average in the NL at .251. Fortunately, the hits they have been getting have been for extra bases often enough to keep their slugging percentage (.426) in the upper-third of the NL.

So if Arizona's hitting is slumping similarly to the Twins, then why aren't they experiencing the same awful results? Short answer? Arizona's pitching is far superior. The D'backs team ERA is 3.71. The Twins? 4.54. That 4.5 of a run is the difference between 6th in the majors, and 21st.

It'd be tempting to also point to the fact that the D'backs play in probably the worst division in baseball. But the Twins play in the second-worst. So that's not going to make for much of a difference.

So what does all this mean for Arizona? They could be in far worse shape I guess. Brandon Webb and Dan Haren are still anchoring their staff. And their Closer Brandon Lyon hasn't given up a run in 22 straight appearances. So there's a lot to like about their pitching.

The hitters, however, are going to have to make some adjustments. You might recall an earlier post where I pointed out that one thing that worried me about the Arizona roster was the lack of a veteran position player to provide leadership for that clubhouse in tough times. Right now is when a guy like Tony Clark could prove invaluable to the D'backs. That's not to put the blame on Connor Jackson mind you, but Tony provided a lot of those leadership qualities that can only be gained through experience.

So if I'm Arizona G.M. Josh Byrnes, I'm searching rosters right now, trying to find someone who I can trade for to provide that stabilizing force, while not upsetting the chemistry of the club. Far easier said than done, I'll admit. But necessary none the less.

The Diamondbacks start a 3-game set in New York against the Mets tomorrow. After that, it's back home for interleague play versus the Royals (thank you scheduling gods).

That's all for today folks. I know, only two segments. But I knew I'd have plenty to talk about with the race and the DFTU, and I didn't want to overload you! Back on Wednesday with more sports goodness!

Friday

Coco's Brawlin, Casino Drive's Contusion and The Sports Take Mailbag


Hello again everybody...

Welcome to the cusp of yet another weekend. Hope you've got plenty of fun things planned.

First a couple of housekeeping notes. I'm constantly trying to tweak the blog to make it as reader-friendly and sensible as possible. To that end, I've dropped the "Baseball Notes" tag today because I felt compelled to drop in a last minute note about the Belmont. And I also wanted to clear up something about the mailbag. My intention is for the mailbag to be open to any questions or comments, not specific to baseball. So to include it in a "Baseball Notes" column doesn't make a ton of sense. Also, to keep the length from getting completely out of control, I'm holding off on the DFTU (sorry Dave) til Monday.

So enough about what today's column isn't, let's talk about what today's column is! Today I'll be talking about the brawl (and I used that term loosely) between the Red Sox (whom I hate) and the Rays last night. Then I'll fill you in on the latest big news about the Belmont. And finally it's the newest edition of The Sports Take Mailbag.

«Read More...»

Onward!

Last night we had the latest dust up on a Major League ballfield. To explain it you have to go back to Wednesday night's match-up between the Red Sox (whom I hate) and the Rays. Early in that game Red Sox (whom I hate) OF Coco Crisp - yes, that's his real name - was caught trying to steal second. On the play, he injured his thumb as Rays SS Jason Bartlett blocked the bag with his leg. Crisp apparently took exception to this. So the next time he was on base, he tried to steal second again, and was caught again. But this time, he went in spikes-high. Meaning he had one of his feet up in the air which put Rays 2b Akinori Iwamura in serious danger of getting hurt. And if you go back and watch the video it's fairly obvious that Crisp intentionally started his slide late. So he was trying to come in hard. That's okay if you're trying to break-up a double play, but doesn't make sense on a stolen base attempt - unless you're trying to hurt somebody. After Crisp returned to the dugout, Rays manager Joe Maddon went to the mound, obstensibly to talk to his pitcher, but basically spent the entire time screaming at Crisp about his "bush league play".

So fast forward now to Thursday night. Apparently baseball justice demanded retribution on the part of the Rays. In Crisp's first at-bat of the game in the second inning, he was hit - obviously intentionally - on the right hip by Rays P James Shields. Crisp's reaction was to charge the mound and duck a wild swing by Shields before taking a few shots of his own which prompted a bench-clearing brawl. During the brawl, Rays DH Johnny Gomes also went after Crisp throwing his own set of haymakers.

In the end all 3 players were ejected and fines and suspensions are forthcoming.

So what do we make of all this? First of all, Crisp was out of line with his slide. If he got hurt on a play, I can understand being upset, but trying to intentionally injure another player in response is just flat wrong.

And honestly, I don't have a problem with what Shields did. Crisp tried to hurt one of his guys, so he responded. He didn't hit him high. He didn't knock him down. He put a fastball in the least-injurable part of the human anatomy.

What Gomes did, however, I could live without. If you're going to come off the bench, do so with the intent of separating players and try to keep people from getting hurt. Don't go in there and jump on a pile of guys and start throwing punches. That just looks like you're seeking an excuse to throw down without any legal consequences. Seriously Johnny, take a pill.

As I said expect stories in the next couple of days involving those three players being fined and suspended for their actions.

Next up, I have to add one more quick note about the Belmont. The big news out of New York today is that second-favorite, Casino Drive, has been diagnosed with a bruise on his left-rear hoof. A bruised hoof may not sound terribly significant, but if the horse starts to favor that leg, and not put an equal amount of weight on it due to the pain involved, that's when you start to have serious problems with the other legs.

Owner representative, Nobutaka Tada, said today, "We are not 100 percent happy with the movement of the hind leg. We haven't withdrawn him, just giving him an easy day. He probably stepped on something. He looks fine, he has a good appetite. He's not lame."

As of now they have no plans to scratch the horse from the race, but if he continues to favor that leg, I'm not sure they'll have much choice. No one single race is worth intentionally risking a horse's career and more importantly their life.

So if Casino Drive doesn't run, what does that mean? Well first of all it means I'll have to adjust my trifecta wager. In that case I'd drop the 5 (Casino Drive) from the ticket all together, obviously. Then I'd probably add the 3 (Macho Again) to my Place line, and the 10 (Icabad Crane) to the Show line. So the cost would remain the same.

Secondly, it makes Big Brown a near mortal lock for the Triple Crown. Sure something flukey could still happen, but Casino Drive is the biggest, best chance for someone to prevent Big Brown from making history.

So make sure you tune in early tomorrow to find out if Casino Drive is going to run!

Finally it's time for this week's Sports Take Mailbag. Today's question comes from Craig in Burnsville:

With their 4th cup in 11 seasons can we declare the Detroit Red Wings a NHL Dynasty and if not what do they need to do to reach that status?

I'm sorry to say it Craig, but I have to say no. I'll acknowledge that one could certainly make an argument that they are, but I think in this day and age, the definition of "dynasty" has changed to the point where, in my mind, the Red Wings don't currently qualify.

It's my belief that the definition has changed because of free agency and the massive turnovers that occur in professional sports rosters. In the last 20 years, roster turnover has increased to the point where it's exceedingly rare to be able to keep a group of players for any more than 5 years or so.

So for that reason, I contend that dynasties should be defined by what I call the "3 in 5 rule". That rule says: a sports dynasty shall be defined as a team who wins 3 or more championships in a contiguous 5 year period.

Prior to this year, the Red Wings last won the Stanley Cup Championship in 2002. That falls just outside the 5-year period necessary to qualify under the "3 in 5 rule". Is that fair? Well if you look at the two rosters, of the 28 players who suited up for the Red Wings this year, only 8 - less than one-third - were also on the 2002 roster. I don't know how you can call it a dynasty when the rosters are that dis-similar.

So who does qualify? Here's where I make it up to you Craig. The Red Wings of 1997-02 qualify. So during that period they were a dynasty. But not at the moment. If they win 2 out of the next 4, then once again they can call themselves a dynasty.

Who else in recent history qualifies? In the NFL, the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2002, 2003 and 2005. They were a dynasty. In the NBA, the L.A. Lakers won the championship in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004. They definitely qualify. Also the San Antonio Spurs won in 2003, 2005 and 2007. They were a dynasty. And in baseball, the New York Yankees won the World Series in 1998, 1999 and 2000. They certainly qualify. Sadly enough, if the Red Sox (whom I hate) win one more in the next 3 years, they also would qualify. Okay, now I'm kind of depressed.

So thanks for the question Craig. I'm sure you'll disagree, but hopefully I've made some salient points. Thanks a ton for the question!

You too can be a part of The Sports Take Mailbag by emailing me at: dcook93@yahoo.com. Get your questions in early and often!

That's all for this week. Have a wonderful weekend. Remember to tune in to ABC at 5:25 central for the Belmont and root for Big Brown (and my trifecta)! I'll be back on Monday!