Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Elliot Yamin

Another reason to love the Nationals: You can meet Elliot Yamin just like my sister did!

The Bandwagon That Could – Why it’s time to pay attention to the Washington Nationals

It’s every sports fan’s dream to be one of THOSE fans. The guy that will not shut up about how he suffered along with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before their unprecedented rise to the top of the American League as the newly minted Tampa Bay Rays.

Or the guy that says he never lost hope when the Yankees went through that horrendous TEN YEAR drought of zero titles. These are the fans that feel passionate about their loser team without any semblance of embarrassment. They are the opposite of the bandwagon fan; they’re the intrepid, “it’s a rebuilding year,” fan. Now it’s time for you to become that fan. Five to ten years from now you WILL be that guy: the anti-poser. The Nationals fan.

The Nationals have a superstar talent that will likely cement their “dynasty” or rather, over .500 streak for a while to come. He’s a pitcher and he’s a relatively new face on the scene for causal baseball fans. He possesses incredible command over his upper 90s fastball and a space warping slider that would make physics teachers wince. His name is Matt Capps.

Capps has been one of the best closers in the Majors this season after collecting ten saves in ten opportunities with a 0.68 ERA for the month of April. The foundation of a great (not good) team, lies in the bullpen and Capps more than delivers.

Oh yeah, Stephen Strasburg is lurking in baseball purgatory right now and the baseball gods are about to pluck him out of there and place him on his throne sometime in June. Watching Stephen Strasburg pitch is like watching Joey Chestnut eat a hot dog or Stephen Hawking do a math problem. The guy is almost too good. You kind of wait for something bad to happen because there is no way such a young guy could be so good already. Granted, he’s in the minors. But I have a feeling that pinpoint control of a 98 mph fastball coupled with an unfair breaking ball will do all right in the bigs.

O.K., so the Nationals aren’t exactly pacing the National League East right now but that’s because they’re still getting used to the fact that they can actually compete. Their record has been steadily hovering around .500 this season and that’s a far cry from their last place finish a season ago. Also, the market in D.C. will always be attractive in any sport and for some reason, the sports gods have been smiling on the District of Columbia for about a year now.

Nothing would make me happier as a member of the “D.C. Sports Fan Radius (Northern-ish VA and parts of MD), to see our beloved Nationals contend. They have the makeup, the youth, the athleticism and the future right-handed Sandy Koufax to work with. Now all they need is a cool gimmick for the fans. Remember the “Rayhawk” that Tampa fans sported when the Rays had their run? I have one for the Nationals: The Riggleman Rat-tail.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Virginia Sports

Living in the great state of Virginia has its pros and cons - Pro: We're a commonwealth. Con: None of us are exactly sure what that means. Pro: "Marky" Mark Warner. Con: Virginian with the most pizzazz since Pocahontas. Pro: Apparently, we're "for lovers." Con: Half the population is ironically comprised of haters.

Aside from all that, the biggest reason to pity us Virginians stems from the fact that we're basically compelled to root for the teams in Washington, D.C. and that has not been good news for the last several years. I can't remember any instance in my short lifetime that I have been proud of the Redskins, Nationals, or Wizards. I did have a brief fetish for the Capitals but that all ended after they were eliminated from the playoffs way before they were supposed to be for two straight years. Luckily, no, VERY luckily, the tide is turning. The Redskins seem to be the ones that have benefited the most with the addition of Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb. I can safely say that the era of ultra-conservative (pussy) play-calling with a lackluster offense is over. I predict that the 'Skins are going to enjoy a hell of a season and maybe not choke it all away.

The Wizards and the Nationals are both benefiting from the future talent that is going to show up at their doorstep. The Wizards somehow landed the number one overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft and it could not have come at a better time. The Nationals are ready to call up Stephen Strasburg, essentially the LeBron James of baseball, from triple-A Syracuse sometime in June. Holy shit. I can only imagine how much of an asshole I am going to be to my friends in the future when I bust out the memorabilia from the early 2000s proving that I've been one of THOSE fans. The fans that have stuck with a team through the good time(s) and bad times and now are reaping the rewards. I just hope that my fandom isn't nullified by the fact that I also root for the Yankees and the Lakers...

Monday, May 24, 2010

In Defense of Baseball (cont'd)

Have you ever BEEN to Camden Yards? It's quite pretty. And since the Orioles play in the American League East they play the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox often! Plus, I'd literally harm someone for one of those pulled pork sandwiches they offer.

In Defense of Baseball

A few weeks ago I happened upon a copy of Rick Reilly’s latest book, Sports from Hell. I have professed to be a fan of Reilly in the past mainly because HIS columns are a hell of a lot shorter and a hell of a lot less Kobe-hating than Bill Simmons’ and I tend to agree with a lot of Reilly’s viewpoints. This book, however, despite its initial entertainment value, completely lost me when he introduced BASEBALL as one of the dumbest sports ever invented. As perplexed as I was to find out that a sportswriter detests the sport that has produced some of the greatest writing of the genre (think Gay Talese’s epic on DiMaggio), I was even more astounded at the fact that it was RICK REILLY, one of the most popular sportswriters of our generation dissing one of the most popular sports in the world. I was so peeved that I decided to come up with my own list of points enumerating why baseball DOESN’T suck.

1) Female fans of baseball are WAY hotter than female fans of football

When I think of female football fans, I think of Roseanne Barr-types: The kind of woman you wouldn’t mind chillin’ with at the football game because she may have legitimate insight and is just as passionate about the game as you are. When I think of female baseball fans, I think of Alyssa Milano-types: The kind of chick you want to chill with AFTER the game in the hopes that you can somehow get another kind of insight.

2) The people that attend football games are vicious lunatics

Baseball fans are generally a mix of people with their families or business guys that come out to the ballpark to kick back and chill. The whole scene is like a picnic; minus the fruity-ness. Football fans are a mix of rabid, severely overweight men that would sooner urinate on a puppy than wash their Jerome Bettis jersey that they faithfully wear every Sunday in between Brett Favre-inspired masturbatory sessions.

3) Baseball players may take a long time, but it’s for a reason

The only reason baseball players go through rituals in the batter’s box is NOT because their batting gloves need a fresh Velcro-ing, but because they need to mull over the myriad of possibilities about to be unfurled at them. They need time to freaking think before the pitcher tries to fool them with a 96 mph fastball or with a curveball that would buckle David. I’ll concede that sometimes they may take a bit long but there’s no need to bitch about it like Joe West, Jr.

4) You can take someone to a baseball game and have decent seats without having your car repossessed

Most baseball tickets (excluding half of Yankee Stadium), cost a lot less than football tickets and are more widely available to the average fan. Football tickets are only available to either the super-rich or as stated before, the super fanatical people of society most of whom could probably spend their money a bit more wisely. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have good seats at a football game but I wouldn’t give away my spleen just to sit in decent seats enduring either the stifling heat or the piercing cold.

5) Football has strange rules and can take a painfully long time too

The overtime system in the NFL has bothered pretty much every sports fan on the planet at one time or another and coach’s challenges add another dimension to the game that some people think is unnecessary. Also, for the people that complain that barely anything happens in baseball, let’s imagine the fraction of time something actually happens during a football game. Now let’s subtract from that “action” rushing plays of less than four yards, incomplete passes, short screens and other menial stuff like that. I doubt that fraction is now very high. Football even attempts to disguise the lack of plays by inflating the scores. A final score of 28-21 is really 4-3. There’s a tiny victory for soccer fans.

6) Football players cheat too but no one gives a shit

I will never understand why people are ready to hang any steroid user in baseball but are indifferent to juicers in football. Steroids help you bulk up unnaturally and while that does help increase your power numbers, you still need to be somewhat of a good hitter. In football, there are certain positions where size and strength are the ONLY determining factors in a player’s ability! Yet when they take steroids, no one is crying to expunge their lives from the human race. I don’t condone cheating in any sort of way. But I do think it’s ridiculous that there is almost a double standard when it comes to steroid use in the NFL and MLB.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE football and I love to watch it. It just annoys me that people hate on baseball for unfair reasons. Come on, Reilly… you cover freaking GOLF for ESPN. I think it’s safe to say that more people find watching golf more boring than watching baseball. But I digress. I really hope that baseball doesn’t fall in popularity like Reilly predicted in his book. I doubt it will, though, because the game has been played since the Lincoln administration. There’s something to be said about that.