Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This King, is Perfect

     It all started with a sports alert and ended with a rush of adrenaline 10 minutes later.

     I was just sitting on my bed, watching Youtube videos, when my iPhone vibrated on my bed (and yes, I needed to say iPhone, instead of cell phone because it's an iPhone, not a cell phone). I received a sports alter from ESPN that I subscribed to saying "Mariners P Felix Hernandez has a perfect game through 8 innings with 10 strikeouts." Really? Alright...time to turn on ESPN, praying they were taking a break from talking about the Jet's bingo tournament ESPN might have been showing and pray the game was on. 

     I was lucky enough to catch the first pitch of the ninth inning from stud Felix Hernandez and immediately two things came to my mind: Is this really happening to the Rays AGAIN? And, is there anyone more physically intimidating on the mound than the 6'3" 230-pound monster Hernandez with his hat turned slightly to the left staring down the batter with a scowl that only Steelers' Bill Cowher could match?

     As Hernandez wound up and turned his body three-quarters of the way around, he fired a 1-2 slider in on Desmond Jennings he swung so hard on, it appeared as if his eyes were closed and just prayed the bat would make contact with something, since that's more than seemingly every other batter had been able to achieve all afternoon. Jeff Keppinger, up next, smacked a pitch up the middle, where Brendan Ryan fielded the ball smoothly (me holding my breath the whole time), and fired the ball to first for the second out. Sidenote: as routine of a play as that was, with that magnitude of the moment, there is no such thing as a "given," especially after Armando Gallaraga decided to break everyone's heart, sorry, I meant umpire Jim Joyce, my mistake. 

     As Safeco Field started to erupt as the second out was recorded, I knew it was going to happen. Felix is too good; he has turned down free-agency, where he could be making millions more in a bigger market just to stay in Seattle, where he started his career and where he is meant to be. Felix was quoted after the game on Baseball Tonight saying that he knew he had his stuff going all night to where he would be able to pull something like this off, as early as the fourth inning he felt it.  

     So when the number nine hitter, Sean Rodriguez came to the play, in the marquee at-bat of the month for baseball, King Felix knew what to do. I knew what he was going to do. The city of Seattle prayed for lightning to strike twice in Safeco Field, as two months earlier six pitchers combined to throw a no-hitter for the Mariners, in the unlikeliest of ways. 

     First pitch, ball. 
     Second pitch, ball. 
     *Wipes brow* (me, not him)
     Third pitch, a change-up outside that Rodriguez can't even remotely catch up to, Strike 1. 
     Fourth pitch, a sickening curveball that drops right over the plate, Rodriguez froze stiff, Strike 2.     

     The crowd rises, the city rises, as their ace, their icon (now that Ichiro has joined the Evil Empire in New York) gets ready for his fifth pitch of the at-bat, his 113th pitch of the afternoon and one that will sit in the record books forever. A fastball painted on the inner half of the plate by Van Gohn, so perfectly that Rodriguez stared at its beauty as it ripped past him and into the catcher's glove. Strike 3. His 12th strikeout of the afternoon. Game over. 

     My brother and I just sat there smiling in disbelief as we both just witnessed history, complete dominance by a pitcher who has never received the respect he deserves by the public. 

     Welcome to the history books King Felix Hernandez, you now will be a household name outside the city of Seattle, as if you weren't one already, as one of the best pitchers in the 21st century to finally be recognized as the 23rd pitcher in baseball history to throw a perfect game. 
     

Monday, August 13, 2012

My True Passion: Part 2

     Lets hope your eyes have stopped swelling from all the crying you did after reading Part 1 of my passion for Fantasy Baseball because Part 2 is more upbeat, I can guarantee that, actually, it depends on what you define as "pathetic" or not. 

     After winning my first ever Fantasy Baseball League in my freshman year of high school, my approach to the "sport" (Yes, it is a sport...says me) changed dramatically, as I started to put in more attentions towards off-season player news on ESPN, as well as started to invest in books to aid my draft strategy from proven professional. 

     It became quickly apparent to me and everyone else that I was taking this Fantasy Baseball League as something very serious. Very, very serious. Everyone else in the league was a "social butterfly", playing sports, going out to parties on the weekends and hanging out with friends, you know, what high school kids do. Not me, I was again, (as said in Part 1) a lone wolf. I stuck to myself and prefer a quieter world, revolving around myself and whatever I chose to let in to it, and still do to this day. So my weekends were spent reading up the latest statistics, rumors or personal vendettas players around the league were involved in, to best prepare myself for the upcoming draft, which most of the time wasn't for four or more months away. 

     I started to master my craft, pay attention to statistics I had never payed close enough focus to before: on-base percentage (instead of batting average), walks-plus-hits per nine innings (instead of earned run average), as well as where players bat in their respective lineups (instead of just picking anyone). This is what helped fuel my passion for this game, there was no ceiling to what I could learn, no limit I could just reach and know it all. Now it was time to apply my new-found skills and walk-the-walk. 

     I did. 

     Over the next two years, I won both years, convincingly over anyone who decided to join the league, or leave because they hated the fact that I was the one who was winning. All my hard work had paid off, my ego had risen to levels I had never thought even existed, and to myself, I was the man. 

     I thought, correction, I knew no one else really took it as serious as I did, so there was little doubt in my mind that anyone really cared that I was winning and had such an ego over just frigging Fantasy Sports. But it meant a lot to me so I poo-pooed everyone who would talk crap because I was #1 and they weren't. 

    The following year I wanted to pass on my enthusiasm to my fellow family members who I knew had a large passion for Fantasy Sports and to make the competition even heavier, so I recruited my brother and dad into our league for my senior year of high school. I had little doubt in my mind that my dad would be much competition in the league, but my brother, I thought would be a worthy adversary. I mean, my dad hadn't done online fantasy...ever and my brother played a little bit with his friends over the years.

     I'll never forget seeing my dad buy a stupid fantasy magazine, which he marked up a few days before with his "sleeper" players in yellow highlighter, which really weren't "sleepers" at all, they were good players whom he never followed because he doesn't care as much as I do. I had this in the bag, no doubt in my mind. He was the very definition of a word I love to use, "noob". 

     After the draft had concluded, I knew I had the best team, and as the season progressed, that was the case. But, of course, come playoff time I lost in the first-round because my players decided to play worse than they had all season right when I needed them most. Figures.

     And just as if Walt Disney wrote it, the clock struck midnight...my brother won, ending my three-year reign.  

     And the next year, my dad won. 

     I will never hear the end of it from my dad. Good god. The man who basically drafted his team with his eyes closed ended up winning the stupid league...over me. Atleast the "Rizzo" family had won every year in the six years the league had been around, whatever that counts for.  

     Throughout the years of doing Fantasy Baseball, I started to realize that I was able to talk about more things with my dad, brother and friends who were in the league. We had that one big thing in common to always talk to, which makes the experience even more rewarding for me. Yeah, winning is great, really great, but to be able to bond with people over something as simple as an online game/sport (I prefer sport to say I'm an athlete) is pretty awesome. 

     I will continue to play Fantasy Baseball every year for as long as I get the rush as I watch my starting pitcher throw a complete-game on television, the smile on my face as Giancarlo Stanton sends a baseball into orbit with the swing of a bat, and have something to talk about with my family, even when life isn't going the way we planned. 

     It's become who I am, what makes me...me, and I'm totally okay with that. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

My True Passion: Part 1

     Let me set this scene as best as I can, to truly capture the awkwardness that was this time in my life, when it all began.

     Let's rewind all the way back to 2006, my freshman year of high school, where it all started. I was sitting in my typical place in the lunchroom, nearest the window whilst picking my lunch of out my braces with my tongue, still adapting to the horror that is Coginchaug. At that point in my life, I wasn't the social butterfly, nor am I now, so I just ate my lunch like everyone else, except I was mainly eating alone. Not physically alone, but I wasn't really a part of the conversations swirling on around me, while occasionally ducking my head so the people around me could talk over me or around me...yeah, anyone else crying yet picturing this?

     Sports has always been a passion of mine, the one facet of my life that I knew was going to be constant and would always be there to provide me with excitement, a conversation starter and something to fill my mind with on a daily basis, instead of focusing on school work. I could always count on Randy Moss to make a leaping catch that even in the video game world would seem unbelievable, Dirk Nowitzki to step back and make his signature turn-around jumper over the tallest of defenders and Lance Berkman to crush the ball at both sides of the plate with such ease. That was really what was important to me, being indulged in the sports world and acting as a sponge, gathering as much information as I could, to then reciprocate to others the next day as an easy conversation starter or to add to any discussion because I was/am, again, anti-social. 

     As I was eating my lunch, I remember a friend of mine, Mike, approached me and asked if I wanted to join a Fantasy Baseball league. "What's Fantasy Baseball?," I thought deep down. I mean I love baseball, and any chance to become more social with the "cooler" crowd, or any crowd in general sounded pretty good to me. Little did Mike, myself, or anyone else know that if he had never offered me the opportunity to join that league that my life would probably be a hell of a lot different then it is now. 

     I registered an account on ESPN.com and joined the league that same night he offered me the position. I didn't have much clue what was going to happen, but the following day in school I was being asked by other members in the league, my fellow classmates, about baseball and my knowledge of it. It was almost like a mini-clique that formed overnight that I was now a part of. Pretty sweet. I was now able to share my years and years of sports knowledge with the other guys, and whether they wanted to admit to quiet Tim or not, I know they were impressed, shocked, and amused. And to this day I'd bet they'd come to me first for any sports questions. 

     We had the Fantasy Baseball draft a few weeks later, and it was one of the most overwhelming experiences I've ever had. The names. The numbers. The stats. The rush. It was like nothing else I could have fathomed happening that night. (I really had no idea what I was doing looking back on it now, but it was amazing at the time.)  The following weeks and months, I became more and more intense when it came to the competition aspect of the game itself, as well as, started to talk to these kids a lot more about sports. I was also doing very well in the league throughout the season, so it became a win, win, win situation for me.

     I just expected this game to be something to pass my time throughout the school year as well as focus my vast sports knowledge on something useful, instead of just storing it for later use. Instead, I was finding myself becoming more attentive to numbers, to the on-and-off the field personalities of the players whom I drafted on my team, and in a way, I started becoming attached to the players themselves, as if I owed them something because they were on my team and if they stunk, it was because I did something wrong to deserve that. "You want me to trade Alex Rios?! So what if he's hitting .202? I drafted him in the third round! He's not going anywhere."

     As the school year came to an end, the baseball season continued, so in my freshman year yearbook I have written by Mike, "-Tim, We'll see if I make any trades this summer. I doubt it because my team is already nasty. See u in the fall." 

     I could now begin relating to people on something that they and I considered "cool." That idea alone made Fantasy Baseball worth joining, but, of course, I still needed to win and finish strong in the league. 

     Little did anyone know the kid who no one talked to, never played baseball in his life, was just a name to most people in my own grade won the first ever Fantasy Baseball League. This is the kid who beat the baseball players, the jocks, the sports guru's of the school. I was the king, I was the best, I was #1, I beat the jocks at their own game, sports. (This is how I was thinking, remember, I was awkward). 

     I'll never forget the look on their faces the day after I won the league in a head-to-head match up against the person who invited me into the league in the first place. Me winning this league changed me as a person forever, someone who became confident, more sociable (I use "more" lightly), more passionate about anything I've ever experienced in my entire life.

And it turned into something much, much more.

Stay tuned for the next installment coming up soon of my passion for Fantasy Baseball! Follow me on twitter for when that might be @TimRizzoRants. 
     

Saturday, August 4, 2012

MLB Trade Deadline: Winners and Losers

The 2012 MLB trade deadline has come and gone in the last week, and there has been plenty of buzz as to which teams got better, worse, and who should have made moves towards a playoff push. Well, look no further, I'm here to shed some light on the winners and losers of trade deadline while breaking down each of the players moved in the deals, to as much extent as I can using my knowledge of the minor league systems. 

Are you ready? Are you really ready? You're not? Alright, I'll wait...NOT, go!

 Winners:
  • Los Angeles Dodgers- Fairly straightforward claim on my part, not a whole lot of insight or boldness with this pick, but the Dodgers made leaps and bounds towards grabbing the NL penant this year, with a clear "win now" mentality. Acquiring third baseman/shortstop/questionably lazy Hanley Ramirez from the tanking Marlins for Nate Eovaldi and Scott McGough was huge. The Dodgers production at third base all season has been pathetic to say the least, and to add another All-Star bat to a lineup which includes Matt Kemp and Andre Eithier is just plain scary. Ramirez success tends to depend on his interest in the game itself and the magnitude of the position his team is in. Overnight he was sent from a dull, depressing situation in Miami, where during each at-bat, he had to stare at the atrocity that is the Marlin's new stadium with the stupid monument in center field that alone makes the stadium almost cartoon like, to the best team in the National League, in my opinion. Their rotation is deep, Kemp and Eithier are back "healthy" and Kenlsey Jensen hasn't exploded yet in the closer's position...yet. The addition of Brandon League from Seattle wasn't really necessary, but it can't hurt their bullpen down the stretch to add a veteran arm late in games. Oh yeah, they also traded for Phillies' outfielder Shane Victorino, who is quietly having a very solid season at the plate and on the base paths. They gave up pitcher Josh Lindblom, who has put up excellent numbers this year in the minor leagues, but their "win now" mentality is more important than the future at the moment. These are big moves for the Dodgers, should surpass Cincinnati as the team with the best record in the National League by season's end, but how far they go in the playoffs falls on the arms on every starting pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. 
  • Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim- I didn't think it was possible for the Angels to beat out the Texas Rangers for Milwaukee pitcher Zack Grienke. The amount star-studded prospects the Rangers possess is unreal, as well as their hunger to finally win a World Series after the last two years have ended in heart break. The fact of the matter is that Texas could have easily put a better package of players together to offer for Grienke that any team would pull the trigger on, but just didn't. They were too stubborn and didn't want to deal any of their top three prospects, which made the decision much easier for the Brewers to make the move with the Angels. The Angels put together a big package of players, including shortstop Jean Segura who has a massive amount of upside, as well as pitching prospects Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg, who will both help the team down the road. A rotation of Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Zack Grienke and Dan Haren is insane, absolutely mind blowing. No rotation in baseball can match the Angels' rotation day in and day out, which makes them the favorite to win the World Series, with their already star-studded lineup. They made the Brewers an offer they couldn't refuse (said in an Italian voice). Their only concern right now might be whether they can sign Grienke to a long-term deal, which would make giving up all those prospects disheartening if he chooses to go elsewhere in the off season if the Angels don't win the World Series. 
  • Milwaukee Brewers - (See above). They got incredible value for Grienke, including a starting, young shortstop in Segura
  • Houston Astros- They traded half of their roster for a grand total of 15 prospects. Their farm system has been completely replenished with young talent over the last three years with their unique mentality of trading anyone with solid value for more prospects to help the team down the road. Now if they could only pair someone in the lineup with Jose Altuve, they might win 20 games when they move to the American League next year...gulp*. 
  • Pittsburgh Pirates- All they've been known for over the last decade has been to trade away their young talent for prospects in the future. Well, they're on the bubble for the playoffs this year and with NL MVP candidate Andrew McCtuchen killing the ball this year, they needed to make a move to improve their current roster. Grabbing starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros for two prospects turned out to quietly be a great move. They got a solid starting pitcher for a nice value, who will certainly help the back end of their rotation for the rest of the season, hopefully sending them into a position they haven't been in decades, the playoffs. 

 Losers:
  • Miami Marlins- Yes, the were able to trade for highly touted pitching prospect Jacob Turner from the Tigers, but they also gave up any hope thee city of Miami had for seeing quality baseball in their city after all the exciting relocation hype in the off season. Losing the face of their franchise in Hanley hurts badly, as well as losing young stud Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to Detroit really stings.  
  • Oakland Athletics- I really would've liked to see them make a move before the deadline to improve their lineup down the stretch, with their rotation and farm system being full of young talent. Unfortunately, it didn't happen, not to much surprise either. It's not in GM Billy Beane's "Moneyball" way to trade for a big piece mid-season, then have to worry about resigning him to a sizable contract in the off season. This has been a special year for Oakland as they have won a league-high 13 games in "walk-off" fashion, including breakout seasons from outfielders Josh Reddick and Cuban slugger, Yeonis Cesdepes. The didn't HAVE to make a move, but one would've been appreciated to help their not-so-dependable lineup as September approaches. 
  • Boston Red Sox- Remember when they signed Adrian Gonzalez, John Lackey and Carl Crawford in one off season a few years ago? I do, as much as all Boston fans are trying to forget it. Josh Beckett is useless, old and has lost all command of his pitches and, I believe (don't quote me on this), he forgot which arm he throws with after watching his most recent starts. The Boston sports world doesn't believe in a "rebuilding" period, so they chose to hold on to struggling starter John Lester as well, whom they should've traded to muster whatever value he has left in that left arm of his. Boston has a relatively deep farm system, as well as depth in the outfield this year, so they could've used Lester and Cody Ross to possibly add another arm to a rotation that can't seem to keep any team from scoring less than eight runs a game, even with the powerful offense they currently have. 
  • Baltimore Orioles- Remember when the Baltimore Orioles where in first place in the AL East? Those days came and went very quickly and any additions they could've made to help their team for this year or in the future would have been lovely, but it looks like they have to ride out on the "Buck Truck" for the rest of the season. 

Those are the winners and losers of the 2012 MLB trade deadline, feel free to comment to provide some feedback or follow me on Twitter @TimRizzoRants for all things sports!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Month of July Recap

     Last week I won the lottery and a $2.5 million cash prize.

     I'm just kidding, it just feels like it was April Fools Day since the last time I did one of these blog posts, so I needed to get a joke in. I will be much more consistent when it comes to these posts and will promise to do at least three a week, instead of three a month. 

     Since I've been so far behind and haven't posted anything during the month of July, I'm going to do things a bit different and list the most popular sports topics throughout the month of July that I haven't talked about and give my two-cents on each one. 

     So here we go everyone, the top sports topics of July:

  • Dwight Howard: "Superman" continues to be disgustingly indecisive about his future with the Orlando Magic or where he wants to be in general, this should be no surprise to anyone, but it bothers me more than any other "trade scenario" ever. After the Brooklyn Nets signed prize free agent, Deron Williams, along with acquiring Atlanta Hawks guard, Joe Johnson, there was little to no way the Magic could trade Howard to the team whom he preferred most, Brooklyn. The Magic deep down still want to sign Howard to a long-term deal to secure their spot among the Eastern Confrence's elite teams, but Dwight has other plans for his future as he no longer has confidence in his supporting staff in Orlando that he can actually win with them, which most people would agree with. A team can't win with Jameer Nelson and Ryan Anderson as the focal points of an offense, especially when Anderson plays little to no defense as well. I don't blame Howard for wanting out of Orlando, but the bigger question is, WHY DID YOU SIGN THE MAGIC'S OPTION FOR THE 2013 SEASON?! You literally gave Orlando every bit of leverage over you by doing that, and now we're back where we are last year, with the Magic entering the NBA season trying to move you, knowing they won't get equal value for you. Rumors have quieted down lately regarding Howard's future, but offers have come close to being completed with the Los Angeles Lakers, yet there is still no deal. I am sick with Dwight Howard, fans are sick with Dwight Howard, the league is sick with Dwight Howard, the media loves Dwight Howard, but none of that matters because he will continue to have cameras in his face every time he opens his mouth and his reputation has taken a big hit over the last year due to his lack of maturity, maybe to the point of no return. 

  • MLB Season: So much has happened over the last month in the MLB season that things have become almost angelic for a big sports fan like me. The Home Run Derby, although a bit boring compared to year's past, was still as magical as it always is and with Prince Fielder winning it for the second time, that was great for baseball and the city of Detroit. The city of Kansas City did a great job as well hosting the All-Star events and got their two-cents in about AL captain, Robinson Cano's decision to leave hometown favorite, Billy Butler, off the Home Run Derby team by booing the hell of out him at the plate during his HRD at-bat, causing him to hit as many home runs as me, zero. It was completely warranted and I wouldn't have expected anything less from fans who got jipped of seeing a home town favorite, fittingly not chosen by a universally hated New York Yankee. The All-Star game was awesome as well, granted it was a blow-out by the National League, but that makes it magical for me (GO NL!), wait, remain as unbiased as possible, Tim. Over the last month, the somewhat Cinderella Story of the Pittsburgh Pirates continues as they continue to be in the playoff picture and are actually BUYING before the trade deadline. Acquiring Houston Astros' pitcher, Wandy Rodriguez, was a very necessary move to bolster their rotation down the stretch, while quietly getting a good pitcher for relatively cheap price tag. I think they can keep it up for the rest of the season, and if they were to make the playoffs, Andrew McCutchen, will be the NL MVP, in a season that will be remembered for a long time in the city of Pittsburgh. Speaking of MVPs, Mike Trout is stupid. Completely stupid. That was another joke. Trout is completely dominating the game of baseball right now, with his combination of speed and power, as well as his incredible glove in center field, he is truly a five-tool player that I don't think I've seen a talent play this well and be this young since Ryan Braun came into the league. Texas Rangers manager, Ron Washington, wants to quiet the Trout hype by saying, "he's not Willie Mays" but Washington is just a little depressed that he has to play against him in the division throughout the season, and could very well keep his Rangers from reaching their third straight World Series. Oh, the Angels also just completed a block buster trade that sent Brewers' Zack Grienke to the Angels. They are now World Series favorites in my eyes, with their loaded pitching staff and rookie who is currently out-performing their $250 million investment in Pujols. The Boston Red Sox are doing everything wrong to try to get themselves back into contention in the American League, they should be going through a complete fire-sale, which they are not because the city of Boston can't comprehend a season of failure, clap* clap* clap*. 

  • Penn State: I don't think much needs to be said about what has unraveled over the past month at Penn State, but I will give my opinion anyway. It was completely appropriate for the University to tear down the Joe Paterno statue that had provided a beacon of success over the past half century because it no longer stood for that anymore. It was now a symbol of a cover-up of proportions unlike the sports world has ever seen, and Paterno held a big part in that. Yes, you can say Paterno didn't conduct those despicable acts on young children for years, but it was under his watch and he knew it was occurring. Sandusky will rot in a jail cell for the rest of his pathetic life. Just himself, in isolation, to think about the children whose lives he has scarred due to his pathetic acts of mental weakness. People have been asking, "Why did the NCAA come down hard on the football program when this was more of a legal matter with Sandusky and Paterno? Why did it extend to the football field itself?" That part is more of a grey area for me. The NCAA needed to do something to this football program other than create some job openings in the Penn State football program. It's not in their nosy nature to sit back and let a school handle matters for themselves. They delivered a harsh punishment by making the football program uneligible to compete in Bowls for the next four years, vacated Paterno's wins from 1998-2011, delivering a $60 million fine on the football program, as well as making this program irrelevant for the next decade, at the least. For those students who want to stay and play football at Penn State, good for you. It's admirable, loyal and a good deed, but one I think isn't the right decision. I'm not going to go more into it because the media has beat it to death, but Penn State got what they deserved and I wouldn't have been shocked if they got the death penalty. 

  • Olympics: The Olympics started in London with the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night. It was a very interesting and long Opening Ceremony with the highlights being appearances by "James Bond", Mr. Bean and Lord Voldemort. The theatrics within the ceremony itself was confusing and I felt as if I was experiencing an acid-trip watching some of the choreography being performed by these gifted actors. It probably made sense to Europeans, but not me, if Snoop Dogg had made an appearance, I might have been more interested, actually, it NEEDED Snoop Dogg. Michael Phelps finished fourth in his first race of the Olympics, which removes his immortality from the swimming world, passing the torch to fellow American, Ryan Lochte who won Gold. I have never cared about volleyball, swimming (that thing you do to prevent yourself from drowning), or running, so why would I care now? I don't. The Olympics to me are just something that comes around every four years and you just see more American Flags hanging off people's houses, that's it. Oh, and the US basketball team is going to win Gold effortlessly, period. 
      Well, that should just about cover it. I promise to be much more consistent with these so keep the feedback coming and I hope you enjoyed it. Gooooooo USA. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Skip Bayless, the actor, not journalist

               Every morning during my sophomore year of college I would set my alarm clock for 9:55a.m., and religiously make myself muster up the energy to crawl out of my bed towards my couch to watch ESPN's First Take sports debate show each morning. Even through my morning-cruddy eyes, I managed to always be engaged in the debates that the constant of the show, loud-mouth Skip Bayless, and consistent guest on, NBA aficionado, Stephen A. Smith would have, covering the entire sports world in seemingly a two hour span each day. No matter the circumstances, I would find myself shaking my head at each point made, yelling my opinions, tweeting mid-show at each of the debaters (never to any avail) and get more and more frustrated with each of the topics presented over the course of the program that my opinions would never be heard.

               Never had there been any sports show where two "masters" of the sports world would put their honest opinions out on the table for the public to see regarding pressing and current topics, that many would find too controversial to talk about deeply over the air, such as the harsh Penn State debacle with all it's cruel details that unraveled.  The raw realness of the show was made apparent throughout, when Skip and Stephen A., or other guests that were featured on the show throughout it's five years on the air argued back and forth with one another, calling one another's debating points and mentalities on topics into question, as well as each other's sanity. The show was contagious and I couldn't get enough of it, no matter how much it made me sweat over the amount of energy I was putting into restraining myself from driving to the headquarters of the show in Bristol, Connecticut and barging onto the set myself.

               Everything changed for me a few weeks ago when I started to notice something I had never put much attention towards or bothered to look deeply into, and that thing was a person, and that person was Skip Bayless. The extremely stubborn Oklahoma City native would constantly throw out points that seemed outrageous with wild claims to "back it up", and naturally, I just looked past them for the entertainment value that the show was providing me with. Once the NBA playoffs started, I started to pay closer attention for some reason to the actual words that were coming out of Skip's mouth, and I came to one conclusion, this man is an actor, not a journalist. 

               A journalist looks objectivity in the eye and tries to present it to the common-folk in a way that they can try to understand and interpret the facts when it comes to a topic that they might be unfamiliar with, to try and give them a comfort level with the topic. Skip Bayless looks objectivity in the eye and says, "you bore me, let me see what I can do to skew everyone else's mentalities by pointing out less than important facts that hold no real underlying truth to them and make something of it, and pummel the same point until the person on the other side of the desk either faints or beats themselves with the nearest blunt object until death." Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, was brought on the talk show on Friday, June 22 to debate Skip about the hot topic of  LeBron James now being an NBA Champion and whether or not Skip should give him the credit he deserves because he is publicly harsh on James to a ridiculous extent. Not only did Cuban absolutely grill the long time journalist about LeBron, the game of basketball itself, his own Dallas Mavericks whom Skip has disrespected during their Championship run, but also about the loose term of "objective" that Skip constantly refers to himself as. Here is the link for more of what I mean:  http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/mark-cuban-absolutely-destroys-espn-skip-bayless-air-202818568--nba.html

               This video is incredible on so many levels. It's clear in this one-sided debate that Cuban throughout makes Skip feel extremely uncomfortable by asking him about the different zones that the Oklahoma City Thunder plays, but also about what the point of the zone IS IN ITSELF, which Skip dodges to answer. when confronted with real, objective facts, this "journalist" shrinks like a prune into a defensive and scared human being with no true counter to valid points being represented to him. For this to be called a "debate" is offensive to Cuban, who turned this encounter into an old-fashioned brawl with the amount of facts and personal jabs he was presenting Skip with, to no real rebuttal on Skip's part that would even be considered reasonable or logical. This is the last episode of the ESPN's First Take I will ever watch. 

               Anyone is more than welcome to say that I myself have pretty outrageous mentalities when it comes to certain topics in the sports world, but I'll be damned if I don't have legitimate information to back it up until the day that I die. There's a difference between having this mentality that you have a different view than someone else because of one small detail or another, but for you to try and argue a point against them without having actual information to support your claim, isn't even considered a debate.  

               Having a different view on sports issues is welcome and respected in the sports world because that's what makes it interesting. If everyone loved the New York Yankees and respected the way they ran their organization, the world would be a very bland place with a lack of true opinions running the sports world like we have today. People hate the Yankees, people love the Red Sox, people love to hate the Yankees and Red Sox, but that's what makes sports incredible and unique to anything else in the world. This video and shows magnifies more than anything else that Skip isn't worried about debating someone, or spreading his mentality to the world through hard facts and rebutting other's claims using statistics or testimonies, what he is most worried about is maintaining the shows very high ratings on a major network, while having it be okay to look like a jackass in the end. 

              

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Now is the time for Rizzo to shine

               Today, June 26, 2012, I will be making my Major League debut for the Chicago Cubs after spending the last three months of my life playing AAA-baseball for the Iowa Cubs, and doing everything I can to make my lifelong dream of playing in the Major Leagues come true.

               Wait, my first name isn't "Anthony"? Oh, well this is pretty awkward now. Umm, well let me get this piece focused back on the "Rizzo" name hopefully making an impact in the Major Leagues, to where it becomes a household name over the next few years and people ask me if that is my cousin or mid-western brother who is currently raking at Wrigley Field. 

                Anthony Rizzo will be starting at first base tonight as the Chicago Cubs will be hosting the New York Mets in a very exciting series for Cubs fans, who hope to see the face of their franchise in Rizzo start producing to hopefully put to an end their 104 year World Series drought within the next decade. After being acquired from the San Diego Padres in the off-season, Rizzo, who is a mere 22 years old, has done nothing but impress in the minor leagues this season, hitting .342 with 23 home runs in 70 games with Iowa and is ready to show the world what he has to offer, after a brief stint with the Padres last year that was anything but spectacular. 

                After putting on an equally impressive year with the Padres AAA-club in 2011, the Tucson Padres, Rizzo was called up after the All-Star break last season for a 49-game stint with the big league club, where his plate discipline struggled mightily as he adjusted to Major League pitching. Too often was he at the plate lacking in confidence and dropping his head during each at-bat, causing him to constantly mistime pitches, which was the main reason he hit a lowly .141 with only one home run. 

               Cubs' manager, Dale Sveum, feels that Rizzo will be more comfortable at the plate in this stint in the big leagues because he won't jump in and be the focus of an offense, with plenty of support around him. "To ease his mind he has to understand that he's not the savior of this offense right now," Sveum said. "I think that's what he has to be careful of. If he comes up here trying to save a struggling offense, he can't do that with one swing of the bat all the time...but it would be nice if he does," reports ESPN.com. He had a similar mentality last season trying to save a San Diego roster that had just lost Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox in the off-season and had no real focal point on their lineup to devoid attention from Rizzo's young glow. 

               It's difficult to look at Rizzo's minor league numbers from the last two seasons and find noticeable improvements that would reflect his struggles in the Major Leagues to shed some light that this season will be different than years last. The awful dimensions of Petco Park didn't help Rizzo show off his pop that everyone's so accustomed to seeing when he takes the field in the minor league system, which is why there is some hope that the more favorable Wrigley Park will help him get on base more often to help his young, fragile confidence. Another grooming tool for Rizzo could be the fact that he has already spent a small chunk of time in the Major Leagues, so the newness of the experience won't be as overwhelming this time and he can expect the media attention that seemed exhausting to him last season. 

               Newly acquired General Manager, Theo Epstein, did everything he could to bring in young talent to fill his roster for this season to try to provide a spark for Cubs fan everywhere and the success of Rizzo's big league stint could very well be a turning point in the Cubs' near and long term future.Headed by their star 22-year-old shortstop, Starlin Castro, the Cubs have assembled a crew that includes breakout first baseman/right fielder Bryan Lahair, second baseman Darwin Barney and outfield speedster Tony Campana to help cushion Rizzo in the lineup as he expects to hit between the 3-6 mark in the lineup during his tenure with the Cubs. 

              Only time will tell whether Anthony Rizzo turns out to put a smile on Cubs' fans faces everywhere the same way talented prospects Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have helped change the baseball culture in Anaheim and Washington, respectively. But one thing is for sure, baseball chews up and spits out young, talented kids everyday who thinks they have what it takes to shine in this league and for the sake of Rizzo's career and the baseball livelihood in Chicago, lets hope he doesn't turn into a long-term heart break like Cubs' old prospects Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.