The View From Wisconsin
Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
- The NHL will be back and in full force by Labor Day weekend.
- There will be a lot of "Wow!" and jaw-dropping when everyone gets a hold of the CBA.
- There will be mass chaos when it comes to free agency, but in the end, every player will go where they want to go, which won't be a bad thing.
- Every hockey fan will dislike one or two of the rule changes the league will make, but they'll all eventually grow on us. (Like fungus, of course.)
- There will be 29 very unhappy teams when the winner of the Sidney Crosby Derby (aka the NHL Draft Lottery) is announced. Somewhere in the first round, however, is probably some kid who'll win more Stanley Cups than Sidney.
- The Nashville Predators will make the playoff in 2006. (Lots of room on the bandwagon, folks...)
- The Michelin refund offer may help soothe some ruffled feathers among those who were in attendance at the U.S. Grand Prix at Indy, but I openly wonder if the problem with Formula 1 is elsewhere. Namely, the man at the controls, one Bernie Ecclestone. Honestly, he is so incredibly out of touch with the people who actually follow open wheel racing, it's ridiculous. I've already said that F-1 is more or less like watching the royals play polo; perhaps His Royal Bernieness needs to get out of the castle and down with the commoners in the paddocks to find out why people watch racing. Either that or go to a NASCAR Nextel Cup race or two.
- Okay, for the last time - Iraq is NOT another Viet Nam. There isn't a Ho Chi Minh out there who's leading the resistance. It isn't a case of communism vs. capitalism. It's completely different. And, there's less humidity. Should we be trying to get out of there? Yes. Is it likely we'll be getting out of there anytime soon? No. Is that frustrating? Damn right. Will the Democrats try to make hay out of that frustration? Well, is the Pope Catholic?
- Victor Santos should sue his teammates in Milwaukee for lack of support. He's 2-9, and if the Brewers would have given him support like they would have the other pitchers in the rotation, he should have a 6-5 record at least. A sad fact, actually.
- Okay, what exactly does Larry Brooks of the New York Post know? He asked a cryptic question in his recent column over the weekend: "Which individual with the initials DKK is about to learn that anonymity does not last forever?" Sounds like a warning shot over the bow to a gentleman whose blog is followed regularly in these parts...
- Right now, I'm really not sure who's going to host the 2012 Olympics, but I do still think that NYC's bid blew it with the West Side Stadium project's demise. It will be intriguing to see how the politics fall between France and England - since it's likely London and Paris will be the finalists in the voting. There's benefits and problems with both bids.
- I am really starting to hate Office 2003. The State upgraded from Office 97 to '03 last month, and I've been having headaches trying to keep up with the differences. Two big issues: apparently, Office '03 puts overhead on your documents (information, date saved, etc.) that actually bloats the document size by a few Kb. I've saved a doc in Word 'o3, come home and saved it in Word 2k - and it drops by about 20-40 Kb in size. The other issue? Because of how the State implements its "policies" (what can be changed, what can't by users), the Recently Used Documents list in Word is permanently stuck at the last 8 documents viewed. You can turn it off in options, but it turns around the next time you open Word and re-builds the list.
- Has anyone in the NHL front office realized that they're going to need to pry the CBA away from the lawyers eventually? I know, I know - they want to make sure everything's kosher, but come on, it's a holiday weekend (on both sides of the border). Give us hockey fans something to celebrate.
- Card update: The dealer from out in Las Vegas didn't have the 1991 Topps Harold Baines card, so I had to go back on Beckett to buy it. I also still have two Topps cards from the 1950's coming from a dealer in Janesville. Other than that, I'm probably going to be sitting tight on cards for a while, due to the money situation. My new "raise" is going to get wiped off the map because of the increase in health insurance premiums, once our new contract (which will expire about two-three weeks after we ratify it) is settled.
- The Predators re-signed their entire coaching staff. Good thing; can't get enough of seeing Barry and the Boys behind the bench. Wish I knew who was going to be in front of the bench for him this season, though.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Mark Buehrle (9-1, 2.48, 73 K in 116.0 IP, 1.026 Ratio, 24.8 CYP) and teammate John Garland (12-2, 3.40, 48 K in 100.2 IP, 1.123 Ratio, 23.3 CYP) are the primary reasons why the Pale Hose on the South Side are dominating the AL. Though I suspect that our friends at THT will say Roy Halladay (11-4, 2.51, 91 K in 122.0 IP, 1.000 Ratio, 21.4 CYP) and Kenny Rogers (9-3, 2.46, 44 K in 98.7 IP, 1.338 Ratio, 15.9 CYP) are the other two main Cy Young candidates in the AL, I'd give some credit to Joe Crain (6-0, 0 saves, 0.83 ERA, 13 K in 32.2 IP, .888 Ratio, 23.2 CYP) and Cliff Politte (5-0, 1.32, 30 K in 27.1 IP, .768 Ratio, 16.1 CYP) as outstanding setup men in the bullpen.
(all stats are through Friday's games)
Saturday, June 25, 2005
The problem? They play for a team that has no TV contract to speak of, and not many people are paying attention to them.
I'm talking about Livan Hernandez (10-4, 3.01 ERA, 101 K in 104.2 IP, 1.18 Ratio) and Chad Cordero (2-1, 24 Saves, 0.97 ERA, 1.03 Ratio) of the Washington Nationals. Yeah, that's right - the Washington Nationals.
Quietly, those two have been a big reason why the Nats are three and a half games ahead of the Braves for the NL East lead. They're cruising to a 95-win season (something the franchise hasn't seen since 1979 - and the city of Washington hasn't seen since 1933).
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
The NBA has, it appears, come to an agreement with the NBPA for a new collective bargaining agreement. If reports can be believed, the age issue has apparently been dealt with by raising the eligibility age to 19, instead of 20 or 22 (as wanted by some in league circles). My only frustration is that the NBA didn't go through with their lockout. It would have been fun to see the NHL have a new CBA while the NBA went dark.
In a related story, it appears that the Dolans are tiring of the sports biz. They are looking to sell off their sports "assets" (their words, not mine) from the parent corporation, Cablevision. That would mean the Knicks, Rangers and the MSG are now for sale. The only question is, who would be stupid enough to buy the sports equivalent to the Three Stooges?
Exhibit #327 that someone at ESPN does not like Cheeseheads: when SportsCenter starts its 50 States in 50 Days "extravaganza", the last state that will be visited is Wisconsin. That's not bad enough: the site of SportsCenter's "extravaganza" won't be Lambeau Field, or Camp Randall Stadium, or Miller Park, or the Bradley Center. No, they will be here in the state to cover… the Highlander Games in West Allis? I can just see the "backwards hicks" commentary already.
And as we're on the subject of jokes, let's not forget Formula One racing. The whole fiasco at Indy over "tyres" not being able to withstand Turn One of Indy is just more proof that F1 is about as relevant to the sporting public in the US as English Premier League Football – though it's more likely that some youngster in the heartland will have a Chelsea kit than a poster of Michael Schumacher. Schumacher wouldn't last two laps in a typical Nextel Cup race, and probably would be a DNF if he tried any of the lower-level series in NASCAR or ASA. And I'm not convinced that, if he were allowed to by the gods at Ferrari, to race in the Indy 500, that he'd even make the field, let alone manage to finish the race. Heck, I think even Ms. Patrick could easily put him in her rear view mirror.
The problem with F1 is that they see themselves as travelling gods, gracing various nations of the world with their presence and ungodly expensive vehicles. Truth is, it's smoke and mirrors. They don't have any sort of real connection with their fan base, nor do they truly wish to have one. Watching F1 is like watching the royals play a game of polo at the club – or, more appropriately, watching EPL soccer.
Mike Mulhern, in the Winston Salem Journal, quoted FIA president Max Mosley in a comment that sums it up completely: "Formula One has become divorced from reality."
Card update: I bought a wax-pack box of '91 Topps Baseball Tuesday, but only managed to knock my "need" list down for that set by 18 cards. The box was shy the full 36 packs, so it was 18 cards out of 510 possible. I'm 16 cards shy of 30k total cards in my collection, and it's definitely looking like I'm going to need to get another box for my cards – mostly because the sets aren't "even" that they can be split between boxes. Between my two "big sets" (1990 Score and 1991 Topps Baseball), I have over 3,600 cards alone.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
In other unrelated news, it appears that I will actually have a contract before the NHLPA does. WSEU has apparently signed off on the remaining 10-days or so of our 2003-05 contracts, and have also agreed not to take any back pay in exchange for not having to pay for health insurance back to July '03. It is what you call in the business "a wash" of a deal. What's ironic is, I doubt that we'll actually ratify the contract before it actually expires on July 1.
Speaking of those silly people on skates, I'm a bit chagrined over the "reports" about what the CBA consists of in those bastions of media accuracy, the New York Post and Daily News. Any deal which would essentially make two-thirds to three-fourths of your membership temporarily "unemployed" can not be a good thing. I sincerely believe that this was a line of BS fed to the hockey scribes to throw them off the scent of the real thing - which would allow it to appear that the PA actually won something in the end.
I've actually done some cataloging of my sports card collections, and discovered something about my 91-92 Topps hockey set: I'm missing Jagr and Messier - two cards that are pretty much guaranteed to be high-priced in trying to build the set.
Monday, June 20, 2005
It's Cub Week in Milwaukee, and that means it's time to dump on the Cubs. Never in the history of sports (with the possible exception of the Brooklyn Dodgers) has there been a franchise that has made so much money out of being pegged as "losers" as the Cubbies. They are the baseball personification of Murphy's Law: if anything can possibly go wrong in the game of baseball, it will go wrong for the Cubs. From billy goats to the death of Kenny Hubbs, from the Brock For Broglio trade to the ground ball dribbling between Durham's legs, and Sammy's corked bats and season-ending tirades, the team from the North Side can't win for losing.
And it all begins with their ballpark. You have to wonder if there was some sort of curse placed on the grounds after the Catholic seminary that was on the site was torn down for Charles Weegham's park. It's been over 90 years, and the place is really showing its age. Chunks of cement, rusted fencing and gates, lousy facilities for both home and visiting teams – all of these indicate that it would better serve the Cubs if they just tore it down and started over.
A Chicago Tribune writer agrees with this sentiment, though he feels somewhat ashamed of this fact because the White Sox's Carl Everett also believes the park should be demolished. Personally, if the Cubs gutted the place and rebuilt it with a completely new interior, they'd be miles ahead in the long run. And if the Tribune Company really had cajones, they'd buy out the land owners on Waveland and Sheffield, and petition the city of Chicago to close off those two streets to traffic permanently to turn them into a pedestrian mall. Then, sell off the buildings as condos with luxury box seating – even better than "club seats", because you can actually live there.
Alas, the Cubs and the Trib Co. don't have the stomach for the fight that it'd take, and the only way the Cubs would end up out of Wrigley would be if or when the city condemns the place.
On a somewhat similar subject: I have never completely understood the fascination with "relic" cards – sports cards that contain, wedged inside the slabs of cardboard, a piece of a jersey, a bat or stick, a helmet or other piece of sports history. Even though I personally own about four or five of these things, I guess I don't understand the rationale for their existence. Wouldn't it be a better thing to own a complete Mantle or Maris or McGwire jersey, instead of a tiny one-inch-by-one-inch square glued in between some cardboard?
Still, these things are hot property – a 1999 Upper Deck "A Piece of History" bat and autograph card of Hank Aaron goes for up to $1,200. Even a 2005 Topps "All-Star Stitches" relic card of Albert Pujols' practice jersey before the 2004 All-Star Game in Houston is selling at $20 a pop.
Speaking of the All-Star Game: I want Brady Clark to make the All-Star team, I really do – but do you honestly think he's going to be voted in as a starter? I didn't think so. And after LaRussa brings "his" guys along – Edmonds, Pujols, Matheny, Morris – there won't be much room for any of our guys. Knowing LaRussa, he'll probably choose Carlos Lee and Doug Davis, leaving Brady to spend the break at home. A pity, actually.
On to the NHL: Everyone keeps saying, "this is the week, this is the week, this is the week" when it comes to the NHL. I personally think that the lawyers who are going over the fine print of the documents are just stringing both sides along so they can get the most amount of money out of them – and so they'll be forced to keep them on retainer. They'll get it done before Canada Day, that's pretty much for certain.
It does not surprise me that the Lauries have finally realized that owning an NHL franchise isn't as fun as it appeared to be. When team owners openly pine for an NBA franchise instead of doting heavily on the NHL team they have, you know you're in trouble. Hopefully, someone will buy the team that's actually interested in putting a product on the ice that can win some hockey games. As long, of course, as those hockey games aren't in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
All of a sudden, it looks like 2009 will be the year that New York City actually got new ballparks built. The Mets are now benefactors of the failed West Side Stadium plan, as they are slated to get a new stadium to replace the slightly-outdated Shea that will (hopefully, at least in the minds of city officials) host the 2012 Olympics. Tie that with the Yankees' plans for a new ballpark just north of their current place, and you've got a sudden influx of stadium construction in the largest city in North America. New Yorkers will find a way to complain about it to no end – no one can ever agree on anything in that city, anyways – but it looks pretty much certain that the two teams will have new homes within a decade.
The Spurs managed to pull one out of their posterior last night over the Pistons, and may be one win away from yet another title. If I were an NBA general manager, I'd just sign Robert Horry for the playoffs, since he has a knack of hitting one big shot after another in big games. Too bad that if the Spurs win their next game at home, it'll be the last NBA game for quite some time… aw, who am I kidding? I want them to get locked out, prefereably for the entire season. That way, the NHL won't have any competition once they get back on the ice.
I want to know exactly how the AHL intends to put together a schedule for 27 teams. The only thing I can think of is to divide the league up into two conferences of six divisions each, with the majority of teams (15) in the East and the rest (12) in the West. That way, scheduling won't be so nightmarish (though it'll still be hell for Manitoba). I also wonder how long it's going to take before the Coyotes sue the pants off of the Elmores for suspending the Grizzlies as a franchise.
Friday, June 17, 2005
As for other things in life:
- I'm somewhat saddened to find out that Ms. Schiavo apparently wouldn't have responded to treatment if she had been given it. I wonder if the doc doing the autopsy had his own opinion on the case - but that's another story. Now the question is: why did it take so long for her hubby to call 911?
- The new Yankee Stadium plans look interesting; not only are they going to build the ballpark just North of the old stadium, but they intend to keep the "footprint" of the old stadium as a little-league park. Having experience with that situation, I'm not entirely sure it's a good idea, but if they can maybe maintain part of the old park as a museum, it'd be okay by me.
- The proposal by Bloomberg to turn a new Mets stadium into the Olympic Stadium for 2012 is the ultimate in last-minute proposals. Either way, it looks like both New York ballclubs will be in a new park by the end of the decade. Get that Shea Stadium memorabilia now...
- 120 people. That's all the fans who decided not to "stay United" in Manchester. Now, let's see - Old Trafford seats 68,000. Ouch, that's going to hurt attendance over a 19-game home schedule (oh wait, they call them fixtures over there, sorry). [/tongue-in-cheek_mode]
- The NBA finals is now a best-of-three series. The Spurs appear to be hobbling a bit; if the Pistons win game five, I'd have to say fugeddaboudit to SA.
- That reminds me: those ads for the new Sopranos DVD geared for Father's day have to be the most ingenuous I've seen. Unfortunately, I now have the song (the theme from The Courtship of Eddie's Father) emblazoned in my brain.
- John Madden is taking his Boom! Pow! Bam! to NBC in 2006. Now to see who will be paired up with him - can NBC afford the private jet that Michaels will demand? Or will Costas take up the slack for the Peacock network? And - will anyone care?
The NHL labor talks have quieted down to a whisper - to where you're led to believe that they're on the brink of something.
Meanwhile, I'm stuck waiting on some trading cards to come to complete my 1978 and 1980 Topps baseball sets - and help finish my 1997 set, too. And, also very quietly, I managed to grab a 1956 Topps Hoyt Wilhelm - in G/VG condition - for my collection.
Now, if I could only find out what my 2005 Pacific Hockey Authentic Game-worn Jersey Dan Cloutier card is worth...
Monday, June 13, 2005
My 1978 and 1980 Topps Baseball sets now have only one missing card each - a checklist card and Lance Parrish, respectively. I'm still waiting on some singles for my 1997 Topps base set, which will put me at one card in that set as well.
The other two sets are 1982 (78 cards) and 1991(32 cards) Topps Baseball. It's somewhat unlikely that I'll complete the 1982 set, as one of the missing 78 cards happens to be Cal Ripken's rookie card (can you say $40?). I don't know about the 1991 set; I may do the online store thing to fill it in, but I'm starting to run out of card box room. I am now at 29,048 total cards, with 23,696 singles - and that doesn't include the 15 Bob Uecker 1963 Topps reprints I have sitting around. (The reprints were made to sponsor the Miller Ride For The Arts bike tour, back in 1988. They were handed out for free at Milwaukee County Stadium that summer, since Ueck was the sponsor of the event at the time.)
Thursday, June 09, 2005
I bought a wax box of '91 Topps (40th Anniversary) baseball cards - and eliminated about 80% of my need list for that season.
I'm now working on a set I never had - the 1991-92 Topps Hockey set. 510 cards, and every single one is new for me. It's also the first set that has Sharks cards - which I'm all for.
The total amount of cards is at 28,932 as of this moment. I'm psyched - even though I had to pause when I saw a Steve Chiasson card in the set.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
- I believe that the CBA, in essence if not in totality, has already been completed. The major issues and "roadblocks" that have kept the two sides apart have been dealt with, and there are only minor issues - dates, exact numbers and figures, and such - that haven't been finished.
- I believe that the reason why there's been little word out of the two parties as of late is that lawyers have been going over the completed CBA with a fine-toothed comb. They're just checking the document for legalities and wording and dotted-I's and crossed-T's.
- I believe that once this CBA goes before the Board of Governors, it will have more than the required two-thirds super-majority for approval. Bettman preached so long about "cost certainty" in a new CBA; it would look absolutely foolish on his part not to support a deal that contains it - as it is very likely it will have, from all accounts.
- I believe that the NHLPA will also ratify this agreement in short order. The scuttlebutt is that the "Get It Done" faction of the PA outnumbers the "hardliners" by a two-to-one margin, and that a majority of players are itching to get back to playing hockey.
- I honestly believe that the two sides will conduct their votes on the new CBA by the end of June, if not earlier. And once this is done, the utter chaos that will ensue from free agency signings and the draft lottery will commence.
Monday, June 06, 2005
Since the revelation of the identity of Deep Throat from the Watergate scandal, there's been a minor cottage industry in trying to determine what other big mysteries there are in the world today. Right now, the identity of our Mr. Eklund is a big one.
Based on what I've read and ascertained from the so-called Mr. Eklund, I have come to the conclusion that he is probably one of the following:
- A former GM or assistant GM. The manner in which he refers to sources on both sides of the aisle indicates familairity with both sides, and a GM would be more likely to have "ins" with both sides. However, his slant towards the players' side indicates that he might not have been a GM as much as an assistant - or, perhaps even a scout.
- A former coach or assistant coach. This would explain his rapport with players, while still having an "in" with the owners and management.
- A former player - though not neccessarily the real Pelle Eklund. He may have had some hand in the last negotiations, or he may have been familiar with the ousting of "The Eagle" back in the early 1990's. His understanding of what is happening in the negotiations seems to indicate that he knows how it's done - which means he may have been a member of the NHLPA at one time.
- A former and/or current player's agent. Some of the intricacies of the deal might be related to this aspect of his analysis of offers. It would also explain the trust by players - but wouldn't explain his contacts on the other side of the aisle.
- A former member of the hockey media. Someone who used to cover the NHL on a regular basis, but either retired or was let go a few years back. I'm not as inclined to believe this part, as his lack of use of a spell-checker is somewhat obvious. Then again, no one said you had to be able to spell to cover hockey (other than getting the word "Kovalchuk" right).
- A combination of any or even all of the above. It's entirely possible that he started as a player, then drifted into coaching and GM-ship, maybe tried his hand as an agent and then in the media. That, however, would really limit the number of possible people he could be - to either Barry Melrose or Darren Pang.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Today, June 4, is the fourth anniversary of the dissolution of the International Hockey League.
With a simple press release, league president Douglas Moss announced the IHL was ceasing operations.
And, with that, over 50 years of hockey went down the drain.
The worst part, of course, is that a certain team that I know and love never got the chance to win the trophy named for Joseph Turner, the Detroit area native who lost his life in the European theater in WWII.
The best part? Every single season since, an original-IHL team has won the AHL Calder Cup.
Of course, the Woofs are doing their best to try to reverse this trend, but that's another story.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
- I've seen the Paris Hilton Hardee's (Carl's Jr. for those of you out west) ad online. I'm not impressed. Then again, I've never quite understood why people are fond of this lady. And her "sex tape" wasn't that impressive, either.
- The talk is still that the "other" Paris is the front-runner for the 2012 Olympics, with London a close second. New York is considered a long-shot without the stadium deal. I've heard the reasons why New York wouldn't be a good choice - but I'm still not sure it'd be a good idea to put the games in Paris.
- The ball just doesn't carry well at Petco Field. This much we've discovered in this series against the Pads. But you put a lot of extra base hits together, and you can do a lot of damage.
- I have checked out the Danica Patrick photos from FHM. She is definitely babe-age. And a brunette.
- NHL CBA watch: the reports of a deal coming down immediately are apparently greatly exaggerated. They're close, by all accounts, but there are pieces that could be contentious. This could be done tomorrow, or a week from now. I'm thinking more a week from now, though that June 15 date could be something to remember.
- Note to Rudy G: stick to politics. The "International Hockey Association" wouldn't work. Especially if you decide not to put a team Nashville.