Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

Archive for August, 2010

A tale of two pitchers

Posted by bdowd625 on August 31, 2010

Words can’t even begin to express how deliriously happy I am right now, and, miraculously, it’s because of something the Red Sox did. Boston traded reliever Manny Delcarmen to the Colorado Rockies earlier today, bringing an end to a six-year reign of terror in the bullpen. On the surface, Delcarmen’s story is one you can get behind. He’s originally from Hyde Park, a hometown kid playing out his baseball dreams down the street at Fenway Park. But before I start to sound too much like Bill Reynolds of The Providence Journal, I’ll snap you back to reality. Delcarmen was AWFUL with the Sox. I can remember maybe one span – one! – during his time in Boston where I felt confident when he came into a game. For the majority of his time here, though, it’s been a bunch of 90-mph fastballs right down the dick that ended up getting swatted into the bleachers. Good riddance, Manny. I can’t wait to see how far those gopher balls travel in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.

At the opposite end of the spectrum we have Pedro Martinez. Martinez did an interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub tonight, bringing back fond memories of his ridiculously dominant run as a member of the Red Sox. Chances are we’ll never see anyone else like Pedro again and, honestly, I’m OK with that. In his prime, there was no one better. I’ll forever be thankful for what he and his teammates did in 2004 to end an 86-year World Series drought. Pedro genuinely enjoyed pitching in Boston and watching him was something I won’t soon forget.


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Crying Colts are at it again

Posted by Bill Koch on August 30, 2010

Much like the rest of the world, we here at Ramble On are stunned to find Peyton Manning and the rest of the Indianapolis Colts crying about NFL rule changes this morning in Peter King’s weekly Monday Morning Quarterback piece for si.com.

And if you think we’re not being completely sarcastic in that first sentence, you clearly don’t know us very well.

Manning, Colts GM Bill Polian and the rest of the holier-than-thou boys from the Midwest are crying foul over what happened Thursday night during IndiaNoPlace’s preseason game with Green Bay. They’re all whining to King about the pair of false start – snap infringement penalties that the Colts were whistled for, part of the enforcement of new NFL rules that go into effect this fall.

When you watch NFL games this season, you’ll notice that there are now two officials in the offensive backfield. One of them, the referee (in the white hat), has always been there. The other official, the umpire, used to risk his life on a weekly basis while operating behind the defensive line. Umpires have been run over, stuck in the center of collisions, used as picks by wide receivers and tight ends cutting across the middle and used as shields by running backs that break through the line and try to avoid linebackers and safeties.

It was a truly dangerous job – King reports that in the approximately 100 collisions last year, umpires sustained three concussions and two required shoulder and knee surgeries. The game is simply too fast and the players are too big to have someone in the middle of the carnage that ensues when the ball is snapped. Those guys become targets who are too often hit.

Manning, Polian and the Colts don’t care about that at all. They’re worried that the full effect of their hurry-up offense is about to be weakened due to the fact that the umpire must be behind the quarterback before the ball is snapped. Umpires used to spot the ball on the line of scrimmage and retreat toward the defensive side. Now, they’ll be spotting the ball and rushing to get behind a quarterback who is usually in the shotgun formation about seven yards from the line of scrimmage.

Yes, this is going to cost Indy a few seconds. That’s a big deal in the National Football League. We won’t dispute that at all. We know that the New England Patriots will be hurt by this at some point while driving for a late field goal or touchdown at the end of a half or game. The one thing we don’t hear out of Foxboro, however, is crying and screaming over the rules. The Patriots will adjust accordingly and move on with their lives.

The Colts have been getting away with this for years. The league practically rewrote the rulebook while Polian was on the competition committee. The changes under his reign of terror mandated strong enforcement of the 5-yard illegal contact zone and made pass interference calls noose-tight, rendering defensive backs helpless and leading to the pass-happy era that we currently see every Sunday. It’s no coincidence that these changes coincided with Manning’s arrival in Indy, the Colts’ decision to use 10 of the 15 first round picks they had from 1994-2009 on offensive players (Marshall Faulk Marvin Harrison, Tarik Glenn, Manning, Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Anthony Gonzalez and Donald Brown) and Indy’s rise from doormat to contender. Polian’s scheme to give offenses ridiculous advantages over defenses like those crafted by The Evil Bill Belichick has worked. Polian’s crusade hit full-throttle after the Patriots’ defensive backs beat up Harrison, Wayne and the rest of the Charmin-soft Colts receivers in a series of embarrassing playoff losses by the Colts while New England’s dynasty was in full swing.

Why change philosophy? Why adapt your drafting and developing of players to try to beat your opponents when you can just change the rules? That’s clearly what Polian did and it’s what he and Manning are trying to do all over again by using King as their personal PR crusader. We wish they would STFU and realize how much change they’ve rammed down the throats of the other 31 teams already. Apparently they don’t really care about another human’s well-being as long as they can get their way, win the first 14 games of the regular season, tank games to the Jets and Bills and lose the Super Bowl because of yet another Manning choke job in a big game.

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Time to stick a fork in the Red Sox

Posted by Bill Koch on August 30, 2010

This will be the last Boston Red Sox post that you’ll see on Ramble On from me this year.

I make that decision today because the season is now officially over. Boston’s 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday night dropped the Red Sox 6.5 games behind the Rays and the New York Yankees with just 31 to play, an insurmountable deficit when you’re looking at two teams of that caliber. Those guys aren’t the New York Mets. They’re not choking after rolling through their first 130 games a full 30 over the .500 mark.

The true shame is that Boston didn’t have to lose two out of three games at The Trop Dump this weekend. The Red Sox could have won all three. They were there for the taking. We already told you how we think Boston fumbled away Saturday’s game. Sunday brought more embarrassment, only this time it came on a national stage for all to see.

— Fate dictated that John Lackey would start this game. The most disappointing member of the 2010 Red Sox was the only fitting man to preside over their funeral, and he did it in typical Lackey fashion. He blew a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning and had his declining stuff exposed yet again when Carl Crawford hit a two-run homer that was on its way toward the Gulf of Mexico before it slammed into the right field bleachers. Lackey was left out there to rot like fish in the blazing sunshine in the seventh before leaking another run, sealing Boston’s doom for the night and the season.

— We thought that the Little League World Series game was over before Boston battled Tampa. Apparently, the Red Sox are operating under the Williamsport guidelines that everybody on the team has to play. Starting Yamaico Navarro at second base instead of Jed Lowrie was an asinine decision. Yes, Navarro drove in a run with a single, but he also struck out twice against James Shields and had no business being in a game of this magnitude with Lowrie having hit safely in 11 of his last 14. If Lowrie isn’t healthy enough to play three or four days straight, release him and get someone who can get the job done. We already saw what happened last year when Rocco Baldelli and his mitochondrial disease/HIV virus/ebola-type symptoms ate up one of Boston’s slots on the 25-man roster for six months.

— This Manager was at his worst in this series when the Red Sox needed good decisions the most. His blundering continued into Sunday when he penciled Navarro into the lineup, stayed with Lackey way too long and failed to make the correct pitching changes yet again. Lackey should never have been allowed to start the seventh inning after giving up the lead in the sixth. Replacing him with Hideki Okajima to face Carlos Pena was just fine – lefty-lefty is a very good idea against Pena, a strikeout machine – but leaving Okajima in to face Evan Longoria was like turning Ron Jeremy loose on a house full of nymphomaniacs. Boston was lucky that Longoria only lined a single to center field. Most of us were expecting a three-run homer that would have busted the game wide open. And stop before you insist that Okajima was left in so that he could face another lefthanded hitter. Felix Doubront could have come out of the bullpen to replicate the lefty-lefty matchup one more time and keep it a one-run deficit. It’s decisions like these that have dropped the This Manager and the Red Sox to 7-22 in games against the Rays decided by two runs or less since 2008. Two of those games this weekend are the reasons why we won’t see you again until the offseason.

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This Manager strikes (out) again

Posted by Bill Koch on August 29, 2010

If you watched the Boston Red Sox last night, you now understand why I’ve never been a fan of This Manager.

He was up to his usual tricks as Tampa Bay pulled out a 3-2 win against the Red Sox in 10 innings at The Trop Dump. Dan Johnson’s solo homer off Scott Atchison to lead off the bottom of the 10th ensured that Boston wouldn’t sweep the three-game series and put the Red Sox right back where they started the weekend – 5.5 games behind the Rays and staring at fading postseason hopes.

This Manager made poor decisions with his pitching staff yet again, and yet again he’ll go unquestioned by the lemmings in Pink Hat Nation because of his past success. Leaving Clay Buchholz out there to rot into the eighth inning, limiting Daniel Bard to just the ninth and putting Atchison in the game in a key spot were acts of lunacy.

Let’s start with Buchholz, who entered the eighth with his gas tank just about on ‘E’. Boston had just taken a 2-1 lead thanks to a solo homer by Victor Martinez, his third bomb in two games of the Red Sox biggest series of the season. Everything was set up perfectly to use Bard in the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth, giving both pitchers a clean start to his respective inning. Instead, Buchholz was trotted back out there after seven strong to give it up to B.J. Upton.

This Manager didn’t stop there. He brought Bard in for the ninth in a 2-2 game and the electric righthander set down the side on 10 pitches. If there was ever a position that screamed for Bard to work another inning, this was it. Instead, Atchison was summoned from the bullpen to pitch the 10th and the predictable ending played itself out. Maybe This Manager didn’t want to overwork Bard, and that’s his own fault as well. If he didn’t appear in half of Boston’s games through the first 100 the organization might be a little more lenient about putting some extra miles on his golden arm. It’s a cumulative effect that people don’t usually remember, and that’s why we’re pointing it out here.

Last night’s game sheds some pretty bright light on why This Manager is just 7-21 against his counterpart, Tampa manager Joe Maddon, in games decided by two runs or less since 2008. It’s yet another example of why This Manager isn’t the God among men that so many people in Pink Hat Nation think he is. Decisions like these are why This Manager is so hated in Philadelphia after guiding the Phillies to four straight sub-.500 seasons before being fired and why he’s so lucky that the Red Sox front office handed him a Rolls Royce team in 2004 and 2007. He can’t be expected to make the difference in big games thanks to his own decision-making ability. You’ll all be watching the postseason on television this year in New York, Tampa, Texas and Minnesota while the Boston market remains silent, and you don’t need to look back any further than Saturday night to find out why.

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Posted by bdowd625 on August 27, 2010

ESPN is reporting at this hour that Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg has a torn ligament in his right elbow and will most likely need Tommy John surgery. Yikes. Is this what it’s like to be a Nationals fan? Just a constant stream of bullshit? I feel for you people. The second you have someone to cheer for you get hammered with this bad news. That sucks.

If I were Bryce Harper right now, I’d go hide in my closet. You’re not escaping from this whole thing unscathed, Bryce. You don a Nationals jersey and you begin down a path of inexplicable bad luck. It’s science.

The good news for Strasburg – if you can even call it that – is that this surgery will most likely make his velocity go through the roof. Tommy John’s typically tightens the ligaments in the elbow to the point where players gain a little giddyup on their fastballs. So where does that leave Strasburg? Right around 118 MPH. That’s video game-type stuff right there, folks.

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Sad times for Strasburg, baseball

Posted by Bill Koch on August 27, 2010

We woke up to some sad baseball news today, and for once it has nothing to do with some off-field scandal that threatens to stain the game’s integrity.

No, this has to do with the game’s immediate future. One of its brightest young stars, Stephen Strasburg, now faces an uncertain professional future after a second MRI revealed a torn ulnar-collateral ligament in his right (throwing) arm. Yes, that means what you think it means – Dr. James Andrews is currently being paged and Strasburg will require Tommy John surgery.

My man BDowd and I were both pitchers during our playing days, so we couldn’t do anything but sit and be stunned every time Strasburg took the mound. His blazing fastball, clocked at 98-101 miles-per-hour, coupled with his filthy array of offspeed pitches paralyzed the best hitters in the world. At times Strasburg looked like an overgrown kid mowing down the Little Leaguers in Williamsport, and you almost had to pinch yourself to remember that it’s not supposed to be that easy. Now it looks like we’re going to have to wait 12-18 months to see Strasburg again, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll ever be the same. Baseball is worse off today because of that.

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Sending some love to Love in Stockholm

Posted by Bill Koch on August 26, 2010

We promise pop culture here at Ramble On, and today we’re going to deliver some that is both relevant and can make you a little too cool for school.

Think back and try to remember how it feels to be the first person to know something. How good is it when one of your friends confides in you? How cool do you feel when your friends are talking about something and you already know all the facts? Come on, admit it – we all love it. That’s just human nature.

Pop culture provides daily opportunities to be the famous Saturday Night Live One-Upper. We’re about to hand you one on a platter while we take the next few graphs to talk about one of our favorite bands.

The first time we caught Love in Stockholm’s act was in December. It was some grungy Irish bar in Cranston, RI (to be fair, right in our strike zone), and these guys lit it up. Their searing blend of jazz, funk, soul and a little taste of pop caught our attention right away. It felt like it must have the first time someone saw Dave Matthews Band at Trax or the first time someone caught moe. or O.A.R. at some dive when they were first starting out. We were hooked immediately, and we think you all should check these guys out.

Imagine Maroon 5’s Adam Levine – if he could actually sing. That’s Love in Stockholm frontman Charlie Rockwell. Any band worth its salt needs someone dynamic leading the way, and Rockwell has ‘it.’ ‘It’ isn’t something tangible. ‘It’ isn’t something that can be taught. ‘It’ just happens, and this man has ‘it’ covered from start to finish the way he prowls the stage and commands attention. His range is unlimited and his ability to connect with a room, whether it’s four people, 40 people or 400 people, demands attention.

Rockwell is backed by a robust rhythm section, led by drummer Jesse Humphrey and bassist Alex Staley, and features plenty of power from its horns and keyboards in Dave Carroll and Evan Sanders. Brendie McBrien holds it down on guitar. These are the type of guys who will hang with you before the show, blow your mind during the show and have a beer with you after the show (Narragansett, PBR or something along those lines – these guys don’t do high maintenance).

We’ve seen them play big venues and small venues, to big crowds and friends and family only. We saw no difference between the intensity, tightness and professionalism of the shows, a tribute to how solid and focused these guys are. They don’t seem to ever have a bad night. You likely won’t either if you head out to catch their show when they come to your town.

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Random YouTube Video of the Day: Antoine Dodson represents

Posted by bdowd625 on August 25, 2010

I’m always pretty late to the party when it comes to these viral videos, and this post is no exception. I was told about this clip by one of my co-workers today, so I decided to check it out. IT DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. There must be something in the water in Alabama because between these people and those leprechaun stalkers/crackheads, shit is just outta control down there. I’m thinking we should just annex the entire state out into the Atlantic Ocean to avoid further incidents like this one.

The only redeeming quality about Alabama is that it’s home to Forrest Gump, a movie, I might add, that I just watched for the very first time last night. I may or may not live under a rock.

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Furyk feels the PGA’s wrath

Posted by Bill Koch on August 25, 2010

Our man BDowd overslept his alarm this morning and rolled into the office at The Real Job a little later than usual.

Seems like a simple enough statement, doesn’t it? Well, if BDowd was Jim Furyk and our office was a golf course, he’d be fired for the week.

Furyk was disqualified from The Barclays because he showed up late for the Wednesday pro-am. He claimed (lamely) that his cell phone battery died and his alarm never went off, causing him to miss the scheduled 7:30 a.m. shotgun start at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. Furyk arrived at 7:35 and looked generally disheveled, exactly like you would expect a guy to look after he overslept – no socks, no belt, untied shoes, etc. Tournament officials and the PGA showed the veteran Ryder Cup participant and consistently solid tour professional no mercy and whacked him for the weekend’s FedEx Cup opener, a decision that could prove costly. Furyk entered the PGA’s joke of a season-ending playoff system at No. 3 in the FedEx Cup standings.

You can guess where we’re going with this here at Ramble On – we think it’s ridiculous. Who could blame Furyk for a having a couple of pops at the tournament gala in Manhattan on a Tuesday night, staying in bed a little later than usual and celebrating the fact that he significantly overachieved when he married his lovely wife, Tabitha? Who wouldn’t try to avoid the small talk with the Wall Street thieves who were set to make up the rest of his foursome? It’s not like Furyk was pulling a Tiger Woods and chasing Holly Sampson around all hopped up on Ambien and PEDs.

P.S. – (Sorry to out you my man, but we’re sharing life experiences here at Ramble On. It’s part of what makes us so damn loveable.)

P.P.S. — This was the freakin’ PRO-AM!! We all know how Allen Iverson would feel about oversleeping the pro-am…

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