Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Baseball Awards 2012

Here is something that I still don't understand about baseball and the way that they reward their regular season awards. You would think that they would have some sort of showcase or at least a small tv or online special that they could champion the faces of baseball and also grab a little coverage for the sport during the off season  At the very least it would or could add some decent publicity and programming time to the MLB Network or one of the many other sports specific networks. NBC sports has a new channel, CBS Sports has a new channel, obviously there is Fox Sports and the mothership ESPN.

Another point that shows that they are throwing away an opportunity to help promote the game of baseball and keep the sport in the front of mind when they are in the off season  I understand that holding off announcing the winners 2 weeks after the end of the World Series helps do that but announcing 1 a day for 3 or 4 days does a disservice, plus it is annoying and more likely to be lost on the casual fan. These are major awards for your sport why would you not want to celebrate the best of the best in your game? You play 162 regular season games and these guys are the faces of your sport, promote them, promote the game.

The Gold Glove awards were announced yesterday and there were a few interesting choices and also a few of what you will expect.There were 9 first time award winners. It is nice to see that the voters seemed to make an effort to get a correct list and not just give it to the same guys every year just to be lazy. It was also  good to see Braves right fielder Jason Heyward grab a Gold Glove. For a full list click HERE


One interesting point that I noticed was the fact that the Orioles managed to have 3 players get the nod. A good achievement for sure in sheer volume but what sticks out isn't even the players that won but the positions that they played. The Orioles were a surprise team this year in the AL East and qualified for the Wild Card Play-In Game and it is clear that defense played a role in them getting there. People always say that pitching and defense win championships, those same people also say that you want to be a team that is strong up the middle. If that is true then the Baltimore team followed that blueprint. The 3 Gold Glove winners were Catcher Matt Wieters, Shortstop J.J. Hardy, and Center Fielder Adam 'Don't call me Pac-Man' Jones. That is solid D in all field general positions and probably why they were as good as the team as they were. It was a bit surprising that Mike Trout did not get the nod as he is one of the games most exciting defenders and it is not easy to stand out as a defender. That could be the first of a couple of snubs to Trout. He will be assured the rookie of the year but may fall short on the MVP front. Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown season may have slipped past Trout's achievements. 

It would be interesting to see what the results would be had MVP voting came after the post season. I am sure some votes would be changed. Poor batting in the World Series in combination with his less then warm demeanor may have changed the vote by some of the writers. I think the feel good rookie story would have been rewarded more for that reason, plus, Trout seems to be a more approachable guy. Popularity always plays a part whenever anyone is in a position to vote for anything.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Top Canadian Female Sportscasters

Still waiting for baseball to figure out who will make the playoffs and see how the new Wild Card system will work. No pro hockey of yet and no sign that we will be seeing it anytime soon. I figured that this would be a good time to give a look and a look back at some of the faces that you may see feeding you the scores, the highlights and the video and the audio of whatever sports or teams that you follow here in Canada. I did a list back in 2009 and you will see some familiar names on that one that are still on the list today and some that have been bumped. It is becoming more regular that you can find a  female anchor on a sports show and that is good. It helps that most that are on air are good at what they do and cover sports and present them well. Here is what Canada is bringing to this party.

Because this is a Canadian list there is a small sample size to pick from. It seems that it is much easier to find good pictures of their American counterparts. Partly because the number of woman with big time duties on TV in the USA have gone up, but the skill level is better then ever. In addition, the limited number of national sports channels limits the scope of this list. The one good thing is that for the most part the 10 is a very solid top 10 so that says something for the quality of the depth.

This is a very subjective list as there is no specific criteria for the ranking system. I am factoring in their physical appearance. Superficial, absolutely, but they are on TV, a visual medium so that counts for a lot. Also there is little worse then a badly called sports highlight (And...Boom goes the Dynamite) so ability carries some hefty weight as well.

And right off the bat we have a tie for 10th -  I didn't want to have to do this but I could not justify leaving either of these ladies off. So without further Ado, let's do this thing.

10 Sophia Jurksztowski - The Score
Although I have only seen her set up a Live update She makes the list if not strictly for good work but I dig the cool name.

10 Alyonka Larionov - TSN
Alyonka is only on every now and again for special coverage and very less important features. She is not a regular and is probably not as polished and will not be seen on the 11pm SportsCenter anytime soon. The Daughter of former KLM line member and Red Wing Igor Larionov may not be at the level of an anchor person but it would be wrong to not allow her onto this list.

9 Sara Orlesky - TSN
Sara is not on the desk very often and is more a sideline-field reporter. She does a good job and is very knowledgeable. She has fallen back after being on the podium in my original list but that is mainly due to he not being as front and center and not getting as much face time.

8 Laura Diakun - The Score
I like her work on the updates. She too has a cool name. Seems to know her sports well and of course fits the other criteria that allows her to excel on TV as opposed to radio. Pretty much everything on her profile on The Score website impresses me as well. I too agree that even though Jim Thome is a sure bet Hall of Famer he is still under rated and he was the first baseball player to send back an autographed card that I sent him

7 Holly Horton - TSN
I still concider Holly as the dark horse in my list. When she had just started, she very raw and her ability was questionable. Over time she have become a first rate anchor, her delivery and knowledge is top notch and she managed to get more attractive which is a nice bonus.

6 Martine Gaillard - SportsNet
Martine has fall on the list pretty much for 1 reason. Haven`t seen her on TV in a long time. When on camera she is top of the class but when MIA she has to expect to be knocked down a peg. She was great at the Score oh so many years ago and did a good job on SportsNet even when the failed loosey goosey hip approach they tried on Connected. Get he back on the anchor desk and she will be promptly promoted. Knows her sports and seems to be a legit fan of sport.

5 Jennifer Hedger - TSN
Jennifer was off for a bit so that didn`t help her. She is still top of the class and her too, like Martine can move up given more airtime and given the freedom to flex her sports knowledge and delivery doing highlights and news.

4 Natasha Staniszewski- TSN
Natasha is the newbie but had cracked the top 5 earlier then I would have thought. She is a very beautiful lady but also does a good job calling whatever sports highlights she is given. She seems to be getting more airtime and that is only helping her case for this type of rating. I am a big fan of her work.

3 Evanka Osmak- SportsNet
Evanka has come a long way from her start and has become a solid sportscaster in her own right. She has dropped a bit but it was nothing that she did. It just came down to a numbers game and she was forced out. Still there is no shame with a podium finish. Bronze is nothing to shake a stick at.

2 Renee Paquette- The Score
This was a tough one as her body of work is still a little raw but natural ability has vaulted her into a silver medal. The work she does on Aftermath is the main reason she is as high as she is on this list. Renee is very attractive and like I said on a superficial list like this counts for a lot but the fact that she brings legitimate interest and knowledge to such things as WWE wrestling gives some major bonus points. It is one thing to be hot, another to be hot and like sports but to do both and add to that an interest in wrestling...rare and impressive. Renee is now doing Score Live and does a good job, especially when forced to work with that Cam Stewart guy ( I am not a fan, kinda wish he was still just on the radio that I did not get and has since stopped broadcasting). For that, even more bonus points are awarded. I am sure ones Rogers takes over she will continue to see good on camera roles.
UPDATE: Renee is leaving the Score and is joining the WWE - Still not going to change the list, she earned the silver and there she stands, With that said she will be missed and I am thinking that I will not be watching Aftermath too often anymore.

1  Kate Beirness - TSN
The true underdog story, and I kind of surprised myself when I was ranking each on the list. At first glance I would not have had Kate this high but the more I thought of it the higher up the rankings she went. Perhaps more of a Mary-Ann type (Gilligan`s Island reference for those who may have missed it) but pulls it off admirably. A very attractive looking lady but the real reason that she is where she is is her on air ability. That put her over the top. She does a great job on the anchor desk and is pretty entertaining as well. A great combination and worthy of the crown.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Playoff Baseball Creates Real 'Legends Of The Fall'

Well, Reggie Jackson is not playing in any of these baseball games but that isn't stopping a bunch of ballplayers from trying to steal his appointment as Mr. October. Sure he was the first and it is unlikely that anyone will try to steal that name but a bunch of players are already making bids to at least get into that conversation.

Just like a lot of the big sports, it seems like the best part of the playoffs are the first few rounds. There are more teams involved, more games a day and for some reason the way the games are played seem far different then that of a regular season game.

The pendants will tell you that the playoffs are a whole new beast and the games changes. This seems to be even more true in baseball. Watch a game in early May and compare that to the feeling you have when watching a game in September the feeling is night and day. It is no longer about an inning that can change a game, not a hit or a stolen base but there are many time in a game that you can feel the momentum shift on a single pitch. There are many people who find baseball to be a slow game but it is probably one of the most cerebral sports that require exceptional athletic ability. A high fastball inside may be a ball and to the casual observer a bad pitch, but that one "bad pitch" may be the difference when setting up a hitter for your 'out pitch' by changing his eye level or his timing. That one little thing seems to hold more weight on how a situation ends and by extension helps decide a games outcome.

It is a weird feeling when watching a game and knowing that even the appearance of a blowout gives no real guarantee that the game is over. A quick run in one inning can change the tides and momentum can shift and just like that a game that is all but over and a team left for dead gets its second wind slowly manages to get up off the mat and begin to chip away at a deficit and claw their way all the way back.

The St. Louis Cardinals did that in the NL Divisional Series vs the Washington Nationals and for those who got to see it was treated to one heck of a ballgame. The Giants of San Francisco did it in another clawing back not in just a ballgame but in a series and erasing a 2-0 deficit and managing to win the next 3 on the road to take out the Central Division Champs Cincinnati Reds. The American League was not outdone and supplied their own level of exciting games. Both series went to 5 games and both were compelling from start to finish.

If the League Championship Series are near as impressive and exciting as those that have already been played baseball fans will be treated to some great ballgames and hopefully bring in some of the casual fans that may be looking for something to fill the void that the Locked Out NHL has made and the time in-between NFL games. It is sure worth the effort. Enjoy the post season and everything that comes with it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Out Of Sight - Out Of Mind

The puck is supposed to drop but all the buildings in the NHL are dark, empty and cavernous. There are no sounds of sharp skates cutting through a fresh sheet of glass-like ice, no chimes of a rubber puck hitting a goal post making the sound of metal on metal, and no taps of sticks clapping together as they battle along the boards.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. That is not always the case and when that absence is in reference to professional sports the issue is even more magnified.

The NHL owners have locked out its players and now it has become a showdown between Billionaires and Millionaires and how to divide up Billions in revenue. Seems like it should not be a difficult thing to do. They are not trying to change a system or make any crazy changes to the existing system it is just terminology and what pool of money should be included in the percentage breakdown. It is frustrating for the players but probably even more so for the fans who are the real victims who not only do not have a true voice and are the ones that truly suffer. It is always the most difficult on the children when mommy and daddy fight.

The thing that is the most interesting, on a personal level is the lack of interest that is felt. With the NFL in full swing, NCAA football and Baseball playoffs currently throwing 4 games in a day, missing hockey is far down the list of interest.  Even when baseball winds down after the World Series there is always junior hockey . With Landsdown Park is under construction and the 67's playing at Scotiabank Place for the next few seasons we can go to the OHL games and if need be since it is an NHL venue, pretend that it is an NHL game.

It is a little surprising that, as an NHL fan that the impact and possibility of a lost season is not having the same impact as it did during the last work stoppage. This is probably not a good thing. If a longtime hardcore fan is showing disinterest how is the NHL going to overcome the same feelings from casual or less passionate fans? This is a very dangerous game of cat and mouse they are playing. The less that people are caring as this whole things plays out the less that are likely to come back when they finally come to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. When all is said and done this is still a gate driven league and does not have huge TV deals like the other big sports. If people are luke warm when play resumes, ticket sales could drop and the few teams that are propping up the MANY struggling US teams may not have as much to share. If that happens it stands to reason that the struggling teams will spiral even further down and require even that much more help. If the pie gets smaller the allocation to the teams and players gets smaller teams could be in jeopardy and if that happens the number of players jobs would also fall and that would be a major blow to the League. Just remember baseball is America's Pastime and it was devastated by their lost time in 1994 and it took a long time to bounce back. The NHL got lucky their last lost season and fans came back in record numbers, even growing in some markets. It is playing with fire that the same will hold true again this time around.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Wild Card May Be Too Wild

I am more of an old school traditional baseball fan. I like the National League over the American. I would rather pitcher to have to hit and if you are going to have a DH then the batting order should be 10 batters if it needs to be in the game.If you have a DH it should be for older players who can't play every day in the field but are still good hitters not people who are are just bad with a glove.

Bob Costas had a good idea about the wild card. And this is more or less his idea. I may have tweaked some details but the jist is the same and I agree with the concept.

Instead of having a one game play in playoff game, shorten the season two say 158 games.  Have the two wild card teams play and best two of three series vs. each other.  This is baseball not football or the NCAA tournament.  After playing in 162 games it should not come down to a one and done.  The wild card team with the best record should host a series. Like in the case of the Atlanta Braves who are far ahead of the next wild card team they deserve to get an advantage. Due to the fact the second wild card team would have just been able to sneak in they deserve to be at a disadvantage.  The winner of that series should have to go and immediately play in that league divisional series.  The structure for this should be as follows: 3 home games for the division winner in the beginning and the last two at the wild card winners park. That way there's the potential for the last wild card team to not play a home game it in nearly a week.

The way the wild card system is set up right now it is almost giving the advantage to the wild card team.  For the most part those teams are already in playoff that would just try to make the postseason.  The division leaders are winners have usually wrapped up the title and with more than a week to play in the season.  At that in the games are more or less meaningless and players are sat and rested.  The wild card teams have to be playing the best baseball just to make the playoffs, therefore, they're more likely to be honor roll.  If you're gonna play at 162 game season it is unfair and unwise to penalize a team for being good for that duration of time and rewarded team for scratching or backing their way into the postseason.

There been a lot of wild card team since its inception who've gone on to win the World Series.  Team should not be rewarded after such a long season for being hot at the right time.  Teams that have been consistent over the long haul deserve to be given an advantage.  Wild card teams will have to use their best pitchers and early and may not be able throw their ace out in the first game of the a division normally championship series.  Does that put them at a disadvantage?  Yes it does.  And it is deserving.  Does that allowed the division winner to set up their rotation better?  Yes it does.  And that is something they have earned.

A one and end system is almost as ridiculous as having the winner of the All-Star game decided who is going to be the home to the World Series... Especially this year when the MVP of the game and the game itself  was won by a player on a walk off who is now under suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. The team with the best record should be rewarded for having the best record and with that home field advantage,why else play 162 games? Why do you think they call it home field advantage and not home field dis-advantage.

I get why people like the wild card begins 14 to chance to make the playoffs the keys teams in contention longer and therefore fans are more interested and continue to watch September baseball.  That if there's a chance to team could make the postseason you are gonna watch, you're going to be invested, more people will deliver the Parks and more people watch on TV.  Ticket sales and ratings speak volumes.  The integrity of the game should not be jeopardized for business reasons.  That is also the reason why game should start regardless of what is best for TV.  There should not be drying gaps in between series.  If this series is it able to start immediately it should start immediately.  If the National League series is ready to go before the American league series is finished so be it. Team should not have to sit around into a cold because they're too good.  If one teams sweeps and the other league goes up and games why does the team that wins have to sit around?  Better teams need to be rewarded from beginning to end and not penalized.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Retirement Tour Has At Least 1 More Date

Tonight marks the last regular season game for one of the best third baseman the game has ever seen. At PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Chipper Jones will throw on the Atlanta Braves uniform for the last time after a Hall of Fame career.

At the beginning of the season Chipper announced that this was going to be his last season playing, no matter what. He stated that it was time for him to move on and do something else and that although the mind was still sharp and that he still had a passion for the game the same could not be said about the body. For anyone who does not know Chipper has had to fight through numerous injuries throughout the years most being related to his legs and knee. In 1994 he missed the entire season after tearing up his knee resulting in surgery. As he got older the injuries became more frequent. When in the lineup he almost always produced (as seen by his notorious assault on the New York Mets over the years and his 1999 NL MVP award).

As the year went on his numbers, when in the lineup were stellar and it seemed that when he was in the game they won more often then not. Obviously people would ask are you sure you are done after this year, you are having a great year? Every time that was asked the answer was the same, I'm sure. He said from the beginning that he has already made spring break plans and summer vacation plans with his kids and that was not going to change. To his credit he has stuck to that and in a strictly selfish way I wish this time he would have been lying to fans and that he could give is one more season. He clearly still has the passion and the skill but I guess when the body is ready to tap out there isn't much you can do about it. 162 game seasons is a grind for any player, especially one over the age of 40.

The one benefit Chipper had about announcing his retirement was that he gave, not only himself but the fans in all the cities a heads up that this was it and that he was about to embark on what I suppose could be considered the Chipper Jones Farewell Tour. Not since Cal Ripkin Jr.'s final season has baseball seen a player been so widely acknowledged by every team in every city that he has gone to. Being a Brave was all Chipper has been and now all other ball clubs have had pregame ceremonies to congratulate his on his career and most have given his some sort of "gold watch retirement gift". That is saying a lot when teams that you have never played for, only fought against on the field show you that much respect for your body of work.  Here is a partial list of Items that teams have given Chipper on his last tour into their cities:

Braves Pennant (Cubs)
Stan Musial Jersey (Cardinals)
Third Base (Reds, Yankees, Pirates)
Bat, Base & Photo (Nationals)
Fishing Gear (Marlins)
Artwork (Mets)
Painting (Phillies)
The #10 (Red Sox)
Pool Table & Hawaiian Vacation (Braves)
Cowboy Hat (Astros)
Hunting Bow Camera (Todd Helton)
Surfboard (Padres)
Year's Supply of Sausages (Brewers)

There are probably even more but just those alone show just what an impact Chipper has had on the game of baseball and just how respected he was and is. The State of Georgia had awarded September 28 “Chipper Jones Day.” and a Georgia farmer even made a giant "Chipper Jones Corn Maze" in his honour.
The Braves made the playoffs as the first Wild Card team so that extends Jones' career by at least 1 game and ensures that he will be going out an a somewhat high note and getting back to a place that he and the Braves are so familiar with - Post Season Baseball.

I am sure to have another blog after the Braves are eliminated (or are victorious) to give a final salute to Chipper and his outstanding career.