On a hot, humid, summer day during the 2014 U.S. Open, the seventh seeded woman in the tournament, Eugenie Bouchard, lost to the 17th seed, Ekaterina Makarova. During the match Bouchard needed medical attention, and the comments made by the TV commentators infuriated me.
Implied in what was being said is that it wasn't right for the match to be delayed so that Bouchard could receive medical attention. Physical endurance, dealing with the heat, is part of the game they said, if Bouchard can't deal with it, she should default. It's unfair to Makarova they implied. By the tone of what was being said, one could be confused of whether you are watching a tennis match or a marathon.
These comments and their tone, coming from former U.S. male and female tennis players, strikes me as snobery. The commentators were essentially saying, "in our day we would never stop play for medical attention." And, they walked to school in six feet of snow, up hill.
It seems the commentators are not aware of what has been going on in professional sports and health. After too many deaths, near deaths, brain damage, and law suits, professional football, hockey, and baseball are now, finally, very sensitive to concussions.
Ten years ago, a player might have "got their bell rung," shook it off, and were sent right back in to the game by their coach. Back then, taking care of your health was a sign of weakness. No doubt many of the professional athletes of that time look at the precautions taken today with bewilderment, wondering what has happened to their sport.
Concussions is not a problem with tennis, but there is this thing called heat stroke. Heat stroke is a medical emergency, and like concussions it can lead to brain damage.
Note to retired athletes, just because you played through the pain, got your bell rung, kept playing when you saw four balls coming at you or thought you were going to pass out, doesn't mean it was right. Reality is, we know more about the impact of concussions, heat stroke, and other medical issues today than we did 10, 20, and 30 years ago.
Just because those injuries were not taken seriously then doesn't mean they should not be taken seriously today. Athletes are not weaker because they are concerned about their health, they are smarter. Smart enough to know, hopefully, that a professional athletic career is much shorter than a life span.
Note to retired professional tennis players. The game being played today is faster, more athletic, and more physically demanding than it was when you played. Most of you could not compete with the players today, even when you were at your prime. Consequently, comparing how the game was played 10 or 20 years ago with the game today is ridiculous. Further, if you think the players today are some how less of a player because they get medical attention during a match, you are simply being a snob.
Was Makarova in an unfair disadvantage because the match was delayed six minutes? Were any of John McEnroe's opponents in an unfair disadvantage when he went off on an umpire for several minutes during a match?
Truth is delays have been a part of professional tennis for a long time. Just as you may think physical endurance is part of the game, so is mental strength. The ability to deal with bad calls, tempermental opponents, and medical issues both your own and of your opponents, is part of the game.
It was clear to me watching the match that despite the treatment she received, Bouchard was physically hurting. What was expected of Makarova in this case, as Chris Evert or Martina Navratilova would have done, is keep hitting balls back to Bouchard until she made a mistake. In the end Makarova won the match, overcoming both the mental and physical challenges she encountered, in other words, she did just as her predecessors would also have done, back in the day.
P.S. Just as the game today is much more physical than ever before, ticket prices to watch professionals play tennis is much more expensive today than 10 and 20 years ago. For the high price they pay, fans expect tennis players to win through competition and not due to default. The sport owes the fans the right to see a full match and should do everything they can to try and make that happen, while protecting the player's health.
Normally there would be little of interest in watching games played by a last place baseball team in the final month of the season, however this year's Chicago Cubs are an exception to the norm. Right now the Chicago Cubs are the most interesting last place team in professional sports.
The reason why is all of the young talent brought up from the Cubs' farm system to play on the major league team for the final two months of the season. True, their 16-15 record in August is not the stuff of a divisional champion, but every game comes with the possibility of seeing a Jorge Soler or Javier Baez home run. Rookie pitcher Kyle Hendricks has a 5-1 record with a 1.91 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. Arismendy Alcantara is settling in nicely in center. Starlin Castro is having a nice, bounce back season, and Anthony Rizzo is amongst the league leaders in home runs.
What is obvious to anyone watching is that the Cubs have had talent in their farm system, what is needed now is time for that talent to gain experience. Six more players will be called up later this week when the minor league season comes to an end.
It is now time to speculate about who will be on the major league team next year, including which free agents the Cubs may sign in the off season. In order for all the talent to come to together to form a winning team, there will need to be some veteran pitching.
The Cubs will have money to spend on free agents during the off season, so they could sign Lester or Scherzer, but will they? I think it is going to depend on whether Theo Epstein thinks the Cubs have a chance to be in the playoffs next year.
While the Cubs will have much more talent next year, they will not have much experience, and therefore I think it will be a surprise if they lead their division. A wild card spot, however, may be possible.
I think the most likely scenario is that Epstein signs some mid-level, low priced free agents during the off season. He will wait to see how the young players do during the season and if they are in the hunt near the signing deadline then the Cubs will be buyers.
Either way, I am excited to watch the Cubs play this month and see how the prospects perform. I am looking forward to the off season to see who the Cubs sign and I am really looking forward to next year and the possibility that the Cubs will be in the top tier of their division.
Today marks the end of the 2014 waiver-free trade period and as the final hours wound down we saw several major leaguers move to new teams. In what might be perceived as the biggest trade of the day, the Detroit Tigers acquired David Price from Tampa Bay as part of a three-way deal that sends Tiger centerfielder Austin Jackson to Seattle, Tiger pitcher Drew Smyly and prospect Willy Adames to Tampa and Seattle's Nick Franklin to Tampa.
I think there are two ways to look at Price coming to Detroit. While most consider Detroit's starting rotation one of the best in baseball, it hasn't performed well, and up until now the Oakland A's had made all the major pitching aquisitions in a clear attempt of overcoming their Tiger hump in the playoffs. Detroit had to answer Oakland.
Second, Price provides Detroit with leverage and protection for their upcoming negotiations with Max Scherzer, who will become a free agent at the end of the year. The Tigers were unable to sign Scherzer before this season began and he may be wanting more money than the Tigers are willing to pay. If Scherzer leaves they will still be able to secure Price for at least one more season.
Price may be the best pitcher in the American League right now, so most will say he is worth getting at almost any price. The Tigers are giving up what has been one of their hottest bats in the lineup the last month with Jackson moving on, and the Tigers lineup has had extended slumps this season, so the last thing they needed was losing a bat. On the other hand, Rajai Davis will get more playing time and his speed adds another dimension to the lineup.
What the Tigers so far have not done is add another left handed bat. It appears that the Tigers are banking on Andy Dirks coming back from his back injury by the end of the year to possibly add some balance and they sorely need Alex Avila to pick it up at the plate.
Tiger fans have to be thrilled at seeing management go out again and get a big name player late in the season. However, there is also a little trepidation because there seems to be a bit of bad luck for pitchers after joining the Tigers.
Most thought Dave Dombrowski succeeded at shoring up the bullpen buy aquiring Joe Nathan, who at the time was considered the best closer available. Nathan has been far below expectations this season.
A few weeks ago Dombrowski also aquired Joakim Soria from the Rangers to further improve the bullepen, and most thought that too was a good trade but Soria has been bombed in each of his Tiger outings.
Two months remain for Nathan and Soria and left handers Phil Coke and Ian Krol to improve before they are really needed in the playoffs. Relief pitching cost the Tigers a trip to the World Series last year, and this year's bullpen is shaping up to be the same despite the Tiger's best efforts. Dombrowski has done all that he can to help the Tigers succeed in the playoffs, now it is on the players to perform.
As a life long Chicago Cubs fan, I feel a profound sense of wonderment at the fact that my college years were bracketed by two of the best seasons for the Cubs during my life time. The 1984 season will always stand out most because it was so unexpected. Years and years of disappointment led me like so many other Cub fans to wonder whether they will ever win their division, let alone make it to the World Series.
It probably took until 1986 - two years, before I recovered from the stinging loss to the Padres. One freaking win is all they needed to make it to the Series after having won the first two games at home of what was then a five game NLCS. Back then there were only two divisions, one series to win before the World Series.
The fact that I now live in Detroit, where 1984 is fondly remembered as the last time the Tigers won the World Series does not help. For me, beyond 1984 being the year I graduated from high school, started college, and the Cubs won their division, I will always, always have nightmares of that ball going through Leon Durham's legs and Steve f'ing Garvey crushing home runs to help the Padres to sweep the Cubs at home.
My recovery from that bitter disappointment began in 1986 when the Cubs called up who I consider to be the best major league pitcher in my lifetime, Greg Maddux. His first two seasons were unremarkable, losing records and high ERAs in both, but in 1988 Maddux won 18 games and began a streak of 17 straight seasons of winning 15 or more games, the only pitcher in history to do so.
I graduated from Michigan Tech in 1989, and later in the fall of that year I moved to Southfield, MI, started my job with EDS (beginning my nearly 25 year career in IT), and watched the Cubs make it to the NLCS again, thanks in part to Greg Maddux. The 1989 team was not as dominant as the '84 team so it was not surprising that the Cubs only won one game of the seven game NLCS that year.
In 1992 Maddux won his first of four consecutive Cy Young awards, again the first pitcher in MLB with this achievement. Even more remarkable, during that four year streak Maddux had a 1.98 ERA, and allowed less than one run per inning.
1992 is also the absolute worst of mine as a Chicago Cubs fan as at the end of that season my favorite team lost the best pitcher of my lifetime to free agency. Maddux took his first Cy Young trophy to Atlanta and became the foundation for what many consider the best pitching staff in MLB during the 90s.
The fact that the Chicago Cubs, who is in one of the largest baseball markets in the country, could not put together the money to keep the best pitcher in baseball is astounding. It ruined the Cubs for nearly a decade, and highlighted the fact that the owners of the Cubs were simply not committed to winning.
It is not surprising that the best pitcher in baseball of my lifetime has been elected to the MLB Hall of Fame the first year he was on the ballot. I also see a major irony that he goes in to the hall during this season (2014) when baseball seems befuddled by the number of pitchers on the DL with Tommy John surgeries.
To say that baseball has changed in the last 20 years is a huge understatement. The grand old game now has instant replay! Amongst the changes is that baseball has become enchanted by the guy who can throw the ball 95 MPH or faster.
In my opinion, the move towards stocking a pitching staff with only pitchers who can throw the ball that fast is a product of short term, win now at all costs, thinking. Maddux, who was the best pitcher in baseball for nearly two decades, had a fastball in the low 90s. Would a MLB general manager of today consider Maddux to be their ace?
Greg Maddux is the best pitcher in my lifetime and is going in the Hall of Fame during an era when Major League Baseball is all about throwers. No where do I see this more plainly than with the Detroit Tigers. Why is it that Justin Verlander is struggling? Might it be that throwers can only throw the ball 95+ MPH for one or two seasons and then they are done?
It may be that one of the reasons for the shift to the "win now at all costs" mentality in MLB is the Atlanta Braves of the 90s, the same team anchored by Greg Maddux. Baseball looks back at those seasons and sees the Braves as a model of consistency, winning their division year after year, but only winning the World Series once.
Over looked, it seems, is the fact that you have to make it to the playoffs in order to have a chance to win a World Series. Clearly, your chances of winning the Series improve the more chances you have to play in it. Winning the Series provides a huge payout, but multiple series provides a larger payout. More importantly, consistently winning instills a culture of excellence and as a long suffering Cubs fan, I crave that culture almost as much as I crave the Cubs winning the World Series.
Congratulations Greg Maddux on your induction to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. I fear that they don't make pitchers like you any more. Thank you for your seasons with the Cubs. Thank you for being a fantastic pitcher, and a tremendous baseball player. When I think of a major league pitcher, I think of Greg Maddux.
The last two nights have been slow because there as been no baseball, but that all changes tonight as the major leaguers get back to action after the four day All Star game break. For the most part season standings are where one would expect, with the Detroit Tigers holding a 6.5 game lead in the AL Central and the Chicago Cubs 12 games out of first and in last place in the NL Central.
As for my fantasy baseball team, it has been more Chicago Cubs than Detroit Tigers for me this year. I am sporting a 3-10-1 record, good for last in my league. I've struggled to get a good outing from my entire team each week. One week my hitting is good but my pitching sucks, the next the pitching is good and hitting sucks.
Injuries have not helped me. At one point I've had as many as four key players on the DL at one time. Mark Trumbo just came off the DL before the break and is yet to be in form, and Joe Mauer has taken his place.
Josh Hamilton and Jay Bruce have also had considerable time on the DL, and that combined with the fact that Mauer and JJ Hardy are having down years has not helped my batting.
Pitching has been a real disappointment. Yu Darvish was expected to contend for a Cy Young this year, but that is not panning out. Anibal Sanchez has his usual low ERA and WHIP but has not got run support and therefore lost a lot of games early in the season. Kyle Lohse has been my most reliable pitcher, with 9 wins, a 3.26 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.
I've lost some close scores during the first half, so its possible things could turn around for me, but at this point if my team made it to .500 that would be an accomplishment. My goal is to not finish in last place.
The American League has won the AllStar game, and Tiger players Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer contributed to the win. Cabrera hit a two run home run and Scherzer was the winning pitcher for the AL.
My mileage may vary!
This version of Sports Beat is rendered by frankmcpherson.net.
Ok, that successfully rendered over to my AWS site. I seem to have this all working, if I could only get the domain naming to work like smallpict.com I would be a happy camper.
I've moved the hosting of changes to Sports Beat to githug pages. Let's see how this works!
Still not rendering as expected.
As we know, Major League Baseball is the last of the major professional sports to fully use instant replay to review in-game rulings. Prior to this year, MLB only used replay if there was a dispute over whether there was a home run, now, most "non-judgement" calls are reviewable. Team managers get one challenge per game, with the right to earn another if successful on the first challenge. In the final three innings of the game umpires can decide to use replay at any time.
It seems to me that the frequency at which calls are overturned by replay is an indicator of the quality of officiating in the sport. Yesterday I watched the majority of two games, in one game two calls were overturned, both in plays at the plate. In another game one call was overturned. For all instances the call was obviously bad, and in my opinion highlight a problem in the positioning of umpires.
The calls at first base are particularly troubling. First base umpires usually move themselves towards second base in an attempt to see the ball coming into the first baseman at the same time that runner's foot touches the bases. I think a frequent problem occurs at first because runners are taught to touch the right corner of the base and continue running through, while the first basement's foot and legs are often at the second base side or in the middle of the base. In short, I think the umpire's view of the runner's foot is often blocked during the play and they have essentially been guessing that the ball beats the player's foot.
While most people have accepted the use of instant replay to help officiate sporting events, we still expect the officials to get the calls right in the first place. Ultimately, all sports that use replay need to use it as a tool to improve on-field officiating. If it turns out that the automated means does a better job, than officials on the field, it wouldn't be much more of a step to replace on-field officials with the automated solutions.
MLB and the Player's Union have announced that they have increased the penalties for players who are caught using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) during the season. A player who is caught during a season will not be eligible to for the playoffs during that season. The length of the penalties have increased, from 50 games to 80 games for the first offence, from 100 to 162 for the second (essentially an entire season). A third offence remains a life time ban. Players suspended for a season will lose their pay for that season.
I've written in the past about how I think the penalties for being caught with PEDs are not significant enough, particularly to the teams and their owners. The problems of PEDs is a problem that ought to be shared amongst all parts of baseball, and I think ownership has to be held accountable too.
Detroit is a great sports town, and therefore a great place to live if you are a sports fan. Right now we have both nearby mens college basketball teams, the University of Michigan and Michigan State, playing in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA mens tournament tonight, the Detroit Red Wings are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive, and while the Detroit Pistons are a mess, we are eagerly waiting for Monday and the home opener for the Detroit Tigers.
Yesterday the rumors begin flying that the Tigers has signed an extension with the best player in baseball, Miguel Cabrera and this morning the 10 year, $292 million deal was announced, keeping Cabrera in Detroit for the remainder of his career. Most of the core of the Tigers, which includes Cabrera, Justin Verlander, is set to be in Detroit for a while, all that remains is to sign Max Scherzer.
Tonight Michigan plays 11th seed Tennessee for the right to move on and play the winner of Kentucky and Louisville, and Michigan State plays the top seed in the east, the University of Virginia. If the two schools win, they will join Wisconsin as the big ten teams in the Elite Eight.
The possibility exists for Michigan and Michigan State to play each other for the NCAA championship,while Michigan could play Wisconsin in the final four, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The Red Wings might be the most intriguing story in Detroit sports at the moment. Because of the rash of injuries, they are barely staying in the playoff hunt thanks to the majority of minor league players they have called up from the Grand Rapids Griffons. The Griffons won the Calder Cup last year, and it is obvious why given how many of those players are not only surviving, but thriving in the NHL at the moment.
Last night's loss to the Canadiens doesn't help, but right now the Wings are still in it. The Red Wings are the underdog right now, and we all love to root for the underdog.
The second day of the NCAA men's basketball tournament was much less friendly to me than the first. The most significant loss for me was Duke losing to Mercer, and almost as bad was VCU losing to SF Austin, both were upset losses. The East has been my best bracket, for which I picked each winner for the first two days. I took loses in the West, but all of my sweet sixteen picks are alive.
At least I don't feel bad not entering the "Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge" as there are no longer any perfect brackets available, proving it was a pretty safe bet for Warren Buffet.
That crashing sound you just heard? It was the sound of a good chunk of my brackets because Duke lost. Ouch! It also looks like Nebraska is going to lose to Baylor, so that will mean I am 0-2 today on my picks, which is not good after such a great start yesterday.
I had a great time yesterday watching the opening games of the NCAA men's basketball national championship tournament. Of the 16 games that were played yesterday, I correctly predicted 13. While I did not predict Dayton to beat Ohio State, I immensely enjoyed watching that game.
I predicted that Harvard would beat Cincinnati, but that was my only "upset" to pan out. My other upset prediction was BYU over Oregon and that didn't happen, and like most, I didn't expect North Dakota State to eat Oklahoma.
I am looking for no upsets today, the only non-top seed I expect to win is Oklahoma State over Gonzaga, but a 9 seed beating an 8 seed is not really an upset.
I've completed my first brackets for the NCAA men's basketball tournament. In it my final four is Florida vs. Michigan State; Arizona vs. Louisville. I've got Arizona beating Florida in the finals.
I am counting on Michigan State living up to the pre-season predictions that had them #1 before the injuries came and they started losing games. MSU pretty much dominated throughout the Big Ten tournament, and I don't know who matches up well against Payne and Dawson. Factor in Izzo's experience come tournament time, and there is every reason to expect them to go deep in the tournament.
If my brackets work out, MSU will beat both the #1 and the #2 seeds in the East region.
I've got Michigan making it to the sweet 16 where they will lose to Duke. I have Wisconsin in the elite eight, where they lose to Arizona. I have Nebraska upsetting Baylor in the first round, then losing to Creighton. Ohio State is going to lose in the second game this coming weekend to Syracuse.
Ok, the Big Ten championship has started. Will Sparty prevail?
18:24 Big sequence here, MSU has picked up three fouls on the Wolverines early in the first half. Payne makes two free throws, 2-3 Michigan very early.
Michigan has really good transition defense. MSU got many points on run outs against Wisconsin, so far Michigan is getting back well. And once MSU gets in their offense, Michigan is playing good D too.
11:51 MSU is picking up the defense to take a 16-9 lead. They have been on a 12-0 run. I expected the Wolverines to have difficulty handing the pressure of the moment, and so far it's showing.
6:59 MSU is dominating on the glass, and currently +9 on rebounds. Lots of one and done for Michigan.
4:39 So far State's defense and rebounding has been the real difference in this game. Shooting seems to be pretty much even. At one point yesterday State was shooting 71% from the floor, they aren't shooting that well right now, but are still making a good percentage of their shots.
3:36 Horford has just picked up his third foul. Foul trouble could be a problem for Michigan in the second half. I imagine Horford will be sitting for the rest of the first half.
Half time, 38-29 Michigan State. A few unproductive possessions by Michigan State allowed Michigan to creep closer at the end of the half, however State finished with a emphatic dunk by Garry Harris.
The second half has started.
Michigan States starts the second half with a 6-0 run, forcing Beilein to call a time out at the 17 minute mark of the second half. It looks to me like MSU's size is a real factor in this game. It also looks like Michigan is not handling the pressure of the moment very well. Stauskas seems to be the only person provide offense, the Wolverines need scoring from other sources and they need to get more rebounds.
Michigan is on verge of losing a #1 seed in the tournament.
Greg Anthony is trying to keep viewers watching, telling us that Michigan can still get back in this game. Not going to happen unless State let's them back in. State has to keep the intensity.. remember this game is about revenge!
10:30 52-40 Michigan State. Sparty's game unless they stop playing defense and start taking poor shots.
Stauskas has no points in the second half, even with Harris sitting out most of the half.
2:40, 62-50 MSU. Michigan is pressing, but it's not affecting State.
Indianapolis has been very nice to Michigan State this year, with the football team winning the Big Ten championship there in the fall to go to the Rose Bowl.
Michigan State is the 2014 Big Ten Men's Basketball tournament champions with a 69-55 victory over Michigan. I don't know whether this victory makes up for losing the two games during the regular season.
Nobody is going to want Michigan State in their bracket for the tournament. They could have the best front line in college basketball. If they stay healthy, they easily can be in the final four.
Michigan State looked great yesterday in beating Wisconsin, while Michigan had more difficulty against Ohio State. Michigan has won both of the regular season games with Michigan State, but in both instances State was playing without some key players.
State really doesn't have any pressure in this game, I don't think they are going to significantly help or hurt their NCAA tournament seeding; this game is pure revenge for Sparty. Michigan could be playing for a top seed and has the pressure of expectation as the regular season Big Ten champ. For all these reasons, I expect Sparty to be victorious at the end of the day.
Michigan was lucky to get past Illinois 64-63 in their Big Ten tournament game. Illinois' Tracy Abrams missed a shot in the paint with 2 seconds left that would have given the Illini the win over the Wolverines.
The Wolverines seemed to take charge of the game early in the second half, but Illinois began fighting back and took the lead with 4:40 left to play in the game. Michigan took possession after an Illinois score with about 14 seconds left and worked the ball to Jordan Morgan, who scored from deep within the paint with 7.9 seconds left.
Michigan plays the winner of this afternoon's game between Nebraska and Ohio State in the next round of the Big Ten tournament tomorrow.
Am I the only one to think the scheduling of the Big Ten men's basketball championship is odd? Why would you schedule the top team in your conference to play at noon on a Friday, instead of scheduling them to play in prime time?
I would completely reverse the schedule for today's games. While I know that Michigan State has received most of the national attention over the years, I think that because of the injuries, they are not likely to go far in the NCAA tournament. If it were me, I would want the #4 vs #5 seed match up to be in the evening as that would appear to be a good game, followed by the top seed Michigan in prime time.
Hope. Hope is the emotion that all Chicago Cub fans feel every March as the Cubs begin spring training in Mesa, Arizona. Spring training 2014 also marks the grand opening of the Cub's new spring training facility, for now known as Cubs Park. Naming rights for the new park will be sold to someone, so the name will likely be different next year.
Because it has been ridiculously cold this winter, right now, as I watch the game being played on sun drenched green grass, envy is what I am really feeling. Right now I want to be sitting in that ball park, in my shorts, worrying about whether I have enough sun tan lotion on.
It's freezing in Detroit, but baseball fans are feeling warm because the Detroit Tigers have opened their spring training season. It's the top of the 7th inning, and the Tigers are beating Atlanta 4-3.
Are you wondering about the quote above? Listen hear to one of the greatest voices to ever call a baseball game.
We may be still buried in snow in Michigan, but spring is surely just around the corner because spring training has begun. The Cub's first spring training game is this Thursday! This is the best time of the year for Chicago Cubs fans. Now I have to figure out how to get the MLB At Bat app on my new Samsung TV.