Monday, August 17, 2009

Tiger Tiger Woods y'all

Did Tiger Woods choke on Sunday? I know it is a question I never thought I'd ask myself. Woods has proven to be the best finisher in golf, if not all sports. He is constantly, with good reason, lauded for his mental focus and toughness and his mind, as much as his physical tools, is credited for his victories. But on Sunday, he lost the lead. He had a two stroke lead and finished three strokes down. Does this constitute a choke job? I say yes.
As much as YE Yang played well, he did not play well enough to take the victory from Tiger. If Tiger shoots just even par, they go to a playoff. Give Yang credit. He took advantage of the opportunity. But he did not go out there, play lights out, and rip the title away from Woods. Woods bogeyed 17 and 18, making what should have been a pressure-packed situation for Yang into a less tense moment.
Woods led from the beginning of the tournament. Day 1, 2 and 3 all say his name atop the leader board. I believe he was at least tied for the lead 67 out of the 72 holes. Make no mistake. This was his tournament to win, or lose. He lost.
But it is a choke job for another reason. It was Tiger Woods. A choke job is when you fail to meet the standards that are set. With Woods, be it right or wrong, the standards are higher. If Yang had played poorly on Sunday, people would have said he folded under pressure, but he is the 110th ranked golfer, so we shouldn't expect any better. But Woods, the best golfer of a generation, if not all time, has higher expectations from both the fans and of himself. He clearly did not play as well as he is capable of. He clearly choked.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Vikings pre-season

Normally, I am not a big NFL training camp guy. I find our obsession with football to me more annoying than anything else. I would prefer that the main sports story of the day be the Twins' actual game, then a Vikings' practice, but whatever. This year, though, I find myself slightly more interested in the Vikings. I'm not sure if it is because of the failed Favre saga, or the fact the Twins are in a mighty struggle, but Vikings Training camp has me mildly interested.
I really think it is because I feel like the Vikings have a chance to be good this year. They return many key parts from last year and appear to me to be a solid quarterback away from being a really good team. Adrian Peterson is absolutely amazing. Percy Harvin could be fantasic. Bernard Berrian led the league in yards per catch last year. They have weapons on offense, and still have two of the better O-lineman in the league (Steven Hutchinson and Bryant McKinnie). Really, the only thing the offense is missing is a quarterback.
However, I'm confident whoever wins the QB job will be fine. Tavaris Jackson has shown at times he can be a player, and he should continue to get better. And Sage Rosenfels is a veteran, who should be able to manage a game decently. The Vikings do not need a pro-bowl quarterback. They need somebody to complete 55-60% of his passes, minimize mistakes, and hand the ball to Peterson and Chester Taylor. It isn't that hard. I think a more seasoned Jackson, or a acclimated Rosenfals, could fill the roll.
The Vikings defense remains solid, with the Williams Wall and Jared Allen on the D-line. I read the defense doesn't have any starting position battles, which speaks to the experience and ability of the players. They are a good enough defense to carry the team in a couple of games, but not all year long.
The Minnesota Vikings are just an intriguing team this year, in part because Favre isn't here. They would have been more interesting with him, yes, but without him, their only big question mark is the most important position on the team, where a so far ineffective young quarterback and a veteran second-stringer fight for the starting spot.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Twins post-trade

Well, the Twins did it. They made a trade-dealine move, akin to the days of yore. If you remember correctly, the Twins in the early part of the decade were active at the trade deadline. By my recollection, they made moves for Rick Reed, Todd Jones and Shannon Stewart within four years, if not three straight. The only trade that had a huge impact, was Stewart. Reed was decent for a year or two, not spectacular, and Jones was kind of a bust, if memory serves me.
So what will the Cabrera trade do for the Twins? I'm not sure, but I'm willing to bet he will not light a fire under the team like Stewart did for a glorious two month stretch.
This weekend showed by hesitation for the Twins to make a move like this. They have multiple weaknesses, that adding one move isn't going to make a difference. Cabrera had a good weekend for the Twins - 3 for 8 with a homer and a walk. We really can't ask for much more. Yet, we were blown out badly in these games.
Thankfully, the Twins didn't give up a whole lot for him. A mid to decent level prospect, while receiving some cash as well, all and all it didn't cost them much.
And in the grand scheme of things, this move probably needed to happen to squash public clamoring and in-house pleading to make a move. If this trade helps keep Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, etc... in a Twins uniform, it was great.
But make no mistake. This move makes the Twins marginally better at best, and did not address their biggest need - pitching. Besides, Cabrera takes away at bats from Brendan Harris, who has shown to be the most professional hitter out of the Harris, Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla trifecta of mediocrity. Harris has shown his best defense, and consequently his best offense, when he plays shortstop. Now, you force him to play out of position at 2nd or 3rd.
The player the Twins should have traded for was Freddie Sanchez of Pittsburgh. He is an all-star second baseman, and former NL batting champion. Plus, he plays second base (our biggest need on the infield) and used to play third, where he could play next year when Crede leaves. Yes, the asking price for Sanchez was much higher. Reports were either the Twins AAA third baseman, who is penciled in to start 3rd next year, of their top outfield prospect. To me, I saw either would have been fine. You need to give up something to get something. Right now, you have no holes in your outfield. In fact, you have too many outfielders. And if you trade your third baseman of the future, Sanchez can play third. And with the new ballpark, the theorized new revenue could be used to keep Sanchez for anther couple of years. But I am a huge fan of trading prospects for a known quantity. You can't do it all the time, but sometimes you need to. It is quite possible neither of the two players the Pirates asked for will be as good a player is Sanchez, the former batting champion and all star.
But we should be happy the Twins made a move. At least it is a step, albeit more a ceremonial one, but a step none the less the try and improve the team. Now if only we could get ...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Twins Trade outlook

For those of you who love the Minnesota Twins as much as I do, it has been a painful year. They are a maddening team - showing flashes of brilliance, followed by stretches of incompetence. And, if you are even more like me, you hope that every year the Twins will make a trade that will help push them over the edge and either make the playoffs, or make a run in the playoffs.
But this, I have a different frame of mind. Think about this, all you devoted Twins fans. Are Twins even good enough where one trade would make a difference? The Twins have more than one hole right now. They need bullpen help, infield help at numerous positions (three, if in fact Joe Crede is seriously hurt) and their starting pitching has been very shaky. They are not a mere trade away, but rather two or three moves away from being a very good team. Now I want them to win as much as the next guy, and want these areas of weakness to be addressed. But can they all be addressed in the middle of the season? Some of this should have been done in previous years and the front office failed to step up. But that means they should not exaserbate the problem by trying a mid-season trade where they will probably over-pay for a player anyway. Nobody likes to give up on a season. Surely, I do not. But at some point in time, you've got to cut bait. The Twins have been entirely too inconsistent this year for me to believe they are one move away from being a good team. Yes, the Twins should continue to explore ways to make their team better. Trading for a player who is signed for more than this season would be a good move. But unless they can find a good reliever (which every contender is looking for) a solid right-handed bat, a quality middle infielder and a consistent starting pitcher, there is no need to trade for one of them. You only marginally make your team better and you risk losing assets to retool your team over the winter to make a run next year. And folks, next year is incredibly important. It is the new stadium, as well as Joe Mauer's final year under his current contract. The fans are going to look for an increase in payroll and are going to expect more from this team.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The British Open

One putt for history. A simple 10 inches of movement of the putter and the record would be his. As he stepped up to swing his putter for a shot that would forever immortalize him, Tom Watson was surrounded by fans, well-wishers and people cheering him on, yet he probably never felt so alone.
When I think of sports, I tend to think of a team, and often times forget an individual. Maybe it's because I have played more teams sports than individual sports. I don't know what the reason, buy sports is cinanomous with team to me.
But when I saw Watson come to the tee box on the 18th green on Sunday afternoon, I can only imagine what was going through his mind. This wasn't a team game. He didn't have anybody to rely on or to blame but himself.
And with his putt for par and a place in the record books, Tom Watson stroked the ball like he was terrified of the moment. Tom Watson, with his magnitude of experience, his tens of victories, his eight majors, and his five British Open titles, fell the pressure and hit a week putt.
Maybe he was thinking too much about his previous put that he sailed well past the whole. Maybe he was thinking about the history. I don't know. But I do know if you look at Stuart Cink's birdie putt on 18 and Tom Watson's par putt on 18, you can see a stark contrast in confidence.
This got me thinking a little bit. If a guy like Tom Watson can be unnerved, that has to be just about the most difficult thing an individual can do in sports - make a clutch put.
Often times in sports, when the game is on the line, there is more than one individual who affects the outcome. It's either a teammate, a defender, maybe a referee, somebody. But not in this case. It was only Tom Watson. Nobody else.
And unlike other sports, this didn't happen in the flow of the game. There was no lead up to it where you are just playing and letting your instincts take over. He sat there for minutes with nothing else to do but think about his putt. This is the ultimate icing of the kicker.
I can't think of another situation like this. In football, a game winning field goal takes more than just the kicker. In baseball, even in the ninth inning, there is a pitcher and batter.
The closest thing I can think of is in basketball, if time is expired, a tie game, and you have one free throw to win. But that isn't exactly the same, because a free throw is the same distance no matter what court your on. It is something you've done hundreds of thousands of times before. A golfer never sees the exact same put twice.
Maybe in a field event at the Olympics. You have one throw left of the discus to win gold medal. I don't know, it still seems different to me.
So yes, Tom Watson should have one the British Open. He was 187 yards from the pin in the middle of the fairway and needed a par to win. He choked. But can you really blame him?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fenway Park

Today I am able to cross off an item on my life's to-do list, if I indeed had a list. I took in a game at Fenway Park. The Sox lost 6-0, but that is hardly the point. Rarely do I actually remember who won or lost the game, but rather I remember the experience surrounding the game. I couldn't tell you who won or lost a single game on my baseball roadtrip a few years back, but I could tell you where our tickets were for every game and that we waited out a rain delay in Wrigley and I almost caught a foul ball at Kaufman Stadium. So the Sox losing last night takes some fun out of the game, but not the overall experience. Sure, I didn't get to high-five a stranger, or spill my drink on the person in front of me when I jumped up for the winning home run, but the atmosphere and the aura of the parm remain unblemished.
My Fenway experience began about 4:30, when I got in line for tickets. I waited with a few hundred people to buy the tickets the Sox save for two hours before game time. After purchasing your ticket, mine was $50 for lower-level behind homeplate, you're immediately ushered into the stadium in order to persever the integrity of the tickets, i.e. scalpers can't buy day of tickets just to sell them. So I get into Fenway about an 1:20 before the first pitch and the place was crowded. The Sox game isn't merely a game, but rather an evening out. And hardly anybody is sitting in their seats yet, but rather everybody is is in one of the concourses eating a hot dog or a sausage of some kind, and drinking beer. Every 10-15 feet is another sausage/beer stand. Pure awesomeness. The stadium and the concourses are an interesting mix. Fenway is nearly a century old, but the concourses are new. The concrete floor is cracked and anything but smooth and the stadium shows all 100 years of its existence, but the concourses are modern and very fan friendly. The best concourse is Yawkey way, though. They block off the entire street a couple hours before the game so fans can spend time outside. Of course, you can buy beer and sausages outside, as well as listen to live music. Souvenir shops line the adjacent building and TV sets are abound in order to watch the pre-game, or if you need a smoke break during the game.
So we finally got to our seats. Now I don't think any ballpark has incredibly comfortable seats, but these aren't even close. You sit with your knees in your chest, while bumping the row in front of you, and it is impossible to avoid rubbing shoulders/elbows with the people next to you and a pole obstructs part of the viewing, but what do you want from an old stadium? People were smaller when it was built didn't have nearly the comforts we are used to.
The stadium was packed for a Monday night game against the anemic Oakland Athletics. But it's the Red Sox and they have sold out more than 500 consecutive games. But the fact that almost every ticket holder there was what was amazing. And the excitement throughout the stadium, from the moment I walked in until the last pitch, was incredible. They love their Red Sox (now that they're winning). As I found out during the starting line-ups, the game carried a little more significance than orginally thought - Nomar was returning. It would be his first time back in Fenway since he was traded in 2004. He received a warm applause when his name was announced in the starting line-up, but nothing compared to the standing ovation he received in his first plate appearance. He led off the second inning, and the Red Sox Nation standed and applauded him for a couple of minutes. It was a truly incredible experience. Here is this visiting player, who hasn't been on the team in five years, was traded away because he wasn't getting the job done, and never led them to a World Series, receiving an incredible amount of love from the fans. He nearly broke down in tears. I stood and applauded, not because I care about Nomar or have appreciation for what he did, but because you could the fans were saying "Thank You" and it was a moving experience that you couldn't just sit idly by and watch.
Nomar grounded out and the game continued. The A's jumped out to a 5-0 lead so we decided to wonder around Fenway more and see all the stadium. We explored all of the bad angles and strange viewing positions of the stadium. And we stumbled into a bar. Up above in right field, the have the Right Field Roof, complete with a full-scale bar, with stools and TVs and the whole works. Why watch the game live when you can sit at a bar right? Well, you have the option still in Fenway. Unbelievable.
We then made our way back to our seats, at which point the crowd was feeling the maximum beer affect (the 7th inning) and I saw the wave go around the entire stadium at least 4 times. Now that was impressive. The fans were finally starting to come alive, even though the Sox weren't in the game.
We got back to our seats for the 8th inning, enough time to sing Sweet Caroline in the largest Karoake spectacle I've been a part of. We stayed until the end of the game, even though it was clear the Red Sox had no answer for the A's starting pitcher, who completed the shutout, only giving up two hits. I later found it was the first time a rookie shutout the Sox at Fenway since 1989. We walked back to the car, and my Fenway experience was complete.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I know I am late coming into the game, but since the saga doesn't seem to be going anywhere, I figure I might as well weigh in on the Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings.
First, if Brett Favre wants to play, who are we to tell him no. All this talk of tarnishing legacies for aging superstars is ridiculous. Michael Jordan went through the same thing, or George Foreman, or any athlete who has stuck around well past their prime. If an athlete wants to keep competing and somebody is willing to pay for their services, great. Go ahead and do it. It isn't my legacy that is possibly being tarnished, so really, why doesn't it matter to me. If anything, I should be glad that I get to see an all-time great play another year, even if he isn't at is peak.
The story of will he or won't he get's old, yes. That is true. However, that isn't necessarily Favre's (or any other athlete's) fault. They aren't the ones putting it front and center on Sportscenter, or in the paper every day. That is the media responding to what people want to read about. Don't blame the subject of the story. Blame our insationable appetite for football or for celebrity news.
So if Favre wants to play, let him play. It does't affect any of us in our day-to-day lives.
With that being said, I think the Vikings should sign him if he wants to play. Is he as good as he was five years ago? No. But is he better than any of the other quarterbacks on the Vikings? Probably. I'm not sure, but I do know that he isn't worse. The worse thing that could happen if Favre comes to the Vikings is they become a pass first team, and make Favre the center piece of the offense instead of Adrian Peterson. I don't think it'll happen, but it is a concern. When you look at Favre's best years, it was when he had a solid running back and wasn't asked to be the entire offense. Well, that is the situation he would have in Minnesota. The Vikings already have a lot of pieces, they are just missing a quarterback. An aging Favre can provide them with the needed balance on offense they have been lacking. He won't be throwing into double coverage very often because the opposing defense can't double team because of Peterson. Favre can do well here, if healthy.
So Favre probably makes the team better, but even if he doesn't, he is still worth a signing. With him on the team, the Vikings will no have no problem selling out every game of the upcoming season. Last season, they struggled to sell out the games, with blackout threats numerous times last season. Favre on the Vikings is a HUGE marketing too for Minnesota. Ticket sales are a gimme. The merchandise sales would be huge. A purple 4 jersey would be an instant seller. The Vikings instantly become incredibly interesting. All six games against the NFC North become must see TV, plus they will be favored to win the Central and probably to go to the Super Bowl. They become a fascinating team, no matter if they win or lose.
And from a Vikings fan who doesn't live in the area, if Favre is on the team, Minnesota becomes a national story. They will be on Sportscenter, featured more in Sports Illustrated or on They immediately become a national story, which is great for me. But it should be exciting for all Vikings fans. I know I always get excited when any of the Minnesota sports team are prominently featured on national TV or in national magazines.
And finally, so see Brett Favre run out onto Labeau Field wearing the Purple and be booed without mercy is something that would be incredible, proving that fans are loyal to a bunch of colors, not players.
Minnesota Vikings, please sign Brett Favre. He won't hurt your team, he markets himself and it personally helps me. Get 'er done.