Hits or misses …

Hits and misses ….

MLB (baseball’s) Opening Day of the regular season schedule will begin with the St Louis Cardinals meeting the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago , Illinois on the 5th April , 2015. This will be the opening game of the schedule , unofficially starting the season . For both of these NL Central Division teams, this is a season where a great deal will be riding on the managerial skills of Mike Matheny of the Cardinals and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. St Louis ended the postseason of 2014 on something of a dour note having lost the NL Pennant to eventual World Series champions the San Francisco Giants.


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This was the Giants’ third postseason triumph in the past five years, with all of the victories coming under manager Bruce Bochy. The Giants’ manager in conjunction with GM Brian Sabean have put together championship winning rosters with the guile and zeal not seen in several years within the game of baseball and , undoubtedly enhancing the reputation of this San Francisco Giants’ franchise to be considered a modern-day dynasty. Those words are rarely mentioned nowadays within the game , because it has become so difficult for a team to win multiple titles within a short time-span. Bochy has been able to achieve that feat , three times in the space of six years. With the last such team to win as many being the New York Yankees during their latter decade dominance of the late nineties and into the early 2000’s . Four titles under then manager Joe Torre with a further added in 2009, brought baseball’s most renowned franchiseto their tally of twenty-seven World Series’ titles.


Mike Matheny , left, manager of the St Louis Cardinals and Joe Maddon , his opposite number with the Chicago Cubs will have their teams open up the regular season schedule for the 2015 Major League Baseball season . Both teams will be looking to play a prominent role within the NL as well as seek to make appearance in the postseason. AP Photo/ David Foster

Joe Maddon takes over a Chicago Cubs’ franchise devoid of success and longing to make their way back to relevance with a divisional title win and with it a postseason appearance. It has been seven years since the Cubs’ last postseason appearance and twelve years since their appearance in the NLCS where they fell to the Florida Marlins(Miami Marlins) in the best of seven-game series. The pennant game in question, was memorable because of the antics of Cubs’ fan Steve Bartman whose stupidity may well have robbed the ball-club of making it to the World Series that year . Bartman became a “pariah” , receiving death threats from rabid and vocal fans , leaving the besieged individual to be led from the ballpark that night , and his being lauded for his sheer stupidity . That event shaped the downward spiral of the organization between 2004 and 2008.


Steve Bartman , a Chicago Cubs’ fan reaches in , depriving Moises Alou from making a defensive play during the 2003 NCLS game played between the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field ,in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs would go on to lose the series , with many believing Bartman’s actions changed the team’s fate in the game as well as the entire series. The Marlins would go on to win the World Series that year . AP Photo / Michael Walsh

If the Chicago Cubs under the reins of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer cannot get this franchise heading in the right direction , then there is an bigger chance both front office executives will make another upheaval of the playing roster. Cubs’ outfielder Starling Castro is seen as the player who can lead the Chicago Cubs this season with his stealth in the outfield and offense at the the plate. Chicago will enter the season with a $115.5 million payroll , which is not considerably high among the teams entering the Opening Day of the regular season. The highest paid player on the team’s roster will be pitcher Jon Lester alongside Edwin Jackson and catcher Jesus Montero . Lester and Jackson will be asked to spearhead a pitching rotation that will have to prove itself against the rest of their NL and AL opponents over the course of this season.


San Francisco Giants’ GM Bruce Bochy is seen here with team manager Bruce Bochy as the two survey the ballpark . Sabean and Bochy have guided the franchise to three World Series’ titles in the past six seasons and will be looking to add a fourth in 2015. The Giants are highly favored within NL this season . having kept the core of their championship winning lineup from 2014 where they defeated the Kansas City Royals to win that third title. fourth title. Getty Images North America / Mary Watson

The disappointment of last season was not lost on Don Mattingly , manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the organization having spent in excess of $500 million in the last two seasons to simply have nothing to show for it all , has not lessened the impact and the pressure about to be placed on Mattingly this upcoming season. Andrew Friedman enters the fray having put in charge to head the Baseball Operations for the Dodgers , with senior executives , Stan Kasten , Todd S Boehly, Mark Walter , Magic Johnson and Peter Guber likely to see a vast improvement from a team entering this season again with the highest payroll in Major League Baseball.

If the Dodgers cannot overcome the San Francisco Giants within the NL Central as well as number of their NL opponents while seeking a postseason berth. Mattingly and the team fell apart during the postseason of 2014, with their NL MVP and NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw , proving all of the plaudits with astonishing exploits of his regular season , was all for nothing during his postseason foray. Over the past four years Kershaw has been one of the dynamic pitchers in the game and and by far the best regular season pitcher in the NL during the time-frame in question.

Don Mattingly and his team will begin the regular season with a series of games against the San Diego Padres at Dodgers Ballpark , in Los Angeles, California . In his first game against his old team Matt Kemp will be looking to lead the Padres to opening day win as the Padres look to get off to a positive start in 2015. James Shields will be the starter for the Padres against Clayton Kershaw in this divisional contest , as part of a slew of games on Monday afternoon.

A year removed from his departure , Robinson Cano made an impact providing the Seattle Mariners with the type of offense they were sorely missing as an AL franchise. Cano also provided the ball-club with the veteran leadership traits sought and they are likely to see again this season , as their sojourn begins. With a team which during the off-season saw a number of changes as the front office sought to fortify the Mariners’ lineup.

The Mariners’ gain was the New York Yankees’ loss and it easy to understand why the AL East struggled throughout much of last season in just about every facet of their game. While Robinson Cano has flourished in his new surroundings, while his former team , the Yankees , have struggled mightily . Injuries asides , last season they lacked leadership , even with the now retired Derek Jeter playing his last regular season for the franchise. There did not seem a lot that could be done by the players over the course of the season. Joe Girardi and his coaching staff could never really get things going through the first half of the season.

Alex Rodriguez’s return to the lineup where he is expected to play first-base for the Yankees, will place the player under the microscope after his league mandated suspension for the entire 2014 season. Despite all of the original denials, as to his use of a banned substance , Rodriguez’s continued mes-culpas are now a thing , likely to taint his career and any chance he may believe he has in gaining induction into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. His statistics place him in the upper echelons of the game’s elite .com/ players , but it cannot be denied , it has been his legacy off the field of play , which has become his Achilles’ Heal , leading to his ultimate downfall.

While this whole sordid affair was mishandled by a bumbling league hierarchy where there is still no common sense to be found , even with Rob Manfred having succeeded Bud Selig as the new incoming MLB Commissioner. The New York Yankees’ organization are as much to blame for this faux-pas and absolute incompetent handling , as the league hierarchy itself. Hank Steinbrenner , his sibling , Hal Steinbrenner , GM Brian Cashman and SVP Lonn A Trost bungled and goofed their way through their handling of the Alex Rodriguez “ affair “ , that it has become a template for what a baseball franchise ought not to do, when handling a situation of this magnitude .

The Yankees will begin their schedule with a home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankees Stadium in New York City, New York , with Masahiro Tanaka taking the mound against an opponent yet to be named in this contest on Monday afternoon , with a start time of 1.00 PM for the first pitch.


Having signed a five-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays ,to become the ball-club’s manager , Kevin Cash , seen here , will have a tough task on his hands as the team seeks to get back into contention among their divisional rivals and the AL while seeking to win the World Series . A single appearance in the Fall Classic ended in defeat against the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 , in a lopsided series’ loss (4-1) . AP Photo / Paul Bell

Nothing suggests that more , than the continued idiocy of the fans and local political dignitaries, with their asinine belief the building of a new ballpark will be the savior and lead to the long-term viability of franchise. The Rays remain among the leastsupported baseball franchises in all of baseball and it has been an ongoing issue for a franchise, where the claims are , they have a fan-base of 20,000 hardcore fans , when the true figure in reality is actually closer to 15,000 at best . The Tampa Bay Rays rarely sellout for a regular season home game and the only time their home venue , anywhere near close to capacity , are their home games and series against divisional rivals the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees.

Kevin Cash assumes the reins as the successor to Joe Maddon and it will be interesting to see what this rookie manager will be able to achieve in first managerial position in Major League Baseball. This a team of limited ability , and that is with due to respect to the pitching staff and what has tended to be a rather inconsistent offense over the past few years. The Rays were simply lackluster in 2014 which was reflected in their poor showing within the AL East at the end of the year and a lackluster in the wild-card standings failing to garner a postseason berth and entry into the end of year showcase finale.


Tampa Bay Rays’ senior managing partner , Stuart Sternberg ,left , is seen here with GM Matt Silverman as the two have a discussion while attending a meeting with the board members of the Pinellas County Commission . This was a formal meeting with the dignitaries , as they seek to hammer out a proposal for a stadium financing initiative. For the past nine years the franchise has sought a new stadium, but to no avail at the state , municipal or county level , in getting a deal done to replace the now archaic Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida ,. All signs seem to be pointing to the fact Sternberg may well seek to relocate the franchise elsewhere if he is unable to get a governmental agency backed deal for the financing done. At no point has the owner (Sternberg) himself , offered to put up any of his own personal funds as a measure of good faith, while seeking to get any type of proposal set in motion . Baseball’s hierarchy has provided little help to the AL East based franchise , during their endeavors, leading many to believe former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and his successor Rob Manfred are not overly concerned about the Rays’ fate. AP Photo / Mark Powers

I believe the Tampa Bay Rays will struggle to eke out more than eighty-five wins , with ninety wins likely needed to be in with a chance of winning the division and at a minimum eighty-five wins for a wild-card berth. Chris Archer will be the opening day starter for the Rays when they face the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida. Archer will be going up against Chris Tillman of the Orioles in what is likely to be a very good pitching match-up between these two young MLB staring pitchers . Chris Archer and his teammates will have something to prove this upcoming season when their schedule gets underway. Things will likely become very “testy “ over the first month of the season. This being purely speculative based upon on what we witnessed during April of 2014.

These two AL teams will certainly have something to prove this upcoming season, because their lack of recent postseason success has left a vacuum in their respective legacies. For both the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels should they fail to make a deep run into the postseason beyond winning their divisions . I believe both Dave Dombrowski and Jerry Dipoto as the respective general managers of both organizations will have to make some serious moves during the off-season . With that being said , in all likelihood we are likely see these type of transactions as has often been the case during the regular season , when teams seek to play themselves into contention after the All Star Game .

Brad Ausmus begins his second season in charge of the coaching staff and Tigers’ playing roster , which includes MVP’s and Cy Young Award winners , Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander . The two players will be be pivotal to the team’s success this upcoming season and as they go , the so do the Detroit Tigers. It has been some thirty-years since the Tigers tasted real success by way of a World Series’ victory. Alan Trammell was the hero of the moment , coming away with the World Series’ MVP as the Tigers got by the San Diego Padres in the 1984 World Series . Alan Trammell was the hero of the moment coming away with the World Series’ MVP as the Tigers got by the San Diego Padres in the 1984 World Series .

Appearances in the Fall Classic of 2006 and 2012 left the Detroit Tigers without anything to to show for it all. Being so close and yet so far has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the organization . Michael Ilitch as the Tigers’ owner in spite of his immense wealth would like nothing better than to see the ball-club be triumphant once again. Whether not this will be the season where they prevail , will have a great deal to do with how competitive they are within the AL Central as well as within AL and the rest of baseball in general. Detroit will begin their foray , when David Price takes to the mound for the Tigers as he faces Phil Hughes of the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan on Monday, 6th April, 2015.

Mike Scioscia is likely on the “hot seat” with regard to his job security. He is now one of the longest tenured managers in baseball, but of late , his managerial resume’ has been littered with disaster , managing the Los Angeles Angels. Failure is no longer an option and I believe Jerry Dipoto’s and team owner, Arte Moreno’s faith in the manager has grown extremely thin ! When you have players of the caliber of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols , Josh Hamilton , Jered Weaver and C J Wilson , you cannot continue to make excuses for the team’s woes. Hamilton seems to have returned to ways of old , with his sobriety coming into question as well his lack of candor and productivity for the Angles. With such a great deal of money invested in the outfielder . I simply cannot understand why he is being given a pass by the organization as well Major League Baseball , when he has once again contravened a ” cardinal rule ” of the game ! He may well have placed himself back into rehab . as he fights with alcohol and cocaine addiction , yet, it is not the first time he has fallen off this particular wagon.

Josh Hamilton should be facing a mandatory suspension from baseball’s hierarchy, rather than following their misguided logic of his placing himself in rehab, will be a cure to his ills.

Common sense , intelligence , honesty , purity and integrity has never been apart of this game which lacks authority and accountability at just about every level of its structure. Team owners simply seem to be happy with the billions reaped in revenues annually . The hierarchy repeatedly pats itself on the back , while offering up little of note, on or off the field , by way of its product. The players under the guidance of their union (MLBPA) fights to increase its power , while doing little to address some of the most acute issues to effect the game of baseball over the past two decades. Tony Clark , MLBPA Executive Director seems to be no different from his predecessors Michael Weiner and Donald Fehr .



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What are you hoping to see take place within Major League Baseball this season ? Also which players or teams do you believe will have or make the biggest impact on the game ? Your comments as usual are more than welcome . Simply offer up your thoughts as you see fit and thanks as always for the support of this site and others affiliated with Tophatal’s Blog !.



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If You Say It Then You Had Better Have The Balls To Back That Sh#t Up !

If You Say It Then You Had Better Have The Balls To Back That Sh#t Up !

I’m always befuddled when I hear a player stand up and make bold statement even if it is meant to rally the troops as they say ! Well no sooner have we heard one statement made now we have the Detroit Lions’ defensive tackle Ndamokung Suh making the claim that the team is quite capable of going …… 16-0 this season . Unless I’m mistaken it wasn’t that long ago Lions went 0-16 ( 2008) to become the first NFL team in history to lose all of their regular season games since the league went to a 16 game schedule. Suh either believes that highly in this team or he is truly naive to think that a quarterback in Matt Stafford who at best is serviceable but has yet to play a full NFL season is actually capable of leading the team to an unbeaten season.


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Slide show for your perusal .

The Lions finished last year with a 6-10 record within the NFC North and actually struggled to make their presence felt within the league as a whole . Statistically as a team the Lions struggled in all facets of the game and from a defensive and offensive standpoint the struggles of the Detroit Lions manifested itself in a multiple of ways . I am not so sure that Jim Schwartz and his coaching staff having gotten a spark of life from this team is now capable actually boldly leading them to aware Suh believes that they can be ! As I’ve alluded to before , Matt Stafford is injury prone and from week to week you simply can’t be sure that he can play a full four quarters without getting a hang nail much less turf toe. For all of the hype that surrounded the player upon his entry into the NFL , there has been nothing that he has achieved that would suggest to me that he now is actually capable of leading this Lions’ team past the current Superbowl champions the Green Bay Packers or the other occupants of the NFC North , namely the Minnesota Vikings or Chicago Bears for that matter ! Most notably the Bears and Packers were two of the teams that made the postseason last year .

This season the Detroit Lions will have their hands full within the NFC and in particular over the course of their season as their schedule unfolds . It is incumbent on the Lions that they get off to good start in order to get some semblance of a rhythm going . The season could very well be shortened given the mere fact that the league hierarchy , team owners and NFLPA (union) are at an impasse in resolving the month long NFL lockout . And as cordial as some owners would like to have us believe that these negotiations are going there’s no real light at the end of the tunnel as of yet . NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell whose statements on the existing negotiation process has been minimal at best . New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft believes that only through continuous negotiations between the parties concerned can there be some sort of accord be reached. From my own perspective this has simply been nothing more than an image exercise of which neither party has executed or handled this situation well at all. The NFLPA and league hierarchy (NFL) have simply forgotten that they have alienated the fans but moreover the apparent greed that has set in both on sides has clouded their judgment .

If Suh’s prognostications are to come true then he and in particular his new defensive partner Nick Fairley will have to be fulcrum that holds this defensive line together . The Detroit Lions’ defense as the season progressed were able to shown signs of improvement but their lack of cohesion and inconsistently proved costly when it mattered most. On offense we saw what wide receiver Calvin Johnson was actually capable of alongside his teammate running back Kevin Smith . The two provided a lot of the offense that was produced by the Lions over the course of the season .

Now it goes without saying the Lions will live and die dependent upon the health of Matt Stafford and his overall productivity . And while I’ve no doubt that the player will have his moments t hose moments are liable to be few and far between . The Detroit Lions have remained a conundrum and an engima all rolled into one but the history of the organization and the fact that each Thanksgiving the fans have to endure Lions playing in this traditional seasonal game. And given that this season (week 12) the NFL in its infinite wisdom will make sure that tradition continues in that pairing of the Lions playing the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field , Detroit , with the Dallas Cowboys playing the Miami Dolphins at Texas Stadium , Arlington, Texas . Now don’t get me wrong I am all for tradition where it is warranted but with the apparent idiocy of the NFL hierarcy and their belief that the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions playing their respective opponents on Thanksgiving is the best possible form of entertainment that they could possibly serve up for the fans is akin to asking a vegetarian to become a carnivore because the taste of meat is far better than eating vegetables alone. And that’s with due respect to carnivores and vegetarians out there ! The relevancy of these two teams playing on Thanksgiving each year has lost all meaning for me as an NFL fan as I’d rather view two talented teams actually playing competitive football ! And when I last looked neither the Cowboys or Lions were actually capable of doing that on a consistent basis over the course of a season .

The Lions’ front office led by GM Martin Mayhew has formulated a plan that he and the ownership group led by Bill Ford Jr , as they seek to make this franchise relevant once again. It seems unfortunate to see the Detroit Lions fall so far in the aftermath of the excitement provided by their Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders . And for those of us who have witnessed those lofty days when the Lions actually roared , now if anything they’re like a kitten looking to be fed a plate of milk . Meow , meow !

At this juncture I’d like to say that I hope that Ndamokung Suh isn’t made to eat his words ! It’s one thing to make those bold statements but if you’re simply unable to back it up and the team then becomes an embarrassment on the field of play then once can only hope that the player is prepared to proffer up some form of apology to the fans . God knows, the Detroit Lions simply have done nothing right to indicate they are actually on the road to success , not with the inconsistency of Matt Stafford and a defense that seems to be unsure of itself at any given moment . Suffice to say it will be interesting to see whether or not Suh is made to eat those words .

And speaking of eating words can there be anything more galling than to keep on hearing that the Dallas Cowboys can be viewed as perennial contenders for the Superbowl ? One postseason win in the last decade and an owner in Jerry Jones who still feels that he’s a better general manager than his peers within the league . Chances are Jones on his best day has about as much acumen for spotting college talent bound for the NFL as a blind man could tell you the measurements of aspiring actress Denise Milani . And for those of who’ve viewed the stunning Milani will know that this beauty has the curves in all the right places .

The Dallas Cowboys and Texas Stadium are gigantic as are the egos of half the players on the team . Tony Romo is viewed as a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback but if anything he possesses the spine of a gutless coward . I’ve always maintained that Romo was more a Hollywood ” wannabe” than a NFL player ! And until he applies himself and leads this team by example then the Cowboys will always be considered an also ran or average team at best . This season if anything we will either see Jason Garrett show his real strengths as a coach or we may well see the Cowboys flounder . The NFC East they say is up for grabs this season and if anything the Dallas Cowboys have a chance to prove their worth . Mile Austin , DeMarcus Ware , Jason Witten , Dez Bryant and Romo will certainly have to lay to rest once and for all that they are good enough not only to win the NFC East but also worthy of being viewed as a Superbowl contender . Year in and year out those moronic idiots who provide the NFL analysis at ESPN continue with the hyperbole about the greatness that seems to be the Dallas Cowboys . I sometimes wonder whether or not Jones actually has these as#holes on the Cowboys’ payroll ? Maybe that’s presumptuous of me but then again I may well be wrong !



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If there is an NFL season to be had how do you see both the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions faring ? Simply leave a comment as to your thoughts and as always thanks for the continued support as it is greatly appreciated !

Alan aka tophatal …………………


Picture and slide show details below .


(1) Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, right, stands next to defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch during a break in practice drills at Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills, Mich., Friday, June 10, 2011. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio ……….

(2) Detroit Lions quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, left, and Shaun Hill, second from right, talk with team president Tom Lewand, right, during the team’s annual golf fundraiser, Tuesday, June 7, 2011, in Dearborn, Mich. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio …..

(3) NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 28: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses for a photo with Nick Fairley(1) 13th pick overall pick by the Detriot Lions, during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images …..

(4) Jim Schwartz, center, head coach of the Detroit Lions poses with General Manager Martin Mayhew, left, and Tom Lewand team president after a press conference to introduce him as the Lions new head coach on January 16, 2009 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Gregory Shamus / Getty North America ……..

(5) Denise Milani and her ample 38″ DD’s . What’s not to like about the curvacious form of this Czech American beauty ?

(6) Care for a peek of Milani’s assets ? There’s always something to like isn’t there ?

(7) Get the feeling that there’s more that Denise has to offer us all ?

(8) Tyron Smith, 9th overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys, holds up a jersey on stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images ……..

(9) MINNEAPOLIS, MN – APRIL 19: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (L) and NFL owner Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys arrive for court-ordered mediation at the U.S. Courthouse on April 19, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mediation was ordered after a hearing on an antitrust lawsuit filed by NFL players against the NFL owners after labor talks between the two broke down last month. Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Images …….

(10) Tony Romo (9) of the Dallas Cowboys looks on against the Philadelphia Eagles on January 2, 2011 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Cowboys defeated the Eagles 14-13. Getty Images / Jim McIsaac …..

(11) Miles Austin (19) of the Dallas Cowboys scores a third quarter touchdown on a 3 yard pass from Jon Kitna (3) as DeAndre Levy (54) of the Detroit Lions defends during the game at Dallas Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys defeated the Lions 35-19 . Getty Images /Leon Halip ………

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Love ’em Or Hate ’em They’re Still Baseball’s MVP

Love ’em Or Hate ’em They’re Still Baseball’s MVP

They’re the team that everyone either loves or hates as there’s no in between when it comes to the New York Yankees . Having won an unprecedented 27 World Series titles this is an organization that simply doesn’t rest on its laurel as it strives for excellence , the way that a new born baby thirsts for knowledge having taken its very first steps. Well for the Yankees this season may well be one where they’ll have to take baby steps as they try and figure a way out to be battle their way through the AL East and the rest of the AL as a whole . Never mind the fact that in the postseason that AL pennant isn’t a sure thing as some would like to believe.


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Slide show for your perusal .

So much is expected of the team by their erstwhile fans that any slight hiccup won’t be necessarily tolerated but then again when it comes to being a fan of this organization you’re either thought of as being obnoxious or simply devout in your belief that they are the best thing in the game bar none ! In the AL East boasting a 27-21 record they (lead) stand a mere 1/2 game ahead of their most hated rivals the Boston Red Sox with the Tampa Bay Rays 1 1/2 games behind in third place. And as we have come to expect this division as usual will become a highly contentious and competitive one throughout the course of the season . So much so that to my mind I do believe that the wildcard entrant for AL will most definitely come from within this division ! To some that might not be a foregone conclusion but it has become a rarity for the wildcard to come from outside the division. That being said anything is possible and the improbable has been known to happen within the game , so why not this season ?

Coming off a convincing 7-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium the team now has a three game series facing the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. That series promises to be a very interesting one with the Mariners looking for some objectivity to their season given the inconsistency of their play overall . It remains to be seen whether or not Eric Wedge and his coaching staff can turn things around with this team and make the competitive within the AL West . Parent company Nintendo through its US subsidiary Nintendo USA have made a mockery as owners of this ball-club . Ambition and the will to win it would appear are the furthest thing from their mind. And it’s a pity to see the talents of Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez being wasted by an organization that simply is bereft of creativity and intelligence within their front office . It may well be that I’m proven wrong but I sincerely doubt it at this juncture !

In the Yankees 7-3 victory over the Blue Jays , pitcher , Mariano Rivera made his 1,000th pitching appearance for the New York Yankees a team record for the most appearances by a pitcher in team history and with it came his 572nd save for the team , the most ever by a pitcher and the most ever for a single team. Add in the fact his teammate Derek Jeter also looks to add to his own valid legacy within the organization as he approaches the 3,000 hits plateau . He now stands at 2974 a club record . But that in of itself isn’t the primary reason that both of these dominant figures within the Yankees’ dynasty still play the game. This duo have epitomized what the game has been about in terms of integrity and the fact that they’re well respected by their peers as well as the vast majority of baseball fans across the game’s panacea. I doubt the same can be said of the most recent players to have donned the Yankees’ pinstripes over the last decade and a half !

As the season unfolds and with it approaching the month </a? of June it will be very interesting to see how the team handles itself and whether or their pitching which I believe to be their Achilles’ heel can still be a threat . Beyond CC Sabathia and closer Mariano Rivera , there is nothing that would lead me to believe that this picthing rotation is a scare to anyone within the league ! Granted , there’s plenty of offense within this lineup with the likes of Curtis Granderson , Mark Teixeira , Alex Rodriguez , Nick Swisher , Robinson Cano and even that wily veteran Andruw Jones who seems to have found a new lease of life with New York Yankees. And that’s even with Jones platooning the DH position with Jorge Posada who seems to be undergoing struggles of his own , not just mentally but also physcially as well.

The one thing we can be sure of concerning the Yankees with the advent of both Hank and Hal Steinbrenner having taken over the reins from their late father George Steinbrenner III , no stone will be left unturned as this organization chases glory , no matter what the expense is said to be. GM Brian Cashman even though he’s said to have become somewhat frugal in terms of the team’s payroll we all know when push comes to shove he’s been given the go ahead this organization usually goes after a target and they usually end getting what they want even if it means having to overspend or delve into their top 10 prospects or for that matter within their minor league farm system in order to acquire a prospective free agent or to implement a trade. Money is of no object with a cash cow such as the YES Network there to provide the organization with a monetary treasure chest and the very fact that the team is still the biggest draw in the game by far let’s you know why it is that the organization remains the financial behemoth that it is . One of the most recognized and most valuable professional sport’s franchises in the world the organization hasn’t let the financial imbalance within the game impede its relentless steady march away from their MLB competitors. So much so, that I for one cannot see how the MLB league hierarchy led by Commissioner Bud Selig can actually come to a decision , wherein they will ever try to mandate a hard salary cap within the game of baseball. And it certainly isn’t as if the team owners within the game possess the common sense to actually realize that it may well be needed if they are to stave off financial ruin for some teams .

While the Yankees are in the midst of their usual perfunctory season their crosstown neighbors , the New York Mets continue to do their best impression of the Titanic. What that organization and team brings to the game in terms of competency bears about as much comparison to the genuine belief that either the Democrats or Republicans in Congress actually has any idea as to what ails the country at present . It’s now being widely reported that hedge fund manager David Einhorn has bought a $200 million stake in the team . Given the Mets’ financial situation and the very fact that cash liquidity is needed with the organization and its two most prominent owners being defendants in a civil suit that involves team President Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon and their involvement in the Bernard Madoff ponzi scheme scandal . I’ve got to ask myself what assurances were given to Einhorn that his investment is indeed safe ? Two hundred million dollars is nothing to be sniffed at and with the plaintiffs in this case said to be seeking the return of somewhere between $700 million to $ 1 billion said to have been received by the duo through an associate company under their ownership and command __ Sterling Equities Inc . I can only believe that Katz and Wilpon have assured Einhorn that his investment will not be at risk. But herein lies the caveat as the mediation process unfolds Katz and Wilpon have been economical with the truth and they certainly haven’t been completely compliant with the requests of the plaintiffs’ attorney in this suit .

Irving Picard representing the plaintiffs has stood steadfast in suggesting in that the defendants ( Katz, Wilpon , Sterling Equities et New York Mets) were aware the profits received were part of Madoff’s scheme that has defrauded some 7,000 plus investors of some $59 billion . Do you get the feeling that this story and the case still has a long way to go before it all comes to a satisfactory conclusion ? It’s not as if anyone is actually concerned with the achievements of the Mets on the field of play at present . With Wilpon in his recent interview granted to Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker Magazine gives you every reason to believe that the beleaguered owner must be at his wit’s end if he is now criticizing several players on the team . But then you simply cannot buy the sort of stupidity shown by Wilpon and then GM Omar Minaya as well as former manager Jerry Manuel ! The actions of that trio during the team’s slide into mediocrity might well give hope to the likes of the Kansas City Royals , Pittsburgh Pirates and Seattle Mariners . But would that be asking too much also of the teams mentioned ? I will let you be the judge of that !



Picture gallery for your perusal .

In light of the points raised within this piece how do you see the New York Yankees’ season going and are you of the belief that they can make a serious challenge and quite possibly win the World Series ? And what thoughts if any do you have on the investment made by David Einhorn in the New York Mets ? Has he been duped into a false sense of security or will his investment in the team be a worthwhile one ? Simply leave a comment as to your thoughts on the matter .

Alan aka tophatal ………………….


Picture and slide show details below .


(1) New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays during the ninth inning of a baseball game in New York, Sunday, May 1, 2011. AP Photo/Kathy Willens …..

(2) New York Yankees’ Andruw Jones hits a two run home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Wednesday, May 25, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II ………..

(3) New York Yankees designated hitter Jorge Posada hits a double in the ninth inning off of Toronto Blue Jays closing pitcher Frank Francisco in the ninth inning of a baseball game that started a rally of runs to defeat Toronto 5-4 on Tuesday, May 24, 2011, in New York. AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek …..

(4) Mark Teixeira (25) of the New York Yankees celebrates with his team after hitting a game winning RBI in the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on May 24, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images ……

(5) Alex Rodriguez(13) of the New York Yankees looks after striking out against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on May 24, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images ……

(6) Derek Jeter (2) 2 of the New York Yankees hits a two run single in the seventh inning to tie the game a three against the New York Mets on May 22, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Yankees defeat the Mets 9-3 . Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images ……

(7) David Einhorn President, Greenlight Capital : The 39-year-old fund manager for the hedge fund Greenlight Capital has brought short selling into Wall Street’s lap with his public criticism of Lehman Brothers (LEH), the embattled Wall Street bank that has seen two top executives resign and its shares plunge roughly 50% since Einhorn made public his short position in April. His $6 billion fund has also waged a long-standing open battle against Washington-based small-business lender Allied Capital (ALD) since 2002; Allied’s share price has fallen by half since 2007. Getty Images / Paul Sprouse ……

(8) (L – R) Saul Katz, CEO of the Mets, Fred Wilpon, president of the Mets, Sandy Alderson and Jeff Wilpon , chief operating officer of the Mets pose for a photo during Alderson’s introduction as the general manager for the New York Mets on October 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Andrew Burton / Getty Images North America …….


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Fool’s Gold And Then There Are The Fools Of The NFL …….

Fool’s Gold And Then There Are The Fools Of The NFL …….

The NFL Draft came and passed and in many respects to my mind it was something of a non-event. That being said in light of the fact that the draft took place seeing the ongoing litigation that is now between the league and the players’ union (NFLPA) it remains to be seen as to whether or not there will be an NFL season to be played at all. With the league having announced that there will be a schedule and that they also have a contingency plan in place I for one would like to know how it is that they intend to assure the NFL fans that a season will indeed take place . Given the fact that this September commemorates the tenth anniversary of the bombing of the Twin Towers (World Trade Center) , the Pentagon Building and the deaths of those on board United Flight 93 over Shanksville , Pennsylvania . In the aftermath of that event as the nation mourned the death of its citizens it looked to its biggest national sporting past-times to bring us all in unison . Both the MLB and NFL made sure that the nation would be seen as a nation undivided , strong in its will and purposeful in carrying on its way of life . Bud Selig and the baseball hierarchy did their utmost to make sure whatever was necessary to assure its fans the their games would go on , even if it meant a short postponement to commemorate the loss of the lives of the victims .


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The NFL was steadfast in its resolve in making sure that scheduled games took place the following Sunday in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda . . With the recent death of Osama bin Laden and thankfully so , I’d like to think that both the NFL and NFLPA would come to an accord and actually say …..”look we are going back to work and the games will be played “. Instead the team owners , league hierarchy and players alike acutely aware of their image are in fact now playing a game of chicken . And by the second all parties are coming across looking like a group of infantile kindergarten children at play , who then get into an argument over a stuffed toy .

Were there not to be any semblance of a season this year within the NFL I for one feel that it would be disservice to those lost on September 11th 2001 . We see all the usual national acts of patriotism in praising the military and rightfully so but surely commemorating these victims in a way that we have all become accustomed to , now seems almost inconceivable . There may well be those amongst you who feel that not staging any sporting events would be the right thing to do as the solemn thing to do in commemorating the victims would be to have a day of some vigil as an act national of pride and unity. The mere fact that the NFL hasn’t publicly addressed this issue but I do believe that they stand to lose a great deal more than image because the animus of the fans once they feel betrayed will go a long way in showing whether or not the NFL will be welcomed back with open arms .

While both the NFL and NFLPA awaits another verdict to be rendered by the 8th District Court of Appeals in this ongoing saga I can’t help but wonder how it is that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his union counterpart DeMaurice Smith haven’t shown any common sense throughout this whole episode . At this juncture the longer the this debacle goes on the less relevant the NFL becomes in the eyes of its fans . The NFL Draft may well have heightened some interest as to how the teams fared but at the end of the day knowing the current premise and the idiocy we have all witnessed , it has to be said that perhaps in the overall scenario and how things continue to play out it might be best to do without the NFL season during the month of September.

So when it came to ineptitude last season in the NFL the Carolina Panthers stood head and shoulders abover everyone else in finishing with a 2-14 record . In doing so the Panthers were assured of the number one pick in the draft . The Panthers for their part followed protocol in acquiring Auburn’s 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton . Questions still remain unresolved concerning Newton’s actions while at Auburn but what cannot be denied he is indeed a player of extraordinary talent . That being said whether or Cam Newton’s game can be easily transferred to the NFL remains to be seen . And though the expectations are high for Newton and the Carolina Panthers their schedule may well dictate a situation wherein they will be a team that struggles over the course of the season .

Financially Cam Newton will be set for life and though the league has yet to come to a solid agreement as to how they will deal with the issue of rookie salaries and their underlying contracts . The Panthers’ fans will now pour over Newton’s every move in the ensuing months assesing his talents and how he carries himself. If Newton can have the the success attained by Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez as rookies within the NFL then the Carolina Panthers will go a long in knowing their choice was a prudent one . A five or six game improvement on last season’s showing would bode well for the future of the Panthers and if their picks from this draft and as recently as two years ago show signs in being productive then the Panthers could have quite a moderate season based on their own lofty standards.

For me the San Francisco 49ers remains an enigma as their front office continues to make personnel choices that simply make no sense . Denise York and her husband Dr John York continue to run this organization as if it were a personal bauble that’s on display but unfortunately the 49ers simply no longer commands the respect that it once had when Bill Walsh was leading them to unprecedented success . Now with Jim Harbaugh having assumed control as the successor to Mike Singletary as the team’s coach , it’s hoped that Harbaugh and his newly assembled coaching staff can lead the Niners to some semblance of success this upcoming season . Having left Stanford to coach the Niners it’s hoped that he can resurrect this organization and bring back some semblance to an organization that has been long starved of recent success .

I do believe that this season the NFC West could be as open a division as we’ve seen in a long time . The level of play there in recent years could be best described as rather average or mediocre at its worst. With teams such as the Seattle Seahawks , Arizona Cardinals and St Louis Rams it’s hard to envisage the type of football we may well see on display this upcoming season . Granted, a 7-9 record actually garnered the Seahawks a playoff berth last season but in reality it was simply an embarrassment to see such mediocrity on display albeit that they defeated the then reigning Superbowl (SBXLIV) champions the New Orleans Saints —- 41-36 in a game that if anything was indescribable as to the ineptitude shown by both teams .

Harbaugh in conjunction with GM Trent Baalke will now assess this roster to see where the real assets are and then seek make the necessary adjustments in the coaching strategy to meet the team’s greatest strengths . The one area where I do believe that Harbaugh will still have a problem is with the quarterback position . Having drafted Colin Kaepernick in the second round of this year’s draft they still have David Carr , Alex Smith and Troy Smith , who between them have been effective as an act of flatulence would be in a thunderstorm ! If Jim Harbaugh can quickly address that situation then there’s a possibility that the 49ers could actually have something of a decent season not just within the NFC West but within the conference and across the NFL as a whole .

Defensively they’ve been inconsistent but the offense when pressed into action has been capable of putting up points on the board. But we may well see a gradual advance of the San Francisco 49ers this season as Jim Harbaugh sets to stamp his own identity on this team and organization as they seek a resurgence of the organization as a competitive force once again within the NFL . Harbaugh is simply too good a coach , merely to have given up his gig at Stanford if he didn’t think that he could succeed within the professional ranks of the NFL . I for one hope that he’s successful but I also believe that much of that success will predicated upon the latitude he’s allowed in running this team as the York’s and their son Jed York , team President , allows him in resurrecting the 49ers’ fortunes !



Picture gallery for your perusal .

What thoughts if any do you have on the points raised within this piece ? Simply chime in with a comment as you deem fit and as usual thanks for the continued support as it’s greatly appreciated !

Alan aka tophatal ……………………………………


Picture and slide show details .


(1) WORLD TRADE CENTRE ATTACKS 2001: Hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 approaches and hits the World Trade Centre’s south tower, bursting into flames and raining a hail of debris on Manhattan. A gaping hole in the north tower can be seen following a similar attack earlier in the day. Courtesy of Reuters ….

(2) A jet airliner is lined up on one of the World Trade Center towers in New York Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. In the most devastating terrorist onslaughts ever waged against the United States, knife-wielding hijackers crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center on Tuesday, toppling its twin 110-story towers. AP Photo/Carmen Taylor ……

(3) Ty Law returns an interception for a touchdown after Mike Vrabel pressured Rams QB Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XXXVI. At the culmination of the 2001 season we had Superbowl XXVI , a game played between the New England Patriots and St Louis Rams . The Patriots would go on to defeat the Ram 20-17 .Staff photo by Michael Seamans ……..

(4) Lonie Paxton was in on the kick heard ’round the world. Adam Vinatieri, above, kicks the winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVI. Staff Photo by Kuni Takahashi …….

(5) Carolina Panthers first-round draft pick Cam Newton, right, gestures for a hand slap from Adam Smith of Make-A-Wish during an NFL football news conference at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, April 29, 2011. AP Photo/Bob Leverone …..

(6) NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 28: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses for a photo with Carolina Panthers #1 overall pick Cam Newton from the UNiversity of Auburn during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images …..

(7) Defensive end Aldon Smith , center, the first-round draft pick of San Francisco 49ers, holds up a jersey next to head coach Jim Harbaugh, left, and general manager Trent Baalke at a news conference at the team’s training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, April 29, 2011. AP Photo / Jeff Chiu ……………

(8) Denise DeBartolo-York and her husband Dr John York – the owners of the San Francisco 49ers . photo appears courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle / Michael Macor ………………


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Who Let The Dogs Out ………. ?

Who Let The Dogs Out ?

Well now that the fallout in the aftermath of the Los Angeles Lakers’ abrupt demise within the NBA Playoffs it appears that the repercussions and ramifications could be long lasting . We know that the team’s coach Phil Jackson will be stepping down and it’s presumed that a decision will be made by GM Mitch Kupchak in conjunction with the team’s principal owner Dr Jerry Buss as to who Jackson’s successor might be. Who could’ve foreseen the Lakers being swept in four rather lopsided games by the Dallas Mavericks in the conference semi finals of the playoffs ? The Mavericks now await the winners of the series between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals .


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In light of what we’re now hearing it could well be that the remnants of this team will be torn asunder and be completely revamped . This much we do know, the only piece liable to remain untouched could well be Kobe Bryant . But inasmuch as that is a certainty I do believe that Bryant , himself , will go a long way having his own input as to the personnel decisions that will most definitely have to be made. A successor to Phil Jackson will probably come from amongst the ranks of the assistants on this coaching staff of which the leading candidates appear to Brian Shaw and Jim Cleamons . It remains highly improbable that the hierarchy would go outside their stable of assistants to hire a coach unless it’s a high profiled experienced coach amongst the professional ranks . I certainly don’t believe that they’re liable to look amongst the collegiate ranks for a successor to Jackson !

It became pretty much clear that during this series the Lakers were mentally and physically outmatched and from a defensive standpoint this team was simply not there as a willing participant or competitor . The Lakers bench was never present and rarely did we see the best from Lamar Odom , Ron Artest , Matt Barnes and sparingly did we actually get a glimpse as to the consistency of either Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol . The one consistent factor throughout the series for the Lakers was in fact the player of Kobe Bryant who was the leading scorer on the team throughout the conference semi finals .

I do believe that if anything the Lakers’ players came in with the mindset that as the two time defending champions all they had to do was to literally turn up and that the Dallas Mavericks would quiver in their wake. Complacency and naivete had set in and if anything Phil Jackson was simply out-coached by his opposing number Rick Carlisle . But consistently throughout the series the Lakers simply didn’t have an answer for Dirk Nowitzki , the very astute and intelligent play of Jason Terry , Tyson Chandler , J J. Barea and the unselfishness of wily veteran point guard Jason Kidd . These aren’t your Mavericks of old as they’ve become resolute and very much more defensively oriented with the combined play of Chandler and utility player Shawn Marion as they’ve provided the team with that much needed one ….. two punch from a defensive standpoint.

Now any thoughts that NBA Commissioner David Stern might have had for a proposed Finals’ matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the presumed favorites to make it out of the Eastern Conference the Miami Heat , will now have to be placed on the back burner. The Heat are now looking to fully vindicate themselves by closing out their series against their heated conference rivals the Boston Celtics . Now 3-1 up in that series and with the Celtics ailing on a number of fronts it’s hard to see how Doc Rivers’ team will be able erase this deficit and actually come back and win this series outright. An aging roster of stars now seems to have met its Waterloo and this will most certainly have to be the last charge for Kevin Garnett , Ray Allen , Paul Pierce and Shaquille O’Neal .

As to the direction that may well be taken by the Lakers’ hierarchy as they look to rebuild I for one can’t really see them delving once again into the free agent market with the impending free agents that will come to the market . Granted , there may well be one or two desirable free agents but nowhere near the number that came to the market this past season . Mitch Kupchak will look to see where the deficiencies are on the roster and make the necessary moves to bolster a team that underachieved and that had performed well below the hierarchy’s as well as their fans’ expectations . This much we do know the this Lakers’ team of the 2010-11 season won’t in many respects resemble the one we’re liable to see for the 2011-12 season.

Game four of what’s now turning out to be an intriguing and suspenseful series brought a cumulative points total not often seen in an NBA playoff game . If I said you that the game between went into triple overtime and there’d be 256 points scored you would’ve probably thought that I was insane . But that’s what transpired on Monday night at the Fedex Forum in Memphis , Tennessee, as the Oklahoma City Thunder would defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 133-123 in a thrilling and exhilarating game . Russell Westbbrook and Kevin Durant would account for more than half of the Thunder’s output with the duo scoring a combined 75 points on their way to the team’s impressive win . Not to be outdone in all of this were Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol who each chipped in with 60 points between them for the Grizzlies.

Tonight’s game resumes the series in Oklahoma City in a pivotal game five where the victor take’s the reins and more likely than not will the upper hand in this series . To my mind for both coaches Scott Brooks and Lionel Hollins after this explosive and unbelievable offensive output where defense was simply left at the door I seriously doubt that the two teams will be able to reproduce another epic of this magnitude ! If anything tonight’s game should be somewhat less stressful for the discerning NBA tv viewer in terms of the suspense we could expect. Thrills and spills asides this series has indeed taken on a life of its own wherein the two teams seem to be evenly matched . Albeit that as the number eight seed in the Western Conference , few might have expected the Grizzlies to have made it this far in the playoffs . Should Randolph and his teammates prevail against the Thunder , then a much anticipated conference final’s match-up against the Dallas Mavericks awaits them.



Picture gallery for your perusal .

As the postseason unfolds were you at all surprised by the Los Angeles Lakers’ exit from the NBA Playoffs ? And which series to your mind of those played so far has been the most exciting to watch in your opinion ? Simply offer a comment as to your thoughts on the topics raised within this piece and anything else you feel to be pertinent with regard to the NBA postseason .

Alan aka tophatal ………………..


Picture and slide show details below .


(1) EL SEGUNDO, CA – MAY 11: Phil Jackson, coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, speaks during his last official Lakers news conference at the team’s training facility on May 11, 2011 in El Segundo, California. The Lakers were swept out of their best of seven series with the Dallas Mavericks four games to none. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images …..

(2) Phil Jackson, coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, hugs a Kevin Ding reporter for the Orange County Register as he leaves his last official Lakers news conference at the team’s training facility on May 11, 2011 in El Segundo, California. The Lakers were swept out of their best of seven series with the Dallas Mavericks four games to none. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images ……

(3) Lamar Odom (7) of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks during a news conference at the Lakers training facility on May 11, 2011 in El Segundo, California. The Lakers were swept out of their best of seven series with the Dallas Mavericks four games to none. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images ……..

(4) Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks with members of the convened press at the team’s facility at the Toyota Center in El Segundo, California. Getty Images / Kevirk Djansezian ……

(5) Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, right, reacts to a dunk by teammate James Harden, left, in the second quarter of Game 5 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies in Oklahoma City, Wednessday, May 11, 2011. AP Photo/Alonzo Adams …..

(6) Oklahoma City Thunder guard Daequan Cook, left, shoots in front of Memphis Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo, right, and forward Zach Randolph, center, in the fourth quarter of Game 5 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 11, 2011. Oklahoma City won 99-72 . AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki …….

(7) Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins shoots as Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen watches in the second quarter of Game 5 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 11, 2011. AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki ………

(8) Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph, left, shoots in front of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka in the first quarter of Game 5 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 11, 2011. AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki ……

(9) Oklahoma City Thunder forwards Kevin Durant, front, and Serge Ibaka, right, cheer in the fourth quarter of Game 5 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 11, 2011. Oklahoma City won 99-72. AP Photo/Alonzo Adams ……..


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Shut Up Already This Isn’t American Idol ………..

Shut Up Already This Isn’t American Idol ………..

Ah the somber days of early Spring and all is meant to be well . At least across the sporting landscape it’s meant to be. The MLB season has started off in its usual indomitable fashion with teams rising to expectations while others have simply underperformed . That being said it’s still early days yet and the season is a long one of 162 arduous games over the course of six tenuous months before the postseason kicks in .


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As of now the divisions are looking rather interesting with the teams jockeying for position with regard to early season series . Now in the midst of finally making a decision as to where I’ll throw my hat in terms of supporting a team I’ve come to the decision that it’ll end up being a team within the NL . Well right off the bat let me say this without further ado it won’t be the Pittsburgh Pirates , Los Angeles Dodgers , Milwaukee Brewers , New York Mets or Florida Marlins . The latter for the reasons of which I’ve repeatedly stated because of the mismanagement of the team and organization as a whole by the ownership group ! The teams that seem to have my attention are the Colorado Rockes , Atlanta Braves and the St Louis Cardinals but I hate to say this as much as I like the Cardinals as a team I simply cannot stand their manager Tony La Russa ! He’s disingenous , an ingrate and someone whom I believe to be completely dishonest ! Suffice to say that to my mind he makes the fictional character Pinocchio seem like almost angelic nature !

So a choice has to be made and ultimately I choose the Atlanta Braves ! This has been a team and organization I’ve long admired because of their sheer longevity in terms of their success within the NL East and though they may only have that one World Series title to their name . It has to be said that period of consistency where they were repeating as divisional champions and making the playoffs had to be admired no matter where one’s allegiances may have laid . Now in their present guise this team is managed by Fredi Gonzalez and his coaching staff with a front office led by GM & EVP Frank Wren .

In terms of veteran presence the team is in that of the hands of Chipper Jones but his heir apparent to be sure is Jason Heyward , a player who has all the attributes desired to lead this ballclub long into the future and hopefully some real semblance of success. But there’ll also be contributions from teammates such as Dan Uggla , Brian McCann and Nate McClouth That being said with a pitching staff led by Tim Hudson , Jair Jurrjens , Derek Lowe , Tommy Hanson , George Sherrill and closer Craig Kimbrel , I’m fully hoping that this will undoubtedly be a season of success for the team and its fans who show up in attendance at Turner Field .

It’s long been felt that the Braves’ fans only came out in droves when they had perennial success or when the Hawks , Falcons or Thrashers were simply pedantic or downright mediocre . I’ll leave you all to be the judge of that because any and every team tends to have its ups and downs , no matter what their sporting endeavor might be . And the Braves are no different from no other professional sports franchise unless they happen to be the Los Angeles Clippers or Cleveland Browns for that matter !

The NL East the team will have to contend with the defending divisional champions the Philadelphia Phillies who look to be not only to be class of the division but the clear cut favorite to be the NL pennant winner this upcoming season . Whether or not that scenario actually pans out remains to be seen but I’m of the belief that the Atlanta Braves will do their utmost to deny the Phillies of that privilege ! . And I certainly believe that the Braves have as good a chance as any to make the postseason albeit that their division on the face of it isn’t an overly contentious one . I do believe that they will be challenged by the Florida Marlins and quite possibly by the Washington Nationals . And unless Terry Collins can in fact pull off the improbable , I certainly don’t see the New York Mets doing all that much this season within the division. Their situation is already tenuous at best from a financial standpoint and with both managing partner Fred Wilpon and team President Saul Katz under investigation by the Justice Department as well as there being a multi million civil lawsuit being lodged against the two as well as the organization their company Sterling Equities . I can’t help but wonder if the Mets can survive this season under its present ownership without Bud Selig , the league hierarchy and team owners intervening in some form or another to make sure that the team doesn’t fall into bankruptcy or be forced to cease operating should the Federal verdict go against the defendants Katz and Wilpon . At stake is in excess of $750 million and the very financial viability and existence of the New York Mets .

No word has been forthcoming on this matter from anyone within the MLB league hierarchy . Certainly no formal statement from Bud Selig or any of his subordinates such as EVP ,Administration & Chief Information Officer, John McHale Jr , EVP , Labor Relations & Human Resources Rob Manfred or EVP , Baseball Development Jimmie Lee Solomon . Kind of makes you wonder who’s in charge of the lunatic asylum otherwise known as Major League Baseball (MLB) ? With there now said to be a great deal of speculation that if Katz and Wilpon aren’t able to find a willing investor to purchase a stake in the team they could very well be forced to sell the team . A number of interested parties are said to have made private inquiries as to the duo’s willingness to sell at a stake in the team at a reasonable price .

This season within baseball could be one those that surpasses the events last season and the postseason by a long way . Granted the World Series itself ended up being something a one sided affair with the San Francisco Giants easily taking command of the series in defeating the Texas Rangers with a great deal of ease .

I’d certainly like to think that teams thought to be in contention won’t fail to deliver and at the same time I’d like to think that Commissioner Bud Selig and the owners are finally coming around to seeing that their game cannot continue to survive under its present financial structure . Especially where teams at the top of the pecking order in terms of payroll are now having to subsidize their small market peers . It simply hasn’t created that perceived level playing field that the owners and Selig had hoped for . And as far as the MBLPA is concerned, seeking any common sense from Executive Director Michael Weiner and his members is akin to trying obtain blood out of a stone . This being the very same union that had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the twentieth century along with baseball’s hierarchy merely adopt a steroid policy that could be even remotely considered to be fair. It’s rather idiotic to think that Selig as commissioner can’t even be succinct even when it comes to explaining the game’s most acute problems it now faces. I’ve heard so called purists and fans try to explain how the game has made great strides from those infamous years during the nineties , wherein the illicit use of PED’s was at its most rampant .

I’ve read on a contributor’s site and a baseball fan who fan even tried to justified the fact that both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa can be considered appropriate candidates for Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame ! The fact that the two players in essence are cheats doesn’t seem to have bothered this individual or the mere fact that they each profited financially in terms of the fraud perpetrated upon the fans of the game . Guess what , the duo both broke not only the law but also one of the most inherent doctrines of the game. That patron in particular who tries to justify this hypocrisy is an out and out idiot in making a case where it was wrong for two consenting adults ,one of whom happened to be an athlete (basketball player) at a parochial establishment of higher education chose to have sex , within the hallowed halls of Brigham Young University . The player was suspended albeit that there’s an honor code involved at the establishment but given the fact that there have been far more serious incidents that have gone unreported of at the school . Unless I’m mistaken there’s been more hypocrisy going on within the Mormon Church and on the campus than most would even care to admit . But that’s what you tend to get with the hypocrisy of organized religion and the de facto piousness that it espouses and that concerns all forms religion , be it Islam , Judaism , Christianity , Catholicism or otherwise . It breeds intolerance and it purveys it even to this day, with the still rather asinine notion that theologians and preachers , priests or Imams are above reproach . They’re human and they have their fallibilities or hadn’t anyone noticed ?



Picture gallery for your perusal .

What thoughts if any do you have with regard to the season and as it slowly meanders along its arduous path ? And how do you see things panning out for the Atlanta Braves this season in terms of their fortunes within the NL and the league as a whole ? Simply leave a comment as to your thoughts and the points raised within this piece . .

Alan aka tophatal …………………..


Picture and slide show details below .


(1) LOS ANGELES – APRIL 18: Jake Harris of the reality TV show Deadliest Catch throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 18, 2011 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images …….

(2) Left fielder Jerry Sands (47) of the Los Angeles Dodger, playing in his first major league game, chases down a fly ball ball against the Atlanta Braves on April 18, 2011 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers won 4-2 . Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images ……..

(3) Pinch hitter Brooks Conrad (7) of the Atlanta Braves reacts after striking out to end the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 18, 2011 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images ………

(4) Alex Gonzalez (2) of the Atlanta Braves reacts as he strikes out during a ninth inning Braves rally which fell short against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 18, 2011 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Dogers won 4-2. Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images ……

(5) James Loney (7) of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a two RBI single in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves on April 18, 2011 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) ……

(6) Tim Hudson(15) of the Atlanta Braves throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 18, 2011 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images ……..

(7) Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones (10) swings for a solo home run in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Florida Marlins on Wednesday, April 13, 2011, in Atlanta. The RBI was the 1,500th of his career. Only two other switch-hitters have reached the 1,500 milestone. AP Photo/John Bazemore …….

(8) Atlanta Braves’ Jason Heyward runs to first after connecting for a home run in the fourth inning of a baeball game against the Florida Marlins on Tuesday, April 12, 2011, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 5-0 . AP Photo/John Bazemore …….


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It’s Their Time To Shine ………….. Who’s In It To Win It ?

It’s Their Time To Shine ………….. Who’s In It To Win It ?

So the MLB season has kicked off to inauspicious start and already there seems to be some clamor for some teams to have remained at home . Forbes columnist and contributor Mike Ozanian states that the Tampa Bay Rays should they not be able to lure more fans to Tropicana Field over the next two years then quite possibly league’s hierarchy should look to contracting the team along with several other leading candidates . Having not read Ozanian’s article I’m not exactly surprised by the columnist’s findings but then again this has been something that MLB has failed to address when broached on the subject. I certainly think that the owners aren’t entirely happy with the present scenario in particular where teams such as the New York Yankees , Boston Red Sox , Philadelphia Phillies , Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets have paid out in excess of $ 250 million over the past five years as part of Bud Selig’s rather idiotic tax sharing revenue scheme that is supposed to assist the small market teams around the league in order that they become more competitive . Given the fact that in large part there doesn’t really seem to be any real parity within the league but merely lulls in the competitiveness of the so called big market teams , as and when they show the presence of mind to be legitimate contenders with any real consistency.


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Slide show for your perusal .

Courtesy of Forbes.com

Contraction Looming For The Tampa Bay Rays

By Mike Ozanian , Sports Money

Groundswell building in Major League Baseball to dump the Tampa Bay Rays. From what I am hearing, I doubt there will be any baseball at Tropicana Field after 2014 even though the team’s lease runs to 2027.

The harsh reality is the Rays still have no fan support despite winning the AL East two out of the past three seasons and making it to the 2008 World Series. Stuart Sternberg’s group has done a good job of turning the team around on the diamond and developing and trading for young players since taking control in 2004. But the Rays have averaged only 23,000 at the gate the past three seasons even though prices have been slashed and in 2010 the team had the second-lowest ticket prices in the AL ($19.75).


Click on link to read this article in its entirety.


When the owners themselves such Frank McCourt , Fred Wilpon , John Henry , David Montgomery and others can’t even agree upon whether or not it’s in their best interests to have a hard salary cap within the game , I found it really naive of them to even think that a tax sharing revenue scheme actually makes things better for the game as a whole ! In large part when you have owners such as Jeffrey Loria and Bob Nutting pleading poverty while pocketing countless millions that were meant to benefit their respective rosters , it becomes all the more asinine that either team (Florida Marlins Pittsburgh Pirates) can even be viewed as being competitive. The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t been competitive within MLB in almost two decades and it becomes all the more laughable to consider that there remains a place much less a purpose for this team to even exist within the game . The day the Pirates once again becomes competitive within the league it could well be the day that hell actually freezes over !

The Rise Of The Rays: All-Stars And Arbitrage

By Steve Schaefer , Forbes Magzine

Arbitrage, synergy and “buy low, sell high” are all terms that at one time made about as much sense on the diamond as a pair of spikes on a trading floor. That has changed drastically though, and nowhere more so than in Tampa Bay where a trio of Wall Street veterans have been trying to redefine how to build a winning baseball team.

To understand the rebirth of the Rays you need to go back to their first incarnation as the Devil Rays, says Jonah Keri, author of ‘The Extra 2%’, an account of how the club went from from league laughingstock to pennant contender.

Original owner Vince Naimoli came from the world of finance too, but his fortune was built as a turnaround specialist, taking over struggling companies, streamlining operations, stripping out costs and then cashing out at a tidy profit.


Click on link to read this article in its entirety .


Three games into the season and there really isn’t much to be really all that hyped up about given the fact that it may well be at two months before we really the teams start to gain some traction and play with a great deal of consistency . The Baltimore Orioles seems to have gotten off to a good start and it bodes well for Buck Showalter , his coaching staff and the team should they actually make their presence felt within the AL East . It’d be great to see a truly competitive race within the division but it appears as if it’ll about whether or not the Yankees can have a resurgent season while competing with the Red Sox . I’d preface this by saying as good as the Tampa Bay Rays have been over the last two seasons this year I don’t believe will be their year to compete.

Offensively the Rays have been struggling and now the team’s best player Evan Longoria will be sidelined for up to three weeks with an oblique injury to his right side. And this scenario couldn’t have happened at a worse time for the team as it seeks to be a contender for the World Series . A playoff berth for the Tampa Bay Rays would have to come from the team playing not only competitively but also looking to win a minimum of 85 games merely to be sure of gaining the wildcard berth within the AL . And that’s not something I’m sure that this team in its present guise is even capable of doing in spite of the optimism that’s being shown by their most erstwhile fans !

Contraction is somewhat a dirty word to be using within the game but in essence it’s something that MLB may well have to address if they can’t get their financial house in order . Here again though it’s all going to become subjective rather than objective because in reality can the league hierarchy be trusted to make the right decision much less the owners ? It’s bad that they had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty first century merely to adopt some form of a drug testing policy . And it certainly didn’t help that the MLBPA under their then Executive Director Donald Fehr hiding behind invasion of privacy, as to a reason why the union and didn’t want a comprehensive drug testing policy in place . Since when did a union’s wishes trump what happens to be the laws of the land ?

I don’t believe that in light of Mike Ozanian’s piece that the league or owners will actually contemplate contracting one or more teams unless they’re pressed into such a situation or it’s because of a team’s dire financial straits ! . That certainly had to have been the case surrounding Drayton McLane’s sale of the Houston Astros to Houston businessman Jim Crane . Apart from that the very fact that the Astros haven’t a competitive force within the NL Central for a number of years .

Over the ensuing months we’ll learn a great deal more about the teams and that of their competitiveness as the season unfolds . And it could well be that we’ll no doubt be surprised by some teams whereas with others we will not ! We can all subscribe as to the teams we feel will make a genuine run of least trying to make it to the Fall Classic and if anything those are the ones that’ll be worth watching . Others will most definitely fall by the wayside and that if anything is what makes the long and arduous baseball season of 162 games such an intriguing and suspenseful one. As to the players who’ll make the season itself all the more enjoyable to watch you can make case that players such as Albert Pujols , Alex Rodriguez , Josh Hamilton , Joey Votto , Dustin Pedroia , Miguel Cabrera , Roy Halladay , Joe Mauer , Tim Lincecum and Robinson Cano will all make a case as to why they’re worth watching and paying the price of admission merely to see them play. As to what the fans may well think of it all remains to be seen but one can be sure that the most ardent fans among us will be watching closely while cheering on our teams.



Picture gallery for your perusal .

What thoughts if any do you feel about the possibility that the hierarchy of MLB could very well down the road consider contracting a number of teams, in order not only to curb costs but merely get rid off teams that as such aren’t viewed as being competitive or drag on the finances of the large market teams that seemingly come to the aid of the small market teams ? Do you feel that in the long run such a maneuver would be of benefit to the game or to its very detriment ? Simply leave a comment as to your thoughts on the points raised within this piece as well as any other topic you might feel pertinent to the game of baseball and the prospects for the season. .

Alan aka tophatal ……………………………


Picture and slide show details below .

(1) Infielder Ben Zobrist (18) of the Tampa Bay Rays is late with the tag on Mark Reynolds (12) of the Baltimore Orioles during the game at Tropicana Field on April 3, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……

(2) Infielder Elliot Johnson(9) of the Tampa Bay Rays bunts against the Baltimore Orioles during the game at Tropicana Field on April 3, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……

(3) Infielder Mark Reynolds (12) of the Baltimore Orioles is congratulated after scoring a run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on April 3, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Orioles would go on to defeat the Rays 5-1 Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images …….

(4) Pitcher Wade Davis (40) of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the game at Tropicana Field on April 3, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ………

(5) Infielder Evan Longoria (3) of the Tampa Bay Rays was placed on the 15 day disabled list just prior to the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field on April 3, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……..

(6) Billionaire entrepreneur Drayton McLane the former owner of the Houston Astros having agreed to sell the team to native Houston businessman Jim Crane for an undisclosed sum . All that now awaits is a formal vote approving the sale by the game’s hierarchy and board of governors made up of owners and executives of the league’s hierarchy . AP Photo / Michael Parsons …………….

(7) From left to right socialites Kase & Eileen Lawal , Houston businessman Jim Crane and his wife Franci seen here at a charity gala event in Palm Beach , Palm Beach County , Florida . courtesy of the The Palm Beach Post …….. copyrighted material …. @ all rights reserved .


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