Thursday, October 20, 2005

It's been a while...for both these teams

No more guessing, the fall classic is ready. This Saturday two teams that have been waiting a long time, will finally get their shot at the world series, the Chicago White sox and the Houston Astros. The south-siders are in for the first time since 1959 and the Astros are in for the first time in their 43 year history (dating all the way back to when they were the Houston Colt .45s).

Roy Oswalt earned NLCS MVP after an incredible game 6 start, taking a no hitter deep into the 4th. As I watched Oswalt in game 2 of this series…I realized something. With the possible exception of Chicago’s ‘El Duque’, Oswalt has the nasty stuff in the league! Do you remember that scene in Bad News Bears when Tatum O’Neal claims her curveball is breaking “3 feet”, that’s not far from the truth with Oswalt.

This series is going to be all about Pitching, these two staffs are the arguably the two best in the league, look at the two rotations and you have the proven and hall of fame Astros staff (Clemens, Pettitte, and if he keeps this up Oswalt), and the White Sox staff that's finally putting everything together (Buehrle, Garland, and Garcia) . Some are going to argue that the Astros have a huge momentum advantage going into game one…but remember in baseball “momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.”

In terms of offense, both of these teams have the ability to hang double digit runs on the board, but they also have the ability to be shut out, So the pitching is going to be the most important factor in this series. My pick…if I go with my head, I’ll take White Sox in 6…if I go with my heart, Astros in 7.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

New rules open the flood gates for NHL

And let the scoring begin

The NHL has tried almost everything to up its status as the #4 sport in the United States, nothing has really worked. And this isn't like when baseball went on strike in 1994, because baseball had a solid fan base before they went on strike, the NHL has been struggling for years before the debacle that was last year's labor lockout. The big idea that NHL brass thought would change the game for the better this year are the rule changes to make the game faster and more higher scoring.

what new rules?
  • Red Line is removed and the two-line pass is legal
  • Goaltender leg pads, blockers, catching gloves and jerseys are all cut down in size
  • Goaltenders cannot handle the puck behind the goal line, except in a restricted area
  • Tie games are decided by a shootout
While all these rules favor higher scoring, the one that all fans were clamoring for was the shootout. While ties are not allowed in international play, the NHL has always had ties. The idea that there will be a definitive winner every game, will help the league.

But as baseball learned in '95, the casual fan won't come back to the league simple because they're on the ice again. Hockey needs something, they need a Sosa vs. McGwire, a Peyton Manning 49 touchdown season, a Chicago Bulls three-peat. As of right now, all of this is left on the shoulders of #1 draft pick...dubed "The Next One"...Sidney Crosby.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

If you were alive this past Saturday, consider yourself lucky

As long as you weren't born after about 6 pm CST this past Saturday, the 15th, consider yourself lucky. You were alive during arguably one of the greatest college football games of all time. USC was able to pull out a win against rival Notre Dame in South Bend. If you need to understand how much this game meant to both of these teams, consider this. USC QB Matt Leinart spent extra hours in the film room studying not only Notre Dame film, but also some New England Patriot film, Coach Charlie Weis' former team. As far as Notre Dame, all you need to know is that they busted out the Green Jerseys! Two things about this game. First, you may have heard that there were some possible errors in the last two plays of the game...
  1. After Leinart was hit and lost the ball out of bounds, there were :03 seconds on the clock when the ball went out. When the ball was spotted for the last play of the game, the clock had been reset to :07 seconds.
  2. During that same play, the ball was knocked away from Leinart and went out of bounds at the 3 yard line, but was spotted at the 1...Where Leinart was hit when he lost it. The ball should have been spotted where it went out of bounds, as it was a fumble.
  3. The most important error (one that even Regis Philbin couldn't let go unnoticed) was that RB Reggie Bush (#5 pictured) pushed Leinart (#11) over the goal line! It wasn't as if he may have pushed him over, Bush said in the locker room after the game, "I was pushing as hard as I could." For those of you who don't know what I'm getting at, let me educate you. Section 3, Article 2, sub point b of the Official 2005 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations guide says, "The runner shall not grasp a teammate; and no other player of his team shall grasp, push, lift or charge into him to assist him in forward progress." it can't be stated any clearer then that.
And second, regardless of all the errors that was still one of the greatest college football games ever played. It's not every week that we get to see 2 top 10 teams play each other, let alone 2 top 10 teams who are part of the most storied out of conference rivalry of all time, dating back to 1926. So like I said at the beginning, be lucky you were alive to see it.

p.s. Gene Wojciechowski of wrote a great article on this game and its place in history check it out.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The White Sox will take 'em any way they can get 'em

While we avoided another double-header without a break (18 inning NLDS Game 5 ), I'm sure the Angels would have liked a different ending. After a swinging strike three in the bottom of the 9th, White Sox Catcher A.J. Pierzynski started walking towards the Chicago dugout, as the Angels ran towards theirs to get ready for extra innings. Pierzynski noticed that he had not yet been called out because home plate ump Doug Eddings said the pitch from Angels reliever Kelvim Escobar had bounced before entering his catcher's glove. So Pierzynski hustles down to first base, running past Angels players on their way to the dugout, and is ruled safe. The Umpires got into their little pow-wow to talk it over, and ruled Pierzynski safe at 1st. Pablo Ozuna pitch runs for Pierzynski, Ozuna steals second, then Joe Crede doubles him home, "a White Sox Winner", and the ALCS is tied up 1-1.

This got me thinking about the human errors that play a part in every sporting event and the idea of instant replay. The NHL, NFL, MLS, and NCAA Football use instant replay technology and the question is how much is too much? Would you not care if they stopped the game for 5 minutes to make sure they got a call right? Or would you say that it took away from the flow of the contest, and that human error is and always has been part of the game?

When done correctly, I don't think that instant replay is a bad thing. The flow of the game isn't jeopardized for more than about 5 minutes and getting the right call on the field is what matters the most. Look at how important the NFL's replay system has been, and how the right play has originally been missed, but upon further review the correct calls were made. No matter how much of a purist you may be, you have to admit that replay technology can be a help to the game if executed properly. And if you don't believe that...The L.A. Angels of Anaheim are on the phone for you...and they seem a bit angry.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Be Careful...You Might Get Hurt!

So far this year in the NFL, injuries have been the name of the game; and few teams know this better then the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots. Both these teams have lost Key members of either their offense or defense…or both! The injury bug hasn’t been limited to these two teams; every team has been hit with injuries (NFL Injury Report). Now, before we get an uproar saying that every year teams have injured players, when is the last time we’ve seen this many injuries in one year by week 6? Some injuries were expected (Mike Vick I’m talking to you!) others weren’t (who had Champ Bailey and Rodney Harrison going down in the same season?).

Some teams like the New York Jets were sexy Super Bowl picks. Now, with the ageless wonder Vinny Testaverde at the helm, he’s the sexiest part of the team. What about the Steelers, while we await word on QB Ben Roethlisberger, we look to their back up situation and see that #2 QB Tommy Maddox is out 3-4 weeks with a calf injury. So if Big Ben can't go Sunday against Jacksonville, the Steelers will have journey man Charlie Batch behind center. As if the Saints didn't have enough trouble scoring points already, their main offensive threat, RB Duce McAllister, is done for the year with a torn ACL. They've gone so far as to trade a draft pick to the Dolphins for their 4th string RB Jesse Chatman. Let me repeat that, they traded a DRAFT PICK for a RB that wouldn't have made the team in Miami had it not been for Ricky Williams' suspension.

While you may be ripping your hair out because your team is done because of injury, remember major players that have gotten their jobs because of injuries, Tom Brady coming in for Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Marc Bulger for Kurt Warner in 2002, and *gasp* Brett Favre for Don Majkowski in 1992, and that's just naming a few. It just goes to show, you never know when you’ll find a diamond in the rough. That being said, I still don’t think Packer fans want to see Tony Fisher as the starting tailback…do you?

~Sports Boy Zak