Category Archives: St Louis Cardinals

Back to the drawing board , again ……….

Back to the drawing board, again

Well, with both the Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Rays bowing out in the divisional series of the NLDS and the ALDS. It is hard to explain, where the two teams now go from here in terms of their immediate long-term futures. Managers, Fredi Gonzalez and Joe Maddon did all that was asked of them by way of their respective hierarchies, but at the end of the day it simply was not enough. The Atlanta Braves with a great deal of ease won the NL East , going away from their closest rivals , the Washington Nationals . In the case of Maddon and the Rays, it was a year erratic plays and then heightened moments of excellence, only to the stumble at the most inopportune of moments. Simply making the postseason, was all that the Rays could have hoped for, in spite of the optimism shown by the team’s 2012 Cy Young Award winning pitcher David Price .

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Utter frustration and dismay, would be the best way to describe the very fact that the Tampa Bay Rays fought all season long to gain a postseason berth , only for their pitching and then their hitting to let them down in their ALDS match-up against divisional rivals the Boston Red Sox , who might now be the clear favorites to win the AL Pennant for this season. Of the four teams left at that stage of the postseason the Red Sox might well be the most balanced of the quartet in terms of their fielding , offense and pitching . And that to my mind may well be the determining factor as to whether or not John Farrell leads this team to their third World Series’ title in the past seven seasons . It would certainly justify the faith shown in the manager and his staff , after a year of sheer turmoil and utter incompetence shown by Farrell’s predecessor , Bobby Valentine . The ease with which Boston was able to dispose of the Tampa Bay Rays, says a great deal about the determination of the team and the simple lack of real depth and leadership of the Rays’ staff altogether . When I have repeatedly pointed this fact out to a number of Tampa’s supporters , few have been prepared to answer that question succinctly, simply choosing instead to point to the managerial acumen of Joe Maddon. Yet , the manager can only give instruction to his players, and then expect them to execute accordingly.

The ease of Boston’s 3-1 series’ win in a best of five game series , has been a damning indictment of a Rays’ organization , although well ran , it remains with an unenviable task of trying to compete against teams within their division , who possess far deeper pockets and essentially have far greater resources all-round. During this off-season, GM Andrew Friedman will have to contemplate whether or not the organization can afford to retain the services of David Price , who in many ways was the team’s best pitcher and overall performer during the postseason. A one-year . $10 million contract was all that the ball-club could afford in 2013. Greater riches await Price and his agent Bo McKinnis , should they refuse what is likely to be another single or no more than two-year deal from the organization . A rather asinine article written in the business bible for many Forbes Magazine, suggested that the Rays would be able to negotiate a multi-year multi-million television deal that would be able to sustain the franchise over the decade and a half. Unfortunately, the writer of this article must have been someone with very little knowledge of the ball club and clearly not an intelligent enough individual, to realize the fact that once again the Tampa Bay Rays were at the lower end of attendance levels for baseball’s thirty teams during the 2013 season . In spite of the claims MLB that the Tampa Bay Rays draws on average in excess of 22,000 fans per home game at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida. That figure in reality, is a great deal closer to 15,000 hardcore fans that this franchise is known to possess. The fact the matter is, in spite of a growing television audience in the local market , on the national stage this ball-club is far from being a major draw.

Tampa as a baseball town, is unable compete along the lines of their big market counterparts, never mind the fact, that the Sales and Marketing Department’s attempts of selling the Rays as a brand, has proven to be about as successful an attempt, as it has been for the current Presidential administration’s attempt to raise the debt-ceiling and creating the perception that it will be a cure to solving the federal government’s budgetary woes. One can only carry on repeating the same lunacy for so long, before the general public or the fans finds that whole exercise tedious and rather comedic. The biggest issue I have with the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization is the continued reluctance shown by managing partners Matt Silverman and Stuart Sternberg to seek out a wealthy financial backer willing to take stake in the franchise , while providing the franchise with the means and resources to go after some of the more marquee free agents available. Granted, Maddon and his managerial assistants in conjunction with Andrew Friedman have been able to assess great talent by way of the MLB Draft over the past few years , while also being able to obtain workmanlike free agents via trade acquisitions that have proven to be productive. Yet, if Tampa is to compete against the top-heavy payrolls of teams such as the New York Yankees , Detroit Tigers Boston and Boston Red Sox , then the front office will clearly have to rethink its current strategy.

The disappointment of this postseason, has not been lost on the Rays’ fans as a great deal more was expected from this team at the start of the season. As the year wore on, it became abundantly clear that they were not the best team in the AL East , as many analyst and commentators alike had predicted. All of the hyperbole was simply misplaced on a team , that at best, their main hope was simply to make the postseason and then hope that the baseball gods would look down upon the franchise favorably as they sought to make their way the World Series. In 2013, it was not meant to be and at this juncture, I do believe it may well be a considerable length of time before we see the Tampa Bay Rays make another appearance in baseball’s showcase finale. Five years removed from that sensational year and that series’ appearance against the Philadelphia Phillies whetted the appetite of the fans, but it has now become a lovelorn quest that has proven to be so disappointing at every juncture for this organization in the subsequent years after that World Series’ appearance in 2008 .

As the front office spends time this off-season reassessing their needs and how best to strategize, who will remain a part of the current roster , and which players will be jettisoned. The thought has to be , whether or not it is feasible to continue along this path while knowing that next season without a doubt the New York Yankees , Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles are likely to get considerably better in terms of their lineups . In the case of the Toronto Blue Jays , theirs has been a lesson in abject stupidity and a complete lack of leadership from their executives on down to the managerial staff and amongst the players . After such an abject season, one can only question the decisions made by the front office and the lack of competitiveness shown by the team throughout the entire season. I can only surmise, that the goal of the organization was simply to assemble a platoon of overpaid stars to place alongside Jose Bautista and then to let the chips fall where they may , rather than to assemble a cohesive lineup. Manager John Gibbons is likely to return , but in all likelihood , his long-term future with the organization will not be all that long , if this franchise fails to compete in 2014.

With Joe Girardi and the New York Yankees agreeing to a contract extension , it remains to be seen whether not the organization will be as ambitious in retaining the services of Robinson Cano , as the player becomes a free agent this off-season. The retirements of Andy Pettite and Mariano Rivera , will see something of a depleted pitching staff , that this season was nowhere as good as advertised . Add in, the continued idiocy of the Alex Rodriguez saga and the Yankees’ less than ambitious task of seeking to remove the player from their organization , along with Bud Selig’s stupidity, in handling this issue. And baseball’s most celebrated franchise will have its own endearing off-season drama of comedic events .

Two years in succession and a change of leagues and the absolute mediocrity shown by the Houston Astros remained intact. It is one thing to lose one hundred games 2012 , but to repeat that feat again in 2013 as the American League’s newest arrival, was something that I believe not even the Astros’ fans were expecting. GM Jeff Luhnow and team owner Jim Crane must now be wondering, if that added incentive of $100 million offered by the league hierarchy was worthwhile in making jump from the NL Central to the AL West . While there is said to be a sense that current manager Bo Porter has the team heading in the right direction , there are those who feel that he and his staff are not the right people to be in charge and oversee the development of their young players on the roster, as well as seeking the progress of the farm system and prospects . With a payroll of just over $22 million in 2013 , the Astros’ salary obligations were the lowest in all of Major League Baseball and a far cry from the $228.8 million that was committed to by the New York Yankees . Consider the fact also that the game’s highest paid player , Alex Rodriguez , whose salary this season was a colossal $29 million delivered meager returns for the franchise , while the likes of the Astros struggled not only with attendance , but also trying to remain competitive over the course of the season . Next year, we are likely to see the Astros begin their Spring Training schedule with the usual mindset amongst baseball’s thirty teams , but once the regular season starts , will the team revert to ways of old , in proceeding to show us the form witnessed in 2012 and 2013 ?

As an avowed Atlanta Braves’ fan I expected a great deal more out of the team during the postseason ! The fact that Fredi Gonzalez and his staff could muster a sense of urgency amongst the players provides me now with the ammunition I need to not only be critical of the manager but the entire organization as a whole , from the executives on down . The NLDS series was simply an absolute abomination to endure and watch. Capsizing at sea perhaps , would be the best way to describe the effort of the team , as no one showed any emotion, or sought to step up to the plate. A clear case can be made that the Braves are a reflection of the manager Fredi Gonzalez , whose laid back style is not the type effort that is needed when managing in the postseason .

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Now that we are down to the final four teams for playing to become the AL and NL pennant representatives for this season’s World Series . It will be interesting to see how these respective series pan out with the Boston Red Sox playing host to the Detroit Tigers for the first two games of the ALCS at Fenway Park , while the St Louis Cardinals will have as their guests at Busch Stadium the Los Angeles Dodgers . While the league hierarchy and some of the more uninitiated, try to suggest that baseball has a level playing field , but consider the fact that these four teams combined, will have a payroll exceeding $600 million. Baseball has lost its way, in spite of the controversy and drama seen this season . Simply leave comment as you see fit on this and anything else you believe to be pertinent to the subject matter .

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Picture and slideshow details below .

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(1) Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his teammates celebrate their 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves in game four of the NLDS played at Dodgers Ballpark in Los Angles California . AP Photo / Mark J Terrill ….

(2) Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves reacts after striking out in the third inning of game four of the NLDS played against the Los Angeles Dodgers . Heyward like the rest of the Braves’ offense performed poorly during the series as a whole . Getty Images North America / Stephen Dunn ….

(3) Tampa Bay Rays’ manager Joe Maddon speaks with pitcher Jamey Wright , during the second inning of game four of the ALDS , which was played at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida against the Boston Red Sox . Also pictured, catcher Jose Lobaton . Boston would go on to win the game 3-1 and take the series 3-1 to make their to the ALCS , where they will play the Detroit Tigers . AP Photo / Chris O’Meara ….

(4) Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara celebrates with teammate , Jarrod Saltalmacchia after Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays is struck out in the ninth inning of game four of the ALDS . AP Photo /John Raoux ….

(5) New York Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman is seen here with the team’s manager Joe Girardi . The manager has agreed to a four-year contract extension said to be valued at $16 million . This off-season the team faces a number of tough decisions , most notably the re-signing of third baseman Robinson Cano as dealing with the decision to also acquire Japanese pitcher Lure Masahiro Tanaka . There also remains the uncertainty as to whether or not Alex Rodriguez will be a part of the roster for the upcoming 2014 season . The Yankees’ third baseman has a lawsuit in which he seeks to sue MLB as well as the team’s lead physician Dr Christopher Ahmad in a suit seeking unspecified damages , emotional distress , pain and anguish , slander , while seeking to do harm to his career and reputation . It should be noted , that an appeal’s hearing and date has yet to be set in the ongoing process, during which Rodriguez will seek to have his two hundred and eleven game suspension overturned . Getty Images / Thomas Croft ….

(6) Alex Rodriguez is seen here arriving at the MLB headquarters in New York City for an impromptu meeting with arbitrator Fred Horowitz . Also in attendance , were the player’s legal team headed by criminal defense attorneys Joseph Tacopina and David Cornwell . Getty Images / Robert Keller ….

(7) Houston Astros’ owner Jim Crane , left, is seen here with the team’s manager Bo Porter as he is formally introduced to the convened members of the media at Minute Maid Park in Houston , Texas . Coming off two straight seasons of losing in excess of one hundred games , the long-term future of the franchise is not as bright as Crane and his fellow executives have been trying to suggest . In recent months , it has been suggested that the Astros have been facing some steep financial difficulties which the owner and general manager Jeff Luhnow have denied . AP Photo / Ashley Jacobson …..

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tophatal ………… 10/10/2013

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MLB news

MLB postseason schedule

This week in MLB history

This day in MLB history

MLB free agents 2014
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Gianna Michaels

It all now comes down to this ?

It all now comes down to this ?

In what has amounted to be one of the more scandalous seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) , the year`s schedule is now entering the home stretch , with a number of divisional races still up for grabs. Eagerly fought with a great deal of competitiveness throughout much of the season , it must be said that over the next three weeks the managerial acumen of the managers and their staffs will be severely tested . And a number of them are likely to come up short in failing to accomplish their desired goals.

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Of the races said to offer the most intrigue and suspense, perhaps the NL Central`s long-standing battle between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St Louis Cardinals offers the biggest surprise and the best drama overall. Who would have guessed that this off all seasons, would be the one were Clint Hurdle`s players would be the ones to offer the best story-lines to be found all season long ? Granted the exploits of the Los Angeles Dodgers` rookie sensation Yasiel Puig are still being discussed as a water cooler topic, as fans and analysts alike , are trying to make a case that Puig is now the best young talent in the game. That might well be a valuable debate and discussion that could be dealt with at a later date. As of now, while the Cardinals and Pirates match wits against each other, as both teams seek to walk away with their reputations wits intact, while seeking raise to raise the news-worthiness of the division and the teams therein.

If Yasiel Puig is said to be the catalyst behind the Dodgers` successful season so far in 2013, then Andrew McCutchen has proven to be as equally adept in grabbing all of the major headlined success attained by the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. Should the Pirates slugger and infielder lead the team to divisional honors, it could quite possibly lead to McCutchen being named the NL MVP for this season. Most certainly, his seasonal statistics are good enough to bear this out, as he ranks in the top-ten in a number of offensive categories within the National League for 2013. What could prove to be pivotal within the NL Central for these two teams will be their finals series` meeting of the season, which will be a three-game series at Busch Stadium , in St Louis Missouri , beginning on the Friday 6th September . With less than a half-game separating the clubs at the top of the division (NL Central), neither side would want to be the odd man left out, having to then to play in a one game elimination decider, as part of the wildcard round of e playoffs . So tight, is the race amongst the top NL wildcard aspirants , that things are now far too close to call.

St Louis Cardinals` manager Mike Matheny would like nothing better than to seal this series with an outright victory in all three games, but that would be predicated upon his team overcoming their recent inconsistencies, with some unwanted losses .

In NL West , where the Los Angeles Dodgers are now running away with the division under a full head of steam , the question now surrounding manager Don Mattingly is how best to reincorporate the now healthy players coming off the team`s disabled list. It is a great situation for a manager to have and whose team is said to have one of the deepest rosters in all of baseball . The pitching rotation, led by Clayton Kershaw , who is having an astonishing season , leading the Majors with a league-low ERA of 1.89 , and the question now becomes, can the pitcher lower that statistic any further ? Certainly, if Kershaw continues to pitch with the consistency that he has shown, then there is no reason to believe why he could not make that a reality. As the Dodgers forge ahead looking to increase their twelve-game lead within the division and looking to make it insurmountable. It remains to be seen how good this team can be over the remainder of their schedule . In losing the first contest of a three-game series against Cincinnati Reds , the Dodgers will now look to close out that contest by taking the remaining two games of the series, before starting a six-game home stretch of games against the Arizona Diamondbacks and reigning World Series champions the San Francisco Giants .

For much of the year, the NL East has remained a one-horse race, with the Atlanta Braves seeing little challenge if any, from their divisional rivals. So dominant have been the Braves, that team manager Fredi Gonzalez has started to assess his roster , as he seeks not only the best possible starting lineup , but also to see if any of the younger prospects looking for a late season call-up will be able to contribute to what has already been a highly successful season for the organization. Team President, John Scheurholz and GM Frank Wren have simply made available to the managerial staff the best possible players needed to make the season an outright success. Shrewd player personnel moves by way of free agent acquisitions and a policy of drafting technically sound players and then overseeing their gradual progress through their farm system has borne fruit for the organization.

What has stood out for the Atlanta Braves has been the consistency of the offense and the pitching , as well as the defensive capabilities of the team as a whole . Coming off a minor slip-up in a 2-1 road loss to the lowly Philadelphia Phillies , this past Friday , the team will resume that series , looking to avenge the defeat on Saturday and then seeking to take the series with a victory on Sunday afternoon . Standout players for the Braves this season, have been Chris Johnson , Freddie Freeman , Justin Upton , Brian McCann , B J Upton , Dan Uggla , Evan Gattis , Luis Avilan , Mike Minor , Kris Medlen , Paul Maholm and Craig Kimbrel . I would certainly like to think that the aforementioned players, are likely to be a part of the Braves` postseason roster and contributing to the ongoing success of the organization . For the moment however, it is the immediacy of controlling the obstacles in front of the team , overcoming them and moving on from there , that will clearly define what is likely to be achieved by these players.

It has been a considerably long time since the Atlanta Braves tasted the success of having won a World Series title. The year was 1995 to be exact, when the Braves and their World Series MVP, pitcher , Tom Glavine, got by the Cleveland Indians , taking the series 4-2 for the franchise’s only title in their current guise as the Atlanta Braves. While there was perpetual success under former team manager Bobby Cox , winning an unprecedented fourteen straight divisional titles , 5 NL Pennants and a World Series during a two-decade managerial tenure with the ball-club. Cox will be eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2014, undoubtedly joining a list of noted Braves` luminaries under the Atlanta Braves` banner within that hallowed edifice.

Now for the remainder of the Braves` season , I am looking to seeing how this team acquits itself, as they seek another divisional title . Monday gives us a final opportunity to see the team in action , in the final game of their season long series against the Miami Marlins , in a contest to be played at Marlins Ballpark in Miami , Florida On the mound for Atlanta will be Kris Medlin (12-12) facing off against Miami`s Henderson Alvarez (3-3, 3.95 ERA). Composure , accountability, camaraderie and teamwork will be assessed by Fredi Gonzalez and his staff in these final contests , as that will give him some type mindset as to the frame of mind of his players , before they embark on postseason play.

In the AL East , we know this to be a division where you either play hard or you will simply just fade and die. In the past few weeks the Tampa Bay Rays have gone from being atop of the division to now fighting for their very survival and a playoff berth. Joe Maddon and his staff are seemingly at odds with the fans` perception of what is actually going on and the manager`s nonchalant attitude as to the team`s continued failings and inconsistency. Not so long ago, a patron of this site and I had a brief discussion as to whether or not , the then fourth placed New York Yankees were still capable of making the postseason in spite of their off field issues and the continued disdain of Alex Rodriguez . He stated no , merely because of clubhouse issues, lack of productivity coming from the Yankees` offense and the inconsistency of their pitching . Well, three weeks later , here we are and it is the Bronx Bombers now bringing the pain and a great deal of pressure to bear upon both the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles , as to who is likely to finish second within the division and claim one of the two coveted AL wildcard berths guaranteeing a trip into the postseason .

What was once a six-game lead that the Rays had over the Yankees has now been whittled down to a mere 2 ½ games, with neither Maddon , his players or even the most vociferous of Rays` fans being able to explain the reasons why, for the team`s failings and just pointing to the fact that they are still in playoff contention . Personally, I feel that the concentration of this Rays` team should be placed on winning the division, because in a one-game playoff eliminater , the Tampa Bay Rays are likely to come up exceedingly short and on the wrong side of a heartbreaking defeat ! Coming off their still ongoing issues with another loss (6-2) , this time to the lowly Seattle Mariners , whose season has been exceptionally morbid , there is not a great deal that can be said about the team , where Felix Fernandez’s talents continue to be wasted , because the front office and board of directors are too damn cheap to spend money to put a winning product on the field and where the coaching staff have not developed any meaningful talent within the organization over the past two seasons .

The Rays will once again face the Mariners on Sunday at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington , where Matt Moore will take on Erasmo Ramirez of Seattle . Tampa can ill-afford to have too many game losses , let alone series` losses , as it comes down the final stretch of the season. The team also has four very important series coming up against the Boston Red Sox , Texas Rangers , Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees during the final month of their schedule. Those series could very well determine whether or not the Rays are part of the postseason fare . Rays` GM Andrew Friedman as been able to work miracles this season in terms the personnel moves made , but repeatedly having to do that has become tedious and all too boring . With little incoming resources by way of any major corporate endorsers, this organization becomes all the more reliant on the good graces of baseball`s hierarchy to lend it a helping hand to assist in their payroll obligations . Andrew Friedman will have to weigh up the feasibility in bringing back players such as James Loney and David Price , two experienced veterans who have contributed to the team’s success in 2013. Both are free agents in 2014 and are likely to be highly sought after by teams in need of a former Cy Young winner and a productive first baseman . Can they afford to pay either the going rate for players at those positions or will it be more of the penny-pinching that this organization has become known for in recent seasons ?

Over the next ten days we should get to know a great deal about the mindset of this Rays’ organization as they embark on the final three weeks of the regular season . Chances are that, they will either sink or swim , based upon their play over that time-span. Should the team miss the postseason , then there will be a number of questions being asked not only of the coaching staff , but of the players themselves and most certainly of the front office , led by owner Stuart Sternberg . Beyond the ongoing saga of the Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium issue the fans still have to deal with the very fact that this team has been poorly supported over its entire existence with a hardcore fan-base averaging no more than 15,000 people , but yet, baseball`s hierarchy would have us believe that with average home gate attendance of just over 18,000 , all is well within this organization. From the outside looking in, that may well be the case , but if you were to dig deeper, then you would begin to see, that is most definitely not the case.

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Picture gallery .

What if anything , are you hoping to see as the regular season begins to wind down within baseball ? Which teams do you believe to be the most capable of representing the AL and NL in the World Series ? By all means, do leave a comment on this and anything else you believe to be pertinent to the subject matter and thanks as always for the continued support of this site, as it greatly appreciated !

Picture and slideshow details below .

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(1) Los Angeles Angels’ Grant Green , right, scores as the throw to Texas Rangers catcher Geovany Soto goes wide right on a two-run double by Angels’ Andrew Romine in the fourth inning during a baseball game , Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in Anaheim, Calif. AP Photo/Alex Gallardo …

(2) Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws against the Cincinnati Reds in the first inning during a baseball game , Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in Cincinnati. AP Photo/David Kohl ….

(3) St Louis Cardinals` Matt Carpenter (13) is safe at second with an RBI double on the call by umpire Brian Gorman , as the Pittsburgh Pirates` Neil Walker can`t make the tag in time during the second inning of a baseball game between played on Sunday at Busch Stadium , St Louis, Missouri , on the 8th September , 2013. AP Photo / Phil Boyce …..

(4) Yasiel Puig (66) 99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers strikes out in the fourth inning giving starting pitcher Homer Bailey (34) of the Cincinnati Reds the seventh of his nine strike outs at Great American Ball Park on September 8, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Los Angeles 3-2 to sweep the series . Getty Images North America / Jamie Squire ….

(5) Evan Gattis (24) of the Atlanta Braves congratulates Alex Wood (58) after Wood scored a run in the third inning of the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on September 7, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Getty Images / Brian Garfinkel ….

(6) Seattle Mariners catcher Henry Blanco tags out Tampa Bay Rays` Chris Giminez ,right, at the plate during the ninth inning of a baseball game on Sunday , 8th September , 2013 played at Safeco Field in Seattle , Washington . AP Photo / Ted S Warren ….

(7) Atlanta Braves GM Frank Wren , left , is seen here with outfielder B J Upton and team manager Fredi Gonzalez . Upton was signed as a free agent in the off-season and has provided some leadership on the Braves’ roster that also includes younger sibling Justin Upton . B J Upton hopes to provide the team with added productivity during what is hopefully a deep run during the playoffs . Courtesy of USA Today / AP Photos / Greg Jarrett ….

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tophatal …………… 09/08/2013

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MLB news and archived stories

MLB transactions

MLB schedule 9th September 2013

MLB results 6th September to 8th September

MLB probable pitchers 9th September

MLB standings and wildcard standings

MLB standings one year ago today : Divisional standings and wildcard standings

This week in MLB history

This day in MLB history (9th September)

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Atlanta Braves` news and team`s remaining regular season schedule

Tampa Bay Rays` news and remaining games on their schedule

Tampa Bay Rays` head to head meetings in 2013 and their results .

Miscellaneous stats 2013 season (Attendance) , comparisons between 2012 and 2013

The crack of maple, and then there was the crack heard around the world , Jeter’s ankle just gave out

The crack of maple, and then there was the crack heard around the world , Jeter’s ankle just gave out

By Tophatal

That tingling sensation at the back of your neck are the hairs standing up, and now comes the unthinkable, the New York Yankees’ postseason hopes now appears to be on the line with the injury sustained by Derek Jeter in the ALCS series against the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees’ captain ,Derek Jeter , sustained a season-ending injury, a broken left ankle , that will now see him miss entire postseason schedule . The loss was magnified by the fact that the team lost their series’ opener in a highly sensational game to the Tigers in extra innings.
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For the thousands in attendance at Yankees Stadium in New York City , New York , and the millions more watching on broadcast television , the sight of the five-time World Series’ champion being assisted off the field sent a chilling feeling, as the captain left the game. Jeter’s teammates , to the man , showed their angst in their post-game interviews, stating that they were in complete shock to know that their trusted leader would no longer be part of this series or the remainder of postseason. The game itself, prior to the loss of Derek Jeter, ebbed and flowed over the nine innings before entering into suspense filled ending that went extra innings (twelve) . Tigers’ closer Jose Valverde blew the save opportunity when offered, and it became clear that the Yankees sought to take advantage of the chance to garner a 1-0 lead in this best of seven-game series.

As ALCS games go, this one might be one of the most eventful and thrilling in recent history. Joe Girardi now has to reshuffle his lineup, and with the poor postseason for Alex Rodriguez , somehow you get the feeling that the third baseman might not be the manager’s choice to replace Jeter at the short-stop position. In all likelihood , Girardi will seek to either platoon his available short-stops Jayson Nix or Eduardo Nunez to replace the team’s All Star short stop . Nunez has proven to be the better of two options with far better defensive and offensive skills than his teammate. A game-time decision will be made by Joe Girardi , when the two teams meet today in game two . On the mound for the Yankees , will be Hideki Kuroda (0-0,2.16 ERA) , as he faces off against Anibel Sanchez (0-1, 2.84). The team lineups will be will be announced later on today, prior to the game-time start. The New York Yankees can ill-afford to find themselves in an 0-2 deficit , in this best of seven game series, and going down would lead to a monumental mountain to climb in having to erase such a margin.

Jim Leyland , and Dave Dombrowski have assembled a team for what they believe , is for the long haul , and it should be noted that Miguel Cabrera , Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander , are intent on bringing a championship back to Comerica Park, and the always vociferous Tigers’ fans . In 2011, the Tigers were part of baseball’s postseason fare, where they would fall (4-2) to the Texas Rangers . The team would also be a participant in the 2006 World Series, where they would succumb to the St Louis Cardinals in a thoroughly lopsided series.

Michael Ilitch, the Tigers’ billionaire team owner yearns to see the franchise win a World Series , having had considerable success with the Detroit Red Wings and their multiple —- Stanley Cup titles . If ever the time was ripe for such a scenario , then now would be it , albeit that the ball-club’s sole triumph in the game’s biggest postseason fare came in 1984 , as Alan Trammell , Marty Castillo and Jack Morris , led the Tigers to their biggest postseason victory in the franchise’s history. The Detroit Tigers are celebrating , with Miguel Cabrera coming off a tremendous season , with the acclamation of being the first Triple Crown award claimant in forty-five years, having succeeded Carl Yastremski , in accomplishing that feat.

In the NLCS match-up the San Francisco Giants are playing host to the St Louis Cardinals in their series for the first two games . Game one, will pit Lance Lynn (1-1, 8.10 ERA) of the Cardinals against Madison Baumgartner (0-1, 8.31 ERA) in what is sure to be a highly competitive game.

The two participants in this season’s NLCS are the winners of the last two World Series titles in 2011 and 2010. Both franchises are steeped in tradition and success , and the emphasis in this series will undoubtedly be the pitching, albeit that neither team is said to be found wanting, in terms of their offensive prowess . Should either of the two series go their full distance , then we should be in for an eventful postseason foray , with thrills , spills and whatever else these games will have in store for us all .

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Picture gallery, for your perusal.

Which events of the MLB postseason have been the most surprising by your estimation? And which teams do you believe will be the two participants in the World Series? By all means do leave a comment as you see fit .

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Picture and slide show details below.
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(1) Detroit Tigers pitcher Jose Valverde waits for the ball after giving up a two-run home run to New York Yankees’ Ichiro Suzuki , rear, in Game 1 of the American League championship series Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, in New York. Valverde and the Tigers would go on to defeat the Yankees 6-4 in twelve innings .AP Photo/Matt Slocum ….

(2) New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter reacts after injuring himself in the 12th inning of Game 1 of the American League championship series against the Detroit Tigers early Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in New York. AP Photo/Paul Sancya ….

(3) Trainer Steve Donohue , left, and New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi , right, help Yankees’ Derek Jeter off the field after he injured himself during Game 1 of the American League championship series against the Detroit Tigers Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in New York. AP Photo/Paul Sancya …..

(4) Detroit Tigers’ Alex Avila attempts to catch a pop-up by New York Yankees’ Raul Ibanez in the fourth inning of Game 2 of the American League championship series Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in New York. Umpire in background is Rob Drake . AP Photo/Matt Slocum ….

(5) Fans seated in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium wait for the start of Game 2 of the American League championship series between the Yankees and Detroit Tigers Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in New York. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel …..

(6) San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence , left, and Marco Scutaro work on some bats during a practice session for baseball’s National League championship series Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, in San Francisco. The St. Louis Cardinals play the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday. AP Photo/David J. Phillip ….

(7) Cardinals closer Jason Motte (right) embraces catcher Tony Cruz as their teammates rush the field after Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. AP Photo/Chris Lee, Post Dispatch ……

(8) Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson speaks at a news conference after Game 5 of the National League division baseball series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, Oct 13, 2012, in Washington. St. Louis 9-7 . AP Photo/Nick Wass ……

(9) St. Louis Cardinals’ Pete Kozma singles in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the National League division baseball series against the Washington Nationals on Saturday, Oct 13, 2012, in Washington. David Freese and Daniel Descalso scored on the play . AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais ….

(10) Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper stands by his locker after Game 5 of the National League division baseball series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, Oct 13, 2012, in Washington. St. Louis won 9-7. There now seems to be a great deal of questioning of the decision made by GM Mike Rizzo to shutdown the team’s starting pitcher —– Stephen Strasburg , and thereby dashing the hopes of the ball-club’s chances of advancing deeper into the MLB postseason. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais ……..

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Veronica Vior

Lose Yourself ………

Lose Yourself …………

By tophatal ………

So baseball’s postseason finale has ended and the St Louis Cardinals reigns supreme over the baseball world . For manager Tony La Russa he joins a select band of managers to have won multiple World Series with one team and also having won in both the American and National Leagues . That asides it was a night for rejoicing within the city of St Louis and across the state of Missouri but most certainly for the ardent Cardinals’ fans who happened to have witnessed the team’s game seven triumph 6-2 over the Texas Rangers .

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The Rangers for their part throughout the series had their chances to take the championship when they had it within their grasp. It all came to no avail as Ron Washington’s team simply had trouble putting away with the St Louis Cardinals . The offense during game seven for the Rangers was non existent as Nelson Cruz , Josh Hamilton and Michael Young simply offered nothing by way of productivity when it mattered most . But it would also be prudent to add that the bullpen of the Texas Rangers also played its part in this loss. Two consecutive appearances in the World Series for the Rangers and on both occasions the same end result , a loss for the team. This has to be a tremendous disappointment for the coaching staff , in particular for team president Nolan Ryan , general manager Jon Daniels and the entire front office of the organization .

For David Freese of the St Louis Cardinals he finds himself on the list of Cardinals’ legends who have been named World Series MVP . Certainly the out-fielder as a hometown hero can now look to his future with this organization as being one , where he may well never have to buy a drink again while he remains a player with the St Louis Cardinals . And while the fans now await the decision by the front office and in particular that of general manager John Mozeliak and the De Witt family as the proprietary owners of the ball-club and their willingness to re-sign Albert Pujols who’s now an unrestricted free agent.

Pujols in his postgame interview was quick to point out that all he was concerned with , was relishing the aftermath of the team’s latest —- triumph and his wish to be part of future postseason victories at the highest level of the game. If Freese was seen as the hero of this series for the St Louis Cardinals then most certainly Chris Carpenter cannot have been that far behind . His pitching performances throughout this series almost certainly guaranteed the team making it as far as they reached. Never mind the heroics of the team during the last day of the regular season . And we can all attest to the fact the failings of both the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox still reverberates around the game , most notably so within the front office of the Red Sox . With the departure of their former general manager Theo Epstein to the Chicago Cubs , the promotion of Ben Cherington as his successor and the organization’s decision in not extending Terry Francona’s contract . One can allude to the fact that this is now a time of upheaval within that particular organization. It remains to be seen what now transpires concerning the free agents on this Red Sox roster and the decisions that will be made by the front office executives and coaching staff.

Now with the free agency period for baseball set to commence at midnight Monday 31st October it remains to be seen what moves will be made by the respective general managers and teams around the league as they seek to make themselves better for the upcoming season . We have already seen where the Philadelphia Phillies have chosen not to pick up the options on pitchers Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt . GM Reuben Amaro Jr. and the coaching staff will no doubt seek to bolster the roster through free agent acquisitions and quite possibly assessing their farm system and prospects .

Courtesy of MLB.com

La Russa announces his retirement as skipper

Steps down after three titles in 33 seasons, 16 with Cardinals

By Joey Nowak of MLB.com

Tony La Russa, the third-winningest manager in Major League history and most assuredly a future Hall of Famer, announced his retirement as a manager on Monday, fewer than three days after winning a World Series for the third time in his 33-year career, the past 16 of them with the Cardinals.

The surprising announcement was made during a Monday morning news conference at Busch Stadium.

“There isn’t one [factor] that dominates [my decision],” La Russa said. “They all just come together telling you your time is over.

“We went through the season and I felt that this just feels like it’s time to end it and I think it’s going to be great for the Cardinals to refresh what’s going on here.”

He said that he’d made his decision to retire in August, informing general manager John Mozeliak at that time. He said he told his coaching staff of his decision on Sunday.

“I’m looking forward to what’s ahead,” La Russa said. “I’m ready to do something different.”

La Russa, 67, steps down with 2,728 managerial victories, ranking behind only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763). Only Mack has managed in more ballgames. The Cardinals skipper is also the only manager in Major League Baseball history to win multiple pennants in both leagues and the second to win a World Series title in each, as well.

La Russa’s Oakland A’s won the World Series in 1989. Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson won World Series titles with Cincinnati and Detroit. The Cardinals’ championship was their second in the past six seasons.

La Russa said that he did not consider continuing in order to get the 36 wins he would have needed and pass McGraw on the all-time list.

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From my own perspective I cannot see how the St Louis Cardinals can be a success without Albert Pujols within their midst . It would be an economical and competitive suicide on the part of the of this organization. And anyone who believes that to be the contrary would either have to be a complete idiot or simply having come off a highly addictive opiate ! The player is not only the heart and soul of this team but also its vocal leader . The interpretations are there for all to see and as the player goes , so does the rest of this team . If one man is said to mean so much to an organization , then surely one man such as Pujols himself , knows what he means to the St Louis Cardinals ? . As a three time league MVP the player is now laying down a legacy for himself that will surely place in Cooperstown , New York as an enshrinee within the Hall of Fame .

Albert Pujols can now certainly lay claim that he might well be the most popular , if not the best Cardinals’ player to have donned their uniform. As the player lays claim not only to team records but also rewrites the records within the game itself it remains to be seen , what , if any decision will be made as to Pujols’ immediate future . It seems almost inconceivable to think that the player could very well be donning another uniform at the start of the 2012 season . But such are the vagaries of the game that until the league hierarchy , owners and union are all on the same page as to some sort financial constraints then we may well continue to see players simply departing from a team merely because the owners simply cannot meet a player’s financial demands .

As to the future of the Texas Rangers psychologically they may well recover but the indignity of suffering to consecutive World Series’ losses has me wondering how any organization can truly recover something like ! It has been done before but clearly this was not something that either Nolan Ryan or Jon Daniels could have envisaged . The Rangers’ team president was very gregarious with his pronouncement that the team would win the series in six game but never over the course of the World Series had his team simply shown that they had the upper hand over the St Louis Cardinals . And it certainly had to have occured players such as Josh Hamilton , Michael Young , Elvis Andrus , Colby Lewis and Derek Holland that if they were to prevail over their opponents then beating them at Busch Stadium had to be done , and be done with expediently and with malice. The biggest chink in the armor of the Texas Rangers over the course of the postseason but in particular this World Series has been the inconsistency of the bullpen . When it mattered most the players simply failed to deliver , therein now lies the story which sealed the fate of this team. The organization now goes into the offseason looking to shore up this team by whatever means necessary and given the financial resources now at Jon Daniels’ disposal I doubt that he will have any problems seeking the players he believes can make this organization a great deal more competitive ! The first order of business for the general manager has to be whether or not to re-sign Colby Lewis who becomes a free agent in the offseason.

Inasmuch as I have enjoyed this series I have to admit that while enthralling it has been nowhere as scintillating as the press would have us believe . Truth be known , the events as they have unfolded we were simply being led to believe that this would all be one big suspenseful event . Clearly that was not the case ! Game’s five and six may well have been the only games in this series that clearly had us all in awe , whereas the other five games were merely stocking fillers and not much beyond that !

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

What impressions do you have not only of the MLB postseason but also the regular season as a whole ? Simply leave a comment as you deem fit .

tophatal ……………..

Picture and slide show details .
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(1) FILE – In this Oct. 25, 2011 file photo, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa smiles as he answers a question during a news conference, in St. Louis. Three days after winning the World Series, La Russa is retiring. The 67-year-old manager announced his retirement at a news conference Monday, Oct. 31, 2011 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson ….

(2) ST. LOUIS, MO – OCTOBER 30: Fans of the St. Louis Cardinals participates in a parade celebrating the team’s 11th World Series championship October 30, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images …….

(3) Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals participates in the World Series victory parade for the franchise’s 11th championship on October 30th in St Louis, Missouri. Photo by Ed Szczepanski/Getty Images ….

(4) ST. LOUIS, MO – OCTOBER 30: of the St. Louis Cardinals participates in the World Series victory parade for the franchise’s 11th championship on October 30th in St Louis, Missouri. Photo by Ed Szczepanski/Getty Images ……

(5) Third baseman David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals addresses the crowd inside Busch Stadium on October 30, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri. Photo by Ed Szczepanski/Getty Images …..

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Eminem …………..” Lose Yourself ” . Perhaps this song best represents what went wrong for the Texas Rangers over the course of the postseason ?

Who’s To Blame And Who Not To Blame …. Better Yet What Do You Do After That ?

Who’s To Blame And Who Not To Blame …. Better Yet What Do You Do After That ?


I am delirious at present , having watched the excitement and suspense unfold last night in a number of games that closed out the baseball season. And as we are now all aware the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox …. folded like tents being blown away in a sandstorm . God knows , there are about to be some serious repercussions within the city of Boston . And I do believe that the fans will be lambasting not just the players on that Red Sox team but also the coaching staff and front office . There’s every reason to believe that quite possibly because of this Terry Francona could very well end up losing his job in the same manner as his predecessor Grady Little . The city’s flagship radio sport’s talk station WEEI’s switchboard has to be now lighting up with the fans now looking to apportion blame while some may well be seeking some sort of consolation and solace out of this all.

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With the season having ended and the standings reflecting what one might suggest was an unbelievable year . I am not so sure that this postseason can live up to the drama that we may have all witnessed in the last forty eight hours much less over the last month of arduous season. The biggest disappointment for myself was to see the Braves simply wilt under the pressure but at the same time with this young team having endured this sort of pain I can only hope it makes them stronger and more attentive as to what it takes to become champions. Certainly manager Fredi Gonzalez , his coaching staff and the entire front office can feel proud of their accomplishments this year but at the same you can only wonder as to what might have been had they managed to eke out one or two more wins over the course of their season.

Opportunities when they’re thrown your way cannot be wasted and I think that this happened to be the case here with both the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox ! In the case of the Braves it came down to their inexperience and that of the manager’s own intuitive experience and what to expect when placed under pressure and real adversity . The seasoned veterans on the team such as Chipper Jones , Derek Lowe , Tim Hudson and Alex Gonzalez were meant to the leaders for the young members of this team but it simply would not be enough with the advent of the pressure placed upon them . In losing out on the NL wildcard berth with that privilege going to the St Louis Cardinals the Atlanta Braves missed out on making another postseason appearance . Last season their divisional series loss to the eventual World Series champions the San Francisco Giants was enough to suggest that the organization was heading in the right direction under the tenure of Fredi Gonzalez and GM Frank Wren . Now it’s back to the drawing board and the travails of the offseason making deals , acquiring players and winter ball .

Congratulations to Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays for an improbable season and pulling off what has to be said must be one of the truly great finishes to a schedule for any franchise under astonishing circumstances . I certainly hadn’t envisioned this team coming from 7 plus games behind with less then a month to go in the season. But as they say ….” you never what to expect “ and certainly the players began to believe in themselves and what was possible. This was certainly epitomized in the play of the team and in particular by the young players who were thrown into the lion’s den by Maddon and his coaching staff . Clearly the likes of Jeremy Hellickson , Desmond Jennings , Sam Fuld , James Shields , Evan Longoria , B.J Upton and Ben Zobrist never felt under any undue pressure as they simply did all that was asked of them and a great deal more .

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Fans of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate the Rays victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ….

Now comes the hard part of the Tampa Bay Rays in their divisional series against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington , Texas . And though things might favor the Rangers , given what we have seen from the Tampa Rays during the month of September I firmly believe that nothing is off the table by way of the unforeseen or the unexpected !

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Manager Joe Maddon (70) of the Tampa Bay Rays hugs Sean Rodriguez (1) after the Rays victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……

There is no denying that this last month of the season gave the fans more than they could ever have expected . As the scenarios began to unfold , who could have known that the final day of the season would have meant so much to the teams vying for those two final playoff berths . Now comes all of the hard questions …… with the fans and analysts within the genres of sports journalism looking for the answers . It simply won’t just be about the teams who missed out on those playoff berths but also about the ball clubs who simply failed to live up to expectations and to my mind there are many who can be categorized within that area. Big money teams asides and the salaries afforded for those organizations at the end of the day it all comes down to the competitiveness of the teams and their play on the field . But it would be remiss not to suggest the part played by the general managers and team owner who are simply chasing after the glory for their teams by simply looking to spend big with the chance of reaping the rewards that await .

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Picture and slide show for your perusal .

As the postseason awaits I am not so sure that the thrilling suspense afforded the fans can actually be lived up to ! I mean that’s unless the teams involved give it their all with some thrilling displays of baseball that we could never have thought possible . What thoughts if any do you have about the regular season finales and of the postseason itself ? Chime in with your thoughts and expectations .

Alan aka tophatal …………… https://tophatal.wordpress.com

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ATLANTA – SEPTEMBER 28: Jack Wilson (1) of the Atlanta Braves turns a double play against John Mayberry, Jr. (15) of the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on September 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Braves would go on to lose the game in extra innings 4-3 to the Phillies . Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images …..

(2) ATLANTA – SEPTEMBER 28: Chipper Jones (10) of the Atlanta Braves paces the dugout after striking out in the 13th inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on September 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images ………

(3) HOUSTON – SEPTEMBER 28: Nick Punto (C) of the St. Louis Cardinals is showered with champagne by Chris Carpenter, right, as they celebrate winning the National League wildcard at Minute Maid Park on September 28, 2011 in Houston, Texas. The Cardinals would defeat the Astros 8-0 to clinch the NL wildcard and deprive the Atlanta Braves of the spot that they held for the last six weeks . Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images …….

(4) Carl Crawford (13) of the Boston Red Sox walks in the dugout with first base coach Ron Johnson (50) after a 4-3 loss against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images …………

(5) Manager Terry Francona (47) of the Boston Red Sox argues a call with first base umpire Scott Barry in the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images …….

(6) The Tampa Bay Rays celebrate their victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays came back from a 7-0 deficit to defeat the New York Yankees 8-7 . Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images …..

(7) Infielder Evan Longoria (3) of the Tampa Bay Rays rounds the bases after his bottom of the twelfth inning walk off home run against the New York Yankees during the game at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images …..

(8) Fans of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate the Rays victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ………….

(9) Manager Joe Maddon (70) of the Tampa Bay Rays hugs Sean Rodriguez (1) after the Rays victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……
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Pick ‘em At Your Peril ……………..

Pick ‘em At Your Peril ………

Well with the baseball season now climaxing in a schedule of games that may well impact the playoff scenario it is extremely hard to believe that after a 162 game schedule it all now comes down to this . The divisional winners are set but we have a quartet of teams now vying for the wildcard berths within both leagues . Those teams are the Atlanta Braves , St Louis Cardinals within the National League with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays within the American League . This all bodes well for the league hierarchy of baseball and in particular for both TBS and TNT who will broadcast the divisional and league championship series before Fox Sports takes over the tenure to televise the World Series , itself.

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At this point the questions now being asked and the reverberations caused , have to be about the meltdowns of both the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox who less than three weeks ago held sizeable leads over their respective wildcard rivals coming into the last day of the season . The troubling fact is that for the managers in question they now have to their teams playing with added vigor because of what’s said to be on the line for both of these ball clubs . For Fredi Gonzalez he knows it is imperative tonight that the team is victorious against the Phillies Phillies in a game to be played at Turner Field , Atlanta , Georgia. For Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa he knows that this is the last chance for his team to make something of what many believed to have been something of a disappointing season as they were favored to win the NL Central . That privilege went to Ron Roenicke and the Milwaukee Brewers and in doing so that could conclude with the manager being named NL Manager of the Year . But I do believe that he could well be challenged for that honor by Kirk Gibson of the Arizona Diamondbacks !

The St Louis Cardinals in their pivotal game face the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park , in Houston , Texas . And there is no one on this Cardinals’ team who does not know the importance of this game and what it means to their season . Certainly for the St Louis Cardinals’ fans they are cheering on the players in the fervent hope that they can make the postseason . Add into this all the intrigue surrounding whether or not this could well be Albert Pujols’ last season with the organization and you can begin to feel the fervor and excitment arising out of this scenario as it plays itself out .

I have said repeatedly when teams such as the Boston Red Sox with their financial wherewithal simply act as if money is of no object as they chase down talent in the search of glory , sooner or later you’re bound be undone by your own avarice . The organization led by GM Theo Epstein and team President Larry Lucchino have the league’s second highest payroll behind the venerable New York Yankees . And inasmuch as that might sour the taste for some fans one cannot be denied is the very fact that when spent wisely no one can argue with the success attained by that organization. For the Boston Red Sox front office the question now being asked is…. how could this all have spiraled out of control so quickly ?

With there now being rumors of discord between Francona and Theo Epstein there is a thought that the same fate that befell his predecessor Grady Little could now await Terry Francona should he and the team fail to deliver . From my own standpoint it has been the inconsistent pitching from the front end of the rotation led by Josh Beckett that has been the primary cause of the Red Sox’s woes . It will be left to Jon Lester pitching for the ball club tonight against the Baltimore Orioles ____ to acquit himself well and the team still into contention for that AL wildcard berth.

If there is one thing that Joe Maddon has going for himself and the Tampa Bay Rays at present then it would have to be the momentum and the hunger of this young team . And granted , there are some seasoned veterans at the heart of this roster but it has been the welcome play of the youngsters on this squad that has brought about this surprising turn of events . The likes of Desmond Jennings , Sam Fulds , Alex Cobb , Sean Rodriguez and Jeremy Hellickson have all contributed to the success of the organization this season . And for Joe Maddon and his managerial staff this has to be one of the most pleasing moments of his distinguished career .

As to what may transpire tonight no one can really say but I am sure that the events as they unfold will have all of us riveted to our screens and for those of us able to witness the events live at the venues in question . I can only surmise that you too will be enthralled by the games as they take place . Trying to determine a winner however might not be as easy as it looks and I for one can only hope that the intrigue will only add to the competitiveness of the games !

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Picture gallery for your perusal.

Which teams do you favor or actually envisage attaining the resepective wildcard berths ? Simply chime in with a comment as you deem fit .

Alan aka tophatal …………….. https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Picture and slide show details below .

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(1) Atlanta Braves’ pitcher Derek Lowe walks off the field after giving up two runs to the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, in Atlanta. The Phillies would go on to defeat the Braves 7-1 . AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton …..

(2) ATLANTA – SEPTEMBER 27: Chase Utley (26) of the Philadelphia Phillies is congratulated by Ryan Howard (6) after hitting a home run against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 27, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images ……

(3) Allen Craig (21) of the St. Louis Cardinals receives congratulations from Yadier Molina (4) after hitting a three run home run in the eighth inning scoring Albert Pujols (5) and Lance Berkman (12) at Minute Maid Park on September 27, 2011 in Houston, Texas. The St Louis Cardinals would defeat the Astros 13-6 . Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images ….

(4) St. Louis Cardinals’ Yadier Molina, left, slides safely into home plate to score as Houston Astros catcher Humberto Quintero (55) handles the throw during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, in Houston. Molina and Allen Craig scored on a triple by Ryan Theriot. AP Photo/David J. Phillip ……

(5) Manager Terry Francona (47) of the Boston Red Sox walks back to the dugout during the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 27, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Red Sox defeated the Orioles 8-7 . Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images ……..

(6) Boston Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and second baseman Dustin Pedroia, from left, high-five teammates after a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, in Baltimore. Boston won 8-7. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky …..

(7) ST. PETERSBURG, FL – SEPTEMBER 27: Catcher Kelly Shoppach (10) and pitcher Kyle Farnsworth (43) of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate their team’s victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 27, 2011 in St.Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……

(8) First baseman Mark Teixeira (25) of the New York Yankees takes the throw at first as Johnny Damon (22) of the Tampa Bay Rays gets back safely during the game at Tropicana Field on September 27, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays would defeat the New York Yankees 5-3 and now tie the Red Sox atop of the AL wildcard berth standings (90-71) Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……
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So It All Comes Down To This …..

So It All Comes Down To This …..

Well as the MLB season enters its final week several of the divisional races seem to be all but sealed . Albeit , that the divisional wildcard races are still up for grabs the competition there seems to be very boisterous with the teams seeking the final berths within the the leagues are of the greatest importance to these ball-clubs. In the AL what seemed to be an insurmountable lead for the Boston Red Sox over the Tampa Bay Rays has been all but erased but for a mere two game margin between the two teams. The AL East has been sealed with the New York Yankees triumphant making the postseason for the forty ninth time over the course of their long distinguished history .

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For New York Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi this has been a season that pretty much was one that truly tested his resolve and that of his coaching assistants . And certainly when one takes into account all of the drama that has surrounded the season by the team you simply know that it’s back to business as usual for the organization. With GM Brian Cashman yet to sign a contract extension it would appear that this will be situation soon to resolved if if Hank and Hal Steinbrenner know what is best for the New York Yankees. The team itself has performed with the due distinction you would come to expect that has a litany of highly paid and praised All Stars .

Curtis Granderson , Mark Teixeira , Robinson Cano , CC Sabathia , Derek Jeter , Jesus Montero and the ever dependable Mariano Rivera have all contributed to the team’s success this season.

One of the more bewildering issues of the baseball year I do believe has been the disappointment in seeing a number of teams that have simply not lived up to expectations . Now you can spin it anyway that you want by saying injuries do play a part in ball-club’s season but at the same it is incumbent upon those teams , their respective managers and general managers to make sure that the parts in place for those teams to attain the success that they strive for. Instead , I hear repeatedly the excuses that continue to be used repeatedly by fans and purists alike who use that as a crux for their own comfort . I mean if a manager simply cannot get the best out of his players or those teammates simply cannot step up to the plate then it is a clear indication that the team just isn’t on the right track.

At this point of the season last year it would be safe to say that the fans of the game were simply satisfied with what they had seen with the expectations that the postseason would live up to the usual intrigue. The San Francisco Giants as defending World Series’ champions have seen their season virtually slip away due to the team’s inconsistency and the simple fact that the Arizona Diamondbacks came out of nowhere like a buzz saw felling everything in their way and leaving all in their wake. For Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy I am sure that he and GM Brian Sabean had hoped for a more productive season from the team . Most certainly for Kirk Gibson and his coaching staff the fact that the Arizona Diamondbacks seem to be on the cusp of another postseason appearance only adds to the allure and ongoing history of this ball-club. And for the Diamondbacks’ manager there is very reason to believe that he could very well end up being named the NL Manager of the Year .

This young Arizona Diamondbacks’ team bought into everything that Kirk Gibson was selling and their play was simply epitomized by the character shown by Gibson as a player . Certainly Dustin Upton has been everything that the front office had come to expect and a great deal more by way of his productivity this season. But it has been a collective effort on the part of this team that has put this organization back in the postseason. It gives hope to the small market teams around the league with the ambition to succeed where the brevitas is actually also shown by the team owners as well.

Now it goes without saying that although much of the season has eclipsed by the drama off the field of play with ongoing saga of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the fact that beleaguered owner Frank McCourt sought to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in US Federal Court in the state of Delaware. McCourt has remained steadfast in his resolve to retain control of the team albeit that time now appears to be running out . Having received financing in the form of a $150 million loan courtesy of Goldman Sachs which will aid in the funding of the organization’s expenditure until the end of the season. However, while this saga continues there seems to be no clear sign that Frank McCourt has been able to negotiate an amicable agreement with the team’s creditors , whilst in litigation. So much of this could have been avoided had MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and the league hierarchy used due diligence in monitoring this situation from the beginning instead of absolving themselves of any responsibility and then choosing to intervene as a face saving image exercise . Now all the talk appears to be the expanding of the postseason with the addition of two teams from each league . If the commissioner really wants to address the real issues facing the game then he had better wake to the real problems that the game now finds itself in rather than creating the premise that this new format would actually be of benefit of the game.

Selig has shown as much insight for the business side of the game as a blind man would feel at ease playing hopscotch in a minefield . And while the ongoing saga continues with the Los Angeles Dodgers let us not forget the fact that the New York Mets now sits on a precipice which the owners simply cannot extricate themselves from at present . Having seen a prospective investor in Wall St hedge fund manager David Einhorn pull out of a deal to purchase a minority stake in the team with a view to then gaining a 51% stake at a later date Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon as the senior managing partners and co-owners of the team .

With the New York Mets and the two principal partners now defendants in a civil suit that seeks the return of $750 million determined as a small part of the monies received by Katz and Wilpon which they say are genuinely derived profits recouped by way of their investments in the Bernard Madoff ” Ponzi Scheme” . Representing the plaintiffs seeking the returns of the monies mentioned is renowned attorney Irving H Picard . The plaintiffs’ case from a prima facie viewpoint is very strong but in reality neither Katz, Wilpon or any other senior executive within the Mets’ organization has sought to openly willing to answer in depth any of the questions sought by Irving Picard. Clearly the longer this maelstrom continues the more acute the situation seems to be for the New York Mets because should the presiding judge in this civil case find for the plaintiffs in this hearing then it will not bode well for the ball-club . The team from a financial standpoint is losing money and that is even with the benefit of that $755 million all purpose built stadium at the taxpayers’ expense courtesy of the city of New York and Mayor Michael Bloomberg who has made sure that this white elephant sits proudly in Flushing New York while the city commission furloughs municipal employees , city wide .

The New York Mets for their part have had a woefully inept season and that is even with the advent of having both Sandy Alderson and J. P. Ricciardi within the front office of the organization. Plagued by anemic pitching but an even more mediocre offense pretty much summed up the New York Mets’ year , albeit that the sole bright spot on the team has been the play of Jose Reyes , the presumptive favorite many believe for the NL MVP this season. Given the financial constraints that will now be placed upon the New York Mets I do believe that in part this team will be gutted with the organization seeking to complement this roster with many of their prospects and players from within their farm system. Certainly there’s a great deal that manager Terry Collins and his coaching staff can work with within this organization

The “crazy train” seems to have left the station as there appears that Albert Pujols , his agent Dan Lozano and the St Louis Cardinals are no closer to agreeing to a contract. The player prior to the start of the season intimated that once Cardinals began their regular season play he would not enter into negotiation with organization. GM John Mozeliak has to make the re-signing of the All Star slugger the team’s major priority entering this offseason. The team can ill afford to lose the player to free agency and signing any one quite possibly at five or six suitors prepared to pay the asking price for this productive first baseman . With the team having resigned Lance Berkman to a one year contract extension the organization has to be cognisant of the fact that the Chicago Cubs , Chicago White Sox , Los Angeles Angels and quite possibly the Texas Rangers could make a bold attempt to sign Albert Pujols. Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts in light of his team’s abysmal showing this season has made it abundantly clear that he’s willing to spend and spend big in bringing some semblance of success to Wrigley Field .

John Mozeliak knows that he’ll be hard pressed to outbid Tony Reagins , Kenny Williams and Jon Daniels should it come to an outright bidding war. Certainly the owners of the quartet of teams mentioned have the financial wherewithal to lure the Cardinals’ first baseman but at what price within the market place and precedence that could very well be set ? If the statements are to be believed then it could well amount to a contract that would certainly make Albert Pujols the highest paid player in baseball annually and quite possibly lead to largest contract signed by a player in professional sports . Pujols believes he is worth a contract commensurate with his talent and when one bears in mind that Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees will earn in excess of $30 million this year alone , then who can argue with the player’s stance ? Productivity wise , there is very little to choose between the two players and without a doubt both are future bound for Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame having met the criteria for enshrinement . Herein lies the caveat to this all , once the bar is raised that high with the exorbitant salaries that are now being paid then where does that leave the small market teams who simply cannot compete with that sort of financial resourcefulness ? Truth be known , baseball is now on a slippery road to a downward spiral into an abyss and now amount of tinkering with the playoff format can hide the real acute issues that the game of baseball faces . Bud Selig is merely trying to place a Band Aid unto open wound to the abdomen that has been hemorrhaging blood profusely !

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

As to what the postseason now holds for the fans we can only wait and see but as an avid fan of the game I sincerely hope that we can be provided with the excitement we have come to expect with some truly competitive series throughout the divisional series , pennant championships and the World Series itself !

What have been the highlights for you as a fan of the game and what do you hope to see during the MLB playoffs ? Simply chime in with a comment as you deem fit and thanks as always for the continued support as it is greatly appreciated !

Alan aka tophatal …………… https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Picture and slide show details below .

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(1) Albert Pujols (5) of the St. Louis Cardinals slides into third base as Blake DeWitt (9) of the Chicago Cubs waits for the throw during the game played at Busch Stadium on September 24, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images …..

(2) Rafael Furcal (15) of the St. Louis Cardinals moves out of the way of a wild pitch by <a href="http://baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=marmoca&t=p=&year=2011"&gt; Carlos Marmol (49) of the Chicago Cubs which allowed the game winning run to score in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on September 24, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images ……

(3) Geovany Soto (18) of the Chicago Cubs walks off the field as the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate a walk off victory at Busch Stadium on September 24, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images …….

(4) Manager Kirk Gibson (23) , center, of the Arizona Diamondbacks and coach Alan Trammell (3) , left, congratulate players Alberto Castillo (33) and Henry Blanco (12) following their 15-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants during of a MLB game at Chase Field on September 24, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images ….

(5) The lights go out at Chase Field and also on the San Francisco Giants’ season . Manager Bruce Bochy (16) of the San Francisco Giants talks with umpire Gary Darling as their game with the Arizona Diamondbacks is interrupted by a twenty-minute power outage in the seventh inning of a MLB game at Chase Field on September 24, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images ….

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MLB News

MLB Standings

MLB wildcard standings

MLB Standings @ 10/24/2010

MLB wildcard standings @ 10/24/2010

MLB results @ 09/24/2010

MLB schedule 3 days at a glance

MLB probable starting pitchers 09/24/2011

MLB Postseason schedule dates

It’s Not My World But It’s The One That I’m Enjoying At Present ….. !

It’s Not My World But It’s The One That I’m Enjoying At Present ….. !

Well due to the fact of Hurricane Irene depriving me of the chance to travel up to the nation’s capital for the formal unveiling and dedication of the MLK monument on the Mall in Washington , DC , my weekend was spent at home. With the girlfriend having traveled off to the West Coast for a family emergency , for myself it would be one where I would be left to my own devices . That meant scouring the sports pages to peruse what was happening in the world and how it all pans out in terms of the environments there .

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In baseball the divisional races seem to be taking on a life of their own , with some simply being up for grabs while other are all but over bar the shouting . Certainly the wildcard races haven’t really left us with a great deal of intrigue at all. Although there’s the idiocy within the local market here that the Tampa Bay Rays will somehow be able to overcome their six game deficit to the New York Yankees and gain that AL wildcard berth . One could attest to the fact that the teams are looking to play themselves into contention and in some cases out of contention .

With the recent moves made by teams concerning their postseason ambitions it’s clear that a number of teams that are of of the belief that they can make a run at their divisional foes . That now seems to be the case with the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers within the AL Central . With the respective managers Mike Sciocsia and Ron Washington leading the charge for both the Angels and Rangers .

If anything for the Los Angeles Angels the play of Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver have been stellar , as have been the rest of the team . It’d be remiss of me to suggest that the Rangers are good enough to run away with the division make a return to the World Series after last year’s escapades .

While Michael Young is viewed as a player who’s said to be in the declining years of a productive career , this season if anything , Young has proven to be the catalyst for this team not only by his presence but also his veteran leadership. And while Elvis Andrus , Adrian Beltre` and Josh Hamilton are seen as the star players on this Texas Rangers’ roster , were it not for Michael Young I seriously doubt that the team would be leading the AL West and playing with such command .

One of the major stories during this baseball season has been that of future free agents Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers and Albert Pujols of the St Louis Cardinals . Both players whose contracts expire at the end of the year are seen as the most desirable unrestricted agents coming to the market in 2012. The thirty one year old Pujols …” the face “ of the Cardinals and perhaps that organization’s second best player when one considers the Hall of Famers associated with the team over the years. Albert Pujols has made it abundantly clear to the front office and GM John Mozeliak that it is his wish to remain a life long St Louis Cardinals’ player. Pujols remains the one constant and draw on this team and while there’s no denying that many of the team’s active records and historical records could well be surpassed by the player . The off-season deliberations between Albert Pujols and the organization could be very interesting indeed. The All Star slugger wants to be compensated befitting a player of his worth and whether or not that is a seven year or ten multi million dollar deal remains to be seen. Many prognosticators are suggesting that the player may well be looking for a deal that is northwards of $200 million over eight years .

Albert Pujols (5) of the St. Louis Cardinals scores a run against Michael McKenry (55) of the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on August 25, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images …….

Averaging out at $25 million a year one doubts that the St Louis Cardinals would seek to financially hamstring themselves to such a long term commitment . But then again the team salaries seem to be escalating for the big market teams while those mid to small market ball-clubs seem to be struggling to remain amongst the fray. If Pujols were unable to commit to an offer from the St Louis Cardinals then it would appear that there would be a number of teams vying for Albert Pujols’ services. Amongst those thought to show an interest would be their divisional rivals the Chicago Cubs who’ve long needed some star appeal and real offensive productivity within that ballclub. The team itself having seen the upheaval with the firing of GM Jim Hendry by team owner Tom Ricketts are now looking for a change of direction both on an off the field of play.

Prince Fielder five years younger than Pujols , is seen as a player whose best years are ahead of him, as the 27 year old first baseman on the Brewers’ team . The Milwaukee Brewers have seen their years of highs and lows within baseball with little postseason success in recent years . It has been a cautionary tale for this organization and the present ownership group after they assumed control from the Selig family.

This season we have seen the Brewers simply smash their way to success leaving all else in their wake , especially within the NL Central . They’ve distanced themselves from the St Louis Cardinals and now have an eye on the postseason, as they prepare for the divisional series. For Fielder , Ryan Braun , John Axford and the players on this roster who’ve made hay while the sun shines this has been much more than a fortuitous year for the ball-club. Team owner Mark Attanasio and GM Doug Melvin have a major decision on their hands as they seek to make an offer that doesn’t do irreparable financial harm to the organization.

The pay structure of the Milwaukee Brewers has to be held in check given the limited resources of the ball-club as a whole . Prince Fielder knows that he has a choice to make at the end of the year that will provide him with long term security no what the outcome of the choice made by the player or front office . What may well matter is the financial weight of the contract offered to the player in terms of its worth . Are the Milwaukee Brewers in a position to make Prince Fielder the highest paid player on the roster and what might be the seismic shot sent across the bow of the game ? How will that decision be viewed by the general managers and team owners around the league ?

I am not so sure that Prince Fielder can be deemed a person said to be worth in excess of $20-$25 million a year no matter what length the period of the contract offered to the player . But herein lies the idiocy of the game today , a player such as Vernon Wells this year will be paid in excess of $26.5 million for an unproductive and lackluster season with the Los Angeles Angels .

Having not taken much interest in the NFL preseason I have to admit that the latest results have not really come as a great surprise ! . Certainly if the teams are said to be seeking consistency during these preseason games then for the San Francisco 49ers their games if anything have been an indication of the sheer ineptitude in terms of the play offered by the quarterbacks on the team .

Team general manager Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh may well have hastily made the decision to announce that his regular season starter would be Alex Smith .

For those of us who have witnessed the productivity of Smith over the years , we can all attest to the fact that the player has had his moments but when it has mattered most he has struggled to show any real command or the trust of his teammates . In the preseason once again, it has been more of the same from the five year veteran and it is becoming extremely hard to understand how it is that the player was taken first overall in the 2005 NFL Draft .

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Alex Smith (11) of the San Francisco 49ers roles out to pass against the Houston Texans during an NFL pre-season football game at Candlestick Park August 27, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images …..

From my own perspective given the travails of the 49ers during the preseason I do believe that this team will struggle over the course of the regular season ! For Jim Harbaugh , his coaching staff and in particular quarterbacks’ coach Geep Chryst this will be a year during which their mental psyche will be tested by the play of Alex Smith. It has been the player’s inconsistency but more so the fact that during his time in the NFL at no point of his career has the coaching staff remained constant. The staff of the Forty Niners has been changed more often than that of a newborn baby’s diapers on a daily basis. If Geep Chryst can keep things simple not only for Smith but also his primary backup Josh McCown then there’s no reason to believe why the team cannot be competitive over the course of this season . But as of now that remains a big “if “ in the minds of not only the fans in general but quite possibly also the Forty Niners’ coaching staff , themselves.

With the off-season moves made by the 49ers and the draft choices it would be easy to suggest that the team is back on the road to being competitive within the NFC West . Although the division may well seem ripe for the taking , with teams such as the Arizona Cardinals , Seattle Seahawks and St Louis Rams all vying for overall supremacy. I do feel that NFC West has and always remain a division where there’s more uncertainty bound to happen than any fan could hope to wish for. It has been the inconsistency of the teams over the past few years that leads me to believe that trying to predict an outright winner of the division is akin to playing “three card Monty” !

Alex Smith will have to justify the faith shown in him by Jim Harbaugh this season , if not then I can see his NFL career coming to an abrupt end with him being jettisoned by the organization. Given the fact that he was so highly touted and taken as a number one overall pick , I am now beginning to wonder what it was that the front office saw in the player that originally that convinced them that he had the makings of NFL quarterback ? Anyone care to hazard a guess and provide us all with an answer ?

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

What thoughts if any do you have with regard to the points raised within this article ? Simply leave a comment as to your thoughts and as always thanks for the continued support !

Alan aka tophatal …….. https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Contact tophatal via these social media services

http://facebook.com …. http://facebook.com/tophatal

http://twitter.com/ ….. http://twitter.com/tophatal

Picture and slide show details below .

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(1) TORONTO, CANADA – AUGUST 28: Desmond Jennings of the Toronto Blue Jays of the Tampa Bay Rays during MLB game action August 28, 2011 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Rays would go on to defeat the Blue Jays 12-0 . Photo by Brad White/Getty Images …..

2 Home plate umpire Jeff Nelson looks on as Jose Bautista (19) of the Toronto Blue Jays walks off after striking out during MLB game action against the Tampa Bay Rays August 28, 2011 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Brad White/Getty Images …….

(3) ST. LOUIS, MO – AUGUST 25: Albert Pujols (5) of the St. Louis Cardinals flips the ball to first base at Busch Stadium on August 25, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Pirates 8-4 . Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images ……

(4) Albert Pujols (5) of the St. Louis Cardinals scores a run against Michael McKenry (55) of the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on August 25, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images …….

(5) MILWAUKEE, WI – AUGUST 28: Corey Hart (1) of the Milwaukee Brewers is congratulated by Prince Fielder (28) after scoring a run during the game against the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park on August 28, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Brewers would go on to defeat the Cubs 3-2 Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images …….

(6) MILWAUKEE, WI – AUGUST 28: Prince Fielder (28) of the Milwaukee Brewers catches the baseball from Zack Grienke (13) as Starlin Castro (13) of the Chicago Cubs dives back to the base at Miller Park on August 28, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Brewers defeated the Cubs 3-2. Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images ……..

(7) SAN FRANCISCO – AUGUST 27: Chris Culliver (29) of the San Francisco 49ers returning a kick off gets tackled by Shiloh Keo (31) of the Houston Texans during an NFL pre-season football game at Candlestick Park August 27, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The Texans won the game 30-7 . Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images …….

(8) Coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers looks on against the Houston Texans during an NFL pre-season football game at Candlestick Park August 27, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images …….

(9) SAN FRANCISCO – AUGUST 27: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers roles out to pass against the Houston Texans during an NFL pre-season football game at Candlestick Park August 27, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images …..
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MLB news

Milwaukee Brewers’ news

St Louis Cardinals’ news

MLB Standings

MLB wildcard standings

MLB results 28th August 2011

MLB probable starting pitchers 29th August 2011

MLB schedule 3 days at a glance

MLB team stats

NFL news

NFL Preseason standings by division

NFL Preseason standings by conference

NFL Preseason standings by league

NFL results preseason week 3

NFL Stats preseason

NFL player stats preseason

San Francisco 49ers news

San Francisco 49ers regular season schedule

San Francisco 49ers team roster

Forty Niners’ preseason stats

NB : In the Forty Niners most recent preseason game they suffered a decisive 30-7 loss to the Houston Texans .

Thrill , Spills And Whatever Else Befalls The Game of Baseball Down The Stretch ……

Thrill , Spills And Whatever Else Befalls The Game of Baseball Down The Stretch ……

It’s now extremely hard what to make of the baseball season and how things seem to playing out . There now seems to be only one divisional race of real intrigue or interest . And that would appear to be the AL East , although there’s still a great deal to be said about the intrigue and suspense taking place within the NL West where a mere two games separate the division leading Arizona Diamondbacks (70-59) from the San Francisco Giants (68-61).

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With the always competitive AL East we have come to expect seeing both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees fight for divisional supremacy. So much so , that it comes a surprise when neither team sits atop of the division at season’s end. At this point last season the races were somewhat different in terms of the teams vying for a divisional title as well as a wildcard berth and one would expect it to be the same for this year .

Within the NL Central it would appear that the St Louis Cardinals may well be out of the running for the division as they now sit some ten games behind the Milwaukee Brewers . And as with any ball-club around the league injuries and team inconsistency has played its part in the problems for Tony La Russa’s team . Certainly the manager and his coaching staff have tried to get the best out of this team but if anything it has been the dominant and overpowering play of the Milwaukee Brewers that has simply bewildered the Cardinals throughout the month of August . And with the Brewers now intent on making a postseason run it will be interesting to see what Ryan Braun , Prince Fielder and their teammates are able to achieve over the remainder of the season .

To say that I am surprised by the play of Arizona Diamondbacks this season would be an understatement ! If anything I felt that the NL West would be a division where the duel would be between the reigning World Series champions the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers . If anything there’s more drama to be had off the field concerning the Dodgers than there is to seen on the field in terms of their play . And even if Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw are said to be having exemplary seasons for the team , it has been the odious behavior and idiocy of the organization’s front office executives that has shone more light on the Dodgers that is unfavorable than the ball club would prefer to have. Team owner Frank McCourt has hamstrung the Los Angeles Dodgers in such a way that it would seem impossible that anyone could look upon this organization favorably in terms of it being a viable takeover target . The ball-club’s situation hasn’t been helped by the complete ineptitude shown by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and the league hierarchy . Selig’s own lack of real action has to come into question concerning this matter. If anything , it has been all too little , and all too late !

I am not so sure what to make of the Cleveland Indians this season , as they’ve simply lured their fans the public alike into thinking that this was a resurgent team once again. Nothing could be further from the truth as their play or should one lack of play , has led them to simply fall from grace within the AL Central . I’ve no doubt that Manny Acta and his coaching staff have to be disappointed with the effort put forth by this team but if anything I feel that a preponderance of the blame lies with the front office led by GM Chris Antonetti under the auspices of team owner Lawrence Dolan . The organization has sought to pare down salary but at the same time the moves made this season during the trade deadline haven’t at all panned out . The team’s biggest acquisition Ubaldo Jiminez has simply been average this season and in particular during his spell with the Cleveland Indians . But to suggest that it has simply been the pitching that has let the team down would be remiss because from an offensive standpoint , here too ball-club has been nondescript .

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Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (30) of the Cleveland Indians sits on the bench after being taken out of the game during the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on August 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images ………….

Now as we approach the final month of the season with there still be a number of teams still vying for some semblance of consistency as their year winds down. Most definitely within the AL and NL we have seen the teams give the best of themselves by way of their play. But at the same time I am very sure that a great many fans have at times been disappointed with their respective ball-clubs and their lackluster effort .

There’s a great deal to be said also for the players in contention for the major individual awards this season. The usual suspects are front and center wherein we could well see one or two surprises amongst the claimants for the Cy Young Award , Rookie of The Year , MVP Awards within both divisions as well as the Manager of The Year . Last season those winners offered up a mirror image on the year as a whole in terms of the performances and that of the divisional winners .

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

What are your impressions of the MLB season and how do you view things panning out given the fact the waiver deadline will soon be upon us ? Leave a comment as to your thoughts and always thanks for the continued support !

Alan aka tophatal ……………….. https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Contact tophatal via these social media services

Facebook.com ………. http://facebook.com/tophatal

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(1) New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi , left, talks to starting pitcher CC Sabathia during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Athletics won 6-4 . AP Photo/Frank Franklin II ….

(2) Ryan Roberts (14) and Chris Young (24) of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate after a 4-2 victory against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 24, 2011 in Washington, DC. Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images ……..

(3) Los Angeles Dodgers’ Juan Rivera , right, scores ahead of the tag from St. Louis Cardinals catcher Gerald Laird during the third inning of a baseball game on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011, in St. Louis. The Dodgers won 9-4 . AP Photo/Jeff Roberson …….

(4) CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 24: Catcher Miguel Olivo (30) and closing pitcher Josh Lueke (31) of the Seattle Mariners celebrate after defeating the Cleveland Indians 9-2 to take the series 3-1 at Progressive Field on August 24, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images ……

(5) Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (30) of the Cleveland Indians sits on the bench after being taken out of the game during the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on August 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images ………….

(6) From left to right , GM Chris Antonetti , alongside Cleveland Indians’ owner Larry Dolan and minority stake owner Mark Shapiro , far right . Shapiro remains with the ball-club serving in a role as its President . AP Photo/ Mark Sturridge ……

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MLB news

MLB Standings as of 24th August 2011

MLB Wildcard standings

MLB Schedule 3 days at a glance

MLB results 23rd August 2011

MLB results 24th August 2011

MLB probable starters 25th August 2011

ML team stats : Overall

American League

National League

MLB Team salaries 2011

NB: Written as of 08/24/11 but set for publishing 08/25/11

Monte Carlo Or Bust For The St Louis Cardinals ………….

Monte Carlo Or Bust For The St Louis Cardinals ………….

As the St St Louis Cardinals face an uphill battle looking to slowly erase the lead held by the Milwaukee Brewers within the NL Central . I can’t help but wonder what needs to be done by this team in order for them to even have a remote chance of achieving that feat. Granted , in Tony La Russa the organization has one of the most respected managers in the game today and his resume speaks for itself. Along with his coaching staff , La Russa has made this team a formidable threat but unless they actually win this division outright then it will become increasingly clear that the St Louis Cardinals are likely to miss the postseason .

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Slide show for your perusal.

The team now sits four games behind the NL wildcard leading Atlanta Braves and it has to be said it would take a monumental collapse by the Braves that would allow the St Louis Cardinals to be even with a chance of claiming that berth. The team’s strength has been its pitching and offense . And leading the charge throughout much of the season has been Lance Berkman whose career has been resurrected playing for the Cardinals this year.

GM John Mozeliak know that at the end of this season the organization could very well lose their All Star first baseman Albert Pujols to free agency having not been able to get the player to sign a contract extension that met with both parties’ liking. It is not that the fact that the Cardinals are without the financial resources . Pujols, himself , did not want to go into the season having to negotiate a new deal knowing full well that he would somehow be unable to dedicate his efforts full time on the field of play. Various sources, none of which have been fully established make the claim that the player wishes to be compensated to a deal in accordance with his stature . If that means Albert Pujols seeks a long term contract of 6 years at a cumulative figure of between $120-140 million over that specific period , then it could well be a harbinger of why the negotiations were curtailed between the player’s agent and the Cardinals’ front office . Some may opine that Albert Pujols isn’t worth that sort of money at this stage of his career but I would suggest that the St Louis Cardinals without the player would not be competing at a high level within the NL Central or for that matter be considered a legitimate contender for postseason honors . His productivity alone speaks for itself and the mere fact that he’s the main draw for the fans , there at Busch Stadium adds to his value for the organization .

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ST. LOUIS, MO – AUGUST 11: Albert Pujols (5) of the St. Louis Cardinals heads to third base after a fielding error by the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on August 11, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Brewers 5-2 . Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images …..

Over the remainder of the season it will be interesting to see how the St Louis Cardinals fare as they make a final push towards either winning the division or obtaining a wildcard berth and entry into the playoffs . Given the history of the franchise’s career in the playoffs you have to admire the success attained by the organization . Albert Pujols has played his part in that success with the organization’s most recent accolade in winning the 2006 World Series in defeating the Detroit Tigers Angels .

With Albert Pujols having been on the DL in recent weeks much of the heavy lifting has actually been by Lance Berkman who seems to have been rejuvenated and showing why he was such a productive player while with the Houston Astros . Berkman along with Matt Holliday , Yadier Molina , Ryan Theriot and Albert Pujols have tried to keep this team in contention with the Milwaukee Brewers from an offensive standpoint. And as productive as the team has been it has been their pitching that has also kept them in close proximity of the divisional leader. Chris Carpenter has been his usual workman life self over the course of this season but like any other pitcher in the league he has had his problems. That asides , he and the rest of the pitching rotation have held their own as needs be , over the course of the year thus far .

It will be interesting to see what changes are liable to be made should the St Louis Cardinals decide to bring up any of their top prospects from the minors . Certainly the organization has some very keen and good young players willing to show that they are ready to take the next step up at the major league level. And it bodes well for the organization at large in that respect and that decision no doubt remains in the hands of Tony La Russa and John Mozeliak . They may well think along those lines should it become more apparent that they are not likely to overtake the Milwaukee Brewers within the NL Central but one never knows as La Russa tends to march to the beat of his own drum in making such decisions. Certainly the St Louis Cardinals’ fans would like to see players such as brought up from the minors merely for them to get a taste of the majors at the big league level. It would be a boost in confidence for those players and most definitely something that they crave for and would appreciate all the more .

Certainly the likes of Zach Cox , Shelby Miller , Oscar Taveras , Joe Kelly and Matt Adams would love the opportunity to display their skills at the top level , and given the chance the organization would be ripe beneficiaries of that situation .

While the Cardinals are no doubt looking to gain ground on the Milwaukee Brewers , the team itself will see this season as one where they have to do something special if they are to have a inkling of a chance to retain the services of Prince Fielder . They have ridden the crest of the wave on the player’s shoulders over the course of the year and while Ryan Braun has contributed greatly to the Brewers’ efforts it has been Prince Fielder who has been the spur for the organization.

Brewers’ manager , team owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin know that that their All Star slugger while appreciative of the organization’s efforts wants to compensated for his efforts. It was felt that at the trade deadline quite possibly a number of teams might have pursued the player with regard to a possible trade. That scenario never materialized and the Milwaukee Brewers were the better for it , and it remains to be seen what efforts will be made by the front office will be made to retain the player at season’s end. Certainly with the sort of money that’s being rumored that the player’s agent is said to be seeking for his client _____ the thought of an seven or 8 year deal north of $175-$180 million does not seem out the realms of possibility. Not many teams within baseball are awash with that sort of money or who are likely to make that sort of long term commitment to player. But such are the vagaries of the game , where it is now the players and agents who can hold sway over the financial future of an organization , where the general managers and team owners are having to make decisions as to their long term viability and financial security in large part .

Ron Roenicke along with his coaching staff know that their biggest beyond winning the division is to have the team playing at a consitently high level down the stretch run of their season . And most certainly they will be looking for players such Braun , Fielder , Casey McGhee , Rickie Weeks , Yunieski Betancourt , alongside the pitching staff led by Zach Greinke , Shaun Marcum , Yovanni Gallardo and John Axford to shoulder the burden in hopes of securing a playoff berth for the organization.

Postseason success for the Milwaukee Brewers has been fleeting at best and the ball-club’s history simply has been littered with highs and lows . But it has been the players associated with this club over the years that if anything has fans feeling some empathy for organization . Whether or not the tide is about turn remains to be seen but I am sure that there are a number of fans out there that will be intrigued to see if the Brewers in their present reincarnation can actually do what has not done by the club in over two decades and that’s a return to the World Series —– then , winning it .

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Picture gallery for your perusal.

Do you feel that the St Louis Cardinals will make the postseason or are you of the opinion that they will have their hopes dented by their divisional rivals , the Milwaukee Brewers who will deprive of them of winning the NL Central ? Simply leave a comment as to your thoughts on the subject matter or anything else you feel pertinent with regard to the events happening within the game of baseball at present .

Alan aka tophatal ………. https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Contact tophatal at ……… rapptu@gmail.com or via

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Twitter : http://twitter.com/tophatal

Picture and slide show details .

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(1) ST. LOUIS, MO – AUGUST 11: Albert Pujols (5) of the St. Louis Cardinals heads to third base after a fielding error by the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on August 11, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Brewers 5-2 . Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images …..

(2) Albert Pujols (5) of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a single his second of the night against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on August 11, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Brewers 5-2. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images ….

(3) Prince Fielder (28) of the Milwaukee Brewers returns to the dugout after striking out against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on August 11, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Brewers 5-2. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images ……

(4) Mark Kotsay (25) of the Milwaukee Brewers hits an RBI double against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on August 11, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images ….

(5) Starter Yovani Gallardo (49) of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts to giving up a solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on August 11, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images ……

(6) St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, right, argues with first base umpire Greg Gibson, right, after Gibson threw La Russa out while arguing a call during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, in St. Louis. Gibson called the Brewers’ Josh Wilson , who scored later in the inning, safe at first and the Brewers went on to win 5-1 . AP Photo/ Jeff Roberson …….

(7) Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, right, and general manager Doug Melvin watch batting practice during a spring training baseball workout at the team’s practice facility Saturday, Feb. 24, 2007, in Phoenix. AP Photo/Morry Gash ……..

(8) St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, left, and general manager John Mozeliak talk during spring training baseball Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010, in Jupiter, Fla. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson ……..

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MLB News

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St Louis Cardinals profile

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St Louis Cardinals team stats Incl. BA – Hits – ERA & cumulative categories

Hits / Offense

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Horses For Courses And A Great Deal More ……..

Horses For Courses And A Great Deal More ……..

I don’t know whether or not to laugh or simply groan now when I get sight of NBA Commissioner David Stern . It’s simply become so asinine to hear the game’s highest ranking official opine on what he believes to be the NBPA’s lack of good faith in the lockout deliberations . David Stern’s opposition to the union possibly de-certifying is the main reason for the league hierarchy filing suit in US Federal Court while at the same time seeking the intervention of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to act as intermediaries in a government mandated mediation with a judge presiding over the whole deliberation process and then having the right to deliver a binding agreement on both parties. This is something from which neither side can view as a victory should such a scenario arise . David Stern may well be a good poker player but the cards he’s now holding simply do not favor the league or the team owners .

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Slide show for your perusal .

Should the league vote de-certify which is not against the law it simply lessens the leverage that the NBA feels that they have other union in the negotiation process. It’s something that I’m sure that Executive Director Billy Hunter and union President Derek Fisher saw worked out favorably for the NFLPA during their long drawn out lockout process . The commissioner’s bone of contention all along has been their stance that they now have to rein costs and above salary expenditure . Given the idiocy of that statement and the very fact that teams and the general managers have splurged ostentatiously in signing players to exorbitantly outrageous contracts . And pardon me for saying this but when you see Rashard Lewis as the second highest paid player in the NBA last season earning in excess of $22.5 million has me wondering in what god damn world is where you’re paid to not to get results and be productive ? Other than those mindless idiots within the House and Senate I can’t think of any perhaps more undeserving of that type of reward for the least amount of return ! Mind you as I say this , I should point out that much to my surprise I recently found out that the commissioner himself is handsomely rewarded in terms of his annual compensation package. If the rumors are to be believed then David Stern is earning in excess of $20 million not including incentives . That’s the sort of money one would expect to see a highly gifted athlete or a titan of corporate America to be compensated with. But somehow this portly sized former legal mind is now decrying the fact that the salaries of the players are now far too high . Am I missing something here ? And did hell suddenly freeze over ?

Though this NBA stoppage by comparison to the NFL’s 135 day holdout is meager in its length the closer this entrenchment remains unresolved the more discontent there’s bound to be between the two parties . Never mind the ever growing resentment of the brooding NBA fans. With the preseason team training camps due to commence at the beginning of September it remains to be seen who’s about acquiesce to the others’ will. With the prominent team owners such as Dr Jerry Buss , Mark Cuban , James Dolan , Peter Holt , Mikhail Prokhorov , Michael Jordan , Dan Gilbert and Wyc Grousbeck all for the moment standing firmly in support of David Stern , I fully expect that should the lockout be prolonged more than they envisage then the support could very well be
threatened .

Many of the most recent owners such as Dan Gilbert in making the purchase of the Cleveland Cavaliers was fully financed by way of multi faceted loan instruments. And one should consider that the issues facing the Cavaliers in particular after the departure of LeBron James meant less revenues at Quicken Loans Arena and meager attendances for the team’s home games .

I am not about to castigate the team owners or for that matter the league hierarchy of the NBA as well as the union . From my own perspective I do believe that all of the parties are equally to blame . Given that Derek Fisher , Billy Hunter and David Stern were all aware that their existing collective bargaining agreement was due to expire on the 30th June it’s somewhat asinine that the groups in question sought to start their deliberations once the agreement had expired. Clearly there seems to be little if any common sense being shown from the lead individuals concerned . Billy Hunter whose passion as a lawyer is encapsulated around his struggles during the civil rights’ era. But here it appears to not about what’s viewed as being right but simply a matter of greed and how best to split the revenues from a $4.5 billion piece of the pie . The revenue stream as it now stands favors the players on 53.5 % to 46.5% ratio that the league seeks to lessen that would be equitable in its disbursement . Something of which the union simply does not favor as they feel that the league hierarchy has been decidedly less than truthful in showing real transparency as to their finances.

It will be very interesting to see what transpires over the ensuing weeks as the two sides seek to reach some sort of a compromise . If anything I fully expect this lockout to go on for an extended period of time . Billy Hunter made that situation abundantly clear when he commented that he does not expect there to be fully scheduled season for 2011-12. If that’s not of an indication as to how steadfast the NBPA seeks to be then clearly David Stern has misjudged the resolve of the union and it members .

As the races now appear to be tightening up within NL West and NL Central I can’t help but wonder what might happen should both the St Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants fail to make the postseason. And for both Tony La Russa and Bruce Bochy this certainly test their managerial acumen as they seek to get their respective teams playing with a great deal of resolve over the final months of the season.

The respective divisional titles are up for grabs as it would appear that the wildcard berth will come from the NL East in the form of the Atlanta Braves possibly gaining that spot. If nothing else teams in the midst closely ran races with the Cardinals now duelling with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Giants now finding themselves in an allout brawl with the Arizona Diamondbacks . One wonders if it would come as a surprise were either the St Louis Cardinals or San Francisco Giants to come up short after this ardous season. Certainly the moves made by the Giants was indication of their resolve in looking to successfully defend merely not only their divisional crown but also their NL pennant as well as looking for a return to the World Series and duplicating last year’s feat . The San Francisco Giants over the Texas Rangers was indeed a long time coming and something the Giants’ fans simply yearned for.

That taste of success now has the Giants simply wanting more and it will be very interesting to see whether or not between now and the end of the regular season the reigning champions will still be on that path to repeating last season’s triumph. With the addition of Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants roster . For Bruce Bochy and his assistants knowing that they’ve some added potency on the offense gives the organization something they felt that they needed. There’s no denying that the team’s biggest strengths have been their pitching led by two time NL Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum . But if anything the real surprise amongst the roster has been the play of seasoned journeyman Ryan Vogelsong . If nothing else this season has been an aspiring ascent into the big leagues for the pitcher .

The Arizona Diamondbacks for their part with the play of Justin Upton has this team playing with a great deal of resolve. Given the change of ownership the changes both on and off the field now seems to have been paying dividends not only for the organization but also for the fans in attendance at Chase Field in Phoenix , Arizona . There has been a gradual uptick in attendance and with the play > of the team has many thinking that the organization now in a resurgent mode could now be on the cusp of doing something special. GM Kevin Towers along with the managing partners now know with the resurgence of the organization they have something to build upon . It has been a long time coming for the Diamondbacks given that their greatest triumph came back in 2001 with their surprising defeat of the venerable New York Yankees .

If anything one also should commend the job being done by Kirk Gibson and his coaching staff in getting the Arizona Diamondbacks to play with such zeal. He could very well end up being the NL Manager of the Year when it’s all said and done .

Given the ordeals faced by the St Louis Cardinals over the past few days it’s hard to see how one can’t but have some empathy with the team. Granted with the five game suspension of Yadier Molina and the events surrounding Albert Pujols being hit by an errant pitch it has me wondering now whether or not we’ll see the best or worse of this team !

The Milwaukee Brewers for their part with a thriving Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun have many thinking that after last season’s surprising divisional triumph by the Cincinnati Reds there’s time for some fresh infusion of blood in terms of another NL Central divisional winner . If not the St Louis Cardinals then why not the Milwaukee Brewers under the leadership of their managing general partner Mark Attanasio ?

Brewers’ manager Ron Roenicke , his assistants and GM Doug Melvin have assembled a roster that is intent on acquitting themselves with a great deal of vigor and bring the fans back to Miller Park , Wisconsin with a sense of purpose . This Milwaukee Brewers’ team is very much a credible one but it remains to be seen what sort of steely resolve they are prepared to show over the remainder of the season .

If the Brewers are to prevail then it will have to be a concerted all-round effort with both Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder leading the way . There’s a great deal that is at stake and it goes without saying that given the vagaries of this game where one misstep can be the difference between success and failure I can’t help but feel that the players on this team may well feel ………. that now is their time .

In light of what you are now seeing happening with the divisional races at present in baseball which teams do you feel have been the biggest surprise over the course of this season ? And from within the NL Central and NL West which of the teams do you see actually triumphing in the end in terms those races ? Simply chime in with a comment as you would deem fit .

Alan aka tophatal …. https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Contact tophatal …………….. rapptu@gmail.com

http://twitter.com/tophatal

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Picture and slide show details below .

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(1) NBA commissioner David Stern speaks to reporters after a meeting with the players’ union, Thursday, June 30, 2011 in New York. Despite a three-hour meeting Thursday, the sides could not close the enormous gap that remained in their positions. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer …..

(2) NBA Players Association president Derek Fisher, right, NBA union chief Billy Hunter, left, and LA Lakers’ Theo Ratliff arrive at a midtown hotel for a meeting with the NBA, Monday, Aug. 1, 2011 in New York. One month after the lockout began, and three months before the season is scheduled to start, representatives for the NBA owners and locked-out players return to the bargaining table. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer …….

(3) Wyc Grousbeck the senior managing partner of the ownership group for the Boston Celtics . Courtesy of Getty Images / Olin James …

(4) SAN FRANCISCO, CA – AUGUST 4: Hunter Pence (3) of the Philadelphia Phillies gets an RBI single against the San Francisco Giants in the ninth inning during a MLB baseball game at AT&T Park August 4, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The Phillies won the game 3-0 . Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images ……

(5) SAN FRANCISCO, CA – AUGUST 4: Jeff Keppinger (8) of the San Francisco Giants gets his throw off completing the double-play avoiding the slide of John Mayberry (15) of the Philadelphia Phillies in the seventh inning during an MLB baseball game at AT&T Park August 4, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The Phillies won the game 3-0. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images ……..

(6) Jason Marquis (21) of the Arizona Diamondbacks is taken out of the game in the fifth inning by manager Kirk Gibson against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 3, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The D’backs would go on lose the game 8-1 against the San Francisco Giants . Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images ………

(7) Pablo Sandoval (48) of the San Francisco Giants slides in safe at home on a ball hit by Orlando Cabrera(notes) in the third inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at AT&T Park on August 3, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images …….

(8) St. Louis Cardinals players Rafael Furcal, right, and Albert Pujois celebrate after they defeated the Florida Marlins 7-4 in a baseball game in Miami, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011. AP Photo/J Pat Carter ….

(9) Matt Holliday(7) of the St. Louis Cardinals rounds third after hitting a three run home run off Clay Hensley(32) of the Florida Marlins during a game at Sun Life Stadium on August 4, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images ………

(10) MILWAUKEE, WI – AUGUST 03: Casey McGehee (14) of the Milwaukee Brewers steps on home plate to score after hitting his second home run of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park on August 3, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Brewers defeated the Cardinals 10-5 . Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images ……..

(11) MILWAUKEE, WI – AUGUST 03: Prince Fielder (28) of the Milwaukee Brewers has words with Albert Pujols (5) of the St. Louis Cardinals at first base at Miller Park on August 3, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images ……

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NBA news

MLB news

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MLB schedule 3 days at a glance 5th August 2011

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MLB Awards 2010

Sports’ Stories That Just Make You Want To Do A Double Take ………..

Sports’ Stories That Just Make You Want To Do A Double Take ………..

Well now that the NFL season has ended and we’re into postseason play, now all of the suspense builds up with the divisional round playoffs. The match-ups are the Baltimore Ravens taking on the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Jets taking on the San Diego Chargers. Those are the final four participants within the AFC . In the NFC we’ll see the Dallas Cowboys taking on the Minnesota Vikings and the other half of the NFC divisional round will pit the Arizona Cardinals taking on the New Orleans Saints .

This weekend in that regard we’ll certainly see eight teams aspiring to make it to the respective championship games for the four remaining berths , thereof. The teams are most certainly evenly matched and you’d be hard pressed to pick out a decisive favorite amongst them all. For myself, I’m simply looking forward to these quartet of games and as to what their outcomes might be. My hopes were long shot down when the New England Patriots put up such ‘a putrid performance’ against the Baltimore Ravens, in their thoroughly lopsided 33-14 loss at Gillette Stadium , in Foxboro , Massachusetts. The less said about the loss at this juncture , the better ! Suffice to say as a Pats’ fan, I’m about as enamored with the ‘team’ right now as Rush Limbaugh might be, were he in a room filled with Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and The Congressional Black Caucus . And we all know how Rush loves the minorities at this juncture don’t we ? Well that’s the same way I feel about the Patriots at this juncture !

CBS Sportsline’s own coverage of the McGwire’s admitted use of steroids.

Is it me ? But was anyone at all surprised that former Cardinals’ slugger, Mark McGwire finally ‘fessed up’ to the fact that he took steroids ? Sooner, or later that baby had to be thrown out with the bath water. And this as_hole is now trying to say it was all a mistake ? And he was under pressure to take the elicit substances ? F-ck him and the horse he rode in on ! If he didn’t have the temerity to tell the truth when he was subpoenaed by Congress. Then why the hell should I now believe that this confession is a full act of contrition ? What he’s done to the game of baseball and the very fact that the MLB hierarchy still acknowledges his feats are as unconscionable as it comes. It’d appear that if anything what McGwire is now yearning is the public’s empathy and final vindication that all is now forgiven . Well, as a baseball fan , I won’t be forgiving McGwire or any of his counterparts who subjected the public to this sham , anytime soon. They’ve all profited from this immeasurably and still do , to this day. Whereas, the fans of the game haven’t at all received anything tangible in return.

McGwire in his interview with Bob Costas on the MLB Network admits his use of steroids.

Over the next five years many of the more prominent names from the era will be up for nomination into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown , New York. And although those gullible idiots of the BBWAA will preside over the process. I’m not at all certain that many of them won’t see fit to do unimaginable and actually grant the likes of Barry Bonds , Roger Clemens , or perhaps McGwire , himself, induction into the Hall of Fame. Those morons couldn’t find their way out a dark room with the assist of a flashlight and compass to guide them. But we’re now going to have them preside of an adjudication process that’s about as flawed as they come. Never mind the fact that their objectivity is actually based more on favoritism , rather than subjectivity.

McGwire  (right) seen  here  with  then  manager , Tony  La  Russa of  the  St  Louis Cardinals.    McGwire  was  recently   hired  as  a  hitting  instructor  for  the  team.  Is  anyone  under  the  impression  that  Albert  Pujols  is  in   need  of    McGwirie's  assistance  when  it  comes  to  'hitting'   a  baseball  ?      picture  appears   courtesy  of   Sports  Illustrated and  AP/Photos/  Rod  Killion   ......................
McGwire (right) seen here with then manager , Tony La Russa of the St Louis Cardinals. McGwire was recently hired as a hitting instructor for the team. Is anyone under the impression that Albert Pujols is in need of McGwirie's assistance when it comes to 'hitting' a baseball ? picture appears courtesy of Sports Illustrated and AP/Photos/ Rod Killion ......................

Courtesy of AP and Yahoo Sports

Mark McGwire finally admits using steroids

By Ronald Blum , AP Sports Writer

New York (AP)—Ending more than a decade of denials and evasion, former major league slugger Mark McGwire admitted Monday that steroids and human growth hormone helped make him a home run king.

“The toughest thing is my wife, my parents, close friends have had no idea that I hid it from them all this time,” McGwire told The Associated Press in an emotional, 20-minute interview. “I knew this day was going to come. I didn’t know when.”

In a quavering voice, McGwire apologized and said he used steroids and human growth hormone on and off for a decade, starting before the 1990 season and including the year he broke Roger Maris’ single-season home run record in 1998.

“I wish I had never touched steroids,” McGwire said. “It was foolish and it was a mistake.”

He had mostly disappeared since his infamous testimony before a congressional committee in March 2005, when he repeatedly said, “I’m not here to talk about the past,” a response that made him an object of ridicule during his self-imposed exile.

Once he was hired by the Cardinals in October to be their hitting coach, however, he knew he had to say something before the start of spring training in mid-February.

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And the one other person who’s complicit in this all , has to be St Louis Cardinals’ manager , Tony La Russa . For him to still categorically state that he never knew that McGwire was using steroids either when he was a player with the Oakland Athletics or as a player with the Cardinals. Well that’d be about as believable as Joan Rivers stating categorically that she’s never undergone cosmetic surgery. Have you seen Joan’s ‘grill’ lately ? Alabaster or porcelain never looked that good and nor do the lies that have emanated from the lips of Tony La Russa ! And for La Russa to still stand ‘pat’ behind those claims gives the impression that he knowns the truth but just doesn’t to be implicated in the midst of it all. Funny but on looking back at the Congressional hearings , it seems somewhat ironic that very few club managers were actually subpoenaed to testify before Congress. Strange isn’t it don’t you think ? All of these players but yet ‘no managers’ were actually called to testify ? What is that Bud Selig and the MLB hierarchy still has to hide ? Could it be their duplicity and complicity on the ‘fraud’ perpetrated on the public throughout much of the nineties ?

The game of basketball is filled with its nuances and complexities and to my mind it might just be the most exhilarating of the four major sports to watch. Especially when it comes to the NBA and its plethora of stars on a number of teams around the league. The likes of Carmelo Anthony , Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade , Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard , Brandon Roy and Chris Paul, makes this such a wonderful spectacle to watch. That when incidents such as the ‘Gilbert Arenas’ situation arises, you have to wonder what the hell is going on with many of the players in the league , who ought to damn well know better ! And as much I’d to have confidence and faith in the NBA hierarchy under the league’s commissioner in, David Stern. I simply ‘cannot trust him to do what is right’ for the sport without him interjecting himself in the midst of it all , to make it more about what he’s doing for the sport. Rather than what needs to be done proactively when acts detrimental to the sport arise. If ever there was a person who is as ego driven and who craves the limelight just as much as the game’s biggest stars. Then David Stern is that very person ! If you doubt my word, just see the way that he conducts his interviews with the print and television media.

Former  NBA star,  Jayson  Williams  is seen  here   with  his  attorney  after the  court  deliberations  in  his   trial.  The  player was  sentenced to  18 months  in  prison  for  the  wrongful  death  of   his   former  limo  driver  Costas  'Gus' Christofi.    The incident  took  place  in  March  of  2002  and   with there  being  two  intervening  trials  since  the  incident  Williams is  finally  willing to  accept responsibility  in the  death  of  the  victim.   A  civil  settlement   was   paid  to  Christofi's   family   which   was   privately  agreed  to   out of court in which  the  family was  paid  $ 2 million for  Christofi's  death.     picture  appears   courtesy  of  nytimes.com/ Brian  Branch  Price   ....................
Former NBA star, Jayson Williams is seen here with his attorney after the court deliberations in his trial. The player was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the wrongful death of his former limo driver Costas 'Gus' Christofi. The incident took place in March of 2002 and with there being two intervening trials since the incident Williams is finally willing to accept responsibility in the death of the victim. A civil settlement was paid to Christofi's family which was privately agreed to out of court in which the family was paid $ 2 million for Christofi's death. picture appears courtesy of nytimes.com/ Brian Branch Price ....................

It hardly seems like almost a decade ago, that former Nets and Sixers’ player, Jayson Williams seems finally willing to accept responsibility in the death of his former limousine driver, Costas ‘Gus’ Christofi. The limo driver was shot to death in the errant gun play of Williams who’d consumed a fair amount of alcohol that evening, having returned home with his entourage to his palatial mansion in Alexandria Township , New Jersey. The events that led up to that fateful event and what transpired afterwards has been told and retold , time and time again. And now with a final plea agreement reached after a third trial , Williams will be sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment for the wrongful death of Christofi. To my mind the sentence is far too lenient , given the circumstances of the crime and Williams’ actions before and thereafter.

Williams and his entourage having returned to his home would then proceed on with their partying , whereupon further unlimited amounts of alcohol was consumed and it was alleged that Williams and several of his guests had also smoked marijuana. Which if anything further exacerbated what would already be an unfortunate event. Williams along with several of his guests had seen fit to employ in some jocular play and as to why he and they should deem it fit to wield a loaded shot gun about, as part of that scenario is about as thoughtless as running through a mine field blindfolded. But somehow, Jayson Williams thought it appropriate wielding a loaded shotgun whilst inebriated and his inhibitions greatly impaired from drink. Can we all agree that ‘stupid is, as stupid does’ ? With Williams, Christofi and several of the host’s guests in an upstairs room in the mansion. Somehow , Williams states that the gun went off accidentally, whilst he was pointing it away from the victim. This wouldn’t be the original story told however , to law enforcement when the crime was originally investigated.

Courtesy of The NY Times

Williams Pleads Guilty in ’02 Driver Shooting

By Nate Shweber

Somerville, N.J. — Jayson Williams pleaded guilty to aggravated assault on Monday in the fatal shooting of his limousine driver, bringing toward a close a legal case that began nearly eight years ago

Williams’s driver, Costas (Gus) Christofi, 55, died of chest wounds from a blast from Williams’s shotgun on Feb. 14, 2002. Williams will serve at least 18 months in state prison under the terms of the plea. Sentencing was set for Feb. 23.

Williams, 41, a former Nets forward, admitted in State Superior Court that he took out a shotgun in his Alexandria Township home to show friends, and that the weapon “discharged and hit Mr. Christofi in the chest.”

“Mr. Christofi died from the gunshot wound,” Williams said.

In 2003, Williams paid $2.75 million to Christofi’s family to settle a wrongful death civil case. On Monday, Williams appeared alongside his lawyer, Joseph A. Hayden Jr., who prompted him with questions. Williams admitted that he did not check the position of the safety on his shotgun, or whether it was loaded.

“I only saw the top barrel; I didn’t check the bottom barrel,” Williams said, adding that when he snapped the firearm shut with one hand he “did not look at the direction the muzzle of the gun was pointing.”

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NB : As reported in the New York Times

Upon the blast from the shotgun , Christofi’s body was removed to a downstairs room within the home and the gun was placed besides his body and his finger prints were handsomely placed all over the weapon. Then Williams would then get one of his guests to ‘call 911′ and report that a suicide attempt had taken place at his residence. If that wasn’t heinous enough, Williams’ own wife would play a part in this all by backing up her husband’s story, knowing full well that it was all ‘a lie’ to begin with . But yet charges were only brought against Williams and two of his accomplices who in the end would testify against him in all three trials that’ve taken place in the pursuance of justice. They pled to lesser charges and in each case were given suspended sentences and probation of five years apiece. Throughout the many trials there has been a gross miscarriage of justice, as the victim and his family have had no justice whatsoever ! The prosecution has simply mishandled this case with almost the same ineptitude as shown by Chris Darden and Marcia Clark in the O J Simpson murder trial. In this case however, although Williams pled to a lesser charge as part of a plea agreement and was found guilty. The case is deemed a victory for the prosecution and ‘justice’ is seen to have been done. In the case of Simpson , that particular case was handled with the bumbling ineptitude not often seen with prosecution attorneys. But then again when a case becomes more about the pursuance of celebrity status, stardom and notoriety which was parlayed by both Clarke and Darden at the end of the Simpson trial. It gives the public very little faith in the justice system to begin with. And the same can be said once again, here in the Jayson Williams’ trial. He may well have been found guilty but a sentence of eighteen months seems nowhere near fitting enough for a crime that was contemptible to begin with because of the actions of the defendant.

courtesy of Associated Press and Yahoo Sports

Jayson Williams pleads guilty in fatal NJ shooting

By Samantha Henry , Associated Press Writer ,

Somerville, N.J. (AP)—Former NBA star Jayson Williams, his personal life in shambles, took responsibility for accidentally shooting his limousine driver to death eight years ago by pleading guilty Monday to assault and agreeing to serve at least 18 months in prison.

Williams was awaiting retrial on a reckless manslaughter count but pleaded guilty to the lesser aggravated assault count for the 2002 death of Costas Christofi.

Williams remained poised during the hearing and mostly answered yes and no questions, though he did tell the judge that he had not fully checked a shotgun he was showing off to friends before snapping it closed.

“I didn’t look in the direction the muzzle of the gun was pointed,” he said, before admitting that his handling of the gun was reckless and that the gunshot caused Christofi’s death.

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This isn’t the end of Williams’ legal entanglement with the legal system as he’s yet to await a hearing over a traffic stop in New York City on a DUI charge. Somehow , I think that the justice system may well let that one go as nothing more than a light reprimand for the former NBA player, along with a mere slap on the wrist.

When is a man not a man ? It’s when he sees fit to raise his arms against his spouse as an act of subduing her merely to show off his masculinity. Isn’t it enough to read about a golfer’s philandering . And then to find out that he’s as much of a man as an effeminate ‘drag queen’. Tiger Woods states that it’s his intention to ‘heal the wounds and unpleasantness caused’ in the upheaval of his marriage. Unfortunately, Woods is nowhere to be seen at the side of his wife or children over the past five weeks. But yet he’s working on repairing his marriage ? Hey Tiger, let me know how things are working out for you ? If not that lover of Asian American men , Kate Gosselin has room for you at her modest abode along with a ready made family of eight children. And if you play your cards right she’ll no doubt ‘put out’, as well ?

Courtesy of Associated Press and Yahoo Sports

Bucs’ safety Phillips accused of choking wife

Tampa , Fla. (AP)—Tampa Bay safety Jermaine Phillips(notes) has been charged with trying to choke his wife during an argument.

According to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office press release, Phillips was charged with domestic battery by strangulation. Jail records indicated he is scheduled to be released on his own recognizance Monday.

Authorities say Phillips’ wife called 911 Sunday and said her husband had grabbed her around the neck. She said the couple argued after she confronted him about a number in his cell phone.

The Buccaneers said in a statement that the team was closely monitoring the situation.

Public defender Julianne Holt said a lawyer from her office appeared in court Monday for Phillips, but he is expected to retain a private attorney for future proceedings.

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Bucs'  safety  Jermaine  Phillips (23)  seen  here  with  Tampa Bay Buccaneers'   fan  Robert McFarland at  the  team's  fanfest    held  Raymond  James  Stadium  in  Tampa  , Florida.   These are  the  sort  of   characters   from  the  Gruden  regime  that  in  essence  are  what  the  Bucs are  now  pinning  their  hopes on as to  the  immediacy  of  their   future.   Well  coming  off  a  3-13   season    , can  we  just  say  that  this   team and   Phillips   are clearly showing  that a  backbone   and  character  isn't  one  of their  strongest   traits  !     picture   appears  courtesy  of Tampa  Bay  Tribune  /  Pete  Clarke  .......................
Bucs' safety Jermaine Phillips (23) seen here with Tampa Bay Buccaneers' fan Robert McFarland at the team's fanfest held Raymond James Stadium in Tampa , Florida. These are the sort of characters from the Gruden regime that in essence are what the Bucs are now pinning their hopes on as to the immediacy of their future. Well coming off a 3-13 season , can we just say that this team and Phillips are clearly showing that a backbone and character isn't one of their strongest traits ! picture appears courtesy of Tampa Bay Tribune / Pete Clarke .......................

As I alluded to earlier, Woods is no real man , instead of dealing with his problems he continues to run away from them. Way to go Tiger, way to go ! In light of it all Woods’ problems seems slight when measured against that of Bucs’ safety Jermaine Phillips. The player has been arraigned and charged with domestic abuse in trying to strangle his wife , after she confronted him over a number she found on his cell phone. It’s not known whether or not the number belongs to an acquaintance of Phillips but it was enough for him to react physically violently in the ensuing confrontation with his wife. Grabbing her by the neck, he choked her until she fell to the ground, almost suffocating and passing out. There’s a moral to the story here Jermaine , walk the fu_k away , rather than losing your temper. Your actions in no way prove that you’re a man , provoked or unprovoked. It shows you to be less of a man than you already are, and then some !

We live in a violent enough of a society as it is already , without having to read about athletes wielding guns needlessly or subjecting members of their immediate family to such abhorrent horror and abuse, merely because of their temper. Enough already ! And hopefully the powers that be , in this case law enforcement , will go about doing their job in the appropriate fashion , rather circumventing the real tenets of the law with the never-ending abuse of plea agreements and bargaining. More than often not, these same offenders become the same repeat offenders. And where does that get us at the end of the day ? Needless to say, that there’ll be some bleeding heart morons who’ll continually stand up and say let the athletes alone, as it’s their life to do with as they please. Well no , that’s not the case, when they endanger the public or a family member and then it’s the taxpayer’s monies that is being used to incarcerate and feed them whilst they’re behind bars. I’ve no problem with locking their a_s up, just as long I’m not the one paying the expense of their stay behind bars.

NB: Due reverence is given here to my compatriot Bob Marley & The Wailers and their rendition of ‘Concrete Jungle’ . With my heritage being of Caribbean ancestry , I’m fully appreciative of this particular part of my Jamaican ancestry. And the culture brought forth with regard to reggae music and what it has meant to the music culture and the borders it has crossed.

:)

Alan Parkins aka tophatal ………. :)