They Say You Can’t Take It With You Or Ever Return Home …………

They Say You Can’t Take It With You Or Ever Return Home …………

Week two of the NFL season is now upon us and there are one or two intriguing match-ups . That being said perhaps the game that may draw the greatest attention could very well be Michael Vicks’ return to Atlanta where his high flying Philadelphia Eagles’ team are the guests of the Atlanta Falcons , his former team.

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For Vick this will be his first game against against the Falcons who got off to an inasupicious start with an overwhelming 30-12 loss to the Chicago Bears in their season opener . We all have read of Vick’s problems off the field and the fact that he was incarcerated for his crimes , served his sentence and now seems to have accepted back into the NFL with open arms by his peers and the league hierarchy alike . The player himself has gone out of his way in atoning for his misdeeds by working in conjunction with PETA in a number of PSA’s with regard to animal cruelty .

For the Falcons’ fans who may still feel aggrieved at the player’s actions and the very fact that he had if anything lied to them and the organization as to his misdeeds may still not sit well with many of them. But at the end of the day with the player no longer being a part of their staff they have moved and seemed to have found a successor to Michael Vick in Matt Ryan . If nothing else the quarterback knows that he will have to perform at his very best if he is to outduel his predecessor . And given his somewhat error filled and average performance against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field you have to know that he and his teammates will have take their game up a notch or two at least against a hungry Philadelphia Eagles’ team .

Eagles’ coach Andy Reid and his coaching staff they have to be pleased with what they have seen from this team this early in their season . And the coach obviously has to be pleased with his quarterback’s performance , maturity but no doubt his growing leadership skills as well . With the Philadelphia Eagles being viewed as the presumptive favorites not merely for the NFC East but also the conference and Superbowl the bullseye has firmly been placed on their backs as a target . Whether or not this is justified remains to be seen .

Michael Vick seems to have acclimatized himself well with his teammates and there is growing mutual respect between the player , the veterans and even the new draftees on the roster . The player’s breakout return last season may well have provided the Eagles’ fans with a sign of things to come not merely for this season but quite possibly for the future . Clearly the organization’s sights are set on the Superbowl (SBXLVII) and raising the Lombardi Trophy in February 2012 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis , Indiana .

With a plethora of offensive weapons at his disposal Michael Vick will be given every chance to show his prowess and further enhance his reputation as being perhaps the best quarterback playing in the league today. Certainly no expense has been spared with regard to Andy Reid setting about acquiring players for this team as they seek to improve and justify their new found position atop of the NFL. That being said the defending Superbowl champions the Green Bay Packers are not about to give up their crown without a fight. And an anticipated match-up in the postseason should there be one would be seen as one of the highlights of the NFL calendar .

While Vick seems to be excelling this season with the Philadelphia Eagles his two former teammates Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb seem to be having their own struggles as they seek to acclimatize themselves with their respective teams. To say that McNabb underachieved with the Minnesota Vikings in their season opener would be to suggest that Van Gogh could paint a masterpiece with his eyes closed and one hand tied behind his back . Suffice to say that the Vikings front office , coaching staff and their fans cannot be entirely happy with what they witnessed from the veteran so far . Is there room for improvement you may ask ? The jury is still out on that I guess ! Kevin Kolb for his part the newly acquired starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals not only has to prove himself worthy of the faith shown in him by Ken Whisenhunt , the front office but also in the fact he’s signed a lucrative multi year contract with the team . His play this season may well prove to us whether or not this was a prudent decision made by GM Rod Graves .

It is clear that the Philadelphia Eagles will want to send a clear and resounding message to the NFC as well to the rest of the NFL that they ready to take on all comers . And the best way to do that would be to defeat the Atlanta Falcons decisively on their home turf at Fulton County Stadium / Georgia Dome in , Atlanta , Georgia . I expect this game to be a highly competitive one with both defenses being tested . But it may well come down to the offensive prowess shown by the Eagles that could be the determining factor in this match-up in what is sure to be an emotionally charged game.

If you are a Boston Red Sox fan you cannot be entirely happy with what you’re now seeing from this team . Losers in eight of their last ten games the Red Sox’s season appears to be spiraling out of control and with the Tampa Bay Rays now bearing down on them in their rear view mirror there now has to be cause for concern. If last night’s game [9-2] ( loss to the Rays) at Fenway Park against their divisional foes was anything to go by then the Boston Red Sox had better get this show back on the road , rather than now being subjected to a great deal of ridicule . These two teams are now battling it out for the wildcard berth within the AL and it has to be said that at this stage of the season this might just the most suspenseful event happening in baseball at present .

For Carl Crawford the former Rays’ player this has to be one of those situations as to what might have been . But circumstances being what they are the player signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent when it became apparent that his former team could simply not afford him. He was signed to a lucrative 7 year $154 million deal that placed him alongside stars such as David Ortiz , Josh Beckett , Dustin Pedroia , Jon Lester and all of the other highly paid players on the Red Sox roster .

For Terry Francona and his coaching staff it cannot be pleasing to the eye to witness his team fail so miserably through the month of September , thus far. And I am sure under the watchful eye of GM Theo Epstein and the rest of the front office questions are now raised as to why this roster is now wilting under pressure . Suffice to say that when the pressure is brought to bear there are some who can and withstand it and there are others who cannot . At this moment in time deliberations are now taking place as to what guise this takes in the case of the Boston Red Sox. And for Carl Crawford this has been a season where he simply hasn’t delivered the goods as expected when adjudged by that of his teammates from an offensive standpoint .

To simply apportion blame solely one player would be remiss , as it has been a collective effort this has placed the Boston Red Sox in the predicament that they now find themselves in. The team has simply struggled and been errant through their last six or seven series that in that time they have seen their lead amongst the wildcard aspirants simply being whittled down by the Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays.

Now while everyone watches this race between these two teams unfold there’s a lot to be said for who could now be viewed as a favorite and who ought to be deemed the underdog. From my own standpoint I am in apoplexy merely watching the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays play. One minute we are seeming one team find a semblance of consistency only for the next to completely succumb and do the inexplicable . Granted , one could say that this simply mirrors the form of the Red Sox as of late but given the importance of the next three games to be played in their current series now unfolding at Fenway Park , who’s to say what the likely outcome will be in the end ? I am sure that Carl Crawford would not be able to answer such a question succinctly and neither would anyone else from the opposition for that fact .

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With regards to the points raised within this piece what thoughts if any do you have ? Simply leave a comment as you deem fit and anything else you feel to be pertinent to the subject matter in question . Thanks as always for the continued support as it greatly appreciated !

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

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(1) Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick throws a pass during practice at their NFL football training facility, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011 in Philadelphia. AP Photo/Alex Brandon ..

(2) Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid speaks during a media availability at their NFL football training facility Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011 in Philadelphia. AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ……

(3) Michael Vick (7) of the Philadelphia Eagles prays with teammates and St. Louis Rams players after a game at the Edward Jones Dome on September 11, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Eagles defeated the Rams 31-15 . Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images ……

(4) Michael Vick (7) of the Philadelphia Eagles scrambles as Chris Long (91) of the St. Louis Rams dives for him at the Edward Jones Dome on September 11, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Eagles defeated the Rams 31-15. Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images ……..

(5) Mike Aviles (3) of the Boston Red Sox kicks the dirt in the ninth inning during a game with Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park September 15, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox lost 9-2. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) …..

(6) Evan Longoria (3) of the Tampa Bay Rays and B.J. Upton (2) of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate a 9-2 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park September 15, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images ….

(7) As rain falls, Boston Red Sox’s Carl Crawford heads back to the dugout after popping out against the Tampa Bay Rays during the second inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. AP Photo/Charles Krupa ……

(8) Carl Crawford (13) of the Boston Red Sox fouls off a pitch in the second inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on September 14, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images …..

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Slow But Steady , Slow But Really Steady

Slow But Steady , Slow But Really Steady

It has been really interesting as of late to watch the way things have unraveled within the AL East . And as many prognosticators believe the division may well be the most competitive in all of baseball it goes without saying that the reasoning is very much justified . As an ardent admirer of the game I have a certain fascination with the team that is local to Central Florida. And that happens to be the Tampa Bay Rays who over the last two years , have been twice a winner of the division , an ALCS Pennat winner and made their sole appearance in the World Series in 2008 which ended in sadness with the team losing to the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 in the best of seven series . At the helm as the team’s manager has been Joe Maddon the organization’s most successful coach.

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Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida , is home to this young organization that has had its fair share of highs and lows over the course of its history . For Maddon and his coaching staff , they have essentially been great tutors of which much of that tutelage has come to fruition in seeing the giant steps made in the progression of young stars on the roster . Perhaps none more so than Evan Longoria , Matt Joyce and the team’s two pitching All Stars David Price and James Shields . It’d be remiss however to suggest that the aforementioned trio are the sole cause for the team’s success this season but with the addition of Johnny Damon and reliever Kyle Farnsworth the Rays have proven to a formidable challenge to the likes of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees .

New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter returns to the dugout after being thrown out at first base to end a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, July 7, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Rays won 5-1. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II …

The Rays have been very lucky with the fact that their pitching has held up well and the mere fact that there now seems to be a great deal of confidence throughout their starting five as well as the relievers would suggest that they are quite capable of giving the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees a real run for their money down the closing stretch of the season . I firmly believe that if the team is within two games of the lead coming into the month of September then all bets are off as to the division being anything but a two horse race between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees as it now appears to be !

With the All Star Game scheduled this upcoming week the Tampa Bay Rays’ schedule becomes ever so important. The team is a mere four and a half games behind the division leading New York Yankees (51-14) but only a 1 1/2 games behind the second placed Boston Red Sox (51-35). The Rays are coming off a resounding 12-5 shellacking of the Minnesota Twins. If the team can continue with that sort of the momentum then their upcoming series of games against their divisional rivals the Red Sox and Yankees should prove to be very interesting. The New York Yankees host the Rays at Yankees Stadium for home series of three games before the midseason break and the festivities surrounding the All Star Game at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona .

First up for the Tampa Bay Rays will be to rein in the New York Yankees , the winners of seven of their last ten games and riding on an offensive that has been very potent indeed . Leading the way for the Yankees has been first baseman Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson in the team’s onslaught. But need we remind ourselves that this team also has the likes of Robinson Cano , Nick Swisher and . Alex Rodriguez all of whom are capable of providing the New York Yankees with the much needed offensive weaponry that any team would enviable of having . .

Now while much of the focus has been the Derek Jeter watch as he makes his way to the 3,000 hits plateau as he is now but three hits away from reaching that milestone and become the organization’s all time hits leader . The fifteen year veteran now sits atop of the mountain and will now be instantaneously be immortalized by the Yankees’ fans . Jeter has already surpassed Yankees’ legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig but if anything this modern day icon and the face of the game to most and in particular the Yankees’ fans. One has to admit that the player is now winding down his illustrious career .

If the Rays can get to the pitching of the Yankees of which I believe is the team’s Achilles Heel then quite possibly they can win this series , cut the deficit that Bronx Bombers has over the other residents within the division. I think it’s pretty safe to say and that Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays are out of the running for the wildcard spot within the AL in terms of a postseason berth !

The contributions of Damon to the Rays this season cannot be underestimated as he’s provided a steadying presence to the team and the younger players I believe are thoroughly appreciative of that fact ! As for the Tampa Bay Rays’ fans their hometown hero has given them something to believe in with the advent of the ongoing financial woes of the organization. Say what you will but team owner Stuart Sternberg , GM Andrew Friedman and the associated partners have remained steadfast that for now the team will remain within this locale . But it appears that with each passing moment the likelihood of the Rays remaining within the area is unlikely as no common ground can be found between the two opposing factions.

Surprisingly enough the Tampa Bay Rays were once again winners in MLB Draft garnering a number of top collegiate prospects further enhancing the reputation of the scouting and coaches within the Rays’ organization of which the Baseball Operations is headed by Gerry Hunsicker . And it should come as no surprise as to the reasons why the Tampa Bay Rays have been so successful down the years with draft choices . Though this past season the team had to release fan favorites Carl Crawford , Rafael Soriano and Carlos Pena because of budgetary constraints it has to be said the organization hasn’t lost sight of what got them to where they are today.

The Tampa Bay Rays for their part have continued to surprise many but there’s a growing belief that what we’re now seeing are the waning moments of a ball-club that is in transition of moving out of the area , as the fans lament what they believe to be a double standard in terms of baseball’s hierarchy of merely leaning towards and assisting those who essentially are financially more well to do. From top to bottom the organization of the Tampa Bay Rays is a well ran operation with a farm system that’s the envy of many organizations around the league. The one stumbling block of the Rays has been the financial constraints because the ownership group is limited in its resources. I will always continue to maintain that a ball club cannot exist on a meager fan base of no more than 15,000 hardcore fans ! That seems to be bearing true as of today, with the Rays averaging no more than 19,000 fans per home game at Tropicana Field this season . In a number of cases the fanbase is simply outmatched with the arrival of either Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees and there we will see the attendance rise to as high as perhaps 25,000 to 30,000 in attendance . Hardly conducive when the away team is actually drawing far more supporters than the hosts of a scheduled home series but such are the vagaries of the game as it relates to the Tampa Bay Rays.

I certainly do believe that the Rays’ organization is now clutching at straws in the belief that an accord can be reached where they will remain in Central Florida ! It has now become abundantly clear with the financial worries of both Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties that neither county government can facilitate the financing needed to build a new venue for the team. Both county administrations are facing acute financial difficulties of their own having to furlough employees , slash budgets and a slew of sundry maneuvers has many questioning whether or not a multi million dollar facility is the right thing to do in order to facilitate the whims and wishes of a multi millionaire baseball team owner . It is not as if Stuart Sternberg or any of his senior partners have shown good faith by even suggesting that they are prepared to assist in the financing of a new venue. Any statement forthcoming , be it from Sternberg , Andrew Friedman or Matt Silverman for that matter , has essentially been about the need of a new venue rather than how best to cooperate in working together in making such a scenario happen.

As many of you know my disdain for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig knows no boundaries ! I find him to be obnoxious , a buffoon , an ignoramus and someone who is now completely out of touch as to the realities of the game and its numerous problems ! Rather than trying to be of assistance to the Tampa Bay Rays in attaining a new venue , he has seen fit to be critical of the organization’s endeavor even going as far to suggest that they will never stage an All Star Game until they have built a new venue that is to his liking and that of the league hierarchy’s . Suffice to say if the fans in the area haven’t seen that as the nail in the coffin to the organization’s efforts it has been heard loud and clear by the officials who sit on the boards of both county commissions in Hillsborough and Pinellas County . I don’t believe that Selig could have put the situation anymore succinctly than that , thereby laying to rest what now may well be a futile exercise on the part of the county governments of each ___ as well as the Tampa Bay Rays. The local sports talk radio hosts and print media may well hold out hope that things may well change but they are facing an uphill battle in their thinking that a venue can and will be built at this juncture .

It would indeed be sad to see the Tampa Bay Rays leave the area but facing a reality that the area cannot sustain a franchise that in essence hasn’t a long history or pedigree of success . Never mind the fact that this is simply a first or second generation of supporters who are now loyal to this franchise . The vast majority of the teams within the game have a long history of support that is steeped in the loyalty of its fans and with familial ties . But here with the Rays the success though only recent cannot hide the fact that there is a glaring and stark reality to this organization’s history. Its first decade under Vince Naimoli has more to do with it being a comedy of errors , with an owner who essentially saw this team as his own personal bauble and fiefdom for him to reign over like a king. Success never manifested itself to any degree and the organization came to be known as a laughing stock around the league .

Now even with its recent successes the Tampa Bay Rays still finds itself bedeviled by worries about its financial security more than anything else . With a payroll amongst the lowest in the league the coaches and front office will have to get by on a squad of good if not great players , their future prospects and as I alluded to earlier a farm system that is amongst the best in the league .

Should the organization in the ensuing years leave the vicinity of Central Florida then the death knell of the game at the major league level within this area will have clearly sounded. Spring Training is all that the area will then have to cling to and that in of itself may not be such a bad thing after all. The teams who make the area their home during the preseason bring with them a burgeoning legion of fans and snow birds into Central Florida all looking to give support to their teams and aid the area with their income and making creating something of a vibrant economy during their time here . Now in spite of that fact it doesn’t lessen the blow that a Major League team now finding success may well have to leave its locale merely because the league hierarchy in its infinite wisdom has been about as helpful in their cause to remain as one could consider Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might be in assisting in a peaceful settlement of the Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiations . Whereas Bud Selig was front and center in assisting the New York Mets and New York Yankees in the facilitating and building of their respective venues ( Citi Field & Yankee Stadium) he has been nowhere to be seen in assisting the Tampa Bay Rays in their endeavor to have a new venue built. But given the fact that as odious as the commissioner is , I can’t help but feel that the fans are now having the last laugh as things have gone to spiral out of control for himself and the league hierarchy as they now try to sort out the ongoing mess of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which will undoubtedly be followed by the web of intrigue and malfeasance that has taken place within the New York Mets organization . . Here’s to you Bud , you ingrate and piece of crap !

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What thoughts if any do you have with regard to the points raised within this piece ? And how as such do you view the race now taking place within the AL East ? Simply chime on in with your comments as you deem fit .

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

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(1) Ben Zobrist (18) of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 7, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images ….

(2) New York Yankees fans hold up the number of hits Derek Jeter has, during his at-bat in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, July 7, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. Jeter grounded out to end the game as Tampa Bay won 5-1 . AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek ……

(3) New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter returns to the dugout after being thrown out at first base to end a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, July 7, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Rays won 5-1. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II …

(4) Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth is congratulated by catcher John Jaso at the end of the Rays’ 5-1 win over the New York Yankees in a baseball game Thursday, July 7, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek …..

(5) MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JULY 6: Johnny Damon (22) and Kelly Shoppach (10) of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate a two-run home run by Shoppach against the Minnesota Twins in the second inning on July 6, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images …..

(6) Casey Kotchman (11) and B.J. Upton(2) of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate after defeating the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 7, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images ……..

(7) MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JULY 6: Sean Rodriguez (1), Evan Longoria (3) and Casey Kotchman (11) of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate a two-run home run by Rodriguez against the Minnesota Twins in the eighth inning on July 6, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Rays defeated the Twins 12-5. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images ….

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Can Baseball Save Itself ?

Can Baseball Save Itself ?

As much as I enjoy the game of baseball I can’t help but wonder when the game’s hierarchy led by Commissioner Bud Selig will actually come to a decision regard the game’s most hallowed records. With the both the all-time home run and single season records having been broken by Barry Bonds and the player himself having been found guilty of perjury and obstruction of Justice by a Federal Court jury with a sentence still awaiting , it remains to be seen what stance will be taken by the league concerning the player’s sentencing and the very fact that those records remain in tact and are still recognized . The game has been tainted by a vast array of controversies over the years but certainly the stigma attached to the “steroid era” will be the one thing that defines this game for years to come . It has been bad enough that Selig showed as much tenacity in going after the players who broke the rules as a Klansman would have an aversion in speaking out against one of his own members . The idiocy of it all, is while icons of the game see their records be surpassed the league hierarchy , team owners and the MLBPA have made out quite handsomely from a financial standpoint while those records were obliterated .

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Hank Aaron the former home run king and the late Roger Maris I feel have been done a great disservice but clearly until with no real action being taken those records now await a new player to come along and surpass those marks . Amongst the active players in terms of the home run tally it now lies in the hands of Alex Rodriguez to take aim at the 762 home runs set by Bonds . For the present it doesn’t appear that the single season home run mark is in imminent danger but it is becoming increasingly clear that once broken by a player , that feat will come under even more intense scrutiny . As time goes by history will judge the feats and the fans as of now can only either show their disdain or approval as the case maybe. The idiocy of it all is that for some players having retired their sole aim after that is to be an enshrinee in Baseaball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown , New York joining the other illustrious Hall of Famers within that hallowed edifice.

Rodriguez isn’t without controversy himself having first lied about his use of performance enhancing drugs only then to come clean in rather contrived interview process that left a lot to be desired and the player coming off as complete embarrassment to the New York Yankees’ organization . And even in light of that contrived apology things are still unclear with his name also being linked to Orlando medical professional Anthony Galea who is under indictment for the illegal transportation and sale illicit substances including HGH , anabolic steroids , oxycodone to name but a few . The Justice Department’s ongoing investigation may well lead to other indictments but given the idiocy of prosecutors in charge of many of these cases I do believe that the taxpayers’ money is simply being wasted on these cases . The Bonds’ episode including the investigation of BALCO has cost an estimated $15-$20 million from start to finish in an investigation that has shown little tangible evidence that the indictments and guilty verdicts levied against Bonds , former track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery has effectively stopped the misuse of PED’s within the game or sports in general . Case in point , as wide as the net has now been cast by the Justice Department in its investigation there still seems to be the belief by some athletes that they’re indeed above the law.

Money if anything has been the cursory issue as the players here chase after what they deem to be baseball immortality and financial bounty. And as we know with the ever increasing salaries and the mere fact that the owners as well as general managers act as if they’re completely oblivious as to the financial vulnerability of the teams and stability of many of these organizations.

Cyclist Lance Armstrong the seven time winner of the “> Tour de France is now under investigation by the Justice Department and it appears that the tip of the iceberg as there appears to be an onslaught as they now Armstrong within their sights . The cyclist has always denied his use of performance enhancing drugs but with the latest statements attributed to former cycling teammates George Hincapie and Tyler Hamilton in their testimony to authorities it appears that the cycling champion’s credibility could now become all the more questionable given the weight of evidence of the testimonies of both Hamilton and Hincapie , whereby they each state that they have seen Armstrong use PED’s. Sooner or later in spite of the denials Armstrong will have to face the facts and tell his own story verbatim to the authorities rather than merely issuing rather terse statements through his legal representatives.

At the start of the season it was felt that the Boston Red Sox would be hanging tough and perhaps walking away with the AL East . Having got off to an inauspicious start through their first eleven games left many wondering if this team would be good enough to be challenging the likes of the New York Yankees and others within the division . Terry Francona and his coaching staff came under a great deal of scrutiny as did GM Theo Epstein after the organization’s big off-season acquisitions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez . Things being what they are , the Boston Red Sox struggled as many questioned the travails of the team and the fact that they were problem areas manifesting itself all over this roster . Slowly but surely as their confidence grew the Red Sox played themselves back into contention .

Now as the month of June approaches it will be interesting to see if the Boston Red Sox can maintain their momentum . The month of May has been if anything a very benevolent one for the Red Sox , having won seven straight and 8 of their last 10 games the team now finds itself a 1/2 game behind the division leading Tampa Bay Rays (25-20). And based on Friday night’s evidence where the team summarily dispatched the Chicago Cubs at Fenway Park in an emphatic 15-5 victory over the beleaguered Cubs .

The series between the Red Sox and Cubs resumes as Francona’s team looks to make that leap over the Tampa Bay Rays and take control of the division. The Rays in an inter-league game take on the Florida Marlins at Landshark Stadium , in Miami , Florida . If anything what has been remarkable about the Red Sox’s within the league has been the play of Adrian Gonzalez as he now leads the league in RBI’s . But this hasn’t been simply about it being a one man show as it has been a collective effort from all the members of this team in one form or another. The pitching is starting to pay dividends and Jonathan Papelbon seems to be back to his customary self . And that if anything has to be an added bonus for the Red Sox and their overly boisterous fans .

There’s still a great deal to play for this season and I’ve no doubt that the AL East as a division is still very much a competitive one . It will most certainly be a three horse race to my mind and in all likelihood the third placed team at the end of the season will be the one to miss out on a postseason playoff berth. The wildcard berth will most certainly come from within the division as there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe that from within the AL Central or AL West there is contender playing anywhere good enough to be thought of as contender for that playoff spot.

As the months of June , July , August and September approach we will continue to learn a great deal more about the teams and their play . And for the likes of the Boston Red Sox , New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays , they are about to make that AL East all the more enticing as a spectacle to be observed from afar as a discerning baseball fan. As to what the outcome will be is anyone’s guess at this juncture but I know that it will be all the more entertaining to find out over the coming months as we see how things actually pan out.

Inasmuch as I have asked the question within this piece ” Can Baseball Save Itself” I might also add …….. has the league done enough to even assure the game remains safe and a viable going concern ? It’s a question that I think we all seek an answer for but in reality the answer itself has to come from the league hierarchy and not from the fan ! We may well have our own idea on the matter and how we’d like to see things change for the better but as I’ve alluded to earlier it will be left in the hands Bud Selig and his subordinates to lead this game into the direction that needs to be taken.

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

What thoughts if any do you have on the points raised within this topic ? Simply leave a comment or comments as you deem fit on anything you feel to be pertinent to this article .

Alan aka tophatal ……………….

https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Picture and slide show details below .

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(1) Three giants of the game from left to right Roberto Clemente , Willie Mays and Hank Aaron . courtesy of ftl.pinecrest.edu …….

(2) Chicago Cubs’ Carlos Pena (22) walks back to the dugout after grounding out against the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of an interleague baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston Friday, May 20, 2011. The Red Sox won 15-5 . AP Photo/Elise Amendola ………

(3) Kevin Youkilis (20) and David Ortiz (34) of the Boston Red Sox celebrate after they scored against the Chicago Cubs on May 20, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.on May 20, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox have not played at Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images ……

(4) Kevin Youkilis (20) 20 of the Boston Red Sox hits a two run homer in the fourth inning as Koyie Hill (55) of the Chicago Cubs defends on May 20, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.on May 20, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox have not played at Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images …..

(5) BOSTON, MA – MAY 21: Carlos Marmol (49) of the Chicago Cubs celebrates the win with teammate Aramis Ramirez (16) on May 21, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Tonight the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox are wearing replica uniforms from 1918. Before this series, the two teams haven’t played at Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series. The Chicago Cubs defeated the Boston Red Sox 9-3 . Photo by Elsa/Getty Images ……

(6) BOSTON, MA – MAY 21: David Ortiz (34) #34 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates his two run homer in the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs with teammate Kevin Youkilis (20) on May 21, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Tonight the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox are wearing replica uniforms from 1918. Before this series, the two teams haven’t played at Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images …….

(7) Koyie Hill (55) of the Chicago Cubs holds David Ortiz(notes) at third base after tagging out Adrian Gonzalez (28) of the Boston Red Sox on May 20, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.on May 20, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox have not played at Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images ……..

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MLB News

MLB Standings

MLB Schedule 3 days at a glance

Probable starters 22nd May 2011

Boston Red Sox history

Boston Red Sox active roster

Boston Red Sox team stats

Red Sox coaching staff

Red Sox’s remaining schedule for the month of May

June’s schedule

Red Sox all time leaders stats

Savor The Moment ……….. Baseball Is Here

Savor The Moment Baseball Is Here

It could take time but there’s the distinct feeling that this baseball season could be one to savor given the uncertainty that now surrounds both the NFL and NBA . MLB Commissioner Bud Selig knows that with the advent of the NFL quite possibly shutting down for the upcoming season and the uncertainty of the NBA but no firm commitment shown by either the league hierarchy and that of the NBPA led by Executive Director Billy Hunter , its President Derek Fisher , its executive committee and player representatives . The NBA has indeed been working continuously with the union to avert any possibility of their own labor dispute .

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Slide show for your perusal .

The NBA itself no doubt wants remain relevant and if anything given the grave financial problems concerning a number of teams around the league the last thing they now need is a stoppage at this juncture.

Inasmuch I hate to say this, I do feel that the big market teams will once again prevail as the season progresses . The success achieved by the likes of the New York Yankees , Boston Red Sox , St Louis Cardinals , Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies has in part more to do with not only the talent assembled on the field of play but more to do with the financial resources at these teams’ disposal . Granted we’ve seen the Washington Nationals delve into the free agency market to acquire Jayson Werth but in reality the seven year $119 million contract signed by the player I believe had more to do with making a splash by the organization than that of them actually being able to contend within the NL East .

The Nationals haven’t been a force to be reckoned with in eons and I seriously doubt that this season things are liable to change albeit that they’ll have both Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg there to lure the fans back to Nationals Ballpark . If the Washington Nationals are to prevail then they will have to contend with the likes of the Atlanta Braves , defending divisional champions the Philadelphia Phillies as well as the New York Mets and Florida Marlins . I’m not so sure that the Nationals are capable of making the jump from an also ran to a contender !

With no team to support and the mere fact that I no longer have any faith in the ownership group of the Florida Marlins I find myself merely now observing the game as a fan of the sport showing no real passion for any team in particular ! The local team within this locale are the Tampa Bay Rays and as the defending AL East champions I think that this will be a season of highs and lows for the team . We’re all no doubt aware of the of the upheaval within the organization as it relates to the departures of Carl Crawford , Rafael Soriano , Carlos Pena and , Matt Garza to name but a few as part of the cost cutting exercise by the front office led by GM Andrew Friedman . Principal managing partner Stuart Sternberg apart from being in the midst of a financial expediency plan merely for the franchise to survive , now has to deal with the city of St Petersburg and the city’s intent to hold the Rays to their lease agreement at Tropicana Field .

The organization is looking for a new venue but they and the municipality can’t agree on how best to come to an amicable arrangement that would be mutually beneficial for all of the parties concerned.

A new facility would be no guarantee for a team that struggles to have an element of tangible following . Anyone who’s of the belief that a fanbase of 15,000 hardcore fans will legitimately guarantee competitive and financial success really needs to take a look at what’s happening within the game of baseball . Having won two divisional titles within the AL East , an appearance in the World Series the recent success of the Rays has been heartwarming for the loyal fans of the organization.

I do believe that they can compete but I believe their season will be predicated upon the coaching talents of the coaches and in particular manager Joe Maddon . As astute a manager as he is , his work this season will be his toughest yet as he now has to coach a young team albeit that he the additions of seasoned veterans Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez on this roster I simply believe that they will struggle in large part to contend with the likes of Boston Red Sox , New York Yankees , Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays within their division.

While I’m under no illusion that the game itself is all about the consistency of the players and how they’ll fare over the course of the regular season . Whereas last season the team’s strengths were in its pitching and in particular their defense . And if they’re to replicate that success then they’ll have to replicate that success and play to their inherent strengths. If anything it will be these situations that will test the fortitude of the Rays and in particular that of Joe Maddon because this most definitely will be the sternest test that he’s faced over the course of professional managing career. Having won an AL pennant and an appearance in the World Series with the subsequent loss the Philadelphia Phillies , success this season for the Rays will be measured by posting a winning record during the season. Anything less than that I believe would be considered to be a failure !

As to the season itself what can we expect of the San Francisco Giants as they look to make a successful defense of their title ? Will they be able to regain that form can it through the regular season and into the postseason ? Or will we merely see a team that struggles in that endeavor to repeat ?

Of the teams that I believe will be amongst the contenders this season I look to the Philadelphia Phillies and that pitching rotation which on the face of it just might be the best there is the game of baseball . Clearly GM Rueben Amaro and Charlie Manuel felt that this was the best way possible for the team to make another successful run with a view to repeating their success of 2009 . The New York Yankees for their part with their payroll and talent that on appearance ought to be good enough to make the postseason may well have their problems because there’s serious question as it regards their pitching , as it remains their Achilles’ heel . If they can’t turn things around on that score then I can’t see this simply relying on their offense alone to see them through.

Amongst the other AL teams that I view as contenders unless the Texas Rangers are able to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke then it could well be one and done . There may well be others contenders within the AL but much of that will be predicated upon their wish to play with real determination. The Minnesota Twins have simply proven that once they get to the postseason they become like a deer caught in headlights and I don’t believe that I could put it anymore succinctly than that !

Now while Spring Training is now upon us and many fans will be pursuing to see their teams as they are at play in the Citrus and Grapefruit League. The preseason itself may well not be much of an indicator as to what we’re expect during the regular season but it should give us something of a way to gauge the teams and their quest to make the postseason . If nothing else it’ll be interesting to see how the players that’ve been acquired by new teams will fare and acclimatize in a new environment . How they fare may well also go a great way in telling us how their respective teams will ultimately do . This season within the game of baseball will certainly be one to savor and the expectations there will undoubtedly be high.

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

What thoughts if any do you have with regard to the MLB season and how do you view problems that many of the teams face ? Also in light of the fact that there appears to be lingering rumors that there could very well be team contraction within the game do you believe that it will be ultimately beneficial to the game as a whole ? Simply leave a comment as to your thoughts on the topic raised and other thoughts that you might have on the upcoming MLB season.

Alan aka tophatal ………………..

Picture gallery and slide show details
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(1) Washington Nationals second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr., right, greets Washington Nationals Jeff Frazier (72) after Frazier hit a third inning solo home run off New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia in the Nationals 10-8 victory over the Yankees in their spring training baseball game at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., Saturday, March 5, 2011. AP Photo/Kathy Willens …..

(2) Washington Nationals Bryce Harper is shown at the plate in the seventh inning of the Nationals 10-8 victory over the New York Yankees in their spring training baseball game at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., Saturday, March 5, 2011. Harper was one for two in the game. He had an eighth inning single. AP Photo/Kathy Willens ……

(3) Clearwater , Fl : of the Philadelphia Phillies of the Tampa Bay Rays during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at Bright House Field on March 6, 2011 in Sarasota, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……..

(4) Jimmy of the Philadelphia Phillies of the Tampa Bay Rays during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at Bright House Field on March 6, 2011 in Sarasota, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……

<p (5) Pitcher Wade Davis (40) of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at Bright House Field on March 6, 2011 in Sarasota, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ………..

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MLB News


Tampa Bays history

Tampa Bay Rays’ front office

Tampa Bay Rays’ coaching staff

Tampa Bay Rays roster …… active roster & depth chart

Rays’ team statistics

Tampa Bay Rays’ schedule

Transaction moves made by the Tamp Bay Rays —– transactions


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Eye candy …………………… Polish model Ewa Sonnet

An eyeful of Ewa is better than a handful of nuts don’t you think ?

Ewa

Titillating Ewa and her play things .

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Method Man feat’g ……. Mary J Blige ………….. “I’ll Be There For You /You’re All I Need ”
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Saving Face ………………. Or How Not To Win Friends And Influence People

Saving Face ………………. Or How Not To Win Friends And Influence People

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry considering the ludicrous events that’ve taken place over the past twenty four hours . First the bombshell within college football has Florida’s __ Urban Meyer announcing his stepping down as coach of the Gators’ football team albeit that he’ll still coach the team in their Outback Bowl meeting against Joe Paterno’s __ Penn State football team . While I find this something of a shock I can also see the comical side of this all given the ongoing criticism that has taken shape within the local press here in the Central Florida area. What might be even more impalpable is the way with which Meyer chose to make this announcement and the circumstances brought up to validate his choice.

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Slide show for your perusal .

Urban Meyer had once before resigned from his post citing the fact that he’d undergone health issues, now he states that because of his familial issues in being away from his children for days on end he feels that he now owes it to them and that he needs to be at their side. Am I missing something here because there are a number of college coaches around the game of college football that are in a similar position being that they are also parents ? So what is it here that Meyer is now trying to have us believe at this moment in time ? A 7-5 season for the Gators wherein they fell short not only in their national title aspirations but also within the SEC (Southeastern Conference) where the Auburn Tigers led by their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Cam Newton would prevail over Steve Spurrier’s ___ South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC title game (56-17). Given that Newton was also once a member of the Gators’ football team before unceremoniously having to leave the campus over irregularities concerning a stolen laptop computer as well as allegations of cheating on a number of tests. What we now have within the local press are a number of journalists questioning Meyer’s choices as it regards game time decisions and his personnel. John Brantley , Tim Tebow’s successor has had something of an inconsistent season and although the coaching staff has used number schemes that didn’t prove effective it simply showed the frailties and weaknesses of this team and the play in particular of the Gators this season. So much for the pundits who lauded Meyer for having a top notch recruiting class this season as it now seems to have been to no avail.

Now while Meyer has stepped down the talk of his successor is now rife as to who many believe should be the next coach of the Florida Gators. Amongs those being named are Jon Gruden , Bobby Petrino , Bob Stoops , Jim Harbaugh , Chris Petersen and Dan Mullen to name but a few . Gruden and Stoops to my mind won’t be particularly interested in the position given the fact that both are well compensated in their present jobs . Gruden is on air analyst with ESPN/ABC while Stoops has one of the most lucrative contracts in all of college football along with very lucrative endorsement deals with several high profiled businesses within state of Oklahoma . Somehow I for one don’t believe that the Gators can match that sort of financial wherewithal ! Gruden while in the service of ABC/ESPN is still being paid the remainder of his contract after his abrupt firing by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and if anything the former NFL coach probably covets any one of a number of vacancies that will arise once the season is over . So any talk of Gruden being interested coaching a college program seems to be out of the question and is simply just talk . As to who will ultimately succeed Meyer will rest in the interview process and the decision made by AD Jeremy Foley .

It’s funny but when I heard that the Washington Nationals had signed Jayson Werth to a lucrative seven year $126 million contract I thought that it was a mistake but then I realized who Werth’s agent happened to be and it was none other than uber-agent Scott Boras agent to the stars. This sports agent has been the main provocateur within the game that has seen salaries now escalate to unheard of heights. Need I remind you that he has been influential in making Alex Rodriguez the highest paid player in the game and will have amassed in excess of $500 million in earnings from the game as a salaried player without taking into account off field endorsements. As this idiocy now prevails within the game no one from the game’s hierarchy much less the MLBPA , __ general managers or team owners seem to question the direction that the game is taking in terms of its financial viability. I understand that the Nationals and in particular the team’s GM Mike Rizzo wants to make a big splash but given the fact that Nationals have struggled to be competitive over the past few seasons, I see nothing really changing in spite of the signing of Werth and the promise of Stephen Strasburg . And less we forget that the organization is also counting on former high school phenom Bryce Harper to provide an impact for the team and at the same lure the fans to the Nationals’ Ballpark in Washington, DC.

Fans around the game have to be perplexed by what they’re now seeing as teams now seek to make their best attempt to be viewed as viable contenders. Am I mistaken here but the usual suspects will always be around no matter how many of these teams look to be part of what’s turning out not to be a level playing field at all. Now as the Winter Meetings have ended amongst the team owners and general managers the most prized free agent still remains on the open market and two teams are left standing to battle it out with the prize being the signature and services of Cliff Lee are the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers . And while Lee remains coveted the Rangers and in particular team President Nolan Ryan and GM Jon Daniels . And the team has offered the pitcher a six year contract that’s estimated to in the region of $120 million , it’s said that the Yankees are prepared to offer Lee a seven year contract paying between $130 to $145 million , with the seventh year being an option year for the player and team.

One tries to assimilate this and make some sense of it all but I for one no longer find it a complexity at all. It merely now boils down to the avarice of the owners , players and the game’s hierarchy itself. No one seems to question the fact that the teams are now spending money like it’s going out of fashion but then again given the mendacity with which the government has chosen to run up the federal deficit and national debt should we be at all surprised to see the idiocy now taking place within the game of baseball ? I know at the end of the day the decision to be made by Lee will be his alone but at the same time even if his wife still has her doubts over the behavior of the New York Yankees’ fans and the profanity laced taunts she faced while attending the ALCS games at Yankees’ Stadium . It goes without saying that the player may well err on the side of wanting the money over remaining in Texas with the team where his postseason performances prior to the World Series were very exhilarating .

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Picture gallery for your perusal

The future of the Gators may well be bright but we won’t actually know that until a new coach is hired by the AD and the identity that he wishes to bring to the team. As to how the Gators’ fans may well now view this all remains to be seen but as of now the well wishers are there for Meyer and for what he’s achieved for the program . But there also the detractors who no doubt feel somewhat betrayed by his actions . Make of it what you will . As to what’s now transpiring this off-season within the game of baseball let’s just say that even with Carl Crawford’s signing by the Boston Red Sox and their seven year offer of $140 million this won’t be the last time that we’ll see these type of maneuvers take place within the game. This off season Scott Boras made sure that the game of baseball remains where it is right in the doldrums and the fans of the game have remained bewildered by what has taken place . That my friends is how one saves face while not wanting to win friends and influence people !

What thoughts if any do you have concerning the Urban Meyer stepping down as coach of the Gators’ football team and your own thinking as to the Washington Nationals signing of Jayson Werth ? By all means simply leave a comment on this topic and as always thanks for the continued support.

😛

Alan aka tophatal ……………… 🙂 ___ 😦 __ 😛

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Tiara

Eye candy …. Tiara

Simply Follow The Money Honey

Simply Follow The Money Honey

Just as in the silly season with the PGA Tour where they have their non-sensical and end of season tournaments that’s merely another way for the Tour players to pad their already burgeoning bank accounts the same thing applies to MLB (baseball) as prospective restricted and free agents look to cement their bank accounts also. However whereas golf has a wealth of corporate sponsors eager to have their names associated with the sport although the game’s biggest draw _ Tiger Woods has fallen from grace somewhat ,the sport as such still resonates with the fans whenever he’s on the golf course wielding his clubs and not wielding it in the direction of some buxom nubile young female.

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