Thursday, July 29, 2010

Please don't wake me, no don't shake me

The Red Sox have an off day and I am taking the opportunity to catch up on my sleep as well.

Ten game West Coast swing? Absolute torture for someone in Eastern Standard time.

I'll be back tomorrow with the Lightning signings and the start of the Sox series against the Tigers.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

It was 95 degrees today, so it makes perfect sense that today's update would be about hockey. The Winter Classic specifically. A few years ago, the NHL started a new tradition of holding an outdoor hockey game on New Year's Day. The first Winter Classic was played by the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres in 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in upstate New York.. In the following years, the game was hosted at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. The annual outdoor game is on my mind since the NHL made the officiall announcement about the venue and teams involved in the 2011 Classic. It was a poorly kept secret as pretty much anyone who follows hockey knew what they were going to say months ago.

This year's game will feature the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals at Heinz Field. Yes, you read that correctly. The Penguins are being featured in another Winter Classic game. In a non-Olympic year, the Classic is one of the best ways for the league to reach a wider audience. Because of that I can understand they would want to showcase teams with two of the biggest stars in the league: Sidney Crosby & Alex Ovechkin. A "rivalry" was manufactured between these two guys from the minute they both laced up in the league. It seems to be a never ending question of who is the better player, blah blah blah. Sidney Crosby's the league's poster boy because he is a talented and good looking kid. He's marketable. I understand this. I just don't understand why we have to be subjected to another game where two players are all that will be talked about.

Let me make something perfectly clear. I am not pro-Crosby. I am staunchly team Ovie and would take him every time if I were building my own NHL team. I also understand that the Winter Classic isn't for hardcore fans like me. It's something new to try and lure in the ever elusive "casual fan" they have been trying to get into arenas for decades. There is only one problem with this plan. The word "casual". A casual fan won't buy season tickets or pour over hockey magazines or spend hundreds of dollars on merchandise every season. A casual fan can turn into a loyal fan, but more often than not I have seen casual fans jump from one bandwagon to another depending on what team is winning that season.

The Winter Classic is a showcase of the league's talent and it should be. But there are talented players outside of Pittsburgh or Washington. But, until they figure out a way to maintain an ice surface on St. Pete Beach, I won't see my team's stars get to showcase their talent anywhere except Sunsports or the St. Pete Times Forum. Spread the wealth, give us something different to see and enjoy while we're nursing our hangovers on New Year's Day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"One sunny mornin' we'll rise I know. And I'll meet you further on up the road..."

Let me preface this update by saying this is not what I intended to write about today. I was going to write about how much the Red Sox bullpen depressed me this weekend or the absolute circus the Ilya Kovalchuk deal is turning into. This one just kind of fell into my lap from something I posted on Facebook.

I posted the newly released logo for the 2011 NHL All Star Game that is set to take place in Raleigh, North Carolina next January. Someone commented something about giving Hartford back the Whalers. For those baseball fans who read my blog, the current NHL team in NC is a relocated team from Hartford Connecticut. Nothing against the good people of Hartford, but it got me thinking. It got me thinking about how difficult it is for people to realize that as much as we might live and breathe for our sports teams, it is only a money making enterprise for a lot of people involved with the teams and the leagues as a whole. It's just business and we are all guilty of being oblivious to this at times, no matter how savvy we think we are.

I am also of the pretty unpopular opinion that if a city has a franchise leave, they don't necessarily deserve to get one back further down the road. For example, there has been talk of my NFL team moving from Jacksonville for years. Low attendance, low revenues... the writing is on the wall. It's uncertain how long that can continue before Wayne Weaver decides he has let enough cash go through his fingers. Would I be devastated if the team I have followed since their Inaugural game against the Houston Oilers ceased to be? Absolutely. Would I understand why the franchise folded? Absolutely.

Some experiments just don't work. This holds true for sports teams and science projects. Just because it's something you love, doesn't mean it's a perfect idea. Would I love for Hartford or Winnipeg to prove me wrong? Sure. I'm just not 100% convinced they would be able to.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Low sea level, high humidity, Red Sox

It's not always easy growing up a Red Sox fan in Florida. My baseball background is pretty atypical for a lot of people. I grew up learning about the game from my Dad and playing catch in the background. The Jacksonville Suns were as close as I got to a real MLB for quite a while. My father taught my sister and I the important things like the infield fly rule or how you can tell what pitch is thrown just by watching the movement of the ball. But, my dad grew up a Dodgers fan in Brooklyn and his allegiance was always somewhere else. For most of my adult life, my Red Sox fan has been a largely individual and private sort of thing.

The internet made all the difference. Through the internet and blogs I was able to find people all over the country and the world who shared my passion for the game of baseball and the boys in Boston from March until (hopefully) October. I've read a variety of baseball websites and blogs over the years, but there is one I keep coming back to. Surviving Grady. I found solace after the gut wrenching kick to the stomach that was Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS and have been there every since. Relishing and agonizing over every at bat, every pitch, every defensive goof, or homerun into the Monster Seats.

Surviving Grady has been especially important to me since I moved to Tampa and are surrounded by fans of two division rivals. I know like minded people who are always ready for witty repartee and the occasional heated debate are accessible. And, if you're very lucky, available for a Palooza.

Thank you Red and Denton for giving this Red Sox fan in diaspora a place to be. And as always, runs and beer.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bienvenue à Tampa, Monsieur Gagne

I posted something about a trade for Gagne on facebook and all of my Red Sox friends thought I was taunting them with the prospect of Eric Gagne coming out of retirement. Put away the helmets and step out of the bomb shelters. Simon Gagne! Hockey! Everything will be alright!

The interesting thing about being at work all day and missing a lot of the late breaking news on off season deals is that I generally have more time to look over any news articles before forming my opinion on my team picking up or trading any players. I also discovered that I am in the minority among people that I know in that.. well, I actually really like the Gagne trade.

Hear me out: if Gagne can stay healthy he can help the Bolts more than Matt Walker can. Matt Walker was a great guy and had lovely eyes, but when you put his numbers next to a healthy Gagne? Incomparable. If he can stay healthy, and that is a big if for a guy who has had issues with concussions in the past, this will be a huge deal. I'll wait to see how things turn out before I start patting Stevie Y on the back for another good move, but this is one I am excited by.

I also thought that the Lightning were going to have the big hockey news of the day, but then the story about Ilya Kovalchuk's 17 year contract. 17 years. Not a typo. The man is going to be 44 if he plays out the whole thing. 17 years. That's really all I can say about it, I am that baffled. The Devils are going to have to liquidate a lot of veterans to accommodating the immediate hit to their salary cap. But, since it's well documented that I don't like them.. well. Ha Ha.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Meet the new Boss, same as the old Boss

I would like... if I may... to talk about legacies for a little bit. Everyone who follows sports or has had access to any sort of news outlet in the last week knows that Yankees owner George Steinbrenner passed away at the age of 80. It's been big news in Tampa since the Steinbrenner name and the Yankees themselves are very entrenched in the area. There's a George Steinbrenner high school, the Tampa Yankees are right across from the Buccaneers stadium and the mini-Yank stadium is the Yankees Spring Training site. Hell, even Derek Jeter is building an apartment building.. I'm sorry, house.. on Davis Island. Yankees are big business down here and it's well documented that I am a Red Sox fan. So, disclaimer. Anything I am going to say is not going to come without it's share of bias.

George Steinbrenner gave a hell of a lot of money to charity. I can definitely appreciate that. I think everyone can give to charity, and people with millions and millions of dollars should definitely help those in need. He turned the Yankees into what they are today... for better or worse. And that has definitely affected my baseball team in the giant rivalry that exists there.

That being said, just because someone is no longer with us does not mean that death acts as an eraser of any questionable or bad things they may have done. Dave Winfield, look it up. Steinbrenner was banned from baseball for life at one point. He made illegal campaign contributions to Nixon.

It is what it is, I suppose. I don't wish the man or his family ill and I do hope they find comfort in this trying time. Let's just all remember the whole story.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

To squee or not to squee.. that is the question.

Photo by: Getty Images

I'm not sure if I can think of myself as a serious sports fan ever again. Let me explain. Tonight was the culmination of the Lightning's Prospect Camp where the prospects split off into two teams and had a scrimmage followed by a shoot out competition. Following that was a Q&A session with new defenseman Brett Clark, first round draft pick Brett Connolly, and new general manager Steve Yzerman.

Yes, you heard me. Steve Yzerman. Hall of Famer. Hockey legend. His name is on the Stanley Cup 4 times. Pearson, Selke, Conn Smythe, Masterson, & Patrick trophy winner. In short, kind of a big deal. Not to mention the fact that I have really respected the moves he has made in the off season to get the Lightning back on track.

Not having lived through Beatlemania, I never really understood the girls just standing there SCREAMING their heads off over seeing someone or something. Now, I didn't scream. But when Stevie Y walked out for the q & a, I definitely squeed.

I pose a question to you. Is it acceptable to squee a bit over living sports legends, or should I pretend that it never happened?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"We're living in the future and none of this has happened yet."

I spent most of this past Saturday at the Lightning's prospect camp. They had a similar event last year, giving those of us die hard enough to be at the arena at 8:30 in the morning on a weekend a chance to get our first glimpse at their latest draft picks and promising players in the minor league system. Yes, 8:30 am. Luckily, the boys were late getting on the ice since I was running late myself.

The morning was largely devoted to their off ice physical testing and some on ice skating drills. The first session wrapped up around 11 and I took off with some of my friends for lunch in Brandon with several large margaritas. Between those and riding on the Crosstown Expressway in a convertible Mustang, life was definitely good.

The afternoon session proved to be a lot more high energy with a lot of puck handling and shooting drills. The forwards and defensemen were definitely putting the goalies through their paces and in some cases making some pretty spectacular saves. I saw a few of these guys in last year's prospect camp and it really is impressive seeing how their games have grown in just the space of a year. Ashton Carter in particular seems to have filled his frame out a bit and had some really good moves. I think we will be seeing Dana Tyrell at camp, if not getting a shot at making the team in the near future.

Most eyes were on the Bolts' first round, fourth overall pick Brett Connolly. There were a lot of critical statements following the team's choice with their top pick, and it's not completely unfounded. He lost most of last season with hip injuries, so it could be seen as a bit of a crap shoot. I have to say, I am looking forward to seeing what the kid can do. Especially after seeing his work in the shooting drills. You can tell when someone has the scoring touch, and I was very impressed with his ability even in such an informal setting.

As a culmination of camp, the Lightning are hosting a scrimmage for the prospects on Wednesday night as well as a skills competition. I'll be there with camera in hand. It might be July and it might feel like 100 + degrees outside, but there is ice in the arena and shots on goal. I missed you, hockey.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fantasy Team Masochism

I was talking with a friend online yesterday and my gripes about all of the Sox injuries and the goings on in MLB led him to mention his fantasy baseball team. He was upset that three of the guys he had on the bench had a heck of a night when it came to numbers. I let him know that fantasy baseball seems way too involved and high maintenance for me. I have played fantasy hockey the past two seasons and maybe I didn't do so well because I would check once a week, set my rosters, and then basically leave it alone and hope for the best and no injuries. Not long after, he posed the following question:

"If it was your turn to draft and A-rod was by far the best player available would you be able to draft him?"

This is when I find it really difficult to divorce my own personal fandom and step away from the ingrained hatred and bias. I answered that I don't think I could be that objective. I followed up that statement by saying," If I took him, I would enjoy any benefits to the team. But I would hate myself." I decided it wasn't worth it. He decided the self loathing would be worth it for A-Rod's numbers to boost his fantasy standings.

I guess that's a question that I am posing. Am I naive for not putting aside my personal views for a fantasy team? Just something to ponder.

And always, Yankees Suck.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Really, baseball gods? REALLY?

Photo by Me

I had gotten really good about updating my blog, but then the long weekend came along. I hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July with family and friends. And now on to the main entry.

I'm reaching a point with all of the Red Sox injuries where it's just ridiculous. I am watching the Sox/Rays game and Kevin Youkilis left the game by apparently hurting his ankle while stepping in to the batters box. REALLY? Enough is enough. I honestly don't remember another team having this much of a problem with injuries, particularly to starters. Taking a look around, it's tough to find someone who hasn't been out at one time or another for some kind of ailment.

That's really all there is to say about it tonight. I'll write about my experience at the Rays/Sox game last night tomorrow.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hockey's Littlest Bad Ass

Photo Source: Getty Images

Some of the biggest Lightning news that came out today had nothing to do with a big free agent signing. The biggest news was that they signed Martin St. Louis to a four year contract extension. For my baseball readers, Marty is the Dustin Pedroia of the Lightning. A little man who plays a big game, has big skills, and has more heart than you could think is possible. I am so glad that they got this going in to the new season because it shows that Steve Yzerman and the new organization wants to bring stability to the franchise and lock up a great contributor for the foreseeable future.

Marty appeared in all 82 games last season. His streak of 390 consecutive games is the fourth longest among active players. He just won the Lady Byng award at the NHL awards as the most gentlemanly player IE fewest penalty minutes. He had 94 points last year. If you look at his numbers, they are amazingly consistent. He trains like a monster in the off season and hasn't lost a step as he's gotten older. If they could clone him and make an entire team of Martys, I would be perfectly alright with that.

There have been so many times over the last few seasons where he has literally put the team on his shoulders and helped them to win. I, for one, am very glad we are going to be hearing "Louie Louie" for years to come.

In honor of this signing.. I give you the goal song played when he scores: