Tuesday, September 28, 2010

If You Win It, Will They Come?

Via the Twitter:

THE_ADAM_JONES: If we were on the verge of clinching a playoff spot. How many fans would we have? Cause at the Trop there was about 1500 ppl. Ppl are pissed about 21 hours ago via Twitterrific

DAVIDprice14: Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands....embarrassing about 21 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone

"Obviously we want to bring a championship to Tampa. And we'd like more than 12,000 to 15,000 to know about it." --Evan Longoria

12,466 - Monday Night’s Attendence

Where to start? Will it ever end? While it might just now be perking the national consciousness, the attendance issue for Tampa Bay Rays games has been a bone of contention in the TBA for years. Ever since they’ve started playing in the Dome the radio airwaves have been filled with excuses as to why no one goes to the game.

For those of you not familiar with the arguments they go as follows:

St Pete is too far away and hard to get to. I mean there’s a bridge to cross!

In this economy who can afford to go to games what with their $5.00 parking, $10 tickets and bring your own food policy.?

The Trop is dreary. There should be an outdoor stadium.

The team sucks, why should I pay my hard earned money to go watch a minor league team?

For the longest time that last excuse was the most compelling. It was the easiest to throw out there, and perhaps the most true. After all, the majority of fans in the TBA aren’t natural Rays fans. The baseball fans have moved from other parts of the country so they are Red Sox fans, Yankee fans, Orioles fans (at least I was) first and Rays fans second.

Why should they fork over money to see Felix Martinez throw a ball into the stands or Ten-Run Sturtze give up another homerun? When their team was in town they would go, but that was it. Because they’re not Ray’s fans they are not going to the Wednesday night tilt to watch a bunch of castoffs play against the Royals.

Since 2008, however, that argument has been invalid. The Rays are no longer the laughing stock of the league. They have emerged as a legitimate power not only in the AL East, but in all of the major leagues. Even better, they are a fun team to watch. They pitch well, the run well, they hit...well not all the time, but most of the time.

You can make an argument that they have a potential future Cy Young winner in David Price, a future Hall of Famer in Carl Crawford and one of the best young hitters/fielders in Evan Longoria. With their level of talent and relatively bargain basement payroll this team is the envy of all other teams in the league. If the Rays players played for New York or Boston you would hate them because of all of the air time they would get on ESPN, MLB Network and the other media outlets in the world.

Not only are they a fun team to watch they are primarily a home grown team. Look at the starting rotation. With the exception of Matt Garza, the other 4/5ths of their rotation are comprised of players drafted by the organization. They aren’t the Yankees or Red Sox bringing in talent from the outside. These are “Tampa Bay guys” for the lack of a better term.

That’s why you’re seeing some of the disappointment seep through from the players (and I mean disappointment the same way you’re parents did when they said “I’m not mad at you, I’m just disappointed”). There was always that feeling that if the team was better the fans would rally up and support them and make the Trop a fun place to play.

You saw it in 2008 in the playoffs. When that building is full of Rays fans it is loud. Sure the cowbells are somewhat annoying, but it’s better than dead silence. It’s better than sitting in the left field bleachers and hearing the beer guy shout out his wares behind 1st base (that’s a true story, Rays vs. Pirates four or five years ago. “BEER HERE!” reverberated throughout the stadium).

Now they’re winning, and winning on a consistent basis. The town should be excited for the team, they should be supporting the team and yet the players look up and see row upon row of empty seats. This site has decried the presence of front running fans in the past, but now it would be nice to see them show up. Bandwagon, true fans, other fans, serial killer clowns, anyone would be welcome in the stands.

The players have lived up to their end of the bargain. No one likes owners based on principle, but Stu Sternberg has kept his promise. He’s funded a winning team. When the critics declared he would gut the team after buying them he proved them wrong by escalating the payroll and keeping the young talent around. When Andrew Friedman made the case for dropping $8 million on a closer, Sternberg signed the check. Everyone has kept their end of the bargain but the fans. They have to go to the games.

Where’s Sternberg’s payback? It certainly hasn’t been in his wallet. While he might not be hemorrhaging money or collecting food stamps he isn’t seeing the return he would like for the investment that he put in. At the end of the day it is, after all, his signature on the paychecks - not the fans. He has to see some sort of financial incentive or he will find a more lucrative place to house his team.

According to the U.S. Census there are about 2.7 million people living in the Tampa Bay Area. The TBA generally comprises Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota, St Petersburg and the smaller surrounding cities like Brandon , Largo (LAR-GHETTO in the HOUSE!), and Dunedin. It’s hard to believe that out of that 2.7 million people there aren’t 150,000 folks dedicated enough to go to games on a regular basis.

Longoria and Price issued the appropriate apologies, but why should they have to? If they aren’t performing to par the fans have every right to criticize them. Can’t it work both ways? If the fans aren’t performing up to standard why shouldn’t the players be frustrated? Why do I ask so many questions in my posts?

Fans can’t have it both ways. If you say you won’t go because the team sucks, then you better go when they don’t suck. Simple isn’t it? If you don’t go then don’t get upset when the team is relocated to Las Vegas.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Quick Contest.

As i perused the internets at work this afternoon, on my 15 minute break of course, I stumbled across the below picture on Puck Daddy. It's everyone's favorite 51 goal scorer from Tampa Bay - Steven Stamkos.

The young center was part of a Vanity Fair photoshoot by Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. Also involved in the netminders photo spread were Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins, Montreal's Mike Cammalleri, young defenseman Drew Doughty of the Kings and the Rangers Goalie, Henrik Lundqvist.

Does this mean the goalie who led the US to the 2010 Olympic Silver Medal is trading his pads for a new Nikon? Unfortunately for the rest of the NHL the answer is no. It's a one time promotion for the NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer charity. The entire photo shoot is available at VanityFair.com. Check it out.

Because I have nothing out to write about today I figured I would jot down as many captions as I can think of in 5 minutes, a la Tosh.0

Here we go.....

My Name is Steven Stamkos and I approved this ad.

Hi. My name is Steven and I'm an Acquarias. I enjoy long walks on the beach, puppies and slap shots from the top of the circle.

I don't feel so good. Do I look a little pale?

Hey Vinny, I don't have to take my shirt offto get in a magazine.

Ryan, can I put my arm down. I think it fell asleep. It's all tingly.

You want to see my poker face? My p-p-p-poker face? (sorry)

That's all I got.

Now it's your turn. Best caption as voted by me and a select group of others will win something. I don't know what, but something. The winner will be announced friday.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's That Time Again

Is that live hockey I spy? Why yes it is. Thanks to my love of bad TV I'm not able to watch the Lightning/Blackhawks preseason tilt, but I can listen to the subdued Dave Mishkin over the Internet while I post about something totally un-hockey related.

It's Mailbag Monday! But Justin, you say, it's not Monday. I know, but I didn't get to it on Monday. So you get it on Wednesday. Which is better than Monday - 'cause it's closer to Friday.

First up. Fellow blogger and trader Nachos Grande added to my Carl Crawford collection (a collection I've neglected a bit this year). In exchange for some Reds cards and Allen & Ginter that I didn't need he sent over a care package highlighted by this card.

It's blue and shiny. I like blue and shiny.

Being the kind blogger he is, he threw in some assorted O's cards. Gosh darn I love me that Don Aase '88 Topps. It's the entire junk wax era wrapped up in one card. Posed shot, awesome mustache, curly afro poking out of the cap. I love it.

I also like the Markakis card. He's staring off into the distance contemplating something. What could it be? Perhaps his inexplicable loss of power? How many cheeseburgers he can buy with one paycheck? We'll never know.

Moving on

Ebay provided the first of the next two lots.

Like I mentioned I've been neglecting my Crawford collection so I figured I'd go for the best deal I could find. I actually needed four of these cards and they became mine for less than $3.00 so, yea me. I also like the fact that he is wearing 5 different uniforms.

This last one was more of an impulse buy. Not sure why, but I have very few Brooks Robinson cards in my collection. I decided to rectify that. The cards aren't in the best condition, but they're mine and they're older then I am which is cool.

So there ya go. More thoughts on hockey later, oh by the way Simon Gagne scored for the Lightning while I was typing this. The Bolts might be feisty this year.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Old Man and The Jeter Card

As I was surfing the web at work during a quick break last week I stumbled across the following story.

To say Derek Jeter and his acting job in the game against the Rays has been blown out of proportion is a bit of understatement. Luckily (at least for me) I don’t spend much time these days watching Sportscenter or listening to talk radio, therefore I was spared much of the pseudo-outrage that comes out of these incidents.

Did he overact, yes. Should his entire career be called into question because of it? No. I don’t like the Yankees, and I don’t care much for their iconic captain, but I have to agree with him. His job is to get on base, the umpire’s job is figure what happened and get the call right.

The outcries for justice have been amusing. Even in the comments section in the linked story above the indignation is laughable. Jeter, for his entire career, has kept things pretty clean. He plays the game the “right way” which I take to mean he plays hard, keeps his mouth shut and doesn’t embarrass himself or his team. To think that 3 seconds of amateurish mock pain ruins all of that is ludicrous.

Despite the name of the store not being mentioned I’m pretty sure I know what card shop is referenced in the story. Seeing how I can only remember one shop being located in Largo, and it’s definitely the kinds that would cater to a man in his 80’s. Beckett is king and pack selection is limited at best. The owner does have an extensive commons collection in the back that he will let you go through for set-filling needs, which is nice, but there is no use going in there for any other reason.

What made me chuckle while reading the article is the image of an 87 year old man getting up from his couch and shuffling over to his house, sorting through his cards and taking one card and, with trembling fingers ripping it to shreds, mumbling to himself about “these damn whippersnappers” and how things were done “back in my day”. In other words acting like Grandpa Simpson.

Initially I cringed at the thought of a card, any card being destroyed. It’s a holdover from my formative collecting years. I’ve always treated my cards fairly well be they commons or game used gems. They are stored in properly marked card boxes. I make sure my hands are clean when I handle them. All habits I started as a kid. After all, when I started collecting as a kid every single 1988 Topps that I had was going to be worth tens of dollars when I was older.

When I was wee little collector I was in our basement sorting cards. It was probably a Friday night and I had them set on a card table so I could watch TV at the same time. I’m not sure, but there is a 92.3% chance that one of the original Star Wars movies was on. What can I say - I was a playa even back in those days.

For some reason my older sister came down and we got into an argument about something. There was some yelling and as an infuriated pre-teen I slammed my fist down onto the table upsetting a cup of water that was on the table next to a stack of cards. Needless to say some cards were ruined. I went apocalyptic. Yells became screams of rage, I may have been speaking in tongues. There may also have been tears, and I definitely have flipped the table over. I don’t remember everything, I’m sure my young, fragile brain blocked some of the memories to prevent permanent mental damage.

I don’t remember what the argument was even about, and I’m sure if you asked my sister she probably doesn’t remember any of it. What I do remember is the punch in the gut feeling knowing that cards were ruined, I had rendered them worthless. Of course, the older me realizes that they worthless before being covered in delicious Baltimore tap water, but at that time each and every Topps common card was valuable to me.

Now that I’m “old” I realize that they are just pictures of men with stats on the back. They aren’t sacred. If someone wants to cut them up to create art that’s cool. If people want to draw on them to make funny jokes, that’s cool. If an old man wants to flush Derek Jeter down a toilet that’s cool too. After all, that means there is one less of them out in the world, thus making the ones available incrementally more valuable.

So, loyal readers, what are your thoughts? Have you ever destroyed cards on purpose? Should those that do be stretched on the rack?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tyson Tantalizes But Far From a Fury

I spent this weekend in enemy territory otherwise known as Pittsburgh, PA with my wonderful girlfriend in order to attend one of my best friends weddings. It was a perfect Friday wedding (on a side note - all of you couples planning weddings I highly endorse Friday weddings. It gives your out of town guests plenty of time to explore your home city).

After the wedding and reception, which featured the Pitt Panther, I dragged my exhausted better half back to the hotel where she promptly passed out by about 10pm. I had no problem with this as it let me watch the Tyson Fury / Richard Power match up on ShoBox.

I've been looking forward to this fight for the entire 48 hours since I learned there was a boxer named Tyson Fury. Born in Manchester, but of Irish Traveller ancestry, Fury was taking on a last minute replacement from California who is also training for mixed martial arts. Eager to see if lived up to his name I joined Al Bernstein and some other guy from York Hall in England to see the Fury take on the heavily tattooed American. Fury vs Power - eight rounds of non-title action.

It was....well....let's see...ummm...not exactly Gatti/Ward I. It wasn't even worthy of trying to find a fight to compare it to. Let's check out my live facebook coverage of the eight round match up:

through 2 rounds I have fury up 20-18. Big dude (6 9), a soft looking 263, not sure if he has the hand speed to be elite, thunderous but slow right hand.
Friday at 10:20pm · LikeUnlike ·

Halfway through the fight 4 rounds to 0 for Fury. For a big dude with an 86 inch reach he actually fights better on the inside. Power is eating a lot of right hands, Fury doing well with the left hook to the body - straight right to the head combo
Friday at 10:27pm · LikeUnlike

Fury continues his shutout through 6. I have it 60-54 for Fury. Rich Power looks like I do after a 3 minute jog - exhausted. He landed a solid uppercut dislodging Fury's mouthpiece, but had nothing left to follow up with and had to withstand a barrage of Fury punches.
Friday at 10:36pm · LikeUnlike

It's over. Fury wins. Rich Power looks like he just wandered the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Am I sold on Fury? Not yet. He does some things I like, but is out of control a lot of times. Would like to see how he does against better competition. Look for a wrap up on The Hopeful Chase sometime tomorrow.
Friday at 10:45pm LikeUnlike

The ref agreed with me and awarded Fury a victory by decision. Oddly enough in the match up the ref is the only one who scores the fight. The Showtime analysts didn't care for that method of scoring as they believe that the ref should only concern himself with the rules of the fight. I can't say that I disagree.

After taking a few hours to reflect on the fight there were a lot of things to like about Tyson Fury besides his name. He was active with the jab, followed up his straight rights with solid left hooks and worked the body. While he didn't knock out the overwhelmed Power he did punish him through the final two rounds to a point where it seemed Power was thinking about giving up.

Some things I didn't like. His hand speed was slow even for a heavyweight. As he steps up and faces tougher competition they will be able to dodge or block those shots and counter. He also leans his head forward when he jabs, with an 86" reach that few boxers out can match, he reduces his advantage every time he leans forward. With his slow hands again he leaves himself open to counterpunching.

Fury did some of his better work inside, constantly landing shots to the body while an exhausted Power tried to wrap him up. The overwhelmed American threw few punches (odd to watch a fight without HBO's CompuBox numbers) and let Fury dominate anytime they clinched. Better competition will not let Fury it that easy on the inside and will force him to work faster and harder.

He wasn't in the greatest of shape, while I expect few 263lb. athletes to be cut he also showed signs of tiring as the fight progressed into the later rounds. There is no way he would have lasted 12 rounds. The Showtime crew mentioned that the arena was extremely warm and that might of led to the sluggish action from both fighters, but it's no excuse to look the way Fury did after 8 rounds.

It is still early in his career, Friday night's win was only the 12th time he's fought as a professional, and there is still time to improve. So I don't expect him to take on Chris Byrd or either of the Klitchko brothers any time soon. At 22, he has time to improve his weaknesses and improve as a boxer.

If he is able to make the next step then perhaps he will live up to the potential of his name. So for now his induction into the Wasteland Hall of Fame is delayed until at least his next match.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why Wasn't I Made Aware of this Sooner?

There is a boxer named Tyson Fury? I'm sorry, but that's the greatest boxing name of all time. Unfortunately, it's also a really limiting name. Boxing is pretty much it, after all if a doctor introduced himself as Dr Tyson Fury I might have to ask for another Doc.

Anyway, the undefeated heavyweight fights equally well named Rich Power tonight on Showtime. Fury is a somewhat regarded as a contender in the heavyweight class and is known as a bit of a knockout artist. So much so that if he can't hit his opponent with a power punch he'll hit himself.

Why are you hitting yourself?
Why are you hitting yourself?
Why are you hitting yourself?

According to the official research site of The Hopeful Chase (Wikipedia) his full name is Luke Tyson Fury and his Dad did pick the name in honor of Mike Tyson who was heavyweight champion at the time (and yes I feel old now). Could he be the next great British heavyweight? Who knows, but tonight's fight could be the first step to that title.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Return of Mailbag Monday

Cards in the mail. At this point in life it's one of the few things I look forward to getting in the mail. In order they are:

1. Letter from my girlfriend
2. Letter from my parents
3. CARDS!!!!!
4. Netflix
5. Random coupon from neighborhood eatery
6. Bills
7. Bills
8. Bills

This batch of three actually went to my Florida address and my awesome girlfriend brought them with her on our quick weekend in Boston. They were courtesy of the Topps Million Card Giveaway. I am enjoying the promotion, especially trying to pull off lunatic deals for mid-90's junk (yup I'm that guy). I had to engineer trades to pull these three particular cards and decided to cash in on them because they fit a few needs in my collection.


In clockwise order starting with the right hand corner

1985 Topps Floyd Rayford. The expression on his face tells me that he had valiantly tried to make contact but failed, possibly during one of his 51 strikeouts in 1984. The back of the card informs me that Honey Bear Played three seasons at Manuael Arts High School in LA and was named All-City twice and MVP once.

1987 Topps Floyd Rayford. Chin tucked under his lead shoulder, top elbow "up" making little league coaches across the country happy, he looks ready to strike. Perhaps this was just prior to unleashing one of his 8 homeruns. The back of the card, a fountain of info as always, tells me that one of Floyd's hobbies involves electric trains. Good for him!

1963 Topps Dick Brown. I'm not sure, but I believe this card just became the oldest Oriole card in my collection. Dick Brown came from the Tigers in an offseason trade. He had also played for the Indians and Whitesox before coming to Detroit.

He would play part time in 1963 before usurping John Orsino as the starter for the next two seasons. Not a beacon of power he clubbed total of 15 homeruns for the Birds.

A brain tumor would force him to retire after the 1965 season, not allowing him to experience the clubs first World Series win in 1966. He would serve as a scout for them until his premature death in 1970.

His brother Larry Brown would also play one season for the Orioles in 1973.

Who was Dick Brown traded for? Whitey Herzog and Gus Triandos.

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Chicago Photo 7

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The sun was out (mostly), the air was cool and the folks in the crowd were jovial. What better way to spend the day before Labor Day then at the ol' ballpark. Being able to walk to a ballpark is a new experience. I can't say that I don't like it. No worry about parking, trains or traffic.

For the first time in years I decided to keep score. The rest of the crew managed to entertain themselves while I focused on the game. When you're scoring the game you watch it a little differently. You tend to pay more attention. You wait until the entire play is done before reacting. The wave is even more distracting than normal.

I would like to say that the Cubs prevailed to make it a perfect day, but they didn't. Not only did they not win, they got demolished. It was brutal. The Mets, with players coming into the game hitting .067, .157, ,213 (and they weren't even pitchers!) pounded the Cubs pitching to the tune of 18 runs (13 before we decided it was time to leave and have a beer at the Cubby Bear).

But a day at the park is better than a day on the couch, and even a Cubs blowout is fun when you're with friends.

Bonus Photo:

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The air has cooled, college football is on the TV in the background and that can mean only one thing. Hockey is right around the corner. The good times are back again. In fact, the first puck drops in one month and a handful of increasingly shorter and crisper days.

All of the major storylines have been resolved and the major free agents have all found their homes for the next season. Gary Bettman made his power move and foreshadowed what could be a difficult renegotiation of the CBA in the not too distant future. With rosters mostly set, teams and fans can start thinking about how the season is going to play out.

Of course, it also brings the dilemma of how a transplanted Lightning fan is going to watch games in the big city. Do I forgo groceries for a few weeks and get the Center Ice package? Do I test the limits of the little netbook that could and stream games from some of the various websites out there that provide them on a possibly illegal basis? There is no way I can afford to go a bar 81 times in the net 6 months so that’s out of the question.

In all likelihood I will cough over more money to Comcast and sign up for the Center Ice package. After all, I will be alone in the cold darkness of my first Midwest winter and will need some comforting reminder of the town I used to call home. Nothing says hockey like seeing the Chief Bobby Taylor and Rick Pekhem sweating through the pre-game show on the Ice Palace plaza in the middle of November.

I’ve been warned that Fall can start any day after September 15th and I should invest in a heavy jacket and boots sooner rather than later. Lucky for me I’m now living in a neighborhood that is overrun with shops. I should be able to throw something together soon and for not too much. I now remember the beauty of second hand thrift shops and discount clothing chains.

The cold weather will make it feel more like hockey season, there’s just something not right about going to the beach before a game. Even better it should be a fun season in Hockey Bay, USA. After 3 years of wandering in the darkness Steve Yzerman has put together a balanced team - at least on paper. Many paper teams have gone up in flames in the past, and injuries could quickly undo all of the work the first time GM did this summer.

It’s too soon to anoint him a savior, but it would also be unfair to withhold praise. The shedding of Andrej Meszaros’ contract alone was enough to earn him another couple of years at the helm. To add a potential potent scorer in Simon Gagne and an up and coming goalie in Dan Ellis was damn near sorcery.

So while I can’t invest in season tickets and I probably shouldn’t invest in the TV package I will. The off-season moves have earned that, and it’ll give me a chance to watch Vincent Lecavalier’s phoenix-like rise to the upper echelon of hockey superstardom as well.

After all, who needs to eat well? Ramen noodles are very filling.