Archive - September 2013

  1. Column: Yankees' Uncertain OffseasonSeptember 30, 2013

    On the last weekend of the 2013 season when the Yankees faced off against Houston, it would be easy to conclude that the 51-111 Astros were the most disappointing team. But it’s not that simple. The Astros weren’t expected to compete this year, not with a rookie manager, new ownership, league and players, most of who should have been in Triple-A, and a season-ending $8 million payroll, less than a third of what the Yankees paid Alex Rodriguez. And A-Rod is only one reason why the Yankees actually had a worse season than Houston. With a $257 million payroll – including a luxury tax payment of $29 million - the Yankees were expected to contend in the American League East. For the first five months of the season they did contend, due in large measure to skillful roster moves by General Manager Brian Cashman and adroit lineup manipulations by manager Joe Girardi. But the team faded down the stretch, finishing 85-77, twelve games behind the first place Red Sox. A-Rod was out for most of the year recovering from his second hip surgery in three years along with other physical maladies that are the bane of aging athletes. Derek Jeter, the heart and soul of the Yankees for the past nineteen years, appeared in only seventeen games this season after suffering a broken ankle in last year’s playoffs. First baseman Mark Teixeira was out for all but fifteen games with a wrist injury. Centerfielder Curtis Granderson played in only sixty games during an injury plagued season. An assortment of other injuries decimated the team, forcing Girardi to play mix and match with a lineup that wasn’t much better than the one the Astros fielded on most days. But that’s the good news.

  2. Column: There's No Celebrating in BaseballSeptember 22, 2013

    “We gonna celebrate and have a good time.” Celebration, Kool and the Gang 1980 “There’s no crying in baseball.” That line, uttered by Tom Hanks as manager Jimmy Dugan in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own, a tribute to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, is rated 54th on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest film quotes of all time. As we’ve learned in the past week, along with no crying in baseball you can add “no celebrating” to the list of prohibitions. With the highest payroll in MLB, the Dodgers were in last place in their division on June 21 with a record of 30-42, 9 ½ games behind the first place Arizona Diamondbacks. Shortly thereafter the team caught fire, going 58-23, a streak of historic proportions. When the team clinched the National League West crown on September 19, the players understandably wanted to celebrate. But as luck would have it, the Dodgers were denied an opportunity to celebrate with their hometown fans, finishing off their worst-to-first run on the road against the D’backs. After a brief celebration on the field, the Dodgers retired to their clubhouse to drench each other in champagne. When most of the fans at Chase Field had left the ballpark, about half the team emerged from the clubhouse - dressed in their championship t-shirts - and made a beeline for the swimming pool in right center field for an impromptu pool party.

  3. Column: NASCAR's Credibility at StakeSeptember 15, 2013

    “I have the authority to do that, and we are going to do that.” NASCAR Chairman Brian France. France is right, he has the authority to make any rules he wants to…and so would you if your father had left you the reins to an entire sport. France’s comments came during a press conference to announce the addition of Jeff Gordon to the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s 10-year old answer to other sports’ playoffs. Drivers spend the first 26 races of the season piling up as many points as possible. The top ten in points, plus two wild cards based on a combination of points and race wins, get to compete for the sport’s championship during the final ten races of the season. If you’re counting, that’s a total of twelve drivers who make the Chase while the other 31 drivers continue to compete for points and wins, an anomaly compared to other sports. That’s the equivalent of forcing the Boston Red Sox, holders of the best record in MLB, to play the Houston Astros, the worst team in baseball, in this year’s playoffs.

  4. Column: Fans of Losing Teams Gain WeightSeptember 8, 2013

    New York Jets’ fans may be in for a losing season on the field while adding inches to their waistlines. A paper recently published in Psychological Science, the flagship journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that fans of losing NFL teams tend to eat more than fans of winning teams. The paper was written by Pierre Chandon, the L’Oreal Chaired Professor of Marketing, Innovation and Creativity at INSTEAD Business School and his PhD student, Yann Cornil. It was based on a study they conducted of NFL and soccer fans and covered a total of 475 games over two seasons. To the average person, the findings of the study are wholly understandable. After all, most of us tend to eat more when we’re sad, stressed or upset. Impugning such conduct to sports fans may not be much of a stretch. It’s not difficult to envision fans of losing teams, despondent over losses, drowning their sorrow in an extra jelly donut while winning fans are too busy celebrating their team’s victory to reach for another slice of chocolate cake.

  5. Column: NFL Concussion Case SettlementSeptember 2, 2013

    You can sum up the announced settlement of the NFL concussion suit as a win, win, win: for the players, the league and the lawyers. The players had no choice but to accept the $765 million offer from the league. When the presiding judge in the case, Anita Brody, urged both sides to settle the case through mediation she strongly indicated she would grant the league’s motion to dismiss most of the players’ claims. Additional pressure to resolve the case as soon as possible came from the realization that many of the players who stand to benefit from the settlement wouldn’t be around at the end of the litigation – estimated to be another decade, or more – had the case gone to trial. That’s why the settlement is a big win for the players, at least some of them. Many players need the money to help alleviate the physical and mental effects of playing a violent game. With 4,500 plaintiffs, you might think each one will receive $170,000 from the settlement. But the reality is most players will receive far less. The settlement covers a total of 18,000 former players. Individual payouts could rise to $3 million for dementia, $4 million for those with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the deadly brain condition that has led to a number of player suicides, and $5 million for players who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which reduces the average payout even further.