Tuesday, December 09, 2014

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 12/6/14

ITEM: At last count, almost HALF of all current MLB managers were catchers during their professional careers. Hmmmm--kinda seems silly now to call the equipment that catchers wear "the tools of ignorance," huh?..........TRIVIA QUESTION: The 2004 Minnesota Vikings--who finished 8-8 under coach Mike Tice--were led in rushing by a player who spent only two years in the NFL. Can you name this former fourth-round draft pick? Answer to follow..........I just came across a photo of 42-year-old actress Cameron Diaz gracing the cover of the January issue of Cosmopolitan. Sheesh--and all these years I've been under the impression that individuals like Karl Malone and John Stockton were the "poster people" for aging gracefully? Sorry, fellas..........I trust/have faith in pro football scouts--MOST of the time. But they blew it BIG TIME in the late 70's when it came to pegging Warren Moon. I recently talked to the Hall of Fame QB who relayed to me how disappointed he was when he went undrafted in 1978; he told me that most teams didn't consider him a pro QB in the NFL and that he probably would have to change positions. Ummm--fast forward to the final tally: 5 consecutive Grey Cups in Canada as a QB in Edmonton along with being named to the Pro Bowl NINE times in the NFL. Oh, and he passed for a combined total of over 70,000 yards (yes, you read that correctly) while playing in both leagues between 1978 and 2000. Yes, mention the name Warren Moon to ANY scout who was working around the time of the '78 draft and they'll immediately change the subject--or reach for antacids VERY quickly..........ITEM: Ravens defensive end Haloti Ngata is suspended for the final four games of the season after admitting he used Adderall in order to fight fatigue while at home during Thanksgiving. My first reaction? Blame it on the tryptophan in the turkey, Mr. Ngata; it'll suck the energy out of you every time..........I may be in the minority, but if a current NFL player were to score a touchdown and immediately hand the ball to the official, that individual would AUTOMATICALLY become my favorite player in the league..........ITEM: Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch seems to think that his bad relationship with the media will keep him out of the Hall of Fame in Canton. Ummm--can someone tell this guy that he's not even in the Top 35 in career NFL rushing yardage yet--and that he'd have to play a few more years to even warrant SERIOUS consideration?..........How pathetic is the Nationwide television commercial that currently features Peyton Manning singing? Please, Mr. Manning--you're MUCH better than that. Save the voice strictly for signal-calling in the near future..........*Question: Shouldn't the name of LPGA golfer Thidapa Suwannapura be used as a possible tie-breaker in the National Spelling Bee's final round?..........Answer to trivia question: ONTERRIO SMITH--who rushed for 544 yards while only starting five games. He spent his brief two-year career (2004 and 2005) in Minnesota--finishing with a total of 1,123 rushing yards while appearing in 26 games..........Did you know that in the 39-year history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team has lost 10 or more games in a season TWENTY-THREE times? Kinda makes that victory over Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII all the more special/memorable for Bucs fans, huh?..........*Question: Which of the following is the MOST ugly: The NY Jets QB situation, ANY game the Philadelphia 76ers play, or that famed 2002 mugshot of disheveled actor Nick Nolte?..........Finally, condolences go out to the family of former North Dakota football coach Marvin "Whitey" Helling--who passed away recently in Florida at the age of 91. In 1957, Helling inherited a team that went 2-6 the previous season; by 1958, UND had its first NCC championship in 17 years. He spent a total of 11 seasons at North Dakota--transforming the school into a Division II football power; his career record was an impressive 60-35-3 and he won a couple of Division II bowl games ('65 and '66). During Helling's days at ND, he coached nine players who earned either All-America/All-American honorable mention status. Two of his stars--Errol Mann and Dave Osborn--went on to have successful NFL careers. Rest in peace, "Coach"--you'll surely be missed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 11/22/14

It's that time of the year again--time to hand out some MLB awards based on the 2014 season:

*The TONY BENNETT/BEST YEARS BEHIND HIM Award: Ryan Howard of the Phillies. He just turned 35, but the stats are telling: he struck out 190 times in 2014 (his most since 2008) and hit a pathetic .223. His health was OK in '14, but he's now hit a total of just 48 HR's over the past three years. This is a man, folks , who hit 58 HR's in ONE season--back in 2006. Reliever Joe Nathan--who just turned 40--also finished high in this category (see below).
*The BONNIE AND CLYDE/HIGHWAY ROBBERY Award (for stealing large sums of money): We could give this award to Ryan Howard, as well--but we'll give it to teammate Cliff Lee. They BOTH earned $25 million in 2014, but at least Howard played in most of his team's games. I know that injuries can't be avoided (and contracts are binding), but Lee--due to elbow problems--started just 13 games and won FOUR of them; opponents hit .304 vs. this former-stud pitcher. It now appears that too many 200+ inning seasons has caught up with Lee. Fathom this: $25 million for four wins translates to $6.25 million per victory, folks.
*The BLACKSTONE/HOUDINI DISAPPEARING ACT Award: Chris Davis of the Orioles. He hit 26 HR's and drove in 72 runs--not bad, right? WRONG. His numbers in both categories were about HALF of what they were in 2013. Oh, and he hit .196 this past season-- four points below the famed "Mendoza Line."
*The PETE ROSE/GEORGE BRETT HONORARY THROWBACK PLAYER Award: Brock Holt of the Boston Red Sox. Came to the ball park every day with the socks pulled high--ready to play ANYWHERE (and he almost DID play EVERY position). Hit a respectable .281 while making amazing plays in the field at WHEREVER the Red Sox placed him. Yes--he's a guy who could play in any era; if you don't like THIS overachiever, folks, you don't like BASEBALL. Period.
*The PITIFULLY PUNCHLESS Award (for lack of offense): The San Diego Padres. This pitiful squad hit .226 as a team. Just how bad is that? An anemic Cincinnati Reds offense had the next-lowest average in baseball--which was 12 points HIGHER than the Padres. San Diego's 535 runs scored was BY FAR the lowest in MLB.
*The STAY AT FIRST Award: Goes to Rockies second baseman DJ "Don't Run!" LeMahieu. This guy attempted to steal 20 bases and was thrown out TEN times--yes, a SB % of .500. Look--a number like that is acceptable when looking at NBA field goal %--or the percentage of women who you ask out on dates successfully--but it's horrific for a base runner. Has a study ever been done about the thin air of Denver affecting a manager's decision to send runners? In any case--STAY PUT, DJ.
*The LITTLE BUCKS/BIG NUMBERS Award: Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros. He may be small in stature, but his stats WERE NOT. He led all of baseball with a .341 batting average and was the top base-stealer in the AL with 56. Oh--and he struck out just 53 times in 660 AB and played in 158 games. His salary for 2014? A modest $1.4 million.
*The BUM OF THE YEAR Award: A "no-brainer": A-ROID of the New York Yankees. If you have to ask WHY, then perhaps you shouldn't be reading this sports column. The guy's a "druggie", a cheat, a liar--and about TEN more negative nouns that I can't/won't mention in this forum. Let's just say that he will continue to win this award for as long as he's playing the game. Oh--and even though money is not an issue, many Yankee fans I know have a hard time stomaching THIS: the team still owes him at least $60-70 million through 2017.
*The ARSONIST OF THE YEAR Award: The aforementioned Joe Nathan of the Tigers. Counted on to add stability to an "iffy" bullpen in Detroit, Nathan blew 7 saves and pitched to a robust 4.81 ERA as the team's closer. Yes, easily could have won the "Tony Bennett" Award listed above, as well.
*The AVERSION TO WALKING Award: Goes to Jonathan Schoop of the Baltimore Orioles. In 481 plate appearances, this infielder walked just THIRTEEN TIMES; that's one walk per every 37 plate appearances. Rumor has it that Schoop tried to swing at a flying insect in the upper deck at Camden Yards during the season--mistaking it for a high strike--but that could not be confirmed before this column was published.
*The MAYTAG/DEPENDABILITY Award: An easy one: Greg Holland of the K.C. Royals. Saved 46 of 48 games (96%), gave up just 37 hits in 62 innings, and pitched to a 1.44 ERA. The P.A. system in KC should be playing "The Party's Over" (popularized by "Dandy" Don Meredith on the old MNF telecasts) every time Holland enters a game.
*The RODNEY DANGERFIELD/LACK OF RESPECT Award: Pedro Strop of the Chicago Cubs. WHO? Yes--Pedro Strop. Gave up just 40 hits in 61 innings of work for a bad team--allowing just two HR's--and pitched to a fine ERA of 2.21. I know--he's NOT the pitcher you think of when you mention the name "Pedro", but Strop definitely deserves mention after an impressive season.
*The GERITOL/AGE DOESN'T MATTER Award: Just like last year, this award goes to Rockies reliever LaTroy Hawkins. He'll turn 42 in a few weeks and just finished his 20th season in the "bigs." Get this: He saved 23 games and pitched to a 3.31 ERA in the thin air of Colorado. In '14, Hawkins became one of 16 pitchers in MLB history to appear in 1,000 games--and he's moving up the list QUICKLY. Must be good genes; he'll pitch again in 2015.
*The EARL WEAVER/FULL PACK AWARD (causing managers to smoke too much and/or develop ulcers): We'll give this to Rex Brothers of the Colorado Rockies. Each time he entered the game, manager Walt Weiss was reaching for TUMS due to these #'s: 56 IP, 39 walks, 7 HR's allowed, 5.59 ERA. How did this guy actually appear in 74 games? I have no answer.
*The FRANK SINATRA "ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL" Award: For the second year in a row, this goes to Chris Carter of the Houston Astros. Had only 115 hits, struck out 182 times, hit a pitiful .227, but slugged 37 home runs (second in the AL). Again, it's hit or miss with this guy--there's no in-between.
*Finally, the DOLLY THE SHEEP/REASON TO CLONE Award: Another "no-brainer": Derek Jeter. His career with the Yankees may have come to a close, but his legacy is cemented. Stats aside, he was the "anti-AROID" throughout his career: classy, humble, and ALL about winning. Cooperstown awaits, Derek; thanks for the memories.