Monday, April 14, 2014

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 4/12/14

Column reader Abe Knaster of New York chimes in with this gem: If socialite Ivana Trump married singer Neil Diamond, divorced him, then married legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, she'd then be known by the full married name of Ivana Diamond Nicklaus..........TRIVIA QUESTION: Who was the last member of the Kansas City Royals to lead the American League in slugging percentage? Answer to follow..........This week in sports history, April 19, 1986: Michael Spinks retains his heavyweight boxing crown with a 15-round split decision over former champ Larry Holmes in a bout held in Las Vegas. Holmes--who had lost the crown to Spinks the previous September--tried feverishly to end the bout early with a barrage of furious punches. However, Spinks survived and would dominate the second half of the fight as a tiring Holmes could not press the attack in the final round. Even though the champion Spinks entered the fight with a 29-0 record, he was considered an 8-5 underdog entering this highly-awaited rematch..........*Great reading: Called Out But Safe: A Baseball Umpire's Journey--written by Al Clark (with Dan Schlossberg). Clark was a former umpire from 1976-2001 who was ultimately terminated by MLB (due to an airline ticket issue); he also did jail time due to his role in a memorabilia scandal back in 2004. I recently interviewed the well-spoken Clark on "Monday Night Sports Talk" (www.mondaynightsports.net) where he was very candid and apologetic for his past actions. Quite simply, it's a book about LIFE that any baseball fan would enjoy immensely. More info on this wonderful publication can be obtained by visiting www.nebraskapress.unl.edu..........Anyone out there catch the photo of sultry actress Sofia Vergara on the cover of the May issue of Women's Health Magazine? Ummm--well, yours truly DID. Sheesh--and I used to think that a Pete Maravich behind-the-back pass was the ultimate thing of beauty..........You know how they still have the famed "Dawg Pound" at Cleveland Browns home games--where devoted fans sit in the end zone while rooting the team on? I'd like to see some select NY Jets aficionados have their own "Dog Pound" this coming season at MetLife Stadium--where "rabid" fans simply boo the heck out of slime-ball Michael Vick EVERY time he takes a snap..........Is it just me--or should outfielder (I use that term VERY loosely) Alfonso Soriano of the N.Y. Yankees be required to wear a protective HELMET every time he takes the field?..........Congratulations go out to Fermi High (CT) senior Andrew Haraghey and Glastonbury High junior Morgan Bjarno--who have been selected as co-recipients of this year's Bob Casey Courage Award from the Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance. Haraghey--having been diagnosed with viral encephalitis as a baby which later contributed to cerebral palsy--has become an accomplished skier and will attempt to qualify for the 2018 Paralympic Games in Korea. Bjarno was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia a year ago, has undergone chemotherapy, and has had to visit the CT Children's Medical Center in Hartford more than 50 times. She was the starting midfielder on Glastonbury's JV soccer team last season, but has been forced to stop playing due to her illness. These two specials teens, along with many others, will be honored at the CSWA's 2014 Gold Key Dinner--April 27th at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. Tickets to this yearly event can be obtained by contacting Alliance President George Albano at (203)434-2320 or by emailing VP Bob Ehalt at Ehalt.Bob@sbcglobal.net..........Answer to trivia question: DANNY TARTABULL--who led the AL in 1991 with a slugging % of .593..........Finally, condolences go out to the family of former NBA star Lou Hudson--who passed away recently following a stroke at the age of 69. A first-round pick of the St. Louis Hawks in the 1966 draft, "Sweet Lou" played 13 seasons in the league between '66 and '79--averaging an impressive 20.2 ppg while appearing in almost 900 games for the Hawks and Lakers. Hudson was a six-time All-Star who also shot 80% from the FT line during his stellar career. His #23 jersey was retired by the Hawks, as well as his #14 jersey by the University of Minnesota--where he was one of that school's first black players. Hudson suffered his first stroke back in 2005 and subsequently performed lots of work on behalf of the "Power to End Stroke" organization. Hudson is survived by his wife, Mardi, a daughter (Adrienne), and his former wife, Bernadette. Rest in peace, "Sweet Lou."

Monday, March 31, 2014

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 3/29/14

Yes, it's that time of the year, folks--time to offer some MLB predictions. Yeah, it's the usual "crapshoot"; trust me--this yearly undertaking is more difficult than trying to type while wearing boxing gloves. Anyway, here's how they'll finish in 2014......


AL EAST
T.B. Rays
Boston Red Sox
N.Y. Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles


AL CENTRAL
Detroit Tigers
K.C. Royals
Cleveland Indians
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins


AL WEST
Texas Rangers
Oakland A's
L.A. Angels
Seattle Mariners
Houston Astros


**Notes:
AL EAST- If Longoria and Meyers stay healthy, the Rays will have just enough punch to supplement some very good pitching. Red Sox--possessing a little less "magic" in '14--may snag a wild-card (and Bogaerts wins Rookie of the Year), but will Peavy and Doubront give them enough quality starts? Yankees will miss Cano's production too much (and won't stay healthy enough)--although Tanaka emerges as one of the best starters in MLB. Jays' pitching just too questionable (Dickey and Buehrle will need more than 26 wins combined), and defense is a concern. O's will score plenty--despite continued questions about Machado's health/endurance--but closing games could be an adventure.

AL CENTRAL- If Joe Nathan can stay healthy at age 39, he'll still close games effectively and Detroit wins this division going away (even w/o Prince Fielder). Royals will score enough (look for a big year from Hosmer), but pitching--which looks decent on paper--will disappoint somewhat. Indians have too many .260 hitters (with a lack of power) in their lineup and their bullpen (inconsistency from Axford) will be shaky. Cuban newcomer Abreu will give the White Sox some "pop", but their starting pitching (besides Chris Sale) won't get the job done. Twins simply don't have an ace hurler (Ricky Nolasco?) and Joe Mauer will be the only hitter who even SNIFFS a .300 batting average.

AL WEST- The additions of Fielder and Choo put Texas over the top offensively; Darvish may win Cy Young and Soria closes effectively. Middle of A's line-up packs a punch (Donaldson, Moss, Cespedes), but will their table-setters get on base enough? Angels offense not a concern as Pujols becomes Pujols again and Trout wins MVP; I just question the second half of their rotation AND closer Frieri in big games. Cano sees less good pitches in Seattle but settles in nicely; I just question the rest of their offense (especially the outfield production) as a whole. Houston, well, we have a problem: There's just not enough pitching OR offense to avoid losing 100 games again in '14; if Astros were to finish at .500, yours truly may also be dating Sandra Bullock by the end of the year.


NL EAST
Washington Nationals
Atlanta Braves
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
N.Y. Mets


NL CENTRAL
St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs


NL WEST
L.A. Dodgers
S.F. Giants
Arizona D'backs
S.D. Padres
Colorado Rockies


**Notes:
NL EAST- Harper may win MVP (if he stays vertical) and Nats will coast to a division title. I believe that bullpen overuse (too many hard-throwers) will hurt Atlanta--although they can be a wild-card team. Miami's Stanton will put up huge #'s, but they're still in rebuilding mode; the bottom of their lineup is weak, too. An aging Phillies team will experience injury problems (a la the NY Yankees), and the second half of their rotation will give new manager Sandberg fits. Mets are still haunted by a jailbird named Madoff; some good, young pitchers in NY (i.e. Wheeler), but the offense strikes out too much and they won't score enough.

NL CENTRAL- Cards should cruise this year; just too much pitching for the rest of the division to deal with (Wainwright, Wacha, etc.). Reds' pitching is good, too (Cueto, Latos, and Bailey could combine for 50 wins)--but too many free swingers on offense keeps them at least 6 games behind the Cards. McCutchen has another fab year with Bucs, but the bottom of their lineup is just too weak. Milwaukee gets steroid-bum Braun back from suspension and the addition of Garza helps; however, they just happen to be in a "too-tough" division. Oh, poor Cubbie fans: Rizzo is perhaps Chicago's only source of power and they'll lose between 95 and 100 games; the "Bleacher Bums" will be, well, "bummed" once AGAIN.

NL WEST- Dodgers run away and hide here; the only question is if Mattingly can stay free of ulcers while keeping a leash on Puig (preventing the team's clubhouse from imploding). Giants will be much better than last year and Tim Hudson helps--but 90 wins simply won't get it done. D'backs' loss of LHP Corbin hurts A LOT; I'm not a fan of their bullpen, either. San Diego's pitching will be OK--especially the bullpen (Street, Benoit)--but a lack of power offensively is their downfall. Rockies will have no trouble scoring (Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, etc.), but LaTroy Hawkins as your closer? Ummm...NO.

*Postseason: A's and Red Sox capture AL wild cards; Braves and Giants do the same in the Senior Circuit. Tigers and Dodgers to emerge as pennant winners with Kershaw and Co. giving LA fans their first world championship since '88.

Enjoy the season, everyone.......