Monday, August 18, 2008
I am going to make a pretty bold statement, but its one that I believe many Americans can agree with. Michael Phelps is the greatest athlete of all-time. Period. Not only the greatest swimmer, not only the greatest Olympian, but the very best athlete the world has ever seen.
11,028 athletes traveled to Beijing to compete, but none of them faced the pressure Michael Phelps encountered. Phelps didn't just handle the pressure, he thrived in it. Phelps didn't just dominate, he captivated the entire country. After the 4x100 relay, amidst the high fives and the "U-S-A" chants, I realized how special Phelps's performance was.
The most impressive feat by Phelps was his extraordinary comeback to win the 100m butterfly by just .01 seconds. To me, a legend was born at the end of that race. That was one of several dramatic finishes, and Phelps owes a lot of credit to his teammates. Something that the humble Phelps will gladly do.
As Phelps captured his eighth gold of the Beijing games, I tried to brainstorm a list of the greatest athletes of all-time. To me, Phelps sits atop that list. Heres what I came up with, in no particular order:
You can make a case for any one of these athletes, but nobody (maybe with the exception of Spitz) displayed the type of dominance Phelps just did. Of course, we are comparing apples to oranges here, and it is quite possible that there is no 1 single "best athlete of all-time". However, all things considered, I'm sticking to my guns. Michael Phelps is the greatest ever.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed. My intial take on the game is that its very good, but not great. Madden has been my favorite video game for about 10 years, but my fear is the Madden franchise peaked around 2003 or 2004. Since then, improvements have been few and far between. My main concern with this years edition is the gameplay, which I will detail later.
All things considered, Madden 09 is still an outstanding game. But it could've been so much better. Maybe my expectations were too high, but that can't hide the fact that many gamers will clearly be disappointed. This is my take on the game:
GAMEPLAY: To me, gameplay is the most important part of Madden, and I really feel like they missed here. The game is very difficult and complex. Running is nearly impossible, and passing isn't very easy either. I guess its a little more realistic, but we have to remember its still a video game. I'm a pretty good Madden player, but I am really struggling so far.
GRAPHICS: It appears that EA Sports really focused in on graphics, and they were highly successful here. It sounds ridiculous, but I can't say enough about the grass. It just looks so real. The same could be said for the uniforms and player animations. Simply outstanding. One of the few areas of actual improvement.
PRESENTATION: I'm not a big fan of Colinsworth or Hammond, and I really think they detract from the game. They constantly repeat the same, stale lines and don't really add much to the experience. That being said, I like the overall presentation of the game, and it feels a lot like a game on TV.
GAME MODES: I really like the Madden Moments feature. Its surprisingly fun and very challenging. And of course, I really enjoy the Franchise mode and the Superstar mode. My only problem is that they did very little to improve these game modes. Actually, I don't think they improved them at all. Still, I will spend 90% of my Madden playing time in the franchise mode and its still a good experience.
OVERALL: For sports fans, Madden is the ultimate video game. The framework of the game alone is enough to sell, and please gamers everywhere. But I'm really growing tired of the same game year in and year out. Its still an outstanding game, but if they continue to produce the same game I might think twice about spending $60 on it.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Well, almost. There's just six hours until the anticipated midnight launch of Madden 09, and frankly I cannot wait. This year, more than ever I'm confident that EA Sports has taken the right steps to bring us the best Madden ever. I have to admit, the next-gen Madden games have been a big-time disappointment. But after spending hours looking at screenshots, videos, and demos, I know that Madden 09 is finally what I've been waiting for. I feel like a kid on Christmas, and I can only hope that my xbox holds up for the intense Madden session that is about to begin.
After being out of baseball for nearly 5 years, Fernando Tatis is having a storybook season in New York. The former all-star is hitting .302 with 9 HRs and 34 RBIs for the Mets, while providing a much needed spark to compensate for the loss of Ryan Church. But none of this can compare to the remarkable path that Tatis has brought Tatis back to the big leagues.
When Tatis was just 24 years old, he had a breakout season in St. Louis, posting solid numbers across the board .298/34/107 en route to his first all star selection. But by the time he was 29, Tatis was out of baseball. Upset with his poor performance, Tatis retired in 2003 and returned home to the Dominican Republic.
When he returned home, Tatis was very disappointed with the state of his hometown, and they needed to build a new church. With no income to speak of, Tatis knew the only way to fund the church was to return to baseball. The only problem...nobody wanted Tatis. So after months of working out, Tatis was finally given a minor league deal with the Orioles. He was determined to make it back, and after dominating the minors for nearly 2 years, Tatis is in a pennant race, starting for the New York Mets. And his church in the Dominican Republic opened its doors a few months ago. Truly a remarkable story.
2008 has been filled with remarkable stories similar to Tatis. Here are just a few:
Josh Hamiltion- This ones a no brainer. Two years ago, I figured that Hamilton would be dead or in jail by now. Instead he's a prime candidate for AL MVP.
Milton Bradley- Another Ranger with former character issues, Bradley appears to finally have his ADD under control, and is enjoying a career year.
Cliff Lee- The journeyman left hander was not even guaranteed a rotation spot coming into 08, but he has responded by posting a ridiculous 16-2 record, to go along with his league leading 2.45 ERA. Unbelievable.
The Entire Marlins Roster- Despite a payroll of $22 MM (less than A-Rod makes), the Marlins are playing like a team and remain in contention for the NL East. I still believe they will fade, but even if they do, you gotta respect the way they've played.
Christian Guzman- He hit .219 in his last full season, and has battled injuries the last few years. But he has been a bright spot in Washington, among the league leaders with 135 hits.
- Best: Matthew Berry (ESPN) -- He is routinely funny and very insightful with everything he says. Berry also doesn't feel so much like an "expert". He doesn't talk like he is a fantasy God and that is refreshing in today's media.
- Worst: Eric Karabell (ESPN) -- He's annoying, constantly wrong, and usually pisses me off. Maybe he's not a bad guy once you get to know him, but from what I can tell, he's a detriment to your fantasy title hopes.
- Best: Andy Behrens/Brad Evans (Yahoo!) -- I like these two because they write unique and interesting articles rarely sounding dull or repetitive which is a challenge in itself.
- Worst: Brandon Funston (Yahoo!) -- Somehow, I despise Funston despite the fact that I love the idea of the Big(ger) Board he does. Constantly, he overvalues the wrong things, misses the right things, and jumbles everything. The BB is great, but somehow he ruins it.
- Best: Dave Richard/Jamey Eisenberg (CBS Sportsline): These two basically are identical, with the exception that they wear combating skin colors. I love their list based columns, especially the fact that they get to the point and aren't too wordy.
- Best: Greg Ambrosius (Sports Illustrated): Ambro does the positional rankings for SI and in my opinin does a great job doing so. He gives you the paragraph that you want, gives all facts, and nothing else. Really does a good job, especially in the positional rankings department.
So there is it, the best and worst of the so-called experts. Too be honest the only way to find your own preference is by reading for yourself. But, even more important is making your own rankings when all is said and done. In my mind, I don't care if T.O. is the number one WR at the end of the year and every analyst said so. I hate him. I'm not picking him. He's too much fun to root against.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
- My take on the Brett Favre trade: Everybody loses. I couldn't agree more with Mike. Favre certainly will make the Jets a better team, but are they a playoff caliber team? Not in the AFC...I see them going 8-8 or 9-7. I truly believe Brett loses too, because if reunited in Tampa with Jon Gruden, he would make the Bucs a legitimate super bowl contender. The only real winner here is Jets ownership from a business prospective. No doubt the Jets will profit from this move. Unfortunately we as fans really don't care.
- Ryan Ludwick is an absolute monster, homering in his 5th straight game tonight. Yet another "feel good story" in St. Louis, I really hope he isn't just a one year wonder. He is carrying my fantasy team.
- After trying out NCAA Football 09 today, my excitement for madden has grown exponentially. The gameplay looks outstanding.
- Did Jeff Karstens really come within 4 outs of a perfect game? Wow. The change of scenery is doing wonders to almost every single player moved before the deadline (Sabathia, Harden, Bay, Manny, Griffey, and even guys like Brandon Moss and Karstens).
- The Beijing Oylmpics are underway (sort of), and the US has already experienced its first defeat. I'm pretty surprised by the poor showing of the women's soccer team, but I'm sure the defending gold medalists will bounce back.
- I have mixed feelings about this upcoming fantasy football season. It seems like there are just so many boom or bust type players this year. I think I'm going to be a big time risk taker this year.
- Be on the lookout for me and Mikes inaugural fantasy football player rankings. We're anticipating sometime next week.
Currently, Soria is 2nd in the MLB with 32 saves. He is 13 behind leader Fransisco Rodriguez (45), but the Royals have only won 53 games to the Angels 71. That puts both the Mexicutioner and K-Rod at saving just over 60% of their teams' games. However, Soria sports a 1.57 ERA (best among closers not named Joe Nathan or Mariano Rivera) and has thrown 3 more innings than K-Rod, with nearly half the ERA (1.57/2.40), almost half the WHIP (.75/1.20) and less than half the K's (11/28). Add in less wild pitches and less stolen bases and Soria has a tremendous stat-line running this season.
In my mind, he is easily in the top tier of the league's closers, along with Nathan, Brad Lidge, K-Rod, Mo Rivera, and Jon Papelbon. Rivera is well into the twilight of his career, despite his success this year, but is widely considered one the best closers of all-time. I see a lot of Mariano in Soria and think that as long as the Royals don't move him to the starting role, he will continue to prove those similarities correct. They are both cutter heavy pitchers who routinely make hitters look foolish, even though they know what's coming.
So a word to the wise, get on the bandwagon while there is still plenty of seating available. Get him on fantasy teams, watch his starts, anything you can. He truely is a hidden gem the common fan doesn't of, who deserves a lot more attention than he is getting. I've got the wonder if the Royals had any idea what they were getting when they picked up off the Padres trash pile in 2006...
- The General Public -- After weeks of nonstop Favre coverage, I am angry that I am even writing about the subject. A new record has been set on ESPN, where Favre dominated atleast 20 minutes of every Sportscenter for over 17 straight days. This streak is still rolling and expected to continue for years.
- Favre's Family -- What happened to retiring to be with your family? This is the least covered aspect of the entire disaster. Family, Kids, Wife, is all he talked about and then all of a sudden, he strands them back at home again like dead-beat step-dad. I have to assume that this will be the subject of Outside The Lines next week.
- Chad Pennington -- Absolutely useless to begin with. Now, he's useless and pointless to keep on the roster. Sadly for him, you can't make the roster on boyhood charm alone.
- Brett Ratliff/Erik Ainge -- These back-ups are both moved even farther back into the depths of the Medowlands. With the crap heap of Pennington and Kellen Clemens in front of them, playing time was almost guarenteed. Now they're looking up at one of the most durable players in sports history. Sucks.
- Kellen Clemens -- Having to beat out Pennington for the job was easier than being Brett Favre's back-up all those years. Lucky for him, he'll get to appreciate how easy that is.
- Jets Fans -- They actually believe that they're going to win something. Aww, it's actually kind of cute, just let them have fun until the season starts.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
- Outstanding work by Jim Caple of ESPN.com in his page 2 column about closers being overrated. I couldn't agree more. Managers nowadays are more worried about closers padding their stats rather than using actual strategy. A recent study found that in the last 100 years, 9th inning leads have been protected at nearly identical rates, despite the evolution of the closer. And yet, teams continue to offer lucrative contracts to closers who often prove to be erratic and inconsistent.
- I really got a kick out of the newest Life of Reilly, which highlights the worst national anthems in the world. My favorite is easily Algeria's "We have taken the noise of gunpowder as our rhythm and the sound of machine guns as our melody." Seriously Algeria? Come on now...I know you have serious issues but for the love of God write a new national anthem.
- Interesting piece by Danny Knobler of cbs.sportsline.com which puts the Cubs World Series contention on Rich Hardens shoulders. According to Knobler, Harden personifies the Cubs. All the talent in the world, and yet as the Cubs have seen in the last 100 years, so much can go wrong.
- ESPN is reporting that Lebron would consider a $50 Million Euro deal if it was ever put on the table. While I don't think it will happen, this would be a devastating blow to the NBA. They can downplay it all they want, but if a MEGAstar like Lebron fled for the big euro money, the NBA would lose its luster, very, very quickly. Global icon here he comes?
- NCAA Football Champion Prediction: Georgia. Not balsy by any means, but they are going to be awesome. Matt Stafford seems to be a supremely talented QB and Knowshon Moreno (?) is a stud. Not to mention the lock-down defense they play.
- Golf sucks without Tiger.
- Nascar always sucks.
- Is anyone suprised by the Joba Chamblerlain injury? I'm certainly not.
- Good for the Packers. Tell Favre to shove it and move on. Oh wait, they're wallowing and balking constantly, without solving this dilapitating problem? Nevermind then.
- Shaun Andrews of the Eagles, Pro-Bowl OL, has been absent because of a newly released case of depression. Nothing is ever simple with the Eagles. Ever. When are theygoing to decide which of their 3 CBs is going to play? Will everyone follow McNabb? Why don't they pay Westbrook?
- I can't help but feel the Red Sox don't have enough to get the rings again. David Ortiz just hasn't been himself, probably only because of his injury, but nonetheless it is hurting the team.
- Did everyone forget the Chad Johnson nonsense we heard all offseason? Suddenly, acting like a child is all forgiven once camp starts? I thought he was holding out? Hold on, he's a professional, he isn't held accountable for what he says.
- The Phillies need to seperate with John Maine and Billy Wagner on the DL for the Mets for the time being.
- I hate Giambi. Giambi grows mustache. I like Giambi. Giambi shaves mustache. I hate Giambi.
There it is. I'm now out of thoughts.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
One of the most coveted international signings of 2007, the Mets may really have something here. Done let the braces fool you, this kid can flat out hit. At just 16 years of age he is taking the Appalachian league by storm, posting a solid .321 average, while slugging 7 HRs and knocking in 32 RBIs. In June, Flores got off to such a torrid start, the shortstop was named Appalachian league player of the week, and named to Baseball America's prospect hot sheet.
Flores is an absolute monster, already checking in at 6'-3'' 175 lbs. As he fills out, we could be looking at a player with 30-40 HR potential. Of course, before we label Flores a mega-prospect, it must be noted that hes only played 40 games as a professional, but there is no doubt that he has caught the eyes of scouts everywhere. Before the season, Chris Kline of Baseball America had this to say
“The tools are for real. Sounded like some scouts questioned the bat a little bit, but profiles to be a plus defender that will hit for some power down the road… Flores is a guy who could move quickly–I wouldn’t drop the ‘project’ tag on him, though he is obviously raw in terms of learning the game in the States and facing advanced pitching."
The Mets tend to overrate their prospects, but there are so many signs that this kid is the real deal. I can only hope that he isn't rushed through the minors as so many players are nowadays.
I understand that fights are becoming increasingly more common in NFL training camps, but something about this one really bothers me. I have the utmost respect for Steve Smith as a player, and to be honest I really don't think he is a bad guy. He is a family man, works hard for charity, and gives very sincere interviews. However, the Panthers made a very bold decision to suspend him 2 games for his recent actions, and I commend them for this decision.
The main reason I say this, is that given the circumstances of this fight, it was clear that Smith delivered a "cheap shot" to Lucas. Based on accounts from the players, Lucas was kneeling on one knee when Smith attacked him. There is no place for such actions in the NFL. If guys get heated after a drill and they come to blows I have no problem with that. In fact, I encourage such fire and intensity. But this was just wrong, and it wasn't the first time Smith has acted violently towards a teammate. Smith has since apologized, and I am sure that this incident will be long forgotten by the end of the year. But I can't give the Panthers enough credit for making this difficult decision.