Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Re: The Jays in 2012

Looks like someone else agrees with me about the Jays:

http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/2012/01/31/carson_bluejays_stateoffranchise

I actually am really looking forward to this season. The Jays could be the sleeper hit of 2012. They won 81 games last season and now have a much-improved bullpen, so with no changes could realistically expect to win 90 games. Watch for the front office to pull off a big trade if the Jays are doing well mid-season if they have any need of one or two key spots that need improving.

Thanks to Will for sending me the above link.

By the way, I will be back at my usual every Saturday posting starting this week, so please stay tuned! Will and John will be back shortly too.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How Does Baseball Stack Up?

As often happens, I was doing research for a blog – this time on greed among players – and found myself being led down another path. This time the allure was an understandable one – gorgeous women. In identifying the highest salaries in baseball one encounters Derek Jeter and one outcome of his huge salary, along with his fame and glamour boy looks, is his ability to attract hot women.

So today's topic is how baseball ranks among the professional sports in the ability of its stars to attract gorgeous females. In the media we often see basketball players' beautiful wives and girlfriends, such as Eva Longoria who wed Spurs guard Tony Parker, Victoria Secret model Adriana Lima who got hitched to Marko Janic, and Kobe Bryant, whose wife Vanessa (left) has sued for divorce. Mexican supermodel Elisa Benitez was married to Miami's Rony Seikaly for six years. And how about a fox with a fox? The Lakers' Rick Fox landed 1983 Miss America Vanessa Williams. So basketball stars do all right.


The NFL's Tony Romo dated Jessica Simpson, who moved on to ex-49ers tight end Eric Johnson. Romo later married Candice Crawford. Former 49er and Cleveland Brown Jeff Garcia is married to Playmate Carmella DeCesare (left).


New England Patriot QB Tom Brady wed supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Playmate Kendra Wilkinson (right) tied the knot with Minnesota Viking wide receiver Hank Bassett at the Playboy mansion. And the well enhanced Playmate Jennifer Walcott married Adam Archuleta. So football stars rank high as well.

Hockey's Brad Richards landed Olivia Munn - for a while. Tough winger Mike Fischer played for the Ottawa Senators but was traded to Carolina where he was a lot closer to wife, country singer Carrie Underwood. And Wayne Gretzky's wife Janet Jones is still pretty hot.  

Sports Illustrated model Ingrid Vandebosh gets NASCAR's Jeff Gordon's engine revving and Dario Franchitti drove off with beautiful actress Ashley Judd.

As for golf, Phil Mikleson's wife Amy is lovely. Tiger Woods married Elin Nordegren, which I think turned out pretty well. 

Tennis anyone? How about Andy Roddick marrying Sports Illustrated model Brooklyn Decker (right)? I love baseball, but I'd take Brooklyn Decker over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Wimbledon champ Rafael Nadal is dating Maria Francisca Perello.

And now for baseball.  There's former Met hurler Kris Benson and his often photographed wife Anna, and C.J. Wilson of the Texas Rangers who sees Sports Illustrated model Dominique Piek. Former Brave David Justice hit the jackpot with Halle Berry, his wife for four years. 

A-Rod was married to wife Cynthia and so, of course, would not even look at other women  but bachelor Derek Jeter ... well he is in a class by himself. The Jeter list is nothing short of stunning. Here we go. Rachel Uchitel, Jessica Biel (left), Jessica Alba (both Jessicas !), Vida Guerra, Vanessa Minillo (right), and recently Minka Kelly. Jeter was interviewed by Barbara Walters recently and though repeatedly pressed would not say a single word about his love life. Class act.

But for hottest gal pals baseball doesn't stand a chance. Nor do any other of the sports listed above. With the exception of tennis and golf they are all basically North American sports so their stars have primarily America women to woo. But the hands down winning sport has the whole world as its oyster. It is far and away the biggest and sexiest sport in Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France, Spain, Greece, need I go on? I think not, soccer players have the most beautiful wives and girlfriends. I have included below just a few of the many gorgeous females who cling to 'footballers'. I won't name their boyfriends, it would take too long as some of these gals, like Gemma Atkinson, have dated a few.

                     Federica Ridolfi                        Clio Pajczer                Sara Tomassi     


                                    

Georgia Palmas                Adriana Karembeu                                        Eva Amurri

              
 Nicola McLean                                 Francesca Lodo             Elisabetta Canalis


        Rosaria Cannavò                         Gemma Atkinson                          Imogen Thomas      

So in spite of Derek Jeter baseball loses out, but it has had the most famous wedding of all sports ...


The most famous athlete hookups.


The recent New York Nets forward Kris Humphrie's brief marriage to Kim Kardashian;  

David Beckham and and Spice Girl Victoria; and of course ...

Joltin Joe Dimaggio and the somewhat famous Marilyn Monroe.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

When fans get in the way

There’s one thing about most sports fans: they’re opinionated. They know what’s wrong with a team, they know exactly what to do to fix the situation and they’re always right. The Blue Jays are suffering from this big-time at the moment. I find it troubling.

To be fair, the Jays have been pretty tight-lipped during the off-season, and it hasn’t always been in their self-interest to be so. Sometimes a little information, a reassurance from a club GM, can help reassure impatient fans, and heaven knows, Jays fans are getting impatient.

When current GM Alex Anthopoulos came on board, he took a lot of heat from fans even though they really disliked previous GM JP Riccardi. Why? Because Alex was young and unproven. During his tenure, though, AA has proven himself to be very good at his job and a pretty dab hand at being able to pull off blockbuster trades.

One thing he stated upon taking the helm was that Toronto was going to take their time to reorganize their farm system and develop a team that had the potential to win year after year, rather than trying to buy themselves a few players to put them over the hump. There was a new way of doing business.

And he’s stuck to his guns. He reinvigorated the scouting staff and that has led to some excellent draft picks and a restocking of the farm system with a number of blue-chip prospects. No, they won’t all make it to the Bigs, but some will. Via the trade route, AA has done some amazing things. Brett Lawrie is one of the players he’s brought in this way. He may have done it again this off-season with Santos whom many pundits are saying he “stole” from the White Sox. Time will tell.

Where the real friction with the fans currently resides is that the Jays have made no big free agent signings. Despite what Anthopoulos says and the way he wants to work (and it’s been pretty damn successful up to now), they want to see some big gun coming to Toronto. It may still happen, but it only will if AA and the Blue Jays brain trust really feels confident there is a major upside to such a deal. So far, they obviously haven't felt that way. Fielder for 10 years at 250 million? All I have to say to that is: why? It ain’t worth it.

To be fair, it’s obvious the Jays owner, Rogers, wants to see improved financial returns before they really open the purse strings. When AA stated that (in so many words) at the Winter Meetings, a lot of fans took it to mean that the Jays were less than serious in fielding a competitive team this year. Not so. They’re just not willing to throw money around to make the fans happy.

The one thing that’s struck me, though, is that these grumbling fans seem to be discounting the team the Jays have already assembled for next season. On paper – and right now every team is “on paper” – the Jays should be better than last year. AA has done his best to fix the faults of the bullpen, he’s getting players signed rather than taking them to arbitration, and he may have an ace or two still up his sleeve.

Let’s look at some of the things Toronto’s hysterical fans are overlooking:
• We’ll have Brett Lawrie for the entire year – and more seasoned as well
• JP Arencibia has handled his catching duties well and he was a proven hitter at AAA. Now that he can concentrate more on swinging the bat, he could open some eyes in 2012.
• The outfield defense at this point is really excellent (bit of a question mark in left field aside) and could get even better, depending on what transpires in spring training. It will definitely be better than what Toronto had coming out of spring training last year.
• Adam Lind has proven he’s a good first baseman. He will improve and as he becomes steadier defensively, like Arencibia, he’ll be able to concentrate more on hitting. Look for a breakout season from him. There. I’ve said it.
• Second base is a bit of a question mark. Maybe with being familiar with the team, Kelly will return to form. It worked for Escobar. The Jays now have a solid, all-round shortstop.
• Starting pitching remains a big question, though. Romero has legitimate ace stuff. Morrow does too, but hasn’t seemed to harness it yet, although at the end of 2011, he was looking much better.
• It was encouraging to see Dustin McGowan make it all the way back last year. He could be the real dark horse in this starting staff. There were some good things on display in September and he only needs to build on that. Watch out if he gets it all together again. This guy knows how to pitch. Remember Chris Carpenter?
• Henderson Alvarez seems to be somewhat forgotten many by the fans. This kid is good, keeps his focus well and has above average stuff. Don’t they expect him to get better?
• For the final starter, there’s a lot to choose from: Cecil, Drabek, possibly one of those prospects at AAA. If a team can get 10-12 wins from a fifth starter, they’re getting what they need. Cecil proved in ’09 that he could deliver 15 wins. Drabek might get his head together. Who knows what could happen here?
• At DH, the Jays have Encarnacion. Once they got him away from his starting position at third base, he seemed to settle down and hit far better. The team still likes him a lot, and with good reason. Expect him to get better. He has something to prove. Ditto for Colby Rasmus and Johnson, by the way. Could that be the reason AA only signed them both for one year? Now they have something to really play for.

The bottom line to all this is that if the Jays players who had good years in 2010 keep that up and some of the lesser lights come on in a way they’re fully capable of doing, this team could get to that 90-win plateau quite easily – without additional changes to the roster. I’m not saying that some a few players being brought in would be a bad thing, but let’s be sensible about it.

Also bear in mind that old adage: winning begets winning. If this team really goes on a tear, they will begin believing in themselves even more and that can mean an extra half-dozen wins more at the end of the season. They showed that character last year in pulling some games out of the fire. I’d like to see them build on that.

So to everyone in Toronto who’s freaking, chill out! You have to trust that AA and his front office team know what they’re doing. They’ve mapped out a path and they’re still following it. So what if the Jays didn’t get Darvish and will probably pass on Fielder? How many other teams have thrown away huge amounts of money to sign a free agent and gotten nothing much in return? (Take AJ Burnett. Seriously. Take AJ Burnett. The Yankees will thank you.)

I, for one, am still firmly behind AA and the Jays’ brain trust.