Thursday, April 29, 2010

Washington’s Woes

I was originally going to gloat about Washington getting knocked out in the first round, but this is a kinder, gentler, more hopeful blog. Besides there are plenty of other blogs currently bathing in Capitals' misery. There was one moment I did succumb to one moment of weakness, texting an "OVER-chekin" message to my buddy Link who is an unrequited Penguins fan.

I'm not totally shocked that they were eliminated. High powered offenses always struggle in the playoffs, especially if they face a team that is willing to do the things needed to stifle run-and-gun teams. Blocking shots, clogging up passing lanes and taking advantage of special teams in a blueprint that has been time tested year after year in the playoffs. Of course, having a goaltender who played out of his skull for the last three games doesn't hurt either.

While I'm not going to resort to gloating I will admit to having an extra spring in my step this morning thinking about all of the poor fans who just spent all that money on their brand new jerseys and spent all that time learning about hockey in the last three months. I guess they'll have to go back to whatever D.C. sports fans did before they realized they've had a hockey team for the last 30 years.

Is it worse for a fan to see their team dominate for a six month regular season and then flame out in the first round or to have a team scuffle all season, barely make the playoffs and then get eliminated in the first round? I'd go with the first option. There is so much anticipation for a team that makes a joke out of the regular season that to lose to a lesser talented team is a harsher blow. When a team scrapes it's way into the playoffs you pretty much consign yourself to a first round loss. Anything other than that, even taking the series to a 7th game, is considered a bonus.

The owner is saying all of the right things, they're not going to panic, they'll take a few days to evaluate before moving forward, etc. However, if I was Ted Leonsis I would definitely have found something expensive to smash. I'm sure throwing a new iPad against a brick wall has a certain cathartic feeling to it.

Speaking of smashing, any chance things were broken in the Ovechkin household? The first round flame out didn't help his cause in the Crosby vs. Ovi debate. Now that Sid is scoring goals and racking up individual awards Alex the Great doesn't have much to hang his hat on. He is still the most dominant individual offensive player in the league, but he isn't able to translate that into team success.

Let's run down the checklist:

Stanley Cup – Crosby 1, Ovi 0

Gold Medal – Crosby 1, Ovi 0

Hart Trophy – Crosby 1, Ovi 2 (will that change this year?)

Richard Trophy – Crosby 1, Ovi 2

Ovechkin is nowhere near the end of his career so there is plenty of time to turn the trend around, but as the years pass by and he fails to win a cup it will become a bigger and bigger story in the media (a la Phil Mickelson never winning a major, John Elway never winning a Super Bowl, Mike Mussina never winning a World Series, etc.). He has to find away to inspire the rest of the team, to make them willing to sacrifice their individual needs in order to achieve team success.


So what should Capitals' fans learn from this season? Maybe that it doesn't mean how impressive your team looks in the regular season if they keep losing in the playoffs. Having defensemen who score 20 goals is cool, but maybe having a couple that block shots would be better. Above all, it's disappointing to get the bum's rush so early in the postseason, but it's not the end of the world. They'll still be a favorite for next season so spare me the woe.

And remember:

Stanley Cups – Tampa Bay Lighting 1, Washington Capitols 0.


Ah ha.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Look Who Went Shopping

So I haven't found a decent post office yet (i.e. one that's open when I'm not at work), but I did manage to find myself a card shop. Last month I stumbled across a post from SewingMachine Guy asking for some help finding a card shop in Chicago. Knowing I was moving to the city I bookmarked it.

Everyone's favorite Canadian Superhero Captin Canuck mentioned Tim's Baseball Cardshop . Since I trust all Canadians implicitly I decided to check it out. On a dreary Sunday morning I dragged my roommate Hamel onto the Northbound Western bus and after approximately 75 stops (do they really need to have a stop at EVERY corner?) I found myself in front of the small shop.

Tim was there and apologized about the messiness of the shop, it appeared as if a customer had just dropped off a bunch of merchandise and it was spread out in the small front showroom.

I looked around a bit, he had some decent pricing on boxes that until I have a couple of paychecks under my belt I'll have to wait to purchase. He also had several glass cases with singles divided by sport. Compared to what I used to see in my old shop his prices seemed pretty reasonable.

There were a couple of nice O's cards (Ripken auto, Brooks rookie, etc), but my eye kept getting drawn back to one card in particular.

A Sports Illustrated Autograph Collection of Earl Weaver.

Let's see:

1. An Oriole Legend
2. A Hall of Famer
3. On Card Autograph (and it's legible to boot!)
4. The subject of one of the best YouTube rants ever (caution foul language).

It was a no-brainer. It was a little out of my price range (i.e. cash I had on me) so I asked Tim if he could sell it for what I had in my pocket. He said yes and the card was mine!

I'll be heading back to the shop as soon as the cash flow opens up. He has tons of singles that I need to go through for player and set needs, and like I said - good prices on boxes. If you're in town give him a look!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Time For a Change? Yes, Time For a Change.

The O’s didn’t lose Thursday night. Of course they didn’t play either, but we need to start with baby steps at this point. The Batless Wonders from Baltimore are entrenched in last place with a paltry 2-14 record. They have scored 46 runs this season – the Brewers scored almost half of that total in their 20-0 win over the Pirates Thursday.

Remember the last time I talked about the Orioles? It seemed like it was ages ago (it was nine days ago). Time moves slower when your favorite team is on the west coast, and it moves like molasses when they’re losing on the west coast. I was really hoping to throw the reverse jinx on them and spark them to some wins. It didn’t happen.

How bad has it become? They’re rivaling the 1988 O’s for the worst team in franchise history (if they lose nine more in a row then they’ll match the 2-23 mark the Woe’s had in ’88). Normally I’m not one to call for someone’s head, it’s too easy to say that the coach needs to be fired, but in this case I think it’s time for Dave Trembley to move on. For some reason this team is regressing underneath his care.

A team can lose and still give their fans hope for the future. There are times when teams, especially young teams, haven’t figured out how to close out games. The 2007 Rays were an example of such a team. The 2010 Orioles, as presently constructed, are not one of those teams.

Their hitting woes are well documented. They rank in the bottom five of the ENTIRE league in average, OPS, runs, and on base percentage. They are dead last in stolen bases – of course you have to get on base to steal bases so I guess it’s not fair to pick on them for that. They’ve had base running gaffes and fielding miscues. Their closer can’t close and the line for the trainer’s office is longer than a Florida unemployment line.

They are in short, a boring team to watch. That’s why there are only 9,000 fans showing up for their games. If they were losing, but still playing fun baseball (you know the kind where a team gets hits and stuff) then the fans would show up. Sure they wouldn’t be happy and spend their afternoons calling Nestor and saying things like, “send dat Adam Jones back to Bowie and trade Bergeson for Ichiro”, but they’d be going to the games.

For goodness sakes the most exciting thing that’s happened with the team in the last week is that Cal Ripken may or may not have asked for a job with a team and may or may not have been turned down. That shouldn’t be the case when you have players like Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters on the roster.

Which brings us full circle back to Trembley. He’s finally tired and upset with the way the team is playing. Heck, he almost let some non-FCC approved words fly the other night. What he did say was:

I had a meeting with the team as we always do the first day of the series, and our advance [scouting] stuff was pretty precise and I thought the plan was laid pretty clearly. And what I saw last night didn’t sit well with me. I feel like I’m talking to the wall…It hasn’t been acceptable. I’m very patient, but I’ll tell you the truth: I didn’t have anybody come up to me afterwards and disagree.

The “talking to the wall” bit is what tipped me off that it’s time for him to go. Fans like to talk about a coach “losing a locker room” even if they have no idea what is going on behind closed doors. Quotes like this make me wonder if in this case the fatalistic naysayers might be right in this case.

Trembley had a history of being a tough coach who demanded his team to excel at the fundamentals. That type of coach harkens back to the days of the “Oriole Way,” pitching and defense. While the only glimmer of hope is the pitching (with both of the O’s wins Brian Matusz is on pace to shatter Tom Seaver’s 1972 record of 46% of a team’s wins by a pitcher) there isn’t much else to talk about.

The season is far from over and the optimistic part of me that fights to survive in this cynical world says the O’s aren’t done yet. All they need is for a couple of players to get hot, heck I’ll take one player at this point. Stranger things have happened in sports. Much like Dave Trembley I don’t want to see the Baltimore Orioles fail, but with him at the helm I don’t think they can succeed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New Panini Platinum Release Information

It's kind of funny. I haven't watched a single basketball game until this past weekend. It's not that I don't like the NBA, actually it is because I don't like the NBA. However, since I'm living in a town with a team in the playoffs it only seems fair that I give it a shot. I did and, hopefully, Chicago is eliminated soon. Four games might be the max number of games I can watch.

What makes it humerous is that today I received an email from Panini (as I'm sure a lot of other bloggers did) with a press release for their new NBA product - Panini Platinum. Make of it what you will....

RELEASE DATE: July 7, 2010
PACK SRP: $5.99

2 Autographs, 3 Rookies, 2 Prizm Green, 1 Jam Masters, 1 Future Stars, 1 The Franchise, 4 Others

Exclusive Kobe Bryant on-card Autographs!
The Franchise Prizm Green Signatures numbered to 49 or less!
Rookie Prizm Gold signatures numbered to 24!
Rookie Prizm Blue Signatures numbered to 49!
Rookie Prizm Red Signatures numbered to 199!

Prizm Black parallels numbered to 1!



Prizm Green Signatures

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The First of the Chicago Maildays

Earlier this week I got to see my first yellow envelope in the mail slot. What a joyous occasion. A little ebay shopping to congratulate my new endeavors in the city.

A 2009-10 SP Game Used Dual Fabrics of Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos. The drawfor me was Vinny, but it's not to shabby having co-Rocket Richard winner Stamkos along for the ride. Add to the fact that it's numbered to 100 and it makes for a pretty sweet card.

Sorry for the lack of quality on the photo. We're working on finding a printer cable for our multifunction device so hopefully I'll have a scanner soon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ah the Joy's of an Early Losing Streak

I never got around to a preseason preview for the Orioles this season. When I was looking at the team at the end of the season only one thing crossed my mind. To quote several Star Wars characters, “I have a bad feeling about this.”

The leadoff hitter and starting second baseman had a bad back AND was allergic to the treatment. One of the young pitching stars was hurt filming a TV commercial. And then this came out:

Matt Wieters, aka the Catching Jesus, was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. If a team isn’t expected to win does the SI Cover Jinx still apply? The team had a lackluster spring finishing in the middle of the pack. But hey, Brian Matusz almost had a no hitter against the Phillies.

Now they’re nine games into the season and the bad feeling, like a bill collector, hasn’t gone away. The team can’t hit (.237 batting average good for 10th in the AL), can’t score (27 runs, 12th in the AL), and their closer has been more flammable than Florida scrub brush. In the offense happy AL East those numbers make for a long season, and they haven’t even played the Sox or the Yankees yet.

I would like to join the rest of the masses and revel in the doom and gloom, but I can’t give up on a season less than two weeks into it. Now if they only have one win when the calendar turns to May I might have some harsh words. Besides the Astros are a third of the way to breaking the 21 game losing streak!

Believe it or not there have been some bright spots to the season. Young Wieters has defied the curse to lead the team with a .345 average. Miguel Tejada is driving in runs (yes I know 4 of his team leading 7 RBI’s came in one game) like it’s 2001. Not to be outdone by Wieters, former Cubs prospect Felix Pie is off to a smoking hot start, hitting .471 in limited action.

The biggest surprise has been the starting pitching staff. Kevin Millwood and his band of young pups have been giving the O’s a chance to win. While they’re not yet the Braves staff of the 90’s they are showing enough promise (especially Matusz) that O’s fans should be happy for the future.

The team travels out west for the next week, if they continue this slide Dave Trembley’s job will most definitely be in jeopardy. Despite the injuries to Roberts and closer Mike Gonzalez this team has enough talent to win more than one game out of nine.

Nine games in is too early to give up on a season, give them a little more rope to hang themselves. A young team takes awhile to gel together and no one expects them to be in the playoffs this year. As long as this team is improving as the season goes on then it will be a successful year.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Winds of Change Blow Throw Tampa

During a break in my new hire orientation I received a text from my buddy Link. He let me know that the last vestiges of the old regime had been swept away. As of Monday morning Brian Lawton and Rick Tocchet were eligible for unemployment benefits. Unable to verify the information online (visiting non-approved websites on the first day of the new job seemed uncouth) I chose to take some time and reflect upon this information instead of learning about the company’s 401k matching.

So what was my first reaction to the news? Well, it wasn’t surprise, maybe understanding and hopeful trepidation would be better words to use. Despite a minimum season-over-season improvement, the performance of the team post-Olympic break sealed their fates.

For the time being Tom Kuevers will be the interim GM tasked with setting up a search for the new CEO. The search, we can assume, has been underway since the day Jeff Vinik took over the organization and should be wrapped up quickly.

The reason this needs to be accomplished post-haste is that the new GM needs to be in place in time to prepare for the upcoming draft (June 25th-26th) and free agency (starts July 1st). Two months is not a lot of time to learn an organization and plan for its immediate future, especially with the chance that the team could acquire a huge rebuilding piece in the form of a top 5 draft pick.

Figuring out which young stud to pick is not the only pile of work on the new GM’s desk. While the Bolts don’t stand to lose too many key pieces to free agency they do have to make decisions on a couple of restricted free agents and a certain young forward who has one year left on his entry level contract.

Signing Steven Stamkos to a long term deal after a 51 goal season is going to cost the organization some money, but not as much as it will if they wait and he has another sensational season. It’s better to get him locked up quickly this summer and get some sort of framework of a budget in place for signing free agents.

One free agent that they’re probably going to lose out on is Antero Nittymakii. The Finland native didn’t play well enough to carry the team to the playoffs, but he did play his way into a number one keeper’s payday. There are enough teams with enough questions in net that are willing to throw a decent sized contract his way.

The Bolts, having to afford their offense, will take a serious look at Dustin Tokarski and give him a chance to win the job in camp. Some salary could be cleared if they find a taker for Mike Smith, and that money could then be spent on a veteran backup. Brent Johnson, Johan Hedberg and Perer Budaj will all be looking for work next season and could be had for less than Smith’s $2.2 million cap hit.

One thing the soon-to-be GM won’t have to worry about, hopefully, will be Vincent Lecavalier and his constant companion – trade rumor. Vinik seems to understand the importance of the captain. While some fans may clamor for him to trade, if the owner succumbed to that temptation then the negative reaction would swamp the franchise. For better or worse the enigmatic center is the face of the franchise. Stamkos might be the sexy scorer and Marty St. Louis might be the team’s heart, but trading Lecavalier will be seen as a major step back for the Lightning. His goal scoring might have declined but he did still throw 70 points on the board, and showed signs of his pre-injury self in the second half of the season.

So whoever takes the unheralded job as the next Lightning GM will be busy this season. Every decision he makes will be second and third guessed. Even if he trades Andrej Meszaros for Evgeni Nabokov fans will complain. Face it, it’s what we do. All we can hope for right now is that he explains his decisions and takes ownership of them. If the team he assembles for next season doesn’t win then he has to be the one responsible for it.

As for the coach…well let’s leave that for another day.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Bar is OPEN!!!!

So welcome to the new place. Glad you could make it. I still have some touching up to do, like figuring out how to get that photo on the top to go across the whole screen. For the most part, however, we’re open for business.

If you read my old blog (Tampa Sports Wasteland) you pretty much know what you’re going to get – a lot of sports, some card trading and other various little things. I’ll also throw some observations about moving to Chicago. For instance it’s a lot easier to go drinking “downtown” when you take public transportation.

I imagine some people reading this are not familiar with my older work so an introduction of sorts is called for. I grew up in Maryland, just south of Baltimore, went to college in Florida and lived in the Tampa Bay area for about 12 years. Thanks to a stint of unemployment I had the chance to look for a job in a new city, a city that my girlfriend and I both wanted to live in. The search ended up with me securing a sales job in Chicago – if anyone runs a business and needs some excellent pricing on computer hardware, networking, or software drop me a line in the next couple of weeks.

The teams I tend to write about are the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Lightning, Baltimore Ravens and Liverpool Football Club. If you look at that list you’ll know that the last few years (excepting the Ravens) haven’t been very good to me sports wise. That’s the bad news.

The good news, at least for long suffering Chicago sports fans, is that the towns I live in tend to win championships. My resume:

My family moved back to Baltimore in 1983 from a brief stint in Germany and the O’s won a World Series.

I moved to Florida after college in 1998. Within six years two of the worst franchises in professional sports (the Bucs and the Lightning) had both won titles in their respective leagues.

I was in the building for the Tampa Bay Storm’s fifth Arena League Title.

The Rays went to the World Series while I lived in the Tampa Bay Area.

So I’ve seen some good times in the towns I’ve lived in.

If you’re interested in sports and trading cards stick around. I will try and post regularly (i.e. more than once a week). The want lists / trade info will be added soon.