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.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 11/8/14

*As promised: the same type of column written back in September (regarding baseball players). Now comes the FOOTBALL surname-association version. Again, no rhyme, no reason, folks--just the first players who came to mind..........

A- Anderson (Ken)--the former Bengals All-Pro QB who played 16 seasons from 1971-85. Remember when he completed 70% of his passes in 1982--which was UNHEARD of at the time? Anderson throwing to Isaac Curtis was a beautiful thing to watch....
B- Brown (Jim)--the Hall of Famer whose name ALWAYS comes up when talking about the greatest RB of all-time. My Dad always said it was like a man playing vs. boys when Jim suited up. Played 9 seasons and led the league in rushing on EIGHT occasions; kinda says it all....
C- Cappelletti (John)--the '73 Heisman winner who went on to have a very "average" career in the NFL (like many Heisman winners). Rushed for less than 3,000 yards over a 9-year career....
D- Dumervil (Elvis)--must be the name "Elvis" that makes this current DE stick out--or the fact that I saw him play on TV recently....
E- Everett (Jim)--the former All-Pro QB who threw over 200 TD passes in his career. Quite the character, too, as I get the chance to speak with this man occasionally on "Thursday Night Tailgate" (Armed Forces Radio Network)....
F- Fischer (Pat)--the former undersized DB for the Redskins who played for George Allen in the 1970's. MAN, were those 'Skins teams fun to watch....
G- Gilliam (Joe)--I remember him playing QB for the Steelers during the early 70's; kids in our neighborhood called him "Jefferson Street Joe Willie Gillie Gilliam"--and had a BLAST doing it. Sadly, he battled heroin, alcohol, and cocaine addiction during his life and died in 2000 at the age of 49....
H- Hornung (Paul)--the Hall of Famer who was perhaps one of the most versatile players EVER. I never saw him play, but my father would always marvel at how this guy could run, throw, pass, AND kick (he probably sold popcorn during halftime, too). Was a star with the ladies, too, from what I've been told....
I- Inman (Jerry)--a defensive tackle for the Broncos in the late 60's/early 70's. I have NO idea how or WHY I remember this guy....
J- Johnson (Billy "White Shoes")--I mean, how can you FORGET a guy nicknamed "White Shoes?" The man could play, too--returning 8 kicks for TD's during a 14-year career with three different teams. Remember the wobbly leg TD celebrations?....
K- Kiick (Jim)--Remember the '72 Dolphins with Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris as his running mates? Undefeated and unforgettable....
L- Layne (Bobby)--Way before my time, but my Dad always said he was a hell-raiser both on AND off the field. Oh, this legendary QB is a Hall of Famer, too....
M- Marshall (Jim)--I remember him as a member of the Vikings' "Purple People Eaters" defensive unit; the guy started 270 straight games and played TWENTY years as a defensive end. Unreal....
N- Namath (Joe Willie)--a 'no-brainer' as he was an idol of mine growing up. The man put the AFL (and the Jets) on the map and wore white shoes long before "White Shoes" (see above) did. His quick release/throwing of the football is still indescribable (almost like Christie Brinkley in an evening gown--ALMOST, I said). Man, if only he had a good set of knees....
O- O'Brien (Ken)--another former Jets QB who was a first round pick in 1983. Stuck around ten years--a slight disappointment for a first-rounder....
P- Pisarcik (Joe)--an awful QB (24 TD/48 INT during his career) who will always be known for "The Fumble" in 1978. Remind ANY NY Giants fan about it and he/she will immediately run to the nearest bathroom. I have NO idea how Walter Payton--my favorite player of all-time--didn't come to mind before Joe....
Q- Quick (Mike)--former Eagles WR who led the NFL in receiving yards in 1983. I thought he possessed Hall of Fame potential, but his career headed south once he approached the age of 30....
R- Roby (Reggie)--former All-Pro punter who spent most of his career with Miami. Remember how BIG this guy was for a punter (6'3"/250 pounds)?....
S- Sims (Billy)--spent just 5 years as a pro after winning the Heisman in '78. Three 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL with Detroit before blowing out his knee in 1984....
T- Tillman (Pat)--one of my favorite PEOPLE of all-time. What can one say about a talented DB who shunned the riches of the NFL in order to serve his country in Iraq/Afghanistan as a member of the Army Rangers? A free-spirit, hero, and special individual who died doing what he believed in. There will never be another Pat Tillman, folks....
U- Urlacher (Brian)--8-time Pro Bowl LB for the Bears who had one gear on the gridiron--OVERDRIVE. A "throwback" kind of player who was all business on the field. Current Packers' LB Clay Matthews appears to pattern his game after Urlacher--yes, a GOOD choice....
V- Vick (Michael)--Unfortunately, this slime-ball/dog-abuser (I know, I know--he did his time) was the first player who came to mind. A talented athlete, for sure, who dug his own grave as far as how his legacy will pan out. *Question: How come I couldn't come up with a name such as Volk (Rick) before Vick?....
W- White (Ed)--the former All-Pro guard (played 17 seasons) who should be a Hall of Famer. An accomplished artist, too, and a man whom I'm privileged to speak with on a regular basis....
X- To my knowledge, there has never been an NFL player whose last name starts with an "X". If there was, I'd surely remember it!....
Y- Yary (Ron)--a teammate of the aforementioned Ed White who IS in the Hall of Fame. Spent 15 years as a tackle in the league and was First Team All-Pro for SIX consecutive years ('71-'76). Very first pick in the '68 draft; yeah--he was THAT good....
Z- Zombo (Frank)--currently a LB for the Chiefs. LOVE the name--which was also the name of a character who appeared on "The Munsters" back in 1966 (played by Louis Nye). Yeah, I miss Fred Gwynne and company--don't you?