Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 11/7/15

I had the immense pleasure of interviewing NFL Hall of Fame defensive back Lem Barney recently on "Monday Night Sports Talk"--an incredibly kind and personable individual. Most people who are old enough to remember Barney may recall how he intercepted TEN passes in his rookie year of 1967; he would retire with 56 interceptions to his credit while playing his entire 11-year career in Detroit. But did you know that Barney and teammate Mel Farr sang BACKGROUND VOCALS on Marvin Gaye's huge, influential hit "What's Going On" in 1971? Barney explained to my co-host, Tony DeAngelo, and I how he came about meeting Gaye in Detroit during the 60's and how he became friends with MANY of Motown's greatest entertainers. An amazing man, an amazing career--both on AND off the field; thanks, Mr. Barney..........TRIVIA QUESTION: In the last 50 years of NFL play, what quarterback has thrown the most interceptions in one season? Answer to follow..........The highlight of Yale's blowout victory over Brown this past weekend? Popular canine mascot "Handsome Dan" being named an honorary NAVY ROTC officer by school president Peter Salovey between quarters--then giving his first "command" to some Navy personnel in attendance. You HAD to be there, folks..........*Message to N.Y. Giants WR Odell Beckham, Jr.: When your team's defense is giving up points at an alarming rate and couldn't even stop a Pop Warner team's offense (i.e. last week's game vs. New Orleans), there is NO NEED to do end zone dances as if you're partying on the set of "Soul Train." Odell--take note of the classy nature of a WR who played with the other team last week--Marques Colston--who scored with dignity and whose team ultimately BEAT yours. C'mon, Mr. Beckham, act as if you've BEEN in the end zone before--which you HAVE...........Is it me, or could it be argued that another prison should be constructed in the "Sunshine State"--solely to house college football players who've been arrested in the southern part of Florida?..........If S.F. 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick is worth $20 million per season, then the great Ginger Rogers was born with two left feet..........How 'bout Navy knocking off #15 Memphis last weekend 45-20--IN Memphis? Navy threw the ball only FIVE times in the game, had only two penalties, and forced FOUR Memphis fumbles. *Question: Do you think MANY college football programs out there could learn a thing or two by trying to emulate the disciplined approach of the Midshipmen?..........*Quick question: Who has more power in the state of Kentucky: Governor Steve Beshear or Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino?..........Call me judgmental, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that Dallas Cowboys DE Greg Hardy will NOT win the Walter Payton/NFL Man of the Year Award in 2015..........I used to think that watching former NBA star Rick Barry shoot underhanded free throws was the ultimate thing of beauty. That all changed recently when I stumbled across a picture of sultry actress/model Tina Casciani wearing a black swimsuit during a modeling shoot. Sorry, Rick--some things in life are just NOT up for debate..........Any Red Sox fans out there have an over/under date in mind for when pitcher Clay Buchholz will be shut down in 2016 (while he earns $13 million)? Perhaps August 1st--maybe EARLIER?..........Answer to trivia question: VINNY TESTAVERDE, who threw 35 picks while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 1988 season--a team that finished 5-11 under coach Ray Perkins..........Finally, condolences go out to the family of former major league outfielder Eddie Milner--who passed away recently in Ohio at the age of 60. A cousin of former MLB player John Milner, Eddie played 9 seasons in the NL between 1980 and 1988--mostly with the Reds (Milner spent one year with San Francisco in 1987.) Milner's best season came in 1983 in Cincy when he played in 146 games and stole a career-high 41 bases; he was a career .253 hitter. Amazingly, Eddie (along with Cesar Tovar) is credited with breaking up the most-no hitters in MLB history; both men did it FIVE times. Milner was suspended for half the season in 1988 due to drug use, but later turned his life around--becoming an ordained minister in the 90's and often talking about his road to recovery. Eddie Milner is survived by his father (Eddie Sr.), two sisters, three brothers, and two granddaughters. May you rest in peace, Eddie.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 10/24/15

Yes, it's that time of the year, folks. As the postseason winds down and players head for their yachts and/or the golf course, let's give out some MLB awards based on the 2015 regular season:

*The FRANK SINATRA "ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL" Award: Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles. The man struck out a whopping 208 times--fifth highest total in MLB history--but also led all of baseball with 47 home runs. Almost 1/3 of his hits were HR's; yes, LOTS of swings and misses for this guy. Rumor has it that he often has difficulty "high-fiving" teammates (completely missing their hands), but when he DOES connect, it HURTS.

*The EARL WEAVER/FULL PACK Award (causing managers to smoke too much, develop ulcers, or WORSE): Kyle Kendrick of the Colorado Rockies. He led the NL in earned runs allowed (100) and HR's allowed (33) while pitching to an ERA of 6.32. Rumor has it that a cardiologist was summoned to check on manager Walt Weiss after every game in which Kendrick appeared this year, but that couldn't be verified as of press time.

*The GERITOL/AGE DOESN'T MATTER Award: For the third straight year, this award goes to 42-year-old LaTroy Hawkins--who pitched for the Rockies and Blue Jays in '15. The oldest player in baseball appeared in a combined 42 games as a reliever for both teams, pitched to a respectable 3.26 ERA, and struck out almost one batter per-inning-pitched. How long has this guy been around? The price of gasoline was about $1.11 per gallon when Hawkins made his MLB debut in 1995. He's now pitched 21 seasons--half of his LIFE; I'm convinced he can pitch at least another five, if desired.

*The RODNEY DANGERFIELD/LACK OF RESPECT Award: Pitcher Tyson Ross of the San Diego Padres. WHO, you may ask? Yes, Tyson Ross. Whether it's due to the fact that he pitched for a bad team this year--or the fact that we just don't hear much about him here on the east coast--he remains a "non-household" name. Quietly, he's put together back-to-back seasons of 30+ starts with ERA's of 2.81 and 3.26 in '14 and '15 respectively. Pitching almost 200 innings this season, he led the league in starts and gave up just nine home runs. Seems like his TEAMMATES disrespect him, too--providing very little run support; in his three seasons in S.D., his record is 26-34, but his ERA is around 3. The man deserves MUCH better.

*The MAYTAG/DEPENDABILITY Award: No doubt--goes to Mike Trout of the L.A. Angels. He appeared in at least 157 games for the THIRD consecutive season and scored more than 100 runs for the fourth consecutive year. The topper? Playing 156 games in the outfield in 2015, the man made ZERO errors--yes, NONE. He's like a machine; just pencil him in daily--and he'll produce. Nick Markakis--who's rarely missed a game over the past 10 years--also finished high in this category.

*The AVERSION TO WALKING Award: Goes to Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs. Castro--in 578 plate appearances--walked just 21 times; that comes out to one walk per-every-28 plate appearances. I swear, this guy swings at ANYTHING that resembles a baseball in the 60613 zip code area.

*The PITIFULLY PUNCHLESS Award (for lack of offense): We'll give this one to the lowly Atlanta Braves. They hit only 100 HR's as a team and scored just 573 runs (lowest #'s in baseball by far); they also had the lowest team RBI total in all of MLB. Somewhere, Hank Aaron and Dale Murphy are weeping.

*The ARSONIST OF THE YEAR Award: Fernando Rodney of the Seattle Mariners. The team's closer before being dealt to the Cubs late in the season, Rodney led all of baseball with SEVEN blown saves and pitched to a 5.68 ERA for Seattle in 58 appearances. Remember when they used to give out the "Rolaids Relief Man" Award up until a few years ago? Well, Seattle fans should have been given Rolaids EVERY time that Rodney warmed up in the bullpen this year. Just one of the MANY reasons why a highly-touted Mariners team finished 10 games below .500 in '15.

*The BUM OF THE YEAR Award: A "no-brainer"--Bruce Rondon of the Detroit Tigers. Here is a guy who was given EVERY chance to become the team's closer in 2015, make a name for himself, and ultimately earn a LOT more money down the road. What happens? The team actually sends him HOME in late September--citing the reliever's dismal "effort level." In short, opportunity knocked--and Rondon DIDN'T ANSWER. I'd use a stronger word than "BUM" for this guy, but it wouldn't be appropriate in this type of forum. Do you think the team may currently be in the market for a closer? Jonathan Papelbon received votes for this award, too.

*The LITTLE BUCKS/BIG NUMBERS Award: A.J. Pollock of the Arizona Diamondbacks. I was fortunate enough to spend time with A.J. when he grew up here in eastern CT; the kid was a "can't miss" kinda player from the very beginning. In '15, he hit .315 (192 hits), scored 111 runs, and stole 39 bases while playing the outfield splendidly. He earned just over the MLB minimum this season; the next contract he signs may make him the highest-paid INDIVIDUAL to ever have roots in Hebron, CT.

*The STAY AT FIRST Award: Goes to Jace Peterson of the Atlanta Braves. Peterson attempted to steal 22 bases this year and was successful only 12 times--approximately a 55% success rate. That kind of percentage may work for NFL QB's (completions), Jace, but it doesn't cut it in baseball. Stay put in 2016--please.

*The PETE ROSE/GEORGE BRETT HONORARY THROWBACK PLAYER Award: Goes to a pitcher this year--Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros. The only 20-game winner in the AL, Keuchel threw a career-high 232 innings and baffled the Yankees on three days rest in the league's wild-card game. Yes, it seems like this guy could pitch in any era; my kinda dude. And that BEARD!!! He would have been a perfect fit for the old bearded House of David teams that barnstormed across America from the 1920's to the 1950's.

*The BLACKSTONE/HOUDINI DISAPPEARING ACT Award: Jayson Werth of the Washington Nationals. Remember when the Nats signed this guy to a 7-year/$126 million contract prior to the 2011 season? Well, in five seasons with the team, Werth has hit a GRAND total of 78 home runs; he hit .221 in 378 plate appearances in 2015. Mention his contract to current Nats GM Mike Rizzo and he'll be sure to reach for some of the aforementioned Rolaids--or perhaps even something MUCH stronger. J.J. Hardy of the O's received votes here--a guy whose #'s have dwindled significantly over the past four seasons.

*The BONNIE AND CLYDE/HIGHWAY ROBBERY Award (for stealing large sums of money): Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins (he could have easily won the BENNETT award to follow). Joe earned $23 million in 2015; he hit .265 with 66 RBI's and only 46 extra-base hits. A former MVP whose #'s are dropping yearly, his stats were supposed to pick up once he was moved from catcher to first base a few years ago. That hasn't happened--and the Twins are paying DEARLY while watching it unfold. Not to make light of his off-the-field problems, but NY's CC Sabathia finished high in this category--winning SIX games while earning about the same as Mauer (ummm--approx. $4 million per win). CC's NY teammate Jacoby Ellsbury (earning over $20 million and being BENCHED in a wild-card game) also received votes.

*The TONY BENNETT/BEST YEARS BEHIND HIM Award: For the second year in a row, this award goes to Ryan Howard of the Phillies. He hit just .229 and had a TOTAL of 53 extra-base hits. Folks, this is another former MVP who once hit 58 HR's in ONE SEASON. Also had an OBP of .277--the lowest of his 12-year career. Could have easily won the aforementioned BONNIE AND CLYDE award as he earned about $25 million in 2015 (ouch). Jason Marquis (6.46 ERA for Cincy) and Josh Hamilton (struggling in Texas) finished high in this category.

*Finally, the DOLLY THE SHEEP/REASON TO CLONE Award: Clayton Kershaw of the L.A. Dodgers. No, he wasn't a 20-game winner in '15 like the previous year, but he led the league in IP (233), SO (301), complete games, and shutouts. Put it this way: His 2.13 ERA this season (not too shabby, huh?) was his HIGHEST since 2012 (you read that correctly). Yeah--that's one DOMINANT pitcher, folks. He's pitched 8 seasons and is still only 27 years-old; does an awful lot of voluntary/humanitarian work off the field, too. Thanks for being YOU, Clayton.