Monthly Archives: July 2010

George Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner, the man responsible for making the Yankees the most vilified team in baseball, died of a heart attack on Saturday. He was 80 years old. In my friend Loren’s words, “the manner of his death disproved a theory I had,” that Steinbrenner was, in fact, heartless. More than any other person, Steinbrenner changed the way teams run their organizations. Say what you will about the man, but when you’re throwing that kind of money around, of course you’re going to buy championships.

I’m not trying to speak ill of the dead here — I’m sure Steinbrenner’s family, as well as Yankee fans and players, are truly grieving. But the fact of the matter is that Steinbrenner changed the face of baseball forever. And he changed it for the worse. Because of all the big money flying around at free agents, small market clubs like Kansas City can’t compete. And what’s the use of having a salary cap in baseball if all the Yankees will do is break it and pay a penalty every year?

But Steinbrenner became part of our public life, too. He was famously George’s boss on Seinfeld. What die-hard Mariners fan can forget this Seinfeld moment? “What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for? He had 30 home runs, and over 100 RBIs last year. He’s got a rocket for an arm. You don’t know what the hell you’re doin!”

My own feelings about George Steinbrenner and his effect on baseball can best be described by Peter Sagal’s rant on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” “Nobody, but nobody more than Steinbrenner did more for our national pastime. And by that, I mean, hating the New York Yankees.” (applause) “Without Steinbrenner, Yankee-hating would have become empty, pointless, an antique sport like harness racing or lawn tennis. But with Steinbrenner making the Yankees the most obnoxious, tyrannical, bloated, purely evil sports franchise since the disbanding of the Tampa Bay Devil Nazis, Yankee-hating was revived. And whole new generations of fans have grown up to scream obscenities at the sight of a pinstripe. He may be gone, but I know I’ll have Steinbrenner to thank when my little daughters look up at me someday and say ‘Papa, are the Yankees Satan’s baseball team?’ And I will say ‘yes, sweetheart, why yes. They are.’ Thank you, George.”

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Sweet Lou retiring

After 18 years playing in the majors and 22 years as a manager, “Sweet” Lou Piniella announced that he will be retiring after this season. Lou was the only Mariners manager to lead the team to the playoffs, which he did in 1995, 1997, 2000, and 2001. I would argue that Lou was the best manager the club ever had.

What I’ve always appreciated and loved about Lou is his commitment to winning. Lou Piniella does not like to lose. And he’s not afraid to give umpires a piece of his mind, which he did while in Seattle on many a colorful occasion. I don’t know which Lou tantrum was better — the one where he kicked his hat around the bases, or the one where he threw home plate.

It was Sweet Lou, more than any player, who saved baseball in Seattle. To the Mariners, Lou brought the expectation of winning. From 1977-1994, the club never had a winning season. 1993 was the first time the Mariners played over-.500 ball. In 1995, the stakes were high. The club could have left Seattle without a new stadium. But under the guidance of Lou Piniella, the Mariners game from 12 games back to tie the Angels, beat them in a one-game playoff, and go on to the American League Divisional Series. Seattle became baseball mad. And Lou stewarded that team.

I’m sure Lou’s going to hang around baseball in some capacity. I would expect to see him as a club consultant, or possibly as an ESPN commentator during the playoffs. We wish you success, Sweet Lou.

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Welcome Blaise Nkufo! Now start scoring some goals…

Blaise Nkufo, striker from the Swiss national team, is here! And boy, did he look good in rave green at Sunday’s friendly. The 6’2″ 35-year-old forward had some great touches. With he and Montero up front, the Sounders could finally have the goal-scoring tag-team we’ve been sorely missing. It’s too bad Boss got a red card in the first half – Montero came out right after, and the Sounders had to shift to a more defensive game.

I read an article yesterday that said that the Sounders have to get 24 points in the final 13 games to make the playoffs. So they need to win at least 8 games, or win 6-7 and tie the rest. Tall order. I hope they can do it.

In other soccer news, it sounds like Freddie Ljungberg may be on his way out of Seattle. Lame. He, Nkufo, and Montero on the same pitch would have been amazing.

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Filed under Soccer, Sounders

Apologies for the long delay.

So, I guess I got a little bit caught up in World Cup fever. And now I’m going through some serious withdrawal. My days for the past couple of weeks have gone like this:

6 AM — Wake up
7 AM — Watch early match (I could not get up for the 4:30 AM ones. That would have killed me.)
9:40 AM — Class
11:00 AM — Watch lunchtime match
1:10 PM — Class
4 PM — Home. Homework
6 PM — Dinner
7 PM — More homework
10 PM — Bed

Yeah. No time in there to blog. But now that the World Cup is over, I’ve got a bit more time and can catch you up on all the sports news.

First off — Diego Forlan wins the Golden Ball! I totally called that. Without Forlan, Uruguay would not have gotten as far as it did. He was clearly the leader on that team, and an absolute inspiration. I loved watching him play. Even a newbie like myself could tell that he just dominated the pitch. Kudos to you, Diego. I’m going to try to watch you with Atletico Madrid, or with whatever team picks you up, soon.

Secondly — Viva España! One of the nice things about this World Cup final was that neither Spain nor Netherlands had won before. I was rooting for the Oranjje (or however you spell it in Dutch), largely because of Wesley Sneijder. See, I’m an American football fan, and my favorite footballers were the ones who played futbòl like it was, well, football. Sneijder played like a badass. And he looks like a miniature Freddie Ljungberg. Gotta respect that.

Thirdly — Sounders. Watching MLS after watching the World Cup is so disappointing. So many missed passes and missed opportunities for goals at Sunday’s game. I was there with a friend. It was rough. They tied. Again. And they played well enough to win. At one point Zakuani was one-on-one with a defender, and did not take a shot on goal. So frustrating. But keeper Kasey Keller is awesome, and one of his saves was so amazing that the entire stadium chanted his name in unison.

Fourthly — Cliff Lee is no longer a Mariner. OK, I totally saw that one coming. We got Rangers 1B prospect Justin Smoak and some minor leaguers in the deal, including one guy who pleaded no-contest to forced sex and unlawful imprisonment of a woman. Why he is still in the Mariners minor leagues, I don’t know. Honestly, they need to release him right away. Domestic violence has no place in sports.

Anyway.

I hope that the Lee trade ends up being like the big trade which sent The Big Unit to the Astros and netted us Halama, Carlos Guillen and Freddy Garcia. That was a good trade. Smoak is very good, has a great name for baseball (I can’t wait to hear what Niehaus comes up with), and provides some much-needed power to our lineup. But I will miss seeing Lee in a Mariners uniform. And, as my friend Loren pointed out, the Mariners threw away a perfect opportunity to build a team around a core of two phenomenal pitchers — Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. True, they *could* win the Cliff Lee sweepstakes after his contract is up this season and sign him. But will they really? And can they afford him? Had the Mariners locked him up, we would have kept our killer 1-2 knockout punch and built a team around that. One of these days the Mariners Front Office has to face the music — fans are tired, dead tired, of “rebuilding.” We haven’t made the playoffs for almost 10 years. That’s a long time. The Mariners better get off their butts and start building fans a team they can actually rally around before fans lose interest and start following the boys in green (Sounders) across the street. At least the Sounders Front Office will refund fans their tickets for a poor performance against the LA Galaxy earlier this season. How many poor performances does the Mariners Front Office expect us to put up with?

Lastly — I’m going to try really hard to update this a couple times a week. Honest. But Landon’s amazing goal inspired me to learn how to play soccer. And I’m learning how to rock climb. And I’m going to climb Mt. St. Helens. So this is going to be a busy summer for yours truly. It will be fun — and sometimes, fun is all you need.

OK. The Premier League needs to start soon. I’m going through Clint Dempsey withdrawal.

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Filed under Baseball, Mariners, Soccer, World Cup