Wherever I Wind Up

I have recently finished reading, Mets starting pitcher, R.A. Dickey’s memoir. What a great read it was and during my college years I was not known to be a reader. Maybe it’s different when you choose to read up on subjects that interest yourself, rather than being forced to read material of a professor’s choosing. If you’re not a baseball fan this book is still for you. If you’re not a Mets fan this book is still for you. If you think that you have struggled in life this book is for you. If you want to know what adversity truly is and a way for you to handle it is, well then this book is for you too.

R.A. Dickey, born Robert Allen Dickey, is not an overnight success story. He’s not even close. He comes clean about several “demons” he has faced in his life. If you are at all familiar with this book, R.A. Dickey, or heard about his tribulations, you know that R.A. Dickey was molested by a 13-year-old babysitter and a 17-year-old male. He held that secret in for decades before telling anyone. This has nothing to do with baseball and everything to do with life and the inhumane feelings a young boy felt. He was robbed of his innocence. He grew up in a home where his parents were separated and his mother battled alcohol problems. He cheated on his wife and as an adult he had thoughts of suicide because of how he deeply felt like a failure. He one day he tried to swim across the Missouri River. Half way through his swim he thought he wasn’t going to make it and drown right there. He went under and bounced off the ground before paddling his way to the side. It was at this moment R.A. Dickey felt like he was reborn, like he had just been baptized, ready to start anew. On the mound today R.A. Dickey doesn’t appear to have battled any of this, but he battled so much more.

R.A. Dickey was a star athlete in basketball, baseball, and football. He played point guard and quarterback in high school. He was probably a better pitcher than anything else and that’s what he pursued. He attended the University of Tennessee and majored in english. He was a student there the same time that Todd Helton and Peyton Manning attended. Those two have been household names for over a decade. R.A. Dickey is barely a household name now, but it almost seems like he just broke on the scene. He was drafted in 1996 by the Texas Rangers. He received an offer for $810,000 before the team and Dr. Andrews found out that he didn’t have a UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament). Then rescinded their offer and later offered him a measly $75,000. Remember Dickey was one of the top prospects coming into the draft. He was drafted in 1996 and didn’t make an MLB appearance until 2001. His first start was record-breaking, only in the way that you don’t want to be remembered for. He had allowed 6 long balls in just three innings. Dickey referred to himself as a four-A pitcher, meaning he was too good for Triple-A but not good enough for the Majors. He was starting to rack up records in the minor leagues which isn’t a good thing. It meant that he had spent too much time there.

I don’t want to give too much of the book away, but it was a great read. It is inspiring to know that someone who was thought to be a phenom and then a reject could persevere. He overcame great hardships as a young boy. He found God and his way into the Majors. He fought persistently to realize his dream. Dickey’s story is inspiring to anybody that has doubts about achieving their dreams. His long journey finally came to fruition at an age in baseball, particularly for pitchers, where it’s just about time to hang it up. Fortunately for Dickey, his knuckleball, will add years of life to his career and let him enjoy the moments he dreamed of his whole life.

The First Quarter Awards

The first quarter of the MLB season is in the books. Baseball is similar to a basketball game in which it’s a season of slumps and successes. Many columnists and sportswriters like to give out mid-season awards during the All-Star break. I would like to hand out awards for the roughly the first 25% of the season and would like to continue this every quarter. In doing this it would help in seeing who should win these awards at the end of the year. Some may agree, some may disagree, others may have other candidates they thought should have been selected. I’ll do awards for the American League and National League and then for MLB as a whole.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

MVP

1. Josh Hamilton- .389 AVG 18 HR 47 RBI 33 R 17 BB .442 OBP .785 SLG 1.227 OPS

Josh Hamilton is easily the first quarter MVP of the American League. He leads the league in all the triple crown categories right now and it’s not even close. He also leads the league in slugging and OPS. He’s a close second in on-base percentage. He’s also leading his team to the second best record in the league just a game behind the Baltimore Orioles.

2. Justin Verlander- 5W 1L 2.14 ERA 68 SO 0.80 WHIP 67.1 IP 14 BB

Justin Verlander is the reigning AL MVP. He has certainly earned the respect of being considered for it again. He is one of the best pitchers in the game over the past few years and is definitely showing his dominance again this year. He leads the league in earned run average, strikeouts, innings pitched, and WHIP. He is pretty much picking up where he left off last year. He almost threw his third no-hitter earlier this week. He has the kind of stuff that enables him the opportunity to throw a no-hitter.

3. Adam Jones- .308 AVG 14 HR 29 RBI 32 R 9 BB .353 OBP .610 SLG .964 OPS

Adam Jones is the best player on the best team through the first quarter of the season. He deserves to be mentioned in the MVP conversation at least this far into the season. The Orioles were only and afterthought playing in a division that has powerhouses like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. The Blue Jays have even shown some promise. The Baltimore Orioles finished last in their division last year and have turned it around right now. Adam Jones is a big reason for their success. I think he deserves credit.

CY YOUNG

1. Justin Verlander- 5W 1L 2.14 ERA 68 SO 0.80 WHIP 67.1 IP 14 BB

As mentioned before, Verlander is simply a beast. Lowest ERA, most punch outs, lowest WHIP, most innings pitched. The more I look at Verlander’s work, the more I am in awe. He is the best pitcher in the league. Need I say more?

2. Jake Peavy- 5W 1L 2.39 ERA 55 SO 0.91 WHIP 64.0 IP 11 BB

Jake Peavy is having a bounce back season so far after battling injuries for the past few seasons. This is the pitcher the White Sox hoped to have acquired in 2010. He is pitching like the Jake Peavy of old on the Sand Diego Padres. He’s third in the league in ERA, second in WHIP, and has one of the lowest walk totals for a starting pitcher. He’s also shown he can go the distance and has thrown 2 complete games, one being a shutout.

3. Yu Darvish- 6W 1L 2.60 ERA 58 SO 1.33 WHIP 52.0 IP 26 BB

Yu Darvish had a lot of expectations coming into the season. He was paid handsomely to come in and be the ace of a staff who had just lost their ace to free agency. He is essentially a rookie in this league and has shown that he can hang with them so far. He does allow plenty of walks, but his ERA shows that he can manage baserunners. He has the fourth best ERA, is tops in the league in wins, and fifth in strikeouts. He is also a candidate to win rookie of the year. Welcome to the league Yu.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

Buck Showalter

Who else could it be? This team was written off before the season started. How could the Orioles compete with the talent that they are surrounded by in their division. Better than the Yankees? The Red Sox? The Rays? The Blue Jays? Yea. Believe it. Buck Showalter has gotten the most out of his roster who doesn’t seem like they could compete within their division. The Baltimore Orioles 27-15 record is best in the league. Yea, those Baltimore Orioles. Buck Showalter has the best record in the league in arguably the best division in baseball.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish is having a great rookie season thus far. He’s shown the ability to pitch and pitch well especially in a great hitters park. He is one of the best pitchers in the league right now and is doing so in his first season in the majors.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

MVP

1. Matt Kemp- .359 AVG 12 HR 28 RBI 29 R 20 BB .446 OBP .726 SLG 1.173 OPS

Matt Kemp to me is the best player on the planet. He’s a five-tool guy. He is currently on the 15-day DL and still has some of the best numbers in the national league. He has led his team to the best record in the majors at 28-13. The Dodgers don’t have much talent after Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp in the starting lineup, but the two are one of the best combos around the majors. Many believe Matt Kemp deserved MVP last year and I think he’s going to put together a campaign that cannot be denied this season.

2. David Wright- .412 AVG 4 HR 24 RBI 29 R 28 BB .513 OBP .626 SLG 1.138 OPS

David Wright is having a phenomenal year. Ok, maybe I’m biased because I’m a Mets fan, but it’s not like I put him at number 1. He’s batting .412 and is on base slightly over 50% of the time. He’s also doing this with little protection in the lineup. His walks are up and his strikeouts are down. His home run totals are not as high as one would expect, but I’ll take .412 with 4 bombs any day at this point in the season. Nobody expects the Mets to compete this year, nobody expects Wright to continue to hit .400, but this year, thus far has surprised a lot of people.

3. Carlos Beltran- .291 AVG 13 HR 33 RBI 28 R 22 BB .399 OBP .619 SLG 1.018 OPS

No Pujols, no problem. Carlos Beltran has plugged himself into this Cardinals lineup and they continue to head the NL Central division. Carlos Beltran looks like the Beltran of old. Give the guy credit he is having MVP like first quarter. He leads the league in homers and is second in runs batted in. Maybe some pitchers in the league deserve a candidacy, but I think it’s way more impressive if you dominate an AL lineup than a NL lineup. No NL lineup is that scary right now and the lack of DH doesn’t help either.

CY YOUNG

1. Brandon Beachy- 5W 1L 1.33 ERA 39 SO 0.89 WHIP 54.0 IP 14 BB

Beachy is having a great first quarter. He leads the majors in ERA. He is fourth in the league in WHIP. He is leading his team to the best record in the NL East which is the best division in the NL. He doesn’t have the strikeout power that many would be in awe of, but he doesn’t allow many walks and that ERA is just downright silly.

2. Clayton Kershaw- 4W 1L 1.90ERA 51 SO 0.88 WHIP 61.2 IP 12 BB

Clayton Kershaw is last season’s Cy Young award winner and my pick to win it at the end of this season. Dodgers have the best hitter and best pitcher in the league. Kershaw is the ace of the best team in baseball and his number prove it. He owns the third lowest ERA in the majors and the third best WHIP. He’s top 10 in punch outs and second in innings pitched. Kershaw could be the Cy Young at the end of the season.

3. Stephen Strasburg- 4W 1L 2.21 ERA 64 SO 1.02 WHIP 53.0 IP 13 BB

Strasburg is one of the best young pitchers in the game and definitely fun to watch. He is a power pitcher with control. He leads the league in strikeouts and is top 10 in ERA. He might be the horse that many staffs would like to have because of prior injuries, but his stuff is electric. He is the ace of a staff that might be the best in the NL. Strasburg when healthy is a phenom that is a treat to watch.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

Terry Collins

I’m probably being biased here, but they own the fifth best record in the league. Most thought that they would own the fifth best record in the NL East. Collins does more with a roster that is filled with question marks than any other manager not named Buck Showalter. He utilizes his 25-man roster and has had some injuries that haven’t really slowed the team down. His only pitfall is bullpen management, but he doesn’t have much to work with there either.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Wade Miley- 5W 1L 2.14 ERA 30 SO 1.19 WHIP 46.1 IP 14 BB

Miley has really shown that he can pitch. He is arguably the best rookie pitcher in the league right now. Through the first quarter of the year he has been strong, even though most rookie pitchers tend to slow down in the second half. Right now Miley is a big contributor to his team with 5 wins and a low 2 ERA. I know pitchers don’t play as much as batters, but he is an asset to his team. Two pitchers could take home ROTY honors this season.

No Mo’ Rivera

Last night before game time, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was shagging fly balls in the outfield like he has been doing for his entire career. He does it to keep in shape, the 42-year-old closer says. Last night however shagging fly balls seemed to be detrimental to his health instead of keeping him healthy. He fell on the warning track in Kaufman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, and grabbed his leg in pain. Much like Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert did last weekend except those two are in their early 20’s no their early 40’s. Rivera went in for an MRI last night which revealed a torn ACL. A huge blow was taken to the Yankee bullpen whom had Rivera cemented in the closer spot for years and is arguably the greatest closer Major League Baseball has ever witnessed.

Rivera was interviewed earlier today with tears in his eyes. It isn’t known whether or not he will return this year or at all. I know that all Yankee fans are hoping for a smooth recovery as this is not the way they envisioned one of the greatest Yankees of all time to go out. I’m no Yankee fan, actually I’m quite the opposite, I’m a Mets fan. That being said though, I’m not your typical Mets fan who hates the Yankees. I don’t boo Jeter when he steps to the plate against the Mets. Jeter is too great a player and person for me to be disrespectful in that aspect. I won’t say he “Jeter Sucks!!!”, because quite frankly that’s far from the truth. As for Mariano Rivera, there is no denying that he is probably the greatest closer to ever record a save. His postseason resume speaks volumes of his work and his adjusted ERA over the last 100 years with at least 1000 inning pitched ranks 1st all-time. The two pitchers he is ahead are Pedro Martinez and Walter Johnson, not too shabby of company.

SO what does this mean for the Yankees? Joe Girardi said that he’s leaning towards Robertson taking over Rivera’s role and using Soriano as the setup man, but he said he’ll have to sleep on it. Soriano has some closing experience and Robertson does not. Robertson has been one of the better bullpen arms in the past 2 years and probably deserves that role, but I don’t think it would be wise to rush him into it. Plus the Yankees paid Soriano $35 million so they might as well get some good use out of him. After that the Yankees bullpen seems to be wearing thin because they also lost Joba Chamberlain earlier in the year. The Yankee pitching rotation besides C.C. Sabathia has been all but consistent. Ivan Nova is probably their second best pitcher, but he’s young and like all young players can be inconsistent. Michael Pineda was traded for catching prospect Jesus Montero to help bolster the rotation, but is out for the season with an injury. If you don’t think the Yankees rotation is thin, the Yankees signed Andy Pettitte who hasn’t pitched in two years to help them. That right there is a sign that they need some rotation help and who knows how he will perform when he comes back. The Yankees are struggling right now as far as Yankee standards go and the loss of Mariano Rivera doesn’t help.

If you are a baseball fan, no matter what team you root for, you want to see Mariano Rivera go out on his own terms. Not due to injury, especially not one that wasn’t sustained during an actual game. I get the sense from seeing Mo speak that he might be done. He has had a great career no doubt, but I envisioned him leaving on his own two feet. He deserves that one last standing ovation, standing on the pitcher’s mound, dawning a Yankee uniform. Mo is 42-years-old and a speedy recovery and rehabilitation are not likely although, if he wants to make a return I’m sure he will work as hard as he can to make it back and throw one last cutter like nobody else has. Whatever happens I’m glad I got to see him pitch and I hope we all get to see him on the mound one last time before he calls it a career, a Hall of Fame one at that.

Roger Goodell Lays Down the Axe

Yesterday Roger Goodell handed out player suspensions for their involvement in the “Bountygate” scandal. Goodell previously suspended the coaching staff and management of the New Orleans Saints for their institution of a bounty program on their football team. After further investigation Goodell had to bring the hammer down on the players involved. The punishment that followed would hopefully guarantee that this would never happen again in the National Football League. Here’s how player punishment went:

Jonathan Vilma suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season.

Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, out for the first 8 games of the 2012 season.

Will Smith, who missed the first 2 games last year due to injury, suspended for 4 games.

Scott Fujita, currently on the Cleveland Browns, out for 3 games.

Many suspected that suspensions would be given out. I don’t think anybody thought they would be this harsh. Some may have even thought there would be more players suspended. The report stated that their were up to 27 players involved in the bounty program. Looks like 23 of them got off the hook.

Today Jonathan Vilma sounded like he would appeal the suspension, but I’m not sure that will do him any good. The thing that irks me the most about Vilma’s situation is that he found out about his suspension the same way I found out he was suspended; by watching T.V. I even said to my friend yesterday, I wonder how they found out about their suspensions. Hope they got a phone call. Roger Goodell could have at least had the decency to give them a proper phone call. Roger, come on man you’re better than that.

Yesterday Stephen A. Smith of ESPN New York said that he didn’t like that Goodell suspended linebacker Jonathan Vilma for an entire year. The same penalty that his coach had been previously given for his involvement with the scandal. His point was that Sean Peyton had many more years of coaching left in him and that Jonathan Vilma had only a few years left to play. Football players have a much shorter shelf life than their brain trusts. To that extent I agree, but then again these were players that were trying to shorten the shelf life of other players. Nothing good was to come out of this. The message sent by Goodell should be clear though. This shall never happen again or else.

Goodell did what he had to do to protect his players. The NFL is in the middle of former players wanting to file lawsuits against the NFL because of what concussions, head trauma, and other injuries have done to them physically and mentally. Dave Duerson committed suicide last year in February. One month ago a former Atlanta Falcons star of the 70s, Ray Easterling, committed suicide. Former San Diego Chargers linebacker and USC great, Junior Seau committed suicide yesterday in his home in San Diego.

Goodell needs to protect his players in every which way. Football is a rough and physical sport no doubt, but Goodell has taken steps to reduce the physical damages that players endure. Give Goodell credit. As a fan, at first, I did not like the rule changes. Quarterbacks already have reputations as being prima donnas in a sense and the new rules protecting them made it seem all the more true. Penalizing defensive players for making a hit on an opposing player seemed absurd to me. This is why offensive numbers have skyrocketed and I didn’t like it. As a human being, I think that these changes are for the betterment of the game and for player safety. If you love the game of football you have to love the changes to protect the players, the people we enjoy watching on Sundays, the people whose jerseys we buy and wear proudly. On the field we think they are invincible. Off the field they are no different than you or I.

Hearing about all these things about football players years after they play the game will also discourage younger kids from wanting to play the game of football. Most professional athletes are talented in multiple sports. They usually have their choice of baseball, basketball, or football. Who would want to play a sport in which by the time your 40 you will have a great chance of suffering severe depression, head trauma, or other injuries. Most wold wind up picking a much safer sport. The way the league was heading with all the concussions and lawsuits being filed, the NFL has a real chance of being shut down. No NFL fan would want to see that I can assure you. These changes are what is needed to prolong to life of the NFL as well as ensure the health of their current, former, and future players. Roger Goodell is doing what is best for the NFL. You will soon realize it.

Amareisreal…Dumb

Monday night the Knicks were bested by the Miami Heat for the second straight game.  This loss wasn’t as bad as the blowout that took place in game 1 or was it?  After the game the Knicks star forward punched a fire extinguisher enclosure in which the glass lacerated his hand.  Paramedics went into the locker room and worked on Amare.  He later went to twitter stating:“I am so mad at myself right now, I want to apologize to the fans and my team, not proud of my actions, headed home for a new start”.  Later posting another tweet saying:“We all have done thing out of anger that we regret. That makes us human. Bad timing on my part. Sorry guys. This to shall pass.”.  Well at least he’s sorry guys.

He punched glass.  I’m sure there were many other objects he could of punched, kicked, threw that were around him.  We all make mistakes yes, but most people’s lives aren’t under the microscope.  Today athletes are all over social media, in the news, and under constant watch of the public eye.  I don’t have a problem with him making a mistake and admitting to it.  We are all human.  My biggest gripe with what he did isn’t about the very dumb decision to punch a glass fixture.  I recall him saying at the beginning of the season that he was going to go hunting in South Beach.  When asked what was there to hunt in South Beach, Amare replied “We’re hunting D-Wade and LeBron.”  At the time I thought that that was a bold statement.  Especially since the Knicks were swept last year by Boston in the playoffs and Miami was coming off losing in the Finals.  I still believed and believe that the Heat were the superior team mainly because of their ability to play suffocating defense.  You can’t say you want to go hunting in South Beach and be the first to draw blood…on yourself.  Put aside all the statistics that the Knicks have a better record without Amare in the lineup because that is the regular season.   In the playoffs and they need Amare to produce if they want to win anything.  Melo can’t win it by himself.  Isn’t that the reason why he wanted to come to New York in the first place?  To team up with another superstar?  Doesn’t look like the Knicks plans are going as planned as of right now.

His status for game 3 is that he is a no go.  Going forward I’m not sure if he will be able to play.  He supposedly needed 15 stitches in his hand.  After the loss of rookie guard Iman Shumpert they can’t afford to be losing players, especially since they were being praised for their depth.  Well where’s the depth now?  It’s the playoffs and most teams generally play an 8-man rotation at most because you want your best players on the floor for as long as possible.  It’s do or die.  The Heat smell blood.