Monthly Archives: April 2009

AFTER LOSS TO CAPS, RANGERS ON BRINK OF ELIMINATION THANKS TO SEAN AVERY, JOHN TORTORELLA AND, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THE KING

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

      

The Rangers would have had trouble beating the Caps, even with a 3-1 lead in games, before Sean Avery lost his mind and then, John Tortorella lost his mind.  But once these two things happened (the former no surprise, the latter mind-boggling), the Rangers put themselves in a big hole.  It’s not the Knicks of the late ‘90s, who stupidly threw away a series to the Miami Heat by having half the team suspended over a look-at-me fight.  But, if they lose Game 7 in Washington (a more probable occurrence than not), that might be the comparison (right or wrong) that you will read about on Wednesday.

    

SEAN AVERY LOSES HIS MIND

     

You can’t be surprised that Sean Avery lost his mind at the end of the Rangers’ Game 4 victory which gave them a 3-1 lead.  Avery certainly has helped the Rangers in his second go-round in New York.  But he’s often a stupid penalty waiting to happen and he did it not once but twice while the Rangers desperately tried to hold on to a one-goal lead.  They succeeded despite two idiotic penalties by Avery.

    

So the Rangers got away with one and certainly, on balance, no matter what you think of Avery, he’s generally been a plus. 

      

JOHN TORTORELLA LOSES HIS MIND, PART I

     

So what would head coach John Tortorella do in the wake of Sean Avery’s lunacy?  He’d yell at him, right?  He’d fine him, right?  He’d say something like you have to take the bad with the good when it comes to Sean Avery, right?  Maybe he’d even take a little playing time away from him, you know, to make a point, right?

    

Well, not exactly.  Tortorella decided to make an example of Avery or show him who the boss is or treat him like he was a bad kid in high school and benched him for Game 5.  The Rangers, of course, came out flatter than a pancake and were non-competitive in a bad Game 5 loss.  Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

        

JOHN TORTORELLA LOSES HIS MIND, PART II

     

During the Game 5 road loss, which virtually nobody thought the Rangers could win (despite the fact that they had won Games 1 and 2 in Washington), Tortorella lost his mind again.  Apparently bothered by a fan, he squirted water on a fan and threw a water bottle into the crowd, allegedly hitting an innocent party.  He also picked up a stick and brandished it but did no further damage.  Unbeknownst to him, he had already done more than enough damage – to his own team.

    

Suspended for Game 6 by the NHL, Tortorella did put Avery back in the line-up.  But it was a different Sean Avery – a tentative one, a Sean Avery who clearly wanted to stay out of trouble.  He didn’t play as poorly as virtually all the NBC announcers said he did (for example, he made an excellent play to get the puck deep in Caps territory and made a great pass to Wayne Redden to set up the Rangers first (and only meaningful goal of the game, now tied at 1)), but he certainly didn’t play his “normal” game.

       

THE CIRCUS ATMOSPHERE

     

Those are Mike Milbury’s words over the way it’s been with the Rangers the last few days.  And, unfortunately, he’s right.  Tortorella didn’t know this would send his team for a loop?  Unbelievable.

    

Now, you can make the case that Toe Blake could have coached the Rangers the last two games and it wouldn’t have changed the outcomes.  And you would be right.  But to hurt your team two ways, as Tortorella did, is beyond the pale.

    

The reality is that, even up 2-0 with two road wins and 3-1, with three chances to win a fourth game, many people thought the Caps would win the series.  In fact, I’ve never seen a series (in any major sport) when the team down 3-1 was viewed as still having such a good chance to win the series.  Which leads us to …

       

HAS ANYBODY SEEN THE KING?

     

What’s happened to Henrik Lundqvist?  The only chance the Rangers had (and still have) of winning the Series was (is) for Henrik Lundqvist to play out of his mind.  It’s an Elias Sports Bureau question: When, if ever, has a goalie been pulled from consecutive playoff games?  Or, even better, when, if ever, has a great goalie been pulled from consecutive playoff games?

    

The Gold Glove that Lundqvist used the first four games of the Series has definitely left the building.  It was clear in the Game 6 debacle, which was really over at 3-1, not 5-1 (the Rangers scored two in the third to make it 5-3).  Clearly, after making some stunning glove saves (including two against superstar Alex Ovechkin) earlier in the series, the Caps didn’t give up and, in Game 6, they found a hole at Lundqvist’s glove side, high to the net.  Their first two goals were to that spot and, to add insult to injury, former Ranger Tom Poti (and whatever you think of him, he could always play good offense) started and finished a classic three-on-one to give the Caps a 3-1 lead and end the game.

    

The Rangers have only one chance to win Game 7.  And that’s for Henrik Lundqvist to play like HENRIK LUNDQVIST.  You know, THE KING.  

    

The Rangers have no chance in Game 7 if Lundqvist plays like he played in Games 5 and 6.  Frankly, even if he plays great, it will still be very hard for the Rangers to win.

    

We’ll see what happens.

          

P.S.  DON’T BLAME THE REFS

     

Yes, it was stupid of Paul Mara to knock Donald Brashear into the bench after Brashear nailed Blair Betts (the Rangers should have bided their time for a clean hit or hits later in the game).  Yes, the refs clearly should have given Brashear two plus two so the Rangers would have had a power play with the game tied at 1.  Brashear, a dirty player forever, should be suspended for the next game as he clearly had an intent to injure and he did injure Betts, who didn’t return.

    

You could argue that the phantom hook called on Brashear in the next period was a “give-back,” but by then the score was 3-1 Caps (not 1-1) and the game was, arguably, over.  Of course, the Rangers didn’t score and later, Brandon Dubinsky got two plus two (boarding and roughing) plus a 10-minute misconduct.  Preposterous given what Brashear had done in the first period, only to receive two minutes .  The Caps, of course, did score on their power play and then the game was really over.

    

But the refs’ inconsistencies didn’t beat the Rangers.  So don’t blame them.

       

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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YANKEE STADIUM A BANDBOX? THAT’S WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE.

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

         

Hard to believe, but the new Yankee Stadium, obstructed-view seats and all, is playing like a bandbox.  Homer after homer after homer, the balls are flying out of the new Stadium, even making the deflated “Death  Valley” (that’s the post-1975 Stadium) not so hard to reach anymore.

    

As the ahead-of-the-pack Lou Piniella predicted when his Cubs were in for two exhibition games right before the season started, there’s some kind of jet stream in right centerfield that will increase greatly the number of home runs that will be hit.  Coupled with the always-there (since 1923) short right-field porch, homers are leaving Yankee Stadium like there’s no tomorrow.  With TWENTY (yes, 20) homers in just four games, Yankee Stadium is already being compared to the Rangers ballpark in Arlington which, if nothing else, should make former Ranger A-Rod salivate as he does his rehab.

        

SO, WHAT’S A BASEBALL TEAM TO DO WITH A BILLION DOLLAR BANDBOX?

     

Well, that’s a great question.  The theory (blind hope?) is that, when the old Stadium is knocked down across the street, the winds and the jet stream will somehow change so that players can’t lunge and/or be fooled and/or hit the ball off the end of the bat and still hit the ball out of the park.  You can bet that, whatever the original date for knocking down the old Stadium was, it’s going to be moved up.  If that is really going to help, the Yankees want to tear down the old Stadium yesterday (even if fans like this writer think it should stand forever).

    

What about those open screens in right field behind the stands?  Well, presumably the Yankees are already experimenting with opening or closing them (part way or all the way) to see what effect, if any, they have on the jet stream.  Imagine a situation where the Yankees might try to keep them open when the Yankees are up and close them when the visitors come to the plate.  If it comes to that (and if there actually is some kind of effect on the jet stream), the league will have to step in and make sure it’s equal for both sides.

       

BUT IT MAY NOT BE JUST RIGHT FIELD

     

While you can point to a number of home runs as great evidence that balls that were not hit very well went out for homers, I think the best proof of the easiness of this ballpark was a double.  Did you see the Yankees 7-3 win over the Indians on Sunday, Apriln19th?  Cody Ransom came to bat in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and proceeded to break his bat in half and hit a high pop up (fly ball?) down the left-field line.  While everybody made a point of the fact that the ball was misplayed by Indians left-fielder Shin-Soo Choo, the real story was that Ransom, who certainly has some power, broke his bat in half and still hit the ball 310 feet down the left-field line.  Imagine if he had hit it solidly and didn’t break his bat in half.  That ball says more about the new Yankee Stadium than any home run that’s been hit to date.

       

So the Yankees have their work cut out for them on a number of levels.  What to do with Chien-Ming Wang?  Joba Chamberlain – starter or reliever?  Do they need another outfielder yesterday? 

       

But, most of all, they need to do something about the field that’s playing like a softball field.  We’ll see what they come up with in the not-too-distant future.

       

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

MIKE SCROGGINS WINS THIS SEASON’S LAST MAJOR (THE U.S. OPEN) AND SOME RANDOM BOWLING THOUGHTS

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

        

In the final bowling major of the 2008-09 season, the 66th U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone Carolier Lanes in central New Jersey, Mike Scroggins upset the favorite, #1 seed (and defending U.S. Open champion) Norm Duke.  In the stepladder finals (#5 plays #4, winner plays #3, winner plays #2, winner plays #1), there really isn’t much of an advantage to being the #1 seed (as opposed to the #2 seed).  Indeed, Scroggins ability to eke out a 200-199 win over Chris Barnes in the 2-3 match at least gave him some familiarity with the very tough lane conditions

       

Everyone seemed to think that this would be another notch in the Majors belt for Norm Duke, a bowling superstar if there is one in today’s sports landscape.  Duke gives all little guys (he’s about 140 lbs.) hope as he’s able to be more mentally tough and versatile than virtually every other bowler on tour.  It’s kind of like watching Greg Maddux pitch:  he’s just smarter than you are and he uses that intelligence and talent to beat you.

        

In the championship match, after Scroggins threw a strike and then missed the headpin while shooting a 1-3-6 spare, Duke, with a spare/strike in the first two frames, seemed destined for victory.  Commentator Randy Pedersen, usually insightful, lost his mind when he said “I promise you that 200 [Scroggins winning score the match before] will not win this game.  Won’t happen.”  I say lost his mind, but it wasn’t because I thought neither of these guys would shoot 200.  It was because the previous match was a struggle, with a final score of 200-199 and, frankly, you just didn’t know what was going to happen.

       

The U.S. Open pattern (how they oil the lanes), only used for this tournament, seems much tougher than the five patterns generally used on the PBA tour.  It’s hard to explain how difficult the normal five PBA patterns are – suffice it to say that you can subtract 30 pins or more from your “house” (the way lanes are generally oiled for regular league bowlers) average and the U.S. Open pattern is even tougher.  It’s one of the big problems that bowling faces:  Many people think that they can beat a pro bowler when they see these relatively low scores (on lane conditions they don’t understand) – except in very rare circumstances, they can’t.

        

In any event, right after Pedersen made his suspect prediction, Duke threw the “Big Four” split (4-6-7-10) and the crowd was set for a difficult, possibly low-scoring game.  Scroggins, maybe because of his familiarity with the lane conditions since he had bowled the previous game (Duke hadn’t), was able to throw a triple to take command through six frames.  But then Scroggins left his own unmakeable split in frame seven, the 4-6-10.

         

With Randy Pedersen swinging back and forth over who would win (from “Scroggins has a huge advantage since he bowled the prior match” to “it’s a coin flip” to “if it comes down to the 10th frame, Duke will handle the pressure better.”), Duke went through the nose again in the ninth frame, leaving the impossible 4-6-7 split, all but handing a major championship to Mike Scroggins. 

        

The final score was 191-173 and both bowlers struggled as much or more in the final as both bowlers had struggled in the semi-finals.  Duke, still the best bowler on tour in this writer’s opinion (although Wes Malott is Bowler of the Year with Duke’s loss) is now 7-7 in final matches when he’s been the #1 seed. 

    

Mike Scroggins wins his second major, gets $100,000 for the win and, according to him, the most important prize of all – a three-year exemption on the PBA tour.

       

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS ON BOWLING:

        

  1. I was able to go down to Carolier Lanes Saturday night where they have the top 24 bowlers whittled down to the final five for the U.S. Open TV show.  It’s kind of like being at all the Elite Eight games in the NCAA tournament before the Final Four.  It was very exciting and what you see is that the greatest bowlers in the world can and do struggle through an eight-game block on a very tough (and, eventually, very dry) lane condition.  I would recommend this to any bowling fan or anybody trying to learn how to deal with these patterns.  There’s guaranteed drama with good and bad results for the participants.
  2. This past Saturday, the 5-6 game was between Brad Angelo and two-time Bowler of the Year (1989-90) Amleto Monacelli.  Monacelli hasn’t bowled that much in the last few years and was trailing Angelo for the final TV spot.  But he bowled out of his mind and shot 278 (11 strikes and one eight in the eighth frame, I believe) to make the show.  He would lose in the first TV match to Richie Wolfe.
  3. The announcers on the show:  Randy Pedersen is generally pretty good but it’s a hard balance between educating the fan who knows little or nothing about bowling and educating the fan who takes bowling seriously (especially these dedicated high school bowlers, the fastest growing varsity sport in the country).  Efforts should be made for both and fans should be told (if you’re talking about cover stock or where to put a pin or even ball changes, that’s for the advanced bowler).  “Know the Wood” is great, but I’d like to know, on the various patterns, how much oil is where and what does that mean for an average good bowler v. a pro bowler.  I’m not a Rob Stone “Hambone” guy, but he does bring enthusiasm.  It would be nice if he took up bowling, was taught by Randy and then the new bowlers watching (or the people who haven’t tried it yet) could get a 90-second or so “lesson” each week.  That might actually bring some new bowlers to the local lanes.  

  4.  No more commercials during actual play.  What a disaster that was this season.  Inexplicably, the telecast would leave live play to show a commercial (once a bowler had five or so in a row to start the game and we missed his next shot – ridiculous).  Never do this.  In the “old days,” sometimes they would leave a telecast when a bowler was shut out before the tenth frame (or in the tenth) but, other than that, live play should never be left during a telecast.  Just bizarre.       

MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL – CAN POOR PEOPLE BOWL ANYMORE?

      

The answer, in the New York City-area that I live in, seems to be a resounding NO.  Once upon a time, when we were all broke and living in a so-so neighborhood in upper Manhattan, even poor people could bowl.  You didn’t need much money and, especially when it was raining, the lanes were packed.  Everybody where I grew up could bowl a little.  And, of course, some of us took it more seriously.

    

Today, it’s a different story.  I certainly understand the “glitter” bowling or “disco” bowling or the many ways to appeal to kids who really don’t take bowling seriously.  I get the glow-in-the-dark stuff and the music videos above lanes seven and eight and the inability to see your spot and bumpers, etc., etc., etc.

    

But the cost of these things is prohibitive.  A family of four now in an area where one game can cost seven, eight or even nine dollars (seriously) per person is just absurd.  Rental shoes can cost five bucks (plus, believe it or not, tax).  If you bowl just two games plus shoes with a family of four, that can cost you north of $80.  And please pay up front (you can’t pay after you bowl).

    

Realistically, how many new people are you going to get to take up the game seriously?  How many poor people are going to bowl in this economy at these prices?  Answer:  very few.      

     

Now, in some instances, like if you bowl in a league, you can bowl “practice” games for half-price or so.  Or, you can get coupons from your local alley for one free game.  Or, last year you could buy frozen Banquet dinners and get free games of bowling.    

    

But understand that, if you price poor to lower middle-class people out of the bowling market, you’ve lost a huge segment of the population that made up the core of bowling participants in the post-World War II era.  An effort has to be made to get them back with more (and better) giveaways, with cheaper prices on off-hours and maybe, once a year, with an incredible “buy one get two free” games of bowling.  You need to bring people back into the lanes.  And if you can tie it into the increase in high school bowling participation, you might be able to increase both types of bowler – the serious ones and the I-just-want-to-have-fun ones.  And there’s nothing wrong with the latter.    

     

In today’s economy and today’s world (1,000 options for kids), bowling has to go out of its way to develop a new and younger fan base.  With the junior program at your local lanes and the high school program at your local high school (start one if there isn’t one), kids can and will become involved.  Here’s hoping an improved sport continues because it’s one of the greatest things to do when you’re a kid.  Even when it’s sunny outside.

    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

THE NEW YANKEE STADIUM – NO TRADITION AND NO BAT DAY

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

So they opened the new Yankee Stadium yesterday.  It’s big, it’s beautiful – but it’s not quite there.  Can you walk across the street and bring the history of the old Yankee Stadium?  Of course not.  Can you walk across the street and bring the ghosts of yesteryear (or even 10 years ago)?  Probably not.

    

But hey, they’ve got more urinals, a bigger Jumbotron and you can buy sushi!!!  If you can afford it.  Like Madison Square Garden before it, the Yankee crowd has become more of a corporate crowd.  It’s not as bad as the Garden has become, but only because you can fit three times as many people at the Stadium as at the Garden.  So, although they’ve priced out many people (and that’s before the absurd parking, program and food prices), it will give the façade (no pun intended) of being in the pre-1974 Stadium.  But no matter what they do, they can’t bring back the glory of the old Stadium (unless and until they win a few (not just one) World Series).

       

WHERE THE GREATS ONCE PLAYED

     

And don’t ever forget that, until now, you could take your kid, as your father took you, as his father took him, to the real Yankee Stadium and say the following: “Son, see out there in rightfield, that’s where Babe Ruth once played.”  Or, “Son, see out there in centerfield, that’s where Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle once roamed.”  Or, “Son, see over there at first base, that’s where Lou Gehrig used to stand.”

    

So, you have a young kid now or you’ll have one born in the next few years and in two or five or ten or fifteen years from now you will take your child to the new Yankee Stadium and you will say, “Son [or Daughter], you know about the history of the Yankees, about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle, you know all about them, right?  Well, they once played, they once played, they once played … across the street.”  Good grief.

      

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, BAT DAY?

         

As if to make matters worse, much has been made of the fact that there are many less “promotion” days this year, presumably because of the recession (depression?).  Well, with the list out now and still with a few promotion days where the promotion is “TBD” (to be determined), there’s no Bat Day.  No Bat Day?  This is Yankee Stadium?

    

But even Bat Day ain’t what it used to be.  Once upon a time, when, you know, kids actually USED wood bats, everybody would beg, borrow or steal to get into the old Yankee Stadium to get a bat.  Then they would go home, get the bat laminated and place it on their mantel over the fireplace to hang forever.  Right?  WRONG.  Back in the 1960s into the 70s, kids actually got a bat at Bat Day and took it home and played baseball with it.  You know, on the street, in the park, in the Little League.  I grew up in the Inwood section of upper Manhattan and went to Bat Day every year and don’t know anybody who “saved’ their bat.  Of course, none of us could really afford new bats.  That’s why we went to Bat Day.

    

Nowadays, of course, and, frankly, for the last 25 years or so, with the advent of aluminum bats (pathetic), hardly anybody uses their wood bats.  With the re-emergence of wood in some leagues, maybe kids (of Little League age) would actually take the bats and use them.  But, of course, there isn’t even a Bat Day to date this year.  Maybe somebody with a brain at Yankee Stadium can fix that.

         

DOES THE NEW YANKEE STADIUM REMIND OLD-TIMERS OF THE 1923-1973 YANKEE STADIUM?

         

You bet it does.  But, what does that really mean?  It’s kind of a phony feeling, frankly.  What are you going to tell your kids?  “Yeah, this is what it was like.”  What does that mean?  I don’t think the ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio and Mantle are coming across the street.  I’m not even sure that the ghosts of Martinez, O’Neill, Williams and Brosius are coming across the street.

    

And, as a life-long Yankee fan, I hope I’m wrong.

       

HOW ABOUT THOSE OBSTRUCTED SEATS?

        

Can you believe that, in the 21st Century, they can actually build a Stadium with obstructed seats?  Well, believe it, cause that’s what happened.  With the greatest architects and the greatest planners and the greatest contractors, they actually have hundreds (thousands?) of seats where you can’t see a lot of the field.  But, hey, they’re cheap, so maybe poor people can come to the Stadium.  Yeah, maybe they can actually watch the game – from somewhere else.  Unbelievable.

        

WHAT GOOD IS A BIGGER, BETTER JUMBOTRON IF THEY DON’T SHOW ALL THE REPLAYS? 

       

For years, big-time Yankee fans have complained that the Yankees would never show replays of plays that were bad for the Yankees — the great catch by an opponent, the pitch right down the middle that’s called against the Yankees, the bang-bang play that hurts the Yankees, the long home run by an opponent.  It’s one of the least enjoyable (and most aggravating) things about actually going to a game at Yankee Stadium.  So maybe, this year, the Yankees will decide to show replays for both sides so, you know, baseball fans can see the baseball play again.  It’s beautiful that you can see a bigger, clearer picture – but how valuable is it if the Yankees continue to censor what’s actually being shown to a captive audience?  We’ll see. 

         

WHO’S THROWING OUT THE FIRST BALL? 

              

It would be great if the Yankees could trot out, one final time, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra for the first ball on the real Opening Day.  Maybe Whitey can’t throw it and maybe Yogi can’t catch it anymore, but, hopefully, they can both be on the field if healthy enough.  Also, it would be great if Bob Sheppard (is he “retired” or not?) could at least announce, even from a distance, the starting line-ups, if nothing else.

    

Those two things would remind people of the glory days as much as (or more than) anything else.

 

SO, WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?

       

Well, it leaves us with an over-priced (tickets, parking, programs, food) stadium that purports to be just like the old Yankee Stadium.  Can the new one ever take the place of the old one?  Of course not.  Will it have a heart, a pulse, an excitement that equals that of the old Yankee Stadium?  Well, yeah, it will – when the Yankees unfurl another World Series banner or two.  And not before.

    

We’ll see how it goes.

            

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.