Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My least favorite Indians
This idea came from a conversation I had Sunday with my brother. He asked me if I had ever hated an Indian as much as I do Casey Blake.
"Hate" is an awfully strong word. But if you're a long time reader, you know I haven't been exactly fond of the player.
And that's an important point to make. As sports fans, we don't -- we can't -- dislike people we don't know. All we have to go on is play on the field, or a perceived lack of hustle, or whatever.
I told my brother I'm sure I've been as hard on other players as I am on Blake. He wasn't so sure. But here are a few players I have been mad at over the years, or at the very least, have been negative about.

Jim Thome: Some people are probably snickering now.
"How could you not like Jim Thome?"
He's an Indians' legend. He's a class guy. He's a likely hall of famer.
He also irritated the heck out of me in 2000.
Looking at his final stats (.269, 49 homers), it doesn't look so bad. But that season, all I remember is Thome swinging for the fences every at-bat. It wasn't just he wanted to hit a home run. It was he wanted to hit a 500-footer every time up.
Or at least that's how it appeared. Either way, after he hit a game-winning homer when a single would have won the game, I remember having a conversation with my father that went something like this:
Zach: Some game, huh?
Dad: What was he thinking about?
Some friends may remember me bitching out Thome after he'd hit a game-winning homer. I did it for comedic effect, but I had become convinced Thome was one-dimensional.
In truth, I wasn't all that upset when he signed with Philadelphia. Erik may remember that the day the deal with the Phillies was signed, I made a prediction:
They'll choke on that contract.
Again, this was never personal. But I am probably one of the only Indians' fans to think the team was better off not re-signing Thome.

Eric Plunk: The relief pitcher had some solid years setting up Jose Mesa. At least that's what the stats indicate. And yet, no matter the year, I always had a feeling of doom whenever he entered the game.
Despite having good stuff, Plunk seemed to fail in important situations. The best example I can give is when the Indians had their 100-win season in 1995. They lost only one extra-inning game all year: Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, when Seattle's Jay Buhner launched a Plunk pitch into the right field bleachers.
Plunk had ERAs under three four consecutive seasons for the Indians. After the 1996 season, the Tribe rewarded him with a big contract.
Plunk was never the same. He blew up in 1997, finishing with a 4.66 ERA (though in fairness, he could have been the stopper in last year's bullpen). He was traded to the Brewers the next year.
Despite his great numbers, I don't think the Indians have had a pitcher in my lifetime who I feared the manager giving the ball to more.

John McDonald: He was Casey Blake before Casey Blake was cool. Well, not quite. But the Indians announcers always talked about how solid he was, how the Indians were right not to deal him before 2004 because "he's an Indian," and how "Johnny Mac" was a keeper.
Never bought it.
All I saw was a reserve player who couldn't hit and was abover average defensively.
I love defensive specialists. My favorite Reds player is Juan Castro. But I have seen Juan Castro play, and John McDonald play, and John McDonald is no Juan Castro.
Reports this winter said the Indians were trying to reaquire McDonald. Yeah, because weak-hitting infielders are so hard t find these days.

Honorable Mentions
Andre Thornton- This is more for my grandmother, who complained all the time to her seven-year old son all the time that Thornton was a stiff. How can someone not love Andre Thornton? My grandmother was ahead of her time.

Jim Poole- Why did Mike Hargrove like him so much?

Jay Bell- I agreed with Hank Peters. I was so mad Bell was on the 1988 all-star ballot I actually wrote in Ron Washington's name. The Indians traded him for Felix Fermin. Not sorry then; not sorry now.

Matt Underwood- Do announcers count?


Monday, March 26, 2007

Time after time
Between work and, well, work, I haven't found much time for posts lately. But opening day is just six days away, and I really have no idea how the Indians will do this season.
Well, scratch that. I have an idea about how they will do, and it's not good.
I just don't see how a lineup with Trot Nixon, Casey Blake, David Delucci and Jason Michaels is supposed to scare pitchers.
I still don't think the defense will be very good, particularly with Victor Martinez catching and Jhonny Peralta at shortstop.
And the bullpen is still a bit disorganized, to say the least.
But most of all, I worry about Eric Wedge, and the now annual sub-.500 April. In this division, a bad April could be cause to turn out the lights.
If the Indians falter again, what will Wedge say? It's not a process anymore; it's not rebuilding. Good swings won't appease the fans if the offense starts cold.
Time is no longer promised to Eric Wedge.
If the Indians start slow, the second hand unwinds.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Top Wrestlemania moments
Editor's Note: WWE will be holding Wrestlemania 23 a week from Sunday in Detroit. Some very good friends of mine will be there, but I won't.
Nevertheless, I will watch on PPV. To get ready for it, I will do a complete review of Wrestlemania III this week.
My friend Phil Prusa has his top Mania moments. I will check in with my thoughts as we go along.

I'm looking at each Wrestlemania and picking one match from each one - this isn't the BEST match, but rather a match that stood out for me.

Tito Santana vs The Executioner
Where it all started. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the very first Wrestlemania match ever.
Result: Tito won via figure four leglock
Zach's thought:Though historic, I usually skip the first match. I'm pretty sure that's the only WM match Jobber Santana won at WM. My pick? Wendi Richter v. Lelani Kai. The Rock and Wrestling Connection was what made the show as much as anything.

Mr. T vs Roddy Piper (Boxing Match)
Let's see, take two wrestlers (using that term loosely with Mr. T) and put them in a worked boxing match. Sheer disaster and utterly boring.
Result: Mr. T won via DQ in Round 4 - Piper used an illegal wrestling hold (bodyslam)
Zach's thought: Boring indeed. I'll take Tito and JYD v. the Funks. Better match, plus a JYD appearance; one of the biggest stars ever.

Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant (WWF Championship Match)
You are not a true wrestling fan if Hogan slamming Andre isn't a sight you've seen about 500 times. I still can't get over how the Detroit crowd damn near erupted when it happened.
Result: Hogan won via pinfall to retain the WWF Title.
Zach's thought: Can't argue. Perhaps the biggest moment in WWF history.

The British Bulldogs & Koko B Ware vs The Islanders & Bobby Heenan
Good: You get to see Bobby wrestle. Better, he's in full force wearing a protective dog outfit. Best, he actually scores the winning pinfall!
Result: The Islanders & Bobby Heenan won via pinfall (Heenan pinned Koko)
Zach's thought: This was no more or less boring than the show itself, which maybe is still going on for all I know. I choose Ted Dibiase v. Hacksaw Jim Duggan as my match, because Ted was so good at that time he could make a three-minute match pretty good.

Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage (WWF Championship Match)
Zach says this is one of (if not the outright best) Hogan's best matches ever. Hard to disagree. Killer commentary by Jesse Ventura as well.
Result; Hogan won via pinfall to win the WWF Title.
Zach's thought: Agreed. Savage was just so great. Too bad he's blacklisted by WWE.

Demolition vs The Colossal Connection (WWF Tag Team Title Match)
Either this or an awesome Hogan/Ultimate Warrior main event, but seeing Andre compete in his last ever WWF pay per view sways my vote. He only appeared in a few more events (non wrestling) before his passing in 1993.
Demolition won via pinfall to win the WWF Tag Team Titles (Ax pinned Haku)
Zach's thought: I'd prefer to forget that match. How about Curt Hennig's loss to Brutus Beefcake, which may have ended any chance of Hennig becoming a main eventer in the WWF.

Ultimate Warrior vs Randy Savage (Retirement Match)
No doubt the greatest match you'll every see out of the Warrior. This match was planned down to the very last detail and Savage with Sherri made it work. Plus who could forget Randy and Elizabeth getting back together? (Prompting my favorite Bobby Heenan quote when he saw a woman in the stands crying, "Maybe her shoes are too tight!"
Result: Ultimate Warrior wins via pinfall
Zach's thought: Great match, great storyline. Agreed.

Randy Savage vs Ric Flair (WWF Championship Match)
I watched this match a few weeks ago and it is still the best match I have ever seen. Added bonus are the post match interviews with Mr. Perfect complaining Savage cheated, yet failed to mention how he bashed a chair into Randy's leg. True classic.
Result: Savage won via pinfall to win the WWF Title
Zach's thought: The best WM match I had ever seen, until Angle took on Michaels in WM21.

Hulk Hogan vs Yokozuna (WWF Championship Match)
Yokozuna had just beat Bret Hart for the WWF Title when Hogan comes out of nowhere to help Hart up to his feet. Mr. Fuji, apparently not realizing that his man had wrestled 20 minutes, demanded Hogan challenge Yoko in an impromptu match RIGHT DAMN NOW! Even worse? Hogan had NO connection in the storylines - he just popped out of nowhere for this.
Result: Hogan won via pinfall to win the WWF Title
Zach's thought: I remember this for all the wrong reasons. I miss the days when people just pretended this show didn't exist. Still, I prefer to remember the only WM appearance of the Steiner Brothers, who beat the Headshrinkers.

Bret Hart vs Owen Hart
No gimmicks, no titles, no reason to take away from these two wizards who put on a hell of an opening match. The rest of the show is almost a letdown save for a great HBK/Razor match.
Result: Owen won via pinfall
Zach's Thought: Best. Opener. Ever.

Lawrence Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow
Yes...THAT Lawrence Taylor, who apparently really needed the big payday. All things considered, while this won't ever be a classic, the match wasn't a train wreck either.
Result: Taylor won via pinfall
Zach's thought: Poor Bam Bam. This is the only thing I do remember from this show, actually.

Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels (WWF Championship Match - Iron Man Match)
An incredible match (that quite frankly, went well over the heads of most WWF fans back in that day) and ended in an 0-0 fall tie that HBK won in a sudden death overtime. Also of note is this is the only Title match on the whole card (excluding the Free for All event that took place prior to the PPV).
Result: Michaels won via pinfall to win the WWF Title
Zach's thought: There are two WM's I have never seen. This is one of them.

Steve Austin vs Bret Hart (Submission Match)
Booked to perfection, this bloody war made good guy Hart a vicious heel and Stone Cold the next big thing in wrestling. Good thing too, because the rest of this card is a disaster.
Result: Bret won via the Sharpshooter (Austin passed out)
Zach's thought: This is the other.

The Undertaker vs Kane
Why this match? It's simple. This match started a three year Wrestlemania tradition that saw Kane tombstone Pete Rose (yes...THAT Pete Rose).
Result: Undertaker won via pinfall
Zach's thought: Undertaker, for much of his career, was a synonym for boring. I remember Mike Tyson's involvement that put Austin over the top in his match against Michaels.

Butterbean vs Bart Gunn (Brawl for All Finals)
Hmmm..Legit boxer who could kill you if he pleased or Bart Gunn? In a worked fight, I'd take Gunn. However, this was a real fight that lasted all of 35 seconds (highlighted by Bart's head snapping like a twig on Butterbean's final punch). One final highlight: This was Gorilla Monsoon's final WrestleMania appearance.
Result: Butterbean won via knocking Bart Gunn into a different time zone
Zach's thought: Just about the only thing worth watching from this glorified, 3-hour RAW.

The Rock vs Big Show vs Mic Foley vs Triple H (WWF Championship Match -- Fatal 4-Way Match)
Zach will kill me for putting it here, but it marked the first time a heel walked out of Wrestlemania as the WWF Champion.
Result: Eliminations were as follows:
1. Big Show eliminated by The Rock (pinfall)
2. Foley eliminated by Triple H (pinfall)
3. The Rock eliminated by Triple H (pinfall) - Triple H retains the WWF Title
Zach's thought: This match just fell apart from overbooking. They should have just done Rock v. HHH and been done with it. And for all the talk about a heel walking out at Mania on top, they've only done it once since, during Austin's heel turn in Houston, which the fans still popped for. Still, I do remember, with disappointment, the main event.

Gimmick Battle Royal (I'm not listing everyone)
Old school theme music! Bobby Heenan back announcing! This trip down memory lane was well done and a real treat for us who suffered through some of those gimmicks back in the day
Result: The Iron Sheik won by eliminating Hillbilly Jim
Zach's thought: Benoit and Angle put on a clinic; that's what I remember. Probably the best PPV WWF has ever put on.

The Rock vs Hulk Hogan
Incredible match that saw Hogan "Hulk up" and the Rock deliver as the goods as well. I remember going into this match thinking it could bomb. It wound up being the best match of the night, with most people leaving the bar we saw it at once the match ended.
Result: The Rock won via pinfall
Zach's thought: I remember HHH boring the people in the final match against Jericho.

The Rock vs Steve Austin
It took him three Wrestlemanias to do it, but The Rock finally was able to get his win over Stone Cold after giving him three Rock Bottoms (Austin had prevailed at Wrestlemanias XV and X-Seven).
Result: The Rock won via pinfall
Zach's thought: I remember Brock almost killing himself with a shooting star press, and the improvised finish. Angle probably should have called it a career after that. He's the best performer I have ever seen, save Flair.

Brock Lesnar vs Bill Goldberg
What should have been a dream match turned into a nightmare for the WWE. It became public knowledge that both men were leaving the company shortly after Wrestlemania XX and the fans at the PPV let the have it. The booing just drowned out the match and both wrestlers were visibly upset over it.
Result: Goldberg won via pinfall
Zach's thought: Benoit and Guerrero celebrating in the ring with their titles was one of the greatest things I've seen in wrestling.

Big Show vs Akebono (Sumo Match)
Didn't we learn from that stupid fixed boxing match in Wrestlemania 2 that we now get a fixed sumo match?? Oh well, this match is still worth a look if only to see Big Show look a complete dork.
Result: Akebono won via throwing Big Show out of the ring
Zach's thought: I have actually wiped that out. Thankfully. Michaels and Angle is a match I still enjoy. It's the Flair-Steamboat of this era.

Edge vs Mick Foley (Hardcore Match)
If there was ever a doubt, this match put Edge over as a stand alone singles wrestler. The ending of the match is just brutal (even by WWE standards) and is worth a look. On a side note, how many wrestlers owe Mick a big thank you for getting them over?
Result: Edge won via pinfall
Zach's thought: Flair's bump off a ladder would be considered cruel and unusual punishment in most countries. In WWE, it gets you a feud with Carlito.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

BGSU in the Sweet 16
As happy as I am for the Bowling Green women's basketball team, it would be dishonest if I said I wasn't just a little bit jealous.
Several years ago, I covered the Falcons' women's team, and though I enjoyed the beat, I never had the opportunity to cover a team in the NCAA Tournament.
Still, I can't help but be thrilled for my school. I'm not so thrilled the game (save the final minute) was blacked out where I live. Someone needs to explain the logic to me on that one.
I watched the game's flow by a scorebug on ESPN, which in some ways is more intense than watching the game. Watching sports live sometimes gives me the impression I can control it, even though I know I can't.
Amber Flynn scored the points, Ali Mann hit the big shot, and BG made MAC history, becoming the first conference team to reach the Sweet 16. I didn't see any of that, but I saw the final minute. It was a great moment when the buzzer sounded. I assume somewhere, Francine Miller, Lindsay Austin, Stefanie Wenzel and Kim Griech -- the players I covered-- feel very good.
They were there for the tough years, and now they are seeing the culmination of the program they helped build.
Curt Miller also has to feel pretty good. Not only has he led a program from mediocrity to one of the best in the country, but he has to be in line for a pretty good raise.
The question is whether he will get it in BG, or somewhere else. But he will get it.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Backing up the Truck
Another gray Monday in these parts has me thinking about spring. Not so much for warm temperatures, but rather for the increase in sunshine.
As I sit here, I am thinking of baseball's arrival, the length of days, and the cool breeze.
But winter is likely not done yet.
With that in mind:
*Congratulations to the BGSU women's basketball team, which picked up its first NCAA tournament win since 1989. Curt Miller is creating quite a legacy over there.
* To those who wonder, I am not all that optimistic about the Indians this year. It will come down to pitching and defense, and though the Indians are improved in many areas, I see them finishing fourth. The other teams in the division will be willing to spend to correct their mistakes. The Indians will not.
* It's been four years since the start of the Iraq War. When it began, I was still in college. My support for the war remains, but it's easy for me to write that from the Midwest. What I mean by that is the best defenses for the conflict will be made by others who are smarter and better informed than me. As always, read Hitchens.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Indians' Shapiro signs extension
Mark has finally come to the sad realization he can't do any better.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dakich is out
Dan Dakich has stepped down as Bowling Green's men's head coach. All I can say is, it's about time.
No disrespect to Dakich. He's not a bad coach and I hope he finds success elsewhere. But clearly, the coach and the college needed a change.
So, who replaces Dakich? Well, assuming Curt Miller is out of the question, here's my fantasy list:
- Kevin Mackey: Sure he hasn't led a program in 17 years, but he had results. The Cleveland State program has never fully recovered since Mackey's highly publicized firing. He's intense, funny, and a great quote. Plus he can work with a mid-major.
- Keith Smart: He's bound to be a head NBA coach soon. I remember Joe Tait saying he was impressed with him during his brief run as coach with the Cavs. And he said that in Bowling Green. It's a sign.
-Casey Blake: He comes with an endorsement from Eric Wedge. Plus, if he coaches BG, he won't have to start 160 games for the Indians.
-Don Delaney: Cavs coach from 1981-1982. Not sure what he's doing now, but he was at times, the Cavs GM, head coach, assistant, and an accomplished softball coach.
-Bill Fitch: This may seem like "Cram as many Cavs coaches into a post as possible," but Fitch knows Bowling Green. He coached in 1967, before going to the University of Minnesota and then the Cavaliers. He's over 70, but so what? He can coach.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

BGSU women win again; could Miller replace Dakich?
So the No. 20 Falcons were hurt, short on players, and facing adversity for perhaps the first time this season.
Didn't matter. BG still wins, 66-53.
I take a great deal of satisfaction in the Falcons' success. Not only am I a BG graduate, but I covered them for parts of two seasons with the BG News.
When I covered BG in 2002-2003, it was still a rebuilding program, and while it seemed the team was headed in the right direction, some weren't so sure.
I remember at a press conference, after a loss to Toledo, Miller telling the reporters about his new recruiting class, stressing their size. Post play had been something that had been lacking for years at BG, and Miller was confident that getting some would turn the team around.
Three-straight Mid-American Conference Tournament championships vindicates that.
As I've written here before, Miller is a class act who deserves a ton of credit. He's one of the best coaches in the country.
So I will throw this out there:
If Dan Dakich is fired, would BG consider Miller to replace him?
I wouldn't. The women's program is in such good shape, and I think it's important to keep it that way. I doubt Miller would even consider switching.
Still, with the men's program in trouble, the Falcons need a coach who knows how to rebuild. Miller has shown he can do that.
It might be tempting. Again, I don't see it happening. The women are outdrawing the men in BG right now, and why mess with the women's team?
Just something to think about, even if not for too long.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

OK, BG's season is over ... why hasn't Dan Dakich been fired?
Despite Sunday's upset win over Miami University, I assumed the only way for Bowling Green men's basketball coach Dan Dakich to save his job was with a run through the MAC Tournament.
Instead, it was one-and-out.
Several coaches were axed Thursday, but Dakich was not one of them. That's confusing, because I don't know what there is to deliberate about. The Falcons have had back-to-back miserable seasons, and this year they gave a game away because of the coach.
While BG sits at home, it will watch a Dakich recruit play on the No. 1 team in the nation.
The worst thing the Falcons can do is extend this process. If Dakich is out, they will need to start fast to find a suitable replacement.
It is also not fair to Dakich to keep him twisting.
Sure, it's only been a day. But this is a decision that should have been made a long time ago.
The longer it goes, the worse it will be for the program.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Browns sign Steinbach
Betting line on when he blows out his knee? I am being optimistic and calling the third preseason game.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

The party of Thatcher
What has happened in Great Britain is quite remarkable. The Conservatives are the ones pushing away from their country's alliance with the United States?
Politics is a strange business.
Consider the new, friendly, Conservative Party, as written by Christopher Hitchens:
"If you look at it in this light, it can even seem like a plus that the latest leader of Margaret Thatcher's no-nonsense party is now inescapably linked to certain dreamy voyages of the imagination. But I can't easily adjust to the fact that for the first time in memory, there is nothing intimidating about the British Conservative Party. For all I know, its current leader might regard that as a compliment."

The fact that David Cameron is in the same party as Margaret Thatcher is confusing to me. But I do think the Conservative Party's transformation can be traced to Tony Blair's lack of popularity, and the perception by some that he answers to President Bush. The second part of that is a joke, in my opinion. But too often, perception becomes reality.