Monthly Archives: July 2010

Garza May Finally Breakthrough, With This Breakthrough

Matt Garza's Up and Down year gets a huge boost with his no-hitter

The no-hitter has replaced the home run as the most appealing sight in baseball. That’s what happens when you have 6 in less than 100 games (and yes I’m still counting Armando Galarraga’s thank you very much).

The latest comes from Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays who only allowed one walk over his 120 pitch gem in a 5-0 win against the Detroit Tigers. Garza has been considered to have ace potential since his arrival from Minnesota via trade, and his performance Monday shows why Tampa ponied up a few prospects to land him in the first place and make him a front of the rotation pitcher.

(It also makes you wonder what Minnesota’s rotation would be like with him there and how the current struggles it has with Nick Blackburn being moved to the bullpen would be a moot point. Sorry to pour salt in those wounds Twins fans.)

The great thing about Garza’s performance is that it was an awesome performance. Unlike Edwin Jackson and Ubaldo Jimenez’s walk fests of no-no’s Garza was in control for most of the night walking only one but getting a double play ball immediately after. He faced the minimum of 27 batters striking out six and over powering Tigers hitters with that huge fast ball of his. 101 of his 120 pitchers were fastballs sometimes hitting 96 or 97 on the radar gun. His performance last night was the high point in a year that has been filled with ups and downs.

Sometimes over the course of his tenure in Tampa, Garza’s focus and emotional restraint has been questioned. He is a fiery right-hander who listens to 2pac before each start and it shows in his emotions throughout the course of some of his starts. In June Garza had a complete meltdown against the Florida Marlins when he gave up 7 earned runs in 1 1/3 innings, against the Red Sox earlier this month he allowed 4 earned runs and threw 84 pitches in 3 innings which got him the quick hook. In his last start against Baltimore he allowed 7 earned runs and ten hits to one of the worst offensive teams in baseball.

Then this, this is the Matt Garza that baseball writers fell in love with during the 2008 ALCS where he made his presence known by winning the series MVP. This is the guy that came out this year with a 3-0, .75 ERA start to his season. This is the guy that was going to be the leader of a rotation with young flame throwers like David Price and Jeff Niemann. Garza himself knows what kind of year it’s been for him, “This year I’ve just been so rocky, just trying to find myself. Something good had to happen soon,” the right-hander said. “I’m trying to look for just a hint of consistency, and this should get the ball rolling in the right direction. I didn’t feel great. My mechanics felt off, but I was able to locate my fastball.”

Manager Joe Maddon agrees, “This is the kind of game that could catapult somebody like him who has this kind of ability. He has struggled at different moments this year. Hopefully this is one of those things that can really mentally get you over the hump.”

The Rays need it too. They’re in a pennant chase with the Yankees and have a huge series coming up this weekend against them. They would love nothing more than to have this carry over into the series and take over sole possession of the AL East.

What they would also love are more gems like these in their favor. The Rays before Monday had been no-hit 3 times in fourteen months. It’s about time one of these things went in their favor.

While we all marvel at Garza’s achievement, and Yankees hope that Saturday’s showdown against him is a little better than what the Tigers endured, his oldest son Matthew isn’t impressed. He told his dad after his historic performance, “You’re still not an all-star.” See, even in the year of the pitcher where a guy wins eleven games and throws a no-no you still can’t impress everyone. Hopefully this outing will change his dad’s fortunes and maybe this time next his son will be fully satisfied.

A Troubling Start To The SEC’s Season

The SEC stands for the Southeastern Conference, after their media days it should stand for Some Entertaining Comedy.

Urban Meyer was one of the many coaches who wasn't looking forward to media day

The big bad SEC, the conference that is considered the best in the biz has had what you would call an interesting offseason with four of their flagship schools investigated for off the field incidents including arrests, dismissals and possible rules violations.

(No LSU hasn’t been involved in any of these, but don’t be shocked if Les Miles isn’t updating his resume just in case that Michigan job opens up again and he can bolt Baton Rouge ASAP.)

Among the offenders are Florida and the possibility of former standout center Maurkice Pouncey receiving $100,000 from and agent before the Sugar Bowl, and Alabama defensive end Marcell Daerus might or might not have went to an agent party in Miami which angered coach Nick Saban to the point that he called agents Vultures (also various South Carolina players and Georgia wide out A.J. Green went to the party, though Green denies it saying that he’s “Never been to Miami.” Yeah, sure.).

Let’s not forget the arrests and pending fallout from incidents involving Georgia players and Tennessee players. Makes you wonder if maybe Lane Kiffin wasn’t the problem with conduct in Knoxville.

This has nothing to do with football, but everything to do with football at the same time. The constant off the field issues are the only thing that can derail the SEC machine because as we’ve seen in the last six or seven years no one from any conference can mess with the big boys on the field. (Except for Utah and West Virginia.)

The SEC’s constant penchant for thuggish behavior from its players, and incidents like the Pouncey inquiry, will eventually lead to the kind of treatment that USC is currently going through. While the conference has the greatest talent pool of any conference that we’ve seen in a long time, it’s also getting them more bad headlines than good. It has even extended itself into the NFL where JaMarcus Russell’s run-in with the law has brought up some questions dating back to his LSU days. (That sound you hear in the background is Miles updating his resume in real time.)

It’s all taking away from what the media days should be about down south—football. The SEC has won four straight national titles from three different schools and it hasn’t been close. This year the big dog is Alabama with LSU, Georgia and Florida following close behind with Auburn and Arkansas in toe. It could make for a crazy year even by SEC standards.

Yet here we are listening to Nick Saban call agents “Pimps”, listening to Urban Mayer tip-toe around the Pouncey issue and watch Mark Richt look like he’s been through this Georgia over and over again, because he has.

My message for the SEC is this; every great empire that falls normally has its foundation broke from within. You can’t watch your players 24-7, but you can figure a way to bring the right ones into your program and make it fly straight. The last thing the SEC wants is 5 years from now when 4 of their schools are on postseason bans and watching the new Big Ten or Pac 10 standing in their spot.

For their sake let’s hope that this is just a minor hiccup for all parties involved. However, it is making for some great TV. We haven’t gotten to the Ol’ Ball Coach Steve Spurrier. That’s unintentional comedy at its finest.

Bettman Gets The Kovalchuk Deal Right

Finally I can say something nice about Gary Bettman. Speaking bluntly I like Gary Bettman about as much as I enjoy watch the Kardashians reality show—not at all.

Not so fast Mr. Kovalchuk

Bettman has been pro sports worst commissioner for over ten years now allowing the NHL to slip from its perch of one of the big four sports to just a novelty sport. Not helping his matters was the way he handled the NHL CBA in 2004, which led to the league’s lockout.

However I gained a little more respect for Bettman and the NHL powers that be yesterday when they rejected the New Jersey Devils 17 year/ 102 million dollar deal for star winger Ilya Kovalchuk. The deal was to pay him up to 98 million in the first ten years of the deal and only $550,000 after he turns 37, which is normally when a player’s production falls by the waist side.

The deal is similar to the deals made to Alex Ovechkin, Vinny Lecavalier and Marian Hossa and have become the rage of the NHL. It’s sort of a way for GM’s to beat the salary cap by frontloading deals and towards the end of the deal giving them room to sign whoever they wanted with worrying about the hit.

The NHL last year began warning teams about the deals saying that they would be quick to begin vetoing them if the were deemed corrupt—they finally followed through.

While the deals are smart for both the teams and players they had begun to become ridiculous. The lengthy deals past ten years have become jokes in hindsight, unless you’re the Islanders who are still wondering why they have to pay Rick Dipietro 40 million over the next ten years. They began to be commonplace in the league as teams were thinking about the present but leaving room for their future. How convenient is it for the Capitals to give their best player 10-12 million per year now and 750,000 at the end of the contract when younger players begin to enter the league?

Hence the reason Bettman and his cronies finally stepped in and told the Devils to re-do the contract. The league is starting to take control of these deals and making them more reasonable for the salary now and years down the road.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Devils re-work the contract as they try to keep Kovalchuk and look for a replacement for an aging Martin Brodeur. Kovy is a dynamic goal scorer who would work perfectly with Zach Parise and Patrick Elias. The Devils outbid a push by the L.A. Kings to get Kovy but now you have to wonder if L.A. will up their own offer and possibly steal him away.

Whatever the case maybe the contract itself will be some interesting paperwork. The league is watching these deals carefully and will not allow these super deals to continue unless they are fair for all sides, player, team and league. Congrats Gary Bettman you did something right. Now let’s try this promoting the star players of your league properly thing.

Man-up Mayweather

In grade school we all ran from fights at some point. Whether you were scared of a bully, or just weren’t sure of your hand skills or whatever, at some point we were afraid to lay our manhood down and throw our fists up. Your mother said, “Maybe you should talk it out” or your father taught you how to use your hands, either way you found a way to deal with the problem in some way. What does this have to do with Floyd Mayweather you wonder? A lot.

Floyd would rather hang with 50 Cent than fight Manny Pacquiao.

Mayweather is currently suffering from a case of the school yard blues as he is unwilling to fight another man that wants him in the ring, that man being Manny Pacquiao. You see pretty boy Floyd has already ducked the Pacman previously last year insisting on Olympic drug testing which Pacquiao refused. Now Mayweather is playing the media and the public for a fool by telling us that there were never any discussions on a possible November fight between the two and slow footing towards a Bob Arum made deadline that would see it through.

There are words to describe what Mayweather is doing, none of them I can use in the article.

Here’s the PG rated version of what I want to say about Mayweather, the boy is, as Mobb Deep would say, a shook one. He is scared to fight Pacquiao because he knows that deep down the Filipino Senator is pound for pound the best fighter in the world. Pacquiao has beaten every competitor that has come his way and beaten them badly. All he needs to finish off his legendary resume is a victory over Mayweather in the near future with both men at their prime.

Mayweather knows this.

Mayweather’s fear stems from more than just a nationally televised beat down, it’s the ramifications that could surface from said beat down.

Mayweather is a large draw based primarily on his undefeated record. At 41-0 in boxing’s big money division he is its number one personality and figure. He is prominent in many aspects of pop culture especially in the hip-hop industry where nine- figure personalities like Sean “Diddy” Combs and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson loom large. His primary fear is what a loss would do to his marketability and draw power in the future. While that is a big concern for Mayweather the bigger is this, what if the overall view of Mayweather changes and he is forever viewed as a conservative champion?

If Mayweather keeps ducking Pacquiao like he’s been doing then he will lose credibility in future fights. Opponents would lose interest in future bouts because Mayweather would induce Novak Djokovic syndrome. Djokovic is a great tennis player and grand slam champion, however his constant calls for trainers and injuries that he thinks he has, has diminished his value as a marketable star. Djokovic is often mentioned after Rafa, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Robin Soderling as a top tennis player because of his fragility, for Mayweather this could be his downfall if he keeps dodging a bout with the Pacman.

What has to happen is a fight between the two, and soon. What Mayweather has to realize is that even if he loses he is still the main competitor for a rematch with Pacquiao which could mean an even bigger payday for both sides. Mayweather has to see the advantages of a possible two or three fight series with Pacquiao. It’s the kind of in-ring rivalry that the sport needs as it loses ground to the upstart UFC year in and out.

Also it helps Mayweather keep the respect that he has fought hard to earn. If he doesn’t fight Pacquiao then his respectability is diminished. He has to step into the ring and either win or lose like a man and come back for a second round match. It’s what we all did on the playground; you have to man up at some point and face the music. If not, then you’re a sucker. If I was Floyd Mayweather I wouldn’t want to be labeled a sucker.

Baseball Season Officially Begins

The Yankees, behind C.C. Sabathia, are still the team to beat.

Now the real baseball season begins.

We’ve gotten rid of the fast starts, cool downs by over-hyped players, and now here is the real deal.

The contenders have shown who they are in baseball’s closest season in decades. There is not one division leader up by more than four and a half games, which means every race could come down to September and this trade deadline coming up could be the most important in years.

While everyone is making a case that the Yankees are the team to beat, I beg to differ. The Yankees of all teams have the weakest bullpen that Joe Girardi still hasn’t figured out yet. Joba Chamberlain has been miserable as the 8th inning man while David Robertson, Damaso Marte and company have struggled just as much. As great as the starting pitching has been for the Yankees it can’t be the only pitching that they have.

You can make a case for the Padres, Braves, Twins and Reds (yes the Cincinnati Reds are in first place) as much as the Yankees to win the World Series come October. The last 70 plus games of the season are going to be an absolute riot if you ask me. There are no clear cut favorites for any award or division title. In the year of the pitcher (or return of the pitcher) offense has been at a premium as ERA’s have dwindled to fifteen year lows. With that said, bats are going to be a hot commodity in this upcoming deadline. Prince Fielder’s name is swinging like a carrot in front of teams as are players like Jose Guillen, Luke Scott and Adam Dunn. Fielder is the most peculiar name because you can get an all-star power hitting first baseman but also a huge head case. His bat would go over great in New York with the Mets or in San Francisco with the Giants but is he worth the trouble?

Who knows. The second half sure will be interesting to watch play out but let’s recap the first half while we look forward:

NL MVP- Joey Votto (Who Will win MVP? – Ryan Howard)

Votto's been the man so far for the upstart Reds.

Did anyone have a better first half than Votto? He led all MLB first basemen in average, slugging, homers, RBI and OPS. Yet had to be voted in to all-star game as the last man in. He has led the surprising Reds to the top of the Central with a few key series left against the second place Cardinals. If the Reds can keep it up then Votto should be a shoe-in for the MVP.

But it is the second half of the year which means Ryan Howard is about to load up Philly onto his back and carry them through the next two months. Howard’s power number numbers are down but so are his strikeouts. Howard is becoming more disciplined at the plate and has seen an increase in average and OBP because of it. The Phils need him more than ever to carry them to the playoffs and knowing Howard he’ll gladly accept the Challenge

Contenders: David Wright, Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols

AL MVP- Josh Hamilton (eventual winner?)- Miguel Cabrera)

Two men who have fought demons to become big names in the game. Hamilton through drugs, Cabrera through alcohol. Both are having stellar years. Why is Hamilton the first half MVP? A 29 game hit streak and a monster June helped catapult the Rangers into first place and have made them the team to beat out west. Hamilton has come back from last year in a big way by leading the majors in batting average, and among the leaders in homers and RBI. With help from a resurgent Vlad Guerrero the Rangers have the most formidable 3-4 punch in the game.

So why will Miguel Cabrera win the MVP? One, he could win the triple crown, two he is tearing the cover off of everything he sees. Three his focus is finally clear after two down years in Detroit after a ballyhooed trade from Miami. Cabrera has finally settled into the position has face of the franchise and is carrying himself in the way the Tigers imagined.

Contenders: Robinson Cano, Justin Morneau and Adrian Beltre

NL CY YOUNG- Ubaldo Jimenez (Winner- Jimenez)

With all due respect to Josh Johnson and his paper thin 1.70 ERA, this is Ubaldo’s trophy to lose. 15-1 2.20 ERA on the wild card leaders out west? Come on. Jimenez could very well win 25 games this year which has been done since the 80’s. Jimenez has breezed through the competition with ease though his ERA has risen by half a run in the last month. However, every fifth day there is no more automatic starter in the game than him

Contenders- Johnson, Adam Wainwright, and Mat Latos

AL CY YOUNG- David Price (Winner- CC Sabathia)

David Price is now the man in Tampa. He’s the ace, no question about it. the superstar that he was supposed to be coming out of Vanderbilt is finally coming to fruition with a 12-4 record and a 2.42 ERA that has kept Tampa within striking distance of the Yankees…

Yet the reason why the Yankees are in first place in the first place is; a. starting pitching and b. CC Sabathia’s ridiculous last 45 days on the mound. He hasn’t lost since May 23rd and has watched his ERA dip to 3.09. plus with his reputation as being a workhorse in the second half it looks like CC is in the driver’s seat for CY Young number two.

Players that need to step it up:

Mark Teixeira

He’s a slow starter—this is ridiculous. Nine days ago he was batting .232 now he’s finally up to the .250’s. he ought to buy Robbie Cano a Rolex for bailing him out this far. The power numbers are there, but for the Yankees to go far into October, Teixeira needs to get going.

Carlos Pena

If its not a home run then its been a strikeout for Carlos Pena.

.203 batting average? I don’t care if you are a slugger at least get into the 230’s man. Evan Longoria would love a disciplined bat next to him right now.

Anybody on the Phillies not named Ryan Howard or Roy Halladay

Raul Ibanez has lost his stroke, Shane Victorino can’t hit anything and Cole Hamels apparently hasn’t gotten over last year’s brain malfunction. With Chase Utley out until August the Phillies need their bats and arms to wake up quick or the Braves and Mets will be sailing into October leaving them in the dust.

Todd Helton

Career lows in all offensive categories means that Helton’s career is almost finished. Unless he finds that stroke quickly the Rockies should consider making a deal for Prince Fielder.

Gavin Floyd

With Jake Peavy down for the year, Floyd has to find the form that made him so special last year. he has recovered from a 2-7 start with three straight wins and will have to continue to stay hot to support Freddy Garcia and Mark Buehrle.

Most important Players:

David Ortiz

Ortiz claims that he’s back to form, but the real test comes now. If he can continue with his steady production then the Sox will be in it until the end. However, if Ortiz can’t maintain his current pace then the Sox can kiss October bye-bye

Jose Reyes

If he’s healthy the Mets can win the east. If he’s not then they won’t. That’s about as simple as it gets people. As he goes they go.

Jonny Cueto

He has to take this rotation by the horns right now. The Reds haven’t been this close to the playoffs in years and they need Cueto to grow into the ace that he was destined to be when they signed him.

Vladimir Guerrero

The first half comes as a surprise to those that wrote him off. Now in these next two months, Vlad will have to keep it going in order to keep the Rangers ahead of Anaheim.

Adrian Gonzalez

Last year he was sure as gone from San Diego. This year the Padres wouldn’t give the world for him. with the Padres facing Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Jimenez and a bevy of west coast hurlers Gonzalez has to continue what he’s done all year for the Padres in order to make the playoffs. Set the tone, drive in runs and lead them to victory.

There is so much more to cover and talk about, but there’s two and a half months left in the season to get to it. for now enjoy it. the best baseball of the summer is about to get underway later today, and from the looks of things it’s going to be one hell of a fun second half.

George Steinbrenner July 4, 1930- July 13, 2010

George Steinbrenner, like him or not, was one of baseball's best owners.

There are a lot of things about the New York Yankees that I understand a lot of people hate. They spend too much money, they win all of the time, they’re fans are obnoxious, so on and so forth. Me being a Yankees fan I’ve had to endure with hate from other fans that has included comments such as “all you guys do is buy championships”, to “the Yankees are the reason baseball is bad” to one of my favorites, “Miguel Tejada is way better than Derek Jeter” (yeah someone actually said that to me one year, no joke).

It sometimes bothers me, other times I just laugh it off and laugh in people’s faces. I sort of embraced the role of being hated just like the team did, and like its owner did. George Steinbrenner couldn’t have care less about what anyone thought of him or his team. He wanted to win, win, win and didn’t care one red cent about how it happened. Nor was he afraid to spend a pretty penny toward making it happen.

When Steinbrenner took over the Yankees in 1973 they were fledgling under the ownership of the CBS company. He bought the team for 8.8 million dollars back then; the team is now the biggest money maker in sports according to Forbes magazine at 1.2 billion dollars. He took a Yankees team that struggled mightily in the late 60’s and re-energized it by retooling the team in his own way.

He lured “Catfish” Hunter away from the Oakland A’s in a move that many believe was the beginning of modern free agency. Then added Reggie Jackson to help lead the Yankees to two titles in the 70’s, their first since 1962 in the glorious Mickey Mantle years. The team was always a riot to be around during those years thanks to the three way media battle between Steinbrenner, Jackson and manager Billy Martin. The years were dubbed as “the Bronx Zoo” due to the actions and reactions of all three men towards each other. Subsequently Steinbrenner fired Martin three times during those years, and five overall. Yet Martin has his number retired by the Yankees.

That was Steinbrenner though ridiculous in some ways but winning was his only goal. He didn’t care what was going on as long as the team won and he got the championships he so desperately coveted. He did pay for lots of players, but if you didn’t perform you would hear about it. He brought in guys like Dave Winfield for exuberant amounts of money and called him “Mr. May” due to his poor performances late in the season. He called Hideki Irabu a fat toad because Irabu was an overhyped Japanese fire-baller that ate his way out of the league. He said Derek Jeter partied too much, always ripped into Brian Cashman and kept Joe Torre on pins and needled even though the man won him four rings during his time in New York.

The Boss was a winner and never settled for less.

Think about this however, Cashman is still there, so is Jeter, and Torre stayed for as long as he could winning four titles along the way and assuring himself of having his number six retired. As much as he wanted to win he was still loyal as one can be. Steinbrenner cared about the Yankees as a whole and the people around him. There are still people left from arrival in 1973 that still work for the team, even though he and Jeter griped they shot a commercial together to joke around about the party life of the young shortstop.

Yet the product on the field was his number one concern. Steinbrenner understood what ownership in sports was about more than any other owner from Peter Angelos, to Donald Sterling or Bill Wirtz, keep the fans happy and let them know you are trying to put a winner out there every day. That’s why he apologized after the 1981 ALCS loss to Kansas City because he felt that he let the fans down by not putting the best product out on the field. That’s why in recent years there were high priced free agents brought to help the team win. From Jason Giambi to Johnny Damon and Carl Pavano, Steinbrenner to continuously put a winner on the field for his sake and the fans sake.

That led to the perception that the Yankees tried to buy championships. Additions like Alex Rodriguez, Giambi, and the way that Steinbrenner and company outbid other teams for players like Mark Teixeira and Mike Mussina led people to believe that the Yankees were bad for baseball. That their pool of wealth was greater than any other team, and that it was ruining the game. There was even a point where I sat back and said to myself that maybe we should chill on the spending and bring up players like we did in the early 90’s. However, there is an old saying in business, “you have to spend money to make money.” Did George pay way too much for players this past decade? Yes. Was it a sign of greed that winning championships was all that mattered? Yes. Did he make it back in t-shirt sales, jersey sales and in revenue from the YES network that he started to give the Yankees more media coverage? Yes.

My take on the last ten years of Steinbrenner’s reign is this; sports franchises are owned by billionaires who could afford to buy the team at whatever the price was, if that was the case than they should be able to afford to put the best team on the field and to win. That’s why I hate guys like Angelos. Baltimore was once a great baseball town then Angelos got cheap and now look at Baltimore. Everyone has money; Steinbrenner knew what to do with it and knew the purpose for it. Yankee fans as a result began to mirror Steinbrenner in the sense that we want to win year after year. We were spoiled with titles and wanted more. I looked forward to the “The Boss” ripping players for slow starts and poor performances because in our eyes they were. Steinbrenner was a fan at heart, that’s why he did all of the things he did to make the team and the city and its fans happy because he was looking at the team through his eyes and ours.

That’s I loved the guy so much. If I were an owner I would be like Steinbrenner, there would be one option, win and that’s it. If you won you were rewarded (ask Jeter, Bernie Williams and Roger Clemens about their contracts) if you didn’t… ask Dave Winfield and Pavano how that worked out for them.

George Steinbrenner died this morning at the age of 80. He left the team three years ago as his health started to betray him. You can still see his touch all over the Yankees when you look at the team, the stadium and its day-to-day operations. Winning is still the only thing that matters, the core four of players that were there from his 90’s dynasty of Jeter, Andy Pettite, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada are still there fifteen years later. His sons Hank and Hal run the show now, with Cashman still guiding the ship. The Yankees still sellout crowds still sell the most jerseys and are still the most hated team in America. Not that we care. Friday we missed out on a chance to add pitching ace Cliff Lee to our rotation in a move that would’ve made us roaring favorites if we weren’t already. It was a very “Boss” thing to do.

Steinbrenner is not yet enshrined in the baseball hall of fame, which hopefully will happen soon. He was innovative, controversial, passionate and caring towards the people who paid those lofty prices to watch this team play baseball. He brought back the mystique that was gone after the Mantle and Maris days and kept it going. He brought about free agency, created network for his own team, and made the Yankees the first billion dollar franchise in American sports. He won seven championships, eleven pennants, five MVP’s, four rookies of the year and three Cy Young’s. He fired seventeen managers (martin five times) was suspended from baseball twice and was parodied in episodes of The Simpsons, and Miller Lite commercials.

He also made me live and die by the Yankees much like he did. Red Auerbach once said that Celtics “were a way of life” the same can be said about the Bronx Bombers. I’m sure in the upcoming days I’ll here fans of other teams make jokes about his death and hope the spending finally ceases. However, I’ll just smile and shake my head, because I know the blueprint he set forth for this team and it aint changing. It’s all about winning love us or hate us and you can thank “The Boss” for that. R.I.P. George Steinbrenner. July 4, 1930- July 13, 2010.

LeBron James: Vanity King

LeBron James "The Decision" was a gluttony of self-indulgence.

A favorite pastime of mine about a year and a half ago was taunting Cleveland fans about how LeBron James was on his way to New York once free agency hit. I had a little facebook status update every so often, put up pictures of LeBron photo shopped in Knicks gear, and put various LeBron to New York things on my page. It was fun watching every Cavs fan curse me out, look on in horror or reply back in a glorious war of animated words.

Thing is I knew LeBron was always going to leave. As much as Cleveland fans tried to pray that notion away or think positively that his love for his hometown of Akron would keep him here it just wasn’t going to happen. LeBron outgrew Cleveland. His name and ego became so large that the small, yet noteworthy city couldn’t hold it anymore. LeBron has always talked about what makes him happy, what he needs to do for himself, what’s the best situation for him… you noticed how in this entire paragraph I didn’t utter a thing about basketball and James in the same sentence. That’s because in the last two weeks I found out just what basketball means to LeBron and vice versa.

LeBron James is the first of his kind in sports in more ways than one; he can play all five positions on the floor if he wants, can score at will and be entertaining as all hell. Yet the side I speak of is his media persona. LeBron doesn’t care about money or titles, he cares about himself. He turned down a massive contract in Cleveland and a championship in Chicago to be Dwyane Wade’s second banana in Miami. Why? Not for reasons on the court, but because LeBron wants the world yet doesn’t want to get his fingers dirty.

LeBron couldn’t handle the pressure that Cleveland put on him; LeBron can’t be a savior because he doesn’t want to be. He is no king nor is he a prince. He is a Duke, Lord or some subdivision of a monarchy that wants all of the perks of greatness without the hassle. (This makes Miami the perfect destination for him. he doesn’t have to take the last shot, or carry a team. Its D-Wade’s team. All LeBron has to do is dunk whenever he wants, look good and let Chris Bosh and Wade handle the rest. For a guy that shies away from pressure it a dream.)

Think about this entire free agency process involving LeBron; teams flew to HIM, sent HIM packages, and sent stars to HIS home to recruit HIM. LeBron never had to leave his house for anything. He woke up, got his mail in his robe and waited for everyone to come to him. Then as other free agents signed around him he decided to take it a step further, he wanted ESPN to hold a one hour special on his decision of what team he wants to play for and put it on primetime TV. It was called “The Decision”; it should’ve been called vanity at its best. So yesterday we were treated to a five hour pregame of LeBron clips, interviews and everyone’s opinion of where he should go and people begging him to come or stay in their city while ESPN set up a gym in Connecticut with 60 kids and a nicely placed Vitamin Water cooler as a backdrop for the LeBronathon. Somewhere LeBron was sitting down with popcorn enjoying every moment.

LeBron ripped his fans hearts out, they're a little mad about it.

The whole thing was disgusting. It fed his ego even more. The guy just ripped the heart out of a city on national TV; he played NY, Jersey, Chicago and LA for fools. Why? Because he feels he can do whatever he wants because he’s LeBron James. No one else matters. Wade and Bosh signed with little fanfare, James turned his decision into a spectacle.

Understand this about LeBron. HE’S NEVER WON A TITLE! A guy with no rings commanding this much attention is ludicrous. If I were Kobe Bryant I would want to punch this guy in the face. LeBron has no heart. The guy buckles under pressure. Remember game five this past year? He came out flat and played with no care. No defense, no drive, nothing. LeBron has done so much damage to himself in the last four months that the man that was once lauded for being a playful, fun, team oriented guy is now Bernie Madoff a cold hearted evil man.

Cleveland fans have every right to be mad at him and burn his jersey in the streets; he toyed with their emotions and spewed it back at them. Dan Gilbert had every right to be mad at LeBron and throw darts at him I that scathing letter. LeBron’s dog and pony show cost Gilbert millions of dollars and has diminished the worth of his franchise. I’m surprised he didn’t let loose with more ammo than what he had on LeBron.

The part that everyone is losing in this whole saga is the actual basketball. The Miami Heat have become the most hyped team in the league. They have three of its best players playing together on a nightly basis, but what else do they have? No point guard, no center, no bench, nothing. It’s a three man show with no real help. Everyone jumping on the Miami bandwagon needs to wake up and understand a few things at work:

  • Miami still isn’t as good as Orlando, Boston, Los Angeles or Oklahoma City. Those teams have played together for long periods of time; have great chemistry, coaching and rosters good enough to put them within striking distance of a ring. Miami doesn’t.
  • Erik Spolestra is the coach, for now. Ask Stan Van Gundy how this will play out. Spolestra is in his third year as a head coach and gets handed three large egos and has to find a way to use them wisely. This won’t end well.
  • The Bosh-Wade-James trio has the following stats: 15 all-star appearances, 15 playoff series wins (one by Bosh) 2 MVP’s, a finals MVP and one ring (Wade’s thanks to Shaq). What have these men by themselves that is worthy of all of this hype. Bosh might be the worst offender of all of them. Bosh has won one playoff series and is less significant than the other two on and off the court. He even cut the braids off so now Predators can’t do a cross promotion for their film. This “Big Three” done nothing to receive such a moniker made for the guys in Boston, L.A. or even Detroit with Sheed, Chauncey and Rip. They look great on paper, but what will it translate to?

Fact is I’m not sold on this new faction until they get help in other areas. They’re a really good all-star team at the moment, but ask the Yankees of the 2000’s how money built all-star teams did when it came to winning titles.

Another fact is that LeBron’s legacy will never be the same. I always used to wonder why he never had that Jordan in him, the stuff that Kobe, Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony have in them. That will to want to take matters into your own hands and win. We now see why.

LeBron is no king, chosen one or any of those monikers we have showered upon him. What he is, is kin of the media. A man that feeds off of attention. He doesn’t want championships, he wants camera time. He doesn’t want to be the greatest basketball player ever; he wants to be the biggest name ever. It’s not about respect for others or their feelings or their daily routine, it’s about him. That team first attitude? A façade. That playful nature? Good for TV, makes him look better for the sponsors. It’s all in LeBron’s plan to make himself look larger than life. We fell for it, adored it, then last night we felt it thrown back in our face.

We saw the real LeBron James on ESPN in front of Jim Gray. He wasn’t sincere, he was robotic. He said his decision was hard, it wasn’t he knew his plans all along and this fit right into it. We were all witnesses to LeBron’s coming out party last night. This is who he is, cold, calculated and dishonest, and Cleveland is better off without him. So are the Knicks, I wouldn’t want him anywhere near Madison Square Garden.