Leave it to the old guys in the Yankees starting lineup to take control. The New York Yankees is the largest market team in the nation and even though they have the deep pockets needed to hire all the young and talented prospects they could wish for, sometimes they like to play it safe, and go for the more experienced player. And Sunday’s win against the Boston Red Sox is a good reminder of why a trio of players reaching their 40’s sometimes just makes so much sense. Ichiro Suzuki, who was recently acquired from the Seattle Mariners, Hiroki Kuroda who pitched eight inning of four-hit ball and Derek Jeter, who signed off three hits for the night, guided the Yankees to a 4-1 win over Boston.
The Yankees were also able to put an end to the dominance that Josh Beckett had over their batting lineup. The right-hander was 5-0 in his previous seven starts against the Yankees since losing to them on Aug. 8, 2010. But then again, Beckett had never faced the New York Yankees since they purchased the hitting machine, Ichiro Suzuki. After his second home run of the night, fans in the sellout crowd of 48,620 chanted “Ichiro! Ichiro!” It was certainly a nice welcoming for the All-Star player who had been in Seattle for the entirety of his professional career.
Sure enough we knew from the start that the New York Yankees needed to get a little help in the outfield, considering the injured Nick Swisher would be out with an injury for the rest of the season. But filling that spot and signing Ichiro Suzuki is quite a big surprise. The Japanese star is going from a team in the last spot of the American League to move into the first place of the same league, while starting in a team that is by all means a World Series Contender.
It was a great trade, one that has proved to be working a bit better for the Yankees than for the guys at the Safeco Field. The Seattle Mariners received pitching prospects D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar in the transaction that landed the 38-year-old veteran in New York. The Yankees will also receive some cash considerations, some sources rumor up to $5 million dollars for the trade. Ichiro was traded in his last year of a 5-year $90 million dollar contract he signed with the Mariners. Sure enough, the Mariners have already paid out most of the contract, but still, considering that the Yankees listed him 8th in the batting order, he is certainly going to be the most expensive 8th batter in the league. This was also a first, for the Japanese star. As a matter of fact, he has never started lower than the top three spots in the batting lineup since he began his professional career in 2001.
Ichiro realized that at 37-years-old, it was time to find something new. And the Yankees seemed as a good option. “When I spent time during the All-Star break to think, I realized that this team has many players in their early 20s,” Ichiro said through a translator on a short press conference. “I began to think I should not be on this team next year. I also started to feel a desire to be in an atmosphere that I could have a different kind of stimulation than I have right now.” The Seattle Mariners didn’t hesitate much to grant Ichiro his request. He is by all means a tremendous hitter and even though his prime might be behind him, he can certainly give the Yankees the speed element they need right now.
The LA Lakers star is not too happy with the proposal given out by the NBA Commissioner David Stern for the future of USA Basketball. Stern is proposing a switch to a system similar to that used in men’s Olympic soccer. The idea would be to have a 23 and-under competition with three overage players allowed per country. On the other hand, all NBA players would remain eligible for the quadrennial FIBA World Championship. This would follow the same pattern that soccer does with the FIFA World Cup. Now, to cut down on the pressure set upon some of the NBA owners, this model would give share of revenues in return to the NBA Teams for allowing their top players to participate.
The USA National Basketball Team is already in London, ready to prove once again that they are still the most dominant basketball squad in the World. Sure enough Team USA has seen both the best and worst of the NBA, but this year, the team wants to find a spot among the best of the best. It’s hard to forget that in the Summer Olympic games at Barcelona back in 1992, the Dream Team would go ahead and put on one of the most overwhelming performance by a basketball team when the Dream Team took control of the tournament. Then again, a few years ago, things went south when Team USA in 2004 became known as the Nightmare team when it failed to bring the gold medal back home from the Olympic Games in Athens. This is by far the worst performance a USA National basketball team has ever had in an international. They didn’t even managed to win Silver, they had to go home with a bronze medal.
But that’s a thing of the past. This new Dream Team is looking strong and it seems as if its going to be up to LeBron James to get things rolling for the squad down the stretch. The star powers is certainly as attractive as it was exactly twenty years ago when the original Dream Team that include the likes of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton among others stars. This time around it is LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul making the headlines, but the talent is there just as well.
Injuries have certainly hurt the overall squad, but there is plenty of talent from where to fish from. Still, some players could be seriously missed such as Derrick Rose who’s out with a knee injury as is, Dwight Howard and his back problems, Dwyane Wade with his sore knee, Chris Bosh’s abdominal muscle, LaMarcus Aldridge knee and Chauncey Billups who tore his Achilles tendon. Once in training, Team USA lost Blake Griffin to a re-aggravated knee injury that this week required arthroscopic surgery.
Team USA outplayed the Brazilian National team in their last exhibition game in Washington D.C. before taking an overnight fly to London where the squad will get ready for the Olympic games. They are certainly the favorite squad to bring home the gold medal.
Now that we have grown used to professional players and athletes from all sorts of backgrounds and distinct sports using performance enhancing drugs, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Roger Clemens, the former baseball superstar, was acquitted on all charges against him for lying and obstructing Congress when he denied using performance enhancing drugs as a fast-balling pitcher. It seems that juror didn’t need too much time to deliberate and bring back a verdict. As a matter of fact, he outcome ended a 10-week trial that capped an expensive, five-year investigation into one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball.
According to the press release, the 49-year-old Roger Clemens, was charged with two counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing Congress when he testified at a deposition and at a nationally televised hearing in February 2008. The charges centered on his repeated denials that he used steroids and human growth hormone during a 24-year career. To put his performance into perspective, over his lengthy professional career, Clemenes produced 354 wins and a record seven Cy Young Awards. Now, this is just a terrible blow for the government’s effort to legally pursuit athletes who have been accused of illegal drug use.
This comes just a year after a San Francisco Court found home run King Larry Bonds only guilty in one count of obstruction of justice, after another lengthy and costly 7-year investigation. Sure enough, the jury deadlocked on whether Bonds lied to a grand jury when he denied knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs. If you ask me, it’s just a bunch of b.s. but heck, Bond got away with it. But that’s not the end of the government underachieving in a sports fraud investigation. Last week we talked on about Lance Armstrong and his two-year, multicontinent investigation that looked into possible drug use by the 7-time Tour de France winner. The investigation was closed, though the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency filed formal accusations last week that could strip him of his wins and put an end to the sport’s most controversial athlete.
Despite the evidence given to the jury by Clemen’s longtime strength coach, Brian McNamee, who said he personally injected Clemens with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and with HGH in 2000. McNamee also offered the jury a needle and other materials he said were from a steroids injection of Clemens in 2001. That is a little hard to bring forth in a jury considering he states that the needle and the rest of the materials were stored inside a beer can and put in a box for over six years. The other evidence the prosecutors had against Clemens included the testimony of former teammate Andy Pettitte who recalled a conversation in which Clemens supposedly admitted using HGH, but Pettitte said under cross-examination that there was a “50-50″ chance that he had misheard.
It is hard to know what kind of hurt this is going to place over Clemens legacy as a professional pitcher. But we are going to get a good idea next year when Clemens’ name appears on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. His statistics alone would normally make give him a straight pass into baseball greatest honor. Voters, on the other hand, have been reluctant to induct premier players, such as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, whose careers were tainted by allegations of drug use.
As in most things in life, at the end, it all comes down to money. The NCAA has made a big effort to try to keep college sports at an amateur level. Players, or to be more precise, student-athletes should play for the love they have for their Alma Matter and the love for the game. At the end, amateur is French for the Latin word that signified lover. But just as they say money can’t really buy love, is there such thing as love without money? Particularly when most of the love is actually going to the grown ups, the adults in college sports who make the big paychecks?
There seem to be a couple arguments against paying student-athletes for playing in NCAA Division I teams. Particularly those involved in the major conferences in college football and college basketball. I’ll try to break them down a bit here.
Those who want to keep it amateur
On one side, those in favor of keeping college sports amateur insists that it would be impossible to pay athletes on a fair basis. That is, should the Alabama Crimson Tide’s quarterback make more money then his homologue in the Florida Gators? For that matter, how would you pay male and female basketball players who represent the same college? And if Football players get paid, should lacrosse and soccer players get paid too? Those who make this argument also (perhaps unknowingly) concede that it’s not a matter of paying or not paying, it’s just not viable to make it fair (whatever fair means in this cases) for all student-athletes to get paid.
Then there is the case of those who believe that players shouldn’t get paid not because it is fair or unfair how you divide the money, but those who believe that offering these students housing, board, books and free tuition should be more then enough. People who make this case often considered that there is no such thing as the exploitation of student athletes. For the last 20 years, athletes have been portrayed as the victims of college sports. Division I sports had and probably will keep on been portrayed as a sort of circus where everybody makes money except for those who are actually making the game be. And yet, what many argue here is that many college students come out of school with over $200,000 worth of debt, while these guys are well taken care of.
There is one other argument for those in favor of keeping things amateur. And that lies on a thin argument. Many consider that what attracts fans to watch from home or crowd the stadiums and arenas is not the respect or love these fans have for individual players, but rather the passionate love they feel for the school. These fans are cheering for the jersey not for the player. Some will go on a say this is what separate the popularity of college football and basketball and the lesser attention received by little league sports. It’s a thin line, isn’t it? It’s hard to say if this adds up. Does it matter if fans cheer for the jersey or the player? I mean, at the end, it’s the players, anonymous as they might be, who give life to those jerseys, who make them be the center of attention.
Those who want to pay for the profitable play
Those in favor of paying the athletes usually argue that there shouldn’t be a problem with the fact that players, certain players –student-athletes that is-, make money while other don’t. It’s all good under a system we are all too familiarized with: capitalism. The best college athletes in the two revenue-producing sports have always been worth much more than tuition, room, board and books. The best football and basketball players in the Big Ten have produced to the degree that a television network has become the model for every conference in America, a network worth at least tens of millions of dollars to the member institutions. Yet, no player can benefit from that work. What many are arguing is that the schools, the NCAA and the conferences already follow this “unfair” model of business. Consider for a moment that the most distinguished professor at the University of Alabama won’t make $5.9 million in his entire tenure in Tuscaloosa; football head coach Nick Saban will make that this year.
And then there is the money. It’s all about the money baby! It won’t change whether these athletes follow up a professional career in sports or they end up working from an office. At the end it’s all going to be about money and dealing with the market. The Collective Bargaining Agreement of the NFL and the NBA are making the headlines, but little has been said about the following facts involving collegiate sports. Take for example the $10.8 billion agreement between the NCAA and CBS/Turner Sports for March Madness between 2011 and 2024. That is $11 billion for three weekends of television per year. But that’s not all. Consider that there’s a new four-year deal with ESPN that pays the BCS $500 million for the rights to show the football bowls. So what then? Where those all of this money go to?
Please bear with me on this one. The business model by which the BCS’ new deal with ESPN was based is very illuminating for these purposes. Consider that the bottom line of the deal is that it offers to pay more money to schools/conferences with according to “population centers”. Of the $174 million distributed from five bowl games, 83.4 percent went to six conferences in 2011. Some have gone to the extent of wondering whether the BCS itself conducts its business deal in a manner consistent with principles expressed in federal anti-trust laws. And yet it’s really a thin argument to say that the schools don’t pay their athletes based on their performance because it wouldn’t be fair or equal to all student-athletes. One can’t help but to notice a certain level of hypocrisy here that ought to make the opponents of paying athletes uncomfortable.