Alex Rodriguez’s 600th will be bittersweet

Alex Rodriguez is soon to be part of the very exclusive 600 home run club

The day Alex Rodriguez hits his 600th home run will no doubt be a day cherished by him forever, but it will leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

The steroid era may be just about over, but it is still fresh in the minds of baseball fans everywhere. During the 1990’s, players were hitting home runs out of the ball park like it was nobody’s business and fans couldn’t get enough of it. However, since Major League Baseball started cracking down on performance-enhancing drug users the league has been experiencing some problems with run scoring. The 2010 season is being dubbed year of the pitcher. There is no doubt that that steroids are playing a part in this but it is impossible to say to what extent.

Alex Rodriguez is currently sitting on 599 home runs for his career and is looking to join some very elite company in the 600 home run club. Only 6 other players have hit 600 home runs in their career, which includes Barry Bonds (762*), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (610), and Sammy Sosa (609.

Despite admitting last year to steroid use between the years of 2001-2003, Alex Rodriguez has surprisingly received little criticism in recent months in that regard. There were also reports that A-Rod may have even been taking steroids since high school, but those soon faded away.

Did everyone seriously gobble up A-Rod’s “heartfelt” apology?

You can’t tell me with 100% certainty that he hasn’t used in the years prior or after to those admitted. Doesn’t the fact that he admitted to it so readily once he was caught make you think that there has to be more to the story?

These days when I see A-Rod mashing on the highlight reels there is always this uneasy feeling about me and there should be for you all as well. You have to wonder what his numbers would be now without the steroids that he claims he only took for 3 years. In 2007, Rodriguez denied to Katie Couric of ever having used performance enhancing drugs. However, once reports came out that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs last year in his AL MVP 2003 season there was no denying anymore for the superstar. It was obvious that someone smart told him to admit to the only things that they could prove and it has worked up to this point.

It is mind-boggling to see the amount of fans who are willing to tolerate steroids in baseball as well as other professional sports. Fans are so quick to forgive and forget the failures of athletes whether it is on or off the field. The difference between cheating on the field and indiscretions off the field is that one compromises the integrity of the game where as the other just compromises the integrity of the athlete as a person.

Barry Bonds is still under investigation for his involvement with performance-enhancing drugs

Barry Bonds cheated the game of baseball by taking performance-enhancing drugs. There is no way to argue that he could have put up those kinds of numbers otherwise. Barry Bonds was a very good player before steroids, but he would not mentioned in the same breath as Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth if not for steroids.

I hear fans say what does it matter if players use steroids if it makes the game better? Professional sports are meant for the fans anyways right?

Well, how is it fair to the other athletes going the straight route and playing the game with pure natural physical ability and talent? How is it fair to the record holders from years past who didn’t ever use the performance enhancing drugs that we now possess?

Hank Aaron hit 755 home runs without performance enhancing drugs and Barry Bonds hit 762 with performance enhancing drugs. Who is the home run king?

Moreover, steroids do not just help you hit the ball farther contrary to the beliefs of many casual observers. Steroids generate more bat speed, help you throw harder, run faster, and give you an all-around better game. Yes, you do still have to hit/throw the ball, but it just makes it easier.

In my opinion, anyone who takes steroids at any point in their career should not be even considered for the hall of fame. Nobody should ever get rewarded for cheating. Pete Rose deserves to be in the hall of fame more than any player who has taken steroids. Sure Pete Rose gambled on baseball, but he never cheated the game. His 4256 hits are legitimate and he didn’t need performance-enhancing drugs to get them.

The Hall of Fame rewards people who do great things for the game of whichever sport they are representing and people who cheat the game are flat out not doing anything good for the sport.

Tiger Woods may have had some indiscretions with many women, but he has not done anything to give himself an unfair advantage in the game of golf…at least not that we know of.

Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, the list goes on and on. The long line of players who have fallen to the temptation of steroids makes me cringe when people speak of them. Although they may be great players in their own right, they have also done their part to ruin so much of what is good in baseball and we are still trying re-build the solid foundation that this game was built upon.

600 home runs is a great milestone which may or may not be reached by any player for decades to come but you won’t see me cheering when Alex Rodriguez smacks his next one out.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Note to NHL GM’s – This is Getting out of Hand

Ilya Kovalchuk signed an unprecedented 17 year contract on Monday

If you have ever wondered what it is like to run a circus you can just ask NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Since the implementation of the hard cap in the NHL, teams have started giving contracts that are almost as crazy as an elephant on the high wire. These outrageously long contracts are being given to players with the benefit of having a lower cap hit, albeit for a longer period of time. Having a cap in the NHL is a great thing but the ringmaster’s of this operation are soon going to be sorry for their short-sightedness.

Lou Lamoriello, who is known as one of the most shrewd general managers in the NHL, did something very un-Lou like yesterday by signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a massive 17 year contract worth approximately $102 million. Kovalchuk, who was probably the most sought after free agent this off-season, had been rumoured to be close to a long-term deal with the LA Kings a couple of times. It was also reported that he had turned down a 10 year $100 million contract extension last year from the Atlanta Thrashers.

Are you kidding me? Kovalchuk is a point a game guy who is not an experienced playoff veteran. You’re telling me he’s worth $100 million over 10-17 years?

For the most part, this off-season has been filled with more reasonable contracts, but the unprecedented Kovalchuk signing may just be the freak show that NHL GM’s needed to wake them up from this dream.

In the business of sports, winning now is one of the most important things to fans and owners alike. However, the price for winning sometimes comes at a great cost to the future.

These long-term contracts look all fine and dandy when players are in their prime and performing at optimum levels, but what happens when their play starts to digress little bit by little bit?

What is going to happen is that 5 or 6 years down the line, maybe less, these players that are being signed to double-digit contracts in the prime of their career are going to start receiving a lot of criticism for not playing to the level of their contract.

Johan Franzen was signed to an 11 year contract worth $43 million dollars at the age of 29. His best season consists of 34 goals and 25 assists in 71 games, which is less than a point a game. Franzen is undoubtedly a valuable player to the Detroit franchise, but at a cap hit of $3.9 million annually it is not going to be a bargain in the years to come.

Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg both signed double-digit year contracts

What about Henrik Zetterberg? At 28 years old he signed a 12 year deal worth an estimated $73 million for a cap hit at around $6 million per year. Zetterberg can be a plus point a game guy for a team, and is one of the best wingers in the league. However, once he starts reaching the age of 34 or 35 you are going to start to see his play drop to some extent.

Oh yeah, what the heck is a team supposed to do when their player is not performing at the level expected of them even at the supposed peak of their career?

The Tampa Bay Lighting and the Vancouver Canucks have already started to see the error of their ways in the signings of Vincent Lecavalier and Roberto Luongo respectively. In the last two seasons, Lecavalier has already started to show some possible signs of aging, where he scored 67 and 70 points while failing to reach the 30-goal mark. At the age of 30, who knows if we will ever see the old Vinny ever again.

Robert Luongo is also in the same boat, as his play has been weaker his last couple seasons in Vancouver. At a cap hit of $5.3 million, the contract is sure not looking like much of a bargain at this point.

When they signed Luongo to that 12 year contract, the Canucks had Cory Schneider waiting in the wings, who is now finally that backup goalie to Luongo. However, with very good AHL numbers you have to believe that taking a chance on Cory Schneider with a rookie contract cap hit would have been the better idea. With the extra cap space, the Canucks may have been able to acquire some better quality skaters.

When these players with big contracts stop performing at their top level, it isn’t just going to be that they are getting paid too much. Suddenly, the cap hit that seemed like such a shrewd move, is more of a garbage decision than anything.

Mark Messier was a big disappointment to Vancouver Canuck fans

If you look at some of the all-time greats there are only a select few that performed comparably to their glory days. You cannot fight age, and with these long-term contracts it should be expected that guys will have injuries that hurt their longevity. Once Mark Messier went to the Vancouver Canucks at the age of 36 his play dropped dramatically.

You can tell me that guys like Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe were able to play well later in their careers. Then are you trying to say that Hossa, Kovalchuk and Zetterberg are in the same class as these guys? Gretzky dropped from 100+ to 90+, that’s a big difference than 80+ to 60 or 70+ points.

Teams are throwing away their opportunity at future success by signing players to these ludicrous contracts, and leaving their teams only a small window for a chance to lift the Stanley Cup.

Imagine if the Chicago Blackhawks had not won the Stanley Cup this past season. They would still have their core four players of Kane, Toews, Keith and Seabrook, but they have had to trade and let-go of some of their key role players.

Their ability to win a Stanley Cup makes the move a success in my eyes because of the degree of difficulty it takes to win just one championship. But the ability to build a dynasty is almost out of the question. We talk about their core four, but there are also the underachieving Brian Campbell and Marian Hossa who are both in the midsts of eight and twelve-year deals respectively. You aren’t going to win many Stanley Cups with six players.

All of these contracts are constantly setting a precedent for future ones, which almost inevitably means an endless cycle of brutally long contracts. General Manager’s are digging a deeper and deeper hole for themselves to get out of, and it will eventually culminate in their demise.

Things are getting out of hand and if the NHL isn’t going to do anything about it, the only way to stop it is for every single one of the GM’s to refuse to give the contracts that the players are demanding.

This might mean that your team is not going to get the player it is looking for right now, but it will save your franchise 5 or 10 years down the road. These players do want to play, and if no one gives them the contract then they are going to have to settle for something less. Be strong and don’t give into the temptation of the lucrative deals.

Act 1 of this show has been quite spectacular and act 2 may turn out just as good. But ringmaster’s are warned that these later acts will dull as father time works his magic.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Forget Lebron, Dwyane Wade is still King of South Beach

Who is the real King of South Beach?

Lebron James has been known as the “king” ever since he entered the NBA in 2003. 2 MVP seasons, 1 NBA finals appearance, and career averages of 27.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists for Lebron James has meant for the most part that this title has gone undisputed.

Until now.

The unification of 3 of the NBA’s top 10 scorers in Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lebron James has left some questions regarding who the alpha male is for the Miami Heat. Well, Chris Bosh really isn’t in that discussion but I felt his name deserved mentioning.

Unlike Lebron, Dwyane Wade has already won over fans in Miami with his flashy play (no pun intended), and of course, leading the Heat to an NBA championship in 2006.

Recently, Lebron James’ competitive drive has been in doubt due to his decision to flock to Miami to form a super team. Many say that his decision to join Wade and Bosh has shown that he has no desire to be the leader who takes his team to the promised land. They say that if guys like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant were in his situation they would never have made that same choice. The best want to beat the best, not play with them.

I am one of those people who completely agree with this assessment.

This has been said so often but it was evident in the Cavs-Celtics series when Lebron flat out gave up in game 5. There is no way Kobe Bryant would ever give up on his team no matter how frustrated he was with their performance or lack thereof. Lebron’s quitting was basically saying “my teammates are garbage and I am sick and tired of doing this.” On the other hand, during the Kobe-Shaq days, Kobe Bryant was doing all he could to get rid of Shaq because he was sick and tired of hearing how good Shaq was.

Kobe Bryant wanted to be and undeniably is the man. Lebron James just wants to be one of the guys.

The fact that Dwyane Wade has already won a championship already gives him the upper-hand on Lebron. He has been to the NBA finals and is a true winner. However, since their 2006 NBA championship, the Heat have struggled to build a solid team around Dwyane Wade. If you think Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O’Neal and Delonte West is a weak supporting cast then I’m not sure what Jermaine O’Neal, Carlos Arroyo, Quentin Richardson and Michael Beasley is.

With absolutely no team around him, Wade was still able to produce playoff appearances in the last two seasons.

Now obviously it wasn’t just Lebron James who decided that they were going to join forces in Miami and Dwyane Wade had a lot to do with this as well. In this case though, Dwyane Wade did not leave the only team he knows to solely win a championship. Wade is not getting any criticism for joining a super team because he is not doing it to ensure that he has at least 1 championship ring to his name when it is all said and done.

In addition to that is, to Miami Heat fans, Wade will always be considered top dog. I don’t know if there could possibly be any Miami Heat fan who has not had their heart won over by Dwyane Wade. He has already done so much for the franchise that Lebron James would have to be beyond superhuman to dethrone Dwyane Wade in Miami.

It will be apparent that all of the big 3’s numbers are going to dip to an extent next season and in the seasons to come, but I don’t see there being a big difference between Lebron’s and Wade’s numbers.

Championships may be won, and Most Valuable Player’s crowned but it will take a lot more than a title to oust the real King of South Beach.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Unemployed and Desperate

Off the field Terrell Owens still shows the same swagger that he is so well-known for to NFL fans and players alike. Only a short time ago Owens was considered to be one of the best receivers in the game but his aging combined with his unpredictable personality has led teams to shy away from him.

With less than two weeks until training camp, Terrell Owens is left without a team and with no immediate offers on the table ‘Camp Owens’ are seemingly willing to take any offer given to them at this point.

So which team is going to be dumb or shrewd enough to give T.O. a chance to contribute to their organization?

The major problem with Owens at the moment is obviously not his steadily declining play. Teams have to weigh the costs and benefits of his attitude, and whether his play will make up for the somewhat cancerous presence that T.O. provides to a locker room.

Gone are the days when he was too talented for anything to matter. Terrell Owens is now more or less an ordinary player in the NFL, and it seems pointless for teams to take a chance on him when he is not going to necessarily provide a jolt to your offence week in and week out.

Owens right now is saying all the right things to get signed by a team, but no one really cares. He says that he doesn’t mind taking on a smaller role, a pay cut, and do whatever it takes to make it work.

Yeah, whatever you say bud.

First of all, are we supposed to believe that THE Terrell Owens is willing to do anything to make any situation a success?

T.O. could hardly handle not getting the ball every down during the prime of his career as the #1 receiver and now we are expected to think that he can handle being possibly as low as a #3 receiver.

Jeff Garcia isn't the only quarterback to have had his fair share of problems with T.O.

No matter how much he has liked a quarterback, there comes a point in time where he just doesn’t get along with them anymore. Whether it is Jeff Garcia, Donovan Mcnabb, or Tony Romo, it just doesn’t matter. Moreover, it must have taken every shred of will power in Terrell Owen’s body to not snap at Buffalo Bill’s quarterback’s Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

On the other hand, the ability to shut his mouth for the better part of last year could be a sign of maturity from the 36-year-old receiver.

Well…maybe not.

In all honesty though, if you take away T.O.’s personality and just look at him as a player I think that he would make a very solid #3 receiver at this point in his career. The only thing that is gone from his repertoire is that real burst that very few receivers possess. Without that burst he is no longer a #1 receiver anymore, but if he is genuine in saying that he is willing to take a smaller role, then the #3 receiver slot may not be such a bad idea.

Although, you can’t overlook the fact that T.O. is prone to dropping passes which makes him a little less ideal to be more of a possession receiver. But even Owens himself will tell you that he has dropped balls his whole career and that should never be the issue. That’s great that he is willing to admit that he has dropped passes his whole career. However, now that he is not that same big time receiver, you are not going to be as tolerant to dropped balls anymore.

Now taking all that into consideration you could probably go either way on T.O. The thing is, Owens is a proven receiver in this league, and come crunch time would you rather rely on younger, inexperienced receiver or a 36-year-old veteran?

I’d take T.O., but then again I’m a sucker for giving guys with baggage and talent a chance.

At this point in his career, it pretty much has to be the perfect fit for Owens. The kinds of situations that work out for guys like him are more likely to be the ones where a team is already are set up to win a championship prior to the season. There already has to be a winning mentality in place, in which bringing in a #2 or #3 receiver is one of the final pieces to the puzzle. It has to be a stable organization with a quality quarterback to keep Owens in check.

There have been rumours recently about a possible T.O. signing in New England, but that has fallen through. The Patriots could be a perfect fit for Owens because it matches so many of the criteria above. They already have so many pieces in place and a couple real winners in quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick.

I sort of alluded to this earlier but the problem that everyone realizes is if you’re bringing in Terrell Owens to be a role-playing receiver rather than a primary one, why wouldn’t you just sign someone who could probably contribute equally well but has no baggage?

Well you would do exactly that, which is why T.O. is still without a job.

It is inevitable that T.O. is going to get a job at some point this season. Either a team feels they need a little more punch offensively and decide they are going to give Owens a shot, or a team is going to be so decimated at the receiver position that their final option is bringing in T.O.

Terrell Owens will be successful if he is brought into the proper situation, but those situations are few and far between.

Even though T.O. is advertising the right product people have seen his inferior brand all too often.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Greatest owner ever…? Hardly.

George Steinbrenner (left) and Billy Martin (right) didn't always get along

They say that money can’t buy happiness. Well try telling that to New York Yankee fans.

In 37 years under George Steinbrenner, the New York Yankees won 7 World Series titles and 11 pennants. In 1973, Steinbrenner turned a $10 million investment into a franchise that is now worth an estimated $1.6 billion.

Following his death yesterday, the baseball world has been buzzing at the tragedy but also about the legend that is George Steinbrenner. Despite the fact that Steinbrenner made the Yankees into perennial contenders, there is much reason to believe why he should not be considered one of the greatest owners in the history of sports.

George Steinbrenner is probably best known to the casual sports fan for his outrageous spending on top flight players. But he is also well-known for his constant hiring and firings of his employees.

7 World titles in 37 years seems like a lot of championships, but when you think about it, with that much money being thrown around they probably should have had even more.

As I mentioned above, George Steinbrenner is not one to shy away from spending his money. To this day, the Yankees do not care about spending above the “salary cap” and paying a bit of a luxury tax. They are willing to trade money for championships and that is something that you have to give George Steinbrenner a lot of credit for. It is a path that should be taken more often by owners because what is really the difference between having $300 and $200 million?

It is frequently overlooked that the Yankees had a championship drought for 17 years (1979-1995), which goes to show that ludicrous spending and instability in a franchise is not always going to be the answer to winning championships.

If you look at the years when the Yankees started winning again, it was not just because they were buying all their players. It all started again when the front office decided that the Franchises insufficient development of talent through their system was not getting the job done, and it was time to start bringing up players through the minor league ranks.

Think about it, throughout the last 14 years there have been four core players that are still to this day high quality major league players. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite, and Jorge Posada. What you have there is the four most important pieces of any team. You have a starting shortstop, starting pitcher, closer, and first-string catcher.

Those four guys have been a constant among the Yankees organization and are the primary reason why they have won so many championships. Let’s not forget Bernie Williams who was the starting center-fielder for the better part of ten years.

I do realize that the money that the Yankees are able to spend allow them to surround this nucleus of players with other star guys. When you get star players like Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Alex Rodriguez it is going to be difficult to lose, but the fact of the matter is that the Yankees had a core of guys that they could build around. The Yankees winning formula does not alone stem from George Steinbrenner and his massive spending ways, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

It’s not like the Yankees didn’t buy players when they weren’t winning championships. They brought in guys by the names of Ricky Henderson, Steve Sax, and Dave Winfield who were all unable to deliver the city of New York a championship.

Do you seriously think that Yankees are going to win the same amount of games without the best closer of all time or without the clutch play of Derek Jeter?

Speaking of stability, Joe Torre was only around for oh…11 years, which is the longest tenure for a manager during the George Steinbrenner era.

Contrast that to Steinbrenner’s first 23 seasons as Yankee owner where he changed managers a total of 20 times, which included Billy Martin being fired and rehired 5 times. He also switched general managers 11 times in 30 years. Please do not try to tell me that that kind of instability is not going to hurt a team.

What if you had an owner who had the exact same spending style as George Steinbrenner without all the craziness to go along with it? What if that same owner decided that he was not going to meddle in the affairs of his front office? What if this bizarro Steinbrenner was instead the owner of the New York Yankees?

What you would have is a New York Yankees franchise that would have, in those same 37 years, a greater than or equal amount of championships than the real George Steinbrenner has brought to the Big Apple.

George Steinbrenner may have done a lot of great things for the New York Yankees but he is by no means the greatest owner of all-time.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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