Friday, May 27, 2005

Born after June 1, 1980

Not much happening the last few days in sports…I could continue writing about things that I’ve written about before or I could do something fun. I’m tired of Kellen Winslow II and his accident. I don’t feel like writing about the NBA playoffs until we get to the finals. So let’s talk some baseball.

I was sitting there in my fiancé’s apartment the other night watching my beloved Mets lose to the Braves. But all I could think about was how excited I was that the Mets have two youngsters who have gobs and gobs of potential and will hopefully be with my team for a long time. I’m talking about 22-year old third baseman David Wright and 21-year old shortstop Jose Reyes.

Last night I saw the stat lines from a few other games and was amazed how many young guys are doing so well in the big leagues. It was something that I decided to take a deep look into…and then after my research it was time to figure out the Under-25 Major League Baseball Team.

Here’s what I’ve come up with…and to tell you the truth I couldn’t believe at how many positions I had to make a tough decision.
C Joe Mauer 22 years old Minnesota Twins
1B Justin Morneau 24 years old Minnesota Twins
2B Jorge Cantu 23 years old Tampa Bay Devil Rays
SS Jose Reyes 21 years old New York Mets
3B David Wright 22 years old New York Mets
LF Miguel Cabrera 22 years old Florida Marlins
CF Willy Taveras 23 years old Houston Astros
RF Carl Crawford 23 years old Tampa Bay Devil Rays
DH Hank Blalock 24 years old Texas Rangers

RHP Jake Peavy 24 years old San Diego Padres
LHP Dontrelle Willis 23 years old Florida Marlins
RHP Carlos Zambrano 23 years old Chicago Cubs
LHP C.C. Sabathia 24 years old Cleveland Indians
RHP Brett Myers 24 years old Philadelphia Phillies

LHP Gustavo Chacin 24 years old Toronto Blue Jays

CL Francisco Rodriguez 23 years old LA Angels of Anaheim
CL Chad Cordero 23 years old Washington Nationals

It’s amazing to realize that every guy on this list (with the exception of Taveras & Cantu) are All-Star quality players already. I know some of you probably realized that I have Carl Crawford listed at RF but he actually plays LF. My reasoning for this is simple – Carl deserves to be on this list but he’s not better than Miguel Cabrera so I’ve moved him to the opposite corner OF position. I’m sure Carl would be cool with my decision. I’ve also listed a sixth starting pitcher, Gustavo Chacin. It’s inevitable that during the long 162 game MLB season that one if not more of your starters will go down with an injury. Until that happens we’ll just use Chacin as our ‘long’ reliever out of the bullpen. I also listed All-Star 3B Hank Blalock as our DH. Honestly, Hank might be the best hitter on this list but since he plays in the American League and David Wright doesn’t I made the executive decision to put Hank in the DH spot.

Of the seventeen players that are listed only six of them are even 24 years old. This spells big things for major league baseball in the next decade … and you know who will be closely watching their progress from the field level.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Electrician Lost His Power

The 'Late Snake' took down the 'Pride of Providence' last night as Peter Manfredo, Jr. and his run to the top was shutdown by Sergio Mora on NBC's 'The Contender'. The show finale wasn't what I expected at all as the 24-year old electrician from Rhode Island lost his electricity in the final three rounds.

Manfredo, Jr. who is trained by his father lost a unanimous decision to the 25-year old Mora as the East Los Angeles native, fighting to give his mother a better life, dominated the final three rounds with his fast combinations, elusive defense and charisma. The loss for Manfredo, Jr. ended his story-book finish right before our very eyes.

During the show's first episode I watched closely as they detailed each of the 16 fighters who would be competing during the season. That night I told my fiancé that my pick to win it the big prize and the $1 million was indeed Manfredo, Jr. I had watched him twice fight on ESPN2 both times winning easily against good competition. I remember how he looked like a good kid and thought his skills and toughness were unbeatable, especially against a bunch of 'no-names'.

I was shocked when one of those 'no-names' called out Peter during that first episode and challenged him to be the first fight...Alfonso Gomez was one of the smallest guys on the show and had never really been in a big fight. It had to be the dumbest decision that Gomez had ever made. No. Gomez started slow but finished strong against Manfredo and beat him by a unanimous decision that first night and sent the 'Pride of Providence' home real quick. I told my fiancé, "That's ok, we'll see Manfredo again - this kid is going to be good."

Sure enough in episode four, fellow East Team fighter and New Englander Jeff Fraza had to be taken out of the competition because of the chicken pox and they needed to bring back one of the three fallen fighters. Without question they voted and brought back Manfredo, Jr. and he was put to the test quickly in week five. He would win that week and then again to put himself into the final four. The next test, a rematch with Gomez with the winner to be in 'The Contender' championship at Caesar's Palace with a million dollars on the line. Peter avenged his only professional loss and beat-up Gomez in a seven-round unanimous decision.

But last night in the big $1 million fight of a lifetime, Manfredo, Jr. looked tired in the last few rounds as he kept holding Sergio. Peter definitely threw and landed a lot more punches in the first four rounds, but in the final three Mora's hits were cleaner and each one took more and more of Manfredo's strength.Sergio's road to the final was very different. After winning his first two matches he fought the hard punching Jesse Brinkley in the final four. As Sergio had done to Ishe Smith the fight before, he gave Jesse loads of trouble and was much too elusive for him to land any big combinations. His tough upbringing in a bad area of East Los Angeles is probably the farthest thing on his mind this morning. He's a very smart, young fighter whose style is difficult to fight against and now has plenty of money ($1 million to be exact) and a brand new Toyota Tundra truck. Good for him - he was the best on the show and he deserved it. I hope to see him fight in some bigger fights and watch his career develop in the future.

Manfredo, Jr. will be back, I'm sure of it. He won $250,000 after losing last night's fight - not a million but certainly a wonderful payday for him, his pregnant wife and their beautiful little girl. He's a classy guy who's going to have a great career.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Such a Strange Dude

Well look at what we have here…Agent Leigh Steinberg is saying that his retired running back Ricky Williams has made the decision to come back and play for the Miami Dolphins. You’ll remember that Ricky just up and walked out on the same Dolphins last July just days before the start of training camp and left Miami out to dry without having a viable replacement for him. Much of what he kept saying then was that he didn't agree with the NFL substance-abuse program, because he felt like he should be allowed to smoke marijuana whenever he wanted. The team finished the season 4-12 and head coach Dave Wannstedt resigned after nine games. But Ricky really likes new head coach Nick Saban and is apparently all set to rejoin his teammates.

Steinberg said that the 2002 NFL leading rusher is “keeping in shape and has been involved in a rigorous training program.” But in February when Ricky was in South Florida for a paternity hearing he was saying that he was “enjoying retirement” and wasn’t quite sure he’d ever play again. What’s the change of heart?

Is he finished with his classes at the California College of Ayurveda where he studied holistic medicine? Is he tired of traveling all over the world and living like a nomad? Or is he realizing that after repaying Miami owner Wayne Huizenga back the $8.6 million in signing bonuses that he owes him and paying all of the child support that he owes that he’ll be broke?

Let’s also not forget that Williams will have to take a four-game suspension if he decides to resume his career because of his existing infringements of the league substance-abuse plan.

I’m a big believer in giving people second chances and for that I would say that the NFL should give Ricky a second chance. But not the Miami Dolphins. If I was a player on that team I would have a very hard time trusting this character. He’s a time bomb just waiting to go off…but not off in a destructive way, off to Asia or Africa. Would you want a guy like that to have your back on a playing field – not knowing if on the third play of the fourth quarter if he just decides that he doesn’t want to play football again? His decision to walk away almost a year ago cost his head coach his job, and made several teammates very susceptible to having to carry loads that they couldn’t handle. I would want no part of him.

If I was Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor, Chris Chambers or another veteran on that team with a voice I’d tell Nick Saban to get him back and trade his sorry butt away from that team. I know the guy has the potential to rush for more than 1,500 yards and be a dominant back – but that will only happen if he wants to play. Leigh Steinberg can make whatever references he wants about other guys in the league being in trouble with the law – but none of those guys turned their back on their teammates…an unwritten but very known rule in professional sports.

He’s obviously coming back for the money and if I was a Dolphin I’d want to distance myself from him…let him resume his weird lifestyle and career somewhere else.