Author Archives | Chris Lardieri

Rise of the Quarterbacks

Remember the good old days when a team needed a bruising defense to win an NFL championship? And how those same teams didn’t necessarily need a superstar quarterback? Think of the 1970s Steelers, 1985 Bears, 1986 Giants, 2000 Ravens and 2002 Buccaneers.

Those days are long gone.

In 2011, having a quarterback who can light it up is now a must.

Case in point: a quick look at the passing yardage leaders this season shows that the top three quarterbacks – Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford – all threw for over 5,000 yards. And Eli Manning was just behind them in fourth place, with 4,933 yards. While Brees and Brady both broke Dan Marino’s single-season record of 5,084 yards, which stood since 1984, all of the top five (Aaron Rodgers was #5) quarterbacked teams that made it to the playoffs. And it’s no coincidence that the two teams in Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants and Patriots, have QBs that were 4th and 2nd on this list, respectively.

Why is this?

A number of factors come into play, but rules changes is a primary factor. Since the NFL made it a point to crack down on late hits, and hits to the head and knees against quarterbacks, the passing game has become wide open. Combine with that the increase in pass interference calls against defensive backs in recent years, and the game has become a passer’s dream. “Air Coryell,” anyone?

In addition, there has been an increased focus by teams to draft and develop quarterbacks. Of the ten quarterbacks who threw for the most yards in 2011, seven were first-round picks. If a team is going to devote that much salary cap space to one player, you can rest assured that they won’t be utilizing a run-first offense. And that also requires more cap space to pay for quality receivers to throw to and behemoth offensive lineman to protect a team’s most valuable asset.

As a result of these factors, running backs and the defensive side of the ball have suffered. It’s rare to see a top college tailback selected at or near the top of the draft nowadays. Gone are the days of low scores and trying to eat up the clock.

Yet again, the Super Bowl is a prime example of this. Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are all solid running backs, but they’re not superstars. The Giants’ defense gave up 400 points, 6 more than they scored in the regular season. The much-maligned Patriots defense ranked 31st (next-to-last) in terms of yards allowed this season. The Giants were only a few notches higher at 29. Somewhere, Buddy Ryan is cringing.

Finally, don’t think for a minute that the increased popularity in the game and the new importance of passing aren’t correlated. And it’s only going to continue, with the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and other stand-out college QBs expected to be drafted high in April.

So sit back and continue to enjoy the air shows that are sure to continue into the 2012-13 season. Unless your name is Rex Ryan, of course.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2012 Sports Climax, LLC

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Christmas in October

This is a first for me – writing two positive stories about sports in one year (not to mention within the past three months). And yet again, it involves attending an NFL game. But this is the holiday season, and it’s time to remember the good, including some special people who made my day recently.

My grandfather passed away in October. He was in his mid-eighties and sick, but it was still a surprise. Thanks to my wife’s hard work and a great round-trip fare that my brother got e-mailed to him earlier that week, I was able to get a flight back to New Jersey so I could attend the funeral.

On my way home from work that afternoon, my cousin Bill called me. Bill grew up two houses down the street from me in Jersey. Now that I’m older, I realize that since I was the oldest child in my family, he was a de facto older brother to me. He worked on Wall Street – specifically, on the floor of the Commodities Exchange. I’m convinced that this is what piqued my interest in the industry that I now work in. He also took me on my first subway ride and to see my first basketball game at Madison Square Garden – the 1983 Big East Tournament Championship Game. I got to see Chris Mullin lead St. John’s to victory, and he became my favorite player. I’m sure this also led me to be intrigued with the big city, where I later worked after graduating college and rode the subway to and from the office.

Back to the phone call. Bill, being the always generous cousin that he is, asked if I needed a ride to or from the airport. He then told me that he and his wife Celia were going to the Jets-Chargers game that Sunday with their friends, Joe and Maureen. Make a long story short, Joe is friends with Antonio Garay, the nose tackle for the Chargers. Garay’s from Rahway, and his family was going to have a huge tailgate party that they were also attending. He asked, “Want me to see if I can get you a ticket?”

I’m not a fan of either team, but I am a sports blogger. How could I turn this down?

Come Saturday, the phone rings and it’s Bill again. “Good news – I got you a ticket.” “Thanks so much.” I replied. “What do I owe you?” “Nothing,” he said, adding, “Just a smile.” I added, “I think I can do that. And I think I’m a Chargers fan on Sunday.”

It was with mixed emotions that I got on the red eye Saturday night. My wife and kids wouldn’t be joining me, since the little one was sick and the older one had school and practices to attend. But I figured the game would take my mind off everything.

I landed in Newark early for once. I even got to watch two cab drivers lean on their horns and nearly duke it out in the taxi line at 6 a.m. Ah, Jersey. My dad picked me up, I caught a few hours of sleep at my parents’ house, had my favorite Jersey breakfast (Taylor ham and egg sandwich) and was dressed just after Bill and Celia arrived.

Thanks to some fantastic driving by Joe, we made it to our tailgate destination at MetLife Stadium just after 11 a.m. Joe’s cousin had an unbelievable spread of food – steak, chili, you name it. Maureen brought outstanding pepper and egg sandwiches. Bill brought my all-time favorite, Dunkin Donuts coffee; which this jet-lagged reporter greatly appreciated.

We then walked over to the Garay family tailgate to pick up my ticket (courtesy of Antonio). They had a spread of tables and tables of food. Multiple barbecue grills going at once. A carnivore’s dream. Desserts far as the eye can see. A spread that would put some weddings to shame. THIS is tailgating. And you wonder why some in L.A. prefer the Grand Grossing stadium proposal?

I also met Antonio’s parents, Tony and Marsha, and his siblings, Dan and Francesca. All were unbelievably nice and I thanked them profusely. Along with the ticket, Tony gave Joe four field passes? Yes, I was going to actually set foot on the field before the game to watch the Chargers warm up.

We went through the gates – complete with metal detector wands. We were directed to a door and then a long hallway. At the end of it stood the playing field. I was like a kid in a candy store. Bill said to me, “Are you smiling yet?” I sure was.

The best way I can describe being on the field is that everything just looks bigger. The most impressive thing I saw was the sheer size and speed of some of the Chargers. Their offensive lineman – especially tackles Jeromey Clary and Marcus McNeil – seemed as tall as trees, yet had feet as fast as basketball players. Quarterback Phillip Rivers had a quick release when he threw. Mike Tolbert looked much shorter than he does on TV. Vincent Jackson was taller than Antonio Gates. Eric Weddle actually looked about as tall as me. The players hit harder and ran faster up close.

Fifteen minutes before the game, we had to leave the field. But not before I got some pictures of the Chargers equipment and the replay booth. Bill (who’s also a firefighter) got to meet and take a picture with Jets super-fan Fireman Ed. We even got to see former New York Governor George Pataki and former Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez.

I then went to my seat in one of the end zones, where I sat with other family members and friends of the Chargers. It was a perfect fall day − sunny and just warm enough. The Jets fans, unlike their prior reputation, were actually nice, and the extent of their jousting was limited to verbal barbs directed at those wearing Chargers gear. The Jets came back to win the game, 27-21, and the hometown fans went home happy. At least I got to see a good game.

But the game was icing on the cake. I’ll likely never get onto an NFL field on game day ever again. But at least I was able to tell my kids about it, and even show them the pictures and video to prove it. I felt like the boy who grew up just down the highway from the old Giants Stadium.

For that, I owe many thanks to Antonio Garay and his entire family. I’ve been pulling for you every Sunday since. We Jersey boys tend to stick together.

Thanks also go to Joe and Maureen, for giving me a ride, feeding me and for getting me a ticket and onto the field. I know Bill said that I’d be liable to write an article about this – here it is. And you’d be wise to check out his company, Web Star Recruits.

Last, but not least, thank you to cousin Bill and Celia. I appreciate everything you did, for taking my mind off everything and for the early Christmas present. Here’s hoping you enjoy seeing your names in “print.”

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Happy New Year to all of you!

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Angels’ payroll after inking Pujols

A week has passed since the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made the biggest splash of the MLB offseason.  First came the surprising news that they signed the prize of the free agent market − former Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols − to a ten-year, $250 million contract. To top it all off, they then signed one of the top free agent starting pitchers of this year’s class, former Rangers left-hander CJ Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.

The initial reaction was that the team had lost their mind. How could they pay an aging slugger – whose power statistics have been on the decline – all that money? And for 10 years?

Between Pujols and Wilson, team owner Arte Moreno shelled out over $331 million, nearly double what he paid to buy the team ($183.5 million) in 2003.

The Angels? The team that’s always been the suitor in free agency, only to be jilted by the likes of Mark Teixeira, Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre? Yes, there’s a new Angels team in town; not sure if that town is Los Angeles or Anaheim, but we’ll get back to you on that.

Clearly, team owner Artie Moreno and new General Manager Jerry DiPoto are determined to field a World Series contender in 2012. Missing the playoffs two years in a row and watching their rivals in Texas win both the division and the AL pennant can inspire such a spending spree.

But these deals are about more than just baseball and statistics. While one can justifiably question the merits of paying so much for one player who may soon be nothing more than a DH and another who badly underachieved in the 2011 playoffs, there are other factors that may cause it to make sense from a business perspective. They are:

  1. Television. The Angels recently signed a new TV deal with Fox Sports, reportedly valued at $3 billion over 20 years. That equates to $150 million a year – which means that these revenues would hypothetically pay for Pujols and Wilson after just over two years. The Yankees and Red Sox can also attest to the importance of TV revenue in 21st century baseball.
  2. Increased revenues. By making such an (expensive) effort to improve their roster, this will result in other increased revenues, such as ticket sales, concessions and team merchandise. And if the team starts making the postseason again, that’s even more revenue that could potentially come in. After all, you have to spend money to make money, right?
  3. The Dodgers. How would the team’s rival to the north (the one that actually plays in L.A.) come into play? Here’s how. The Angels have steadily been taking market share away from the Dodgers since they won the World Series in 2002. That gap has narrowed even more with the Dodgers’ ownership issues, bankruptcy and the horrific Brian Stow beating on opening day 2011. The Angels seized this opportunity, spending big bucks while the Dodgers are unable to do much of anything in free agency. This makes even more sense when you consider that the team will likely have new owners by this time next year, and that owner will likely want to aggressively sign free agents. Advantage, Angels.

Now we all know that “dream teams” haven’t fared well of late – just ask the Heat, Red Sox, and Eagles. And the Yankees can submit the A-Rod contract as Exhibit A as to why long-term deals for aging sluggers are risky.

I fell into this skeptical category as well. But on the other hand, I realized that Moreno is a shrewd businessman and an excellent marketer.

Then last weekend, my kids and I walked into a Sports Authority store. What was the first thing we saw on display? An Albert Pujols t-shirt; name and number on the back. I asked the cashier when they got these shirts, and she said just that morning – just days after the signing. I became less skeptical.

Welcome to the big-business elite of baseball, Angels fans. The Yankees and Red Sox fans now have company. Just be aware that you can no longer accuse their teams of trying to buy a winner.

However, you can now begin to complain about the luxury tax.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Penn State burned for picking their noses

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of hearing about how Penn State stood around picking their noses while a child predator was running loose. OK, not literally digging for a big one, that’s a joke, but I do mean it in the proverbial sense and I’m sick of hearing it.

Not in the way that I’m tired of hearing about Kim Kardashian’s “marriage” to Kris Humphries ending in divorce. Sick meaning it literally makes me ill, and on multiple levels: as a parent of two young children, as a human being who was taught to do the right thing, and as a writer who prides himself on railing against things that are blatantly wrong in sports.

If you haven’t heard what went on at Penn State then, please stop reading this column immediately and go back under the rock you crawled out from under. Even my friend in London (who doesn’t follow college football) has heard the brutal details of the child sexual abuse allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and the ensuing fallout that rightfully cost Head Coach Joe Paterno his job.

The fact that Penn State wide receivers coach Mike McQueary (then a graduate assistant) allegedly witnessed one of Sandusky’s assaults on a 10-year-old boy in 2002 − and yet nothing was done − is infuriating.

The prevailing reaction among people with half a brain has been, “How could this happen?” I’ll tell you how: because those involved at Penn State spent the next nine years going about their business instead of reporting a vile predator to the authorities and “following up”. Standing around idly and worried more about their jobs or the wrath of a coach or a university to DO THE RIGHT THING.

Is this what we’ve come to as a society?

And then we have to endure Sandusky’s creepy interview with Bob Costas on NBC’s ‘Rock Center’ this past Monday. And then we have to hear that McQueary sent an e-mail to a friend, claiming that he did stop Sandusky and even spoke to police after the 2002 incident. Borough police chief Tom King later said that McQueary did not report anything to the police.

The whole thing is eerily reminiscent of a Martin Scorsese movie. “The Departed” comes to mind, and if you cross it with “Cop Land,” set it in a college town and replace police with football, you’ve got yourself a movie. Only this isn’t a movie, and life has truly imitated art.

Enjoy your inevitable destination, Jerry Sandusky. I hear it’s a dry heat. But at least you’ll have a few of your Penn State buddies to hang out with there. Your (alleged) actions are despicable, and those of your former colleagues aren’t too far behind it. You’ll all face your inevitable karmic retribution.

Forget sports, this story should be a life lesson. As my wife and I tell our kids “Don’t do bad things − they always catch up to people.”

It’s ironic that kids can comprehend this, yet grown adults at a major academic and collegiate football institution can’t grasp the concept or even consider the well-being of innocent children.


Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Canseco vs. Dykstra celebrity boxing

I thought the saddest sports story Wednesday in Los Angeles was the news that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the team after a prolonged battle in various courts and with Major League Baseball. Don’t get me wrong − this is great news for the team’s fans, but is sad in the sense that a once-proud franchise has fallen so far. But even this paled in comparison to what I read later that morning.

Former MLB stars Jose Canseco and Lenny Dykstra will be fighting each other in a “celebrity” boxing match this Saturday night at the Avalon Hollywood. Dykstra replaces Canseco’s original opponent, White House party crasher Tareq Salahi. Dykstra, shown here in his prison garb, reportedly “begged” Salahi to take his place so he could fight Canseco – whom Dykstra claimed ruined his career by “spreading lies.”

What a compelling match-up – an admitted steroid user against someone who still denies using performance enhancing drugs to this day. A wife-beater versus an (alleged) auto thief/embezzler/financial fraudster. An “author” facing a “stock picker.”

And if this isn’t bad enough, the “Celebrity Fight Night” will be hosted by Kevin Federline and also features “fighters” Michael Lohan, Kato Kaelin, Coolio, Joey Buttafuoco, Amy Fisher and “Octomom.” All yours for the low, low price of $19.90, live on pay-per-view!

The good news for sports fans?

We’ll be too busy watching the showdown on Saturday night between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama to even notice.

And to think, Canseco and Dykstra were once perennial All-Stars making millions of dollars. Yet once upon a time, Mickey Mantle was ridiculed for charging top-dollar fees to sign autographs at baseball card shows.

If anything, Canseco and Dykstra are great examples to show your kids what not to do. Don’t do drugs. Don’t commit crimes. Don’t do people wrong. If you do, you’ll end up fighting in “events” such as this.

And Dykstra should try to follow in the footsteps of his 1986 Mets teammate Darryl Strawberry, who has turned his life around.

Here’s hoping you someday come to your senses, Jose and Lenny. But I’m not holding my breath.

Oh well. At least Frank McCourt knows when to throw in the towel.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Forget Occupy Wall Street; Occupy ESPN GameDay

The news media has been bombarding us with coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests that began in lower Manhattan and have spread out across the nation. Yes, we even have one set up here in Los Angeles, making City Hall now look like a campground.

After seeing tents spread around the landmark building in Downtown L.A., I thought:

“If only sports fans could launch a similar campaign against a huge conglomerate that has taken over the sports world – ESPN.”

Well someone was listening. And his name is Dan Patrick. Yes the syndicated sports talk radio show host and former employee of “The Bristol Improv.” And it goes by the name “Occupy GameDay.”

It all started last Saturday in Dallas, where ESPN’s popular College GameDay was broadcasting before the Oklahoma-Texas game. One of the fans in the crowd held up a sign that read, “Chris in Syracuse” – a reference to one of Patrick’s regular callers to his show. The irony? ESPN (or as Patrick calls it, “The Mother Ship”) personalities are not allowed to appear on his show, but now signs making reference to his show make it on their airwaves.

Patrick said on the air this week that ESPN was planning to confiscate any such signs this weekend when GameDay broadcasts from Eugene, Oregon before the Oregon-Arizona State contest. And thus started the “Occupy GameDay: Eugene” movement.

ESPN spokeswoman Rachel Margolis denied such a ban, and added, “Our only sign concerns are obscenities and profanity, in which case we take them away.

And if this stealth campaign seems vaguely familiar to you, you’re right. It’s straight out of the pages of the Howard Stern playbook, in which his hardcore “Wack Pack” fans would hold up similar signs referencing Stern on live television.

Not surprisingly, Patrick is a huge Stern fan who even appeared on a “Superfan Roundtable” show on his SiriusXM satellite radio channel earlier this year.

Regardless, it’s going to lead to more people watching GameDay, including yours truly. And far more compelling that watching the usual home-town fans screaming and waving in the background.

Great marketing, Dan. Keep up the good work.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Cardinals fans get “double thumbs up”

Plenty of media attention is given to the negatives of professional sports these days – the “overpaid bums,” criminal behavior by some athletes, ridiculously overpriced tickets and concessions, unruly and violent fans, PSLs, lockouts…the list goes on.

I’m never too  shy to use my column to focus on the negatives and rips those that deserve it but today, I’m here to focus on the good in sports.  Specifically, the good people and sports fans of Phoenix. Here’s my first-hand account.

For the second consecutive year, I joined my friends/fellow New York Giants fans Darrin and Eddie, along with and my father-in-law (affectionately known as “Gonzo”) on a road trip to see “Big Blue” play.  Last year’s inaugural trip was to Seattle – a great city with nice people and two impressive stadiums next to each other. This time, we decided to go to Phoenix to see them take on the Cardinals, where the weather would be nicer and the plane trip shorter.

We stayed in Glendale, a stone’s throw away from University of Phoenix Stadium. Some of the locals refer to it as “The Big Toaster” or “The Mother Ship,” which are both pretty amusing descriptions. On the other side of the parking lot sits the Westgate City Center, a shopping, dining and entertainment center that’s reminiscent of LA Live in downtown Los Angeles. It’s also home to the Arena, home of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes.

On game day, we literally walked to the stadium, which is an underrated perk in this era of overpriced parking “fees.”  Even the local cops were nice to us as one member of our group nearly crossed the street in front of a “No Crossing” sign.  And no, it wasn’t me.

Photo/Wikimedia Commons

On one side of the parking lot sits “The Great Lawn,” an eight-acre area of turf set up for tailgating, complete with a stage and a live band. Despite the numerous people sporting Giants blue, the home team fans were all cordial. We even ran into a fellow Giants fan we met the night before – “Nathan from The ATL,” whom we speculated was a reject from the “jersey Shore” casting call. We then headed to the stadium.

Right before you enter the doors of the stadium, you feel a nice blast of cold air – welcome relief from the notorious “dry heat.” The concourse area is beautiful and spotless. All of the concessions staff, ushers and other stadium workers were unbelievably nice and helpful – reminiscent of Disney World and I mean that in a good way. The beverages were actually reasonably priced by pro sports standards, as was the food. I give the brisket burger a thumbs-up.

When we got to our excellent seats in Section 231 of the Club Level, I was even more impressed by the stadium. The natural turf field – which is rolled into the stadium before games – is impressive, as are the glass roof and glass windows in one end zone. It makes you feel as if you’re in an outdoor environment, with all the benefits of being indoors.

But the highlight of our visit was the Cardinals fans. We got the good-natured ribbing from those sitting around us about how Larry Fitzgerald was going to have a field day, etc., but not one single fan was rude, confrontational or even used foul language. Despite the huge contingent of Giants fans in attendance, the Cardinals fans wore lots of red and made a lot of noise.

The couple sitting behind us, John and MaryAnn from Tucson, were extremely nice and knowledgeable – even lecturing me on what a mistake I made by having Beanie Wells sitting my fantasy football team’s bench.  Yes, you were right. Luckily, I would have lost regardless. At halftime, they insisted that we joint them for a drink – their treat.  We happily obliged. Somehow, I don’t think this sort of thing happens at NFC East stadiums. Their idea of getting you a drink would likely involve an empty bottle being hurled at you or one poured over your head…

As if that wasn’t nice enough, a fan in front of us, as well as the guy sitting next to us with his family (who went my the name “Murph,”) also offered to buy us a drink. Mind you, he had already told us that he was on the  USS Vinson the day that bin Laden’s body was transported to the aircraft carrier. I thanked him for his kind offer, but told him that his story was enough of a gift.

I won’t bore you with the details of the game and its controversial and exciting ending, which resulted in a 31-27 Giants victory. After the game, the hometown fans were stunned, but were all gracious in defeat. For a brief moment, I actually felt bad. But only for a nanosecond.

On our way out of the stadium, we spoke to ushers, security people, and a Cardinals employee (didn’t get his name, but he said he was originally from Northern Virginia), who all wished us well and asked us how we enjoyed the stadium. A security worker near the stadium exit even pointed out the statue of the late former Cardinals safety and American hero Pat Tillman.

The next day, we stopped by nearby Camelback Ranch, which is home to the Dodgers and White Sox spring training facilities. Beautiful complex. With fans and facilities like these, I think we’ll be bringing the kids back to see the Cactus League in the near future. And I can’t say that about most professional sports cities.

So thank you, Cardinals fans, for being such great hosts. You have a fine city and made this sometimes-cynical observer realize that there are still plenty of good sports fans out there. But if you do go to the “Valley of the Sun,” remember these four words: “it’s a dry heat.”

And special thanks go out to our wives, who held down the fort in our absence.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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2011 MLB playoff predictions

October is just around the corner, one of my favorite months of the year. In addition to an important birthday, Halloween and the changing of the leaves, it marks the start of the MLB Postseason. And judging by Wednesday night’s epic conclusion to the regular season, the playoffs could just as well be a doozy.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to baseball, fear not.  Sports Climax is here to provide you with a guide on what to look out for, as well as some predictions.  As always, these are for entertainment purposes only, and don’t bet the (sub-prime) mortgage on any of these.

Photo/Matt Boulton Wikimedia

Here are five things to watch out for. OK, you can call them predictions:

  1. The Brewers-Diamondbacks series may be the most overlooked of all the Division Series, but it could be an interesting one.  “The Bristol Improv” won’t tell you this, but Milwaukee won 96 games and boasts a powerful 1-2 punch at the plate with MVP candidate Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, and solid pitching from Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke.  The D-Backs are a great turn-around story, winning the NL West after finishing last in 2010. A big part of the reason was manager Kirk Gibson, who’s become as good a leader in the dugout as he was on the field. Ace Ian Kennedy had the best season you never heard about (21-4, 2.88 ERA), and Justin Upton is a rising star. My guess is that this series goes all five games.
  2. After the much anticipated Game 1 pitchers’ duel between Detroit’s Justin Verlander and New York’s CC Sabathia, expect the offense to pick up.  While the Yankees Game 2 start Ivan Nova has yet to face the Tigers, Game 3 starter Freddy Garcia was hit hard in his one start against the Tigers this year, and the Yankees fared well against Doug Fister and Max Scherzer (the Tigers’ Game 2 and 3 starters) in the regular season.
  3. The Rays will be out for revenge this year against the Rangers. Texas upset Tampa Bay in last year’s ALDS, jumping out to a 2-0 series lead before hanging on to win it in 5 games. Don’t expect the Rays to be caught flat-footed again, especially in light of their remarkable run to capture the AL Wild Card, thanks to strong starting pitching and slugging 3B Evan Longoria, who has a whopping 1.043 OPS in the month of September.
  4. Don’t expect the Phillies to win it all. True, they have a “Dream Team” starting rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, but the lineup is getting older and anything can happen in the playoffs (just ask the 2010 Giants). Oh, and I also predicted in April that neither the Phillies nor Red Sox would win it all this year, so I’m sticking to it.
  5. With Ernie Johnson not doing play-by-play for TBS/TNT this year, look for his replacement, Brewers announcer Brian Anderson, to use this as his big break and emerge as one of the voices of the future. In addition, I also like Ron Darling as an analyst (true, he was very nice to me at one of my Little League banquets and even took a picture with me, but that’s beside the point). Then again, anything is an improvement over Fox’s Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

Despite my better judgment, here are my series predictions:

ALDS: Yankees over Tigers in 4

ALDS: Rays over Rangers in 5

NLDS: Phillies over Cardinals in 4

NLDS: Brewers over Diamondbacks in 5

ALCS: Rays over Yankees in 7 (thanks to karmic payback from Wednesday night)

NLCS: Phillies over Brewers in 6

World Series: Rays over Phillies in 6 (thanks to karmic payback from 2008)

And here’s hoping that a Rays title would inspire a sequel to “Moneyball.”

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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“Moneyball” is well worth your money

On Saturday afternoon, I got a message from a friend of mine − who also gave me my first break at freelance baseball writing − asking if my wife (a.k.a. the lovely “J-La”) and I would like to join he and his wife for a Sunday matinee showing of “Moneyball.”

He and I have been anxiously awaiting the release of the big-screen version of the great Michael Lewis book about the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane.  It was an easy sell – we are big fans of the book, and all our wives needed to know was that Brad Pitt plays Beane in the movie.

Oh, and the late NFL game on TV in Los Angeles was a Chargers-Cheifs matchup that didn’t inspire me much.  Yes, the Chargers the “official” AFC team of the L.A. market.  Hope you’re keeping tabs, people – smells to me like the Bolts may be the new tenant at Farmers Field.  But I digress…

For those of you who don’t know the storyline, “Moneyball” chronicles the trials and tribulations of the A’s, a team with payroll constraints struggling to compete with the mega-payrolls of the Yankees and Red Sox of the world.  After being eliminated in the 2001 playoffs by said Yankees, Beane has to put the pieces back together when three of his top players leave via free agency (two of whom end up with – you guessed it – the Yankees and Red Sox).

How does he do this?

With an outside-the-box approach favored by the legendary baseball statistician and author, Bill James that is met by skepticism by the baseball establishment.

In a nutshell, the movie is outstanding and does the book justice.  Pitt and Jonah Hill, who plays Peter Brand (Beane’s assistant GM with an economic degree from Yale) are tremendous. True, some will find issue with the fact that the screenplay did not entirely match the original.  For instance. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays A’s manager Art Howe, doesn’t even physically resemble Howe, and Beane’s relationship with him wasn’t quite as terse in real-life as it was on-screen.  Other than that, I think it captured the essence of the book and is easily one of the best baseball movies I’ve ever seen.

There are also two other tell-tale signs that this is a great film: first, I didn’t look at my watch once; I was even on the edge of my seat even though I knew how the story ends.  Second, our wives (who are baseball fans but knew little about the story) also loved the movie, and not solely because of Pitt.  It’s a compelling story that’s easy to follow.  And you don’t need to be a baseball expert or sabermetrics guru in order to enjoy it.

Don’t believe me?  The film opened to many positive reviews, is already generating well-deserved Oscar buzz for Pitt and made $20.6 million over the weekend – just behind the top-grossing movie, the re-release of “The Lion King.”  And there’s already talk that it could become “the most successful baseball movie of all-time.”  So don’t just take my word for it.

Finally, be sure to keep your eye out for the logo of Inside Edge, the baseball scouting company that yours truly used to write for.  See if you catch it on a binder and on a computer screen.

Does the concept of “Moneyball” really work?  In terms of baseball, I’ll let you decide.  As a movie, it absolutely does.

So much for removing your name from the film, Paul DePodesta.  And I thought your worst decisions were made while you were the Dodgers GM…

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Cowboys Holley’s $72 million early celebration

Want to teach your kids about the dangers of showboating during their games?  Tell them the tale of Jesse Holley, a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys.

And to make matters even more interesting, the star of our story got his big break by winning a reality television show in 2009.  The show, called “4th and Long”, aired on Spike TV and was hosted by – you guessed it – former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Michael Irvin.  His prize?  An invite to Cowboys training camp.  After getting cut in training camp, he signed with the practice squad, and played in 12 games last season.

In case you missed it, here’s what happened in the Cowboys-49ers game in San Francisco Week 2.  The Cowboys rallied from a 24-14 deficit in the 4th quarter and tied the game on a 48-yard field goal by Dan Bailey as time expired.  (Yes, Tony Romo redeemed himself from last week and actually led the charge, fractured rib, punctured lung and all).

On the Cowboys’ first play in overtime, Romo hit a wide-open Holley over the middle near midfield, and he was off to the races.  Holley appeared headed for pay-dirt and a true Hollywood ending.

But this was San Francisco, not Hollywood.  And Holly took a page from Irvin’s playbook, only he did it a few yards before the end zone.

That’s right, Holley raised the ball in celebration before he got to the end zone, and 49ers’ safety Donte Whitner tackled him out at the 1-yard line.  The Cowboys and 49ers took timeouts, and Holley continued celebrating on the sidelines.  Bailey then kicked a 19-yard field goal to win the game for Dallas.

But there’s still a catch.

The Cowboys were three-point favorites at most sports books in Las Vegas.  Since they won by 3, that resulted in a tie, which is referred to in gambler-speak as a “push.”  In that case, the sports books return the amounts wagered by bettors on both teams.  Had Holley scored a touchdown, the Cowboys would have covered the spread.  According to RJ Bell of, Holley’s gaffe caused Cowboys bettors to miss out on an estimated $72 million worldwide in potential winnings.  Needless to say, the Las Vegas sports books must be pretty happy with Holley’s antics.

So you see, kids, showboating has no place in sports.  It’s selfish, needless and could even cost your team the game.  In fact, it can cost your parents their hard-earned money in office pools legalized sports books in the state of Nevada.  And you’ll also incur the wrath of fantasy football players everywhere.  Arian Foster will tell you how fun that can be…

In fact, kids should be more like Whitner.  He never gave up, even after being beaten badly on that infamous play.  He will now live in infamy as the man who made the $72 million tackle.  A true player to model yourself after.

Finally, don’t bother gambling on NFL games.  Vegas always manages to find a way to outsmart the public, and all it takes is one knucklehead to ruin your wager.

Now let me get back to figuring out what to do with my injury-riddled fantasy team.  Just don’t expect to see Holley on my roster.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in Uncategorized0 Comments

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