Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sochi and Short Track Speed Skating

The Winter Olympics are known for featuring "weird sports" (as my 9 year old likes to call them).  Alongside staples such as Downhill Skiing, Hockey and Figure Skating, the Winter Olympics feature sports in which you ski off of a cliff (ski jump), a sport which allows you to shoot rifles at targets (biathalon) and ice fishing (just kidding on that one).    Sochi in 2014 is no different.

One of the sports that the boys got interested in though was an unusual one fraught with danger.  Short track speed skating.  We whetted our appetites with the longer short track races the night before and I was describing the shorter races that are just free-for-alls.  While this seems kind of strange - why not just go to a regular track if you are going 500 or 1500 meters - the strategy seems a little different in the 500 meter races.  These were just qualification races, but they started off slowly for the first couple of laps, gaining advantage and position and then off they go for the last couple of laps.  We were transfixed because the element of danger and possibility of sliding off the track were real.  Now we just had to watch the real short track the next day, where the wipeouts are frequent and Apollo Anton Ohno rules.

9am. Home. Oh no.  We go live to Salt Lake City for the US Olympic Trials and Ohno is an announcer.  What does that mean?  He's not skating anymore? I consider turning this off.  The boys start to look around for things to do.  This is troublesome for a series of races that last 90 minutes.

The women start first.  The names sound familiar from the 1500.  They just go a lot faster at 4.5 laps.

LC joins us and immediately asks the obvious question. "How do they do that without running into each other?"

The men start.  "Did you know Eddy Alvarez is Pedro Alvarez's brother?"  Good memory, G.  J.C. Celski is favored to win this race - the world record holder at this distance.  After a wipeout by Jordan Malone in the first men's final, C comes down to watch.

"Rewind the crash, Dad!"

"Why is she wearing sunglasses?"  C asks.  When I tell him to reduce glare, he then continues, "What glare?"  He does not appreciate my answer and continues on "No, what is glare?" Who cares?  Pedro Alvarez's brother just made the A Final...whatever that means.

The crashes are minimal, like they are afraid to try to win any of these races.  Where is the insanity?  Where is the intensity?  This is very frustrating since DLG loses interest and goes out and plays in the snow.  The boys pick up their electronics as they lose interest.  Come on!  Where is the excitement?

Emily Scott and Jessica Smith are going to Sochi!  Now the men go.  J.C. Celski and Eddy Alvarez make it for the men.  Hopefully the Olympics capture their imaginations more than these races.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Most Interesting 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot

2014 is shaping up to be one of the most interesting Hall of Fame Elections in recent years.  In the post-steroids era (are we really past this yet), some very interesting first year candidates are joining the likes of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.  The questions this year are lingering like a bad cold.  2013's ballot saw no one inducted.  Obviously, that can't happen to often because interest in the ballot would start to diminish.  Players NEED to be inducted in 2014.  Let's investigate the possibilities and the questions.

Will Jack Morris finally make it on his last year on the ballot? (He only gets 15 years after all to make the Hall of Fame)?

Will second year stand outs Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza or Curt Schilling make the HOF in their second year trying?

Will any of the terrible steroid-era players, Roger Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Bonds or Rafael Palmeiro actually get the call?  Will cheating still matter to these voters?

Who from the new class - Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas or Mike Mussina, for instance - will get the call from the BBWAA?

To help me with my imaginary ballot, similar to Deadspin's purchase of a ballot from a terribly greedy sportswriter, I have asked G to tell me who he thinks will be elected to the Hall of Fame.

G's list...

Roger Clemens
Barry Bonds
Greg Maddux
Frank Thomas
Don Mattingly

I agree with G.  Maddux might be a 100% lock to make the Hall of Fame.  Even Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth could not secure 100% of the vote from the writers, but Maddux has a shot.  With the Internet, writers are under as much scrutiny as players and thus tend to follow the normal course of action a little bit more closely.  A pitcher who was so consistent that he never won more than 20 games (having won 20 games twice), yet put together 16 years of more than 15 wins?  This is amazing consistency for modern day pitchers and may earn him a unanimous vote.  These writers are dying to vote someone in after skipping the vote in 2013 and voting only Barry Larkin in in 2012.  They are desperate to vote.

Who did not make the cut according to G?  Mark McGwire.  When I asked him why, he responded "Well, because he took steroids."  Oh the irony of his picks.

Here are my picks:

Greg Maddux
Tom Glavine
Frank Thomas
Craig Biggio
Jack Morris

Curt Schilling, Tim Raines and Mike Piazza will just miss.  There's always next year, although the pitching prospects will get stronger as Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez joins the 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot.