Thursday, August 28, 2008

Annoying Sports Announcer Stuff

When did the requirements to be a baseball analysts start including "Grammarian"?
Seriously. Someone needs to tell these guys it's RBI's, not RBI (when using plural). For example, "Jason Giambi had 3 RBI's today, in the Yankee comeback against Boston", and not, "Jason Giambi had 3 RBI today in the yankee comeback against Boston".
Freakin common sense. What worked all these years is all of a sudden not good enough anymore. This is the problem when sports reporters, analysts, etc. take themselves too seriously. they start to have the need to come up with this ridiculous garbage (not to mention having all these skirts as sideline reporters who can't even spell RBI's, but that's a topic for another day).
And you wonder why guys like the Scooter, Harry and Skip Carey were so beloved. They just cared about their team and loved the game.

Interesting Arod Notes

Due to Mr. Ed's comments on the below post about the End of an ERA (specifically referring to Arod), The People's Champ dug deep into his statistical compilations and came up with the following info:



As you can see, this year has been a horrible year for Arod. The numbers across the board gho down as the situation becomes "more clutch" (in fact he's hitting only .100 with bases loaded this season). However, over the course of his Yankee career, Arod has at worst, just as good in the clutch as he has in regular situations (which is pretty darn good considering his superman like statistics). Generally,I would say the issue is more perception than fact. At least that's what the numbers say.
risp- Batting Average with runners in scoring position
risp with 2 outs- Batting Average with Runners in scoring position with 2 outs
risp slg- Slugging Percentage with runners in scoring position.
avg- Season batting average
slg- Season Slugging percentage

End of an Era?

Officially, you might say that the end was October 19, 2007, the day Joe Torre left the Yankees. Some would argue the end came February 15th, 2004, the day the Yankees traded Alfonsio Soriano for Alex Rodriguez. That was the day Yankee pundits (both fans and haters) claim, the Yankees left the days of the "real Yankees" of O'Neil, Bernie, Tino, Jorge, Jeter, Mo etc and became the reincarnation of the 80's Yankees, most notably defined by Frank Costanza as the team that traded Jay Buhner for Steve Kemp (ignoring the fact that Clemens was a renegade ala Arod who won 2 rings with the Yanks, Giambi came over the year before as a very expensive free agent).
The truth probably lies nowhere near those two factors.

When the Yankees started their great run in 1995 (officially you can say it really started the strike year of '94) Derek Jeter was a 22 year old up and coming superstar SS. Bernie Williams was 27. Tino Martinez was 28, coming off a 35 HR 110+ RBI season for the Mariners, who just happened to knock the Yanks out of the playoffs in 1995.
This years version, Jeter is now an aging 34. Johnny Damon is 35 and is a liability in the field. Bobby Abreu, who has been the best Yankee all year is 34 and another defensive liability. Posada has been a non factor- as is usually the case for 34+ year old catchers. The core of this squad is old and the kids who were counted on have been huge disappointments. Robinson Cano, who will hold multiple batting titles before it's all over, is hitting .268 (a career .300+ hitter). Melky has been an even bigger disappointment. One glaring stat that back this up (the aging factor):
According to Bill James, the Yankees are third to last in Defensive Efficiency- a stat that estimates the number of batted balls turned into outs by a team. The estimate for plays made is based on outs minus things like double plays, caught stealings and outfield assists or total batters faced minus strikeouts, walks, HBP, Hits and errors times a factor. These aren't perfectly known historically, so some of these ratings may be dubious. Contrast this to 2006 when they were 2nd in that stat, or 2000 (their last World Championship team) finished 2nd.

Pitching is the other main factor. With all due respect to the same Yankee pundits referred to above, the Yankees lost the winningest pitcher in baseball the last two seasons to injury in Chien Ming Wang after only two months. Replace a perennial Cy Young contender with a Darrel Rasner and that spells trouble, both for the rotation and just as importantly, the taxing of the bullpen. Wang would always give them 7 innings. Rasner has been lucky to get to the 5th. There's a trickle down effect. The next night when you have a starter go 5 or even 6, they are already wearied because instead of getting the rest Wang provided, they must now go two in a row. Over the course of the season, that's brutal.
You then had the disappointment of the Kids and Pettitte. Pettitte was the #2 behind Wang. Phil Hughes was supposed to step in and be the teams #3 starter this year. After showing signs last year (especially vs. Cleveland in the playoffs) and his previous minor league success (he was the consensus #1 pitching prospect in baseball in 2006), there was much reason for hope. Ian Kennedy would be the #4 starter and a washed up Mike Mussina would stick around until they got someone in a trade. Well, Hughes and Kennedy have a combined win total that matches The People's Champ for this season (O). Hughes has taken a huge step back in the Triple A this season. Pettitte has been average at best all season, and awful at best in big spots (especially Tuesday's 4IP 10H 6ER vs. Boston in a do or die series opener). The "washed up" Moose would finish no worse than 4th if the Cy Young voting was today. he's been the only bright spot.
The bullpen has been a disaster. A strength when Joba led to Mo, has now been a mess in what may be a top 3 ever season for the Greatest Closer of All time.
So is the end of the great Yankee run, the 1981 of this current run? Or is it just a blip on the radar a year of rebuilding within, a year the team got younger and experienced and the start of the next great run?
Next years team will be much different. The IF will still be Arod, Jeter and Cano left to right (still a decent defensive squad with offensive abilities that outweigh and defensive limitations). A first baseman (perhaps a Texiera) who will be better both offensively and defensively than Giambi (you can bet that Steinbrenner will have an open check book going into 2009 and a new stadium). The OF will be Nady (a very nice surprise in a dismal season) and who knows. Maybe they bring back Abreu, maybe not. The staff will presumably be Wang, Joba, Hughes and maybe a return of Moose and a signing of a CC Sabathia. They will need to strengthen the bullpen.

With that being said, it says here Yankees 2009 will be a great year for the Bronx faithful.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A light in the Darkness of War

This is an incredible story about an incredible person. A lesson for all of us to learn. No matter where you're from or how you look or how you practice (if at all), Kol Yisroel Areivim Zah Lazeh. Rabbi Grossman is the life embodyment of that statement.

A year has passed – but First Lieutenant M. has not forgotten his unexpected visit to Migdal Ohr and his eye-opening experiences there. Here are his (translated) words:

I remember the two weeks of near face-to-face combat, the confused orders and insufficient combat gear, the intense hunger, physical and emotional exhaustion and toughest of all, the self-imposed silence and disassociation with our surroundings. “Now is not the right time to complain, but when it is over,” we thought to ourselves, “when the air raid sirens stop and we are out of these fatigues, we can talk and the truth will be known.”

When the news came that we were receiving a day off, our hearts soared. We suffered so much stress and hardship. Where would we go? How should we take full advantage of this gift?

Rumors begin to circulate that we were going to some school in Migdal HaEmek. “This must be a joke! Who ordered 10 buses to bring us to some yeshiva with some rabbi who is just going to try and brainwash us?”

Then, a few of the guys remembered. “Rabbi Grossman, that’s ‘the Disco Rabbi,’ right? The guys all give him great respect.” But what do they know? He is still some rabbi.

Tired and emotionally drained, we got off the buses and stood face to face with an old-world looking Jew, complete with a white beard, side locks and long jacket. “So here it comes,” I thought, “the push to put on tefillin or to say prayers together. Some day ‘off.’ ”

“Boys,” the rabbi’s words thundered, “I suggest that first thing you do is take a dip in the pool and freshen up. In the meantime, we will make you something to eat.”

Rabbi Grossman had heard in passing that the brigade was looking for a home for a day, and he immediately volunteered his campus. “What’s the problem – 600 soldiers? They should all come, of course we have room!”

With the echoes of war from the battlefield still in our ears, it seemed like a mirage or hallucination. Soft music came from everywhere and flowing water and greenery surrounded us. Within minutes, the tables were set with cold, refreshing watermelon, cakes and beverages, followed by cheeses, fresh vegetables and soft rolls.

Then we heard, “Out of the pool, get dressed and eat something.” We saw piles of new undergarments. Six hundred new undershirts and underwear appeared as if out of nowhere, laid out on tables for our choosing.

Rabbi Grossman sat with us and laughed, “Have a good time, boys! Have a great time! This evening, I will put on the most spectacular performance you have ever seen.”

I am not a religious person by any means, but I couldn’t help but envision the first Jew, Avraham, standing and personally serving his guests perfectly naturally and without the slightest hint of condescension. He respected each individual and cared for all his needs. Like Avraham, Rabbi Grossman saw in us a mitzvah that had fallen into his hands.

As the evening continued, we learned quickly that this was the essence of who Rabbi Grossman is and what he is all about. He loves everyone and accepts everyone as they are with all his heart and soul.

“Tell me, friends,” Rabbi Grossman said, “I heard you are lacking different pieces of equipment. Do me a favor. Here is a pencil and paper, just write down everything you are missing and leave the paper on the table.” That night, we enjoyed the entertainment and afterwards, slept in soft beds and air-conditioned rooms.

Like in a fairytale, we awoke in the morning and could not believe our eyes. Mounds of gear that we so desperately needed had arrived at Migdal Ohr. Attached was a small note from Rabbi Grossman, “To my dear solders, from all my heart!”

Rabbi Grossman personally had obtained over $60,000 worth of equipment literally overnight! The essential equipment included bulletproof vests, helmets, canteens, kneepads, night vision goggles, toothbrushes, socks and more.

Interestingly, a few months before the war broke out, a special friend of Rabbi Grossman from France had been interested in donating a new Torah scroll to the main Migdal Ohr beit midrash (study hall). For some reason, Rabbi Grossman requested to postpone the event until an unspecified later date.

“Now is the right time!” Rabbi Grossman realized. He immediately made arrangements and in an early evening ceremony, we participated in the completion of writing the Torah. While the scroll was carefully laid on the table next to a special pen and ink, Rabbi Grossman addressed the soldiers.

“My holy ones! I am going to bestow upon you the merit of a holy mitzvah that can be considered a once in a lifetime opportunity. Each one of you will complete a letter in the Torah scroll. While you are executing this holy task, each one of you should pray the prayer of his heart and request from G‑d that the merit of the letter should protect you in battle. Holy sparks will emanate from these sacred letters and disperse around you, creating a protective shield which will keep you safe and bring you home safely.”

Those moments were the most exciting and emotional ones in my life. Shaking from the intensity of the immeasurable experience, still not believing, we held the edges of the Torah scroll while our hearts beat rapidly. There was complete silence all around. One after the other, we dipped the quill in the ink and completed a letter in the Torah scroll.

A bystander would have seen a breathtaking scene of incredible elation and spiritual exuberance. The world seemed as if shrouded in silence. The strings of our heart felt strummed and the tears flowed freely down our cheeks.

“Mother!” cried one of the soldiers into his cell phone, “you won’t believe what I have done! I have written a letter in a Torah scroll! Mother, are you there? Can you hear?! Me, a Shmutznik (a member of a non-religious kibbutz), who can’t differentiate between Shabbat and the rest of the week, who has not seen tzitzit (ritual garment) in my life. Me, I wrote a letter in a Torah scroll! I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.”

After the completion of the Torah, the ceremony continued. Leading the procession was a decorated car with multi-colored lights strung all over it and with a crown of lights spinning around on its roof. Following the car, bearers of a decorated canopy marched while people danced around it. Under the canopy, others held the Torah scroll, which was clothed in white and crimson with a silver crown at its top.

Six hundred soldiers and thousands of the town residents marched and danced in the procession, a loud speaker accompanying them, playing traditional Jewish music.

As the ceremony came to a close, Rabbi Grossman approached every soldier and kissed him while placing a half-shekel coin in his hand and said, “Shliach mitzvah aino nezok – messengers of a mitzvah are not harmed.” Rabbi Grossman concluded, “When you return, G‑d willing, healthy and unharmed, you will fulfill this mission I am placing upon you, and you will donate this money to charity.”

The night came. Twelve buses made their way atop the Galilee Mountains. Heavy darkness engulfed us, yet behind, in the growing distance, a bright flame pierced the night sky. In the midst of war and violence, we found love and unending human compassion at Migdal Ohr, the educational center established in Migdal HaEmek by Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman.

* * * * * *

“This was an immense Kiddush Hashem. For a long period of time, I cried and was very emotional.” Thus Rabbi Grossman recalled the moment when he first read the words above written by First Lieutenant M.

Rabbi Grossman had much to add to the end of this exciting memoir. “Before they returned to Lebanon, I told the soldiers, ‘In the merit that you said Shema and put on tefillin, wrote a letter in the Torah and are messengers of a mitzvah, I promise you that you will all return safe and sound. None of you will be wounded or killed.’”

When asked if he wasn’t scared to commit to 600 soldiers that they would return home safe and sound, he said, “That is what came out of my mouth word for word. This was a moment of exuberance.”

“I continued and told them,” Rabbi Grossman relates, “if this does actually happen that you come back safely, the first place you must come back to – before you go home – is Migdal Ohr. We will thank G‑d together and from there we will say goodbye. I told them, ‘Think of this as an emergency call-up. Do you accept?’ The commanding officer replied in the affirmative.”

Two weeks later, around midnight, Rabbi Grossman received a phone call. “Rabbi, your blessing has come true!” exclaimed the commander over the phone. “Everyone is safe and we are on our way to you. We will be there by 2:00 a.m.”

Rabbi Grossman immediately contacted the kitchen staff and asked them to prepare a meal while he worked to organize a band. People asked him, “You need a band at 2:00 a.m.? Is Moshiach here?”

At 2:30 a.m. the soldiers disembarked from the buses, each one carrying 60 kilos of equipment on his back. The band started playing music and as the soldiers approached Rabbi Grossman, each one lovingly received with a hug. This continued for two hours. “I felt as I had never felt before,” recalls Rabbi Gross­man. “Each one told me his personal miracle.”

One soldier, a kibbutznik and a lawyer in civilian life, relayed an incredible miracle. A group of soldiers were gathered in an empty house in a Lebanese village when one of them forgetfully lit a cigarette.

Hizbullah terrorists immediately noticed the light and fired an anti-tank missile at the house. Coincidentally, two horses from the village ran in front of the house and were hit and killed. The missile, deflected by the horses, veered away from the house, landing elsewhere. The horses miraculously saved the soldiers inside the house.

After the warm reception, the soldiers recited Birkat HaGomel and together with Rabbi Grossman, sang and danced until daybreak.

“To this day,” says Rabbi Grossman, “we maintain contact with each soldier and have thus become one family.”

Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman is a recipient of “the Award of Recognition for Actions on Behalf of Soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces and the Second Lebanon War.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

King Solomon, Michael Phelps and Chinese Torture

Very good article by Alice Johnson at the Breslav Foundation.
The main points talk about channeling childrens energy the right way.

Mad Dog Russo with the Sports Guy

Chris "Mad Dog" Russo talking to Bill Simmons "The Sports Guy" about his departure from WFAN and the Mike and the Mad Dog Show.

12 minutes late or 18 minutes early?

Although not a Yeki, I am extremely Makpid on time. I am of the school "5 minutes early is on time, on time is late".
Now, every morning, no matter where I daven (usually the same place) there are drips and drabs of people who come into shul a good 10-12 minutes late. Always the same guys. During the week that's 40% of the davening time (usually around a half hour).
Personally, I try to get to shul 10 minutes before "kickoff". That gives me time to put on tallis and tefillin and actually say Korbonos (you know the stuff that take up a lot of pages in the siddur that no one says).
Well, the guy that comes in 12 minutes late, by the time he puts on tallis and tefillin, the zibbur is well past Barchu, sometimes even up to Shemonah Esrei. Doesn't this defeat the whole purpose? Why doesn't the guy just chill a few minutes, put his tallis and tefillin on like a mensch, say some brochos, korbonos and be on time for once in his life? (forget about getting his lazy a$$ out of bed 10 minutes earlier...) I never got this. And when is that proverbial deadline where the "12 minutes late guy" says it's too late and just wait for the next minyan (generally every half hour in most mid-large shuls in the Five Towns, Brooklyn, Queens, and Monsey). Is it the 14 minute mark, the 16 minute mark?
I know your out there "12 minutes late guy". Let's hear the answers!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The uncomfortable Bar Mitzvah zach

One of the things I love about my shul and Rebbe is we don't do the typical, rote, uncomfortable rituals that many Modern (Americanish) shuls do.
This AM at Shacharis I witnessed the uncomfortable Bar Mitzvah Boy Address and I cringed the whole 3 minutes or so that it lasted (it felt like a good 4 hours. I've played rounds of golf that seemed quicker..but I digress).
The shul I attended was zocha to have a Bar Mitzvah. The Bar Mitzvah boy did a great job, great voice, etc etc. It was actually quite pleasant....until........................the Rabbi's Bar Mitzvah address.
In this case, the Rabbi was the boys grandfather, a now retired former pulpit Rabbi. He gave a very good sermon and then called his grandson to stand next to him while he addressed him. The boy was standing next to him in front of the whole shul with that awkward stance and awkward smile. I felt awful for the kid. What must be going through his mind? "Can we please hurry up here, my mouth is hurting from holding this fake smile". It seemed like forever. The typical stuff was said, the typical jokes. "Moshe" we're so proud oy you....we put a lot of work into you...we hope it pays your a Bar Mitzvah and your responsible for yourself...........we're off the hook." etc, etc.
If I were elected Emperor of the world, one of the first things I would outlaw is the uncomfortable Bar Mitzvah boy address.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Farve- Legend or Myth

Who exactly is Brett Farve? Greatest QB ever? Top 10? A better than average QB with a great 4 year span with great longevity (the Cal Ripken of QB's)? One of the great regular season QB's who just happens to be an incredible choke artist come playoff time? All the above?

If you asked John Madden, pretty much any of the yahoo's at ESPN and Frank Caliendo (one of the great living comics of this generation), Farve not only is the greatest QB that ever lived, but he probably could cure cancer if he put his mind to it, climbs Mt. Everest to warm up before laying the smackdown on Lebron and Kobe on a game of 1 on 2, and beats Bobby Flay regularly at Iron Chef before he eats his lunch.

If you asked some of the knuckleheads who call in to NY Sports Radio i.e. "Bruce from Flushing" or "Vinny from Bayside" that are NOT J-E-T-S fans, he's the most overrated QB to ever play, needs to shave a lot more, and if he's lucky, he can carry Eli's clipboard.

The truth? As always, The People's Champ will guide you. Farve is unequivocally a great QB. He won 3 straight MVP's in the 90's. Won a Super Bowl. Broke every longevity record there is (you dont break records that require longevity unless your very good for very long. Doesn't mean you're the best, just that you were very good for very long). He is without a doubt a fun guy to watch. He makes plays that no one else can make and makes his teammates and teams better just because of his presence. If you dont believe me, name 3 very good to great offensive players that have played with Farve throughout his career. To give you a clue, in his 1996 SB season (and MVP winning season) his leading rusher was Bennet with 899 yards and 2 TD's and his leading receiver was Freeman with 56 catches and 9 TD's (in comparison to Manning who had Harrison, James and Reggie Wayne). In the 5 years preceeding Farve, the Pack went 5-9-1, 4-12, 10-6, 6-10 and 4-12. When Farve took over in '92, the team went 9-7 and didnt have a losing season for 13 straight years.

On the flip side, he has been awful in many postseason games, including the NFC Championship last year vs. The Giants. He throws t0o many interceptions, many at bad times (see above-last seasons NFC Championship). Because he can make plays no one else can make, many times he makes plays no one should make. Does he do it because he has to? In all fairness, look at the players he has played with. If Farve didnt make the play who would have? Doesn't mean his mistakes should go unnoticed, but I would rather have a guy laying it all on the line to win than a guy laying up on the figurative Par 5 down a stroke on the 18th of a major championship (unless of course your David Toms going against Philly Mic at the PGA Championship).

With that being said, I have been watching The National Football League since 1976. I have seen 4 QB's that I would take in a draft before Farve. That's it. Brady (The Greatest Ever. Period). Joe "Cool" Montana. John Elway and Peyton Manning (and I'm not totally sold on that either.). I didnt get to see enough of Bradshaw or Staubach to judge. I think Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Dan Marino are a notch below Farve (in their primes). Farve is a presence. He makes his teammates better. He takes all the pressure and delivers.

What will he do for the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS? He immediately brings them credibility. He brings leadership and presence to a franchise that hasnt had that presence since Joe Willie Namath was leading the charge. They will instantly be better and will compete for a Wild Card spot this season. Farve will finish in the top 5 of the MVP voting and John Madden might have a heart attack fawning over the greatness of Brett Farve.

The G.O.A.T.S

What is a G.O.A.T? It's an acronym for "THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME".
This is the start of a random list of G.O.A.T.'s which will be updated from time to time.

Quarterback- Tom Brady. Close call with Joe Montana, but Super Tom gets the nod.
Candy Bar- Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. One of the great discoveries in World History occurred when two seamingly innocent people, one with a chocolate bar, one with a jar of peanut butter "accidentally" knocked into each other ("you got your chocolate in my peanut butter......."). Fate or a simple case of "it's better to be lucky than to be good?
Live Rock and Roll Band- The Grateful Dead. Never played the same show twice, you never knew what you were getting. U2, Zep and The Who (amongst many many others) were great live. Difference? They played the same "scripted" shows over and over again.
Pro Wrestling Tag Team- "Weighing in at a combined weight of 643 pounds, from the Isle of Samoa-Affa and Seika, THE WILD SAMOANS."
Acquisition of a Hechsher- I'm still tosssing around these three. Entenman's, Oreo Cookies and Hostess. Anyone growing up in the 70's and 80's knows exactly what I'm talkng about.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Facebook Phenomena

About a month ago, I was at a Sheva Brochas for one of my best and oldest friends brother (he is also an old friend of mine). After a few L'Chaims (he is an avid bourbon drinker, Basil Hayden, the choice of spirit for the evening) the subject of "my Facebook page" came up. Now, to this point I had only a slight inkling of what a "facebook page" was. I was under the impression that the main reason for this tool was to be a modern day Sweet 16 of sorts. In other words, a good place for kids to pick up chicks. Well, after an enlightening discussion, I was told that although this is true and after a few "wow, what would we have done with this type tool when we were kids" discussions (the real answer was probably nothing), I was convinced to sign up and get with it.
Well, I am now a month or so in, I have connected or "facebooked" with some old friends I haven't seen or heard from in years, and generally have had a lot of fun with it.

The real question is; how long does this last? A mere fad or a new way of connecting?

The First Post

Inspired by mainly reading some rants and raves of some other bloggers (some very good, some not so very good, some really not so very good), email chains that get way to "off topic", but mostly needing a bigger forum than my Fantasy Sports trash talking message boards, The Peoples Champ decided to go mainstream and post his thoughts for the not so calling for public.
While I may post on anything my heart desires, the main focus is to take things that people take WAAAAAAAAAY to seriously and have some fun, whether religion, sports, politics, etc. While some topics might get serious (like the current so called Yankee demise), in no way does this mean I take myself seriously.
For the record (and more importantly to understand where this all comes from) I'm a "tryinghardtoaspiretogreaterthings" Orthodox Jew living in a "Picandchoosejew" Orthodox Jewish community. I have two wonderful children and a great wife. I'm an avid sports fan, primarily NY Rangers Hockey, Yankee Baseball, The Oakl-a-n-d Raidahs, and Boston Celtics.
For leisure I practice Mixed Martial Arts (I'm pretty good, so I can probably kick your .......) and love playing golf. I can listen to anything from The Grateful Dead to the Sex Pistols, Reb Shlomo to Pink Floyd and pretty much anything in between that doesn't hip or hop.

I am not a cynic. I'm an observer. As one astute individual wrote many years ago "a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing". Although I might know the former, I surely know the latter. Many of lifes problems, both in the "Picandchoosejew" Orthodox Jewish community and the secular world at large would be non issues if our value systems were in the right place.

Oh yeah, I also write "teh" instead of "the" a lot so deal with it.

I hope you enjoy your stay and I look forward to the banter.