It’s Friday, so that means another edition of Rich’s Replies – this week I received three emails and one comment, so let’s get started with the emails.
Up first is an email about a sport I haven’t followed in over a decade, the NHL: What do you think of the NHL’S new All Star Game format? And now that the games marquis name is possibly skipping it due to injury, is it time the professional leagues do away with the meaningless exhibitions and just name players to all league teams like they do in college? After all, if the players that fans want to see aren’t in the game, not too mention the age old debate of possible injury, is the game still worth playing? – Mike T., South Jersey
First, I do like how the NHL picks teams for its All-Star game; they changed to a Fantasy Draft of sorts, with Captains for each side selecting from a pool of players chosen by a combination of fan balloting and the NHL Hockey Operations Department. This is a big change from conference versus conference or USA versus the World and I like it. It allows players to be on the same team as other players they might never get the chance to play with and it allows players to play against players they normally wouldn’t (for examples members of the Penguins might be on opposite teams); so it creates a possibility of some intriguing matchups. As for the second part of your question; I do think all all-star games are pointless and meaningless (and yes MLB this means your’s as well – just because home field advantage in the World Series is on the line, that doesn’t make the game matter as much as you want). Between players skipping the event due to injury or because they’ll be playing in the Super Bowl the following week, the fans having a say at all in who is selected and the fact that it is an exhibition game, there’s just no reason to actually have the game. I like your idea of simply naming players as All-Stars and leaving it at that. The All-Star games were mainly started as a way to allow the public to see players they wouldn’t be able to see because games weren’t televised in the past like they are now; if you lived in New York City in the 60s and wanted to see a National League team, you either had to hope when they played in Philly it was on TV or your best bet to see say the Los Angeles Dodgers players was during the All-Star game or the World Series. Today, with the advent of TV sports packages, you can see any team play on any night in any city, you don’t have to wait till the All-Star game to see players from teams in another conference or from the other coast. Also, All-Star games used to be played for “conference pride” – Pete Rose bowling over Ray Fosse for example; but because of free agency, all the players are friends and that animosity against other teams/conferences just isn’t there any more and that’s what made the All-Star games fun to watch.
Up next is an email about another NCAA investigation and is this week’s Question of the Week: A little time has passed, and the college b-ball world seems content to forget about UConn’s recruiting violations. The university clearly shielded Jim Calhoun, and now on-court success is making fans forget about those ill deeds. The school administered its own punishment, but (I think) still awaits the NCAA’s response. As a fan, how do you feel about the situation? – Matt S., The Triangle, NC
As a UCONN fan, the investigation scares me, especially because the NCAA has recently shown that it has no problems going after “big time” schools and the fact that USC’s recent investigation started with their basketball program and ended with their football program (still think this is why Edsall left UCONN; it might be a case of “institutional wide” issues that will affect all sports at UCONN). The only saving grace for UCONN may be the fact that the player being investigated (Nate Miles) never actually set foot on the court for UCONN (he was expelled) and the fact that they self-imposed a punishment of two years probation and the reduction of one scholarship for two years. What really concerns me (and has me thinking coverup) is the case went to review in October, but no word has been given yet; it was supposed to have been in December but we still haven’t heard anything yet. Does this mean the NCAA is going to be lenient on UCONN or does it mean they’re gathering even more evidence and deciding on just how harsh to make the punishment? I believe all UCONN sports will be hammered because the people involved have testified basically that part of the reason for the infractions was the compliance staff of UCONN was severely undermanned (one person to handle compliance for forty or so sports) and this means if one sport had issues, they all did. We’ll have to wait and see but I don’t think this is going to be good.
Moving on to baseball: Most people are disrespecting my Cardinals. They talk about Milwaukee’s big 2 and Cincy. Last I remember we still have Carp and Wainwright with Garcia and Westbrook thrown in. Not to mention the BEST player in baseball Albert Pujols. Should the Cards be getting more respect? Who do you think is the favorite? – Phillip C.
I don’t know if the Cardinals are getting disrespected but they really didn’t make any moves this offseason to improve themselves as much as the Brewers did with getting Greinke and during the offseason all the “respect” goes to teams that improved themselves. Also, the Cardinals did finish in second behind the Reds last season (by 5 games), the Reds are younger and Votto beat out Pujols for the MVP last season, so a little “disrespect” is bound to happen. When ESPN or Sports Illustrated release their picks for the NL Central and if St Louis is routinely picked to finish in 3rd, then we can talk disrespect because the Cardinals do have some great players in Pujols, Carpenter and Wainwright and they shouldn’t be dismissed. The NL Central will be a dog fight but I see the division finishing exactly as it did last year with the Reds in first, the Cards in second and the Brewers third. I just think Cincy is better top to bottom as a team than the Cards and Brewers and have less question marks than them as well. St Louis needs to find someone on offense besides Pujols and the Brewers need to find a pitching staff after Greinke.
Finally to a comment left on my Facebook page: How would you rank the AL East offseason? Greg F.
The AL East is always a leader when it comes to the offseason because the two heavyweights in baseball reside there – the Yankees and the Red Sox. Normally, it’s the Yankees making the biggest splash during the offseason, but this time around, that honor goes to the Red Sox. By signing Crawford and trading for Gonzalez, the Red Sox took themselves from a third-place finish last season to the consensus AL East winner and World Series representative. The Yankees on the other hand, put all their eggs in the Cliff Lee basket and they all broke, and they’re still waiting to hear if Andy Pettitte is going to retire or not. The Yankees did make a great move in signing Rafael Soriano; creating the best setup/closer combo in all of baseball and shortening the game to 7 innnings which should help their questionable starting rotation. The Orioles made some moves to shore up their bullpen and defense, but nothing that puts them into contention and the Blue Jays moves were basically for seasons to come, not 2011. The biggest loser in the AL East offseason is clearly the Tampa Bay Rays; they lost Crawford and Soriano to division rivals and lost Garza in a trade so basically this team had a firesale but picked up some draft picks and prospects for the future. If the Rays manage to finish 3rd I would be surprised.
I’d like to take a moment and thank Matt, Greg and Mike for their contributions because every week they each send me emails or leave comments and are basically the driving force behind this article; without them I’m not sure I’d have any material for this article.
Thanks to all who sent in emails and comments! What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? You can send questions or comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, you can also leave a comment below, on my Facebook Page or on Twitter. Remember, any email or comment you make, may just make it into Rich’s Replies each Friday! Also, be sure to check out Rich’s Rants every Tuesday.