Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Summer Blues

WS Winner: Red Sox
NL Pennant: Dodgers

AL MVP: Evan Longoria
NL MVP: Manny Ramirez

AL Cy Young: Jon Lester
NL Cy Young: Brandon Webb

The Mets will once again miss the playoffs.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Looking Ahead

For The Record-Arsene Wenger hasn't ruled out a "crazy" title win for Arsenal, and neither have I. It would be foolish to think that the possibility is realistic, what with 8 matches to go and being behind Manchester United by 10 points while United has a game in hand. However, with the recent league form that Arsenal has shown, it is difficult to give up the league title dream. 

Much of the league form can be attributed to Andrei Arshavin. After a tough start and adjustment to the Premier League, Arshavin has shown the brilliance that made him one of Euro 2008's top players. Furthermore, being cup-tied for Europe has meant that he has been only available for domestic clashes in the League as well as the FA Cup. While some may think that this restriction has been bad for Arsenal, it has enabled them to rest Robin Van Persie in domestic matches and to recover from the injury to Eduardo. 

Arshavin's hunger and determination has been pivotal to an Arsenal team that, despite being unbeaten in League play since November, found itself dropping points to the league leaders.

Yet we haven't seen the best from Arsenal. There hasn't been a point all season where Arsenal has been healthy, and although one can't point to games here and there where Arsenal should have capitalized. They are where they are. 

It's a scary thought that in a few weeks, Arsenal can have a line up in which Cesc Fabregas, Arshavin, Theo Walcott, and Eduardo all feature in a match. That probably excludes Robin Van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor and possibly Samir Nasri from the line up. One has to wonder how far from the leaders Arsenal would be had they been healthy all season. It also gives hope for what may happen next year as well as the FA Cup and Champions League. 

Personally, I think some of the credit in the recent resurgence must be given to Nasri and Abou Diaby. Nasri is a very talented player, who was often injured in the first half of the season. Because of this, it took him a longer time to adjust to the premiership. While his creativity has suffered due to the fact that he hasn't had the partners to create with, he has thrived recently playing with Arshavin. Diaby was injured for most of the first half of the season as well, but Wenger has deployed him recently in Champions League play, and his play has garnered domestic action. Diaby has brought a calm to the midfield that neither Denilson nor Alexander Song could all season, which has helped an ever stabilizing defense.

Do I believe Arsenal can win the league? No, I don't. Am I writing them off? No, I am not. I am inspired by their recent play though.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Second Leg of the Champions League

I wanted to go on the record with a few thoughts heading into tomorrow's second leg of the Champions League. 
-Bayern Munich should advance easily after a 5-0 thumping of Sporting Lisbon on the road. You have to wonder how Klinsmann will use his players. Will Franck Ribery, Miroslav Klose, Luca Toni, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Phillip Laam all feature?
-While Liverpool has the vital road goal heading to Anfield, they cannot be happy with their fitness. Steven Gerrard has been a big question mark all season, and Fernando Torres was declared fit just today. However, Yossi Benayoun, the man that scored that road goal, is out with a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, despite losing the first leg of the contest, Real Madrid is one of the hottest clubs in all of European football right now.
-Not really impressed with either squad when they played at Stamford Bridge, but I don't see how Juventus can advance. Chelsea has been playing better under Guus Hiddink, and at the very least should draw this fixture. Juventus is really going to have to press to win this match. It just looks like it's going to be a dull match.
-The Panathinaikos-Villareal fixture is one of the most interesting matches that isn't getting attention. I've taken a liking to Villareal given them being a smaller club and featuring players like Robert Pires, Marco Senna, and Joan Capdevila. It also helped that they played United tough in the group stage.
-Arsenal should take care of Roma after winning 1-0 at home. Having Eduardo and Walcott back, Arsenal should have no problems scoring. They should also have their normal defense with Kolo Toure returning from injury. I'm not sure what line up they would include, but it would be interesting if we saw Walcott, Nasri, Van Persie, Bendtner, and Eduardo all at once. 
-Atletico Madrid have their hands full considering they had a 2-2 draw at home. They have to go for the win because of the away goals rule. It should be a very interesting match.
-Barcelona heads home to the Nou Camp having drawn 1-1 at Lyon. While I totally expect Lyon to be a worthy challenge, I doubt with the return of Andre Iniesta, that Barcelona has any troubles advancing to the next round. 
-Lastly, in perhaps the most talked about fixture, Manchester United and Internazionale go back to Old Trafford. There are so many stories that have been talked to death. If either team loses, it will be a big loss to the competition. My hope is that Inter wins so that the talk of a quintuple gets put to bed. However, everything tells me that United will advance.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Eduardo: The Straw That Stirs The Drink

For The Record-I believe Eduardo is the straw that stirs the drink for Arsenal. They might have the best passer and one of the most talented players in the world in Cesc Fabregas, but Eduardo instills a confidence in the squad that no other players can. One of the greatest struggles for Arsenal as of late has been finding the back of the net. When Eduardo has been on the pitch, there have been no problems with that. 

This season may have been a disappointment in regards to the league, but it can still be salvaged by winning the FA Cup or Champions League and finishing in the Top Four. Eduardo can lead them there. In Eduardo we trust.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Changes Need to be Made

For The Record-The Boston Bruins have to make some serious changes approaching the playoffs. While they may enjoy a large division lead and a decent lead over the New Jersey Devils for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, much of why they are in the position that they are in is due to early season success. Their play as of late is at best laughable. 

Part of the problem has been the struggles of the young players. David Krejci seems to have lost the form that made him the second leading scorer on the team, Blake Wheeler seems to have lost his brain, and Phil Kessel seems to have forgotten how to hit the net. While Kessel seems to have gotten out of the funk a little bit, Krejci and Wheeler continue to struggle. Playing together on the second line and sometimes on the penalty kill, their mistakes as of late have been very costly. 

Yet Claude Julien has been staying clear of making changes. He has yet to mix up the lines or make adjustments. He's using the same personnel in the special teams. There's no question that the way this team is going right now, they are set to make an early departure in the playoffs. 

Disappointment in Boston appears eminent. Let's just hope it's a front.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Life

For The Record-I've had a great time chilling with my boys this week. I've been going hither and thither, just having a great time. I've watched Arsenal play twice at the Phoenix, I've gone downtown to watch the Bruins twice. I've hung out and watched the Celtics at a friend's house. I just love spending all day moving from place to watch sporting event after sporting event.

It's the life.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Zdeno Chara for MVP

For The Record-I've been preaching this for quite some time, but Zdeno Chara deserves to be the MVP. No other player is as important to his team as he is. Not only does he log big minutes playing solid defense, but he is the guy that goes all out for his teammates and it seems he's gotten all the clutch goals.

Often forgotten in his massive size and his tremendous slap shot is the fact that he is one of if not the best defenders in the League. This year, he's done it all. He deserves it.

Off the top of my head, a couple instances of the above:
Phil Kessel gets hounded by Boris Volabik of the Atlanta Thrashers, Chara takes him and shows him who is boss.

Clutch goals:
Chara scores two goals against Montreal, helping the Bruins defeat their most hated rivals.

Chara scores a goal in the last minute against Nashville to tie the game and send it into overtime.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Weekly Sports Stroll

Alright, I just wanted to address a few of the week's subjects in a post that we'll for now call "Weekly Sports Stroll."

For The Record-While golf may have been hit somewhat by this financial crisis, it was probably hurt more by the absence of the greatest golfer to ever walk the earth, Tiger Woods. Next week Tiger makes his return, fans of the US Open champion should be pleased, but the PGA should be ecstatic.

For The Record-My heart leaped when Kevin Garnett ushered himself to the bench after injuring his knee. The season and the chance to repeat flashed before my eyes. I certainly don't think the path to the title will be any easier this year, but without Garnett, the Celtics' chances are abysmal. Rondo was great in the loss to Utah, but Pierce struggled and fouls plagued the entire front court...

For The Record-I'm glad to see Charles Barkley back at TNT. I found the interactions between Chris Webber, Kenny Smith, and Gary Payton to be humorous, but Chuck always is so candid and was dearly missed.

For The Record-Phoenix's hiring of Terry Porter, a defensive minded coach, for the personell that they had may have been the wrong decision, but so far, firing him seems to be the right decision. The Suns are red hot, having won 3 straight games. However, with Stoudamire out now for an extended period of time, Shaq and Steve Nash have to get back to playing great basketball. Shaq has been pretty good this year, and it appears that the Suns are having a lot more fun playing basketball. With exciting players like Leandro Barbosa, the Suns run and gun offense has made them one of the funnest teams to watch in the Association.

For The Record-L'histoire se joue ici - agree or disagree? I have to vehemently disagree. You would think being 21 points behind the first place Bruins is bad, but then the turmoil with Alexei Kovalev and this new saga with the Kostitsyans arises and things have gone from bad to worse for the Habs. The squad is struggling to maintain its standing in the playoff hunt, and if another showdown with the Bruins happens, expect the Bad News Bruins to make history of this year's Habs.

For The Record-I am glad that the Bruins don't have to go to Europe to start next season. Having seen the toll that it took on the Red Sox opening in Japan, I can only say that the extra mileage is not welcome especially in a game that is so physical. While it's a great opportunity for the four clubs to expand into Europe (especially the Red Wings who feature five prominent Swedes in Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Mikael Samuelson and Nicklas Lidstrom), I think the costs may outweigh the benefits in this case.

For The Record-I'm glad that Leach got a five year extension. He really deserved it. If Texas Tech had let him go, it would've been one of the worst mistakes a school has ever made. He put them on the map.

For The Record-Great to hear that Michigan lowered their ticket prices for next year considering the economic crisis that has hit hard areas around Ann Arbor. However, I would pay that $1.43 extra a game for a team that performs better on the field.

For The Record-Carlos Tevez looks to be on his way out of Manchester United at the end of this season. I see him as a tremendous fit at Barcelona over the Arsenal trio of Van Persie, Adebayor, and Fabregas because of his partnership with Lionel Messi for the Argentinian National Team. At the same time, the idea of a Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc central midfield blows my mind as well, but I would hope that that doesn't happen any time soon.

For The Record-Speaking of Arsenal, it seems many of their players are getting healthy soon. They are playing more inspired now, and with Arshavin debuting tomorrow, Walcott and Eduardo returning in a couple weeks, Rosicky and Cesc set to return in a month, all of a sudden, things are looking bright at the Emirates. As of now, the Gunners find themselves 5 points behind Chelsea and 7 points behind Aston Villa in qualifying for Champions League play, but with the new inspired football they are playing, I expect them to overtake Chelsea for the Champions League.

For The Record's play of the week: Alex Ovechkin's ridiculous goal

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A-Rod: A Double Dip

For The Record-A-Rod is still a robot. I believe that his press conference was for the most part sincere and a rare occurance where a professionnal athlete owns up to his misgivings. However, I did not see the emotion that I wanted to see. I did not see the remorse. Honestly, I'm the last person who wants to get into a debate about steroids, but I was not impressed from what I saw from A-Rod today. 

When he wanted to thank his teammates, I didn't know whether he wanted to cry or smile. He looked like he was holding back. I don't think he helped his A-Fraud image at all. Furthermore, he continued to hide behind his "young and naive" comment. Sure he may sincerely believe that, but I expect him to be questioned and grilled through out the season. I just want him to be honest. I don't really care about the numbers because I don't care for A-Rod. I just want to know the facts, the real story.

For The Record-A-Rod hasn't disgraced baseball. Bud Selig may say what he want, but his whole tenure has been a failure in the sense of keeping the game clean. Sure attendance and revenues have gone up and the game is more popular than ever, but this is large part in due to the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). In the season that "saved" baseball, the two most popular players, Sosa and McGuire, were both on PEDs. The game's most prolific home run hitter, Barry Bonds, has been shamed by his use of PEDs. Many others have fallen in the same way.

A-Rod is no different, but he hasn't brought more shame than others. It's important to note that MLB started full testing in 2004. Since then, A-Rod has not tested positive. He may have done steroids, but it was not against the rules. Now the whole debate about numbers being tainted or whatever, that's for everyone else to decide, but for the record, A-Rod did not do anything wrong.

As far as the other 103 names go, I would like to see those names become public as well. I know that it may hurt to see some of my favorite players on that list, but why should A-Rod be the only one whose name is exposed from a list that was supposed to stay private? 

The only way we can really understand the steroid era is to get as many facts about it as possible. 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Claude Julien: I don't trust my youth

For The Record-For a team built around its youth, I don't think Julien feels the youth on the Bruins has earned his trust. He was quoted after the game as follows:

"[Wheeler]wasn't very good for us tonight," said Julien. "I didn't think Krejci was very good for us either compared to what we're used to seeing. They're no different than anyone else. I've always said that you earn your ice time. I didn't feel those guys were good enough to have the ice time they normally have."

I understand that they did not have their best game, but I feel like he's being harsh on David Krejci. Blake Wheeler deserves the blame that was put on him because he spent four minutes in the box. Unfortunately for Krejci, he was put under a microscope in a game in which he was playing without one of his wingers and instead with someone who he probably never played with in Shawn Thornton. Furthermore, his other linemate was consistently in the penalty box. 

That's not to make an excuse to justify Krejci's supposed poor performance, but given those circumstances, I do think he had a decent game. Right now, one could make the argument that Krejci is the best center on the team, and playing second fiddle to Marc Savard isn't too shabby as well. To limit him to 12:41 of playing time and having all three of the other centers logging more time just doesn't make sense. 

Honestly, I think Claude's biggest problem at this moment is that he doesn't trust the youth. It's unfortunate for him that he has several young players who play a significant role on the team, but I think when push comes to shove, the ones he trusts are his veterans. Why do you think since Bergeron came back, Krejci's minutes have fluctuated?

WAS:  DK-20:40 PB-17:38
NJD: DK-17:42 PB 16:31
NYR: DK-15:06 PB-15:19
MTL: DK-17:09 PB-19:06
PHI: DK-15:26 PB-16:21
OTW: DK-20:19 PB-19:41
PHI: DK-12:41 PB-21:37

The problem is that Krejci is judged more based on the performance of his linemates. Unfortunately, recently Blake Wheeler has struggled with committing penalties. This has brought down Krejci's time on the ice as a result. I don't think Krejci's ice time should be effected by his line's play, but rather by his own play.

David Krejci has become one of those players that can be useful in all assets of the game. He's improved dramatically defensively and his ability to see and provide the passes necessary to set up his teammates for goals. IF HIS LINE ISN'T PLAYING WELL, SHUFFLE THEM UP AND PUT HIM WITH PLAYERS WHO ARE PLAYING WELL. 

The bottomline is you play your best players. This afternoon, Claude Julien did not play David Krejci as much he should have and that in itself probably was one of the deciding factors in the game today. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Arshavin: Savior

For better or for worse, Andrei Arshavin will be deemed or labeled as a savior at the Emirates this winter and spring. It will be him to inspire push the team to its full capabilities, back into the top four and into the vaunted Champions League spot. As of now, Arsenal stands five points behind Aston Villa for the fourth and final Champions League spot. They are ten points out in the league, and it appears with the way that Manchester United are playing, that winning the league is nothing but a pipe dream.

However, there is the FA Cup. There is getting into the Champions League. This season overall might be a disappointment, but it can be saved from being a disaster. With the loss of skipper Cesc Fabregas, it was vital to get a player to help rejuvenate the lacking squad. That man is Andrei Arshavin.

The Russian star missed the first two games of Euro 2008 to suspension, but came back with a vengeance. Following a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of eventual champion Spain, Russia was in need of inspiration. That came from Arshavin as he lead them to a semifinal rematch against Spain. Along the way, they beat the 2004 champion, Greece and the Group C winner, Holland. Much of this is credited to the way Arshavin played, and the way the team played as a result. 

He will be asked the same at the Emirates, and I don't doubt he can do it.  With Eduardo returning soon and Theo Walcott a month away, the immediate future looks to be bright at the Emirates. It's a shame that it's so dim right now.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Georges St. Pierre: Better or Boring

For The Record-I believe that Georges "Rush" St. Pierre is amongst the most gifted fighters in the world. He has been a favorite fighter of mine, but I wonder to myself: has he become boring? He used to get knockouts and he used to get submissions. Now it seems that all his fights go to decision. However, at the same time, he is imposing his will against the best in the world, negating their strengths and showing he is better at what his opponents do best. It is awesome to watch how he will dominate his opponent. 

So has GSP become boring? I think it depends what your definition of boring is. I believe he shows something new every fight, and his ability to "impose his will" on his opponent is just awesome. GSP is still an exciting fighter. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An Embarrassment to not Sign Arshavin

For The Record-If Arsenal does not sign Andrei Arshavin after all the hassle they went through to agree on a transfer fee with Zenit St. Petersburg, it would be an embarrassment. Now, while I believe Arshavin isn't the type of player they should be targeting (a separate entry in itself, but a player in his mid-peak, commanding top dollar), I do think he is a necessary addition. Reports in British papers suggest that Arshavin would have to take a 20,000 pound per week pay cut to come to the Emirates. Through a 38 week season, that works out to be around 750,000. After all the haggling on a transfer fee, they're telling the fans that they aren't willing to spend another 750,000 to get this guy?

C'mon Arsene or the board, you worked so hard to get this guy. Don't penny pinch now!

(Sorry about all the Arsenal entries lately, I promise I'll get into some other sports soon)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What the Global Economic Crisis means for Football

For The Record-the global economic crisis has already hurt Arsenal, while helping Liverpool and Manchester United. While their situations haven't changed in terms of the amount of debt or lack thereof, the value of the dollar has changed in comparison to the pound. What does this have to do with these English clubs? Both Liverpool and Manchester United are owned by Americans, so their money is now worth more. Arsenal is not owned by a single person or group, but one of their largest shareholders is Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbeki oil billionaire. During this crisis, the value of the ruble has plumetted upon extreme volatility in the Russian exchange. This puts a team like Arsenal at a disadvantage when trying to get a transfer like Andrei Arshavin. Their purchasing power has extremely diminished in the last year.

So what does the change in global economic climate mean? The purchasing power of different clubs has changed significantly.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Why Arsenal needs to spend money

For The Record-Arsenal needs to spend money in this transfer window. In the past couple years, Arsenal has moved from having a veteran presence to developing young talent. This has cut the cost of having to acquire players that has burdened the other top football clubs in the world. However, this year, Arsenal has struggled greatly, both due to inexperience and lack of leadership. As of now, they are fifth in the Premiership.

For Arsene Wenger and the Gunners to turn the ship around, they will need to spend in this transfer window. They are without Captain/passing maestro, Cesc Fabregas, for an extended period of time, and their other play maker, Theo Walcott, is out until mid-February. They cannot afford for the gap between them and the top four continue to grow in this time as it is uncertain how strong these players will be when they come back.

Financial times are tough, but it could be tougher in the future. Arsenal currently sit outside the top four, which means that were the season to end today, they would not qualify for Champions League. The Champions League brings in a great deal of revenue as well as prestige to football clubs. Without spending now, it is most likely that Arsenal will not qualify for the Champions League.

While the needs of this club are much indeed, the acquisition of two or three players could make the difference, and the acquisition of four or five players could propel them back in contention. There are a lot of questions to be answered about England's most talked about club; it is up to Arsene Wenger to answer them.