Chance, Mascot for The Vegas Golden Knights

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The Vegas Golden Knights pulled the greatest Friday the 13th prank in their franchise’s nascent existence a couple weeks ago. Except it wasn’t actually a prank. The Golden Knights decided to introduce their new mascot to the world (presented by Geico!, for some reason) via their crazy-popular twitter handle, but failed to supply any more details on the fantastic beast for another hour and forty minutes. Needless to say, the immediate consensus reaction was…confusion. What is it? Why does look like the rock guy from Fantastic Four? Is it a dinosaur? Is it a golden Godzilla? Following a thorough investigation of the internet, I’m confident that not a single fan theory correctly identified Chance as the GILA MONSTER he is.

Truthfully, when I heard he was a gila monster, I had a tough time understanding how the franchise had missed such an easy gimme and failed to just make their mascot a knight, but I’ve since changed my mind. After all, who says a mascot has to have any sort of semblance to the team they represent? Certainly not the Phillie Phanatic, and don’t even get me started on the Montreal Canadiens and their offensively ginger Youppi!

Youppi! the offensively ginger mascot of the Montreal Canadiens

Source: http://www.espn.co.uk/mlb/story/_/id/14700530/how-youppi-canadiens-keep-expos-spirit-alive-montreal

At the end of the day, I think Bill Foley and the Golden Knights’ media marketing group deserve a little credit for having the balls (and creativity) to green-light the use of a venomous, hardly-known, and near-threatened lizard as the face of their franchise. That being said, I feel like they missed a real opportunity to truly embrace the weirdness of their decision and go all out with a lizard costume; let’s be honest – that mascot outfit (designed by VStar Entertainment Group) is nothing more than a head and a set of gloves (yes, he wears hockey pants). That leads me to my only real criticism of the costume – the fact that the back of Chance’s head looks to be inexplicably coated with a thick shimmering and sparkling layer of unicorn spit.

Chance the Vegas Golden Knights Mascot is really just a head and gloves

Source: Getty Images, http://www.gettyimages.ie/license/862591050

The last element to all of this that deserves to be touched on is the fact that the mascot is named Chance. If you can’t work out that name’s obviously brilliant double entendre and how it relates to back to Vegas, I’m afraid I can’t help you. There is, of course, the possibility that the naming was all purely a setup for the best-ever mascot Halloween costume:

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Reds Signing of Aroldis Chapman

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Has the baseball world been turned upside down? The Major League’s most coveted foreign import free agent, Aroldis Chapman, finally agreed to a five-year, $30 million dollar offer over the weekend! The offer came not from the big money spenders (New York Yankees, Mets or Boston Red Sox), but by the Cincinnati Reds. Equally surprising, the Cuban defector’s runner up in bidding was the Oakland Athletics! The deal is exceptionally well suited for the Reds who look to be cutting their payroll from last season’s roughly $73 million in contracts. Chapman will have little to no effect on this purging, as his complicated contract only includes up to $2.5 million for the first season and $3.5 million for the next two. This relatively inexpensive investment should certainly pay dividends, if for nothing more than just exciting the Reds fanbase who last year had their lowest attendance in 23 years.

Many scouts consider the 21 year old Chapman the world’s best left-handed pitching prospect, and anticipate he will be joining the Reds’ rotation sometime within the next season. The problem is, most scouts don’t feel he is ‘Big League ready,’ so the majority of the 2010 season will likely be spent working on control issues in the minor leagues.

Here is the excerpt on each of Chapman’s pitches, as rated by Baseball Intellect:

Fastball – Chapman’s fastball is typically clocked in the 93 – 96 range and will occasionally touch 97 – 99. The pitch has tremendous life and carry through the zone with some natural tail. Chapman’s control will vary from start-to-start. On average, his control of the pitch is decent and will often be at least around the strike zone. But commanding the pitch is a different story. Pitching to a right handed hitter, the catcher’s mitt might be positioned on the inside corner and Chapman’s ball will often end up right down the middle.

Curveball – A good change of pace offering with a solid two-plane brake. However, Chapman will sometimes slow his arm down when throwing the pitch. It’s clocked as low as 69 mph, getting as high as 75.

Slider – Chapman’s most effective off-speed offering…I’ve heard the pitch can hit 90, but I’ve only seen it come close to that mark once and I’m still not sure the pitch was a slider. I’ve typically seen his slider in the 79 – 83 range. The pitch has major consistency issues and can rate anywhere from below average to plus.

Change-Up and Cutter – Chapman possesses both a cutter and change-up, neither of which he uses often.

Chapman’s release point is inconsistent and it will vary with each pitch type . . . Chapman has to coordinate a lot of moving parts however, and that will naturally lead to an inability to consistently repeat his mechanics though he has the athleticism to do so.

Aroldis, who is most commonly compared to Hall of Fame shoe in – Randy Johnson, has the potential to be a top-end starter on many rotations and at the very least a quality middle reliever. With the recent success of young Cincinnati starters Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, he could eventually become a solid number 3 or 4 starter behind Aaron Harang in the next couple seasons.

The Reds pulled of a phenomenal deal here! It will presumably solidify the back end of their rotation in the coming seasons, or could certainly strengthen their aging bullpen that includes Fransisco Cordero and Arthur Rhodes. This move alone bolsters the Reds staff to the point I consider them the 2nd best pitching staff in the NL Central, behind the St. Louis Cardinals, earning them 4 X’s for this deal.

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Reebok Dictator

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When I used to think of Reebok, I certainly did not think of quality slow pitch softball bats.  If you are the same way, I suggest you rethink your stance.

In the beginning of this year’s spring softball season, my brother was persuaded by a sales representative at a local sporting goods store to pick up a Reebok Dictator.  He got the white ASA version of it for just over $120 on sale. Despite the deal, it was still a fairly large chunk of money to spend based on a salesperson’s word.

Before I continue, please let me share the fates of the three most recent bats my two older brothers and I have gone through.  Simply put, the way we treat them is illegal in 49 states (Missouri is the odd one out – everything is legal there).

  • Worth Mayhem – bent at a 10 degree angle after 7 hits in batting practice
  • Worth 3DX – flattened barrel after 2 games
  • Mizuno Wrath – broken into two after being used in 4 games

The first hit with the Reebok Dictator was taken by yours truly.  My brother took it out of its plastic wrapping, handed it to me, and said, “Go forth and dictate.” I remember thinking the feel of the bat was good as soon as I held it, but it was not until I took my first swing that I was impressed with the quality.  I hit a deep fly ball that cleared a 300 ft fence by about 20 feet.  I am no power hitter and was not trying to swing for the fences, but the bat rewarded me with the solid contact I had made on the ball.

Fast forward to the end of the same year’s fall season.  The bat had become a team favorite, and practically everyone was using it for every at-bat of our triple headers.  It was probably for this same reason that it had lost some of its pop, but it never bent, cracked, or broke on us.  Next on our agenda is to go out and buy a new one for the next season.

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Fuck-Up Stickers

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Consider Ohio State, Florida State, and Georgia.

These three college football programs share a common bond besides their uncanny abilities to be perennially overrated.

If you are ever unfortunate enough to watch a contest of grit on the gridiron between any of these schools and their opponents – or, God forbid, between two of the three – then you would bear witness to the single greatest folly in the entire world of sports.

Yes, that’s even still considering you, futbol.

Attached to the super overinflated heads of these “student”-athletes is constant reminder of how awesome quarterbacks, halfbacks, and wide receivers are and how incomprehensibly worthless linemen and those skinny white guys (read: kickers and punters) can so perfectly be.  Well, it’s about time everyone found out what I’ve known all along.

Pride Stickers are stupid.

I would go into a detailed argument, covering all premises and steering clear of any fallacies, but I’ve decided to spare you the barrage of syllogisms.  Instead, please accept this picture of Pride Stickers being enjoyed thoroughly by a bunch of Mormons as proof of my previous statement.

stickers

If there is one principle which every man from every faith can embrace, it is that if the Mormons like it, it must be badEven the Mormons believe this.

So, pray tell, what is the antidote to this plague on my precious pigskin? I introduce to you Fuck-Up Stickers.

I am adamantly in favor of a system which publicly points out the flaws of these high profile college students.  Humility does not come in a more sobering form than public embarrassment.  Instead of receiving a sticker for making an outstanding play, I propose a system that rewards failure with stickers that emphasize the fact that a player has made mistakes that will not be accepted.  Since these players are getting paid under the table anyways, I do not think it is too unreasonable to ask them not to fuck up, even if it is in such a way that could be viewed as a metaphorical exclamation mark.

The system is simple.

If a player does something wrong, they receive one Fuck-Up Sticker.  These faults can include penalties, dropped passes, missed blocks, or anything else a coach would really like point out as being important not to do in the future.  Once a player has accumulated a sum of these stickers, the only way to get rid of them is to play fundamental team football.  The amount of stickers removed and for what is left up to the coach’s discretion.

Picture this:

A college football team is seconds away from taking the field.  As the players are huddled in the tunnels waiting to run the Cheerleader’s Gauntlet of Death, they are all on a search to find the most sticker ridden helmets in order to give words of encouragement to their most struggling teammates.

“Pay close attention the snap count changes. Catch the ball first, then turn and run with it.  Keep the ball to the outside.”

Now, imagine the overwhelming motivation a player would receive from looking at his own helmet and seeing 15 Fuck-Up Stickers.  He would remember what he has done wrong in the past and would realize how important fundamentals are in the game of football. Thoughts of teamwork would echo inside of his head, and as he took the field being welcomed by the roar of his home team crowd, one thought would linger.

“Man, I really gotta quit fucking up!”

2009 MLB Awards

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Starting November 16th, Major League Baseball began naming the winners of the four major awards in MLB: Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young Award, and Most Valuable Player.  Aside from the fact I feel baseball waits too long to name winners, over 2 weeks from the last World Series Game, the awards always stir debate year after year.  Today, I’m going to rate how the awards were handed out compared to how I thought they should have been handed out!

American League Rookie of the Year (November 16th)
Andrew Bailey RHP, Oakland Athletics

This race, to me, came down to Elvis Andrus SS – TEX, Rick Porcello SP – DET, and Oakland pitchers Brett Anderson and Andrew Bailey.  Before the season began many felt Matt Wieters C – BAL was going to have this award claimed easily, but after waiting over a month to join the big league club, and then underperforming he fell out of contention early.  Bailey had more K’s than IP, finished in the top 10 in saves, and was the only rookie named to the All Star team.  Anderson tossed 145 Ks in 170.1 IP and fanned nearly 3 times more batters than he walked.  Porcello led all rookies with 14 wins and emerged as a top starter for the contending Tigers.  Still, I feel that the award belonged to Andrus.  He’s already regarded as one of the best defensive short stops in the bigs, and also led all AL rookies in hits, triples and stolen bases.
My Predicted Winner: Elvis Andrus

National League Rookie of the Year (Novemer 16th)
Chris Coughlan LF, Florida Marlins

Even with impressive performences by Randy Wells SP – CHI(N) and Andrew McCutchen OF – PIT, this race was based in the NL East.  Chris Coghlan OF – FLA, Tommy Hanson SP – ATL, and J.A. Happ P – PHI were the top contenders in my mind.  While Coghlan batted an impressive .321 avg (NL rookie lead) and also led NL rookies in OBP, hits, and runs, I felt that he gets shadowed by Hansons hype and Happs impressive performances in Phillies playoff run.  Happ was a diamond in the rough early in the year when the Phillies staff was struggling. He also had a sub 3.00 era in a hitters park, combined with 12 wins and 119 K’s.  Hanson, who joined the team later in the season, also threw over 115 K’s with 11 wins and a sub 3.00 era.  Hanson did so with almost 40 less innings than Happ, and I really thought his preseason hype would win him the award.
My Predicted Winner: Tommy Hanson

AL & NL Manager of the Year (November 18th)
Mike Scioscia, Anaheim Angels
Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies

This award almost always lands in the hands of a Playoff team, which should almost always be the case. Nonetheless, Texan Rangers manager Ron Washington impressed a lot of people with his club this season.  He kept his Rangers in the race until the last week of the year, and greatly improved his teams pitching staff.  No doubt though, the AL award belongs to Mike Scioscia, manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.   The Angels used 14 different starting pitchers throughout the year.  In addition to the normal ups and downs of a season , he was able to manage his players through the emotional loss of rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart.  For the National League, even thought Charlie Manuel delt well with bullpen problems and Jimmy Rollins early season slup, Jim Tracy moved from bench coach to manager mid-season and got him team to finish 22 games over .500.
My Predicted Winners: AL – Scioscia, NL – Tracy

American League Cy Young (November 17th)
Zack Greinke RHP, Kansas City Royals

CC Sabathia SP – NY(A) finished the season with 19 wins and 197 K’s while leading his team into the post season.  Felix Hernandez SP – SEA also finished with 19 wins and 217 strike outs while posting an amazing 2.49 era.  Wins aside though, Royals starting pitcher Zack Greinke deserves the AL Cy Young for his impressive start to finish season.  An 0.84 ERA in his first 10 starts, and 0.75 ERA in his last 8 outings going into baseballs final week, showed that he threw well from start to finish.  Greinke ended the season with a 2.16 ERA along with 16 wins and 242 Ks.  The only debate here was being on a losing team, though Clemens 1997 and Webb 2007 showed that it could be done. 
My Predicted Winner: Zack Greinke

National League Cy Young ( November 19th)
Tim Lincecum RHP, San Francisco Giants

With a lower ERA and WHIP than his winning season in 2008, and only 4 fewer strikeouts, Tim Lincecum SP – SF did great to defend his title.  St. Louis will most likely be home to the winner though, with aces Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.  Carpenter had an impressive season after throwing only 21 innings total in 2007 and 2008, and had a 2.24 ERA along with 144 K’s in 192 innings and 17 wins.  Wainwright matched Carpenter’s effort with a 2.61 ERA and 212 K’s in 233 innings and 19 wins.  Interesting note: Wainwright’s August 30th birthday matches last year’s AL C Young winner Cliff Lee, though the coincidence may not be impressive enough to match Carpenters comeback in the eyes of the voters.
My Predicted Winner: Adam Wainwright

American League Most Valuable Player (November 23rd)
Joe Mauer C, Minnesota Twins

Everyone loves Yankee captain Derek Jeter, and he has all of the intangibles that scream “valuable”.  His .334 average with 18 homers and 30 stolen bases are some of the best numbers of his career.  Obviously, everyone knows that he’s the heart of the Yankees.  Putting my anti-Yankees bias aside, Jeter has surely deserved this award.  Except Joe Mauer is also having one of his best seasons ever.  The Twins backstop finished with a .365 avg after flirting with .400 most of the season and long out did his 9 homeruns from 2008 by finishing with 28 and almost 100 RBIs.  The Yankees would still be a great team without Jeter, but the Twins would be lost without Mauer. The 26 year old Mauer should win more in the future.
My Predicted Winner: Joe Mauer

National League Most Valuable Player (November 24th)
Albert Pujols 1B, St. Louis Cardinals

They might as well just call this the PNAPA, the Players Named Albert Pujols Award.  His perennially puts the “P” in MVP, and had Barry Bonds not put up the numbers he did in the beginning of Pujols’ career,  Albert would have even more than the 8 he now has.  Pujols hit .327 with a career high 47 homeruns and tied a career best with 16 stolen bases.  The only question here is whether it will be unanimous.  To give other recognition, Hanley Ramirez SS – FLA lead the league in batting average and topped 100 rbs for the first time in his career, and Prince Fielder 1B – MIL ousted Pujols in rbis with 141.  Unfortunately, all they really managed to do was keep Albert from the Triple Crown. 
My Predicted Winner: Albert Pujols

In general, I agreed with the award recipients this year. Specifically, MLB awarded 5 out of the 8 awards to the players/coaches I thought they should. Since we can’t award 5/8 X‘s on theXsection, I’ll translate that to a 5 X scale.

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