Saturday, June 30, 2012

College Football Adopts Four Team Playoff

College football will now have a four team playoff starting in 2014.  There will be a selection committe, details on who that will be comprised of are yet to come, who will select the teams who will play in a championship game that occurs after all the bowl games.  There are details like how the money will be doled out to be decided but the big story is the playoff.  I would have liked a playoff with eight teams but I'm more than ready to give this a chance.  With a selection committee choosing the teams in the playoffs I think there is a chance of error and I might be in the minority but I actually liked how the BCS chose teams for it's championship and think it could be applied here.  There are arguments that this system will make the regular season more important as committee members can weigh issues affecting teams throughout the season such as key injuries.  I believe there is some truth to that.  Of course it will also open the process up to more criticism but I doubt any system that will ever be in place will be without it's detractors. 

There will always be teams who could make an argument for being in the playoff even if there were 64 football teams involved.  With only four you're getting the best of the best.  March Madness, while fun, is not designed for the best team to win.  The winner of that tourney gives the championship to the team who can get hot at the right time.  Does that mean they are the best team in the country?  Very debatable.  Doesn't matter as the public loves the drama, the underdogs and the stories that come from the 68 team scramble. 

Bottom line I like this for a start.  We'll probably see the process tweaked or changed as the years go on.  This is a move in the right direction and I hope it will help stop some of the complaining that goes along with the BCS. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

LeBron James and the Miami Heat Win NBA Title

The Miami Heat won their second NBA title four games to one over the Oklahoma City Thunder.  After losing game one they returned to attacking the rim and their outside shooters hit shots and the Oklahoma City Thunder couldn't answer.  While I thought Miami would win I expected a longer series.  Still, with the exception of game 4, all the games were close.  LeBron James had an outstanding series averaging 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.  As a team the Heat hit 42 of 98 three point shots.  Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did their part very well but my other hero for Miami is Shane Battier who was the role player who stepped up with a great series.  He only averaged 11 points per game but hit 15 of 26 from beyond the arc.  He was the beneficiary of many passes when the defense collapsed on driving Heat players.  This was something the Thunder had no answer for. 

Oklahoma City played well and most had them winning the series after taking game 1.  Their biggest issue was the disappearance of James Harden.  He averaged 12 points in the Finals but they weren't timely and his diminished contribution couldn't be made up.  Much was also said about Russell Westbrook taking too many shots at times but I think the Thunder's win-loss record during the regular season when he shot more than Durant was excellent.  I think they were 26 and 3.   He may not be a true point guard but he still played well and almost willed his team to victory in game 4 with 43 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.  Kevin Durant hit an outstanding 54% of his field goals while leading the Thunder with 30 points per game.  Still they weren't the better team but this Final's experience could help them in the future.  They have a great core and I think most folks wouldn't be surprised if they made a return trip or two to the Finals. 

No matter what you want to concentrate on this was LeBron's series.  LeBron haters will still hate him but no matter.  He is a great player whom we'll speak of among the all-time greats when he retires.  He now has a championship to add to his resume.  Whether or not it is his last does not matter.  He is a great player and I'm glad he has a championship.  After handling what I feel was undue criticism for "the decision" and, as he admitted himself, handled the Finals loss last year to Dallas poorly, he made all the right changes this year.  He had another great year as he led what is now his team through each challenge and when it mattered most he didn't disappoint.  Good on him and the Heat. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Roger Clemens Acquitted

Roger Clemens was acquitted of lying about steroid use to a Congressional panel.  From everything I've read it looked as though the government's case was shaky from the start.  The accuser, Brian McNamee, was a disaster waiting to happen.  He was not credible and the evidence he brought to the table was iffy at best.  Clemens' longtime friend Andy Pettite testified "against" Clemens but by saying there was a 50-50 chance he misunderstood Roger Clemens he sunk the prosecution.  The DNA evidence seemed to have issues, not if it was Clemens', but how it was obtained.  Was it from an injection or an infection?  And McNamee really kept this stuff for eight years?  That is downright weird in itself.  In the end the jury didn't believe the evidence was there to convict Roger Clemens.  From an outsider's view I have to agree.  That is not to say he never used steroids just that the jury did not find enough evidence to convict him of the charges of lying. 

As a fan I'm left to wonder where Roger Clemens goes from here.  As a Red Sox fan he'll always have a special place in my heart even if he did play and win two World Series with the New York Yankees.  I blame his leaving the Red Sox on then general manager Dan Duquette.  Not to say Clemens was always the most lovable of fellas.  Still he had a wonderful career spanning 24 seasons with Boston, Toronto, Houston and New York in which he won 354 games, losing 184, while finishing with a career ERA of 3.12.  Wow.  He is likely part of a dying breed of 300 game winners.  The advent of the five man rotations and managers who now seem to want to go to the bullpen at any hint of a problem means we'll see less pitchers reaching this milestone.  Only three pitchers have reached 300 wins since Clemens did so in 2003 (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson).  Only two active pitchers have over 200 wins and they are both over 40 years of age or older (Jamie Moyer 269 and Andy Pettite 243) with little to no chance of reaching 300.   

So with his wonderful career and the alleged use of steroids, is Roger Clemens a hall of famer?  I'll start with the alleged steroids use.  Steroids, or what it has done to baseball, makes me cringe and I wish it would just go away. But it isn't. I think baseball should address this issue within the hall of fame process.  Maybe by just stating the era for what it is.  Players within this era are all under some suspicion so just put it out there within the hall.  There are other eras - pre-1900,  expansion and the dead ball era to name a few.   Then let everyone make their own judgement.  I also wish this could apply to hall of fame voters but I'm afraid it is going to take quite a bit to get voters to get past their issues with players suspected of using steroids which is a shame.  We need to move on.  I think by trying to ignore those who did use the drug and those suspected of using performance enhancing drugs will mean players who should be in won't be while players like Ken Griffey Jr. will get in with no issues because he is likable and there have been no allegations thrown his way.  But we don't know if he took steroids.  Nor do we know if Jeff Bagwell did but I truly believe voters think he did.  He has also never been accused of any wrongdoing.   

Clemens' stats are slam dunk hall of fame stats in any era.  Given my thoughts I discussed in the previous paragraph I think he should be voted in.  There is no proof he took steroids.  Let the stats stand alone.  If we let what we think to be true cloud our judgement it gets way too complicated.  I would also apply this to other players.  I'm OK if a player admitted using performance enhancement drugs or was caught not making the hall.  But if it isn't definitive then we must ignore the conjecture that springs from stereotypes and our biases.  So let Roger in!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NBA Finals - Heat vs Thunder

Could you ask for more?  I think not.  Both of these teams are great and together feature some of the, if not the, league's biggest stars.  I love this matchup and like so many other folks think the LeBron vs Durant matchup takes center stage.  There is a good chance they won't "D" up on each other the majority of the time but it is still the star vs star aspect that has me excited.  I think LeBron is the best player in the game and one of those special players that will be talked about forever.  In Durant we have a player whose ceiling seems to be unlimited at the age of 23.  I'm not saying this is a bad series if these two don't take center stage but I would be surprised if that isn't how it turns out.

There are other players to include Wade, Harden, Bosh and Westbrook.  They will keep things interesting when James and Durant are taking a break from hogging the camera.  I give the edge to Miami in this series.  I think that while their role and bench players are weaker than that of the Thunder the big three will help carry Miami to a title.  I'm thinking six games.  I can't see Oklahoma City wilting at this point.  They just kicked San Antonio in the teeth after going down two games to love so who knows we may even see seven games.  No matter who wins it all I only want good games that give us plenty to talk about around the water cooler the next morning. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Green Lantern Gay?

I've read comics since I was a youngin.  I haven't read them regularly for a few years now but I stay up to date as possible through online sites and podcasts.  Priorities change but I definitely plan on catching up in the near future.  I can't wait.  One of my favorites from day one of reading comics is Green Lantern.  The Green Lantern I grew up with is Hal Jordan or the Silver Age Green Lantern introduced in 1959.  This is the Green Lantern the majority of the world is familiar with and was the Green Lantern featured in last year's Green Lantern movie.  Alan Scott is the original Green Lantern who debuted in 1940.  I have definitely become a fan of his character which was revitalized, as part of the Justice Society of America, in the early 90's.  

A few weeks back DC Comics announced one of their characters would come out as gay.  Of course the Robin jokes flew as people wondered who it would be.  Well low and behold it was Alan Scott.  As part of a recent "reboot" by DC Comics Alan Scott's history is out AND he is now gay.  Ugh.  This is pure selfishness on my part but I don't like it one bit.  While i don't have issues with gay characters this just doesn't work for me.  As part of the re-launch Alan Scott is now younger and gay but otherwise his character is sure to be what made him a great hero to begin with - strong, brave, moral, and he can kick butt.  That said he was elder statesman among Green Lantern "universe" and this just throws his character in an entirely new light.  In his past continuity he had children to include a gay son.  All gone now.  I don't like change and I'll be the first to admit that helps shape my thoughts.  Still I want to give this a chance but it isn't easy.  It is such a departure from what I've come to love in his character.  I guess I'll just have to see how DC will handle his story lines but I'm not liking it for now.  Sure Robin would have been looked at as an easy target but it would have made me much happier!  Again pure selfishness...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Baseball Mogul 2013 Review

Baseball Mogul is a game I've been playing for about four years now and I love it.  This game is a simulation so no joystick skills are needed.  What it does allow you to do is build a team year to year as a general manager and set lineups as the manager.  There are of course some fiscal restraints you have to work with but that is part of the fun...and agony.  For newbies to Baseball Mogul I suggest you play as one of the major market teams so you can get the hang of it without giving up.  Once you have some skills move on to the Kansas City Royals of the world.  The difficulty can also be made more difficult or easier as needed. 

The game uses real players back to 1900.  As a baseball history buff this is awesome though I will admit playing through the early 1900's can be daunting even for myself.  So you can start a season with the current season or from 1900 on.  Once the season loads you can then do a fantasy draft.  This is one of the coolest features.  Start a season in your favorite decade and you'll have a wealth of history to choose from.  The rosters can also be left alone letting you play with the exact lineups of the day.  You then set your starting lineups, bench and minor leagues.  Before you quit before you get started you don't have a full minor league system.  So don't worry about having to manage 75-100 minor leaguers.  The game interface makes it simple to see where your players are and their ratings as well as what rating they are projected to top out at. 
Your budget will be based on the size of your market and what you make from tickets and concessions. The dollar amounts for each of these are set by you.  The budget for the farm system, scouting and medical staff are also set by you.  I usually set these at the beginning of each year but they can be adjusted at anytime.  Just like any team you will deal with player salaries via salary arbitration and free agency to include negotiating the salaries.  Baseball Mogul 2013 has made free agency harder as, for the first time, other teams jump into the bidding for players.  Also under the budget umbrella is the ability to build stadiums.  To do so you'll obviously have to have enough cash (via profits made) to build a stadiums.  Like real life new stadiums can mean additional revenues.  Again all this is pretty easy to handle but it will take some work to get down the nuances to stay in the black. 
During the season you'll have the option to play games or not.  The software will simulate all games for you if you like allowing you to pay attention to personnel issues.  If you want to play the games you'll be thrown into late inning situations of a game or you can go to the calendar and play a game from the first pitch.  You can also do this at various levels of control so again you don't have to get too deep.  You must be mindful of injuries so I like to simulate one to two months at at time.  You can set how many position players and how many pitchers you want to carry on your roster at any given time.    Once the playoffs come you may want to take a more proactive approach as each game is so important.  Also, if you are an American League team, don't forget to set your "WITHOUT DH" lineups prior to World Series games in National League parks.  Not setting a particular lineup can leave you with some randomness in the field - Dave Kingman at shortstop was no bueno? 

The amateur draft occurs around the first of June.  It is fun to draft players you know and love.  Just like life players will take time to be ready for the majors.  It is also somewhat random on how players will play time to time.  In other words you might play two different times both playing through the 80's.  It isn't a given that Rickey Henderson will be great both times.  Nine times out of ten he probably is but again there is some randomness but that is part of what makes it fun.  At times a player's ratings will fluctuate due to injury or other unseen reasons.  You draft Fred McGriff.  He starts out with a rating of 62 and his peak rating is 92, the peak rating what he is believed to top out at.  He goes through your minor leagues for four years and then your bench for a year. During this time his current rating will probably keep going up but his peak rating may fluctuate.   

You can make trades until the 31 July trading deadline.  This can be done by finding players you want through the player search feature.  You may see a player in the leaders screen that you want and you can try to work a trade for him via the "GO GET" button on his profile.  You may also put players on the trading block and get offers from other teams.  Always interesting to see what teams will offer. 
The game advances and changes just as the majors did throughout the years.  You'll have expansion teams (and drafts), the advent of the DH, and additional teams added to the league.  Many of these options can be controlled or changed through the various league options.  I bet I've played 20 plus different  franchises and I've enjoyed them all.  My crown achievement was taking the Kansas City Royals from the early 70's through 2015 or so.  With their budget nothing is a given but I still had a handful of World Series rings when it was all done.  I could go on and on.  I am a stat nut so so I love watching what players and teams can do.  I love being the general manager playing with the rosters and money.  I can play one season in 30 minutes or less which allows me to play pretty much whenever I want to.  The game can be saved at any point so you don't have to rush. 

You can go to the  Sports Mogul website and download a demo of the 2012 game.  It won't have all the features available but it will give a good idea of how the game plays.  I purchaed the 2013 Baseball Mogul for $34.99 as a download and received Football Mogul 2012 free.  I haven't played it yet but watch for that review once I get into it.  I highly recommend Baseball Mogul to any baseball fan who isn't looking for a joystick centric game.  I think the history, easy learning curve and the ability to play a different game everytime can appeal to all.  Give it a shot today.