Bad Calls Ump!!!

After watching the first four games of this years World Series, I have come to the conclusion that video replay should definitely be used to determine controversial calls.

 Obviously, during the play-offs, where everything is on the line, a wrong call, can be a determining factor in the outcome of the game. Currently, baseball has implemented replays for the playoffs, which is used only to review controversial homeruns. While that is a step in the right direction, replay should be used for every close call, that can determine the score.

While I have always sat on the fence about whether replays should be used, two blown calls from game three and four was enough to convince me that a change has to be made.

Make no mistake about it, this is not an article dumping on major league umpires. While they do a fantastic job, it has been proven, over the course of time, that  umpires are obviously only human; which means they are not perfect.

The first botched call came during game three, when Tampa Bay Rays’ leadoff hitter, Carl Crawford, got a huge break, in the seventh inning, from umpire, Tom Hallion. Crawford laid down a bunt and, on a close play, was ruled safe; when replays showed that, in reality, he was — not safe.

“It was a bang-bang play, and I tried to get the best angle on it,” Hallion said. “I really didn’t get a sound to be able to judge. It winds up being a great play, and looking at the replay — they just got him.”

Even though Crawford scored, the Philadelphia Phillies still managed to win the game 5-4, and justice prevailed. I don’t mean to point fingers at the umpires, but what if Crawford’s run made the difference in the outcome of the game?

In game four, the next day, another mistake was made in the first inning, when Jimmy Rollins was ruled safe on a rundown play; when in reality Rays third baseman, Evan Longoria tagged him.

“He’s seen the replay and he knows that he missed it,” said MLB vice president, Mike Port about Tim Welke, who made the call.

Rollins ended up scoring, but the run didn’t really matter, as the Phillies won the game in a walk in — a 10-2 score.

Still, what if there was a game seven and the winning run was the result of an umpire’s error? Hopefully video replay will come to the sport of baseball before something like that ever happens.

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Mats Sundin on Ice

The NHL rumor mill is, once again, buzzing that former Toronto Maple Leafs’ captain, Mats Sundin, is targeting sometime in early December, for his much anticipated return to professional hockey.

Even though he finished last season with a more then respectable 78 points, Sundin admitted to the media, during the off-season, that he wasn’t sure whether he was committed to coming back. After completing his 13th season in Toronto, several teams, such as the Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators offered the 37 year-old a lucrative contract, that he turned down.

The hot rumor, circulating among the hockey circles, is that Sundin recently traveled to Los Angeles for the purpose of — not a vacation — but to engage in an intense workout program, to get him into playing shape.

Even though his agents are staying tight lipped about the purpose of his workout regime, some of his close friends have admitted that he is — in fact — getting that urge to play.

In the fall, Sundin, who has 555 goals in his career, insisted that if he, indeed, did come back, he wanted to be in top shape, and would therefore need about a month to get ready.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager, Cliff Fletcher, who has had talks with Sundin, over the summer and into the fall, was not surprised about the news.

“I hear he’s going out to the west coast and getting into shape,” said Fletcher. “After that, I assume, that at some time, he’ll decide where he wants to play hockey; but we’ve had no contact with him.”

Fletcher apparently still has a one-year contract offer on the table for Sundin. He will have plenty of competition with teams such as, the Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers and the Senators, who are all apparently still very interested in his services.

 

Legace Singing the Blues with Palin

St. Louis Blues goalie, Manny Legace, said that he holds no grudge against Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, after he suffered, what was termed, a lower body injury.

Legace, who is 4-2 on the season with a 2.94 GAA, suffered a fluke injury on Friday night. When stepping onto the ice, he tripped on a carpet, that was rolled out in honor of Palin, who was dropping the ceremonial puck.

“I felt a pull right away,” said Legace, who tumbled to the ice. “I was hoping it would just go away.”

On that evening, Legace who is 313-291 in his career, was pulled after the first period, as he had allowed two Los Angels Kings goals on 12 shots. He was replaced by Ben Bishop, who was making his NHL debut.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers, Legace said that he will not be playing, and is unclear about when he’ll be back in action. “After making the first save, the injury felt worse.”

Prior to Legace entering the ice, a team official alerted the goalie about the carpet. According to Legace, the official accidentally moved his own foot from the carpet, making it slide, just when Legace was in the process of stepping onto the ice. After falling onto the ice, Legace slowly got up and skated to his crease, where he did some warm-up stretches.

The Blues, who have lost prized young defenseman, Erik Johnson for the season, cannot afford to be without Legace for any long stretches, if they are to make a run at post season.

I Like Ramirez but Ricciardi Doesn’t

Toronto Blue Jays’ general manager, J.P. Ricciardi recently announced that, contrary to the rumors, free agent slugger, Manny Ramirez is not on the Blue Jays shopping list.

Even though fans are hoping that the Jays signs a slugger who will improve the offense, Ricciardi said that the number one off-season priority is to re-sign starting pitcher, A.J. Burnett.

“Manny is not priority number one” said Ricciardi about the slugger, who hit 37 homeruns and 121 RBI’s this past season. “It would really be a long shot for us to bring him to Toronto. I don’t see us getting involved in unbelievable, astronomical numbers.We would not go down that path.”

Even though this veteran would be a welcome addition for a team, that finished with the 24th most homeruns, and only had one with more than 20 (Vernon Wells), Ricciardi knows that the 36 year-old wants a six year contract, worth at least 25 million dollars.

Ricciardi is currently in negotiations with Burnett’s agent, who after finishing with 18 wins and 231 strikeouts, will be seeking at least 15 million as a free agent.

If Burnett leaves this off-season, then the Jays will be putting their efforts in signing high regarded starters ,such as CC Sabathia (17 wins), Ben Sheets (13 wins) and Derek Lowe (14 wins).

There is the feeling around baseball that a lot of teams will be staying away from Ramirez, who at age 36, will have trouble getting a six-year contract with the amount of money he is asking for.

Ron Wilson Adds Controversy

On Tuesday night, Ron Wilson made a bold statement that he is not the type of coach who will go, strictly, by the book.

Wilson, who is only six games into his tenure as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach, had the media and arm-chair hockey fans in disbelief; after pulling starting goalie, Vesa Toskala for the shootout. During regulation and overtime, Toskala, who is the undisputed number one goalie for the Leafs, only surrendered two goals, in what was, eventually, a  3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

Coach Wilson decided to use his second stringer, Curtis Joseph, who was coming in cold, without a warm-up. At 41, Joseph is not exactly a spring chicken. Still, Wilson couldn’t ignore the stats. Since the shootout was implemented in 2005, Joseph has been successful 72% of the time, while putting together a shootout record of 5-3. Meanwhile Toskala has only a 46% success rate, and a 2-9 record. Still, there was plenty of debate, despite the numbers.

“I would not have taken Toskala out,” said former NHL Tampa Bay Lightning coach, and current hockey broadcaster, John Tortorella.

“I know there’s been a problem with his (shootout) stats, but he’s got to learn to fight through that. He’s your number one guy. I think you need to keep him in there — and find a way to win.”

Only three times, since the shootout came into existence, has a coach gone against the norm, and pulled their starting goalie. Overall, no goalie coming in from the bench, has been able to nab that extra point.

The first coach, to pull the trick, was Linday Ruff, who on November 22, 2005, was forced to pull Mika Noronen, after he was injured on a shootout goal from the New York Rangers’, Martin Straka. Backup, Martin Biron, came in — and surrendered two consecutive goals.

Edmonton Oilers coach, Craig MacTavish, also pulled the trick,back on March 7, 2006, when Mike Morrison, who was undefeated in five straight shootouts, came off the bench, and yielded two goals.

The third time, it happened, was on October 26, 2006, when Thrashers’ coach, Bob Hartley, put young net minder, Kari Lehtonen, in net for the shootout, where he — promptly — gave up two goals.

When Wilson pulled the trick, even some of the Ducks’ players were surprised, including their young forward, Corey Perry, who was notably stunned.

“I’ve never seen it happen before,” said Perry after the game. “I saw (Joseph) warming up and I turned to the bench and querried … they’re putting him in?”

To Wilson’s credit, he answered all the questions about the switch, before adding that he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.

“Tonight it (shootout) didn’t work, but it’s the law of averages,” he said. “We’re going to keep practicing it.”

Super Pest, Sean Avery back in New York

A story line to keep an eye on in NHL action tonight is how the fans at Madison Square Gardens will react, when former New York Rangers super pest, Sean Avery, steps on the ice.

Last summer Avery, who ended up signing as a free agent with the Dallas Stars, was pretty candid when he commented on how New York should have opened the purse strings and signed him, as opposed to the free agents they got.

“It’s an interesting situation because, then they turn around and spend it (the money) on guys they shouldn’t have,” the 28 year old, who played for a year and half with the Rangers, said. “ New York is a tough place to play. Markus Naslund is going to have a tough time, and so is Wade Redden. I don’t think that they are going to live up to the expectations. I’ve gone to a better team.”

Avery, who had 33 points in 57 games, with the Rangers last season, left town for a four year contract worth 15.5 million. Knowing that there will be loads of media attention for his first return, Avery, who has two assists on the season thus far, recently wrote an e-mail request, that he delivered through the Dallas public relations department, to the media.

“In my effort to focus on the game at hand, I would prefer not to do a lot of interviews, so please accept this statement in lieu of a full court press,” wrote Avery who recently suggested that the NHL should be more effective in marketing their heroes — and villains of hockey. “I have no animosity towards anyone in the (Rangers) organization for not bringing me back — that is sometimes how things work out.”

Heading into play, New York has sputtered of late, going only 1-1-1; after equaling a franchise record of five straight wins, to open a season.

Meanwhile, Dallas is off to a bit of a rough start with a 1-3-1 record. Even though these two teams badly need points, 29sports believes that Avery will hear his fare share of boos, and will be targeted by his former team.

Sidney Crosby is Simply Amazing

Pittsburgh Penguins’ superstar, Sidney Crosby, was his typical modest self, when asked about not only scoring his 100th career goal but also notching his 200th assists — in a 4-1 win at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This 21 year-old captain, who came into play with only four assists thus far, knew it was only a matter of time before he busted out on the score sheet.

“I felt like I was doing some good things, but the puck just wasn’t going in,” he said.

Trailing 1-0, Crosby, who often draws comparisons to a young Wayne Gretzky, earned that milestone assist when, after he was stoned from the slot, his line mate, Pascal Dupuis scored on the rebound.

“Crosby is the best player in the league,” said Dupuis, who now has two goals in his past three games.

On the second Pens’ goal, Crosby showed his tremendous vision, as he threaded a pin point pass, that went between Toronto Maple Leafs’ rookie defenseman, Luke Shenn’s legs, and right onto the stick of line mate, Miroslav Satan; who standing alone beside the net, had an easy tap in.

“ Sidney was on tonight, and kind of sunk us,” said Leafs’ goalie, Curtis Joseph.

 “He’s got great speed, and obviously his slap-passes are pretty accurate. Usually the best players keep you guessing, and he certainly does that out there.”

Crosby’s milestone goal, which was not exactly one of his prettiest, came late in the third period. Carrying the puck into the Leafs zone, this slick forward, first avoided a Joseph poke check, before firing a hard backhander towards the slot, where the puck took a crazy bounce off of a Leaf player, and bounced into the vacant net.

“I was just throwing it out front,” Crosby said. “Throw it at the net, and good things happen. I got a great bounce.”

The fourth point came on an assist to Petr Sykora, who scored his first goal of the season.

Honorable mentions for his play goes to Crosby’s line mate, Evgeni Malkin, who had four assists on the night, including his 200th career point.