Friday, July 30, 2010

The Best Event of the Year Race Fans Don’t Know or Forget Exists and Why IT Should Be Our Motorsports All-Star Race

This weekend while F-1 is in Hungary, IndyCar is off, and NASCAR is on week 72 of their 178 week season; probably one of the most fun motorsports events of the year will be going down. It will include an Indy 500 winner, a motorcross champion, a drifting champion, dirt, pavement, and a jump! It’s the Rally X event at the X Games in L.A.

For those unfamiliar, the event consists of 2 side-by side courses that are half dirt and half streetpavement. Each contest/matcup consists of each car doing 1 lap on each course (switching courses at the end of each lap) with the finish lines being next to each other, the contest is a head-to-head single elimination bracket. Last year Kenny Brack came out of driver seat retirement to do this event and won it. Ryan Hunter-Reay was tweeting how much he wanted to do it while watching, and truly with jumps (over each other) and the new Super Rally competition that includes 4 cars on the same course together, you can’t even begin to imagine the amount of fun it is, not only for the drivers, but for fans.

The only problems are as an official X-Games competition, the amount of participants is limited, the location is static and it currently conflicts with many other motorsports calendars. Since IROC and now A1GP are gone, we really have nothing except the 24 Hours of Daytona to serve as a fun competition between the best of all the series; we need a true All-star race.

Right now NASCAR has the crapass abomination called the All-Star Race which is nothing close. Seriously what other All-star sporting event lets all its normal participants compete instead of only the All-Stars? And IROC has been gone for a while now, and even when we had it was too much home court advantage to stock car drivers.

Rally-cross is everything we need for an All-Star event. You won’t find many drivers in NASCAR, IndyCar, ALMS, Grand-Am, Karting, USAC etc. who wouldn’t be willing to do it just for a weekend of fun; and you could easily build courses all over the country so that everyone has a chance to get it each year (whereas X-Games are now stuck in L.A.). Heck you could even make it so only drivers could be the co-pilots so you got Jimmy Johnson in the driver seat and Juan Montoya as co-pilot and then they switch for the next round.

The drivers could even put their normal sponsors on the car, even more rewarding not only those sponsors but better positive relationship for the driver with their sponsor.

This kind of All-star event should NOT be in a static location, the X-Games are evident to why that’s such a bad idea; L.A. has had the X-games every year since 2002 (when Philly had it and the Games normally rotated locations). Last night as Pastrana pulled off the double back flip, and skateboarders went for Big Air, there were maybe a few thousand in the stands, and that’s pretty generous. The same happens with NASCAR’s All-Star race, if you put something that is supposed to be a spectacle/showoff in the same place, it loses its spectacleness and the locals get tired of it. This MUST be a travelling circus (so to speak).

I’m sure someone like Eddie Gossage would be drooling and ecstatic it if it were announced Texas Motor Speedway landed the 2012 Motorsports All-Star Race. He’d put up the money to build the temporary Rally course, could even use part of the oval for it. Heck, take it a step further, since there’s no homerun derby, you could have all the drivers do a Go-Kart race in addition to the Rally fun. And if you kept it from being oval-only like IROC both ovals and road courses could bid to host it, spreading the wealth and truly making it feel like an All-Star event. Heck there could even be a special 3rd event that used sports cars on the original home track to help seed the Rally stuff, just like the baseball All-star games decide Designated Hitters or not depending on whose park it is.

It can’t be too terribly hard to get ALMS, Grand-Am, IndyCar, NASCAR, USAC and such to agree to take the same week off in the year, it’s not like the benefits to doing so are non-existent. The event would only serve to help them all gain new fans when the fans of all the series crisscross. More importantly it would help racers and fans become more respectable and friendly to each other when they meet up.

Someone out there make this happen, shoot I’ll work pro-bono to help work out the logistics to make such an awesome event happen.

And for those who don’t know what the heck I’m talking about; watch Rally X this weekend as Indianapolis 500 winner and X-Games gold medalist Kenny Brack goes to defend his title. Trust me, it’s worth it and that’s why someone needs to make it happen as the official Motorsports All-Star Race.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Cubs: All-Bust Team (2000-2010)

Being a Cubs fan is a tough job. It's bad enough that we have to watch this team lose so often, but we also have to sit around and watch "future hall-of-famers" head to the disabled list, the bench, the minor leagues, and/or other teams. In fact, we could field an entire roster with players who were supposed to be stars at their respective positions and didn't quite pan out just in the last 10 years. The starting line-up would look something like this:

C - Todd Hundley

After he hit 24 HRs two years in a row for the Dodgers, the Cubs brought in the son of former Cub great Randy Hundley to answer all of our catching problems. Maybe the steroids wore off (Hundley was named as a user in the Mitchell Report) but he managed just 28 HRs total in his two years in Chicago. Even worse were his batting average (around .200) and his OBP (under .300).

1B - Hee Seop Choi

Who needed Mark Grace? Choi was the new Mark Grace. He was the power-hitting, Asian Mark Grace. I even raved to my friends about the homerun I saw him hit over the pool in right field when he was an Iowa Cub playing against my hometown New Orleans Zephyrs. Unfortunately, Choi's minor league heroics did not translate to the Major Leagues, where he only hit 40 HRs and 120 RBIs in his career. Of course, most of that is the Marlins' problem since they gave us Derrek Lee for Choi back in 2004. (By comparison, Lee hit 78 HRs and 205 RBIs in the two years following the trade.) One of the few times we've successfully sold high on a prospect that didn't reach his potential. Speaking of which...

2B - Bobby Hill

After the Cubs drafted Hill in the 2nd round in 2002, all we heard was how great he was going to be. He would soon be our starter at 2B and would be there for years to come! Like Choi, I made sure I got to see him play for Iowa a few times. He was going to steal bases and drive in runs. He was the next Sandberg! So you can imagine that fans were reluctant to embrace the trade that sent him to Pittsburgh in the Aramis Ramirez deal. Good thing Aramis has hit about 280 HRs while Hill knocked out 6 in his short Major League career.

3B - Aaron Miles

Am I stupid, or what? Everyone knows Miles is a second baseman. Well, here's the deal. Our team thought it was a great idea to let Mark DeRosa get away before last season. Why? Oh, because we could sign Aaron Miles instead. DeRosa hit 21 HRs and 87 RBIs in 2008. While those were great numbers, they were even more important because DeRosa provided insurance at 3B. Sure enough, when Aramis Ramirez missed half of last season, instead of DeRosa's 23 HRs, 78 RBIs and his ability to play 3B, we had Miles's 0 HRs and 5 RBIs, along with his .185 average. But hey... he was a switch-hitter!

SS - Nomar Garciaparra

I remember the day we traded for Nomar. He had hit over .370 one year. He had once hit 35 HRs. He was mentioned with A-Rod and Jeter whenever anyone talked about the game's best shortstops. Of course, in a Cubs uniform, he couldn't even stay healthy for half a season and was never the same. Some people blame steroids. Others blame a more likely cause: the Cubs.

OF - Milton Bradley, Felix Pie, Kosuke Fukudome

OK, so everyone knew what to expect from Milton Bradley. And even as he was imploding, we still thought he could get it together. The biggest mystery now is how we got the Mariners to take him from us for Carlos Silva!

Pie, on the other hand, was a five-tool player! Remember? We wouldn't trade him for anything. You could've offered us the Yankees' starting line-up and Jim Hendry would've rejected that. But then we found out his five tools were like striking out and maybe chewing bubble gum or something. In the end, we got a couple of minor leaguers for him as the next Sammy Sosa turned out to be the next Corey Patterson.

And then there's Fukudome. When we signed Kosuke, we were told he had 30/100 potential. We just didn't know those numbers would be 3-year totals! (After 2.5 seasons, he's totaled 29/138.) He's not a bad player and seems to be a great teammate. But the Cubs are paying him the salary of a Major League All-Star and he isn't even good enough to start on a pretty bad team. Instead he is in a platoon with Xavier Nady in the FOURTH outfield position. Meanwhile, Sam Fuld and Micah Hoffpauir remain in Iowa.

SP - Rich Hill

I don't get this one. In 2007, Hill was 11-8 with a 3.92 ERA and 180+ strikeouts. A year later he ended up being traded to the Orioles (of course) for a player to be named later. He is currently playing for Boston's AAA team.

RP - Antonio Alfonseca

After saving about 100 games for Florida in three years, Alfonseca blew 9 saves for the Cubs in 2002 while saving only 19. Removed from the closer role in 2003, he posted an ERA near 6... which is the number of fingers he has on each hand! Sometimes, kids, 12 fingers just aren't enough.

Manager - Lou Piniella

I like Lou and I've enjoyed his grumpy grandpa attitude as much as anyone. But zero playoff wins in four years didn't quite cut it. Dusty Baker may have ruined Mark Prior's arm and all, but at least I was having playoff parties at my house where we all had toothpicks in our mouths. Hopefully Girardi or Sandberg can lead us back...

Scapegoat - Steve Bartman

Of course, everything on this list and everything bad that has ever happened to the Cubs is this man's fault. Don't forget that.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Hornets cannot trade Chris Paul

I have spent many hours this summer reading about Pete Maravich. I've watched tons of videos as well. I was always a huge fan, but there was so much that I didn't know.

Unfortunately it makes Chris Paul's recent behavior seem even more pathetic. It may be hard to understand if you haven't lived in New Orleans, but Chris Paul (along with Reggie Bush, Sean Payton, Drew Brees, etc.) became the face of a rebuilding city. We didn't even know if we were getting our team back from Oklahoma and then Chris Paul came along to renew excitement and represent the city.

So now he wants a trade and doesn't want to be there. I am hoping the Hornets do not give in to him. At this point, I'm losing respect for him and would ordinarily think we should get as much as we can for him. Then I remember how much the New Orleans Jazz gave up to get Maravich from the Hawks in 1974:

- two players from the upcoming expansion draft
- a first round pick in 1974
- a first round pick in 1975
- a second round pick in 1975
- a second round pick in 1976
- the option to switch first round position in 1976 and 1977

People around the league were furious that Atlanta ripped off the new expansion team so badly, while Hawks staff openly joked about how one-sided the deal was. Atlanta head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons even mentioned using a mask and a gun!

Atlanta's attendance dropped 34% and the Hawks made no improvement on the court, finishing 4th, 5th, 6th, 4th in the Central Division over the next four years. (They'd finished 2nd in all four years since drafting Maravich.)

Chris Paul cannot be replaced. The risks of him holding out or not playing his best can only hurt him in the long run. The Hornets need to make him stand up and keep his commitment or show everyone that he is a baby and is willing to quit on his team or watch them suffer until his demands are met.

It looks like the Hornets are set on keeping him, which is great. I'm hoping he changes his attitude and we can quickly forget about this.

Of course, the Hornets also need to do a better job of getting Paul some serious help, but that's a different complaint for a different day...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Turning On the Lights

Now that the soon-to-be-name-changed Indy Racing League has made the decision on the relative-ish-ness amongst where they will later decide on some specific rules for the IndyCar Series; it leads many… ok.. maybe a small group… ok maybe just a small few of us… to wondering, so what does this mean for the minor leagues?

We now know that there will be a base chassis frame (to be built by Dallara)  which at first sounded like the perfect opportunity for the IRL to steal borrow Lola’s idea of having a similar base that could be used for Indy Lights and then upgradable to the full IndyCar Series.

It would have been technically feasible as there could have been 1 approved body kit and smaller engine for Indy Lights, and then for any team to upgrade to the major leagues, they’d simply need to buy a different kit and better engine, not a chassis too. Dallara probably would have been super happy to oblige too, that’s even more base chassis they get to make and sell, right?

Only it was not to be, because shortly within the chassis announcement came a slight problem to that theory; the minimum cost of this new “safety cell” announced earlier this month was $345,000. A nice cut for IndyCar teams but nothing that an Indy Lights team could touch, especially since the engine and body-kit are still needed to be complete.

It seems it would have to made sense to have Dallara’s base chassis a little cheaper but guarantee them that they would get 100% of the body (I’m not calling them aero) kits in Indy Lights and then make IndyCar body kits a little more expensive (which would help the other IndyCar Series body kit makers get more ROI too). But since I’m not the type to waste time debating what could have been; lets spend time talking about what can be.

So we know 3 things:

1.    Indy Lights teams will not be offered a chassis upgradable to the IndyCar Series.

2.    The current Indy Lights chassis isn’t known for being all that relatable to the current IndyCar Series chassis, and certainly won’t be to the new one

3.    The current Dallara IndyCar chassis will not be relatable to the new chassis coming out.

So what does that mean? It means Indy Lights gets a chance to re-invent itself right along with the IndyCar Series. It means they should take this moment to do the MOST important thing for Indy Lights drivers AND team’s crews. Make sure the 2012 Indy Lights chassis best teaches and prepares drivers/team members for the new 2012 base chassis that will be constructed by Dallara.

It only makes sense to keep it in the realm or relevance. Right now most in the paddock think the current transition is more akin to a baseball player going from college baseball with classes to attend, aluminum and graphite bats and only 50 games, straight to the pros with 162 games, wood bats and full time players with no class to attend. Its not a total shock to go from one to the other, but its definitely missing that relatable step… the A, AA and AAA minor leagues.

Since the Indy Lights Series is the final step before the big leagues, it should be the most like the big leagues. Which is why I agree when the series decided not to take the current Dallara and move it to Lights. But lets take it a step further and make this recommendation:

Submit an RFP to only Swift and/or Lola for the Indy Lights chassis of 2012.


For starters, it would be a good consolation (and profitable one) to one of the chassis makers you just told ‘no’ to on their IndyCar Series proposal. More importantly, that consolation would be the sign of good faith to them that you DO want them to be involved in your leagues; and maybe enough that they would be a little more encouraged to join the body-kit competition in the IndyCar Series.

While she’s an engineer and surely not Swift’s official spokesperson, the idea in theory alone made sense to Swift’s Pinkgineer (Rachel Nichols) via twitter:

“Walking into this question blind but I don't see why not”

More so, both Lola and Swift would certainly give us something sexy to look at on the track which would make both fans and drivers happy, and just might help bring more interest to the series.

But most of all for me, doing so would sure go a long way in easing the pissed off-ness of all these people on the internet who won’t seem to shut the f up complaining about Dallara being picked for the tub maker duties, which is responsible for about 80-90% of the pissed off-ness... and truly shutting up internet whining and getting a cool looking new car is the best win-win I've heard of since drinking beer to help restore the Gulf Coast.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Joey Votto and Marlon Byrd

Joey Votto hates Marlon Byrd. He hates all Cubs and their fans. In fact, Votto ran into Byrd on the street the other day. Grab Bag Sports has exclusive video of the encounter...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

some post-All-Star Game notes

I knew it was going to be an exciting All-Star break. I mean, Bobby Valentine, supposedly one of the smartest baseball guys in the game, predicted Jose Ortiz to win the Homerun Derby. The part that was odd to me, though, was when the other guys started joking about it and Joe Morgan (I believe) said something like, "Well, I'm sure Jose must be his middle name." I didn't take that to mean, "My friend Bobby must know what he's talking about and probably just got confused." It was more like, "Ortiz is hispanic, so odds are... his middle name is probably Jose! Hahahaha."

Now I could care less. But I do know that guys have lost jobs for things like this. Remember Steve Lyons getting fired by Fox? (Short version: before Lou Piniella came out of retirement to lead my Cubs to two glorious playoff sweeps, he was in the Fox booth with Lyons. He said Frank Thomas needed to get "en fuego" and said Marco Scutaro's surprising performance was like finding a wallet on Friday and hoping to find it again next week. Lyons said Lou was "hablaing Espanol" and that his wallet was missing!) I was watching that game and thought it was pretty funny actually. Saying he couldn't find his wallet had nothing to do with Lou's speaking Spanish. But he got fired anyway. I miss Steve Lyons and, coincidentally, don't watch the weekly FOX broadcasts nearly as much as I used to.

So tell me... is assuming a man's name is Jose based on his ethnic background really OK? Then again, maybe this is part of ESPN's training. Just ask Bob Griese and Juan Pablo Montoya.


On the other hand, last night's broadcast of the actual game went pretty well, I thought. Maybe I'm just happy that the NL finally won! (Of course, it's not like my team has any shot at using that home field advantage.) But I watched Saturday's FOX broadcast of the Cubs-Dodgers game and Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were using it as like a tune-up for the All-Star Game. I was a little worried, as it was not exactly the best broadcasting I'd heard in a while.

For one thing, right at the beginning of the game, Buck mentioned Rafael Furcal. He then said, "Not an All-Star, but he should be." And that's all. Just moved on to something else. See, I think that's unacceptable and shouldn't be allowed. If he isn't going to complete that statement himself, there needs to be a producer or someone who prompts him with: "OK, Joe, then who do you kick off of the NL team?"

I'm kind of tired of hearing guys say things like that. You are paid to analyze. If Furcal deserves to be on the team, he needs to take someone's spot. So who is it, Joe? Who do you want off of the team? It's way too easy to make friends and say, "That guy should be an All Star. This guy should be an All Star." Then your roster ends up with 73 of the guys you're trying to make friends with by saying on national television that they were robbed.

Oh, and of course, Furcal did end up on the team! Maybe Joe had some pull? Is his middle name Jose? There's definitely a mystery to crack here.

And McCarver had some gems of his own during Saturday's game. At one point he said the Dodgers' pitcher should not have tried to stop a ball up the middle because "there are eight fielders behind him." No wonder the Dodgers took 3 out of 4 games from the Cubs. They're using an extra fielder! I call BS on the Dodgers... unless you're telling me Tim McCarver doesn't understand there would only be seven players "behind the pitcher."

Either way, I was happy with the outcome and thought it was a great game. Plus, any thoughts that David Ortiz got lazy and sent an impostor named Jose were crushed at the end. Cubbie Marlon Byrd's throw was amazing and all, but surely Jose Ortiz would've beaten it. Only the real Big Papi is that slow.


Finally, moving on from the All-Star Game, I just thought I'd mention that I enjoy all the new "NOBAMA" bumper stickers I'm seeing. I don't really care one bit about politics, but the way the words are written in red and white, it allows me to tell myself it is an anti-Alabama bumper sticker. As an LSU fan, I can totally get behind that and am pleased to see so many people caring about important sports rivalries as opposed to politics.