Susan Shan On Sports 24/7


SusanShan.com is now LIVE!
July 6, 2010, 1:49 am
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Thank you to everyone who supported my temporary blog while susanshan.com was under construction. I am happy and proud to say that it is now live! I will no longer be posting on here. Please check out susanshan.com for the latest blogs, fan features, and other great items.

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Susan’s Starters for MLB All-Star Game

Here are my starters for the All-Star game:

American League
C – Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
1B – Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
2B – Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
3B – Adrian Beltre, Boston Red Sox
SS – Alex Gonzalez, Toronto Blue Jays
OF – Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers; Brennan Boesch, Detroit Tigers; Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Rays
DH – Vladimir Guerrero, Texas Rangers
SP – Cliff Lee, Seattle Mariners

National League
C – Miguel Olivo, Colorado Rockies
1B – Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
2B – Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves
3B – David Wright, New York Mets
SS – Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
OF – Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers; Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers; Jayson Werth, Philadelphia Phillies
DH – Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
SP – Josh Johnson, Florida Marlins

There were many choices that could’ve gone either way. I’m sure many people out there highly disagree with some selections. Thoughts? Let’s get our debate on in the comments section!



NBA Free Agent Contracts A Race for Ridiculousness
July 3, 2010, 2:55 am
Filed under: NBA

The 2010 NBA Free Agency is like the nuclear arms race. Teams are racing to sign free agents first so the other teams don’t get them. The problem is, the money being thrown out there is absolutely ludicrous. The list of highly overpaid players is growing by the minute.

The following is a list of bad contracts thus far:

Drew Gooden, Milwaukee Bucks, 5-year $32 million, career average: 11.9 ppg 7.9 rpg
Amir Johnson, Toronto Raptors, 5-year $34 million, career average: 4.7 ppg 4.2 rpg
Darko Milicic, Minnesota Timberwolves, 4-year $20 million, career average: 5.6 ppg 4.1 rpg
Channing Frye, Phoenix Suns, 5-year $30 million, career average: 8.9 ppg 4.7 rpg
Hakim Warrick, Phoenix Suns, 4-year $18 million, career average: 10.1 ppg 4.3 rpg

NBA teams cleared up all kinds of cap space in order to get their piece of the pie in this record-breaking free agency, but paying this kind of money for bench warmers is not exactly prudent.

Okay, Gooden isn’t really a bench warmer, but his 14.8 ppg and 9.4 rpg in 24 games last year came as a Los Angeles Clipper. Someone had to get stats on that team. Before that, he was averaging 8.9 ppg and 6.9 rpg for Dallas. Extremely average numbers for a guy who is about to average more than $6 million a year.

In addition, he hasn’t been on the same team for more than three years. Are the Bucks really investing five years in Gooden? They’re essentially saying that there is no one better who will come along in the next five years who could start or be the first big man off the bench. For that money? You must be joking. In fact, I thought the deal was a joke when I first heard about it.

The Johnson and Milicic deals are self-explanatory. I feel like I’m making the most rhetorical and obvious statement when I point out how awful both of their offers were.

The Raptors are losing Chris Bosh so they looked for the next guy on their team who most closely resembled Bosh physically. Spotted: Amir Johnson, 6’9″, 210 lbs., power forward.

“Let’s offer him a 5-year, $34 million deal even though he averaged less than five points and five rebounds for his career and only averaged 17.7 minutes for us last year,” the Raptors said. Johnson thought to himself, “How fast can I sign the paper before they change their mind and figure out that I’m not really Chris Bosh Lite?”

As for Milicic, no one even wanted him. Since he got drafted second in 2003 (over Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade), Milicic has been floundering around with terrible numbers. With the New York Knicks this past season, Milicic couldn’t even get off the bench most nights. His DNPs depressed him so much that he stated that he wanted to leave the NBA for Europe after the season.

Enter David Kahn, president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves. His mysterious (insane?) bromantic love for Milicic earned Milicic $3 million more per year on average than any other front office NBA personnel was willing to give.

Losing Amare Stoudemire clearly had the Suns scrambling so they hastened into terrible deals with Frye and Warrick. Frye’s career numbers are mediocre at best and Warrick is a career backup. In addition, the five years and four years, respectively, are just too long. Both are unproven, and if neither is producing, the Suns will be stuck with their contracts for multiple years.

The Suns will be stuck with the same situation that they are in now with Leandro Barbosa. Barbosa signed a five-year, $33 million extension in 2006. He is scheduled to make almost $15 million over the next two years, a contract I’m sure the Suns regret offering now.

Speaking of Stoudemire, he is the most overrated max-contract free agent (five-year, $100 million deal). Not only can he thank Steve Nash for his stats, his knee is a problem and he wears goggles. Soon, the entire world will finally realize that he has no post moves and can only shoot jumpers. New York fans, your problem now.



ESPN’s Summit Rivaling MTV’s Hills for Gossip and Drama

Picture four old ladies sitting on a porch gossiping about the latest rumors in town.

Welcome to ESPN’s NBA Free Agency Summit 2010 featuring Mike Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser, Dan Le Batard, and Bill Simmons. It went something like this:

Tony: Let’s get our round table discussion started. So, where does everyone think LeBron is going?
Mike: Chicago is a done deal. I’ve been saying this–
Dan: (interrupting) Please, stop talking. Everyone knows that Miami is the place to be. LeBron, Wade, Bosh–
Bill: (lisping away) Wait, but what about Dirk? Dirk going to Miami would crush the city of Dallas. It brings back bad memories of the 2006 NBA Finals. It’s just like how Johnny Damon left the Red Sox for the Yankees.
Mike: (goes into angry black mode) Why do you have to bring Boston into everything? It’s really starting to get on my nerves.
Dan: Why are we even talking about Dirk? No one is talking about Dirk, no one is talking to Dirk. He’s in Germany speaking German right now.
Bill: If Dan gets to talk about Miami, then I get to talk about Boston.
Tony: Ladies, ladies…

For 30 minutes, the poor viewers of ESPN had to listen to the inane speculations of four gossipmongers who all wanted the most popular boy in the country to move to their city.

Whatever happened to real journalism, quotes, and sources? And did ESPN actually pay these guys to sit there, spout off, and toot their own horns? I thought the cameras were going to shatter from egos blowing up and banging against each other.

Watching The NBA Free Agency Summit was like watching an episode of MTV’s The Hills with Lauren and Jen both fighting for Brody, Heidi on the side backstabbing Lauren while hating on Audrina, and Spencer creating havoc for everyone.

Round table discussions are meant for people to bounce ideas off of each other. Instead, Wilbon, Kornheiser, Le Batard, and Simmons were more annoying than the vuvuzelas with their loud, cacophonous voices progressively raising in order to be heard over each other. No one cared what anyone else said. The 30-minute show consisted entirely of a bunch of old women fighting to be the center of attention.

For the record, I only sat through the torture so that I could objectively write a blog about it. In case you missed it and feel compelled to experience the pain for yourself, you can watch it here.

At this point, I can only pray that LeBron and his colleagues get tired of the courting process (not likely) and put an end to the soap opera nonsense (really, not likely because some people actually love attention, see: Wilbon, Kornheiser, Le Batard, Simmons).

Until then, it’s The Young and the Restless on the move as the July 1 NBA free agency date approaches. God help us all.



The Two Escobars: ESPN’s 30 for 30 Masterpiece

Suddam Hussein’s eldest son, Uday, used to torture Iraqi soccer players at the former Olympic committee headquarters in Baghdad after draws and losses. The building’s basement torture cell housed a sarcophagus, amongst other equipment, “with long nails pointing inward from every surface, including the lid, so victims could be punctured and suffocated.”

In Iraq, playing for the national team blurred the lines between life and death.

At the time, the same thing was happening in Colombia halfway across the world. It is only fitting that in the midst of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, ESPN’s 30 for 30 would release its documentary on “The Two Escobars.”

The man who controlled Colombia, Pablo Escobar, was like Uday in his overwhelming desire to win soccer matches. Escobar and his rivals initially bought and owned Colombian soccer clubs in order to launder and legitimize drug money. However, business sense quickly escalated into dangerous and corrupt competition.

Referees were bought off and killed on a regular basis. Escobar even held private matches at his residence, betting $1 million a match.

But he was also a modern day Robin Hood who built houses for the poor and soccer fields for the poor’s children. He won the love of the impoverished as a generous giver and provider.

The most controversial angle that ESPN took was that Colombia and Medellin, Escobar’s home base and stronghold, were better off with Escobar in charge because he ruled with an iron fist and governed with certain regulations in place.

After Escobar’s death, Medellin ran amok with violence, drugs, and complete, uninhibited chaos because there was no one to enforce order.

Within the chaos, the Colombian national soccer team united to become one of the favorites to win the 1994 World Cup. Team captain Andres Escobar became the first Colombian to get an offer to play for AC Milan.

The players were able to mentally escape the extreme turmoil and pour their souls into the only thing that could make them forget: kicking a ball.

As a result, an entire nation placed its hopes behind a team that could somehow pause the violence with their magnificent play and give pride to people who had lost all dignity. Soccer was the ultimate unifier for a broken nation.

Expectations hit a high when the Brazilian legend Pele declared Colombia his pick to win the World Cup.

The pressure was too much. Colombia lost their first match to Romania 3-1 and then lost 2-1 to the United States after Escobar accidentally deflected a cross into his own goal to tie the game 1-1. The team received death threats before and after the game. Escobar became the scapegoat for a World Cup favorite that failed to even advance to the Knockout Stage.

Less than two weeks later, Escobar was shot to death outside of a nightclub.

If the death was premeditated, it was because powerful gangsters had lost a large amount of money betting on Colombia. The word on the street, however, was that Escobar got into an argument with the Gallon brothers, drug lords who took over much of Pablo Escobar’s territory, over the unintentional goal. The brothers were hot-tempered and ordered their bodyguard, Humberto Munoz Castro, to take out Andres.

Castro served 11 years of a 43-year sentence while the Gallon brothers paid $3 million to buy off the prosecutors.

What makes “The Two Escobars” more poignant than any other sports documentary I have ever seen was the fact that ESPN focused on a broader scope with incredible depth, emotion, and far-reaching interviews. Andres was merely a pawn in the corruption that ruled and leveraged soccer and politics while Pablo died trying to hold onto his corrupt and violent power.

I had heard about the numerous point shaving scandals that rocked college basketball growing up. Sports had always been so pure to me that the revelation of players losing on purpose or cheating affected me tremendously.

Sports today have become so glamorous and celebrified that we forget the reasons why we started playing in the first place: love for the game, escaping into a world that can make us forget, and uniting people despite race, gender, or age.

The tainting of sports has gone so deep that college coaches are now obtaining commitments from eighth graders (see former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie’s recruitment of Michael Avery).

“The Two Escobars” reminded me that even in war-torn countries run by crime and extortion, we can still lose ourselves in the pure elation of sports even if it’s only for a moment. And in that moment, we find true joy and peace.

After Andres’s death, the government resolved to clean up Medellin. By 2009, Colombia’s death rate had been reduced to half of what it was at the height of Pablo’s violence.

Without drug money to support the clubs though, Colombian soccer deteriorated rapidly and never came close to matching its 1994 success. But the country is rebuilding and there is hope for the future.

As for Iraqis, Suddam Hussein is now dead. His sons are dead.

Perhaps soccer can return to being a sport again.



MLB Strike Zone: Rejecting Machines in Favor of Psychology, Humanity

This is a baseball column, I promise.

When I played semi-professional poker, I was never one of those multi-tabling freaks who had 10 tables open simultaneously on PokerStars or UltimateBet. I strongly preferred live poker.

First and foremost, poker is a psychological game. Don’t listen to the players who tell you that it’s all about the cards. Most likely, those are the people who are dumping their life savings into a game because they “never get the cards” and are “so unlucky.”

I used to play psychological mind games with my opponents after observing their physical gestures and demeanor. A player who had been chewing gum all game suddenly stops chewing in the middle of a big hand. Translation? He’s probably bluffing. When I start counting out my chips getting ready for a possible call or raise, the other player suddenly shifts his eyes in great interest to my actions. Also a sign of bluffing. If he were confident in his own hand, he wouldn’t care less what I did.

“Will you show me if I fold?” I used to ask sweetly with a smile. The player will either 1) Sigh and show me because he feels sorry for the poor, pathetic girl, 2) Say “yes” or nod, meaning he wants me to fold and will agree to anything in order to get me to fold, 3) Say “no” or shake his head because he wants me to call, or 4) Remain silent and motionless.

The first three options all give me a clue as to what my opponent is thinking. Option four happened occasionally, unfortunate but part of the game. If I were playing online, I would get neither one, two, or three. What I would get would be four. All the time. With players hiding their tells behind their computer screens. All the time. Yes, I’d much rather play live poker.

Now, I rarely get heated about things that aren’t worth getting heated about. But this is worth getting heated up about: An unnamed member of the media argued with me today about having machines instead of umpires call balls and strikes in baseball so that the strike zone would be 100% consistent.

I immediately struck back with an argument about the psychology of baseball. Similar to two players at a poker table, the mental battle between the pitcher and the batter ultimately determines the type of pitches thrown, the placement, and the order of pitches. Both pitcher and batter must adjust to the umpire’s strike zone as well as adjust to each other throughout the course of a game.

While we all get frustrated about the changing whims of umpires and their strike zones, psychology and a player’s ability to mentally adjust is part of what makes one player better than another. More importantly, it’s part of the game.

Teams have already begun to integrate an umpire’s tendencies into their daily scouting reports, a revolutionary way of accepting that umpires are all different and adjusting accordingly.

“So when a poor call is made at the end of a game, it shouldn’t matter?” the writer then asked me.

Obviously, officiating is not perfect. In any sport (see: USA vs. Slovenia, World Cup). The Boston Celtics’ Rasheed Wallace was so upset with the officiating from Game 7 of the NBA Finals that after the game, he stood outside of the referees’ locker room saying, “Just wanna talk.” Wallace eventually managed to get inside before “being forced out by security.”

The NBA and NFL use instant replay in certain instances but calls like pass interference and personal fouls are still subject to a referee’s discretion. For things that can be clearly defined, like an out of bounds line or releasing a basketball before time expires, instant replay or machines (in tennis) should be used.

Baseball is the same way. After the Armando Galarraga vs. Jim Joyce atrocity, everyone cried for instant replay. I agree that it should be used for clearly defined things, such as foul balls or close calls at first base.

However, balls and strikes? No way. The writer essentially answered his own question when he asked, “How can you challenge balls and strikes when there isn’t a defined strike zone?”

Well, you can’t. The strike zone varies between individual batters.

The current strike zone is defined as “that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the bottom of the knees. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.”

What does “prepared to swing” mean? What if the batter shifts the height of his stance as he’s about to swing? How does one even determine at what point a batter begins a swing? Every player is different and goes into his swing differently.

The rules are vague enough that an umpire must use his own judgment, something he has done for over a century. Call me sentimental, but I like keeping tradition. Sure, there are things that need to change as we become more technologically equipped to deal with bad calls and as the sport evolves, but using a machine to determine balls and strikes in a uniform strike zone is not one of them.

It’s not to say that umpires get free reign. The Zone Evaluation system replaced QuesTec last year as a major tool in evaluating an umpire’s performance. MLB is trying to enforce a more unified strike zone with this technology.

The ZE technology is not the same as the rectangle graphic that televisions use. Umpiring supervisor Steve Palermo called the graphic phony and inaccurate, and only effective at stirring up controversy.

On top of all of that, players don’t even want machines to replace umpires. Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels said that umpires were already consistent enough while Jamie Moyer said he preferred no monitoring system, to preserve the human element of umpiring.

Yes, the human element. Part of the reason why we play and watch sports is to bond with others who enjoy doing the same. Sports bars have their best business on game nights because people like to drink beer and interact with other people whether in camaraderie or jest.

The same goes for umpires, players, and managers. Part of our entertainment is watching Lou Piniella go insane arguing a call or watching Bobby Cox get ejected time after time. We want emotion, passion, and humanity. For anyone who would rather watch a machine blink red for a strike, please crawl back in your hole and research the words “social interaction.”



Stephen Strasburg Wins Second Start, Goes Home to Wife

Strasburg-mania has hit a feverish pitch. Ever since TBS announced that it would replace the Philadelphia Phillies vs. Boston Red Sox game with the Washington Nationals vs. Cleveland Indians game, the nation has been anticipating Stephen Strasburg’s second MLB start.

And it was not disappointing. His stat line of 5.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 8 SO, 1 HR was excellent. He slipped on the mound because of poor footing in the bottom of the 6th inning in the midst of back-to-back walks to Travis Hafner and Austin Kearns. The Indians grounds crew came out to fix the mound but after walking Kearns, Strasburg was done for the day. The fans booed when he left the game.

Strasburg walked five batters against the Indians after walking zero in his debut though part of the blame comes from a poor mound. Still, the hard-throwing right-hander struck out eight and showed ridiculous stuff once again.

After picking up his second win in a 9-4 Nats road victory, he gets to go home to wife Rachel Lackey, whom he married in January. She was a water polo player in high school and his college sweetheart at San Diego St. All in all, a great day for the kid.