Behind the Mic: MLB – Expected – Unexpected

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

I ended last week’s blog with a “Go, Phillies!” sign-off. Well, they are indeed playing well. As teams approach the completion of the first quarter of the season, they are, unexpectedly, rising in both the standings and in admiration.

But, I digress. The team that was really expected to do very well was the Yankees and they have not disappointed. They are tied with the Red Sox for the best record in baseball. They have won 19 of their last 22 games; average six runs per game and are carrying a team ERA of 2.88 which happens to be the third best in baseball. With those stats, they win most games by three runs!

Everyone expected them to have one of the best, if not the best, offenses in baseball, but I do not think fans expected their pitching staff to be this good. If the pitching and the bats continue as they have, they can certainly claim to be one of the best teams in baseball history.

The Phillies, on the other hand, were not expected to be one game out of first place and winning 60% of their games at this point or at any point in the season. They still trail the Braves by a game, but have been winning 73% of their home games and have won seven of the last 10.

Odubel Herrera is batting .360 and leading the National League in hitting. And that is a shock! The last Phillie to lead the NL in hitting was Richie Ashburn 60 years ago! Manager Gabe Kapler seems to be pushing the right buttons (the three-run homer by pinch-hitter Nick Williams in the sixth inning on Sunday to beat the Mets is a good example).

Last year, they were 6-22 in May and ended up losing 96 games. With the additions of Rhys Hoskins for a full season, Scott Kingery from the minors, Carlos Santana, and Jake Arrieta via the trade route, they are greatly improved. Aaron Nola’s ERA is 1.99. It is a team with good starting pitching and an adequate offense. Their bullpen remains suspect with two saves blown last week.

Talent-wise, the Nationals and the Braves could stand in the way of the Phillies making the playoffs. The Nationals look like the best team in the division and are making their climb to the top. The Braves are obviously in first place as I write this. But the Phillies ARE sandwiched between the two.

The Yankees, on the other hand, appear to be, as expected, the best team in baseball. However, it is always exciting to look forward to the unexpected – Go, Phillies!

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. New York Giants QB Eli Manning will be in court this week defending himself against a lawsuit that says he sold fake helmets to collectors. The plaintiff wanted “game-used” helmets and claims the ones he received were “bogus” and Manning knew they were. Interesting case. Stay tuned.
  2. This might make Ripley’s Believe It or Not, but some sportswriters are claiming that the NFL Cleveland Browns may have improved the most through the draft. Of course, if the Browns win three games, the writers can claim that they were right. The bar is not set very high here.
  3. It was obvious the Yankees were probably going to have the best offensive team in baseball. They have not disappointed. For the first time in their exulted history, they had four players hit 10 or more home runs by the 40th game. They had never had that distinction in 50 games before! By the way, the Texas Rangers did it in 2003.
  4. The Celtics crushed the Cavs by 25 points in the first game of the NBA Eastern Finals and held LeBron James to just 15 points. Despite not receiving one Coach of the Year vote from his peers, Brad Stevens has shown in the playoffs that he is already one of the top coaches in the league. It was his formula that stopped Ben Simmons and the Sixers in the Eastern semifinals.
  5. Speaking of the NBA, I unexpectedly have really enjoyed the playoffs. There is plenty of defense, intensity, and some spectacular offense. I have become a fan!

Never on Sunday – Behind the Mic – April 8th

After doing this job for over 41 years, I have tried to maintain one rule of thumb. Do not work on Sunday, if at all possible. With so many weeknights and weekends away from home, I have always tried to keep Sunday as a day I can spend with my wife and/or my family. Obviously, over the years, there have been occasions that have superseded my wish, but when I am in control, I try hard to abide by the rule.

About three weeks ago, the Salisbury Athletic Director called to see if I would attend their boys’ basketball banquet. I hesitated in responding prior to knowing the date and day because, very often, I turn down these requests. To attend one, sort of obligates one to attend them all, if possible. To attend them all, however, is not possible. This request for me to attend centered around the highlight of their season – beating a team that had beaten them three times during the year and doing it in dramatic fashion: a half-court shot, trailing by one, as time expired in overtime, in the first round of the District playoffs!!

The Booster Club and the AD wanted to relive that moment and do it by reliving our broadcast and my call of the shot. Obviously, flattery usually is a great enticement. I did not decline the invitation, nor did I accept it. I asked for the date and was told April 7, a Sunday!

Well, I am sure many of you have accepted challenges that sound like a good thing, only to question your reasoning when the day actually arrives. That was my disposition this past Sunday. It was a beautiful day – the perfect day to spend with my wife. My granddaughter was home from college; my oldest daughter invited us to spend the day in the mountains; and my son-in-law (an accountant) wanted to get our 2012 tax returns completed. I said “no” to all of the options. You see, I had already accepted the invitation to the Salisbury basketball banquet.

When I arrived, I was greeted by the Booster Club president, many parents, the AD, her parents, and the players. It was a very, very warm atmosphere. The meal was excellent, the company at my table was congenial, and the setting was simple. I was asked to speak. I thanked everyone for the invitation, talked a bit about the thrill of competing, asked the players to make sure they understood that their parents, faculty, coaches, school, and the Booster Club make everything possible. We relived the “big shot” together and my job was done.

Then the coaches spoke. They spoke, like many coaches, about the season, the dedication, the work, the hours, the development of the players, etc. But the coaches, also, spoke of a player who had never scored less than 100 on any test so far in high school. He was #1 in his class. They spoke of a player who had garnered a perfect math score on his SAT’s and was headed to Lehigh to become an engineer. They spoke of a JV player who volunteered to perform the task of doing varsity stats (a job nobody wanted and had to be ordered to do in the past). They spoke of a highly energetic manager who just beamed when he was presented with a little gift of appreciation. They talked of the tremendous parental and community support they received throughout the season.

And as I listened, I got a sense that this is what sports should be all about. There was acknowledgement, but it was all done in the right way. There were tokens of appreciation, but they were not elaborate. There was praise, even for those who simply practiced hard. There was a sense of community, a sense of family. I left, sincerely hoping that these kinds of banquets happen throughout the Lehigh Valley.

So despite missing a Sunday with my family, I enjoyed the invitation to join another “family”. It was nice.

 


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. I usually give Saturday Night Live a chance to entertain me. I am often disappointed. Some of the skits are just awful. However, if you can, call up the VOD of this past Saturday’s show. Melissa McCarthy is the host and she literally had me in tears in the first half hour. Her opening, trying to walk in the latest style of shoes for women, was hilarious and her takeoff of Rutger’s basketball coach, Mike Rice, is absolute comedy genius. Check it out!

2. Speaking of the infamous Mike Rice practice video, those of us who have played sports probably spent this past week thinking of coaches we have played for who, in some fashion, berated and belittled us into performing better. I practiced basketball for 3 hours in galoshes because the night before we played so poorly. The next day, I could not lift my legs. I had football coaches who would “jack” us up against the wall to get our attention and make us tougher. I had coaches keep us on the football practice field for hours on end until we “got it”. The list is long. Now, Big Brother is watching. Cell phones and video cameras are everywhere. This requires a better way to coach and that is a good thing.

3. The Phillies and the Yankees are off to awful starts and there are no signs to indicate things are going to get better. Even the Iron Pigs look dismal early on. It could be a very long year for local fans.

4. The Masters starts on Thursday. Try not to bother me.

5. Jim Best will be a guest blogger next week talking about his trip to the National Wrestling Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. Enjoy!

Behind the Mic – December 5th

I love my job.  Make no mistake about it.  In the past few weeks, I have been able to watch our local high school football teams compete for a conference championship, a District title, and make a run for a state championship.

In addition, I was able to broadcast the 148th edition of the Lafayette-Lehigh football game and begin the college basketball season with two upset victories by the Lafayette men’s team.  Right around the corner is another season of high school and college basketball which will quickly take me through the winter and into March Madness.  It’s the best.

There is one night a year, however, that is even better.  It is the night that I co-host the Dream Come True Telethon.  On Monday, December 10, we will do the Telethon for the 27th year.  I have not hosted all of them, but in the early years, I made sure I was a guest on the show.  The Dream Come True organization, in case you did not know, was founded in 1984 by Kostas Kalogeropoulous, a local businessman.  The goal of the organization is simple – fulfill the dreams of children who are seriously, chronically, and terminally ill and reside in the greater Lehigh Valley area.  Children are referred by family, friends, clergy, doctors, social workers, etc. and the dreams usually fall into three categories – trips, contact with celebrities, and special gifts (computers, shopping sprees, for example).

Scott Barr and I have been hosting together for many, many years.  He handles the auction area and, boy, is he terrific!  If you watch HSN or any of the other television all-day shopping channels, just watch Scott do his thing during the four-hour night.  He is as good as, if not better, than the professionals.

There is always a variety of unique items donated by local businesses as well as our friends in the cable TV world like ESPN, WWE, Comcast SportsNet, NHL Network, and others.  If you want something really unique and not found in any store, tune in and bid on the items.  You’ll make Scott’s night.

Perla Lopez Baray of WFMZ brings some much-needed youth, beauty, and professionalism to the set doing many interviews with the children who have had their dreams fulfilled.  She is a pleasure to have as part of the team.

We have moved the venue this year to the Outlets at Sands.  It is an exciting location and we welcome the new “digs” after a great run at the Westgate Mall.  We anticipate much more foot traffic which hopefully will mean much more direct giving from people doing some holiday shopping or stopping by to see us.

The important facts are:

The Date:                     Monday, December 10

The Time:                     6:00 – 10:00 PM

The Location:             The Outlets at Sands

On The Television:    Channels 4 and 1004 in HD

The Purpose:               To fulfill as many hopes, dreams and fantasies for seriously, chronically, and terminally ill children as possible

The Phone Number to Bid or Make a Donation:        1-800-749-8099

Phone line is only active during the live television program

 


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Tiger Woods and Maria Sharapova were the two most searched athletes on Yahoo! in 2012.  I am wondering if interest in either centered around golf or tennis!
  2. The Dallas Cowboys beat out the Yankees as the top searched Sports Teams.  Maybe the Cowboys really are America’s team – they are not mine; and neither are the Yankees!!  Does that make me anti-American?
  3. You are an NFL GM and could pick one player for your franchise QB from these two – Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.  Who would you pick?
  4. Doesn’t it seem like 50% of all major college football teams play a bowl game?
  5. Can you admit that you really love the song, Gangnam Style?  Listen to it and try to stay still and not smile.  Bet you can’t!!

 


 

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK

(Last week – 11-5)  (64-36 for the season – 64%)

  • DENVER
  • WASHINGTON
  • CLEVELAND
  • PITTSBURGH
  • INDIANAPOLIS
  • JACKSONVILLE
  • CHICAGO
  • ATLANTA
  • TAMPA BAY
  • BUFFALO
  • CINCINNATI
  • SAN FRANCISCO
  • GIANTS
  • SEATTLE
  • GREEN BAY
  • NEW ENGLAND