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Winter in Fenway

The Braves are leaving a 20 year old ballpark

This comes from Hardball Talk

Turner Field in Atlanta

I’m still processing the announcement that the Braves are abandoning a 17 year-old ballpark for a new ballpark in the Atlanta suburbs. But in the meantime, here are my initial thoughts:

  • If anyone sees what the Braves are doing and STILL argues for public funding of ballparks, they should have their head examined. Turner Field was built for the Olympics and converted for baseball at great cost — some private, some public — and remains a more or less new and near state-of-the-art ballpark. Now Cobb County is going to pay for a new park. At some point it should begin to dawn on governments and tax payers that professional sports teams are playing them, but I’m not sure when that point is.
  • We live in a world where the Rays are stuck in Tropicana Field and the A’s are stuck in the Oakland Coliseum, yet we will soon have two perfectly wonderful ballparks in the Atlanta area, serving a team that rarely fills one. Thanks antitrust exemption. If baseball owners were forced to deal with the same competitive environment as most business this wouldn’t happen. Someone would come take over Turner Field. Or move to New Jersey. Whatever the case, this is sorta perverse.
  • That said, the impulse for the Braves to want to move makes some amount of sense. The Braves are a business and their goal is to make money. They have a crappy TV deal so stadium revenue is paramount for them. They are clearly making a calculation that they can make way more money in the new ballpark under new circumstances than they can hope to make in Turner Field. The Braves released a map today which shows how large a proportion of their ticket sales come from the northern suburbs, where the new ballpark will be. They’re not idiots. The financial incentives in play are probably pretty compelling.

Down with Pete and Ichiro on the schoolyard

Joe Posnanski talks about Pete Rose, Ichiro and 4000 professional hits

You can change the numbers any way you like. I honestly do not see how a healthy Ichiro Suzuki, drafted as an 18-year-old in the U.S., does not have MORE than 4,000 hits right now in the Major Leagues.

Rose could have said that, of course. I like when Pete Rose acts generous. Maybe he doesn’t always mean it, but generosity suits him. He’s at his best when he’s talking about how great a player Johnny Bench was, what a joy it was to be teammates with Joe Morgan, how much he admires Derek Jeter, how much he loved playing in New York when the fans booed him, the kick he gets out of watching Bryce Harper play the game (Harper has met Rose and, in some ways, patterned his all-out style on Rose). I like the Pete Rose who is brash but openhanded enough to say, “Hey, man, I don’t know if he would have stayed healthy, but if Ichiro starts here, whew, I’m sweating.”

He has nothing to lose by saying that. It’s a free shot at generosity. Rose’s hit record is completely safe. Nobody is contemplating a change in the record books to allow Ichiro’s Japanese hits to count. How much better does it make him look if he simply says, “What an achievement. As someone who knows how hard it is to get hits whether you are, I can tell you that getting 4,000 hits around the world is absolutely fabulous and I applaud him?”

Pete Rose was a marvelous baseball player. He lined singles and doubles all over the park, he scored runs like nobody of his time, he played just about every position, he inflamed the imaginations of millions of baseball fans with the way he played, he was the MVP of perhaps the greatest World Series ever played.

Ichiro Suziuki is a marvelous player. He slashed and blooped and beat out singles all over the park, he stole a lot of bases, he unleashed jaw-dropping throws, he inflamed the imaginations of millions of baseball fans with the way he played and, more than that, opened their minds to the idea of just how good a Japanese baseball player can be.

Rose could have paid tribute to Ichiro without reminding people of his own greatness. But, I guess there’s a part of Pete that is always defending his turf. It might not be the best part of him. But it is certainly a part of him.

A-Rod is as successful on Twitter as in life

A-Rod has been on Twitter for a day and has already upset Brian Cashman and the Yankees

“You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will],” Cashman told ESPN New York. “Alex should just shut the f— up. That’s it. I’m going to call Alex now.”

Rodriguez tweeted Tuesday that he has been cleared to play in rehab games. Rodriguez’s comments seemed to contradict what Cashman told ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews on Monday.

“Visit from Dr. [Bryan] Kelly over the weekend, who gave me the best news – the green light to play games again!” Rodriguez tweeted.

On Monday, Cashman shot down a report that Rodriguez had been given the go-ahead to play in games.

“He has not been cleared by our doctors to play in rehab games yet,” he said. “He’s getting closer. There’s no doubt about it. But we don’t have a date for him to start playing games yet. It could be July 1. It could also be July 5, or maybe June 25.”

Cashman explained that Dr. Kelly had no jurisdiction over Rodriguez’s rehab once the third baseman left New York to go to Tampa. Dr. Kelly had been approved by the team to perform the surgery and oversee Rodriguez’s recovery in New York.

Cashman ended up emailing Rodriguez and did not get an immediate response.

The Yankees’ relationship with Rodriguez has been tense since the end of the 2012 playoffs. Team officials were aware that Rodriguez asked for a woman’s phone number in the stands during Game 1 of an ALCS loss to the Detroit Tigers. Rodriguez was pinch-hit for and benched throughout the playoffs.

This isn’t the first eruption that Cashman has had this year over A-Rod and I doubt it will be his last.  Personally I think the Yankees are trying to come up with a strategy to let him go with cause so they can void his contract.  If this was Jeter doing it (not that the Captain would), it would have been handled very differently.

Lack of sleep’s impact on a MLB season

This is fascinating.  A lack of sleep has a huge impact on plate discipline for ball players.

After finding a spike in swings outside the strike zone throughout the 2006 to 2011 seasons using FanGraphs’ O-Swing Percentage stat, Vanderbilt’s neurology and biostatistics departments replicated that research for the 2012 season. The study showed 24 of 30 MLB teams posting higher O-Swing rates in September than in April. Combining results for all 30 teams produced an average O-Swing rate of 31.4 percent in September versus 29.2 percent in April.

That plate-discipline erosion over the course of the season, the researchers say, stems from fatigue.

“Think about the tools required for a batter to swing at a strike versus a ball,” said Dr. Scott Kutscher, assistant professor of sleep and neurology at Vanderbilt. “It’s reaction time and fast judgment. Both of those have been shown to be very sensitive to fatigue. Baseball has a unique schedule, a long season where players are frequently traveling and playing nearly every day. It’s an ideal setup for chronic sleep deprivation.”

This is the part where old-school baseball men roll their eyes. Today’s players take charter planes on every road trip. The second they deplane, they’re whisked onto buses waiting on the tarmac to take them to their hotels. Those hotels are four- and often five-star palaces, where you can get any service imaginable. Want a bellhop to stand at your bedside and make ocean sounds with his mouth until you fall asleep? No problem.

Compare those travel arrangements to what ballplayers experienced back in the day. Pick up The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter and you’ll get not only one of the best baseball books ever written but also harrowing accounts of travel in the early 20th century, when players would sleep fitfully on noisy, all-night trains, arrive in the next city by morning, then start a doubleheader a few hours later. Hell, read Jonathan Abrams’s interviews with retired NBA legends on their travel nightmares in the ’50s and ’60s; baseball players had it no better, other than maybe being a few inches shorter and thus not quite having to eat their knees on five-hour flights.

No matter how exhausted you were after a long journey back then, no one would dare ask for a day off just for being tired. And while athletes, coaches and managers, and the overall culture have evolved some since then, most players still won’t dare ask for a night off on fatigue alone.

“I’m going to be honest, that’s tough,” said Nationals center fielder Denard Span. “Especially when you’re a certain age. You only have a certain amount of time in the big leagues. Maybe when you get older, when you’ve been around for 10-15 years, you’re in your upper 30s, maybe. But as a young guy, it’d be hard for me to go in there, volunteer and say, ‘I’m tired.’ I’ve had managers come up to me and say, ‘If you’re tired, let me know.’ But I’m not going for that one.”

Even with enlightened managers, the combination of wanting to play and fearing repercussions when they don’t play dissuades players from using the fatigue card. Like Span, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis has never asked out of the lineup because he’s felt tired. As a catcher, Ellis knows he can’t and won’t be in the lineup all 162 games. But when Dodgers manager Don Mattingly tells him he’ll be sitting the next day, Ellis often gets upset anyway. Toiling in the minors until age 27 and not landing a starting job until 31 will do that.

“I’m always going to have that mentality as a player that this could all get taken away at any time,” Ellis said. Even sitting out 15 days on a recent DL stint made him antsy and anxious. “Just seeing other guys catch, other guys play, that’s something I should be doing. I want to be out there as much as I can, making up for lost time, for the later start that I got.”

That kind of attitude might seem honorable, but Kutscher says players really do need to get more rest, both for performance and health reasons. Kutscher cautions that even when players get an adequate amount of sleep in luxury digs, it might not be the kind of quality sleep they need to get sharp. Many players sleep fitfully or not at all on flights. The best-case scenario for a cross-country flight might be four hours of half-decent Z’s. Then you get to the hotel, maybe grab some breakfast, and take a nap for two or three hours more. That kind of interrupted sleep “kind of leaves you feeling off for the rest of the day,” said Ellis. “MLB always schedules an off day for us when we’re going to the East Coast. But even still, that second-day adjustment is so tough to do. So many guys will show up at the field and say, ‘I didn’t fall asleep until 5 a.m.’”

Though Kutscher’s study focused on hitters and their plate discipline, pitchers can get fatigued as the season wears on, too. We recently discussed relief pitchers’ need for adrenaline, and Troy Percival’s habit of pounding 10 cups of coffee and two tins of chewing tobacco per day just to stay ready to pitch the ninth back when he was an elite closer. Non-closers (and non-eighth-inning guys) can have it even tougher, needing to stay ready to pitch at any one of multiple points in the game, often warming up multiple times a night. If Percival had coffee and chaw, today’s relievers lean more toward energy drinks.

“You’re going to mix in Red Bulls with that natural adrenaline,” said Nationals reliever Drew Storen. “Then after the game you’re just crashing. I guarantee that affects your sleep, having to wind down quickly while digesting whatever you put into your body.”

To make a long story short

“There’s a good chance we’re overestimating the importance of preparation and underestimating the importance of rest,” he said. “The classical thinking is that repetition and practice, the more you do things, the better you’ll be. But we found the opposite. It stands to reason that the more players rest, the more time away from the field they get, and the better it might be for them.”

I would love to see these stats locally on the Yellow Jackets who would be riding the bus, playing, and then heading home.  I wonder what their plate discipline is like after a gruelling trip vs. a home stand.

Sources: Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria personally mandated pitching lineup change

Jeffrey Loria continues to solidify his position as the worst owner in professional sports.  As Jeff Passan writes

Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria personally mandated the lineup card change that flip-flopped starting pitchers Jose Fernandez and Ricky Nolasco in a doubleheader Tuesday and left Marlins players furious with his continued meddling, three sources with knowledge of the situation told Yahoo! Sports.

Loria insisted Fernandez, the team’s prized 20-year-old rookie, pitch in the first half of the doubleheader at frigid Target Field instead of the scheduled Nolasco because the day game was expected to be warmer. The temperature at Fernandez’s first pitch (38 degrees) was actually colder than at the beginning of Nolasco’s start (42 degrees).

Rookie manager Mike Redmond delivered the news to Nolasco about 2½ hours before the first game against the Minnesota Twins, and it did not go over well with him or his teammates. Standard protocol for doubleheaders is that veterans choose which game they want to pitch. Not only did Loria ignore that and further alienate Nolasco, the Marlins’ highest-paid player who has previously requested a trade, he sabotaged Redmond less than 20 games into his managerial career.

By overstepping boundaries no other owner in baseball would dare, Loria presented Redmond with a Catch-22: listen to the man who signs his paycheck and risk drawing the players’ ire, or refuse to kowtow to Loria’s requests and find himself at the mercy of the owner’s short fuse.

So there was no short term payoff and a long term cost but Loria did it anyway.

Following an offseason in which they shed more than $100 million in payroll during an epic fire sale, the Marlins are 5-17, the worst record in baseball. Their beautiful new stadium sits practically empty on a nightly basis, even as the team gives away tickets. Neither free seats nor a public-relations barrage meant to spin Loria and Marlins president David Samson in a positive light seems to be working.

The arrival of Fernandez tried to maximize goodwill. For a low-revenue team such as the Marlins, prioritizing service-time consideration instead is of the utmost importance. Loria ignored that, preferring the splash the young Fernandez could make upon a sterling debut.

And indeed he has started well – too well, arguably, to send him to the minor leagues, which means Fernandez will be a free agent after six seasons. Had the Marlins stashed him in the minor leagues for the season’s first 11 days – a time during which Fernandez made only one start – he would not have been eligible for free agency until 2019.

No players enjoy hitting the open market more than the Marlins’, some of whom refer to free agency as parole. The only true way to build a winner, absent another misguided spending spree, is by changing that perception – by making Miami the sort of franchise for which players want to play.

The latest incident from Loria is simply another reminder: That will never happen as long as he runs the team. After more than a decade as an owner, Loria remains naïve to the real goings-on of a clubhouse – of how an incident such as this doesn’t just affect Nolasco but filters down to his teammates and even the purported beneficiary, Fernandez.

What happened to A-Rod

NBC Sports takes a look at the rise and fall of A-Rod

Rodriguez became a star almost instantly. In the 50 years leading up to 1996, only one 20-year-old shortstop — the Hall of Famer Robin Yount — had come to the plate 600 times in a season. It’s a rare thing to find a 20-year-old shortstop simply good enough to play every day in the big leagues. Yount, it should be said, was mostly overmatched – he hit .252 with two homers. Rodriguez at 20 hit .358 with 54 doubles and 36 homers and he finished second in the MVP balloting. There has never been a shortstop so good, so young.
He flashed all those tools and skills and traits that had amazed Allard Baird: Everyone talked about his joy for the game, his deference to teammates, his innocence. “On July 27,” Gerry Callahan wrote that year in a Sports Illustrated story called “The Fairest of Them All,” “Alex Rodriguez will turn 21, making him old enough to have a beer with his Seattle Mariners teammates. He says he’s not interested. ‘Can’t stand the taste,’ he says. Rodriguez has always felt more at home among milk drinkers.”

The story follows hits all the touchstones. Rodriguez was innocent. Rodriguez was humble. He loved playing in Seattle (“I can’t imagine playing anywhere else”). He was deferential to stars like Ken Griffey (“To me, Junior is just so special and so unique”). More than anything, he had his priorities straight (“My Mom always said, ‘I don’t care if you turn out to be a terrible ballplayer, I just want you to be a good person. … Like Cal (Ripken) or Dale Murphy. I want people to look at me and say, ‘He’s a good person.’”).

Reading the story now, you can’t help but wonder: Were there signs of the A-Rod who would emerge? The A-Rod who craved approval? The A-Rod who needed to be viewed as perfect? That’s amateur psychology drivel, of course, but it is worth mentioning that the one somewhat sour note of the story came in a quote from an unnamed teammate:

“Well, he’s definitely a good kid,” the teammate acknowledged. “But you know all that stuff like, ‘Oh gee, I’m just happy to be in the big leagues?’ Well, that’s an act. Don’t let him fool you. He knows how good he is. And he knows how good he’s going to be.”

Of now there is this part of A-Rod

In 2009, Sports Illustrated broke the story that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003. Rodriguez soon came out and, in a shaky voice, admitted to using steroids the three years he played for Texas. “Back then, it was a different culture,” he said. “It was very loose. I was young.”

And, like that, Alex Rodriguez was stripped bare of his baseball performance in the minds of so many. “I feel personally betrayed. I feel deceived by Alex,” Tom Hicks the Ranger owner who gave Rodriguez the big deal, told reporters. Well, everyone was piling on, even owners who drove their team into bankruptcy. There were those who, for a while, gave some credence to the idea that Rodriguez had only used PEDs in the early 2000s, before official testing.

Then, in the last few weeks, the Miami New Times wrote a story that Rodriguez’s name was all over the records of the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Miami, and that many of those records allegedly connect him to PEDs. Rodriguez has said that the records are “not legitimate.”

Shortly after the report, anonymous New York Yankees officials leaked to numerous reporters that the team would explore opportunities to void the contract of Alex Rodriguez or get some relief. Rodriguez, who renegotiated his deal in 2008, and still has five years and $114 million left on it.

 

4.12 40 yard dash

Was just watching the NFL Network Top 10 Draft Steals and Charlie Cassidy said that Bo Jackson was timed at 4.12 seconds in the 40.  6’1”.  230 pounds.  4.12 seconds. Bo Knows Speed.

Relegation

Chris Ryan at Grantland has a fun column on the ups and downs of relegation to and from the English Premier League.

For football clubs, whether you’re talking about the bog-end of League Two or upper echelons of the game, there is always the taunting vision on the horizon — something better, something brighter — that fuels their desire to move on up. To get promoted you need luck, endurance (the Championship campaign is 46 games long), and more luck. Money usually helps, but teams have to make sure they actually have that money and can find more of it if they don’t get promoted.

Here’s where the trouble comes in: Spending money you don’t have to try and correct a free-fall through the leagues is called "doing a Leeds." You don’t want to do that.

The Pittsburgh Pirates/Kansas City Royals model of sitting back, losing a lot, telling your fan base you’re rebuilding and cashing checks from the league does not exist. You do that and the next thing you know you’re playing on a community park pitch in the Ryman Isthmian Football League against a bunch of guys who are supplementing their careers in debt collection with a weekend kick-about. The Pirates have been a losing team for most of my adult lifetime, but they still get to play the Phillies, Cardinals, Cubs, and Mets. Imagine if they were buried somewhere, playing the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

I am not a big fan of ESPN this week but I have been really impressed with the quality of writing and writers over at Grantland.  Bill Simmons has done a great job with it, even if the name wasn’t his idea.

Fred Wilpon

Jeffrey Toobin has an excellent in-depth New Yorker profile of New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, long known as an honourable businessman who has been caught up in the Bernie Madoff scandal.

The Wilpon team believes that Picard and his top deputy, David Sheehan, have shown excessive zeal in pursuing the case. Madoff agrees. “When Sheehan and his assoc. were down here taking my statements for four days, I kept on insisting that Fred and Saul knew absolutely nothing of my crime,” Madoff e-mailed me. “He kept on rolling his eyes at me. I have always said that there is a big difference between the Banks and Funds (who had complete access to my financials in their files, and the sophistication to realize that the information they disclosed did not reconcile with their individual clients’ financials, including their [Madoff company] account statements), and the individual clients who had no access to that information, ie: Fred and Saul as well as most other individuals who were not complicit.” The person close to Picard denies any improper motive or conduct in the investigation.

There is something troubling, however, about the way the Picard complaint portrays Stamos as the Cassandra of the Madoff scandal—the person whose persistent warnings were ignored by Wilpon and Katz. Wilpon’s lawyers at Davis Polk discovered that Stamos had given a deposition during Picard’s investigation, and the transcript gives a very different picture of Stamos’s state of mind from that portrayed in Picard’s complaint. “I’m embarrassed to say that I said to Mr. Katz on a number of occasions that my assumption is that Mr. Madoff is . . . among the most honest and honourable men that we will ever meet,” Stamos testified. “And number two, that he is perhaps one of the—my assumption is he’s perhaps one of the best hedge fund managers in modern times. . . . All the way to the time when the fraud was discovered, I had the same conclusion.” In fact, it appears that no one in the Stamos firm had any words of warning about Madoff’s Ponzi scheme until after his fraud was discovered.

Complaints in civil cases are designed to be argumentative documents, but Picard’s words about Stamos seem typical of an approach that seems to find malevolent intent in virtually everything Wilpon and Katz did. Picard notes, for example, that the Sterling accounting department “created what was known at Sterling as the monthly ‘Hell Sheet,’ which calculated” the balances in all Madoff accounts. According to Sterling, the document was known as the “Hell Sheet” because it was compiled by a bookkeeper named Helene. Last week, in a new brief filed in the case, Picard again mocked the “implausible” notion that “the Sterling Partners are unsophisticated investors who were duped by a trusted friend.” He argued that Wilpon, who had served on the board of directors of Bear Stearns, and his partners “were anxious not to ‘look behind the curtain’ as they profited at the expense of Madoff’s new victims.” Picard also pointed out that the Sterling group, in 2001, had considered purchasing fraud insurance for its Madoff accounts, though it ultimately decided against doing so. The trustee asserts that in the case against Wilpon his legal burden is modest. He says he must show only that a reasonable investor would have been “on notice” that Madoff was a fraud.

Picard must be doing something right: he has already achieved considerable success in recovering funds for Madoff’s victims. According to a press release he issued in early May, he has recovered “more than $7.6 billion, representing 44 percent of the approximately $17.3 billion in principal that was lost in the Ponzi scheme” by customers who filed claims. To do so, Picard has filed more than a thousand lawsuits. Many of these cases have settled; none have yet gone to trial. Picard has also said that he expects his own investigation to cost more than a billion dollars. His law firm has already billed more than a hundred and forty-five million in fees.

From Wilpon’s perspective, the Picard lawsuit could scarcely have come at a worse time. In addition to the losses from his Madoff accounts, the Sterling real-estate portfolio has been hurt by the recession. The Mets’ troubles have also taken a financial toll. In 2009, the year Citi Field opened, the Mets drew about 3.2 million fans. Last year, attendance fell to 2.6 million. This year, with another poor team, the Mets are on track to draw perhaps 2.4 million, though their payroll remains a hundred and forty million dollars, one of the highest in the major leagues. Last year, the Mets were forced into the embarrassing position of having to borrow twenty-five million from Major League Baseball, to tide them over for the year.

Darren Rovell of CNBC takes a look at the profile and looks at how Wilpon’s comments about some Mets players (while honest) damaged the franchise.

Contract the A’s and the Rays?

Bud Selig has been thinking about contraction again.

The Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays have had a hard time making it financially in recent years. A person involved in baseball labor told the New York Post that there had been some conversation in the offices of Major League Baseball of contracting the two teams.

Has no one learned from Minneapolis and the revival of the Twins?  Apparently not.

Would this look good in my living room

It’s a 1/16 scale model of Ebbets Field during the 1955 World Series (Dodgers vs. the Yankees).  4 1/2 months, 1,100 hours and $4,500 later….

Model of Ebbets Field as it looked during the 1955 World Series Model of Ebbets Field as it looked during the 1955 World Series Model of Ebbets Field as it looked during the 1955 World Series Model of Ebbets Field as it looked during the 1955 World Series Model of Ebbets Field as it looked during the 1955 World Series

More information and a video of the model can be found here

Spring is here

Spring Training is almost here with the catchers and pitchers about to report.  Here is what the Blue Jays have going on in 2011.

There is a sense of renewal that is inherent to spring training, and that feeling will be particularly strong for the Toronto Blue Jays when pitchers and catchers hold their first official workout on Monday.

While general manager Alex Anthopoulos didn’t radically overhaul the roster, several significant changes were made in the off-season. The clubhouse will be a very different place minus departed veterans Vernon Wells ,Shaun Marcum and Scott Downs.

Add in that John Farrell is taking over as manager from the retired Cito Gaston after 2 1/2 years of stewardship from the franchise giant, and change will definitely be in the air in Dunedin, Fla.

Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for the Sports Fan | 2010 Edition

Hockey Night in Canada Retro Puck & Stick Rug :: While Gary Bettman doesn’t respect the traditions of the NHL, that doesn’t mean that you can’t.  Check out this retro Hockey Night in Canada welcome rug which would look great every Saturday night as you host your friends and family for the Hockey Night in Canada double header.  Now if we could only find a way to automatically mute the television whenever Kelly Hrudey comes on. | $39.99 (Can) from CBC Shop

NFL Training Camp for the Wii | Compared to other fitness gaming releases on the Wii, EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp is in a whole other league. Unlike those other games that concentrate on general fitness concepts, EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp focuses on the agility, aerobic, stamina and strength training exercises that NFL players routinely are put through during their pre-season training camps. Developed in collaboration with NFL strength and conditioning coaches, users will experience the thrill of competition while challenging themselves, as well as friends and family in these authentic NFL football drills which are performed in the likeness of user’s favorite NFL players. $99.95 from Amazon

Saskatchewan Roughriders Shares | As a Roughrider shareholder, fans will get the opportunity to vote on team leadership, contribute to the team’s long-term viability, and help create a football dynasty owned and operated by its fans. In addition Rider shareholders receive a number of other benefits including discounts on merchandise, preferred seating upgrades, first rights to priority parking and access to special Shareholder events.  Sadly you don’t get a say on the head coach, what kind of defence they run or who is the starting quarterback.

Each shareholder will receive a personalized and numbered share certificate, an owners card, as well as a window decal and bracelet. The limited edition 100th anniversary Series II Rider Share is available for a cost of $250 per share, with an option to have the certificate fully framed for $499.

To own a piece of the pride and become a Rider shareholder, fans can call 1-888-4-RIDERS (474-3377) or visit the Rider Ticket Office at Mosaic Stadium.

Sportscraft Pubmaster Dart Board :: The official size 18-inch dartboard has traditional colors with steel tensile steel spider and high visibility numbers. You can throw either steel or soft tip darts at the bullseye!  Plus with no one really knowing when or if the economy is going to come back, having bunch of friends over for a night of darts is a lot cheaper than a night at the pub or doing much else now that I think of it.  The great thing about darts (and bowling) is that you don’t have to be good at it to have a good time playing it. | $19.99 (USD) at Amazon.com

If you want to up the anty a bit and hide the dart board from view, check out this dart board cabinet.  This pine cabinet comes with everything you need to start playing. It includes a high quality, self healing dart board, 6 steel tip darts, dry-erase scoreboard, out chart, marker and mounting supplies.  It would look great at the cabin.   $68.91 at Amazon.com

Wendy gave me this customizable Denver Broncos watch for our 13th anniversary.  You can change the watch hands, color of strap, and engrave the back (something like “Fire Josh McDaniels” might be appropriate).  While this one is sold out right now, you can get a variety of other NFL team watches from NFL Shop ranging from $25.

Men’s Team HeatGear® Longsleeve T Tops by Under Armour | If the person you are shopping for actually is athletic, you may want to consider a workout shirt from Under Armour.  It’s a versatile multi-sport shirt ideal for training.  It’s popular because the Under Armour Team HeatGear long-sleeve tee will keep you feeling cool and refreshed during your workouts. The shirt is made using HeatGear technology, a superior moisture-management system that moves moisture away from your body to the outer layer of the garment. To keep the shirt smelling fresh over the long term, Under Armour added anti-odor technology, which prevents the growth of odor-causing microbes. Other features include a lightweight micro-pique construction with a generous loose fit, raglan sleeves that allow for total mobility and a full range of motion while eliminating shoulder-seam abrasion points, and a UA logo on the center front chest.  $30 from Amazon.com.  You can get a short sleeve t-shirt for $20.

Custom NFL T-Shirt | While a customized NFL jersey may set you back $200, a customizable t-shirt or sweatshirt will cost you as a little as $40 and you can actually wear it out in public.  Customize the front, back and both sleeves of your shirt in any number of ways.  From players name and number to a pink breast cancer ribbon.  Anything is possible and available in men’s and women’s version.  I just can’t believe that other leagues aren’t doing this yet.

How many times in the last year have you said, “This room would be perfect with a stained glass Notre Dame plaque on the wall?”  Now for $59.99 you can bring completion to your fan cave with one.  It actually would look great in a lot of family rooms, even if you happened to cheer for teams like USC or Alabama.  Now of course if you cheered for anyone in the SEC, you probably would not appreciate something like stained glass but sadly they don’t make these things deep fried.

Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns | Here is the story of America s national pastime from master storyteller Ken Burns. It is an eleven DVD epic overflowing with heroes and hopefuls, scoundrels and screwballs. A saga spanning the quest for racial justice, the clash of labor and management, the immigrant experience, the transformation of popular culture, and the enduring appeal of the national pastime. And through it all, baseball remains a mirror of America.  $50.99 from Amazon.com

Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan’s Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks | “Professional fan” Hample (How to Snag Major League Baseballs), who falls squarely in the “deeply serious geek” category, has put together an invaluable resource for armchair fans. A former college shortstop, four-time attendee of Bucky Dent’s Baseball School and an obsessive baseball collector, Hample covers basics like what to watch for in pitchers, catchers, hitters, fielders and base runners; he also provides answers to such nagging questions as why spectators stretch in the seventh inning and why most ballplayers grab their crotches. He explains the difference between a change-up and a split-finger fastball, breaks down a box score and offers an extensive glossary of baseball slang that defines both a “courtesy trot” and a “dying quail.” Other sections address free agency and fair balls, umpires and uniform numbers, stadiums and superstitions. Trivia abounds, including the names of the 10 switch hitters honored in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and a record of inside-the-park homeruns. Hample hits the equivalent of a reference-book homerun with his witty, loose and readable style-taking a friendly for-a-fan-by-a-fan approach that doesn’t hide his enormous depth of knowledge. Highly recommended for baseball watchers, Hample also schools amateur players and coaches with well-illustrated examples of some complex pitching, hitting and base-running scenarios.  $10.08 from Amazon.com

Instant Reply: The Green Bay Packer Diary of Jerry Kramer | In 1967, when Jerry Kramer was a thirty-one-year-old Green Bay Packers offensive lineman, in his tenth year with the team, he decided to keep a diary of the season. “Perhaps, by setting down my daily thoughts and observations,” he wrote, “I’ll be able to understand precisely what it is that draws me back to professional football.” Working with the journalist Dick Schaap, Kramer recorded his day-to-day experiences as a player with perception, honesty, humor, and startling sensitivity. Little did Kramer know that the 1967 season would be one of the most remarkable in the history of pro football, culminating with the legendary championship game against Dallas now known as the “Ice Bowl,” in which Kramer would play a central role. Nor could he have anticipated that his diary would evolve into a book titled Instant Replay, first published in 1968, that would become a multimillion-copy bestseller and be celebrated by reviewers everywhere, including the Washington Post’s Jonathan Yardley, who calls it “to this day, the best inside account of pro football, indeed the best book ever written about that sport and that league.”  I still remember the first time I read it.  It was fantastic and is still one of my favourite books of all time. $17.79 from Amazon.com

The Game by Ken Dryden | I know I broke up with hockey last year but this was written during the golden age of hockey and the Montreal Canadiens dynasty of the 1970s.  This is a wonderful book which goes a lot deeper than so many sports autobiographies that I have read over the years.  It was named by Sports Illustrated in 2002 as one of the Top Ten in The Top 100 Best Sports Books of All Time. It was the number-one hockey book on the list. #9: “Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden was always different. A Cornell grad, he led Montreal to six Stanley Cups, then at 26 sat out a year to prepare for the bar exam. His book is different too: a well-crafted account of his career combined with a meditation on hockey’s special place in Canadian culture.” $15.61 at Amazon.com

Madden 11 | Madden NFL 11 is the 22nd version of EA Sports’ classic video game football franchise. Featuring cover athlete Drew Brees, Super Bowl XLIV MVP and quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, Madden NFL 11 incorporates a blend of simpler, quicker and deeper new features with time-tested classic features expected from a game in the Madden franchise. Features included in the PlayStation 3 version include Franchise mode, All-new GameFlow playcall system, dual stick control, extensive online functionality and more.  It now allows you to play games in half the time – With an all-new playcall system, spend less time in the huddle and more time on the field as you experience the drama and excitement of a full game in less than 30 minutes.   While you are learning, you can actually win now.  New Coaching Tips automatically pause the game at critical points to help explain each situation as it unfolds. A revamped playcall system draws player routes on the field as in-game coach’s audio provides helpful hints to better execute the play.   Available for PS3, Wii, PSP, and XBox at Amazon.com.  If who you are buying for is more of a NCAA fan, don’t forget NCAA Football 2011.

Harvard Action Arena 7-Foot Air Hockey Table | Tired of heading to the pub every time you want to play air hockey? Enter the Harvard Action Arena 7-foot air hockey table, which brings the same exciting, fast-paced gameplay directly into your home. Designed for four players instead of two, the Action Arena is well constructed, with sturdy 4-by-1/2-inch L-style legs, a cross bar for added stability, and a 6-1/2-inch PVC laminate apron with silver trim. More importantly, the table plays fast and fun thanks to the smooth, glossy white laminated play bed and 110-volt motor. Other features include automated puck return goals, an electronic scoring system, four striking paddles, and four pucks. $637.47 and available from Amazon.com

A smaller and less expensive air hockey table can be found here for $149.00. . Sports table includes 2 puck pushers and 2 pucks. Hockey puck easily glides across the playing surface due the table’s powerful 110v 2400 rpm heavy duty fan and air box. Manual scoring. Table dimensions: 32 inches high x 28 inches wide x 60 inches long. Includes assembly and game play instructions.

If you can find what you are looking for, make sure you check out one of the other 2010 Christmas Gift Guides

In case you are looking, here are the 2009 Gift Guides

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

NFL Vacation

I am trying to figure out which city I should go to and take in an NFL game next year.  Here are my requirements:

  • The game can’t have Brett Favre playing in it.
  • I want to see either a baseball game in it or a NCAA football game the same weekend.
  • It needs to be within a 24 hour drive.

Denver Broncos LogoSaskatoon to Denver

Pros

  • It’s Mecca as far as I am concerned.  I live and die for the Denver Broncos.

Cons

  • I have no desire to see the Colorado Rockies play.
  • Again, not sure if I want to see the University of Colorado play a Pac-10 matchup.
  • That doesn’t look like a fun drive through Wyoming and I doubt Dick Cheney would let me crash at his place after some of the things that I have written about him here.

Minnesota Vikings LogoSaskatoon to Minneapolis

Pros

  • Closest game to Saskatoon. 
  • Mark can stop in Winnipeg and pee on Canad Inns Stadium on the way by again.
  • Can see the Minnesota Twins play in their new park.
  • Mall of America.
  • I do like Minneapolis

Cons

  • Domed stadium.
  • I really don’t like the Vikings.
  • Brett Favre could send me a crude txt message.
  • Mall of America is not that much different than West Edmonton Mall.
  • I would feel bad driving to Minneapolis and not going to Solomon’s Porch because I was heading to a football game.

Seattle Seahawks LogoSaskatoon to Seattle

Pros

  • It’s Seattle
  • Pike’s Market
  • EMP
  • I could take in a University of Washington game
  • I can taunt them for drafting Brian Bosworth
  • I may be able to talk Don Crawford into driving down and watching the game with us.
  • We could stop in Calgary and I can have breakfast with Dave King.

Cons

  • I lost so much respect for Pete Carroll after what happened at USC.  It would bug me to support his salary with a game ticket.
  • What if they wear their horrific third jersey’s.

Chicago Bears logoSaskatoon to Chicago

Pros

  • Soldier Field.
  • Navy Pier.
  • Sears (or whatever it is called now) Tower.
  • Wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs, White Sox, or Northwestern play.

Cons

  • Jay Cutler
  • Mike Martz
  • Bears fans in general are not the most enlightened.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.