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Monday, July 28, 2014

The Joy of the 1990 Red Sox


It is only fitting that I write this post as I watch the Red Sox get pounded by the Blue Jays. The mid 1980s through the early 1990s, it was the Blue Jays who were the main rival of the Red Sox, not the Yankees.

The 1990 Red Sox team is one of my all time favorite Red Sox teams. I got lost for a few hours on Baseball Reference the other day and found myself diving into the 1990 Red Sox all over again. I miss that team. On paper, they were nothing really special. That was part of their appeal. The 1990 Blue Jays were a more talented team but could not find a way to beat out the Red Sox for the AL East crown.

The 1990 Red Sox had Roger Clemens though. Clemens won the MVP in 1986 but he was never more valuable than he was in 1990. He carried the Sox more than he ever had or ever would. I really think the 1990 season was his best simply for that reason.

Ellis Burks was one of my favorite players on that team. The main reason being because of July 14th of 1990 when he hit a go ahead, pinch hit, three run homer in the 8th inning to beat the Royals 8-7 off of Jay Baller. Burks was pinch hitting because he was battling injuries and had not played for nine days. He pinch hit earlier in the day in the first game of the double header and struck out and looked awful doing it. This time he crushed a ball into the screen. It was one of my favorite moments ever at Fenway. From that day on, I became a big Burks fan.

I also loved Tom Brunansky. Bruno was acquired in a trade with a Cardinals in early May. He carried the Sox in a big weekend series with the Blue Jays late in the year hitting three homers during the Saturday game of the series. He quickly became one of my all time favorite Red Sox. A few days later he put himself into Red Sox lore with a division clinching catch to rob Ozzie Guillen



I tweeted about my love for the 1990 Red Sox and was surprised at the responses I received. I was not alone with my love for this team. Ruben Lipszyc tweeted me back about his fondness for this team and especially Jeff Stone. Here is his blog post about the 1990 Red Sox and Jeff Stone

As the 2014 Red Sox limp to the end of the season, I wish I could go back and enjoy this 1990 Sox team again. Whenever I get this feeling I summon Out of the Park Baseball. Time travel is not possible but OOTP Baseball is as close as it gets. So here goes, a season replay where I take over the 1990 Red Sox. Will I be blogging about it? Of course! So here we go, here are your 1990 Boston Red Sox....OOTP style






Box Score Stories: Alex Rodriguez Makes His Debut







Twenty years ago this month, my father and I took our annual trip to Fenway Park. I was 19 years old and just finished up my freshman year at the University of South Carolina. I was home for the summer and the next summer would be the last time my father and I would take out annual trip to Boston together to watch the Sox play. The annual trip started in 1988 when we caught a three game series between the Red Sox and Oakland Athletics. 
This trip in 1994 was all about the Red Sox of course, but also the Seattle Mariners and the great Ken Griffey Jr. He was having a monster season and the Griffey jerseys were out in full force at Fenway. Junior would also get a very warm reception each time he came to the plate. He was a star and the Fenway faithful knew it. 
My father, who grew up a Willie Mays fan was a bit more skeptical of The Kid. After all, he was being compared to his hero and he did not like it. A deep ball was hit to center and it hit the wall behind Griffey and my father muttered, "they should take that 24 off his back right now, he is no Willie". I wrote about my father's love and bias of Willie Mays in this post.
Griffey would go 3-4 on this night.
Twenty years later this game stands out not because of Griffey but because of an 18 year old rookie shortstop who was making his debut. His name was Alex Rodriguez. He was skinny and just a year younger than I was.
My father, who read the Boston Globe sports section as soon as we arrived in Boston, told me he was someone to watch. He was supposed to be real good. He would not get a hit in the game but I remember watching his every move in the field wondering if he would become as good as his hype. It is hard to believe how different things would be just ten years later when on the same field he would spark off a bench clearing brawl as a member of the New York Yankees. He would become public enemy number one. Jason Varitek became an even bigger hero when he punched AROD. Of course, later in that 2004 season AROD would be center stage as the Red Sox would complete the greatest comeback in baseball history and beat the Yankees in the ALCS. 
Ten years after the brawl, Alex would be sitting out the season due to a league ban. He has become a punchline. Twenty years ago he was a young phenom and I was there to see his interesting career begin. I even explored what would have happened if Rodriguez was traded to the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2004 season. I blogged about that alternative reality here.
As for the game, a pretty mediocre Red Sox team got the win thanks to a Tom Brunansky home run. Bruno was and is one of my all time favorite Red Sox players thanks to the incredible 1990 season. Most fans remember the division clinching catch but they forget about the unreal weekend he had late in the season against the Blue Jays. He put the Sox on his back. The Sox would win the 1990 AL East. It is one of my favorite Red Sox teams because they won the division when they clearly had inferior talent to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Red Sox would play just 31 more games in 1994 before a work stoppage would wipe out the rest of the regular season and post season. Below is the actual box score from that Friday night in Fenway, the night AROD began his career.

Friday, July 8, 1994, 8:08
Attendance: 33,355, Time of Game: 2:51

           
                -  -  -   -  -  -   -  -  -    -  -  -
Mariners        0  0  1   0  1  0   0  0  1    3  8  1
Red Sox         0  0  0   0  0  4   0  0  X    4  9  1
W: Chris Nabholz (1-2)
L: Bill Risley (6-5)
S: Ken Ryan (7)


Friday, July 18, 2014

2010: Alex Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox

Alex Rodriguez entered the final year of his contract with the Boston Red Sox with no contract extension in sight. The 2010 regular season was similar to the previous seasons as the Boston Red Sox dominated the AL East as AROD put up big numbers once again.




The postseason was also way too familiar for the Red Sox and AROD. Once again, the Sox would not get out of the first one and AROD would not be the dominant player that he was in the regular season.




In defense of AROD, he was hit in the face with a pitch towards the end of the season and came back just a few days before the playoffs began. He was the clear leader for MVP before the injury.



The attention next turned to AROD and his contract. He would hit the free agent market and it was quickly obvious that the Red Sox would not be serious players for his services.



The Braves would come calling on a two year deal with the second year contingent on 550 plate appearances by AROD in the 2011 season. 

Alex Rodriguez and the Boston Red Sox part company without a World Series. They dominated the AL in many ways but could never pull through in the playoffs. Will the Red Sox ever end their drought going back to 1918? Will Alex Rodriguez ever win a ring? These questions will be answered in the next and final post on this "What if simulation".

Sunday, July 13, 2014

World Cup of College Football: Roll Tide

This is World Cup of College Football simulation using some of the great teams in the history of college football. To read how and why these teams were selected click here.



That other World Cup just wrapped up and it is time to wrap up the World Cup of College Football. When we last left you my beloved Gamecocks were 1-0 in pool play after an impressive victory over the 1996 Florida Gators. They were just one win away from advancing to the knockout round, that win never came. The 1980 Georgia Bulldogs and some guy named Walker ran all over the Gamecocks and then the following week the Gamecocks found themselves leading early against the 1997 Tennessee Volunteers only to watch Peyton Manning bring the Vols back and end the Gamecocks run.


Below are the Week 2 and Week 3 results along with the final standings. Remember, two teams from each pool advance to the knockout round of 16 teams.





The good news as we moved into the round of 16, the 1981 Clemson Tigers would also be left behind. The game of the tournament took place between the 1993 Florida State Seminoles and the 1996 Florida Gators. The Noles would find a way to pull it out and advance to the next round.

Surprisingly none of the modern teams would be left standing as we got to the title game. My pick before it all started was the 1993 Seminoles but the final game matched up the 1945 Army Cadets against the Joe Namath led 1964 Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide would win out and become the World Cup Champions




Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The World Cup of College Football: Week 1

As World Cup fever has hit the world, we have created a World Cup of College Football. Details of how the pools were set up can be found here.

Week one is in the books and here are the results:




Week one gave us some surprises. The first is Boise State taking down the 1988 National Champs in Notre Dame. The other surprises were the 2004 USC Trojans getting beat by the 2010 Stanford Cardinal. The 2004 Trojans were thought to be one of the best teams in the field. The SEC East pool gave us some surprises as well as both national title teams lost to teams who did not win the national title.

Then there is the 1993 Florida State Seminoles. Wow!!! They blasted the Hokies. The thought going in was the 1993 Noles were the best team in this field along with the 2004 Trojans. This sets up a huge clash between the 1986 Miami Hurricanes and the Noles. It looks like both teams will move on to the round of 16 but this game will be huge in the seedings.

Here are the standings as we move into Week 2





My beloved Gamecocks knocked off the Gators while the hated Clemson Tigers turned it over five times in their loss to the Hurricanes. Clemson and turnovers, where have we heard this before? Here is a closer look at both of those games.








Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The World Cup of College Football


The World Cup kicks off in Brazil in a few weeks and I wish I was more excited. I am definitely a bigger soccer fan now than I have ever been but it still does not match the love I have for baseball or college football. The World Cup is special, the format of it is what I love and just how big it is to the world. It made me think of college football and what would happen if we had a World Cup of College Football.

Second and Ten Football is the latest football simulation game. It is the best one I have seen to date. It specializes in historical teams for both the NFL and college football. The number of teams and the accuracy of rosters is unparalleled. Beyond The Sideline Football, which is being released next year, is very promising but with a different purpose. BTS is about building a football dynasty as a GM, SAT is about coaching historical teams to a title. Given the fact that BTS is being made by the same people who made Out of the Park Baseball, it promises to be the best football simulation on the market when it comes to simulating how it feels to be an NFL GM. However, if you want to see if the 2013 Gamecocks could beat the 1981 Clemson Tigers, Second and Ten Football is the game for you.

Here is the plan, create a World Cup College Football Tournament using historical college football teams. I have just about every college football team at my disposal, picking 32 was not easy. The 32 I did pick were not necessarily the 32 best teams of all time, but they were the 32 most compelling teams of all time. Compelling to who? Compelling to me and hopefully to most of you.

If you are not familiar with how the World Cup works, let me explain. The World Cup Tournament has 32 teams in 8 different pools(divisions, conferences). Each pool has four teams. Each team plays all three teams in their pool for a total of three games. Based on record, point differential etc, two teams from each pool advance.

This leaves you with 16 teams. These 16 teams now square off in a single elimination tournament until there is a champion. It is great set up and now when you throw in college football, it is perfect. Here we go.


POOL A/ Big Ten

I had a tough time coming up with the most compelling teams from the Big Ten. I chose the Ohio State national title team that won many close games all season long in 2002 capped off by the upset win over Miami. 

The 1985 Michigan team has Jim Harbaugh at QB, This is a very underrated Michigan team.

1985 Iowa was #1 in the nation for a time behind QB Chuck Long and RB Ronnie Harmon. Harmon was dominant in college and had a really good NFL career.

1987 Michigan State has the great Lorenzo White and Andre Rison leading the way on offense. A forgotten team that can really play.



POOL B/ SEC West

The 1983 Auburn is listed as the second greatest team in school history. They were #2 in the nation but were left out of the title game. Bo Jackson led the way. Compelling enough for you?

1964 Crimson Tide were led by Joe Namath and coached by Bear Bryant.

The 1969 Ole Miss Rebels were led by Archie Manning. The 30 for 30 special on the Manning family was incredible and it really educated me on just how great Archie was in college. He could do it all.

1959 LSU is as old school as it gets. They are led by Billy Cannon who had a famous run or two.



POOL C/ Eastern

The 1986 Penn State team shocked the heavily favored Miami Hurricanes for the national title. It was Joe Paterno at his finest.

Doug Flutie won the Heisman Trophy and made the 1984 Boston College Eagles one of the most entertaining teams ever to play college football.

My father would disown me if I did not give some love to the 1959 Syracuse Orangemen. They won it all that year with the help of a young running back named Ernie Davis. Ernie would become the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy two years later. My father was 13 years old and went to every home game that season. These were, and still are, his heroes.

Major Harris was always one of my favorite quarterbacks to watch and he made West Virginia very good in 1988. They would lose to #1 Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl


POOL D/ Southwest

I loved the 1983 Nebraska Cornhuskers. They were led by Turner Gill and were one play away from being national champions. Tom Osbourne elected to go for the win when a tie would have given the #1 Cornhuskers the national championship. They went for two and lost the game and the title to the Miami Hurricanes leaving Auburn out in the cold.

The 1982 Oklahoma Sooners are far from the best team in school history but it is the most compelling for one reason, Marcus Dupree. 1982 was his one big season in college. He was the best that never was.

We should call this the 30 for 30 documentary pool. The 1981 SMU Mustangs were the subjects of the documentary titled Pony Excess. They were led by Eric Dickerson and Craig James. A really fun team.

The 2005 Texas Longhorns took down the dominant USC Trojans behind Vince Young. It is easy to forget just how great Young was in college. 


16 teams are in, 16 more teams to go.




Pool E/ American

Lou Holtz and the national champion Irish lead the way in a very patriotic group. the 1985 Air Force team is the best in school history but are the huge underdogs in this pool.

1945 Army dominated like no other behind Doc Blanchard and Glen Davis.

1963 Navy is led by Roger Staubach in his Heisman Trophy season.

2009 Boise State, the ultimate BCS buster. Will they prove just how good they are when there are no polls involved?


POOL F/ Pac 12

2004 Southern Cal is the class of the pool but the 2010 Stanford Cardinal led by Andrew Luck will also be tough. Jim Harbaugh is the coach but is also playing in this World Cup with the 1985 Michigan Wolverines. Very interesting.

The 1987 UCLA Bruins are led by Troy Aikman but appear to be the big underdog in this pool.

1996 Arizona State is led by Jake Plummer and Pat Tillman.


POOL G/ ACC

This pool might be the strongest. Do not get too excited ACC fans. While these are all current ACC programs, only Clemson was in the ACC during these glory seasons.

The 1986 Miami Hurricanes are one of the great teams in college football history without a national title. They were upset by Penn State in a game where Penn State played perfect and Miami did not.

The 1981 Clemson Tigers won the national title. If you know a Clemson fan, chances are you are reminded of this every three seconds.

Michael Vick's best year in college was in 2000 and he makes the Hokies very dangerous.

The 1993 FSU Seminoles might be the best team in the entire tournament. Charlie Ward was one of my favorite quarterbacks to watch and the game against Notre Dame was a classic. I came real close to putting the 1993 Notre Dame team in the tournament over the 1988 team just for the great memories I had of that classic FSU/ND game from 1993.


POOL H/ SEC East

I just had to include a second SEC pool to make all the SEC haters angry. It is what I do. Plus, I had to include my Gamecocks. I chose the 2011 Gamecocks because of the interesting and talented confluence of players that were still on that 2011 team. You had a freshman Jadeveon Clowney along with Marcus Lattimore, throw in a little Stephen Garcia, who was on his way out and a kid named Connor Shaw who was starting to emerge. Alshon Jeffrey was also there. Not too shabby. This was really a fun team who had that one awful home loss to Auburn. It is the last time the Gamecocks have lost at home.

I came close to going with a Tim Tebow Gator team but it was just too compelling to include a Spurrier led Gator team. HBC vs HBC in this pool.

The 1980 Georgia Bulldogs are an obvious selection and are led by Herschel Walker.

The 1997 Volunteers did not win it all but they were loaded. Tee Martin would guide a less talented team to the title the following year. These Vols were led by Peyton Manning. Can they find a way to beat Spurrier and the Gators. This sets up as a very interesting pool.



The tournament is set. It is time for your predictions. We will kick it off when the real World Cup kicks off in mid June. Updates will be on the blog and twitter @thepeskypole6  

Pick a pool and make predictions. Remember, two teams come out of each pool. Which two teams do you have coming out of each pool?


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dustin Johnson Wins The Masters


Last week I shared a great new golf simulation game. You can read about it here. I have started the 2014 season as Phil Mickelson and things have not gone well for Phil as he has missed the cut in both The Players Championship and now the Masters. You can keep up to date with the 2014 PGA Tour Season here.

Dustin Johnson was the winner. Jamie Donaldson, who won the *Players Championship, missed the cut. Tiger Woods, who is healthy in this simulation world, had a chance but did not play well on Sunday. You will also notice the name of Bobby Jones. I took the 1920 Bobby Jones and put him a time machine. How will he do against the modern players? We will find out. I thought it was pretty cool to see him play in The Masters, a course that he is so identified with. He did not win, but he played well. Here are the results.


                    
*started the simulation season late so played The Players Championship and Masters out of order.



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Simulating Golf History

I came across another great sports simulation game and for the first time it involves the sport of golf. This simulation is brought to you by Dave Koch Sports. Koch produces simulations for just about every sport you can think of, but in my opinion, it is the golf game that stands out from the rest. It has everything and I mean everything.


The 2014 PGA Tour season is shipped with the latest version of the game. The cool thing about that is you have a healthy Tiger Woods, so you can see if he can add to his major win total. The 2014 game also ships with ten courses. For legal reasons, the names of the courses have been changed but they are actual courses that are played on tour. For example, Augusta National is named Magnolia. Pinehurst #2, the site of this year's U.S Open is named Carolina Pines #2 on the game.

The detail and the accuracy of the courses is second to none. The main thing they get right is the slopes of the green. The ball reacts on the green just like it does in real life. The detail is amazing. 

They also bring back history. You can purchase additional seasons of the PGA Tour:

1920 with the likes Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen

1962: Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus dual

1973: Jack Nicklaus charges into history

1986: Greg Norman is dominant as they come and had a chance to win three of the four majors. He would only capture one in 1986, the same number as the 46 year old Jack Nicklaus

1993: A young Phil Mickelson wins twice and Greg Norman wins another major.

2000: Tiger Woods reigns supreme as he fends off Phil Mickelson.

You can also purchase a package of 200 of the greatest golfers ever in their prime. I have had a lot of fun with this. Tiger Woods vs Jack Nicklaus anyone?

The game is a simulation but you can choose to take over a golfer. For the 2014 season I have taken over Mickelson. How he plays is really determined by his skill set. However, you decide what club he hits and where he should aim. Mickelson is fun to play with but just like in real life his driver can go just about anywhere.

The tournament atmosphere is also amazing with real time scoring according to tee time and an ever changing leaderboard. It really feels like you are in a tournament. It doesn't get any better than this game.

I will be blogging about my 2014 season as I take over Mickelson. I am not playing a full season but rather a ten event season with the majors and some key tournaments that culminate in the Fed Ex Playoffs and the Tour Championship. You can even play the Ryder Cup and President's Cup. The game filters players according to country to make any team you desire. The detail to this game will blow you away. You can follow the results of my seasons here.

Below is a thirty minute video of a 1986 Tom Watson playing Augusta National. The Augusta National he is playing is the 1986 version of the course. As I said, the detail is amazing. Watch the video and see for yourself. If you know Augusta National, you will recognize the slopes and false fronts of the greens. It is the closest many of us will get to actually play the course. Job well done Dave Koch and company.








The History of the #1 Pick in the NFL Draft


The Houston Texans selected Jadeveon Clowney with the number one overall pick. With my bias in check, the number 1 pick isn't exactly a lock to fulfill their destiny as all time greats. There have been #1 picks who were clear legends in the making.That number is not as big as you think though.

1970 was the first draft of the NFL as we know it today. There have 44 drafts and 44 number one picks.

Of those 44 players, six are in the Hall of Fame. They are Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Lee Roy Selmon, Earl Campbell, Bruce Smith and Troy Aikman.

Peyton Manning will make it seven when he retires and goes into the Hall of Fame. Andrew Luck, while early in his career, appears to be someone who could have a HOF career. Eli Manning has two Super Bowl titles. He is not a lock for the HOF but he there is HOF chatter about his career. Cam Newton? It is possible, bu still real early in his career. If all those guys get in, which is a big IF for guys like Eli and Cam, you are looking 10 Hall of Famers out of 44 picks. Far from a sure thing.