2002-02-23 / Sports

Spring Training: Fresh Starts And Old News

By Elio Velez

By Elio Velez

I decided to place my column title Ode to the A on hiatus for a while. I was thinking of a new title and if there is any suggestion on a new name, send me a letter or email. Let’s keep the suggestions to a decent level and not vulgar. Though I do say vulgar language from time to time, I can’t print it in this newspaper.

As I write this, the weather is acting weird again and will be almost 60 when I step out for lunch in the afternoon. With balmy temps in February, I think of baseball and all players heading for spring training. This is one of the best times of the year as a fan when everyone is 0-0 and half the teams have a shot at the playoffs.

Like I was going to say the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Florida Marlins have a shot at the playoffs. Not all the teams in this financially screwed up baseball world has a chance to win. After the horrible offseason with Commissioner Buddy Boy almost killing two teams, he has plainly said that most teams won’t compete. Heck, he’s not giving a real answer on how to solve the off-season crisis from happening next year.

The Yankees prominently display their winter acquisitions in Tampa. Dreams of Giambi hitting 50 homeruns to the short porch in rightfield at Yankee Stadium comes to fans’ minds. Fans proclaim this team might win more than 100 and less than 125. In that weak AL East, it’s not a matter of if the Yankees win the division; it’s how many games they win by over the eventual second place Boston Red Sox.

The Mets will be placing name cards on all the new acquisitions they made. It will take at least all of spring for Bobby Valentine to find the right combinations and remember all of their names. Bobby will have to find a fifth starter and write out a lineup card that won’t change much this year. Due to injuries the last few years, there were so many lineup combinations the Mets used, that it was almost a given that Valentine would play musical chairs. It would be nice if all these guys would come together to finally wrest the NL East from the Braves.

I would love to predict the Yankees-Mets Part 2 subway series in 2002. It would be a boon to this city’s spirits. But wouldn’t it be lovely to see the Minnesota Twins, the poster team for contraction (they did win championships in 1987 and 1991 and the first team in AL history to draw 3 million fans, remember that Buddy Boy) somehow win the Series and stick it to Buddy and all of the lords of baseball for screwing with a franchise that did not need to be booted. Bud’s team, the Milwaukee Brewers, have not even come close to matching any of the Twins historical accomplishments!!

Doctor K, Dwight Gooden is in trouble again for driving intoxicated and without a license. Gooden is matching his buddy Darryl Strawberry to see how many times they can screw up. It’s another sad story for a man who had the potential to the one of the best pitchers ever. Does this mean that Father Steinbrenner will still give them another chance at Yankee redemption?

Olympic Thoughts:

Figure Skating is not a sport. It’s a judgment call like watching Star Search. The fans have no say and people we don’t know judge moves that I’m not sure is good or not. But the controversy about the disputed gold medal just brings to light how politically and morally corrupt the Olympics truly are.

Before Utah, the Olympics, was fraught with corruption. I love hearing people from other countries complain about our supposed blatant patriotism. That accusation should not overshadow how bankrupt the Olympic officials truly are. If the Olympics can reverse decision about the figure skating medal, how about the IOC reverse past mistakes in previous Olympics? I’d like to see that happen.

I don’t want to be so negative. There are nice stories happening in Utah. Vonetta Flowers became the first black woman to ever win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. The U.S. women’s team and men’s team are competing well. Derek Parra, a Mexican-American, won the gold in the speed skating 1500 meters. Good stories like that I do hope overshadow the IOC’s bumbling and stumbling.

Hockey’s Team USA will face Russia on Friday, February 22, which is the same date as 22 years ago when both teams faced off. This will not be a repeat of that Miracle on Ice 1980 USA hockey team with American amateurs facing off against the Communist and professional Russians.

The Cold War has been over for a while and NHL players are now represented in both teams. The competitive spirit is still present as both teams played a great game in the qualifiers in a 2-2 tie. It would be magical if both teams played the same with great goaltending, tough forechecking and timely goal scoring. Old and new fans of hockey should see how the game should really be played.

How much more controversy can people take? Apolo Ohno won the 1500-meter short trace skating event after South Korea’s Kim Dong interfered with Ohno’s path and was disqualified. Dong was so mad at the decision that he kicked at the lane marker, the Americans fans lustily cheered Ohno for his win and the other competitors was mad at the disqualification of Ohno. At the least the Olympics are over on Sunday.

Wrestling may not be a sport but I mark out for it and I won’t apologize to anyone. The NWO is back and they are already stamping their presence on the WWF. The Rock and Hulk Hogan’s promo of their match in Wrestlemania was great television and it will produce money.

Can Beach Channel Men and Women’s basketball teams keep winning in the PSAL tournament? This weekend’s playoff games will be another test for them to advance another round. Until next week, Peace!

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