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Cowboys Sean Lee Out For The Season With Toe Injury

The Cowboys leading tackle down for the season ahead of Sunday’s matchup with the Giants.

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The Dallas Cowboys injury woes continue.

The Dallas Morning News  is reporting that stud middle linebacker Sean Lee will miss the remainder of the season with a toe injury.

David Moore reported that Lee will have surgery on his right big toe.

Lee injured the big toe in the third quarter of the Cowboys 19-14 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Lee had an MRI on Tuesday, which revealed the extent of his injury.

Former Nittany Lion Dan Conner will replace Lee in the lineup.

It is a crushing blow for a Cowboys defense that was finally making strides.

 

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World Series Game 1 Preview

The game’s best pitcher by far, Tiger’s Justin Verlander, prepares to open the 2012 World Series on the road, in large part due to his poor performance in the All-Star game. Does anyone remember who hit the 3-run triple off Verlander in the 1st inning? San Francisco Giant’s 3B, Pablo Sandoval. Here we go again!

The NL would go on to win the game 8-0 and win something that would benefit the Giants months later, home field advantage. How do we quantify HFA in baseball? No DH, so Verlander will get a few at-bats against the Giants game 1 starter, Barry Zito, and the rest of the Tigers pitching staff will entertain us with the plate-side antics that AL pitchers are famous for in inter-league play. But other then that?

The number don’t lie. Teams with HFA are 5-2 in the last 7 fall classics and since 1985, home cooking has produced a 21-5 record. If the World Series goes 7 games, the home team has won 9 straight games, dating back to 1980. I guess there really is quite a bit riding on an exhibition game that the players approach half-heartedly, well the ones who actually attend that is.

When asked about his poor performance in the all-star game, Verlander said

“The fans don’t want to see me throw 90 and hit corners, so I just let the heat go.”

He walked the bases loaded on a fastball that was clocked at 101 just before Sandoval registered 3 RBI’s with that triple.

Perhaps telling the athletes that they strted basing HFA on the outcome of the all-star game a few years back would be a good idea? Or we could always go back to best record. A 162 game season sounds like it should be important, doesn’t it?

But I digress.

Tonight, Verlander faces a balanced Giants lineup that knows how to work counts and patiently manufacture runs. Easier said than done against Justin Verlander, who like his offensive counterpart, Miguel Cabrera, won the pitcher’s triple crown by leading the AL in wins, ERA and strikeouts.

The Giants send Barry Zito to the hill and if anyone ever thought they’d hear the words “Barry Zito is your World Series Game 1 starter”, ask them who’s going to win the Philly-Atlanta game this weekend.

Barry was a moneyballer who came up through the A’s system, signed an enormous free agent contract with the Giants and lost the ability to make outs before the ink dried. In fact, he was left off all three editions of the Giants postseason roster as they made their 2010 title run. Zito now has a shot at redemption.

I’ve heard it said that winning Game 1 is more critical for the San Francisco Giants, but I disagree. Given the statistics to support home field advantage, the Tigers cannot afford to lose a Verlander game. Think of the confidence the Giants would glean from beating the world’s best pitcher, after having survived 6 elimination games just to get to this point.

On the other hand, Detroit’s lineup is something that Giants haven’t seen the like of. Anchored by Miguel Cabrera, triple crown winner and this year’s likely AL MVP, this batting order has devastating power with an ability to hit situationally.

The Tigers travelled a similar road to the World Series in 2006, when they battered the Yanks in the ALCS, only to see the St. Louis Cardinals hoist the trophy after a decisive World Series win. Don’t think that isn’t in the back of Jim Leyland’s mind.

I think the circumstance will yield different results this year. I look for Verlander to win this evening and the Tigers to close the series out in six games. The Giants are fun to watch and easy to root for, but the Tigers A-line talent will prove too much for a team that scratched and clawed to get here. I’ll bet Bruce Bochy would is telling his guys the same exact thing.

Even so, Tigers in 6.

Coverage begins tonight at 8:00 on Fox.

Cam Newton: Superman to Stupidman

Thursday, September 20, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The 2-1 New York Giants headed South and simply dismantled the 1-2 Carolina Panthers in front of an uncomfortable Carolina crowd that watched the home team get blown out 20-0 in the 1st half, and 36-7 overall.

But for me, the big moment of the game was Carolina’s TD drive during the 3rd quarter. Cam Newton and company were smack in the middle of getting dumptrucked by the defending Superbowl champs when Newton, spared his team the humiliation of getting shut out at home with a 1yd TD run, to bring the score to 23-7.

Cam’s personal achievement filled him with such pride, that he brought both hands to his sternum and then pulled them apart, to mimic a superhero who revealed a big “S” on his chest when running toward danger to save the day. You know, Superman. This version of Superman won a National Championship with Auburn in 2010 and this version of Superman threw for over 400 yds in each of his 1st two NFL games at the start of last season.

The fact that the Panthers didn’t win either of those two games and would wait until week three, when Newton threw for under 200 yards, to get their 1st victory of 2011, should have been a teachable moment for Cam Newton and franchise alike, but it went unnoticed.

But just as the Man of Steel had his bizarro universe where up is down and left is right, Cam Newton finds himself in a strange land where a 400 yard passing day and a personal record for a rookie QB doesn’t equal Panther success. And his inability to deal with circumstance on this level has twisted him to the point where the collegiate Superman has now morphed into the professional Stupidman before our very eyes.

The Carolina Panthers made the worst series of errors that you can make as a franchise. First, they sucked a year too soon. Instead of RG3, or Andrew Luck, they went to the draft seeking help and…duh nuh nuh nuh! Stupidman to the rescue!

The scouts and analysts saw red flags in Newton coming out of college. Serious red flags. Three in particular. Inaccuracy, immaturity and poor leadership ability. I can’t think of too many jobs that those traits wouldn’t disqualify you from, (congress?) but you pretty much just described the anti-Manning. If you want to know how to lose your job as GM of an NFL team, ask Marty Hurney who was fired by Carolina’s owner, Jerry Richardson  this week. He’ll probably tell you, “draft Cam Newton.”

Stupidman brings with him many abilities, such as selfish play, careless ball handling, the total inability to make a proper pre-snap read, a 7-17 record and in place of super-human strength, some of the most entertaining post game press conferences I’ve seen in a long time. Unless you’re a female reporter.

Sulky, sarcastic and never hesitating to throw any of his comrades under the bus, at times one gets the impression that Cam Newton is auditioning for a role in a movie depicting a caricature of himself called Stupidman, the life and times of a selfish ingrate who sucks at winning football games. Cast downward, full of questions and blame, lacking in solutions and character.

In his last post game get together, following yet another loss, this time to Dallas,  Stupidman took the podium wearing a sweater that appeared to be composed of squirrel pelt. Poor fashion sense, hey, we’ve all been there. But then Stupidman opened his mouth.

“I’m going to leave this room and I’m going to bring in a suggestion box and I want your suggestions to be in that suggestion box because I sure don’t know, I really don’t. I wish I could tell you. But the only thing I control, sweetheart, is myself. Offensively, I am the leader of this bunch and we haven’t been getting the job done.”

Superman was created in the ’30s and from the suggestion box, to calling a female reporter “sweetheart”, I’d have to think that Stupidman is a moron of history.

There is one word in that quote that leads to questions. Offensive. Is it used as in “I am the leader of the offense”, or “I am an offensive a-hole”? I just don’t know.

Cam, sweety, look, you vehemently denied reports that you were seeing a “mind coach” when the report first surfaced this September. I want you to know that I believe you. There’s absolutely no possibility that you are now, or have ever been engaged in any exercise to intellectually further yourself. Of course, I do have to entertain the possibility that you have been seeing a mind coach (what the hell is a mind coach) all along, but he’s secretly under the employ of the Atlanta Falcons.

It makes sense! Stupidman’s arch-nemesis is a yet to be revealed Falcons staff member who sends a mind coach to help Stupidman overcome his many obstacles! Maybe he has a scar, or a weird-looking cat! Maybe he’s whispering things like, “make the big play Cam, take a chance! You’re the man, your franchise is only going as far as your right arm and both legs can take you. This is a nice sweater, wear it to the post game!”

Here’s the deal, I’ve heard sports folk characterize Cam’s rookie year as phenomenal. What? Really? 6-10 is phenomenal? I’m pretty sure the NFL still grades people out on wins and 6-10 sucks. If 6-10 is acceptable, should the GM have lost his job after a 1-5 start? There’s still opportunity to repeat the phenomenal 6-10 record here, isn’t there?

I’ve also heard Warren Moon call the criticism of Newton racist. Warren, with all due respect, shut the hell up. RG3 is black and people are about to erect a statue of him outside the beltway. 6-10 isn’t a black/white thing, it’s a win/loss thing. Can we at least agree that Cam Newton may be sexist? Warren Moon and others paved the way for black QB’s in this league and it’s surprising that Warren is wasting time defending Stupidman, rather than chastising him for not protecting the legacy that he inherited from men who did endure actual racism, and played for a comparative minimum wage.

And Warren, for the record, we do agree on one thing, Jay Cutler is a complete punk at times.

7-17 so far with no discernible signs of football acumen, a poor attitude and sense of self-entitlement. RG3 has Mike Shannahan, arguably the best play-caller in the league and certainly a top-tier offensive mind. Newton will eventually have a new GM on the way in, and in all likelihood, a new head coach, which means a new offensive coordinator and another offense for Newton to learn. If he meets the challenge of the next learning curve with the same professionalism he’s displayed to get him to 7-17, he’ll have a new nickname; bust.

 

Red Sox bring back Farrell to right the ship

The Red Sox completed a trade that sent Mike Aviles to the Blue Jays in return for journeyman reliever, David Carpenter and manager, John Farrell. The son of a lobsterman, Farrell served as the Red Sox pitching coach from 2007-2010 and had a 154-170 record during his 2 year tenure as Toronto manager.

Boston’s GM, Cherington tried to bring Farrell to the Sox before hiring Valentine, but Toronto’s 81-81 record the season prior had Toronto planning on bigger things. The Red Sox under Valentine went on to have their worst record in 47 years.

“We are thrilled to name John Farrell as our new manager,” general manager Ben Cherington said in a statement released by the team. “John has been a major league pitcher, front office executive, coach, and manager.  His broad set of experiences, and exceptional leadership skills, make him the ideal person to lead our team. I have known him in various capacities throughout my career, and I hold him in the highest regard as a baseball man and as a person.”

Farrell and the Sox ironed out a three-year deal, which gives the new skipper a short window to turn one of baseball’s most valuable and beloved franchises around.

“To be honest with you, there is something about John that they can see because they’ve been chasing John for the last couple of years,” David Ortiz said “I love John. John is my main man. Even when he was the pitching coach.

“But I don’t know if it’s fair for him to walk into this situation that we are in right now. Hopefully everything goes well and he can change things around. He’s up for the challenge and what he’s going to bring to the table. Hopefully everything goes great. I know things didn’t go the way he expected in Toronto and hopefully it works out for him here. We needed something different. I think you’re going to notice a difference. We need somebody to increase the way things are around here and John’s the guy. I’m excited.”

Big Papi sounds a bit more contemplative and less sure of the ground in Boston as the lineup around him has been turned upside down for the 2nd time in his career.

The AL East is in flux and it would seem that for the 1st time in close to 1,000 years, the Baltimore Orioles have fewer questions and holes to fill than the top-heavy, star laden franchises that make up baseball’s best rivalry.

In a league where drug testing has taken hold, youth, speed and athleticism have the Orioles and Rays outpacing the Yanks in player development and enthusiasm. As usual, who knows what to expect from the Blue Jays other than a quick start and a rash of injuries leading to an all-star break implosion.

It’s Farrell’s dream job. They say timing is everything. Bobby V had a dream of returning to the majors to run a team with resources. With a 3 year contract, Farrell shouldn’t plan on sleeping enough to dream until the next round of mid-term elections.

Grasskickers, Touponse stuck in the mud.

A dejected and exhausted Lorien Touponse left the field on Sunday knowing that the opportunity to even the score with Wethersfield Blue in the regular season standings had slipped away in the form of another disappointing 1 all tie.

Conditions played a role on a sunny Sunday afternoon as the remnants of a day old deluge created a boggy mess and it was clear that the slow surface had the two fastest teams int he league befuddled. The Game would end 1-1 leaving each team with a 3-1-2 record after the 2 squads tied for the 2nd consecutive week.

The Grasskickers and Team Blue spent the 1st 10 minutes of the contest finding their footing and passing lanes, and played to a standstill. The Coach of Team Blue held his quickest striker in reserve and with 3 minutes left in the 1st period, she was subbed in and created the games 1st genuine scoring opportunity, which Blue converted. 1-0.

The 2nd half found the Grasskickers mired in frustration for the 2nd straight week, as they kept the ball in the Blue zone, crossing and shooting often, without converting until loose footing and aggressive play by Touponse, led to an odd man rush and her only goal of the game. 1-1.

The contest stood at a 1-1 tie and regardless of substitutions, formations, strategies, rough play and the Grasskickers getting jobbed by the very 1st off-sides call of the season, the score would remain the same.

When asked about her slow start Lorien responded, “I couldn’t run. My shoe got stuck in the mud. What? I scored the only goal didn’t I?”

Clearly aggravated and exhausted, I decided not to press Touponse on the sideline.

I caught up with her after she had a chance to gather with her team and regroup.

“I missed a bunch of shots. I have to kick it higher. Their goalie was short.”

With one game remaining before the tournament, it’s clear that both squads have a litany of issues to correct if they hope to have a decisive contest for the Unico cup. On the fast turf, and the slow bog, the Grasskickers and Team Blue play with opposing styles and philosophies, but to the same result.

Look for Team Blue to focus on physicality, while Touponse and company look to heighten their shots and expectations.

Giant Win! San Fran takes NLCS in 7

The San Francisco Giants are going back to the World Series for the 2nd time in 3 years after coming back from the dead in a 7 game NLCS against the world champion St. Louis Cardinals, with a 9-0 blowout on Monday night.

The Giants escaped fate with a simple motto “Play for each other, play for tomorrow.” This desperate, backs-to-the-wall mentality led the Giants to a stunning 6-0 record in elimination games this season and seemed to narrow their collective focus in critical moments. In contrast, the Cardinals had a tough time catching, gripping, throwing and hitting the ball when it mattered most and watched an opportunity for a 4th win in the NLCS, a win that had seemed so close, disappear all together on a rainy night by the Bay.

A lot has to go right, and wrong, in order for a 3-1 lead in a 7 game series to dissipate.

The 2012 Cardinals hold the dubious distinction of having allowed the 2nd most unearned runs in a LCS, (10) behind the ’86 Angels (13) who also lost to Boston after holding a 3-1 lead in the series. Errors killed the Cardinals. Aside from the miscues, there were plays where errors were not charged, but outs still not recorded. 1st inning of game 7 was a perfect example.

In the 2012 NLCS, the team that scored 1st had a 5-1 record coming into Game 7. The Giants got to work early and often. Pagan singled off Kyle Lohse to lead off the bottom of the 1st. Series MVP, Marco Scutaro, executed a perfect hit and run on a 2-1 count that sent Pagan to 3rd, bringing Sandoval to the plate who promptly chopped a ball to the right side of the infield, taking the zero off the board for Giants and accounting for the games 1st run.

While no error was committed on the play, Kyle Lohse fielded the ball with what seemed to be enough time to come home with the throw.  “I just couldn’t grip it.” mouthed Lohse to his catcher, Yadier Molina.

Tim McCarver made a salient observation on this play as well. On a 2-1 count to Scutaro and Pagan on 1st, it was an obvious hit and run scenario and Matheny had his 2nd baseman covering the bag on a ground ball, making the hole on the right side of the infield that much larger.

Yup, I know, 9-0. Why so much emphasis on the 1st play? It was a microcosm of the last 3 games of the series. The Giants executing solid team baseball, while the Cards were just a little tight. Okay, really tight.

Now if anyone had picked the Cardinals to do anything this season, you’d have handed them a couple of aspirin and a warm towel and explained that when you lose a hall-of-fame manager in Tony LaRussa, arguably the best pitching coach in the history of baseball in Dave Duncan and one of the greatest sluggers of his generation in Albert Pujols, a team typically takes time to recover and reload.

Hats off to Matheny and the Cardinals for surprising all of us; great season.

But as great as it was, The Giants outscored the Cardinals 20-1 over the last 3 games, behind the stellar pitching of their starters Zito, Voglesong and Cain. Each of the three starting pitchers had a key RBI in their respective starts as well, which bodes well for the pending inter-league matchup.

As good as the Giants were, they did benefit from a few lucky bounces along the way. Game 7 was broken open in a 5 run 3rd inning, the highlight hit coming off the bat of Hunter Pence. After the bat broke at the label, the ball climbed up the barrel, making contact another 2 times, causing a fair bit of “english” and creating too tough a play for Kozma, Cards SS, to grab as it rolled up the middle, generating 3 runs for the World Series bound Giants.

“It was going to go in the hole,” said Kozma, “and it ended up going up the middle. The ball was like a little banana. The ball kind of peeled, like he sliced it. I reacted one way and it’s tough to change directions like that. I had no chance at it.”

“These guys never quit,” Bochy said. “They just kept believing and they got it
done.” And Bruce will have to string that gritty, small-ball spirit along and into a World Series that features an AL team built on a dominant ace, RHP Justin Verlander and a lethal middle of the lineup that can grind any pitcher to dust. Triple crown winner, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder watched their 5 hitter, Delmon Young, win ALCS MVP honors in the Tiger’s sweep of the Yankees.

The last out appropriately fell into the glove of Giants 2B Marco Scutaro and Sergio Romo embraced catcher Buster Posey  before a background of fireworks over McCovey Cove beyond right field.

“It’s just very fitting the way everything has gone for us this season,” Romo said of ending in the rain. “The ups and downs, the injuries, the personal issues, whatever. What a ride for us all. It’s very, very fitting that it rained right there.”

This should prove to be a long, competitive and fun World Series, between two complete teams of differing philosophies. Jim Leyland’s Tigers are a rested, powerful team of elite all-stars awaiting Bochy’s Giants, a scrappy group of postseason proven ballers who come in riding a wave of adrenaline.

Congrats to the Giants on an improbable NLCS win and reaching their 2nd World Series in 3 years, the franchise’s 19th overall.

Game 1 coverage begins Wednesday, 7:30 on FOX.

Grasskickers yield late goal, tie Wethersfield Blue

The Wethersfield Grasskickers played the 5th game of their season this past Sunday and the venue was a new experience for many of the young athletes. The game was kicked off at Cottone Field of Wethersfield High School, a fast and hard artificial turf field, adjacent to the home of the Wethersfield Eagles Football Team.

“It really hurts to fall on this stuff and I’m cold.” said an anonymous Grasskicker just prior to kick off. I sat in the family section to cover the game and the general attitude was rife with anticipation, but tempered with frustration as the elements crept in. There was a consistent 15 MPH easterly wind with gusts of up to 25 and a cold October drizzle was driven at the athletes and fans alike.

The Grasskickers and Team Blue each brought a 3-1 record to the contest, the Grasskickers sole loss coming at the hands of the Blue Team 2 weeks prior.

“I have to run more” was an observation heard by several of the Grasskickers starters, including Lorien Touponse, captain and striker.

The Grasskickers coach had arranged an additional practice to familiarize the young team with the slick surface, but due to a miscommunication with the town, the gate was locked and key misplaced. The coach asked permission to hop the fence, and having taken time out of their busy schedules, the Moms unanimously agreed.

The Grasskickers got their abbreviated Thursday practice in, but would it be enough to avenge a 3-1 loss to a team that clearly outpaced them.

Sunday came, but the 9AM start was delayed 15 minutes due to seating issues which necessitated the Wethersfield High grounds crew clearing parents out of a non-designated area, but once the game was underway, it was clear that the Grasskickers came to play and started the game on fire.

Lorien Touponse, striker/mid-fielder, drove the length of the field and cracked the game’s 1st goal high left; 1-0 lead for the Grasskickers. Touponse’s performance has been brilliant to this point in the season, scoring in every game, and scoring all but 3 of her teams goals.

The half closed with the same 1-0 score and it was clear to those that were paying attention that Team Blue was in the midst of radical adjustments.

“We need to swing the ball to the wide side!” I distinctly heard the coach yell, but it was the question from his young goalie that told the story of the 1st half.

“What’s the wide side?”

Blue controlled the ball to begin the second period and time of possession swung early and, as it turned out, permanently to their side.

Team Blue found some room in the second half due to Touponse’s obvious exhaustion. Lorien attempted to cover the full length of the field the entire game, but on the fast artificial surface, the team with more team speed began to assert themselves.

Long, 30 yd diagonal passes shredded the Grasskickers defense, only to be repelled time and time again in the box. After a series of 4 corner kicks, Blue finally brought the game even with a brilliant drive by Jane Doe, who battled through traffic to tap the ball into the net with only 3 minutes left to play.

Grasskickers Captain Touponse was visibly angry and was clearly doing some on-field coaching to her defensive backfield, while urging her forward players to be more aggressive.

Despite her efforts, the game would end in a 1-1 tie and both teams moved to a 3-1-1 record.

“I really tried, they’re just too fast” Lorien quivered as she walked off the field disgusted with the missed opportunity.

In a bizarre scheduling anomaly, the Grasskickers set to face Blue once again this Sunday at 2 pending approval. When asked about the team’s prospects this week, Touponse explained-

“We lost the 1st game, we tied the second, we have to win.”

With October slipping away, so are the Grasskickers opportunities for redemption, but this contest has all the makings of another tight, taught thriller.