Your moment of football zen

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Staff Photo by Keith Birmingham
The sun sets prior to a prep football game between Diamond Ranch and Bonita at Ganesha High School in Pomona tonight.

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IBWAA votes Kemp as its 2011 NL MVP

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(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp watches his home run during the first inning against Arizona on Sept. 12 at Dodger Stadium.

Matt Kemp’s performance — a league-best 39 homers, 126 RBIs and 115 runs, second-best with 40 stolen bases, .586 slugging percentage and .986 OPS, and third-best with a .324 average in playing in every Dodgers game in 2011 — was enough evidence for the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) to announce him as winner of its National League’s Most Valuable Player in the first of its 14 annual awards.

1st Place: Matt Kemp, Dodgers
2nd Place: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
3rd Place: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
4th Place: Albert Pujols, St. Louis
5th Place: Justin Upton, Arizona
6th Place: Joey Votto, Cincinnati
7th Place: Jose Reyes, New York Mets
8th Place: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
9th Place: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado
10th Place: Hunter Pence, Philadelphia

Said Times’ baseball writer and IBWAA member, Kevin Baxter: “Consider 2011 a coming-out party for the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp, who fully displayed his enormous abilities. No player in the National League had a more complete season than Kemp, who led the league in runs, homers and RBIs, had the third-highest batting average and also stole 40 bases. And he did it all in the middle of a lineup that offered him little protection. Oh, and he also led NL centerfielders with 11 assists.”

I’m a voter as well. The top two picks are as I selected, followed by Upton, Lance Berkman, Fielder, Pujols, Votto, Pence, Mike Stanton and Clayton Kershaw.

This was my rationale:

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In a numbers’ driven sport where you can twist an argument to go your way pretty much at every turn of the slide rule, picking Kemp over Braun added up right in my head after weighing all the options.

The statistical output that the two have now for the backs of their baseball cards will look pretty similar for the 2011 season. But if Braun has an edge in being valuable to a team winning a division title, Kemp was able to have the season he did for a team blanketed in off-the-field distractions without someone like Prince Fielder having his back in the lineup all season.

In fact, Kemp was used as a No. 4 hitter most of the year to protect Andre Ethier – who pulled off a 30-game hitting streak at one point. That shows value to a team as well.

Once Kemp was moved to the No. 3 hole, there was only above-average protection that could have resulted in pitchers getting around him in order to face the next part of the lineup.

How Kemp drove in enough runs to lead the league is crazy in itself coming from this Dodgers team. How he led the league in runs scored is mind boggling considering the rest of the lineup. Stealing 40 bases, none of them just to rack up stats, showed his talents as well (not to discount Braun’s stolen bases, either). And improving his play as a center fielder accounts for something as well.

You hate to be accused of having a local bias, but in this case, L.A. is not only where Kemp played, but where Braun grew up. You could find yourself rooting for both to have phenomenal years, which they did. It could have been easy to name them co-MVPs. But that would be the easy way out. This makes more sense.

The IBWAA was established July 4, 2009 by Howard Cole, editor of BaseballSavvy.com and Dodger blogger for the Orange County Register, to organize and promote the growing online baseball media, and to serve as an alternative voice to the BBWAA. Other IBWAA members include Tim Brown, YahooSports; Fred Claire, former Dodgers general manager; Tony Jackson, Dodgers reporter, ESPNLosAngeles.com; Ben Maller, FoxSports.com; David Pinto, BaseballMusings.com; Mike Petriello, MikeSciosciasTragicIllness.com; and prominent baseball authors Peter Golenbock and Dan Schlossberg.

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If Angels GM Reagins had signed Carl Crawford this last offseason instead of trading Napoli for Wells, would he have kept his job? Yeah, not really ….

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The Associated Press

Tony Reagins abruptly resigned as the Angels’ general manager today after the team failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season.

Reagins took over for Bill Stoneman after the 2007 season, rising to the top executive job after starting with the organization as an intern in 1991.

“I felt from my perspective that the club probably needed a different perspective and a fresh direction,” Reagins said in a conference call. “I felt that (owner) Arte (Moreno) wants to win, and at the end of the day, if you perform, you get rewarded. If you don’t perform, you have to be accountable. I felt accountable, because those are the expectations I put on myself. Arte wants a winning ballclub … year in and year out.”

The Angels won the AL West in Reagins’ first two seasons, losing to Boston in the 2008 division series and the New York Yankees in the 2009 AL championship series. But Los Angeles has fallen behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West over the past two seasons despite a payroll well over $100 million, and Reagins’ hit-and-miss record on personnel decisions apparently didn’t please Moreno.

“Though we finished 2011 with a winning record, we remained short of our objective in winning a championship,” Moreno said in a statement. “In moving forward, we felt a change was needed. Throughout his career, Tony has meant a great deal to this organization, and represented the Angels with the utmost loyalty and dedication. He will always remain part of the Angels family.”

The Angels said Reagins will remain with the team as a special assistant to chairman Dennis Kuhl.

Team president John Carpino said the Angels have no successor in mind, planning to look throughout baseball for candidates.

“We don’t believe the organization is broken by any means,” Carpino said, adding that longtime manager Mike Scioscia will be consulted during the process. “It’s not like somebody has to come in here and rebuild this entire organization.”

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Weekly media column version 09.30.11

A link to the weekly media prose (linked here) that includes more about how TBS plans to cover the upcoming MLB divisional series, how Bill Macdonald went no-socks, no-shoes on his final FSW assignment, and other miscellaneous items that contain the phrase “Jenn Brown.”

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What isn’t included: The fact that network execs who thought they’d start the bidding on a new NFL eight-week early-season Thursday night package found out this week that commissioner Roger Goodell has tabled the talks and now predicts that bundle won’t come off for at least another season.

“The way it looks now, the league will probably want to close out its renewals (with CBS, NBC, and Fox) before they come back to Thursday night,” one unnamed executive was quoted by Adweek magazine. “It’s a little disappointing, but this is the NFL. When they’re ready to sit down and talk, we’ll be right there with them.”

A magazine source also said that early discussions about the Thursday night package were under the assumption that the NFL would coax the players into accepting an 18-game regular season schedule, but that didn’t happen after the lockout talks ended.

After the NFL expanded its deal with ESPN, it now faces deals with Fox ($720 million per year), CBS ($619 million a year) and NBC ($603 million) that expire in 2013.

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Before they waffled for position in the NL West, the Dodgers were already toast in the attendance race

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The final Major League Baseball attendance totals Thursday showed the game was actually up by half of one percent from a year ago, ending three straight seasons of drops.

The overall attendance of 73,425,568 this year was the fifth-highest in MLB history. The 30 teams combined to average 30,229, STATS LLC said after the regular season ended Wednesday night. That was up from 30,067 last year,

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This, despite the Dodgers dropping 18 percent and failing to reach 3 million for the first time in a non-strike year since 1992. That is, with them counting actual seats sold as part of the average attendance of 36,236 a game. We all know it was closer to 25,000, if that, on many nights, far lower toward the end of the season as those who owned season seats continued to boycot the business dealings of owner Frank McCourt.

The worse drop, however, belonged to AL wild card winner Tampa Bay — 19 percent, to a meager 18,846 average per game. The Rays drew 29,518 on Wednesday night for their 8-7 win in 12 innings over the Yankees that put them into the playoffs.

Not even Houston, which lost a team-record 106 games, were worst percentage-wise than the Dodgers in the NL. The Astros averaged 25,546, but that was only an 11 percent drop for a year ago.

The World Series champion San Francisco Giants sold out every home game this year and drew rousing ovations in their wrapup Wednesday. San Diego drew over 32,000 fans to Petco for the season finale against the Cubs while Florida attracted 34,615 in the final game at Sun Life before moving into a new ballpark next year.

The NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies led baseball’s attendance chart for the first time, drawing 3,680,718 fans. The Phillies have had 204 straight regular-season sellouts at Citizens Bank Park — Boston has sold out 712 straight games at Fenway Park.

“The resiliency of our sport never ceases to amaze,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.

This year’s attendance remained nearly 8 percent below the record 32,785 set in 2007. During the Great Recession of December 2007 to June 2009, the average dropped to 32,528 in 2008 and 30,350 the following year.

Cleveland had the biggest percentage increase, up 31 percent to an average of 22,726. Other teams with big jumps were Pittsburgh (22 percent to 24,255) and Texas (18 percent to 36,382).

(By the way, you want one of those crafty L.A. toasters above? It’s $39.99 at the Baseball Hall of Fame shop — linked here That waffle-making gadget, which also works on grilled cheese sandwiches, is $49.99. Find it here).

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Say it ain’t so: Shoeless Bill Macdonald’s run on Fox Sports West ends after 26 years

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Perhaps lost in all the baseball history taking place Wednesday night, Bill Macdonald went out in SoCal style on the Angels’ Fox Sports West postgame show.

No socks. No shoes. No excuses.

Lifting his leg over the desk on the set out in center field at Angels Stadium, following the Angels-Rangers telecast on the last day of the season, Macdonald revealed what Angels manager Mike Scioscia alluded to in a just-aired post-game interview.

“I know he’s not going to leave any socks behind,” Scioscia said when asked to comment about the fact that Macdonald’s run as a full-time staffer with Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket has officially come to an end after 26 years.

Macdonald, sporting jeans and flip-flops on his final Angels’ assignment as he sat behind the desk with Jose Mota, is a Lakers’ employee as of Saturday, taking over as the TV play-by-play man for games on FSW and KCAL-Channel 9 once the NBA season decides to begin.

Macdonald said Thursday that FSW has “left the door open” for him to do free-lance work, which could include play-by-play on UCLA football in the coming weeks.

“There’s nothing on the schedule, but if the NBA lockout stretches, I could be back on a game or two,” said Macdonald. “But they have plenty of guys on staff now who could pick up those things.”

That would include Michael Eaves and Patrick O’Neal. It could soon add Chris McGee, who has plenty of play-by-play experience now as a free-lance employee on several sports.

“Billy Mac has been very influential in my career and has been a consistent face in L.A. sports for so many years,” said McGee. “He has been a mentor, and someone I have looked up to because of his personality, versatility, and his great wit and sense of humor. I am so happy to see him get the Lakers job, he deserves it and can’t wait to hear him as the Lakers’ voice.”

McGee, a longtime fixture on the beach volleyball circuit, does sport the appropriate hosiery. Just so you know.

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What can Jenn Brown do for GNC? Give ESPN another reason for the supple reporter to supplement her income

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How healthy is it for ESPN to approved an endorsement deal for pretend reporter Jenn Brown to work as a spokesperson for GNC nutritional products?

The company has apparently given her muscle to do so after setting down new guidelines for on-air personalities who have promotional deals with companies, particularity trying to avoid a conflict of interest if they provide goods and services to teams or athletes that are “regularly covered” by ESPN.

“Having been a student athlete throughout my life, participating as an honor student in diving, volleyball, basketball, softball and track and field in high school and as a NCAA softball player at the University of Florida, I know and understand the value of education, health and nutrition,” Brown said in a statement. “Being part of the GNC team, I am looking forward to continuing my efforts to inform, educate and inspire fellow fitness enthusiasts on living a healthy and balanced lifestyle.”

Maybe she can get some folks at ESPN deals on creatine next time she stops into the local mall? Or at least some FDA-approved diet pills?

The GNC press release (linked here) also refers to Brown as a “two-time Emmy Award winning sports journalists” who is an L.A.-based reporter. So maybe we’re thinking of someone else then.

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Not that anyone was saving the cover of the March 31 Boston Herald ready to throw it back in someone’s face on Sept. 29

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Even those at MassholeSports.com could see this coming a half-year away when they posted this Boston Herald cover almost exactly six months ago.

“The 2011 Red Sox havent even played one real game, yet the Boston Herald is declaring the 2011 Red Sox the best Red Sox team ever. No disrespect to the 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004 and 2007 teams of course.”

At the Boston Herald site that day, however, they kind of couched it (linked here): “Yeah, We’re Saying It: This Could Be Sox … Best Team Ever.”

Or more accurately: Best team that gagged on the largest lead for an AL wildcard ever after Wednesday night but gave John Lacky a chance to breath a sigh of relief that he didn’t have to go to the mound anymore in 2011.

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How $425 will get you the opportunity to make you feel like you’re on your way to being a legit sportswriter

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Go from dunce to diploma in a six-week online course taught by Alison Overholt, a former deputy editor at ESPN who worked for the network’s magazine, did special projects, investigative things and helped launch the espnW women’s project.

It starts Oct. 18. And it’ll cost you $425. A bargain, perhaps, in this economy. Or for someone who didn’t get into Northwestern as they thought they could.

“Intro to Sports Journalism” promises that you’ll “learn how to write sports articles, interviews, and features” via a MediaBistrol.com online course. We did have a journalism prof who told us that there’s no need for that extra comma in this instance betwen the words “interviews” and “and” … or that once you start a sentence with the verb “to write,” it would imply that all nouns after it are related to it, but then, you wouldn’t write “interviews,” would you? Features, sure. But then …

Maybe we should sign up (linked here) and see what we can relearn about the craft. Especially if there are better spell-check software uploads available to catch street slang.

What we are told we’ll learn:

== Which sports stories editors want to buy and readers want to read
== The best places to break in at the nation’s leading sports publications
== How to approach editors and build relationships
== How online sports sites have changed the way we cover sports in a 24/7 news environment
== The effect of increased restrictions in player/coach access
== How to cover sensitive issues including steroids, athlete misbehavior, and astronomical salaries
== The rapidly changing demands of today’s sports media consumers

By the end of class, we are guaranteed to have “two polished sports articles, the pitch letters to sell them, and the skills to get them published.” Again, that extra comma …

Considering the state of today’s online journalism, we endorse this idea to at least get some basic education into his the process legitimately works. What could it hurt?

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