The Ghosts of ’94

s-l300My first article for The Hardball Times takes the time machine back to the strike-shortened 1994 MLB season, where we find much historically significant activity in progress. Would Tony Gwynn have hit .400? Would the Montreal Expos finally win that elusive World Series championship? Could Gene Lamont predict baseball? Marshaling something approaching my best efforts, I make attempts of varying degrees of rigor to answer those questions, undoubtedly raising many more in the hopefully mildly entertaining process.

The full post is available here.

The Weekend Interview: Roger Goodell

Roger Goodell has been the commissioner of the National Football League since August of 2006. During those five years, Goodell has sought to leave his mark on the game in a number of ways, first among them being his attempt to control and improve the image of the league through tough punishments for player misbehavior on and off the field. Other notable goals include increasing the global reach of the game– London, Mexico City, and Toronto all have hosted games– and expanding the regular season to from sixteen to eighteen games, something he failed to achieve during the summer’s labor disputes.

Goodell has been a controversial figure with players almost since the beginning of his tenure, and the summer’s labor disputes carried the natural consequence of ill will from fans. His most recent decision regarding supplemental draft hopeful Terrelle Pryor has drawn heavy criticism from players, fans, and media observers. Yet the game has done anything but flounder under his watch. For this imagined interview, I caught up with Goodell in the Mile High City, which he was visiting in advance of tonight’s Bills-Broncos game.  Keep reading…

The Weekend Interview: Chris Johnson

After heading north of the border for last week’s interview, it only seemed right to turn things around and seek some warmer weather and talk to a current– if temporarily, but willfully inactive– player named Chris: Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson.

Arguably the league’s fastest and best running back since the Titans drafted him out of East Carolina University prior to the 2008 season, Johnson currently is holding out from this year’s lockout-compressed training camp in the hopes of securing something around $30 million in guaranteed money.

This isn’t CJ’s first contract dispute either. 2009 was a record-setting year for him (2,006 rushing yards, 2,509 total yards, 14 touchdowns, 5.6 yards/carry), and he demanded a restructured contract before the 2010 season, and the Titans ultimately gave in. Johnson’s prediction that he would shatter Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record (2,105 yards) by rushing for 2,500 yards in 2010. Instead, he had 1,364 yards on the ground (1,609 total), well short of the record and his personal goal, though still good numbers.

For this imagined interview, I agreed to meet Johnson for lunch at McDougal’s in Nashville…  Keep reading…

The Weekend Interview: Chris Osgood

The first newspaper I read seriously and regularly was the Wall Street Journal. A test preparation company gave me a free print subscription, and I milked it as long as I could by doing things like stopping delivery when I was away, which had the effect of tacking more issues onto the end of the subscription. When it finally dried up, a friend on his way out at Dow Jones, the family driven organization that used to control the Journal before News Corp took over, lined me up with an online subscription, which carried me another year or so. By that time, newspaper websites were in full bloom, and a subscription really didn’t mean anything. When the family split and Rupert Murdoch took over, a digital lockdown followed closely on the heels of a substantial (if sometimes misguided) increase in content. No worry, though, as a free and easy workaround makes it simple to get behind the Journal’s paywall. All you have to do is…. Well, I don’t want my cell phone hacked, but, as Jimmy Cliff said, you can get it if you really want, and frankly, it isn’t even that tough.

Uh, hockey? Right. The WSJ has a regular feature called The Weekend Interview, a full-page study of one person, accompanied by an illustrated portrait by Ken Fallin. For reasons that make sense to me, Fallin inspired my photographic selection for this post, above. Because ALDLAND is neither the Journal nor The National Sports Daily, though, more often than not, the interviews are going to have to be imagined.

Chris Osgood is the right subject for this site’s first Weekend Interview. When the Detroit Red Wing goalie retired last month, my immediate reaction registered on the sadness side of the line. It wasn’t totally shocking, although I had thought he’d be around another year or two, especially given Captain Lidstrom’s decision to stay on. And Osgood is likeable, if not a perpetual fan favorite (but few goalies are). Osgood also is the type of player for whom the immediate hall of fame question is more than an element of the motions through which to go the media has obligated itself for every retiree; for him, it’s a real question, an interesting question, a debatable question, and possibly ridiculous that it is a question at all, and like Jim Gray, I promise I’ll promise you I’ll get to that question right away. Here goes… Keep reading…