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  • Caesar Cliffius

    My name is Cliff Eastham. I live in West Virginia with my wife Debbie, the loveliest lady in the world, and my youngest daughter, Holly who is equally as lovely as her mother.

    I enjoy writing about sports, and love a good healthy debate. My favorite teams are the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Redskins.

    There are only a couple of sports that I don't write about, Hockey and Soccer specifically. My favorite sports are Baseball, Boxing, NFL, NCAA Basketball, MMA.

    Feel free to look around, and your comments are most welcome. Subscribe via email if you wish.

    It is decreed.....Caesar Cliffius
    this 8th day of December, in the Year of our Lord 2009.

By Acquiring Curtis Granderson, the NY Yankees Become Easier to Hate

First things first, I don’t hate the New York Yankees. My best friend loves them, so I must dignify everything I say about them.

The latest acquisition, center fielder Curtis Granderson, late of the Detroit Tigers is the most recent arrow in the quiver of Yankee haters everywhere. Easily one of the better center fielders in the game, Curtis becomes yet another power hitting left-handed batter for the Bronx Bombers.

If someone looked at a graph of the 29-year old Granderson career they would easily become disillusioned and think the best has already been. His average has plummeted from .302 in 2007 to .280 in 2008, to an all-time low of .249 last year.

The Tigers began their discussion with the Yankees, salivating over Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. In the end of this transaction, the Yankees sent pitcher Ian Kennedy to the Arizona Diamondbacks, pitcher Phil Coke and outfielder Austin Jackson to Detroit.

Granderson is expected to immediately patrol center field in Yankee Stadium. What this does to the future of Melky Cabrera depends on how the free agency status of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui is handled.

From an outsider gazing into the fishbowl, the Yankees just seem to be content on climbing over who or what is necessary to obtain the best at each position. I realize that is a stretch calling Granderson the best, however I do not know many teams that would not love to have him in their lineup.

During the off-season in 2008-2009 they obtained arguably the best pitcher in the American League in C. C. Sabathia and one of the best in A. J. Burnett. They also went and got first baseman Mark Teixeira and outfielder-first baseman Nick Swisher, each of whom contributed greatly to their Championship drive.

Is it natural to hate a team because of their fiscal abilities? When you are a squad such as the Florida Marlins whose highest paid player makes less than $6 M. They have fewer millionaires than many fortune 500 companies.

The only answer is some form of salary maximum. It should not boil down to the team with the deepest pockets being the World Champions. That is what we are currently viewing. Should something be done to negate this financial pre-requisite?

You tell me.

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.

NY Mets’ Shorstop Jose Reyes to the Cincinnati Reds?

Reds fans listen up! How would you like to have Jose Reyes as the shortstop? I thought that would get your attention.

The RedsReporter reported that the Reds are in talks with the New York Mets concerning Reyes. If you click on the link they provide it takes you to the movie “Psyche” website. It took me three clicks to realize they were playing a joke in all probability. However, it did commence my thinking process.

Reyes is still very young, 26 and is coming off a year of injuries. He only played in 36 games and still managed to bat .279. If he has rebounded at all from his injury, can you imagine what an impact he could make on this team?

A bona fide thief, he lead the National League in stolen bases for three consecutive years. He isn’t priced in the Cadillac lot, yet. According to ESPN his salary last year was a shade over $6M. That isn’t even as much as we wasted on Ramon Hernandez last season.

It is hard to imagine what they would want in return, but I could name at least three outfielders who I would be willing to part with. With Reyes in the yard,  it wouldn’t be difficult at all to let Willy Taveras hit the bricks. Reyes could be a better leadoff hitter, and certainly more aggressive on the paths.

Even in dreams we can become excited during the offseason. What an outstanding infield Reyes would complete. He and Scott Rolen on the left side with Brandon Phillips at second base, and of course Joey Votto at first. That would compete with just about any squad in the Biggies.

It is hard to imagine the Mets having a more dismal year than the Reds, but that was clearly the case in 2009.  Cincinnati actually won eight more games than the injury-plagued Mets, so shakeups should be in store for them.

If you dream it you can believe it. If you believe it you can achieve it. Or something like that. Dream hard, Reds fans, dream hard.

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.

Shocking News: Andy Pettitte Will Be Back with the NY Yankees in 2010

To report that Andy Pettitte will be back on the mound for the New York Yankees in 2010 is no more surprising than saying they will play their home games in the beautiful, new mini-park known as Yankee Stadium. Yet, ESPN reported it today.

If you will still be 37 until just before the All-Star break, you can make at leat $6,000,000 playing a game with other grown millionaires, where would the big surprise be that you intend to come back?

Pettitte had a very good year in 2009, especially when we use modern-day pitching records as a backdrop. 14 wins, that is just a win or two shy of Cy Young contention. Am I right?

Even though Andy failed to complete any of the 32 games he started, that is what they pay bullpens for. The entire Yankee staff only had three complete games, two for C.C. Sabathia and one for A.J. Burnett. Sabathia also recorded the lone shutout for the staff.

His record in 2009 was better than it was the year before. He completed 2009 with a 14-8 mark, 4.16 ERA and struck out nearly twice as many batters as he walked. Is he attempting a Hall of Fame run?

I don’t feel that he has accomplished nearly enough to gain entrance into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Especially when you have pitchers such as Bert Blyleven, Tommy John and Jim Kaat all with basically the same number of wins (283-288), a much better ERA than Pettitte, who can’t get inside without a ticket.

He has been playing in MLB for 15 seasons, all but three with  pin-stripes. He was with the Houston Astros from 2004-2006 where he was 37-26 with a very good ERA (again, by today’s standards) of 3.38. He ranks third all time in Yankee lore with 192 wins, sixth in innings pitched with 2,406, and third in strikeouts with 1,722.

What would the legacy of Andy Pettitte be if he retired now?  Would he be too-easily recognized with the steroid crowd? Is he trying to outrun that image, could that be why he wants to play more? Would he be remembered for his two 21-win seasons? How about his post-season work? He has won 18 and lost only nine with an ERA of 3.90 in 40 post-season starts.

Did you ever wonder what, if any relationship he has with Roger Clemens? Remember, he threw Rog under the old proverbial bus back when Clemens couldn’t even pop-up from his hole and look for his shadow? I don’t think too many hold that against him, probably just the “gangster type” element who can’t tolerate snitches.

It should come as a shock to absolutely nobody that Pettitte will be back. The only thing left to haggle about his how many millions of dollars he deserves. He played all of the ’09 season making about 1/3 of what he made in the previous season. $5.5M, how did the boy get by? All joking aside, that is a big party-buster when you just made $16M for two straight seasons.

If the rest of the teams find out how much performance 33% will buy these days, we could see a completely new landscape, fiscally speaking of course.

So, just to be clear, is anyone surprised that Andy will be back in 2010?

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report where this article was first published.

Cincinnati Reds Report Cards: Jay Bruce

When Jay Bruce came up from Louisville in 2008 he showed shades of brilliance. He reminded me in a small way of Mickey Mantle. He certainly had the strikeouts down pat.

After settling down, he showed no further signs of greatness last season.

In 2009 his power revealed itself on the major league level. He had 15 home runs before Memorial Day and looked like he was set for a 40/HR year.

His average bottomed and we see now a true .240 hitter with excellent power.

He had three games of multiple homers, the highlight of the season for him coming on Sept. 29th in a home game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Bruce hit two round-trippers and knocked in five runs.

He was on the Disabled List from July 11 until Sept. 14 with a broken wrist.

Bruce is a better-than-average outfielder, with range enough to play center field in a pinch. He possesses a very strong throwing arm, throwing out 11 runners.

His base running is nothing spectacular, and can be made to look foolish when swinging at bad pitches.

Here are his 2009 statistics:

345 47 77 22 58 .223 .303 .470 100 .229

Jay only appeared in 101 games in 2009, just seven less than the year before. With short seasons it is hard to get a good read on what he can really do.

He blends in well with this young team and should be a force to reckon with in years to come. This season, however, I have to hand him a C-, the home runs being the only thing keeping him from a D.

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report where this article was first published.

My Baseball Christmas List

What do I want for Christmas? A million bucks in small bills. I realize that is not going to show up under my tree, so let me think again.

Oh yeah, how about a wish-list, baseball style. Yes, that’s it!

First, I would like to see Roy Halladay end up with the Cincinnati Reds this offseason. Probably won’t happen, but I didn’t think I was going to get that “fanner 50” toy pistol when I was a kid either.

Next, I think I would like to hear the great Randy Johnson say that the time has come to say “that is enough”. He has been my favorite pitcher since Tommy John and I can’t stand too much more of the 4+ ERA and nearly as many losses as wins. He won his 300th and then some, there is really nothing left to prove. He is second in the universe in strikeouts and nobody will ever catch him.

I would like to see Jim Thome sent to a team where he can DH regularly. He is now sitting at 564 lifetime home runs, and i feel like one good year would put him over the top into the 600 club, assuring him of a place in the Hall of Fame.

I would like to see the following players retire immediately: John Smoltz, Tom Glavine (I know he didn’t play anywhere last season, but he hasn’t officially hung them up yet), Ken Griffey, Jr (I know he has already decided to stay, but that is a big mistake), Jason Giambi, Jamie Moyer, and Omar Vizquel (He just signed a deal with the White Sox, but I still want to see him go). These guys are ruining their statistics by hanging on, not to mention their legacy.

I would like to see the Molina Brothers learn acrobatics and call themselves the Flyin’ Molina Brothers. They could travel with a circus during the offseason.

I wish Evan Longoria would change his name to Evan Longoria-Parker.

I wish people would stop calling the Florida Marlins the “Fish”. That sounds so degrading, it would be like calling a prestidigitator a “Magician”.

I would like to see ALL sports announcers cease using the term “a buck sixty-five” or whatever for describing someones anemic batting average or incredible earned run average. Please, just stop them. It was cool 10 years ago, let us find a new catch phrase and move on.

I am asking this way in advance, but I would like to see at least one 20-game winner next season. Just one, please.

I don’t know who fulfills these wishes or what channels I need to go through, but they all seem like small requests to me. So, let’s all wish real strong that the grantor of Christmas wishes sees these and responds in a positive manner.

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist on Bleacher Report where this article was first published.

Is Joe Mauer the Best Player in Major League Baseball ?

I recently took a written beating for saying that I thought Joe Mauer was helped greatly by being a catcher, in his recent naming as the American League’s Most Valuable Player for 2009.

With that being said, is Mauer not only the best catcher in the game, is he also the best player in MLB? Let’s not throw pitchers in this mix, I would like to be able to compare “apples with apples.”

First order of business, let’s look at what competition he actually has, at least in my opinion. Forget steroid talk, age of the player, futuristic possibilities, etc. These will appear in no particular order in the following list:

A) Albert Pujols

B) Miguel Cabrera

C) Alex Rodriguez

D) Mark Teixeira

E) Hanley Ramirez

F) Ryan Howard

G) Ichiro Suzuki

H) Chase Utley

These are the only contenders in my view. If you disagree, you are cordially invited to toss someone else in the mix.

These statistics reflect averages for 162 games:

Joe Mauer 97 196 17 92 .327 .408 .483 136 .347
Albert Pujols 124 199 42 129 .334 .427 .628 172 .345
Miguel Cabrera 98 190 33 117 .311 .383 .542 140 .318
Alex Rodriguez 126 189 44 128 .305 .390 .576 147 .301
Mark Teixeira 102 178 37 122 .290 .378 .545 136 .314
Hanley Ramirez 123 202 27 82 .316 .386 .531 138 .305
Ryan Howard 103 166 49 142 .279 .376 .586 142 .278
Ichiro Suzuki
111 231 10 59 .333 .378 .434 118 .340
Chase Utley 109 178 29 106 .295 .379 .523 129 .291

I believe that if you were just relying on statistics, Pujols would win this contest in walk-off fashion. He leads the pack in four of the nine categories.

Now we all know that stats only show us so much of the player’s ability. Many B/R readers believe that 1B is the easiest to play and C is the hardest. Therefore, according to some, an intangible factor would need to be invented to sway things the way of the catcher.

It is interesting to note that of the nine players I chose, four play 1B, one 2B, one SS, one C, one 3B and one OF.

I am not a mathematician, nor do I play one on TV, and therefore could not come up with a numerical factor to represent the different positions. So it would seem justifiable to come to the conclusion that Albert Pujols is the best player in the game today.

OK, I am ready. Let’s hear it.

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist on Bleacher Report, where this article was first published.

Cincinnati Reds Report Cards: Willy Taveras

This is the sixth installment of the grading of the starters for the Cincinnati Reds’ 2009 performances.

Willy Taveras is my biggest disappointment of the Reds’ acquisitions last season. He came in as the reigning National League stolen base champ with 68.

This season, he “tentatively” stole only 25 bases and finished a dismal ninth in the league. Michael Bourn of the Houston Astros was the league’s most prolific thief this year with 61.

When a player’s OBP doesn’t equal a real good batting average, something is wrong. A .275 OBP is a notch or two below anemic. His .240 average was a career low as well.

He missed 34 games in August and September while spending time on the disabled list.

His disappointing season is another terrible return on our money—$2.25 M basically poured down the drain. He did not perform as the table setter most of us expected him to be. He ran “cautiously” at best, rarely attempting to steal, appearing as though he was unable to get a read on the pitcher.

Prior to coming to the Queen City, Taveras was a respectable .283 career hitter. He only scored 56 runs and collected 97 hits. His OPS+ was a microscopic 48. That isn’t a typo; there are only two digits in the number.

His defense was adequate, but again, not up to expectations. In all, it was just a miserable season for the 27-year-old Dominican.

If Walt Jocketty and the other Muckety Mucks think Willy is a bona fide center fielder that will lead us anywhere but the lower portion of the Central Division, he is on the Chinese pipe.

Look at these statistics he posted in 2009:

404 56 97 11 2 1 15 .240 25 .275 .285 .559 48

Unfortunately, Willy ends the year with a weak D.

Next up: Jay Bruce

Willy Taveras

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist for the Cincinnati Reds at Bleacher Report, where this article was first published.

Is Albert Pujols the Best Cardinal Ever, Including Stan Musial ?

As you know, Albert Pujols recently won his second consecutive National League Most Valuable Player Award. He didn’t just win it, he won it unanimously. Every single voter had him as their No. 1 pick.

Pujols’ exploits have been well chronicled. I think he is the best baseball player who is currently playing baseball on Planet Earth. Some would disagree, but that is the prerogative of baseball fans everywhere.

While we shower Prince Albert with praise that he is absolutely deserving of, I would like to ask a question. Is he the best player to ever play for the St. Louis Cardinals ?

All you must do is look out front of Busch Stadium to see the statue of the “face of the franchise,  Stan “The Man” Musial, to see his only competitor for that particular honor. You need look no further.

Stan Musial was one of the greatest players to ever play the game of baseball. He played 22 seasons, all with the Cards, from 1941 until 1963. He is a three-time winner of the MVP award—as is Pujols, was on 24 All-Star teams (two games were played from 1959-62) at four different positions.

Musial also won seven batting titles, two RBI Crowns, was the league leader in runs scored five times, in hits six times, had over 200 hits six times, led the league in doubles eight times, triples five times, in OBP six times, in SLG six times, in OPS seven times, and OPS+ six times (once at 200). He also was the league leader in total bases six times. His career OPS+ is 159. In 17 seasons, he batted over .300, 16 consecutively. He also hit 30 or more HR six times, and drove in over 100 runs 10 times, while scoring over 100 runs 11 times.

In 24 All-Star appearances (a record he shares with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron) he hit six HR (a record which still stands), 10 RBI and batted .317.

His career stats are nearly unbelievable.

BA=.331, R=1949, H=3630 (1815 at home, 1815 away), HR=475, RBI=1951.

Pujols, like Musial, hit the ground running. In 2001, he won the Rookie of the Year award while putting up MVP-type numbers: 37 HR, 130 RBI, and a .329 average.

He has played nine seasons thus far and .314 is the lowest season average he has posted. He has hit over 40 HR five times, while belting 30 or more the other four. He has had at least 103 RBI each season he has played.

In 2003, he won the National League batting title with a .359 average. This past season (2009) he won his first HR crown, with 47. He led the league in hits in 2003 with 212. He has been on the All-Star team each year with the exception of 2002 when he placed second in the MVP voting. He led the league in OBP once, in SLG three times, OPS three times and OPS+ three times. He was also the league leader in TB four times.

In seven All-Star appearances Pujols has batted .353 with three RBI.

His career numbers are as unbelievable—albeit incomplete—as Musial’s.

BA=.334, R=1071, H=1717, HR=366, RBI=1112. His career OPS+ is 172.

Two great players from two time periods on the same squad. Obviously if Pujols continues to put up the crazy numbers we have become accustomed to expect for a few more years, he will surpass many of Stan’s numbers and be the best Cardinal ever.

Until that day, I believe Stan Musial is still the best Cardinal in history.

What are your thoughts?

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report, where this article was first published.

Joe Mauer: Is the Twins’ Catcher’s Position the Main Reason He Won MVP?

In a showdown of American League’s “best,” it probably comes as a surprise to very few (living outside of New York) that Joe Mauer won the Most Valuable Player Award walking away. The only other first-place vote went to Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.

Catchers seem to have a bone tossed their way on a regular basis, don’t they?

What’s that? You disagree, you say?

We must look no further than last season (2008) when Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto won the National League Rookie of the Year Award (running away) from should-have-been winner Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

Doubt me if you must, but just check the numbers. Votto batted .297 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI. Soto’s numbers were similar but inferior: .285, 23 HR, 86 RBI. Surely you will show me more respect than to attempt to say those two RBI assured him passage on such a runaway train.

I don’t wish to digress from the purpose of this piece; I was just offering up a recent example of “behind the plate” preferences. I could go on, but then what is the point?

Am I attempting to diminish Mauer’s great year and his first MVP trophy, not to mention that incredible .365 average? No, not at all.

Should it have been one of the New York Yankees since they did win the World Series—say, perhaps, Mark Teixeira or Derek Jeter? Yes, I think Tex should have been the winner, and let me tell you why.


Teixeira won two legs of the Triple Crown, tied with Carlos Pena for the league lead in homers with 39, and was the league leader in RBI with 122. The only remaining leg of the Crown was won in convincing fashion by Mauer with an incredible .365 batting average. Mauer did lead the league in OBP, slugging percentage, and OPS.

Both men are Gold Glove winners, but if there is another first basemen with the defensive skills of Tex, I wish someone would bring him to the forefront so we could lay hands on him. He also tied for the league lead in total bases with Cabrera, at 344.

Miguel Cabrera

The best “overall” year at the plate of anyone in the American League was crafted by Cabrera. It is still hard for me to believe he is only 26 years old. Let us get out our pencils and compare apples to apples—that is to say Cabrera and Mauer. Cabrera’s vital signs were .324 with 34 homers and 103 RBI. The Tigers first baseman had more runs (96-94), hits (198-191), doubles (34-30), home runs (34-28), RBI (103-96), and total bases (344-307) than Mauer.

As is the case nearly every year, there are disputes in many of the categories voted on by those slick-talking sages (baseball writers) who are oozing with acumen.

Condensing a long story into a “Reader’s Digest” format, do I think Joe Mauer is undeserving of the award? No, of course not; I just think Mark Teixeira is a tad more deserving.

What’s your story?

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist on Bleacher Report, where this article was first published.

Is The National Baseball Hall of Fame a Place Just for Altar Boys ?

Baseball fans wake up!

After reading an article by my good buddy and colleague Illya Harrell about how Pete Rose, as a manager, ruined the career of Mario Soto, I had to write this.

In his article, Illya said that because Rose pitched Soto on three days rest repeatedly, he killed Soto’s career prematurely. He also said that should be another reason why Rose should not be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

It has always been my view that the Hall of Fame is for players who were exceptional on the field, period. I don’t feel it is necessary to involve the FBI with background checks, or investigators vetting someone to rattle all the skeletons from their closets.

The Hall of Fame is in critical condition folks. It is replete with drunkards, racists, adulterers and other forms of ill repute and debauchery. What is one more going to hurt?

Wait Cliff, you say drunkards are in the HOF? Yes, the great Babe Ruth was a known imbiber as well as Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and probably three-fourths of the men who played in the “dark ages.”

Racists, come on now. Okay, Ty Cobb was probably a card carrying member of the KKK if indeed it was in full vigor during his day. Cap Anson wouldn’t even allow his teams to play if there was a Negro on the opposing team. Color him Racist with the capital not edited out.

Adulterers, really Cliff? Don’t be so naive. There have been men throughout the ages who have stepped out on their wives. Baseball players are no exception. It was a common occurrence in the bygone days for men to “hook up” with women in certain cities on their schedules. Mickey Mantle comes to mind, sorry Mick I love you man.

What I am trying to show is that the Hall of Fame is not a place for “do-gooders”, Sunday school teachers, or altar boys. Not to say that there aren’t some in there, and I love them, but that is not, or should not be part of the criteria for enshrinement.

I am all in favor of role models, don’t misread me. That being said, I like what Hall of Fame member Bob Gibson said. “Why should I be a role model for your kid? Be a role model for your kid yourself.”

You could probably go checking into the lives of everyone of those men in the hallowed hall and find something with which to exclude many of them. I know gambling is against the rules, in fact the Golden Rule of baseball. However, when a man who has had more hits than anyone whoever put on a jock, won seven batting titles, had over 200 hits nine times, has done 20 years of humiliation (albeit self-imposed), he should be paroled.

Give him his due. If you who are reading this article feel he is such a criminal and low-life that he doesn’t belong, please open your own closet and let the skeletons walk free. Let them say, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, I’m free at last.”

Sources: Baseball-Reference.com

(c) 2009 Clifton Eastham All Rights Reserved.

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist on Bleacher report, where this article was first published.