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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.

Notre Dame Fans: Is Brian Kelly really Rich Rodriguez ?

Many Notre Dame fans are clamoring for the ND Muckety Mucks to obtain one of the brightest shining stars in the college football solar system. Cincinnati Bearcat head coach Brian Kelly, 48 is by far, the choice of most for the vacated job left by the firing of Charlie Weis.

If the Fighting Irish faithful is certain Kelly will bring instant success to a mediocre team, they need look no further than Ann Arbor.

Near the end of the 2007 season The University of Michigan was feeling that since Lloyd Carr was retiring, maybe they would be able to find someone who could beat the Ohio State Buckeyes. Carr was 9-4 his last year at Big Blue, but most “fairweather” fans just remember that he lost six of his previous seven games to the Buckeyes.

Stay with me Notre Dame faithful, I am painting a portrait for you.

Michigan honchos began looking at other nests they could pillage from. West Virginia, a Big East school which was one of the country’s elite, much like the Bearcats are now, had a young coach named Rich Rodriguez. Rich was one of the most successful coaches in Mountaineer history, and was even courted by the Alabama Crimson Tide the year before, whose advances he flirted with but then just said NO.

Surely, Big Blue fans thought, this would be the key. A man just coming off a season where he at one point drove the #1 car in NCAA football. Clearly this would be their guy to beat Jim Trussell and Ohio State.

Rodriguez has been with the Wolverines for two seasons, has compiled a record of 8-16 while just winning three of 16 Big Ten matchups. He has guided Michigan to the biggest football shipwreck in school history. For the record, Rich is 0-2 against the Buckeyes with a combined score of 63-17.

Why do I tell you this, you ask? Because, by looking at Brian Kelly they are truly looking at Rich Rodriguez in 2007.

Kelly was 19-16 in three years at Central Michigan, before being hired by Cincinnati of the Big East. You do not need be a football historian to know what a jump it is from the MAC Conference to the Big East.  Almost as drastic as going from Grand Valley State to Central Michigan. Mr. Kelly handled the move to the Queen City rather nicely. He has lead the Bearcats to a 33-6 record in three complete seasons.

There are a handful of jobs that a college football coach dreams of.  Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, USC, Oklahoma and of course Notre Dame. There are others but I digress.

Most NCAA head football coaches would “sell their soul” to coach at Notre Dame, especially if they are catholic.

The Irish has already decided to decline any invitations to a bowl game this post-season.

So, what is the moral of the story? Be careful what you wish for. You may go from 6-6 to 3-9.


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

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Money vs. Manny: The Fight of the Century?

Now that the hurdles have all been jumped concerning the upcoming fight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, the only thing left is to reset a date to accommodate Manny’s political aspirations.

The early line shows Pretty Boy Floyd as the favorite.

The fight promises to be one of the best in a long time. Some are going all the way to the bridge and saying it will be the best ever. That is a tall order, my friends.

What fights would it have to surpass to be the “best ever”?

In no particular order, but indeed on the road to the best, are Hagler vs. Hearns. That fight was three rounds of non-stop fighting at its best. Both men gave as good as they got until Hagler closed the deal. Other than the gamblers, that fight did not disappoint anyone.  The Hitman had Hagler hurt before the fight was 30 seconds old. Ring Magazine called the first round of the fight “the greatest round in boxing history” and was the round of the year in 1985.

Any talk of best bouts ever could not be complete without the “Thrilla in Manila“. Even fans who aren’t “old school” have to say amen to that. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier met for the third and final time in October of 1975. Ali was one year removed from shocking the boxing world by his KO of George Foreman. The two men beat each other to the point of exhaustion before Frazier’s corner pulled the plug after the 14th round. Ali has said that fight was the closest he has ever come to death.

Another great one was the first fight between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. In a close fight, Castillo came out in the 10th round of a schedules 12 rounder and knocked Corrales down twice. Corrales had spit his mouthpiece out twice and was deducted a point (not to mention being decked twice). Diego summoned strength and reserve from a special place and came back and stopped the fight in fantastic fashion, beating Castillo helpless against the ropes.

I could go on and on, but these are just three great ones that this fight would have to top to gain serious notoriety.

The biggest wins on Pacman’s portfolio are against fighters that Pretty Boy had already beaten. Ricky Hatton was blistered by Pretty Boy in their fight until Floyd KO’d him late, softening him up for his 2nd round massacre at the hands of Pacquiao.

Oscar De La Hoya was beaten by Mayweather and Pacman finished him off late in his fight.

What do both these two brilliant pugilists bring to the table?

With Manny you will see non-stop action, just like the video game he is named for, Pacman. Mayweather may very well prove to be the ghost that haunts Manny and keeps him from landing anything flush. Manny is strong, maybe stronger than Floyd, but that is so hard to analyze. He has proven that he can keep it going for 12 rounds. He has adequate power to end the fight, maybe not with one punch, but certainly by combinations.

Pretty Boy Floyd will be the challenge of a lifetime for Pacquiao. Mayweather, as much as his detractors hate hearing it, has never really been seriously tested. He has never been hurt badly (I am talking Queer Street) and presents the most transparent targets for his opponent. His hand speed is absolutely second to none, and his reflexes are above description. I believe he could catch a bat flying at him in the dark. His power is under rated in my view, and has developed over his career. He has a very good right hand and can do damage with it.

Pacquiao has a very good record of 50-3-2 with 38 KOs. He has been stopped twice, both in the third round. His average fight is only5.5 rounds, he has six KOs in the first round and knocked Miguel Cotto out in the 12th round (the fight was actually stopped between the rounds 11 and 12). His power is not limited to the first couple of rounds. He is 22-2-1 in world title fights.

Mayweather’s record is 40-0 with 25 by knockout. His average fight lasts only 7 rounds. He has an outstanding record of 18-0 with nine knockouts in world title fights. He has four first-round KO’s and has two knockouts as late as the 10th round.

Manny has been in some serious wars, hurt some people and took some very hard shots. After  55 fights the collateral damage is just about due to raise its ugly head. Floyd has been shook up mildly once or twice, but never hurt. Even though Mayweather is a couple of years older, I believe he is working with a fresher body and that will be huge in this fight.

For Mayweather, the ramifications for the fight are simple. If he should beat Manny in spectacular fashion, he could retire (for good) and know that he has beaten the best and know that there is nothing left to prove. If it is a close fight, surely the world will cry for a rematch, and dollars and cents will rule the day.

If Pacquiao beats Mayweather, he can go down in history as the first man to defeat the “greatest” fighter of his era. If he would demolish Pretty Boy in the process, he could begin his political career by being the wealthiest congressman in world history.

I look for a very entertaining fight. Everything inside me says the fight will be an unanimous decision for Floyd, but the little guy in my head says he will win by a 5th round stoppage.

What do you think?

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

Roy Jones, Jr: It is Time to Walk Away

There is a time in every athlete’s life when he must face the man in the mirror and hear the sad sweet song.  “It’s over. Don’t look back. It has been a good ride, but this is the end of the road.”

Either some people don’t have that conversation with the man he watches shave every day, or he fails to pay attention to the warning, or plea as it were.

That discussion should have taken place the morning after Roy Jones, Jr. was embarrassed by Danny Green in Australia. While watching this fight it appeared to me that Jones didn’t want to be there. It was the first time he was fighting outside the limits of the “land of the free”, and he clearly looked misplaced to me.

The right hand that began the end looked far from impressive to me. It looked like he was hit on the top of the head and just went down. No disrespect to the power of Green, but that punch did not measure up to the one thrown by Antonio Tarver which sent Junior to his first KO loss. Was this just another payday for the former eight time world champion?

Until his invincibility was discovered by the Magic Man in the second round in 2004, he was perhaps the best fighter in the world. Until then was the ridiculous disqualification loss to Montell Griffin in 1997. Jones didn’t just beat people, he dominated them.

Roy had some famous fights during his 20-year professional career. He fought as a middle-weight for his first 18 fights, fought several at super middle-weight and in 1993 won his first world title, an unanimous win over Bernard Hopkins for the vacant IBF Middle-weight Championship. Hopkins would not lose again for 12 years when he lost a split-decision to Jermain Taylor.

In 1994 Jones beat James “Lights Out” Toney (undefeated at the time) like a drum en route to an unanimous decision for the IBF Super Middle-weight Championship.

He won the WBC Light Heavy-weight Championship in 1996 with a shutout of Mike McCallum.

In 2003 Jones stepped up to the heavy-weight ranks and won the WBA Heavy-weight Championship with a decision over John Ruiz.

Jones had three fights with Tarver, the first one he was given a gift in a majority decision. The second fight was the two round shellacking administered by the Magic Man, and the third was an unanimous decision won by Tarver.

Sandwiched between the last two Tarver fights was a 9th round KO at the hands of Glen Johnson.

In 2008 Jones had a mega fight with Felix Trinidad who man thought was washed up from being inactive for nearly three years. Roy won a lopsided decision over Tito and then lost big to Joe Calzaghe (who Jones would have easily beaten in his prime) notwithstanding a first-round knockdown of the undefeated Calzaghe.

He knocked out Omar Sheika and forced Jeff Lacy to quit prior to the whipping he just took this week.

So, Roy, it has been great to know you, my good man. You have given us highlight reels we will cherish forever. It is not a shame to walk away from boxing. The only shame is not knowing when it is time.


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:

AB R H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS+ RISP
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.

Should There Be a Height Limit in Weight Classes in Boxing ?

After all the crying I witnessed in a recent article, I thought this would be a fair question for debate.

The article in question was “Could Manny Pacquiao beat Paul Williams at 147”.  Apparently, the better question would have been, ‘could Pacquiao beat Williams at 5-6’.

I don’t understand the absurdity of such a fight. Boxers who haven’t had the notoriety that Pacman has garnered,  fought taller men every time out, sometimes as much as seven or eight inches.

The same fans who decry such a fight had no problems calling Floyd Mayweather a “ducker” for not fighting Williams. The difference in height between Pretty Boy and Manny is an inch and a half. So, obviously with Mayweather it is no big deal, but with Pacman it is suddenly a Munchkin trying to throw hands with Godzilla.

To address the title question here, what would be a reasonable maximum height for welter-weights. 5-11 or just under six feet?

It is an absurd question and an absurd defense to be used. Fighters have been gauged by their weight since the inception of weight classes.

Sam Langford was the same height as Manny Pacquiao and fought fighters from light-weight all the way to heavy-weight. In Fact, Nat Fleischer (Bert Sugar’s old boss) rated Langford as one of the 10 best heavyweights of all time.

Langford never won the heavy-weight belt. He was beaten by Jack Johnson by decision in 1906. Against Johnson, Sam gave up seven inches in height and 29 pounds (156 – 185), yet went 15 grueling rounds and was never afforded a rematch by the Champion.

So, you see, like the old adage goes, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog”.

Mike Tyson and Rocky Marciano, who both stood only 5’10 were constantly at a height and reach disadvantage. Marciano was undefeated and Tyson was seemingly invincible until he met up with Buster Douglas.

History is replete with smaller men who defeated their own “goliaths”. A man should not be penalized, or disenfranchised from fighting the best fighters because he lives inside a tall frame. The smaller man, by the same token, should not use that as a defense from fighting the best.

Boxing is ruled by weight, not height. Fighters have grown through the decades. When they made 176 pounds the threshold to enter for the heavyweight division, I doubt they expected heavyweights to average 6″3″ and weigh 238 pounds. Athletes of today, in all sports, are bigger, stronger, faster and have more endurance than the “average” athlete of yesteryear.

So, as John Prine put it so well, “A question is not a question, if you know the answer too.”

 

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:

PLAYER R H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS+ RISP
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.