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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.

Could Manny Pacquiao Beat Paul Williams at 147 Pounds ?

Manny Pacquiao has seemingly improved with every fight. He has taken a good deal of  punishment throughout his brilliant career, however not nearly as much as he has delivered to his adversaries.

The question I have, especially in the throes of all the madness about a Gazillion Dollar fight with Pretty Boy Floyd, could he beat Paul (The Punisher) Williams ?

The question has been thrown at Mayweather fans so long, concerning his alleged ducking of Williams, that I wonder about the possibility of Pacman and the Punisher getting together.

Williams has fought as a welter-weight, junior middle-weight, middle-weight and super middle-weight during his 8-plus year professional career. He has fought at weights ranging from 145 1/2 against Walter Matthysse in 2006, to 160 against Robert Muhammad in 2001 and James Young in 2000.

Therefore it shouldn’t be a stretch for him to slide back down to 147 for a fight with a warrior such as Manny.

The age difference is not convincingly different—Manny being 30 while Williams is only 28. If this fight were ever made, it would truly be a David and Goliath conflict. Williams standing a towering 6’1″ or 6″2″ (depending upon where you read about him) would be menacing looking to a 5’6″  Pacquiao.

The height disparity was so obvious when Williams stepped into the ring against Carlos Quintana (at 5’9″) it looked like a grown man fighting a kid. Can you imagine how it would look with someone nearly three inches shorter than Carlos?

Pacquiao’s constant motion would clearly be a test for the Punisher who averages throwing around 100 punches per round.

If nothing else, Quintana’s first fight with Williams, which he won by an unanimous decision, lifted the veil of invincibility from Paul. Quintana landed jabs and right hooks all night long against the taller southpaw.

I doubt if the fight would ever be made. With so many boxing fans wanting the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight to happen, I believe they would rob a liquor store to get enough money to watch it.

Manny is on an 11 fight win streak is currently 50-3-2 with 38 KO. Williams is 37-1 with 27 KO, currently riding a four fight win streak of his own.

Williams’ height and build is reminiscent of Tommy Hearns , a great fighter who began as a welter-weight at 146 and retired in the cruiser-weight division, fighting as heavy as 191 against Uriah Grant.

I think it would be a great fight, exciting to watch, and who knows it could mimic the drama of the first Hearns/Leonard fight of 1981, which Sugar Ray won with a 14th round TKO.

What are your thoughts concerning such a confrontation?

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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:

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI AVG SB OBP SLG OPS OPS+
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.

Is Floyd Mayweather, Jr the Best Boxer of All Time ?

That may be a foolish question to some boxing fans, experts, and enthusiasts.

There have been scores of great fighters, hundreds of very good fighters, and thousands of good fighters.

It is impossible to accurately say that one fighter would beat another fighter from a different era. It is, however, one of the things that makes boxing one of the most debatable and colorful sports there is.

There are obviously fighters in the past, and even currently, who possess(ed) more power than Floyd. Some would be willing to get hit seven or eight times to be able to launch one bomb.

Floyd is virtually unmarked as a fighter, hence the moniker Pretty Boy Floyd. He looks more like a movie star than a pugilist.

While drinking a pint in a tavern, nothing whiles away the time better than a good old fashioned discussion about how Ali could have knocked out Marciano, or how Willie Pep could have given a boxing lesson to Manny Pacquiao (when he was a featherweight).

Thus, we have two factions warring against one another. Old school fans and experts tend to want to give the edge to the guys that they grew up idolizing or following closely.

Secondly, we have the new age fans, who can’t seem to imagine how anybody could be better than the current field. Advanced training methods with bigger, stronger, and faster fighters make today’s competition much more fierce than in days gone by.

I suppose I would be called old school because of my age, however, I am making a case today for the current best in the world, Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

I have thought about it for some time, and have finally pushed myself to a decision. I believe Pretty Boy is the best “boxer” in the history of the sport.

I said boxer, not fighter. Let me illustrate. When you look up the word “boxer” in the dictionary, Wikipedia, or whatever, you should see an image of him right there on the page. He epitomizes the word.

I have seen boxers since the late fifties and there have been some dandies. Cassius Clay (the caterpillar who turned into the butterfly Muhammad Ali), Floyd Patterson, Archie Moore, Emile Griffith, Joe Frazier, George Foreman (twice), Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Robinson, Tommy Hearns, Julio Caesar Chavez, Salvador Sanchez, Alexis Arguello, Aaron Pryor, Bobby Foster, Roberto Duran, and Larry Holmes, just to name a few.

I watched those fighters while they were still active and I saw films of most of the other great ones.

There is not one, in my opinion, who is or was superior to Floyd Mayweather. If there ever was a complete package in one boxer, he would be it.

His defense is beyond description, he is as hard to hit as a bat flying in front of you at night.

He has the fastest hands I believe I ever saw. His punch placement is as good or better than Ali’s. He wastes no gas. He is as effective with his punches as anyone ever has been. He has developed a respectful portion of power over the years.

It is a joy to watch him as he commands the ring, dictating how the fight goes. His stinging jabs keep the brawlers off balance and measures them for a strong right hand.

Do I think he could have beaten fighters of other eras? Yes, I do. I think he could have won decisions over Robinson, Leonard, and any other fighters who were in his weight classes.

Pound for pound, he is the best ever. I realize this is speculative at best, and everybody has their own opinions, but I believe he is the one.

There have been other fighters who have retired undefeated. The great Rocky Marciano and even more recent than he, Joe Calzaghe (who quit just in time considering he was down in round one and barely won a split decision over Bernard Hopkins).

Money has beaten everyone who had the stones to throw with him. Some of today’s best have witnessed his hand being raised at the end of their bout with him; Oscar De Le Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Zab Judah, Diego Corrales, Arturo Gatti, Jose Luis Castillo, Chop Chop Corley, Sharmba Mitchell, and Juan Manuel Marquez.

He is in fact, the best boxer in the history of the sport.

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.

Photobucket

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.

Did You Know That Miguel Cotto is Really Fernando Vargas ?

A boxer’s identity is something they have worked long and hard to achieve. Whether they want to be perceived as charming, polite, and gracious such as the identity crafted by the Golden Boy, Oscar de La Hoya; or a mean, frightful, vicious persona such as Ferocious Fernando Vargas.

The identity the boxer chooses is one that generally affects what the public perceives them to be. I think of Oscar and I think of something so pure it farts rainbows. On the other end of the spectrum when I think of Vargas I think of a monster who would rip your heart out and show it to you before your untimely demise.

The two fighters in this article, Vargas and Miguel Cotto, both like to present the feeling that they would absolutely die on their sword and be carried out on their shield rather than give up the conquest.

They both started out meteorically. Fernando Vargas reeled off 20 consecutive wins before sampling the acidic taste of defeat. On the other hand, Cotto had fought 32 times before his initial undoing.

Why do I draw comparisons between these two? What do they have in common?

Vargas and Cotto both fought some very good fighters on their way to the spotlight. Vargas was good enough to win a majority decision against Winky Wright in an IBF Light Middleweight title fight in 1999. That fight provided the impetus for Wright to go on a nearly seven-year streak where he didn’t lose again.

Miguel Cotto’s first fight with a marquee opponent, in my opinion, was in 2006 when he dealt Carlos Quintana his first defeat for the vacant WBA Welterweight title. Cotto beat Quintana into submission forcing him to retire in five rounds.

Vargas went on to beat Ike Quartey and Ross Thompson before giving us one of the most thrilling fights of the year when he succumbed to Felix Trinidad in a unification of the IBF and WBA Light Middleweight crowns. Vargas nearly fell on his own sword as Trinidad knocked him out in the 12th and final round. Both men had been down previously in the contest, Vargas twice in round one and three times in the final round. Trinidad was knocked down in the fourth.

After Cotto dispatched Quintana he went on to defeat Zab Judah, Shane Mosley and Alfonso Gomez before he met his “controversial” Waterloo. In a fight which he was being soundly whipped by Antonio Margarita, the corner threw in the towel near the beginning of the 11th round. Cotto’s camp claimed that Margarita had used an illegal substance in his gloves during the fight. It certainly tainted a beautiful performance by Margarita, but meanwhile left Cotto’s “superman” status somewhat deflated.

After Vargas was starched by Trinidad, he went on a successful two-fight rebuilding tour that brought him to the gates of Goldentown. That’s right a war with the Golden Boy.  Oscar beat him badly that night and Fernando was tested positive for steroids, resulting in a suspension of nine months and a $100,000 fine. Vargas denied the abuse of drugs but served the sentence and paid the fine.

Cotto knocked out Michael Jennings in a comeback cruise that was comprised of two fights. In the second fight he won a hard-fought split decision over Joshua Clottey in September of 2009, setting up what would be a fight for the ages with Manny Pacquiao, the pound-for-pound champion in the world.

Fernando Vargas went on to win against four handpicked opponents in the next two years and set up a big money fight with Sugar Shane Mosley. Mosley beat him like he stole something, twice actually, and then he lost a decision to Ricardo Mayorga, whose claim to fame was a three-round devastation of the late Vernon Forrest, and for smoking a cigarette in the ring after the fight. Vargas retired after that fight realizing that whatever he had once was gone.

In Cotto’s showdown with Manny it was evident that the beating he took at the hands of Margarito had taken its toll. He looked good for the first round or two but then was completely outclassed and ultimately disassembled by the non-stop action of Pacman.

There you have a portrait of two careers, both promising at the beginning. Both promoted highly by HBO and other puntiffs of the sport. Both fighters eventually revealing a chink in their proverbial armor, and both having it handed to them but a superior fighter.

Though Vargas’ career is over, the light switch hasn’t been turned off yet by Cotto. There is still millions to make, stiffs to fight, and much, much rebuilding to do if he should get another big money fight.

There is nobody left that Cotto can beat. Mosley would pick him apart this time, as would Pretty Boy Floyd Mayweather.

The end has come to Cotto’s tenure of greatness just as it did with Ricky “Hitman” Hatton.

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.