Sirk's Notebook: Odds and Ends
Last week, Eddie Gaven scored a 90th minute goal to give the Columbus Crew 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City. Ho-hum. Business as usual. This week, there was no Crew game, which felt weird. To help ease the withdrawal symptoms, here is a bye week Notebook of various odds and ends.
After Houston tied with Montreal last Saturday, the Crew briefly regained control of their own playoff destiny. They surrendered that control on Sunday when they tied the Sporks. Gaven’s late equalizer was still helpful, as it lessened the amount of help the Crew would need. If Columbus wins out, they would advance if Houston drops any points at all. Before Gaven’s goal, they would have needed Houston to lose a game or to tie both.
“That’s why that goal was huge,” said Gruenebaum. “That’s why it kind of helps playing on Sunday, so you know what’s going on with the other teams playing on Saturday.”
The Crew’s players are now doing some scoreboard watching, even though they know that they have to take care of their own results in order for it to be a worthwhile endeavor.
“We’ve been watching everything,” said defender Julius James. “We really want to make the playoffs. We want this push to be special for us.”
“It’s important.,” Gruenebaum said. “It’s our livelihood. We invest so much of ourselves in the season, and it’s such a long season. I don’t think you’ll find one guy in this room that’s not paying attention to what’s going on.”
Here are the remaining schedules for the Crew and the teams that they can catch:
Columbus: at DC, vs TOR
Houston: vs PHI, at COL
D.C. United: vs CLB, at CHI
New York: vs KC, at PHI
Not that the math is complicated, but here are some playoff roadmaps for the Crew. I am going to assume, for the sake of not being ridiculous, that the Crew are going to lose every possible goals scored tiebreaker. This means that I am excluding scenario like, “or if the Crew beat D.C. United 5-1 and Toronto 13-0.” So with that said, here are the scenarios…
If Columbus wins both games, the Crew make the playoffs if any of the following happen…
* Houston fails to win both of their remaining games.
* New York finishes 0-2-0 or 0-1-1.
* D.C. United finishes 0-2-0.
If Columbus wins one and ties one, the Crew make the playoffs if…
* Houston loses both, ties both, or ties one and loses one.
If Columbus wins one and loses one, the Crew make the playoffs if…
* Houston loses both, or ties one and loses one.
If Columbus ties both games, the Crew make the playoffs if…
* Houston loses both games.
If Columbus loses one and ties one, or if they lose both, the only way the Crew make the playoffs is if…
* Houston suddenly gets moved back to the Western Conference where they belong.
Of course, all of this would be a lot simpler if the Crew’s two games against the Dynamo weren’t a six-point swing in Houston’s favor. The Crew led both meetings after the 80th minute, but settled for a pair of 2-2 draws. Had the Crew hung on to those leads, they’d have 53 points to Houston’s 48, and would have all but clinched a playoff spot.
Then again, this is also a team that has rescued 11 points in the 86th minute or later since late August, so in a big picture sense, it may be silly to quibble about points dropped earlier in the year. But it’s also the reality. The standings are the bottom line.
“I think we are winning the points now, but it’s the points we didn’t win earlier in the season,” said Milovan Mirosevic.”It’s going to be hard. We almost are not in the playoffs at this moment, but we have to keep fighting like we have been doing. Once we get to the playoffs, anything can happen, but the most important thing is getting there.”
Andy Gruenebaum is a good sport. Last Sunday, when I started asking him the dumbest questions imaginable, which were a full 5% dumber than my usual questions, he played along with a straight face as if it were a perfectly normal interview. I behaved the same way when listening to his answers.
SS: “Is tying better than losing?”
AG: “I think so. I don’t know, though. I’m going to have to check with someone.”
SS: “Would winning have been better than tying?”
AG: “Yes! Yes! I know that one! That’s a yes!”
SS: “As a goalkeeper, would you have not wanted that goal to go in against you?”
AG: “I wouldn’t have minded so much if it were Kei, since we are friends. But because it was Sapong…I mean, Sapong and I, there’s nothing really going on there. Sapong doesn’t call me or anything. At least Kei texts me once in a while.”
SS: “Were you happy when Eddie Gaven scored that goal for your team?”
AG: “Yes. I like Eddie Gaven. Eddie Gaven is a good person and he deserves every good thing that happens to him. Man, these are some hard-hitting questions.”
SS: “This one’s even harder. Would you like to make the playoffs and have a chance to win the championship?”
AG: “It really depends on what I’ve got planned in the month of November. If things get busy, then maybe not. We’ll see if I have time to play any more games.”
And with that, neither of us could keep up the façade of our fake dumb interview.
Julius James seemed to be missing something as he walked around the locker room after the KC game. Namely, part of his left tricep. The open gouge-wound was eventually bandaged up, as shown here. (I figured it would be inconvenient and medically counterproductive to ask Julius to remove the bandage before he let me take the photograph.)
So what happened?
“I got scalped!” James said. “Someone must have had a knife or something and scalped my tricep during the game! I was playing and the referee was like, ‘Is that your blood?’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Then I saw a bunch of blood on my shirt. I lifted my shirt and there was a big chunk of flesh missing from my tricep.”
Okay, but really, what happened?
“I have no recollection of what happened,” said a befuddled James. “When you are playing soccer and the adrenaline is flowing, some things you just don’t feel. I guess I didn’t feel THAT. I didn’t feel it when someone scalped me on my tricep. Unbelievable.”
Kei Kamara paid a visit to the Crew locker room, which he called home in 2006 and part of 2007. As James prepared to leave for the evening, he lingered, waiting for Kamara to finish a conversation with Gruenebaum.
“I am waiting on my son,” said James, nodding toward Kamara. “That’s my son. The apple DOES fall far from the tree!”
Fantasy football talk has been on the back burner this year, as the players have remained focused on their drive to make the playoffs. But for head athletic trainer Dave Lagow, last Sunday marked a major milestone. Lagow is the perennial doormat in the Crew’s fantasy football league, but on October 7th, 0-4 Lagow found himself ascending into the rarified air of 7th place. As we watched the conclusion of the 4:00 games, Lagow clinched a victory over also-winless Gruenebaum, elevating the fantasy sad-sack out of the league’s cellar.
“I think this may be the first time in three years of fantasy that I have not been in the basement, other than the start of the season,” said a joyous Lagow. “This is a really good day for me. Obviously, I am feeling happiness and joy.”
In one half of action in week two, Lagow simultaneously lost a large portion of his draft to injury, as Aaron Hernandez, Hakeem Nicks, Rashard Mendenhall, Matt Forte, and Ahmad Bradshaw all went down. He assumed his season was over, making this victory extra sweet.
“For a long time, I never thought I would even see a win this season,” he said. “So to finally get one, it’s nice. To not only know that I’ve won, but that I have two players left and will be adding on to my margin of victory, it’s sweet. That being said, it’s tough to run the score up on Gbaum, but I don’t care at this point. A win’s a win. To be in 7th place is the result of good clean living. It’s just a better place.”
Lagow wanted to commemorate the special occasion in the Notebook.
“I am going to email you the standings because I want it in print that I am NOT in last place,” he said. “It might be the last time that I am not in last place. I want something that I can have a link to, so I can click on it to show people that I haven’t been the worst player ALL year. Just 16 out of 17 weeks.”
So that Dave can have his long-awaited moment in the sun, here are the standings through week five:
Cole Grossman: 4-1
Danny O’Rourke: 4-1
Chad Marshall: 3-2
Eric Gehrig: 3-2
Frankie Hejduk: 3-2
William Hesmer: 2-3
Dave Lagow: 1-4
Andy Gruenebaum: 0-5
Despite his humble reasoning for wanting the standings in print, Lagow is starting to dream big now that his players are returning to health.
“What I was happy with on draft day all went to (crap), but now guys are coming back,” he said. “I have dreams of making the playoffs this year. I see the look on your face right there, and I’m going to remember that. I hope that I can come back to that later and say, ‘Remember when you doubted me?’ I’ve got a steep hill to climb, but I think that with a healthy team, I can do it. If Matthew Stafford gets his (crap) together, look out.”
His bravado didn’t last long. Stadium ops man Scott DeBolt told team ops man Tucker Walther to derisively ask fan development coordinator Dan Lolli “how 4-1 tastes” after DeBolt knocked off Lolli’s undefeated team in the front office league. When Lagow overheard the question “How does 4-1 taste?”, he hung his head and muttered, “I will never know.”
But at least he now knows how 7th place tastes. And that’s something.
How lucky is Cole Grossman? On September 29, his Columbus Crew won what was essentially a must-win game on a blown offside call. Six days later, on October 5, his defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals won a single-elimination wild-card playoff game possibly due to one of the most preposterous umpiring judgments of all-time. In a nutshell, because most of you either don’t care about the details or have already seen the replay a gazillion times, the umpire declared the infield fly rule in left field, 225 feet from home plate, after the St. Louis shortstop bailed on trying to make the play. The ball fell in for a single, which loaded the bases with one out, but because the umpire called the infield fly rule at the last second, the batter was declared out, which took the steam out of a late Atlanta Braves rally. The Cardinals held on to win the game 6-3 and advance to the divisional round.
So, Cole, how about that “Outfield” Fly Rule play?
“Oh wow, man,” said Grossman after last Saturday’s training session at Obetz. “It was pretty incredible. The Cards tend to get a few breaks in our favor, but early in the game, the guy calls time on a swing and a miss to end the bottom of the third. But the ump called time, and then the guy hits a 2-run bomb, so that was a questionable call too. On that play in left field, the ump said it was good call. I don’t know how it could be, but…
“It’s got to be hard for the Braves. They had the collapse last year, which was the biggest meltdown in baseball history, which got the Cards in, and then this year, they put in an extra wild card in, and the Cards knock them out. Wild. I was watching with one of my buddies who is a huge Braves fan, and he was in tears, pretty much. He couldn’t really speak.”
And Cole did absolutely nothing to rub it in, right?
“Clearly I didn’t do NOTHING, but I did a lot less than I could have, given the circumstances,” he said. “But I’m telling you, being a Cardinal fan is a very, very, very fun thing. They are usually in the playoffs, have great tradition, great fans, and a very likeable team, usually. I mean, we lost Pujols, our best player, Berkman, our second-best hitter, and Rafael Furcal—those last two guys got hurt for the season—and we’re still in the playoffs.”
The Cardinals have excelled at crushing teams’ dreams lately. Cole already went over the Braves situation, and then there was last year’s World Series, where the Texas Rangers were one strike away from winning it all on two separate occasions, but the Cardinals rallied to win game six and then game seven.
“That’s the thing about baseball,” Grossman said. “Either it’s so high or so low. The Cardinals have been pretty consistent, but I can’t imagine how those Braves or Rangers fans are feeling. Or imagine being a Cubs fan!”
Sigh. Or an Indians fan.
“Yeah, or an Indians fan! But at least the Indians have been to a couple World Series. But yeah, the poor Indians. They are the Yankees’ farm system.”
Now that the Cardinals have knocked off the Braves, Grossman is ready for another deep October run to coincide with the Crew’s playoff push.
“I’m excited,” he said. “This time of year, growing up in St. Louis, you start thinking playoff baseball. I’ve been to both of the World Series that they won, and the World Series that they lost when they got swept by Boston. Growing up in St. Louis, Cardinals baseball is part of your identity.”
Here’s hoping that the Crew can replicate the Cardinals’ recent nail-biting successes in the realm of squeaking in and causing havoc.
UPDATE: On Friday night, Cardinals pulled off another miracle in the fifth and deciding game of their playoff series against the Washington Nationals. Trailing 6-0 after three innings, the Cards staged the biggest comeback in a winner-take-all game in MLB history. And once again, they were down to their last strike on two different hitters in the 9th inning before scoring four runs to win, 9-7.
Wrote Grossman in an email: “This franchise has a ridiculous ability to make clutch hits. Holy (crap.) I wish I had something really insightful to describe what the Cards did again, but it just doesn't really make sense. Completely defies logic. Regardless of why it keeps happening, I consider myself incredibly lucky to be a Cards fan.”
Sounds like that last six dramatic Crew results, doesn’t it? So again, let’s all hope that Lucky Cole’s lucky luck keeps rubbing off on both of his teams. Most importantly, the Crew. If it keeps helping the Cardinals, so be it.
And then my offseason project will be to somehow convert Cole into a Cleveland fan. We need all the good luck we can get.
After last Saturday’s training session, Grossman and Josh Williams came back to Obetz to watch the Crew’s U18 academy team take on Internationals, out of Cleveland. Upon their arrival, they were treated to a bomb of a goal Nick Parianos, who took a few touches into open space and then unleashed a long-range strike into the upper corner at the far post. It was from 35-40 yards out, zooming on a crossbar-level trajectory until it dipped at the end of its flight. It gave the U18s a 1-0 lead en route to a 4-2 victory.
“In practice all week, I’ve been hitting some shots and I’ve been feeling good,” said Parianos, a Copley native who is a senior at Walsh Jesuit High School. “I got some good early touches and my confidence was high. I got the ball and there was some space in front of me, so I had a go and it went in. As soon as it left my foot, I just watched it and it just guided right in to the top corner.”
Williams, a fellow Copley (-ian? –ite? –er?), liked what he saw from the hometown kid.
“The ball took off like it was shot out of a cannon,” Williams said. “When he hit it, I knew he got all of it. I just didn’t know if it would stay on target. It dipped over the keeper and into the top corner and everybody just froze. It was a top-class goal and I was very impressed.”
Meanwhile, Grossman had to close his gaping jaw before he could comment.
“It was literally unbelievable,” Grossman said. “I’ve been here for 30 seconds and this kid hits a 40-yard swerving bomb. It’s like, ‘What?’ I don’t think the pro team has scored goal like that this year. I’m not kidding. That was amazing.”
I recently visited the Crew offices, and thought I would share some quick photos. This is by no means an exhaustive tour, but here I just a few random things I came across. For example, here is a picture of Scott DeBolt’s office.
Haha. Just kidding. That is not really DeBolt’s office. That’s just some random picture I pulled off of the internet. I mean, it’s obviously a joke since there’s not even any Crew stuff partially visible in there.
Moving on, it’s good to know that people in the Crew front office have a discerning literary palate. Or they at least like to pretend that they do, so they show off by leaving this out on their desk…
(Nine out of ten dentists agree that A Massive Season makes for a healthy, sugar-free treat to give away at the door on Halloween, so be sure to stock up at Amazon. CLICK HERE)
Anyway, the Lamar Hunt Conference Room contains one of my all-time favorite Crew pictures. Here’s everyone’s beloved, cackling, gap-toothed Trini, Ansil Elcock, celebrating a goal. I remember when this photo appeared in the game program and Ansil’s teammates cut it out, taped it to his locker, and wrote “Waaazzzzzuuuuuuup” on the photo, in reference to a popular Budweiser commercial at the time.
Meanwhile, Arica Kress has a really awesome wall in her office. Simple, yet effective. I probably should have taken a wider shot to give it more spatial perspective, but that Crew logo is huge. Massive, even.
Here’s some fun with nameplates. As one might expect, back in the shadow of the Lego McBride, Duncan Oughton and Frankie Hejduk have some interesting nameplates. I love that Frankie’s has his jersey number on it…
Duncan’s doesn’t have his number on it, probably because there was no room left over after adding in all of his various titles.
And last but not least, here is a shot of Duncan’s desk:
When asked about his workspace, Duncan replied, “The sheep is for if I get lonely, and the stick is for beating people in the office if they aren’t doing their work.”
Questions? Comments? Want to hire Cole Grossman to accompany you to the new casino? Feel free to write at firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @stevesirk