Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Workplace Relationships Will Be Tolerated At Evernham Racing!(allegedly)

Apparently, the big rumor in NASCAR these days is that Ray Evernham(currently in divorce proceedings with his wife of 19 years) and Erin Crocker, one of Evernham's drivers, have more than just an employer/employee relationship. The possibility of this relationship existing came to light when Jeremy Mayfield(a former driver for Evernham Racing) and Evernham went to court to settle some differences. Evernham claimed that Mayfield had deliberately wrecked his car at Indianapolis, and Mayfield claimed that the team had been suffering because of Evernham's "not so professional" relationship with Crocker.

The website, Tall Glass of Milk, says that it "can confirm that the Evernham Motorsports owner and his female driver Erin Crocker have an intimate relationship beyond that of owner/driver. Their relationship evolved late last season and they "came out" this year in Texas."

Hmmm, now about Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Chad Pennington, The Jets Least Sucky Quarterback

The New York Jets announced today that Chad Pennington has won the starting QB job. Throughout training camp and the preseason, Pennington had been locked in a fierce competition with Patrick Ramsey, Kellen Clemens and Brooks Bollinger. The four combined have managed to pass for 342 yards(2nd worst in the preseason) and 1TD(4th worst) in 3 games. Yeah, sounds like Chad really won something.

Seriously, do you win if you're given something for sucking the least?

I have a feeling that picture is exactly how Pennington felt when he found out he was going to be starting, instead of making millions of dollars to hold a clipboard.

This Just In! The Burger King Is Holding Out For A Bigger Crown, Will Be Doing Crunches In Front Of The BK Castle!

Somehow, it appears that Terrell Owens' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is actually doing better than T.O.

Currently, T.O. has the entire media watching his every move. He's got fans, radio/tv hosts and bloggers commenting on everything he says/does. He's resorted to riding an exercise bike at practice while wearing some wacky Tour de France type getup for attention.

His agent however, a man who was seemingly despised just a few months ago, is making slightly humorous commercials with everyone's favorite creepy fast food icon, The Burger King.

I'm not quite sure what the best part of the commercial is. Whether it's Rosenhaus poking fun at himself with the "no comment" line. The '05-'06 "fantasy stats" for The King that scroll along the bottom of the screen; 3 receptions, 1INT, 1RET, 5TD's(sadly, that's as many as Todd Stinkston had in '03 and '04 combined). The fact that he was an "undrafted free agent last year", and that "sources say The King is close to signing with 5 NFL teams(I guarantee one of them is the Daniel Snyders)". Or that extremely creepy "I've got my eyes on you" gesture The King makes at the end. Seriously, that part just freaks me out.

All in all, it's a pretty good commercial, though if it interferes with me being able to purchase onion rings due to a holdout by The King I will be pissed.

BK Commercial, Click on "Press Conference"

Monday, August 28, 2006

Chad Hutchinson? Not So Fast My Friend!

First off, Chad Hutchinson scares me, and not in that "oh man I hope he's not our starting QB this year" way. It's more like the "must...stop...looking at him...his face freaks me out" way. Seriously, I think it's because his eyes are way too close together.

Anyway, on Saturday I was watching one of the thousands of editions of college football previews that Espen has been broadcasting in recent days. When Corso started to speak I got that same uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. You know, like when your team's kicker lines up for the game winning field goal, and they flash the graphic that he hasn't missed one in 10 years. Grrrreat.

I realized that Corso also has eyes that appear a bit too close, and are somewhat beady. It almost makes me think that Corso and Hutchinson are somehow related. Has anyone else noticed this, or have I been drinking too much again?

Friday, August 25, 2006

How Successful Are Left-Handed QB's?(calm down Ned!)

Recently, I've seen a few news articles(actually it was in the weekly Leftorium newsletter...Flanders...) proclaiming that studies show that left-handed people make more money. With the NFL regular season almost here I started wondering how many NFL QB's were left-handed, and what kind of success they had had over the past couple of seasons. The main criteria was that they had to have played in more than eight games in any season over the past five years, and they had to have attempted 14 or more passes in those games.

I ended up with a whopping three quarterbacks on the list, and none of them were in the top 10 rated QB's last year(though one has been in the top 10 in years past). The list included(passing stats only):

Mark Brunell: 16 games, 85.9 QB Rating, 57.7% completions, 3050yds, 23TD, 10INT

Chris Simms: 11 games, 81.4 QB Rating, 61% completions, 2035yds, 10TD, 7INT

Michael Vick: 15 games, 73.1 QB Rating, 55.3% completions, 2412yds, 15TD, 13INT

Of those three, Brunell has been the most successful with respect to passing stats. In '02, he was the #9 highest rated passer, and finished the season with 2788yds and 17TD/7INT. In '01, he was the #8 highest rated passer, and finished the season with 3309yds and 19TD/13INT.

Surprisingly, the first left-handed quarterback elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Steve Young, was just inducted last year.

One question that has been raised is whether or not coaches are more comfortable with right-handed passers(because there are a lot more of them), and consequently coach them "better". However, even the QB's who are talented enough to make it to the pro level don't appear to have any type of edge based on which arm they throw with. Eventhough the team they play on obviously has a big impact on just how successful they can be, I'm still inclined to believe that a left-handed QB doesn't have any significant advantage just because he's a southpaw.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Life of a Fantasy Football Team Owner

As a fantasy football team owner one doesn't have to worry about things like whether or not T.O. will get along with Bill Parcells. The only thing that's important is that he catches passes and scores TD's. We couldn't care less whether or not Peyton Manning will make it to the Super Bowl this year, as long as he leads the league in passing yards and TD's. However, something fantasy football team owners do have to worry about are injured players.

If you're like me, then you've probably already had a draft in at least one of your leagues. On the one hand it's good because you have a firm idea of how your team is setup, and exactly what you need to do before the season opener to be competitive. The downside however, is that there's a very real possibility that a player you burned a precious draft pick on will get injured in the preseason.

Earlier this week I was trying not to crack a smile at the team owner who had drafted Clinton Portis. Sure, it sounds like he'll be back for the opener, but do you really expect Coach Gibbs to say "sorry folks, Clinton is done. We'll be relying on Ladell Betts now"? Seriously, can you imagine Betts dressed up like Southeast Jerome? It just wouldn't be the same.

Then yesterday I hear that Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens was injured in practice. I didn't think too much of it until I read the reports today that he was going to be out for six weeks. That wouldn't be a problem except that I drafted Stevens(actually he was autodrafted late), and at the time he was the only tight end on my roster(went heavy on the RB's). Luckily it was in one of my smaller leagues, and I was able to find a replacement(hope Ben Watson didn't call Greg Anderson).

However, it reminded just how precarious the preseason can be for us fantasy owners. Last night it was good to see Tiki Barber(one of my draftees) running well, but all I could think everytime he touched the ball was "PLEASE, DON'T GET HURT! JUST FALL DOWN AND GET OUTTA THERE!"

The preseason might be necessary for teams to get their rookies acclimated to the NFL and help sort out their roster, but all it does for me is help aggravate an ulcer that starts at the beginning of September every year. Soon I'll have to ask Chad Johnson for some pepto bismol.

Clarett's Funding Came From Israeli Gangster?

In the days after Maurice Clarett's arrest, there were numerous stories about how he had received compensation in the forms of cash, cars and living arrangements most likely in exchange for a cut of his rookie NFL contract. Some articles hinted that he was backed my rap artists, but ESPN has reported that he was actually receiving the compensation from an Israeli mobster by the name of Hai Waknine.

Apparently, the FBI even questioned Clarett about his relationship with Waknine before the '05 NFL draft, though no details of that investigation have been released. This past June, Waknine plead guilty to one charge of racketeering(he was accused of 46 crimes; including racketeering, extortion, etc.) Waknine was also tied to a gaming license for Judah Hertz that failed to be approved in 2000.

The Nevada Gaming Commission supposedly had some concerns because a part of the money that Hertz used for his Reno properties came from an uncle of Hai Waknine. The Control Board described Hai and Assaf Waknine as "alleged enforcers for Orgad(an associate of Hertz) and members of the Bachsihan crime organization involved in ecstasy dealing."

Another interesting tidbit is that apparently Youngstown, Ohio has ties to the Italian mob. Clarett's attorney, Nick Mango(insert SNL reference here___), said, "It's been kind of tossed around by us, and quite frankly, Youngstown has quite a reputation -- if you don't know it already -- for the Italian side of that ballgame."

Seriously, what the hell is going on in Ohio?

First it's Chappelle, then the Bengals, now high school football players having their sentences postponed until after the season and the Sopranos invading Youngstown.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

That Homerun Has Warped My Fragile Little Mind

Oftentimes a player can't pinpoint the exact moment when their career started declining. Usually it occurs over a number of years, and culminates in a season when the desire is still there, but the body just won't function like it used to. With Brad Lidge however, that might not be the case.


Yesterday, Astros GM Phil Garner said that he was going to remove Lidge from the closer's role, and use a closer-by-committee approach. This was after Lidge had given up the tying run in the top of the 9th inning to Cubs leftfielder Matt Murton. From October of last season throughout this season Lidge has seemed shaky. He doesn't appear to be the confident game winner that he once was, and it probably has a lot to do with a single moment in time that occured on October 17, 2005.

During the 2004 postseason, Lidge pitched fairly well. Against the Braves in the NLDS he pitched 4.1 innings, converted a save opportunity and had an ERA of 2.08. The Astros beat the Braves in that series. In the '04 NLCS, eventhough Houston eventually lost to St. Louis 4-3, Lidge pitched 8 innings, converted two saves and finished with an ERA of 0.00 and one win.

In 2005, Lidge continued his success in the postseason. In the NLDS, again against Atlanta, he pitched 4 innings, and posted an ERA of 0.00. In the NLCS, where he faced the Cardinals again, Lidge pitched fairly well until Game 5. In Game 2(he didn't see any action in Game 1) he pitched two innings, only giving up one hit and getting the save. In Game 3, he pitched one inning, gave up one earned run, and earned the save. In Game 4, Lidge pitched one inning, surrendered two hits, and earned his third straight save. The Astros had rattled off three straight wins, and until the top of the ninth inning in Game 5, looked to be in control of the series.

What happened at that moment in time may very well be the turning point in Brad Lidge's career. He had managed to get the point where there were two men on, two outs and Albert Pujols at the plate. All Lidge had to do was get one out, and the Astros were on their way to the World Series. His first pitch started the count 0-1, but the next pitch would forever be seared into the minds of both Astros and Cardinals fans. Albert Pujols unloaded on that second pitch, and hit a bomb that, had there not been a roof on the stadium, might be circling the Earth to this day. Lidge turned to see where the ball was going to finally fall back to Earth, but he already knew it was gone. He stood for a second, then crouched down as if he was trying to become the smallest person in the stadium. Most people probably forget that Houston won the next game 5-1, and advanced to the World Series.

However, in the WS Lidge didn't pitch particularly well. In Game 2, he gave up the winning homerun to Scott Posednik. In Game 4, he pitched two innings, gave up one earned run, and was the losing pitcher. The Astros were swept in the series, 4-0.

This season Lidge has seen his ERA balloon to 5.70, he's failed to convert five of his save chances, and he's given up eight homeruns(he gave up 5 and 8 for the total season in '04 and '05 respectively). He's also allowed 34 earned runs, which is almost double the amount he allowed all of last year(18).

Obviously, Brad Lidge isn't the dominant closer that he once was. It may be that he needs a change of scenery, or that this is something that will torment his psyche for a number of years. Unfortunately for Houston fans, Lidge will probably never have the same success in an Astros uniform as he once enjoyed. And that moonshot that Pujols delivered in October of '05 most likely has something to do with it.

Judge Gary McKinley, The Bengals Best Hope

Yesterday, a judge in Ohio(actually he's retired, but still able to render decisions) decided that two high school football players would be allowed to participate in the upcoming football season before serving their 60 days in a juvenile detention center. Judge Gary McKinley said:

"I shouldn't be doing this, but I'm going to. I see positive things about participating in football."

Obviously he hasn't been following the Bengals offseason woes, eventhough Kenton is only about 130mi away from the Bengals home.

The two teens involved stole a deer decoy from a man's home, and built a base to keep it upright. Then they placed the deer near a roadway, and drove up and down the road watching drivers swerve to avoid the decoy. One man, Robert Roby Jr., crashed his car while trying to avoid the decoy, and broke his neck, arm, leg and collarbone. His passenger, Dustin Zachariah, suffered brain damage.

Yeah, when you know you shouldn't be doing something like letting kids play football instead of being punished for a crime, or placing a fake deer in the road in order to watch people put their lives at risk to avoid it, then you probably shouldn't do it.

I've got a feeling that Marvin Lewis is on his way to McKinley's office right now.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Rod Smart, Your Modern Day Vince Papale(Sort Of)

While watching Tony Kornheiser's debut on MNF last night I recognized a familiar name, Rod Smart. Smart is one of the, if not THE, only players to successfully transition from the XFL(aka Vince McMahon's Frankenstein of Football) to the NFL(without prior NFL experience).

Those of you who were fortunate enough to watch Smart play for the Las Vegas Outlaws(see Maurice there's hope for you yet) probably remember that his claim to fame was the "He Hate Me" written across the back of his jersey. It served as a motivational tool for Smart in a sort of "me versus them" way.

Eventhough I had seen him play in the NFL, most notably he was part of the '03 Carolina Panthers team that played in the Super Bowl, I didn't know much about his college or early NFL career. Here's a brief rundown of He Hate Me's football career:

As a senior at Western Kentucky University in 1999, Smart totaled 1,249 yards rushing(6.6YPC avg) with 10 TD's. He was voted 1st team All-Ohio Valley Conference. His career numbers at WKU were 2,305 rushing yards(#8 all time for WKU) and 21TD's.

In 2000, Smart attended the San Diego Chargers' training camp, but was released before the season started. He also tried out for the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos, but didn't make the team.

In 2001, He Hate Me showed up in the XFL, and finished the season ranked second in the league in rushing(John Avery finished 1st). He also appeared in six regular season games for the Philadelphia Eagles before being waived at the end of the season.

In 2002, Smart was picked up by the Carolina Panthers where he played from '02 to '05. Most of his participation was on special teams coverage and kick returns.

In 2006, he was signed by the Oakland Raiders as a free agent, and will probably contribute mostly on kickoff returns.

So there you have it. Rod Smart went from WKU star to NFL/CFL washout to XFL star and then back to the NFL as a special teams ace. If Dick Vermeil(or Greg Kinnear) ever asks where he played college ball he can't say "I never went to college", but he can say "I was second in rushing in the XFL to John Avery". Also, his first cousin is Freddie "The People's Champ" Mitchell, though I'm not sure that's something that he wants known.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Joe Schad, A Deer in the Headlights

Granted, without video this isn't quite as funny. However, I'm trying to track it down for proper hilarious placement on YouTube.

During his segment on this morning's Sportscenter episode Joe Schad had a little trouble. At one point he addressed recent comparisons between Ohio State's Troy Smith and former Texas Longhorn Vince Young. He said that Troy Smith asked those making the comparisons whether Vince Young had lost nine starters on defense. Schad then went on to say that Smith wanted to be compared to(and this is where the comedy began) other QB's. It went something like this:

"Smith said he wanted to be compared to Steve McNair, that he had talked to McNair about his toughness. That he wanted to be compared to...uh...(awkward smile because he realizes he can't remember any of the other QB's)...uh..compared to Michael Vick, and McNabb...and...uh...Peyton Manning(Manning? Really?)..."

Then he went on to discuss another college team(I missed who it was because I had started scrambling for something to record with), and how one of their linemen was losing weight due to cutting back on chalupas.

If anyone has the video please shoot me a link because it's classic.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Pitchers Hitting Pitchers

After watching Houston Astros pitcher, Roy Oswalt, round the bases after hitting his first career homerun I was left wondering how many other pitchers had hit homers this season. A quick check of the stats(uh oh, I think Bud Selig is here for some cash money) revealed that 17 pitchers had "gone yard" in 2006. Four of them had done it multiple times(Carlos Zambrano leads with 4, Jorge Sosa is second with 3, and Bronson Arroyo and Jake Peavy are tied with 2 each)

Then I started wondering about the pitchers who had given up those homeruns. I'm sure that most of us have heard at some point about how fragile a pitcher's psyche can be(I think Brad Lidge's cracks a little more everytime he puts a hat on). Imagine the ridicule a pitcher must get when he returns to the dugout after serving up a longball to a fellow hurler. I'm sure it's enough to drive someone a bit insane.

Taking a look at the 23 different pitchers(Glendon Rusch gave up 2 to Bronson Arroyo) who have given up homeruns to other pitchers you come up with these stats:

Their combined record after the homerun is 39-44
Their ERA increased by an average of .16

Some of the pitchers who have taken it the hardest include:

Mark Buehrle: 0-5 record, increase in ERA of 1.03, 9HR/32ER/45H over 6 games

Glendon Rusch: 3-6 record, actually decreased ERA .56, 15HR/43ER/65H over 20 games. Currently on the DL.

Sean Marshall: 2-6 record, also dropped ERA .31, 9HR/29ER/66H over 10 games. Also currently on the DL.

Mike Thompson: 1-3 record, increase in ERA of 1.25, 9HR/30ER/61H over 11 games.

And the ones who have put it behind them the easiest include:

Orlando Hernandez: 3-0 record, decrease in ERA .61, 3HR/9ER/18H over 4 games.

Brad Penny: 2-0 record, decrease in ERA .10, 4HR/4ER/8H over 2 games.

There are also a few who are sort of in the middle, those include:

Brett Myers: 6-3 record, increase in ERA 1.20, 10HR/40ER/77H over 12 games.

Pedro Martinez: 3-1 record, increase in ERA .41, 4HR/15ER/21H over 5 games.

In the end, it appears that giving up a homerun to a rival pitcher can affect a pitcher's performance, in the near term at least(and especially in Chicago). Perhaps all Mark Buehrle needs is to smack a longball in order to get out of his current slump.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The NFL Hall of Fame Game

This past Sunday night the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game was played in Canton, Ohio. The first HOF game occured on August 11, 1962, and both John Madden and Pat Summerall were there as players and commentators(I keed, I keed). Seriously though, the first installment of this wonderfully captivating yearly occurence featured the New York Giants and the St. Louis "Football" Cardinals. Amazingly, it ended in a tie, and they didn't go to overtime to try and decide a winner. I think Charles Bidwell thought they were going to charge him for the extra time, and he decided a tie would be cheaper.

We here at The Sports Oasis(right now that consists of just me, though sometimes my cat does manage to walk across the keyboard) were curious as to what the winners and losers of the past 10 HOF games have gone on to do in the regular season. We(once again just me) chose to only go back 10 years because A) I'm still trying to verify if Maurice Clarett is the Bengals new "equipment manager" and B) The game has changed a lot over the course of 44 years, but 10 years ago it wasn't too different.

Enter the Hall of Brain
Starting with 1996, here is the outcome of the game, and the regular season result of both teams.

The Indianapolis Colts beat the New Orleans Saints in the HOF game by a score of 10-3. Like I said, not much has changed in 10 years. The Colts go on to a 9-7 record, and lose to the Steelers in the Wildcard round. The Saints end up 3-13, and don't make the playoffs.

The Minnesota Vikings defeat the Seattle Seahawks 28-26 in the HOF game. The Vikes end up with a 9-7 record, and lose to the 49'ers in the divisional playoffs. The Seahawks go 8-8, and don't make the playoffs.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-6 in the HOF game. The Bucs end up 8-8, and the Steelers finish the season 7-9. Neither team makes a playoff appearance.

The Cleveland Browns beat the Dallas Cowboys 20-17 in the HOF game. The Browns finish the season 2-14(no, the HOF victory wasn't one of the wins), and the Cowboys go 8-8. Dallas loses to Minnesota in the divisional playoffs.

The New England Patriots beat the San Francisco 49'ers 20-0 in the HOF game. The Patriots end up with a 5-11 record, and the 49'ers finish 6-10. Neither team makes the playoffs.

The St. Louis Rams beat the Miami Dolphins 17-10 in that year's HOF game. The Rams end up 14-2, and lose to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Dolphins finish 11-5, and lose to the Ravens in the wildcard round.

The New York Giants beat the Houston Texans 34-17 in the HOF game. The Giants finished the season 10-6, and lost to the 49'ers in the wildcard round. The Texans finished their inaugural season 4-12, and didn't make the playoffs.

The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Green Bay Packers 9-0 in an HOF game that was cut short due to lightning. The Chiefs finished their season 13-3, and lost in the divisional playoffs to the Colts. The Packers finished 10-6, and lost in the divisional playoffs to the Eagles.

The Washington Redskins beat the Denver Broncos 20-17 in the HOF game. The Redskins finished the season 6-10, and didn't make the playoffs. The Broncos finished 10-6, and lost to the Colts in the wildcard round.

The Chicago Bears beat the Miami Dolphins 27-24 in the HOF game. The Bears went on to finish 11-5, and lost in the divisional playoffs to the Panthers. The Dolphins finished 9-7, and didn't make the playoffs.

The Oakland Raiders beat the Philadelphia Eagles 16-10 in the HOF game. Oakland ends up with 3 wins(49'ers, Texans, Jets), and Al Davis suits up for the final game of the year. The Eagles finish 9-7, beat the Cowboys in the wildcard round(T.O. comes on the field to help defend against the hail mary and gets burned for a T.D.), but lose to the Panthers in the divisional series.(I told you my cat walks across the keyboard sometimes).

The most important statistics from this 10 year historical record are:

Winners of the HOF game have compiled an 87-73 regular season record with 6 playoff appearances.

Losers of the HOF game have gone 76-84 with 4 playoff appearances in that same span.

Don't tell Jeffrey Lurie though because he might ask the NFL to void the Eagles' loss.

Maurice Clarett Fitted For Some Shiny New Bracelets

Maurice Clarett, a guy who seemed to at one point have a decently successful future ahead of him, was arrested again last night.

Apparently, he lead police on an interstate chase in Columbus, Ohio, and when they finally pulled him over they discovered four loaded guns and a hatchet. No reports on whether any stolen cell phones were recovered.

Also, the police tried to use a taser on Clarett, but the bulletproof vest he was wearing made it ineffective. Instead they resorted to spraying him down with good 'ole mace. Seriously, think about it for a minute. Maurice Clarett, the former Fiesta Bowl star was just arrested wearing a bulletproof vest with four loaded guns in his car, after a police chase.

Part of me wants him to be held responsible for his actions, but another part of me hopes he gets released so we can see what he does next. I'm thinking that selling bulletproof vests to Marvin Lewis could be a profitable venture.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What Could Castro's Health Mean For Sports?

In case you haven't heard, Cuba's president(dictator), Fidel Castro, has been hospitalized. The residents of Cuba seem to be pretty excited. One thing I haven't heard much about is how Castro's failing health could impact the sports world.

Obviously this is just speculation, but should Castro lose power, and a new democratic government gets installed, there could be a number of Cuban sports prospects free to come to the United States. Instead of having to brave shark infested waters on a dining room door, they could fly over on real planes with working landing gear.

For the most part, baseball would probably be the sport that would benefit the most. Some of the most famous Cuban athletes who defected went on to play major league baseball. They include:

Rene Arocha: Due to injury problems he didn't have a spectacular career(18-17, 4.11 ERA), but he was the first Cuban defector to sign a major league contract. He essentially showed other MLB hopefuls that it could be done.

Rey Ordonez: He played 9 seasons, and racked up 3 gold gloves. Ordonez defected to the United States in 1993 at the end of the World University of Games.

Michael Tejera: He defected in 1994 while traveling through the Miami International Airport on his way to the World Championships in Canada. Tejera started his major league career in 1999 with the Marlins. He was also part of the '03 Marlins team that won the World Series. His career numbers are 11-13 with a 5.14ERA.

Livan Hernandez: He defected in 1995 while playing for the Cuban National Team in Mexico. Hernandez started his career with the Marlins in 1996, and won both the NLCS MVP and World Series MVP in 1997. He was also voted to the All-Star team in both the '04 and '05 seasons. Currently, he plays for the Washington Nationals, and his career stats are 110-104 with a 4.11ERA.

Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez: Quite possibly the most famous Cuban athlete that has successfully defected to the United States. Hernandez made it to the U.S. via the Bahamas in 1997. He began his career in 1998 with the New York Yankess. Hernandez has been a part of three World Series winning teams(NYY '99, NYY '00, CHW '05), and won the ALCS MVP in 1999. Currently, he's a starting pitcher for the New York Mets, and has lifetime stats of 77-57 with a 4.20ERA.

Rolando Arrojo: He defected in 1996 while playing in the Summer Olympics for the Cuban National Team. In 1997, he was signed by the Devil Rays, and was an All-Star selection in 1998. His career ended after the '02 season, and his lifetime record is 40-42 with a 4.55ERA.

Danys Baez: He defected while playing for the Cuban National Team at the 1999 Pan American Games in Canada. Baez started his career with the Cleveland Indians in 2001. In '01 he went 5-3 with a 2.50ERA, in '02 10-11 with a 4.41ERA and 6 saves, and in '03 2-9 with a 3.81ERA and 25 saves. While with the Devil Rays in '04-'05 he went 4-4 with a 3.57ERA and 30 saves, and 5-4 with a 2.86ERA and 41 saves respectively. In January of 2006 he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and in July of 2006 traded to the Atlanta Braves.

Andy Morales: He successfully defected on his second attempt in 2000. The Yankees signed him to a $4.5 million dollar deal in March of 2001. However, Morales is probably most famous for lying about his age, and having the Yankess stop payment on the multi-million dollar deal. He has yet to play in the majors.

Jose Contreras: He defected in 2002 while playing for the Cuban National team in Santillo, Mexico. Contreras started his major league career in '03 with the Yankees where he went 7-2 with a 3.30ERA, but missed about two months due to injury. In July of '04, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. Between the Yankees and the White Sox, Contreras ended up with a 13-9 record and 5.50ERA for the 2004 season. In the 2005 season he went 15-7 with a 3.61ERA, and helped the White Sox win their first World Series title since 1917.

While Major League Baseball has benefitted from the successful defection of a number of Cuban athletes, there are other sports where the defectors have flourished.

Boxer Joel Casamayor defected in 1996 while in Mexico. He went on to win the NABF and WBA Super Featherweight titles. Diobleys Hurtado is another boxer who successfully defected, and was at one time ranked in the WBC's Top 10 Welterweights.

Should Castro relinquish power, and a democratic government is able to be established in Cuba, then Cuban athletes will have new opportunities that were once only attained after long struggles. For every athlete that has made it to the U.S. there are probably a number who have tried and failed(even some of the successful ones had to try more than once), or who were too scared to try at all. Baseball, boxing and a variety of other sports could see an influx of talented Cuban athletes that want nothing more than to pursure the "American Dream".