Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Boston did not enter the season with huge expectations, and only came into the playoffs as a 3 seed. But, due to the amazing goaltending of Tim Thomas and an offense that keeps finding ways to score, the Bruins are champs of the Eastern Conference. Unlike the Bruins, Vancouver posted the best record in the NHL and came into the playoffs with mammoth expectations. They almost gave into the pressure in a 7-game dogfight with annual tormentor Chicago, but in the end, they were finally able to beat the Blackhawks. This seemed to propel them throughout the playoffs, as they beat the Predators and Sharks without big problems. The Canucks have the same fluid style of play as in years past: they score lots of points. But this year, they seem to have an edge which differentiates them from past teams.
The Bruins are a solid team. Riding the hot hand of Tim Thomas and some unlikely heroes, they have come far. But, as long as the Canucks play up to their potential as they have throughout the playoffs, they will be the ones hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Prediction: Canucks in 6
Yankees - Derek Jeter (could it be anybody else?)
Red Sox - David Ortiz - been there through the thick and thin amidst steroid allegations, but fans love him
Blue Jays- Jose Bautista - has emerged as a superstar
Orioles - Brian Roberts
Rays - Evan Longoria
Tigers - Justin Verlander
White Sox - Mark Buehrle
Royals - Billy Butler
Indians - Grady Sizemore
Twins - Joe Mauer
Rangers - Josh Hamilton
Athletics - GM Billy Beane - there is no player that jumps out for the A's, but Billy Beane's Moneyball strategy will always be the most important factor of the Athletics
Mariners - Ichiro Suzuki
Angels - Jered Weaver
Phillies - Jimmy Rollins - may not be the best player, but has been there way to long not to be "face"
Mets - David Wright / Jose Reyes - Wright is more vocal, but Reyes is the better player right now
Braves - Chipper Jones - not even a question
Nationals - Ryan Zimmerman
Marlins - Hanley Ramirez - though Josh Johnson is a close second
Cubs - Carlos Zambrano - Starlin Castro could be the next one, but for now Big Z is still the man
Cardinals - Albert Pujols
Pirates - Andrew McCutchen - not exactly a household name, but he's a highly talented player
Astros - Hunter Pence - not an easy selection with Michael Bourn and Carlos Lee also options
Brewers - Ryan Braun
Reds - Joey Votto
Padres - Heath Bell - looking through the roster, even Bell is a stretch to be called a "face" of a franchise
Rockies - Troy Tulowitzki - CarGo may be the best player, but Tulo is every GM's dream
Giants - Tim Lincecum - recently injured Buster Posey is right there with him
Dodgers - Matt Kemp - though Kershaw, Ethier, Broxton and Billingsley are all young stars, Matt Kemp demonstrates the complete package of a "face"
Diamondbacks - Stephen Drew - Chris Young and Justin Upton are logical choices, but Drew has been on the team longer and been more successful
Friday, May 27, 2011
The Giants are going to miss Buster Posey's production, and will probably win a few less games without him, but the season is not lost. San Francisco and the people who watched a young baby face catcher do what Mays, Marichal, McCovey, and Cepeda could not, are probably more devastated. He was their leader on a team filled with so called castaways and misfits. It's a terrible tragedy that could have career altering consequences to one of the best young players in the game.
And inevitably, when something so terrible happens to one of the stars of the game, the world takes notice. ESPN and MLB Network and countless other television and online news networks have made this their top story. First, let's talk about the play itself. As the rules stand RIGHT NOW, the play was legal, it was clean, and it was within his right as a baserunner to try and pry the ball lose. Sure Posey wasn't exactly blocking the plate, but it's within the baserunners rights to do anything he can to not be out. The real question is whether this type of baseball is necessary.
I'm all for playing hard. I wouldn't watch the game if the players didn't play hard. We get on players for not hustling, for not legging out that double, for not diving for a ball. But the fact of the matter is that every level of baseball except for the Major Leagues does not allow blowing up the catcher on a play at the plate. They manage to find a way to play hard and not compromise the game.
People have often cited the "Well this is how the game has always been played!" mantra in defending the barreling of the catcher. In my opinion, this is the worst argument that anybody could make. Tradition is great, as long as it makes sense. Following tradition blindly is where we get into trouble. Shirley Jackson's The Lottery is an extreme example of this. So why are tons of people all for the blind following of tradition just for the sake of tradition? It doesn't make any sense. Blowing up the catcher is good for baseball? Posey's career doesn't appear to be threatened, but how is keeping exciting players out of the game good for baseball?
Also, most people are arguing that "The Giants are making a big deal about this because it's their star player! If it was Joe Schmo nobody would care!" Well, yeah. But isn't that how most change is brought about? People recognize that an issue needs to be addressed when it happens to someone worth recognizing. It sucks that less high profile athletes had this happen to them and nobody said anything. But if this incident to Posey is what needed to happen to make sure that no catcher is forced to retire, then it will have been worth it from a big picture standpoint.
In terms of actual concrete rule changes, if I may make a suggestion. The catcher must provide the runner with a lane to slide. That's it. The runner is forced to take that lane and make the most of it. If the catcher blocks the plate, it's interference and the run scores. There simply is no need for bowling over a catcher. If I wanted to watch players tackling each other, I would watch football.
Get well soon Buster.
Friday, May 20, 2011
- Johnny Ludden of Yahoo! Sports explains how Coach Scott Brooks sent a message to Russell Westbrook in last night's Game 2 victory
- Joe Posnanski of SI.com takes a look at The Yankees in 2013
- ESPN's Tim Kurkijan explains how Kyle McClellan has filled in nicely for Adam Wainwright
- Mark Townsend of of Big League Stew shows how a few words from Jim Tracy helped Jason Giambi blast three homers last night
- Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune examines how much Notre Dame paid Charlie Weis to get out of the contract
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Even though Mets fans, including myself, are ambitious about THIS season, we are still disappointed with a team that is filling out their expectations. We are right where we thought we’d be, but I don't foresee many Met fans settling for a .500 ball club even with a team that is doomed to fail.
With all that being said, the Yankees have enough money to comfortably fill out the roster. The problem lies in their current players' inability to put together a championship team. Talent-wise, the Yankees are probably the second best team in the AL East, but the whole package together puts the Rays above them. I do not believe the Yankees can win the title with their current roster, in fact I don't think they could make the playoffs. I will go as far as to say that the Blue Jays and Orioles will stay competitive with the Yankees for the rest of the season. The Blue Jays and Orioles have bright futures with young stars and potent offenses. The Orioles have an ace in the making with Sean Britton, while the Blue Jays boast the hottest player in baseball (Jose Bautista). As of right now, the Yankees core players are aging and showing it through their terrible play. It is easy for me to find fault in the Yankees, since I despise this team, but it is hard to ignore the numbers. Alex Rodriguez is hitting .242 with an OPS of .781. In his career. A-Rod is a .302 hitter with a .956 OPS. Albeit this is a small sample size, but A-Rod just looks so much older than he did just last season. Maybe its unfair to have such high expectations for one player, but with a salary of $32,000,000, it's natural.
I believe that in order for the Yankees to be a championship contender, they will have to turn the page. That page might take a few years to turn though, considering how much money is tied up. They should try and build the team around their core of Robinson Cano, C.C. Sabathia, and Derek Jeter. It would be an awful situation for the Yankees to cut/trade or do anything but play Jeter, as he is the most important player in the franchises past 30 years. Cano is a flat out beast and he, along with Chase Utley, are by far the best second basemen in the league. Alex Rodriguez, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, and Rafael Soriano are virtually untradeable due to their ridiculous contracts. Soriano is a great relief pitcher, but as an 8th inning setup man, is being paid way too much; however, he is the likely successor to Mariano Rivera, so the Yankees would be wise to keep him. It is likely that the Yankees will try and win with this group of players for the next two to three years, even though each year they will get exponentially older. The Yankees could be facing an end of an era, but I doubt they'll admit that.
The only team that is holding its own is the New York Jets, as they have reached the AFC Championship game in consecutive seasons and continue to boast one of the best defenses in the NFL. Led by overconfident Rex Ryan, this team has some life to it. Rex Ryan's crazy and bold predictions fire this team up and the players respond more often than not. This is the only team in New York that is living up to its hype. While the Jets seem to be figuring things out, the Giants have regressed in the past couple of seasons. The Giants seem to always play off of momentum, as they used a ridiculous run to win the Superbowl in 2008. They seem to play very poorly to start the season and then finish strong, while pushing for a playoff spot. Last season they missed out on the playoffs after Green Bay won in week 17, but the Giants need to be more consistent in order to compete for a title again.
In hockey, the Rangers seem to be fighting for a bottom seed in the playoffs year after year, struggling to make it out of the first round. The Devils had an off year, despite almost pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in NHL history after an awful 11-29 start. The aging Brodeur is the key for the Devils, as they look to bounce back next season. Both teams are middle of the pack hockey teams and it seems as if the dominant Devils of the past could be behind us.
In basketball, the Knicks pulled off the biggest trade of the season, landing Carmelo Anthony. In doing so, they traded away four key role players necessary to win. The Knicks should have realized that they could not contend for a title this year and waited until Melo's free agency (this summer) to sign him, but they did not want to take a risk on losing out on Melo altogether. This team is at least three or four role players away from contending and in order for their Melo/Stoudemire pickups to work out, this offseason they must transform the rest of the roster. On the other hand, the New Jersey Nets lost out big time on every free agent last summer, but they did pick up an elite point guard in Deron Williams at the trade deadline. This move does put the Nets in good position to make a run at Dwight Howard. The Nets will likely put out an offer to the Magic next season which will be centered around Brook Lopez, in hopes to put together a team that could contend with the powers of the East. The Nets will also be moving to Brooklyn in two years, making it more appealing to big time free agents. Despite all of the superstar pick ups, the Knicks and Nets are simply not great teams. The current Nets roster would struggle to finish in the top 10 in the East and the Knicks are at best a #5 team in the East right now.
I will attack the Mets and Yankees later in the day. Since they have so many problems, they'll need their own post.
In the mean time, what New York team will win the next championship? (Rangers, Devils, Jets, Giants, Nets, Knicks, Yankees, or Mets)
Monday, May 16, 2011
Let me begin this letter in saying that I am not the Yankees' biggest fan. In fact, in my opinion, the Yankees represent everything that is wrong with modern baseball, but that is another issue for another time. It has recently come to my attention that you aren't happy with the Bronx Bombers either. I guess we have more in common then we both thought!
In all my years of greatly disliking the Yankees, I never once looked at you with disgust. Never once did I watch a World Series game and say, "Man, that Posada guy is a tool. His presence on a baseball diamond really irks me." Nope, I was too busy disliking all of the other characters on the Yankees like that Mariano Rivera guy. Oh, he's a fantastic pitcher, one of the best closers in the history of baseball no doubt. His comment after the World Series in 2009, "I forgot what it felt like to win the World Series!", having just won the Fall Classic 9 years earlier, was undoubtedly met with disgust in the hearts of Cubs, Indians, and Giants fans. Derek Jeter and all of his overrated handsomness, A-Rod and that whole steroids bust that was conveniently swept under the rug, and Roger Clemens with his broken bat throwing and steroid bust that is conven...oh wait, nevermind about that.
Like I was saying, I never hated you. That doesn't mean I liked you, mind you. I just looked at you with indifference. Anytime somebody asked me what I thought of you, I would respond "Meh". I realize you are...er, were...a great catcher. You were part of a great core that led your squad to 4 straight World Series titles. You've had a great career that will undoubtedly go into history as one of the best Yankee's of all time. Congratulations.
But what's this I've been hearing all over the East SPorts Network? You were put 9th in the order, and refused to play. You cited this aggregious act as "disrespectful". You're absolutely right. A player hitting .165 absolutely deserves to a) be in the lineup in the first place and b) at least 5th in the order. Some might say that keeping you in the lineup so high for so long while hitting so poorly was actually showing you respect because of your great history with the Yankees. Not you. Putting you in the lineup in the last spot is a blatant disrespect to who you are. I mean, that's where pitchers hit in the National League! What an outrage.
If I may give you a bit of advice though, Jorge. Play the damn game. You are one of the gifted few to not only make it to the Show, but to have a long, prosperous career. You play for one of the most storied franchises in all of baseball in one of the greatest cities in the world. If your coach puts you in the 9th spot, you smile and take your hacks. There are thousands of players in the world who would love to be "disrespected" like you were a few days ago. This game is a privelage, not a right. Your whining is very unbecoming of a great player on the decline.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
The Heat are best when their "Big 3" of Bosh, James, and Wade are squarely in the flow of the game. They all need to get touches and shots, and each need to be a centerpiece of the offense. They like to get into isolation mode with James and Wade. When teams try to double on them, Miami's stable of three point shooters need to knock down shots, which has not been a problem for James Jones. When the big three are on and the shooters are knocking down open shots, Miami is nearly impossible to stop. The Heat also play pretty tough and underrated defense.
The Bulls are built on defense, and being the top defense in the NBA this year is a big reason why the Bulls are where they are today. Derrick Rose, Chicago's superstar, has been simply sensational in his MVP season, and has not disappointed in the playoffs. The Bulls have an awesome bench that provides scoring in Korver, Gibson, and Watson, along with defense from Asik and Brewer. Noah provides endless energy, Deng is a consistent scorer and defender, and Bogans is an extremely pesky defender. The big wild card for the Bulls is Carlos Boozer. If Boozer puts up a double double and the defensive intensity is there, the Bulls will be extremely tough.
Game six of the Bulls-Hawks series provided the blueprint for Chicago's success: Suffocating defense, a double-double from Boozer, and Rose playing up to his ability. Miami's Big 3 will no doubt be hard to contain. But, unlike the Heat, the Bulls team approach makes them greater than the sum of their parts. a true team, a ferocious defense, and a superstar and his resurgent sidekick will be too much for the Heat, as the Bulls win in 7.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Yet I find myself wondering if this "idea" (its less of an idea and more like common sense) has bigger implications then we realize. This being The Point After and everything, I'm sure you can see where I'm taking this. Sports allegiances have a ton to do with where you were born. Geography is everything. Born in Los Angeles? You have a couple of options to choose from in terms of which team you follow, but if you're born in a smaller city, like Kansas City, you follow the Royals. That's it. Sure there are other ways in determining your allegiance, such as family in another city, you like the team colors, or perhaps the worst reason that I hear all too often, "They just won a lot of championships when I was younger and they were the best team so I decided to follow them". I'm not here to play judge and jury on fandom, but find a better reason, please.
I digress. Anyways, you like, love, and die for a team because they play every night on TV. Walking down the street you see their banners, their memorabilia, maybe even one of their players having lunch if you're lucky. Your parents teach you to love the home team and despise those other teams. Those other teams are filled with bad men, they club baby seals, and they will cheat their way to victory. You love these teams because you are simply around them. All the time. And you don't like other teams because you simply don't hear about them all too often.
So what's the deal ESPN? If this question seems out of place, let me explain. Baseball is a game of narratives. The games, viewed individually, can sometimes be a dull affair. I absolutely love baseball but I will concede this fact. I sometimes fall asleep for innings at a time. My mind wanders. It happens. But over the course of a season, the stories form, and every team is an open book. Of course I'm partial to one team, and the opposite of that for some teams (I'm looking at you Dodgers). But that doesn't mean I don't mind a good story. My problem is that millions of people who don't have the time to scour box scores and blogs and other forms of research and watch Sportscenter to keep up with the sporting world are being kept from "reading" these stories.
Perhaps you know what I'm alluding to. It's referred to on the West Coast as "East Coast Bias". Certain teams are covered much more extensively then all the others. And by certain teams, I'm talking about the Big 4. The Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and the Mets (although less so now). For now I have the biggest beef with the first two. The Yankees-Red Sox rivaly. Everyone knows about it. It's a great rivalry. Some might say the best, although for right now I give that title to Dodgers-Giants. That's an issue for another day. The point is that during any given night of Baseball tonight or Sportscenter, the first twenty minutes of the program are an inning by inning deconstruction of each game. If they are playing each other? It's a game by game prediction, followed by needs of each team, what Jeter has for lunch each day, etc. etc. The ESPN Sunday Night Baseball features either the Yankees or Red Sox about 80% of the time (not an exact figure, but pretty close, I dare you to look it up). During nationally televised games, the majority of the country is forced to watch Yankees or Red Sox games while there are perhaps better pitching matchups elsewhere that they would rather watch.
It has to stop. "But what about ratings! Everyone loves the Yankees and Red Sox!" you all cry out. People only care about the Yankees and Red Sox because ESPN has dictated that these are the teams you should care about. Sure, they are the largest markets, but I assure you that sports fans love good sport more then they care about the Yankees and Red Sox. If ESPN spent more time covering all of the unique stories across the country, there would be better ratings for a say, Giants-Rangers World Series (Ask any Giants or Rangers fan about their team. I'm sure you'll get sucked into the story of either club)
Please ESPN, I implore you to go out and educate others about the teams that are perhaps a little less followed. You will find a hitter in Toronto who is hitting the ball well and walking at a Bondsian rate (I dont give out this praise cheaply). You will find a Giants team that is filled with strange characters. I'm sure you'll even find something of note in Pittsburgh. It won't make people fall in love with these teams mind you, but maybe you'll spark an interest in the great narrative of Americas Past Time. Spark an interest, and I'm sure you're precious ratings will be there. If you build it, they most definitely will come.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Jay Wrights successful tenure on the Main Line has elevated the status of the basketball program and the expectations of the Nova Nation. The Wildcats took a hiatus from the NCAA tournament after the ’99 season, but burst back onto the scene in 2005 and have never looked back. A Final Four run in 2009 marked the program’s high point in recent years. However, the Villanova faithful have been left disappointed by a second round exit in 2010 and a first round exit in 2011. More unsettling than the losses themselves was deterioration of overall team chemistry. Simply put, it seemed as though the team lost track of itself. Many felt that the ‘Cats were not playing up to their potential, that they weren’t exactly sure who they were on the court.
The 2009 squad was characterized by fantastic team basketball. That team featured a balanced lineup. Dante Cunningham, Shane Clark, Dwayne Anderson and Antonio Pena provided size and presence inside; Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes formed a formidable backcourt of guards. Yet these players didn’t have to carry the team by themselves. They won because of cohesiveness and their ability to play as one. The important thing was that that team was balanced and they weren’t reliant on one player or one facet of the game.
By the middle of last season it became apparent that the 2011 ‘Cats lacked balance. They were overly reliant on Fisher, Stokes and Maalik Wayns. A legitimate post presence on the offensive end was rare and the team struggled to compete if the three guards weren’t hitting their shots. Wright was put in a difficult position: the inability of the bench players to provide offensive production forced him to keep Fisher and Wayns together on the floor most of the time, which wouldn’t be an issue…but they’re both small and share a similar style of play. Opposing defenses would clog the lane and force Villanova to make jump shots. Offensively, the Cats clearly struggled when the three main guards couldn’t hit shots because there was no legitimate post game to help open up the floor.
Last year’s setbacks shouldn’t dampen Villanova’s spirits. Established seniors Fisher, Stokes and Pena are gone, but no one can deny that the remaining roster has the talent to compete—it depends on whether or not they pull it all together. Wayns has become another product of “Guard U” and seems ready to step up and become the leader of this team. Like UConn’s Kemba Walker did this year, Wayns is poised to have a breakout junior campaign as the lead guard for Wright’s offense. Center Mouphtaou Yarou has made great strides in each of his years and could possibly establish himself as one of the nation’s top post players. Scottie Reynold’s heroics made him the face of the team, but most forget that it was Cunningham who led the team in scoring and rebounds. His post play on both ends of the court alleviated the pressure on Reynolds. Hopefully, Wayns and Yarou can form a similar one-two combo this coming year.
Beyond those two, Villanova is looking for certain players to step up to the plate. Dom Cheek and Isaiah Armwood have only scratched the surface of their talent and Coach Wright will surely anticipate improved production from both. With time in the weight room, and a little more confidence, both could become exceptional players. The rising juniors came in as the most-hyped recruiting class in the history of Villanova—it’s time for them to show why. If the coaching staff and the players prepared diligently in the offseason, this team could surprise some people in 2012. James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston and Maurice Sutton can all provide quality bench minutes if they find their niche and develop their skills. With proper focus and preparation, this group of players can hopefully hit the ground running in the fall—and play up to the standards that the Nova Nation has come to expect from them.