Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Curses or coincidence?

I'm a Red Sox fan. If anyone has been bred to believe in curses, it's me. Boston took an 86-year hiatus from 1918-2004 before winning another championship. And never in the 19-years I was alive prior to 2004 did I think Babe Ruth cursed the Sawx.

But I'm slowly nearing a sobering possibility: Perhaps, for some unknown reason, I'm a curse for the hometown short season Single-A Spokane Indians. Last season, the Indians captured the Northwest League championship and did so in dominant fashion. Yet, in the nine games I went to, Spokane was 1-8. They were 50-17 in all other games.

So far this year, the Indians are off to a horrific start at 3-8. I just got back from my third consecutive game at Avista Stadium against the Tri-City Dust Devils and witnessed the beginning, middle and end of a deflating sweep.

I fully expect to arrive at the next game with a wanted poster outside for my immediate removal from the park. Good thing I'm not a season-ticket holder and good thing this...thing...hasn't latched itself on to my appearances at Chiefs games.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Barack Obama is going to the All-Star Game? Whaaaaat?

Oh my goodness! Our president, Barack Obama, is taking time from his schedule to attend this summer's Midsummer Classic. Can you believe this? Instead of fixing the economy, figuring out how to get our troops out of Iraq or passing laws, Obama is going to spend three hours at a baseball game. Unreal.

If this isn't absurd enough, he's probably sleeping on the job right now! I know, right? Sure, it's 3 a.m. in Washington D.C. and that's when most people catch some Z's, but he's supposed to be working right now. Being president is a 24/7, 365.25 job and when our leader is spending his time not fixing what needs to be fixed, he's obviously not fit for his position.

If you didn't catch that thinly-veiled sarcasm, I'm sorry, but people who freak out over the president attending a baseball game need to chill out and gain some perspective. It's been a point of contention for McCain supporters and Obama haters since January that Obama is an avid sports fan. He appeared on SportsCenter during March Madness, filling out his bracket (which had UNC winning it all). He plays basketball regularly. And now, Obama will be at Busch Stadium in July to watch the American League All-Stars take on the National League All-Stars. Big whoop.

If you haven't noticed, Obama has been getting work done while doing all of this. The United States' image worldwide is improving in the post-Bush era. The automotive industry has great potential to rebound and hundreds of thousands of jobs are being created throughout all 50 states. Sure, there are a plethora of problems with our country, both big and small, but there always are and there always will be. When's the last time a president fixed every problem and satisfied every U.S. citizen? OK, just checking.

Listen, I'm not much of a political guy, but to jump on the president's case for being a sports fan is wrong. He's still only one man with a wife and kids and has his own life to juggle while being America's Top Dog. Of course he needs to allocate more time to his responsibilities as president than to his free time or his personal interests, but to those on his case for attending a baseball game or shooting some hoops, I say relax and think about it for a second.

For every hour he spends at a ball game, he's probably spending several weeks or months fixing what's wrong with this country. That's more than I'm doing or will ever do. And chances are, it's more than his critics are doing or will ever do.

Maybe those people should spend more time coming up with ways to better their country, or for that matter their community, and less time whining about how the president spends his.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hey ESPN...

I'm not sure who's in charge of game previews and recaps, but if their cut-and-paste style doesn't work out, I wouldn't mind stepping in:

ESPN's Wednesday Red Sox-Marlins Preview: Ortiz, though, may finally be coming around. He went 2 for 3 with a home run and three RBIs -- all during a six-run fourth inning -- in Tuesday's 8-2 win over Florida.He is 9 for 23 (.391) with four home runs in his last nine games, also drawing six walks for a .517 on-base percentage over that span."You think about team goals and things like that," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, "but there's no doubt we're pulling for him. We're human, and there's no getting around that."

ESPN's Tuesday Red Sox-Marlins Recap: Tim Wakefield's ninth win moved him another spot closer to the AL lead, and the Boston Red Sox think it might finally be the 42-year-old knuckleballer's chance to make his first career All-Star team. "You think about team goals and things like that," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, "but there's no doubt we're pulling for him. We're human, and there's no getting around that."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Daye of Defeat?

Most fans of the Gonzaga University men's basketball team might be disappointed about the news that sophomore Austin Daye is passing up on his final two years of eligibility to enter the NBA draft.

I am not most fans. This is great news for the Zags team and program. And awful news for fans of the NBA team which drafts Daye.

Look - Austin Daye is not ready for NBA basketball. He's not even a year away. He's at least two years away from being able to be a 10-15 minute bench guy. And he's about four years away from starting for a mediocre team. That's his ceiling.

Daye is a stone cold lock to follow in Adam Morrison's footsteps as a huge NBA bust. They're both pure shooters with not much inside game. They're both thin as a rail. Both possess great height, but are one-dimensional and don't bring much to the defensive end. What am I missing?

Meanwhile, in Spokane, the Zags will be better off without his presence. When Daye was on his game, he was a great player, but he was cold more often than not last season, when Gonzaga reached the Sweet 16. He was a hothead who clashed with officials and coaches and didn't exactly fit the mold as a true Zag. His length gave the Bulldogs an advantage on the perimeter, especially on the defensive end, but anyone who weighed 180 pounds could post him up and have his way with Daye in the paint.

Heck, Diamon Simpson might be more upset than Zag fans that Daye is bolting. Simpson was a lock for a 20-10 game anytime Mark Few had Daye guarding the St. Mary's forward.

Anyway, the first Gonzaga player to bolt early since Morrison is gone, but not forgotten. Zag fans won't be seeing Daye taking the floor in Spokane in 2009-10, but they'll see him riding plenty of pine in the NBA for years to come.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Time to sweep up some trash!

That's so wicked awesome, but I don't think that lonely
broom tells the entire tale of 2009 so far...

That's very nice also, but that only speaks for two of the series the Sox and Yanks have played, and haven't they played three so far?

There. Much better.

See you in August, New York!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I may jinx what's happened so far, but I can't resist...

This is A.J. Burnett. The New York Yankees paid him $82.5 million over five seasons to be a horse behind their prized pitching signing, CC Sabathia, at the top of the Yankee rotation.

Well, $82.5 million apparently doesn't get you out of the third inning at Fenway Park. At least it didn't on Tuesday night when Burnett was pulled 2 2/3 innings in after allowing five runs, three earned, on five hits and five walks while recording just one strikeout. So far this season, Burnett sports a Chien-Ming Wang-like 12.91 ERA versus New York's hated rivals and a very mediocre 4.89 ERA overall. You know how many pitchers in the league have a lower ERA and lower salaries than AJ? Me neither, but I guarantee it's a lot.

However, it would be unfair to Burnett to place all the blame for the Bronx Bombers' struggles versus the Sox on him. After all, he's just responsible for two of New York's six losses in six games to Boston on the season. And this one wasn't wholly his fault. Check out the box score from tonight's game to see what the anti-Burnett, Josh Beckett, did to the vaunted Yankee lineup:

Jeter 0-3, BB
Damon 0-4, K
Teixeira 0-2, 2 BB, K
Roidriguez 0-4, K
Cano 1-4, K
Posada 0-2, BB, 2 K
Swisher 0-3, K
Cabrera 0-3, 2 K
Gardner 1-3

For the record, Nick Green had as many hits as New York tonight.

Anyway, six of 19 games between the teams have been played in 2009 and Boston has (knock on wood) yet to lose to their bitter rivals. They're hitting better, they're pitching better and they're fielding better. Thanks to Baltimore and Minnesota, though, the Yankees are still tied for first in the AL East at 34-24.

But whatever. This isn't about the race for the playoffs - it's still June, by the way. This is about how bad New York is against Boston. The only players on the roster who have played decently against the Sox this season are the long relief pitchers and that's only because they've seen Boston hitters more often than A-Rod has seen Angel Presinal and Yuri Sucart since 2000. The hitters do just enough to lose games. The starting pitching has been atrocious and the Sox haven't even had the chance to knock CC out of a game before the all-you-can-eat-buffets close at 8 p.m. Joba has been beaten. Pettitte has been beaten. Burnett has been torched. Rivera blew a game that Marte took the loss for. Some guy named Jonathan Albaladejo has been beaten. And Phil Hughes also chalked up an 'L' for the Yanks.

Yeah, four of the six games have been played in Beantown, but the Sox have beaten New York with hitting (16-11) and pitching (7-0, 4-1, 7-3). They have beaten Yankee starters (thanks, AJ) and relievers (same to you, Mariano). They've won blowouts (7-0) and nailbiters (5-4, again, thanks Mariano). But most importantly, they've won. It doesn't matter how it gets done, 6-0 speaks for itself.

Tomorrow, Wang (who started the game in which the Yanks lost to Cleveland 22-4) faces Tim Wakefield (always a mystery, but more trustworthy pitching at Fenway Park than at the Yankee Silo) in a game the Yankees might want to win to avoid playing with the pressure of a third consecutive Sox sweep looming.

New York isn't winning, though. I don't care if they knock Wake out in the first. Boston has their number this year. They'll find a way. I'm not saying the Red Sox will go 19-0 versus the Yanks in 2009, but they aren't going 6-13 either. Win number seven on the season comes tomorrow at Fenway.

New York might as well warm up the long relief now. Wang, like AJ Burnett tonight, won't see the fourth inning. And the Yankees won't see their first win of the year versus Boston either.

I could get used to saying that a few more times...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Really? That's what this is like?

I suppose it all started in 2003 when University of Miami (FL) tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. lost his cool after a game versus the Tennessee Volunteers. In a postgame rant to reporters, Winslow compared a football game to war and claimed "I'm a f---ing soldier!"

There was a lot of outcry regarding the outburst, as the media skewered Winslow for comparing a simple game to a life-and-death matter such as war. Winslow wasn't on the 50-yard line dodging bullets - he was dodging safeties. Just a bit different.

Well yesterday, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded star outfielder Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves for a handful of prospects. This didn't sit well with many Pirates players, some of whom felt that the team was very much still alive for the postseason, despite that they are 6 and a half games out of first in the underachieving NL Central and despite that they are, in fact, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

One of these players, Andy LaRoche, unleashed his feelings about the trade to reporters and must have been speaking from experience, because if he wasn't, may not have the analogy correct.

"There ain't a guy in here who ain't [ticked] off about it," said first baseman
Adam LaRoche, according to the report. "It's kind of like being with your platoon in a battle, and guys keep dropping around you. You keep hanging on, hanging on, and you've got to figure: How much longer till you sink?"

So let me get this straight: Losing a player who you'll see on your next trip to Atlanta or their next trip to Pittsburgh is basically the same as your fellow soldiers dying? I understand LaRoche is upset and frustrated, and rightfully so, but there has to be a more appropriate way of conveying your thoughts. Like, say, "It's kind of like being on a Triple-A team, and guys keep moving up to the bigs around you. You keep playing, playing and you've got to figure: How much longer till you move up to the bigs?"

Come to think of it, playing for the Pirates is exactly like being on a Triple-A team. And let's face it - the only way LaRoche and the rest of the Pirates are escaping losing season after losing season is to move up to the bigs. Or in this case, the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox (Jason Bay)
, New York Yankees (Xavier Nady) or any other team with a legitimate chance of winning at the highest level.

The Pirates organization is synonymous with losing and the problems run much deeper than losing great outfielders. Perhaps LaRoche should recognize that sinking to the bottom of the NL Central is just slightly different than dying on a battlefield.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

And Tonight's Guest...

Hey everybody, Aaron here.  My man Dylan was kind enough to let me contribute to his fine bloggity blog, so I've decided to celebrate the occasion with a wholesome, nutritious list.  Let's call it... "Top 5 Reasons To Hate The NBA After Game 1 Of The Finals."  Engage.

1)  Orlando Already Won.  For the first time since Shaq's Junior season in the mid-90's the Magic are back in the Finals.  To get there, they defeated the defending champion Boston Celtics (obligatory asterisk of no KG) AND the heavily-favored Cleveland LeBron James.  No one expected them to beat topple those foes, much less the Lakers, and no one is going to be upset with them even if they get swept.  They've accomplished far more than they anticipated this season, and it showed in their lackluster defense and general sloth Thursday night.

2)  No Ringless Lakers Deserve It.  The list of LA Lakers worthy of a title reads: Phil Jackson (9 rings), Kobe Bryant (3), and the case could be made for Derek Fisher (3), who has enjoyed surprising success considering his embodiment of PG mediocrity.  Past that, THERE IS NO LIST.  Pau Gasol is a post presence in the style of Eric Piatowski.  Lamar Odom is the most unreliable player since Brian Washington.  Luke Walton is, god forbid, a Walton.  Then, I think they have 3 more point guards worse than Derek Fisher and Tracy Morgan standing on Vern Troyer.  Not that Orlando fares much better in this regard, but Patrick Ewing is listed on their roster as an assistant coach.  He alone is more deserving than the entire Staples Center minus dancers.

3)  Violations Are Not Enforced.  I have two calls in mind: charging and illegal screens.  Charging seems to be called only if a perimeter player is driving the lane or if a post player is battling inside.  Why isn't it called when any offensive player dislodges their immobile defender?  A topical example is Kobe Bryant backing down whichever poor sap is assigned to guard him, creating a few feet of space to hike up a turn around J.  While it looks pretty, the defender's position was clearly manipulated by 24's  initiation of physical contact.  TWEET.  Next up is the screen.  I can't quote directly, but I believe a screen is illegal if the screener's movement provides an advantage to the oh-ffensive player.  Now, maybe NBA officials are unable to discern movement (it helps explain the continuation rule), but I approximate that 90% of NBA screens feature movement of an illegal fashion.  The worst part is, the NBA is teaching generations of children that power forwards operate like offensive tackles and I have to deal with them acting all Antonio Gates-y.  That analogy wasn't very strong, but you get the point.

4)  Where's The NBA Been For The Last 8 Months?  Thanks to an awesome new TV, I was blessed with the gift of free cable for a month before Comcast got wise and shut it off.  During that time, I got to watch the NBA basically every night, and could even cycle between a couple different games at times.  However, upon rejoining the poor, cable-deprived masses I realized that the NBA does not exist on network television.  Even during the playoffs no more than two games per week were shown, and those were always on Sunday.  Unless my math fails me, there are 15 best-of-seven series in the NBA playoffs, and of those potential 100+ games I got to see, like, 10.  Go to hell.  The best basketball of the season has already been played, just ask the Bulls and Celtics.

5)  The Van Gundys are Insufferable.  Jeff Van Gundy is a so-so coach with an annoying voice and a propensity to make ridiculous statements during games for shock value.  I bet if you put him and Bill Walton in the booth together you could a) make a sitcom and b) repel alien invaders.  My favorite is when he affirms his affection for the hip-hops because it makes him feel so street.  His brother, Stan Van Gundy, is a so-so coach that looks like a porn star, and not the good kind.  In fact, he's such a good coach that his assistant had to privately tell him, "Gimme the map, Scott."  (Pro Tip: For that last sentence, change "good" to "bad," "assistant" to "star player," "privately" to "in the post-game press conference," "him" to "the world," and "map" to "Goddamn ball").  Put them together and you have a winning recipe for me jumping off a balcony.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sizing up the Finals: NBA Edition

I was really hoping to analyze both the NBA Finals as well as the NHL Finals and write lengthy pieces on each. Both plans fell through, however, as I am already two games behind in the Red Wings-Penguins series and any aspirations I had of another 1,000-word Kobe-LeBron blog went out the window with King James' Cavs career.

So rather than delve into how the Lakers can combat Superman or how Kobe will fare after the Magic just stopped one legend in the making, I'm going to see if I can, on a whim, list 10 reasons to get me to watch the NBA Finals. This is completely impromptu, so here goes.

1) Super Bowl-esque commercials. Unless the Niners are playing or I have hundreds of dollars on the line, neither of which have happened in a while, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Super Bowl are the commercials. If I knew that during the NBA Finals, I would see terrific beer ads or the rare sleeper for a company I've never heard of, I'd put myself through six games of Orlando taking it to the Lake Show. Heck, I don't need nonstop new ads and they don't have to be of Super Bowl quality, but a Sonic or Geico commercial once or twice a game would have me tuned in.

2) Every other channel running an Two and a Half Men Marathon. I don't think I really need to go into depth here, but the only thing worse than Charlie Sheen's Hanes commercials is this show.

3) I'm at Flamin' Joes or Swinging Doors. Sure, both of these restaurants have several TVs tuned in to a variety of stations, but if all I'm forced to pick between are the NBA Finals and the Mariners-Orioles game, I'll watch a bit of roundball. Though, if the Scripps Spelling Bee comes on, I might switch over to that instead. Even on mute. Without captions. I'm not really excited about the NBA Finals.

4) The NBA changing the Continuation Rule before Game 1. Delonte West drove the lane in Game 5, was fouled by Anthony Johnson and then took two complete steps before tossing in a bucket. And one. I can't even think of an equivalent to this in any other sport. I guess it would be like the defense touching up the puck on a delayed penalty in hockey, except if the offense could still play on for two or three seconds to try to get a shot off. That's honestly the closest I can come, which should prove how ludicrous the rule is. But if the NBA announced before tipoff that once the whistle blows, the play is over unless the shooter is in the air, I might be interested, if only to see the players complain about their layin not counting after they were fouled at the elbow.

5) A guaranteed Kobe Bryant face. Yeah, I'm taking a page out of Bill Simmons' book with this one, but if I got to see the Kobe Bryant face (pictured above), I'd be watching. This is the one where he looks at a teammate, or into the crowd, knowing he's better than everyone on the floor, but the rest of his team is too much for him to overcome. He's blaming the rest of the roster with one glare, frustrated that people like Derek Fisher are taking 22-foot jumpers with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, down by two and 20 seconds left on the shot clock. It's inevitable that the face will make an appearance as the Lakers are headed for their second consecutive NBA Finals loss. I might be watching just for that.

6) Rashard Lewis playing for a championship. After playing in relative anonymity in Seattle in the shadow of Ray Allen, Lewis is playing in his first Finals. His play might make or break this series, as Orlando lives and dies by its perimeter play. He's a guy who can look rattled at times, so on the big stage, it could be bust for Rashard Lewis. You can take Rashard Lewis out of Seattle and you can take the Sonics out of Seattle, but you can't take the Seattle or the Sonics out of Rashard Lewis. And yes, this entire paragraph was dedicated to making that joke.

7) The Chick Flick Rule. I'm not ashamed to admit I do enjoy sappy love movies. But I don't enjoy watching them alone, so I don't watch them. It would take a girl to say "Hey, wanna watch The Notebook tonight?" for me to be on board. Well, same with the NBA Finals. Unless a cute girl comes up to me and asks if I wanna watch a game, I don't care enough about it. Call me shallow or a fair-weather sports fan if you want (I'm not sure which insults me more) but that's the way it is with me and the NBA.

8) David Stern bending the rules and allowing the Magic to trade Dwight Howard and Lewis to the Cavs for LeBron James prior to Game 1. If you're Danny Ferry, you have to think there is a decent to strong chance that LeBron is bolting via free agency. Why not get something in return? And if you're Stern, you would what...triple or quadruple your ratings by setting up the Kobe-LeBron feud in the Finals? I don't know enough about the salary cap to know what would be feasible in this situation, but I don't envision most of the other things on this list happening anyway, so I'm going with it. It's my blog, I make the rules - apparently as I go. And that is precisely what Stern should do with the "trade deadline." And you thought I didn't know what I was talking about...

9) A guarantee that the Lakers would exact some revenge for the Hack-a-Shaq strategy the Kings employed several seasons ago. Hedo Turkoglu, who played for Sacramento in the early part of the decade, was part of a team which sent Shaq to the line roughly 3,400 times in their 2002 seven-game series. Well now, Turkoglu plays with Howard, who shoots like Shaq in his prime from the charity stripe. Regardless of how far ahead the Magic may be in any fourth quarter of the series, Phil Jackson may remember what went down in 2002 and spend the last 10 minutes of the game using scrubs Adam Morrison (that felt good) and Shannon Brown to wrap up Howard 40 feet from the hoop. If this happens, I want to see the look on Hedo's face as Howard is 4-18 from the line and a double-digit lead is down to one with 90 seconds left and the ball in Kobe's hands. There will be a lot of 4-letter words roaming around in his head, I'm pretty sure.

10) Phil Jackson and Stan Van Gundy facing off in a Game 7. I'll actually throw an interesting subplot into the mix here. Stan "The Man" Van Gundy has broken out as one of the game's most underrated coaches in this postseason. He led his team to a win in the Garden in Game 7 against the defending NBA Champs (admittedly without KG, but still...), then figured out a way to dethrone the King, and it only took six games to do it. His team fell behind by as many as 22 in the first quarter of the Eastern Conference Finals, but his demeanor and coaching style allowed his players to rally each time, even if they fell to Cleveland twice on the road. His postgame press conferences are candid, entertaining and straightforward. Every talking head in America who watches the NBA loves that the Ron Jeremy lookalike is on the verge of a title. Now, the only coach standing in his way is one of the all-time greats. If this series goes the distance, it will be very interesting to see how Orlando fares in the Staples Center. Surprisingly, the coaching matchup is one reason I love the Magic in this series. Jackson carries a been-there-done-that attitude, which would work if anyone other than Kobe and Fisher have had success in the Finals. But Jackson hasn't won a title unless the greatest player ever or Kobe AND Shaq have taken the court for him. And I expect that trend to continue.

Hey, that only took two hours. And it would take two more just to get to 11 reasons. Time to take my Kobe Bryant face off for the night - I could not have done more than I just did.