Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas and More Baseball Guessing

The article which will analyze the status of every MLB team entering 2008 is coming along nicely. Last time I posted a preview of a certain National League franchise. Here's a preview for an American League ballclub.

The class of the _____ remains in the driver's seat. GM _____ stepped down after the end of the season and new general manager _____ has yet to prove he can run a big market ballclub. Overpaying for OF _____ wasn't as egregious a mistake as overpaying for _____ (who was mentioned in the Mitchell Report) last year but still was a bad signing. Trading _____ netted the _____ a quality starter in _____ but leaves a gaping hole at SS. Despite these lateral moves _____ still possesses superior talent and coaching compared to its division rivals. The farm system has thinned since the promotions of RHP _____, 2B _____ and OF _____. Top prospects 3B _____ and RHP _____ are promising but have performance and injury questions.

Hmm, this franchise seems to have its act together. Will it earn an "A" because of its divisional dominance or will the team lose points for making questionable transactions and entering 2008 with an untested front office? Actually I should figure out the answer myself...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Trivia and What's On Deck

Did you know...

...the last Caucasian American to be selected with the #1 pick in the NBA Draft was Kent Benson? The big man from Indiana was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks, who coincidentally would draft another white center with the first selection (Australian Andrew Bogut) years later.

...Randy Johnson has won five Cy Young awards? The Big Unit received his first honor in 1995 when he led the Seattle Mariners to a memorable and historic playoff run. As a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks Johnson won the Cy Young four straight times from 1999 - 2002.

...three college football programs are tied for the most Heisman Trophies. Notre Dame, Ohio State and Southern California have each had seven recipients for the award.

I love trivia, especially sports trivia. I'm going to make an effort in 2008 to include more interesting sports tidbits on this blog. Speaking of 2008, my next big article will examine every MLB team and analyze how each ballclub is shaping up entering the new year. Here's a sample. Can you guess which team this is? Better yet, can you fill in the blanks?

The ownership issue looms over the _____ as _____ prepares to cede its share of the team. Still, that hasn't stopped _____ from spending and, more importantly, contending. The reigning _____ Division winner snagged free agent OF _____ to bolster an already formidable lineup. RHP _____, who resigned during the 20007 campaign, leads one of the stronger rotations in the _____ League. _____ in his first season as _____ skipper once again proved there's a method to his madness by leading his team to a second-half surge. CF _____ is the best young player in the organization. Other prospects, most notably 3B _____, are years away from producing in the big leagues.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Where Amazing and Abysmal Happen

Tonight's game between Golden State and Los Angeles Lakers epitomized what's right and wrong with the NBA.

First of all, the positive. It was an amazing game. Constant back and forth, ebb and flow. Two well-oiled offenses constantly driving to the hoop. Slash attacks, spin moves, vicious dunks; poetry in motion. The best part was during the final stretch in the 4th quarter when neither team called a timeout. This was ballin' unfiltered and uninterrupted. The Warriors escaped with a 108-106 victory, defeating the Lakers for the first time in ten tries. Golden State players were pumped; they clearly wanted the monkey off their backs and to beat their SoCal rivals. Baron Davis, saddled with foul trouble, nailed two amazing three's to help put the Warriors ahead. And they needed all the help they could get as mental mistakes and high emotions nearly derailed them. For the Lakers Andrew Bynum continued his maturation process with 17 points, 16 rebounds and one thunderous dunk. The big story for LA was Kobe Bryant, who suffered a left groin injury late in the contest and tried valiantly to continue playing. Talk about drama.

The Bay Area packed the Oracle Arena to the tune of 20,705, a state record for a basketball game. The place was rocking. At one point announcer Marc Jackson blurted "I love this game!" It felt like a playoff game... in December!

Now what mired this game is what almost always derails NBA games... the officiating. It was abysmal. Foul calls at times seemed arbitrary, based upon which players could flail their limbs or scream in (false) agony the best. And the judgment calls were wildly inconsistent. During one play Bynum and a Warriors defender jump for a high pass. Bynum tips the ball to a Lakers player and takes down the defender in the process. The refs allow the play to continue and the Laker scores uncontested. Later in the game Stephen Jackson brushes Kobe's elbow (and that's been generous) during a shot attempt and gets called for the foul. In that same quarter Bryant barrels into the lane on multiple occasions. With defenders swarming and bumping Kobe throws up shots hoping to draw calls. The refs hold their whistles, Kobe argues and the maddening inconsistency continues.

The worst incident happened when Matt Barnes shoved Ronny Turiaf in the face to prevent an easy layup. What clearly should have resulted in an flagrant foul type 2 (and automatic ejection) resulted in only a type 1. Although it was bang-bang type of play the refs are trained and paid to make the right calls. It was such an obvious, important and easy decision (blow to the head = ejection) that its omission was baffling and disheartening. Maybe one call (or non-call) doesn't make or break a game, but a handful decides a close contest.

During the offseason the NBA quickly acted to neutralize Tim Donaghy's impact. The league did its best to assure fans that refs were not influencing contests to influence games. I sincerely doubt officiating crews are intentionally trying to sabotage contests, but they oftentimes have an adverse effect on them.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Calm Before the Storm

This post represents life before the Mitchell report. Before the findings of a 20-month investigation that examined steroid use in baseball were publicly released. Before the names of up to 80 current and former players were implicated in the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Before the media jumped to conclusions, before the players rattled off excuses, before the fans became further disillusioned and disgusted. Before everyone tried to understand a situation offering no real solutions and too many questions.

Basically this is a simpler time. A happier although perhaps more ignorant time. This is life before the Mitchell report, and a part of me can't help but wish it could stay this way.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Even Fellini Thinks These Basketball Players Are Getting Too Artsy

What happens when you mash together a Got Milk? commercial, an NBA Cares ad and the Chinese art film In the Mood for Love? Milwaukee Bucks rookie Yi Jianlan tries to answer that very question.

And that's not even the strangest drink commercial from a foreign basketball player this year. Your winner, Mehmet Okur.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

WGA and AMPTP Can Learn from Kidd and Nets

Jason Kidd will not have to cross a picket line because there isn't one according to the All-Star guard.

Kidd denies sitting out last night's game was a protest against his current team. Reports from the NY Post, among others, allege Kidd isn't happy in the Garden State and wishes to be traded from New Jersey to Cleveland to play alongside LeBron James. They were teammates this summer on Team USA.

Kidd called his team on Wednesday afternoon and informed them he wouldn't be playing that night against the New York Knicks. Jason blamed the late scratch on migraines. It appears Kidd is telling the truth and the Knicks are still giving people headaches.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

College Football's Top Teams and Heisman Hopefuls: End of Regular Season

It was only appropriate that at the conclusion of this wild regular season in college football that both #1 and #2 were toppled. Missouri once again fell to Oklahoma, this time in the Big 12 Championship, ending the BCS title hopes of the Tigers. West Virginia, meanwhile, suffered a devastating upset at home against rival Pittsburgh.

Ohio State is now the consensus #1 in the country. But now the question remains: who will play the Buckeyes for the championship? Many pundits favor the LSU Tigers, which beat Tennessee on Saturday to secure the SEC championship. Other candidates include Pac-10 co-champion USC, Kansas, Georgia, Virginia Tech and even unbeaten Hawaii.

Personally I'm going with the Sooners. Oklahoma handed Missouri its only two losses of the season. The second contest was on the national stage and killed Mizzou's dream season. Furthermore, it was thorough blowout of the top team in the land. Contrast that with LSU. The Bayou Bengals needed two late turnovers the SEC to take care of the Volunteers. Admittedly though the Tigers were banged up. Still it was a "show me" game and LSU failed to impress like Oklahoma.

Regardless, the postseason picture will be made crystal clear this afternoon. Then the arguments will really start to begin.

Top Ten Teams
College Last Week
1) Ohio State
2) Oklahoma
3) Louisiana State
4) Georgia
5) Southern California
6) Missouri
7) Virginia Tech
8) Florida
9) West Virginia
10) Kansas

Dropped out: none

Sam Bradford had arguably the best season ever for a freshman QB. Tim Tebow racked up numbers beyond comprehension. Darren McFadden proved what many thought last year: he's the best player in college football. While many favor the dual-threat from Florida, Tebow failed to lead his team to a marquee win. The biggest victory for Florida was against Kentucky. Meanwhile Run-DMc had a performance for the ages in an instant classic 3-OT thriller against LSU. Darren accumulated over 2,000 yards and 20 TD for the season despite being the focal point for a one-sided Arkansas offense. He could've had 3,000 yards if former head Houston Nutt would have let McFadden run wild. However, the coach was shrewd enough to compliment Darren with Felix Jones. Conversely, Florida coach Urban Meyer had no problem with keeping Tebow late in blowout games, which inflated some of Tim's gaudy numbers.

Heisman Hopefuls

Name Position Year College
Darren McFadden
Tim Tebow
Sam Bradford
Chris Wells
So.Ohio State
Pat White
Jr. West Virginia

Dropped out: Chase Daniel