Monday, April 28, 2008

Shhh...

Don't tell Roger Clemens that Hannah Montana is fifteen.

Friday, April 25, 2008

History Says This Year's NBA Champion Will be...

UPDATE 4/25/08: Added Fact #3.

Originally posted 4/17/08

I figured I would throw out some interesting tidbits before the start of the NBA postseason.

First of all the playoffs are going to be two months long. I love basketball but it's going to be a gauntlet getting through this postseason. On the plus side this year's rendition figures to be quite exciting. At least in the West. Here are the 16 teams vying for the Larry O'Brien trophy:

Boston
Detroit
Orlando
Cleveland
Washington
Toronto
Philadelphia
Atlanta

Los Angeles
New Orleans
San Antonio
Utah
Houston
Phoenix
Dallas
Denver

Now, I'm a firm believer in lesson in the past can be applied to the future. And history tells us that although there are over a dozen teams playing for a championship only a select few will truly be in contention.

Fact #1: there have been 58 NBA Championship teams. Only ten of those teams did not have a Hall of Fame center or power forward:

1975 Warriors (beat Hall of Famers Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes)
1979 Sonics (beat Hall of Famers Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes)
1989 Pistons (beat a HOF center for title)
1990 Pistons
1991-93, 1996-98 Bulls (some dude named MJ)
2004 Pistons (beat future Hall of Famer Shaq O'Neil)

In order to win a championship a team must have a Hall of Fame -- not good, not great, but all-time great -- big man inside the paint. By glancing at this year's rosters we can quickly eliminate several squads from consideration:

Boston
Detroit (I love Rasheed but he's not a HOF)
Orlando
Cleveland (LeBron barely has a functional team around him)
Washington (Unfortunatey the NBA isn't the ACC)
Toronto (I was on the fence with Chris Bosh)
Philadelphia (LOL)
Atlanta (Al Hortford may be in the conversation down the road)

Two teams survive this test. Kevin Garnett already has a HOF career and Dwight Howard is well on his way. Anyway, onto the West and a couple surprises.

Los Angeles (I know what you're thinking and the answer is no.)
New Orleans (David West is barely an All-Star)
San Antonio
Utah
Houston (A healthy Yao might be a different result)
Phoenix
Dallas
Denver (There is no way in hell this team will win the title)

Andrum Bynum is very young and talented but he's not even the best center playing at Staples. And Pau Gasol is simply a two-tier PF. Hell, he's not even the best power forward playing at Staples. But who knows? Maybe DJ Mbenga has been holding back his mad skillz until now...

I'm not sure anyone will argue about Tim Duncan's resume. The Suns have two future Hall of Famers in Shaq and Amare Stoudemire. Dirk Nowitzki (2007 MVP, three All-NBA first teams, 7-time All-Star) is a lock for enshrinement as well. Carlos Boozer is an interesting case. He's 26, twice an All-Star and was in the top ten in MVP voting. The last two years he's been averaging 21/10/3 and finally get the recognition he deserves.

After the first stipulation only six teams remain: Boston, Orlando, San Antonio, Utah, Phoenix and Dallas. Now onto the second part of the equation.

Fact #2: since 1987 only six NBA head coaches have won a championship. Gregg Popovich (4 championships), Pat Riley (3), Larry Brown (1), Phil Jackson (9), Rudy Tomjanovich (2) and Chuck Daly (2).

One part HOF big man, one part HOF coach, add a quality point guard, sprinke in some good role players and mix thoroughly. That's the recipe for a champioship. Not surprisingly franchises which have had legendary big men and coaches over the recent years (Pistons, Rockets, Lakers and Spurs) went to enjoy multiple title runs.

Only two franchises didn't have a great center or power forward and went on to win it all in the past two decades. First was the 2004 Pistons, which was coached by Larry Brown, one of the greatest minds in basketball history (and the only coach to win titles in both college and the pros). The other franchise was Jordan's Chicago Bulls. And finally:

Fact #3: the last 12 NBA champions have been the 1 or 2 seed within their conference. This interesting nugget courtesy of SI's Ian Thomsen.

So looking at the 2008 Playoffs, which teams have HOF bodies inside the paint, a HOF mind on the sideline and a high seeding?

Boston
Orlando
San Antonio
Utah
Phoenix
Dallas

There you go. History suggests the Spurs are once again in line to win this year -- much to the chagrin of ABC Sports and bandwagon basketball fans everywhere.

Photoshop Fun

The trade that shouldn't have been is one month in. Of course, it's way too premature to conclusively declare either Baltimore or Seattle as the winner of the Erik Bedard for Adam Jones, George Sherrill and three pitching prospects deal. But the early returns obviously favor one team. While Bedard has thrown quality (1-0, 11 IP, 8 hits, 10 K) the Mariners ace hasn't been dominate. Also injuries have limited him to only two starts.

Meanwhile, the two major pieces the Mariners dealt away have exacted revenge on their former ballclub:

Adam Jones vs. Seattle
7 games, 23 AB, 2 runs, 7 hits, 4 doubles, 4 RBI

George Sherrill vs. Seattle
5 games, 4.2 IP, 2 hits, 0 BB, 1 K, 5 saves

It's early, but Round 1 goes to the Orioles.


Shifting to basketball... last night at Game 3 of the Houston/Utah series Jazz fans tried to give new meaning to the word whiteout:

Looks like Ric Bucher was on to something.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How I Would Like the Oakland Raiders to Do the 2008 NFL Draft

Oakland Raiders, laughingstocks of the National Football League for the past several seasons, had a bit of a breakthrough in 2007. Although they went 4-12 last year the Silver and Black demonstrated a level of competitiveness and (six losses by 10 points or less) and competence under first-year head coach Lane Kiffin that had been sorely lacking in the Bay Area.

Following that encouraging campagin it's been a busy offseason in Oakland. To summarize, the big additions were CB DeAngelo Hall, FS Gibril Wilson, WR Javon Walker and DT William Joseph. Major losses include DT Warren Sapp, OT Barry Sims, WR Jerry Porter and return specialist Chris Carr.

The Raiders have only five selections in this year's draft. In order to take the next step the team needs to address several areas of deficiency. Barring any trades, this is a realistic Raiders draft board I wish would happen this weekend:

Round 1, Pick 4 (4)
Chris Long, DE (Virginia)

Let's see. Oakland needs a pass rusher to complement Derrick Burgess. Oakland fans would love a high-character, high-motor guy. Howie Long, Chris' father, was a Hall of Fame lineman for the Silver and Black. The Raiders can't do any better than selecting the All-American prodigy.

Glenn Dorsey, Sedrick Ellis and Vernon Gholston are other players that would greatly improve the Raiders run defense. Darren McFadden, possibly the best prospect in the draft and certainly the most exciting (and marketable), plays a position where the Raiders have an arsenal of good options. Justin Fargas, Dominic Rhodes, Lamont Jordan and Michael Bush (who missed last season with an injury) aren't elite running backs but a team doesn't need a Pro Bowl in the backfield to win. Remember the Giants won the Super Bowl with Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and an aggressive defensive line.

Round 4, Pick 5 (104)
Lavelle Hawkins, WR (California)


Even with the addition of injury-prone Javon Walker the Raiders receiving corps is far from stable. Last year's top wideout, Jerry Porter, signed with Jacksonville. Ronald Curry, Johnnie Lee Higgins and Drew Carter hardly strike fear into the opposing team's defensive coordinator. Although DeSean Jackson received most of the accolades playing for California it was Hawkins who was the most consistent receiver for the Golden Bears. Take at look at their collegiate numbers:


Games Receptions Total Yards TD
Hawkins 42 159 3729 19
Jackson 36 162 3293 29

Note: Hawkins played seven games at community college before transferring to Cal.

Lavelle doesn't have DeSean's burst he's nearly as productive and would be a great addition in the middle rounds for a team looking for a vertical passing game.

Round 6, Pick 3 (169)
Oniel Cousins, T (UTEP)

The Raiders should select at least one offensive lineman in this draft. Cousins is a converted defensive tackle who's big (6'4", 308) and quick. Despite playing the O-line for only two years Oniel was named All-Conference USC first team in 2007. There's a good chance Cousins, a workout wonder, won't be on the board by Round 6. If that's the case Oakland could still get G Drew Radovich or T Geoff Schwartz.

Round 7, Pick 6 (213)
Marcus Monk, WR (Arkansas)

An imposing athlete at 6'4", 222 pounds and the all-time leader in receiving TD at Arkansas, Monk was highly productive his first three seasons. A series of leg injuries curtailed his senior campaign (16 catches, 144 yards, 3 TD), which in turn has the once mid-round draft prospect on the outside looking in. Monk has durability issues but his upside makes him a worthwhile gamble that could pay off huge.

Round 7, Pick 19 (226) (From Vikings through Jets)
Thomas Williams, OLB (Southern California)

Played the linebacker unit and special teams for the Trojans. Not the fastest or strongest guy on the field but always plays with passion. At the very least he's a guy with an unrelenting motor who's all about the team. Sounds like a diamond in the rough.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Two Months of Playoff Basketball Is Too Much

A tentative schedule of the 2008 NBA Playoffs has been released. If you like days off in between basketball games you're in luck. If both the Conference and Championship Finals play out to a maximum seven games NBA fans are looking at a bloated postseason that stretches from April 18th till June 18th.

Two months. That's as long as Lent, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Hanukkak combined.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fox Screws Over Baseball and NASCAR Fans... Both at the Same Time

What happened at the end of Saturday's Yankees-Red Sox telecast and the start of the Subway Fresh Fit 500 is being dubbed by some as FOX's "Heidi" moment. The Daly Planet fills in the details.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jim Armstrong Is an Idiot

Jim Armstrong writes for AOL, The Denver Post and occasionally appears on "Around the Horn." In other words he works for three of the worst entities in the media.

Normally I would criticize Armstrong's lazy and moronic article that marginalizes statistical analysis in baseball but Fire Joe Morgan does the job just fine.

Olympic Apples and Oranges

The Olympic torch was showcased for its one and only visit to North America on Wednesday afternoon. How did the trip to San Francisco fare? Depends on who you ask. According to Xinhua, China's official state news, it was a joyous event. The Associated Press paints a much murkier picture, one riddled with anxiety and confusion.

Here's a comparison on how both agencies describe the event as well as my comments:
(Xinhua) Chinese Olympic swimming champion Lin Li, who was the first runner of the San Francisco relay, began her run by holding the torch high and waving to a cheering crowd.
(AP) The first torchbearer took the flame from a lantern brought to the stage and held it aloft before running into a waterfront warehouse. A motorcycle escort departed, but the torchbearer was nowhere in sight.
I watched most of the torch relay on CNN. At the onset (after a half hour delay and various festivities) Lin Li did indeed receive the torch and hold it high to much fanfare. However, the people in the crowd at the opening ceremony were selected by the Chinese Olympic Committee. It was not as if a random assembly of individuals gathered around to cheer.

The AP report is correct. After Li took the torch she and her security entourage ran around the backside of AT&T Park -- far away from what was earlier established as the torch route. They eventually entered a warehouse and did not emerge for quite some time.

(Xinhua) Thousands of people gathered along the route of the relay under a sunny sky to show their support for the torch run in the U.S. city.
(AP) Hundreds of pro-China and pro-Tibet demonstrators blew whistles and waved flags as they faced off near the site of the relay's opening ceremony. Police struggled to keep the groups apart.
The demonstrators did not become as aggressive as those involved in the London and Paris protests. But there was a very large contigent of both sides and neither seemed interested in holding hands with the other. Personally I did not see police struggle to separate the groups. There was an enormous police presence, which did muc to deter violence before it could erupt.
(Xinhua) Supporters of China's role as host of the Games were upholding Chinese national flags and displaying the Beijing Olympic mascot Fuwa on the city's waterfront.
(AP) [The] parade was rerouted and shortened to prevent disruptions by massive crowds of anti-China protesters.
Both statements are correct. The Associated Press, however, is telling the entire story rather than promoting a one-sided narrative.
(Xinhua) The closing ceremony for the Olympic torch relay in San Francisco was relocated on Wednesday while the relay was concluded in the U.S. western coastal city.
(AP) After its parade was rerouted and shortened to prevent disruptions by massive crowds of anti-China protesters, the planned closing ceremony at the waterfront was canceled and moved to San Francisco International Airport. The flame was put directly on a plane and was not displayed.
Xinhua doesn't flatout lie. Instead it resorts to deceptive tactics to prevent any negativity to reflect upon China and its 2008 Olympic efforts. The Summer Games are less than four months away. Pressure from human rights will continue to mount. Chinese subversion seems inevitable. As the world waits 8-8-08 will undoubtedly be the sports story of the year -- whatever that story will say remains to be seen.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Inept John McLaren Strikes Yet Again

The manager of the Mariners is in midseason form, doing his best to ensure Seattle finds ways to lose games all year long.

Entering Sunday's game Seattle had already dropped the first two in a four-game series. But things were looking great this particular day. Felix Hernandez threw shutout baseball for eight innings and the M's were up 2-0 entering the bottom of the ninth. After 97 pitches Felix wasn't feeling well. With J.J. Putz already out with an injury, McLaren had an interesting choice to make. There were four reasonable options. First was Mark Lowe, a flamethrower who recovered from injuries in 2007. Sean Green, a reliable reliever last year, was ready. Ryan Rowland-Smith, the promising southpaw, was also available as well. And finally, Eric O'Flaherty. Eric had been somewhat erratic all year. He had also thrown 29 pitches the previous night. Naturally McLaren decided to go with the arm most likely to be tired. Lowe tried to clean up Eric's mess but failed miserably.

To be fair the loss shouldn't be solely blamed on the manager. Lowe simply didn not pitch well. But O'Flaherty shouldn't have been brought in to close. Green and Smith are competent -- and more importantly -- were fresh. McLaren should have also made defensive adjustments, subbing LF Raul Ibanez and even 1B Richie Sexson. While those two didn't figure in the outcome of this particular game, a good manager needs to stay ahead of the game and adjust accordingly.

Which brings up to today's game. Of course Seattle lost. But it was the manner in which the team lost that should be discouraging to Mariners fans. Where to begin? Perhaps the seventh inning. In a 4-4 ballgame with no outs and Ichiro on first base McLaren orders Jose Lopez -- the hottest hitter on the team -- to sacrifice bunt. Next Raul Ibanez was allowed to hit against LHP Jamie Walker. Raul subsequently grounded out to the pitcher, which moved Ichiro to third. The next hitter, Brad Wilkerson, was pinch-hit for with Mike Morse. Morse struck out to end the inning.

Now...

Taking the bat away from your hottest hitter was bad enough. But McClaren obviously doesn't read this blog and figured it was a good idea to let Ibanez bat but pinch-hit for Wilkerson when the numbers suggest the exact opposite would have been a better option.

Memo to McLaren: Ibanez struggles against lefties and Wilkerson hits better against southpaws.

Now to be fair Wilkerson has had a horrible start to the season (and Morse was red hot in Spring Training) but it still wasn't the right move in retrospect and reality. To compound the problem, Morse took over for Wilkerson in right field for the remainder of the game. Sandwiching Ichiro between Ibanez and Morse in the outfield is a terrible defense, one which certainly shouldn't be allowed to play together late in a tie ballgame.

Moving onto the bottom of the eight. Starter Carlos Silva has thrown over 100 pitches. The game is still tied and McLaren needs to bring in a reliever. There's still Lowe (relatively fresh but got hit yesterday), Green (fresh), Smith (fresh), Cha Seung Baek (fresh but doesn't have good stuff), Roy Corcocan (same as Baek) and O'Flaherty (44 pitches in the past two games and got hit yesterday).

Of course McLaren goes with O'Flaherty, who winds up giving up the game-winning HR to Aubrey Huff. Orioles sweep.


Seattle doesn't have the talent to overcome glaring managerial mistakes. And they're paying for those mistakes early and often this season.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Instant Classic



If you needed further proof "Inside the NBA" is the best show on television. Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley see who can change a baby's diaper quicker... with disastrous results.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Erik Bedard's Curveball Is Better Than Your Better

I've been vocal against the acquisition of Erik Bedard since the offseason. I reason Seattle would mortgage too much of its long-term future in order to improve this year by a few wins. Even with the Angels losing their two best pitchers for an extended period I still gave an edge to LA. Joe Saunders and Jon Garland were amazing this week in their outings against Minnesota. While they aren't workhouses ala John Lackey and Kelvin Escobar they can pitch effectively deep into a ballgame. Furthermore the Halos have a better offense, defense and (much smarter) manager than the M's. And now that Seattle will lose All-Star closer J.J. Putz for at least a couple weeks the Angels possess the superior bullpen.

So this year will still be an uphill battle for Seattle. Yet one of the best assets the Mariners has is... Erik Bedard. I hated the trade because it gave away crucial components for the present (OF Adam Jones, LHP George Sherrill) as well as sent off three legitimate pitching prospects. But it wasn't like Seattle gave away gold for trash (aka the Woody Woodard special). In return for a king's ransom the Mariners received a legitimate ace -- the most precious commodity in all of baseball.

And Erik Bedard, pitching for a first time in front of the home crowd, demonstrated what he is capable of right away.


He dismantled Ian Kinsler in three pitches, the last of which was a Lord Charles curveball. So the M's may very well struggle this season as well as for years to come. But Erik Bedard is awesome and Seattle fans should sit back and enjoy witnessing his brilliance on the mound.