Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is It Deja Vu For The Brew Crew?

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To steal a line from the great Yogi Berra: Is it deja vu all over again for the Milwaukee Brewers?

I know we are only one game into the season but when you're the Brew Crew, the way things unfolded in game one is a major cause for concern.

In a nutshell: Starter Yovani Gallardo pitched 6 strong innings allowing only 2 runs. The hitters had a solid day driving in 6 runs. The end result: a 7-6 loss. And why? Closer John Axford (0-1) blew a 3-run lead. Blown save, blown game, blown everything. The Brewers lost to the Cincinnati Reds in walk-off fashion as Ramon Hernandez hit a two-out, 3-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.

Not good!

And the reason for concern? Remember Trevor Hoffman? The same thing happened to the Brewers last season. They got great starting pitching and great hitting only to give it all away with horrendous relief pitching, mostly from Hoffman. So out of desperation the Brewers replaced Hoffman with Axford midway through last season but it was too little too late. The Brewers never recovered and fell out of the race and into oblivion.

Let's hope this was just a one game glitch because if not, it's going to be another frustrating season in Milwaukee. The one thing baseball has taught us is that TOO MANY BLOWN SAVES demoralize a team to the point that it effects every component of the team. No doubt about it. Just ask the 2010 Brewers.

So the Ax-man better get it together because Rollie Fingers ain't walking in through that door any time soon. If he doesn't, it'll be a LONG year for manager Ron Roenicke and the Brew Crew. No doubt.

For my posts on John Axford and Trevor Hoffman from last season click here and here.

Play Ball!

AP Photos
It's Opening Day in Major League Baseball! And the beauty of opening day is that all 30 teams are in first place and the fans of all 30 teams have something to be excited about. But unfortunately it doesn't stay that way. Usually by early summer we start to get a feel about who's good and who's not and the doldrums start to kick in for some. That's usually how it works.

Anyway--

Here are some of the things I'm looking forward to this season:
Getty Images/AP Photo

1) Derek Jeter's 3000th hit. The Yankee captain should reach the milestone by mid-June as he finished 2010 with 2926 hits after 15 full seasons. For the record, the great Pete Rose had 2966 hits after 15 full seasons. If the captain hangs around until he's 42, he may challenge Rose's all-time record (4256) in 2016.
2) The Fantastic Four. Put simply: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels. Attention National League: BEWARE OF THE ABOVE FOUR. 'Nuff said!
3) The mighty Red Sox. Something tells me the boys from Beantown may still be around come Halloween.
4) Miguel Cabrera. What kind of year is the now-sober Cabrera gonna have? Did someone say AL MVP?
5) The Brew Crew. With Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart in da house, there is excitement in Milwaukee. I haven't seen this much hope in Brewer Nation since the days of Harvey's Wallbangers in the early 80's, which to me, is still the greatest team NEVER to win a championship.
6) The Atlanta Braves. How will the Bobby Cox-less era look like? It's been a looooooong time in Atlanta since anyone other than the old man patrolled the dugout.
7) Last but not least, I'm looking forward to another year of the never-lost-for-words Ozzie Guillen and his Chicago White Sox. Ozzie's classic one-liners never get old, that's for sure.

Anyway, I could go on and on but there's a lot of baseball to be played and as we all know anything is possible. I'm sure there are going to be some surprise players and some surprise teams making some thunder this year. It always happens and that's part of the beauty of the game.

To be continued....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Take That, Robin!

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Former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro has cleared another major hurdle in his storybook comeback by defeating World No. 4 Robin Soderling, 6-3, 6-2, in the third round of the ATP Masters in Miami. This was del Potro's first win over a Top 5 player since his long and exhausting comeback from right wrist surgery in May 2010.

After his first tour win during his comeback at Delray Beach Florida (which is a lower-tier event) the 22-year old Argentine said he would need around 20 to 25 more matches to be in full form and be able to compete with the Top 10 players in the world. Well amigo, you did it in 9 matches.

Personally, I'm not surprised at all that del Potro is pile driving his way back into the Top 10 because, when fully healthy, this guy is damn good. The way he manhandled then-World No. 1 Roger Federer at the 2009 U.S. Open Final is not something easily forgettable. You just don't do that out of pure luck. So I'm not surprised at all that, now fully healthy, he is storming his way down the rankings.
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During his absence, del Potro fell from No. 4 all the way to No. 485 in the world but in the last 3 months has quickly climbed down to No. 51 with a string of semifinal appearances and his victory at Delray Beach. His win over Soderling will no doubt put him in the Top 40 and on his way to reclaiming the No. 4 ranking.

Del Potro is now 20-5 in 2011 and something tells me he is on his way to doing way more damage. So watch out Top 10 players! Look who's back!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kentucky Is In The Derby Too!


CONGRATS TO THE KENTUCKY WILDCATS on reaching the Final Four for a whopping 14th time in school history. Kentucky's 14 appearances is the third-most ever behind North Carolina and UCLA (18) and Duke (15). The Wildcats are no strangers to the promised land, that's for sure.

My, Oh My! Congrats VCU Nation!!!!!!


CONGRATULATIONS TO THE VCU RAMS on reaching their first-ever Final Four. Who would've thunk it? So much for expert opinions. Gotta love it!

VCU became the third 11th seed ever to make it to the Final Four, joining LSU (1986) and George Mason (2006). They are also the first team to play in the First Four and in the Final Four. Sheesh! I wonder if we'll ever see that again?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

UConn Too!


CONGRATS TO THE CONNECTICUT HUSKIES on making it to the Final Four. This will be UConn's fourth-ever trip to the promised land (1999, 2004, 2009, 2011).

The Promised Land!


CONGRATULATIONS TO THE BUTLER BULLDOGS on their second consecutive trip to the Final Four! The Bulldogs are the first team to ever make back-to-back Final Fours without being seeded No. 1 or No. 2 in either year. They have accomplished the feat as an 8th seed this year and last year as a 5th seed.

My, oh my! What a team!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gunning For No. 1

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To put it plain and simple: Tennis great and World No. 2 Novak Djokovic is NO JOKE!

So far in 2011, the Serbian superstar is 18-0, 3 tournaments entered, 3 tournaments won. He is 3-0 against No. 3 Roger Federer and 1-0 against No. 1 Rafael Nadal. If he continues on this torrid pace he will give Rafa a run for his money for the No. 1 ranking come Wimbledon. All Djokovic needs is a strong showing at the French Open and a win at Wimbledon and if anything he would be within inches of the No. 1 ranking.

Of course, Rafa is going to be the overwhelming favorite to win the French Open because, with all due respect to the legendary Bjorn Borg, he is the greatest clay court player of all time. I mean, Rafa when fully healthy is just a wizard on clay, the closest thing to perfection I've ever seen. So Djokovic will have a mountain to climb to overtake Rafa there. But Wimbledon is definitely doable for him.

Djokovic is fresh off a win over Rafa in the Pacific Life Open final at Indian Wells, which is considered the biggest non-Grand Slam event of the year. It was his first-ever win over Rafa in the finals of any tournament. At Indian Wells he also defeated Roger Federer in the semifinals to officially seal the undisputed No. 2 ranking. He has now defeated Federer the last 4 times they've met in a semifinal or final, including the 2010 U.S. Open semis and the 2011 Australian Open semis.

It's safe to say the great Federer doesn't have an answer for the Serbian anymore.

The results of the Pacific Life Open read like this:

Semifinals:

(1) Rafael Nadal d. Juan Martin del Potro, 6-4, 6-4
(3) Novak Djokovic d. (2) Roger Federer, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2

Final:

(3) Novak Djokovic d. (1) Rafael Nadal, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2

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What's also interesting about the Pacific Life results is the "unfamiliar" name on the list. That's right, Juan Martin del Potro. The forehand-specialist from Argentina is right back where he belongs after a long absence due to a devastating wrist injury. Prior to the injury, being in the final four with Nadal, Federer and Djokovic was a commonplace for him. This was his 4th consecutive semifinals appearance after getting off to a frustrating slow-start in his comeback. His recent successful run includes his first tournament win (at Delray Beach Florida) since capturing the 2009 U.S. Open title. In the last 3 months he has moved from No. 251 all the way to No. 51 and quickly climbing. So it's just a matter of time before he's back to his familiar No. 4 ranking and challenging for more. Who knows, the No. 1 ranking may be in his future too. Of course, if his right wrist holds up.

But right now Djokovic is the man to keep an eye on. What a year he's having!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kudos to the Sweet 16 Party Crashers!

The Sweet 16 in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, for the most part, has held serve as 10 of the 16 teams were expected to be there according to their seeding. An 11th team, the No. 5 Arizona Wildcats were also a welcomed guest as a No. 5 beating a No. 4 is not widely considered a huge upset.

But then there are the No. 12 Richmond Spiders, No. 11 Marquette Golden Eagles, the No. 11 VCU Rams, the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles and the No. 8 Butler Bulldogs. According to the seeding, these survivors were not (initially) given a personal invitation to the party, but then again, nobody called them up and told them they couldn't attend. These 5 party-crashers represent the annual "spoilers club" and are marching forward looking to do more damage. One of those 5 is guaranteed a trip to the Elite 8 as VCU and Florida State will battle each other in the Sweet 16 after hijacking the invitations that were "reserved" for #2 Notre Dame and #3 Purdue.

The Southwest bracket as a whole is the most unusual as the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks are the only "big boys" left standing with 3 double-digit seeds (Richmond, Florida State and VCU). This marks the first time in tournament history that 3 double-digit seeds advance to the Sweet 16 from a single bracket. So I'm sure everyone who has Kansas coming out of the southwest must be thrilled to see the higher seeds still in there. In other words, "less formidable opponents" for Kansas. But I wouldn't count out the winner of that FSU-VCU match-up just yet. Something tells me they haven't finished issuing their statement. Which ever one of those two teams advances to the Elite 8 will be a force to be reckoned with. No doubt.

The No. 11 Golden Eagles of Marquette have the toughest road of all the party-crashers as the No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels and the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes are still lurking in the East bushes. But we never know. Twice in the history of the tournament a No. 11 seed has reached the Final Four (George Mason in 2006 and LSU in 1986). Will Marquette be the third?

As for Butler, they have a chance to equal the Rollie Massimino-led Villanova Wildcats who as a No. 8 seed won the whole thing in 1985. Will the two-time Cinderella Bulldogs be the second 8th seed ever to accomplish the feat? We'll see....

For the record, I had none of those higher-seeded teams in my Sweet 16 but as an objective fan it's good to see as I am an "upset" freak. Anyway, GOOD LUCK to all in the Sweet 16.

Logos are trademarks of their respective universities and are being used for entertainment purposes only.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

VCU, Wisconsin, Butler Still In Da House!

First of all, kudos to the VCU Rams on their storybook run (so far) in the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. The No. 11 Rams have rammed their way into the third round with convincing wins over USC and the No. 6 seed Georgetown Hoyas thus becoming the first First Four team ever to advance to the third round. Not bad for a team that not too many people, including myself, thought much of when we were filling out our brackets. Good stuff!

And then there's Wisconsin--

Badger Nation-- Thank you!!!!

Take that, experts! Although I have to admit, the Sweet 16 is as far as I took the Badgers. I have them losing to the "Another One Bites The Dust" Pitt Panthers who were ousted by the darlings of the last two tournaments the No. 8 Butler Bulldogs. My oh my, what a two-year run for Butler!

However, I will root for the Badgers all the way to the Final Four as I need them (and if not them then Butler) to take out BYU or Florida to even up my Southeast Bracket with the other members of my pool who have those two respective teams going to the Final Four. Why Pitt? Why? I trusted ya'll.

Anyway, as always, great tournament so far. GOOD LUCK Notre Dame!!!!!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Morehead State Puts A Hurtin' On Dicky V!

There is no doubt the bracket-busting game of Day 1 in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament was No. 13 Morehead State's stunning 62-61 victory over the No. 4 Louisville Cardinals. The Eagles never-quit attitude and toughness was living proof that, at the end of the day, anything is possible in this tournament and expert opinions get thrown out the window.

Personally, I had Louisville going to the Sweet 16 so my bracket was busted as well. However, so did everyone else in my pool so we all broke even there.

As for Mr. College Basketball himself, Dick Vitale, the Louisville loss put a dagger through the heart of his southwest bracket as Dicky V had the Cardinals going to the Final Four. Ouch! So much for the so-called experts.

As for the other Day 1 "upset", the No. 12 Richmond Spiders proved many experts right by defeating the No. 5 Vanderbilt Commodores. For the record, Dicky V did not get this one either. He took Vanderbilt. Double-ouch!

In the southeast bracket, many people (including Dicky V) jumped on the Belmont bandwagon which was being floated around (by the so-called experts) since the brackets were announced. The No. 13 Bruins became the bracket-busting darlings as the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers were pretty much written off. I too, almost jumped the bandwagon but in the end stuck with Wisconsin. The Badgers have been good to me in prior pools so I stuck to my guns and decided to go down with the ship in the event the experts were to be correct. Not! Good work, Wisconsin! Belmont's 15 minutes of fame was short lived. Sorry Dicky V, you got that one wrong also. Triple-ouch!

So to summarize Dicky V's day: Already one of his Final Fours is OUT. Belmont didn't deliver for him (and to all other sleeper hunters for that matter) and Richmond, which did deliver, wasn't his choice.

Hope you have better luck today, Dicky V. We still love ya!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bracket-Mania!!!!

Once again the hysteria called March Madness is upon us. For the next two weeks the annual NCAA Men's Basketball tournament will be the sports talk of the day as office pools all over the country dominate the conversation. I'm still working on mine as I try and steal some crucial first round points with some keen picks. Those 8-9 match-ups are tough calls, aren't they?

Anyway, as for the field itself, a few things caught my attention:

1. CONGRATS to the Northern Colorado Bears on making their first-ever appearance in the tournament. You would think after 72 years every school would have at least made one appearance by now, but no, every year there are always first-timers. Last year it was Wofford and Arkansas-Pine Bluff who made their March Madness debut. Congrats also to the Wofford Terriers on making it for a second year in a row.

2. For the second year in a row the Virginia Tech Hokies (21-11) got hosed and hosed big time. Joining them in the "HOSED" list are the Colorado Buffaloes (21-13) and the Alabama Crimson Tide (21-11). How these three schools, with way better records than most of the at-large teams, didn't make it is beyond me. Even the experts at ESPN spent Sunday night hammering the selection committee for screwing it up. To paraphrase Dick Vitale, "It was a travesty!"

3. BYU, Missouri, Xavier and Utah State all made the tournament. Why these four? They are the only schools with 20 or more appearances who have NEVER reached the Final Four; BYU (26), Missouri (25), Xavier (22), Utah State (20). Will this be the year any one of them gets off this unpleasant list? We'll see.

4. For the 21st year in a row the Oregon State Beavers fail to make the tournament. The last time the Beavers were in the big dance was in 1990 when they had a guy named Gary Payton running the show. Payton left the Beavers after that tournament and became the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft and so began the doldrums for the Beavers. Who ever said one player doesn't make a difference?

Anyway, let me get back to brainstorming the brackets and hopefully win this sucker this year. Boy has Notre Dame caught my eye. Hmmm?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Is The NFL Standoff Ideologically Driven?

It looks like the cancellation of the 2011-12 NFL season is becoming more and more of a reality as the standoff between stubborn millionaires and even-more stubborn billionaires gets uglier with each passing day. And to nobody's surprise, it has become a battle of egos as neither side wants to budge in their collective bargaining saga. The player's union wants the owners to open up their books so that they can see for themselves the losses owner's are claiming and owners are basically telling the union, f*** you, that's none of your business. Or at least, that's how the union perceives it. Now the owners have locked out the players and the players have countered by filing an antitrust lawsuit. Sheesh! What a mess.

But I wonder if ideology is playing a part in all this? With the labor movement dominating the headlines in recent times, I wonder where the owners stand on the ideological part of the equation and is it influencing their tough stance?

I guess if 2011 ended today, the term "collective bargaining" would win "phrase of the year" honors hands down. I mean, the phrase is all over the place these days.

Who knows if the NFL owners are keeping an eye on the battle going on in the Badger State between Wisconsin strongman Scott Walker and the public employee's union. And the reason for the standoff there, you guessed it, collective bargaining. The take-no-prisoners GOP governor has made quite a name for himself with his controversial collective bargaining-stripping legislation which has infuriated the pro-union movement. Whether we agree with Walker or not, the dude has shown he is tough as nails by refusing to buckle to the immense pressure he has received from protesters, the union big wigs and the pro-union political machine (in other words, the Democratic Party). Not even the threats of a recall made the governor budge from his convictions. He found a loophole in the so-called "quorum rule" and signed his controversial bill into law, much to the astonishment of public workers and the Democrats who fled the state to avoid a vote they knew they were going to lose.

So has Walker's toughness inspired the NFL owners? It wouldn't surprise me. It's no secret that there's no love lost between the Republican Party and labor unions, after all, unions donate hundreds of millions of dollars to Democratic candidates so why should the GOP give them any love? And surprise, surprise, stats have shown, 60 to 70 percent of political contributions made by the NFL from 1989 to 2009 have gone to the GOP. Of the 32 teams, 22 donated predominantly to Republican causes while only 12 gave most of their political loot to Democratic causes. My oh my, what a coincidence. Or is it?

A quick example: From 1989 to 2009 the San Diego Chargers have made $2,455,200 in political contributions. $40,773 (2%) to Democrats, $2,414,427 (98%) to Republicans. Hmmm? For a complete list, click here.

Now, I'm not saying that there's a conspiracy here. I'm just saying that in Wisconsin as in the NFL, you have powerful people who think alike. So conventional wisdom tells me that if the NFL owners lean to the GOP then their way of thinking also leans that way and labor unions are a thorn on their side that must be watered down.

NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah told the press, "It was our way of telling the fans that we did everything we could – and it was a message to the league that we’d had enough of the deception and the disrespect – and the control." Well George, let me break it to ya, THEY DON'T LIKE YOU!

If my theory is correct, like the Wisconsin governor, I expect the NFL owners to be willing to go down with the ship rather than give in to the "pesky" player's union. Their ideological egos just won't allow it.

So bye, bye NFL season. Unless of course, the players fold.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Coyote Ugly

Phoenix Coyotes - Fox Searchlight Pictures
As the eccentric Juno MacGuff, from the movie Juno, once said, "Oh, and she inexplicably mails me a cactus every Valentine's Day. And I'm like, "Thanks a heap coyote ugly. This cactus-gram stings even worse than your abandonment." The never-lost-for-words Juno was referring to her estranged mother in that quote.

Well, I'm sure the hockey fans of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada feel Juno's pain. They know abandonment all too well.

In a nutshell, the Phoenix Coyotes are a financial mess. As we all know, the Coyotes used to be the Winnipeg Jets until the team's owner and the NHL brass, led by Commissioner Gary Bettman, decided that it would be a "brilliant" idea to play ice hockey in the desert. So in 1996 the Jets, who were going through a rough period in Winnipeg, decided to abandon the city and take their talents to Glendale Arizona and become the Phoenix Coyotes.

In another nutshell, the idea has failed and failed miserably. The Coyotes have lost money every year since moving to Arizona and their attendance is so poor that I think the players could hear crickets while playing their games. In 2009, former owner Jerry Moyes put the team into bankruptcy and a whole legal mess ensued. There has been so much red tape in the last few years that it's hard to keep up with the saga. I believe as of today the NHL owns the team and is desperately looking for a buyer with no baggage.

If anyone is interested in reading the details of all the drama, you can go to this Wikipedia link, Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy, where the entire mess is outlined in detail.

The latest news is that the team might (just might) be heading back to Winnipeg. Oh really? You don't say?

In his website, Winnipeg Jets Online, Lauren Robb (a die-hard Jets fan) once wrote: "Winnipeg hockey fans, whose hearts were ripped out when their beloved Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes over a decade ago, are crossing their fingers in hopes the financially strapped NHL franchise could be returning to Canada."

Mr. Robb feels Juno's pain.

My question is: Who in their right mind would think that ice hockey (a sport born in Canada and who's most successful franchises are the 6 remaining Canadian teams and the teams in the northern states) would be successful in the desert sun of Arizona? Is the word "ice" or the term "cold weather" or the word "winter" in the Arizonian dictionary? At last check, hockey is synonymous with winter weather. Or am I wrong?
Commissioner Bettman - Getty Images

But no, the NHL is determined to make the "hot desert" experiment work. They refuse to let the team move back to Canada. They claim the TV market is just too big in Phoenix. Ok, true, Phoenix has 1.6 million people to Winnipeg's 633, 000 but the difference is, of Phoenix' 1.6 million people only what, 3 people are hockey fans? Of Winnipeg's 633,000, what, 630,000 are hockey fans? Hello! Earth to Commissioner Bettman!

The sad part of the saga is that the Coyotes haven't been all that bad in their 16 years in Phoenix. They have an all-time winning record and have made the playoffs 6 times, including last year. Currently they are the 6th seed in the Western Conference standings and it looks like they'll be making their 7th playoff appearance while in Phoenix. Yet they rank 29th out of 30 in attendance.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if Arizonians haven't embraced ice hockey in the 16 years the NHL has tried to shove it down it's throat then they're never gonna embrace it. But try telling that to Commissioner Bettman.

And for the record: Of the 10 teams with the WORST attendance records in the league, 7 of them play in WARM southern states. Hmmm?

Meanwhile, the disheartened hockey-lovers in "COLD WEATHER" Winnipeg are still scratching their heads and asking themselves, "Why us?". So I say, "move the team back to Winnipeg or anywhere in Canada, where it rightfully belongs."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Miami Heat: The Crying Game

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Ok folks, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has cleared up his "guys crying in the locker room" comment after the Heat's heartbreaking home-loss to the Chicago Bulls, 87-86, yesterday.

Today Spoelstra said, “Guys were very emotional in the locker room. Heads were down. I saw glossy eyes. Nobody was whimpering in the locker room. I call it, ‘Crygate.’ ”

He also said, “This was a classic example of sensationalism, looking for a headline. You guys would take anything I say and turn it into a story. I will say one thing: The guys care.”

Crygate?

Ok Spo, our bad. But you know you are the coach of the team who has been under a microscope since it's formation last summer and will continue to be until it wins a championship. The team Dwyane Wade thinks the world just loves to hate. You know every word you or the players say is going to be scrutinized. How in the world can you say something like that and not expect the entire world to be talking about it today? You deserve all the heat (pun intended) you've gotten today for not thinking straight.

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Of course, the fact that the Heat are, what, 1-9 against the elite teams in the league AND have an overall losing record against teams above .500 (10-18) AND are 5-13 in games decided by 5 points or less, certainly adds a lot of weight to Spo's comment. I guess, in their defense, with those kind of numbers, I'd probably shed a tear or two myself. After all, with all the self-imposed hype from last summer, we all thought they'd be marching to 70 wins by this point.

But on a serious note, the problem with the Heat is not that they're losing, the problem is, how they are losing and who they are losing to. Not a good sign for a team that has championship aspirations.

Anyway, who would have thought that last summer? Not Dwyane Wade, that's for sure. Yet here we are talking about them struggling in the clutch and guys "crying" in the locker room. Go figure.

I'm sure King Tut would be turning in his grave if he knew what was happening to the "Three Kings" down in the Valley of the Kings, better known as South Beach.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Issuing A Statement!

AP Photos
The Los Angeles Lakers have issued a statement and it reads: Lakers 99 - Spurs 83 at San Antonio.

So I guess this means the Lakers are back. Although personally, I never knew where they went.

But after losing 3 straight games to end the first half of the season, especially a "humiliating" loss to the lowly Cavaliers, many were writing them off. The chatter was: the Lakers need to make trades, they need to revamp the team, Ron Artest is a clown and he gotta go, Kobe is unhappy and blasé blasé. And then more blasé blasé.

And since the All-Star break all the Lakers have done is win 7 consecutive games, which culminated with their crushing defeat of San Antonio on their home turf, ending the Spurs team-record of 22 consecutive home wins. The blowout was a huge statement because the Spurs will most likely have home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs, meaning the 2-time defending champion Lakers would have to go on the road in the conference finals. With today's Spurs-thrashing, the Lakers basically said, "NO PROBLEMO!".

In my opinion, the Spurs are going to have a hard time with the Lakers regardless of who has home court. When it comes to the elite teams, home court means "nada" because championship-caliber teams can win anywhere, anytime. The problem for the Spurs is that the Lakers have too much size and too much defense for them to handle. Period.

As for the much-talked about 3-game losing streak, which had everyone writing their obituaries, those are things that are going to happen during a long and exhausting season. No big deal. The loss at Orlando was understandable. The Magic after all are still an elite team. As for the losses at Charlotte and Cleveland? I could see how any great team would have a hard time getting up to play those teams. So of course, teams are going to be short on motivation in certain games against lesser teams. Besides, why should they exhaust all their energy trying to win every game when they're going to need it for the playoffs?

So to steal a line from the great LL Cool J, as far as the Lakers go, "don't call it a comeback, they've been here for years". Period.

Meanwhile, down in the Valley of the Kings--

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Chicago Bulls 87 - Miami Heat 86

After suffering their 4th consecutive loss in "collapsing" fashion, no doubt the Heat are in a funk. According to coach Erik Spoelstra, a few players were even crying in the locker room after the crushing loss to the Bulls. Oh brother! Quit whining Dwyane! Yes you feel like you are the team everyone loves to hate, but shouldn't you have anticipated this after the circus-like way you guys chose to come together? After the fiasco known as "The Decision" and the WWE-style rock concert ya held in Miami? After all that drama, you should have anticipated that anything less than 82-0 would be unacceptable by the media. No doubt.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Amazin' Mess

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Why is the above man smiling? Doesn't he know he's in the same shoes as the guy hired to captain the Titanic?

For the record, that's new Mets GM Sandy Alderson. So, Mr. Alderson, what kind of year are the New York Mets going to have?

After last year's horrendous debacle, the Mets' big wigs (Fred & Jeff Wilpon) held a press conference promising sweeping changes and a thorough overhaul of the team. At the management level they held true to their word, giving manager Jerry Manuel and GM Omar Minaya the boot and bringing in Alderson and former Astros and Angels manager Terry Collins to run the team.

But um, as for the guys out on the field, you know, the ones who actually win games, the Mets did absolutely nothing in terms of bringing in championship-caliber talent. Absolutely nothing with a capital N. Well, unless you consider pitchers D.J. Carrasco and Chris Young power moves. Um, not really!

The Mets are pretty much going to field the same cast of characters who have shown promise but have imploded for 4 consecutive years and counting. The word around camp is that the players are all "healthy" and the energy Collins has brought along is "infectious". But like I said, these are the same cast of characters, so should we expect different results?

Yes, they are saying all the right things to the media regarding the upcoming season. Carlos Beltran is talking about how good he feels and is looking forward to a monster year. Hmmm? David Wright is talking about how the mood has changed and how excited everyone is. Hmmm? Jose Reyes is saying that he feels better than ever and that he thinks this team can compete with anyone in the NL East. Hmmm? As a disgruntled lifelong Mets fan, who has a pretty good inkling on how their culture works, I must say I have to see it to believe it.


The truth of the matter is, the Mets are a mess. A financial mess. Not only are they prisoners to some bad (really bad) contracts (i.e. Oliver Perez & Luis Castillo) orchestrated during the Omar Minaya-era but their alleged-involvement in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme has put them in a financial pickle. The word on the street is that Major League Baseball has lent the Mets $25 million to help them with their finances but has also vowed not to lend them another penny. And to make matters worse, the Mets owners are facing more allegations, aside from the $300 million lawsuit already filed against them, for ignoring the obvious warning signs that Madoff was a crook. In a nutshell, the lawsuit claims the Wilpons profited handsomely from their investments with Madoff and turned a blind eye on the fact that maybe there was something wrong with those huge earnings when the stock market wasn't doing well and everyone else, who was legitimately investing, was making little or no profit.

Here's a very simple and down to earth hypothetical for those of us who don't really follow (or care about) these complicated lawsuits: Let's say, Bernie rolled up to the Wilpon's house with a big fat check back in 2000 when the market crashed due to the Microsoft antitrust beef. And let's say, the Wilpon's blindly took the loot. The lawsuit claims the Wilpon's should have "smelled a rat" and said, "Uh Bernie, where is all this dough coming from? Didn't the market just crash?" And if Bernie offered no legit explanation, they should have reported it to the feds. Got it?

Of course, the Wilpons are fighting the lawsuit, claiming they too were victims of the Ponzi scheme, losing millions themselves. I guess we have to respect their right to innocence until proven guilty. But there is no doubt the Madoff thing has become a nuisance for the team.

In the end, I'm not going to completely throw the Mets under the bus. In their defense, they do spend a lot of money on players but, more often than not, they just don't get a bang for their buck. Whether it's an epedemic of injuries to key players or the thug-like behavior from closer Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez or simply lack of effort, for some reason something always seems to go wrong. And something tells me this coming season is going to be no exception. I just hope they prove me wrong.

But I'll put my money on me.

On a personal note--


Back in 2009, I was actually performing jury duty not too far from where the Madoff trial was being held. Each day, after being dismissed, I would hang around the federal courthouse just to soak in the media circus that spilled all over the courthouse and the surrounding area. I was able to snap the above picture the day of the verdict as Bernie was escorted from the building. It happened so quickly that Madoff was already in the vehicle when I snapped it. It was an interesting experience, I have to say.