Saturday, April 30, 2011

NBA Playoffs: We're Off To Round 2

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The first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs is officially in the books.

The No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies were the biggest story of the opening round as they shocked the No. 1 San Antonio Spurs, 4-2. This was the 4th time in NBA history that a No. 8 seed upsets a No. 1 seed-- Denver Nuggets over Seattle Super Sonics (1994); New York Knicks over Miami Heat (1999) and Golden State Warriors over Dallas Mavericks (2007) were the other 3 times.

As for the other series: The No. 5 Atlanta Hawks over the No. 4 Orlando Magic surprised a lot of people, including myself, and the No. 3 Dallas Mavericks over the No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers, although the seeding held serve, was also surprising to some of us who thought the Blazers had it in them to upset the Mavericks. Guess not.

The Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat also held serve and are off to Round 2.

Anyway, here's how I see the second round unfolding.

Eastern Conference:

1. Bulls vs. Hawks: Derrick Rose and the Bulls will end the Hawks semi-Cinderella run. Why? Because they are Derrick Rose and the Bulls. It's that simple. Bulls in 5.

2. Heat vs. Celtics: This is the match-up of all match-ups. The extravaganza the entire world has been waiting for-- The New Big Three vs. The Old Big Three. The Rumble in South Beach. Miami Thrice vs. The Boston Three Party. OK, 'nuff hyping. The Old Big Three will go down to the Valley of the Kings and prevail. Boston in 6. "So let it be written, So let it be done!" -from The Ten Commandments

Western Conference:

1. Lakers vs. Mavericks: Kobe wants ring No. 6 in the worst way. Who am I to question him on that? Lakers in 6.

2. Thunder vs. Grizzlies: After the Lakers eliminated the Thunder in a hard-fought 6 games in the first round of last year's playoffs, Kobe said something to the effect, "This is a great young team. I get the feeling we'll be dealing with them for years to come". Kobe's crystal ball was dead on. Thunder in 5.

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Finally, for the record, CONGRATULATIONS to the Memphis Grizzlies on winning their first-ever playoff series. It was a long time coming but if you play this game long enough, sooner or later, good things will happen. No doubt.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Newton's Law

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CONGRATULATIONS TO CAMERON NEWTON
2011 NFL DRAFT - NO. 1 OVERALL PICK

It's been quite a ride for Auburn QB Cam Newton these last 5 months.

Last night, Newton completed a rare trifecta which is nearly close to impossible to accomplish. He became only the third player in history-- get this-- to win the Heisman Trophy, win the National Championship and become the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, back-to back-to back. The only other players to accomplish the feat are a pair of Notre Dame Fighting Irish-- Angelo Bertelli in 1943 and Leon Hart in 1949.

Whoa! What else is there to say?

Not a bad run for Newton, to say the least. I guess we should start calling him Sir Cameron Newton.

"To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me." -Sir Isaac Newton

GOOD LUCK in the NFL, Cam!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Andre Ethier and Joe Torre

AP Photos
Today, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 24 games which is a major league record for the month of April. Ethier, actually, set the record when his hitting streak reached 23 games, breaking the former record of 22 games, which was set by his former manager Joe Torre in 1971.

However, I must admit that at first I didn't think much of the record because back in the old days (during the 154-game season) the regular season didn't begin until mid to late April and teams just didn't play that many April games. In other words, nobody really had the opportunity to have long hitting streaks during the month because they just didn't play enough games. So, although I think a 24-game hitting streak is an impressive accomplishment, I didn't think much of the April-record thing because Ethier and all modern players have an unfair advantage over the old-school guys.

But once I found out that Ethier broke a record held by Torre, who managed Ethier for three seasons (2008-2010), I said, "what the heck"-- an Ethier-Torre connection is definitely worth writing about, or at least, it gave me an opportunity to post a nice picture of the two of them.

As for the hitting streak, someone let me know when Ethier approaches Joe DiMaggio country. Oh, I almost forgot, Joltin' Joe had a mind-boggling 56-game hitting streak which is considered by many (including myself) mathematically impossible to duplicate. Sorry Andre.

Or maybe Pete Rose's NL record of 44 in a row is more doable? I don't think so but GOOD LUCK with that one, Andre!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Derek Jeter and Sam Crawford

Jeter photo courtesy of Getty Images
The Derek Jeter watch is alive and well. As we all know, the Yankee Captain is closing in on yet another milestone-- 3000 hits.

Jeter, who is off to a slow start, currently has 2945 career hits. He recently passed the great Frank Robinson (2943) for sole possession of 30th place on the all-time list. Next up-- the legendary dead-ball era great Sam Crawford, who is 29th with 2961 hits.

Nicknamed "Wahoo Sam", Crawford played in the major leagues from 1899 to 1917 with the Cincinnati Reds (1899-1902) and the Detroit Tigers (1903-1917). Along with his 2961 hits, he had a career .309 BA and 1525 RBI. Crawford is best known for holding the almost-unbreakable major league record of 309 career triples. In today's game most players are lucky if they hit 100 triples for their careers but Crawford's high number was due to the fact that he played in an era when triples were more common than home runs based on ballpark dimensions. To put it in perspective, he led the NL in home runs in 1901 with 16 and he led the AL in homers in 1908 with 7. As for triples, he led the NL in 1902 with 22 and he led the AL 5 times with-- 25 in 1903, 19 in 1910, 23 in 1913, 26 in 1914, 19 in 1915. I guess they don't call it the "Dead-Ball Era" for nothing?

Ironically, the only active player who (I think) has a slim chance of, at least, cracking the top 10 in career triples is another Crawford-- the active leader Carl Crawford who has 105 career triples. Hall of Famer Paul Waner is 10th on the all-time list with 191 triples. At 29, Crawford (Carl that is) may have 87 triples left in him and at least catch Waner.

Carl Crawford (Getty Images) and HOF Paul Waner
As for Crawford (Sam that is), who was the immortal Ty Cobb's "right-hand man" during the great Tiger teams of the early years, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1957.

So with 17 more hits, Jeter will surpass Crawford on the all-time list as he marches toward 3000. As for the immortal Cobb, well, at 4189 hits, he isn't even in Jeter's radar. At least, not yet!

Stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com

Monday, April 25, 2011

Great News For Red Sox Nation!

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The Boys From Beantown are smokin'!

After a horrific 0-6 and then 2-9 start the Boston Red Sox have gone on a tear and are now just 1 game under .500 at 10-11. They are riding a 5-game winning streak and have won 8 out of their last 10 games, all on the backs of their masterful 5 starters.

That's the good news. Now for the great news--

Over the last 9 games the Red Sox starting pitching has been so dominant that they have combined for a minuscule 0.88 ERA over that span. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Red Sox starters were that dominant over a 9-game stretch was WAY BACK in 1918 when they combined for a 0.84 ERA led by their then-ace Babe Ruth. Remember him from his old pre-2004 "Curse of the Bambino" days?

Maybe this dominant 9-game stretch by Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lester and Clay Buchholz is an omen because when The Babe and his staff did it in 1918 the Red Sox went on to win the World Series. So let's call it, "The Omen of the Bambino", since he's now a friend and no longer haunting the BoSox.

Curse? What curse?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Alex Rodriguez and Lou Gehrig

A-Rod photo by Getty Images
At this point in his career, every (hit, home run, RBI or run scored) for Alex Rodriguez may come with one or more historical implication as A-Rod is now rubbing elbows with the immortals of the game.

Yesterday, the New York Yankees routed the Baltimore Orioles 15-3 as A-Rod went 2 for 5 with 6 RBI, including a grand slam home run. With his 6-RBI performance, A-Rod now has 14 games in his career where he's had 6 or more RBIs tying him with the immortal Lou Gehrig for the most 6-RBI games in major league history.

His grand slam was also the 22nd of his career breaking a tie with the recently-retired Manny Ramirez (21 grand slams) and taking sole possession of second place on the all-time list. Gehrig holds the major league record with 23 career grand slam home runs. So it's just a matter of time before A-Rod, once again, ties another of Gehrig's legendary records.

With A-Rod we can go on and on because his assault on almost every single career batting record has officially started as his numbers have now entered into hallowed grounds. His 6 RBIs gave him 1847 for his career moving him past Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski (1844) for 12th place on the all-time list. The career RBI-record holder is Hank Aaron with 2297. At his current pace, if he stays healthy, A-Rod should pass Aaron in 2014.

As for the career home run record, by 2015, A-Rod (618 HR) should be challenging Barry Bonds' record of 762 and he may have a shot-- get this-- at Japanese legend Sadaharu Oh's professional world record of 868 home runs. Whoa!

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Amazing, to say the least!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Celtics vs. Heat: Let The Countdown Begin!

The Boston Celtics are up 3-0 on the New York Knicks. The Miami Heat are up 3-0 on the Philadelphia 76ers.

Unless something miraculous happens-- THE SHOWDOWN the world has been waiting for is about to unfold-- The Big 3 vs. The New Big 3. And the first Big 3 (like many) ain't happy with the "NO-RING" circus masterminded by Pat Riley and King LeBron James last summer. It's about that time to SETTLE IT in the arena.

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The rumble of the decade will begin down in the Valley of the Kings or as some call it, South Beach OR The Town Where The King Took His Talents.

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One thing is certain: There isn't enough space in the NBA for 2 sets of Big 3 and soon the world will find out who the REAL BIG 3 are-- call it, 2011: A SPACE ODYSSEY.



It's no secret I've liked the Boys From Beantown since Day 1. The "Three Kings" are just going to be "road kill" as Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Co. have bigger fish to fry (i.e. Kobe). My prediction: Celtics 4 - Heat 2.

CAN'T WAIT!!!!

Click on images to view larger

Friday, April 22, 2011

Are The Dodgers Falling Apart?

NY Daily News
The word on the street is that the Los Angeles Dodgers are in disarray. Well, at the ownership level that is because at the "team on the field" level, they are a decent 10-10 under new manager Don Mattingly.

Anyway, today I asked myself, "Do I really want to write a post about the mess the Dodgers' ownership is in? The same worn out story we've heard time and time again?" Quite frankly, NO! But since I'm here, I might as well throw in my quick two cents.

In a nutshell (as I understand it): Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has seized control of the troubled team's finances because owner Frank McCourt's life is a sloppy mess right now. McCourt is going through a bitter and messy divorce from his wife Jaime McCourt who owns 50% of the team. All kinds of allegations are flying around as this "battle of the spouses" has become soap opera central. Frank claims that Jamie cheated on him with her chauffeur. Jaime denies these allegations and so forth and on. You get the picture. The bottom line is, their ugly soap opera is bleeding over onto the team and Selig had to make a move. In short, MLB is going to run the show until the McCourts settle their beef and sell the team to somebody who will come in with no baggage or skeletons in his/her closet.

OK. I think I got it.

Here is my quick opinion: Quite frankly this same old story of bitter divorces is getting old and boring. I mean, it's the same old nonsense we've been hearing for generation after generation. My advice to Commissioner Selig is-- force the McCourts to sell the team and let them settle their differences away from the game because when we read the sports pages we want to see stats NOT drama.

Anyway--

Right now I'm staring out my window and I'm seeing the beautiful landscape of the Borough of Brooklyn, NY. Hey Commish, if you need a buyer look in the same direction I'm looking at because I'm sure the people of Brooklyn will take their team back with open arms. NO DOUBT ABOUT IT!

FINALLY, a word to Jay-Z: Hey dude, I could see the Marcy Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn from my window. Remember the good 'ole days when you were the king of those housing projects? And wouldn't a brand new stadium look great around the old Brooklyn Navy Yard area? Put your money into action and buy the Dodgers and bring them back home. You will be hailed as a God if you do so. Trust me!

Do it for "Willie, Mickey and The Duke" and of course, The Great Jackie.

That's all I gotta say!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hand Him The AL Cy Young Award!

AP Photos
As they say in the world of politics, "We have a call to make!" Based on early returns and exit polling, Los Angeles Angels ace Jered Weaver is the 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner.

His numbers speak for themselves: 5 GS, 5-0, 36.2 IP, 39 K, 1 CG, 1.23 ERA, 0.76 WHIP.

No player in major league history had ever won 5 games by April 20, until now. And Jered is the first to do it. Very impressive, indeed!

Weaver may be a lanky guy who doesn't look intimidating but don't let that fool you, he is a rock-solid pitching machine. More often than not he'll give you 7 quality innings while surrendering few (if any) walks and he'll hover around 10 strikeouts per game. With a 15-strikeout game already under his belt, he leads the AL (by far) with 39 strikeouts (only 9 walks so far) after leading the league last season with 233 Ks with only 54 BB in 224.1 IP.

Yes it's still early but Weaver is on fire and running away with the prize.

Tampa Bay Rays: Life After Death

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First of all, my apologies to the Tampa Bay Rays and the entire Rays Nation. Like many, I threw the Rays under the bus (in an earlier post - The Rays Need A Lifeboat) and left them for dead. The Rays who began the season 0-6 and then 1-8 have made a turnaround of historical proportions, leaving me and many others with egg on our faces.

Today, the Rays are at .500 with a 9-9 record after that horrific start. In fact, they became only the 2nd team in the modern era (since 1900) to begin a season 0-6 and fight their way back to .500 within the month of April. The 1991 Seattle Mariners are the only other team to do so. This is a remarkable accomplishment considering we are talking about 111 years of baseball and it's only been done twice.

The Rays are doing it textbook style with clutch hitting and superb pitching. The ageless Johnny Damon leads the team with 13 RBIs and had a span of 5 consecutive game-winning RBIs. Sam Fuld (.344 BA) and Matt Joyce (.321 BA) are providing the lumber as the Rays wait for B.J. Upton's bat to warm up. Their starting pitching has been great (as of late) as Wade Davis, David Price and James Shields are a combined 5-0 in their last 6 starts. The Rays as a team have won all 6 of their starts. It also seems like they have found a reliable closer in veteran Kyle Farnsworth who has 4 SAVES and 0 BLOWN SAVES thus far.

It's hard to say for how long this hot streak will continue as there's still a lot of baseball to be played but for now the Rays deserve their PROPS for turning things around in a hurry. Good work!

Manny (Being Manny) Ramirez where u at????

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Extra! Extra! The Great Mo Rivera Blows A Save!

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It doesn't happen often but when it does it's newsworthy-- the great Mariano Rivera BLEW A SAVE.

Last night, Mo was handed the ball with a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays, which usually means-- GAME OVER! Prior to last night, Mo had pitched in 9 games and had a spotless record. He was 1-0, 9.1 IP, 7 SAVES, 0.00 ERA for the season. But as it never fails, the law of averages will sooner or later catch up to you. Mo allowed 2 runs as the Blue Jays tied the game 5-5 handing Rivera his first BLOWN SAVE of the year. The Blue Jays would go on to win the game 6-5 on an RBI-double by Travis Snider in the bottom of the 10th inning.

After the game Mo simply said, “Going in there I had it in mind that everything was going to be fine. Today wasn’t a good day.”

It's that simple. Even the great Rivera can have an off night. For the record, as it stands, Mo has 566 career SAVES and only 68 career BLOWN SAVES. He's still money in the bank in 9 out of 10 save chances.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 19, 2011: Oklahoma City

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As the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets prepare for their Game 2 match-up tomorrow night at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, let's not forget that today is a very somber day for the people of OKC and the entire country. Today is the 16th anniversary of the horrific bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building where 168 people lost their lives on April 19, 1995. To all those who lost loved ones and to an entire city who's spirit was ripped apart on that dreadful day, our thoughts and prayers are still with you.

Today, it's great to see the city focused on something good (and not on the events of that dreadful day 16 years ago) as the No. 4 Thunder have a 1-0 lead on the No. 5 Nuggets and the OKC fans have reasons to be hopeful as their team is a legitimate championship contender.

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GOOD LUCK to the Thunder the rest of the way.

The MLB On TSC: April FIRSTS

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They say if you play the game of baseball often enough sooner or later something will happen that has never happened before. And in the MLB this never seems to fail.

So with only two weeks into the season here are my 3 favorite major league FIRSTS so far:

1. The Los Angeles Angels rock-solid ace Jered Weaver (4-0) became the first pitcher in major league history to start and win 4 games by April 15. No pitcher had ever won that many games by the dreaded tax deadline. Weaver's phenomenal pitching is a major reason why the Angels (10-5) are off to the best start in team history.
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2. The New York Yankees already have 6 players with 4 or more home runs-- Mark Teixeira (5), Jorge Posada (5), Robinson Cano (4), Russell Martin (4), Curtis Granderson (4) and Alex Rodriguez (4)-- thus becoming the first team ever with that many players with 4 or more home runs in the team's first 14 games. The Yankees at 9-5 have MUSCLED their way into first place in the AL East.
AP Photo

3. The Tampa Bay Rays began the season 0-6 but have rebounded nicely going 7-3 in their last 10 games. A lot of their recent success is due to the heroics of newcomer, the ageless Johnny Damon. Damon was on fire in a recent 5-game span registering 5 consecutive game-winning RBIs. One of those game-winning RBIs was a 10th inning walk-off home run against the Minnesota Twins. Damon thus became the first player in major league history to hit a walk-off game winning home run for 5 different teams-- the Rays, the Detroit Tigers, the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals. The Rays knew when they signed Damon that "Johnny Be Good" in the clutch. And he has a long resume to prove it.

With 92% of the season still remaining, I'm sure there will be a few more FIRSTS to come.

To be continued....

Stats courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau

Monday, April 18, 2011

Roger Federer: The Last Stand?

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Are we witnessing the end of the road for the great Roger Federer? Is the greatest run in tennis history ending before our eyes?

First of all, make no mistake about it, Federer is still the undisputed No. 3 player in the world. No question about it! But therein lies part of the problem. After so many years of dominance seeing Federer at No. 3 is like seeing a mere mortal at No. 100. But this is the new reality for Federer. At 29, he has to settle for the fact that there are two players who are officially (better, stronger, faster) than him.

So far in 2011, Federer has an impressive 24-5 match record BUT he is 0-3 against World No. 2 Novak Djokovic and 0-1 against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal. Losing to the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world, who are much younger than him, has (kinda) become the norm these days as nobody expected Federer to be virtually unbeatable forever. Sooner or later younger blood was going to start to take the reigns, as has happened.

BUT!

His other loss in 2011 came this past week at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters to World No. 8 Jurgen Melzer. Prior to this loss, Federer had been 3-0 against Melzer in his career. So it's this loss that has raised a red flag because being 0-4 against Nadal and Djokovic has become (sort of) acceptable but losing to anyone else kinda makes us think is this the beginning of the end?

In Federer's defense, he is 24-0 against players outside the Top 10, so he's still far from being just an average player. But is 0-5 record against Top 10 players does make us ask ourselves-- is he human after all?

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Something tells me Federer may still have a few tricks up his sleeve, only now he may need someone other than himself to defeat the World No. 1 and No. 2 players (Nadal and Djokovic) on a bad day. If that happens, (I think) he can defeat anybody else as he is still the undisputed World No. 3.

And saying he's the THIRD best player, after all these years of supremacy, is going to take time to get used to.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rafael Nadal: The King Of Clay

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Chalk up another title for World No. 1 Rafael Nadal.

Rafa just finished winning his 7th consecutive title at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in Monaco. He defeated World No. 6 and fellow countryman David Ferrer (6-4, 7-5) en route to his 44th career title and first of 2011. And of course, it was on a clay-court where Rafa is virtually unbeatable.

Nadal has now won the Masters event in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. An incredible accomplishment.

With today's defeat of Ferrer, Rafa has now won 37 consecutive matches at Monte-Carlo where he hasn't lost since 2003 when he was only a young qualifier. He missed the event in 2004 due to an injury but since 2005, when he burst into the scene, it has been lights out at this event. Nobody and I mean nobody has had an answer for Rafa ever since. What a run!

The next few events are going to be fun to follow as Nadal looks to storm his way through the clay-court season on his way to the "big clay-court fish", the 2011 French Open. Rafa would be seeking title No. 6 at the French and there's no doubt he's going to be the heavy favorite.

The slogan for the clay-court season should be, "Don't Mess with Rafa On Clay!" Unless of course, you're World No. 2 Novak Djokovic, who's out there somewhere licking his chops. There is no question Djokovic's 0-9 record on clay against Rafa is irking him.

GOOD LUCK Novak! But as far as the clay-court season goes all eyes are still on Rafa!

Getty Images/AP Photos
Is he the "King of Clay"? You betcha!

Friday, April 15, 2011

NBA Playoffs: Six Makes Perfect Sense To Kobe

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So the NBA Playoffs are once again upon us. I guess it's time for me to throw in my two cents and make my yearly predictions, one round at a time.

The only storyline, as far as I'm concerned, about this year's playoffs is whether or not Kobe Bryant will win his 6th ring. Yes I know the Miami Heat and the "New Big 3" from the Valley of the Kings are in the dance. I also know Dwight "Superman" Howard is also in da house. And yes, I know the San Antonio Spurs with the "Original Big 3" are here looking for ring No. 5. Sorry, but the stage belongs to Kobe. Kobe is a student of the game and he knows what's at stake. He knows he has a chance to equal the great Michael Jordan with two 3-peats and he will do everything in his power to achieve the feat. Although he won't say it publicly but everyone knows Kobe wants this ring and he wants it badly. Call it his "Sixth Sense".

So the only questions on my mind are: Will the Lakers pull of a second 3-peat in the Kobe-era. Will Phil Jackson complete his 4th unprecedented and RIDICULOUS 3-peat and win his 12th ring. Will the Lakers equal the Boston Celtics with their 17th NBA Championship or will the "Other Big 3" and the Celtics open up some elbow room and win their 18th title?

With that said, here are my first round predictions--

Eastern Conference:

The East should just do away with the first round and go directly to the second round because the top 4 seeds will all advance with their eyes closed. So forget the first round and save the bodies for the second round showdown. No. 1 Chicago Bulls, No. 2 Miami Heat, No. 3 Boston Celtics and the No. 4 Orlando Magic easily advance. My bold prediction: Seeds 5 through 8 will win a total of 2 games. Ouch!

Western Conference:

In the West things are more interesting. Off the bat, the No. 1 San Antonio Spurs and the No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers advance. Spurs in 6. Lakers in 5.

Now it gets interesting. Mark Cuban and his No. 3 Dallas Mavericks are in for a rude awakening. For some reason things always seem to go wrong for the Mavericks come playoff time. I won't bore you with amateur analysis but I will say I like the No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers in 6. And why? They have more depth than Dallas.

The No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder over the No. 5 Denver Nuggets in 7. This may be a stunner as the Melo-less Nuggets are on a mission. It wouldn't surprise me if they pull off the upset but I'm going with the Thunder by a whisker. That's all!

Let the games begin....

Colorado Rockies: Hey Philly, See U in the NLCS!

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So far the Colorado Rockies are living up to some of the early buzz they received prior to the start of the season. Sports Illustrated picked them to go 90-72 and finish one game behind the San Francisco Giants and make the playoffs as a wild-card. I'm sure the Rockies would take that in a heartbeat because after all the goal is to make the playoffs and then take it from there. Just ask the defending World Champion Giants, who know better than anybody that the trick is to just get in and hope all your components are working on all cylinders during the playoffs.

The Rockies (10-2) are the first team in the major leagues to reach double-digits in wins and they've done it with great offense and super pitching. That formula will work every time, that's for sure. So for now, it is the Rockies not the Giants, who look like they're on a collision course with the mighty Philadelphia Phillies for NL supremacy.

Hats off to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki who is having a monster year thus far. If the season ended today, Tulowitzki (7 HR, 14 RBI, .364 BA) would no doubt be the NL MVP. Slugger Carlos Gonzalez, veteran Todd Helton, outfielders Dexter Fowler and Seth Smith are also getting the job done.

But make no mistake about it, the key to the Rockies early success is their pitching, particularly their bullpen. The Rockies are getting great starting pitching and their bullpen has been magnificent. They rank No. 1 in the major leagues in SAVES with 8 and No. 1 in HOLDS with 18. Closer Huston Street leads the major leagues with 6 SAVES and has 0 BLOWN SAVES and their 18 HOLDS in only 12 games are a phenomenal accomplishment.

Rockies closer Huston Street - Getty Images
Often times a team's bullpen doesn't get the recognition that it deserves but if there's one thing that will always be true in the game of baseball is that where your bullpen goes, your team goes. And right now the Rockies bullpen is smokin'. So kudos to Street, Matt Lindstrom, Felipe Paulino, Rafael Betancourt, Matt Reynolds and the entire bullpen on a superb job so far.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Human Torch: It's My Turn, Roy!

Getty Images & Marvel Comics
Last night, Mr. Fantastic Roy Halladay pitched a complete game allowing only 6 hits and 2 runs as the Philadelphia Phillies edged the Washington Nationals, 3-2. The complete game win by Halladay came after a bad outing by Joe Blanton who lost 7-4 the night before. The Phillies are now 3 for 3 in the "great outing after a bad outing" category as they refuse to lose two games in a row.

And so tonight Halladay handed the stage over to the Human Torch Cliff Lee.

And what did Lee do? Oh, he pitched a complete game, 3-hit shutout, striking out 12 and walking only one batter as the Phillies again beat the National, 4-0. With the back-to-back complete game wins the Phillies are now 9-3 and looking unstoppable. It seems like the Fab Four are beginning to feed off each other and trying to out-due each other. Uh oh!

If that's the case then this thing is going to be fun to watch as the Phillies have now won all 4 series they've played this season and are yet to lose 2 games in a row. Very impressive!

Did someone say 120 wins for the Phillies?

Whoa! Getting 120 wins is a near impossibility but based on the early going I'm beginning to think-- maybe it's not that far-fetched for these Phillies after all. We'll see....

Trouble In The Land Of Ozzie!

AP Photos
My oh my, where have you gone Bobby Jenks?

There is no doubt that the Chicago White Sox, as good as they are on paper, are in trouble. The White Sox (7-5) have the hitters, they have the starting pitching BUT they no longer have longtime closer Bobby Jenks.

AND THEREIN LIES THE PROBLEM!

The ChiSox closers by committee have been atrocious so far. They are the "proud" owners of a major league-leading 6 BLOWN SAVES and it has been ugly. REALLY UGLY! Matt Thornton has stunk it up as Jenks replacement (4 BLOWN SAVES), Chris Sale (1 BLOWN SAVE) AND Tony Pena (1 BLOWN SAVE) have not gotten it done either. They have blown small leads and they have blown large leads.

And what does all this mean? It means manager Ozzie Guillen is angry. VERY ANGRY. And we all know not to get Ozzie angry because we wouldn't like him when he's angry. Uh oh!

After yesterday's disastrous 7-4 loss to the Oakland A's, in which the bullpen blew a 4-1 lead in the ninth, a livid Ozzie said--

"When you got a bad bullpen that what happen. That's the third time it happen. I wish I know who I can bring in the nine. You know what I mean? Now we try everyone in one inning-- no more excuse. I'm going to Miami right now. I don't have any closer! I don't have any closer. I DON'T!" Getting angrier, he further said, "I might call Bobby Thigpen to help us. You know why? When we play good, they send those guys to this damn (interview) table and (you) talk to them like heroes. When we (mess) it up, I'm the one who has to (BLEEPING!) sit here and talk to you guys."

Ouch!

As we all know, Bobby Thigpen, now 47, was the White Sox dominant closer in the early '90s, who held a then-major league record 57 saves in 1990.

For the record, the White Sox refused to offer Bobby Jenks a contract and a disgruntled Jenks jumped ship as a free agent and joined the Boston Red Sox.

As for Ozzie-- Calm down amigo, you'll figure it out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bonds Trial: Guilty For This, No Verdict For That, What Da?!

Jeff Parker-toons
What in the world happened at the Barry Bonds perjury trial?

Let me see if I got this straight-- the jury found him guilty of obstruction of justice because he told a grand jury he DID NOT knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs. But the jury couldn't reach a verdict on 3 other perjury beefs. What in the world is the difference? Can someone please explain this whole mess to me?

Meanwhile--

Bonds' "good friend" pharmacist (ooops, I meant trainer) Greg Anderson is rotting in jail because he refuses to "drop a dime" on his lifelong friend. Hmmmm? Now why would he do that? If Bonds is 100% innocent why not just roll up to court and tell the truth? I get the feeling this Anderson "cat" is a shady character who knows a whole lot of dirt, that's for sure. If I'm him I'd watch my back when released from the slammer because if there's one thing history has taught us is that knowing too much (sometimes) ain't a good thing. Word up!

Anyway, for Anderson's rap sheet go to this Wikipedia link. Yes folks, he has a Wikipedia page, although 90% of it is about his BALCO-steroids connection. Other than that I think they just mention his name and date of birth. Sheesh, talk about 15-minutes of fame. Although I must say, I feel bad for Anderson. This whole mess could drag on for a few more years, Bonds' 15 years of Hall of Fame eligibility are going to come and go without him even receiving an invite as a visitor and poor Greg may still be in the slammer. Boy oh boy, what else is there to say?

Oh I know--

For the record, the record-breaking 756th home run ball, which was purchased by mogul Marc Ecko for $752,467, is in the Hall of Fame BRANDED WITH AN ASTERISK. For those who aren't aware of what happened, Ecko held a vote and let the public decide what he should do with the ball and branding it with an asterisk won with 47% of the vote. So Ecko did just that and gave it to the Hall of Fame. To read more about it follow this link.

Bonds record-breaking 756th home run ball
When told about it, Bonds called Ecko's actions-- "stupid". Hmmm? That's like a rabbit telling a donkey he has long ears. SMH!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Djokovic: I Want Rafa On Clay!

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World No. 2 Novak Djokovic is 24-0 in 2011. He has played in 4 tournaments and he has won all 4 tournaments. He is 3-0 (head-to-head) against No. 3 Roger Federer and 2-0 against No. 1 Rafael Nadal so far in 2011.

It's safe to say, Djokovic is having a monster year-- BUT!!!!-- Now things get a little tough as the tennis season moves from hard-court to clay court and it's on this surface that Nadal is king and quite possibly the best ever. He is so good on clay that if the clay courts were a country, Nadal would be a monarch who rules with an iron fist. Djokovic, who is 0-9 for his career on clay against Nadal, knows that if he is ever going to take away the No. 1 ranking from Rafa he will sooner or later have to beat him on clay.

When asked about this insurmountable task, Djokovic said, “Important for me, mentally. I have this self-belief that I can win against him in finals, which I didn’t do in the past couple of years."

As we all know the big prize during the clay court season is the French Open, where Nadal is a 5-time champion. Djokovic's best showing in the French is two semifinal appearances in 2007 and 2008. Both times he lost to Nadal who went on to defeat Federer in both finals.

Defeating Rafa on clay is a tough task, to say the least, for Djokovic. If worst comes to worst he can have some good performances during the clay season, weather the storm and stay close to Rafa in ranking points. Then he can think about taking the No. 1 ranking during the grass-court season come Wimbledon. But that won't be no "walk in the park" either as Rafa is a two-time champion there and 6-time champion Federer is still lurking in the bushes and may have another Wimbledon win up his sleeves.

But for now it's on to the clay courts and ALL EYES ARE ON RAFA as the king has entered his kingdom.

Getty Images/AP Photos
Did anyone say, a 6th French Open title for Rafa?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The "Air" Apparent?

AP Photos
CONGRATULATIONS to Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls on notching their 60th win of the season. The win was monumental in Bulls history because it marked the first time a non-Michael Jordan led Bulls team won 60 games. During the Jordan-era the Bulls won 60 or more games 5 times, each time winning the NBA Championship in the process. No Bulls team prior or after the Jordan-era had ever won 60 games until today.

So now it's the Derrick Rose-era and the Bulls (60-20) are on track to do huge things. They've already clinched home-field advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs and with their 60th win are only one game behind the San Antonio Spurs for the best overall record in the NBA. It's been 13 long and frustrating seasons for the Bulls since Jordan's retirement but AT LAST it looks like their return to prominence has arrived and like Jordan before him, Rose is THE GUY.

Finally, I'm not comparing Derrick Rose or anyone else for that matter to the great Michael Jordan. Rose is great but Jordan was greater. To use a scientific analogy-- it is mathematically and scientifically impossible to compare anybody to Air Jordan because the laws of physics just won't allow it. Jordan is the greatest to ever play and nobody will ever come close, at least not in my lifetime. In other words, Jordan is to basketball what the speed of light is to the laws of physics. Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light and nobody will ever be better than Jordan. Period.

But Derrick Rose is pretty darn good.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Thing Does His Thing

Getty Images & Marvel Comics
Last night the Atlanta Braves got the best of The Human Torch Cliff Lee. They scored 6 runs off of Lee in 3.1 innings en route to a 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. It wasn't Lee's night, that's for sure.

But have no fear! With the Phillies Fantastic Four, the good news is, there is always another superhero due up to pick up the slack. Today, it was The Thing Roy Oswalt. Oswalt kept the Braves in check allowing only 2 runs (1 earned) in 6 innings as the Phillies won 10-2.

The moral of this post is two-fold. First, the Phillies highly criticized offense has scored 7+ runs in 5 out of their 8 games so far [9+ runs in 4 of the 8]. So much for this notion that the Phillies have great pitching but "no offense". Second, the Phillies are yet to lose 2 games in a row. I know it's early but this may be a microcosm of things to come-- Oswalt picking up after a Lee bad outing OR Lee picking up after a Halladay bad outing OR Hamels picking up after an Oswalt bad outing OR Halladay picking up after a Joe Blanton (remember him?) bad outing OR Blanton picking up after a Hamels bad outing, and so on. This just may be a common thing all year long. So the question is: How many times will the Phillies lose two or three in a row? Not many.

Scary!

Manny Being Manny!

Getty Images/AP Photo
A friend of mine asked me what do I think about the sudden abrupt retirement of Tampa Bay Rays slugger Manny Ramirez. My response, "what's there to say?"

Another friend of mine, who knows Manny personally, called him up and asked him, "what in the world do you think you're doing?" Manny's alleged response was, "Nothing. Here in my backyard grilling some steaks and barbecuing some ribs." I think that response says it all.

So there you have it!

My opinion on this whole "Manny failed another drug test" scandal-- it's just Manny being Manny at it's highest level. No mas!

Farewell, my friend. You take with you 555 home runs, 1831 RBI, .312 career BA and perhaps most importantly, your monumental accomplishment of being the first World Series MVP for the Boston Red Sox since, oh, a guy by the name of Babe Ruth. The funny thing is, it wouldn't surprise me if you yourself didn't know the significance of that accomplishment. I wouldn't doubt it.

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There will never be a more eccentric player than Manny in the major leagues, that's for sure.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Rays Need A Lifeboat

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In defense of the Boston Red Sox, they are not the only winless team in the major leagues as the defending AL East Champion Tampa Bay Rays are also 0-6. The difference however is that the Bosox paltry start gets a lot more press because everyone expected big things to happen in Beantown. Many predicted the Red Sox to do major damage in the American League and it still might and will happen.

As for the Rays, they are, more or less, where everyone outside of Tampa thought they would be-- losing games. With the gigantic exodus of key players from Tampa last off-season, the Rays were left severely wounded. I mean, the carnage that happened in Tampa was the biggest thing since, well, The Exodus. The only thing missing in Tampa's version of the big departure was Moses, his rod, and the tablets with the Ten Commandments. Sheesh, what a hemorrhage. Oh and by the way, the exodus from Tampa was, more or less, for the same reason the exodus happened in Egypt. It's not like the workers in Tampa were getting paid that much more than the workers in Egypt.

AP Photo
Anyway, I'm still pulling for the Rays to have a respectable season (at least finish at .500) but with newcomers Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez going a repulsive 2 for 36 in the first 6 games, the Rays should be thankful they are only 0-6 and still in the major leagues. The franchise as a whole should have been sent back to Single-A with those kind of numbers.

Anyway, let me end this post! I just looked at the Rays batting statistics as a team (27 for 186, .145 BA) and I felt like barfing. Later!

The Boston Massacre!

MacGregor/Word Press
They say a picture is worth 1000 words.

If so, this is actually a good thing because when it comes to the 0-6 Boston Red Sox, we don't need 1000 words. As of right now, there are only two words to describe the atmosphere in Beantown-- THE DOLDRUMS. So in this post, we'll let the pictures speak (the 1000 words) for themselves.

But first, for the sake of historical purposes, this is the 4th time in their illustrious history that the Boston Americans/Red Sox (est. 1901) began a season 0-6. The Red Sox (1908 - present) began the 1945 season 0-8 and the 1927 season 0-6. Their prior species, who evolved into the current Red Sox, the Americans (1901-1907), began the 1905 season also at 0-6. And if it makes Boston fans feel better, two teams in major league history have begun a campaign at 0-6 and made the playoffs-- the 1974 Pittsburgh Pirates and the 1995 Cincinnati Reds. So keep hope alive Red Sox Nation!

Anyway--

Without any further ado, here is the week that was for the Boys from Beantown (in pictures)--

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"Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone" -John Cougar Mellencamp

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My, oh my, the legendary Ted Williams must be turning over in his grave right now.

Getty Images/AP Photos
Although Beantown right now is corporate headquarters for the "Lonesome Roads Club", I still like their chances. I'm still sticking with my World Series prediction: The mighty Philadelphia Phillies 4 - Red Sox 3.

Tough call but we'll see....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Murderer's Row Watch

Getty Images/AP Photos
The defending American League Champion Texas Rangers are 6-0. When asked about it second baseman Ian Kinsler said, "That's it. 6-0. There's nothing really else to say."

Ok Ian, let me take a stab at it--

Although I see Kinsler's point, I must say the Rangers look mighty impressive and mighty potent in the early going. Yes, there's still a whole lot of baseball left to be played but if this line-up stays healthy, all I have to say to American League pitchers is, "BEWARE!".

After 6 games the Rangers lead the major leagues, oh, in a few offensive categories. They are No. 1 in Runs Scored (35), Doubles (13), Triples (4), Home Runs (13), RBIs (34), SLG (.658) and OPS (1.016). And all that is with the "Great One" Josh Hamilton still homer-less. Nelson Cruz and Kinsler are providing the pop for now with 4 HR and 3 HR, respectively. So just imagine when Hamilton gets hot.

SCARY, to say the least. Watch out AL, the mighty Rangers are going to be fun to watch. No doubt!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Final One!

Connecticut Huskies 53 - Butler Bulldogs 41


THE FINAL ONE

....And in the end there can only be one. CONGRATULATIONS UConn! 2010-2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Champions.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The MLB On TSC

Getty Images/AP Photos
Three games down, 159 to go! The 2011 MLB season is in full throttle and at the point of no return. It's put up or shut up time for all 30 teams.

Here are more odds and ends:

1) The Fantastic Four proved to be too much for the Houston Astros. After throwing away a freebie against Mr. Fantastic Roy Halladay on Opening Day, the Astros got a lethal dose of The Human Torch Cliff Lee (1-0) and The Thing Roy Oswalt (1-0) who both kept the Astros hitters in check as the Philly offense did their thing. The Astros managed to escape Philly with only bruised egos and the satisfaction of knowing they went toe-to-toe with the great Halladay. It could've been worse. My advice to the rest of the NL: Don't throw away the games in which you've taken an edge on the phenomenon known as R2C2 because it can be painful the rest of the way. End result: Phillies sweep Astros. Oh, those BLOWN SAVES!
2) The New York Yankees are off to a good start at 2-1. CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett got the job done in the first two games, both won by the Yankees. However, Phil Hughes got hit with the kitchen sink in Game 3 giving up 5 runs in 4 innings as the Yankees would lose the game to the Tigers 10-7. The word in the street is that the young Hughes is having velocity problems as demonstrated in Sunday's beatdown. Hmmm? Shouldn't that be a Bartolo "Old Hag" Colon problem? So now we get into the Achilles heel of the Yankees rotation, which is and will be their question mark all season long, their 4th and 5th starters.
3) Murderer's Row is alive and well! The Texas Rangers scored 26 runs in their 3-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox, hitting 11 home runs AND batting .333 as a team AND slugging .775 as a team. Ian Kinsler became the first player in major league history to lead off the first two games of a season with a home run and along with Nelson Cruz hit 3 in the series. At this pace the Rangers will break the elusive 1000 run mark for the season by late August. Scary!
4) The Big Red Machine swept the Milwaukee Brewers who, like the Astros, gave away a freebie on Opening Day. For turning down the Game 1 donation the Reds came back in Games 2 and 3 and crucified the Brew Crew with monster pitching and strong hitting. Oh, those BLOWN SAVES!
5) For what it's worth, the Kansas City Royals are 3-1 and the Baltimore Orioles are 3-0. I guess it means that if they play .500 baseball the rest of the way they'll both have winning seasons. C'mon guys, ya can go 50/50 the rest of the way!

Anyway, baseball fever is in the air and I'm sure there are plenty more interesting things to come.

To be continued.......

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Good Luck To The Final Two!


We are down to the Final Two.

It's the No. 8 Butler Bulldogs and the No. 3 Connecticut Huskies for all the marbles. Butler ended the No. 11 VCU Rams improbable run to the Final Four with a 70-62 victory and UConn ended the No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats hopes with a nail-biting 56-55 victory. Butler is in the Final for the second year in a row and is looking to become the second 8th seed ever to win the tournament. The 1985 Villanova Wildcats are the only team to accomplished the feat in the 64-team era. UConn is in the Final for the 3rd time in school history where they have never lost. Will the Huskies win their 3rd NCAA championship or will Butler continue to make the term "mid-major" obsolete? We'll soon find out......

So there we have it-- No. 3 vs. No. 8. GOOD LUCK to both teams.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Opening Day Odds and Ends

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The phenomenon known as Opening Day in Major League Baseball is in the books. Here are some eye-catching odds and ends from Days 1 and 2:

1. King Felix Hernandez. As his teammate Jack Cust put it, "He's no joke!" The defending AL Cy Young Award winner hasn't lost a beat as he pitched the first Opening Day complete game in the history of the Seattle Mariners, winning 6-2 against the Oakland A's. As for Seattle's other phenomenon, Ichiro Suzuki-- Ichiro went 2 for 4 in his quest for an unprecedented 11th consecutive 200-hit season. He is now 2 hits shy of breaking DH-extraordinaire Edgar Martinez team record of 2247 hits. Ichiro is simply amazing!
2. 50-home run man Jose Bautista went 3 for 4 including his first home run of the season as the Toronto Blue Jays crushed the Minnesota Twins, 13-3. Bautista is on a mission to prove that his 54-homer season of last year was no fluke.
3. The defending World Champion San Fransisco Giants are off to an 0-2 start losing both games by 1 run (2-1 and 4-3). In their 2 games so far the champs have scored 4 runs and committed 5 errors. Not a good way to start.
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4. The defending American League Champion Texas Rangers hit 3 home runs and bested the Boston Red Sox 9-5 in their opener. The Great One Josh Hamilton went 1 for 4 in his defense of his 2010 AL MVP Award. Did someone say Murderer's Row?
5. The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs, 6-3. The only question from this game is, who will get to 103 first? Will the Pirates lose 103 games before the Cubs clinch their 103rd consecutive season without a championship?
6. And then there's Ozzie's Chicago White Sox. They got off to a 14-0 lead on the Cleveland Indians, then gave back 9 runs before escaping with a 15-10 win. What a weird game! I guess in Ozzie Land sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.

Anyway, there's lots of baseball left to be played so-- Play Ball!