The 2014 Sporties Awards

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2014 Sporties our annual celebration of the best of Sport and the Sports world.  Let’s dive right in shall we:

Game of the Year – Last year of course featured the absolutely bonkers Auburn / Alabama game in addition to the Brady vs. Manning Bowl in which Brady staged an incredible comeback.  This year the contenders are much fewer and farther in between.  There were a couple of crazy baseball games and a couple of crazy football games.  However, the most exciting game I watched?  No question it was the bonkers World Cup match between the US vs. Portugal game which came down to the absolute wire and featured some of the top players in the world playing out of their minds.

Shocking World Cup Moment of the Year – Brazil gets tuned up by eventual champs Germany.  It was relentless, wave after wave of unstoppable strikers and you began to feel worse and worse for Brazil fans.  Simply awful.

Championship Dominations – One theme of the year was definitely beat downs in the finals: the LA Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Seattle Seahawks all cruised to victory over, in some cases, more ballyhooed opponents.  I will also not neglect to mention the Canadian hockey team and their punishing win over the US in the Olympic Finale.

Series of the Year – The best series of the year took place in hockey, and featured the LA Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks in a war that served as the real Stanley Cup final.

Breakout of the Year – The biggest winners of the World Cup was the Men in Blazers who are single handedly bringing soccer to the masses of America through their insanely brilliant show.  During the biggest sports event in the world, the two men locked themselves in a small room nicknamed “Bob Ley’s panic room” where they proceeded to break down football and culture simultaneously.  When they got home it was a quick shift to NBC Sports where they continued to have the highest rated podcast and a shockingly well rated TV series.  They are stone brilliant and they are now both a must watch, and must listen.

Pod of the Year – After the praise I just gave the Men in Blazers, you would rightfully assume they have won the Pod Award…but this is actually a battle that stretched beyond the sports world!  Three of my must listen pods: the aforementioned Blazers, Hollywood Prospectus and SerialHollywood Prospectus is highly entertaining and funny, and includes the occasional deep dive into the movies of David Fincher or the music of Taylor Swift.  It is fun and light and takes pop culture analysis to a whole new level.  Serial tells the story of a 15 year old murder allegedly committed by a young man named Adnan Syed.  The podcast is hypnotic and brilliantly conceived as we wander through the murky depths of a story where we may not want to hear the outcome.  A truly powerful experience; and a very addictive one as I powered through four pods believing I was only on the first one.  Wait?  Isn’t that only three pods when I actually mentioned four?  Yes, because it is high time someone gave praise to the true return of the Starters.   Last year I was almost out on them, as their 44 minute shows were simply not enough time to properly appreciate them.  Given that their time as “The Basketball Jones” was astounding and creative, it felt a little bit as if they were being contained in a small box that stripped away all their talent.  This year I was on the edge of being out completely when I heard they were cutting down to 22 minute shows.  I was done: I tried, but all their zany antics had been stripped away simply because there was not time.  In some ways it was good because it focused their great and insightful basketball minds.  However…it was putting them in a box.  I was done.

And then I heard the news.  On Fridays, the Starters would be unleashing “the Drop” a return to their old, off the walls ways.  Welcome back boys.  Before the first pod I waited with trepidation and had not looked forward to a pod like that for some time.  When I listened, all my fears vanished.  The boys were back.  In the following weeks, they have truly returned to their off the walls roots where their crazy energy and unstoppable hilarity continues.  What a glorious return.  Another year and you might be the pod of the year: right now it is the Blazers for their consistency.

Sports Books of the Year – I read some great sports books this year, many about football (American and otherwise).  The best: League of Denial by Mark Fairinua and Steve Farinua  / Showtime by Jeff Pearlman / Michael Jordan by Roland Lazenby / The Football Business by David Conn and Against Football by Steve Almond.  Another must read is the William Hill Sports Book winner: Night Games by Anna Krien which takes the microcosm of the misdeeds of the Australian Rules Football league and expands it through the sporting world.  An interesting take on the lengths teams will go to in order to protect their players and the depths players will sink to in order to fit in.  An important achievement and must read book.

Team of the Year – The Kansas City Royals because no other team did what they did, with the expectations that team had coming into the season.  Even in defeat they are worthy.  Runners up: San Antonio Spurs, Team Canada and Seattle Seahawks.

Off Field Moment of the Year – LeBron James returns to Cleveland…as read by Frank Caliendo playing Morgan Freeman.  Runner Up: Wait, is that Vladimir Putin and Sepp Blatter?  What could they possibly be discussing?  Is it possible for all the evil in the modern world ensconced in one luxury box?  Another runner up: remember when Bob Costas got pink eye in Russia?

Sportie Man of the Year – No one and I mean no one, gives Sidney Crosby enough credit.  He deserves to be the Sportie Man of the Year because he guided one of the most dominating hockey teams through a grueling slate to the finals.  It did not look good and certain points but the best players truly shine when it matters most and the way Crosby dominated at both ends of the ice in the final was astounding to watch.  He deserves more recognition for the way he dominates his sport in an especially competitive time: remember when Ovechkin or Crosby was a serious question?  Now it is likely Crosby or Toews.  Crosby though is our Sportie Man of the Year.

Catching Up

For the past couple of weeks I was on vacation in Italy / France (yes, I was in Italy during “the match – but more on that later) and missed a lot of huge stories from the world of sports.  In this post I will run through a gauntlet of info and opinions so please bear with me while I tackle old news.  Starting of course with…

Steve Nash to the Lakers – In many ways this is a dream scenario, and in many ways this is my ultimate nightmare.  The Lakers have made a couple of moves in the past few weeks that I am struggling to balance and make sense of: they picked up Steve Nash and one of my local town heroes Rob Sacre in the draft.  Two of my favorite guys on the same team…with my least favorite player in NBA history, Kobe Bryant.  Now the news is the Lakers are making a hard charge at the Dwightmare.  This is a tough one.  I desperately want Nash to get a ring / I desperately do not want Kobe to get one (keep in mind I respect the man immensely but do not want to see him get another ring).  If Dwight “Shawn Kemp-esque family man” Howard joins the mix – a man whom I have no respect for – I do not know what I will do.  My head will explode.

DWill and the new look Nets – The Nets made some moves, the biggest of which involved keeping “superstar” Deron Williams and trading for “max contract albatross” Joe Johnson.  Are they a playoff team now?  Sure.  Did they make a good choice not getting the Dwightmare?  I do not know.  They could be a good team but will not approach elite levels.  Yet, in a very weak East this year they could easily steal a 3 slot if Williams has the season we are all waiting for him to have.

Ray Allen says eff you to the Celtics – The Miami Heat made a huge move to keep up with everyone else in the league and picked up two of the best three point shooters of all time in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.  Wow.  Allen throws a huge finger at the Celtics and ends up making significantly less money to play for a much better team.  Fantastic.  He wants to win and he just might end up with more titles than Pierce and Garnett.  Lewis will provide instant offense off the bench and makes the Heat much more dangerous than ever.

RVP to Juventus / Man City / Man United… – From what I gathered from the Italian papers (and keep in mind my grip on the language is nonexistent) he is going to Juventus.  At least according to what I assume were witty puns the writers were using.  No need for other teams to stay in the running then I suppose.  City though, seems to want him just to keep him away from United.

Paris St. Germain makes some moves – PSG picked up Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from AC Milan in what can only be called a bizarre move by the Italian Club.  Might just make PSG a Champs League contender.

I wish I could read Italian / French – On the cover of Italian Vanity Fair?  Mario Balotelli.  On the cover of French Vanity Fair?  Zinedine Zidane.  Pure gold and I could not understand any of it.

Spain impressive – Watching “the match” in Rome was nuts.  The streets were packed with flag wearing people and jerseys were everywhere.  The most common name?  Balotelli.  People genuinely love him in Italy and he responded with a fantastic tourney.  Spain was just better, exponentially so.  They controlled the game from the outset.  And then Fernando Torres snagged the Golden Boot.  Amazing, truly amazing.  As the Men in Blazers stated “he has had the best worst season ever”.  Spain cemented their place as one of the greatest teams ever.

Summer Sports Reading – What to do during these sports less months?  Read about sports of course!  Here are some suggestions (broken down by sport):

Basketball – The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons / Loose Balls by Terry Pluto / Unfinished Business by Jack McCallum / Wilt by Wilt Chamberlain.

Hockey – Net Worth by David Cruise and Allison Griffiths / The Game of Our Lives by Peter Gzosnowski / The Game by Ken Dryden

Baseball – The Devil Wears Pinstripes by Jim Caple

Soccer – Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby / Among the Thugs by Bill Buford / 40 Years of Shite

Football – Boys will be Boys by Jeff Pearlman

Enjoy the reads and hopefully we will have some final news on the Dwightmare shortly.

Happy Summer!

 

Two Ways to Improve Sports

Sports and leagues generally fight innovation.  Change rarely happens quickly even when we know it must come.  Take soccer for example: there is clearly technology which could be put in place on the goal line to determine when a shot has crossed it.  They have fought it for years for several completely incomprehensible reasons.

Evolution is needed…desperately in some cases.  Here are two suggestions:

The Next 50 – In 1996 the NBA selected their 50 Greatest Players and while there were some natural controversies on the list (young Shaq – in hindsight a great selection) most people generally agreed with those selected.  The MLB has also picked their Century Team which has led to another endless series of debates. We live in an era of greatness, and in the next few years many greats in all the major sports will deserve to join the list of their greatest peers.  Take basketball as an example where the following could easily bump players keep spots warm (looking at you Patrick Ewing!): Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard (eventually Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose…)  As you can see there are some names who deserve recognition among the greatest of the sport.  Who gets bumped?  Who gets added (I am not touching baseball with a ten foot pole)?  My point: no one needs to be removed from any list.  Why should the impact of people who dominated in the 50’s or 60’s be lessened simply because their era was different than the modern one?  Nothing should be taken away from their contributions to the sport.  We need to continually look forward instead of back, and allow our traditions to remain intact by creating a new greatest list starting from the cutoff of ’96.  Anyone who made the original team is ineligible.  Our society has a hard time with distance from players and their accomplishments and as the years pass we begin to want the here and now to include the greatest of all time at great cost to the legacies of those we should rightfully acknowledge.  Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time (no debate), but now we are willing to include Kobe Bryant’s name in the conversation.  His name should not be in the conversation under any circumstances.  Having “the Next 50” allows us to honor the past while also celebrating the players who have come to greatness since.

Player of the Year vs. MVP – Every single year in almost every sport, another misnamed trophy is handed out to a player who is clearly not the MVP.  Let us define the dodgy term “Most Valuable Player”: in my opinion it means the player whose team would completely collapse without him.  This is a very, very different thing than the best player in the league.  My solution: give them both trophies!  Why not celebrate the league’s undisputed best player (voted on by the media) and the MVP (or the player literally most valuable to their team).  Of course it is possible that these awards can be given to the same player (think Cleveland era LeBron or Justin Verlander this past season in the AL).  However, the most important thing is to recognize the contributions of a player who has literally carried his team to the brink of the playoffs or brought them into the playoffs with ridiculous stats and leadership.  Instead of giving this award to LeBron or Kevin Durant we should give it to someone like Kevin Love who has put up unbelievable stats and has his team contending for the playoffs (in addition to single handedly taking the best team in the league, OKC, to double OT).  The Player of the Year?  LeBron or Durant.  Which award can we get rid of to make space for our new Player of the Year trophy?  The strangely named “Most Improved Player” Award which seems to have virtually no criteria and is often given to a superstar whose scoring average increases slightly.  We already knew they were awesome…but this year they have been excellent!  Let’s do away with the charade of giving the MVP to the best player on the best team and begin to recognize the contributions of guys like Steve Nash who have single handedly carried teams whose best scoring option was the comatose corpse of Vince Carter.

There, I just made sports at least 2 percent better.

You’re welcome.

2012 – A Look Ahead

Happy New Year, and allow me welcome you to 2012!

What am I looking forward to in 2012?

A Miami Thrice Title! – No more LeBrondowns or meltdowns in the face of overwhelming pressure; this should be Miami’s year.  LeBron looks focused and dedicated to destroying the NBA, one team at a time.

Choosing an EPL Team – I have casually followed the EPL (and Man U) for years but the brilliant Men in Blazers Pod and my Tottenham buddy, Whisper Winnett are making me push myself to declare allegience to a team.  Any suggestions?  Chelsea?  Man U?  Man City?  Arsenal?  Liverpool?

Reading More Sports Books – A few titles I am looking forward to in the New Year are(*note that almost none of these books are actually being published in 2012): The Dream Team by Jack McCallum; A Season on the Brink by John Feinstein; Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck; Ball Four by Jim Bouton; Unfinished Business by Jack McCallum, The Game of Our Lives by Peter Gzowski and Fever Pitch by Nick Hornsby. 

USC Being Bowl Eligable – Let me be the first to present your 2012 National Champs, the USC Trojans.  Led of course by Heisman Trophy Winner (and #1 pick) Matt Barkley.

An Awesome Super Bowl – This year’s ultimate contest has all the earmarks of a classic, regardless of who gets there.

The Continued Emergence of Greatness – Some of the best players ever in the history of their respective sports are in the twilight, prime or beginning of their careers.  The NBA has a particularly large talent pool (and boom) and the NFL is watching some All-Time Greats go out (Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady).  The NHL hopes and waits that Sidney Crosby can return. 

Another year beckons, and in sports – as always – it threatens amazing things.

The Future: LA vs. Miami

Just a few days ago, the only time people were talking about LA or Miami they were mentioning the declining Lakers or resurgent Heat.  Now the two cities are the at the center of the sports world and will be for the forseeable future.  Consider the following:

1) The CP3 debacle – The league (David Stern) vetoed a fair for all parties trade that would have reshaped the Lakers for a decade and left the Hornets and Rockets better off for years to come!  CP3 was going to be a Laker and now instead of remaking three teams they now have to suffer through a complete lack of trust with their players and a half-hearted effort from Chris Paul who clearly wants out of New Orleans.  This is Carmelo Anthony 2.0 but so so much worse.  Paul wants out, the team put together a great deal…and were told it is unacceptable.  No team will try to grab Paul now, screwing the Hornets out of getting anything for their superstar.  How is that fair?  Meanwhile, the Lakers absolutely have to do something to shake up their team.  They cannot win with this current group of players and know it; now the players know it too.  All the trust that was built up through years and multiple championships is gone.  The only option?  Going hard after Dwight Howard and dumping Bynum and possibly Odom on Orlando. 

2) The Angels make some moves – By signing the reigning king of baseball, Albert Pujols to a 10 year 250 million contract the Angels are making a push to be contenders.  They shored up their pitching by signing CJ Wilson.  Did they commit way too much to snag Albert?  Of course they did, but it was done in the smartest possible way.  Once his first base skills decline, they can use him as a DH – one making 20 to 25 million dollars a year, but a hitter who is better than 90% of DH’s in the league. 

3) Miami Marlins counter – Miami signed Jose Reyes and splashed out in the Pujols contract situation with a big offer.  Looks like the Marlins are going through one of their “let’s buy the World Series” periods.  If the changes go over well (and Reyes does not phone it in….), we could see two LA vs. Miami Championship Series in 2012. 

4) The Heat signed Shane Battier – As I wrote yesterday, I love this deal for the Heat.  They needed a tough, do it all guy and no one in the league has been more vaulable than Battier as a jack of all trades.  The best defensive team in the NBA last season…just got better defensively.  Wow. 

Yesterday, December 8, 2011, was one of the craziest sports days in recent memory.  Before the NBA kicks off on Christmas Day we could potentially see even more craziness.  What an awesome time to be a sports fan – especially if you like LA or Miami.

The 2011 Sporties!

Welcome to the first annual Sportie Awards!

The Sporties cover the entire world of sports in a variety of catagories.  Get ready to be amazed…

Ready?  Okay, here we go, without further ado, your 2011 Sportie Winners:

Game of the Year – World Series Game 6

Given that some are calling this the best baseball game of the past 50 years, it definitely gets this year’s Sportie.  The twists and turns in this game had your stomach in knots and it was impossible to move for the duration.  Probably the most entertaining baseball game I have ever seen. 

Best Sports Moment – Aaron Rodgers putting on the belt after winning the Superbowl.

Not only did Rodgers completely erase all doubt and blow away the last Favre lovers (given that he is better) he did it with a team of vets and youngsters who played harder than anyone else.  Every now and again the right guy takes one. 

Sports Books of the Year

Net Worth by David Cruise and Allison Griffiths – Imagine a world where the entire system of Government is corrupt and run by a brutal dictator.  This is not about the USSR but rather the illustrious history of the NHL detailed brilliantly in Net Worth.  The best thing the authors do is provide indelible portraits of former (and future) greats / horrible people such as Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe, Eddie Shore and Eric Lindros.  Their takes are unique, insightful and at times, utterly devestating.  Easily one of the most infuriating sports books ever written. 

Loose Balls by Terry Pluto – The 2nd funniest basketball book ever written (behind Bill Simmons epic tome) is an oral history of the wild ABA years featuring so many hilarious anecdotes that it becomes impossible to put down.  The characters are  outrageously larger than life and rendered brilliantly human.  My favorite story: Marvin “Bad News” Barnes on a morning plane that took off at 8AM and landed at 7:59AM – “I ain’t flying on no time machine.  I ain’t taking no plane that goes back in time.”

Diving into Darkness by Phillip Finch / Blind Descent by James Tabor – What sort of person can reach the pinnacle of sport diving?  What sort of person could push themselves to not only dive as deep as possible but into a cave?  Finch takes on the likes of two men who make an epic cave dive…and the one who must fight to survive.  So vivid are his descriptions that the reader is transported along into the abyss.  Tabor tackles an even more harrowing quest to discover the deepest place on Earth.  He follows the Bird / Magic of the caving world through their harsh journeys fraught with danger.  Both books are claustrophobic reading experiences that challenge as well as entertain. 

Most Devestating Moment – Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals

Not only did we have to suffer defeat, but we also had to deal with all of Surrey rioting and looting Vancouver stores.  Thanks once again for improving our Post-Olympic Image Surrey. 

Pod of the Year – Men in Blazers

I had essentially planned on giving this to Bill Simmons BS Report forever, but the Men in Blazers stole my heart.  Easy to do with an informative and hilarious look into the world of futbal.  How can one not burst out laughing when each week they are treating us “Great Friends of the Pod” to exchanges like the following:

Michael Davies: “If you could have dinner with Gregori Rasputin or John Terry who would it be?”

Roger Bennett: “You’re asking me to choose between a man who is a serial rapist, cult leader, who once raped a nun…and Gregori Rasputin?” 

Michael Davies: “Just so we are clear, Rasputin was actually the nun raper.”

Roger Bennett: “I would take Rasputin since he is dead – the conversation would be better.”

Sportie Man of the Year – Lebron James

Everyone just stopped reading, but hear me out: who else garnered more ink or attention this year than LBJ?  Be it for his epic collapse or his epic play, he was the man.  Period.  We could not get enough of him when he was dominating and we could not get enough when he was disappearing.  Ultimately the choice is clear. 

Why 3000 still matters

In the history of baseball one stat has remained a true benchmark of greatness. 

500 home runs? (Mark McGwire / Sammy Sosa / Raffi Palmero / Barry Bonds)

300 wins? (Clemens)

No, the only mark of greatness in the current era remains the 3,000 hit club.  From the steroid generation only two players are likely to join: Derek Jeter (3 hits away) and Ichiro Suzuki (650 away).  Neither player is connected with any kind of steroid scandal and both have maintained a consistent pace of production.  Ichiro has been little more than a hitting machine during his career and Jeter has without a doubt been the best Yankee of the past 30 years. 

Unlike the “tainted” 500 homerun club (though it could be argued that because most of the players during the era were using roids that those who still excelled ie. Bonds should not be punished.  At some point, one of the homerun hitters from that era has to make it to the Hall.  The entire time period cannot simply be ignored by baseball historians) the 3000 hit club still means something

3000 hits is a study in durability, consistency and detemination.  It is the marathon of exclusive baseball clubs, not the sprint.  Take some of the members: Tony Gwynn, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Paul Molitor, Hank Aaron, Pete (cough, cough) Rose, Ty Cobb.  The only crossovers with the 500 homeun club?  Rafael Palmero (took roids), Willie Mays / Hank Aaron (more a testement to the fact that both played well for a long period of time and were hitters, not just homerun hitters).  Notably not presents: Barry Bonds (he hit more homeruns than Mays or Aaron and yet could not make it to 3000?  Not legitimately anyways). 

3000 remains the benchmark of a great career, and in an era of overvalued stats still means something.  When Jeter hits for his 3000th time, he joins the vaunted pantheon of greats that went before him.  There is a strong possibility that he has been the greatest player of the past 15 years and this accomplishment will seal it. 

He is a first ballot Hall of Famer: Bonds, A-Rod and Clemens still have to wait to see if they will get the call.

Dog Days of Summer – What is a Sports Fan to Do?

The Dog Days of Summer are upon us: all those fantastic playoff series that captivated and entertained us are over.  If you are a sports fan, there are few options left to get your fix.  You can:

A) Watch baseball – this comes with a caveat however, I am unsure if I can watch 162 of anything (excluding episodes of The Wire).  Additionally, baseball does not get exciting enough for me until October.

B) Catch up on 30 for 30 – If you missed the amazing ESPN series during its run, it is now available on DVD.  A few I cannot recommend highly enough: Into the Wind; Guru of Go; June 17, 1994; The Best that Never Was; The Two Escobars. 

C) Read some really good sports books.  My recommendations:

Basketball: The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith (the best book out there on Jordan, set against the 1991 season); The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons (A massive examination of all things NBA); When the Game was Ours by Jackie MacMullin (Written with Magic and Larry, this entertaining and easy to read account goes down easy). 

Hockey: The Game by Ken Dryden (Not your typical beach read, might want to save this one for a cold, contemplative situation…); Hockey!? by The Cover Corner (estimated release date: 2030 but it will be a beach read, a mid-winter read, a vacation book…)

Baseball: Love Me, Hate Me by Jeff Pearlmam (Barry Bonds examined from all angles, may alter your perception of Ol’Big Noggin); Little League Confidential by Bill Geist (One of the five best books I have ever read, this is a hilarious, insightful and heartbreaking look inside the world of Little League). 

Football: Boys Will be Boys by Jeff Pearlman (Great look inside the Cowboys Dynasty); Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger (Wow – the only way to describe this book); Bringing the Heat by Mark Bowden (Want to experience everything a pro football player does?  This is one of the best “inside a season” books I have ever read). 

Misc Sports: Open by Andre Agassi (A life changing book: You too could be bald, past 30 and still conquer the tennis world); Blind Descent by James Tabor (About the Bird / Magic of the Caving world); Diving into Darkness by Philip Finch (Cave diving definitely fits into the upper echelons of “extreme sport”, this is one of its most tragic stories, told in pulse pounding detail); Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (The Granddaddy of Climbing Mt. Everest books, a harrowing, tragic tale).

That should keep you busy for a little while.

D) Read, ponder and debate the random posts from various sports Websites, such as the “NBA Ultimate Fantasy Draft” from SI.com – This draft illustrates perfectly for me the differences between two players who made big moves to new teams during the 2010/2011 NBA campaign: Melo and LeBron.  If 10 Teams were drafting any player in history at any point in their career when would LeBron be taken?  Early first round?  Late fourth?  For me, LBJ would be a top 15 selection, which would place him in the mid-2nd round.  In this draft he went in the 2nd round, 18th pick.  Had the Heat won a title this season, I believe he would have been a first round pick without question.  In the “Season Simulator” however, LBJ absolutely dominates the league (league does include #1 Pick Michael Jordan), and leads his team to the Finals. 

The bigger question: Where does Melo, one the most gifted offensive players ever, get picked?  Second round?  Third?  Fourth?  Fifth?  Melo was finally picked in the 10th round, the 98th player taken.  For me, this perfectly illustrates the value of LeBron over that of Melo.  LeBron instantly turns any team into a contender, in an All-Time Team league he dominates and wins MVP.  Melo is regulated to coming off the bench to score in bunches. 

Not the way we expected it to play out when the two took the league by storm. 

Hopefully that gives sports fans something to do over the summer…at least until the baseball season heats up. 

Note: If two major sports (NBA / NFL) go into a lockout next season we will have to revisit this scenario, and next time there will likely be knitting involved. 

 

 

 

2011 MLB Preview

Opening Day is here!  Time to make some picks:

Division Champs AL:

1) Red Sox – The team had an impressive offseason (picking up Adrian Gonzalez / Carl Crawford) and given the Yankees inability to land a marquee free agent for one of the first times in their history, it appears to be Boston’s year to run the table. 

2) Rangers – Last year’s AL title winner was supposed to be the team to beat…this season.  Given their ability to rise early, this season should be even better behind their big bats. 

3) Twins – The team has started a great franchise the right way, by building around their two superstars: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.  One of the most solid teams in the league for the past few years, this could be their season to advance into the World Series.

4) Wild Card: Yankees – Not the trendiest of picks, but A-Rod has had one of the best Spring Training seasons of his career.  He may be the key for the team given their lack of great pickups in the off-season.  CC Sabathia could be on track for his slimmest (?!) season and a Cy Young.  Another possibility: The Rays come through again

NL Division Champs

1) Phillies – My title pick from 2010 turned out to be a bit lame in the Playoffs…but with their rotation I would bet on a bounce back season.  Especially when four of their starters could win 15-20 games.  Sure, their power appears weaker but they might just win a lot of 2-1 games.

2) Brewers – A team led by men named Prince and Braun will take their division.  The Reds are another possibility with the rise of their young talent.  However, in my opinion, the Brewers have enough power to battle through.

3) Giants – The reigning World Series winner comes into the season with a lovable cast of characters – The Beard!  Barry Zito! – and confidence from going all the way.  Can they do it for an entire season?  Maybe all this team needs is to get into the playoffs and then they can ride their hot arms and quick bats.

4) Wild Card: Braves – A young team, full of talent and finally transitioning away from the old guard (except the immortal Chipper Jones) is ready to take center stage.  Too bad the team ahead of them in the division has one of the best rotations since the ’86 Mets or ’95 Braves. 

Award Winners:

MVP’s – Albert Pujols, Cardinals / Joe Mauer, Twins: Both are poised for big years and there is no way to bet against Pujols in a contract year when he may be playing for free agency. 

Rookie of the Year – Jeremy Hellickson, Rays / Brandon Belt, Giants:  Two trendy picks, but with rookies you never know.  I would not count out Freddie Freeman of the Braves given their excellent farm system.

Cy Young – Roy Halliday, Phillies / CC Sabathia, Yankees:  Halliday is the best pitcher of the current era and Sabathia is looking slimmer than ever.  The Phillies fantastic rotation may hurt Halliday – but should he stand above them he will shine even brighter.  Sabathia will have to carry the Yankees in a tough division where every team can compete; he could be in line for 23 or 24 wins.  The Mariners Felix Hernandez could take the AL Award. 

World Series Matchup:

Trendy pick is the Phillies vs. Red Sox, but show me the last time trendy panned out in the MLB playoffs?  I will go with Phillies vs. Twins with the Phillies rising as champs in 2011.

Random Sports Thoughts…

A few random sports thoughts in the wheelhouse…

1) Thanks Miami Thrice

Big Thank you to the Miami Heat for completely justifying my championship pick from yesterday against the Cleveland Cavaliers:

The team came out flat and stayed flat for the entire game.  They were like that uncapped Coke Zero in the fridge that you try and drink a month later – horrible.  My dad sent me a message – “Lebron must be pissed” and yet last night he seemed to not really care about the loss.  It is possible he feels he made his point when he destroyed Cleveland in his original return but it pains me to see the team so disinterested when they are in a battle for seeding in the East.  The team needs to finish first to avoid a Boston or Chicago 2nd round matchup.  So again, thanks guys for backing up my title prediction…

2) What does it say that last night’s game was one of the five biggest wins of Baron Davis’s career?

A lot, actually – and it speaks volumes about the type of player he could have been and the type of player he is.  He came into the league with so much potential and peaked when he played for the Warriors and led them to a huge first round playoff victory.  After that, he got his big contract and a return to his LA hometown (albeit with the Clips) – where he promptly set about eating himself into oblivion for three years.  I guess he was Clipperized and that should have sounded the death knell on his career.  Yet, here was a guy who could carry a team and did, just plain giving up.  As Bill Simmon’s has said, nobody relies more on a crowd than Baron Davis and recently, with LA Clips becoming relevant again so did Baron.  He was energized and active and quickly traded to the Cavs.  The Clips management should be charged with murder in the first degree for the salary dumping move.  There he was though, last night, ensuring that nine months from now a whole generation of kids is born named “Baron”.  This was the Cavs championship and they will make the most of it. 

3) The incredible Steve Nash

Adub summed up Nash taking over the NBA assist lead(!!!) with the word “Legend”, and the tag is definitely deserved.  This year the Suns have cobbled together a team of castoffs, has-beens and never was…then dynamited that team and stuck Nash with Comatose Vince Carter (who by the way, could not care less about basketball right now.  He is like the guy nearing retirement who is just showing up to collect a paycheck) and he has still passed Rajon Rondo to lead the NBA in assists at 11.4 a game!  Let’s put this in perspective: his best teammates are Grant Hill, a guy nicknamed “The Polish Hammer” and comatose Vince Carter and he still leads the league in dimes!  Keep padding those Hall of Fame credentials Steve, maybe one day you will get a shot with a contender. 

4) March Madness – That’s for sure!  The Craziest NCAA Tourney of All-Time

Most NCAA pools have wrapped up now…before the Final Four because no one could possibly have predicted a series that included no #1’s, no #2’s, one #3, Butler and an 11th seeded VCU.  Despite having no one in the Final Four, I won 2nd place in my pool.  Ridiculous.  A couple of thoughts:

A) I will never again pick against a semi-decent Butler team again, ever.

B) Ditto George Mason for the first round.

C) Listening to experts upset predictions ruined my bracket and led to a couple of bad choices.  Better to pick my own upsets – like I did with Gonzaga in the first round this year.

D) Current stage of grief = Acceptance.  Now I can sit back and enjoy a Final Four that will see either VCU or Butler having a shot at the National title.  Ridiculous.

5) Congrats to the Canucks!

My local boys sewed up number one in the West last night with a great win over the Nashville Predators.  This may be the best Canucks team ever and it is an exciting team in the city.  Of course, everyone refuses to talk about the team because we are completely terrified of jinxing anything come playoff time.  An odd mix of elation and complete terror on the 40th anniversary of our great team.  Great work boys, keep it going. 

6) Setting up to make some baseball picks

Not an easy year to try and predict what is going to happen.  The Red Sox could rise again, the Yanks could completely fall apart and Albert Pujos is looking more and more like he will be a Yankee in 2012.  Yet somehow I am supposed to make predictions? 

7) The Best Time of the Year for Sports has been epic

March Madness, the race to the playoffs, Spring Training – this truly is the best time of the year for Sports fans and I have never been more ready for the real season to begin.  NBA buzz is at an all-time high and despite my misgivings over the atrocious Cavs loss, I am sticking by my team – Miami Thrice will hoist their first title.  In Hockey – I am forbidden to make a pick due to my geographic location.  NCAA – Screw it, VCU or Butler will take the trophy in the most unlikely tournament ever…and why not given all that has happened?